Thursday, November 19, 2009

A quick dinner for a quick post!!

One of the newest additions to my ever growing collection of cookbooks is the Leon Cookbook. Leon is a restaurant here in London that specialises in good quality food that is also good for you (what a crazy idea!!).

They do superfood salads, soups, curries and a delicious range of desserts that are great for a healthy mid-day meal. They also have a really cool, retro website and the book is equally as quirky:

I was prompted to buy the cookbook after lunching on an amazing Chicken Laksa a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the Chicken Laksa recipe wasn’t in the book. However, I was not too disappointed as the rest of the recipes are really great, and on Wednesday night I decided to try out the Moroccan Meatballs recipe, for a nice easy but healthy mid week meal.

I cannot rave about this recipe enough – It was easy, tasty and nutritionally balanced (and my chief recipe taster nearly purred when I put the plate in front of him!!)

Basically, you make the sauce with oil, garlic, tinned chopped tomatoes and harissa (however I used some chilli sauce instead) and let this simmer for about 20 minutes. While that is bubbling away you make the meatballs out of Mince (lamb was recommended however I used turkey as that’s what I had in the fridge), wholemeal pita bread that’s been ripped up and soaked in milk, fresh parsley and mint, dried oregano and seasoning to taste. Once all of this has been combined you then roll into meat balls, cook in a very hot pan until nice and browned (but not necessarily cooked) and then throw into the sauce for another 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and sauce has reduced into a thick, rich consistency. Top off with some more fresh parsley and basil and then serve with cous cous!!

(Even though I didn’t take this photo, my meatballs turned out exactly the same.    very impressive!!)

I’ve never cooked meatballs before – but now I think these ones are going to become a weeknight staple!!

Until next week .....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Julias Eggs..... 

Recently I have become a Julia Child enthusiast. It started with the movie Julie and Julia and progressed with reading My life in France – her autobiography, written in collaboration with her Grand Nephew. My Life in France chronicles her Journey through Life, her discovery of food and her life long affair with France. It’s an endearing story that was written in Julia’s declining years, and was completed after her death in 2004. Indeed, it is written a such a way that makes it feel like an old Julia Child is actually telling you the story herself, as it often, and quite randomly, inserts quaint but irrelevant pieces of information, changes direction and at times alludes to ‘a point’ but never actually makes one!! However, the combination of her sense of humour, her intellect and her experience gained from living and travelling all over the world result in an extremely entertaining read.

When I finished the book I felt like I was saying good-bye to a dear friend.

Off the back of My Life in France, I decided to buy a paperback version of Mastering the art of French Cooking, the book that her TV career was launched from and responsible for her subsequent fame.

Normally I would shy away from a cookbook that contained no pictures and that looked so complicated. However after learning of the painstaking efforts she goes to, to create perfect recipes, I felt it was a purchase that was worthwhile. (It was not unusual for Julia Child to cook the same recipe upward of 20 times in order to get the correct quantities, cooking times, and end product).

I thought it fitting to try out something easy first before I graduate to the more complicated la cuisine bourgeoise, and as it was Sunday morning, Scrambled eggs seemed the perfect place to start.

Firstly, you need to smear the bottom and sides of a pan with butter. Then comes the first major difference. The eggs should be cooked over a low to medium heat – so low that for the first 2 to 3 minutes nothing should appear to happen. Gradually the eggs should thicken into a custard like consistency. Now for the next major difference. Once the eggs are at the consistency you desire you then add either butter or cream – the key being that you don’t add any liquid or liquid-producing ingredients until the eggs are basically ready, as doing so is likely to cause the eggs to become watery. Also, adding the butter or cream at the end stops the cooking process.

Well – I got it completely wrong! The pan was too hot and the eggs cooked almost immediately. As a result I didn’t have time to measure out the correct quantities so ended up throwing a dollop of butter into the eggs at the last minute and hoping for the best!

The eggs tasted good – but let’s face it, any cooked breakfast tastes good on a cold Sunday morning!

The next time I try out a Julia recipe I’m going to be far more prepared – which means reading through the recipe completely before I start cooking so that I don’t get it wrong!!

Until next week…………

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Autumn rain and Apples for Jam
I think it was about 6am Sunday morning when the sound of pouring rain first registered. By 10am my Sunday morning slumber had ended, but the rain had not.

It was a somewhat typical autumn day, grey and rainy but unusually warm. Yellow-orange leaves were clumped here and there on the ground outside, which made walking particularly difficult as leaves get awfully slippery when they are wet! It was a day that was beautiful in its own way but the grey tinge in the sky meant our evening meal had to be something particularly warming and comforting …..

Enter Apples for Jam – By Tessa Kiros

I am a huge fan of Tessa. I have four of her 5 cookbooks and I think she is brilliant. She is a devoted foodie, who has gathered together a repertoire of recipes that all seem to stem from family influences. Apples for Jam is a book devoted entirely to meals that would appeal to kids (not to be confused with a children’s cookbook). Tessa has very fond food memories from her own childhood and in Apples for Jam you get the feeling she is trying to create the same kind of memories for her own children… and by extension all of her readers and their kids as well!!

So on this rainy autumn day we decided to try Tessa’s Lamb and Green Bean Casserole (pg 190).

We found a Lamb shoulder roast that was on sale – It was a little bit fatty but looked as though it would suit a slow cooked stew. I trimmed a large portion of the fat off the roast before carving in into largish chunks and browning in a healthy amount of olive oil (you need to have a saucepan that can go on the stove top and then into the oven).

Once the meat was brown we added a generous dollop of butter (!!), chopped tomatoes, cinnamon, onions and 500mls of water. After seasoning with salt we popped the dish in the oven and an hour later we added the green beans. It was then back in the oven for a further hour. With very little preparation and minimal intervention during the cooking process, this dish nearly made itself!

So after two hours of cooking my chief recipe taster, a visiting friend with an inclination to musical theatre, and me sat down to enjoy Lamb and Green Bean Casserole served with delicious roast potatoes and a Julie Andrews classic... Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The meal was lovely. The lamb was melt in your mouth soft, the beans still surprisingly firm and the sauce/liquid flavoursome. The combination of warming lamb casserole, a silly but entertaining musical and lots of frivolous banter ended this rainy London evening on a satisfying high note!

Until next week ……..