Archive | October, 2010

Haddock love?

27 Oct

Okay, I’ll admit I have never been a huge fan of fish. Give me prawns, langoustines, mussels, oysters, clams or any other crawly from the sea and I’m there. Langoustine marinated and grilled on the barbecue, meaty mussels nestling with spaghetti, fresh tomatoes and basil, shucked oysters with a tart lemon dressing, delicious every one. However…cod, plaice, salmon, haddock etc. have always left me a bit cold in the fish sense. But I am determined to rectify this as I know (or at least people keep telling me) there is great joy to be had from eating truly fresh and fabulous fish.

So last night I tried a quick and easy fish supper. Some great haddock fillets from the excellent, Ashton’s Fishmongers in Cardiff market. This is super simple. Preheat your oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.  Just arrange your fillets on an oiled baking tray, season well, then scatter fresh mozzarella, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and basil over the fish. A squeeze of fresh lemon over the top and a generous swirl of olive oil and it’s ready for the oven. 20mins is all you need. So grab some salad, dress it, and your supper is served. The verdict… these fish lovers might just have a point, next step salmon folks!

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Pizza baby…

23 Oct

Getting kids cooking from an early age is not just fun, it shows them just how fantastic home-made food can be. For my son’s 4th birthday we had a pizza party. I made a big pile of dough, handed out mini rolling pins, bowls of cheese, tomato sauce, pineapple, sweetcorn, ham and peppers and stood back. The twenty, four year olds had the best time ever creating their own mini-pizza masterpieces complete with lots of squidging, nibbling and finger-licking.

Pizza-making is still a regular occurence in our house, and one which both my son and daughter love to be a part of. Last weekend, Joe and I decided to make some dough and use up the fresh tomato sauce I had made earlier. This recipe is simple and can be used to make bread or rolls, as well.

You will need:

1kg strong white or wholemeal bread flour
3 sachets dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 pint warm water

Homemade tomato sauce
Mozzarella
Basil

Any toppings you fancy.

Making your dough is easy. Place your flour into a bowl, create a well in the centre, pour in your yeast, sugar and salt. Gradually pour in some of your water. Using a fork stir the contents together, keep stirring and adding your water until everything is nicely mixed.

By now you have the beginnings of a stretchy dough. Time to get messy, get your hands in and work the dough until it becomes smooth and round. Get it out on to a floured surface and work out your anxiety with lots of pulling, stretching, kneading, pulling and pushing. Once it feels smooth and almost silky it’s ready to prove. Leave in a bowl in a warm space.

After about an hour your dough will have doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 220 C/ Gas mark 7.

Divide the dough into large fist-sized balls. Each ball will make one large pizza. We tend to make a selection of sizes suited to whoever is going to eat the end result. Flour you work surface and start rolling out your dough. Thick or thin it’s personal preference. Once you have a rough circle the fun begins. Place your pizza base on a baking sheet (a bit of flour or oil will stop it sticking during cooking).

Bring on the toppings! Tomato sauce and mozzarella are your staples, but from there on you choose…

Delicious gravy without the stress…

13 Oct

After years of wrestling with gravy creation I have recently cracked it. In the past I would have simply taken meat juices, combined them with some flour and then gradually added stock or vegetable water to the desired consistency. The results were often not what I was looking for. Sometimes in a flash of good fortune, the gravy would be blinding but on other occasions there would only be a couple of precious tablespoons for each diner. Other times I just didn’t get enough flavour into the gravy, so after lots of experimentation, with lots of  ingredients, I began a new method….

You will need:

2 large carrots
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
Garlic, fresh herbs, peppercorns etc
Lge glass Red or white wine, Cider depending on your meat
I heaped tbsp flour
plus 1 pint of water (plus a bit extra if you need it)

Right at the beginning I prep up the the holy trinity of carrots, celery and onions, roughly chopped and scattered in enough quantity to cover the base of your roasting tin. Add a couple of bay leaves which are essential to all stock bases. A thicker bottom on your tin is best so you can use it from beginning to end to make your gravy.
From here you decide the direction you want your roast to go… add garlic cloves unpeeled but bashed, with whole sprigs of rosemary to add a great background flavour to lamb gravy. For pork add some juniper berries or fennel seeds and lots of fresh sage leaves. For beef, add parsley, garlic and black peppercorns. For chicken add preserved or fresh lemons, lemon thyme sprigs and a whole head of garlic sliced across the middle.


So you have your base, you have your flavourings, now place your meat on top of your veg and herb mixture. Rub your meat with olive oil and season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Finally add some liquid. For beef or lamb a good sized glass of red wine. Chicken loves white wine and cider is fantastic for a great pork gravy.

Place in your oven and roast according to weight and type. Check with your butcher and he can tell you precisely how long and at what temperature you need to cook your meat. If you’ve picked a supermarket joint they are pretty well labelled with cooking times and temps. Keep an eye on your liquid; if it starts to look dry add a small cup of water. When your joint is done and ready to come out of the oven and rest a while, cover it in foil, and place to one side while you crack on with your fantastic gravy.

Take your roasting tin and place on the hob. At this point the pan should contain your soft roasted vegetable mixture, some rich meat juices and ideally a sticky reduced liquid from your alcohol. If it seems a bit dry, loosen the mixture etc. with some hot water.

Turn your hob onto a low/medium heat and stir to lift the fab juices off the base of the pan. Then add a tablespoon of flour and stir quickly to combine all the ingredients. At this point decide if you are looking for a thicker gravy or if you want something lighter. A heaped tablespoon of flour will give you a generous pint of gravy the consistency of single cream. If you want it thicker add a little more and likewise if you want it lighter, add a little less. Remember it is easier to reduce a gravy that is too thin, and therefore thicken it, than it is to thin a thick floury-tasting gravy and get it back to something edible.

So you’ve added your flour and you now have a lumpy mixture in your pan. Stir to combine well.

Gradually add your water. Initially the mixture will thicken a lot, don’t panic just keep adding the water and stir with a wooden spoon combining the ingredients. As you stir, mash the roast vegetables with the back of the spoon, crush any roast garlic cloves so that they release their lovely caramelised contents. Continue adding water according to the end quantity you require. At this point you can add more wine or cider if you prefer, just adjust the quantity of water accordingly. If you want a pint of gravy add a pint and a bit of water/wine etc. and so on. The extra water allows for the reduction in liquid. The combination of the stirring and the heat should start to give you a rich smooth gravy. If there are a couple of lumps don’t worry you are going to sieve the gravy just before serving. Taste your gravy and season with salt and pepper as required.

The key at this point is to gently simmer your gravy to let all those flavours cook through together. The more time you have for this bit the better. Gradually your gravy will darken and thicken. Chicken gravy is always much lighter than red meat gravy but if you’re desperate for the brown stuff add some gravy browning, ultimately the flavour will be what makes this your best gravy ever. For extra flavour pour any juices from your rested meat into the gravy and stir.

After 20-30 mins you should have something very sumptious and velvety bubbling in your pan. It will still have bits of veg in it but all their lovely flavours will be totally embedded in the gravy. If it’s a bit thin keep simmering to reduce it, if it is a bit thick add a splash of wine or cider to loosen it. Okay, you are now ready to sieve the gravy. Get a fine mesh sieve over a large glass bowl. Carefully pour your precious gravy into the sieve. Don’t rush, you don’t want to waste a bit. Pour the liquid through the sieve and give the contents an extra push with the back of the spoon to squeeze the last bit of flavour out. Transfer your gravy to a warmed serving jug and you are ready to rock.

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