Monday, 30 July 2012

Prawn star

I will begin with the disclaimer that I'm almost certain this is utterly lacking in authenticity.  When I call this dish a Caribbean curry, it's not to indicate that this is how they make curries in the Caribbean; more that it's a curry dreamed up by me, full of ingredients redolent of the Caribbean.  So don't go sending me hate mail about me bastardising your Gran's finest Jamaican recipes.

This curry is sweet and flavourful but not too hot, making it perfect to serve up to kids.  Add heat with more jerk seasoning or some dried red chillis.  You could also make it a fish curry by adding cubes of firm fleshed fish ten minutes into the simmering time - monkfish would work nicely I think.  Don't be too alarmed by it's anaemic pallor when you tip the liquids in - it will darken as it cooks.

You can whip this up almost entirely from storecupboard and frozen ingredients, if you substitute frozen sliced peppers for fresh you've pretty much got a storecupboard special, though I can't promise the texture will be as nice.  Frozen soffrito mix is finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, I use it for speed and to boost the veg content of the dish.  I get mine in Sainsburys (they just call it finely chopped vegetables) but you could substitute some plain frozen chopped onion or sliced/chopped fresh onion if you prefer.  Feel free to chuck in any other veg of your choosing, or some tinned pineapple chunks if you have a husband that wouldn't pick them out with a face on him...

Caribbean prawn curry, 4 generous servings (or 2 adults, 2 children and worky leftovers).

400g raw prawns, defrosted if frozen
2 handfuls frozen soffrito mix or frozen chopped onion or 1 small onion, chopped or sliced
3-4 peppers, varying colours, cut into large chunks
1 tin coconut milk
200ml pineapple juice
1 tin cream style sweetcorn
2 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp jamaican jerk seasoning
1-2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and toss in the soffrito mix, sauteeing for a minute or two.  Add the chunked peppers, and let sizzle for another minute or so.  Stir in the spice powders, then pour in the pineapple juice, coconut milk and creamed sweetcorn.  Bring it to the boil then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, it will thicken slightly.

Add the prawns to the pan and stir them into the sauce.  Whilst they turn from translucent grey to coral pink, mix your cornflour with a little cold water - start out with 1 tsp and see how you get on before adding more.  Tip the cornflour slurry into the curry (ha!) and turn the heat up, bringing the sauce back to the boil to let the cornflour do it's job. If it's not thick enough for your liking, repeat.  Stir well and serve over rice.

Enjoy, whether served in a colourful Caribbean style bowl or not.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Gruffalo crumble

I'm not sure my 2 year old fully believed me when I told him his dinner was Gruffalo crumble, but I do fancy he polished it off faster than usual!  Something a bit different from a beef pie, and probably not your usual summer fayre, but then again, we've not been having your usual summer weather!

You could add any veg you have lying around looking sad and lonely, or use a mix of frozen vegetables instead.

Beef Crumble

splash of olive oil
500g diced stewing beef
1 onion, sliced
5-6 carrots, chopped
3 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
1 courgette, cut into chunks
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
200ml boiling water
3 tbsp gravy granules
half a pot of Quark (I use Sainsburys own brand)
50g butter or spread
150g plain flour
1tsp dried mixed herbs
50g dried grated hard cheese (eg Parmesan, though I use the Sainsburys Basics dried hard cheese)

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the beef.  Saute until browned then scoop out, pop in a bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, courgette and any other veg you want to use and saute for a few minutes until slightly softened.  Add the beef back to the pan, add the worcestershire sauce and cook for a minute or two.  Tip in the boiling water and simmer the ingredients for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the butter into cubes and put into a large bowl.  Add the flour and rub together until they resemble breadcrumbs.  If it seems a bit dry, add a tsp or two of olive oil.  Mix in the herbs and dried cheese.

Returning to your simmering pan, add the gravy granules and stir until a thick gravy forms around the beef and veg.  Add your Quark and stir well to combine.  If it seems too runny, add a few more granules, if too thick, add a splash of water and stir well.  Tip the mixture into a large ovenproof dish, top with the cheesy herby crumble mix, and bake at approx 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling.

I outlined my feelings on using low fat or fat free dairy products when cooking for small children in this blog post - as always, do what you think is best.  If you prefer not to use a low fat product like Quark you can substitute any full fat soft cheese product that will withstand cooking - creme fraiche, marscapone or even something like Philadelphia.  For very small children, the combination of gravy granules and Parmesanalike does pack a bit too much salt, so either reduce/remove the cheese or make the filling with a low salt stock cube (like Kallo) and thicken with cornflour or thickening granules.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Cauli cheese for a famine.

Well, I had a chicken in the fridge earmarked for today and I was going to cook a roast.  I do make a nice roast, as you will know if you're a regular, maybe I'd even go so far as to say A Great Roast.  Anyway, I like to buy my veg fresh on the day, so I trundled down to my local Co-Op this afternoon to find bare shelves in the veg aisle and an apologetic sign stating that due to the weather there was a shortage on veg, and that we were all going to have to start eating waterlilies and shooting small forest creatures like Katniss in The Hunger Games.  Or something.  Well, how dispiriting.

Not being a fan of waterlily, I scampered off to the freezer aisle before The Capitol turned off the electricity and bagged a bag of value cauliflower florets.  I found some fresh leeks and a courgette, briefly debated selling them on Ebay, but then decided to make this with them instead.

Luxury Cauliflower Cheese For Trying Times

1 large bag frozen cauliflower florets, or 1 large fresh cauli cut up
1 courgette, sliced
3 leeks, sliced
Splash of olive oil
80g butter/spread
80g plain flour
700ml milk
80g dried grated hard cheese, eg Parmesan
80g grated cheddar
coarse-ground black pepper

Cook your cauli until just soft, drain and set aside.  Saute the leeks and courgette in a little oil until soft, add a little water to the pan if it seems dry.  Mix with the drained cauli in an ovenproof dish.

Use your butter, flour and milk to make a thick bechemel sauce, season with a little black pepper and whisk in the dried cheese.  Pour over your veggies, top with the grated cheese, and cook in a hot (200 ish) oven for 20 minutes until bubbling.

I served this with roast chicken and roasted baby pearl potatoes (who evidently got out of the ground before the floods hit) but you could eat as a standalone meal - maybe with some sliced ham mixed in for good measure?

May the odds be ever in your favour.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Currying Favour

Oh, I have had such a rollocking for the lack of updates lately (Miz Sally Roper, I'm talking to you) so I'm sneaking back in with a weeny twist on Mango Chicken Curry, just to ease back into the swing of it.  It's a creamy, fruity curry but it does have a little bit of a kick, and you can add chillies if you prefer a bit more heat.  My children will happily eat this* but they're used to spicy foods so for younger children or those less asbestos-tongued, just use less curry paste, or add some yoghurt, fromage frais or creme fraiche to the kids portions.  This is quick and easy, perfect weeknight fare.

I've called it Lassi chicken curry because the simmering sauce before I add it to the curry paste mix reminds me of sweet mango lassi.  Coconut milk seems to be getting really expensive these days but I've just discovered that Aldi sell it for 89p a tin - winner!

* Usually.  The small boychild was less enamoured this time round because he managed to rub it into his eye.  I'd avoid this, as a rule.  It didn't seem pleasant.

Lassi Chicken Curry

1 tin mango slices in juice or syrup, drained
1 tin coconut milk
1/2 jar Pataks Mild Curry paste
Approx 6 chicken thigh fillets, chopped up
1 punnet chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 bag of washed baby spinach
Olive oil or low fat cooking spray

In a small separate saucepan, whizz together the mango slices and coconut milk with a hand blender until smooth.  Pop onto a low heat and let it come to a simmer gently, stirring occasionally.

Add oil or spray to the pan and fry the mushrooms for a minute or two.  Add the chopped chicken and the curry paste, stir together, and let it sizzle away for a few minutes.  Pour in the coconut mango mix and stir well.  Bring to the boil then turn down the heat, and let it simmer for approx 20 minutes whilst you cook some basmati rice.  Use the pan you simmered the coconut mix in, and don't bother rinsing it, it will lend a subtle coconutty mangoey flavour to your rice.

After 20 minutes, throw the baby spinach into the curry, stir, cook for 2 minutes, then serve.  If you would like a thicker curry, use a little cornflour paste, or some thickening granules.  If you're feeling posh you can sprinkle with dessicated coconut before serving.  As you can see, I was not having a posh day.