Monday, 20 September 2010

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.”

Good ol' Cicero!

Autumn is here but September is a bit of a funny one for ingredients I feel. I joined up with a few friends in the week and we went foraging along the canal which turned up a huge amount of blackberries and redcurrants.

The first recipe is a bit of a twist on potato soup. I usually make a gigantic batch of a very simple recipe and then jazz it up with various toppings like crumbled blue cheese (Stinking Bishop or a Blacksticks Blue are particularly good for this etc etc). This version has been jazzed up with chorizo. You can use all sorts of things on top to change the flavour like a pesto drizzle (water down some pesto with more oil) and the menfolk have no idea it's the same soup.


Ingredients

  • 40 g butter
  • 450 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 900 ml homemade chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • about 250 ml milk
  • 12 slices chorizo
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • flat leaf parsley, snipped          

1. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onion and toss in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. 

2. Cover the vegetables closely with a butter wrapper or disc of greaseproof paper and then the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until softened.

3. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil in a separate pan. When the vegetables are tender but not coloured, add the hot stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft.

4. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning and reheat, thinning it down with as much milk as you need for a good consistency.

5. Just before serving, fry the slices of chorizo in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for a minute or two on each side. Paprika-flavoured oil will render out of the chorizo.

6. Serve three slices of chorizo on top of each bowl of soup. Sprinkle a few flat parsley sprigs on top and drizzle over a little chorizo oil. 

    Gnocchi with Goats Cheese and Roasted Squash


    Ingredients

    • 450g butternut squash , peeled and cut into small chunks
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 500g pack gnocchi
    • 200g young leaf spinach
    • 100g goat's cheese           

    1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tip the squash into a roasting tin with the garlic and oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Roast for 20 mins, shaking the pan halfway through, until tender and golden.
    2. Meanwhile, boil the gnocchi according to pack instructions. With a few secs to go, throw in the spinach, then drain the gnocchi and spinach together. Tip into the roasting tin, then mix everything together well, mashing the softened garlic. Spoon onto warm serving plates, then crumble over the cheese to serve.
    This next one is an adaptation on the Yan Kit So recipe garlic braised beef. I remember making this as a teenager with my Mum. I remember it vividly as the recipe required 50 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped into silken threads!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
    • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
    • 6 garlic cloves , thinly sliced
    • good thumb-size piece fresh root ginger , peeled and shredded
    • 1 bunch spring onions , sliced
    • 1 red chilli , deseeded and thinly sliced
    • 1½ kg braising beef , cut into large pieces (we used ox cheek)
    • 2 tbsp plain flour , well seasoned
    • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
    • 2 star anise (optional)
    • 2 tsp light muscovado sugar (or use whatever you've got)
    • 3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
    • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce , plus more to serve
    • 500ml beef stock (we used Knorr Touch of Taste)
    • steamed bok choi and steamed basmati rice, to serve
                                  
    1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large, shallow casserole. Fry the garlic, ginger, onions and chilli for 3 mins until soft and fragrant. Tip onto a plate. Toss the beef in the flour, add 1 tbsp more oil to the pan, then brown the meat in batches, adding the final tbsp oil if you need to. It should take about 5 mins to brown each batch properly.
    2. Add the five-spice and star anise (if using) to the pan, tip in the gingery mix, then fry for 1 min until the spices are fragrant. Add the sugar, then the beef and stir until combined. Keep the heat high, then splash in the wine or sherry, scraping up any meaty bits. Heat oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2.
    3. Pour in the soy and stock (it won't cover the meat completely), bring to a simmer, then tightly cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 1½-2 hrs, stirring the meat halfway through. The meat should be very soft, and any sinewy bits should have melted away. Season with more soy. This can now be chilled and frozen for up to 1 month.
    4. Nestle the cooked bok choi into the pan, then bring to the table with the basmati rice straight away and tuck in.  
      This next dish is one that I purposely look for an excuse to cook as I love it...

    Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage




    • 570ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock


    • 1 small onion, chopped


    • 12 fresh sage leaves, chopped finely


    • 2 tbsp olive oil


    • 170g/6oz arborio (risotto) rice


    • 250g/9oz pumpkin or butternut squash, diced small


    • 50g/2oz butter


    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    For the crispy sage


    • 12-16 fresh sage leaves


    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    For serving
    • piece fresh parmesan, or vegetarian parmesan-style grating cheese

      1. Heat the stock until almost boiling and then keep over a very low heat. In a separate heavy-based saucepan sweat the onion in the oil until soft but not browned. Add the chopped sage and cook for a couple more minutes.
      2. Add the rice and mix well for a few seconds to coat the grains with oil, then pour in one-third of the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until almost all the stock is absorbed. Add the pumpkin or squash and a little more stock, and continue to simmer gently until the stock is absorbed.
      3. From then on add more stock a little at a time, until the pumpkin is soft and the rice nicely al dente. You may not need all the stock, but the texture should be loose and creamy.
      4. When the risotto is almost ready, heat the sunflower oil in a small pan and quickly fry the sage leaves until crispy - it takes a matter of seconds.
      5. Stir the butter into the risotto, and season well with salt and pepper. Divide into four servings and throw a few crispy sage leaves over each portion. Bring the cheese and a grater to the table for your guests to serve themselves.

                                                                                                       

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