Vegetable Curry

Vegetable Curry

 

As a devoted carnivore I was a little skeptical when first asked to cook a vegetable curry. I had to resist my innate response to hurl a cookbook across the room! It is not that I don’t appreciate and enjoy vegetarian food when it is thrust in front of me, rather I do not enjoy cooking it (this dish being the exception to the rule)!

For those that like their curries mild and aromatic – this is the one. Beautifully subtle with a noticeable kick of chilli. It is light yet rich and incredibly versatile – you are free to go wild on the choice of vegetables. Despite the terrifying number of ingredients it is surprisingly simple.

(It would work wonderfully with seafood and chicken too!)

Vegetable Curry

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the spice blend: 10 Cardamom Pods, 4 tsp Ground Coriander, 2 tsp Cumin Seeds, 1 inch Cinnamon Stick, 20 Black Peppercorns, 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds, 5 Cloves

For the curry base: 2 tbsp Veg Oil, Large Piece Ginger (Finely Chopped), 2 Garlic Cloves (Finely Chopped), 2 Medium Red Chillies (Seeds Removed and Chopped), 2 Medium Onions (Chopped), 2 Bay Leaves, Sea Salt

To Finish: 2 Courgettes (Diced), 2 Medium Aubergines (Diced), 1/2 Large Cauliflower (Cut into Florets), 100g Button Mushrooms (Halved), 150g Cherry Tomatoes (Halved), 2 Tins Coconut Milk, 1 Cup Hot Water, Juice 1 Lime, Handful Coriander Leaves (Chopped), Sea Salt

Method:

1) Make the spice blend by toasting all of the spices in a dry pan on low for 5 minutes. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder.

2) Begin the curry by sweating the spice mix with the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in the veg oil for 5 minutes.

3) Add the coconut milk and hot water and allow to come to a simmer. Add all of the prepared vegetables except the tomatoes and cover. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Remember to stir occasionally.

4) Stir through the tomatoes, lime juice and coriander and season to taste before serving.

Best served with basmati rice and chapatis. Enjoy!

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Banana Toffee Blondies

 

Banana, toffee and white chocolate. What could be finer?

Blondies are fantastic – think of a brownie, not quite as rich but much, much sweeter – definitely for those with a sweet tooth! I’ve been baking them on and off for years, usually plumping for simple white chocolate. They go down great as little gifts.

I’m sure everyone has used brown bananas for banana bread – I urge you to try these next time, they are incredibly comforting. Finding a little chunk of toffee or almond halfway through makes them extra special!

Banana Toffee Blondies

Makes 15 Small Squares

Ingredients:

For the almond toffee: 75g Caster Sugar, 75g Whole Almonds, Splash of Water

For the Blondie: 220g Caster Sugar, 100g Unsalted Butter, 200g White Vanilla Chocolate, 1 Large Egg, 2 Ripe Bananas Chopped, 225g Plain Flour, 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Method:

1) Make the toffee by heating the sugar and water to a golden caramel. Stir through the nuts and turn out onto a baking mat. Allow to cool. Once cooled, blitz or bash into small pieces.

2) Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a shallow rectangular baking tin with tin foil.

3) Melt the butter and white chocolate in a bain-marie.

4) Beat together the sugar, egg and banana in a bowl. Add the melted butter and chocolate and combine.

5) Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture, add the toffee and fold in.

6) Pour into the baking tin and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.

7) Allow to cool and cut into even pieces.

Enjoy!

Winter Popovers

 

Anyone that knows me knows I have an insatiable obsession with Yorkshire Puddings! And when it comes to cooking these delicious pillows of crispness I am strictly a traditionalist – one tried and trusted recipe every time. However, this normally means I only get the opportunity to eat them with Sunday lunch.

Rather ignorantly, I never appreciated that popovers were simply flavoured Yorkshire puddings; not dense, heavy muffins. Now I have the perfect excuse to adapt them to every meal!

I stumbled across this recipe in the latest edition of Bon Appétit and had to give it a try. Served with a parma ham, manchego and grilled pear salad they were absolutely delicious. They would also go fantastically well with roasted lamb. The combination of spicy black pepper and nutmeg is perfect for this time of year – the chopped parsley stopping them from becoming overly heavy.

Now it is time to experiment with different fillings!

Winter Popovers
Makes 12

Ingredients:
2 Cups Plain Flour
2 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
3 Large eggs
3 Tbsp Chopped Parsley
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
1 Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Large Knob Unsalted Butter, Melted

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 220C. Grease a 12 tin muffin tray with melted butter – around 1/2 tsp in each cup.

2) Prepare the batter by combining the flour with the black pepper, parsley, nutmeg and salt.

3) Whisk together the eggs milk and 3 tbsp melted butter. Add to the flour mixture and whisk to combine – trying to incorporate some air into the mixture.

4) Pour the batter into the muffin tin and place in the top half of the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Enjoy!

Review: La Favorita Delivered, Edinburgh

It has never crossed my mind to review a takeaway, but after ordering from La Favorita I had to share. Mounting deadlines and an increasing workload are my usual excuses to order takeaway – more often than not something I regret! This time was different.

La Favorita (part of the family owned Vittoria Group) is a famed log-fired pizza restaurant which is very popular in the capital. Although I have never dined in the restaurant (at Leith Walk) I sampled their delicious pizzas at a music festival – freshly prepared and cooked in their converted van! When I heard they were doing home delivery I jumped at the chance!

A scaled down ‘courier friendly’ version of their restaurant menu offers a great selection of starters (hot and cold), pizza, pasta and homemade desserts. Their fantastic website offers a pre-order facility – which I would recommend using as I hear things can get pretty busy.

Pizza Zia Rosa

Pizza Zia Rosa. A beautifully crisp base, impossibly thin in the middle with a slight chew – just as it should be. A classic topping of tomato, mozzarella, roasted chicken, sweet italian peppers and cherry tomatoes. The pizza was delicious – just as I remembered it. Fresh and surprisingly light.

Arancini di Rosa

Arancini di Rosa – crisp risotto balls filled with mincemeat, mozzarella and tomato. Crispy and delicious with a deep, rich flavour. A serving of two is a meal in itself, but perfect for two as a starter.

La Favorita has changed my opinion of takeaways. Deliciously fresh food delivered straight to your door (and on time) – there is little more you could wish for! For those lazy nights, La Favorita is my new takeaway of choice.

La Favorita Delivered

lafavoritadelivered.com

Food (For two): £18.90 (Inc £2 Delivery)

Recommended: Yes

Pulled Lamb, Spiced Apple Chutney

 

I don’t know about you, but I have grown a little tired of pulled pork – it seems to crop up everywhere! Don’t get me wrong I do find a beautifully cooked piece of pork shoulder as delicious as the next person, but overuse has me searching for an alternative.

I adore lamb. Loin and leg are beautiful in the spring where the meat is tender and sweet, but when the lamb is turning to hogget (around this time of the year) I prefer slow cooking a piece of shoulder to release those wonderfully rich flavours. This got me thinking – surely I can substitute pulled lamb shoulder for pork in my next dish. Not only is lamb shoulder underused, it is also relatively inexpensive – making for a great midweek supper.

I combined my slow roast lamb with homemade spiced apple chutney (fitting for this time of year) and pea shoots. This dish is incredibly simple – put the lamb in the slow cooker on low in the morning and it will be ready for when you return home.

Pulled Lamb, Spiced Apple Chutney
Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Lamb: 600g Rolled Lamb Shoulder, 2 Onions, Vegetable Stock, 3 Carrots, 150ml Red Wine, 3 Sprigs Rosemary, 6 Peppercorns

For the Chutney: 1 Large Onion Finely Chopped, 4 Granny Smith Apples Peeled and Diced, 1 Red Chilli Chopped, 100ml Red Wine Vinegar, 1tbsp Unsalted Butter, 4tbsp Sugar, 1tsp Mixed Spice, Pinch of Sea Salt

To Serve: Ciabatta Rolls, Pea Shoots

Method:
1) Put the lamb on to slow cook with all the other ingredients, covering with stock. It will take a minimum of 4 hours on medium or all day on low in a slow cooker. Alternatively – slow roast in the oven.
2) Whilst the lamb is cooking, make the chutney. Cook the onion and chilli with a little salt in the butter until soft. Turn up the heat and add the vinegar.
3) Allow the pungent vapors to cook off the vinegar. Add the apples, mixed spice and sugar. Cook covered over a low heat until the apple is soft but has not disintegrated. Set aside to cool.
4) When ready to serve, remove the lamb from the cooker and shred.
5) Serve the lamb on ciabatta rolls with the chutney and some fresh pea shoots.

Enjoy!

Autumn Harvest Salad

 

Autumn is my favourite time of year – just as the trees are turning and shedding their leaves. November is the time for homely comfort food, to line your stomach ready for the winter ahead – of which I have been having a little too much recently!

November also brings a bountiful harvest from the garden. Using up the vegetables from summer which have survived the frost always has me wracking my brains for new recipe ideas.

I’ve never taken to salads. For me, lettuce is usually an afterthought used to trick my mind into believing the big T.Bone I’m chomping on is, in fact, good for me. For this reason I’ve shied away from ‘cooking’ with members of the Asteraceae (lettuce) family.

However, recently I have had something of an epiphany. The food at L’Enclume has had a profound effect on me. I no longer choose the richest, most decadent dish on the menu. Now I opt for lighter options, with subtler flavours which are often (heaven forbid) adorned with prissy leaves and edible flowers.

As such, I thought it appropriate to create a form of salad with the end of this year’s harvest. By all means, the dressing can be used with a multitude of other salads and I urge you to try different combinations. Although this version takes some time, the results are truly delicious and will impress as a starter at any dinner party. I outline the elements below for inspiration:

Ingredients:

Pickled Beetroot (Boiled, sliced and pickled for 2 hours in walnut oil, cider vinegar and malt vinegar)

Roasted Beetroot (Quartered and roasted at 160C for 45 minutes)

Caramelised Walnuts (100g Caster Sugar and a little water boiled to a caramel and combined with 50g walnuts)

Potato Salad (Boiled new potatoes combined with soured cream, chopped chives, salt and pepper)

Charred Baby Onions (Sliced thin and charred over a high heat for 2 mins each side)

Caramelised Pear (Sliced thin, browned in butter over a medium heat for 3 mins each side)

Crumbled Stilton

Baby Salad Leaves

Crème Fraîche Dressing (Crème fraîche mixed with juice and zest of 1/2 Orange and a little salt)

Enjoy!

Review: Jamie’s Italian, Edinburgh

I have long been a fan of Jamie Oliver and admire what he has done for the home cook. Many young cooks owe a great debt to Oliver for introducing them to the world of cooking. His chain of casual italian diners, Jamie’s Italian, has been a runaway success – with 30 restaurants in the UK and 5 further afield.

Jamie’s Italian has recently opened a branch in Edinburgh. Located in the historic Assembly Rooms, a recent refit has turned what was once wasted space into a chintzy, rustic dining space with a suitable smattering of bistro marble and tiles. Split over three levels, the large restaurant features open antipasti and finishing kitchens. The space was packed to the rafters on a Friday lunchtime, so be sure to make a reservation or get in early.

Service was well-informed and friendly, if a little cliché. In line with Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking the menu was rustic with a myriad of options. The food ethos was most definitely modern italian – sharing planks to start, homemade pastas and italian classics.

Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid was good. The batter was light and crisp and the accompanying sauce had a nice kick of mustard. Sliced chilli and fresh lemon helped to liven things up.

Chestnut Mushrooms

Baked Chestnut Mushrooms were served in a thin bread dough – crisp on the out, soft underneath. A great idea for a vessel to hold the mushrooms whilst giving it more body. The cheese scattered and melted on top could have been a little stronger and more mushrooms wouldn’t have gone a miss. This needed a big crack of black pepper to bring it alive.

Turkey Milanese

Turkey Milanese stuffed with Prosciutto with Fried Egg, Shaved Truffle and Pea Shoots. I adore traditional Veal Milanese – it is one of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately, this Milanese failed to live up to expectations. Despite being mammoth, the turkey escalope was a tad tough and the dubbed prosciutto failed to shine through. The fried egg was a pleasant addition as was the truffle – which did not overpower. More pea shoots and fresh lemon would not have gone amiss. My biggest gripe, however, was the lack of seasoning. The dish (apart from the truffle) was bland – which is a great shame because the pairing of the egg and truffle with the escalope is a fantastic idea.

Polenta Chips

‘Famous’ Polenta Chips were adorned with rosemary and parmesan. Beautifully crisp, the interior was nice and fluffy. Unfortunately someone had been too stingy with the salt.

Burger

The Jamie’s Italian Burger contained a mixture of chuck and flank steak – served with smoked mozzarella, mortadella, onions and chillies. The burger itself was well-flavoured and nicely chargrilled. The texture was dry but passable when combined with the other ingredients – some form of sauce or mayonnaise would have helped.

‘Posh’ Chips

A side of Posh Chips were ordered for the burger. Served with parmesan and truffle oil – the latter ingredient was mysteriously absent. The chips were a big letdown. Undercooked and soggy, they had managed to soak up much of the cooking fat without turning remotely crisp.

The style of food served at Jamie’s Italian is sure to please the majority of palates. Rustic and comforting, the dishes sound fantastic on paper but unfortunately fail to truly deliver on flavour. Under seasoning was the primary culprit for blandness on my visit – as the quality and combination of ingredients were good. A lively atmosphere and pleasing food is great for a quick lunch. However, I am unsure I would trust Jamie’s Italian for supper just yet.

Jamie’s Italian, Edinburgh

www.jamieoliver.com/italian/edinburgh

Food (For Two): £40

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Recommended

Recommended: For a casual lunch

Review: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London

Ten Michelin Stars, Four Days – Part Four (of Four!)

Ask me what my favourite restaurant is and you will be met with a dumbfounded look. This straight-forward question is a minefield of broken expectations and countless forkfuls for the true foodie. Until now, I would have stared at you in disbelief – unable to comprehend how you could have asked such a painful question.

I have now seen the light. No more subconscious wrangling of heart over mind. No more digging to the deep recesses of my brain desperately searching for a missing flavour. The response is automatic, I no longer have to think.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is my favourite restaurant.

I first visited Royal Hospital Road four years ago. The small restaurant left a big impression – absolutely faultless, show-stopping cooking matched by the finest service you will ever receive, anywhere. I subsequently dined last year and again last month.

The conservative dining room, small and intimate, is a wonder. Koffman-era mirrors adorn the beige walls and tables appear generously spaced. Atmosphere is delivered in spades. Before jumping to the food, I must take time to praise front of house. Headed by the marvelous Jean-Claude, the team are perhaps the most passionate you will ever have the pleasure of dining with. Service is discrete and professional yet admirably friendly. Service of this standard truly makes a meal and plays a fundamental role in determining a restaurant’s caliber.

The food? Incredible. Classic technique and, for the main, classic flavour combinations. Attention to detail is exemplary. The à la carte and prestige (7 course) menus showcase the best of these classical dishes, including the Restaurant’s signatures. The newly introduced ‘Seasonal Inspiration’ menu (7 course) is fabulous – using the best of seasonal produce to create impeccable dishes with under-used ingredients and flavour combinations.

I sampled the menu prestige on my first visit (I just had to) and the à la carte on my second. This visit I ate from the seasonal inspiration menu – the best of all three. The food was, as expected, faultless. I detail the most memorable dishes.

Amuse-Bouche

Amuse-Bouche of tomato essence was incredibly pure and refreshing. Beautifully presented.

Scottish Lobster Tail with lardo, vegetables à la grecque and coral vinaigrette was also refreshing. Lobster not quite as well cooked as at Alain Ducasse; however, the overall dish was far better executed. Good acidity was balanced by the rich lardo.

Trotter, Sweetbread, Apple

Pig’s Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbread, Parsley, Dijon Mustard, Warm Apple Sauce and ‘Waldorf Salad’. A standout dish. The pigs trotter meltingly tender and packed full of flavour. The skin had a texture similar to a Koffmann preparation and was perfect. Sweetbread mixture was well cooked – the flavour not lost amongst the other strong ingredients. Apple sauce had a good amount of acidity and the Dijon mustard gave richness and a little heat without overpowering.

Grouse, Liver, Bacon, Chestnut

Roasted Grouse with Trompette de la Mort, Livers on Toast, Alsace Bacon, Muscat Grapes and Smoked Chestnut Purée. Grouse was beautifully tender and expertly cooked. Liver threw a strong punch of iron which was curtailed by the grape. Bacon wasn’t too salty. Game chips were perfectly crisp. A beautiful, seasonal dish. Grouse is fast becoming my favourite game and was star of the show – the best grouse dish I have tasted. The perfect accompaniment to a 2004 Chateau Margaux!

Pork Belly, Loin, Shoulder

Suckling Pig – Crispy Belly, Roasted Loin, Spiced Shoulder Sausage, Chou Farci with Crushed Potatoes and Spring Onions. This was a substitution dish from the menu prestige. Quality of the pork was incredible – sweet and tender. The belly was most impressive. Apple (raw and roasted) offered good texture. A very comforting, classic dish, expertly executed.

Black Fig, Stilton, Cobnut, Verjus

‘Cheese Course’ of Black Fig, Colstone Basset Stilton, Cobnut Granola and Ice Verjus. Brilliant. Black fig was sticky sweet and contrasted well with the salty stilton (which was fresh, rather than strong). Granola was super crunchy with real earthiness. Verjus was not overly acidic. A great alternative to the traditional cheese option.

Smoked Chocolate, Blood Orange, Cardamom

Smoked Chocolate Cigar, Blood Orange, Cardamom Ice Cream. A perfect end to the meal. Rich with incredible attention to detail. The chocolate perfectly tempered. The smoked element did not show too much, but was evident. Cardamom ice cream was glorious.

Petit fours were amazing, the standout being small balls of super-sweet strawberry ice cream encased in white chocolate.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is delightful. The food, the service, the atmosphere – you could not hope nor wish to experience better. Alongside The Waterside Inn, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is flying the flag for British Gastronomy. The food may not break too many boundaries, but if impeccable cooking is what you desire, you could not find a more suited restaurant. It will take a restaurant of mighty caliber to knock Restaurant Gordon Ramsay off my top spot. If there is one place you should dine – it is Royal Hospital Road.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

www.gordonramsay.com/royalhospitalroad/

Food (For Five): £775

Dress Code: Smart (Jackets for men)

Reservations: Essential

Recommended: Yes

Cooking Vegetables

 

This is a most rewarding method of cooking young, tender vegetables – retaining their crunch and vibrance often lost when boiling or steaming. Nothing bothers me more than limp, dull, mis-treated vegetables.

I feel boiling should be saved only for the hardest or oldest of vegetables and potatoes. Cooking young and tender varieties (especially green) in a big pot of boiling water tends to dilute their flavour and renders their colour insipid. By cooking the vegetables for a short while, in a little butter, water and seasoning you can be sure that all of those wonderful fresh flavours and colours are kept locked in.

Prepare your vegetables in the usual fashion; however, cut harder varieties into smaller pieces and leave those which are tender mostly whole or in larger pieces. The directions below are based on enough vegetables to feed four.

Place the vegetables in an appropriately sized saucepan with a large knob of butter. Season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add a good splash of cold water (around 1/4 to 1/2 a cup).

Place the saucepan on a high heat and cover. Cook for anything from 1 minute for very tender vegetables to 3-4 minutes for harder varieties. Thinly sliced carrots and broccoli will generally take around 3 minutes, courgette and asparagus 2 minutes.

Once ready, toss with a handful of finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve the vegetables basted with the cooking liquor.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Yorkshire Puddings

 

As you may have noticed I am a Yorkshire pudding fiend! Whenever the opportunity arises to have one of these delicious little beauties, I pounce! I have long searched for the ultimate Yorkshire pudding – and finally found it. However, cooking Sunday lunch for a Coeliac sufferer threw a spanner in the works!

Finding a half decent recipe was a challenge in itself. Many called for a frightening array of nasty sounding ingredients and the majority required a laborious amount of effort. After several hours of mind-numbing research, Coeliac UK (a fantastic charity) appeared to have the answer.

Making a few alterations, the result was incredible. You would be very hard-pushed to find fault with these Yorkshire puddings. Sure, they don’t rise as spectacularly as the standard variety, but these little wonders are just as delicious. The use of self-raising flour and skimmed milk ensures they are super light and fluffy!

Even if you are not forced to follow a gluten-free diet – I urge you to try these. Their lightness means you can eat far more without the guilt!

Gluten Free Yorkshire Puddings

Makes 12 Small

Ingredients:
50g Corn Flour
50g Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
3 Medium Eggs, Beaten
140ml Skimmed Milk
Vegetable Oil
Salt

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 215C. Pour a thin layer of oil into a heavy-gauge 12 muffin tin. Place in the oven to bring up to temperature.
2) Meanwhile make the batter. Sift the corn flour and self-raising flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
3) Add the eggs and whisk to form a thick batter. Gradually add the milk whilst whisking to form a smooth batter. Try to incorporate some air into the mixture whilst whisking.
4) Once your muffin tin is up to temperature, remove from the oven and pour the batter between the 12 muffin holes.
5) Return to the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and well risen.

Enjoy with a big Sunday roast!