Small one

I’ve been quite busy with work and things over the weekend and today, so I haven’t had time to prepare much of a post this week…

I did make croziflette again yesterday, though. Turns out conchigle (shells) works pretty well for this dish! The concave shape holds and concentrates the creamy-cheesy-bacony sauce very well 🙂

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Sausage risotto

I have to admit, I couldn’t think of a good — or bad — pun for this one…

This week’s recipe was sausage and white wine risotto. For years, I disliked the very idea of rice dishes, then would only eat rice if it was in sushi, so these were somewhat uncharted culinary waters for me. I picked out this recipe specifically because of the sausage component, which seemed to guarantee tasty savouriness, and because it’d give me an opportunity to remember to crack open Hairy Bikers: Meat Feasts.

Things turned out deliciously! The texture was brilliant — just the right mixture of gooey and firm — and the sausages (I used Sainsburys’ Toulouse-style) added oodles of flavour, which worked well with the wine and parmesan. I used the rinsings of a jar of strongly spicy garlic pickle in the stock, which also helped add a pleasant kick to the dish.Stirring the stock in, a ladleful at a time, was very soothing and could definitely be used as an alternative to traditional meditative mantras!

I’ve definitely warmed up to the idea of risotto, so this recipe is going on my semi-regular roster. Next time, I might make it with sweet chilli sausages, to see how that affects things. I’ll also definitely do risotto alla Milanese at some point — I have a handle on proper risotto technique now, so making extra so as to have some over for doing arancini should be no problem.

Breakfast pizza, Take two

The cooler weather seemed like a good opportunity to have another bash at this recipe and try to avoid some of the mistakes I made last time, which led to things like parts of the crust barely cooking at all…

It went pretty well, all in all, I parbaked the crust in the oven as it was preheating. This worked for its intended purpose — the crust was properly cooked at the end and didn’t go too soggy — but parts of it stuck ferociously to the baking tray, so I had to get a little aggressive with the spatula.

Also, I left out the mushrooms as they release so much liquid when cooked. Out of absent-mindedness, I compensated for this by using *all* the meat ingredients I had on had, which led to a large enough pile of toppings that the eggs stayed quite runny (though perfectly edible) even after the pizza was cooked — this made dividing it up a bit complicated!

Overall, though, things were pretty tasty, especially as I used sweet chilli sausages this time round ^^ I’ve learned a few more things as well, which I intend to apply next time I make this dish 🙂

Peeking at the pecorino

I’d intended to do a book review for this week’s post, but a largish manuscript landed in my inbox this morning so I’ll have to settle for more random food-related rambling… Ehehe

Specifically, this week’s culinary experiment with pasta carbonara, made exactly to the Diane Seed recipe — including the use of an equal mix of parmesan and pecorino romano cheeses, as opposed to just parmesan. I’ve only recently been able to obtain pecorino romano (hooray for the Sainsburys cheese aisle!) and I was very curious about what it tasted like. As it turns out, it’s noticeably stronger than parmesan, with a pleasantly nutty kick and an edge to the flavour that suggests that it’d go very well with garlic, especially roasted garlic. Pecorino doesn’t seem to be quite as good a melting cheese as parmesan, but when both cheeses are finely grated, as in this recipe, that’s rather a moot point.

The recipe turned out deliciously! Parmesan on its own works as a flavour enhancer and contributor of umami (savouriness); this effect was noticeably magnified by the presence of the pecorino romano. The flavours of both cheeses worked very well with the black pepper and bacon, as well as the half-bulb worth of garlic that I added on something of a whim. Delicious! I’ll definitely keep these results in mind for future occasions of carbonara-making.

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Four-cheese pasta bake this week — Edam, parmesan, Gruyère and gouda (couldn’t get fontina) — and it turned out deliciously! Well, technically it was five cheeses — I only used a 50g thing of pre-grated parmesan in the main body of the sauce,so along with the slices of the other three cheeses on top, I used a bit of morbier that I had in stock. Still good, though!

I used about 70g butter rather than the 100g given in the original recipe — I knew I’d be putting extra cheese on top of the bake, so I didn’t want the grease factor to go high enough to nudge into ‘nauseating’ rather than ‘delicious’ territory. The addition of panko breadcrumbs (good at absorbing fat) to the topping also helped mitigate the grease. The final result was rich, flavoursome and a good rib-liner for the cool autumnal weather 🙂 Plus, I have a decent amount of cheese left over for creative sandwiches — always a bonus!

Punchy pasta

I’ve come to the end of my sojourn through Hairy Dieters: Fast Food — save for a recipe for crunchy oat cookies which  I’ll be making later this week — and while it’s all very delicious, the cooler weather and nights drawing in mean that I’m focussing more on filling rib-liner type recipes and worrying a bit less about calories and so on.

On that note, I extemporised this week and made a mozzarella-topped pasta bake based on a tomato-and-olive sauce recipe from my old standby, Diane Seed’s The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces. Sadly, the 2012 edition of that book (the only one which has a Google Books preview) doesn’t seem to have this recipe, so I can’t link to it, but it wasn’t difficult to modify. I sautéed the garlic and chilli flakes (plus an onion that needed using), threw in the tomatoes and olives, simmered for 10 minutes (half the time given in the recipe), cooked the pasta for half the time given on the packet, drained it, stirred the pasta and sauce together, stuck them in an oven-proof dish, topped it all with mozzarella slices and stuck the lot in the oven for 15 minutes at 180C.

It turned out brilliantly! ^^ Delicious, savoury, full of umami flavours and with a pleasantly warm and spicy kick from the chilli flakes — definitely something I’ll be making again ^^

Warm food for cool weather

I did a chicken stew this week — it was supposed to be a chicken casserole (per the recipe in the book) but I don’t have a pressure cooker, so I made it a one-pot stew instead.

I used some roasted red peppers out of a jar instead of butternut squash (yick) — that turned out pretty well. They added a lovely subtle warmth to the dish, which had a lovely blended savoury flavour from all the meat, veg and the crème fraiche.

I’d been intending to make American-style biscuits (which seem to resemble savoury English scones) to soak up the sauce, but time and tiredness yesterday and today rather stymied things. I should be able to do them tomorrow, though, and I intend to whip up some sausage gravy as well — sizzle up bits of sausage/sausagemeat in a pan then make a creamy roux based on the fat that’s rendered out — as sausage-and-biscuits seems like an appropriate rib-liner for the grim and autumnal weather that we’ve been getting of late. Yum!

Roast in a pot

Apologies for the lateness of this week’s post — I’ve been getting a barrage of short stories coming in at odd times, which rather discombobulates my scheduling. Still, it’s all good, paying work ^^

Pot-roast silverside of beef this week, done in the slow cooker — very nice! Silverside is one of the cheaper, tougher cuts, which makes it excellent for slow cooking. Six to eight hours in a slow cooker, especially with a slightly acidic, tomato-based sauce, really brings out the flavour of the meat and makes it meltingly tender. It’s also an excellent make-ahead dish that’s perfect for autumn/winter weather — handy, as the nights are drawing in and seasonal blues can sometimes sap one’s energy for doing anything other than fishing something out of the freezer and sticking it in the microwave. At least with Hairy Dieters recipes like this, one can be safe in the knowledge that it’s reasonably healthy fare rather than a fat- and salt-loaded ready meal (though those do have their place, especially as comfort food… Co-op microwave macaroni cheese… Mmmmmmmmmmmm…)

Tagging the tagine

It’s getting to be slow-cooker weather here in the UK, which is handy because I’m on the slow-cooker chapter of Hairy Dieters: Fast Food 🙂

First up, chicken tagine — delicious! I left out the chickpeas (I dislike them, and hummus wouldn’t have worked in the recipe) but otherwise, everything was there — chicken thighs, chicken stock, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, ground ginger, lemon zest and juice, dried apricots… Yum!

It all turned out pretty well 🙂 The chicken was properly cooked, moist and meltingly tender, and everything else had gently merged into a very nice sauce/gravy. The  flavour combinations were a little unusual to my very Western palate, but they were by no means unpleasant. I’ll definitely put this one on the roster!

Simple is best

Last week’s pork medallions in BBQ sauce turned out very well — so much so that I’ve put the BBQ sauce down as something to repeat with other meat dishes, such as sausage and mash. Delicious!

As for this week, I’ve done sirloin steaks with a quick, low-calorie ‘béarnaise’ sauce. The sauce didn’t turn out quite so well — though it was edible and reasonably tasty, the texture needed work — but the steaks were very simple. Two and a half minutes per side under a hot grill had them cooked to medium done-ness and they came out tender and juicy — delicious! The recipe in Hairy Dieters: Fast Food didn’t actually have a calorie-count-per-portion for some reason, but I’d estimate the figure to be between 350 and 450 calories per serving.

Next I’ll be doing sticky chicken thighs — the recipe calls for drumsticks done in a roasting tin, but I prefer thighs for the meat-to-bone ratio, so I’ll be cooking this particular recipe in a casserole dish to keep the extra juices corralled. It’ll probably turn out rather like a confit, but I don’t mind that 🙂