Monday, April 18, 2005

Sunday dinner

What is better on a Sunday than a nice Sunday roast, at home we often had roastbeef, but I find roastbeef too much for two people, so I usually go for a roast chicken, not quite the same, I know! Here, I tried a combination of what chefs like Jamie Oliver suggest and what my Mum does, and the flavours are all from the Mediterranean area, so I called it :

Roast chicken Mediterranean style
1,5 kg free-range chicken
a head of garlic
pitted green olives
a few twigs of rosemary
1 organic lemon
2 tomatoes
olive oil
salt, pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 200-220°C. Wash and pat dry the chicken. Rub it with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2) Insert slices of the lemon, along with rosemary leaves, a handful of olives and a few garlic cloves into the cavity.
3) Rub the bottom of a roasting tray with olive oil, then rub the bird with oil as well. Put two slices of the lemon on a roasting tray and lay the bird on them.
4) Put in the oven and let it roast for an hour or so.
5) Cut up two tomatoes, half an onion and lay them along with another handful of olives and one of garlic cloves into the tray, lower the oven temperature to 170°-200°C. Let it roast for another hour, turning the bird around if necessary.

I had to get my boyfriend from the train station and come back so turned the oven off and left both the chicken and the pancakes (the latter covered in tin foil) for 45 minutes longer, a bit of the outer meat was slightly dry, but the effect on thigh meat was one of slow-roasting, not bad at all!
I decided to try something new with it so went for these potato pancakes flavoured with some grated cheese. The result was satisfying, but perhaps I should have used a cheese with a more powerful aroma or put more in the batter, as the cheese taste didn’t come through very much. I also suggest to add a bit of chopped fresh parsley.

Potato pancakes

400g boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes
100g grated cheese (emmental, cheddar...)
75g flour
4 eggs
10 cl fluid cream
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, season to taste and leave to rest for half an hour or longer. Then drop the batter and spread it in an oiled hot pan to obtain lmittle pancakes (a 30cm pan should hold 4 to 5 pancakes. Fry them until golden brown on both sides and keep them warm in the oven.

For dessert, I didn’t make the strawberry tart as planned, thought it might be too much and that was a good thing because he had brought home a batch of Seattle Top Pot doughnuts and giant cookies, and of course, we had to try them! The chocolate ones with whocolate icing went down particularly well...
My other culinary pressies incledud many sorts of Hershey’s chocolate and Tom Douglas’s Seattle Kitchen cookbook, which was sweet from my man and a nice read.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

How to while away the time

Yesterday, the chop suey stir-fry was postponed until dinner time.Why? Well, since I've got a brand new G4 and broadband, I can't stop surfing the web, which has its advantages when my other half is away, and as I've got vacation coming up, as well as maternity leave in a few months... After a bath, it was already time for me to visit the local cinema. You see OH and me are fervent supporters of seeing films in their original version, now it's not so easy to practice because we have different mother's tongues and now live in my country and in a smallish city, where there is only one cinema that will show such films, and they tend to have a passion for Asian movies, and neither of us can understand Asian languages, so OH wouldn't be able to even read the French subtitles. All this to say that I use his time away to watch either *exotic* movies or French ones. So yesterday it was time to hit the town before I could say "stir-fry". Undeterred by this contretemps and already on an Asian vibe, I popped into a local Vietnamese deli and grabbed three chicken patties and a spring roll. I had wanted to go there for a long time, attracted as I was by the pink façade and being a lover of Vietnam food (I loved eating at Le Bambou in Paris' Chinatown, a tiny overbooked place where the homely but delicious cuisine was offered at very reasonable prices and if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, do not miss the fried hors d'oeuvre platter, the rice with three treasures and the yam and sago in warm coconut milk for afters).
In Palais Bahn Bao, the chicken patties were made of diced chicken breast (not shredded leftovers) in a batter flavoured with the typical flavour of shredded Thai basil, the spring roll, eaten without sauce in the cinema, you see, still managed to refresh my palate and mingled the aromas of shrimp, roast chicken (this time probably leftover, but who cares), fresh mint and the crunch of mungo sprouts. That and a banana filled my tummy until tea time.
The film was quite good (in French : Va, Vis et Deviens). The story is that of a Christian Ethiopian boy whose mother sends him away with Jewish Ethiopians to be rescued by Israel during the Moses Operation in 1984, and his subsequent life in his foster family. Do see it if you can, it's in favour of tolerance and diversity and not too emotional.
Later came tea time and I had a friend coming around to share some news and the Madeira cake, still perfect after 48 hours. Then it was time to chop chop and fry. The thing about wok cooking is people alwasy think it is a time-saving method, as the vegs shouldn't cook too long in order to retain both their vitamins and their crunch, but it's the chopping that undermines the concept, and unless you have good kitchen knives, you'll waste your patience, especially if you're cooking for more than two people. Anyway,it ended up tasting great and the proportions I gave yesterday yielded two nice portions, so I have leftovers for one of next week's lunch.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

First blog entry

I’ve just had a breakfast of Nigella Lawson’s Mother-in-law’s Madeira cake (from How to be a Domestic Goddess) spread with Nutella and dipped into a bowl of hot chocolate. Now, when I bake, it’s usually something with chocolate, but once I tried this for a picnic, and it turned out splendidly, so I make it once in a while. It’s better eaten on the next day and can keep for quite a few days.
Madeira Cakes are traditional English cakes, much like pound cakes or the French quatre-quarts, that are made of very basic ingredients (lots of butter, sugar, eggs,flour, baking powder and the grated zest and juice of a lemon or two), hence the name, I suppose, or as one of my cookbooks on Victorian cakes mentioned, named so because it went well with the sweet liquourous Madeira wine. The lemon note is quite subtle but aptly improves the butter flavour.
It’s fine eaten on its own at tea-time, but I find it delicious for breakfast, spread with jam or Nutella.

For lunch, I plan a sort of chop suey dish with vegetables and chicken breast. I’ll cut the free-range chicken breast in strips, and the veg (2 carrots, 1 fat courgette and a yellow pepper) in matchsticks, finely chop some onion, garlic and ginger. For the occasion I’ll dust my hardly-used wok, heat up some vegetable oil in it, and stir-fry the vegetables separately, the chicken and finally put everything back in together, season with some roasted sesame oil, some light soy sauce and a pinch of curry powder and eat it on my, and on its own. If I felt like celebrating, I’d pour in some coconut milk too, and perhaps would roast some mustard or sesame seeds and serve the whole with rice, but since this is only me, and only lunch, I’ll stick to the easy version.

Next on today’s to-do list and much more to my taste after cleaning comes grocery shopping. On a Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I would normally go to the local market and get inspiration from the stalls, but since he’s only back form a business trip tomorrow, I’ll just pop over to the supermarket and get food for tomorrow’s lunch, to celebrate his return!
I plan to roast a free-range chicken stuffed with green pitted olives, lemon, garlic and rosemary, and serve it with cheesy potato pancakes. The pancakes will be a first and I’ll let you know how they turn out. I might even bake a strawberry tart, bake the pastry crust that is, the crème pâtissière and the strawberries being spread cold over the cooled crust. Now that is one of spring’s chocolate-free pleasures! Will post the recipe soon.