Sunday, 9 January 2011

butternut squash and aubergine subji

this recipe caught my eye in one of the observer food monthly supplements - i have changed it only very slightly. it was in fact 'best reader's recipe' and came from one maya glaser from london, who is in possession of a punjabi mother-in-law.

it is a simple vegetable curry, which made me fall in love with 'normal' curries once more. i think the thai and south indian curries with milder spicing and coconut milk stole my heart for a while but i have made this several times in the last few could of course add cooked chicken or raw prawns to the finished dish if you don't like a fully vegetarian version. i don't think it needs it, much like the thai curry i have blogged about before. you can also vary the vegetables - sweet potato instead of squash would be nice, as would the addition of spinach to wilt into the curry right at the end. i put some curly kale, which is a bit too cabbagey for it but okay in small quantities.

i'd suggest doubling the quantities so you have an extra dinner in the fridge or freezer. like all curries, it gets better once it's been standing around for a while. also, do try and use fresh spices - i know it's nerdy but it does make a difference. i don't suggest you make your own garam masala but grinding the cumin and cardamom does make a difference.

for 2-3

for the base:
1-2 medium-sized onions
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
2 green chillies, deeseded and chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
2tsp garam masala
2tsp tumeric
1/2tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 large aubergine, cut into big chunks
1 smallish butternut squash, cut into big chunks - i don't bother peeling them but you can if you don't like the skin
optional: handful of spinach, some button mushrooms, or whatever you fancy

fry the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds and chillies with a pinch of salt in olive oil until soft.

stir in the garam masala, tumeric and cardamom, followed by the chopped tomatoes, and half the coriander. simmer for ten minutes before adding the aubergine and squash, and mushrooms if using. leave to simmer, covered with a lid, for about 45 mins to an hour - or until vegetables are soft. you do need to check about about half an hour as it might start catching - in which case, add a bit of water. if using spinach, throw it in at the last minute and allow it to wilt.

Friday, 7 January 2011

chorizo and goat's cheese-stuffed squid

having slagged off the 'more is more' principle in the last post of 2010, i confess this recipe is not miles away from doing the same thing. not so much in terms of quantity of ingredients - there are only three of them, effectively - but in failing to stop at one good thing. why have only goat's cheese when you can have chorizo as well??? why have just chorizo and cheese when you can mix them up and put them inside a squid???

but you can't go wrong with these ingredients, can you?

for four

8 baby squid, cleaned
150g goat's cheese
200g chorizo
350ml white wine (or just use water)
a small knob of butter
some chopped parsley

put the chorizo in a small pan with the wine and bring to the boil. simmer for about ten minutes. drain and put in a food processor with the cheese, and blend.

use a small spoon or a piping bag if you have one to stuff the mixture inside baby squid. close the top with some toothpicks - i used wooden skewers because i couldn't find anything else.

heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the squid over medium heat until cooked and nicely browned. when almost done, put in the knob of butter and parsley to finish off the cooking. that's it.

nice eaten with some salad. possibly tomato salad in the summer.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

slow roast chocolate and chilli pork

i made this for a party we had a while back, when it was seemingly quite a success. soft, juicy meat falling off the bone – you could practically eat it with a spoon – was piled onto floury baps and devoured pretty damn fast, from what i can remember.

i did make a few changes this time, the main one being that i cooked the meat uncovered as i wanted to get crackling. i must admit i was anticipating defeat – it’s hard to get crackling even when you whack the oven up high straight away, let alone when you leave the joint in the oven overnight.

for that is the secret of this pig’s success: it’s one of those slow roasts that requires practically no attention yet tastes absolutely amazing. the trick is to get a fatty piece of meat – i usually go for pork or lamb shoulder – on the bone, add some herbs and spices, and then cook in on very low temperature. i mean low: this cooked for some 15 hours at 100 degrees C. you turn the heat up to 230 for the last half an hour or so to finish off the crackling. but the majority of cooking is long and slow.

you could of course skip all the elaborate flavouring and go for something simple instead (maybe fennel seeds and bay) but i’d urge you to try the chilli/chocolate thing just once. you can’t taste the chocolate as such but, as with the christmas pudding from the last post, it definitely adds some background depth. i used the poncey 100 per cent cacao but you can just use the normal cocoa powder (with no sugar added, obviously).

feel free to play with the herbs and spices used – i used thyme because i had some in the fridge and i also chucked in some sage leaves in the roasting tin.

also, feel free to baste if you can remember. i did do it every now and again as i was at home that morning but i never too convinced it makes that much difference. i guess hot fat might help crisp up the crackling.

final word of advice, when you turn the heat up at the end, watch the skin so it doesn’t burn. i have ruined a piece of crackling in this way before, and there is nothing sadder than trying to eat a cremated bit of black pork skin, when you could be greasing your fingers and your chin and cracking your teeth with some lovely crackling instead.

for more than a dozen

3 ancho or other dried Mexican chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
12 cloves
5 in piece of cinnamon bark or stick
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp salt
6 tbsp grated 100% cacao or just proper cocoa powder
olive oil
fresh thyme - a few sprigs
fresh sage - a few leaves (optional)

toast all the spices in a dry frying pan until fragrant. make sure they don't burn so watch them all the time. crush them using a pestle and mortar, then add the garlic and the chilli - size of mortar permitting. i put the spices in another bowl and crushed garlic, salt and thyme leaves separately. either way, mix it all together with the chocolate and enough olive oil to form a paste.

if you have time, rub the paste on the underside of the meat (i.e. not the skin) and leave in the fridge overnight for the flavours to penetrate the meat. if you haven't got time, it's not a big deal - it tastes pretty good anyway.

preheat the oven to 100 C. rub some of the paste taken from underneath the pork onto the skin itself, and rub a little more salt to ensure you get a decent crackling.

now put the pork in the oven, uncovered, skin down to start with, and leave to roast for, say, 3 hours. after that, take the roasting tin out of the oven, turn the pork over so it's now facing skin up, baste the skin with the fat from the tin, and leave to cook for another few hours. i would say 8-9 is probably a minimum and twice that long is fine. i cooked mine from 8 in the evening till 12 noon the next day.

in the last 30-45 minutes, turn the heat up to 230 C to crisp up the crackling.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

chocolate christmas pudding

this is a note to self for next year, more than anything else. a christmas pudding to end all christmas puddings - chocolatey, fruity, boozy and with none of the bad stuff in it. it IS sweet so let's not pretend this is low in carbohydrates and will help you lose weight. but it has no sugar added and consists chiefly of fruit and nuts, with a bit of booze and a surprise ingredient: 100 per cent cacao.

the recipe comes from willie harcourt-cooze, the king of chocolate and an erstwhile star of a tv programme about the trials and tribulations of growing and processing cacao on his estate. his 100er is stocked by waitrose but you can of course substitute 90 or 85 per cent if you can't find it. interestingly, you can't really taste the chocolate much - it's more of a subtle background flavour. in fact, i'd say you can probably smell it more than it being a distinct taste.

i should add that i halved this recipe and baked two small puddings - one of those was just enough for four people. the large pudding, as below, would feed more than a dozen. probably 15, in fact.


250g dried unsulphured apricots
200g pitted prunes
145g whole almonds, roughly chopped
145 ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp nutmeg
750ml prune juice
90g 100 per cent cacao grated or chopped
300g sultanas
300g raisins
200g apples, peeled, cored and grated
zest of 3 large oranges, grated
4 large eggs
180ml sherry
50ml brandy
splash of olive oil

chop the apricots and prunes (or whizz in a food processor, as i did), place in a large bowl and add the ground almonds, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. set aside.

bring the prune juice to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. lower the hear until reduced by about two thirds. remove from the heat and stir in the cacao until melted and smooth. leave to cool for 10 minutes or so.

stir all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil into the prune juice and chocolate mixture, then tip into the bowl with apricots. cover the bowl and leave in a cool place for a day or two, stirring occasionally. having said 'the cool place', i confess to hating the expression: it basically assumes you have a pantry. i don't. stick it in the fridge.

when ready to cook, lightly grease a 1.8l pudding bowl or two 900ml ones. fill almost to the top with the prepared mixture, then lightly oil the top of the pudding with the olive oil and cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper. tie the paper firmly in place with a length of string, allowing a little extra to make a handle.

place the pudding bowl in a large pan. add enough water to reach about halfway up the sides of the bowl, then place over low heat, cover the pan and simmer gently or 2 1/2 or 3 hours. i did my mini puddings for 2 hours. make sure you keep the water topped up as you don't want the puddings to boil dry.

when finished, allow the puddings to cool. when they are cold, take off the paper and replace it with a fresh piece, tied firmly with string. now you can keep the puddings in that same cool and dry place - i.e. the fridge - for six months.

reheat to serve by steaming again for 2 hours. turn the pudding onto a plate, light a ladle-full of brandy and pour over the pudding to set it alight. switch the light off, for maximum effect, and lots of aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhs. yum.