JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vichy carrots - and with a balsamic twist

Vichy carrots are a great way to use up old carrots. Simply slice them fairly small, put them in a pan with a knob of butter, a sprinkling of sugar or honey, and a little water. Cook on a high heat, shaking occasionally, and add more water if necessary. You need to be cautious with the water, because it should all have evaporated when the carrots are ready, covering them with a syrupy coating. When they're done, add some chopped parsley (I didn't have any).

And if you like, add a little balsamic vinegar before serving. That's what I meant to do for Lettice's lunch today, as she loves balsamic ... but I forgot. Hey ho.

Lamb with sundried tomatoes and basil

Here's a recipe for delicious lamb stew I made yesterday in the steam oven I am borrowing from Miele. Eleanor said it reminded her of a Thai red curry (without any spices). Definitely a keeper.

You don't actually need a steam oven to make it, indeed there'd be less washing up if you cooked it on your hob or in a conventional oven. But, for me, the surprise is that you can easily do this type of cooking in a steam oven .... and because the steam oven switches itself off when it's finished, you could put this together quickly in the morning and come home to find dinner ready to re-heat.

Lamb with Sundried Tomatoes and Basil

this is copied from a steam oven recipe supplied by Matt at Forever Better, but you could easily use a casserole dish and just keep on going on the hob

1 tbspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
900g lamb, diced
110g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tbspn dried parsley
25g basil
400ml vegetable stock
3 tbspns flour
seasoning, if required

1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Gently fry one of the crushed cloves
of garlic and the lamb for 5 minutes to thoroughly brown the meat.

2. Meanwhile, place the sundried tomatoes with the second clove of garlic,
parsley, basil and vegetable stock into a blender. Blend to a coarse sauce.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the lamb and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the
sauce to the pan and bring up to the boil. Transfer the lamb into a solid steam
container and cover.

4. Put the container into the Miele steam oven and select Cook Universal,
100ºC with a time of 45 minutes. When the cooking is complete, check the
seasoning and adjust with salt and freshly ground black pepper as necessary.

Mostly I've used the steam oven for bottling tomatoes and steaming vegetables, which seem to taste more of themselves than any other way I've ever cooked them. Not unlike a microwave, but easier to use, more versatile, and no need to buy horrible plastic dishes. I also poached pears in wine with vanilla and cinnamon - fab, and an ideal recipe for the steam oven. The watercress soup was less successful, because I couldn't / didn't get the leeks soft enough before adding watercress and stock, so the resulting soup is pitifully thin after passing through a coarse seive.

There are definite advantages to using the steam oven - you programme it in two steps, and then you can leave it, because it switches itself off. I find, though, that it's a bit scientific for me: I'm an intuitive cook, I don't often follow a recipe properly. Part of it is that I'm learning, so obviously have to consult a manual at this stage. But it also requires a precision I cannot manage in my daily cooking.

I've still got a few experiments to carry out: I haven't yet steamed an egg, or defrosted anything. I want to prove some more bread dough, because today's batch hasn't worked out well, but that may be because I'm using a Miele recipe which didn't read right to me and which looks as if it's going to end in rock-hard bread (in which case I'll blitz it for breadcrumbs).

The verdict is - I want one. Because I'd like to bottle a winter's worth of tomatoes. I probably won't use it for conventional cookery, so it's going in the scullery, not the kitchen, and therefore doesn't have to be the built-in model, which will save a fair amount of money.

Thanks to Steph and to Matt at Forever Better for organising the steam oven trial, AND for providing me with everything I needed for yesterday's sample menu.

Related links

V simple method of bottling tomatoes in a steam oven

Other things to do with lamb

Lamb with dates and chocolate

Very easy lamb with olive paste
Nigel Slater's lamb chops
Lamb shanks - good for when you're busy busy busy and have hungry hoards to feed

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Banksy at the Bristol Art Gallery

Nothing to eat at the Bristol Art Gallery, but plenty of food for thought ... various striking things about the Bristol Museum vs Banksy exhibition: there are a lot of jokes, there are a lot of people in the queue who don't normally visit art galleries, there are a lot of children roaring round the museum looking for Banksy jokes and finding other inspirations. Thoroughly recommended - Banksy will make you laugh out loud, challenge some of your perceptions of art and of the world, deflate any tendency to pomposity, and make you notice all sorts of things in the museum. It's not subtle, but it's great fun.

This joke definitely got me thinking about the gleaners as real people; there's something a little lazy about romantising such tough lives. And who's to say you wouldn't want to sit down for a quiet smoke if that was your life?

This is Banksy's version of the Angel of the North ... a southerner's view of Saturday night on Tyneside - but just as true of Bristol - we were kept awake much of the night by noisy young pouring out of a nearby nightclub and the university student union.

You could say that this is simplistic, it was one of a number of works dealing with warfare and violence (eg a classical bust of Mars thrown in a bucket with some flowers next to a large painting of soldiers armed with flowers); if you don't agree with Banksy's pacifism, it's no good reacting pompously, because the next work will be a joke. Like this rather gory circus joke, which reminded me of various stories and poems I read to our children when young ..

(Jim) hadn't gone a yard when--Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!

It's part of Jim, from Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children, a poem all our children know by heart.

The lovely Edwardian museum has probably never seen anything like it; it's free, but you'll have to queue - there were several hundred people ahead of us when we arrived half an hour before opening time at 9.30 (on a SUNDAY). By the time we came out, the queue was twice as long, the people at the back were probably going to have to wait at least an hour, maybe more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Very rich chocolate refrigerator cake

Half way to London for lunch with Eleanor the birthday girl, I realised that I had forgotten the birthday cake. So, as we were meeting in Piccadilly, Lettice and I popped into Ladurée and chose a box of macaroons to stand in until Friday, when she's home and can eat the one I made last night ... these are, from left to right: lemon, coffee, blackcurrant, chocolate, mint, raspberry, vanilla, pistachio. Beautiful colours, fabulous tastes, birthday extravagence.

This recipe originally came from my mother-in-law, and I have made it for years. When the children were small and took cake with them to school to share at elevenses, teachers often used to ask if I would make it. Very simple, very good, tiny squares are enough.

Very rich refrigerator cake

These quantities will make enough to use a dinner plate as a mould

250g digestive biscuits
125g butter
125g dark chocolate
65g sultanas
3 dessertspoons cocoa
3 dessertspoons golden syrup

Bash up the biscuits. It's better if they're not reduced to a fine tilth, the cake has a better texture if the biscuits are lumpy. But I've made it with crumbs from the food processor too. Use the end of a rolling pin.

In a large saucepan, melt all the other ingredients. The chocolate has a tendency to catch on the bottom, unless there's a film of butter underneath. When everything is melted, take it off the heat and stir in the biscuit crumbs. Then spread them out onto tinfoil. If I want it to look neat, I put the tinfoil onto a plate, and use that as a guide, but I don't always bother. Wrap in tinfoil (the easiest is to use a piece of foil twice the size of the cake, spread it in the middle, and then pull up the sides), and put in a cool place for an hour or two. Or make a day or two ahead.

PS here's a photo of the birthday girl taken at lunch, which we had at Nove in Sackville Street - a nice, unpretentious and not too pricey Italian just off Piccadilly. We were almost the only people there, what a shame

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nigella's chocolate mousse cake

It's the birthday season in this house. Lettice wanted chocolate cake, but not the "usual" one. So I made chocolate mousse cake, not quite following the recipe in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess ... very rich and delicious, quick to put together. Tomorrow it's Eleanor's birthday, and she's ordered up a different chocolate cake - I'm just off to buy the ingredients.

Chocolate mousse cake
for a 23cm tin

350g dark chocolate
175g butter
8 large eggs, separated
100g muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract

Grease the pan. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar until it is pale and creamy. Stir in the vanilla and the coolish chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they are peaky, then fold in (best if you loosen the mixture first with one spoonful of white, but I don't always remember).

Pour the whole lot into your tin, then put the tin into a larger roasting pan. Put all this into the oven, then add hot water from the kettle so that you have an inch or two of water.

Bake for 50 minutes. The top should be dry, but the inside will still be gooey. Don't even think about removing this from the tin until it is completely cold. It will crack as it cools; if it looks too much, dust with icing sugar.

Related links

Homemade vanilla extract
Jennifer Paterson's adult chocolate cake
Nigella's fudge icing for chocolate cakes
Rich chocolate refrigerator cake
Dense chocolate loaf
Tartuffo - very rich, very delicious chocolate pud

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Beef salad with capers and parsley

I've decided this year to cook my way through Elizabeth David's Summer Cooking, and I've started with this very good cold beef salad, which we ate last night for supper. ED gives this as the best use for the little bits left over at the end of a baked brisket, but I used the remains of a roasted silverside.

As she says, better made into a salad rather than reheated in a hash or rissoles - but who does that nowadays, anyway?

Elizabeth David's beef salad with capers and parsley

Slice your beef into ribbons. Make a vinaigrette dressing with finely chopped shallot, crushed capers, chopped parsley, red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. If you are using curly-leafed parsley it should be finely cut, if flat-leafed, you can chop it quite roughly. Combine everything and serve.