Pumpkin Amaretti Ravioli

Pumpkin Amaretti RavioliHallowe’en, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain….whatever you call it, it spells PUMPKINS, carved ones to be precise (or as the Americans call them – Jack O’Lanterns). There are many subtle variants to the legend of why precisely we carve ghoulish faces into squashes at this time of year (apparently the Irish traditionally use turnips or swedes instead) but ultimately the idea is to scare bad spirits away. Seems sensible enough to me, and I always loved the slightly gory feel of tearing out massive handfuls of fibre and seed from the pumpkin’s interior!

Many many years ago (2005 to be precise), when blogging was still quite niche rather than the first resort of any self-confessed ‘foodie’, Elise over at Simply Recipes ran a competition for the most creative way of using up the off-cuts from the pumpkin carving, and I won! With this picture no less:

Yes, really; hard to imagine that winning now isn’t it? These were the days before every blogger taken seriously had a digital SLR, home studio and props cupboard!

Anyhoo, as you can see from the first photo, I’ve reshot (though it’s still nothing Foodgawker or Tastespotting would consider acceptable), and have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, omitting the pumpkin seeds (I like to dry-fry them with salt & chilli and serve them as pre-dinner snacks), and replacing the creamy sauce with a simpler sage butter and some fried amaretti breadcrumbs. So here at long last is my reprise of my favourite Hallowe’en recipe, reinvented for 2013….

Read on for the recipe…

Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers

The advent of the American street food revolution in the UK has made me very very happy. Not to mention much poorer, several pounds heavier, and in all probability with blood that resembles spicy cottage cheese. Even their salads are bad for you. No seriously, have you ever actually ordered a Cobb salad?

Pulled pork & deep fried mac cheese burger

There are days I think I could – and do – just live on hot wings, waffles and chili. There’s a lot of debate about who does the genre best, but for me it absolutely has to be Pitt Cue Co. From the day they set up their trailer on the Southbank they had me hook, line and sinker, and the pulled pork and deep fried mac cheese burger was the first dish of theirs I ever tasted. Spicy, juicy pork, tangy crunchy slaw, and crisply-crumbed but oozy-centred mac cheese all sandwiched within a sweet bun. Who could ask for more?

This is my version. The ingredients list is long, but really, it’s just some roast meat, a spot of sauce and a slice of pasta bake – really not all that difficult, when you think about it.

Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers
Makes 6 hefty burgers

You will need:
6 handfuls slow-roast pork  (I roast a 2kg shoulder at Gas 2 for 5 hrs 45mins, it gives you more than you need but hey, too much pork is never a problem, right?)
6 large brioche or ciabatta rolls
A portion of your favourite slaw recipe – I like to use red cabbage for both colour and its extra crunch

For the fried mac cheese:
225g macaroni
350ml whole milk
½ white onion
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
30g butter
30g flour
115g Swiss or Dutch cheese (something like Gruyère, Emmenthal or Maasdam)
15g Parmesan, finely grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
nutmeg, to taste
plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs for coating

For the pulled pork sauce:
1 x 6g Ancho Poblano*
15g Pasilla chilli*
15g Cacabel chilli*
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
1 scotch bonnet
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
2 tbsp palm sugar
250g red onion
juice of 2 oranges
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp tomato puree
Read on for the recipe…

Come join the party – Flavors of the USA!

WordItOut-Word-cloud-271604

“American foods” Word cloud made with WordItOut

We are now on our culinary journey to USA in the “Flavors of…Series 4” blogger event by Nayna of simply.food. As a huge Americophile myself (at least where the food is concerned) I’m really pleased to announce that I’m the host for this latest blogger challenge, and am pleased to announce I’ll be sharing my most gut-busting creation: the epic deep-fried mac cheese pulled pork burger. Please share your fantastic American-inspired creations with us all, by posting on your own blog and following the guidelines laid out below.

Flavours of USA logoHere’s some great sites to get you started:
americanfood.about.com
uktv.co.uk
101cookbooks
BBC Good Food
simplyrecipes.com
americastestkitchen.com

Rules:

  • Event runs 1st-31st October 2013
  • Multiple entries and archived entries ARE allowed, if you repost
  • Entries must include links back to both simply.food and Souperior
  • Send entries to souperior[dot]blog[at]gmail[dot]com. Please put ‘Flavors of USA’ in subject line and include (1)your name, (2) blog name, (3) post name, (4) post URL and (5)link to your original image
  • Although simply.food is a vegetarian site, Souperior is not, so both veggie and non-veggie entries are encouraged
  • Roundup will be posted on Souperior within 7 days of the event closing

Chillies and Mexican Food – the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge roundup

Fiery Roasted Red Pepper Salsa For anyone who loves chillies proper Mexican food is a real treat – the Mexicans grow and use probably more varieties of chilli than any other country, from the fiery habanero to the smokey chipotle and everything in between.  This month I am delighted to be the host of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge, and hope you will find some inspiration in the fabulous flavours of Mexico which our contributors showcased this month. As usual the rules were simply that the dish had to contain chilli in some form, and the style of cuisine – as this month celebrated Cinco de Mayo – was Mexican, natch.  Starting the fiesta is the queen of the Chilli Challenge herself, Lyndsey, who put forward a fiery roasted red pepper salsa of such stunning proportions I defy anyone not to want to grab one of those tortilla chips and dig in.

Tango Like Raindrop was actually the first off the blocks with this colourful mango Pico de Gallo salsa, a fruity twist on a classic recipe:

Mango Pico-de-Gallo SalsaAnother mango offering came from Janet of ‘The Taste Space‘, this time as an accompaniment to a healthy twist on a Mexican favourite – Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos‘Farmer’s Girl’ Janice Pattie went super-meaty with these Lamb Steaks with Adobo Seasoning Lamb Steaks with Adobo SeasoningChris of ‘Cooking Around the World’ took the challenge to a new level (and won the heart of my hubby, who’d tried & failed to persuade me to do the same) by making his own tortillas for these delicious sounding mini Garnachas with tomato-apple salsa:

Garnachas with tomato-apple salsaMy contribution to the month’s round-up had to be the much-maligned (in TexMex restaurants anyway) but genuinely Mexican favourite Faijitas, using a homemade version of a store-bought sauce and a variation on the classic salsa Pico de Gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloAnd finishing the roundup was another contribution from Lyndsey, some delicious Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos If you’d like to take part in, or host, a future Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge you can find all the information you need here.

Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloOnce upon a time fajitas made their way onto my dinner table every week and always went down a storm whenever I served them to guests. My secret? A shameful addiction to a store-bought sauce called Knorr’s ‘Stir it up’ Mexican Fajita Paste. When the paste was discontinued I was devastated and almost gave up on fajitas altogether, as no recipe I found could match the depth & spicing of this magic jar of sauce. I had always sworn that one day I’d work out how to make it for myself, and was thrilled to discover someone had in fact done it, and blow me, but it tasted almost exactly like the fajitas of my past, and it was made from 100% storecupboard ingredients! I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit from the original to better suit my tastebuds, try it and I know you wont be disappointed.  The recipe below makes more than you need but it’s tricky to scale down and keeps for months in the fridge if you sterilise the jar first.

Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo
Mexican fajitas with pico de gallo
Serves 2

Traditionally in Mexico fajitas would be made with beef, but with the price of steak as it is I actually usually make these with chicken breasts (and could happily substitute even more economical turkey breasts), and keep the steak for special occasions.

2 small skinless & boneless chicken breasts or sirloin steaks
1 bell pepper (any colour)
1 small red onion
3-4 tbsp fajita spice paste*

Pico de gallo:
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 large shallots, finely diced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely diced
Juice of ½ a lime
Handful of coriander leaves

Accompaniments:
Flour or corn tortillas
Sour cream
Guacamole
Grated cheese

Fajita spice paste:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion granules
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 x 390g carton chopped tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree


To make the spice paste: Using a spice grinder or pestle and mortar crush the coriander, cumin and mustard seeds along with the oregano to a fine powder. Put the oil into a medium saucepan and add all the spices, then place over a medium heat and cook for several minutes, stirring almost constantly until it smells aromatic and has turned a shade darker. Watch it like a hawk, as the spices can go from delicious to scorched very suddenly. As soon as the spice paste is as intense as it can be without getting burnt, tip in the tomatoes – watch out, it may spit a bit! Stir in the remaining paste ingredients, stir well then leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes until it has formed a thick smooth-ish sauce, use a splatter guard if you have one as it can splutter furiously. Decant into a sterilised 400ml jar and once cool store in the fridge until needed.

When you come to make your fajitas, get your accompaniments ready first, as once you start the fajitas are as quick to make as any other stir-fry. Assemble the pico de gallo by simply stirring everything together and seasoning to taste, and get your cheese grated and your tortillas warmed. When you are ready to start cooking, slice the chicken or steak and the pepper into slim strips, and finely slice the onion. In a large frying pan or wok gently heat the fajita spice paste with a teaspoon of vegetable oil, just until it starts to smell aromatic, then add the sliced meat and toss to coat. As soon as the meat starts to lose its raw appearance turn the heat up high and throw in the peppers and onion. Cook, stirring regularly, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables have softened just slightly (you want them to retain their crunch). Serve immediately with the tortillas, pico de gallo and any other accompaniments that take your fancy.

Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge

The joys of growing chillies AND May Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge!

Homegrown chilliesLast year was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of grow-your-own success for me: we had chillies in abundance but due to a failure in labelling the seedlings we ended up with 2 varieties growing prolifically, whilst all the rarer and more temperamental (hubby wanted me to say ‘horticulturally challenging’!!) lineages were unwittingly abandoned as being too small to be worth planting out. I shouldn’t complain though, our freezer is still chock-full of the remains from the 2011 crop, and thanks to the mild autumn even in January we were still getting harvests like this:

Homegrown chilliesThis year I’m growing 7 varieties: Poblano, orange Habanero, Hungarian hot wax, paper lantern, cherry bomb and the seemingly impossible hot chocolate Habanero.* They’re currently incubating next to a sun-soaked window by day and in a hot airing cupboard at night – a method I hit on when I realised that really, I should have started them off in erm….March, and I knew they were going to need a serious kick-start. Mind you, last year I was a chilli newbie and didn’t start my seedlings off until June and I still got a great crop, so it’s honestly not too late to start yours if you haven’t already, just pick low-maintenence types like cherry bomb and aji limone!

Sweet Heat Chilli ChallengeThis month I am excited to play host to Lyndsey’s Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge which, in case you are not aware, is a monthly bloggers challenge that anyone can participate in where the star of the show is of course, the chilli. As 5th May is Cinco de Mayo, this month’s theme is Mexican so start rustling up your tamales, ceviches, tacos, salsas and xocatl!

The Rules:
  • You must mention Sweet Heat in your post with a link back to this post and to the parent site Vanilla Clouds & Lemondrops. Please feel free to include the Sweet Heat logo, however it’s not mandatory.
  • Send your post url and a photo (or preferably a link to the image) of your creation to me by 25th May, and please CC in Lyndsey at vanillacloudsandlemondrops @hotmail.co.uk
  • You can create your own recipe or make your favourite recipe but please credit the original source if using someone else’s.
  • The round up will be done at the end of every month. The new challenge will be announced on the 1st of every month.
  • Most crucially: you must include chillies/chili/chile peppers of some type in your dish!

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*I’m not affiliated with the South Devon Chilli Farm by the way, they’re just where I get all my chilli seeds from and I can honestly say they rock!

DIY butter – (and scones) – homemade kitchen alchemy

Homemade butterWhat’s that you say? You’ve never made your own butter? Oh daaaarlink, you simply must – it’s so easy!  I was amazed recently by how many people reacted with surprise when I said you could make your own butter in just 5 minutes, using nothing more than an electric mixer and some double cream. In fact, you don’t even need the electric mixer – if you cast your mind way back you might even recall making it in a jam jar at primary school. But unless you still have the boundless energy of a 7-year-old, or the arm muscles and equipment of a 19th century dairy maid, I strongly recommend using the electric mixer.

Homemade butter won’t necessarily taste substantially different or better than anything you can buy (although if you do it with delicious farm-fresh organic cream it will certainly knock the socks off anything Lurpak can produce), but it is just such fun – watching the transformation of a common kitchen substance (cream) changing state from liquid to solid, plus of course you get a delicious bi-product (buttermilk) which just cries out to be baked with, ideally into something you can slather your lovely new butter on.

Whilst we’re on the butter and milkmaid topic, if you fancy a cheap giggle Google ‘butter churner’ then look at the 3rd search result* (adults only!)
Read on for the recipe and more lovely illustrations!

My ultimate hot ‘Buffalo’ wings and blue cheese dip

Ultimate hot Buffalo wings and blue cheese dipLook good don’t they?  Juicy, saucy, yet crispy….I love hot wings but so often find that you can either have them crispy, or saucy, not both; and unless you’re deep-frying them saucy usually means the skin is all soft and flabby which frankly, doesn’t appeal.  This recipe uses that top American trick with poultry – brining – to impart flavour into the meat and also, crucially, to keep the meat juicy when baked at the high temperatures needed to create a lovely crisp, dry skin which is normally impossible without deep-frying them.  To further encourage a crisp exterior I toss the wings in gram flour, which crisps beautifully when the wings are introduced to the hot fat in the baking dish, and also tastes much nicer than regular wheat flour.

‘Buffalo’ hot wings with creamy blue cheese dip
Serves 2 greedily

900g-1kg chicken wings
1/2 x 148ml bottle Frank’s red hot sauce
25g gram flour
1 tsp cayenne
15g butter

For the brine:
1 litre water
3 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp chilli flakes

For the creamy blue cheese dip:
100g soft blue cheese (e.g. creamy gorgonzola)
100g sour cream
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 rounded tbsp mayonnaise
pinch salt

First make the brine by dissolving the salt in the water (this is easiest if you dissolve the salt first in a splash of boiling water, then top up with cold water), then stir in the chilli flakes.  Immerse your chicken wings in the brine, ensuring they are completely covered – weigh them down with a small plate if necessary – and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your blue cheese dip: simply place all the ingredients in a mini food  processor or in a tall jug with a stick blender, and process until smooth.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and place a large roasting dish in the oven to heat at the same time – the dish must be large enough to take the wings in a single layer.

When the oven is hot and the wings are brined,  add a large spoonful of fat – schmaltz, lard or ghee are best, to maximise flavour, but vegetable oil will do – to the hot roasting dish, and return to the oven to get piping hot. Drain, rinse & pat dry your brined wings. In a large bowl toss them in 2 tbsp of the hot sauce then in the flour and cayenne. Carefully place the wings in the hot fat, skin-side down and bake for 50mins-1hour until tender and crisp, turning once (carefully – the skin is fragile!).

In a small saucepan or in a microwave very briefly heat the butter with the remaining  hot sauce until the butter is just melted, then pour over the crispy baked wings and toss well to coat.  Serve with the blue cheese dip and lots of napkins. Go Nicks!

This is my entry for round 5 of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge – Game food.

Sweet heat chilli challenge

How to cook like Heston? – Ultimate cheese sauce for lasagne

Ahh, Heston Blumenthal, a name that divides opinion more sharply than probably almost any other in the food world. Love him or loathe him (I blame the snail porridge for 99% of the haters) you can’t escape him these days, between Waitrose adverts, the ongoing debate about the merits of Dinner, scandals in the press and his various TV projects. I’d planned to try some of the recipes from Heston’s latest series anyway, and with a chance to win a tour of his lab on offer at lovefood what did I have to lose? I threw caution to the wind and rolled up my sleeves to melt cheese according to his ‘groundbreaking’ method.

How to cook like Heston? - Ultimate cheese sauce for lasagneHeston does a couple of variations on his cheese sauce (one involves infusing parmesan rinds into the wine, which I wished I’d remembered as I have a freezer full of the things) , all of which make quite a small amount, so I used a double quantity of the recipe as done for cauliflower cheese. As with other recipes of Mr Blumenthal’s I’ve tried (spag bol, chilli con carne, chicken tikka masala, all from the In Search of Perfection series), I’ve found that the predominant problem for home cooks is not actually the techniques, or even the availability of the ingredients, but the cost, and once again I was blown away with how much money he assumes the average Joe (even the average foodie Joe) is willing to spend on dinner at home. Reducing nearly a whole bottle of good quality wine (there’s no point using a cheap bottle – it’ll taste like rancid vinegar by the time it’s reduced sufficiently) to make half a pint of cheese sauce feels like a painful extravagance to me, particularly given the current economic climate (which I must assume is not affecting Bray).

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Heston Blumenthal’s ultimate cheese sauce (adapted from the original)
This double quantity made enough sauce for a lasagne to feed 6.

1 litre quality chicken stock
600ml white wine
240g grated cheese (two-thirds hard cheese, one-third soft goat’s)
40g cornflour
40g sour cream (Heston uses soft cheese but I didn’t have any)
Knob of butter

First reduce your chicken stock to 400ml in a small pan (if you do it in a large pan you’ll be cleaning burnt stock off the sides for weeks). In a separate, even smaller pan, reduce the white wine to 60ml. This takes quite a while so get it started nice and early, but make sure it is still warm when you continue to the next step.

Add the reduced wine to the reduced stock. Mix the grated cheeses and cornflour then stir into the liquid on a low heat until melted (following Heston’s advice as given on the show I added the hard cheese first, then when that was melted I added the goat’s cheese, which just as he said doesn’t melt totally). Finally stir in the knob of butter and the sour cream/soft cheese.

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Is it worth it? Read on to find out if you should be cooking cheese like Heston….

Presto Pasta Nights #248 – The roundup

No sooner had the announcement been made that I was hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights then I had received the first entry, this stunning offering from La Caffettiera Rosa, a delicious seafood pasta with cannellini beans and mussels:

lacaffettierarosaNext up was Clarion of Preventing Culinary Amnesia with her classic Arrabbiata, a word which incidentally is Italian for ‘angry’, perfect for a dish of such spicyness:

ArrabbiataRuth, Queen Bee of Presto Pasta Nights and blogger over at Once Upon A Feast, contributed this delicious woodland-inspired ‘taste of the forest’ pasta with mushrooms, pancetta & arugula (that’s ‘rocket’ to you and me!) 🙂

Taste of the Forest Pasta Thus far all the pasta dishes have been pretty darn speedy supper recipes, but then in swept Nupur of UK Rasoi with a lovely step-by-step guide to making one of my favourite weekend meal projects: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni:

Spinach and Ricotta CannelloniThe meatiest offering of the week came from Jules of Pictures of a princess, a spicy yet creamy Chicken Paprikash served on spätzle – the Germanic equivalent of Italy’s noodle, the name of which means ‘little sparrows’ for goodness-only-knows reason why!

Chicken paprikashShellfish got a rather glamorous makeover with this impressive entry from Tandy of Lavender & Lime – it’s time to apply for your fishing permit and do battle with the invading red signals so you can make this:  Crayfish ravioli with a bisque sauce

CRAYFISH RAVIOLI WITH A BISQUE SAUCEI’m not normally a big fan of vegan food (I do so love my cheese!) but Deb of Kahakai Kitchen might just have converted me with this scrumptious Super quick tomato basil ‘cream’ bucatini in which blitzed cashews take the place of dairy to make the sauce rich and creamy:

Super Quick Vegan Tomato Basil "Cream" BucatiniShelby, aka ‘HoneyB’ over at The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch broke with the so-far distinctly European vibe to produce this fabulous east-meets-west fusion of Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce on linguine:

Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce More globe trotting on the pasta front was going on over at Cook.Craft.Enjoy where the order of the day was a Paprika chicken stew with Pierogies – the delicious Polish dumplings that are halfway between ravioli and potato gnocchi:

Chicken Stew with PierogiesJoanne of Eats Well With Others joined in with an inspired healthy-meets-comfort food offering of Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese:

Broccoli-Basil Mac and CheeseWith a twist on a classic in a similar vein to Joanne, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast deserves super-praise for contributing not just one, but TWO entries for this week’s round up – her second one being her Insanely Delicious Mac ‘n Cheese with Kale:

Insanely Delicious Mac 'n Cheese with Kale And lastly, but hopefully not least, is my own contribution – an Asian cousin of ravioli – Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce:

← Chili-con-Carne for even the most hardened chilli-phobe (and chilli-lover!) Presto Pasta Nights needs YOU! → Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauceThat’s it!  I’ve loved hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights and hope you’ve enjoyed my roundup.  Next week the roundup returns to Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast.

Presto pasta nights