Things to make and eat

Feel free to substitute or modify but if it isn't very nice then it's your problem - practice a recipe first before you attempt it for an important occasion. But mainly, enjoy. There is also the recipe page of Simon (which features one of mine). I have had a lot of fun eating from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook.

Prawn Cocktail

You put a few prawns (cold but thawed out) and a fancily-cut cherry tomato on some lettuce leaves. Then you pour on the sauce. The sauce is apparently supposed to be mayonnaisse with some tomato purée or ketchup in it, but the sauce I like is actually a bit different, and here is how you make it.

  1. Put two egg yolks in a bowl with a pinch of salt and three teaspoons of mustard, and mix it electrically for a moment.
  2. Drip in 200 ml of oil (sunflower or light olive) slowly while mixing - it's like making mayonnaisse - until it gets thick. You can pour faster once it gets going, but there's a bit of magic involved. You're trying to make an emulsion, and the mustard helps with this.
  3. Add 450 g of plain white yoghurt, crushed garlic to taste, chopped gherkins (about 4 small ones) and chopped spring onions (about 2).
  4. In the empty yoghurt pot, but two fingers of cold water, three teaspoons of white vinegar (use vinegar without a strong taste if possible), three teaspoons of sugar (or less if the yoghurt is sweet), salt and pepper. Mix it up at then add it to the bowl.
  5. Mix everything well and then put it in the fridge for a few hours.

That amount of sauce may be well enough for 10-12 cocktails, but it goes with all sorts of fish and chicken. And you can add small pieces of boiled potato to make potato salad. Just take care to eat it within a few days because of the raw egg.

Gazpacho

  1. Roast 2 red peppers - cut them in half, take off the green and white bits, and put them in the oven skin-side up for 30 minutes at 180°C. When they're cool enough, peel them and chop them.
  2. Put them in a bowl with 20 g of chopped onion, a 400 g can of tomatoes, a chopped cucumber, half a litre of vegetable stock, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and some tabasco and Worcester sauce (about a tablespoon of each).
  3. Blend it all together. Add breadcrumbs to make it thicker and cold water to make it thinner.
  4. Put it in the fridge for a few hours.
  5. Serve with hot cubes of fried bread.

Breton Crêpes

  1. Mix 100 g of buckwheat flour, 40 g of ordinary white flour, 400 ml of milk, 30 g of butter, a pinch of salt, and 3 eggs in a bowl and try to get the lumps out.
  2. If you want to make fewer of them, try 70 g of buckwheat flour, 25 g of ordinary white flour, 250 ml of milk, 20 g of butter, a pinch of salt, and 2 eggs.
  3. Cover and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
  4. Make crêpes from it.
  5. Put stuff on them and eat them.
  6. Ham, eggs, and mushrooms are good, for example.

Carbonara

  1. Cook some pasta in the usual way. Penne work quite well, spaghetti are also okay. Fresh egg tagliatelle are best. About 70 g per person.
  2. Whilst that's going on, cut the bacon up with some kitchen scissors. I suggest that you use smoked streaky (belly) bacon rather than back bacon, and three or four rashers is a good amount for one frying pan. The pieces can be fairly large because they shrink when the water comes out. Or you can cook the bacon whole and cut it up afterwards: you can even use some paper towels to get rid of the fat if you like.
  3. Heat the bacon gently in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. When it seems like the pan is warm and the bacon fat is beginning to run, turn the heat up a bit. Cook the bacon until it's crispy.
  4. Optional: put a squashed clove of garlic in there with it. Also optional: when the bacon is nearly done add some paprika.
  5. Drain the pasta, and get rid of the oil and fat from the frying pan. Put the pasta and the bacon together in the same pan, whichever it will fit into best.
  6. Throw in lots of parmesan and black pepper, and then the yolk of one or two eggs. (You know how to seperate eggs, don't you? Break the shell into two equal halves and pass the yolk from one to the other.) Stir it all together but don't let the egg set too much.
  7. Gnamme!
  8. Serves one or two.

Chilli

  1. Wash and then soak some basmati rice. Really, no other rice is worth bothering with. 70 g per person, or nearer 50 g if you have some sort of bread also.
  2. Chop one or two medium sized onions.
  3. Put a little olive oil into a large pan, heat it, and then throw the chopped onions in. The onions must cook for at least 30 minutes. I'm not joking. This is very important.
  4. So you have plenty of time to chop some fresh chilli peppers. Really it's up to you how many to put in, but the chilli should be as strong as you can cope with. (It's good for you.) Maybe three or four large peppers plus seeds? And some dried ones too, whatever. But the fresh ones are important for the taste. Or you can prepare yourself a bottle of olive oil with lots of dried chillis in it, and just use some of that.
  5. When the 30 minutes is over, put the chillis in the pan. At this stage you can add finely-chopped garlic too if you want.
  6. Also add a lot of cumin (seeds or ground, I don't mind, but seeds need to go in earlier) and a lot of paprika. (Cumin in particular is good for you.) And a little flour, maybe a teaspoon or so. Give it another few minutes, but stir a lot so it doesn't stick. Maybe some more oil is necessary at this point.
  7. Put in about half a kilo of lean minced beef, and spend a minute hacking it to pieces so that you don't have large chunks of meat in there. (Large pieces of grey boiled beef are not what we are after.)
  8. Maybe more oil is needed at this point. More spices too.
  9. Give it another few minutes, to let the water come out of the meat.
  10. Add two cans of plum tomatoes (chop them in the pan: you may ask why we don't use tomatoes which are already chopped, to which I would reply, “it's traditional.”) and a generous amount of tomato concentrate. If you can get cherry tomatoes in a tin like I can here then good for you. Also you could try using that Italian stuff which comes in a glass bottle.
  11. Give it another half an hour or so, then add the kidney beans. Other kinds of beans may work too.
  12. Don't add chocolate. I know this is supposed to be traditional, but really it's a great way to screw up the flavour.
  13. When you think it's getting near the end you can cook the rice (should only need a few minutes since you've been soaking it for an hour) and heat up the tortillas and...
  14. Gnamme!
  15. Serves one, but for a whole week at least.

Ragù

  1. Chop one or two medium sized onions.
  2. Put a little olive oil into a large pan, heat it, and then throw the chopped onions in. The onions should cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. You can crumble in a dried chilli at this point if you like.
  4. Pour in a little bit of dry white wine.
  5. After a minute or two, put in about half a kilo of lean minced beef, and spend a minute hacking it to pieces so that you don't have large chunks of meat in there. (Large pieces of grey boiled beef are not what we are after.)
  6. Maybe more oil is needed at this point.
  7. Give it plenty of time to let the water come out of the meat. Still in something like half a teaspoon of salt. A little bit of flour can help soak up a bit of the liquid and make the final result a bit thicker.
  8. Add a bottle of passata - that Italian tomato stuff. Since this recipe is basically a minced beef and tomato sauce, the taste of the passata will dominate, so you may need to try different brands until you find one you like. I prefer the more rustic ones in which some texture is still apparent.
  9. Give it another half an hour or so of gentle simmering: if it boils you'll have tomato sauce all over your kitchen. Dried herbs, such as basil and oregano, can go in now.
  10. When you think it's getting near the end you can cook the pasta: just about any kind should work but an egg pasta such as tagliatelle may be more in keeping with the northern-Italy experience. This ragù can also be used in a lasagna of course. Fresh herbs and black pepper can go in now, but to be honest fresh basil might end up dominating a bit - use the leaves as a poncy garnish instead so that you don't have to chop them yourself.
  11. Gnamme!
  12. Serves four or five depending on how many guests you have over.

Stuffed peppers

  1. Chop a medium sized onion into relatively large pieces, and two courgettes, 200 g button mushrooms, and a red pepper into relatively small pieces.
  2. Fry the onion in a little olive oil, and then add the red pepper. You can also add some garlic or celery or something if you have it lying around.
  3. Add about 300 g of minced pork, and spend a minute hacking it to pieces so that you don't have large chunks of meat in there. (Large pieces of grey boiled pork are not what we are after.)
  4. Add a pit of paprika and salt and when the meat has cooked a bit, put in the chopped courgettes and mushrooms. Let this simmer for a bit as the liquid starts to come out.
  5. Add 30-50 g of breadcrumbs and half a stock cube. If it seems to be too solid and sticky add a little water.
  6. Add a squirt of tomato puree and about 8 small tomatoes, chopped. A 400 g can of tomatoes also works.
  7. Slice three large red peppers vertically in half, and trim any bits which aren't red. Lay them on a baking tray and fill with the pork ragù thing you've just made. Sprinkle on some breadcrumbs and grana.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes at 180°C.
  9. Gnamme! with rice and then take it easy for a couple of hours.
  10. Serves two, three times.

Curry

  1. Wash and then soak some basmati rice, as for chilli.
  2. Chop a medium-sized onion.
  3. Cook the onion for about half an hour in oil, as for chilli. And the stuff about fresh chillis applies too.
  4. And garlic if you like.
  5. Cumin too, for that matter.
  6. Meanwhile, chop about half a kilo of chicken breast into chunks. Trim off and throw away the unpleasant bits.
  7. Mix some spices and flour together in a bowl. The spices can be whatever you like, but I suggest paprika, cumin, coriander and turmeric at least.
  8. Coat the chicken pieces with the flour/spice mix.
  9. After the onion has been cooking for half an hour of so and is nicely browned, put the chicken pieces in the pan. Try to make sure that they don't stick together, and that they get fried a bit on all sides. You may feel like adding a bit of the flour/spice mix to the pan now, which will give a thicker curry later.
  10. Then add a healthy dose of your favourite Patak's curry paste.
  11. After a few minutes like this, add either a little water or a can of tomatoes. Up to you.
  12. Keep stirring, add more water if necessary, more spices, some butter beans if you like, or even coconut milk. Whatever. (Although I find that coconut milk doesn't go with strong garlic flavours.)
  13. After half an hour or so it should be getting near the end. Add about 20 g of chopped fresh coriander. This is very important: if you can't get fresh coriander anywhere then just forget the whole thing.
  14. So then cook the rice as for chilli, and what with naan bread from the supermarket not being very nice just eat it with tortillas.
  15. Gnamme!
  16. Serves one, about 4 or 5 times.

Paella

It seems like you can basically put whatever meat, fish or vegetables you have into this. It can even be made with noodles instead of rice, in which case it becomes fideuà.

  1. Chop a medium sized onion, a red pepper, and a green pepper also if you like, and start frying it all in a wide pan or wok with some olive oil.
  2. Also chop about 200 g of smoked streaky bacon and put that in too.
  3. A lot of water will probably come out of the bacon so you need to insist for quite a while at high heat until it really is frying and not just boiling.
  4. Decide what meat or fish you want to put in. I only really like prawns (big ones which retain some flavour but need to be peeled after defrosting) but you use whatever seafood you like from your supermarket's freezer section. Defrost it according to the instructions, it seems like the quicker you do it the more flavour remains. You can also use left-over bits of chicken breast cut into small pieces, or whatever.
  5. Chicken can be put in now, seafood is generally precooked so only goes in right at the end (although you can quickly fry it and take it out again if you really want to).
  6. Add about 300-400 g of short-grain rice, the kind which you would use for risotto and mix well.
  7. At this point saffron is traditional, but it's expensive and it doesn't actually taste of anything so I prefer turmeric. Paprika is also good, because it should end up more orange than yellow.
  8. Add water, a vegetable (or chicken or fish) stock cube, a 400 g can of chopped tomatoes, and 200 g of (frozen) peas.
  9. Cook over a low heat, stirring and adding more water as it gets absorbed. It's ok if it sticks a little bit, it's traditional.
  10. After something like half an hour the rice might be cooked and you can put in the defrosted seafood, the juice of half a lemon, and some black pepper. A few minutes later it should be ready to serve.
  11. Cut the rest of the lemon into slices or wedges for each plate.
  12. What's Catalan for “Gnamme!”?
  13. Serves N = (mass of rice / 80 g) people.

Flapjacks

And now, some sweeties. This recipe is based on one of Mary Berry's. See also UK Student Life's flapjack recipe.

  1. Grease your rectangular cake or roasting tin with butter. Use a non-stick one. Something with an area of about 0.06 m2 works best.
  2. Put 125 g of butter in a pan. Follow this with 90 g of golden syrup and 90 g of light muscovado sugar. (Or brown sugar if you're not a ponce, but it won't dissolve completely.)
  3. Heat it gently and mix it together.
  4. When it's all dissolved and mixed and everything, take it off the heat and stir in 250 g of rolled oats. I don't know the difference between rolled oats and not-rolled oats. Just put in some oats.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Now put it in the tin. Make a nice flat surface with some special cake-flattening implement or what-have-you.
  7. It goes in the oven, at 180°C (350°F, Gas Mark 4, 450K, 40 meV, 140°Reaumur, 820°Rankine) for 30 minutes.
  8. A few minutes after taking it out, mark in some lines with a wooden spatula. so that it will be easier to cut into pieces later. Be careful because it's still a bit fragile at this stage.
  9. Let it cool and set completely.
  10. If it wasn't a non-stick tin then good luck getting it out.
  11. Eat it all before anyone else gets their hands on it.
  12. Optional: add a drop of this or this when you put the oats in.

Tiramisù

This is a classic Italian sweetie and there are recipes for it all over the place. Some of them are quite complicated but this one isn't. The name “tiramisù” means “pick me up” and it's nothing to do with zuppa inglese, which is something a bit like trifle.

  1. Put about 12 savoiardi (sponge fingers) in a tin roughly the same size as the one you use for flapjack. If you want to be more elegant about it use a glass dish, but make sure it's shallow and flat-bottomed. Not a trifle dish, for example.
  2. Make two cups of espresso (a moka is fine) and sweeten them a little bit.
  3. Pour the coffee over the savoiardi so that it gets soaked up: don't leave liquid in the bottom of the tin/dish.
  4. Now, in a bowl put 65 g of caster sugar and the whites of two eggs and whisk until creamy but not too stiff.
  5. In another bowl, mix the yolks of two eggs with 250 g of mascarpone. Try to not have any lumps of mascarpone: with a soft plastic spatula scrape the mix off the sides of the bowl and push it towards your whisking implement.
  6. Gently add the egg white to the mascarpone and yolk mix, and mix while trying to avoid knocking all the air out.
  7. When you have a nice homogenous creamy mix, pour it out into the tin/dish over the savoiardi and smooth out the surface.
  8. Dust the surface with (not too much) unsweetened cocoa power, through a sieve. You can also do this the next day immediately before serving, but I actually like the cocoa to soak up a little bit of liquid.
  9. Cover the tin/dish with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for several hours. Overnight if possible.
  10. Gnamme!
  11. Serves one, four to six times depending on greediness.

There, you see: nice and simple. No need for brandy in the coffee, no need for cream or milk, no need to cook anything. No messing about with making two layers. There are raw eggs, so it's not suitable for the very old or very young, or whiny people who are afraid of everyhing.

Mascarpone cream

This is something to put on your slice of pandoro. Or you can just eat it with a spoon and some buttery biscuits.

  1. Mix three egg yolks in a bowl with 70 g of sugar, 4 teaspoons of rum and 250 g mascarpone.
  2. Put the whites of two eggs in another bowl and beat until stiff.
  3. Mix the contents of the two bowls together while trying not to knock too much air out of it.
  4. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

There are loads of recipes for this on the internet with different amounts of sugar in, so feel free to adjust that to taste. Seeing as the recipe is so simple, everything depends on the taste of the sugar and of the rum, so use decent ingredients.

Apple crumble

  1. For the crumble: mix 150 g of plain flour, 60 g of fine brown sugar, and 100 g of butter with your fingers until the butter isn't in obvious lumps, then add 100 g of oats and keep mixing.
  2. For the apple: peel and chop about 1 kg of apples, then simmer them in a pan with a bit of water, lemon juice, cinnamon and (depending on how sweet the apples are) some sugar.
  3. Put the apples into a dish, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and then put the crumble mix on.
  4. Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes and serve with custard or vanilla ice cream or something.

I just thought I'd make a note of proportions which worked for me. It's important to use your fingers for the first part and to not add too much sugar to the apples if you're using eaters rather than cookers (which the latter aren't available here, so I used golden delicious.)



Copyright © 2004-2011 Danny Chrastina

Last updated: 26th February 2011

Email: danny at chrastina dot net

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