Monday, 25 November 2013

Banana and Ginger Muffins

From Muffins, Le Cordon Bleu, Murdoch Books, 1998.
I don’t often get the urge to bake cakes of any sort but when I do it generally turns out that I will make muffins.

For these I sifted 300g self-raising flour with a teaspoon of ground ginger. I mixed in 110g brown sugar and 70g chopped glacé ginger.
In a small bowl I melted 60g butter in the microwave oven. When it had melted, I stirred in 2 tablespoons honey.
I beat 2 eggs in 125ml milk in another bowl.

I mashed 2 bananas.
Now I mixed the butter and honey, eggs and milk and bananas into the flour. It was mixed in with a metal spoon until it was just combined and then spooned into greased muffin tins and baked in a 200ºC oven for 20 minutes.

A frosting was made by combining 125g cream cheese with 2 tablespoons sifted icing sugar and the grated rind of a lemon. These were beaten well and then spread on the cooled muffins. A slice of glacé ginger was placed on top.
A comforting muffin. The banana flavour was not too dominant but there in a subtle way, while the little bites of the glacé ginger added texture and morsels of sweetness.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔ 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Artichoke and Potato Salad

From Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, Jane Grigson, Penguin Books, 1988.
Well, I’d have to confess before I go any further that I cheated on this one. I did not cook the fresh artichokes and used tinned ones instead—and in Jane Grigson’s book her advice for using canned artichokes is: Don’t. What is more I did not stick to the recipe at all but added other ingredients. So, I guess, the recipe was basically just used as a starting off point.
I cut two potatoes into cubes and placed them in salted water, brought them to the boil and let them simmer until just cooked. They were drained and placed in a bowl.
I opened a can of artichoke hearts and cut these into dice and added them to the potatoes.

I had some cooked chick peas in the refrigerator so added these to the mix.
It all looked pretty dull at this stage so I took some frozen peas from the freezer, gave them a quick boil and added them to give a little bit of colour.

A commercial mayonnaise was added as dressing, sufficient to moisten the salad. A touch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper were added to taste. A couple of boiled eggs were shelled and sliced into quarters and added with a few black olives. The salad was ready.
Not quite Jane Grigson’s salad but it went down nicely. The ingredients all worked together well. It’s quite a heavy salad so only a small quantity was needed to satisfy the hunger.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Stuffed Aubergines

From The New Tastes of India, Das Sreedharan, Headline, 2001.
When I read this recipe I was uncertain of it right from the start but, oddly, it was that uncertainty that made me want to make it.

I took an eggplant (aubergine) and cut it into quarters, slicing from the round end down to the base but leaving the base connected so that the four sections of the vegetable were still joined. I now added a little oil to a wok and placed the eggplant in it and fried it for about 5 minutes, turning it every so often in order to ensure it was cooked on all sides. It was then left to cool.

I now made the stuffing. About 50g desiccated coconut was placed in a pan with a tablespoon oil, about a teaspoon urad dal, a tablespoon cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, 2 dried red chillies and some salt. This was stirred over heat until the coconut was golden. It was then taken off the heat and blitzed in the blender with a little water until it formed a rough paste.
The eggplant was now stuffed with this mixture. I could hardly call it stuffing as there was really no pocket in which to place the stuffing. It was more a matter of coating the sections of the vegetable with as much of the coconut mixture as would hold.
Now a tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, a teaspoon cumin seeds, a teaspoon urad dal, a sliced green chilli and 4 curry leaves were dropped into a little hot oil in a wok. When the mustard seeds began to pop the eggplant was added, the heat reduced, and a cover placed over the wok. The eggplant was now cooked for another 5 minutes, turning it carefully occasionally.
I can’t say I was really over impressed with this dish. Where the eggplant cooked through thoroughly it was not too bad, the stuffing was flavoursome and there was a little bit of crunch left in the toasted coconut, but there was an occasional patch where the vegetable had not cooked totally—and eggplant is quite unpleasant when this occurs.
Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔ 

Spiced Chick Pea and Tomato Soup

From Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookery, Sarah Brown, Century Hutchinson Australia, 1989.
I took a look at this recipe and it looked as though it could be put together in just a few minutes.

An onion was chopped and sautéed gently in olive oil until it had softened. Two chopped garlic cloves were now added and stirred in for a minute or two. I then added the remaining ingredients which had been mixed together to a paste in a little water: a tablespoon of ground almonds, 2 teaspoons garam masala, ½ teaspoon chilli powder, a teaspoon each of ground coriander and turmeric, a little grated fresh ginger. These were cooked for another couple of minutes. 

Now in went a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of chick peas. I filled up one of the cans with water and added that with a vegetable stock cube. It was now brought to the boil and then let simmer for half an hour.
Spicy. Easy. Satisfying.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔ 

Hasselback Potatoes with Sauce Verte

From Haute Potato, Jacqueline Pham, Adams Media, 2013.
I am familiar with the Swedish roast potato, the hasselback, but tend to forget about it when I am making roast potatoes so I was happy to be reminded of it when browsing through Haute Potato, a cookbook the purpose of which is to improve the bad reputation that potatoes frequently have by elevating their role.

I took two potatoes of a long shape rather than round, scrubbed them clean, and then placed them in a pot of salted water. This was brought to the boil and then simmered for about 7 minutes to parboil the potatoes. They were then taken out and let cool.
When the potatoes were cool they were carefully sliced though not right to the bottom so that there was a section of potato that held the slices to prevent them falling apart. The slices were made about 0.25cm where possible. The potatoes were now left to dry a little while garlic butter was prepared.

A garlic clove was peeled and added to a mortar with a little salt and some white pepper. The pestle was used to grind this to a paste that was then mixed with about a tablespoon of softened butter. A little olive oil was added to make the mixture more pliable. This was now brushed between the potato slices. A little salt was sprinkled over the potatoes and they went into a 200ºC oven for 45 minutes. The potatoes became crisp on the skin edges and the slices had opened up somewhat to reveal the white flesh inside.
The sauce verte was made while the potatoes were cooking. Into the blender went about a cup of chopped parsley, a garlic clove, a little salt, a gherkin, about a tablespoon capers and a little lemon juice. These were blended and pureed. Some Dijon mustard was stirred into the mix, it was tasted and proved to be ready.
The potatoes, of course, were wonderful as roast potatoes generally turn out to be and these had the addition of being cooked in butter and garlic and had a crisp, crunchy crust. The sauce was a flavour burst that was perfect for the potatoes.
Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔