Nieves makes Paella for Us

Our friend Nieves Alberruche is an artist who can’t help but infuse her creative bent into her cooking.  Or her kitchen, I love the entrance to her kitchen.

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She hails from Spain (Madrid) and adores Dalì but she would never dream of Dali-fying the dish she makes so well and that we all adore: paella.   The paella she made for us last week looked like this:

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And was preceded by a delicious gazpacho.

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Two years ago, I photographed Nieves as she went about making her delectably more-ish paella. What follows is a blow-by-blow account of how she prepares it … and believe me, it’s worth all the effort.  But first a word of cautionary apology: I read just recently via Tracey Macleod that “true Valencians never eat paella at night – that’s really the mark of a rube, like drinking a cappuccino after lunch in Rome.”  Sigh.   However, hers being a Valencian paella, Nieves did almost stick to tradition, it contains only local seafood; strictly no meat.  (It is not supposed to contain vegetables either but Nieves decided otherwise – I told you, she’s an artist.)

Another ‘artist’ friend of  mine, the food writer Gareth Jones, who tragically left us two years ago, wrote a very engaging blog about paella and arroz, and I would encourage you to read it, here is the link: http://www.garethjonesfood.com/?p=2362

But now  … on with Nieves and HER paella.

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It all starts with a dog.  You have to have some kind of pet or loved one to keep you company as you cook.  Meet Walter.   The family dog.

Nieves says that one has to be thoroughly organised and have all the ingredients and equipment at the ready so as to avoid dither.  Hence … large clean glass or mug (to use as a measuring cup), a water jug, the rice.  Peeled and sliced onions and garlic, olive oil (lots of olive oil!), red capsicum and peas or green beans in one bowl. Sweet paprika (“pimenton”). Cleaned fish in another bowl.  Manila clams somewhere else and, last, whole prawns. Also needed are a few pinches of saffron, salt and 6 lemons. Cut 4 lemons into wedges and squeeze the other two for their juice.

One glass of rice per person.  Two glasses of water per glass of rice.  Pour all the water inside a water jug to make things easier (that way, you don’t have to keep running to the tap to refill the glass).

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It is also mandatory, I would say, to use a proper paella pan. Indeed, the pan itself is called a ‘paella’.  The Spanish colonization of southern Italy must surely have something to do with the fact that the Italian word for a pan is “padella” ….?

It all begins with a good amount of olive oil spread out over the paella pan.  Enough to cover the entire surface of the paella. That means a lot of oil, don’t be afraid !

Switch the heat on, cook the onions and garlic over a low heat, and then scatter some peas (frozen at that) and slithers of de-seeded red capsicum (red peppers).   Very low heat, we don’t want to scorch the ingredients, just make them ‘mellow’.

A prodigious amount of “pimenton” is then added, i.e. the sweet paprika.

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As you can see, Nieves quickly made sure the paprika combined with the other ingredients. She says it must not ‘cook’ for more than a minute or so at this stage, otherwise it will become bitter.  We are still cooking over a low heat.  Hence …


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In went the rice, all in one energetic go.

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And, by the looks of it, Nieves proceeded to spread the rice and let it ‘toast’ for a bit – not unlike the procedure for making risotto.  One big difference is that the rice has to be spread very thinly in this case.  Sprinkle salt over the rice before spreading it around. Rice, after all, requires plenty of salt if it is to acquire flavour.

Oh and about the rice in question, if it can’t be the Spanish bomba, it should at least be a short-grained one (i.e. the oryza sativa): no basmati or jasmine or other Oriental rice.  I expect Nieves used a plain Italian Arborio rice.

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Time to add the water to completely cover the dish. Now also add the pinches of saffron. The saffron should not overpower the taste of the delicate fish. A vast (and very expensive!) amount is certainly not required.

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Fishy flavour can be called into play now, in order to enhance the broth, with the congregation of mussels and calamari that are introduced at this point into the bubble, bubble, toil-but-no-trouble paella.

At no time did Nieves stir the rice.  If anything, the rice must be left well alone until all the liquid has been absorbed, and left to cook longer than one would think.  That is because it is supposed to develop some crust underneath, as well as around the edges.

Nieves added  prawns too, but later on, after about 15 minutes (they take less time to cook).  Her advice is to sink and lightly crush their heads into the rice (using a spoon or toothpick) so that any liquor can also go into making the paella tastier.

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When she deemed the dish ready, she infused the paella with plenty of lemon juice.  She then decorated it with wedges of cut lemons.

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Now is the the last-minute tweak moment: turn up the heat so as to allow the bottom part of the rice to develop a crunchy crustiness.  Then, obviously, switch the heat off. And remove from the burner.

18Looking good, eh? Final touch? Spread a clean tea towel over the paella so that the steam can imbue its magic, helping the overall texture of the dish.

A paella should be served just warm … never hot. Squeeze more lemonjuice if you so desire.  By the way, you will be surprised to discover that all that oil ‘miraculously’ disappears into deliciousness. Skimp on the oil and  your texture will be brittle and horrid.


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Walter heartily approved !  Gracias, grazie, thank you Nieves!

P.S. If you are interested in what makes a true paella, you need to read about Guillermo Navarro.  It is he who has been behind the wikipaella.org pages.

Guillermo Navarro: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/how-to-make-the-perfect-paella-guillermo-navarro-says-youre-doing-wrong-heres-why-9549422.html

Link to Wikipaella.org: http://en.wikipaella.org/receta/public/resultados

Tracey MacLeod on paella: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/how-to-make-the-perfect-paella-guillermo-navarro-says-youre-doing-wrong-heres-why-9549422.html

 

 

Flowery Meatballs

I was eleven years old when the song came out: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”.

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It was “written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, and sung by Scott McKenzie. It was released in June 1967 to promote the Monterey Pop Festival.  McKenzie’s song became an instant hit. The lyrics tell the listeners, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”.  “San Francisco” reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and was number one in the United Kingdom and most of Europe. The single is purported to have sold over 5 million copies worldwide. The song is credited with bringing thousands of young people to San Francisco during the late 1960s.  In Central Europe, young people adopted “San Francisco” as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia’s 1968 Prague Spring uprising against Soviet rule.”

Here is a link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I0vkKy504U

I was out of an evening last week, scurrying to get to the greengrocers before its closing time,  and came upon a packet of edible flowers, not a usual ‘find’ in this shop!

1And I was just so attracted to their beauty and vibrant colours that I bought them without even thinking about it, or how I would be able to weave them into our dinner that evening.

Dinner was a homey humble polpette (meatballs), asparagus and spinach affair. Humdrum mid-week meal: meat and two veg, you know, hardly anything to write home about.   Home-made mayo for the asparugs and lemon juice and olive oil for the spinach. Yet those flowers somehow brought music to my soul and I couldn’t help but sing snatches of the song as I went about my preparation.  I think that a hippy is the last thing I could ever aspire to being, hippy drippy I never could be, but I confess that I am indeed attracted to wearing flowers in my hair.  To cooking with a spring in my step.  To seeking joy in the little things.  To kicking my heels occasionally in the kitchen.  Fry and flirt …

A few days later and there would be another terrorist attack, in London.  Among some of the articles I read about it, one was entitled “This is a war on joy – Don’t let the terrists rob us of who we are”.  (www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/04/war-joy-terrorists-london-bridge-attack-manchester-westminster?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=229148&subid=16390029&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2)

I agree.  Showing sympathy and empathy is what makes us human, and reasonable people.  But we also have to keep our spirits up at the same time.  We need to fight back on a daily basis and not let these ghastly events depress us.  It’s what these mad people want.  And I don’t want to give them that satisfaction. Make love, not War!  Pur flowers in your food.

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I soaked some breadcrumbs in water and then added olive oil.

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I grated some parmesan, to which I added some freshly grated nutmeg, a little bit of paprika, and a squeeze of tomato paste.

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And then, with the addition of two eggs and the minced meat (beef), as well as salt and pepper, and some minced parsely or mint (not in the photo) … use your hands to combine all the ingredients.

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Shape them into meatballs.  Et voilà there they are!

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Fry them in olive oil or groundnut/peanut oil.

 

Turn them over only once.

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And, finally, serve them on a plate with plenty of flowers.   And rejoice.

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12So pretty, do admit!

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The Summer of Love in San Francisco was 50 years ago.  High time we rekindled some more summery love all over the globe.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2007/may/27/escape

Braised Lettuce as a Side Dish

About five years ago, I wrote a post about a salad soup (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/soup-series-salad-soup/) which is just the sort of thing one craves when the temperatures are cold or gloomy.   At the time, I was very surprised to come across the inclusion of salad(s) in a soup but now of course I think it’s ‘normal’.  It’s also very easy to make which never hurts.

A few months ago, I found out that salad can also be cooked and served as a side dish.  I’ll say straight away that though this might not be something I shall be clamouring for any time in the near future (especially now that Summer is about to explode), it did taste perfectly nice.  I think it would make an excellent go-to recipe for when we are tormented by the sight of unused, somewhat sad-looking salad languoring in our fridges. Bonus: we enjoy a nice side dish AND get to feel virtuous because we ‘dispose’ of the salad in a fitting manner, avoiding food waste.

The lettuce needs to be simmered in salted water for about three to four minutes, then drained and rinsed under running cold water.  Squeeze gently so as to remove as much water as possible.  Use some olive oil, butter and anchovy fillets as a sauce with which to coat and sauté the salad for a few minutes and then season with salt and pepper.  The anchovy melts in the  butter and olive oil and so leaves no strong aftertaste.

1Arguably, mine was not at all a sad looking salad.  It was lovely and fresh.

5678Do sprinkle some salt over the salad … and white pepper might be nice too.

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Maybe add a few olives? capers even? Grated cheese? Raisins? Pine nuts?

Nutty about Nuts! Curry Nut Roast

I have copied this directly, word for word, from my former food blog, http://www.myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com, because for some unfathomable technical reason that blog post won’t show any of the photos I had uploaded at the time.  Which is a shame since this is a relatively stress-free, plan-ahead, vegetarian/vegan friendly (if one cuts out the egg) and delicious concoction of foods that anyone can enjoy (unless one is allergic to nuts naturally).

I had written the post back in November 2011.  As we all know, fashions come and go, and that includes food choices and preferences, as well as trending, innovations and fads.  Well, I think this is a recipe that can stand the test of time, although there is always room for tweaking.

I was drawn to the mysterious disappearance of the photos by my daughter, who wanted to make this dish two days ago.

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In the event, this is how she presented the dish.  Surrounded by strips of sunny yellow capsicum/pepper, a sprinkling of rocket leaves and a handful of almonds.  It looks most inviting, even if I say so in a proud mamma way! 🙂

If you think you might enjoy making this, read below.  And again, bear in mind that I wrote it almost six years ago.

Nuts are a wonderful invention of Nature and it’s a pity, really, that we tend to eat nuts mainly, or only, as ‘nibbles’, to accompany a drink at happy hour, or to add crunch to a cake.

They are full of all kinds of nutritional goodies (1 Brazil nut a day will give you enough selenium for optimum daily intake) and keep many nasty health conditions at bay (walnuts for instance repel diabetes) and yes, the are fattening, but so what!  Instead of ‘fattening’, think ‘filling’ and healthy and unless you allergic to them, nuts can become a best friend on the dinner table.

The following is a recipe that my vegetarian friend Sarah taught me many years ago, called a Curry Nut Roast.  It may be vegetarian friendly but that doesn’t mean that omnivores can’t enjoy it too!  It can be served as a starter or as a main course, accompanied by rice or salad or even some lovely, thick Greek youghurt.  It is eaten at room temperature and is great for parties — and leftovers can be frozen too.  What more do you want!

The first thing to do is preheat the oven at 200°C.

THE INGREDIENTS

Hazelnuts 150g, walnuts 150g (or any other combination of nuts of your choice), 100g bread crumbs, 1 large onion, one red pepper, some olive oil, 250g plum tomatoes, curry powder, dried herbs of your choice (I used oregano), 1 egg to bind the mix, salt and pepper.

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On the far right is a special salt I happened to have, containing many herbs.

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Chop the onion and the red pepper and transfer to a frying pan with some olive oil in it.

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Have your curry powder, herbs and salt ready for use …

 

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Turn the heat on and let the onion and red pepper sweat for a few minutes over a medium heat.  After about 10 minutes add the curry, herbs and salt …

 

 

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The aromas wafting about in the kitchen at this point are truly delectable, especially if you like curry! When the veggies have had their sweat and are suitably wilted … time to add:6

The tomatoes.  These are cherry tomatoes (organic at that) out of a jar but plum tomatoes will do just as well, as would fresh tomatoes.

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Combine and stir, mixing everything up and cook for a few minutes.

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Meanwhile, while all this is happening or even before if you prefer: Put the nuts and the bread crumbs into a food processor and …

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Pulse until the nuts are smashed up and mixed in with the bread crumbs.

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Add them to the frying pan, combine and stir well with a wooden spoon. And that’s it. Switch off the heat and let it cool a little.

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There is your egg.  Beat it and add it to the mix.

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Here is superbly old-fashioned pyrex dish (circa 1970 for sure! I inherited it from my mother’s kitchen).  I buttered it first and then added the curry nut mix and pressed down with a spoon.

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I popped it into the oven and baked it till it was done … 30 minutes.  It could even take 40 minutes … the timing depends on the oven a lot.  And that’s it … finito, ready.  All you have to do is remove it from the oven and serve it.

If you are anything like me, you might want to drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on it.  It is a very rich dish and a little goes a long way.  Enjoy!

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The Chicken Kiev Conundrum

The name of this recipe, for starters.  A Saveur Magazine said: “Though it’s named for Ukraine’s capital city, chicken kiev is probably not a Ukrainian dish.  Some say it was conceived by the French inventor Nicolas Appert in the 18th century; others claim it was created at private club in Moscow in 1912.”  In a similar vein, a Russian cuisine website says: “Turns out that Chicken Kiev is originally from France. It was invented by French chef, Nicolas Francois Appert and was known as côtelettes de volaille.  Côtelettes de Volaille arrived to Russia during the times of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna was brought up by a French tutor, spoke French and was fascinated by French culture. By the late 18th century, French dishes and fashion were widely imitated in Russia.  However, it is generally believed that côtelettes de volaille have been renamed to Chicken Kiev by New York restaurants trying to please Russian clientele in the 20th century. The dish was also known as Chicken Supreme.” (https://www.funrussian.com/2011/07/10/russian-chicken-kiev-recipe/)

According to an article in The Telegraph dated 10th May, so yes, very au courant, this recipe has even been the subject of recent political controversy: “In February this year, a New York Times reporter noted on Twitter that a dish identical to chicken Kiev was being served  in the canteen of the Russian Foreign Ministry called Chicken Crimea – interpreted by some as a statement of Russia’s claim over the Ukrainian peninsula. The Russian Ministry were quick to point out that the dish was different because it was made with chicken thigh, not breast.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/features/10-things-didnt-know-humble-chicken-kiev/

What we can all agree on is the fact that it was a cult dish of the 1970s.

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I am so very glad I bought a book called “The Prawn Cocktail Years” written by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham.  It came out in 1997 and it was alread ‘old’ by the time I got to purchasing it, circa 2008.  The title said it all, how could I resist buying it!  It’s a book I’ve often leafed through with expressive smiles on my face and chortles and chuckles popping out.  It is entertaining.

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I found a  a website called “Not Delia” (http://www.notdelia.co.uk/the-prawn-cocktail-years/) that has this to say about it:

“The premise of the book is that, as food fashion has changed, some dishes have been “loved and lost”. In many cases this is a good thing – brown Windsor soup, anyone? But some dishes are inherently Good and, despite going out of fashion, remain popular to this day. “Everybody, but everybody, loves Prawn Cocktail”.  Dishes which were once exciting (Coq au Vin, Spaghetti Bolognese) “have been slung out like old lovers, while we carelessly flirt with the flavour of the month”.  The authors’ “mission” is to rehabilitate these classics – and they are classics because they’ve stood the test of time – in “a country now obsessed with culinary novelty”. All the dishes in the book “have the potential to be truly excellent”, and were good in the first place. As stated in the book’s introduction: “The purpose of this book is to redefine the Great British Meal and rescue other similarly maligned classic dishes from years of abuse…”  “There are eight chapters, taking us through the eras of Great British dining out. From the 1950s hotel dining room to the Gentleman’s Club, the Sixties Bistro, and more, culminating in Chez Gourmet. It’s an interesting culinary tour through modern social history.

“Most of the recipes come with a bit of nostalgia or other interesting observation wittily written. On Trout with Almonds (Sixties Bistro chapter) they have this to say: “Finding a wild river trout these days is about as easy as not coming across sun-dried tomatoes on the menu of yet another fashionable restaurant.” (Remember the book was published in 1997. Maybe a future book will be called The Sun-Dried Tomato Years.)”

End of quote.

My family used to eat a version of Chicken Kiev when I was growing up in East Pakistan (1969-1971), I am almost sure of that says my memory.  So … question.  Who taught our cook how to make Chicken Kiev? Aha!  Very mysterious.  And it was always considered a bit of a treat, to be served on special occasions.  Now, of course, many would think that Chicken Kiev is naff and slightly silly.  The authors say that it is ‘simple’ to prepare but I have to disagree with them.  It is what I term ‘fiddly’ and requires some dexterity and plenty of time.  I only made it once, three years ago, and that sort of says it all.    But it WAS “downright tasty” and “texturally brilliant”, yes.

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There has been a ginormous thunderstorm, complete with lightning and hail, which has all added to the mood-making chicken kiev mystery as I write this post.   Anyway, on display are most of the ingredients: chicken breasts, eggs, softened butter, garlic,  parsley and tarragon, flour and Italian style breadcrumbs.  You will also need 2 shakes of Tabasco sauce, the grated zest of one small lemon, as well as its juice.  Finally, to complete the recipe list, add good quality oil, and plenty of it, with which to fry the stuffed chicken breasts.

I cheated and got my butcher to cut a slit in the skinned chicken breasts, from the side, in order to create a cavity or pocket, or whatever you want to call it.

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Now that I look at the photo(s), I realise the cartilage should have been removed too.

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And, this was my personal addition, some grated parmesan.  Also, a pinch or two of sweet paprika (it never hurts).  Their recipe called for, as an option,  2 tsp of Pernod – but I didn’t have any and did not live to rue its absence.  It also required chives but, again, I didn’t have any.

To begin with, I set out to make the garlic and herb butter.  The recipe says: “Blend the first 10 (8 in my case: no chives or Pernod) ingredients together in a food processor and allow the mixture to firm up slightly in a cool place (not the fridge).” The last tip didn’t make any sense to me and I, overcome by a somewhat rebellious mien, deemed it advisable to go so far as even putting the mixture in the freezer, ha!  I am so anarchic …5

I added salt and pepper to the lemon juice containing the garlic, lemon zest, and Tabasco.

The butter and the herbs got whizzed up.  I dribbled in the lemon juice mixture a little at a time.

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I then placed the mixture on some parchment paper.

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I added the parmesan and combined all the ingredients.

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I used the paper to shape the butter mixture into a long, slightly flattened sausage.

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And in it went inside the freezer.  I can’t remember for how long, but probably 15-20 minutes.  Long enough for it to harden, but not freeze.

Meanwhile, I got on with the next step.  I added some paprika to the flour.  And put plenty of breadcrumbs in a bowl.  I beat the eggs in another bowl.

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And here is what my mise en place was looking like: (1) chicken, (2) paprika stained flour, (3) egg wash, (4) breadcrumbs, (5) groundnut oil.

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This is a photo of the butter mixture out of the freezer and sliced into a stick shape.

It’s a good idea to put a tiny amount of flour even into the cavity.

Because the butter has hardened, it makes it easy to insert the filling.

Once the butter mixture is snugly inserted in the cavity, press the flaps of the chicken firmly together.

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Dust the chicken breasts with flour, then coat with the egg wash and, finally, dredge in the breadcrumbs.  I seem to have spotted some green ‘bits’ in the breadcrumbs .. probably some leftover parsley.

One must take taking care to fill all the little crevices.  Preparation complete.  Now it’s time to fry these as best you can.  The first rule is that there should be plenty of oil, plenty.  The second is that the temperature should be around 160°C.  For those who do not own a thermometer, and I did not at the time, “this is when a scrap of bread turns golden after a couple of minutes”.  Rule number three: fry in small batches, in this case it was two at a time.

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Once one side of the chicken has browned, turn it over to the other side.  30

The recipe says to deep fry the chicken for 8 minutes.  I honestly can’t remember how long it took me.  Maybe a little more, who knows?

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I had turned the oven on low heat, and left the chicken pieces there to keep warm while I got on with whatever else I was doing at that point (laying the table? making mashed potatoes?).  The authors say Chicken Kiev should be served with chips (French fries) and lemon quarters and watercress.

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This is what I mean about the recipe not being ‘simple’.  I cut one to check that the meat was cooked properly (i.e. not pink), and it was lovely to see the sauce ooze out but I was not so mesmerised by the crunchy part sliding off the chicken with such slippery insousiance.  Sigh.

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I sprinkled some salt and pepper on them just before serving.

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The sauce really was most delicious, I have to admit.

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And, aesthetics be damned, the crunchy coating did taste “texturally brilliant”.

Next time, I think I would place the chicken, duly stuffed, in the freezer for a few minutes and THEN dip them in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs.

 

 

A Searing Saga Sequel – Part 3

I am getting a bit sick of this searing saga title(s).  I promise you this is the last one!

Having ascertained that reverse searing can be a very useful technique when cooking steaks, I thought I would try it out on roast beef.  Now, when I say ‘roast beef’ I mean roast beef the way Italians think of it which is not the way the Brits would. For starters, the cut of meat is not the same and often it gets cooked on the stove top rather than roasted in an oven.  It tastes really nice by the way! Just ‘different’ – and it is eaten, thinly sliced, at room temperature (usually during summer months).  I wrote about this a few years ago: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/roast-beef-the-italian-way/.

I asked my butcher to give some meat for the roast beef, all 1.6 kg of it.  I forget which cut it was but I seem to remember the shoulder.  Whatever: it would not be the cut of beef that I would ordinarily use to make a classic roast beef.

Anyway, I began this time by turning the oven on at 200°C – the only reason being that I blithely forgot to consult the article I had read on reverse searing (which advocated 50°C as it turned out).  I think I had a gut feeling that with such a large piece of meat, it was better to deal with a higher temperature.  Also, instead of the 30-minute oven roast … I opted for 40 minutes.  Searing it in an iron saucepan turned out to be a bit of a challenge on account of its shape, which made it wobble.  It wouldn’t sit still  the way the steak did, and in the end I used a fork at either end to curtail its rocking and rolling.

All in all: good results, not difficult to make, and tasted good.  What more could anyone want?

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4It doesn’t look very fetching at this point.

5And, as you can see, its bent shape means that it was difficult to keep still while I heaved and ho-ed getting to sear it.

Use a cast iron saucepan.  My favourite olive oil: Quattrociocchi’s.

8Coat the meat with plenty of salt and olive oil.

9And place it in the iron saucepan only after it has become very hot.

1011There, now.  Finished.

12I am so glad I let it cook in the oven for a little bit more (i.e. 40 minutes instead of 30).

13We had some for dinner that night.  And the rest got put in the freezer, to savour in the not so distant future when the temperatures will soar and we can enjoy it at room temperature with some rocket leaves and shaved parmesan.

15It was nice that evening with mustard and with home-made horseradish.

14Favourite daughter came for dinner that evening and stayed the night.  There were some leftovers for her to take to work.  So that’s another good thing about roast beef .  It can be sliced very thinly and a little goes a long way.

Glossy Baked-Tomato Sauce for a Summer Pasta

When Winter is finally over, and Spring is being enjoyed, all of a sudden I get a craving for Summer.  Weird, isn’t it? My musings based on nostalgia (looking back) somehow have the power to stimulate future-oriented cravings in me.  In this case, the yearning is for a pasta recipe that is eaten at room temperature during the season when tomatoes taste the best: i.e. Summer.  I wrote a post about it I for the “Giardini di Sole” blog but unfortunately it got ‘lost’ in a technical mishap.   All of us at “Giardini di Sole” (Sandy, Libby, Liz and I) love to cook , and we are not beyond the commission of excess in the kitchen department.  Husbands, family and friends don’t seem to mind so I can’t see us reining in any time soon.  This is Liz Macrì’s recipe.

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It was one of the dishes we prepared for our Open House day in the Showroom (SOWA) in Boston in May 2013.

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So, let’s take a look at the ingredients:

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Fresh basil, garlic, Italian or panko type breadcrumbs, olive oil, salt, black olives (pitted), capers and anchovies packed in oil.  Oh! and tomatoes, of course, the little cherry kind, cut in half, the cut half facing the ceiling.  You will also need parchment paper to line the baking trays.  A tip: it is not always that one has access to fabulous tasting tomatoes, so it’s not a bad idea to sprinkle a little sugar over them.

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So … after liberally strewing capers, sliced garlic, sliced olives and ribbons of basil over the tomatoes, douse the tomatoes with olive oil and, finally, sprinkle a dusting of breadcrumbs.

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Don’t forget to sprinkle salt.  I would do this first, actually, now that I come to think about it.  It’s probably best to sprinkle some salt over the tomatoes before you begin doing anything else.

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Pop the trays into a preheated oven, on a fairly low heat, 120°C, and cook until they are ready.  This can take any time between 40 minutes and 1 hour.  It all depends on the oven and the amount of tomatoes being cooked.

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And here they are, looking gorgeous, just out of the oven.  Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, you will have cooked some pasta and drained it when it was very much al dente.  Check the packet for suggested cooking time and drain the pasta 1 minute before. Choose any kind of pasta shape so long as it is short.

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After draining the pasta, spread it out evenly over a clean towel, so that it will cool down quicklier.  Once cooled, drizzle some olive oil (not too much) and mix well. This is to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

If you want to eat the pasta straight away, you can do without the above step.  If, however, you want to eat the pasta later in the day, or even the next day, you can store the pasta in the fridge, sealed with clingfilm.  It’s best not to eat the pasta cold, so remove from the fridge at least one hour before eating.

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This is the dish we brought to our Open House Day.  Good food tastes even better served in beautiful plates!

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IMG_8205And here we were, just minutes before people started coming in to our Open House, May  2013.  From the left: Liz, myself, Sandy and Libby.  Alanna, a close friend and staunch supporter, took this photo.