Crushed new potatoes with mint & feta

This is one of the best things for summer side dish – the lemon zest and juice in the dressing turns potatoes into light and zesty treat. Mint and feta take it to yet another level.

I got this recipe from Ocado website – it has many decent ones that have served me well. Unlike Waitrose recipes, they are simple to prepare but certainly don’t taste simple.

Ingredients

Serves 4
Cooking time 20 mins

* 3 tbsp Fresh Mint
* 200g Feta Cheese
* 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* 1 Lemon, unwaxed
* 1 Red Onion
* 1 pinch Black Pepper
* 500g New Potatoes
* 1 tbsp Honey

Cook the new potatoes in a large pan of boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on size. Drain thoroughly and set to one side.

Pour the oil into a small bowl add the finely grated zest and juice of the lemon and the honey. Whisk. Using the end of a rolling pin or a large wooden spoon, roughly crush the potatoes, not so they are completely broken up but just enough so their skins split and the flesh is exposed so it soaks up some of the dressing.

Finely chop the red onion and sprinkle over the potatoes. Chop the mint and crumble the feta and add to the potatoes, drizzle over the dressing and toss to mix, season well with black pepper and salt if desired, not forgetting the feta can be a bit salty. Serve with salad leaves.

Saag paneer

Another Indian side dish to join spiced okra in my Indian cooking escapades. Both spinach and cheese are popular in this household so how wrong could it go? Also, saag paneer is one of the dishes I tend to order when having an Indian meal (which is rarely until now).



IMG_7718, originally uploaded by alecmuffett.

IMG_7734 by alecmuffett IMG_7740 by alecmuffett IMG_7741 by alecmuffett IMG_7744 by alecmuffett

I used this BBC food recipe but instead of fresh spinach I got a bag of frozen one from Waitrose, which did just as well. Useful metric: cooking 10oz of frozen spinach will deliver the equivalent of 1lb of fresh, cooked one.

Ingredients:

750g/1½lb baby spinach, washed (I used >500g of frozen spinach)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (a bit less as I always try to go easy on fats)
1 tsp cumin seeds (only had ground cumin which I added after the onions, as they were frying)
1 large onion, chopped
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into long julienne
1½ tbsp chopped garlic
1-2 green chillies, whole (got confused about this, but followed the recipe and discovered that whole chilli does transfer enough heat to dish. Chopped would have ruined it with too much heat).
2 tsp ground coriander (I only had seeds so crushed them myself)
salt, to taste
250g/8¾oz ready-made paneer (I found mine in Waitrose), cut into cubes (these were cut into 1cm cubes, but got a request to chop them smaller next time or quickly fry them before adding to spinach to have them a little more heated through)
½-1 tsp garam masala
6 tbsp whole milk, or 4 tbsp double cream (I used cream, so the fat I avoided in less oil shows up here. Better place, I say.)
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

  1. Blanch the spinach in hot water for three minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander and run cold water over it until cool. In a food processor or blender, blend to a smooth paste and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the cumin and fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the onion and fry over a low heat for about six minutes, until soft. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the ground coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds then add the spinach and a splash of water if necessary. The mixture should be loose but not watery. Bring to a boil and then simmer for three minutes.
  4. Add the paneer cubes, garam masala and milk or cream. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the spinach is nice and creamy. Stir in the lemon juice to taste. Serve with pilaff rice or naan bread.

It tasted like proper saag paneer and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Roast duck dinner

Last weekend I decided to roast a (german) duck I had in the freezer (and to free up the space for another one!). I still had some red cabbage, parsnips and pears in the larder from the Christmas break, so I bought some brussels sprouts for a partial re-enactment of the highly succcessful Christmas dinner. Here are some photos of the lavish affair:

IMG_7680 by alecmuffett IMG_7682 by alecmuffett IMG_7684 by alecmuffett IMG_7689 by alecmuffett IMG_7690 by alecmuffett IMG_7695 by alecmuffett IMG_7698 by alecmuffett IMG_7702 by alecmuffett IMG_7711 by alecmuffett IMG_7713 by alecmuffett

I used Delia’s roast duck recipe which worked really well, even in my thermostat-busted oven. I took it out almost an hour before it was due according to the recipe and the duck was cooked to perfection – crispy skin but juicy meat. Will test in new oven and report on timing again.

Ingredients

1 oven -ready duck weighing 2.25kg (5lb) to 2.7kg (6lb)
salt flakes
freshly milled black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF gas mark 7. Prepare the duck by wiping it as dry as possible with kitchen paper. Then, using a small skewer, prick the fatty bits of the skin, particularly between the legs and the breast. Now either place it on the roasting rack in the tin or make a rack yourself by crumpling the kitchen foil and placing it in the bottom of the roasting tin. Season with salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, using quite a lot of salt, as this encourages crunchiness. Now place the tin on a highish shelf of the pre-heated oven.

After 20 minutes turn the heat down to gas mark 4. 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4, then basically that’s all you have to do is leave it alone for 2½ hours (or 30 minutes longer for a 2.7 kg bird). During the cooking time, using an oven glove to protect your hands, remove the tin from the oven and drain the fat from the corner of the tin – do this about 3 times (the fat is brilliant for roast potatoes, so don’t throw it away).

When the cooking time is up the duck skin should sound crisp when it is tapped with a knife; if it’s not, pop it back in the oven for a bit longer, then when it’s cooked allow the duck to rest for 5 minutes or so, then divide it into portions: all you need to do is cut the bird in half lengthways (ie, along the length of the breast then either side of the backbone) with a sharp knife, then cut the halves into quarters, leaving any escaped pieces of bone behind. (You may need some help with some kitchen scissors here.) Serve with the sauce poured around so as not to lose the crispness of the skin.

Featured side-dishes:
Red cabbage with apples & juniper berries
Brussels sprouts with parmesan & almonds
Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

I have made this first time for 2009 Christmas dinner and it worked wonderfully. The pears are lighter than other vegetables and add an extra dimension to the side dishes flavours.

Ingredients:
Serves 6-8

1kg (2lb 4 oz) parsnips
5 medium onions
6 conference pears unpeeled
juice of 1 lemon and rind of 1/2
4 tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter melted

Wash the parsnips and peel if they are particularly dirty. Cutting lenghtways, halve or quarter them, depending on size. Halve the onions and cut each half into six wedges. Quarter the pears lengthways and remove the core from each piece. Toss the pears the lemon juice and rind. Parboil the parsnips for three minutes then toss them and the onions and pears in a large roasting tin (you want everything to be able to lie in a single layer) with the oil, butter, thyme and some seasoning. Turn everything over to make sure it is all coated in fat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and roast for 25-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 (the roast should be out by now). You need to turn them over once or twice (once is fine if you are too busy with other dishes). Everything should be tender and slightly caramelised.

Brussels sprouts with parmesan & almonds

These are sprouts for people who don’t like sprouts. They are crunchy, the garlic and parmesan works wonders and it’s hard to get this wrong. The recipe is from my friend Marc – one of the people who can really cook I mention in the about section.

Ingredients:

1kg relatively small sprouts
2-3 cloves of garlic depending on how garlicky you can face them
3 tbs olive oil (I use light & mild again)
garlic salt (normal salt will do)

Clean sprouts and cut them in half. In a bowl, mix olive oil, garlic and some garlic salt. Mix in the cut up brussels. Let them sit for a 1/2 an hour (I tried to let them marinate overnight). Place them on a baking tray, stick them in the oven at 350 degrees until they brown slightly. Flip them over and let them brown on the other side. This shouldn’t take more than 1/2 an hour. Take them out and place them in a bowl. Grate some fresh parmesan over them. For special occasions add almond flakes. Mix and serve.

Red cabbage

This has very Chrismassy flavours and so I usually make this cabbage for Christmas dinner. Following this year, I decided to add it as a regular side dish to roast duck whenever I make it.

Ingredients:
1 large cabbage, halved and cut into 2cm strips
3 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 tbs molasses sugar
the juice from 3 oranges
cider winegar (or 2/3 white vinegar + 1/3 apples juice)
10 juniper berries crushed
the peel of two oranges stripped with a potato peeler
1/2 tsp mixed spice (my addition to the original recipe)

Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I used 28cm Le Creuset casserole pot), then layer the ingredients, starting with a third of the cabbage, then a spoonful of sugar, the juice of an organge, a splosh of vinegar and a few juniper berries, sprinkle bit of mixed spice. Season. Repeat the layers twice more, bring up to a simmer very gently, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Stir after about an hour, then again after another hour. Add more orange juice if the liquid level looks too low. Blanch the strips of peel, then cut into 1cm pieces. Stir through the cooked cabage and serve.