October is here, and it’s getting colder and colder by the day here in London. I’m already nostalgic for the summer- not that it was a particularly bright & sunny one! But it was the summer during which my little boy was born, & now that special time has passed & the newborn baby is a smiley two month old. In honour of those days just before my baby came to our world, I decided to re-start my blogging with one of the very last things I cooked & ate during those warm (well…in a manner of speaking) summer days of waiting. A few days after I made this ice-cream, true to the Hollywood-movie tradition, my waters broke in the middle of the night.
Nigella Lawson’s- or Marcella Hazan’s- world’s best chocolate ice cream (From Nigella’s ‘How to eat’, and originally from ‘Marcella’s Kitchen’)
- 4 egg yolks
- 130 gr plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 500 ml full-fat milk
- 100 gr dark chocolate (min.70% cocoa solids)
- 40 gr cocoa (best quality available)
- Whisk the yolks & 130 gr of the sugar in a bowl until thick & creamy, foaming pale ribbons when you lift the whisk
- Bring the milk to the boil & add it to the beaten yolks, pouring slowly & beating all the while
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl above (but not touching) some simmering water in a pan
- Then whisk this, followed by the cocoa, into the egg & milk mixture
- Pour the chocolate-custard mixture into a pan & cook on a low to moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until everything’s smooth & amalgamated & beginning to thicken (don’t cook until it’s really custard-like, but slightly less)
- Put 2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 teaspoons of water into a thick bottomed saucepan & turn the heat to high
- Make a caramel: heat this until it’s dark brown & molten (you are after the taste of burnt sugar)
- As it browns, whisk it into the chocolate custard; don’t worry if it crystallizes on contact as the whisking will dissolve it
- Turn into a bowl to cool
- Then chill in the fridge for about 20 mins (or longer if that’s more convenient) before churning in your ice-cream maker according to instructions
This is an exceptionally delicious chocolate ice-cream, with a dark smoky taste (the smokiness due to the added caramel). Make it as soon as possible, before the autumn cold really hits you, and wave a last goodbye to the summer…
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Since I saw the wonderful & extraordinary movie ‘Ratatouille’ (if you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to rent it NOW!) I- unsurprisingly- developed an urge to try out different recipes for ratatouille… so this post documents my first experiment of making it.
I decided to try out Nigella Lawson’s recipe for ratatouille, with a few adjustments. My efforts to cook all recipes from her book ‘How to eat’ continue, and this is a goal I’ve been enjoying so far: touch wood, hope the enjoyment lasts, & I don’t start cursing soon!
The ratatouille turned out very well- I’m sure not as well as the one in the movie, but maybe nothing can live up to that… This a nice, reliable side dish, perfect to serve in warmer weather. I served it with some roast meat which I had prepared, & it was a good- although not spectacular- side dish, a handy one to keep in mind when you have friends over. Here’s my version of the recipe:
- 2 medium onions
- 2 cloves garlic (I skipped this)
- 1 aubergine
- 5 smallish courgettes
- 3 large sweet red peppers (I didn’t have any of these, so I skipped them, but I think they would be a good addition)
- 4 large tomatoes (what Nigella suggests) / or half a jar of tomato passata (which is what I used)
- 6-10 tbsps olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 tsp ground coriander (Nigella alternatively suggests 1 tsp coriander seed)
- fresh basil or fresh parsley
Method (I’ve crossed out the steps I didn’t follow, feel free to follow those too if you want to be closer to Nigella’s version):
- Slice the onions into thin half-moons
- Mince the garlic (if you’re using it)
- Cut the aubergines into half-moons & the courgettes into slices
- Cut the peppers in half, remove cores & seeds, cut into thin (but not straggly) strips or chunks
- If using the tomatoes, skin them by plunging into boiled water for a few minutes & then slipping the skins off. Halve them scoop out seeds & cut into chunks
- Cook in this order: onions first, then aubergines, courgettes, garlic & peppers, & lastly tomatoes
- Heat the oil in a thick bottomed wide pan
- Cook the onions until soft but not brown
- Add the aubergines, cook for a minute or so, then add the courgettes, stirring into the oil for a few minutes. Carry on like this with the peppers & garlic (add more oil if you feel it’s needed, but I would say not too much)
- Cover the pan & cook gently for 40 mins. Make sure it is gently & that the bottom doesn’t burn
- Add the tomato passata (if using that) or the fresh tomatoes, coriander, salt & pepper
- Cook for another 30-40′ until all vegetables are soft but not mushy
- Stir in the basil or parsley
- Eat, preferably at room temperature as a side dish with meat or chicken. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, but make sure you take it out of the fridge well before you want to eat it, so that it’s not icy-cold when you serve it.
I am submitting this post as part of a blog-event called ‘Fat chefs or skinny gourmets?’ organized by Ivy, of Kopiaste to Greek Hospitality, in Greece and Ben, of What’s Cooking in the U.S. I learnt about this event from Ivy’s site; she lives & cooks in Athens, has a wonderful blog in Greek and its mirror site in English, which is where this event is running, as well as in Ben’s blog. Their event has to do with recipes that are tasty but that can easily be used when someone is trying to be a bit more careful with calories & lose weight. I think this raratatouille is ideal for someone who loves cooking & is on a weight-loss plan. First, because it satisfies the taste-buds. Second, because it takes a while to prepare & cook, & that can be satisfying for someone who loves cooking but wants to lose weight at the same time. And third, because not only is it not calorific, but it’s also full of nutrients due to all the vegetables used. In any case, I hope you enjoy this ratatouille, diet or not.
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When I was a child, if anyone asked me ‘what’s your favourite food’ I would invariably answer ‘chicken with potatoes in the oven’. This is the food that my mother would cook for me when she wanted to please me- e.g. when I had done well at an exam, when I had my birthday, etc. It always made me so happy and ‘at home’ eating chicken with potatoes in the oven… This is not such an original choice, I know. And this recipe is far from an original dish, but since we make it & eat it so often at home, I couldn’t leave it out of my blog. After all, this blog- among other things- is meant as a kind of diary of what I cook at home in the normal course of events. So it’s definitely not just what I cook when friends come for dinner, in which case I sometimes try to be a bit ‘original’ (which is always a misguided idea!)
The method I use is a combination of the Greek way of roasting chicken- mainly, adding lots of lemon, and roasting the potatoes in the same pan as the chicken- and Nigella Lawson’s version of ‘basic roast chicken’. The Greek method- or at least the method used at my home back in Greece- results in the chicken-y and lemon-y juices infusing and flavouring the potatoes. Nigella’s way makes sure the chicken comes out perfectly cooked, without giving you a headache thinking ‘how long should I cook it for’.
As those of you who follow this blog may know, I’m in the process of cooking all recipes from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to eat’… so roasting this chicken ticks off one more recipe from that list. But this is a bit of a fraud, first, because I’ve followed Nigella’s guidelines (mainly, how much time it takes for the chicken to roast) countless times. So making this is definitely not a first. And second, because I never follow her further suggestions, which include adding roasted garlics & shallots to the chicken pan.
In the end, here is how I always do this:
- I smear some salt, black pepper & extra virgin olive oil onto the chicken, and place it in a large pyrex dish (you can also use a roasting pan, of course)
- I peel & cut up the potatoes in small cubes & place them in the same pan, around the chicken
- I put a whole lemon, cut up in 2-3 pieces, up the chicken’s bottom
- I then add salt, pepper, more olive oil & lots of lemon juice (according to taste) to the potatoes & mix them up. I also add quite bit of dried oregano, and nowadays, some dried thyme too
- My partner likes to add a bit of water too, so that the potatoes don’t stick
I then follow these guidelines concerning time, taken from Nigella’s book. They always work perfectly, and the chicken comes out moist & succulent:
- Cook in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celcius (gas mark 6)
- Give the food 20 minutes per 500 gr. (of chicken), plus 30 minutes
- I cook the chicken breast-side down, which Nigella suggests for the first hour. But I leave it like that all along. It makes the meat- especially the breast- really moist & tasty.
That’s it! Ahhh… make sure though, as a basic first step, that your chicken is a good quality one!
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This is a suggestion from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to eat’ which I thought I’d try: I’ve been curious about the taste for a long time. It’s very simple. Just add some good quality balsamic vinegar to a bowl of fresh strawberries. It might be an idea to leave the strawberries ‘sitting’ in the balsamic vinegar for a while (say, one hour) before eating.
Some food-writers, for example Antony Worrall Thompson at the BBC food website, Maki at Just Hungry, or the AllRecipes website, suggest you add some sugar to the strawberries as well, or even a tiny bit of black pepper and some fresh mint as well. I didn’t, I decided that I would keep things as simple as possible since it was the first time I was trying this.
The verdict? I really liked this. The balsamic vinegar adds a robust, deep, strong taste to the strawberries, but doesn’t take away any of their ‘strawberriness’ or freshness. This would be fantastic served with plain vanilla ice cream, or indeed as an accompaniment to a simple cake. I’ll definitely be having this again.
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My misguided effort to cook everything (EVERYTHING!) from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to eat’ continues. OK sure, I’ve loved this cookbook for ages, but trying every single recipe from one cookbook- however beloved- is slightly….errrrmmmm, obsessional, for lack of a kinder word, don’t you think?
Whatever. It is what it is, and for now I’m continuing my quest! This is also my entry for the long-running ‘Presto pasta night’, at Once upon a feast. I think this recipe is suitable for the event: I mean, it’s pasta. And it’s presto! (you can make it in half an hour or so). Presto Pasta Night is a lovely, long-running event which includes- in the archives of all the roundups- countless easy, quick, delicious pasta recipes. It’s worth taking a look at Ruth’s blog & checking out the roundups…
This is a light, quite tasty, easy to make dish that Nigella includes in her ‘low fat’ section. So it’s good if you’re trying to shift those stubborn 10 pounds, but don’t want to give up pasta altogether. To be honest though, I have to say I was underwhelmed by it: I expected it to be better. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I used only white crab meat (couldn’t find brown). In any case, it’s an easy everyday supper that you don’t have to think twice about making- and as long as you can get hold of some good crab meat, you may well have better luck than me.
Fine pasta with crab (serves 2)
- 1 clove garlic, chopped finely (or minced)
- 1/2 red chilli, sliced finely, with seeds (I’m not a fan of very hot tastes, so I used chilli oil instead, which worked very well)
- fresh coriander (1/2 supermarket plastic envelope or 1/4 bunch from market)
- grated zest of 1 lime
- 2-3 spring onions, sliced finely
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (I used chilli oil instead)
- 35 gr. brown crab meat
- 150 ml white wine
- 150 gr. linguine or egg tagliolini (I used egg taglierini! Is it the same thing s tagliolini, I wonder?!)
- 60 gr. white crab meat
- squirt of lime juice
- fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Put water on for the pasta
- When it’s almost boiling, start on the sauce (I would suggest that by this point you should have already done all the necessary chopping & preparing, so put on the water to boil AFTER you’ve done all that prep work)
- Sweat the garlic, chilli (if using), half the coriander, half the lime zest & the spring onions in olive oil (or chilli oil) until softened
- Add the brown crab meat & white wine & simmer for about 10′, stirring occasionally, until it reduces & thickens
- Add salt to the boiling pasta water & put in the pasta
- Just before the pasta needs draining, stir in the white meat, remaining coriander & remaining lime zest into the sauce
- add a drop or two of lime juice
- Before draining the pasta, keep a mug of cooking water
- Add the cooking water to the sauce & transfer the pasta & sauce to a boal
- make sure the sauce coats the strands of pasta
- add some flat-leaf parsley, just chopped
- My addition: add, if you want, a bit more freshly squeezed lime juice. I thought it suited the pasta sauce very much, gave a nice freshness to it.
- Eat immediately!
If you’re interested in trying out other recipes for pasta with crab, here’s a couple of recipes I found:
Linguine with crab and artichokes, from Tara at Seven Spoons
Tagliolini with crab and lemon, from the London Times
Sicilian style crab pasta, from the BBC Food website
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Goal 151 is ambitious! (What was I thinking, I wonder?!) The idea is to cook every single recipe- except the very few that I actively dislike- in Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to eat’. I bought this book years ago, when I was still living in Greece. At the time Nigella Lawson wasn’t a TV persona, and I knew nothing about her. All that I knew is that I loved loved loved the writing in the book. I still do. ‘How to eat’ is not only a great cookbook; it also makes for fantastic bed-time reading. Perfect to calm those turbulent thoughts.
This recipe from ‘How to eat’ is not a recipe per se, but more a suggestion. I had some lovely asparagus sitting in the fridge- asparagus season has started here in London- and I searched in Nigella’s book to get an idea on how to prepare them. Her suggestion of roasting the asparagus and then eating with loads of lemon appealed to me. We ate the asparagus with some of the bread I’d made a few days ago- again, from ‘How to eat’- and lots of feta cheese. This ended up being a delicious light supper, proving that sometimes the simplest things are the best, as long as the ingredients are good enough.
- Roll the asparagus in good olive oil & sea-salt
- Roast in the oven, making sure it’s as hot as it gets
- Give the asparagus 5-10′ for each side
- Leave the asparagus to cool down a bit, and then serve with lemon (which is what I did) or, if you prefer, with balsamic vinegar
- Eat with toasted bread, feta cheese, lemon, hollandaise sauce- anything you want really.
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I love love love baking bread. I particularly love- and I’m sure I’m not unique in this- the smell of bread-dough as it’s rising, and also (of course) the heady smell of a loaf straight out of the oven.
Making these two loaves was part of working on goal 191, which has to do with bread-baking every week. I’m very happy that I’ve decided to do bread-baking more systematically. Apart from leading to a delicious result (hopefully!) I find it very therapeutic. There’s nothing like working on bread dough to get rid of anger or anxiety. Plus, kneading is a bit of much needed exercise for the upper arms…
The recipe I followed was the one for Nigella Lawson’s ‘basic white loaf’ (from How to Eat). Which makes this part of goal 151 too (cooking every recipe from How to eat: quite an ambitious goal, isn’t it?!) I’ve doubled the quantities & made some tiny changes.
- 20 gr. dried yeast (instead of fresh yeast, which is what Nigella specifies)
- 2 teaspoons salt (I would use a bit more if I were to do this again)
- 340 ml tepid water more like 450-500 ml water, but tread carefully (my dough was too dry with the amount Nigella specifies. I kept adding water, judging as I was going along how much was needed. You want the dough sticky for a while, before it turns smooth & stretchy).
- 20 gr. (or so) fat (I used rapeseed oil because that’s what I had in the flat)
- Tip the flour onto a worktop & add yeast, salt, sugar.
- Pour over the water & bring together until it becomes a kind-of ‘ball’ of dough. At this point it’ll be very sticky
- As the dough starts to come together, add the fat
- Begin kneading & go on for at least 10 minutes
- When the dough’s ready- it’ll feel smoother & less sticky- bring it to a ball, flour the worktop & the piece of dough lightly, cover with clingfilm & a tea-towel & leave for 30′.
- After the 30′ pass, knead for 3 minutes. Again, flour the worktop & dough-ball & leave for 30 more minutes.
- Flatten the dough to expel gas bubbles. Fold in half & then in half again (and so on) until it’s a small ball. Flour the worktop & ball of dough & leave for 10′.
- Shape the dough (I made 2 loaves, but you can do a big round loaf instead).
- Slash the tops of the loaves if you want & place in greased loaf tins or on a baking tray (if making a round loaf)
- Put the tins or tray in a warm place, under a plastic bag for an hour
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on it: in my oven it took a bit less time.
- When you think the bread’s ready, lift it up & knock the base; if it sounds hollow it’s cooked.
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