Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stirfry Vegetable Noodles

I had a leek left from dinner Sunday, half a head of celery, plenty of carrots, some sugarsnaps, serious quantities of ginger and garlic, a chilli bush in the garden that is laden with fat fruits a good 6cm long and a packet of fresh egg noodles. Had to be stirfry.

A couple of years ago I used to make lots of them - they are quick, tasty and almost infinitely variable. I love them but I realised over time that if you just stand back and throw whatever you have into the wok, often as not it will be okay rather than good. Great, obviously, requires decidedly more attention and planning but then it's unlikely to be a quick midweek dinner. What I gradually learned was to find a balance, particularly in the elements of the sauce, and a good dinner was liable to be mine. Being very fond of all of them, I tended to use a mix of oyster, soy and fish sauces which produced a fairly indistinct result, and sometimes, when I was being particularly abandoned, one that was mouth puckeringly salty. Unsuprisingly. When I followed recipes the results were nearly always better so I started to pare back the randomness with which I added stuff and started to think about simpler combinations. Much better results in the same amount of time.

Stirfry Vegetable Noodles
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbspns peanut oil
1 tbspn finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 chillies, chopped, deseeded if you like less heat
1 leek, sliced into rings about 30mm thick
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 ribs celery, cut to match the carrots
Handful of sugarsnap peas, halved lengthways
250g pack fresh egg noodles, rinsed in a colander under cold water
2 tbspns fish sauce
1 tbspn rice wine vinegar
2 tspns sugar
1 tspn salt
Chopped coriander if you have some

Heat a wok, add one tablespoon of the oil and, when it is smoking, add the beaten eggs. Swirl them around till set then tip the omelette back into the bowl the eggs were in.

Add the rest of the oil to the wok and add the garlic, ginger and chillies and stirfry for 30 seconds till fragrant. Add the sliced vegetables and stirfry for a couple of minutes till they are bright and still very crisp.

Add the rinsed noodles, the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and mix thoroughly with the vegetables. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes till the noodles are hot.

Raise the heat again to high, add the egg back to the pan and toss through the noodles.

Serve in deep bowls, topped with coriander if you have some.

The fish sauce, rice vinegar and sugar make for a clear salty sour sweet combinatin that works perfectly with the heat from the chillies and ginger for a really satisfying bowl of food.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Last week's deviation from most of the original ideas meant an interesting weeks' eating - and steak still in the freezer. Have Food Chain Sunday so am thinking late afternoon movie Saturday after everything is sorted with a steak and salad supper that was blissfully good to follow. Sunday a roast I think, very likely the pork that tempted me last week ended up having leftover pepperpot stew from foodchain with rice or perhaps chicken with cauliflower cheese... Monday maybe lentils and a poached egg, had the roast chicken and cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes and steamed leeks for a plate of pale and very tasty food one of my favourite meals. Tuesday chinese with peppers and black beans noodle and vegetable stirfry fast, furious and fabulous, Wednesday pasta I think leftover mutton and bacon stew with rice, Thursday might do the pork balls I've been hankering for for weeks still no balls, baked tofu with those peppers and black beans and Friday omelette and salad with bread, cheese and chorizo.
Seems a bit less shocking this week that half the market is boarded off - guess you can used to almost anything. Started at the Ginger Pig for a chicken, planning a proper Sunday roast that we had Monday and then the cold chicken in lunches till Thursday and the carcass for stock inevitably for the freezer, Charlie chose a lovely bird, not too big, £10.20

At Booths I was delighted to see they had Yukon Gold potatoes, which are possibly the perfect spud for roasting so grabbed some of those, as well as leeks Monday roast, carrots with the fennel for salad Friday, sugarsnap peas lunchboxes, fennel and tomatoes Friday salad - £4.70

Went to Gastronomica for cheese and was delighted to be told that they will have a small shop inside the market from next week, much like the one they used to have, selling the full range of food that I have come to love over the years - not just cheese but salami, ham, pasta fresh and dried and of course their extraordinary panettone at christmas. To keep me going till then I bought a sizeable chunk of perfect Pecorino and a hunk of truffle cheese which will form the centrepiece of a simple Friday supper - £19

Breakfast Saturday was destined again to be smoked salmon on toast - £5 - really very pleased that the Irish stall is now there every week

Being food chain weekend I was in a hurry so it was rush rush over to Neals Yard for milk and pasta and a slightly disappointing baguette which we ate half of with steak Saturday but I improved it exponentially next day when I cooked the other half with garlic butter from the freezer - £10.70

Lastly a toast loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

So spent not much time and £50.70

Baked Penne with tomato and mozzarella

This is probably a perfect dish for the coming autumn. Simple, richly flavoured, impressive - what more do you need midweek? I bought 3 balls of buffalo mozzarella on Saturday and used 2 of them Sunday night as pizza topping with chorizo and I needed to use the last one as not using it is a crime against good eating. Needs must would have ripped it into shreds and snacked on it with a glass of wine but fancied something a little more...........

Idly surfing I came across some ideas for pasta bakes - which I love round about now as the days get shorter and the evenings get cooler. The interesting thing about this one, an adaptation from serious eats, is that the pasta is cooked in the sauce without cooking it first in water. The pasta plumps up with the velvety richness of the tomatoes, obvious as a way to cook once you think about it but I admit I never had. The man loved the idea - primarily because it's pasta and he loves all things pasta but also because he is the washing up fairy round ours and this didn't make vast amounts of mess.

Baked Penne with tomato and mozzarella

6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tspn chilli flakes
2 tbspns olive oil
2 400g tins of tomatoes
350g penne pasta
3 cups water
1/2 cup double cream
2 tbspns grated Parmesan
Generous handful of chopped basil leaves
1 ball mozzarella - buffalo if you can get it
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole and add the garlic and chilli flakes. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoe and their juice, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 15 minutes till they start to reduce.

Add the pasta, 1/2 a tablespoon of salt and the water and stir. When the sauce starts to simmer turn the heat down and cook, stirring every few minutes to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. The penne should be al dente after about 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to Gas 4/375F/200C.

Stir in the cream, Parmesan and basil along with ground black pepper. Tear the mozzarella into small chunks and dot across the top of the pasta and sauce. Bake the dish in the preheated oven for 20 minutes till the sauce is bubbling and mozzarella is soft and golden.

Take it out of the oven and let it sit for a couple of minutes then serve it with lots of crusty bread.

This works so well - the chilli adds a light background heat and the basil and garlic a real depth of flavour. The cheese and cream create a luxurious lushness that isn't cloying because of the tomatoes. Nicest pasta I've made for a while.

Carrot & Coriander Salad

This is a really good salad for this time of year as winter heads our way. Assuming you can get dill and parsley it can be made all year and it is light and creamy and very fresh in your mouth. Kind of a necessity by the time February rolls around. Had it with an omelette and then it made a delightful addition to lunchboxes.
Carrot & Chickpea Salad
200g dried chick peas, soaked overnight with a tspn of bicarbonate of soda
750g carrots, peeled and cut into little batons - use your food processor - done in seconds
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbspns lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
1 tspn salt
1 tspn cumin seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a couple of minutes till fragrant
Cook the chick peas in unsalted water till al dente - about an hour. Add some salt to the water after 50 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Leave to cool.
Mix the cooked chickpeas with the carrots, chopped herbs, garlic and toasted cumin seeds.
Mix the oil, vinegar and lemon juice with the salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing.
Possibly nicer the next day - and this recipe makes plenty.
Cheap, wholesome and yum.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jerk Chicken

Scotch bonnets. One of the world's hottest chillies they strike fear into my heart. At Brixton Market - a fabulous place that couldn't be more different to Borough - they sell them for £1 a scoop to their largely African and Caribbean clientele. I'm terrified to touch them and people around me are buying them 30 or 40 at a time. They are very pretty things ranging in colour from a pale orangey pink to vivid startling reds. They have a sort of crumpled flesh and tend to be as long as they are wide - usually about 3cm. They twinkle brightly in big multicoloured heaps all round the market, the sight of them always somehow cheering, particularly in winter. Until this weekend I have never bought any, not once in the twenty five years I have been going to Brixton. Whenever they are mentioned it is always in the context of how hot they are, always garlanded too in exhortations to be careful when handling them, wash hands thoroughly, don't touch your eyes or any other sensitive bits for a long time, indeed wear gloves when handling to be sure you'll survive!

The hottest pepper grown commercially they are simply talked of in terms of 'intense' and 'extreme' - for the fiery flavor and their famed heat. The heat comes from capsaicin, among the most pungent naturally-occurring substances in the entire plant kingdom, and can be detected by humans in minute quantities. In the USA, police sometimes use a solution of capsaicin, as an alternative to "CS" spray, for subduing criminal suspects. Cruel, if you think about it, but bound to be effective.

Obviously not as adventurous as I'd like to believe I am, all the above put me off as if even touching them would break me out in blisters. But this weekend I wanted to try a new recipe for jerk chicken from the Levy Roots series on the beeb and if there is one common factor in all of the gazillion recipes for jerk it is scotch bonnet. I'd planned to make this dish in the week last week but somehow it didn't happen though the chicken was in the freezer. Then I found a nice sounding recipe for tarragon chicken and nearly cooked that instead - chickening out of the challenge as it were. But I really did like the sound of the hot sticky jerk marinade, so I girded my loins and bravely went to my local veg shop where I bought some onions and a single crinkly scotch bonnet. Just one. The woman serving weighed the onions, looked at the pepper shrugged and threw it in with the onions. At least if it burnt me to death I hadn't paid for it!

So braver than a brave thing I cut my little orange beauty in half. I was surprised at how good it smelled - a delicate floral aroma. Lovely. Reassured, I discarded the seeds and chopped it roughly meaning to use it all, then scraped half of it into the blender with the other ingredients. Figured better to start slow! I left the chicken in the fridge overnight and roasted it Sunday for lunch with rice and peas. The heat was definitely there but so was an amazing flavour - hot, sticky, sweet. Intense even.

Jerk Chicken

4 spring onions, green part only, chopped
1 Scotch bonnet chilli, chopped
3cm/1¼in piece root ginger, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
100ml/3½fl oz cider vinegar
3 tbsp clear honey
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces chicken

Blend all of the jerk marinade ingredients in a food processor until they form a smooth paste.

Place the chicken pieces into an ovenproof dish and pour over the jerk marinade, turning them to coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover the dish and chill in the fridge for at least four hours, or ideally overnight, turning the pieces over every 2-3 hours.

Heat the oven to Gas 5/190C/375F. Put the chicken into a baking tray and bake for about 40 minutes, basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, till the chicken is blackening and decidedly fragrant.

This was really tender and juicy and fab with rice and peas. Hot? Yes but not as hot as many things I have eaten and the falvour was brillliant. I think the only thing that would seriously improve it is to cook it over fire - this would be one of the great barbecue marinades, great with pork too.

It's good when bravery pays off! Next time I will use a whole chilli.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I wanted....I bought....I made

Had a (relatively) successful week clearing some bits from the freezer which resulted in a proper Sunday lunch of roast beef, fabulous paella using pork and chorizo and a litre of stock and the delight of warmed sourdough to accompany omelette and salad.Though I did add some chicken pieces I definitely ended the week with a little more space than I started with. I shall attempt to do the same this week...

Saturday we are going to Womad at the Tower of London - which should be interesting! - so will take some picknicky things I think had hot sausage sarnies before we went then eggy toast on our return with a beer in the middle at the Tower. Sunday there is a rerun of the theatre outing in the afternoon, this time involving seeing the show, so given that it was so nice last week might do lunch beforehand again jerk chicken and rice & peas and seriously good it was and a light supper after 'pizza' made with toasted ciabatta, chorizo and buffalo mozzarella was pretty fab way to end the weekend. Monday I think some ham and leek rissoles with salad chickpea and carrot salad with omelette and aubergine relish, Tuesday some spiced pork balls with roasted butternut and ginger and cucumber salad got home very late after having my hair done so pasta with nutmeg and parmesan, quick pasta Wednesday the man made ham and leek rissoles which went well with the last of the chick peas, Thursday salad still had a mozzarella ball which it would be criminal to waste so made a great baked pasta dish and Friday steak perhaps out to the ica so burgers at the bar! as we have some in the freezer and it would be frugal...

Borough was fairly quiet early on Saturday and still a bit confusing in its new incarnation. With my freezer clearing still on track didn't have anything to buy at Ginger Pig but I was momentarily tempted by some beautiful looking pork leg on the bone. Resisted but it might be on the list for next week.

Started instead at Booths and bought dill and carrots for chickpea salad, cucumber meant for salad but still okay and in the fridge, same for the fennel, leeks in patties Wednesday night, spring onions in rice and peas for £5.70

Popped across the road to Monmouth for coffee as they no longer have a stall in the market - a really major lack and a surprise too - they have been there since the very first days of the retail market and somehow in the 'reorganisation' the trustees have decided they don't warrant the space. Dark roast Colombian for £10.50

At Wild Beef some eggs omelette Monday and sausages sarnies Saturday came to an even £5

At Rhodes I bought a plain white tin loaf thinking toast - but it was too tall for the toaster in whole slices and a little meagre when halved but tasted good with smoked salmon and then later dipped in egg and fried - £1.50

Searched around the new stalls trying to find my familiars and was largely successful. Went to Gastronomica for Parmesan and then bought buffalo mozzarella for Sunday pizza and pasta Thursday - £13

Needed salami to go with the mozzarella and after looking everywhere discovered that the Gastronomica meat stall is no more. In the space of a few months they have gone from having a lovely shop under the arches, a small cheese stall and a larger meat and pasta stall to having only the smallest one. Difficult to see how that matches up to the trustees avowed aim of maintaining the quality of Borough. Also means there is no one selling sliced salami which is a bit of a blow as I love the stuff. So decided we'd have chorizo and bought a lovely fat one from Brindisa - £6.50

The man wondered what to have for breakfast and we neither of us could come up with a better idea than smoked salmon on toast - £5

From Tony I bought peppers and aubergine was the only thing of this lot used, made a hot spiced relish after roasting it till soft with the last tomatoes from the garden and some of our chillies and cauliflower about to be cheesed this Sunday, have been dreaming of it- £3

At Neals Yard I got milk and yoghurt and apples - £7.20

But not ciabatta - which they used to sell - so went back to Rhodes and bought one from them having forgotten the Italian place on the corner on the way outwhich sells them - £2.20

Chegworth Farm were nowhere to be seen but are apparently on holidays, L'Artisan du Chocolat are still there and Taste of Turkey are too though I didn't actually see their stall.

Spent £59.60 and then saw Maria from the caff at the bus stop - she'd been for breakfast! She seems like a fish out of water when she's away from her shop but she was pleased that it was her last week free as the builders are turning the cafe around so that it faces into the market and she can start trading again

Friday, September 11, 2009

I wanted...I bought....I made

A couple of weeks away in sunny France feasting on all things duck and other lovely bits somehow makes it difficult to make a plan for week night suppers in a decidedly autumnal London. There is lots in the freezer that I'd like to be using ahead of more shopping but think a Saturday night treat may be in order. Something fishy I think had aromatic steamed cod with pilau rice for a delightfully pale and interesting supper. Sunday we are going to see Prick Up Your Ears in the afternoon oh no! the tickets are for this week which we discovered when we arrived at a closed theatre... so I'm wondering about having roast beef and lots of veg did do that and it was perfect with daupinoise potatoes and a red wine gravy as we have a roast already in the freezer. Then cheese on toast for tea afterwards had a little spag bol in a tub in the freezer so had that on toast topped with a little cheese. Monday more theatre so Tuesday could well be a spanish rice dish that I have most of the elements for, including stock in the freezer a fabulous paella indeed that we reheated Wednesday night. Wednesday I am back at French class so a quick pasta dish after would be good, probably involving both green chillies and basil as I have loads of both in an otherwise much diminished garden. Thursday I think jerk chicken with rice and peas from the Levy Roots series chicken is still in the freezer as we had zucchini pasta with fresh basil which was nice but not great. Friday possibly definitely omelette.

Oh. My. God. Borough Market has completely changed. Network Rail have started work thereby closing about half the main market hall. Just gone. Very very weird. And the trustees have shaken up the rest of the stalls, put a new roof onto the Jubliee Market and moved a load of traders into there. It's like visiting a whole other market - one where I don't know where anything is!

Thankfully the Ginger Pig is still where it always is and I bought some chicken but only that much to the surprise of the guy serving me. But then I explained about all the stuff in the freezer and we got into a conversation about how clearing the freezer can be one step forward and two back by the time you use that pack of minced beef to make a fabulous batch of spaghetti bolognese half of which goes into the freezer for another day, using twice as much space as the original meat. However I am determined there will be space. Soon. Chicken cost £6.80 and, obviously went straight into the freezer when we got home!

Then to Booths for potatoes Sunday lunch, sugarsnaps lunchboxes, carrots, leeks Sunday lunch, lettuce steamer liner Saturday night and salad, and courgettes pasta Thursday for £4.80

Then it all got a bit more complicated. There are signs pointing down a new pathway next to the cider people, tempting people with the promise of more this way. The new Jubilee Market has a see through roof which makes it feel big and light but there is still a feeling a vaguely temporariness about it, which presumably will disappear with time. We found Lizzie at her new, much bigger stall for Wild Beef with two new helpers. She finds it much more work to set up as she can no longer park the van next to her stall but must drag everything from the carpark near Vinopolis through the market to where she is now. No doubt it will get easier with practice. I bought a dozen eggs omelette Friday and banana cake Sunday that sadly I took out too soon and the centre was raw like a dark oozing bruise - £3

I wanted a tin of olive oil and so we searched through that section of the market but couldn't find the Italian oil stall. We went over to the Green Market which seemed like someone had taken all the stalls and tossed them up in the air to see where they would all newly land. The bioveg people were where Wild Beef used to be - making me wonder why Lizzie had to move - there was a new coffee stall two pitches away from a new much tinier Monmouth, Teds Veg had migrated to the middle with a much bigger stall, no sign of Turkish olives. And the oil people were in exactly the same spot they always are. Most confusing. Bought a large tin for £15.50 but was disappointed to learn they don't sell walnut oil.

At Furness, another stall reassuringly where it should be, I bought some Whitby cod for Saturday night - £8.70

A pork pie late lunch Saturday after seeing Hurt Locker at the cinema which was good but a long way from great from Mrs Elizabeth King's stand - £5

Then had to have some smoked salmon from the Irish stall across from Brindisa for a breakfast treat - £5

Peppers and spinach both for the paella Tuesday night from Tony - £2.50

Then to Neals Yard, who also don't sell walnut oil, for pasta shells and milk - £5.90

A loaf for toast from Flour Power - £1.10

Couldn't find Chegworth for apples, didn't see L'Artisan du Chocolat, don't recall seeing Gastronomica's cheese stall though I wasn't looking for it but will be devestated if it's gone. Realised as we walked past the boarded up section of the market that Maria's café was inside. How bizarre that her caff in the market has closed while the one she was moved out of in Stoney Street is still standing and indeed operating as a caff run by someone else.

An interesting morning left me feeling a bit discombobulated by the time we'd finished. Spent £58.30 altogether.

No recipes this week as it was all food I've written about before. Next week inspiration may well strike!