Archive for the ‘Main Meal (Dinner)’ Category

Liver is often connected with jokes about shoe leather, mainly because it can be so tough when poorly cooked.   Like badly cooked green vegetables, poor cooking of liver has added to its unpopularity, however cooked well it can be extremely tasty.  Its strong flavour can take some getting used to and it is often difficult to get children to eat it, which is a pity because it has good nutritional value, with a high iron and Vitamin A content.  I found two solutions to this problem with my children.  Firstly, I made sure that I cooked bacon & liver (as opposed to liver & bacon) using a higher proportion of bacon, reasoning that getting my family to eat some liver was better than none.  Secondly, the biggest objection was to eating lumps of liver so I chopped it so finely that when it was cooked it disappeared virtually completely into the tomatoey sauce, giving flavour without texture.  I never lied about what I was serving, but gradually I cut the pieces larger.  I really recommend this method to any family who find liver difficult to serve.  Cooking it in a well flavoured sauce, such as a rich tomato, along with plenty of flavourful vegetables is also a great help.  This dish has now become a family favourite and the news that it is on the menu is always well received:  result, I think!

This warming stew recipe is my own invention and has lots of cheerful sunshine colours.  I have also included some home dried orange peel, which adds a faint but enjoyable orangey tang, however this can be omitted (see information about orange peel in the ingredients section.)  The root vegetables can be varied and the lentils replaced with a can of chick peas, red kidney or other beans.  In the past I have substituted a can of baked beans in tomato sauce, but their distinctive flavour is very obvious – which is fine if you like baked beans (I’m not especially keen) but could be useful when introducing liver to children.  The cooking time should be shortened if substituting tinned already cooked tinned peas or beans which simply need re-heating.  Serve with boiled or buttery mashed potato.

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Liver & Bacon Winter Vegetable Stew
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1lb mixed root vegetables: I used carrot, parsnip & swede (not potato), diced
1x400g/14oz tin of peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
½pint water, plus a little more if needed
1tbsp tomato puree
½tsp sugar
1tsp dried orange peel (optional)
2ozs/55g red lentils (alternatively add beans, see notes above)
175g-250g/6-8ozs smoked or unsmoked bacon – mixed bacon pieces are ideal
175g-250g/6-8ozs lambs or chicken livers (avoid strong flavoured pigs liver)
2 peppers (red,yellow or orange) single colour or mixed, diced
1tsp paprika plus a little to garnish
Salt & black pepper
Parsley (if available) to garnish

1.  Chop onions and garlic and gently fry in the olive oil for about 5minutes or until soft.

2.  Dice the bacon and add to the pan with the mushrooms and mixed herbs. Cook for a further 5minutes.

3.  Remove any connecting tissues from the liver and either cut into bite sized pieces or chop extremely finely, to allow it to virtually disappear and just flavour the sauce.  Stir the chopped liver into the pan and cook until it starts to change colour.

4.  Dice the root vegetables into equally sized pieces and stir in along with the lentils (if using), the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, orange peel, sugar and water.  Season and flavour with the paprika. Cook over a low heat for around 45 minutes until the lentils are cooked. If the mixture starts to go dry as the lentils soak up the liquid it may be necessary to add a little more water.  If use a tin of beans in place of lentils then the cooking time will be about 20 minutes.  Around 10minutes before the end of the cooking time stir in the chopped peppers, which do not take long to cook.

5.  Check seasoning and serve with simply boiled or buttery mashed potatoes to soak up the tomato gravy.  If you have some parsley, you can scatter a few green sprigs for added colour along with a dusting of paprika.


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Dumplings, as I have recently commented, are a traditional extra cooked as part of a warming stew and good served as an alternative to potato (or as well as if you really must).  However plain dumplings, whilst being homely, are rather boring so various ingredients can be added to flavour, and improve, this useful little wintery filler.  I recently posted a recipe with dumplings flavoured with caraway seeds and perfect for the traditional Hungarian dish of Goulash.  I have also already posted my own Beef & Bean Casserole recipe, served with plain dumplings.  Last year I found a recipe at Mother May Have for carrot dumplings, which were served with stewed beef.  In that case the dumplings did not contain suet, but nonetheless an idea was born.  I successfully incorporated grated carrot into the basic suet dumpling mixture and on that occasion added fresh coriander, often used to complement carrot in soup though usually in its ground form.  Grated carrot and suet dumplings make a good marriage, so it makes we wonder which other root vegetables would also be good – parsnip and beetroot are two experiments I intend to try.  I have other thoughts as well: different herbs or spices, cheese, citrus zest ….! 

The minced lamb and lentil mixture here is one of our favourites.  I have been making it for some years, initially inspired by an idea in The Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones (nothing to do with the diarist, I’m sure!) but so much adapted it has long since become my own work.  The resulting stew is warm and comforting: as I have said before, I love the grainy quality of cooked red lentils and usually add pearl barley to the mixtured as well.  There are always carrots and often some peas too.  The quantities of the vegetables can, of course, be adjusted according to personal taste.  In the past I have served the dish with rice or boiled potatoes but recently have replaced them with the carrot dumplings: a perfect winter meal in a bowl.

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Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/375g minced Lamb
1 large leek, sliced into rings
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes
2ozs/60g red lentils
1oz/30g pearl barley
10fl ozs/300mls water (plus more if needed)
2 large carrots, cut in rings (or quartered lengthwise & chopped)
3ozs/100g frozen peas
Salt & ground black pepper
1-2 potatoes (optional – in small pieces or diced. See 6 below)
1 quantity Basic mixture
1 medium carrot, grated (use around 2ozs)
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped

1.  Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. 

2.  Add the minced lamb and cook until the redness is gone.

3.  Chop the plum tomatoes and add to the pan with the leek, carrot, pearl barley and lentils plus the chopped rosemary and the water.  Bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the barley and lentils have started to soften.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

4.  Meanwhile mix together the dumplings using the basic recipe.  Grate the carrot and add about 2ozs to the mixture with the chopped rosemary (alternatively fresh coriander or other herb).  Any extra carrot can be stirred into the panful of stew.  Divide into enough balls for 2-3 per diner.

5.  Add the peas and then the dumplings to the pan.  Make sure there is enough liquid in the pan as the dumplings will steam so add more water if needed.  Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer and cover with a lid.  Cook for 10-15 minutes more depending on size of dumplings. 

6. Check seasoning and serve in bowls.  Can be served with potatoes, or chunks of potato can be cooked into the stew (added at the same time as the carrot, or later if cut into small dice).

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Actually, I ought to start with a small confession…..  We ate Breton Chicken rather than Somerset Chicken, as I used a small bottle of cider from Brittany (it was what was in the cupboard and needed to be used).  I promise though that next time (and there will definitely be a next time) I will be authentic and put in the correct cider!  This chicken recipe is one of the best I have come across: with a delicious onion, apple and mushroom sauce including cider, cream and the piquancy of a very small amount of mustard.  One product that Somerset, a country in the West Country of England, is famed for is its cider.  Apart from being a popular and refreshing drink it can also be cooked into recipes in much the same way as wine or beer (think Coq au Vin or Steak & Ale Pie, for example) adding a delicious appley flavour.  I have previously posted a recipe for Sausage & Apple Cassoulet, with Pork Sausages cooked with a cider based sauce: Somerset chicken would I think also be good reinvented as Somerset pork.  This recipe also features a second product from Somerset.  Cheddar type cheeses are made widely across the world in places as far apart as Scotland, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand (and more besides) but Somerset is the home of real Cheddar cheese which originated in the town of the same name in the famous Cheddar Gorge.

The Hairy Bikers Somerset Chicken was one of the recipes that appealed to my whole family as soon as they saw it on the Hairy Bikers Food Tour of Britain television series.  I was very pleased to find the recipe at Good to Know.  It took me a while to get round to making it, partly because I hadn’t realised how easy it was, however having done it once and discovered its simplicity I shall make it more often.  It would be a good meal to serve visitors either for a simple midweek supper or for a more special meal.  My only comment is that this rich dish is unnecessarily enriched by the amount of butter and oil used especially as the recipe also includes cream and cheese.  I have reduced both of these, however the link to the original recipe is above for anyone who want to consult the original.  As usual, I also removed the skins from the chicken, because we prefer it and substituted reduced fat Elmlea single cream for the double cream, none of which I felt detracted from the finished dish.  As for the cider, I used half a small bottle of Breton cider and the other half is in the freezer for next time: I find that leftover alcoholic drinks store well in the freezer and are fine for use in cooking, though I’m sure they would be no good to drink.  (I’m sure that others would find fault with this but it works well for us and is a great way to have wine or cider to hand when there are small amounts left after a party.  You don’t always have to drink it up!)

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Somerset Chicken
(Serves 6)

6 large chicken thighs, boned or left whole, with or without skin
6 chicken breasts, with or without skin (as per original recipe – skin left on)
2-3tbsp olive oil
5g butter
2 onions, sliced
4tbsp plain flour
2tbsp grain mustard
2 dessert apples, peeled & chopped small
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, sliced
250ml/9fl ozs chicken stock
300ml/10fl ozs cider
250ml/9fl ozs single cream
1tbsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves – be generous
300g/10½ozs Cheddar cheese, grated
6 baked potatoes

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6. 

2.  Skin the chicken breasts or thighs, removing the bone and skin if you wish.  Season with salt and black pepper and set to one side.

3.  Place 2tbsp of oil and 10g of butter in a large frying pan and fry the chicken thighs or breasts for 1-2 mins on each side until they start to turn golden brown.

4.  Put them into a deep-sided oven tray and roast for 25 mins until the chicken is cooked through.

5.  Add the remaining oil to the pan, if necessary.  Cook the onions for about 5 mins until they have softened but are not coloured.  

6.  Stir the flour and mustard into the onions and cook gently for another 2 minutes.  Add the chopped apples and mushrooms.  Cook gently for 1 min. 

7.  Add the stock, blend in and bring to the boil stirring until thick before adding the cider.  Bring the sauce back to the boil, lower the heat and gently cook for 5 mins. 

8.  Add the cream and chopped sage.  Continue to cook the sauce for about 5 mins more before checking the seasoning, adding salt and black pepper as necessary.

9.  Preheat the grill to high. 

10.  Remove the chicken from the oven and place in a serving dish, pouring over the sauce so the meat is covered.

11.  Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the chicken.  Grill for 5 mins or until the cheese has melted and is golden and bubbling. 

12.  Serve with jacket potatoes and a green vegetable or salad.

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I love roast chicken but strangely enough we rarely eat it.  Perhaps it is the knowledge that after the meal is over and the washing up done, there is still a carcass to pick over.  Perhaps it is that, although I know how it ought to be carved, in practice I usually end up with a pile of bits rather than neat slices: tastes good but looks awful.  From time to time however I do buy a chicken, especially as a whole bird is very economical and can be stretched to several meals, so when I saw this delicious sounding recipe I took the plunge.  (Sure enough there were leftovers which became Chicken Fricasee and a Chicken Salad for one, as well as delicious stock made from the remainder of the carcass – plus a few bits for our persistent puss-cat!)  I know I have included a recipe for Roasted Lemon Chicken in the past, but that was for chicken pieces (I usually use thighs) whereas this recipe is for a whole bird and includes spices and a lot of garlic as well, so it is a variation rather than a repeat.  I am sure that it would also be an excellent way to cook individual chicken pieces/thighs.

The recipe comes from Mediterranean Food by Christine France, an excellent charity shop find that originally came from Tesco supermarket.  I have given the original cooking times in the instructions below but all my Sunday Roasts have to fit around going to church (in our case leaving home at around 9.30 and not usually back until well after 1pm, such is vicarage life!)   I have to put any roasting joint in the oven on a much lower heat as I go out, turning the temperature up and (usually) uncovering the meat when we return giving it a final burst of heat before allowing it to stand for a briefly before carving.  Perhaps this is why my meat breaks up, however the flavour is rarely spoiled, just the appearance.

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Aromatic Lemon Roast Chicken

1.25kg/2lb 12ozs Roasting Chicken
1 whole head of garlic
2 lemons
4 cardamom pods
1tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
2tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper
200ml/7 fl ozs chicken stock or water
1tbsp cornflour

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. For the original cooking times follow the instructions at Step 8. 
If cooking in the oven for a longer time, do not preheat the oven.  Follow the instructions in step 9

2.  Cut the garlic head in half horizontally. Cut the lemons into wedges.  Lightly crush the cardamom pods, cumin seeds and cloves in a mortar and pestle. 

3.  Lightly oil the roasting tin to stop the meat from sticking.  Place the half of the garlic with the root end and half of the lemon wedges in the bottom of the tin and sprinkle over the crushed spices.

4.  Check inside the chicken and remove any giblets.  These can be cooked gently in a little water for chicken stock and/or chicken gravy.  Carefully rinse the chicken, running water through the cavity. 

5.  Gently ease the skin on the chicken breast upwards to create a cavity.  It should be easy to put your fingers in at the edge of the neck/chest cavity.  Be careful the skin does not tear.  Push half of the remaining lemon wedges underneath the skin. 

6.  Place the remaining wedges inside the chicken along with the remaining half of the garlic.

7.  Put the chicken, breast side downwards, into a roasting tin.  Rub over the remaining oil and season well.  Add two tablespoonfuls of stock or water.  Cover with a well fitting lid or lightly oiled foil to prevent sticking.

Follow either the cooking instructions at Step 8 (original timings) or Step 9 (longer, slower cooking time – useful when going out)

8.  Cook for one hour at preheated temperature.  Turn the chicken over and baste by spooning the collected juices over the meat to help browning and moistness.  Return to the oven and roast for a further hour, or until cooked.  Remove the lid or cover for the last 30minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

9.  If leaving this to cook in the oven for a longer period, then set the oven on to 140oC/275oF/Gas 1 when you put the chicken in. After about 2-3 hours take the chicken from the oven, turn it over and baste it well.  Be careful as it can start to break up while being turned.  Increase the heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 and return to the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

10.  Remove the chicken from the tin and allow the meat to rest, uncovered and in a warm place, for about 15 minutes before carving.  (The resting time can be omitted or cut short if necessary, but it does make carving a bit easier and is always recommended for meat.)

11.  While it is resting strain off the chicken juices from the pan, skimming off any excess fat.  This can be reserved for roasting potatoes if you wish and will give a subtle garlic and lemon flavour.  Dissolve the cornflour in a little water and gently combine with the strained juices and the remaining stock or water.  Cook in a pan over a gentle heat stirring all the time until slightly thickened.  Pour this gravy into a jug and keep warm.

12.  Carve meat and serve.  Excess meat can be kept for several days and eaten cold or cooked into other hot dishes.  The carcass can be made into stock along with the giblets if not already used: cover with water and gently cook with added vegetables (carrot, celery and a bay leaf, along with the roasted garlic heads if you wish) – freeze until needed.

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We love duck (if it is on the menu then my daughter will always order it) but I rarely cook it at home, however it is now becoming much more easily available and also a little less expensive.  When we saw Rick Stein cook this recipe on television we all commented on how delicious it sounded.  I tried very hard, but could not find the recipe anywhere online.  I am not sure how I managed to find it, but was delighted to discover that the Yorkshire Foodie had made a version using chicken rather than duck.  Having tried and enjoyed this chicken version I decided the original duck recipe would be perfect for the special meal I was planning for my mother’s birthday (to be followed by Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade). 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com ..... Chicken Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce


The original recipe comes from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey.  For the chicken version I used meaty chicken thighs.  I also squeezed fresh orange juice: one orange per person but it would be easier and probably just as good to use concentrated orange juice.   I used less chilli than in the original recipe to give just a little heat.  The meat should be, in Rick Stein’s words: ‘meltingly tender’.  His total cooking time given for the duck pieces is 2hrs, which seems rather long: I was happy with the results I got from about 1½hrs in total.  Obviously the chicken thighs cook much more quickly. The sauce should thicken naturally as it reduces, however it can be thickened using cornflour if necessary although this should not be a very thick sauce.  Mix 1tsp-1tbsp cornflour with a little cold water, gradually add spoonfuls of the sauce into the cornflour/water mixture and then return this mixture to the remainder of the sauce inthe pan, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens very slightly.  A little more cornflour can be added, in the same way, if it does not thicken: add more water if the sauce is too thick.  Certainly rice is perfect as a side dish (I cooked Thai Jasmine, which is widely available).  The chicken version was served with steamed broccoli but for the duck I wanted to serve a vegetable dish from the region.  My research drew a blank so eventually I opted for a simple Chinese Style Stir Fry using a selection of vegetables: onion, peppers, courgette, garlic and ginger.  (I also cooked a few chips on the side to keep a diner who was not keen on rice happy!)  I like it when recipes are unusual, simple and delicious and this is all of these, plus it gets favourable compliments: what more does a cook want!  Perhaps I will be cooking duck a little more often now. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com ..... Duck Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce


Duck or Chicken Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce
(Serves 4) 

Sunflower oil for frying (a very small amount, especially if cooking duck)
4 Duck legs
8 Chicken Thighs or 4 chicken legs/breasts (meat can be skinned to reduce fat)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped/grated
1″ piece of ginger, peeled & grated
4 Oranges, squeezed or 250ml Orange Juice from a carton
2 tbsps Thai Fish Sauce/Nam Pla
2 tsp sugar
2-3 Star Anise
½-1 small Red Chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat & a larger chilli for more)
Black pepper
1-2 sticks lemon grass, remove core and chop finely
2-3 Large Spring Onions, thickly sliced, for garnish

1.  Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and gently fry the pieces of meat in as little oil as possible for 3-5 minutes per side (depending on size of piece). Remove and put to one side. 

2.  Remove as much oil as possible from the pan: duck in particular is a fatty meat which would make the finished dish to greasy.  Fat can be saved for another dish: duck fat, in particular, is popular for oven roasted potatoes. 

3.  Lower the heat and fry the ginger and garlic lightly for about one minute or until lightly golden, being careful they do not burn. 

4.  Add the orange juice, sugar, fish sauce, star anise, chilli and lemon grass.  Season with black pepper.  Stir well and gently bring the sauce to the boil. 

5.  Return the pieces of duck or chicken to the pan.  Cover pan and simmer very gently for 35-40 minutes (for chicken thighs) 1¼-1½hrs (for duck or thicker chicken pieces) or until the meat is tender, removing the lid to allow the sauce to reduce a little about 10 minutes before serving.  Turn the pieces of meat from time to time. 

6.  Cut the spring onion along the length of the white parts to give long strands (or alternatively they can be diagonally sliced).  Add to the pan no more than 5-10 minutes before serving.  The green parts of the onions should be cut in the same way and kept to one side for garnishing the finished dish. 

7.  To serve the meat should be placed on a warm serving plate and kept warm. Skim any excess fat from the sauce before finishing.  If necessary, the sauce should be reduced by boiling to concentrate the flavour before it is poured over the top of the meat.  If there is a large quantity of sauce then it can be lightly thickened with a little cornflour and water. 

8.  Scatter the reserved green spring onion pieces over the dish just before serving.

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This substantial dish, with the often used combination of lamb and chickpeas, is flavoured with sour preserved Pickled Lemons (simple to make at home) and hot chilli based Harissa paste, both commonly used flavours in North African cuisine.  Given a good slow cooking, either on the stove top or in a Tagine, the lamb is tender and soft.  It should be served with a simple couscous, perhaps flavoured with some of the juice from the pickled lemons and some additional coriander.  Alternatively it can be flavoured with some balsamic vinegar, some additional mint and some green peas.   I often add chick peas to couscous, unless they are already included in the main dish.

This recipe, originally named Moroccan Style Stewed Lamb with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon by Antony Worrall Thompson comes from the UKTV food website.  I have adapted it slightly, using lamb fillet, reducing the amount of Harissa paste for a milder flavour and substituting tinned chopped tomatoes.  I have also added a cinnamon stick, a lovely complement to a lamb dish and a flavour traditionally used in the cooking of North Africa.

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Moroccan Lamb Stew with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb lean leg of lamb (I used lamb fillet)
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
400g/14fl oz tin of tomatoes, chopped or 4 skinned & chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp harissa paste (use 1tsp for a milder taste)
1 cinnamon stick (optional – my addition)
325ml/12fl ozs water (425ml/15fl ozs  if using fresh tomatoes)
400g/14fl oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
350g/120zs peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 preserved Pickled Lemon, finely diced (2-4 tbsp depending on personal taste)
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped coriander

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2 if using a Tagine, or a similar lidded pot.  Alternatively, this dish can be cooked on the stove top without using the oven.

2.  Cover the lamb with ground black pepper.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Brown the meat on all sides.

3.  Chop the onion and add it to the pan with the crushed garlic.  Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned.  Add a little of the water if needed if the mixture starts to stick.

4.  Stir in the tomatoes, harissa paste and the water (or the remainder if some has been used already). 

5.  Heat to simmering, cover and cook on a medium heat for 1¼ – 1½ hours.  Alternatively, transfer mixture to a Tagine and bake in the oven.  Check periodically and top up with water if necessary.  Cook until the lamb is almost tender.

6.  Add the drained chickpeas and diced pumpkin.  Cook until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes more. 

7.  Chop the preserved lemon, mint and coriander, stir into the meat mixture. 

7.  Serve with simply flavoured couscous or flatbread.

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We love the flavours of North Africa: with ingredients such as spicy coriander and cumin, fragrant cinnamon and orange flower water, hot chilli and ginger, sour pickled lemon, salty olives and sometimes even the sweetness of fruit, although readers of other pages on this site will know that I am not keen on very sweet fruit with meat.  I was delighted, therefore, to be given a Tagine for my birthday: not absolutely necessary to cook the dishes but lovely to look at and use for serving and especially for entertaining.  Along with the Tagine, I was also given a recipe book containing a good selection of ideas for using my new pot.  This was the first recipe that caught my eye: we love beetroot cooked with meat and in combination with orange the dish sounded unusual and delicious. 

This recipe was taken from Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Başan.  I have altered the quantities and proportions a little and have adapted the recipe for cooking in the oven.  (My Tagine cannot be used on the stovetop as I have an electric cooker with a ceramic hob.)  I served the Tagine with wedges of butternut squash oven baked with olive oil and a sprinkling of Ras el-Hanout, a spice mixture which is exclusive to North Africa (I mix my own) along with Couscous flavoured with pickled lemon and fresh coriander.  I often add chickpeas to the couscous mixture but these would also be good added to the Tagine at the same time as the orange segments.

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Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Beetroot & Orange
(Serves 4-6)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (original uses ghee)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large red onions, halved lengthwide and sliced
1inch/2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (amount can be increased)
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 beetroots, peeled & quartered (uncooked)
1lb/500g lean beef, cut into bite sized pieces
2 or 3 thin skinned oranges, segmented
1tbsp dark, runny honey
1-2 tsp orange flower water
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 knob of butter
2-3 tbsp shelled pistachio nuts
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped (original uses flat leaved parsley)

This recipe can be either cooked on the hob, as in the original instruction, or at Step 6 transferred to the oven and baked. 
If using the oven it should be pre-heated to 160oC Fan/170oC/325oF/Gas 3

1.  Melt the oil in a pan (alternatively a Tagine or lidded casserole dish suitable for stove top use) and stir in the garlic, onion and ginger until they start to colour.

2.  Add the chilli, crushed coriander seeds and cinnamon stick.

3.  Add the beetroot pieces and cook gently for 2-3minutes. 

4.  Add the beef and gently cook for 1 minute.

5.   Pour over enough water to almost cover the beetroot and beef.  Bring to the boil. 

6.  Transfer to a Tagine or ovenproof dish with a well fitting lid and place in the oven.   Alternatively leave in the pan, cover and reduce heat.  Cook for 1 hour, until the meat is very tender.

7.  Add the orange pieces, honey and orange flower water and season.  Cook, covered, for a further 10-15 minutes.

8.  Melt the butter in a small pan and lightly brown the pistachio nuts over a medium heat.

9.  Sprinkle them, with the coriander or flat leaved parsley, over the meat mixture and serve.

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This recipe came as a surprise.  It landed in my email Inbox from someone I do not know, via two people I do as was part of an internet recipe sharing scheme that I had taken part in (not really expecting to receive any replies).  I had forwarded recipe exchange emails twice before, but in both cases had heard nothing more, let alone receive the flood of good recipes that the emails promised me!  (By the way, I usually delete emails that ask me to forward them to others and promising me ‘rewards’, but this seemed like an interesting idea.) 

I love the flavours of North African cooking, especially the spices combined with the sourness of pickled lemon with the saltiness of  olives, but I am not especially keen on dishes which include a lot of very sweet fruit.  However, in spite of this, I did not leave out the prunes as most of my family are very fond of them: I just chose to add some olives as well, especially for myself.  As the prunes and olives are added towards the end of the cooking time their flavours complement the dish without really cooking fully into it affecting the overall flavour.  I always use home made Pickled Lemon which is simple to make.  This recipe is ideal for cooking and serving in a tagine, if one if available, but it is not absolutely necessary.

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

North African Spiced Baked Chicken with Pickled Lemon
(Serves 4)

1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp cardamom seeds
½ tsp paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp oil from pickled lemons or Olive Oil
4 chicken portions, skin on
2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
2 medium green peppers, de-seeded and thickly sliced
2 fresh bay leaves
8 slices of pickled lemons
8-12 plump no soak prunes
8-12 pitted green (or black) olives (optional – not in original recipe)
1-2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh coriander or flat leaved parsley, to garnish

Recipe needs a day long or overnight marinade to allow the flavours to develop. 

1.  Heat a small, dry frying pan on a low heat until warm. Add the whole coriander and cumin seeds and cardamom pods.  Cook, shaking the pan frequently, for a few minutes until the spices give off their fragrance.  Do not overcook so they burn.  Grind the roasted spices in a grinder or pestle and mortar. Combine with the paprika, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp ground black pepper. Mix to a paste with the oil.

2.  Cut diagonal slashes on the skin side of the chicken and rub in the spice paste.  Alternatively remove the chicken skins and rub the pieces with spice mixture.

3.  Place the chicken in a tagine or baking dish with a well fitting lid.  Add the onions, peppers and bay leaves. Turn so that all the vegetables are coated with the oil. Cover, leave to stand for at least 4 hours.

4.  Preheat the oven to 190oC/370oF/Gas 5.  Uncover the chicken and cook for 20 minutes, occasionally basting with the juices.

5.  Lay the lemon slices over the chicken, tuck in the prunes and scatter over the olives.  Cook for a further 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables are starting to brown.

6.  Garnish sprinkled with the chopped herbs.

7.  Serve with couscous, pilau rice or millet.

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One of my favourite ways to entertain friends is to cook Indian style meals and often Makkhani Murghi is the main dish.  It has the advantage not only of being delicious but also being very simple, a definite bonus if you are making a number of other dishes to accompany it, as well as thinking about a suitable dessert course (and sometimes a starter as well).  It is a great way of transforming simply cooked Tandoori chicken with a rich buttery tomato sauce.

It comes from my much loved and much used book Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery.  In the book this recipe follows on from one for home-made Tandoori chicken.   When I entertain, I often make the Tandoori chicken from scratch the day before using Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe which I have also added further down this page but, especially if I am just cooking the dish for day-to-day consumption, I pre-marinade the chicken in a mixture of the Tandoori Masala spice powder and yoghurt and oven bake for about 30minutes.  Both are versions which do not need the traditional Tandoor oven: not a common piece of kitchen equipment here in the UK!  I then follow Madhur’s original rich and calorie laden recipe for Makkhani Murghi fairly faithfully.  However, I also make a ‘cheats’ quick and less authentic everyday version of Makkhani Murghi by cutting some corners with the method and ingredients.  In the simpler version I usually use chicken thighs and I also use milk, or a mixture of milk and cream, which gives a thinner but quite satisfactory ‘everyday’ sauce and much less butter. (It is worth cooking this everyday sauce a little longer to reduce it so it is less thin.)  It is a much less rich, in fact, a different dish, but still tasty.  The original recipe uses ghee, which is clarified Indian butter, but  I successfully use ordinary salted butter.  Madhur Jaffrey recommends that the butter should be folded into the sauce at the last moment to prevent it separating.  I would recommend adding the fresh coriander at the last minute as well.  (See No. 5 below for serving and menu ideas.)

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

Makkhani Murghi
Tandoori Chicken in a Butter Sauce
(Serves 4-6)

Tandoori chicken cut into 1-2inch (2.5-5cm) pieces from 2½lb (1kg 125g) skinned chicken pieces (legs or breasts – thighs for everyday meals)

4tbsp tomato paste
8fl ozs (225ml) water
1inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
10fl oz/300ml single cream (Elmlea low fat) – 5fl oz/150ml milk for everyday version
1tsp garam masala
½tsp salt
¼tsp sugar
1 small green chilli, seeded & very finely chopped
¼tsp cayenne pepper
4tsp lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1tsp ground roasted cumin seeds (or a generous ½tsp cumin powder)
4oz/100g unsalted butter (I usually use about half this quantity so it is less oily)
1tbps chopped fresh coriander, more if you wish

If using Tandoori Masala spice mix marinade then the following should be added:
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1.  Gradually mix the tomato paste into the water, blending them well together.  To this tomato mixture add the ginger, cream and/or milk, garam masala, salt, sugar, green chilli, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and cumin and mix well.

2.  Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan. 
For Tandoori Masala marinaded chicken: Once the butter has melted  the onion and garlic should be fried gently until softened, then add the sauce and bring to a simmer.
For Tandoori chicken made from scratch: Once the butter has melted add the sauce and bring to a simmer. 

3.  Stir until the butter is well mixed into the sauce.  (Do not let the sauce boil, especially if you are using cream.)

4.  Add the pre-cooked chicken, but not any collected chicken juices which would thin the sauce. Mix in the fresh coriander. Stir until the meat is thoroughly heated through, which takes just a few minutes and serve.

5.  Put the chicken onto a serving dish.  The sauce should be spooned over.  Garnish with a little more fresh coriander if you wish.

5.  Serve with boiled rice, Onion Rice Pilaf (or similar) , naan breads or paratha roti , a vegetable side dish and poppadums.  When entertaining, along with poppadums and a rice or bread, I usually add some or all of these depending on the number of guests: a simple Masoor Dhal (Red Lentils) (or other bean or lentil dish), raita, vegetable curries and/or onion bhajis , lime pickle , mango chutney and a relish (often chopped tomato/onion/cucumber mix with a sprinkling of cayenne and fresh chopped coriander).  I add a substantial meat/fish free dish as well if I am catering for a vegetarian.

Tandoori Chicken – without a Tandoor Oven
(Serves 4-6)

1.25kg/2½lb skinned chicken pieces,legs and/or breasts or breast fillets
1 tsp salt
3tbsp lemon juice

To marinade
450ml/¾pt plain yoghurt
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2.5cm/1inch piece fresh root ginger, grated
1 green chilli, chopped – remove seeds for less heat
2tsp garam masala
lime or lemon wedges, to serve

1. Cut the chicken legs into two pieces and breasts into four. Make two deep cross cut slits on the thick parts of each leg and breast.  The slits should not reach the edges and should be cut down to the bone. Spread the chicken pieces out on two large baking dishes. Sprinkle half the salt and half the lemon juice onto one side and rub in well.  Repeat for the second side with the remaining salt and lemon juice. Leave for 20 minutes.

2. For the marinade:
Blend the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and garam masala until smooth using a blender or food processor.  If you wish, strain through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, pushing through as much liquid as you can, but I often omit this stage.

3. Put the chicken and the juices that have accumulated into the bowl with the marinade.  Rub the marinade well into the slits in the meat.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or a little longer if possible: 8-24 hours.

4.  Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature and put a shelf in the highest part of the oven where it is hottest. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and spread them out in a single layer on a large, shallow, baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until thoroughly cooked.

5.  Lift the chicken pieces out of their juices. Serve with lemon or lime wedges or use to make Makkhani Murghi, as above.

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I like to try to clear up the last of the frozen turkey remaining from Christmas by the end of January and this lovely warming dish is a perfect way to use up these leftovers, especially the darker meat.  The original recipe I have based this on was called Midsummer Night Turkey Beanpot, but I feel it is perfect for Midwinter, though I am sure it would serve well at any time of year.  I have augmented the original ingredients with a little bacon, some mushroom and a small chopped green pepper, for added colour (peas would be a good alternative), plus suggest it is served with a spoonful of soured cream.

The original recipe came from a British Turkey Federation, now known as the British Turkey Information Service in an advert found in a Woman’s magazine, I believe in the 1980’s.

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

Midwinter Turkey Chilli Beanpot
(Serves 4)

½oz/15g butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 medium sized onions, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 rashers streaky bacon
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rings
½-1tsp chilli powder, depending on taste
1 level tbsp tomato puree
400ml/14oz can of plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
400ml/14oz can of red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
½pint chicken stock or water with ½chicken stock cube
8-12ozs/250-375g cooked turkey meat
1 green pepper, diced (or 2ozs/70g frozen peas)
Salt & black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Soured cream
Chopped chives or spring onion tops or parsley

1.  Put the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. 

2.  Stir in the bacon, mushroom and carrot and continue to cook for a further 5minutes.

3.  Add the chilli powder and tomato puree, stirring well and then add the tinned tomatoes along with the stock.

4.  Bring to the boil and cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.  Meanwhile drain and rinse the red beans, chop the turkey into bite sized pieces and dice the green pepper (peas may be used for colour as an alternative).  Add these to the pan and stir well.  Cook for a further 10minutes until the sauce is reduced and the turkey cooked thoroughly.

6.  Check seasoning and serve either with a jacket potato or on a bed of rice, with a spoonful of soured cream and a sprinkling of snipped chives or spring onion tops or chopped parsley plus a sprinkling of chilli powder.

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