Friday, 21 October 2016

A Fruity Aubergine Curry

This is a cheats curry really - I used a ready made curry paste as the base, but when your cooking up something quick, mid-week and it's just for yourself, you don't always have the time, energy or frankly, the enthusiasm to mix everything from scratch - well I don't anyway ....... and isn't that exactly why you can by spice mixes, ready made sauces and dressings!

One of my pet hates is listening to those insufferable people talking about how they would never, ever buy 'ready made' that 'they always prepare everything from scratch', this seems to be designed to make me feel like I have failed if I open a jar or packet, if I haven't donned my wellies to trek out in the wet dark night to pick that important fresh sprig of herb that must be added to a dish at exactly the right time etc, etc, ..... and woe betide me if I dare to feed a ready made sauce to a child- the horror!!!!! ............. ooooh they are just so so perfect! Ahhhhhh.........

Yes, there is some rubbish stuff available - packed full of sugars, salts etc, that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole, but equally there are some really excellent brands, especially some from smaller producers, that are well worth hunting out and keeping in the larder for those 'don't have time' days in the kitchen.

So that's my morning rant over, here's the simple aubergine curry I made for myself last night. It isn't a tried and tested recipe, more a this is what I used, you can adjust the ingredients add a few extras and make it your own - it's the addition of the apricot chutney that adds the fruity flavour, mango would work as well - just make sure it had some nice chunky bits of fruit in it!

Recipe - enough for 2

1 Aubergine - slice and salt drained if you wish
1 red onion - diced
1 orange pepper sliced in to small strips
1 stick of celery - sliced
1 fat clove garlic - sliced
a thumb size of fresh ginger - sliced into fine slivers
1 tablespoon mild curry paste
2 heaped teaspoons apricot chutney
2 teaspoons tomato paste
A little water for liquid.
salt and pepper

Heat up a large non stick pan, add some olive oil and gently cook the aubergine through - adding more oil if needed - until they are soft and brown but can still hold their shape. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook, over a medium heat, until they start to soften. Next you add the celery, garlic and ginger. Continue to cook for a few more minutes until the garlic and ginger have also started to soften.

Whilst this is cooking combine the curry and tomato paste with the chutney - loosen with a tablespoon of hot water. Add this sauce to the pan and shake to coat the vegetables. Return the aubergines to the pan and add a little more water if need be. I like to keep this a fairly dry curry - not swimming with sauce because I find the texture of the aubergines is better - more firm and substantial.

Continue to cook through for about ten minutes and then season with a little salt and pepper.

Serve with a bowl of plain white rice and some natural yogurt.

Have a great weekend
Love Lizx

 Aubergine Curry

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Spiced Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

With chillier autumnal days and the thoughts of lighting the fire in the evenings, my tastes have turned from salads and simple summer dishes to soups, stews and casseroles. Often the accompaniments  with these dishes are just boiled potatoes or buttered cabbage but if I'm braising some stewing steak with only onions and herbs it's nice to make the vegetables a bit more interesting.

Red cabbage is a staple in our kitchen veg basket - I make winter slaws with it, it's great made into a potato hash, I sometimes slow cook it with pork chops and simply serve it with butter and loads of black pepper. But one dish is my favourite - my spiced, braised red cabbage with apples and cider.

This dish is warming, moreish and it slightly sweet but has an edge to it which helps to cut through the rich stews it's served with.

Recipe - serves 4

Half red cabbage
2 red onions
2 eating apples - the sharper the better
half teaspoon mixed spice
100ml cider
half tablespoon golden caster sugar
1 bay leaf
a dash rich balsamic vinegar - fruit flavoured are good such as fig or cherry
pinch salt
loads black pepper

Peel away the outer leaves of the cabbage - they are usually damaged and bruised - core and slice into thick shreds.

Give it a rinse through and set it aside to drain.

Peel and slice the onions; core and slice the apples - but don't peel them - the apples I mean - peel the onions not the apples - you get me? (sometimes my sentence construction leaves a lot to be desired!)

Add a knob of butter or a little olive oil to a heavy based pan and lightly fry the apples, cabbage and onions.

Stir in the mixed spices then add the cider, sugar and bay leaf. Stir well, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes uncover and give all a good stir. Add a good dash of vinegar, a pinch of salt and loads of black pepper. If there is liquid in the bottom of the pan turn up the heat and gently stir whilst it evaporates into a syrupy coating.

Either serve straight away or keep warm until requires.

To ring the changes a handful of raisins, cranberries or walnuts are a great addition, as is a large spoonful of red current jelly!

Have a great day
Love Lizx

 Braised Cabbage

Monday, 17 October 2016

Cold Smoking.......

We have a new toy, well to be more precise, my husband has a new toy that I wanted, so bought it for his birthday present and now I'm using it.............see that's planning!

It's a cold smoker - basically you light some wood shavings and use the resulting smoke to flavour all manor of foods! - I bought a few books on the subject as well (being always one for a new cook book!) - just to give us an idea of what we were doing and show us what we were aiming for!

.........the things one can flavour with smoke are very varied - it seems people will flavour almost anything with smoke from oysters, to salt, to potatoes and even peaches! All that seems to hold you back is your imagination!

We are no strangers to smoking food and will often smoke a piece of salmon on our cob barbecue, but this is hot smoking and is designed to cook the fish as well as flavour it.

The cold smoking differs from that hot smoking method. The food is smoked for a much longer time, usually 6 hours or more, and remains raw - the temperature stays below 20C - with the smoke infusing into the food all that time.

It's a simple piece of kit, just a wire spiral that you fill with wood shavings - we used oak, but fruit woods would work really well. The shavings are tamped down and you have to make sure they are below the rim so the burning doesn't 'jump' but follows the spiral. This one should burn for at least 6 hours.

To get it all smoking away, you need to light a small nightlight candle and placed it at the start of the spiral, it gets the shaving burning and smoke starts to develop. Once the shavings start to smoulder the candle is removed and the wood left to quietly smoke away........

We placed the cold smoker in our barbecue and arrange the foods we wanted to smoke on the rack directly above - no planning was done before we started the smoker - it just seemed like the perfect, autumnal Saturday morning with nothing much else to do ...... so no special trip to the shops or purchase of foods to smoke was made.

Therefore, before we started, we raided the kitchen, looking in the fridge and the veg rack - deciding to have a go at flavouring an eclectic group of foods - from cheeses (feta and stilton), to a few heads of garlic, a lone chilli, half a packet of sea salt and a couple of salmon fillets. The cheeses we wrapped in muslin to keep them from direct contact with the grid, the salt and salmon were on foil but the rest was just placed in 'any-o-how'

The lid was put on the barbecue, trapping in the smoke and all was left alone for 6 hours.

So the results - it was all pretty darn good. The salt and the stilton cheese were the best, in my opinion, the salt had a delicate smoky flavour and had taken on a slightly yellow colour - I think it's going to be good sprinkled on grilled aubergine. The Stilton was excellent, as good as any expensive, artisan smoke cheese.

The garlic looked good and had started to take on a smokey flavour but it hadn't flavoured that much - I think a lot longer than 6 hours smoking time is needed to get the flavours right into the cloves.

The smoked feta was my husbands favourite, it really tasted smokey and was perfect added to a salad of rocket leaves.

So, will we do it again? The answer to that is yes, we decided that it is something that we will do a lot more, but maybe limit it to just cheeses and garlic - unless inspiration strikes........and the wood smoke smell, on a sunny, autumnal Saturday morning was wonderful........

Have a great day
Love Lizx