Saturday, 30 June 2012

Chicken Liver and Tarragon Pate

Yesterday amongst several deliveries I had arranged to arrive, including a new shoe rack, in order to make more room under the bed for storage of kitchen items (ah the joys of a rented room and a small kitchen!), was a Forman and Field hamper, on behalf of Knorr aka the stock people, full of edible goodies!

Within my little hamper, it included all the ingredients to make a Marco Pierre White recipe for Chicken Chausseur. Now please forgive me as I will no doubt change my mind at a future date but the recipe just was not screaming out to me to make it. For one it had a lot of tomatoes in, something that I shouldn't eat in huge quantities anyway and I don't know what else, but it just didn't appeal. It seems Chicken Chausseur is a pretty classic bistro style dish but I have never tried it, one day perhaps!

One of the items was a whole organic chicken, complete with a little bag of the innards. Now being the type of person who hates waste and not needing to make any stock any time soon thanks to a stash of Knorr stock pots, my head started scheming and within the bags contents I thought I identified the liver, gave them a quick trim, going from a memory of making liver parfait a few years back and decided to knock up possibly the tiniest portion of pate to start our meal with!
The pate was very easy to make, and surprisingly delicious, though preferably make it in advance and not whilst making your main course but there again I do love a challenge and nothing makes me more content than creating a gigantic pile of washing up and getting to eat at the end of it all!

I used various bits supplied in the hamper and ingredients I had lying around - the best kind of cooking I think! Whilst I used whipped cream making the pate, regular double cream will be just fine - I had previously frozen a tub picked up on reduced, hence it being already whipped.

Makes 1 portion

1 Chicken liver, trimmed of nasty bits and roughly chopped
1/4 banana shallot, finely diced
1 sprig tarragon leaves, finely chopped + one leaf for garnishing
1 heaped tsp butter
1 heaped tbsp whipped double cream
1 tbsp brandy
s&p to taste

Heat the butter, add the shallots and gently cook for a couple of minutes, add the liver and fry until just pink inside and cooked outside, add the brandy and allow to evaporate off slightly and remove from the heat.

Scrape the contents of the pan into a small chopper and blitz with the tarragon, cream and seasoning. Adjust to taste with seasoning and extra cream if desired.

Place the pate into a suitable serving dish, or whatever you can find at the time - mine was a rather beautiful and delicate Laura Ashley flower cup, garnish with a little extra tarragon and then chill until required.

Serve with a granary roll. Or similar. Fortunately my dad had received my telepathic message and had turned up with a pack of rolls!

I will have some more recipes to follow shortly with what happened to the rest of the chicken!

Thanks to Knorr and Jen at Golin Harris

Disclaimer: All recipes are my own and I have been provided with the ingredients only.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Spicy Fishy Fajitas

I'm not usually taken to writing poetry but whilst dreaming up this post the following struck me (poetry was never my strong point!):

A wicked daughter, that I be. 
Poor mum had promise of mayonnaise… 
Only it wasn't just mayonnaise 
It had a sneaky ingredient – wasabi!

Hellmann’s recently sent me a couple of their new flavoured mayonnaise's to try, one of them being a wasabi version - if you are not familiar with wasabi - aka my mum - its a similar to horseradish but with more oomph - the mayo lures you in all creamy then your tastebuds go BING!

Considering those who know me, know I am not actually a huge fan in general of mayonnaise and so probably found it a bit odd that I accepted the offer to try these but its not that I dislike it, I just only like it in certain things, I.e. on the side of my salad or with lots of garlic as a dip, however I really like this wasabi one and have been eating it with everything! I also have a bottle of the caramelized onion version, which is nice but a little too underwhelming for me on the sweet oniony flavour...

I really do enjoy making fajitas, as you get to have lots of lovely things to add in to make them your own, and these fishy ones were a big hit - my mum bless her is a little hesitant of trying 'new things' but tucked in happily to these, very proud of her though I have promised that I won't trick her again with wasabi!

My fishy fajitas (taco's? not really sure what to call them?!) were very reasonable and quick to make - I used fresh pouting fillets, which are a fraction of the price compared to fresh haddock etc - they came in at a whopping £1.50 and fed easily both of us! I then removed a few sneaky bones, once I had torn the cupboards apart trying to find the tweezers of course, then cut into strips, tossed with flour seasoned with smoked paprika, pepper and salt then quickly fried in a little oil. They did fall apart slightly so got affectionately renamed fishy smooshy but to no ill effect, if anything made the fajitas easier to assemble! 

To go with them, we had strips of cooked peppers, rocket salad, spring onions and grated cheese, soured cream and mine had a layer of the wasabi mayo too which was a lush combination! Another highlight was some new mini wraps I found in the supermarket - so much more ladylike than wrestling a big tortilla wrap!

Thanks to Nicola at Clarion for sending the samples.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A little Veggie Indian Feast

Over the past few years I have flirted with going ‘veggie’ even at times ‘vegan’ however it just isn’t practical, and I don’t think I am really that committed in the long term. The thing is I adore my vegetables, preferring them over most meat and fish and so find myself more often than not cooking veggie based meals, and tonight was no exception! In fact if you discount the knorr chicken stockpot and the mint raita it was all virtually vegan! I do find you have to make more effort with veggie food but I really enjoy the challenge!

Tonight I got to make a lovely mess of the kitchen, which my very patient flatmate didn’t even bat an eyelid at and made for us a little Indian Feast! Cooking for one can be fun but its always so much nicer to share food, and also gives one the excuse to make lots of dishes! I also am falling back in love with cooking again, its a great form of therapy for my mind now I have finally finished college, plus I have a lot more time on my hands, which does feel a bit strange but I daresay I will find a way to that the sound of the cake tins rattling....

All the dishes were my interpretation of Indian cuisine, they are not what you would typically find in an Indian restaurant but are my amongst my favourite meals I make. They are all very mild - I have to go easy on the old chillies nowadays or Gaviscon will be my nightcap! Best of all is that they are also very cheap to make, which in the ever purse tightening/ pre-payday times is always welcome!

The dal was, as always delicious - it really is so ugly but so full of flavour you can overlook its appearance! I based it on my mushroom and spinach version, though obviously minus both mushrooms and spinach but still as tasty! I think dal will be making a regular occurrence for my upcoming meals - I asked my dad to pick up a bag of the particular lentil I like to use - moong dal chilka - and he bought me a 2kg bag of it!
Alongside was green cabbage, shredded up and fried with garlic, ginger and yellow mustard seeds, with a splash of water to loosen - first time I have done cabbage this way and really enjoyed it! also good as getting through a rather large cabbage by myself gets a bit boring after the first three days...really wish there were smaller ones available!

The other side was a sweet potato and pea sort of dry curry - I toasted and ground up coriander seeds with fenugreek, fried white onion and garlic, and a little ginger with the cubed sweet potato for around five minutes, then about 1/2 cm of water, covered and then gently simmered for about 15 minutes, with the occasional gentle stir - you don't want mush! Then threw in some peas, seasoned with salt and pepper and allowed any excess liquid to evaporate. This also was very lovely - sweet with a delicate background of the spices. When serving up I garnished it with toasted cashew nuts, which provide a nice crunchy contrast to the soft potato mixture.

I can't bear a week without my favourite salad - simply grated carrot and sultanas, dressed with lemon juice. This keeps well in the fridge too for a few days.
Last but not least was some delicious, soft fluffy garlic naan bread - which the nice people from Warburtons sent me recently. It came with a little sachet of garlic oil, which gets splashed over before a quick sun tan from a hot grill - the smell was mmmm and both of us really rated the bread. Out of all the breades I've baked, for some reason I've never attempted naan - and to be honest this was so tasty I have no need. Torn into pieces and used to mop up the daal, along with raita and mango chutney is quite delicious!
I've also tried seperately their plain naan, which I sliced into four and froze, and I've been eating a portion with various curries I've made recently - it is so fluffy and light, will be definitely buying again.

Oh and I almost forgot - a sort of Indian rice pudding - I placed in a jug a handful of wholgrain rice (my new discovery) along with a good amount of rice milk, 4 bashed cardamom pods, a tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp ground ginger, then microwaved on a low setting for a very long time - it suprisingly worked and resulted in a deliciously fragrant end to our feast!

And best of all - lots of lovely leftovers to take in for my lunch!

One day I will have a dishwasher..........

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Fennel and Pancetta Baked Seabass

Firstly, apologies for the lack of blogging and general activity visiting other blogs etc - I have been too busy revising to make the effort of cooking anything more elaborate than an omelette, yet alone remembering to photograph what I've made! Also with lending my camera to my dad for several weeks didn't help! However one exam is out of the way, and my final one is approaching fast so I will be returning back to normal soon!!

Last year the very nice PR for Jamie Oliver sent me a copy of the Jamie's 30 Minute Meals and due to everything that's happened since this is a very delayed posting! Its been regularly flicked through and drooled over but I just hadn't quite gotten around to cooking from it.

One big thing that sets this book apart from other cookery books, is that whilst yes it’s a recipe book; they are grouped together and written so that you can make the whole meal, rather than trying to read 3-4 separate recipes and working out how to combine them best, so all the hard work is already done for you! Now its just hard to to decide what to make first as so many menu's are all delicious sounding!

I am quite relaxed in my cooking style and had no intention of sticking to the '30 minutes' given the size of my kitchen and lack of facilities nowadays to cook but overall I didn't do that badly for time at all! I think organisation plays a huge part, I daresay I could of done some prep to get ahead but as I was doing my own interpretation of the recipes it didn't really matter! 

And so finally last week a series of separate thought processes resulted in me finally using the book - I'd invited my dad around for dinner (aka bribery to help dreaded Maths revision!), he wanted fish. I also had a head of greens that mum had offloaded onto me, and I had a sweet potato bought from the market to make something else which hadn't quite happened. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I recalled Jamie making a fabulous looking 'crispy seabass with pancetta' on tv and dug out the book, and thus found the recipe. 

Whilst I borrowed most of the menu idea, this is my take on it, due to what I could actually buy at the time! It worked out cheaper to buy the seabass whole, compared to fillets, and now I've gone past the slightly squeamish 'its still got its head on' stage I love to cook it! Don't be scared - the fish remains so moist and is beautiful. Also I couldn't get smoked pancetta strips and had to use pancetta cubes. Oh and Jamie does 'asian greens' with the particular menu but I used the aforementioned greens instead, now I wasn't hugely keen on the asian dressing - was a bit oily for me and wouldn't do again, however it was all still eaten so semi successful!

Overall it was a success, my fish was absolutely beautiful, there is just a hint of fennel which works so well with fish, and the pancetta too added its own delicious element. Definitely will be making this one again!

Preheat oven to 180o


2 whole seabass, cleaned and gutted (your fishmonger will do this!)
100g pancetta cubes
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tbsp or so of butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
butter for greasing

In a small frying pan dry fry the pancetta until cooked through, reduce the heat, add the garlic, butter, about half the lemon juice - about 2 tbsp worth, bubble for around 30 seconds or until the butter has melted and allow to cool slightly, add a pinch of the lemon zest.

Butter two large sheets of foil, place a fish in the middle of each, make 3 slashes across the top. Fill the cavity with the bacon mixture and pour over any remaining juices and remaining lemon zest. Season. Sprinkle over the fennel seeds, seal the parcels well and place on a baking tray. Cook for 22-25 minutes depending on your oven - the fish should be opaque and just cooked.

Serve with your mash and greens as desired.

You can find his sweet potato mash recipe on line- I forgot to buy my coriander oops, and spent so long trying to chop it on the board it went a little cold...however it was still delicious! 

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