Naan

The following quantities make four naan.

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 2.5g salt
  • 1tsp dried yeast
  • 200mL warm water
  • optionally, 3tbsp plain yoghurt and/or a knob of melted butter and/or some vegetable oil; up to you

Mix dough as usual. It is much harder to measure 3tbsp of yoghurt than it sounds, so don’t worry too much about exact quantities, and the dough may need more/less water depending on the flour. Knead for 5 minutes, rise for 90 minutes, knock down, divide into four balls, roll out and cook in hot heavy pan (no oil) for a couple of minutes a side.


Saag Paneer

For four as a side.

  • 300g paneer, cubed – the shop bought stuff is best
  • 300g tin of spinach, and by this I mean a tin that yields 300g drained
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
  • as much as chilli you fancy, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1 clove, 1 cardamom pod, salt, black pepper
  • as much grated ginger as you dare (fine to use the stuff in jars, in which case at least one tablespoon)

Not much to say. Bash up the spices in a mortar. Melt the butter in the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the spices and fry for a minute. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add the paneer, and fry until lightly golden, stirring gently. Add the ginger and fry for another minute. Tip in the spinach, turn down the heat and stir until combined and the spinach is hot.

Don’t try and make your own paneer; too much pain. You could also brown a sliced up onion to the point of collapse before adding the paneer.  Tinned spinach won’t hurt, and will be more reminiscent of an English curry house, but you could obviously wilt down some fresh spinach on top of the fried paneer instead.


Spuds of Shame

These are a little naughty, and will have your guests licking their plates. To serve four people as a side dish you will need…

  • 1 kilo potatoes (any variety, I use baby potatoes)
  • 10g butter
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • as much garlic as you dare (four very fat cloves or half a head, peeled and finely sliced or chopped)
  • as much chilli as you dare (2tsp chilli flakes)
  • 150mL cream (single, double, doesn’t matter)

…and then…

  1. Hack up the potatoes into pieces of roughly equal thickness, maybe an inch or so; peel them if they have thick skins. When I use baby potatoes I just halve them down the long axis.
  2. Pop the spuds into a steamer and, well, steam them, until they’re done, which will probably be around 20 minutes. Check that they’re tender when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.
  3. Just as the spuds are finishing, melt the butter in a large pan, with the vegetable oil to stop it burning, and fry the garlic and chilli, until the garlic is translucent and golden.
  4. Tip in the potatoes and combine well, adding a generous sprinkle of salt and a thorough grind of black pepper. There’s no need to sauté the spuds.
  5. Finally, add the cream, combine well, wait for it to boil, and turn off the heat.

You could add more cream, more chilli and more garlic. Some finely chopped fresh basil leaves won’t hurt either, but don’t bother with dried for this dish.


Saag Aloo

s-DSC01713

A useful side dish, or weeknight main. The following quantities will produce sides for four people or mains for two.

  • 800g potato
  • one small onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • one tin spinach (yes! a tin!)
  • spices, namely
    • ½ tsp cumin seeds
    • ½ tsp mustard seeds
    • ½ tsp chilli flakes
    • 2 cloves, bashed
    • ½ tsp turmeric

Finely slice the onion and pop in a large heavy pan with a smear of vegetable oil, and a generous pinch of salt, on a low heat to colour. Don’t let it burn.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato, keeping an eye on the onion. Don’t let it burn. Peel and chop the garlic. Boil the kettle.

When you’ve finished the potato, the onion will be done, if not, be patient. Push the onion to one side, and fry the garlic, adding more oil as necessary. When it’s slightly translucent, shove it to one side, and add the spices, except for the turmeric. Toast them for a minute or so, and then add the potato and the turmeric, mixing everything up.

Finally, arrange the potato in a single layer, and pour over enough boiled water to almost cover. Bring the whole lot to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

The potatoes will cook in their own darned time, which will be around 25 minutes, and as they cook they will exude starch, thickening the liquid, which is also reducing. So. Don’t forget to stir occasionally and, if it starts to stick to the bottom, add a splash more water from the kettle.

Finally, when the spuds are done, add the tinned spinach (casually, but not exhaustively drained) and stir well, to combine. Another minute or so, and it’s ready to serve, although may need more salt.


Braised Pork in Cider

s-DSC01706

What it says on the tin. To feed four, you will need:

  • 750g pork shoulder (or something fatty, sinewy and interesting)
  • 750g baby potatoes
  • 500mL of cider (you could use a light sweetish ale, if you prefer)
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves (or thyme)
  • half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • salt, pepper
  • 60mL cream

Here’s what you do.

  1. Chop up the pork into 3cm pieces, doesn’t need to be particularly neat and leave the fat attached.
  2. Halve the potatoes lengthways – if there are any large ones chop them in four. (Baby potatoes have delicate skins, so no need to peel.)
  3. Wash and pull the stalks off the sage leaves; I ended up with about 10g of leaves. (I don’t think dried sage will work.)
    s-DSC01700
  4. Place everything in a shallow casserole, add the fennel, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over enough of the cider so everything is half submerged, you’ll probably need most, but not all of your 500mL.s-DSC01704
  6. Pop into a pre-heated oven on Gas 5, around 180°C, or 160°C if using a fan oven, what you’re aiming for is a gentle bubbling in the liquid around the very edges of the pot. Turn the oven down if this becomes too furious.
  7. Give everything a stir from time to time, so the meat and spuds are browned all over.
  8. It will need around two hours; less if everything is in a single layer. Start checking after ninety minutes: the pieces of pork will fall apart quite easily when they’re done. Note that a fan oven may cook things faster than this, so watch out. The liquid will reduce, and you’ll end up with less than a centimetre at the bottom when done, but if looks like drying out, top up with water from a freshly boiled kettle, and again, consider reducing the temperature.
  9. Stir in the cream just before serving.

Serve with something wintery, like kale.

And plenty of beer.


Carnitas

s-DSC01688This is ace. I used:

  • 1 kg diced pork shoulder from the posh supermarket (a whole five pounds)
  • 10g sea salt
  • 3 whole dried chipotles, roughly chopped, seeds and all
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and squished
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

Mix the pork and salt and leave for an hour two, or overnight in the fridge.

Put everything into a roasting tin, where it will fit in a single layer, and pour over boiling water to almost, but not quite cover the meat. Place in the oven for two hours at Gas 4 (thermometer reckoned 160°C) – uncovered – stir once or twice as the top starts to brown. It may dry out a little fast in a fan oven, so you may want to top up the liquid level. After two hours, start poking and prodding: the meat should more or less collapse given a squeeze, the fat should have rendered, and there will be a scant quarter inch of dark gooey juices at the bottom of the tin, into which the chilli and garlic will have collapsed and dissolved.

Extract the meat with a slotted spoon and shred with a pair of forks, but leave the roasting tin on the bench, and under no circumstances discard the liquid.

carnitas

Return the shredded meat to the roasting tin, and combine with the liquid: the extra surface area will probably absorb most, if not all of it.

Return to the oven for another half an hour to crisp up, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.


Chorizo Scrambled Eggs

Well.

That was a turn up for the books.

Here was I thinking it would be nothing but scrambled eggs on toast for supper* when my beady eyes alighted on some chorizo; the sort that comes pre diced and packed into cryogenically sealed plastic bags. (Expensive, I know, but they keep for ever and can be thrown into all manner of things when you’re having one ogf those “I hate my job and can’t be ****ed” evenings.)

So, fried these up in a small pan ’til crispy, tipped in the eggs (beaten with a splodge of milk) and after the necessary scrambling, onto toast. And a splendid combination it is: creamy unctuous egg but with all the upfront fire and more subtle notes of the chorizo.

Three eggs, two tablespoons milk, 50g chopped chorizo/pancetta/bacon.

I should do this more often.

__
*by this I mean an evening meal, and not some clutch of braying poshos gathered around a lasagne.

Ooops

I’ve been busy and life has gotten in the way of blogging. Oh dear.

A quick note from today: another kind of ooops. That recipe for butternut squash and chorizo soup? Yeah. The one where the guests lick their bowls clean? Yup. That’s the one.

I was wondering what would happen if you used, well, y’know, a whole chorizo.

Gosh.

Raspberry Panna Cotta

There were some new season raspberries in the shop, rather tart, but ideal for topping this solution for a pudding which needed to be free from eggs.

To make six portions, using my 150mL ramekins, I used the following:

  • 450mL semi skimmed milk (full cream is fine, it doesn’t matter that much in relation to the cream)
  • 450mL double cream
  • 150g caster sugar
  • one vanilla pod
  • gelatin (either leaf or powdered; see below)

And for the topping:

  • 300g raspberries (frozen is fine, but fresh is better)
  • 30g caster sugar

Start by looking at the instructions on your packet of gelatin. Work out how much you would need to set 900mL of liquid, and then halve it. The last thing you want is vanilla flavoured rubber.

Put the cream, milk and sugar in a small saucepan on a low heat. (If you’re using leaf gelatin, put the leaves in a small bowl of cold water to soak, now.)

Meanwhile, eviscerate the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the saucepan. Stir, both to help dissolve the sugar, and to break up the vanilla seeds, which like to clump together. When it’s on the verge of boiling, turn the heat off, and add the gelatin. If it’s leaf gelatin, you’ll need to wrangle it out of the water in which it has been soaking, and give it a good squeeze, hopefully without it slipping out of your hands.

Give the raspberries a good wash, and drain. Pop the wet raspberries, and the 30g of caster sugar into another saucepan, and gently heat, stirring occasionally. You might also like to occasionally stir the milk/cream mix, to stop a skin from forming.

When the raspberries have oozed some juice, and it’s starting simmer, turn the heat off. Cover and put to one side, somewhere cool, or in the fridge.

Pour the milk + cream mixture into the ramekins, cover with cling film and put into the fridge to set. This will take around six hours, or just leave overnight. The cling wrap is important, as otherwise they will develop a leathery skin.

Once the cream has set, divide the cold raspberry mix between the ramekins, and gently smooth to create an even topping. Remember, they’ll be fairly wobbly, so don’t rush in.

Serve immediately.


Marmalade 2014

This collection of notes already contains four posts on the weighty matter of marmalade. Four conflicting posts enumerating my frustrations and joys. This year, having made three batches in a row, I think I’ve arrived at a method that is  satisfactory, and keeps the work and mess to a minimum. No muslin, and the marmalade contains everything but the pips.

Here is The New Improved Method. You will need:

  • 8 “one pound” jam jars (they’re called “one pound” but are roughly 300mL in capacity)
  • 1kg Seville oranges (round up, if they’re loose then beware of imitations dropped in by ignorant or malevolent shoppers, the real ones have thick squidgy skin)
  • 2 lemons (aiming for 100mL of juice)
  • 1.5kg caster sugar (you could go for up to 2kg, and adulterate with 50g of Muscovado)

Twist off the little buttons on the base of the oranges and give them a good wash and scrub, as the skins are good at collecting dirt, especially the bits around the buttons. Slice the oranges in half through their equators; not top to bottom. Balance a sieve on top of a large bowl and squeeze the juice of the orange halves into the bowl, so the pips land in the sieve. Most of the pips will come out, but you’ll need to tease out the remainder with a metal teaspoon.

Finely slice up the peel, picking out the remaining seeds as you go. I find the easiest way to do this is to fold each squeezed half down the middle. Slice all the way through, including the connective tissue and any remaining flesh. You don’t need to discard this as it will dissolve during cooking. Add the peel to the juice, and top up with 1.5L of water, and cover the bowl. Put the pips into a small bowl (or large teacup) and cover with water. Leave both for at least 24 hours, and 48 won’t hurt. Refrigeration not necessary.

The following day, tip the peel, juice and water into a large pot. Stainless steel and internal gradations are both good qualities for this pot. (There is a specialised utensil called a Maslin Pan, should you find this becoming an obsession.) Use a pot that can take at least six litres, as it can get frisky and you don’t want it to boil over. Safety first: this stuff is hot (hotter than boiling water) and will stick to your skin.

Grab the teacup where you’ve soaked the pips. They will have exuded most of their pectin, and the water will have turned to jelly. Upend this onto a sieve over the pot, and give it a good shake to get the jelly into the pot. A splash of water from a freshly boiled kettle will help dislodge. You can then chuck the pips away: no need for that piece of muslin. (If you’re putting on a show you can tie the pips into a square of muslin and plonk them in.)

Top the pot up with cold water to two litres, bring it to the boil, and then reduce to a very gently bubbling simmer. After an hour, fish out a piece of peel, cool under cold water, and check that it can be easily crushed between your fingers. In the unlikely event it won’t, then just keep going, checking every half an hour. It will be translucent by this stage. (Remove the muslin bag of pips if you’ve left them in.)

Add the lemon juice, and then top up with cold water to three litres.

We’re now ready for the sugar. I find that if I add it in one go, it tends to clump, so I stir and pour slowly. Stir gently, leaving the heat low, until the sugar has dissolved.

Turn up the heat as high as you dare, and get the stuff going, uncovered, at a rolling boil. You don’t want it to escape, but it can be as frisky as you like. Any stray pips will surface at this point, as may some scum. Skim both. Do not leave it unattended: perch on a stool with a cup of tea and a good book. It will need to be stirred every few minutes, to make sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom. It will froth viciously when you do this, so be prepared.

Now would be a good time to put your washed jars and lids into the oven (gas 2, 120°C) to sterilise. If you have a particularly brutal dishwasher, then make the necessary arrangements. Also, put half a dozen saucers into the freezer.

After half an hour of boiling you can start testing for “a set”. Precisely when this happens is dependent on how much pectin is in the oranges. Take a saucer out of the freezer, place a teaspoon of mixture (no peel) on it, pop it in the fridge and wait for two minutes. Take it out and run your fingernail over the surface: if the skin wrinkles, you’re ready. If not, keep repeating the test every ten minutes. A sugar thermometer will be useful, and will tell you it’s ready when it hits 105C. Also, the contents of the pot will shows signs of becoming shiny and gluey. Don’t forget to stir every so often. If it burns on the bottom you’ve got a right mess to clean up and nothing to show for your labours.

Once you have a set, turn the heat off, and leave it for 15 minutes. Then, give it a stir to distribute the peel, and maybe add a tablespoon or three of whiskey. Ladle it carefully into your hot jars. This is more easily said than done. Putting the pot in the sink, and having the jars lined up on one side is helps, and investing a few quid in a jam funnel will save an awful lot of wastage.

Finally, using a teatowel or something similar to protect your hands, put the lids on the jars. These now need to be parked somewhere at room temperature. The lids will sometimes loosen, so after an hour, gently tighten them. It should now be left undisturbed for 24 hours; do not refrigerate.

The following day, give a jar the gentlest of shakes, to see if it has set. If it’s sloshing around, see my notes on marmalade rescue. If it’s almost set, then leave it for another 48 hours and check again. Sometimes the lids loosen, so gently tighten them up again if necessary.

It can now be stored in a cool dark place for twelve months. It won’t go off after that, since there’s too much sugar, but it will certainly become less interesting. It’s never happened to me, but sometimes the sterilisation will go wrong, and it will go mouldy, so use your common sense if it looks or smells wrong.