Archive for June, 2011

June ’Meanderings’ …

Right at the end of the month, on 30 June, my WordPress stats counter ticked over 100,000 visitors – if you were part of that statistic then thank you!  As the July Meanderings ‘à la carte’ is now due as well (the holiday means I am rather behind) this is a slightly truncated roundup for June, which is being posted very late … though better late than never.

Recipes this month

Elderflower Syrup                                               Cheese Crusted Scones
West African Style Chicken & Peanut Stew      Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork 
Mango Curd

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’

Meanderings Updated: (updates and additions to recipes already posted)
Mango Curd was added to the ongoing list of Curd recipes.

Bookshelf Meanderings:
Feast: Food that Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson
I have had this book on my shelf for a couple of years but have yet to add a comment about it in these pages.  It was my first foray into the Nigella world of recipe books and I think it makes fascinating reading.  It has chapters which go through the year with sections covering a different type of Feast or Festival: religious, secular or just ‘fun’.  There are ideas for Christmas and Easter, of course: also food for festivals such as Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Seder reflecting Nigella’s Jewish heritage, but there are a host of other ideas too – Valentine’s Day, Georgian, Venetian …  It is a book I keep dipping into for inspiration and have made quite a few recipes, some of which will be posted in due course.
Already on this site: Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork, Onion Rice Pilaf, Spicy Hot Cross BunsOrange Shortcrust Pastry (used for Mince Pies)
On my list: Cantucci Biscotti, Bang Bang Turkey, Gingerbread Muffins, Galette des Rois (this or another recipe), Custard cream biscuits, Slow cooked Lamb with beans, Passionfruit curd (one for my list of Curd recipes), Creamed Spinach, Apple Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce, Lokshen Pudding, Chilli-Cinnamon Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Espresso Cake with Caffe Latte Cream, Cornbread topping (for Chilli con Carne), Tomato Couscous, Golden Cardamom Chicken with Crispy Onion Spiced Rice, Baghdad Baklava (though I have made Baklava before so need to consult my original recipe too), Sticky Semolina Cake, Rosemary Remembrance Cake.

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months

‘For what we are about to receive…’ July 2011

I may be going away on holiday but the posts will continue to appear with the theme for next month being Chinese style food.  I have scheduled recipes to post automatically: a delicious starter, Sesame Prawn Toast, Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce, my brother in law’s recipe for tender Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy, Special Fried Rice and just after I get back, refreshingly fragrant Lychee Sorbet.  Meanwhile on holiday in France and Catalunya I hope, among other things, to be sampling Tapas and Creme Catalan washed down with a fruity chilled glass of Sangria.

Happy Cooking & Eating!


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One of the enjoyable parts of food blogging has turned out to be the contact with other likeminded people.  A few months ago, out of the blue, I was emailed by ‘Macaron Queen’ (at least that is how I think of her!) Jill Colonna from Mad About Macarons.  Following a comment I had left her about fruit curds, Jill was asking me if I would like to submit a curd ‘guest post’ for her series of recipes using egg yolks (macarons use just the whites).  I have to admit that I don’t really know how the ‘guest post’ system operates.  I hope that Jill can use this post, if it is helpful, in her search for ways to use up leftover egg yolks.

Over the past few months I have been trying out different fruit curd recipes I have found online and in various books.  The initial post was for the traditional Lemon Curd – here is my latest discovery, Mango Curd.  This recipe, with amendments by me, is loosely based on one from Smitten Kitchen who discovered it in Bon Appetit, June 1998.  All curds are smooth but the silky texture of the mango seems to enhance the creamy smoothness.  Be generous with the mango as the flavour is rather mild and can get a bit lost.  I have a round gadget with a blade, a promotional item which I was sent free because I bought two mangoes in ASDA last year.  I would  not have paid the large sum originally asked for it, but it does divide the fruit very easily – they are not easy beasts to cut up, especially if a bit on the soft side!  I usually add some lemon juice to non-citrus curds as the flavour helps cut through the richness and sweetness but the original recipe used lime which I have kept as it is so good in combination with mango.  Delicious!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mango Curd
(Makes 1 x 1lb jar)

1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled, pitted & chopped
115g/4ozs sugar
Juice of 1 lime (extra lime if solids not sieved)
Pinch of salt (or leave this out and use salted butter)
4 large egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
30g/2ozs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Remove the large stone from the mango, cut into small pieces and purée, preferably in a food processor.

2. Combine with the sugar, lime juice and salt (if using). Add egg yolks or lightly beaten whole eggs. Purée for a little longer to thoroughly combine.

3. Push through a sieve into a large metal bowl with a large spatula or wooden spoon, pressing down well to obtain as much puree as possible. Discard the solids that remain in sieve.  (Alternatively omit this step for a thicker coarser curd – the yield will be higher and an extra half or whole jar required.)

4.  Place the metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (but do not allow the base of bowl to come into contact with the water).  Add the butter and continue to simmer the mixture gently, stirring regularly, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

5.  Wash the jars well and sterlise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw  it on.

6.  Beat the curd until it is creamy.  Pour into the prepared jars, cover and label.  Store in the refrigerator and use within 4-6 weeks.

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A few weeks ago I made sweet scones as part of a special afternoon tea for Mum and Dad on Mothering Sunday and they were a great success.  So last weekend on Father’s Day, with Mum and Dad coming to tea again, I decided to make scones again, but this time Savoury ones: with cheese both in the mix and crusted on the top.  It is a lovely flavourful recipe with the strong cheese flavour enhanced by mustard and cayenne pepper giving a spicy bite, the strength of which of course can be adjusted to taste.  They would also be delicious with a little fried onion added to the mix or on top – or both.  These scones are perfect at tea time or in lunch boxes, at Summer picnics or served with a warming Winter soup in place of bread.

As with the sweet scones the source for this recipe was Delia Smith’s recipe Cheese Crusted Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It is a straightforward fairly standard cheese scone recipe and I made it exactly as per the instructions, apart from slightly lessening the spices.  In particular I used less cayenne as the one I have from our local ethnic shop is rather fiery.  I didn’t want to spoil the scones by making them too hot!  The recipe below is a doubled version: somehow the eight smallish scones I made didn’t seem enough.  As with the sweet scones I have added a list of other savoury scones further down this page: recipes from books I own and from cookery sites online that I may well make at some point.  If I do make any and post them on this site I will add a link.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cheese Crusted Scones
(Makes 12-16 scones)

12ozs/350g self raising flour
2ozs/60g butter
60zs/170g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
4-6tbsp milk (and a little more if needed)
½tsp salt
1tsp English mustard powder (or less if you wish)
2-4 large pinches cayenne pepper
A little extra milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 and thoroughly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones).

2.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the mustard powder, salt and half of the cayenne pepper and mix together.

3.  Rub in the butter with finger tips until well combined.  Mix in most of the grated cheese leaving the remainder (around a generous 2 tbsp) to use later as a topping.

4.  Beat the eggs with 4tbsp milk and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a soft dough that leaves the bowl clean, adding a little more milk as required if the mixture seems dry.  Try to avoid working the mixture too much as this will make the scones hard.

5.  On a well floured surface, to avoid sticking, gently roll the dough as evenly as possible to a thickness of ¾inch/2cm.  I like to cut savoury scones into square shapes (using rounds for sweet scones) and this can be done with a knife.  If the dough is formed into an oblong shape it can be cut into the required number of equally sized pieces which will avoid it having to be reworked.  Depending on size required, bearing in mind they will rise in the oven, aim for 12-16 pieces.

6.  Brush the tops with a little more milk, sprinkle equally with the reserved cheese and, if you wish, very lightly dush with some more cayenne pepper.

7.  Place evenly spaced on the baking sheets, allowing a little room for rising.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (or a little longer if necessary) until the cheese has started to crust and the scones are browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

8.  Serve warm or cold with or without butter but the scones are best eaten the day they are cooked.  Next day reheating a little is recommended.  Fillings such as ham, tuna, chutney or tomato are also suggested, as is topping with a fried, poached or scrambled egg.

Alternative recipes for savoury scones (untried):
Cheese & Fried onion Scones (see my note above)
Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones – The Omniverous Bear/Good Food
Potato Scones – Delia Smith – Book of Cakes (original version)
Tattie (Potato) Scones – London Eats
Cheese & Marmite Scones – For Forks Sake
Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives – Delia Smith online
Feta, Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Scones – Delia Smith online
Savoury Herb Scones – Cook it Simply
Peppadew & Chive Scones – The Complete Cookbook
Cheese & Chive Scones – Lavender & Lovage
Cheese Scones with a Chilli kick –  Searching for Spice
Ham & Cheese Muffins (not quite scones but almost) – Slightly Domesticated Dad

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This is such an easy recipe: simply combine all the ingredients in a plastic bag and leave the flavours to develop. It includes one of my favourite flavours, Star Anise, which is an unusually shaped spice with an easily recognisable floral shape.   Along with root ginger, it infuses this marinade with the distinctive flavour of Far Eastern food, plus giving off a wonderful aroma when cooking.  With a holiday looming I know I will need to call on my repertoire of quick and easy recipes, but it is always a useful quick meal to for a busy day. Bearing this in mind there are ready marinaded portions of this recipe in the freezer, each bagful enough for a meal for my family.  All I have to do is remember to get one out of freeze in the morning, add the onion pieces and defrost in the fridge or a cool place during the day.  Then in the evening simply tip the contents of the bag into a dish, cover and pop into the oven.  Although cooking takes around an hour it gives time to get on with the vegetables and other jobs.  Easy-peasy!

The source for this recipe is Finger Lickin’ Ribs from the book Feast: Food that Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson, but with some slight variations.  The title has been tweaked, adding the word aromatic and removing the reference to ribs which I would never use.  (We find them a lot of effort for very little reward.)  In their place I usually use lean belly pork strips, but sometimes spare rib or loin chops.  Chicken could also be substituted and it could even used to marinade a larger piece of meat, which should definitely be left overnight before cooking.  We like much more onion too (this can be as much as a small/medium onion per person).  The original recipe used molasses but I substituted the much more readily available black treacle.  Finally, as an alternative to ring the changes, orange juice could replace pineapple.  I found that the dish needed to be covered with foil as it tends to spatter whilst cooking, but this should be removed for the final 10 minutes or so to allow the juices to evaporate and the meat to crisp a little.  I’m afraid that this is not the easiest dish to photograph attractively (especially as it was taken on a winter evening under electric strip lighting and looks much more greasy than it really is – I must photograph it again in the summer!).  It’s very unflatteringly ‘brown’, but delicious nonetheless.  Do give it a try.  I use other marinade recipes which are equally tasty and links for these will appear further down in due course once I have added the recipes.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork
(Serves 4)

4-8 lean belly pork strips (1-2 per person depending on size)
1 spare rib or loin chop per person
4 small/medium onions (less if you prefer)
1 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick broken into pieces
1 small green chilli, with seeds & inner membrane removed
A 1inch/2.5cm piece fresh ginger
Juice & zest of a lime
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp sunflower oil
1tbsp black treacle or molasses
50ml pineapple juice (¼ small carton – freeze the remainder in 50ml portions)

1.  Line a medium sized bowl with an open plastic bag big enough to hold all the ingredients but leaving enough room to tie together and seal.  If you are intending to freeze for a later date then leave out the onion until it is going to be cooked.

2.  Into the large plastic bag put the meat, the peeled onions, each cut into about eight segments, the star anise and the crumbled cinnamon stick.  Add the chilli, finely chopped (for more heat do not remove the seeds and membrane and the peeled and finely sliced ginger.

2.  Zest the lime and squeeze the juice into the bag and add the the soy sauce, oil, treacle and pineapple juice and seal the bag by tying a knot.   Carefully squeeze the bag to combine the flavourings with the meat as much as possible.  Ideally the bag should be left overnight (or throughout the day) in the fridge, but it needs to marinade for at least two hours.

3.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6. Once it has reached room temperature pour the contents of the bag containing the marinaded meat into a roasting tin. Cover with foil and put into the oven for 1 hour, turning the pieces of meat over and removing the cover for the last 10 minutes to allow them to brown and any liquids to reduce.

4.  Serve with rice or flatbreads and salad.  If using belly strips the pieces can be cut into bit sized pieces and served as part of a hot buffet or on a starter selection plate at a chinese style meal.


More pork marinades – or maybe chicken (perhaps other meats and fish too):
(Please leave comments about the following recipes with the recipe at the link given rather than here – thanks!)

Australian Spiced Roast Pork

100_2332-Australian spiced roast pork

http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com 'Meanderings through my Cookbook'

Sticky Tomato Pork
based on Roasted Pork Ribs (Fig Jam & Lime Cordial)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Other marinade recipes I have found, as yet untried (various meats):

Four Pork Barbecue Sauces via The Evening Herault
(Standard Barbecue Sauce, Cha shao – Cantonese BBQ pork, Barbecued Irish pork chops, Jamie Oliver’s best BBQ meat sauce)
Slow Cooker Chinese Ribs via Greedy Rosie
Barbeque Flavoured Pork via Farmersgirl Kitchen
Best Five-Spice Pork Spare Ribs via Best Recipes
rench Style Spareribs via Lemons & Anchovies
Char Siu Pork via The Spanish Wok

Red Garlic Chicken via The Complete Cookbook
Spicy & Sticky Orange marinade via Souperior
Marmalade & Wine Chicken Kebabs via The Complete Cookbook
Sticky Chicken Wings via Lavender & Lime
Poricha Kozhi (Fried Spiced Chicken) – Indian Street Food via Rhis Foodie World
Middle Eastern Marinated Chicken via Searching for Spice

Korean Style Bulgogi Barbecue Beef via Rhis Foodie World
Balsamic Roasted Beef via Noble Nourishment

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The Peanut, or groundnut as it is sometimes known, is both versatile and protein rich.  Peanut butter, a popular spread, has filled the sandwiches of generations of schoolchildren as well as being a mainstay for expeditions including those to the South and North Poles, plus peanut based paste products have been used to help feed malnourished children in developing countries.  Here in the UK, though, peanuts rarely feature as a cooking ingredient.  Apart from in peanut butter, they are more often thought of as a party snack item, although they are sometimes added, ground and/or whole in biscuits and very occasionally cooked into a nut loaf or nut burgers.  In other parts of the world, including South America, South East Asia, India and parts of Africa, the peanut is widely used either whole, ground into flour or with the oil used for frying in both savoury and sweet recipes.  In India peanuts are eaten in a number of ways: roasted and salted, sometimes with chilli powder added, they can be a savoury snack – and a sweet version when processed with sugar; they can be boiled or give added crunch to salads.  The peanut is native to and almost certainly originated in Peru where specimens can be dated back several millennia.  One well known Peruvian recipe, Papas con Ocopa, is a smooth sauce of roasted peanuts, hot peppers, roasted onions, garlic and oil, served poured over boiled potatoes. On the other side of the world the Indonesians have a number of spicy peanut based sauces, the most well known being Satay and Gado-gado.  In Africa too, where this recipe originates, the peanut commonly appears as an ingredient in stews, both with or without meat.

The original recipe for Chicken & Peanut Stew, comes from the Tesco website as part of a series of international recipes to celebrate World Cup 2010.  Its flavours originate from West Africa and the recipe was taken from the book The Soul Of A New Cuisine: A Discovery Of The Foods And Flavours Of Africa, by Marcus Samuelsson.  In the end I used mostly the same basic method and ingredients with a few slight variations: less chilli and ginger, though more of both would be fine, and I used poached pre-cooked chicken (although chicken thighs would be a good alternative) and added a sweet potato for good measure.  I was concerned that cooking the peanuts would make them lose their crunch but I need not have worried.  The stew was mostly soft in texture but with a delicious peanutty flavour and crunch.  It is a delicious and unusual recipe, not difficult to make and one which I will definitely be repeating.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

West African Style Chicken & Peanut Stew
(Serves 4)

2 medium onions, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2·5cm/1in pieces
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2·5cm/1in pieces
½-1 small chilli – deseed and remove membranes
2.5cm/1inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns, white if available
900ml/1½ pints of water
1tsp chicken stock liquid/½stock cube (unless using fresh chicken pieces)
12ozs cold cooked chicken
4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
200g/7ozs peanuts, salted or unsalted (seasoning can be adjusted later)
3tbsp olive oil
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm/2in cubes
4 tomatoes, cut into quarters
500g/1Ib spinach, tough stems removed, washed
Salt, if needed

1.  Put the onion, carrot, sweet potato, chilli, ginger, bay leaves and peppercorns, along with the water and the stock powder/liquid/cube into a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil over a high heat and then reduce the heat to medium.

2.  If using fresh meat it should be added now – previously cooked meat is added later when the potatoes are cooked.  Add the chicken thigh pieces to the pan.  Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

3.  Toast the peanuts in a dry frying pan on medium heat, shaking occasionally, until you can smell them roasting and they are golden brown.  Once cool, grind 100g /3½oz (half) of the toasted peanuts to a powder.  (This will be used to thicken the stew. The remaining peanuts should be kept whole.)  Put the pan on one side to use later for frying the potatoes.

4.  Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and put on one side.  Throw away the bay leaves.  Liquidise about half of the vegetable and stock mixture until smooth and then re-combine with the unliquidised mixture and set aside.  If you want a less chunky stew then liquidise all the vegetable and stock mixture.

5.  Put the oil in the frying pan used for roasting peanuts over a medium heat.  Put in the potato pieces and sauté for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

6.   Add the chicken pieces that have been set aside or the pieces of cold cooked chicken and toss for about 10 minutes so they start to brown a little, adding a little extra oil if needed. Remove the pan from the heat.

7.  Return the vegetable purée mixture to the saucepan and bring to the boil.  Stir in both the ground peanuts and the remaining 100g/3½oz whole toasted peanuts until well combined.

8.  Add the tomatoes, browned chicken, potatoes and spinach.  Simmer for around 5 minutes until completely heated through and the spinach has wilted.  Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

9.  Serve with rice or crusty bread, if required, as an addition to the potatoes already in the stew.

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Out and about in Kent this last Monday, a bank holiday, we couldn’t fail to enjoy the late Spring beauty of the country lanes – nothing makes me feel as if Summer is really on the way than when the frothy elderflower blossoms appear.  We have a small bush in our garden which yields just enough flowers each year to make a small batch of elderflower syrup: if the flowers are a herald of Summer then the syrup is definitely its flavour.  If you want to make this Syrup you have to act immediately: the elder is already in flower here in London and the South East: I think it may already be too late for some parts of the country.  This picture is actually last Summer’s batch. By the time I was ready to post the Elderflowers were over so I determined I would save it for this year. It is certainly a popular drink at the moment, probably because it is very seasonal: I have spotted at least three (different) variations from fellow food bloggers in the past few days.

I first made Elderflower Syrup, or Cordial, many years ago.  I remember it was orange and lemon flavoured but with the elderflowers adding a delicious scent.  I have no idea of the whereabouts of my original recipe, but after some research I based my version on this quick Elderflower Syrup recipe, which seemed familiar, at joannasfood.  Many recipes add Citric Acid (there is one giving this method on the same site) but it can be difficult to find and quite expensive for a relatively small amount.  This quick recipe uses just citrus juice (lemon but not orange) and was certainly successful.  It lasted for a week or two in the fridge in plastic bottles but was quickly drunk so I have no idea how long it would have lasted.  Some recipes suggest it will last about a month at most in the fridge.  I gather that to be sure of keeping the syrup for longer it can be frozen in plastic containers or even frozen in ice cube trays, drunk topped up with still or sparkling water or even wine.  Try adding a a few tablespoonfuls of this syrup to a fruit salad for its wonderful perfumed taste.  One warning though: flowers should be picked while they are still young and white, discarding the brown ones which will taint the flavour of the drink.  Picking the flowers early in the day and using them as quickly as possible afterwards is also recommended.  This recipe uses lemon as the citrus content but it would be interesting to do a lemon and orange version, as with my old original recipe, or even substitute lime juice.  I have seen bottles of commercially produced elderflower and lime drink so it could be worth a try.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Elderflower Syrup

1 litre water
500g sugar
2 lemons, juiced
10 large elderflower heads – about 30g (young & pale colour – no browning)

1.  Add the lemon juice to the water and stir in the sugar.

2.  Put onto the heat and boil for about a minute until the sugar is dissolved.

3.  Put in the elderflower heads and remove from the heat.  Cover and leave to cool.

4.  When it’s completely cold strain the liquid well.  I used the clean cut off foot from a pair of tights, which can then be discarded.

5.  Bottle into plastic rather than glass bottles as occasionally the liquid can start to ferment. I think it is best to store this in the fridge as I am not sure about the shelf life.  Some recipes imply this will only keep for around a 1month.

6.  Dilute to taste.

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