Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Fennel & Potato Gratin

Knowing how busy my work schedule is at the moment and my home life with a new puppy, I decided it would be a good idea to do a big food shop via the internet. Well it's not something I'll be doing again in a hurry, especially not through the same supermarket.

When I received my shopping, everything was really close to its sell/use by date meaning I two options - cook up a storm or battle through day by day and throw some of it. I wish I could say I chose option one but I didn't, there just weren't the hours in the day.

Last nights dinner of Pork Chop with Fennel & Potato Gratin was born out of need to use up a few of these ingredients. I made it up as I went along but am really glad I scribbled it in my notepad as it was a total winner.

Fennel & Potato Gratin

1 Fennel bulb cut into thin slices.
4 Large potatoes cut into thin slices (I used Lady Balfour)
25g Butter (unsalted)
200 ml Double cream
3 tbsp Noilly Pratt
1 tbsp chives (finely chopped)
1 tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
50g Gruyere (grated)
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180'c or the alternative.

2. Place a casserole dish on the hob over a medium heat and saute the fennel with the butter until slightly golden.

3. Add the potatoes and mix to ensure all coated with the butter.

4. Add the Noilly Pratt and allow to simmer over a low heat until reduced.

5. Add the cream, milk and seasoning, bring to near boiling point and simmer for five minutes.

6. Add the herbs, mix through.

7. Scatter over the cheese and place in the oven uncovered, cook for 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

8. Serve.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Autumn Soup

When I got a pumpkin in my organic vegetable box I knew I had to make soup. I've been craving pumpkin soup since Bev a good friend of mine mentioned that she would be making a huge pot of it for her bonfire party in November. The only question was what kind of soup would I make? What direction would I travel? Spicy oriental? Creamy American style? Broth? No I decided upon using a Moroccan influence based upon the Moroccan Lentil Soup recipe in the excellent The Moro Cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark.

The Recipe:

Serves 6 generously

1 pumpkin
2 sweet potato
1 white onion
1 red onion
250g red lentils.
4 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ras el hannout
1 ltr water
100g spinach
250 ml sour cream
1 tsp harrisa paste

1. Preheat the oven to 180'c or the equivalent.

2. Cut the vegetables into 2cm dice and put in a roasting tray with the garlic, cumin and olive oil. Roast for 45 min or until soft and slightly caramelised.

3. Puree the vegetables and place into a large pan or casserole dish, add the water and bring to the boil.

4. Add the lentils, ras el hannout and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour until the lentils are soft.

5. While the soup is simmering make the spiced sour cream. Whisk the harrisa into 100 ml of the sour cream and reserve until ready.

6. When the soup is ready add the remaining 150ml sour cream and spinach, heat gently until warmed through.

7. Serve the soup with a spoon of spiced sour cream and soup almonds scattered over.

I served the soup with a variety of flat breads, which were so simple to prepare. Just take a packet of tortilla wraps and spread harrisa paste over half and ras el hannout & olive oil over the other and cook according to the packet instructions.

Despite my family saying they didn't really like the sound of the soup, everyone went back for a second serving. It was delicate but punchy and very warming. To coin a phrase it was "a hug in a mug".

Monday, 22 October 2007

Now Please Don't All Shout At Once

Please don't all shout at once, I can already hear your thoughts. This post is completely and utterly non food related, but I just couldn't stop myself entering this in my blog.

Those of you who already know me will be aware that I have a 10 year old Irish Setter named Eric whom I adore. After much deliberation my family and I decided it would be greatly beneficial to both Eric and us if we got another Irish Setter, but, believe you me it took a great deal of planning and writing of pros & cons lists and SWOT analysis.

Murphy the 8 week old Setter pup was brought home yesterday and much to our amazement Eric immediately took to him, wanting to wash him and play with him, he even brought some of his toys out to 'give' to Murphy; it was such a cute and emotional experience, I have to admit I shed a few tears over it all. We'd been advised by the breeder, several other dog owners and our Vet that the response from Eric would go one of two ways i.e. he would either completely ignore him or he would be quite grumpy and domineering. How wonderful it was when he was completely different - just placid and very friendly.

Unfortunately I had to work the night shift (again) but when I left home both Eric and Murphy were curled up next to each other sleeping and when I called home to check on them around 11pm, they were still in the same place, aww bless.

Needless to say I can't wait to get home and see them both again, even just writing this has made me 'well up' again.

Now for a few photos

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Sometimes the Simple Things in Life Are Best

Last night dinner had to be super speedy and super tasty, because, not only had the day been rather hectic, getting ready for our new arrival (an Irish Setter puppy on Sunday), but I'm currently working nights.

Now as much as I like working my night shifts I do find it absolutely essential that I come to work well fed. This may sound like a strange thing for a 'foodie' (cringe, I hate that word) to say but for any of my day shifts I don't care if I come to work on empty. Nights for some reason are different, although I can't put my finger on the reason why.

After rummaging round in the fridge and cupboards seeking inspiration I decided on a very simple but cheerful salad of griddled halloumi and mixed herbs. It screams summer and after the cold, wet day I was screaming out for summer food too. The added bonus was that I managed to salvage lots of fresh herbs from the garden too before they ended up in the compost bin.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Singapore-Style Laksa

As part of a forum secret swap parcel from the lovely Kate in Hong Kong I received (amongst lots of other fabulous goodies) a great recipe book Singapore Favourites by Wendy Hutton, from which I cooked Singapore-Style Laksa (Noodles with Coconut Gravy) the other night.

Many of the ingredients specified just aren't available here in my rural location so some substitutes were called into action e.g. using kaffir lime leaves instead of daun kesum (laksa leaves) and flat rice noodles instead of laksa noodles.

The laksa was really good; vibrant and subtle at the same time, if that's possible. There was just the right balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet. It will definitely become a regular meal here, although next time I make the spice paste I'll do it the the blender not my pestle and mortar, unauthentic it may be but all that pounding was better than a workout at the gym, although I suppose it's a good excuse for eating that second portion.

Here's the recipe:

500g (1 lb) fresh round laksa noodles, blanched for 30 seconds
100g (2 cups) beansprouts

Coconut Gravy
10-12 dried chillies, cut into lengths, soaked to soften, deseeded
2-3 red finger-length chillies, deseeded and sliced
16 shallots, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
5 cm (2 in) fresh galangal root, peeled and sliced
2 cm (3/4 in) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cm (3/4 in) fresh turmeric root, peeled and sliced - I used 1/4 teaspoons dried turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons belachan (dried shrimp paste), toasted
3 stalks lemongrass, thick bottom third only, outer layers discarded and inner part thinly sliced
4 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons coriander powder
50 g (1/2 cup) ground dried prawns - I couldn't get ground ones so just whizzed these up in the food processor until quite finely chopped
750 ml (3 cups) water
4 sprigs daun kesum (laksa leaves) - I couldn't get these so used kaffir lime leaves instead
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
750 ml (3 cups) thick coconut milk

400 g (14 oz) cooked prawns, peeled
12 fishballs, boiled for 5 minutes, then sliced (optional)
12 hard-boiled quail eggs, peeled (optional)
4 large pieces tau pok (deep-fried tofu), blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, then sliced
4 tablespoons minced daun kesum (laksa leaves)
- I used king prawns and mixed vegetables from a stir fry pack and some additional pea & sweetcorn.

1. To make the Coconut Gravy, grind the chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, ginger, turmeric, belachan and lemongrass to a smooth paste in a blender, adding a little water if necessary to keep the mixture turning.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the chilli paste and stir-fry over medium heat until fragrant 5-10 minutes. Add the ground coriander and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the dried prawns and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the water, daun kesum, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes (I also added my vegetables and raw prawns here). Add the coconut milk, and bring almost to a boil, then quickly remove from the heat. Discard the daun kesum.

3. To serve, divide the noodles and bean sprouts into 4 large serving bowls. Fill each bowl with the Coconut Gravy and top with the prawns, fishballs, quail eggs, if using, and tau pak slices. Garnish with laksa leaves and serve immediately with small bowls of chilli or Sambal Belachan (I used Sambal Olek) and lime wedges on the side.


Yesterday I got a lovely parcel from a wonderful friend of mine in Northern Ireland (Brenda). She's a great friend of mine even though we've never actually met, we only know each other through online forums, but it feels like I've known her for ages, which is always good.

Now, back to the parcel - four wee bags of dulse and a pack of shamrock seeds, how lucky am I? I love dulse eaten straight as it is (which I've done with one of the bags already) but now I'm searching out recipes for it ... further details will appear here as and when I use it.

A big thank you to Brenda!!

Nigella Express

I'm an ardent Nigella Lawson fan and I owe a lot of my kitchen abilities to her. She was the person who really inspired me to get adventurous in the kitchen - I had a box set of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and How To Eat given to me as a Christmas present a few years ago and since reading them keeping me out of the kitchen would be hard enough to give someone a full time job.

Despite that when I received my copy of Nigella Express I really felt something was missing. It just didn't feel like the Nigella I 'knew', too much rushing round and not enough time spent pottering around the kitchen in that effortless 'Domestic Goddess' type way.

However the more I read it and cook from it, the more I'm liking it.

Although the "Curry in a Hurry" didn't sound anything extraordinary or different, once I'd cooked it I was totally converted. The flavours were rounded and mellow but with a spiciness too, comfort in a bowl for cool autumnal nights.

I altered the recipe slightly by using chicken breasts (only because I don't like chicken legs), king prawns and mixed vegetables and served with Thai Jasmin Rice

The recipe:

Serves 6

2 x 15ml tbsp wok oil

3 x 15ml tbsp spring onions, finely chopped

3-4 x 15ml tbsp Thai green curry paste

1kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into strips about 4cm x 2cm

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

250ml boiling water

Enough chicken stock concentrate or cube for 250ml water

1 x 15ml tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

185g frozen peas

200g frozen soya beans

150g frozen fine beans

3 x 15ml tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

1 Heat the wok oil in a large saucepan that owns a lid, drop in the spring onions and cook, stirring for a minute or two, then add the curry paste.

2 Add the chicken pieces and keep turning over heat for 2 minutes, before adding the coconut milk, stock (ie, the water plus stock concentrate or cube) and fish sauce, then the frozen peas and soya beans.

3 Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the frozen fine beans to the mix and cook for another 3–5 minutes.

4 Serve with rice or noodles, sprinkling the coriander over as you do so. Put out a plate of lime wedges for people to squeeze over as they eat.

I must be crazy

I really must have gone totally crazy to be starting up a blog spot. I already spend enough time saying I don't have enough time for all my day to day activities as it is, and here I am starting a new task.

As every venture into my kitchen (of for that matter into a 'food/kitchen' shop) is an adventure of sorts it seemed only natural that this should bear some weight in the choosing of my blog title. The Kitchen Goddess part came about because it is the name I use on many of the forums I belong to, and I'm actually quite fond of it now.

Well I hope to be able to post daily, but, I think it may in reality be every few days that a post is completed.