Twitter…is it fun anymore?

Earlier this week I was involved in a Twitter discussion. Nothing major, no more than 7 tweets or so, but it’s left me so wound up I could hardly speak. Did someone accuse me of something actionable? No. Did someone tell me I should be raped for sharing my thoughts? No. But they did leave me with the total belief that Twitter…really isn’t working anymore.
Continue reading…

Cheaty cheapy roasted tomato & pepper soup with basil oil

As much as I love tomato soup I’m often horrified by the cost of making it at home. It’s common for recipes to call for a minimum of 1.5kg tomatoes for a few portions, that’s pretty darn expensive to buy, and even when I have a glut in my garden I’ll be hard pressed to provide that more than once a season.

Tomato Pepper Soup

So to satisfy the penny pincher in me (and to acknowledge that for yet another year in a row there’ll be little to no sunshine and my tomato harvest is likely to be nil) I’ve created a tomato soup that delivers all the flavour for a fraction of the cost, the tomatoes being bulked out a little with peppers and carrots, and a shot of concentrated tomato puree gives an extra boost of tomatoeyness. The basil oil isn’t strictly necessary, but I do think a homemade soup deserves that little extra dressing up, and it means you can make this in the winter (or our ‘summer’ equivalent), with hothouse-grown tomatoes, and still feel like you’re in the Provençal sunshine.

Roasted tomato & pepper soup with basil oil
Serves 4

500g cherry tomatoes
2 red peppers, quartered and deseeded
Half a red chilli (in the piece, not chopped)
3 small carrots, peeled
a small knob of butter
1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, bruised and peeled
pinch of celery salt
3 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
500ml vegetable stock

For the basil oil
15g basil leaves
olive oil

Toss the tomatoes, peppers and chilli in a tiny drop of oil (just enough to stop them sticking), then roast at 200˚C/Gas 6 for 40-45 minutes. Remove the peppers to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool before skinning. If you can be bothered, pinch the skins from the tomatoes too, but don’t be too fastidious about it.

Finely grate the carrots (use the finest side on a box grater, or a microplane), then sweat in the butter with the onion, bruised garlic, celery salt and tomato puree until meltingly tender. Add the roasted tomatoes, skinned peppers and the chilli, plus the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for just a minute or two, then blitz and season to taste.

For the basil puree, whizz the basil leaves with a pinch of salt and just enough olive oil to form a smooth paste (using a stick blender or mini processor). Serve the soup drizzled with the oil.

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)2012 really was the year of the savoury waffle. Waffles came as sides to deep fried chicken (e.g. Rita’s, not to mention Glady’s Knight’s feature on Man V Food), smothered in shaved or pan-fried foie gras (fain daining restaurants across the land), and as a base for every slow-braised ‘deep South’ meat dish from pulled pork to chili. Twenty-twelve was also the year I finally got a kitchen where all my many gadgets can come out to play, having finally got enough storage space to have them within reach of a kitchen counter.

(BTW…Yes I know we’re halfway through 2013 already. It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, okay? Waffles still rock.)

One of my most-loved but underused items rescued from long-term storage is a German waffle maker, brought back from Frankfurt for me by my sister’s friend’s parents when I was about 12 years old. I’d only ever made sweet waffles in it, but encouraged by the mood du jour I decided it was time for a savoury test, one to accompany a batch of cola-braised beef, but you could of course use your favourite recipe for chili con carne, or try mine.

Gram (chickpea) flour waffles

150g Gram (chickpea) flour
100g plain flour
generous pinch English mustard powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
3 medium eggs, beaten
425ml whole milk
115g unsalted butter, melted & allowed to cool slightly

Sieve the gram flour, plain flour, mustard powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, milk and cooled butter in a jug, then pour gradually into the flour, whisking all the time to gradually combine dry ingredients with liquid. Preheat your waffle iron to medium. Cook a ladleful at a time, until golden (how long will depend very much on your own waffle iron). Keep the waffles warm in a low oven, covered with foil, while you make the rest.

To serve:

  • 4 portions Cola-braised beef*, chili con carne or some saucy pulled pork
  • Apple coleslaw (just replace half the cabbage in your favourite recipe with grated green apple with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Grated cheese

Deliciouso, I hope you’ll agree!
See the full post for my cola beef recipe…

DIY Garam Masala (& a giveaway)

Garam Masala

I really don’t understand why people still buy ground spices, seriously, they almost all taste of nothing! You would too if you’d sat in a clear glass jar in a brightly lit supermarket for months on end, then kept in a hot humid kitchen for years after that first opening, just waiting for someone to feel that particular culinary vibe once more.

Making your own garam masala may at first thought seem a faff on top of an imposition if you’re already making a complex curry, but it really is worth it. You can keep the whole spices for infinitely longer than their ground equivalents, and it takes mere moments to whizz up in an electric grinder (which isn’t expensive & may well change your culinary life).

Garam Masala
Makes: enough for a few curries. Easily doubled if you get through lots of this regularly.

1 dried bay leaf
3cm piece of cinnamon stick
3 black cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
Pinch of mace

Blitz the spices in an electric spice grinder. Simple as that. No spice grinder? If you want to make this by hand in a sturdy pestle & mortar, no problemo, but do grind just one spice at a time or you’ll be setting yourself up for a Herculean task.

Sieve the ground spices & discard the residual bits (which will mostly be cardamom husk & some prickly bits of cinnamon). Store the spice in a drawer or cupboard away from direct sunlight – a beautiful presentation spice rack will kill it quicker than you can say ‘crappy wedding gift’.

Warning! Cinnamon can tax even powerful grinders if you’re not careful, so do break it up a bit before blitzing, and use a pulsing action with the blender rather than a long drawn-out processor-burning blitz.

Speaking of cinnamon…I have one lovely pack of the finest Mexican cinnamon from Capsicana Chilli Co to give away, simply leave me a comment telling me how you like to use cinnamon or garam masala….*

And for an additional bonus entry please do tweet about the competition or post, mentioning me @FoodieEmma and linking to this post.

Mexican cinnamon

*Ts&Cs: deadline for entries is 20th April 2013. Open to UK residents only. Capsicana Chilli Co are not affiliated with this competition, prize is being offered & provided directly by Souperior.

Black pepper prawns (Firecracker prawns)

You can always tell if you’re truly comfortable with someone when you’re willing to get down and dirty with a plate of sticky finger food in their company – whether it’s wings, ribs or a mound of shellfish, nothing says “he/she’s a good’un” like a willingness to get stuck in, get sauce smeared everywhere and do lots of finger-licking! In this dish that’s all pretty much compulsory, no cutlery is needed or wanted here.

Black pepper prawns

Despite the quantity of hot ingredients – 3 types of pepper, lots of ginger, chilli – this isn’t an insanely hot dish (though it does have a kick!). The Szechuan pepper not only makes your lips tingle, but it had a slight numbing effect too, leaving you hungry for more. It may seem odd to use butter in a clearly Oriental dish, but it creates a gorgeously unctuous sauce and – fusion-sceptics note – really is the best.

Firecracker pepper prawns
Serves 2

300g raw shell-on jumbo king prawns, trimmed of legs & straggly bits
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
100g butter
15-20g fresh ginger, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced (as hot as you like)
3 fat garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 spring onions, chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice

In a large wok toast the peppercorns for a minute or two until very aromatic, then tip into a pestle & mortar and crush roughly. Don’t over pound them, you want bits of peppercorn, not dust.

Melt the butter in the wok then fry the ginger, chilli and garlic for a couple of minutes until tender but not browned. Throw in the crushed pepper, the prawns, oyster sauce, soy sauce and most of the spring onions. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the prawns are cooked through (they should be completely opaque, with no trace of grey on their shells), finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, and the reserved spring onions and serve immediately.

To eat, suck the sauce off the prawn shells one at a time, peel off the shell and dunk the prawn back in the sauce. Suck the heads if you’re feeling brave (it’s where a lot of the prawn’s best juice is!). Crusty bread for mopping up the spare sauce is hardly authentically Oriental but works wonderfully, alternatively give each person a little bowl of steamed basmati or jasmine rice.

Continue reading “Black pepper prawns (Firecracker prawns)”

Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce

Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce

Admittedly the storecupboard in question is one of a serious chilli fanatic, but the point here was to make a chilli sauce that was totally different from the ones using fresh chillies which abound in my kitchen during the long-distant summer months. All the chillies used are whole and dried, which means you can keep them in your cupboard for a long time and they’ll still be flavour-packed; and are available from loads of retailers online (see below). This sauce has an almost barbecue-y flavour, but without the cloying sweetness of so many purpose-made barbecue chilli sauces, and it goes as wonderfully on fried eggs or chips as it does on a lamb kofte.

Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce
Makes 2-4 smallish bottles 

8g facing heaven chillies
18g pasilla chillies
22g ancho chillies
36g peperoncino chillies
16g mesilla chillies
(or a similar proportion to make up 100g total weight)
625ml distilled malt (white) vinegar
50g caster sugar
30g salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Remove the stalks from all the chillies, place in a bowl and cover with a kettle of boiling water. Weigh the chillies down with a small saucer, if necessary, to keep them submerged and leave for around half an hour until they are all tender. Drain the chillies (reserving the soaking liquid) and place in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, then puree until completely smooth, adding a little of the soaking liquid until you have a consistency you’re happy with. Decant into sterilised bottles, it should keep for at least a year.

*UK Stockists I particularly like:
Capsicana Chilli Co
South Devon Chilli Farm
Chilli Pepper Pete

Love your leftovers (and Happy New Year)

I can’t be the only person who is still fighting their way through festive leftovers, right? Why my parents still buy in enough food for an army when they feed a maximum of 4 people on Christmas is a mystery to me, but I end up with the bi-product of this overindulgence, and as such am still eating ham, turkey and various winter veg until I feel like I will explode.

I may not have been posting much here of late but that’s not to say I haven’t been blogging. Here are two of my very favourite leftover recipes for the festive season, as written for and posted on the Sainsbury’s Magazine blog:

Asian shredded turkey salad
Brussels sprouts and cheddar soup

Not normally one for resolutions, this year I’m determined to make (and stick) to some, but I still haven’t settled on any and it’s the 3rd already! Eek! But one resolution I can heartily recommend to everyone is this:

Keep Calm and read Sainsbury's Magazine

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way whatsoever. Even if I didn’t work for the above mentioned company I’d be buying the magazine. So there 😉

Chicken Cordon Kiev

Chicken Cordon Kiev

Many years ago when I worked as a development chef for the supermarkets, every season some smart-alec sales guy would say “let’s redo the chicken Kiev. Let’s make the best, tastiest, most indulgent chicken Kiev anyone’s ever had – it’ll fly off the shelves!” and no matter how much we grumbled & begged, one of us chefs would be sent into the kitchen to come up with the ‘new Kiev’. Bechamel, bacon, butter, cream, the finest farmhouse Cheddar – we played with variations on them all, in the attempt to make this classic-turned-trash into something smart & fancy the average posher-than-Tesco-but-not-Selfridges-food-hall customer would be thrilled to pop into their overpriced basket. But every time, sure as eggs are eggs, we’d finally get a product the buyers were happy with & then they’d say “Now, about the nutritionals on this…” and that’s where the whole concept would crumble, as we’d always known it would.

Y’see – you can’t make a Chicken Kiev without butter. Or salt. In generous quantities. And a luxury one? Well then you’ll be wanting cream too, and good cheese (whose sodium quotient is almost as alarming as the fat content) and don’t even get me started on the nutritional values on bacon. And so we’d be sent back to make a Kiev that didn’t have a big fat red warning light on all its RDAs, and it’d be, well, okay, but really, it was nothing special anymore. And so the idea would get shelved for another 4 months until someone new joined the sales team….

Keep on reading, yumminess to follow…

Chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing

Chocolate cupcake with orange cheesecake frostingThese incredibly easy cupcakes use the magical reaction of vinegar and baking powder to create a light and fluffy texture but you’d honestly never know the vinegar was in there I promise. Because of this kitchen alchemy they are completely dairy free, until you smother them in this delicious icing that is, in which the orange and vanilla balance beautifully against the coffee in the cake, but if you wanted to keep them vegan a simple icing of orange juice and icing sugar would still be lovely.

Super-simple chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing
Makes 12 cupcakes or 20 fairy cakes

225g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g granulated sugar
½ tsp fine salt (if using flakes – Maldon for preference – powder them in a pestle & mortar first)
1½ tsp good-quality instant coffee (I like Kenco Millicano wholebean instant)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or Madagascan vanilla extract)
6 tbsp olive oil
For the icing:
50g white chocolate
100g full-fat cream cheese
50g soft unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
Zest of 1 small orange
250g icing sugar
Edible glitter, to decorate (optional*)

Ready on for the rest of the recipe…