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    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    A Crisp and Crunchy Salad for Christmas

    All the colours of Christmas
    Perfect to sit on The Christmas Table
    I got the idea for this salad on The Bon Appetit Website
    Of course I have adapted it to make it mine and yours in fact

    I love the dressing that was supplied was supposed to go with the salad
    you will find it at the bottom of the post
    But somehow, I don’t think these Asian flavours would go with Turkey, Ham, Stuffing Balls
    So I dressed the vegetables with a Tomato Dressing

    Very simple
    Just make a French Dressing
    Into a jar put

    6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
    2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
    1 tsp French Mustard
    Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

    Shake well, leave aside till you need it

    Take 6 Cherry tomatoes
    Cut into quarters
    Marinate the tomatoes in about 4 Tablespoons of the French dressing

    Now prepare the rest of the salad

    3 Lebanese Cucumbers, very thinly sliced
    4 small radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced
    200 gms Green Beans cut in half diagonally    

    2 bowls of Iced water
    Tomato Dressing
    Chives finely chopped 

    Place cucumber, radishes,
    in a colander set inside a bowl of ice water.
    Press down on vegetables to submerge.
    Let soak, stirring occasionally, until very firm and crunchy,
    at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
    Drain and pat dry.
    Meanwhile, cook the beans in a large pot of boiling generously
    salted water just until their colour intensifies and they are
    barely softened, about 1 minute.
    Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer to a large bowl of
    salted ice water (use about 1 Tbsp. salt for every litre of water).
    Let vegetables cool;
    Drain and pat dry.

    Arrange the drained and dried vegetable in a serving plate
    Add the tomatoes
    Toss gently
    Cover with chopped chives
    Now if you wish to make this salad with the Asian Dressing

    Omit the tomatoes and Toss with this dressing
    3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    Sea salt, freshly ground pepper

    I shall be trying this after Christmas

    Friday, December 16, 2016

    Simple Italian Style Sponge - Turns into a Lovely Christmas Dessert

    Italian Sponge Cake Pan-di Spagna
    I had some egg whites in the fridge, left over from the lemon curd I made the other day… WHICH was supposed to go on top of a Pavlova…THAT I was supposed to make for some friends who were coming for lunch
    I had found the recipe for this Pavlova on The Epicurious Website
    Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries
    The inspiration for this recipe came from food stylist (and New Zealander) Toni Brogan.

    The lunch got postponed,
    What to do with the Lemon Curd?
    It keeps well in the fridge

    So I saved it to give the Grandkids for dinner a few days later
    Lemon Curd Recipe
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    1/2 stick unsalted butter
    3 large egg yolks
    2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

    Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan,
    then add lemon juice and butter.
    Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking,
    then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
    Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup lemon mixture,
    then whisk into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan.
    Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened,
    about 2 minutes (do not let boil).

    Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest.
    Chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

    With half of the prepared curd
    I put together some little tarts
    Which were really delicious

    I used shop bought pastry shells
    To be honest...hardly worth making them
    Lovely Crisp Pastry and every one of them perfect

    Whip around 100 mls of cream
    Fold the cream into the curd gently until mixed
    Lovely pale lemon colour
    Fill the little cases and top with little blueberries
    Into the fridge so that the lemon mixture sets
    These are wonderful…thumbs up from the kids

    So what to do with the other half of the curd
    “my waste not, want not frame of mind…
    Use the egg whites
    Didn't want to to make a Pavlova
    Thought… maybe an egg white sponge ?

    I thought, this recipe for Italian Sponge Cake
    “Pan-di Spagna" that I found on a website
    was a sponge made using egg whites

    WRONG…turns out it is whole eggs. I read it incorrectly
    Oh well, into the freezer go the egg whites
    I shall use them on another day

    The recipe suggested using Cake Flour…not all purpose
    I found out how to make that
    You can find anything on the web
    Have a look here
    Easy peasy
    So now, I was completely ready

    Ingredients for a 18-20 cm (7-8 inches) pan.
    120 grams granulated sugar
    4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or vanilla extract (optional)
    120 grams cake flour, sifted


    Take out the eggs out of the fridge ahead of time
    or soak them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C
    Butter and flour a 20 cm (8 inch) pan.
    Put the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer.
    Beat the eggs until very fluffy and pale yellow (about 15 minutes on medium/high speed).
    To test that it has been beaten enough, let some of the mixture fall into the bowl.
    If it remains "sitting" on top it means that it's ready.

    Spoon the flour on top of the egg mixture, a little at a time, and fold it gently with a metal spoon.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
    Don't smooth the top or bang the pan on the counter, leave it as it is!
    Don't open the oven door for 20 minutes
    I found that the cake cooked in 30 minutes
    I tested it with a skewer (or a tooth pick)   

    Turn off the oven but leave the cake inside (put a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly open) for at least 10 minutes so it can cool down slowly.
    After that, remove it from the oven, let it cool for 10 more minutes,
    loosen around the edges with a knife, then flip the cake on a wire rack upside down
    (without the pan) to cool completely.
    Take the remainder of the Lemon Curd
    Combine with Whipped Cream
    Gently fold with a metal spoon

    Cut the cooled sponge in half with a bread knife
    on the bottom half 
    Spread the lemon mix
    Cover with sliced strawberries 
    Whip some extra cream and spread over the other side
    Sponges can get a bit dry so cream it up well
    Sift icing sugar over the top
    Looks Great

    Tuesday, November 29, 2016

    Tasty Cauliflower - Sicilian Style with Pecorino Cheese and Black Olives

    Once again, always thinking of food the kids would like to eat
    This IS a Cauliflower Cheese, without the usual Cheese Sauce
    BUT as you will see, using the leftovers, I did make the Cheese Sauce and it was yummy

    I found this recipe in the NY Times Cooking Column. Martha Rose Shulman is the author in fact
    My Grandchildren love vegetables, so it's good to find different ways, to serve food to develop their palate 
    I did like the idea of using Green Cauliflower, a very pretty vegetable
    1 generous head green or white cauliflower (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
    Sea Salt
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    16 imported oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut in half
    2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    Freshly ground pepper
    ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan, or a combination

    Break up the cauliflower into small florets while you bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    Salt the water generously and drop in the cauliflower.
    Boil 5 minutes while you fill a bowl with ice and water.
    Transfer the cauliflower to the ice water, let sit for a couple of minutes, 

    This stops the cooking process and keeps the Cauliflower nice and firm
    then drain and place on paper towels.
    Preheat the oven to 175C
    Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin dish. 

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. 

    Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes, and add a pinch of salt and the garlic.
    Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until fragrant and translucent.
    Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.
    Place the cauliflower in the baking dish and 

    Add the onion and olive mixture, the remaining olive oil, the parsley and half the cheese. 
    Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir together well.
    Spread out in the dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

    Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned.
    Serve hot or warm.
    I served this with Roast Chicken

    The next day
    I looked at the leftovers and of course "a bake" came to mind
    Very simple
    Just make a simple Bechamel Sauce
    Flavour it with some grated cheese
    Voila...another dish has been created

    2 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons flour
    1 cup milk
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

    Handful of extra grated cheese

    Melt butter in a small pot
    Add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, to get rid of the raw flour taste
    Season with S & P
    Add milk gradually
    Stir vigorously and keep on the heat
    A wooden spoon is best or a wire whisk
    Keep on stirring till the sauce begins to thicken
    When it is bubbling
    Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes
    Stir every so often to stop lumps forming and make sure it doesn't stick
    Add grated cheese

    In a gratin dish, layer the chicken and cauliflower
    Cover with sauce
    Top with extra grated cheese
    This is good to freeze at this stage
    I have excellent Pyrex dishes, just big enough for 1 person
    Into the freezer for another night

    But if you are working with the unfrozen dish
    Heat oven to 180C

    Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until it bubbles and turns lovely and golden
    Absolutely Fabulous

    Vegetable Fritters - More Ways to Use Leftovers

    Cooking for one, frequently means you have too much food. I am from a family that never had the same meal every night. So when I have leftover food, I find another to present it.

    So last night, some potatoes, some asparagus.
    What to do?
    Fritters for lunch.

    So I grabbed a courgette, a spring onion, some cherry tomatoes, couple of eggs  from the fridge.

    There is no absolute rule for the amounts...but the rule of thumb is... enough flour to coat the vege
    and enough egg to bind them all together

    So for these fritters
    This is what I had in hand

    2 small cooked potatoes grated
    4 stalks cooked asparagus sliced into disc
    1 spring onion finely chopped
    1 courgette grated
    3 cherry tomatoes quartered, seeds removed and chopped

    1/4 cup flour
    2 eggs

    Oil for frying

    Sea salt and  freshly ground black pepper

    Place the vegetables into a bowl
    Add flour and salt and pepper
    Toss to coat the vegetables 

    Meanwhile in another bowl beat eggs with some salt and pepper
    Add the seeds from the tomatoes and beat together
    Add egg mix to vegetables
    Heat oil in a pan, over medium heat, till it is hot
    Add the mixture in spoonfuls
    Cook on one side 2-3 minutes
    Turn and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes
    If they cooking too quickly turn the heat down

    Drain on a wire rack

    I think room temperature is best for the flavour
    You could squeeze a little lemon over the top
    or serve with a chutney
    I like them just with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Your choice

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Moussaka you say? Not Quite, But Close… Layer up Carrots, Potatoes, Meat Sauce and Béchamel

    After making lasagne yesterday I had Leftover Meat Sauce and Leftover Béchamel
    I wanted to make something different with them, rifled through my fridge and pantry and found Carrots, Potatoes and some spinach
    I haven't specified quantities
    I think you just use what you have, I had a couple of cups of meat sauce and about a cup of Bechamel
    if you want to see how to make the Meat Sauce and Bechamel have a look here
    Peel and slice carrots and potatoes into rings
    Cook in microwave till just tender 2-3 minutes

    Toss in a slosh of olive oil Shake of oregano, salt and pepper
    Onto baking sheet and into 200 C
    roast for about 15 minutes till turning golden

    Place 2 cloves of garlic smashed with sea salt into a pan
    Saute gently till garlic just starting to soften
    Add washed spinach and toss well and wilt it right down
    Remove from pan and chop
    Back into a bowl and add 2 tbs béchamel sauce
    Mix well
    Season with freshly ground black pepper and some finely grated Parmesan cheese
    Now time to assemble
    Oil a suitable dish
    First layer potatoes and carrots
     Add layer of 1/2 the meat sauce
     Then the spinach mix
     Top with the remainder of the meat sauce
    Layer with the remainder of the potatoes and carrots
    cover with Béchamel Sauce
     Lightly Cover with foil
    Bake for about 20 minutes
    Take foil off and place back in the oven and bake till top is golden
    and bubbling
    Approx another 20 minutes the way, you don't need anything to go with it!!!
    All food groups covered

    Saturday, November 19, 2016

    Celery and Blue Cheese Toasts - Substantial Nibbles to have with Drinks

    Celery goes so well with Blue Cheese
    So let’s take advantage of this pairing, to make some little delights to have with drinks
    So so simple…I got the idea from The New York Times Cooking Web site
    and of course as usual have adapted it to my taste buds

    Generally most people have the ingredients in the fridge or pantry
    Their recipe called for buttered toast
    Cover with a slice of Blue Cheese and top with a celery salad
    If you use Castello Blue Cheese, as I did, I don't think there is any need for butter
    It is quite a mild, creamy blue cheese,
    That's enough
    Ingredients I haven't put quantities, I think you can work that out

    Bread for Toasting
    Castello Blue Cheese mashed for spreading
    Celery Stalks
    Spring onions

    French Dressing
    Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    Then just finely slice a stalk of celery
    Plus a spring onion finely sliced
    Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black pepper
    a tablespoon of French Dressing
    Don't dress the salad till you are nearly ready
    Want the vegetables to remain crisp
    I used Vogel’s Bread… the thin sliced

    Toast the bread and let cool in a toast rack so that it stays crisp
    Or lean it up against something while it cools, to let the steam out
    When you are ready to serve
    Spread the toast with a thick layer of blue cheese
    Spoon over the Celery Salad
    Cut into portions
    And watch them disappear

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    Bell Peppers with Chicken and Coconut Rice

    This recipe from the Epicurious Site  by Larraine Perri was originally for Prawns but my Grandson is not so wrapped in Prawns so I substituted Chicken
    I decided to poach the chicken in coconut milk and water, flavoured with basil and peppercorns and a shallot. These added extras, made a flavoursome stock to cook the rice
    Always love extra flavour
    There was enough of the cooked rice to fill 5 peppers plus some leftover.

    1/ 400 gm can coconut milk
    Fill the empty can with water 
    Couple of stalks of basil with the leaves intact 
    1 shallot peeled and rough chop
    1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
    1 teaspoon sugar
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    2 skinless chicken breasts      

    4 teaspoons vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
    4 teaspoons chopped garlic
    1 and 1/2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed and drained

    3 cups Coconut chicken stock

    1 large red or yellow bell pepper per person

    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted, unsalted cashews

    First poach the chicken
    Place the coconut milk, water, basil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, lime zest, sugar
    and shallot into a pot and slowly bring to the boil
    Add the chicken breasts, make sure the chicken is covered
    Bring back up to a simmer and let gently simmer for about 5 minutes
    Turn off the heat cover and let cool in the pot for a couple of hours
    The chicken will be perfectly cooked
    Remove from the pot
    Strain the liquor, there should be approx 3 cups enough to cook the rice
    Shred the chicken
    In a large pot, bring 8 inches of water to a low boil.
    Cut off top third of each bell pepper and reserve;
    remove ribs and seeds.
    Boil peppers and tops until slightly soft, 5 minutes;
    Remove peppers and drain

    Then start on the rice
    In a medium pan over medium heat,
    Heat oil.
    Cook ginger and garlic, 1 minute. 

    Add the rice
    Add chicken liquid, about 3 cups
    Season with more salt and pepper
    It does need to be well seasoned then bring to a low boil till it bubbles away
    When it looks like boiling mud pools
    Take off heat
    Cover and leave for about 10 minutes
    Add shredded chicken. basil and cashews nuts and lime juice 
    Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary
    Stuff the pepper with the mixture
    Well oil a baking dish
    Add stuffed peppers
    Heat oven to 170C
    Pour an inch of water in bottom of dish.
    Cover with foil and bake until warm, 15 -25 minutes
    Here they are...very pretty. Just pop a basil leaf on top to serve
    The verdict

    In fact the Chicken and Coconut Rice is worth making on it's own