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Archive for the ‘autumn’ Category

chicken-roast-dijon-comb

There’s something special, to me, about a whole roast chicken.  Well, any bird in the oven, really.  I roasted my first turkey last year for Thanksgiving, in a snug little cottage on a windswept and storm battered peninsula in Newfoundland and it was just wonderful.  I mean, the dinner was lovely and all, but the moment, the coup de grace, was bringing that bird, golden brown and steaming hot, to the table.  It’s hard not to smile in anticipation when the bird is brought to the table.  Whole roast birds say Holiday and Celebration to me in a way a frosted martini never could.  A golden bird on the table tells tales of friends and family gathered together to share a meal and be satisfied.  So, every now and then the ever epicurean Mr P and I throw a bird in the oven, regardless of occasion or lack thereof, and have ourselves a little feast for two.  A chicken, I’ve found, is just about the right size for the two of us to have an impressive dinner and leave enough left over meat for at least two pasta sauces and a chicken mayo sandwich or two.

Also, quite frankly, I love a roast because it’s just so easy and so little fuss.  Great for entertaining, one can prep the bird and veg in advance pop it in the oven at the right time and then not only does your house smell simply divine by the time the guests arrive but you don’t have to spend the evening stirring pots and checking the sauce on the stove while missing out on the juicy chit chat over cocktails with the company.

When buying a bird I always buy organic, free range if possible.  I do the same with my eggs.  I don’t want to go into the politics of industrially reared animals and the inhumane conditions they’re kept in.  Other than it being the socially responsible thing to do, organic free range chickens just taste better.  An animal carries it’s lifestyle in it’s flavour at the end of the day, not to mention it’s nutrition.

I only recently started doing a roast with a thermometer (instead of the juice-runs-clear method) and, for me, there’s no other way to go.  It’s not let me down yet!

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Roast Chicken with Garlic and Dijon
and a Sun Dried Tomato Stuffing

1 large, organic chicken
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each)

10 cloves garlic, just peeled

for the stuffing:
¼ cup bread crumbs
6 – 8 sun dried tomatoes, drained (if in oil) and chopped
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
¼ cup white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
black pepper

– take the bird out of the fridge an hour before cooking it, to let it warm up to room temperature.

– preheat your oven to 400˚ F, with the rack in the middle.

– rinse the bird, inside and out, and pat dry.

– mix all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl.

– whisk together the Dijon, oil and salt and pepper.  They won’t want to mix very well, that’s okay.

– with your fingers, gently separate the skin on the breast from the meat.  I find it quite easy to start at the neck end and carefully work a couple fingers between the skin and meat.

– stuff 3 of the garlic cloves down each breast, between the skin and the meat.

– at the thickest part of the tight, make a deep slice with a sharp knife, cross ways to the length.  Push 2 garlic cloves into each gash.

– now stuff the cavity of the chicken with the sun dried tomato mix.

Tie the chicken up with kitchen string. instructions here if you need them.

– rub the oil/Dijon mix evenly over the skin of the chicken.

– place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan.  I put my potatoes, if we’re having, in with the chicken, but  I usually roast other veg (like carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and parsnips) in a separate dish.

– roast the chicken this way for 10 or 15 minutes, then take it out the oven, turn it breast side up and roast again for about 30 minutes, checking often, until the juices run clear or a thermometer inserted between the body and thigh is at 165˚ F.

– if you notice that the skin is getting too brown before the bird is cooked, put a loose piece of tin foil over the top of the bird to protect it.

– when the bird is done, remove from oven, place a piece of foil and a tea towl on top of it and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.


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tomato-tart-1

Every couple has it’s story; the telling of which makes them look somewhat coyly at each other and smile knowingly and that raise, once again, all those fluttery, buttery feelings of l’amour. The dashing Mr P and I met in a gorgeous little restaurant serving fabulous little meals, and if that wasn’t an omen for a happy future, I couldn’t tell you what would be.  The speciality of that restaurant, the dish we would in the future, on numerous special occasions re-order and be delighted with every time, was, as so many brilliant signature dishes are, a simple, homely affair prepared to simple perfection.  A tomato tart, to tomatoey, so tarty that it seemed, surely, a cinch to whip up at home.  Time and again we’d order that tart, savouring each bite, meditating over each flavour and then I’d go home and try to recreate this seemingly simple delight.  To no avail.  No amount of research, no pugnacious attempt at different ingredients, different temperatures and different seasonings brought that tart out of my oven.  Well, to each chef his secret, and the chef of that lover’s treat will sink his ship with the recipe on board.

However.  That’s not to say I won’t stop trying, and while I’ll have to satisfy myself with the thought that the original tomato tart sits safely in it’s intended home, I’ll keep on whipping up versions of my own.  None of which have come as close, if not in adherence to what the original seemed to be, at least in overall effect to that perfect tomato tart as this one has.  Perhaps it’s the concentrated flavours of the cherry tomatoes, or perhaps it’s the mixture between the sheep’s milk and parmigiana cheeses, which in truth I used simply because I wanted to finish up the last bit of an excellent chunk of sheep’s milk cheese I had lying around in the fridge.  Or perhaps it had to do with the teff flour in the pastry, of which the original surely had none.  Truth is I just don’t know.  I do know, however, that this tomato tart was a dream, a reminiscence, a revival of old memories and caused one or two coy glances on the parts of Mr P and myself.

*note: I made the pastry using teff pastry, which worked brilliantly, but if you want a blander crust use plain flour one to one for the teff.

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Super Delicious Tomato Tarts

For the pastry:
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup plain flour

¼ cup teff flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ cup / 1 stick cold butter, unsalted, cubed
¼- ⅓ cup iced water

for the tart:
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 punnet (about 300g) baby cherry tomatoes, halved on the equator
50 grams hard sheep’s milk cheese, like a percorino, finely grated
50 grams parmigiano regano, finely grated
1 cup basil leaves, washed
black pepper

make the pastry:
– combine all the dry ingredients, mixing well.

– rub the cold butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture resembling oats porridge.

– add just enough water so that a dough just starts to form.  As soon as it all starts coming together, stop mixing.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it a bit, cover it in cling film and refrigerate for about 40 mins.

– in a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, garlic, shallot, vinegar and oil.  Let mixture rest at room temperature while the pastry chills

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– divide the dough disc into two.  Roll each piece to form a long rectangular shape, about 20cm by 30 cm

– spread half the tomato paste mixture on each rectangle, to withing 1½ inches, 4cm, of the edge

– combine the two cheeses and sprinkle half the mixture over each base on top of the tomato mix.

– now top each base with the basil leaves and then finish off with the tomato halves, skin side down, still keeping that 1½ half edge of raw pastry.  Give each tart a generous grinding of black pepper.

– fold the bare edges of pastry up and over the side of each tart, folding and crimping as you go to secure.  Don’t worry if it looks a little messy, that’s half the charm.

– bake for 25 minutes and then leave to rest outside the oven for about 5 minutes before eating.


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cottage-pie

Ye olde cottage pie is a favourite in our household.  It’s one of the ever culinary Mr P’s signature dishes and as such I usually don’t go near the making of them myself.  I wouldn’t dare.  He has been know to whip up a cottage pie, impromptu, on a chilly autumn evening that makes the child in me weep with joy.  But one evening, with a bumper load of Summer produce in the fridge, a package of minced beef ready to use and Mr P working rather later than usual, I decided to tread on his territory a little and rustly up dinner loving.  He didn’t really seem to mind too much, so I know it’s not half bad.

This is a great dish to make as the weather turns a little nippy and you want to use up some Summer produce still kicking around.

Incidentally, does anyone know the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherds pie?  I’ll give you a hint, the reason is in the name!

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Summery Cottage Pie

2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 stick celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb/ 450g minced beef
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 ½tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Patti pan or zucchini, coarsely chopped
6 or 7 chard leaves, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp Olive oil
splash of milk
salt and pepper

– put a pot of water on to boil.  When it’s boiling add the potatoes and lower the heat.  Cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until done (when a fork slides easily into the potato chunks). Drain and reserve.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F

– over a medium heat, saute the celery, carrot, onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes

– add the beef and cook until browned, separating the little clumps with a wooden spoon as you go

– add the tomato paste and balsamic and caramalise for a couple minutes

– add the Patti pan, chard, wine and stock and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the mix is thick and yummy

– mash the potatoes with the oil, salt and pepper to taste and enough milk to give a silky but firm texture

– half fill a casserole with the meat mixture, top with the potato mash and bake for 25 – 30 mins, until the top is browned and crisp.

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Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese

I might have mentioned, in the last few posts, all the culinary disasters that have emanated from my kitchen over the last couple of weeks, while I’ve familiarised myself with new cooking appliances. Well, okay, a bad workman always blames his tools, right? So I suppose I have to take just a wee bit of the blame moi-meme, though I’ll still try to look like the poor blameless victim and blame my flops on mental distraction due to life upheaval and an over abundance of missing kitchen gadgets and unpacked boxes. Anyway, some spiteful, slightly belligerent part of me has insisted on getting it right in one respect: those darn Pumpkin Fritters I made my gracious friends pretend to like at a Sunday tea. Poor dears, they put on brave faces one and all, while covering up the cinders with extra honey spiced cream cheese. “Wow, this cream cheese is great, what ever is in it?”, was a common cry from the infantry on the couch.

One of my Mother’s great food hugs, in my opinion, is the Pumpkin Fritter. Up there with crumpets, these little scrunchions of delight would appear sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, still hot from the pan and drenched in fresh butter and apricot jam. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it that far as my brother and I would hang around the stove grabbing one as it came off the egg flip. I can’t remember, thinking back now, whether they were an Autumn treat or just a general now-and-again treat, seeing as how Every Season is Pumpkin Season where I come from… Oh, I did try to recreate those marvelous morsels for that awful tea…

Not to be defeated, this time I put my war paint on and, wielding my largest (and favouritestest) Henkles 4-star (le sigh) bravely attacked a real, live butternut for the purposes. Forget that canned stuff, which was half the problem with the first lot and probably had my great-grandmother turning in the grave (it just seemed so much easier than the thought of peeling and cooking a pumpkin when the guests were expected any moment now.) Pumpkin Fritters seem to be one of those uniquely South African things. Just ask any obliging South African about Pumpkin Fritters and they usually get that far away look in the eyes. Here in North America (as far as I can tell) a fritter is a doughnut type thing, deep fried and considered bad for you in that McDonalds kind of a way. Not so the humble Pumpkin Fritter. It usually uses real pumpkin, eggs, flour and a bit of sugar. In the traditional waste-not-want-not kind of a way a lot of South African food evolved, pumpkin fritters were usually made from last night’s dinner left over pumpkin. Add some spices and you’re A-for-away. Also, Butternut is slightly sweeter and more, well, buttery than regular boere pampoen (farmer’s pumpkin), which really made for a softer, less floury fritter at the end of the day.

I teamed the end results with another Autumn favourite of mine: quince, poached with ginger and star anise. The ever experimental Mr P does have his faults, one of which is his dislike for all things ginger and I have to say, I had great satisfaction watching him wolf down his dessert knowing that he had no idea he was so thoroughly enjoying a gingered treat. I knew it! He just thinks he doesn’t like ginger! I guess from now on I’ll be making “cinnamon-spice-breadmen” and “molasses-spice-houses” around Christmas time… ha!

Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese 2

Butternut Fritters with Ginger-poached Quince and Honey Spice Cream Cheese

For the poached quince:
1 large quince, cored and cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 star anise (I used 3 for extra flavour)
3 cardamom pods
hot water, enough to almost but not quite cover quince (about 1½ cups)

For the fritters:
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut (I used ¼ of a large butternut)

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugarQuince and Ginger
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
⅓ cup flour
1 – 2 Tbsp milk

For the honey spiced cream cheese
1 tub plain cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp milk

1. Poach the quince
– put all spices and sugar in a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Add quince and more water if necessary. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours until quince is tender. Remove from heat, cool, remove hard spices and reserve.

2. Make the Honey spiced cream cheese
-mix all ingredients together

3. Make the Fritters
– beat the butternut with the egg and sugar

– Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin. Mix then add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

– Heat a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Cook about 3 Tbs worth of batter per fritter, as you would a pancake: 1 minute or so per side.

4. Serve!
– Top 3 or so fritters with quince, cream cheese and some reserved quince juice.

Quince

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Scrambled eggs with proscuitto and Etorki

So, we moved. And as anyone who’s moved will know, it’s always a bit of both worlds: it’s exciting, but it’s not usually a lot of fun until a couple of weeks after the fact. This move was, however, something special. And I mean not so much in the way of, “oh, a puppy for my birthday? That’s so special!” but leaning more to the, “she took your whole closet and put it through a garbage disposal? Wow, that’s special.” We arrived in good time, with the Big Burly Boys who were carrying all our Stuff, to a house full, from attic to basement, with contractors and all their various paraphernalia. Not only did we have to compromise on where we were allowed to put our boxes and furniture, but we had to put up with nearly a week of work still to be done before we could start unpacking. That being said, we just know we’re going to love the house, and all the headaches will be worth it in the end. I have a new oven and hob to get used to and test out and a bunch of recipe ideas wafting around in my head, where they’ve been collecting dust over the last few weeks. What I really need, though, on this chilly November day, is a hot, creamy plate of scrambled eggs, all the more delish with some prosciutto and Spanish Etorki cheese, fresh baguette, a cup of hot coffee and some fresh fruit juice. Funny how a good breakfast makes it seem all just so much better, non?

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Butternut and ham soup

If you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere right now, like I am, you may well be in need of a little warming up.  Not too many people I know dislike Autumn, or fall, as it’s appropriately called here (anyone wanting to know Why it’s called Fall in North America, and not Autumn, need only take a long walk in a park or the countryside to find out); the colours, the hearty food, the smell of damp leaves and wood fire.  It’s all good, as they say.  Well, I’m heading to Vancouver for a few days and it’s forecast to be rain rain rain the whole way.  A little fortification is called for, so a butternut and ham soup for lunch is the best answer I can think of.   Soups are delightfully simple to make (on the most part), invigorating in the chill, and healthy too, when prepared with good ingredients.  This soup is lightly spiced with paprika and cumin, and the butternut and diced ham were roasted in a hot oven for 45 mins before being boiled into the soup.  Does this affect the flavour? You got me there, but I’ll tell you this: my house smelled divine for hours after from the doings of the oven.  Curl up on the couch with woolen socks, a cosy blankie and tuck in.

butternut

Bon Voyage, a le prochaine semaine!

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Newfoundland 2007 4

I seem to have my jet-set engines on at the moment. I’m only just getting my breath back from our trip to Newfoundland and already I’m busy packing for another bout of airports and baggage check. Naturally I’m thrilled to be partaking of one of my great loves in life: travel; but it also means that I’ve not had too much time to do any cooking. And all those squash and pumpkins just lying there, calling me! I love this time of year and I’ve been waiting patiently, almost on tender hooks, to sink my cooking teeth into some new dishes. Well, they’ll just have to wait, I’m afraid, until I’m back from my exploring. Oh, our lives are not boring, at least! Now the question is: will I have time to make real Christmas pudding this year, when the time to make it would be now? The proof of that pudding … well, you know. C’est la vie, non? Right now, though, I’m still dreaming of Newfoundland, with its raw, majestic landscapes and its wild, unforgiving storms and its seas, which throw themselves, now calmly, now violently at the shores like a heartbroken woman. The kind of seas you want to stand overlooking, on a cliff, and conduct into a crescendo. The kind of land filled with fervent passion and cold cruelty, wherever you look. And with blueberries and partridge berries covering the ground, just begging for a pie.

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