Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pistachio and Ginger Biscotti/ Polpo

I’m sorry blog that I have been neglecting you! Sadly a seven day working week does not a good blogger make. I'm so lucky though to be helping at the lovely House and Garden magazine - lots of inspiration and an endless supply of fabric samples! Finally I have a chance to post my picture of some  biscotti that I made a week ago from the Ottolenghi cookbook. They are slightly softer than the authentic biscuit due to the crystallised ginger chunks but the pistachio gives is a crunch and the pale emerald and yellow colours of each look so pretty. N.B Although it may look like the silver Italianate bowl is sitting on some road kill, it is actually a rather exotic guinea foul feathered place mat. 

On another, loosely linked by way of country, note, recently I had supper at Polpo, a Venetian style restaurant in Soho (41 Beak St – appropriately Canaletto once lived there). It was all rich; gnocci with kale pesto and parmesan, pork belly with radiccio and hazelnuts, chicken liver crostino but in small tapas style portions so you had room for a delicious ‘marscapone crumble’ which was like a very moist, crumbly cake (if that makes any sense!). Everything was cooked perfectly and full of flavour although the pork needed to be cooked a little longer as it was slightly tough. We were accidently given the restaurant's namesake – octopus - which looked fabulously tentacle-y, but one squeal from my companion had it swiftly on its way again. I shall definitely be returning… 

Pistachio and Ginger Biscotti
Makes 25
      Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
      Using a electric mixer (or good spatula and both your hands) cream 80g Unsalted Butter and 110g Sugar, together untill they lighten in colour and texture. Gradually add 2 Eggs, beating well after each addition, stir in 1 tsp Brandy and Grated Zest of 1 ½ Oranges, followed by the 150g Flour, ½ Tsp Ground Ginger and ¼ Tsp Salt.
      Lastly fold in 80g Shelled Pistachios and 60g Stem Ginger in syrup, drained and roughly chopped.
     Lightly dust the lined baking tray with flour and spoon the mixture on to the tray. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes so it firms up a little.
     Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Take the dough out of the fridge and using your hands and a bit of extra flour, form a log shape about 25 cm long. It does not need to be perfect, as the mix will spread during baking.
     Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
     Adjust the oven temperature to 130˚C. Once the log has cooled down, use a serrated knife to cut it across into slices 1 cm thick.
Lay them flat on the baking tray and return to the oven for about 40 minutes, until crisp.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Laying Tables...

I love laying the table. There is something so satisfying about building up the layers of linen on wood, placemats, glassware, silverware and so on. Then decorating the table to suit the occasion: hyacinths and daffodils for an Easter lunch, silver dragées, greenery and pine cones for Christmas and peonies in glass cups for a lazy summer lunch outside. Looking through magazines and my own scraps here are a few of my favourite inspirations...

At Home

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Seafood the Eastern Way

At the moment my mum is trying the latest diet, ‘The Dukan Diet’, which basically means you eat protein all day everyday to start with then you can alternate with days of vegetables being allowed also. Being the loving supportive daughter that I am (ahem) I am doing it with her (sort of, what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her!) and this poses a big problem in the kitchen. How to make yet another skinless chicken thigh appealing? How many ways with eggs can there be? And how much low fat cottage cheese and yoghurt can one stomach? Added to this, a whiff of ‘diet’ anything and my Dad instantly turns against something. So, to spur us on we bought some amazingly large prawns and a big juicy monkfish tail from the fishmonger – the best thing about this diet is that it is a fantastic excuse to indulge in seafood i.e. breakfast for the last 2 weeks has been smoked salmon and scrambled eggs mmm. Butter, flour, anything but a wipe of oil etc. is obviously out so it was hard to know how to cook the fish, until I remembered how healthy eastern cooking can be, relying on strong spicy marinades in place of the Western tendency to envelope fish in creamy buttery sauces. 

I adapted the monkfish recipe below from one of Rick Stein’s recipes from his Far Eastern Odyssey cookbook and then simply sautéed the precooked prawns in some oil and soy sauce, then served with a Vietnamese carrot salad that I have previously posted about. I also added a pickle from Stein’s cookbook, see below. Of course, noodles can be added for people not crazy enough to do this diet!

Balinese Marinated and Grilled Monkfish Kebabs

  • For the marinade, blend: 25g Shallots, roughly chopped, 15g Garlic, roughly chopped, 1 Red Chilli, thinly sliced, 20g Ginger, roughly chopped, ½ Tsp Turmeric, 2 Tbsp Tamarind Water (you can buy the paste in supermarkets, then just add some to water and sieve to remove lumps) and ½ Tsp Salt. Tip into a large bowl and add 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil.
  • Chop about 400g Monkfish tail, skinned and boned, into large chunks and mix into the marinade. Leave for about and hour.
  • Thread onto metal or wooden (soaked in water for ½ hour) skewers and then grill (or BBQ in the summer) for about 4 minutes on each side.

Balinese Lemongrass and Shallot Sambal
Sambal Matah

  • Wrap ½ Tsp Shrinp Paste in a small square of foil to make a parcel and roast in a heavy saucepan for 2-3 minutes each side. Leave to cool.
  • In a serving bowl mix 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves, shredded, 4 Red Chillis, finely sliced, 2 Fat Lemongrass Stalks, core finely chopped, 175g Shallots, halved and thinly sliced, 2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped and the Fish Paste, crumbled. Stir in 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil and 1 Tbsp Lime Juice and leave for ½ an hour to pickle slightly. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Chicken, Preserved Lemon, Olive and Fennel Tagine

This makes the most tender chicken you will ever taste. The preserved lemons and olives add a touch of bitterness which is not unpleasant, only serving to balance the sweet juiciness of the braised fennel and chicken.

Serves 4
  • Mix 1 Heaped Tsp Coriander Seeds, bashed up, 1 Level Tsp Ground Cumin, 1 Heaped Tsp Ground Ginger and 2 Tbsp Olive Oil together in a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl put 1 Chicken (approx 1.5kg), jointed into 4 with the skin on. Massage with the spice rub, then cover with clingfilm, and put into the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours or, even better, overnight.
  • When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole-type 
pan, and fry the chicken pieces over a medium to high heat, skin side down first, for about 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  • While your chicken fries, chop 2 Fennel Bulbs into 8 wedges, and add these to the pan along with 2 Onions, roughly chopped and 4 Cloves of Garlic, sliced. Stir well and fry for a couple more minutes, then mix 3 Small Preserved Lemons, chopped, 80g Green and Black Olives and a large pinch of Saffron.
  • Pour in 500ml Chicken Stock, give everything a good stir, then cover with a lid or foil, and simmer on a low heat for 1½ hours, or until the meat starts to fall away from the bone. Halfway through, have a check and give it a good stir. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks dry. When the time’s up and your chicken looks perfect, stir gently. If it’s still a bit liquidy, leave it to blip away with the lid off until thickened slightly.
  • Season to taste and serve with cous cous.