Thursday, December 24, 2009

Open Faced Tostadas

Since we are guaranteed to have lots of roast meals over the next few days, I decided to bring a little Mexican food from California into the mix for lunch!

Ingredients: Serves 2

4 small corn tortillas or 2 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans or kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 cup cooked Mexican rice or brown rice
6 ounces jack cheese or mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 head of lettuce, chopped or 1 cup salad greens
1/4 cup tomato salsa
2 Tbsp. chopped scallions (spring onions)
Handful chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Sour cream and guacamole to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
Place tortillas in an oven-proof dish or baking tray. Mix corn, beans and rice together then spread to cover the tortillas and sprinkle with the cheese.

Put tostada into the oven until the cheese melts and the beans bubble around the edges, about 7 minutes.

Take the dish out of the oven and top each 'tostada' with chopped lettuce, tomato salsa, chopped scallions and chopped cilantro. Cut into 4 portions and serve immediately.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pork Tenderloin & Mixed Squash with Pecans Gratin

I bought some 'Delicata' squash from Whole Foods in London (see photo below) to use for our Thanksgiving decorations and decided to cook them up before they expire. This squash dish received rave reviews from D (it hardly tastes like vegetables) and would be great for kids who are fussy about squash. The pork recipe came from my mom and the squash recipe (Vegetarian) came from The Big Book of Casseroles, which I'm finally diving into after years of flipping through. The squash also paired well with grilled salmon fillets with dill seasoning.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin & Mixed Squash with Pecans Gratin
(serves 4)

Pork Tenderloin
(serves 3-4, depending on size of tenderloin)
1 pork tenderloin, any size, in a vacuum pack
1/4 c soy sauce
2 Tbsp sake or dry sherry
1 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

Rinse meat, pat dry. Put meat in a resealable plastic bag. Add the rest of the ingredients, set bag in a bowl to marinate. Chill 30 minutes or overnight. Barbeque 25 minutes or grill according to pork's packaging instructions if a bbq is not available. Reserve marinade to brush over meat while grilling.

Mixed Squash with Pecans Gratin (serves 4)
1 zucchini (courgette), about 8oz./250g, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 delicata squash, about 8oz./250g, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 large egg
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup/125ml chopped green onions/spring onions, including some tender green tops
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup/375 ml dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup/60 ml finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Place squashes in a steamer ans steam over gently boiling water for about 10 minutes.

2. Transfer squash to a food processor. With pulses, coarsely chop squash. Add egg, cheese, onions, dill, salt and pepper to squash mixture. Mix briefly. Turn into a 9-inch glass pie plate or 8" x 8" square glass casserole dish lightly coated with cooking spray or oil.

3. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add crumbs and nuts and stir until toasted, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on top of squash mixture. Bake, uncovered, until puffed up and set, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Easy Xmas Mince Pies

Mince pies are everywhere in England during the holiday season, and they are practically's D's favorite thing, so I decided to try my hand at baking them in the kitchen. To save some money and time, I bought ready-roll shortbread/shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator section in the supermarket, and 2 jars of Sainsbury's "Luxury" mincemeat.

Although the term 'mincemeat pies' did actually include beef during Victorian times, nowadays they are almost always made without any meat and contain only suet (which is a type of vegetable fat that has a low melting point) as a substitute. The mincemeat also usually contains dried raisins, sultanas, dates, and candied fruit peel, often marinated or 'matured' in brandy to give it richness. If you are not in England, you can find recipes for making home-made mincemeat on the internet and start from scratch, or give jars of mincemeat as holiday gifts.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to about 3mm (1/8") thickness. Using a 3" round pastry cutter, cut 12 rounds out of the rolled pastry and place one round in each hole of a muffin or bun tin sprayed with oil or lightly buttered. You can use either a 'bun tin', or a regular muffin/cupcake tin like I did, in which case, the pastry rounds won't reach the top of the tin.
2. Next, scoop about 1 heaping teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry cup.

3. Roll out the remaining dough again and cut out 12 stars using a 3-inch star-shaped cutter, or if not available, cut a 2nd disk for the top using a slightly smaller round cutter and use a fork to poke a set of vents in the top of each pie.

3. Bake at for about 20 minutes, or until pies are golden brown.
Leave pies in tin for 2-3 minutes after baking, then turn
out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Dust pie tops with powdered sugar (icing sugar) and serve.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie

I had 1/2 a can of Libby's canned Pumpkin Puree leftover from Thanksgiving in the fridge, so I decided to make another version of Pumpkin Pie that I found in The Junior League Centennial Cookbook. This recipe was originally published in Epicure, and was submitted by the Orange County, CA Junior League. I used the same gingersnap cookie (ginger biscuit) crust that I used for my Pumpkin Chiffon Pie instead of the store-bought shortbread pie crust called for in the recipe, so the substitution is noted below. It's yummy!--just like a second taste of Thanksgiving!

1 (9-inch) pie crust (or prepared gingersnap crust--see my Thanksgiving Treats post from Nov.)
1 pint (475ml) vanilla ice cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1. Bake and cool pie crust per directions (or per my post if using gingersnaps).
2. Soften and spread the ice cream on the bottom of the pie crust. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin with the sugar, spices and salt; stir until thoroughly blended.
3. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks; add the vanilla. Fold into the pumpkin mix.
4. Pour the filling over the layer of ice cream and smooth the top. Place in the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight. Cut into wedges 10-15 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scrambled Eggs w/ Pancetta, Asparagus & Orzo

For the pasta lover--you can even have pasta for breakfast! This is a great way to use up the remains of a bag of orzo (which I've been using a lot of lately!). I'm not usually a huge fan of asparagus as part of a breakfast dish, but I figured no vegetable could possibly taste bad after being stir-fried with pancetta & onions, and this was delicious. This recipe came from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta, but I substituted baby bocconcini mozzarella instead of smoked mozzarella (which is expensive and not as easy to find here in England). It was fast & easy to make and made a delicious Sunday brunch with some fresh toasted Italian or sourdough bread.

Breakfast Pasta Scramble (serves 4--easily halved for 2 persons)
1/2 cup orzo (rice shaped pasta)
10 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 oz./100g smoked or plain mozzarella, torn or cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz./125g pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
8 thin asparagus stalks, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, and drain.
2. Whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese and basil, set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus & saute for until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the orzo to eggs and stir to coat. Add the egg mixture to pan. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the eggs are softly set, about 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Toad in a Hole

I was planning on using a recipe for Toad in A Hole that I saw in a Gordon Ramsey cookbook, but it turned out that my maternal grandmother, Helen, had her own recipe that she's used before, so I opted to try hers out instead. I added a few sprigs of chopped, fresh rosemary to the batter in my grandmother's recipe to give the dough some extra flavor, and it was great! We ate it with some simple steamed veggies for dinner tonight (carrots, corn & peas or broccoli work best).

Toad in A Hole (serves 4) - total cooking time (includes prep): 1 hour

1 lb/400-500 grams Vienna sausages or Cumberland sausages (6-8 sausages)
1 Tbsp oil
1 cup flour (don't pack down)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
small sprig of rosemary

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl and add in milk. Beat 2 eggs until frothy and mix into batter. Stir in rosemary. Let batter stand for 30 minutes. Fry the sausages for 5 minutes in the oil. Remove sausages from pan and place in a 9" x 12" baking dish. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Pour batter over sausages and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F/180C and bake an additional 10-15 minutes longer or until batter is puffy and browned. Serve at once--the sausages will be nestled in holes in the puff pastry.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mom's Hearty Minestrone Soup

My mom used to make this hearty soup every Halloween and we kids weren't allowed to go out trick-or-treating until we'd finished a big, warm bowlful of it. Depending on how much stock you add, it can be really thick (almost like a stew) or thinned out. Great with garlic bread!

Ingredients: (makes 8-10 servings)
3 Tbsp (40g) butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup peeled, diced potato
1 small jar spaghetti bolognese sauce (vegetarian)
1 can pinto or kidney beans
1/2 lb. (250g) dry spaghetti, broken into thirds
1 chopped white onion
1 cup chopped carrots
4 cans (1500ml) beef broth/stock
1 lb. (500g) ground (mince) turkey or beef
1/2 head shredded cabbage

1. Melt butter in a large soup pot, add celery, carrots and onions. Cook until tender but not brown.
2. Cook meat in a separate pan until browned and drain (if desired).
3. Add meat, potatoes, bolognese sauce, and broth to vegetable pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add dry spaghetti, undrained beans, and cabbage. Cook covered for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Flavors get even better the next day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Creamy Orzo with Peas & Tomatoes

I pulled this from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta cookbook, and it made an easy weeknight dinner served with some grilled salmon a few weeks ago. If you 1/2 the recipe, it still easily serves 4 (remember to 1/2 the cooking times as needed).

Creamy Orzo (serves 6-8)
1 lb (500g) orzo pasta (available at ASDA or Whole Foods)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14.5 oz./400g) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (double cream)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream and peas. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the Parmesan to the mixture and toss to coat. Stir the pasta mixture until the sauce coats the pasta thickly, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to create a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick Italian-Style Chopped Salad

This recipe started out as 'Quick Chickpea Salad' from Easy Summer Food, but I wanted it to be more substantial, so I added chopped salami and baby bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls) from Trader Joe's to the salad, and it was great. You could also add any of the following: partially sundried (sun-blush) tomatoes, olives, prosciutto, cooked chorizo, tuna, other vegetables, lettuces or herbs. You can also partially prepare the salad ahead of time by combining just the dressing and the chickpeas, allowing the chickpeas to absorb some of the dressing flavors, and adding the fresh ingredients just before serving.

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed & drained
4 marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
8oz./250g very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
8 scallions (spring onions), sliced diagonally into 1/2" pieces
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
a small bunch of fresh chives, snipped
leaves from 4 springs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 oz. (55g) fresh shaved Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp black pepper, cracked with a mortar & pestle
hard italian salami, chopped
mini mozzarella balls, or mozzarella cut into bite size pieces

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed
sea salt & fresh ground pepper

1. Put the dressing ingredients in a bowl and beat with a fork. Add the chickpeas, artichoke hearts and salami (if using), and toss in the dressing. Cover & chill for up to 4 hours.

2. When ready to serve, add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, scallions, basil, chives and parsley. Stir gently, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan, salt and pepper, then serve.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Orzo Tomato Salad with Lemon and Herb Dressing

We're going out to dinner tonight, but this is a recipe that I've made a few times (usually in the warmer months) and it's delicious. It's also from the Easy Summer Food cookbook. Note: Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta available at most large supermarkets in California, but I've a little trouble getting it here. I found it locally through ASDA's online market site, and also saw it at Whole Foods in London.

2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
8oz (250g) orzo or other tiny soup pasta
6 scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 c. coarsely chopped mixed fresh herbs (I used basil, dill & parsley)
grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

Directions: Thread the tomatoes onto the soaked wooden skewers with all the cut halves facing the same way. Sprinkle over a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil under a preheated hot broiler for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until lightly charred and softened.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for about 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, herbs, lemon zest and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the mixture to the orzo, then add the tomatoes, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well and let cool before serving.

Note: This dish is best eaten fresh, but keeps well. If you refrigerate this dish, bring it back to room temp before serving; you may also need to add a dash of olive oil to bring the right moisture level back.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding with Bourbon Ice Cream Sauce

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but the author is Michael Chiarello, and it has been a big hit both times I served it, so I thought I would pass it along.

Serves 12

1 stick/115g butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups whole milk
8-12 small croissants, or six large
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup bittersweet or milk chocolate chips

For sauce:
1/2 pint/500ml vanilla ice cream
1 fl. oz. (~2 T) bourbon

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Combine butter and sugar (using a mixer if available) and beat until well blended. Add cinnamon and vanilla, and combine till blended. Add in eggs one at a time mixing continuously. Add milk and combine well.

Lightly butter a 9" x 13" baking dish (glass is best). Break up the croissants into 1" pieces and layer the pan. Scatter raisins and chocolate chips over the top and gently mix to incorporate (bread should reach almost to the top of dish). Pour the egg mixture over the croissants; soak for 8 to 10 minutes. You will need to push croissant pieces down during this time to ensure even coverage by the egg mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes to brown the top. The croissant bread pudding is done when the custard is set, but still soft. Allow to cool.

For sauce: Remove ice cream from freezer 1 day before serving and refrigerate. Mix through bourbon with ice cream and drizzle generously over the top and pool around the plate.

Mediterranean Vegetable Pitas with Spicy Squash Dip

I made this Spicy Squash Dip with some leftover chickpeas (garbanzo beans) about 3 weeks ago and it kept really well in the fridge, so I decided to make some Mediterranean pita bread sandwiches with the remaining dip. The dip is great served warm on pita breads or flat-breads alone for an appetizer, but it really added a special flavor to the sandwiches.

Mediterranean Vegetable Pitas

whole wheat pita breads
Spicy Squash Dip (see recipe below)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Equal amounts: cherry tomatoes (quartered), cucumber (thinly sliced and quartered), and red onion (thinly sliced and quartered)
feta cheese (low-fat OK)

In a bowl or small container, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and flat-leaf parsley with a little olive oil and vinegar, then crumble some feta cheese into the mix, and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. The mixture is to taste, so add more cheese, oil, vinegar or seasonings as desired. The mixture is even better if left to chill overnight in the fridge before serving, as the veggies will marinate in the dressing.

To assemble the sandwiches, toast pita bread in the toaster oven until warmed and slightly browned. Cut an opening along 1/2 of the pita edge (not on the flat face). Heat 3-4 tablespoons of Spicy Squash Dip per pita in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, or until warm. Spoon dip into each pita bread opening and spread over bottom half of pita. Spoon in chilled vegetable & feta mixture until pita feels almost full, and enjoy warm!

Spicy Squash Dip

1 15 oz. (425g) can pumpkin puree
1 15 oz (425g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp whole cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp whole mustard seeds, toasted
1 tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

To toast seeds, place them in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and shake pan back and forth until seeds are aromatic and start to take on color. Transfer toasted seeds to a spice grinder or mortar and grind into a fine powder. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin, the mixed ground spices, olive oil, chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice and thyme leaves in a food processor. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Serve immediately, or let cool and refrigerate.

Leftover Turkey & Mash 'Cottage Pie'

If any of you in the U.S. have leftover turkey and mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving, like I do, then this is the perfect recipe! I got inspiration from this recipe on CD Kitchen, but modified it a bit, and made it today in about 15 minutes + baking time. My version is below:

Turkey & Mash 'Cottage Pie' (Serve's 4-6)

1/4 c. butter or margarine
1/4 c. plain flour
1 pouch dry Lipton Onion Soup Mix
3 cups water
1 pouch dry Turkey Gravy w/parsley & sage
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, cut up into bite sized pieces
1 (10oz) package fresh or frozen chopped mixed vegetables (ideally onion, celery, and carrots)
3/4 c. frozen peas
Any loose leftover stuffing or glazed pearl onions
2-3 c. mashed potatoes

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F/180C. In a large saucepan over med.-high heat., melt the butter, then add the flour and stir constantly for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Mix onion soup mix, gravy mix and water thoroughly in a large bowl and add to flour mixture in pan. Stir until thickened. Mix in vegetables, turkey, peas, stuffing and onions (if using) and heat through.

Pour mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish (8 x 8 x 2 worked for me) and spread mashed potatoes evenly across the top. You can spray a little olive oil over the potatoes or drizzle a little melted butter if you like, then bake the dish for 30 minutes, or until bubbling. You can also crank up the heat and broil the potatoes for the last few minutes to give them a golden brown crust.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Easy Pad Thai with Chicken, Shrimp or Tofu

There are many ways to make Pad Thai, but I like the taste of the Thai Kitchen brand of Pad Thai Noodle Sauce, so I buy that and roughly follow their recipe, which saves me from having to get the right mix of spice and flavorings (Note: Take care if you have nut allergies, as the sauce may contain traces of peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds). We made this last night for dinner and I added extra fish sauce, which ended up making it a little too salty for my taste, so I wouldn't do that again next time.

You can use chicken, shrimp/prawns, tofu or any combination of the three, as long as you have the right weight. I used about 1/2 chicken and 1/2 cooked jumbo prawns, as that's what I had on hand. You could even try it with veggies I suppose (maybe green & red peppers or thai eggplant)! The jar says this makes 4 servings, but if this is all you are eating, it really only serves 2 -3 hungry adults. You could probably make it stretch to serve 4 if you serve some soup with it.

1 jar Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Noodle Sauce, 340g/10-12 oz. (3 pepper rating--it's spicy)
2 large eggs, beaten
400g/13 oz. cooked prawns/shrimp, or raw, diced chicken breasts, or uncooked, cubed tofu
4 -6 scallions/spring onions, chopped
100-200g bean sprouts
250g (1/2 lb.) cooked rice noodles (cook ahead if cooked noodles aren't available)
1/3 c. crushed/chopped peanuts
Small bunch cilantro/coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into 8 slices


In a large frying pan, stir fry diced chicken with 1 Tbsp oil, add eggs before chicken is fully cooked and continue frying until eggs are fully cooked. Add about 1/2 jar of Pad Thai sauce, green onions, bean sprouts and cooked noodles, and heat through. If using cooked shrimp/prawns, add them to the pan about 1-2 minutes before serving, so they just heat through and don't overcook. Note: if using uncooked shrimp, omit oil and add shrimp to the pan with eggs, and cook until pink before adding noodles. If using tofu, grill or pan-fry ahead in a separate pan and add to dish with noodles and sauce.

You can add the chopped peanuts and cilantro/coriander to the noodles and mix them through before serving, or serve them on the side and let others add them to their own taste. Serve hot in bowls garnished with lime wedges (squeeze juice over noodles before eating). Enjoy!

Monday Night Pesto Pasta Carbonara

On Monday night I didn't have anything planned to eat, but we needed a break from Thanksgiving leftovers and I had a bunch of random leftover bits in the fridge taking up space, so I decided to get creative....what resulted was a sort of Pesto Pasta Carbonara. It was great!

Here's what I used (made about 3 large servings):

Remains of a jar of store-bought pesto, 1/4 c. to 1/3 c.
Remains of a tub of mascarpone cheese, about 1/2 c.
Remains of a jug of milk, about 1 cup
1/2 lb (250 g) Messicani pasta spirals from M&S (any small curly or shell shaped pasta will do)
1/2 pot of Sunblush sundried tomatoes in oil, about 1/2 c. (120g), drained and chopped up
Remains of a bag of frozen peas, about 1 cup
1/2 pot of Sainsbury's cubed pancetta, or 50 grams (sliced, chopped pancetta would also work)
Fresh grated parmesan cheese, about 1/4 c., or to taste

First, cook the pasta until al dente in a pot of salted, boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. In a small frying pan, heat a spoonful of oil over medium high heat and cook the pancetta cubes until crispy. Drain oil from pan and set pancetta aside on a paper towel to drain.

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, pesto sauce and mascarpone cheese over medium-low heat (taking care that the milk doesn't get too hot and boil or burn), until the mascarpone is mostly melted and combined with the milk. The sauce should be creamy. Add the frozen peas and sundried tomatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring, until peas are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add cooked pancetta and Parmesan cheese to sauce and stir to combine. Add drained pasta to sauce mix and stir to coat. Serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese topping, if desired, and a green salad.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lamb Kabobs with Warm Chickpea Salad

I made this one a few months ago, but am thinking about trying it again as it would be good during this cold weather. This recipe came from one of my cookbooks, Easy Summer Food:

Lamb kabobs with warm chickpea salad (serves 4)
1 1/2 lb. (750g) lamb tenderloin
1 recipe Minted Yogurt Marinade (see below)

Warm chickpea salad

1 c. dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in cold water, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
handful fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
a pinch of paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 metal skewers

Using a sharp knife, cut the lamb into bite-size pieces and put into a shallow dish. Add the marinade and stir well to coat the lamb. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours. Thread onto the skewers.

Prepare the chickpea salad about 1 hour before cooking the lamb. Put the soaked chickpeas, bay leaf and onion in a heavy saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chickpeas are tender, skimming off the foam from time to time.

Drain the chickpeas and transfer to a bowl. Remove and discard the onion and bay leaf. Mash coarsely with a fork. Stir in the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill, then cook the kabobs over hot coals (or a hot grill) for 6 to 8 minutes, turning halfway through, until tender. Serve the kabobs on a bed of chickpea salad, sprinkled with a little extra olive oil. Excellent served with warm pita or flatbreads.

Minted Yogurt

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp heavy cream (double cream in UK)
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp e.v.o.o. (extra virgin olive oil)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 tsp ground chili flakes

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and aromatic, then let cool. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar bowl (or clean coffee grinder) and crush to a coarse powder. Put the spices in a bowl, add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside to steep until ready to use.

Crab Mold with Chili Sauce

Our family has been making this dish for Thanksgiving since I was a child, but I have never seen it served anywhere else. I believe the recipe originally came from my paternal grandmother. We traditionally served it as a side dish along with all the turkey trimmings, but now we usually have it as an appetizer before the main meal, served with crackers. Tip: Leftover chili sauce is also great on an iceberg salad with green onions, hardboiled egg and a white vinaigrette dressing. Note: Requires overnight refrigeration so make ahead!

Chilled Crab Mold with Chili Sauce
1/2 lb. (250g) white crab, chopped
6oz (185g) cream cheese
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. celery chopped fine
1 T. gelatin (gelatine)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, warmed
Salt to taste

Sauce: Mix Heinz chili sauce*, mayonnaise and horseradish to your taste. Sauce should be deep pink and tangy. *In UK, you can try to substitute Hot Tomato Ketchup or regular Ketchup with a small spoonful of Easy Chili. Heinz Chili Sauce is available at Partridge's in London.

Instructions: Dissolve gelatin in 3 Tbsp cold water. Add to warm soup. Beat cream cheese and mayo together and combine with soup mix. Fold in crab and celery. Pour into a mold (or small glass bowl) sprayed with Pam or other butter spray. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, submerge mold in warm water for 1-2 minutes to loosed, being careful not to let the water seep into the crab, then turn out onto a serving platter. Serve chilled with chili sauce and crackers.

Strawberry Streusel Muffins

This recipe came to me from my grandmother, Helen, who runs the Highland Inn on San Juan Island in Washington State. They were a big hit with D!

Strawberry Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 c. plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/4 tsp almond extract
1 c. sliced fresh strawberries

Streusel topping:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
1/4 c. flour
2 T (30g) melted butter
1/8 tsp almond extract

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine egg, milk, butter and almond extract; add to dry ingredients, stirring until moistened. Fold in strawberries.

Combine streusel topping ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Spoon batter into paper lined or greased muffin pans, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Treats! - Pumpkin Chiffon Pie & Cranberry Rasberry Relish

I made a full Thanksgiving dinner for 6 English friends on Friday night (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, glazed onions, honey cooked carrots, salad and croissants), but the dessert was everyone's favorite. This recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie comes from my mom:

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

3 eggs (yolks and whites separated)
1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/4c. canned pumpkin (or pumpkin puree)
1/2 c. warm semi-skim milk
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. each salt, ground ginger, nutmeg and all-spice (mixed spice in UK)
1 T gelatin powder
1/4 c. water

Pie Crust
30 gingersnap cookies (20 ginger biscuits in UK)
4 T. melted butter (about 60g)
4 T. white sugar

Crust : Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Mix gingersnaps in food processor. Pour into pie pan and add sugar and butter. Mix together and press into pie pan. Bake for 6 minutes and cool.

Filling: Beat egg yolks with white sugar in top of a double boiler. Add pumpkin, milk, and seasonings. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add gelatin, which has been soaked for 5 min in 3 T of warm water, and stir until gelatin is dissolved into mixture. Cool mixture in refrigerator until pie filling begins to thicken. Add brown sugar and stir to mix. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into pumpkin mix. Pour into cooled pie shell and chill 4 hours or overnight for best results. Serve with whipped cream.

This cranberry relish is a sweet and refreshing addition to any roast meal, and also makes a great fruit filling for trifles!

Cranberry Raspberry Relish

16 oz./500g fresh cranberries, finely chopped in food processor
2 green apples, peeled, cored & finely diced in food processor
10 oz./310g frozen raspberries, thawed and drained
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. orange marmalade
1 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate up to 1 month. Serves 12.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Homemade Chili Con Carne

Tonight's dinner was fish & chips from the Fairfax Fish Shop in Kings's Norton, but while D was out I made Chili Con Carne to have for dinner tomorrow night--it taste's great! I got the recipe from the BBC Food website:

Chilli con carne


2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg/2¼lb lean minced beef
250ml/9fl oz red wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 red chillies, thinly sliced, or 3-4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
good shake of Worcestershire sauce
1 beef stock cube
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
wedges of lime, to serve


1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan with a lid and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned and breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.
2. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2-3 minutes.
3. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, fresh chilli or chilli flakes, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and Worcestershire sauce and crumble in the stock cube. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the mixture is rich and thickened.
4. Add the kidney beans and fresh coriander. Cook for a further ten minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding any extra seasoning if necessary. Serve with rice (or in a baked potato), sour cream and a big green salad.

The chilli is much tastier a day or two after it's cooked because the flavours develop and the texture becomes richer. Simply leave to cool, stick in the fridge and gently heat before serving. If you're eating the chilli on the day you prepared it, any leftovers can be frozen in individual portions in well-sealed sandwich bags, then reheated by boiling from frozen in a saucepan of water for about 15-20 minutes until steaming hot.