Tuesday 30 June 2009

Recipe - Summer Prawn Salad

When it gets as warm as it is at the moment I prefer to eat something a bit cooler for dinner. Salads works great in the summer months and I'm always trying new version and variants of them.

This is just a very simple salad but it fills it purpose. As always freestyle it, use what you have at home or what you like. Mix, match and replace to your hearts content.

Salads like this one are great because you can use leftover potatoes from the day before and so on. If you feel lazy, buy cooked prawns instead of boiling them yourself. There are lots of shortcuts you can take - all depending on how much effort you want to put in.

I did actually make the sauce in the recipe, it's just that the photos with it on didn't look as nice as those without it. ;)

6 tbsp natural yoghurt
1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
Lots of fresh dill, cut
Lemon juice

Prawns (cooked or cook them yourself first)
Boiled new potatoes, halved and then cut into wedges
Eggs, boiled for about 5 minutes
French breakfast radishes, halved and then cut into wedges
Yellow pepper, cut into strips
Mixed salad

Mix the yoghurt and Dijon mustard. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Stir in the dill. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Just plate the ingredients, pour some sauce over. Job done.


Monday 29 June 2009

Recipe - Frittata

I'm sure that you've all been here. It is Sunday evening and after spending the entire day successfully doing nothing you realise that you're getting hungry.

Being late-ish on a Sunday, the supermarket is closed and you're stuck having to conjure up something from what you got at home.

That is exactly what happened to me last night and this is what I came up with.

I ate this hot, but you might as well let it cool down and eat it at room temperature. It makes a really nice dish for picnics as well.

Just a quick couple of words of warning about this recipe. Make sure that the frying pan you are using actually can be used in the oven. Contrary to what you might have heard, molten plastic doesn't really add any good flavours to your food. It sure as hell messes up your oven as well.

After those revelations, let's head over to the recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2, or 1 hungry Mikey)
1 decent sized potato, cut into 1cm cubes
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
Olive oil
4 eggs
Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
A pinch or two of smoked paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Bring some salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the potatoes and boil for about 5 minutes. You want the potatoes to just start to soften up, not go all soggy on you. Drain the potatoes and put them to the side.

In the meantime, heat some oil in a frying pan and let the pepper, onion and garlic sweat for 10 minutes or so until they start to soften up without taking any colour.

Break the eggs into a bowl and mix them together vigourously. Add in the potatoes and the vegetable mixture. Season well, adding some smoked paprika to taste as well as the torn basil leaves.

Heat some more oil in the frying pan. When the oil is hot, add in the egg mixture and give it a good stir to make sure it is evenly distributed.

Pop the frying pan (see my warning above) into the oven and let it cook until the middle is set. This should take about 15 minutes or so.


Friday 26 June 2009

A simple summer dessert...

This is not a recipe, this is more of a trip down memory lane.

Last weekend was Midsummer in Sweden. The holiday that rivals Christmas for being the most popular holiday back there.

I've seen quite a lot of posts on Swedish blogs about how people celebrated Midsummer and what they ate and so on.

Seeing all these pictures and reading the recipes made me start to think what food memories I have of Swedish summer.

Sitting on a remote island in the western archipelago and eating marinated herring and boiled new potatoes on a perfect summer evening is definitively one of the better ones.

The one that gives me the best memories, on so many different levels, is probably one of the simplest meals though. When I say meal I should probably say dessert.

When I grew up we still had seasons in the shops. You couldn't go and find raspberries and blueberries in your local shop in December. You got them when they were in season and that was it.

Somehow I think that made us appreciate them more and I still think they tasted better than those forced through and imported fruit and veg we can get year round these days.

This dessert is something my grandmother used to make. If I stayed at hers over the weekend in the summer she would get down to the local market early on Saturday morning to get fresh fruit and veg from the farmers stalls.

If she came back with raspberries and blueberries I knew that I was in for a treat.

This is so simple, yet this is what brings out memories of Swedish summer for me. All you do is that you wash your blueberries and raspberries, put them in a bowl, pour milk over them and put them in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to let the milk get some of the flavours from the berries. If the blueberries are too sharp, add some sugar.

Eating this on a warm summer evening - life doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Recipe - Baked Ham, Tomatoes and Eggs

This is one of my fridge-cleaning recipes. Since I (almost) always got garlic, onions, eggs and some kind of tomatoes at home I use that as a base and then I combine with whatever I find in the fridge that needs using up.

This time I had some smoked ham that was getting close to it's use-by-date so in it went, together with some basil that was starting to flag a bit.

I've cooked this with corned beef, chorizo, pork sausages etc and it all works, it is just a matter of using your imagination.

For some (or rather one in particular) of our Danish visitors: If you are going to try this recipe please remember that passata and polenta are still two very different things and that they are not interchangeable. ;)

After that gentle reminder, let's head over to the recipe...

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
Olive oil
500g passata
4 - 6 slices of smoked ham, roughly torn
4 - 6 basil leaves, roughly torn
2 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Gently sweat the garlic and onion in some olive oil on a very low heat until they start to soften.

Add the passata, season to taste, and let this simmer on a low heat until it starts to thicken.

Once thickened to your liking divide the mix between two oven safe dishes, mix in the ham and basil evenly between the two dishes. Crack an egg on top of each dish and season again.

Chuck this in the oven and bake until the egg sets, normally about 10 - 15 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and some nice bread to mop up the sauce with.


Wednesday 24 June 2009

Recipe - Meatball and Beetroot Salad Sandwiches

Now that we got something that resembles summer even here in the UK it can be a bit too hot to cook in the evenings.

My answer to that is quite often to go for a Scandinavian style open sandwich of some kind. As those go, meatball and beetroot-salad ones are quite high up there when it comes to being classic.

I can honestly not say if it was us Swedes or the Danes that invented this one, the only thing I can say though is that since there's no gjetost involved - the Norwegians had nothing to do with it. :)

You could go the whole way and roast your own beets as well as make your own meatballs but it is summer - give yourself some time off and use some pre-made stuff for once.

If you can find Scan's pre-made meatballs in your shop, they're the ones to go for. They are the classic ones, the ones that all Swedes now exactly how they taste. The quick tip is to fry them quickly so that they get a little bit of extra texture. That actually gives them quite a bit of extra flavour.

The beetroot salad works really well as a side salad for when you have grilled or fried meats as well.

Enough chatting, let's have a look at the recipe...

Ingredients (makes enough beetroot salad for 2 - 4 sandwiches)
4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp creme fraiche
5 - 6 pickled baby beetroots - finely diced
1 red apple - halved, cored and finely diced
Lemon juice (if needed)
Meatballs, fried and halved.

Thoroughly mix the mayonnaise, creme fraiche, beetroot and apple together. Season well and give it a taste, if you think it's too sweet - add some lemon juice.

Put the bowl with the beetroot salad in the fridge for as long as you can, at least an hour, to let the flavours mix.

To assemble the sandwiches remove the beetroot salad from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Put some beetroot salad on a slice of bread, top with meatballs.


Tuesday 23 June 2009

Recipe - Falun sausage (falukorv) pasta bake

After yesterdays psyche out I thought I'd better post a recipe that is a bit saner in most peoples eyes.

Falun sausage is one of the staples in Swedish day-to-day cookery and trying to find variations on how to cook it can be a problem.

I'm not sure how many times I was fed heavily fried falun sausage with pasta as I was growing up but it sure was many a time. This recipe is a bit of a twist on that recipe with the addition of some more flavours than just ketchup. Besides mustard, ketchup seemed to be the only condiment as I was growing up.

So yet again, if you find yourself with a piece of falun sausage after a visit to IKEA and you have no idea what to do with it, try this recipe - you might like it.

You could either use one roasting/gratin dish or split it up into two. My 600ml Pyrex roaster was perfect for one portion.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 portions of macaroni pasta, cooked just until tender
Olive oil
250g - 300g falukorv, diced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 onion, finely diced
1 green chili, sliced (keep some of the seeds if you want more kick)
120 ml single cream
Grated cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.

Start by sweating the vegetables in a frying pan on a low heat. Once the pepper starts to soften, remove the pan and pour the veg into the dish you are baking in.

Put the pan back on the stove, raise the heat to medium and add the falun sausage. Fry until the falun sausage starts to brown and crisp up. Once again, remove the pan from the stove and pour the falun sausage into the baking dish.

Pour the cooked pasta into the same dish, season and make sure to mix it up well. Pour in the cream and finally cover well with grated cheese.

Pop into the oven until the cheese is melted and starts to get a nice brown colour, about 20 minutes or so.

Serve with a green salad on the side.


Monday 22 June 2009

Recipe - Flying Jacob (Flygande Jakob)

This is a dish that probably will freak quite a lot of you out. "You put what together with what?"

Trust me though, it's well worth a try and it is actually very tasty. This used to be a standard dinner party dish in Sweden from the mid 80's and about 10 years on.

I mentioned it to one of my Twitter friends from Sweden and he went something along the lines of: "Flying Jacob, haven't had that for 15 years. Will have to cook that really soon".

I've freestyled the original recipe a bit. Traditionally you would buy a whole grilled chicken and use the meat from that but I had some chicken breasts at home so that was that.

As for the topping, you'd normally whisk the cream but I really couldn't be bothered with that and it worked really well this way too.

Finally, I just can't seem to find the kind of chili sauce we had back home so this time I used Heinz Piri Piri & Lime Twisted Ketchup, which worked just as well.

Ok, let's move on to the recipe - you'll probably be well freaked after reading this one.

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 portions cooked white rice
6 - 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
4 skin- and boneless chicken breasts, cut into bitesized pieces
3 ripe bananas, sliced
125 ml chili sauce (or spicy ketchup)
350 ml single cream

Preheat the oven to 200c.

Fry the bacon slices in a pan on medium heat just until they start to crisp up. Move to the side and let them rest on some kitchen roll. Once they're cool enough to handle, cut them into smaller pieces.

In the meantime, season the chicken pieces and fry them until they are nicely golden and cooked through. Cook in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan.

Mix the cream with the chili sauce (or spicy ketchup) and make sure to stir it really well.

Put the rice on the bottom of a roasting dish (a 35cmx23cm one should do the trick), top with the chicken and bacon. Finish off with the slices from two of the three bananas.

Pour the cream and chili mixture on top, making sure to distribute it evenly. Top with the remaining banana slices and a good handful or two of peanuts.

Bake in the oven and let it bake until the sauce gets a bit darker. Normally 15 - 25 minutes.

Serve with a crisp side salad.


Friday 19 June 2009

Recipe - Twice Baked Potatoes

This is yet another dish which is fairly easy to cook, but you get quite a lot back from it. It might take some time from start to finish but you are not doing anything for most of that time.

My recommendation would be to sip on some nice wine or drink a beer or three while you wait for the potatoes to finish in the oven.

I haven't given any exact proportions for the butter, creme fraiche or grated cheese since mash is normally a very personal thing. As for the other ingredients, if you don't like my proportions - change them. This is definitely a dish that leans towards freestyling. Cook it the way you like, don't follow this recipe to the letter.

These potatoes makes an excellent side barbecued meats but you can also have them as a dish on their own if you want. Match the moment.

Let's see how to make this then....

Ingredients, makes 4 halves
2 large baking potatoes
Olive oil
Creme Fraiche
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into pieces and cooked until crispy
Grated cheese, I used Monterey Jack
3 spring onions, halved and sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.

Wash and dry the potatoes. Prick them all over with a fork and apply some olive all over them. Put them directly on the wire rack in the oven.

Let the potatoes cook for about 1hr 15min and then remove them from then and let them cool down a bit.

When cool enought to handle, use a kitchen towel or oven mitt, split them halfways. Scoop out the potato flesh, being careful not to pierce the potato skin. Put the empty skins on a baking tray.

Put the potato through a ricer, or use a masher, and add creme fraiche and butter to your own taste to make a mash to your liking. Add in most of the bacon and cheese as well as all of the spring onions. Mix well and season to taste.

Spoon the mash back into the potato skins, top with the remaining bacon and cheese. Put the baking tray with the skins back into the oven until the cheese is nicely melted and cooked to your liking, about 15 - 20 minutes.


Thursday 18 June 2009

Review - From Pasta To Pancakes - The Ultimate Student Cookbook by Tiffany Goddall

This is not a cookbook that I normally would buy.

Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it and I actually quite like it. Keep reading and you'll find out more about it and also why I normally wouldn't buy a cookbook like this.

From Pasta To Pancakes - The Ultimate Student Cookbook is written by Tiffany Goodall, you can find her on Twitter. She's fresh out of university and decided to write a cookbook for students.

The cookbook itself takes a quite fresh approach to the layout of a cookbook, each recipe consists of photos made out into a cartoon-strip design. This design makes it easy to follow the recipe steps as well as get a view of what the end result should look like.

It starts out with some great tips for the fresh/inexperienced cook when it comes to what equipment and store cupboard essentials that you need as well as very good advice on how to avoid giving you and your friends food poisoning.

There are over 90 recipes with over 750 photos. The recipes range from cheese on toast to the perfect roast chicken. All recipes have been divided into different chapters, for example Breakfast with Tiffany, Food on the move and Wasted weekends.

Why wouldn't I go and buy this cookbook? Well, it's mainly down to me being a bit of a snob when it comes to cookbooks and I would probably not be looking in the beginner/student cookbook section to start with. Would I go and buy it now, after having a chance to review it? Read on and you'll find out.

I think this is actually quite a gem of a cookbook, especially for beginners. The recipes are clear and easy to follow and you'll end up with some great food that you have cooked yourself. Anyone using this cookbook will end up eating better and cheaper food than if they went for takeaways and frozen meals.

Mikey says: Buy this book if you are a beginner to cookery or why not as a gift if you are sending someone off to university and you want to try and give them a good chance of managing to cook for themselves. I for one will recommend this cookbook to all the people who ask me where to start when it comes to cooking.

A big thank you to the kind people at Quadrille Publishing who sent me a copy to review.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Recipe - Courgette and Tomato Bake

The adventures of a man and his organic veg box continues...

After stopping the carrot revolution the other day I turned my attention to the courgettes, that would be zucchinis for my North American and Australian friends, and the remaining onion.

Yet again I managed to end up cooking something that is fairly vegetarian. I guess that just how vegetarian depends on how militant you are about the cheese.

This turned out to taste very nice and could easily be used as a side dish to some tasty meat too. I cooked it in two separate Pyrex dishes but you could use one large dish just as well.

As a reference, the Pyrex dishes I used takes about 600 ml each.

Let's head over to the recipe part.

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
500g passata
4 small-ish tomatoes, sliced
2 courgettes, sliced
100g grated cheese, I used gruyere

Preheat the oven to 200c.

Start by sweating the garlic and onion in some olive oil in a pan. Once they are starting to soften add the passata and bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until it starts to thicken up. Season to taste.

Divide the tomato mixture into the two dishes. Then make alternate layers of courgette and tomato with cheese between each layer. Finish off with a final layer of cheese.

Cover the dishes with tin foil and put them on a baking sheet (they do tend to splatter a wee bit) and into the oven for 20 minutes.

Take them out of the oven, remove the tin foil and then return them to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes or until they looked nicely browned.


Tuesday 16 June 2009

From certifiable to certified...

Every now and then I look at escaping computer hell as I affectionately call my day-to-day job. A couple of years ago I was seriously considering doing a Chalet Chef course. This course runs over a couple of weeks and ends up costing in the region of four figures. Various things (cost, having to take quite some time off from computer hell, not sure if it is any good or worth it) made me not go for it, this time.

One thing that stuck in my mind though, one of the pre-requisites, that you needed a Food Safety and Hygiene for Catering certificate.

I'm not really sure if I'll ever do one of these Chalet Chef courses or not but I thought that doing this course wouldn't hurt. I didn't really want to have to go away for a day to attend a course and sit the exam so I used some Google-Fu to find an online version.

Google directed me to Virtual College and their Online Food Hygiene Course. The price was right and I decided to enroll myself. Booking was quick and easy, all major credit cards as well as PayPal is accepted.

Once you got your login you can view the different parts of the course and then you can get started.

The training is divided into 9 different modules and you can go through all of them in your own pace. You can use the software to take notes as you go along, or you can just do it the old-fashioned way and jot notes on a pad as you go along.

You have a instructor on the screen (I've attached a small picture of him here, don't want to break too many copyright laws) that gives you pointers, information and let's you know when to move on.

Each module have some follow-up questions to prepare you for the exam at the end of the course.

You can come and go as you wish with these modules which makes it possible for you to fit the training around your life and not the other way around.

Once you've finished all of the modules it's time for the exam. I must say that I found the 'in-module questions' tougher than the exam itself, but that might just be me.

Once you've passed your exam your result is reviewed and you get your certificate within 2 working days, or at least that's how long it took for mine to arrive.

I was very happy that the training was set up in a way that it worked just as well on Linux as on Windows. I've seen other browser based training that only works on Windows so this was a nice surprise.

I now got the Food Safety and Hygiene Level 2 Catering certificate and I might even hang it on a prominent place in my flat, instead of in the toilet where I hang all of my computer certifications ;)

I'm not exactly sure what use I'll get for it or what to use it for, but I got it.

Maybe I should start looking into one of those Chalet Chef courses again?

Monday 15 June 2009

Recipe - Roasted Carrot and Onion Soup

I was looking at the contents of my organic veg box and saw a big bunch of carrots look back at me defiantly.

I've never been one to stand it when carrots revolt so I thought I'd teach them a lesson. What better lesson than some time in the oven, followed by some simmering and a final blitzing? ;)

The end result was very good and this is a recipe that I'll try again, probably freestyling it a bit with some other spices and so on.

I even tried the leftovers on a freak vegetarian here at work and although I haven't had a full review yet, the initial review per text message sounded positive.

Let's see how to cook this one then...

Ingredients (serves 2 - 3)
400g carrots, washed and peeled, tops taken off
2 small onions, quartered
Runny honey
1l vegetable stock
1 tsp ground ginger
Fresh basil, cut into strips

Preheat the oven to 200c.

Place the carrots and onion quarters on a tin foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and dot with the butter.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, cut the carrots into smaller pieces and add them to the vegetable stock together with the ginger.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer until the carrots have softened, about 10 - 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blitz it to a nice velvety consistency using a mixer or a blender stick.

Serve in a bowl topped with the basil and some nice bread on the side.


Friday 12 June 2009

Recipe - Boneless Lamb Loin Fillets with Rosemary Potato Wedges and Sort-of-Ratatouille

This is the first recipe I post where I use stuff from my organic veg box. It's a fairly easy recipe, there isn't much hand holding or active cooking involved.

Why do I call it Sort-of-Ratatouille? It's because it sort of looks a bit like a ratatouille, it very much taste like one but I'm not sure if I'm cooking it the 'proper' way. It does however taste good and I'm happy with it.

I won't give any timings on the lamb since everyone's taste is different. As a reference though, I had mine in for 15 minutes. I think it was done just a bit too much, as you can see from the picture. Next time I'll probably try around 12 minutes.

Over to the recipe...

Ingredients (4 servings)
4 Boneless Trimmed Lamb Loin Fillets

Rosemary Potato Wedges
1 - 2 potatoes per person, washed (not peeled) and cut into wedges
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
A couple of garlic cloves, no need to peel them
Olive oil

250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 - 2 onions, cut into wedges
1 - 2 courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced
1 - 2 red peppers, sliced
Olive oil
Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Water, if needed

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.

Put the potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic cloves and olive oil in a non-reactive bowl - toss well.

Put the potatoes on some tin foil on a baking sheet, top with the rosemary and shove it into the oven.

The potatoes are to cook for 45 minutes. However, remove them from the oven when you got about 15 minutes left to turn and add on the seasoned lamb fillets and let cook together. Remove from oven and let it the meat rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing and serving.

In the meantime add the tomatoes and onions to a pan and give it a good glug of olive oil. Cook this on a very low heat until the tomatoes starts to break down.

When the tomatoes is breaking down, give them a mashing hand with a wooden spoon. Add the courgette and pepper and let it all simmer for about 10 minutes. If it turns a bit too solid and gloopy - -add some water. Season to taste. Re-heat if needed if you get this done before the potatoes and lamb.


Thursday 11 June 2009

Recipe - Homemade Hommous and Pita Crisps

I will have to come clean straight away - this was the first time I made my own hommous. I know - Bad Mikey :( I hang my head in shame. Especially given how damned easy it was.

As for the spelling, what's going on there? I normally spell it hommous, but then according to Wikipedia it's supposed to be spelled hummus. Then they really throw the barn door open to invite any spelling under the sun. How about this list: "hamos, houmous, hommos, hommus, hummos, hommous or humus"? I've always used the hommous spelling and I'll stick to it.

Most people have tried hommous and seems to like it. I must say that making it at home gave it even better flavour, and I could adjust it to suit my own taste.

As for the pita crisps, they rock! It's a really good way to use up leftover pita pockets but to be honest, buying some pita pockets just to make these crisps is well worth it. I've used them not only with hommous but with other dips and salsas as well. This time I made them very plain but you can freestyle them to your hearts content by adding spices, herbs or maybe swapping the olive oil for some compound butter.

Just a note before we head over to the recipe. The quantities and times I've listed here goes for the chickpeas and tahini that I bought - look at the cooking instructions etc on the ones you got just to make sure that they're not too different.

Ingredients (makes enough for 1 person)
50g uncooked chickpeas
40g tahini
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped (or more, to taste)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Paprika or chili powder for dusting (optional)

Pita crisps
1 pita pocket
Olive oil

Soak the chickpeas over night. Drain and refresh the next day. Drain again and pop them into a pan with cold water. Bring the pan to a boil and let the chickpeas boil heavily for 10 minutes. Lower the heat and slowly boil for another 35 minutes. Drain. Allow to cool a bit.

Use a mixer or food processor to blend the chickpeas, tahini and garlic. Season. Add olive oil and lemon juice to get the flavour and consistency you are after.

Chill in the fridge, take out long enough before serving to give it a chance to reach room temperature. Put into a nice bowl, give it a good stir and dust with paprika or chili powder if you want. You can also drizzle with some good quality olive oil.

Pita Crisps
Pre heat the oven to 200c. Split the pita into two round single layers. Cut each layer into wedges. Put the wedges, cut side up, onto a baking sheet that is lined with tin foil. Drizzle or brush the wedges with olive oil.

Pop into the oven for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned and crisp.


Wednesday 10 June 2009

Abel & Cole Organic Veg Box

I have been interested in the organic veg boxes from Abel & Cole for quite some time. It's one of those things where I heard quite a lot about them and wanted to try one but really been too lazy to organise to receive one. It's not all that hard to organise, I'm just quite lazy at best of times. ;)

There's a simple search field on Abel & Cole's homepage where you can enter your postcode and you'll get told straight away if they deliver in your area. If they do, it's simple to set up a account.

When I was asked if I was interested to receive and review a box I said yes please straight away. Finally I would be able to judge the quality of the produce as well as the mix of vegetables and fruits, two things I had been having questions about.

It's been about a week since we discussed this and I've been waiting impatiently for my box to arrive. Yesterday it was finally waiting for me when I got back from work. Since I can't really be at home to pick up deliveries I had specified a place where the driver could leave my box, something every customer can specify on their account pages.

Breathlessly, there's a couple of flights of stairs up to my flat, I opened the box to find the following content.

Little Gem Lettuce
Mini Watermelon
Red Pepper
Spring Greens

My first two questions were answered straight away, everything was of good quality and the mix was quite useful. I would buy most of these vegetables during a normal weeks shopping so they'll all come in handy.

I have to admit that I have never cooked with spring greens but I'm sure I'll find some use for them. Also, I have to add that the potatoes did not come in the plastic bag you can see on the photo. That's me trying to protect my kitchen table from dirt. ;)

My idea now is to try and use up what I received in this box in my normal day to day cookery. In an attempt to try and gauge how useful this box is.

You will be able to follow what's happening in my blog posts as I get through the box. The fruit could come in quite handy for my resolution to learn how to cook desserts, I already have some ideas for some stuff I'd like to try.

I'll keep an eye on the quality of the produce during this time as well. I want to see if it stays fresh for as long as the vegetables I normally get from the supermarket or if it's better - or even if it's worse. Either way, I'll let you know as I go along.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Recipe - Harissa Marinated Chicken Breast with Minty Couscous

Time to get back from the navel gazing arty-farty presentations and photography and actually produce a proper recipe again.

This recipe ticks many of the boxes for me. It contains chicken, couscous, is fairly quick and easy to make and most of all - it is tasty as hell.

You could eat this for dinner or pack it up in your lunchbox, it is a fairly versatile dish.

If you make an extra chicken breast you can slice it up too and use to make breakfast/lunch sandwiches out of it. A bit of mango chutney on a slice of bread topped with some of this chicken and you're a long way towards a very nice sandwich.

Let's head over to the recipe...

Ingredients (per person)
1 bone- and skinless chicken breast
Harissa paste

Couscous, enough for one portion according to the packaging
Water, enough for one portion of couscous according to the packaging
Pine nuts
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Mint leaves, washed and roughly torn
Lemon juice

Spread the chicken breast with harissa paste, both top and bottom. Cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to 200c. Put the chicken on some lightly oiled tin foil on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until done. Once done, remove and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

In the meantime prepare the couscous as per the instructions on the packaging.

While the couscous is preparing heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook whilst shaking until they start to brown. Remove from the heat and chop them coarsely.

Once the couscous is done mix in the mint, tomatoes, pine nuts and drizzle well with lemon juice.

Serve the couscous with the chicken on top.


Monday 8 June 2009

Silly in the kitchen - Beans, Egg and Bacon on Toast

Silly in the kitchen might become a new heading for posts where I just gone a bit silly in the kitchen. One way or another.

This time I just couldn't be bothered to cook something proper for dinner. Not being 100% well I just wanted some kind of comfort food. Some times the simple meal is the most satisfying and you can't get much simpler than some baked beans, bacon, egg and toast.

As I was preparing the meal I realised that I just didn't want to slop it onto the plate in a big pile. I tried to present it in a purdy and interesting way instead. Did I succeed? I'll have leave that up to you to decide.

My recent resolution to try and learn how to cook/make/bake desserts might very easily start to come in under the 'Silly in the kitchen' heading. Either that or, perhaps more probably, the new heading of 'Kitchen Disasters' ;)

Let me know what you think of this 'Silly in the kitchen' malarkey. Like it, loathe it, couldn't really give a shit? Do you just want the normal recipes and reviews or is it ok to add in some of this more off-the-wall stuff? Any comment is welcome.

Friday 5 June 2009

Recipe - Steak and Tomato Sandwiches

As the returning reader will know, I've been on a bit of a tomato rampage recently. Guess what, here's another recipe that's using tomatoes. This time they're pan fried and not oven roasted so at least there's some variation.

I was in the mood for a steak sandwich but wanted to freestyle the concept a little bit. This is what I came up with and I think it worked well. It is definitively juicier than what the steak sandwiches I normally cook.

Tell you what, it's getting late and I'm tired so let's head over to the recipe itself...

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches)
250g rump steak, sliced fairly thinly
Olive oil
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 tbsp cajun spice
3 - 4 medium tomatoes, first halved then each half cut into quarters
Fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 baguette - ends trimmed, cut into half and then split each piece about 3/4 through
Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Fry the steak until nicely browned. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the onion, pepper and spice to the same pan. Fry, stirring continually, until the onion starts to brown. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens nicely - about 15 minutes. Stir now and then and feel free to break up the tomatoes.

Once the tomato sauce is nice and thick return the meat to the pan and stir it in together with the parsley.

Spoon the steak and tomato mixture into the baguettes.


Thursday 4 June 2009

Recipe - Lobster Rolls (Mikey's way)

Yesterdays post was about what can happen when I totally freestyle my dinner. A mad supermarket rush where I mix and match without any real plan and hope for the best.

Today I'll be highlighting another side of my cookery. The obsessive side where I see or hear about a dish that gets stuck in my mind and I won't get any peace until I've tried it. Most of the times I've never tasted it so I have no reference point, I just try to make it as well as I can given what references I can find.

This time I heard about lobster rolls a couple of times. It was on one episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, someone bought one in one episode on one of the TV-series I follow and so on.

Since I never tasted a lobster roll I had to engage my Google-Fu to try and track down some information. I found some recipes and had a look at some pictures that I found on Google Images. What I made is the result of me taking bits and pieces from various recipes and trying to match it to the pictures I saw.

I'm sure that there are some Lobster Roll Council out there that is now going to proclaim a fatwa against me and try to hunt me down, but I don't really care. I don't know what a 'proper one' is supposed to taste like so I'm happy with what I ended up with. It tasted really nice and I will stick with it. Well, at least until I get to try a real one, then I might have to readjust my attitude/preferences a bit. ;)

I made two of these. I had one of them for dinner and then I saved the other one and had it for breakfast at work. Having a lobster roll for breakfast sure as hell beats the corn flakes one of the guys in my team had for breakfast ;)

Enough waffling, over to the recipe...

Ingredients (makes two rolls)
Meat from 1 cooked lobster, roughly chopped
125 ml mayonnaise
1 stick of celery, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp basil, sliced
Olive oil
2 rolls, split 3/4 of the way lengthwise (I used submarine rolls)

Mix mayonnaise, celery, spring onions, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, basil in a mixing bowl. Season well. Let this sit for some time so that the flavours can mingle together fully.

Preheat your grill and meantime drizzle the cut surfaces of the rolls with some olive oil. Toast the rolls under the grill until golden brown (this stops them from going soggy when the lobster salad is put in!)

Gently stir in the lobster meat into the mayo mix. Line the rolls with lettuce and then add the lobster salad.


Wednesday 3 June 2009

Recipe - Lamb & Feta Naan Pizzas

This is another result of what happens when I go to the supermarket without having a plan/knowing what to cook for dinner.

It all started with me finding some lamb mince with a short date that was marked down. With that in my trolley I started walking around the shop, quite aimlessly, thinking about what could work together with that. Spotting some new kind of Feta cheese that I never cooked with/eaten before was the next step. Soon after that I decided that pizza was the way forward.

Since I couldn't be bothered making pizza dough I decided on using naan breads as the base. After that I just mixed and matched some other ingredients to come up with this.

Have a look at the ingredients and the way to cook it and let me know what you think.

Hopefully you'll trust me when I say that it tasted very nice indeed.

Oh yeah, the feta cheese I found. It's called 'Unearthed Barrel Aged Greek Feta' and it is really awesome. Apparently it's been matured in barrels and the difference in taste to 'normal' feta was quite noticeable. Try it, I think you'll like it!

Ingredients (makes 2 - 4 pizzas depending on how heavy handed you are with the toppings)
500g lamb mince
1 -2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 - 4 naan breads (I used coriander & garlic ones)
Sliced black olives
Red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh oregano
Creamy garlic sauce
Preheat the oven to 200c.

In the meantime heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the lamb mince and fry it, making sure to break up the mince. Once the mince is starting to take on some colour add the garlic and season well. Fry until well cooked and all (or at least most) of the fat has cooked off.

Put the naan breads on a baking sheet. Top with some fried mince, black olives, oregano leaves and finally crumble some feta on top. Season to taste.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the feta starts to melt and has a nice colour.

Before you serve, drizzle the pizzas with some garlic sauce.


Tuesday 2 June 2009

Recipe - Twice Cooked Chicken Breasts served on Oven Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes I find in the supermarket at the moment are so damned tasty that I just can't help myself. I needed to cook some more of them. I used a variety grown in England called Sunset Cherry this time, and they are sweeter than a sweet thing that has taken a sweet pill if you cook them like this.

I needed to add something to have with the tomatoes and this is what I came up with. I've heard of Tex-Mex, but somehow I don't think that Swede-Mex will catch on. ;)

This recipe can seem a bit faffy but the first step of poaching the chicken is really worth it. Take the time to try this one, I think you'll like it.

If you wonder what the green blob on top in the photo is - it's just some leftover guacamole I had in the fridge. You can serve it with that, or why not some nice homemade salsa?

Ingredients (Makes 2 portions, unless you're really hungry)
2 skinless chicken breasts
2 dried chipotle chilies
Runny honey
1 onion, sliced
1 - 2 chilies, sliced
1/4 - 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 corn tortillas
250g Sunset Cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp olive oil + some for drizzling
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh coriander (cilantro), torn

Put the chicken breasts, dried chilies, some salt and pepper in pan. Cover with water and bring to a bowl. Keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes. Drain and put the chicken breasts to the side. Once they're cool enough to handle, shred them using either your fingers or two forks.

Preheat the oven to 220c.

Put some tinfoil onto a baking sheet. Put the tomatoes onto the tinfoil, cut side up, and drizzle with some olive oil and season well.

Pop the baking tray into the oven for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes start to turn brown.

Remove the tray, pour the tomatoes into a bowl and stir in the coriander (cilantro).

In the meantime heat some olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Fry the tortillas, one by one, on both sides until they start to gain some colour. Remove from the pan and put onto a plate each.

Add the onions to the pan and fry until they start taking some color, add the chilies and the shredded chicken and stir well. Season and add the smoked paprika. Pour over a good squeeze of honey and fry for a minute or two, stirring well.

Divide the tomatoes over the tortillas, top with some of the chicken mixture.


Monday 1 June 2009

Recipe - Honey & Mustard Chicken and Sweet Potato Wedge Salad

For this one I just took the marinade from the Salmon recipe from the other day and freestyled it a bit. I replaced the dijon mustard with some wholegrain mustard instead for example. I had some Guinness flavoured wholegrain mustard that I used but any kind works really.

This is a quite nice and light salad that works really nice in the spring/summer time. As always, use what you have at home to freestyle it to suit what you like.

Use your own favourite dressing, I just drizzled mine with some raspberry vinegar - something that worked very nicely.

Ingredients (serves about 4)
Honey and Mustard Chicken
4 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp runny honey

Sweet potato wedges
2 - 4 sweet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Smoked salt
Mixed dried herbs

Mixed salad leaves
Red onion, thinly sliced
Cherry tomatoes, quartered

Add all the ingredients for the chicken marinade to shallow dish, mixing it well. Pop in the chicken strips, making sure to dip them well in the marinade to cover them. Cover the dish and put it into the fridge for at least 2 - 3 hours.

When you are getting closer to the actual cooking, pre-heat the oven to 220c.

Pop the potato wedges into a big bowl, pour over some olive oil and chuck on some smoked salt, freshly ground pepper and mixed dried herbs. Mix well.

Drain the chicken strips from their marinade and put them on some lightly greased tin foil on a baking sheet. Do the same for the potato wedges

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until done to your liking. Rotate the strips and wedges a couple of times during the cooking to make sure to cook them evenly.

During this time, prepare the salads by putting out the leaves, onion slices and tomato quarters onto plates.

Once the stuff from the oven is done - pile on top of the salads, drizzle with your dressing and you're ready to eat.