Archive for ‘Comfort Food’

March 7, 2011

Beef Cannelloni on a little Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck


Those that know me, have known me as a vegetarian for most of my life.  Until a year ago, the last time I’d eaten meat was when I was just eleven years old.  Back then I was seemingly more strong willed than I am today.  I was determined to stick with my new found vegetarianism.  But I knew that there was one dish that might tempt me, beef cannelloni. Ooh my.

As the smell wafted up from the family dinner table, the cannelloni made it’s best efforts to lure me. Somehow I held strong and stuck with my vegetables.

Clearly my determination has wavered in my adulthood and now I’m back on the meat eating side of the fence. So  a couple of weekends ago when M and I decided to have a classic movie night in, it seemed like a great reason to go to a little extra effort in the kitchen and reacquaint myself with the old favourite.

What a brilliant night in. The wine was plentiful and the cannelloni was scrumptious, not too rich as I didn’t make it with a white sauce. Perhaps slightly cheesily we continued the Italian theme in our classic movie selection … the fabulous William Wyler romantic comedy, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregroy Peck.

It had us both in fits of tears and chuckles …  if you haven’t seen it, see it!

Sx.


Beef Cannelloni

Ingredients:

1 box dried cannelloni shells
A couple of handfuls of mushrooms, finely chopped (I used the chesnut variety)
1 small onion, finely chopped
400g lean minced beef
1 egg yolk
Pinch nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/3 cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons butter / olive oil
Tomato Sauce (see below)
1/2 cup Parmesan
salt and pepper
For the Tomato Sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped
400g tin, chopped tomato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper

Method:

To make the filling:
Melt butter (or heat olive oil) in pan. Add onion and fry slowly until soft and just translucent. Don’t let it brown.
Add mushrooms and beef and continue cooking until beef is browned, stir occasionally so it won’t stick.
Add a little water to allow a little sauce to form. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Remove from heat and leave to cool a little.
Stir through egg yolk and parsley, leaving a little parsley to garnish later.
To make the Tomato Sauce:
Melt butter (or heat olive oil) in pan. Add garlic and onion and fry slowly until soft and just translucent. Don’t let it brown.
Add tomatoes and a little water. Let to simmer about 10 minutes. It’s good for the sauce to be on the runny side as it’s from here than the dried cannelloni will take the moisture to cook.
Season to taste. Add a little red wine vinegar to counter the sweetness of the tomatoes. Do this to taste.
To make the Cannelloni:
Preheat oven to 200ºC.
Place a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the base of your tray to stop the cannelloni from sticking.
Fill the dry cannelloni shells with the filling mixture, you can pack them quite tightly. Pack them close together in the tray.
Cover shells with the tomato sauce.
Place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
Garnish with lots of Parmesan cheese and the reserved chopped parsley.
Note: If you want to make it a little richer, add a layer of Mozzarella above the tomato sauce.

A Classic Style Beef Cannelloni
By Good Bite In
Published: March 7, 2011
Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 25 min
Total time: 50 min

February 14, 2011

The Sweets: Pavlova Muffins with Raspberries and Passion Fruit


Time for sweets and Pavlova is an absolute favourite of mine but this version is a tad deconstructed.

Pavlova Elements ... Side by Side

These mini pavlovas came about while I was preparing for a recent party. I baked pavlova into lined muffin tins and planned to slice the peaks off and use them as little lids once I’d added the filling. The problem came when I tried to cut the lids off … too much to handle for my clumsy hands. So in a last minute move  the decision was made to turn them into DIY pavlovas.

They looked so pretty with their perfect peaks so were nice to display just as they were. I served them alongside bowls of cream, raspberries and passion fruit syrup so people could take a pavlova and top it themselves.

DIY Pavlova

The best way to do it, I think, is to give the top a little smash and then go right ahead and load the cream, raspberries and a good drizzle of passion fruit on top.

Give the top a smash and then load your pavlova up with toppings

It worked out well and I think it’s a lot more fun doing it this way. You also don’t need to worry about your pavlova going soggy if you put your toppings on too far in advance. Super easy and the meringues themselves were the perfect combination of mallow-ey, chewy and sweet.

Digging in

So if you’re looking for a sweet and rather sexy looking treat, why not give these a go.

Sweet Valentine Pavlova

Enjoy!

Sx.


Pavlova Muffins with Raspberries and Passion Fruit Recipe

(Makes 10 muffin sized pavlovas)

Ingredients

150ml egg whites (roughly 4 eggs)

220g Caster Sugar

2 tblspns Cornflour

2 tspns White Vinegar

1 tspn Vanilla Extract

1 punnet Raspberries

1 tin passion fruit syrup

1 carton cream, whipped

 

Method

– Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Line muffin tray with paper cases.

– In a deep bowl whisk egg whites until peaks are just on the verge of  forming. You can use an electric mixer to do this although I tend to do it by hand as it doesn’t take too long.

– Gradually add sugar, whisking between each addition. You are aiming for a thick and glossy mixture. Be careful not to over whisk, you want it just to the point where you can tip the bowl upside down and the meringue won’t fall out.

– Add sifted cornflour, vanilla extract and vinegar. Gently fold until combined.

– Spoon mixture into cases, dividing evenly. Using a teaspoon give pavlova a gentle swirl on top to give a nice peak. Don’t make the peaks too tiny or they will burn more easily.

– Reduce the temperature of the oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Bake pavlovas for 1 hour and ten minutes or until they are just crisp. If you notice they are starting to brown, reduce the oven temperature.

– Cool in muffin tray and then remove with care. They are very delicate.

– Serve along side bowls of whipped cream, raspberries and passion fruit syrup … or really whatever you fancy.

January 24, 2011

Australia Day: The Sweet Crunch of an ANZAC Biscuit


The smell of Australia Day is in the air. I may be in London but that isn’t going to stop me baking an Aussie treat or two. It’s an excuse for ocker baking if ever there was one.

I make ANZAC Biscuits every year around Australia Day so was actually considering giving them a miss this year and trying something different.

I couldn’t have imagined the uproar!

Needless to say, the first Aussie treat I’m baking this year, is ANZAC Biscuits. The great thing about these biscuits is  you only need few pantry staples, including that essential Aussie baking element, dessicated coconut. What would an Australian biscuit be without it? And, with only about 20 minutes from getting the flour out of the cupboard to having a hot biscuit in your hand what could be better? I shouldn’t ever have thought I’d get away with not making them!

ANZAC Biscuits ... all ready for Australia Day

So, with Australia Day day only a couple of days away, we’ve got our jar of ANZAC Biscuits at the ready. M will be taking some into work come the 26th January. And come the weekend, we’ll have some to munch on for the Australia Day BBQ.

‘BBQ?’ you say? Yes it is the middle of winter  in London but but our winter Australia Day BBQ has become something of a tradition.  It happens every year, no matter rain, snow or freezing temperatures! At least we’ll have something yummy to munch on while we gather round the barbie with our scarves and gloves on!

Hope you enjoy making these for yourself!

Sx.

ANZAC Biscuits ... the sweet crunch

ANZAC BISCUITS RECIPE

So what do you need?

1 cup plain flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup dessicated coconut

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

125g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons water

How do you put it together?

– Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.

– In a big bowl, place your flour, oats, cocunut and sugar. Give a good stir to combine.

– In a small saucepan melt butter with golden syrup and water over a gentle heat.

– When it’s all melted together remove from heat and immediately add bicarbonate of soda. Stir quickly to incorporate and you’ll get a nice foamy top to the butter mixture.

– Pour butter mixture over dry mix and stir until it’s all combined.

– Place level tablespoon scoops of the mix onto a lined baking tray. You want them to be about 4 or 5 cm apart as the ANZACs will spread during cooking.

– Press each of the little scoops down gently using a fork. You want them to be a little flattened and with a nice ridge from the fork prongs.

– Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Leave on tray to firm up for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool.

The trick to making ANZAC Biscuits just the way you like them is how long you cook them for. Cook them more on the 10 minutes side and they’ll be chewy. If you do it this way, they’ll seem slightly soft when you remove them from the oven. Don’t worry about this softness, as long as they are the right colour they’ll firm up when cool. If you like crunchy ANZAC Biscuits then you want to cook them longer; 15minutes as long as your oven doesn’t start to give them too much colour.

January 20, 2011

The Secret Stays with Me: Salsa della Nonna


On my recent trip to Australia my mum finally taught my sister and I the secret of  Salsa della Nonna. This is the pasta sauce not only our childhood, but hers and her mother’s too.  Notebooks in hand, we hung on every word of direction so we could replicate it ourselves. Our family’s Salsa della Nonna is a two course feast … first the pasta with rich meat sauce and then the large joint of meat which as been slow cooked as part of the Salsa della Nonna is carved and served with vegetables alongside.

Salsa della Nonna

Now of course being the Salsa della Nonna, I am sworn to secrecy regards all elements of it’s preparation. However, what I want to write about is the warmth that accompanies this dish.

Most Italian families have a Salsa della Nonna. They are all very different but also very similar.  Each family has different things they put in the pot to make their sauce unique, but each and every one is infused with a very specifc love and the memory. The evocative nature, not only of the smell, but the taste, the textures, all feels like family. For me, each mouthful is re-assuring in the way it brings on floods of memories of family sat around the table and sharing from great central plates of food.

The joy of a good sauce is most famously shared by Martin Scorsese in Goodfellas. I only have to think of this scene and I start drooling.

(You’ll have to click the link to get there as there are embedding restrictions on it)

So now that my sis and I have been taught, both M and I are happy that I’ll be able to make my Great Grandmother’s sauce here in London. But, I’m sorry to say the secret of the sauce is going to have to stay with me … hopefully I’ll never need it in prison.

Sx.

I’d love to hear about any of your memories of your old family favourites … do share!

December 19, 2010

Bacon and Eggs with Lashings of Honey and Mustard


Yesterday was cold and snowy in London and today is the same. Looks like it will be either a white or a slushy Christmas.

Even the ducks were cold

So this morning after an early morning walk through the park, M and I were ready for a piping hot cup of tea and a bit of a Sunday bacon and egg treat.

This version was a bit of an experiment for us and it worked brilliantly. While M lashed the bacon with honey, I soft boiled the eggs and made mustard butter to griddle the bread. Honey and Mustard are always a great combo but with bacon and eggs … it’ll make the bacon go super sweet and crispy and you go gooey for more.

S.

So what do you need?

Bacon Rashers

Eggs

Baguette (or alternative)

Wholegrain Mustard

Honey

Butter

Salt and Pepper

So how do you make it like this?

Put a heaped tablespoon of honey in a bowl. Add a tiny little bit of just boiled water to make it a bit runnier. Be careful not to make it too runny. Put the bacon rashers in the bowl and coat thoroughly. Place rashers on a sheet of baking paper and put under the grill until cooked and crispy. Keep an eye on them … with the honey they are easy to burn.

Whilst the bacon cooks soft boil the eggs. The method I use is to boil some water in a small saucepan and carefully place in eggs. Let boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Cover with lid and let sit 6 min.

Mix lots of the wholegrain mustard into a smaller amount of butter so you have a mustard butter. Spread generously over bread. Place on warm griddle if you have one or else under grill with bacon. You want them nice and toasty.

Remove eggs from water when the time has passed and run under cold water. Peel the eggs carefully as they are more delicate when soft boiled.

Layer the honeyed bacon and slice soft-boiled egg on top of the bread. Serve hot.

Bacon and Eggs to warm you up?

December 19, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Beef Daube Fights the Cold


Bit of a change of plan with French Fridays this week. Having just got back to UK from Australia we’ve been given a cold shock by the snow that’s engulfing London. Being that those of us cooking along to Dorie’s latest book have the choice of when to cook each dish this month I was thinking the Speculoos would have to be first. They are after all, one of my favourite Christmas treats. But as the snow prevailed and our central heating struggled, we made a switch to Dorie’s Go-to Beef Daube.

Beef Daube is a classic beef stew, slow cooked with lashings of red wine and Cognac. Due to our rather bare post-travel cupboards, we had to sub in extra carrots for parsnips, and extra onions for shallots. However, any hesitations about this were dismissed as soon as we opened the oven door; the smell was intense … the only problem was waiting the two and a half hours in needed in the oven.

Dorie's Go-to Beef Daube

We ate it with a crusty baguette, warmed in the oven and broken into thick hunks. The garlic, wine and cognac that belt out of this dish make it super warming and rich. The slow cooking gives the beef no choice but to melt in your mouth.

Beef Daube fights the cold

As we polished it off using the crusty bread to mop up the sauce, the snow started to fall once more.

Need I say more?

S.

Coming Up next time on French Friday is ‘Speculoos’, really I am making them this time.  French Fridays with Dorie is a collection of people cooking along to Dorie Greenspan’s latest book. Feel like joining in, or making Beef Daube for yourself, then check out Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As requested by Dorie recipes for this group are not republished online.

December 14, 2010

On the Barbeque: Lemon Ginger Pork, Sweet Apples and Crushed Potato


It’s been a blazing hot day. M and I are down at my parent’s holiday home and after a day leisurely meandering along the coast and eating ice-cream it’s time to unwind for the evening. But after a few nights being treated to some of the old family favourites by my wonderful Mum, it’s my turn to cook. It needs to be simple as the suns setting and there’s beer to be drinking.  We’re definitely barbecuing tonight!

Being that there’s no shops to pop to, dinners coming from what’s in the fridge. When I pop my head inside it’s pork chops, potatoes and apples that I come out with.  A quick marinade of lots of lemon juice, lots of fresh ginger, lots of honey and a little dash of soy and I leave the chops to marinate while the sun goes down with M, the family and beers in hand.

Of course as soon as it’s set, everyone is suddenly hungry so the barbie’s fired up …

not long later …

Lemon Ginger Pork, Crushed Tats and Grilled Green Apple

It is easier than it looks.  The potatoes are done on the barbie in a foil packet to be quickly turned into a crushed potato with a fork and a little parsley and butter. The pork, basted in the warming depth of lemon, honey and ginger, cooks quickly and simply. And the sweet, lemony apples which top off the warmth and richness of the rest of the dish, are simply grilled on the side of the BBQ.

A Delicious BBQ Stack

Sat under the stars, our bellies full, a wee tot of the Whiskey we’ve brought from home is all we need for the night to come to a perfect end.

S.


So what do you need BBQ it like this?

Pork Chops

Potatoes

Green Apples

Honey

Lemon Juice

Fresh Ginger

Soy Sauce

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Parsley

Butter – just a knob

Tin foil

First do all your prep ….

Pork Chops marinated in mixture of a good few squeezes of lemon juice, lots of fresh ginger, a big spoon of honey and little dash of soy sauce. Make the marinade to taste – I think it’s good to make lots of it so that you can use it to baste the chops while they cook. It’s up to you how strong you make the individual flavours but don’t be afraid to try to make them big.

Potatoes peeled, roughly sliced then placed on large sheet of tin foil. Toss in a little oil and salt and pepper then seal foil around potatoes so it forms a package with no openings.

Thinly Sliced Green Apples tossed in a mixture of Honey and Lemon. Don’t peel or core the apples, just slice them as they are and push out the seeds with a skewer or a finger, that way you keep the nice star shape.

Once the BBQ is fired up …

Put the packet of potatoes on first, not too hot as you want the steam that’s created inside the packet to cook the potatoes. Turn packet halfway through cooking. They are done when they are light and fluffy – you can just press down on the packet with the tongs and see if they feel soft, if you’re not sure open it up. If they are finished too long before the chops and apples it doesn’t matter, just leave them in the foil as they’ll stay hot.  When the chops and apples are almost done you can do the ‘crushing’. Empty the package into a bowl and with a fork, stir through a knob of butter, and parsley. As you do this break up the potato roughly so it has a crushed texture. Season to taste.

The chops can go straight from the marinade onto the BBQ. Don’t overturn them and you’ll get nice sear marks on them. Make sure you baste them with the left over marinade while they’re cooking.

The apples will take the least time and just need to be placed on the grill or griddle and let to colour and soften a little … don’t let them cook too much or they’ll fall through the grills. You want to turn them half way through so you get the nice grill marks on both sides.

Elements complete … all you need to do is make your stacks!

December 13, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken the Lazy Way


Watching S cooking up a storm for the last few weeks and posting the results, I was beginning to get kitchen withdrawal. Ok, and the slightest bit of envy that her fledgling blogging was taking off more than mine. What can I say? I’m male and as much as I would claim not to be competitive I really am. So it was time for me to get in the kitchen, pull on the Cath Kidston apron and attempt French Fridays with Dorie.

Roast Chicken Les Paresseux is essentially Chicken the Lazy Way, which suits me fine. My approach to the kitchen is one pot cooking as who wants to spend their evenings scouring pans? This dish is perfect for this as once the chicken is cooking you can prep the veg, taking the chicken from the oven midway and laying the veg around. You then place it back to finish cooking.

Lazy way does it just fine

My other kitchen trait is to cook by instinct, recipes being a useful guide which I’ll often disregard  half way through. This wasn’t  an option with S popping her head into the kitchen to remind me that it’s French Friday with Dorie…. Not M!

What I love about the recipe, apart from the simplicity is Dorie’s chefs treat. This is the bread which the chicken is elevated on. The chicken benefits from not wallowing in the fat which is absorbed by the bread. It becomes crisp on contact with the roasting tray and can be crisped up with a little extra oven time while the chicken rests. We have cooked this dish twice now, first devouring the bread fresh from the oven and secondly served to guests as a quick starter with  gooseberry relish S had hidden in the fridge.

A couple of slices of good bread slipped under the chicken right at the start.

This is a great dish whether serving to friends; or just the two of us, using the leftovers for the next days lunch… if there’s any left!

Simplicity does it

M.

Coming Up next time on French Friday is ‘Speculoos’, the best of spicy biscuits you can find.  French Fridays with Dorie is a collection of people cooking along to Dorie Greenspan’s latest book. Feel like joining in, or making Roast Chicken Les Paresseux for yourself, then check out Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As requested by Dorie recipes for this group are not republished online.

November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pizza with Crispy Sage … Where’s the beer?


Piping hot, puffed up round the sides, nice and crispy base … homemade pizza joy in our flat last night! As it’s still round Halloween time I thought a Pumpkin Pizza was in order .. only I actually used butternut squash as there seemed to be a pumpkin shortage in South London … I guess that’s me being late for Halloween.

Pumpkin, Chicken, Feta and Crispy Sage ... mmmm

It might seem like a faff but pizza is such a great last minute dinner … it’s so simple yet it feels like such a treat. The brilliant thing about making your own pizza dough is that once you’ve made it you can freeze the dough in individual portions and then just pull them out of the freezer whenever you fancy.  The recipe below makes up to 8 pizzas. That’s a lot of last minute dinners!  Once it’s defrosted all you need to do is roll it out and choose your toppings. That’s what I did last night … ten minutes in the oven, some creepy Halloween tunes on the stereo, all we needed to go with it was a beer! I reckon the best thing about this topping combo was the sage which went all crispy and was like heaven next to the creamy feta.

Pumpkin Pizza ... where's the beer?

So what do you need to top it like this?

Use the dough and cooking instructions below and top with the following ingredients. Top in the order they are listed.

Tomato Sauce (Leftover homemade sauce or else a ready made tomato paste)

Roasted Pumpkin / Butternut Squash Chunks (or steamed for a healthier version)

Grilled Breast of Chicken cut into strips

Crumbled Feta Cheese

Fresh Sage leaves cut in half lengthwise

A drizzling of olive oil

Ten minutes in your oven  … drizzle with a little chilli oil and Bobs your uncle! If you haven’t tried making your own pizza before, it’s seriously worthwhile giving it a go.

Autumn Days ... last of the blue skies .. a little distraction midway through the recipe!

Basic Pizza Recipe:

So what do you need for the dough?

1kg strong white bread flour (or type 00 if you can get it – it’s much finer so gives you a good texture)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x sachets dried yeast (14g total)
1 tblspn caster sugar
4 tblspns olive oil
650ml jug of lukewarm water (make sure it’s not too hot or you’ll kill yeast)

(If you have it, it’s also nice to replace maybe 200g of the flour with semolina flour – not necessary, but nice)

Put it all together like this:.

A lot of people make pizza dough straight onto the worktop. This is great if you have a vast kitchen but mine is tiny. When I tried this I ended up with a pizza avalanche running down the side of my worktop. So the method I now use is to make it using a large round low edged, flat bottomed ceramic dish. It allows a large enough work area but has the advantage of having sides so it isn’t messy!

So … into your dish / work surface sift your flour. Bring it all together and make a deep well in the centre.

In your jug of water place your yeast, sugar and oil. Mix and then leave to settle for a few minutes. Pour the mix carefully into the well.

Using a fork, gradually bring the flour from the outside into the liquid. You should be gently drawing it in and swirling each little bit into the liquid as you go.  Keep doing this until you have drawn all the flour in and the mix has come together.

Now, get your hands dirty. You need to knead the dough with flour dusted hands but there’s a knack to it. My grandmother used to always tell me off as a child when I got it wrong … I can almost hear her now, telling me I’ve got to be more gentle with the dough, to feel it, to sense it! It’s true though you do need to sense it. You should be kneading it and stretching it at the same time. With each knead gently pulling the dough away from itself, stretching it, working it into a smooth elasticey springy ball of dough. Be careful not to be too rough or hard with it or you’ll knock the life out of it.

Place the dough into a large flour dusted bowl and sprinkle a little more flour over the top. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size. The time it needs will vary greatly according to the temperature of the room.

Now to knock back the dough. Place the dough on a flour dusted surface and knead around a bit to push the air out and you’ll see it deflate a little.

That’s the dough made. Using a sharp knife divide it into balls according to how many pizza you want to make. It will make 8 standard size pizzas or else you could make a whole load of mini ones – up to you. You can either make your pizzas straight away or wrap the individual balls in cling film and place in the freezer, ready to defrost when you fancy a pizza!

Making the Pizza:

(Note: If you can roll out the dough ten minutes or so before you’re going to top and cook – not to worry if you can’t)

Place your tray, pizza stone or a unglazed terracotta tile (this is a cheap but perfectly good pizza stone alternative!) in the oven.

Preheat your oven as hot as it goes – mine goes to 300 Celsius.

Now, lightly dust your workspace with flour and roll the dough out – flipping and turning every so often so you get a nice even pizza. You want it as thin as you can get it. Once I’ve done the basic rolling I sometimes just get it in my hands and kind of stretch and turn it between my hands. The weight of it dropping between your hands stretches it and helps you to get that nice thin base.

Once you’re ready, top the pizzas – either using the suggestion above or else whatever you fancy (be careful not to overload on topping or else you’ll have trouble transferring it to oven in a moment)

Slide the pizza onto your tray of choice that has been heating up in the oven.

All it needs is ten minutes in the oven and you’ve got yourself a pizza!

S.

October 30, 2010

Heaven on Toast: Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & Capers on Sourdough


Heaven on Toast this certainly must be …

Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & Capers on Sourdough

… and when I’m in the mood for decadence at the breakfast table this is what does it for me. A thick slice of Gail’s Potato and Rosemary Sourdough (after a tip off from friend O), lightly toasted and topped with a thick smear of cream cheese. A couple of lightly placed layers of Smoked Salmon, a sprinkling of salt packed capers and a squeeze of lemon.

Just a squeeze of lemon

It was my birthday breakfast after all …

S.

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