Sunday, June 27, 2010

Today's recipe from National Radio Nine to Noon

Pumpkin, chickpea and fig tagine

Serves 4 - 6
2 small onions, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Moroccan seasoning
1 cinnamon stick
900g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
2 carrots, diced
2 courgettes, halved and thickly sliced (or use other green veg such as broccoli)
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed
8 dried figs, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups couscous
optional to serve: harissa (Morrocan chilli paste)


Step 1 Place onions, garlic, Moroccan seasoning and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan with a little olive oil. Cook until onions are soft.

Step 2 Add pumpkin, carrots, courgette, chickpeas, figs and stock to saucepan. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, take out cinnamon stick and stir in tomato paste and a little harissa, if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes more, uncovered. Turn off heat and add herbs.

Step 3 Meanwhile, place couscous into a large bowl with 2 cups boiling water or salt-reduced vege stock. Cover and stand for 10 minutes. Serve tagine with couscous and garnish with parsley and lemon zest, if desired.

 Variations and tips:

 ·         For a lovely caramelized, roasted flavour, roast the pumpkin in a hot oven while the other veges are cooking, and add at the end of cooking time.

·         Meat eaters may like to add chicken thighs to this dish in place of some of the pumpkin. Add at the beginning of cooking, after the onions, and brown before adding liquid.

·         This recipe is suitable for vegans. Use quinoa instead of couscous to get more complete protein.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Far Eastern Inspiration

I hardly ever cook from recipes. Which probably sounds weird coming from someone who spends a lot of her time writing them, but there it is.  I suspect I’m like a lot of cooks; I have an embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks, but I tend to open them for ideas and inspiration rather than to follow a particular recipe. But every now and then a book comes along that I’m compelled to cook from, and Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey is one of those. 

This book came along just at the right moment for me.  It was last September; I’d just finished working on my own book and, frankly, I was a bit sick of my own cooking. Here was a book filled with the zingy flavours I love, and a whole lot of different dishes from South East Asia that I hadn’t made before. It piqued my tastebuds and got my juices flowing again. There are post-it flags all through this book marking things I have cooked and want to cook.

As is usually the case, the best recipes in here are the simplest. There’s a Vietnamese dish of tamarind-marinated chicken in which the pieces of meat are wrapped in kaffir lime leaves and threaded on to skewers. It’s perfect, simple and absolutely delicious. I’ve made this several times now. Rick’s Pad Thai is a pretty good one, which I’ve been practising regularly. On the other hand, the Balinese dish of slow-cooked lightly-smoked duck stuffed with garlic, chilli, lemongrass and galangal I have only made once, but I will do it again when I’m inclined to spend an afternoon making dinner. It’s a labour of love, which sometimes is just what you feel like, isn’t it? The spice paste for the stuffing takes about 40 minutes on its own, especially when your stick blender gives up the ghost and you have to do it by hand. But – it is worth it – the duck tastes amazing: fragrant, tender and moist with incredibly complex smoky flavours. Yum.  

 I’ve also become a fan of Rick’s Laab neua (stir-fried minced beef with lemongrass, chilli and roasted rice rolled in lettuce leave) which at first I thought was a bit bland compared to how I’d usually attack a laab, but actually turned out to be a very interesting and satisfying thing to eat. The roasted rice, which to be honest I always thought was a bit of a palaver for nothing, turned out to be a really nice addition.

I don’t think Rick’s recipes are particularly easy recipes to follow; he is fond of chef-y measurements like ‘50g galangal’ and ‘75g garlic’, which is a real pain. I don’t think many home cooks would know how these translate off the top of their heads. I’m also not fond of reading ‘one quantity of balinese spice paste, see page 300’ and then finding I need another 12 ingredients to complete the dish.  And I can’t help myself tweaking the recipes to include vegetables; I know to be really authentic I would make separate vege side dishes, but there are not a lot of vege dishes in the book to be honest, and I just can’t not take the opportunity to add veges when it presents itself.

In that vein, one of my absolute new favourites is a stir-fried Thai yellow curry from the Thailand chapter, which is a really nice change from the usuals using coconut milk (much healthier, too). I adapted this recipe and demonstrated it to the Matakana Mens Grub Club recently and the blokes, I think it’s safe to say, loved it! So I thought you might love it too.

Beef and bean stir-fry curry (adapted from Rick Stein)

This is a good example of a Thai curry that doesn't involve coconut milk. It's full of complex flavours and is really quick to make. This paste is also really good with other meats or veges and tofu.

Serves 4

for the paste:
3 stalks lemongrass, sliced finely
3 dried birds' eye chillies
1 fresh chilli, roughly chopped
2cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried turmeric
½ onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons shrimp paste or fish sauce
6 cloves garlic, peeled

for the curry:
3 handfuls green beans or broccoli
1 teaspoon brown or palm sugar
3 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
100ml water
rice bran or vegetable oil
500g beef sirloin or fillet, sliced
2 cloves garlic
5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced black pepper

To make the paste, combine all ingredients in a blender or mini chopper and process into a rough paste, adding water or oil as needed. Set aside until ready to use.
Steam or microwave the beans until tender.

Combine the sugar, soy sauce, lime juice and water in a jug and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat oil over a medium heat. Add the beef and garlic and stir-fry for a few minutes, until just browned. Add the curry paste and stir to coat the meat with paste. Add the liquid and bring to a gentle simmer, simmer 2 minutes then add the beans and lime leaves and simmer a further 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Healthy mash recipes....

Perfect mashed potatoes are the holy grail for many cooks. But is it possible to achieve them without lashings of cream and butter? I say YES, absolutely!

Both of these have less than HALF the fat of standard mash made with butter and cream, and HALF the saturated fat.

Garlic and feta mash

Serves 4

4 agria or other floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup lite evaporated milk
Pinch salt and white pepper

Step 1 Just cover the potatoes with water in a pot. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then boil until tender; about 15 minutes. 5 minutes before potatoes are done, add the garlic to the pot.

Step 2 Drain well and return potatoes and garlic to the hot pot. Mash or put through a potato ricer. Add feta and evaporated milk. Whisk together with a fork. Add more milk if necessary until the mash is your preferred texture (I like this quite creamy). Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information
Per serve (4 serves)
Energy 710J
Protein 8g
Fat 5g
- saturated 4g
Carbohydrate 25g
- sugars 3g
Fibre 2g
Sodium 450mg
Calcium 140mg
Iron 1mg

Kumara, potato and blue cheese mash

Serves 4

2 agria or other floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large kumara, peeled and quartered
¼ cup trim milk
50g blue vein cheese
pinch salt and pepper

Step 1 Just cover the potatoes and kumara with water in a pot. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then boil until very tender; about 15 minutes.

Step 2 Drain well and return potatoes and kumara to the hot pot. Mash or put through a potato ricer. Add milk and cheese and mix well with a fork. Season. Add more milk until the mash is your preferred texture.

Nutrition Information
Per serve (4 serves)
Energy 680kJ
Protein 6g
Fat 4g
- saturated 3g
Carbohydrate 25g
- sugars 4g
Fibre 3g
Sodium 230mg
Calcium 100mg
Iron 0.5mg

Healthy mashed potatoes!

Here I am on Breakfast TV this morning - talking healthy mash. Mmmmm mash.... recipes to follow. :)