Friday, April 29, 2016

Almond Cake - Cookbook Countdown

Almonds are an important ingredient in Spanish cuisine and make a frequent appearance in both savoury and sweet dishes so to finish my month of cooking from Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain for Cookbook Countdown, I turned to the recipe for Tarta de Santiago
This is a lovely, moist cake, flourless and made with no added fat. It's also very quick to put together if you happen to have almond flour on hand, which I did. Almonds and citrus are such a perfect pairing and both ingredients are beautifully represented in this dessert.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.       

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cottage Cooking Club - April 2016

When I first purchased the book River Cottage Veg by Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall, I set a goal to actually make all of the recipes I'd flagged on my first pass through it (rather than just thinking about making them and then shelving the book) and to hopefully increase my family's consumption of vegetables in the process. Thanks to the Cottage Cooking Club, its incredible founder and leader Andrea and all of its wonderful members, I made those recipes plus more, over 130 in all, produced some fabulous food that family enjoyed (and yes, they do eat more vegetables now), and had great fun doing it.  

For our final month of cooking together with this book, I completed seven recipes:

Various Rarebits (page 209)
Cooking from this book, I've learned many things from the author, one of which is just how good an open-faced sandwich loaded with stuff, often leftovers, and popped under the broiler, can be.
With this recipe, he brought us one of the classics, cheese on toast. The cheese wasn't just any good melting cheese but a cheesy béchamel or mornay sauce that had the consistency of a thick spread. I made both the Welsh and Tomato Rarebits and both were delicious with the tomato variation the favourite, but I would have preferred it a little saucier. I'll definitely make this again but with just a little less flour in the sauce.

Raid-the-Larder Spelt Broth (page 243) 
If ever there were a soup to make one feel virtuous, this is it. It's simply brimming with high fibre, low fat and nutrient dense ingredients. You could use just about any grain, bean and vegetable combination and it would still taste great as long as you started with a flavourful stock. I used farro, white beans, carrots, kale and edamame. Yum!

Linguine with Mint and Almond Pesto and Tomatoes (page 266)
Everyone knows how perfectly basil and tomatoes go together but I discovered the beautiful combination of mint and tomatoes in Hugh's recipe for Tomatoes with Thai Dressing so I was quite excited to try this pasta.
The dish began with a pesto of almond and mint which had a lovely flavour, much gentler than a traditional basil pesto. I did hit a little snag while making it; it was originally too thick to coat the pasta, nothing a little pasta cooking water couldn't fix, but that diluted its flavour so some extra mint, garlic, lemon zest etc was needed as well. Tossed with cooked pasta and sweet cherry tomatoes, it was very light and bright.

New Potato Gnocchi (page 284)
Hugh says that "these may well be the easiest gnocchi you'll ever make" and I have to agree. The dough was incredibly easy to handle and shape, soft but not sticky, and the cooked gnocchi were airy little pillows subtly flavoured with goat's cheese. I served them as suggested with Roasted Tomato Sauce, basil and some Parmesan. Absolutely delicious!

Roasted Tomato Sauce (page 366)
This sauce, made last summer, really captured the flavour of tomatoes picked at their peak. My batch was on the thin side because of the variety of tomato I used so I simmered it for a bit to thicken before serving it with the gnocchi. With its notes of thyme and garlic, it was fresh tasting and delicious.

Spinach and Thyme Pasties (page 326)

My family will eat just about anything in a hand pie but spinach-cheese filling is a favourite so I wasn't at all surprised that they loved these. And I really enjoyed making them. The crust was very cooperative, baked into flaky goodness, and wasn't particularly greasy in the hand, important for a hand-held pastry. And the filling, made with a little ricotta and Parmesan and a lot of spinach, was very flavourful. 

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille (page 362)
Ratatouille is one of my favourite dishes; I think the combination of peppers, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes is perfection.
I've tried many recipes and enjoyed most the ones where each of the vegetables retained some of their original integrity. So I wasn't sure at first about making a tomato sauce separately to be added to the roasted vegetables as we do in this recipe. But it worked...extremely well. The sauce, a tasty stand alone tomato sauce, provided the moisture the caramelized vegetables needed as well as loads of flavour. I served the ratatouille with bread and salad as suggested and with the leftovers and a bit of frozen puff pastry, made these:

The group is moving on to another of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's books, River Cottage Everyday, and much as I enjoy the author's approach to food and his recipes - and there appear to be quite a few gems in this book - cooking through this book is not something I can commit to right now. However, I will certainly continue to follow the cooking exploits of this fantastic group. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cocoa Crunch Meringue Sandwiches - Tuesdays with Dorie

These light, crisp chocolate meringue cookies sandwiched with a silky ganache filling were fantastic and they were one of our Tuesdays with Dorie choices for this month.
The finely chopped walnuts in the meringue added a little chew to the cookie and 70% cacao chocolate in the filling ensured that these weren't too sweet. The yield of 8 cookies seemed quite small but the chocolate flavour was so intense, savoured slowly - and that's how these should be enjoyed to appreciate every nuance of flavour and texture - one was enough to satisfy

Visit here to see what everyone else made.

Meatzza - IHCC Potluck

This week is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs when we can cook with any of the featured chefs, past or present. I chose a Nigella Lawson recipe but not just any recipe, one she says is "numero uno" so far from her book Nigellissima. Described in the headnotes as a meatball mixture pressed into a pan, I knew immediately how I wanted to serve it......
....as a "meatball" sandwich! I didn't have to make too many adjustments for it to be more sandwich friendly, I just used a square baking pan to better fit some square ciabiatta buns and used homemade marinara instead of chunky chopped tomatoes.

It took a fraction of the time to make since there was no meatball shaping, browning and simmering required but all of the important elements of a meatball sandwich were there: moist and juicy meat redolent with garlic smothered in tangy tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella. Definitely "numero uno" according to my family!

The recipe for Nigella's Meatzza is available here. To see what everyone else made this week at IHCC, visit here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Grilled Fish & Vegetables with Garlic-Chile Dressing - Cookbook Countdown

For an easy weeknight meal, I tackled two more recipes from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, the book I've been cooking from this past month for Cookbook Countdown (learn more about it here or here): Pan-Grilled Fish with Garlic and Chile Dressing and Grilled Vegetables.
I love recipes like this where the fish is simply cooked then finished with a simple but incredibly flavourful sauce. A vinaigrette of olive oil, white wine vinegar, sautéed garlic slices and red chiles added some zing and heat to pan-fried fish and to the boiled potatoes as well.
The vegetable dish was really more technique than recipe: just about any vegetable could be used and alternative cooking methods to the plancha, a traditional flattop griddle, were suggested. I used my trusty stove top grill pan to add smoky flavour to some sweet bell peppers that had been brushed with herby olive oil.

Simple, quick and delicious!
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.     

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Medley of Spring Vegetables - Cookbook Countdown

Asparagus, fava beans, green peas and artichokes all say "spring" to me. Menestra de Primavera, a recipe from Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain, the book I'm cooking from this month for Cookbook Countdown, includes them all and is described by the author as "one of the great vegetable dishes of Spain". 
Considered a soup in some regions of Spain and often served as a first course, the dish comprises vegetables cooked in chicken stock and a thin but flavourful sauce made from some of that stock, onions, garlic and wine. Crispy bits of fried Serrano ham add a Spanish touch.

It was light and lovely, a delicious celebration of early spring produce.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.    

Monday, April 18, 2016

White Pizza with Mustard Greens - IHCC Something to Eat on the Sofa

I Heart Cooking Clubs is cooking with Australian chef Curtis Stone for the next 6 months and for this week's theme of food we enjoy eating while lounging about, I made a pizza that featured a new-to-me vegetable: mustard greens. These are widely available here and I'm not sure why I consistently bypass the pretty, frilly bunches in favour of kale, chard and spinach but this time, I didn't.
I loved them! I'm not sure if you're supposed to eat them raw, but I really enjoyed their peppery bite. Cooked, they were more bitter than peppery in a good way - at least that was my experience. Some of the other pizza components helped to tame that bitterness: a rich white sauce of cream and ricotta, mozzarella cheese and sweet sautéed shallots.
With Rose Levy Beranbaum's Perfect Pizza crust (a no-knead but same day dough from The Bread Bible) as its base, this pizza was a delicious departure from my usual. If you would like to try it yourself, the recipe can be found here

Friday, April 15, 2016

Garlic Chicken with Zucchini Sauté - Cookbook Countdown

Food of Spain by Claudia Roden is the book I'm cooking from this month for Cookbook Countdown, an opportunity to use cookbooks that have sat on my shelf for far too long without being used.
For a recent family dinner I made Garlic Chicken, a simple dish of chicken braised with many, many cloves of garlic. The ingredient list was short and the method wasn't very involved - apart from peeling all of that garlic...next time I'll cheat and buy pre-peeled cloves! - but the end result was amazingly good. The chicken was moist and tender and the sauce, chicken broth spiked with dry Spanish sherry, was phenomenal: a little sweet and nutty and laced with mellow garlic.
Zucchini with Onions and Oregano, a slow cooked sauté, was another recipe from the book that I served as one of the sides. The cooking method really brought out the subtle flavour of the zucchini and the sweetness of the onion and the texture was soft and silky....a little too soft for me since my preference leans towards raw or tender-crisp vegetables. It was tasty but I don't think I'll make this again. The chicken, on the other hand, is worth repeating many times.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Masala Chai - Cooking with Madhur Jaffrey, IHCC

It snowed again. 
Madhur Jaffrey says she likes to have spiced tea, or Masala Chai, on cold, blustery days which perfectly describes the weather here in the aftermath of the storm. Black tea flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and my addition of pink peppercorns and orange peel was just what was needed to warm us through. And a few of Kim Boyce's whole wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies from Good to the Grain didn't hurt either ;)!
The recipe for the tea comes from Madhur Jaffrey's book Indian Cooking but can also be found here.  Visit I Heart Cooking Clubs to see the other spicy treats from this week's featured chef.

Jammer Galette - Tuesdays with Dorie

One of the Tuesdays with Dorie picks this month from Baking Chez Moi was a ginormous version of the author's famous Jammer, a jam and streusel-topped sablé cookie.
As I did with the Lemon Squares, French Style, I substituted coconut oil for half the butter in both crust and streusel to tone down the butteriness, and filled the galette with my favourite tart and super fruity strawberry and passionfruit jam to balance the richness of the pastry.

This was easy to make and even easier to eat and enjoy. Loved it!

Visit here to see what everyone else made this week.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fideos en Tajine - Cookbook Countdown

With an unexpected snowstorm followed by days of unseasonably cold weather, I was looking for a hearty dish to make for dinner. Pasta with Peas, Chicken, and Pork Chops, a rich and meaty pasta dish from Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain seemed a good choice. But the recipe called for a special cooking vessel, a cazuela. Though a wide casserole dish was recommended as a substitute, I thought my flame-proof tagine would work so "Fideos en Cazuela" became "Fideos en Tajine"!
Apart from the fabulous food that's been coming out of my kitchen, one of the things I'm enjoying most cooking from my long forgotten cookbooks these last few months is learning new cooking techniques. Cooking with Claudia Roden, I've already deep fried béchamel(!) for ham croquettes and stewed potatoes in olive oil to creamy perfection for a Spanish tortilla. For this recipe, pasta was cooked like rice using the absorption method which meant that every noodle absorbed the flavours of the cooking liquid.
And, wow, what flavours there were in that broth! At its base was a sofrito, a classic Spanish tomato sauce of slowly cooked onions, garlic, red pepper and tomatoes. The chicken, pork and sausages were supposed to be cooked in a separate pan but I used the tagine for this step so the browned bits left behind added another layer. Finally, when the pasta was partially done, a thickener called picada, a paste of toasted ground almonds, garlic, saffron and parsley was added with the cooked meat

Rich and warming...loved it!
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray

Monday, April 4, 2016

Couscous Fritters with Shaved Spring Salad - IHCC G'day Curtis!

This week, I Heart Cooking Clubs welcomes chef Curtis Stone as featured chef for the next six months. His philosophy of "keep it simple and cook with naturally produced ingredients just as Mother Nature intended" is one that appeals to me and his recipes have a relaxed feel to them, perfect for the warmer months ahead.
To welcome him, I put together a little starter of Couscous Fritters with Shaved Asparagus and Carrot Salad. I made a few changes and used whole wheat couscous steamed in vegetable stock instead of water for extra flavour and made the fritters starter-sized instead of entrée-sized for a yield of 12. I don't care much for creamy salad dressings but I loved the idea of a lemony dill and yogurt dipping sauce, so I made a half recipe and dressed the vegetables with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.
Filled with feta and spring onions, the fritters had amazing flavour and great texture with their crunchy crust; the crisp fresh vegetable salad was a great foil for them. Curtis and I are off to a delicious start!

Visit here to see the other welcoming dishes.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tapas - Cookbook Countdown

I'm still exploring the food of Mediterranean countries with this month's choice for Cookbook Countdown, a cooking challenge hosted by food bloggers Emily and Joyce that's motivating me to cook from some of my neglected cookbooks. Food of Spain, written by renowned cookbook author Claudia Roden, provides a comprehensive look at the rich and varied traditional cuisine of the country's regions. With over one hundred pages devoted to Spain's culinary history, there is much to learn.
Tapas, small plates of food to snack on before dinner, generally in a bar, is one Spanish tradition I think is familiar to most. For me, it was an excuse to try several recipes in the book since just about anything can be served as a tapa.
Ham Croquettes, Croquetas de Jamón, are typical tapas. I had no idea that these little fritters were made of deep fried béchamel! Of course it's a thicker than usual sauce and it includes sautéed onions and bits of Spanish serrano ham. Double-dipped in breadcrumbs, the chilled mixture was actually quite easy to work with and resulted in a super crispy treat with a creamy interior. The flavour was a nice balance of sweet onions and salty ham.
Salty, briny foods are popular tapas as well so these Marinated Mushrooms with Lemon seemed a good choice. They were dry cooked first in a hot pan to lose some of their moisture and to better absorb the flavours of lemon juice and zest. They were sharp and refreshing, a great palate awakener. I followed the author's suggestion and served them with olives and bread. This cooking event is encouraging me to use new cookbooks before they get lost on a shelf as well as old so that's a slice of Overnight 40% Whole Wheat Bread from Ken Forkish's new to me book, Flour Water Salt Yeast on the plate.
Potato Omelet, or Tortilla Española as it's often called, is one of the few dishes that is found everywhere in Spain, in every region and in homes and tapas bars alike. It's like an Italian frittata usually made with potatoes or onions or both. This one included both. Stewing the vegetables in olive oil, a relatively slow process, was worth the effort, resulting in soft, creamy potatoes that became one with the eggs (and a batch of onion-infused olive oil that was put to other uses). Excellent hot or at room temperature.
Empanadillas, savoury Little Pies with Tomato, Pepper and Tuna Filling, were easier to make than I anticipated since the olive oil dough was quite forgiving. And the filling was just fabulous: a little sweet and salty and not at all fishy made with some nice Spanish canned tuna. Joining them on this little plate was a simple salad of cooked Vegetables with Tomato and Hard-Boiled Egg Vinaigrette, a dish that can be made with any mix of seasonal vegetables.

Now, what's for dinner?
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.