Sunday, October 16, 2016

Just like the picture - chicken terrine

For me, the pathway to cooking something is often pretty random. Finding a well-priced pack of streaky bacon at Moore Wilson last week led to thoughts of chicken terrine. So I bought some chicken livers there, and next day at the supermarket I picked up some boneless, skinless thighs.
          I first made this terrine a couple of decades ago, as I explained in The Colour of Food, where it appears as duck terrine:
         "The first time Harvey roasted ducks for Christmas, I made this on Boxing Day, using a recipe for chicken terrine found in a timely present from friends: The World’s Finest Chicken, by Sonia Silver and Janis Metcalfe. Delicious with quince paste and toast."
          This time I didn't have any leftover duck, but the original recipe is for chicken only, so I thought it was well worth making. I know it's a bit silly, but what I've always loved about this terrine is the fact that, thanks to having the right dish to bake it in, it turns out looking exactly like the picture in the book. But I don't slice it in the dish, because the bacon lining means that it turns out so beautifully onto a plate (see below). I've slightly revised the recipe from my book here.

Chicken terrine

220g chicken livers
90g dry white bread to make crumbs 
350g cooked chicken (and duck if you have any)
If you have it: 50g leftover stuffing, preferably made with walnuts (if no stuffing is available, use a bit more chicken meat and bread)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon port
1 tablespoon fresh oreganum, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Enough rashers of bacon (skinny streaky ones are good) to line the terrine dish - drape them across it, down the side, across the bottom and up the other side, then fill in any gaps at the ends.

The order of the instructions here is a bit different from what's in my book, because this time I did
things in a different order, to make the best use of the food processor. 
No need to clean or rinse processor bowl between these steps - do it after you've chopped the livers.

-  Preheat oven to 190°C.
- Turn leftover bread to crumbs in the processor. Toast very lightly on a flat metal tray in the oven for a few minutes while it is heating up.
- Finely chop the herbs in the processor.
- Put herbs and toasted breadcrumbs into a large bowl.
- Mince the cooked meat in the processor and add to herbs and crumbs.
- Coarsely chop the livers briefly in the processor. Use a spatula to get them out and add them to the bowl. Stir into meat, herbs and crumbs.
- Add crushed garlic, seasonings, brandy, port, and  beaten egg, and mix everything together well. Taste to check seasoning.
 Use bacon rashers to line the base and sides of an oval ceramic terrine dish or non-stick loaf tin (approximately 25cm long, 15 cm wide, 6 cm deep).
 Spread mixture into dish evenly over bacon lining, and smooth the top.

-  Cover with a tightly fitting lid or aluminium foil.
-  Place terrine in a large roasting or baking dish. Boil a jugful of water. Either pour enough hot water into the tin to come about two-thirds up the sides of terrine, and transfer carefully to the oven; or (this can be easier) put tin into oven and then pour the water around the terrine dish. 
-  Bake for 1¼ hours, till a very thin knife or sewer inserted into the middle of the terrine comes out clean.
·      Remove lid or foil and carefully pour off any liquid fat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
(It really does need to be kept overnight to let the flavours develop.)
- Take out of refrigerator at least an hour ahead of serving. Turn out onto a serving plate and slice as required.

Those pretty yellow slices on the side in the photo are mustard fruits - you can buy them in Italian delis. Quince paste is good too. I served this for lunch with a papaya, pear, beansprout and baby spinach salad.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A new take on pasta with meatballs

This week I had an out-of-town friend coming to visit. The plan was to head into town for afternoon coffee and cake, go to see The Rehearsal at Lighthouse Cuba, then come back home for dinner. I wanted to make something I could at least partly prepare in advance, so that we could get home about 6.30, sit down for a while in a civilised fashion with a glass of wine and a snack, then move smoothly on to dinner without me having to faff around for too long in the kitchen.
       One solution was the slow cooker, but we've had quite a few slow cooker meals lately. I settled on Claudia Roden's Basilicata meatballs, served with Lois Daish's "sauceless" pasta with herbs and caramelised onions, and a pretty beetroot and red cabbage salad (I threw in some barberries as well). I could do the meatballs and onions and prepare the herbs ahead of time, along with the guacamole for starters. Then all I needed to do in the evening was cook the pasta, make the salad and warm up the meatballs and onions. It all worked very nicely.
        I thought I'd already posted the meatball recipe on this blog, but I hadn't; so here it is, along with Lois's very simple but delicious pasta.

Polpettine fritte
(Very slightly adapted from Claudia Roden, The Food of Italy)

500 g minced pork
4 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tomato, peeled and chopped, or 1 dessertspoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons grated parmesan if possible, grate it from a piece, don't use the ready-grated stuff)
1/2 a mild onion
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons raisins, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted lightly in a dry frypan
olive oil for frying

Set oven to low (to keep meatballs warm as they cook).
Put the meat, breadcrumbs, tomato, and cheese into the food processor. Grate in the onion and season with salt and pepper. Pulse till well mixed. (OR work everything together well in a bowl.)
Mix in the raisins and pine nuts by hand.
With damp hands, shape into small balls (it makes about 24).
Heat oil in frypan and cook meatballs on medium-low heat with space between them (you will need 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your pan), pressing down a little on each one, then turning when they are browned and cooking the other side.
As each batch cooks, put meatballs on an oven tray lined with paper towel and keep them warm in the oven.  (I heated them up like this for dinner, replacing the paper towel with baking paper.)

Fettucine with caramelised onions and herbs
(From Lois Daish, Dinner at Home)

The original recipe is for 1, this one is for 4.

4 medium or 3 large onions
2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
fettuccine or other ribbon pasta (Lois says fresh, but I used the very good dried Italian kind that comes in tidy little bundles of about 70g - one bundle is enough for me, but you might want more)
4 tablespoons finely chopped winter herbs, such as sage, thyme and/or rosemary
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
At least 4 tablespoons grated parmesan (Lois says this is optional, but I don't think so!)

Slice the onions finely lengthwise (I did mine using the slicing blade in the food processor).
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over a moderate until it starts to colour.
Reduce the heat and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring gently every so often, until the onion is soft and dark golden brown. This can be made well ahead and stored in the fridge.
Put a large pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, stir in salt and then add the pasta. Stir lightly with a fork and boil for 4 minutes if fresh, 7-8 minutes if dried.
While it cooks, place a metal bowl either over the pasta or over a second smaller pot of boiling water (I didn't have one to fit the big pasta pot). Add the onion (plus a little more olive oil if it's a little dry), the herbs and the garlic. (I don't like raw garlic, so I fried mine with the onion.)
When the pasta is cooked, drain it thoroughly and tip it into the bowl of onion mixture (or if that one isn't big enough, transfer pasta and onion mixture to another warmed bowl).Toss with a fork so that each strand of pasta is lightly coated with oil.
Stir in parmesan (with extra on the side for serving) and season to taste.

If you're having the meatballs too, pile these into their own warm serving bowl, along with a simple salad. Have warmed individual bowls or pasta plates ready.

I got a good photo of the pasta (pappardelle), though the onions don't show up very well, they're lurking underneath. But the meatballs came out all blurry - blame it on too much red wine (in me, not in the meatballs).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lois's lemony beef

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a new idea for a slow-cooked beef casserole.  I had some cross-cut blade beef in the freezer, but I didn't want to make the basic recipe, nor did I want anything using tomato, such as my go-to Italian classic, stufato alla romana - I use canned tomatoes a lot, but this time I fancied something different.
            So I turned first to Lois Daish.  There was nothing quite right in Dinner at Home, so I tried A Good Year - I remember going to the launch with Harvey in 2005.  Sure enough, I found exactly what I was after: Slow-cooked Beef, Carrots, Garlic and Lemon. It sounded both easy and different. The other thing I really liked was that it didn't use any unusual ingredients - I had everything I needed to hand. Although Lois wrote it for slow cooking in the oven at a low temperature, I thought it would work just as well in a slow cooker, and it did.
              I've reproduced Lois's recipe here as she wrote it, with my added notes for using a slow cooker instead. She always seems to include useful instructions that teach me something, such as "Brown the meat on at least two sides" - in other words, you don't need to ensure every side of each chunk is browned. And her introduction to the book's section on "Slow Beef" explains why it's important to allow a stew to cool down for a few minutes before you serve it:
            "This is because as the stew cools the pieces of meat, which always dry out as they cook, start to soak up the gravy (something like a sponge that has been squeezed dry and then put back in the water). This explains why a second helping of stew often seems more succulent than the first. To make up for the heat lost while the meat relaxes, always serve stews on very hot plates."
              Her dish was such a success that I made it again the next week for my neighbour Frances.  The fresh, lemony flavour is unusual with beef, but it worked extremely well. I served it with broccoli and mashed potato one week, and a green salad and baked potato the next.

Slow-cooked beef, carrots, garlic and lemon
(Lois Daish, A Good Year, 2005)
Serves 4

 750g beef blade or cross-cut blade steak
6 medium carrots
2 tablespoons mild oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
fresh thyme and parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock, home-made, canned [or boxed] or packaged          
grated zest of 1 large lemon
juice of 2 lemons
a little water as needed

To finish
chopped parsley
grated zest of 1 lemon

[f you are using a slow cooker, turn it to high. If using the oven, set it to 140C.]

Carefully trim all fat and silverskin from the meat, but leave in place any seams of gristle, which will soften during cooking. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and cut into large chunks.
Peel carrots and cut into chunks of similar size to the pieces of meat.

Put a little oil into a frying pan [preferably cast iron rather than non-stick] and heat until very hot. Place the meat in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pieces - you'll probably need to brown it in 2 batches. Brown the meat on at least two sides and season with salt and pepper.

While the meat is browning [or later if, like me, you're not good at managing tow things cooking at once] chose an enamelled cast iron casserole dish [or deep non-stick pan] and add the butter, diced onion and garlic. Stir over a moderate heat until the onion is translucent, then add the herbs and flour. Stir until the flour starts to colour, then add the stock, lemon zest and juice. Add the browned meat and carrots.

Add a little water to the frying pan [the one you cooked the meat in], return it to the heat and scrape up any juices in the pan. Add this to the casserole. The liquid should almost cover the meat and carrots, so add a little more water if needed. [You need a little less water for the slow cooker.] Bring to the boil, then cover and put in a low oven, about 140C, for about 2 hours until very tender.
[For the slow cooker: after you bring it to the boil, transfer it carefully to the slow cooker. Cook for about 4 hours until very tender.]

Before serving, remove the casserole dish from the oven or turn off the heat.
{For the slow cooker, turn the cooker off 20 minutes before serving.]
Check seasoning and leave to rest for 10 minutes before sprinkling with parsley and lemon zest.

Dinner-time light is always a problem, so the photo isn't great (the mash was Agria, but it wasn't that yellow!). But I hope it gives you the general idea.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Courgette and potato fritters

High time I posted something new here! To be perfectly honest, now that I'm feeding my son as well as myself, I do tend to take a few shortcuts (such as buying trays of marinated spicy chicken nibbles) instead of doing everything from scratch. On the other hand, the "eat more vegetables" plan is going quite well - and having him here certainly makes it easier to buy a bigger variety of veges for the fridge, because we get through them much more quickly.
         Last week he bought a few courgettes when it was his turn to cook, and there were two left. They're quite expensive now, so I wanted to make the most of them. I had some bacon, and enough red cabbage, celery and pepper left for one last salad (that cabbage has done us proud). Courgette fritters would be delicious, but I needed to make these two go further. So I decided to look for a recipe for courgette and potato fritters.
          A good one came up immediately on Kidspot. This is a great site - and not only for kids! It has straightforward, easy recipes which seem to work well. This recipe certainly did - though as usual, I did change it a little bit. I didn't want to include the corn kernels, so I used slightly less flour and milk. I also used white flour rather than wholemeal, and sunflower seed oil rather than olive (I do find the lighter oil is better for frying crisp little morsels such as fritters - though perhaps that's because I use a bit more than this recipe suggests!).
           My fritters were excellent. They cooked quickly, right through, no soggy bits or uncooked potato. I've given you the original ingredients so you can make your own decisions about how closely to stick to it. The mixture looks quite wet, but it doesn't need more flour.

Courgette and potato fritters
(Recipe created by Camilla Baker for Kidspot)
Makes 10 medium fritters or 12 smaller ones

2 medium potatoes, washed, skin on (red-skinned potatoes work well)
2 medium courgettes
1 small brown onion, finely diced
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or tinned
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbs olive oil

Turn oven to low heat (or to Warm setting).
Grate potatoes (you can do this in the food processor), then squeeze out excess starch/moisture with your hands over the sink.
Grate courgettes and squeeze out excess moisture. You should end up with about 1 cup of grated courgette.
In a large mixing bowl mix grated potatoes and courgettes together. Mix in onion, corn, flour, baking powder and paprika.
Whisk egg and milk together in a jug. Add to other ingredients and stir to combine. Season to taste.
Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Drop in spoonfuls of mixture. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Repeat with remaining mixture.
To keep all the fritters warm, place the cooked fritters on a tray lined with paper towel in the warm oven while you cook later batches.

 No, this is not our yummy fritters, bacon and salad dinner, We ate that. This is the two leftover fritters. The recipe says they freeze really well. Wrap individually in cling wrap. When you’re ready to eat them, preheat oven to 190°C, place on a tray and heat for approximately 10 minutes from frozen.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Variations on a fishy theme

A while ago I posted a recipe for Mediterranean fish bake (best to have a look at that before you go on reading this).  I said then that the recipe was only approximate, and that the key ingredients were the fish, potatoes, peppers and olives.
         I proved to myself this week that it was indeed very flexible, and that the olives can be changed for other things. The local New World, whose fish counter has recently taken a leap forward, had very nice-looking trevally, the same fish as I used last time, for only $16 a kg. I already had some Agria potatoes (which have been turning up loose at very good prices recently) and I also had some similarly cheap kumara (yellow - I don't like the orange ones, they remind me too much of pumpkin, which I can eat only in the form of soup or pumpkin pie). I had a tin of artichokes, too, and one of sweetcorn kernels, as well as some nice little orange peppers and the usual onions and garlic.
          So I set about creating the bake again, only with variations. This time I didn't even bother to slice the potatoes thinly. Instead I cut them, and a couple of kumara, into smallish chunks, about 2 cm square, sort of. Then I put them into a wide, shallow baking tin, mixed them with the oil, miso stock and white wine (see original recipe) and cooked them for 30 minutes at 200C. The original recipe says 200C turned down to 180C, but this time I wasn't going to cook them as long overall, because I'd managed to eliminate a couple of steps.
           While the potatoes and kumara were cooking, I microwaved the onion and sliced pepper (using the "fresh veges" button) and set them aside, then cut the thick trevally into chunks, sliced up a few artichokes and drained the corn kernels. For extra greens, I cut up some broccoli and got that ready to microwave separately.
            Once the potatoes and kumara were almost done, I strewed (I like that word, it has a fine Elizabethan ring to it) the cooked peppers and onions and corn, which I'd mixed into them, over the top, then added the artichokes and fish and a little more seasoning. The colours looked really good together - trevally is a lovely deep rose-pink.

Then I put it all back in the oven for about 10 minutes. That was enough to heat all the veges through and cook the fish. So it took rather less time and fewer steps than the original recipe. I deliberately made enough to do two nights - while I really do like cooking, it's still very nice to have a tasty one-dish meal that needs only gentle heating, and in this case microwaving a bit more broccoli.

As Rosemary, who gave me this recipe, says, it's really more of a method than a recipe. I'm sure I'll be able to come up with equally delicious new variations in future.
         By the way, there was a little bit left over from the second night. I had it fried up for breakfast, with a poached egg on top - potato, fish and egg, always a brilliant breakfast combo.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Veering towards vegetables

Several things have combined lately to give me a push towards vegetables. I have no intention of becoming vegetarian - I really like well-cooked meat.
          Although I've always been a townie, I was brought up on the great Kiwi tradition that no matter what form it took, animal protein was the star of the evening meal, and quite often of breakfast and lunch as well.  Harvey grew up on a sheep farm where they often did have meat for breakfast, dinner (meaning lunch) and tea (both in his home and mine, it was never called dinner). He used to tell the story of a visiting correspondence school teacher who announced that she was a vegetarian, completely disconcerting and baffling his mother, who had no idea what to give her for lunch.
          The wonderful Gallery of Regrettable Food captures the iconic status of meat in the 1950s perfectly in the caption to this remarkably unappetising photo, from the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cookbook.

When decorating your meal, make sure to arrange the onions in the shape of Peter Lorre's face. It's steak a la Ugarte! Garnish with small, inedible onions.
WARNING! The carrots here are not to be eaten. Your manly meat-a-rifficness will diminish if you eat the carrots. Vegetables are for commies.
For years I haven't eaten nearly as much meat as my parents did. But lately I seem to keep reading and hearing perfectly sensible, non-vegetarian people urging me to eat less of it, for a whole host of good reasons. Various kinds of damage are done by large-scale meat production, especially based on grain, and these will get exponentially worse as the newly prosperous want to eat  more of it. While eating red meat is the easiest (and tastiest) way to get iron and essential B vitamins, we don't need to eat much of it to get enough. Then there's the constantly repeated injunction to eat more vegetables, for our health's sake. Michael Pollen nailed it: "Eat food. Not too much. Mainly Plants."
          And of course there's the cost of buying it.  If we routinely ate less meat, it should be possible to ensure that it's sustainably and humanely and yes, affordably produced - and we would appreciate it more.
          For some months now I've had my son living here. The years he spent in China have inclined him to enjoy veges much more than he used to. Both of us have to be a bit more careful not to over-eat, because we just don't need large amounts of food now.  A few years ago, suddenly noticing the inevitable results of a good deal of comfort eating (and drinking) after Harvey died, I managed to lose a considerable amount of weight (which hasn't come back). It dawned on me then that for the most part (and provided they aren't slathered in butter and/or sugar), fruits and veges are generally low-calorie - so you can eat a lot of them without fretting.
           Anyway, all of this has made me think about how to shift the way I think about dinner, veering away from the meat and towards the veges, so they become, at the very least, the co-stars. But it's not easy to make this change. There's the problem, too, of keeping a good range of veges on hand for your clever creations without half of them going off.
            I'd love to hear from other people who've tackled this problem and successfully managed to cut down their meat consumption without giving it up altogether, while still producing delicious dinners that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the surreal horror of the vegetables featuring on the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Here's the fearsome Jello Creation.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A gift of passionfruit

Growing up in Auckland, I took passionfruit for granted. My parents always had a luxuriant vine. Not so in Wellington - last time I looked, they were $34.95 a kilo. But I have a very clever and generous friend with her own four vines. Last year they produced 800 fruit, and they're doing very well this year too.
      For my birthday last week, I made Harvey's favourite: passionfruit jelly. He had discovered the recipe in Lois Daish's A Good Year, and always made it for his birthday. In his last year he asked me to make it for him. I'd seen passionfruit in Moore Wilson a few weeks earlier, but it seemed too soon to buy them. By the time I went back, there weren't any, and I've always felt guilty about disappointing him. So making it this year was a kind of expiation. It's a beautifully delicate dessert which needs no adornment at all.

Passionfruit jelly

Adapted very slightly from Lois Daish. Serves 4.

8 ripe passionfruit
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon powered gelatine

- Halve the fruit and scoop out the pulp into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and water. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the passionfruit pulp has loosened from the seeds.
- Remove from the heat and sprinkle on the gelatine. Stir well until the gelatine has dissolved.
- Put a fine sieve over a bowl or, preferably, a small Pyrex measuring jug. Strain the mixture through the sieve to catch the seeds and any tough membranes.
- Either measure the liquid or see what it measures in the jug. If needed, add water to make the quantity up to 2 cups.
- Pour into a small crystal serving bowl, or individual small (preferably glass) bowls or parfait glasses. Leave to set overnight in a cool place. (If you're a bit pressed for time, cool it then set it in the fridge with a bit of clingwrap over it, so that no other fridge flavours intrude on it. If you do it in the fridge, remove a little before serving so it won't be too cold.) It will be a little cloudy, but that doesn't matter at all.