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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ed's English Beef Curry

A break from Italy for this one.

I started making curry because my wife and I moved to an area where all the local curry houses weren't up to scratch and we can't live without curry!

Unlike Italian food, I haven't yet started to prepare traditional Indian food. I'm currently reading "Gordon's Great Escape" and will probably get into it soon. This is as far from traditional Indian food as I'm sure it can get! For one, it uses beef rather than lamb; secondly... the cooking method is kind of screwy in terms of the way Indian people cook.

The reason for the cooking method is that the only way I could achieve the melt in the mouth meat that good curry houses plate up is by using similar methods that I use when making a stew or goulash. This is a dish that will take up quite a bit of time! Making my curry is a bit like "George's Marvellous Medicine" because it feels like you're just emptying the contents of your spice cupboard, but trust me it tastes great!

My curry is pretty much like a very hot rogan josh/vindaloo from what I can gather from the various recipes I've found on the internet. You can obviously take the number of chillies down if you prefer your curry milder and you can substitute lamb or chicken if you want.

Serves 4-6

750g Stewing steak cut into inch cubes
25g Butter
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
5 Cloves garlic, crushed
10 Red chillies, roughly chopped
1 Large onion, roughly diced
1 Red pepper, cut into strips
1 Green pepper, cut into strips
3 Tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 Tube tomato paste
2" Square of ginger, grated
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly (save a few whole leaves for serving)
Heaped tablespoon of cumin
Heaped tablespoon of turmeric
Heaped tablespoon of garam masala
Heaped tablespoon of paprika
Heaped teaspoon of fenugreek
Teaspoon of cinnamon
Teaspoon of black mustard seeds
Teaspoon of hot curry powder
2 Bay leaves
Cider vinegar (enough to marinade and also a teaspoon for the curry, see below)
Balsamic vinegar to marinade
Plain yoghurt (enough for a teaspoon or so in the curry and to serve)
Juice of one lime
4 cloves, crushed
3 Teaspoons of tamarind paste
Large pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

You need to marinade the beef for about 6 hours before you use it. To do this put the beef in a bowl and cover with the cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. The acid starts to break down the fibres in the beef and will give you a more tender end product.

When the beef has marinaded for 6 hours you need to construct the curry paste.

Put all of the dry ingredients in a suitable mixing bowl and add everything apart from the oil, butter, onion, peppers, bay leaves, beef, yoghurt and tomatoes. Mix this together until you have a rough paste.

Fry your onion in the butter and oil until soft and then add the peppers (you need a big pot which has a lid). Continue cooking until the peppers are beginning to soften. Add your paste to the onions and peppers and cook for about 2 minutes stirring continuously so it doesn't burn (this is my favourite part as all the spices give off a terrific aroma!). It's now time to add the beef cubes so rinse the vinegar marinade off and add them to the pot. Let the beef cook for about five minutes in the thick sauce. It's important to keep stirring as the sauce will burn if you're not careful. You now need to add about a pint of boiling water, stir it in, add the bay leaves and let it reduce on high heat. Put the oven on at 160 to heat up while it is reducing.

Once the curry has reduced to the point where it has quite a thick sauce, take it off the heat, put the lid on  and put it in the oven for about an hour and a half. At this point, take it out of the oven and add the tomatoes. Put it back in the oven for another hour or until the meat is "falling apart" tender.

Once the meat is tender, take the curry out of the oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Once rested, stir in about a tablespoon of yoghurt and serve with the rest of the yoghurt (for people to cool it down if it's too hot) and some whole coriander leaves (and of course a cold beer!).

From my experience it tastes LOADS better the day after so if you can resist eating it the day you cook it and reheat in the oven the following day, you'll enjoy it more (although remember you can only reheat it once).

A quick note on rice:

Rice cooks quicker and is more fluffy if you soak it for an hour first. I usually soak mine with a couple of cloves, a pinch of cinnamon and turmeric and a cardamon pod for flavour.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Risotto Con Piselli E Menta

This is a classic dish and as usual the marriage of peas and mint works like a charm.

Although it's not vegetarian, you could substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock and adjust the seasoning to compensate for the pancetta.

Serves 2

50g of butter
Splash of olive oil
1 onion chopped very finely
2 cloves of garlic crushed
100g pancetta roughly chopped
Small glass of crisp white wine (about 100ml)
500ml of hot chicken stock (you may not need it all)
175g risotto rice
Handful of mint roughly chopped
2 large handfuls frozen peas
Handful of  finely grated parmesan plus extra to serve
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter with a splash of olive oil and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and pancetta and continue cooking for a minute or so. Now add the rice and stir gently until all the grains are coated. Pour in the wine and stir until it has nearly all been absorbed by the rice.

Throw in the peas and turn the heat to low. Gradually add the stock until the rice is al dente stirring regularly to make sure none sticks to the bottom. It should take about 20 minutes to cook so at about the 15 minute mark, add the chopped mint and the parmesan. Once cooked, season to taste and serve immediately.

You're looking for an oozy loose consistency so add a little more butter or a little more stock if not.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Penne Al Pesto Genovese

Pesto is a handy sauce to have in the fridge for a quick meal. I used to buy the little jars but after learning how easy it was to make, I decided to make my own.

It's name comes from the Italian for "pounded" and is a reference to the way it is traditionally made in a pestle and mortar.

There are many different sorts of pesto with different flavours but the one most people consider the classic green pesto is pesto genovese. My version is as follows...

You will need:

Large handful of basil (or two of the supermarket sized packets)
Handful of pine nuts
1 clove of garlic
Handful of grated parmesan
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Teaspoon of white wine vinegar
Dried penne

Mash up the pine nuts, garlic, basil stalks (not the leaves yet) and parmesan until you have a smooth paste (use a blender or a pestle and mortar). Chop the basil leaves until they are about 2mm squared (I do this so you can see the leaves... ). Add this to the mixture with the oil and vinegar and stir until the ingredients have combined and season to taste.

You can use it immediately but I like to leave it in the fridge for an hour so it sort of marinades itself.

Cook your pasta, drain, return to the pan and stir in enough pesto to coat it. Any left over will keep for about 3-4 days in a jar or covered container.

Serve immediately.

Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese

This is an easy one for me as the sauce is exactly the same as my lasagne recipe.

Italians NEVER serve bolognese with spaghetti as thicker cuts of pasta hold the sauce better. Also, the bolognese shouldn't be piled on top, it should be put through the pasta.

To make it, simply follow the meat sauce recipe from my lasagne recipe, cook the tagliatelle to al dente texture in salted boiling water, drain (retaining a small amount of pasta water), return the pasta to the pan and spoon in enough of the sauce to coat the pasta (you'll probably have some left over which you can leave to cool and freeze). Serve immediately with grated parmesan to top.

Quick tip on serving long pasta... If you use tongs to serve and twist the pasta onto the middle of the plate, you get a nice vertical effect as pictured above.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Gnocchi Con Funghi E Salvia

This recipe was originally one of Jamie Oliver's from his fantastic book "Cook With Jamie" (well worth a purchase as it's more a proper cookbook than trying to teach the masses how to cook). I've kind of bastardised it to suit my palate but I think it works rather well. It's not a healthy dish because of the butter and cream but it tastes yummy.

Serves 2

Gnocchi (see previous post)
2 cloves of garlic
6-8 fresh sage leaves, stalks removed, roughly chopped
about half a supermarket sized pack of chestnut mushrooms
Fifth of a pack of butter
olive oil
Half a cup of chicken stock (about 125ml)
Tablespoon of double cream
Juice of half a lemon
Teaspoon of white wine vinegar (may or may not be necessary)
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan to serve

Make your gnocchi as per the previous post and bung them in the fridge to set.

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, wash and dice into thin 2cm pieces. Add a small glug of olive oil to a hot pan and add the butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and sage and fry for a further few minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add the stock and leave to reduce for about 2 minutes. Stir in the double cream and the lemon juice and season to taste. If the lemon juice is not enough to lift the stocky flavour, add a splash of white wine vinegar (or another half lemon if you prefer, I prefer the vinegar so it doesn't become too citrus). The consistency you are aiming for is kind of like a slightly thick broth and should retain some transparency. If it is too thick, add a bit of water, if it's too thin, let it reduce.

Cook your gnocchi, drain and very gently stir them into the sauce. Serve immediately with parmesan to top.

PS- Jamie's recipe also uses finely diced red chilli. It does taste great but I don't do so all the time as the dish is powerful anyway due to the sage. The picture above is from an occasion where I've opted for the chilli so that's the red bits you can see.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Homemade Gnocchi

There's nothing like homemade gnocchi. Gnocchi literally means "lumps" in Italian and they're kind of like little dumplings that you can use instead of pasta. The gnocchi you can buy in the supermarkets are very "doughy" and don't represent what I personally prefer in terms of consistency. I like my gnocchi to be fluffy and light and the following recipe shows you how to do it that way. The secret to good gnocchi is making sure that the potato is as dry as possible before you add the egg and flour. That's why I bake my potatoes rather than boil them. Personally, I find gnocchi is far easier to make than pasta once you get the hang of it and a good "cheat" if you want to impress at dinner parties with Italian food!

Serves 2-3

2-3 baking potatoes (depending on size, 2 if they're huge, 3 if not)
1 egg yolk (although I retain a very small amount of white because I think it makes it fluffier)
Handful and a half of tipo 00 flour (you may not need all of it)
Semolina flour to dust

The easiest way to bake your potatoes is to stick them in the microwave. You don't need a crispy skin because you will be discarding it so my advice is to put them in the microwave on full for 10-15 minutes (remember to prick the skin multiple times so they don't explode!) or until soft inside. You can of course do them in the oven but it will take considerably longer. Once cooked, set aside until cool.

Halve the potatoes and scoop out the middle into a bowl. Mash them thoroughly until you have an extremely smooth mash (I start with a masher and then spend a bit of time with a fork). Add an egg yolk to the mash and whisk it in (as previously stated, I retain a little tiny bit of the white). Add a little finely grated nutmeg and then start slowly adding the tipo 00 flour to the mash until you start to get a dough. The dough should be slightly sticky and you just want enough flour to bind it together. If you add too much flour, your gnocchi will start getting more like the stuff you buy in supermarkets which is what we're trying to avoid. You don't need to knead gnocchi dough for very long, just a minute at most so everything is combined properly.

Once you've done the above, dust a work surface and a tray with semolina flour and roll out the dough with your hands into long sausage shapes just over half an inch in diameter. Cut the long sausage shapes into inch long pieces and put on the floured tray. If you were being really fancy you can score each gnocchi piece with a fork but I generally can't be arsed. Pop the tray into the fridge for half an hour to set.

Cooking the gnocchi is pretty much the same as cooking fresh pasta. Boil a pan of salted water and then drop the gnocchi into it. The gnocchi will be cooked about thirty seconds after they rise to the surface of the pan, mine usually take about 2-3 minutes to cook. Serve with the sauce of your choice immediately.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Ravioli Con Salsa Di Pomodoro

Sun-dried tomato, basil and mozzarella ravioli with simple tomato and basil dressing.

This is quite tricky to make but tastes light and fresh like all good Italian dishes do. It's another one of mine so I'm not sure how traditional it is but wifey loves it! I have always loved the traditional mozzarella salad and thought that nothing could be better than having a tiny version contained within ravioli.

You will need:

Homemade pasta (see my previous post)
2 balls of mozzarella
Large handful of basil
Jar of sun-dried tomatoes (you won't need all of it... about a third)
5 ripe tomatoes
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped or crushed)
knob of butter (about a tablespoon)
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Handful of black kalamata olives
Salt and pepper
Parmesan to serve

Make the pasta dough as per my previous post. Once you've got to the point where it's in the fridge start making the sauce.

Chop the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds and watery bits. Dice them roughly and set to one side. Chop half the basil (including the stems) finely and set aside ready for cooking.

Melt the butter in a pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the garlic. Add the tomatoes and basil and season with a little salt and pepper. Add the juice from the lemon and the olives and simmer for just a couple of minutes. You should end up with something that is more like a dressing than a sauce. Once you've achieved this, take it off the heat until you're ready to cook the pasta.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into roughly half inch squares and tear the mozzarella into inch size pieces.

Roll the pasta as described in the last post to about setting 8 (or the next to last setting on your machine).

You now need to assemble the ravioli so make sure you have dusted a surface with semolina flour and have a floured tray to hand. I make mine five at a time on a rectangular sheet of pasta that measures about 10" by 6".  Place a piece of mozzarella, a bit of sun-dried tomato and half a basil leaf on top of each other at equal intervals on one side of the pasta. Using a brush, wash the areas that do not contain the filling with a little water. Fold the sheet over and push the pasta together around the fillings (try and push all of the air out). Cut the pasta using a knife or pasta cutter into squares and repeat until you've got about 6-8 ravioli's per person (if you have any pasta left you can freeze it and use it later). Put the ravioli on a floured tray (semolina flour works best here!).

Boil a pan of salted water and cook the ravioli for about a minute. Drain and add the ravioli to the tomato dressing. Toss gently over a low heat until the pasta is coated evenly and serve immediately with grated parmesan.

Homemade Pasta

So this is how I make my own pasta. I tend to only do it when I want control over it. I think things like ravioli and tortellini really require the extra effort because I want to prepare the filling myself but long stuff like pappardelle I just use dried unless I want to colour it with squid ink (or something else fancypants that again requires control).

Ok. First of all, unless you've got a three foot long rolling pin and a huge workspace... you need a pasta machine. You simply can't get the pasta thin enough in a small area. Make sure you buy a decent one. Mine is crap so it requires a lot of effort and cursing to get the pasta rolled correctly. Buy a really good one with nice heavy rollers. Buy a pasta cutter too... they cost bugger-all (£3 for mine) and make all the difference presentation-wise with ravioli.

There are loads of different recipes for pasta. Some are as simple as water and semolina flour, others call for eggs and tipo 00 flour, some call for all the above!.... like all things Italian, there are so many variations that there isn't a definitive recipe.

Here's mine:

Serves 2-3

75g semolina flour
125g tipo 00 flour
1 whole egg
2-3 egg yolks (depending on the size of the egg)
Tablespoon of olive oil
Semolina flour to dust (semolina flour is absolutely essential in my opinion when making pasta)

First of all, get a large mixing bowl. Some people do it on the work surface but it can get quite messy. Put your flour and semolina flour in the bowl and make a well in the middle.

In a separate bowl or jug, whisk together your egg, egg yolks and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well in the flour and start pulling the flour into the egg with a fork. Once it gets a bit tough for the fork, get your hands in there and bring it together. If it's too sticky, add a little 00 flour; if it's too hard and dry, add a little olive oil or water.

Once you have the right consistency (roughly the same as bread but without the elasticity), knead for 5-10 mins, roll into a ball, wrap it in cling-film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once it's been in fridge for half an hour, chop it into 3 or 4 pieces ready for rolling.

Dust your work surface with semolina flour and have more on hand for when you need it.

Roll out a piece of dough with a rolling pin so it resembles a pitta bread. You then need to start putting the pasta through the machine.

The settings on the machine usually go from 1 (thickest) to 9 (thinnest) so make sure the machine is on 1 before you start. Put the pasta through the lowest setting a couple of times and then progress up the settings until you get the desired thickness. I would say that you want about 7 for tagliatelle, linguine or pappardelle; and 8 or 9 for ravioli or tortellini (I personally find 9 a little too thin). Flour the pasta with semolina flour periodically to make sure it doesn't stick together. You may have to cut the sheets in half  as they get rather long and hard to manage.

Once you have the pasta at the required thickness, cut it to the desired shape and place on a tray which has been dusted with semolina flour. If you are making long pasta like linguine be very careful that it doesn't end up being tangled up and stuck together. Again, I cannot stress the importance of semolina flour when making pasta, it makes life so much easier and prevents it sticking together beautifully.

So your done! Fresh homemade pasta! Boil a pan of salted water and it's ready to cook.

Your pasta will only take a minute or so to cook so be careful, it can go extremely soggy even if over cooked for a few seconds!