Thursday, 23 October 2014

Spiced Halloumi & Courgette Skewers


Up to very recently, we used to have a "friends pre-Christmas "thing"" where small presents were exchanged, big dinner enjoyed by all. On one of these occasion J. aged 6 shyly came to me with a bunch of magic wands. "These are for you" she said, squinting at me and wiggling her nose in the process.

I kept my wands for years, each rod of wood topped with a sparkling star either gold or silver. It's difficult to recall how many times, I wished for my wands to be magic, to sort out small problems. I don't think I would let magic sort out the bigger issues.

Last week, as I was scouring the shelves looking for dinner inspiration, I spotted a packet of Santa Maria enchilada seasoning mix and skewers. Plain sticks of wood, no star, neither gold nor silver, as I picked one up, the halloumi packet floated in front of my eyes.

Halloumi is  one of these ingredients which is easily overlooked. We are not really used to it and very often we don't know what to do with it.  It's a semi hard/ewe or goat/ cooking cheese from Cyprus. Springy more than chewy, it's also rather salted. So would I dare mixing Mexican spices and Cypriot cheese. Yes was the answer after all it was mid-week and I needed a speedy meal with a bit of magic.

Spiced Halloumi & Courgettes Skewers
 
Ingredients
1/2 packet of seasoning mix
1 slab Halloumi diced
1 courgette slices
pepper
2 tbs oil
Don't use salt that's provided by the cheese
 
Method
In a large bowl mix the oil and seasoning mix
Add the halloumi and the courgettes
Alternate one halloumi cube with one slice of courgette on a skewer (will take 4/5 pieces
Grill for 10 minutes
 
Serve with green salad or rice

because it's nice to share I am entering this recipe in Maison Cupcake and Feeding Boys' monthly challenge

 
 
 




Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Turkey Osso Buco

This recipe is the kind of substitution recipe which is going to infuriate the purists: Osso Buco is an Italian recipe; the name means bone with a hole and the taste is partly provided by the bone marrow.
 
I could say that this recipe has been adapted to suit our modern taste, as bone marrow is not regarded the same way as it once was, but that would be a lie.
 
The truth is that, veal is difficult and expensive to source. At the time of shopping substitution made sense. I couldn't see myself axing through beef bones therefore I opted for leg of turkey .....and wait, the worse it to come.........
 
Once home......I deboned it. This is the point where purists will throw their hands in the air and do a Milanese chef's impersonation complete with sound.
 
Apart from that snicky substitution, a traditional Osso Buco recipe was followed to the letter....well almost. One of the important thing to remember with an Osso Buco is that it's essential to flour the meat so that it doesn't caramelise when browning. The flouring process will keep the dish as white, soft and tender as possible.
 
Then, there is the white wine. When cooking with wine always use a wine you would choose to drink. When it comes to the vegetables, carrots, celery and onions are recommended, if you substitute any, best remember that the dish is going to slow cook therefore any vegetable which tend to "mush" is not a must. On the other hand omission bar the onions is perfectly OK.
 
Turkey Osso Buco
 
Ingredients
 
Olive oil enough to brown the turkey
Flour to dust the pieces
1 leg of Turkey will make 3/4 persons - deboned and chopped in pieces (or cut 4 pieces through the bone)
50g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
4 sage leaves (can't be replaced by a tsp of thyme)
200ml white wine
200ml  chicken stock
salt and pepper
 
Method
This dish is mostly slow cooked therefore will require a casserole with a lid adequate for oven cooking
 
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F/Gas 4
 
Place the turkey pieces in a plate and dust them with flour until well coated. heat the oil is the casserole and cook the pieces until they are sealed but not browned. Remove the turkey, add the butter and cook the onion, carrot and celery golden, then add the garlic, thyme or sage, season.
 
Turn the heat up, add the wine and return the turkey pieces. Let it all bubble until the wine has reduced by half then add the stock bring to boil and place the casserole in the oven for 2 hours.
 
The meat should be tender enough to cut with a fork. Serve on a bed of tagliatelle.
 
Another substitution: due to the circumstances, I didn't have the opportunity to photograph the dish so instead I included a picture taken while visiting Kellybronze turkey farm.

For more atypical recipes have a look at my Melon de Dinde (complete with video)
 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

What's New in the Kitchen #9 : New For Old

Since, the last post in this series dates from May (#8 : "That's Weird"), a new one is long due. "New for Old" is all about the new generation of familiar products.
 
Take Appletiser, a soft drink originating from South Africa and distributed by Coca-Cola. Probably, not the kind of beverage you and I are drinking routinely though we may have tried it on occasion. With no added preservatives, here comes the latest flavour: Apple 'n Pomegranate.
 
I took a sample to our hide-away in the New Forest. It's a clean drink with a great flavour. If the devil is seating on your shoulder, make sure that she/he can't read the next sentence.
Apple 'n Pomegranate Appletiser is a super base for cocktails. 750ml bottle RRP £2.49

Here comes the box.  The Ryvita Company was established in 1925, this year it has undertook some radical changes and to go along with the new range, the company asked fashion designer Ben De Lisi to create a celebratory Tin. Available on line at 7.49RRP 
 
If you are looking for a snack the Ryvita fruit-crunch is filling and very very tasty.
If you were thinking of swapping your same-old, same-old breakfast cereals for a new brand, you could do much worse than picking Lizi's  low sugar granola.
 
Most granolas are classified "high in sugar" often with 12g + per 100g (our recommended daily allowance is 90g) . Lizi's granola contains 1/3 of the sugar added to  conventional products. It's still crisp thanks to the black treacle.
 
The problem is in the amount of fat which is  superior than granolas I compared it with.
 
It could be that granola , in general, is not as healthy as we think.
 
New Covent Garden Soups changes its flavours with the seasons. This is a dynamic company which doesn't hesitate to involve the public in its creative process.  Kale 'n Nutmeg is one of five great new varieties launching this month.

I was sent a sample to try it out, it looks very healthy and there is a lot of Kale in this soup so no worries when it comes to "five a day". Kale is an acquired taste and I hope that this soup will be a crowd pleaser, I liked it but he made sure not to be at home when Kale 'n Nutmeg soup was on the menu.
 
I had a bit of trouble with its texture, it's stringy however it made a very welcomed change and probably not a soup that I would make from scratch. Others in the new range include Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Seeds, Vegetable and Soupergrain, Mild Curried Sweet Potato and Sweetcorn 'n Chilli.
 
disclaimer: I was sent a sample for each product reviewed in this post. Words are my own and I was not asked to write a positive review.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Le Restaurant de Paul - Review -


Paul is the biggest bakery in France. Today 4.6 million customers walk through the doors each month and it has a presence in 29 other countries across the world.
 
Since opening its first bakery in London in 2000, the chain has been the object of a few criticisms. Forums talk about unhelpful service. I, for one find it difficult to reconcile "artisan bakery" with such a large company. But as the wise woman says the proof of the pud is in the eating.
 
A few weeks ago, the family-run artisan bakery and patisserie opened its first London-based restaurant in the heart of Covent-Garden. When we visited, early one evening, last week, the place was packed with theatre goers, the waiters were welcoming and they were taking their time with each and everyone.
 
We decided that the d├ęcor was very "troisieme empire", I am not certain either what that means other than here, murals, fitting and furniture are unmistakably vieille France, the atmosphere is very continental with tables close to one another and Gallic music in the background. 

 
He liked his Pastis so much that he succumbed to another round. I wasn't a great fan of my Kir which was warm and too sweet.

The small plates of charcuterie were generous and the ingredients high quality. Being so close to the bakery....I'll rephrase this: being in the bakery, a baker's basket of freshly made bread would have been more than welcome.
 
The front of the house was working hard, theatre goers had gone and a new wave of punters were perusing the menu. Nevertheless our waiter took time to choose the correct wine to suit equally our main course. The wine list is succinct but sufficient and affordable, I started to understand why people patronised Paul's restaurant.
 
All the main courses are French classics; Slow cooked duck leg, Saucisses de Toulouse, Coq au Vin........Loup de Mer and veal which doesn't appear very often on  restaurant menus; I opted for Blanquette de Veau which I particularly like. His steak was "delicious".
 
Paul's chefs are dab hands at cooking simple home-made-style dishes and the quality of the ingredients is really good. Prices are reasonable, with the mains starting at £7.50 up to £13.50 the price of the entrecote and the small starters to share are maximum £4.00.
 
I liked the food for its honesty and the service for its friendliness. I wish I hadn't glanced at the desert menu because from that moment my liking dwindled, beside the nice patisseries which I had already opted against, there it was, "The Bread".
 
Yes, au restaurant de Paul, a basket of assorted bread cost £1.75. One could argue that the price is fair but this issue is my main pet-hate. If I've said it once I’ve said it a thousand times one million times, "Bread should be complimentary with meals".
 
disclaimer : My thanks to Le restaurant de Paul for their hospitality and the complementary dinners which have been reviewed in this post. Words are my own. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. copyright for top image : Paul's website the others are my own
 
 Le Restaurant de PAUL
29 Bedford St,
London WC2E 9ED 
Le Restaurant de Paul on Urbanspoon
 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Cheese Cake with Dragon Fruit Coulis

I would like to end September blogging with a show stopper. Great British chef gave me the opportunity to develop a recipe with dragon fruit. It was going to be an ice-cream but if the weather is oh so perfect now, it was not that brilliant in August, therefore I put the dragon-fruit ice-cream on the back burner, so to speak.
 
However, curiosity kept nagging me. With such a delicate flavour, dragon fruit can't be incorporated in any old pud otherwise it would get lost ....and let's face it, when you pay £2 for a fruit, it would be silly not to get value for money.
 
After a couple of weeks, toying with the idea, I opted for a vanilla cheese cake and the result was magnificent. Read about it and get the recipe here
 
 



Thursday, 25 September 2014

Camping in Sandy Balls


 Most writers are a singular mix of fatalism and optimism with a tendency to peek into the dark side. It's a disposition generated by the fact that most of what we write will never make it to publication. We live in a world of definite maybes.


It may be the case that we shall not secure the much needed support for an trip. Or, if and when we do, the concept might not hit the right note with the editors and... vice-versa. So when all the pieces fit together, it inevitably leaves us a little puzzled.

 
I first approached Godshill's award-winning holiday village, Sandy Balls, in 2011 when all the above applied. So, when their marketing department contacted me three years later, cold sweat ran down my back. Will the 5 star romantic hide-away provide enough material to engage readers?
 
Read all about it in Trip Reporter

Friday, 12 September 2014

Butternut Walnut and Sage Gratin

It's getting colder and days are noticeably shorter, time for comfort food. In my books, nothing says. "Comfort food" better than butternut. Starting with peeling, when most cucurbita are knobbly and so hard to peel, butternut is as smooth as an apple. Then there is the nutty taste and the creamy texture of the jolly bright orange flesh.
 
With such a distinctive taste, it's not too hard to pair butternut with other food, almost a given really. For this gratin, I chose walnuts though the original recipe indicates hazelnuts. Sage provides an earthy addition, use sage sparingly as too much will overpower the whole dish.
 
 
Ingredients
150ml double cream 150 ml milk
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 to 4 large sage leaves
40g melting cheese, grated, I used Wensleydale, parmesan or cheddar are also an option
750g butternut squash, peeled, cube and steam to soft
30g walnut, roughly chopped
20g breadcrumbs

Tip: The butternut will absorb a lot of liquid while cooking so don't worry if it starts by looking very wet.

Method:
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Peel, cube and steam to soft the butternut squash
Mash when cooked
Meanwhile, mix in a large bowl all the other ingredients except the breadcrumbs and cheese.
Mix mash and creamy mixture, season well
Transfer to gratin dish, cover with breadcrumbs and cheese, top with foil
Cook for 30 minutes coved, uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Tall Ships Event - Greenwich -

Greenwich and Woolwich have been buzzing for the past four days. More than 600,000 visitors so far have flocked to the borough to take in this year's tall ships event. 
 
With the last tea-clipper on dry dock at Greenwich, the borough was the natural place for such a festival to take place. And, a festival it was, there was a real party atmosphere. It was incredible to see so many (50) majestic boats gliding on the Thames.
 
He and I were among the privileged press members to board the Iris on Sunday morning. Though the weather was overcast, it was slightly surreal to see familiar sights from a very unfamiliar angle.

The final parade was spectacular. If you have missed the festival do not despair, I am being told that the event will reoccur in 2017.
 
video

Latest, an update on the event from the Greenwich media team: The final figures show that there were 1.1m visits to our event sites. People truly voted with their feet and turned up to the event in huge numbers but we have also heard from many local businesses who have said that they had their busiest ever days on record!

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