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Cheese-chilli bread to die for

3 Oct

This was an experiment due to an excess of cheese in the fridge, mostly.

Cheese, chillli, garlic, bread, crusty,

A golden slab of cheese and chilli bread – a successful experiment

I didn’t measure anything, so if you need precise quantities, I’m sorry… Bad blogger. But the ‘recipe’ is marvellously flexible and forgiving, so even if you’re a precision chef, give this a whirl.

I started with cheese – about 300g of mixed cheese lurking in my fridge – a feta-like salty number, and rich creamy cheddary type (but choose your cheese – a salty one means you don’t have to add extra salt) chopped into smallish but uneven chunks (it will melt in the oven).

About 300g of general-purpose white flour – I added another couple of shakes once the first lot was mixed, because the dry mix seemed to call for more flour.

Two green chillis – one was bland, one turned out to be quite hot – chopped small. A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and some thyme; three cloves of garlic, crushed; two heaped tablespoons of sour cream (greek yoghurt would be fine), a bit of salt, a good grinding of black pepper. Add it all to the cheese and flour mixture and stir; whisk two eggs and add them to the mix, then pour in a slosh of milk and stir thoroughly, adding milk gradually till it’s a nice sticky heap – not runny, but not stiff. Malleable but not pourable. At the last minute add a 10g packet (two level teaspoons) of baking powder and mix in thoroughly.

Line a tin of your choice with grease-proof (baking) paper, and pour in the mixture. Stuff into the oven on a medium heat and check after 50 mins – if it’s tanned and firm to the touch, it’s ready.

Eat while warm, or if you’re patient, let it cool. Great with soup, salad, or a treat on its own.

Try not to sneak down to the kitchen at midnight to scoff the lot.

vv

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Tocana – a Transylvanian autumn treat

20 Oct
Gogosar is the Romanian word for rounded peppers, compared to the long, pointed ones known as ardei

Gogosar, the sweet capsicum you find in their natural shape and colours in Transylvanian markets

This is a fabulous foodie treat that hasn’t yet escaped its home cuisine in Transylvania (Romania). Tocana is a relish of the last summer vegetables, for sale in the market for buttons in October as the autumn takes hold and winter beckons. [Zacusca is a close relative, made by roasting the vegetables rather than cooking in oil like a confit.]

Housewives buy 20 kilo sacks of peppers and aubergines to cook and put in jars for a reminder of summer in the depths of a harsh winter, with smaller sacks of onions and carrots grown in the smallholdings of rural Transylvania.

Sweet with a hint of smoky bitterness, full of flavour and colour, the autumn peppers (ardei and gogosar) from the south of Romania and imported from Turkey are a far cry from the pretty but tasteless peppers you find in British supermarkets, grown in Dutch polytunnels without benefit of mineral-rich soils and southern summers. These aren’t perfectly shaped, uniformly coloured things, but organic vine fruit folded and twisted and coloured by the sun, grown without the synthetic encouragement of agrotechnology; the difference in taste is so marked that they might be different species altogether.

Tocana, the Transylvanian foodie secret that is one of the treats of the year

Tocana, organic, simple, naturally colourful and bursting with late summer flavour

So – tocana. A simple recipe, but cleaning and chopping takes time, so it’s best done as a family, or with a group of friends; if you’re on your own put some music on and surrender yourself to an annual ritual of aroma and maturing textures. Then you have the delicious reward of warm tocana for supper, and the looking forward to helping yourself to a jar of tocana from time to time through the long, frozen winter.

This is a dish of such rich summery colour and flavour that I’m amazed it hasn’t been swiped by savvy chefs in Britain, or exported by canny Transylvanians. An opportunity for you to make a coup, and worth every minute of preparation.

Ingredients

5kg red peppers

1kg carrots

1kg onions

800g tin of tomato paste

1 litre oil (sunflower or another mild-flavoured oil)

seasoning to taste

NB You’ll need a big pan for this amount, and several large jamjars. If you live in a northern climate, peppers might be prohibitively expensive in these quantities, but the 5:1:1:1 ratio of ingredients is easy to scale down for an occasional dish.

How to do it

Clean and deseed the peppers, skin the onions and peel the carrots. Chop the veg to a fine dice in a food processor (stop short of a paste) and put in a large pan (a jam pan is ideal) with the tomato paste, oil, salt, black pepper and/or cayenne, and if you like, a little sweet paprika. (Better to add a little seasoning and add a little more if needed, rather than overdoing it all at once.)

Cook over a high heat until the mixture is bubbling. The veg release plenty of water, so once boiling, turn the heat down and leave to cook (stirring often to stop burning) for a good couple of hours, until the water has evaporated, and the mixture is a thick, rich, glossy red conserve. Adjust the seasoning if you need to, then let it cool to blood temperature.

While still warm, put into sterilised jars and seal thoroughly. It should last for weeks, if not several months, in a dark place. Eat with a spoon straight from the jar, or if you want to be a bit more civilised, serve with toast or oatcakes. You can use it as a sauce for pasta, or as a relish with cold meat or cheese.

Smoked salmon a la Preston

22 Aug

Inspired by Heathcotes Brasserie's more elegant photograph

Smoked salmon might not sound exactly cheap, but as a starter, it goes quite a long way with a big flavour and some pretty trimmings from the garden. It might fall into the not-exactly-cheap bracket of cheapeasydelicious, but it’s certainly easy and definitely delicious.

This was inspired by a photo on the Heathcotes Brasserie Facebook page, of smoked salmon with radish and sour cream. No recipe, so I’ve guessed. And – unlike the Heathcotes chefs – as a food stylist I have a long way to go…

cheap easy deliciousWhat

smoked salmon

3 radishes

sour cream

chives

lollo rosso leaves

quarter of a lemon

black pepper

How

Squeeze the lemon into the sour cream and mix well.

Slice the radishes and chop the chives.

Arrange on a plate prettily, and serve

Coronation slaw

10 Jul

I love coleslaw. I love coronation chicken. This way I get both in one mouthful. 

What you need:

– cold chicken

– cabbage (white or green, possibly red – your fave cabbage to eat raw – or a mix – very pretty)

– carrots

– greek yoghurt (full-fat)

Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul

Curry in the spice-bazaar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– curry powder

– olive oil

Optional: sultanas, flaked almonds, toasted sesame seeds

What to do:

– Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a small pan, and add two tablespoons of curry powder. Over low heat, warm through for five minutes to release the flavours of the curry powder. Let it cool.

– chop the chicken into bite-sized bits and put in a large mixing bowl

– slice the cabbage finely or grate in a food processor; add to chicken in bowl

– grate the carrots

NB ratio of cabbage : carrot : chicken = 3:2:1, but change if you prefer.

– Spoon yoghurt into a separate mixing bowl and add the curry-flavoured oil to yoghurt and mix well.

– Pour spicy yoghurt over cabbage mix, add optional sultanas, almonds, sesame, and mix well.

– Serve with tomato and onion salad and crusty bread.

Delicious for summer lunch or as a dinner party starter.