Friday, 21 April 2017

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Coating roasted sweet potato "fries" in starch will make them a little crisper than they might otherwise be (that is, not very) and also help stick the seasonings to them. Delicious! Easy! Speedy! Well apart from the cooking time.

Our sweet potatoes are holding up very well. If properly cured, they will do better for keeping into the spring than regular potatoes. You will probably have to find them at a farmers market though, as most groceries only carry American ones.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika
     smoked, if liked
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup corn starch or potato starch
3 large (600 grams; 20 ounces) sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grind the cumin and coriander seeds. Mix them with the salt, paprika, Cayenne, and starch.

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into long thin strips or wedges. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato slices over it. Toss them with the oil. Sprinkle half the seasoning mixture over them, toss again, then sprinkle with the remaining seasoning mix. Once final mix then roast for about 1 hour. Turn them at the half hour mark.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cocoa Crepes

Wow! So easy; so good!

For some reason I got a bee in my bonnet about making crepes with cocoa powder, and I thought that in that case they wouldn't need much flour. Maybe I could keep them gluten-free? Potato starch occurred to me as a possibility, and a little research showed that crepes made with potato starch are very common as a dish for passover, although I didn't see any made with cocoa powder.

Well, these were the easiest crepes to lift and flip that I have ever made! Even the first crepe came out perfect, and usually the first crepe is the chef's lumpy, broken sample.

I didn't add any sugar; I figured sweetness can come from the filling. I suspect you could get away with adding a few tablespoons of sugar if you really want to though.

In spite of the fact that there are 3 crepes on the plates in the photo, in most cases 1 or 2 will make a more than sufficient serving - maybe if you are having them for breakfast 3 is not ridiculous. It also depends how much filling you put in them, and what it is. I can think of all kinds of ways to serve these. I think in strawberry season I will just fill them with berries and pass the butter and maple syrup.

6 to 8 crepes (4 to 6 servings)
30 minutes prep time

Gluten Free Chocolate Crepes

1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups 1% or 2% milk
4 large eggs
approximately 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Sift the potato starch, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk, half at a time. Whisk in the eggs very thoroughly, one at a time.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Use paper towel to brush a thin layer of oil all over it. When the pan is hot, ladle in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the batter (depending on the size of your pan). Quickly tilt the pan to cover the bottom completely with the batter. Cook until the top of the crepe is dry, then carefully lift it and flip it; cook the other side for just a minute or so. Remove the finished crepe to a plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter until all the crepes are cooked.

Serve warm or at room temperature; crepes can be filled, rolled or folded, and reheated in a lightly oiled skillet. Or not. Fill with ice cream, custard, fruit salad, etc; or serve with maple syrup, honey, fruit, or whatever seems good to you. I mixed 1 cup (250 ml) cream cheese thinned with a couple tablespoons of milk, with 1 cup (250 ml) cherry jam which did the trick nicely.

Last year at this time I made Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Aloo Mattar Chowder

Soup season isn't over yet! Even though it is warming up and greening up rapidly out there.

Our potatoes are sprouting like crazy, and we've eaten most of our peas so I won't be able to make this again for a while... too bad, it was delicious. I was actually pretty impressed with how my makeshift Madras curry powder worked out in this. We threw a couple of hard-boiled eggs into the leftovers and that went down very well too.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cook the Potatoes:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried tomato bits

Wash and trim (or peel) the potatoes and cut them into dice. Put them in a pot with water to cover, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until tender. Two or three minutes before they are done, add the dried tomato bits.

Drain off all but approximately 1 cup of the water (don't sweat the exact amount; it's soup).

Mix the Seasonings:
2 to 3 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Mix the seasonings in a small bowl and set aside for the moment. If you are not sure of the strength of your curry powder, or how strong you want it; use 2 teaspoons. You can add a little more to the soup later if you think it needs it. I started with 2 teaspoons and did think a third was required.

Sauté the Onions & Finish the Soup:
2 medium onions
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1" x 1" x 2" piece of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups milk
2 cup thawed frozen peas

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger (or grate it, if you can't mince it very finely).

Heat the butter in a mid-sized skillet and cook the onions gently for about 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and reduced in volume; don't let them brown if you can help it. Add the garlic and ginger for the last few minutes of cooking, then mix in the seasoning mixture and cook until well distributed and absorbed.

Once the potatoes are cooked and mostly drained as directed above, mix in the onions, etc. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the peas and mix in. Bring the soup up to steaming hot and let it thicken slightly, but do not let it boil again.

Last year at this time I made Onion Soup with Toasted Barley Flour.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Madras Curry Powder

Has anyone else noticed that you can't get good old fashioned curry powder anymore? Oh, they're still selling stuff labelled "curry powder" but it's completely different and nowhere near as good. It's rough and unbalanced, and lacks the golden colour of yore. Where is the smooth and sprightly curry powder of yesteryear?!

Actually I blame the current fad that has declared turmeric to be a super-food; meaning that now they want you to pay through the nose and take it in capsules, instead of just eating the stuff.

Bah humbug.

Anyway, nothing to do but try making it myself. I don't know if it's the ultimate curry recipe - I can't get the original to compare, after all.  (Mutter, mutter.) My immediate thought is that this is good, but not quite there. Maybe a little more ginger? I have not added any heat at all; I thought I would take a hint from the Jamaicans and add it when making the dish. That way it's very flexible depending on to whom I am serving it. You can, however, add ground Cayenne ad lib.

EDIT: 25/04/18. Having made this a few times, I am quite happy with it. I think it is a good idea to make it a few days to a week in advance, to allow the flavours to really blend. It will hold reasonably well in a cool dark space thereafter, but don't keep it too long - a couple of months, tops. 

makes about 1/2 cup
20 minutes prep time

Madras Curry Powder

2 teaspoons green cardamom pods (about 24)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Crush the cardamom pods lightly and remove and discard the green papery husks. Put the cardamom seeds into a spice grinder with the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, fennel and black pepper. Grind until fine.

Let the dust settle and remove the mixture to a small glass jar (250ml; 1 cup). Mix in the remaining spices. Cover tightly and keep in a cool, dark place until wanted.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Tea-Braised Pork

I often think I would like to do more cooking with tea, so when we succumbed to the lure of some very cheap pork roasts at the local grocery store I decide I would try braising some of it in a very smoky black tea. Lapsang Souchong is the most readily available smoky tea, but I used a tea I got at Ten Thousand Villages that was simply described as "Smoked". It was just fine for this purpose.

Given the strong flavours of the ingredients in the marinade, I expected to be able to pick them out easily in the finished dish. To my surprise though, I really couldn't. The meat just tasted intensely, deliciously, porky - I got the occasional zing of ginger, but otherwise it just tasted very rich.

6 to 8 servings
6 to 8 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Tea-Braised Pork

2 to 3 kilo (4 to 6 pound) pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 to 2 cups strongly brewed lapsang souchong
OR other very smoky tea
2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/3 cup sherry or mirin
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger

Trim off and discard much of the skin and fat from the roast, but leave the bone in. Place the pork in a deep roasting dish with a lid; it should be fairly snug but you do need room to get the marinade ingredients in.

Brew the tea. Meanwhile, pour the remaining ingredients over the pork, except the ginger slices which should get tucked under and in around it. Pour in the tea; 2 cups if you can get it in but a bit less is okay. Then add the tea ball or 2 tea bags that you used to brew the tea to the roasting pan and let it stay there right through cooking the roast. Put the cover on the roasting pan.

You can cook the roast right away, or marinate it in the fridge overnight as you prefer. To cook, put it in the oven and bring the heat up to 225°F. Remove the lid about halfway through the process. Cook for approximately 1 hour per pound, but expect that it may take a little longer. The meat should be falling apart when done, and the bone will pull right out. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

I like to cook this in advance; that gives time for it to cool down so I can remove the bone(s) and any remaining fat (and remove and discard the tea and ginger slices). Pull the meat apart (preferred) or slice, and reheat gently in the strained sauce. You can thicken the sauce or not with a little starch; I don't bother but I generally serve the meat with mashed potatoes or rice to soak it up.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

Here is a simple, ordinary salad made a little subversive by the generous use of garlic and the slightly off-beat addition of dill pickle. Next time I might throw in a spoonful or 2 of the dill pickle brine and make it a little sharper. Or not; it was good the way it was. It will depend on what else is being served, I suppose.

This makes a quick and easy supplement to sandwiches, or plainly cooked meat of any kind. Leftovers will keep, covered, for a day or 2 in the fridge, but the garlic may gather strength as it sits. 

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

2 cups frozen green beans
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups grated carrots
1 medium dill pickle
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
salt & pepper to taste

Put a pot of water on to boil. Chop the green beans to make them of a size with the peas and the carrots once grated. When it boils add the beans and peas, and cover for 2 minutes (it does not need to return all the way to the boil). Rinse in cold water to stop them cooking any further and drain well.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Chop the dill pickle fairly finely. Peel and mince the garlic. Put these all in a mixing bowl with the well-drained beans and peas, the mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Spinach Salad with Mustard Cream Dressing

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Creamy Tomato - Barley Soup

Yet another variation on the ever-popular tomato soup. Barley, celeriac (if you can find it) and onions give it texture, crunch, and substance. Still good with some grilled cheese!  Open faced, maybe, because that barley is filling.

By crushed tomatoes I mean canned tomatoes, chopped up. We whizz our own in the blender and can them, but I have bought crushed tomatoes that were obviously pretty concentrated. If that's what you have, use less and add some water or broth to bring them back to the consistency of actual tomatoes.

4 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including cooking the barley

Cook the Barley:
1/4 cup barley
1 cups water
a pinch of salt

Put these in your rice cooker, and cook. Alternatively, cook the barley in a pot - bring it to a boil with the salt then reduce heat to as low as it will go and cook it, covered, until tender; about 45 minutes. This can be done in advance.

It's probably a good idea to cook more barley than this - the rice cooker does not deal well with such small quantities. Leftover cooked barley can be frozen, if you don't have an immediate use for it. You should have about 1 cup of cooked barley for the soup.

Make the Soup:
1 large onion
2 cups peeled dice celeriac
OR 2 stalks of celery
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups crushed (chopped, diced) tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a little cream, sour cream, or yogurt to finish

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim an chop the celery. Heat the butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, and add the onion and celery once it is melted and foaming. Cook slowly for about 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and translucent. Keep the heat low and don't let it brown. Butter is a little less forgiving than cooking in oil, but it really adds to the flavour of the soup.

Sprinkle the flour, savory, salt, and pepper over the onion and celeriac and mix in well; let cook for another minute or two. Then slowly mix in the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Thin with a little water or stock if the soup is too thick. Season with the Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to serve the soup, mix in about 1/4 cup of coffee cream but do not add it if the soup is bubbling and do not let it get hot enough to bubble thereafter. Alternatively, serve it with a dab of sour cream or yogurt to top each bowl of soup.

Last year at this time I made Thuringer Mohnkuchen: German Poppyseed Cake.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Here we are in April and the veggie selection is definitely shrinking. Lots of good old carrots, though. These take a little time to roast but are otherwise very fast and simple. They'd be great with baked chicken, which would cook in a similar amount of time if you are using bone-in pieces. Fish too, but it should just go in to be baked for the last 10 minutes or so.

As ever, the hot pepper should be the type and amount that is right for you. (I used Aleppo, and thought it could have been a bit hotter for me but others may not think so.)

I would also try this paste with squash or sweet potatoes - can't see how it wouldn't be good.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Make the Spice Paste:
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne or Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, and put them in a small mixing bowl with the rest of the spices. Mix in the apple butter, oil, and water. 

Prepare the Carrots & Roast Them:
450 grams (1 pound) carrots

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel and trim the carrots, and cut them into quarters lengthwise (or sixths, or eighths, if they are fat) and toss them with the paste. Roast them for 30 to 40 minutes, until done to your liking.

Last year at this time I made Korean Sweet & Salty Potatoes.