Pork crackling bruschetta

Last night I made dinner for my mum and her partner. I knew from the outset it was going to be the Tamworth belly ribs with red cabbage. But what to do with the pork skin and what other accompaniments? I came up with this crazy idea of of pork crackling bruschetta, replacing the bread with crackling and using a mix of antipasti on top to match the red cabbage.

Ok stick with me. My mother didn’t think it would work either but after she tried it she wanted the recipe.

Ingredients
Pork crackling
Oil spray
Maldon salt

Pickled artichokes
Tomatoes
Sunblushed tomatoes
Pickled onions
Yellow pepper
Olives
Lemon
Olive oil
Pepper

(alternatively just use the filling from my foccacia with antipasti filling recipe)

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Spray a little oil and sprinkle salt on both sides of the pork skin then rub in. Place on a flat roasting try and pop it in the oven.

3. After about 5 minutes reduce to heat to 150 degrees. The. After and 15 minutes increase the heat to 180 degrees and leave until the skin is bubbly and hard.

4. Meanwhile roast the yellow pepper, remove skin and finely chop along with all the other antipasti. I specifically haven’t put in amounts because you need to find the balance of flavours that works for you. However it is important to have non-vinegar-based pickles in there to cut through the acidity. Squeeze in a little lemon juice, pour on a little olive and add a little freshly ground black pepper and mix through.

5. Cut the crackling into pieces and place the antipasti mix on top.

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Warning, this can get messy when being eaten!

Tilapia with samphire, potatoes, and cauliflower purée

Ok I’ve just made myself the simplest, yummiest dinner and I feel compelled to share it. Lured by the wonderful array of fresh fish available at the fishmonger today I decided to resist the urge for a dirty takeaway this evening and try tilapia instead. It’s a gorgeous fish! Odd as it sounds, the flavour is slightly reminiscent of the spices used in KFC. So maybe next time you get a craving, consider this as a healthy alternative. Ok maybe not. Maybe just eat it for the sheer pleasure of the flavour in and of itself.

Ingredients
200g small potatoes (I used a mix of Charlotte and Royal Blue)
Table salt
1 cup of cauliflower florets
Milk
100g Samphire
Maldon salt
White pepper
1 Tilapia fillet
Lemon
Freshly cracked black pepper

Method
1. Salt and boil some water and add the potatoes.

2. Place cauliflower in a small saucepan, add enough milk to just cover and gently poach. Don’t let the milk boil as you will be using it later.

3. When the potatoes are almost cooked place the samphire in a colander and put this on top of the potatoes to steam.

4. When the cauliflower is cooked, remove the milk and purée. Add enough milk loosen the mix to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season with White pepper and Maldon salt to taste.

5. Pan fry the tilapia. It will only take a couple if minutes on each side to be ready.

6. To serve, place the cauliflower on a plate in a circle. Thickly slice the potato and place on top. Add the samphire and then top with the tilapia. Season with lemon juice and cracked pepper to taste.

This recipe serves one person. One of these days I’m going to write a cookbook full of recipes for one!

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Adventures with Cleo part 1.

So as I mentioned in a previous blog, I was recently given a sourdough starter by Tom of Tom’s Feast. Using his recipe, I attempted my fist sourdough. Here is a pictorial account of this experiment.

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Cleo fed and rested.

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First bread making stage post rest period.

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Rest of the flour added and bread rested.

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After the final resting (yes that is a large pizza tray).

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Big, baked, and beautiful!

Warm Mexican-Style “Salad”

I’m in another weight loss phase. However, I’m determined to ensure that calorie limitation doesn’t turn to flavour deterioration. It’s all about portion control. Having said that, tonight I was in one of those moods when I just needed to sit down to a big plate of something. This warm Mexican-style salad hit the spot and turned out rather well.

Ingredients
Half an avocado
1 tomato
A quarter of a red onion
Half a yellow pepper
A handful of coriander
1 lemon
100 grams of yoghurt
Ground cumin
Oregano
Ground cinnamon
Tabasco
1 small time of re-fried beans

Method
1. Roughly chop the vegetables and coriander and place in a bowl. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and mix through

2. Place a pinch of each of the remaining herbs and spices in a pot and dry roast for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down really low and add the yoghurt and a few drops of Tabasco. Gently heat until just warm. Be really careful not to overcook as this the yoghurt will split.

3. Heat the re-fried beans until warm. It’s fine to just pop them on a plate an pit them in a microwave for about a minute.

4. Place the vegetable mix on top of the heated beans and drizzle the yogurt mixture over the top.

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Yes, using canned beans is cheating and I’m sure it would taste better if I made them myself. But there are times, especially at the end of a difficult week when you just need something quick and easy that still tastes fantastic. Also because I’m in weight loss mode again I can tell you that this recipe has approximately 444 calories.

Pickled cabbage salad

Ok it sounds odd I know but this recipe is delicious. The key is in the cabbage. I developed this recipe after I realised that I had a large amount of leftover pickled cabbage that I’d made according to the recipe from the Hawksmoor at Home Cookbook. It’s a really lovely recipe, wonderfully balanced in terms of sweetness, acidity and depth. If not for the fact that I had to adjust the fridge to fit the pickling jar in and this was causing difficulties for my housemates’ food, I would have kept it to enjoy in and of itself.

This salad draws on a wonderful Ottolenghi recipe for roasted aubergine with walnut salsa in Great British Food Revival Volume Two (which for the record is a fantastic recipe that must be tried). The great thing about this salad is that it doesn’t require any dressing because of the residual pickling juices from the cabbage and walnuts.

Ingredients
Pickled cabbage (a la Hawksmoor)
125 grams of medium soft goat cheese (feta would be a viable substitute)
1 pomegranate
6 Pickled walnuts
Coriander
Parsley

Method
1. Place four large scoops of drained pickled cabbage in a bowl. I used a pasta spoon to do this.

2. Remove pomegranate seeds and add to the salad. I use a mix methodology of halving the pomegranate, bashing the skin on top with a rolling pin (or similar) until the seeds start to come out, the gradually gently squeezing out the rest of the seeds, rotating the fruit as I do so.

3. Roughly chop walnuts and add to bowl. Crumble in cheese in large chunks.

4. Roughly chop a handful each of the herbs, add to the salad and gently mix through.

Delicious!

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Spiced apricot and sultana bread

I was feeling the urge to make bread, having failed to exercise my kneading muscles for almost two months. Following is a recipe derived from one for currant bread. I’ve adapted it to my own tastes (not a big fan of currants), and because the original recipe was just plain wrong! This recipe makes two loaves and toasts really well for a delicious start to the day.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons of malt extract
2 tablespoons of golden syrup (honey is fine to use instead)
50 grams of butter
450 grams of white bread flour
0.25 teaspoon of ground cloves
0.25 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon of ground ginger
(spices can be substituted with 1 teaspoon of mixed spice, if preferred)
10 grams fast acting dried yeast
250ml lukewarm milk
125 grams dried apricots
50 grams sultanas
2 tablespoons of milk
2 tablespoons of castor sugar

Method
1. Grease loaf tins an set aside.

2. Gently melt butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Mix in the honey. Remove saucepan from the heat and gradually add the malt extract, quickly stirring it into the mixture as you do so. You need to be really careful because the malt can form hard lumps rather than a anion paste. If this happens, make sure to remove these before using this mixture otherwise you’ll end up with unpleasant crunchy bits of malt throughout your bread. When these ingredients are fully combined, set aside the mixture to cool.

3. Sift flour and spices together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the yeast into the milk, then stir this into the cooled malt mixture. Pour the liquid into the well and gradually combine to form a dough.

4. Turn out the dough and knead for about 10 minutes. I’m experimenting with not flouring my kneading surface at the moment. The way I see it, this is just adding an unknown amount of flour to the dough, bringing an element of unpredictability to the final product.

5. Once the dough is the right consistency, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1.5 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.

6. Meanwhile roughly chop the apricots until they are about the same size as the sultanas. When the dough has risen sufficiently turn it out and knock it back, then knead in the apricots and sultanas. Divide the dough in half and shape into two loaves, then place one in each of the tins. Cover with cling film and leave to proof in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough rises to the top of the tins.

7. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. When the dough has risen sufficiently, place the tins in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.

8. Meanwhile mix the milk and sugar into a thin paste to form a glaze. When the bread is cooked turn it out on a wire rack, place them the right way up and brush on the glaze immediately. Allow to cool sufficiently for the glaze to harden, then slice and serve warm spread with butter.

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Roasted red pepper soup

Skyping with my brother on the weekend he specifically requested that I put more recipes on my blog. Far be it for a big sister to refuse her little brother such a reasonable request. So here is the recipe for the scrumptious roasted red pepper soup I made yesterday.

Ingredients
1kg red peppers
1 red onion
2 small carrots
2 sticks of celery
Oil
1 teaspoon of (sweet) paprika
1 tin of tomatoes
750ml of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Roast the peppers either against the flame of a gas hob or in an oven. (Regular readers will know that I use the hob method. However this time, because of the large quantity of peppers I tried roasting them in the oven. It was a disaster! Hob method is definitely best). When the skins are sufficiently charred, allow the peppers to cool in a plastic bag before removing the skins, stems, and seeds.

2. Meanwhile roughly chop the onion, carrots, and celery and fry in a large pot with the paprika for a couple of minutes to develop the flavours. You need to stir it as it cooks to prevent the paprika from burning.

3. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce the heat and allow it to gently simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. Add peppers to the pot and using an electric blender, blitz until smooth. Gradually add the yoghurt, stirring as you pour to prevent the yoghurt from splitting. If you’re really worried about this, allow the soup to cool before adding the yoghurt, then gently reheat.

5. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika. Ready to serve.

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Beetroot and goats cheese ravioli

I’ve been wanting to learn to make pasta for many months and on the weekend I finally bought myself a pasta machine. The impetus stemmed from a recipe idea I developed while travelling home from work on Friday. Upon leaving the office I passed by an independent fruit and vegetable store and caught sight of some fresh beetroot. While musing upon the impossibility of sourcing such produce in supermarkets I struck upon the notion of a beetroot and goats cheese ravioli.

Before attempting my recipe I searched for a cookbook about making pasta. Unfortunately I could find no such thing. The majority focussed on pasta sauces, dedicating only a few pages to the act of making the pasta itself. In the end I resorted to the basic pasta recipe in Cook with Jamie.

ingredients
6 small beetroot
1 head of garlic
3 sprigs of thyme
Olives oil
250 grams of goats cheese
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
Half a portion of basic pasta dough
Flour
3 shallots
100ml strong olive oil
2 tablespoons of baby capers

Method
1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Wash the beetroot thoroughly. Top and tail them and cut them in half. Put in a roasting tray with peeled garlic and thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and shake the pan to coat. Cover the tray with tin foil and place in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes or so. They should be cooked, but firm.

2. Allow the beetroot to cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool further. When cold, grate coarsely with the flesh to the blade. The skin will naturally peel away and can be discarded.

3. Crumble the goats cheese into a bowl. The pieces need to be quite small so that each ravioli has a good mix of beetroot and goats cheese. Add the grated beetroot and lemon juice, and season to taste.

4. Roll out a potion of pasta dough into a sheet at the thinnest level, according to instructions. Cut in half widthways at the mid-way point. On one sheet, lightly brush with water then add teaspoons of the filling evenly along the sheet about 4 cm apart. Place the other sheet of pasta on top and press down around the filling, pushing out the air while doing so. Cut the ravioli into square with an appropriate pasta cutter. Place on a floured plate to dry.

5. Repeat until all the filling and dough has been turned into ravioli.

6. While the pasta is drying, make the sauce. Finely dice the shallots and fry in a little olive oil. When they start to become transparent add the capers. Lower to a minimal heat and add the rest of the oil. Leave for about 10 minutes to allow the flavour of the capers to infuse the oil.

7. Toss pasta in sauce and serve.

Making the pasta was very time consuming, but I was really happy with the end result. The filling is really tasty, even if I do say so myself. Next time I might try making it with yolks only to see how this affects the flavour.I might also purée the beetroot to give the filling a smoother texture.

Focaccia with antipasti filling

I’ve decided to continue Sunday brunch even if it’s just for one. Today I attempted a more ambitious version of one of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meal episodes I watched and liked the look of. It was a focaccia filled with antipasti. Naturally, I opted to make my own focaccia rather than relying on a store bought version as is the case in the television recipe. I searched the internet for a “traditional” focaccia recipe and finished with the impression that such a thing only exists as a family secret in Italy. Instead I turned to my hit-and-miss bread bible.

I haven’t eaten focaccia in years, possibly since shortly after arriving in the UK and being highly disappointed by the quality is bread I found here. My memory of what good focaccia is dim and in making this I mentally referred to an episode of the Great British Bake Off. I knew that the consistency of the dough was correct (or close to being so) because it was very moist and impossible to knead in the usual sense. Rather, it was a case of scraping the dough off the kitchen away from the bench top and folding it back onto itself. However this approach seemed to work well and a soon had the desired smooth and elastic mixture.

The recipe calls for sage to mix through and top the bread. I didn’t have any, so used thyme instead. The recipe is also intended to produce two round breads. In the absence of circular tins in my kitchen I instead used a single large rectangular tin. This caused no problems with the final product and, as a bonus, it meant that the bread was a better shape for sandwiches.

I was concerned after the second resting that the bread hadn’t risen sufficiently. By this time I had begun to pre-heat the oven, so I decided to place the bread on top of the stove for the third resting to benefit from the heat. This worked so well that I might use this approach for all of my bread from now on. As can be seen in the pictures below, the bread turned out really well. As well as looking beautiful, the taste was fantastic!

While baking my focaccia I had ample opportunity to prepare my filling. I didn’t use a recipe, but developed my own based on my recollection of the basic concept.

Ingredients
1 red pepper
1 aubergine
2 small pickled onions
4 slices of marinated artichoke
12 slices of sunblushed tomatoes
10 kalamata olives, pitted
10 cornichons
2 teaspoons of baby capers
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Good quality olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and cracked pepper
Focaccia
St Helen’s goats cheese

Method
1. Slice the aubergine thinly, place on a flat tray and roast in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees celsius for about 15 minutes or until cooked.

2. Char the pepper against a flame or roast with the aubergine until all the skin is black. Wrap in a plastic bag and leave to cool for about 5 minutes before removing the skin.

3. Chop all vegetables relatively finely and place in a bowl. Aim for small but distinct pieces otherwise it may become a homogenous mush.

4. Roughly chop the basil leaves and mix through.

5. Add olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning to taste and mix through.

6. Halve the focaccia lengthways. Spoon the antipasti mix onto one side of the bread and grate the cheese over the top before completing the sandwich.

There are an abundance of possible variations on this recipe. Also, it tastes even better if made in advance and left to marinate overnight.

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Wild mushroom risotto

What better way to spend a dreary day than to pop down to Borough Market to pick up some gorgeous yummy things with which to make a splendid dinner. After considerable perusing and contemplation I settled on some fresh wild mushrooms as the basis of my meal. Although the vendor tried to convince me that they were best served with tagliatelli, I decided to make a risotto. I also picked up some thyme, for flavouring, as well as some rocket and and aubergine for a side dish I’ve been wanting to try for ages. I was tempted to get some arborio rice with truffle. However, I already had it in mind to incorporate crème frâiche into the risotto and didn’t want to risk masking the wonderful fragrant flavour of the truffle. The recipe I came up with serves 3 people.

Risotto Ingredients
Olive oil
Half a white onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
250 grams arborio rice
100 ml white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock
Small knob of butter
150 grams wild mushrooms
1 tablespoon of crème frâiche
Salt and pepper
Parsley

Method
1. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan. Finely dice the onion and crush one clove of garlic then slowly fry over a medium heat. The onion should become translucent, not brown.

2. Remove thyme leaves from the stalks and add the leaves to the saucepan with the arborio rice. Stir and allow to fry until the rice starts to pop.

3. Turn the heat up to high. Add 80ml of white wine. Stir until the wine evaporates, but without letting the rice go dry.

4. Add a ladle of stock and stir until the stock evaporates, but without letting the rice go dry. You want the rice to develop a creamy texture. Repeat until rice is the right consistency. The best way to judge this is to keep tasting. You might not need all of the stock.

5. When the rice is nearly done melt the butter in a saucepan with a little olive oil. Roughly chop the mushrooms into large chunks then add to the pan with the other clove of garlic, crushed, and gently fry. When they are close to done add the rest of the white wine, toss the mushrooms in the liquid, and cook until this has evaporated.

6. Season both components of the dish and stir the crème frâiche through the risotto. Spoon the risotto onto plates, top with wild mushroom mix and sprinkle over some chopped parsley.

I was quite pleased with the resulting risotto. I think the addition of leak would work nicely. As I said before it would also be interesting to to try a truffle risotto with he wild mushrooms on top. I also wondered about adding some gamey meat. Lots of variations to try!