Saturday, 31 May 2008

Butternut Squash Ravioli

For this recipe, you are going to need a very sharp knife, so get sharpening. I use a steel like the one below. If you use one of these, then hold the blade at 45 degrees to the steel, and pull gently along from one end of the blade to the other. Do this 4 or five times each side, and that should be nice and sharp.
Why the sharp knife? Well, the butternut squash is really hard to cut otherwise. So, slice it in half, and then scoop out the seeds from the middle.
Place a nob of butter in the well left by the seeds, then roast in the oven at 200 C for around 40 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Whilst the squash is cooking, make 200 g of fresh pasta dough as described previously. Leave it to stand in the fridge for half an hour before getting on to the rolling out stage.

Allow the squash to cool for a while, unless of course your hands are made of asbestos. Now, scoop out all the flesh into a bowl. Add a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice, about half a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and stacks of salt and pepper. Mash it all up together.
Now, roll out the pasta, either using a rolling pin (as thin as you can) or a pasta machine (go down to the second thinnest setting).

Using a scone cutter, cut out rounds of pasta. As you can see in the picture, I didn't have one of these so used a glass and cut round it with a sharp knife. You get the idea though, just get lots of round shapes out of the pasta. I think there was enough for about 30 or so with 200 g of pasta dough. Make sure you are working on a well floured surface, you don't want the pasta to stick to it.

Now put a teaspoon of the filling into each of the pasta discs. Not too much mind, as otherwise they will not fold up nicely and the filling will spill out when you cook it. Not too little either, as then they will taste boring.

Brush some milk round the edge of the disc, then fold in half. The milk is to help them stick together. Go round the edge and press with a fork to seal it. This bit is quite time consuming, so maybe get yourself a glass of wine to while away the time. Not too much wine though as you don't want to mess it up! Put the finished ravioli onto a floured plate.


Now go outside to your garden and pick yourself a bunch of fresh sage leaves. If you are not lucky enough to have fresh sage, dried will probably do. Melt a nob of butter in a pan and rip the sage leaves up into it. This is to drizzle on the pasta when it is done.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the ravioli in batches to avoid them sticking together. They will take about 5 minutes or so, although this really depends how thick the pasta is, and how much filling is inside. Taste them to check they are done, and fish them out of the water using a slotted spoon when done.

Serve on warmed plates, drizzled with the sage butter, and a bit of salad. This is enough for 4 people as a starter, or 2 as a main course.



I was very pleased with this as a first attempt for ravioli. I think they held together very well and the squash is very rich and juicy as the filling. Next step in my pasta making education is to make them a bit more attractive - work on the presentation!

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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Fifteen Cornwall Restaurant Review and Pictures

I haven't posted on here very regularly of late, and that is because I have been down to Cornwall for a long weekend for a friends wedding. Cornwall did not used to be known as a gourmet destination, but it seems to be heading more in that direction. First there was Rick Stein converting Padstow into Padstein, not to mention all the brilliant pubs selling local fish and meat. The now ubiquitous pasty used to be a delight only found in Cornwall, but now you can't walk 5 steps in a town centre anywhere 'Up Country' without seeing one. And then along came Jamie Oliver and set up one of his Fifteen Foundation restaurants on the beach at Watergate Bay. If you haven't heard about them, have a read of the website; it is an apprenticeship where each year there are 15 under privileged pupils taken on and taught all the skills to become a chef.

Watergate Bay truly is a stunning location for a restaurant, even on a grey day as it was when we were there, the floor to ceiling sea view windows allow you to watch the waves crashing against the beach, ogle the surfers (if that is your thing), watch the kite flyers or just look at the view! Here I am just dipping a toe in the water! See the surfers in the background too.



The food is quite reasonably priced if you go for the set lunch menu. This is 3 courses for £25, an even better deal if you opt for a really expensive main course like the lamb at £18.

We managed to take some pictures of the food in the restaurant to give you a taste of what we had. I took one of the menus to remember the description, but then lost it so I cannot recreate exactly what it was all called. But as it is a Jamie Oliver place the descriptions were peppered with 'pukka' and 'funky' and other such Oliver-ism's.

To start with, I had a delicious smoked mackerel with amazing fennel and potato salad, topped with Butervilla Funky Leaves... these were the most interesting and unusual part to me! You can probably see the flowers in the pictures, and they are some really unusual leaves - I have put a link to their website so you can read about what they do at http://www.buttervilla.com/funky/. It is great that Fifteen supports local produce, although I seem to remember them getting caught out in the press a while ago for using some battery reared eggs from Tesco!

My lady friend had a bruschetta with locally produced buffalo mozzarella, (which we decided was the richest and creamiest we had ever had), with pea and green bean purée and then topped with some more of the Buttervilla Funky leaves.

The presentation was not fantastic on the starters, but both were exceptionally good so it didn't really matter!

Then onto the main course, for which I had leg of lamb with mountain lentils and kale - and some herbs (I forget what now, sorry). As you can see here the lamb was cooked to perfection, and just melted in the mouth. The lentils as well were very tender and soft.


For her main course, she had orecchiette (pasta shaped like ears, thanks Wikipedia) with aubergine and tomato sauce, and ricotta. Not too much to say about that really, it was a simple dish but cooked to perfection, and in the words of my girlfriend 'Yum-a-licious!' I think that says it all!


Now onto the puddings, I went for a posh-er version of Eton Mess - it was Boddingtons strawberries, with meringues and champagne cream. Or it might have been champagne meringues and cream. Either way, it tasted delicious, and was presented in the traditional Eton Mess way! Messily! It didn't stay on my plate for long.

The other pudding we had on our table was called Amber's mum's amazing cinnamon and rhubarb pudding, served with with vanilla cream. I am not sure who Amber is, or her mum, but they certainly know their cakes! It was delicious, not to sweet, and the cinnamon goes really well with the rhubarb.


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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Chicken Chaat - Quick Chicken Curry

Chaat is a word used in many parts of India, Pakistan and South Asia to refer to street food snacks, the literal translation of the word is 'lick' or 'taste', I suppose because that is what you do.

This chicken chaat would usually be served in a chapati and I have had it before as a starter in Indian restaurants. Unfortunately, I have not yet been to India! It is a very quick meal to make and extremely flavourful.

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 3 chicken breasts - cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
In a pestle and mortar, mash the garlic with the salt until it forms a smooth paste.

Heat the oil in a large, non stick frying pan. Add the garlic paste.


Stir fry for about 2 minutes, until it is lightly browned.


Add the chicken to the pan, and stir fry for about 5-6 minutes until lightly browned and just about cooked through.


Add the spices and stir well.


Stir fry for another 2 minutes.



Squeeze over the lemon juice. A tip before juicing a lemon is to roll it on the work top, gently squeezing it all the time. This will make it a lot softer and more juice seems to come out that way.


Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve in a chapati or with rice and vegetables for a more complete meal.


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Sunday, 11 May 2008

Tropical tuna salad


I read with interest this post from Ben at What's Cooking? and thought it sounded like a great idea. The idea I took away from this was not to make the exact same salad, but to try the mango and tuna combo he aspired towards. Of course, when I actually made this the weather was a lot warmer, and the dish was well suited to the summery conditions. I have only just got round to posting the recipe up, several weeks later - and now the traditional English summer (wet and grey) has returned!

It worked out quite well, and with the added advantage that tuna steaks were on special offer in Tesco - 10p for two which is an absolute bargain, cheaper even than tinned tuna and a lot nicer.

This was a making it up as you go along sort of a salad. I got a mango, some tomatoes , cucumber, and green beans. Chopped them all up into chunks, then grilled the tuna steaks, then flaked it up into chunks and mixed with the salad whilst still hot.

For the dressing I just made a simple vinaigrette from a tablespoon of olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and then mixed the whole lot together and poured over the salad.

The fruity mango worked quite well with the tuna, but I should have added in some potatoes or pasta to make it into a more filling meal.

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First Barbecue of the Year

It is now officially the start of British summer time. We have had a week of glorious, scorching sunshine, enough to make the papers write such creative headlines as "Scorcher!". But for me the real sign of the start of summer is the smell of barbecues in the air.


I think it is a uniquely British thing that once summer begins, there will be a barbecue just about every week, rain or shine. I have before been hunched under an umbrella, keeping the fire going and turning the sausages just "Because it's summer!".

Still, I love barbecues, maybe because it signifies summer time, and in England, the weather is often not good enough to definitively say it is summer. So the first weekend of sunshine where we have been at home, and we got the barbecue out and fired it up!

Here are a few pictures of some British barbecue antics:

First, here is the barbecue getting fired up - not quite hot enough yet.


Now it's looking nice and hot, so on with the spicy chicken, and wrapped up in the foil is a sweet potato. They take a while to bake on the barbecue, about 30-40 minutes depending how hot it is and how big the potato is.


The chicken cooked, and then into the oven to keep warm whilst I do the burgers:

Obviously tending the barbecue is hard work, so time for a gin and tonic with plenty of ice and lemon. Ahh.
Here, I am grilling some aubergine slices, brushed with a little olive oil and lemon.


They were made into aubergine and mozzarella sandwiches, with the cheese nicely melted in between the aubergine slices.

Ooops - well, it wouldn't be a barbecue if nothing fell into the hot coals.

And here is the results - looking a little bit blackened, but it all adds to the flavour.


Serve with plenty of salad, and some nice cold beers or white wine.


Just a little tip for cooking on the barbecue, don't have it too hot else you will burn the outside and not cook the middle of anything. It is useful to have a barbie with a movable grill shelf like mine, so that you can adjust the height depending on the heat of your coals.

To check that things are cooked, you could use a meat thermometer or just use a knife and slice into the meat, and check it is cooked all the way through.




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Saturday, 3 May 2008

Spicy Chicken Drumsticks

This recipe comes from my good friend R, and it is very tasty! The chicken can only really be eaten with your fingers, no knives and forks for these, just make sure you have some paper towels to hand to wipe up after, as they are very sticky and juicy! The smoked paprika is the key here, it (surprisingly enough) adds a really smokey flavour to the chicken. You can really smell this as they cook in the oven, beautiful! R recommended using a whole tube of chilli in this, but I thought that would be just a little bit too spicy for me, so I just used half a tube. Any sort of chicken pieces will be good for this recipe I think, but I used thighs and drumsticks since they were on special offer in Tesco this week (£1.50 for 6 pieces).

I think this would also work really well on a barbecue too.

If you don't have a pestle and mortar, you could probably make the paste up in a blender. And don't use a porous wooden pestle and mortar like I did, as it is a nightmare to get clean afterwards. I think the next kitchen thing I will buy will be a nice solid stone pestle and mortar - rather like this one...



Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs/ drumsticks/ wings
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tube chilli paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar


In a pestle and mortar, grind up the seeds to a fine powder. Add the paprika and chopped garlic and grind some more.


Squeeze in about half the tube of chilli paste, and add the oil and vinegar. Grind some more to mix it all up well, and season with salt and pepper.


Toss the chicken in the paste, making sure all the pieces are well coated. Cover and leave to marinate. The longer the better really, although I only left them for half an hour as I was in a hurry. If you are organised, you could leave them to marinate over night.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ Gas Mark 6.

Place the chicken pieces in a roasting tin, and spoon any remaining paste over the top.

Cook for about 40 minutes, turning and basting a couple of times during the cooking. When done, the chicken should be golden brown and sticky.

Serve with some green salad, and some potatoes or chips.

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Mystery Japanese Food

Does anyone have any ideas what this is!? It is a meal that we had in Japan a few years ago, being prepared. It is all cooked by the chef on the hot plate in front of him, a very skilled and quick chap as he is preparing at least 10 of them in the bottom picture!

Have a guess what you think it is, I will reveal more later!


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