Thursday, 26 August 2010

Oh, me and my paella...

On my birthday earlier this month, finding the queue at the Cadbury shop untenable, I sneakily visited the Professional Cookware Company shop at the designer outlet 'village' in Bridgend.  How chuffed was I, to find a gorgeous paella pan for £6.00; half price from the usual £12.00.  We have had several variations on the paella so far, starting off with the pork, chorizo and spinach version from Moro: the cookbook.  The most surprising part has been how effortless it is, nothing too taxing is ALWAYS my kitchen motto!

Gaining confidence in the process has been swift; I concocted a version with added black pudding last weekend, but tonight I truly did myself proud and I really had to share this one with you.  I suspect that you don't really need a proper paella pan for this; I'm sure a decent, deep, non-stick frying pan would do.

Chicken & Chorizo Paella with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

cooking oil (your choice)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into scraps 
1 tsp smoked paprika
80g chorizo, diced
250g paella rice
800ml chicken stock, hot
100g purple sprouting broccoli, in 2cm lengths

Heat the oil and fry the onion until soft and golden.  Add the chicken and the garlic and continue to cook until the chicken is well sealed and the garlic is fragrant in the pan.  Stir in the paprika and add the chorizo and the rice.  Pour in the chicken stock and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Leave the pan alone; stirring at this point makes the rice 'claggy', trust me!  Cook for 10 minutes, then tip the chopped purple sprouting onto the surface of the rice and leave for a further 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover  with foil and leave for a further five minutes. Remove the foil, fold everything together with a fork and serve, not without a hint of smugness.
Cath xx

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Colourful Cookery

Sometimes, changing just one thing can make something rather dull into something really rather fabulous.  On a shopping trip last week, the children and I popped into the local heath food store to buy some spices.  While we were there, we spotted this gorgeous-looking lumaconi (meaning: snail's shells) pasta.  Unable to resist any sort of novelty, we just had to bring some home...

This red-and-white pasta bake is something I have made for the children before,  but trust me, it has finally achieved greatness and become all that it can be with the introduction of the new pasta; the sauces pool inside them, still remaining pleasantly separate and allow the surface to crisp beautifully.

 Red-and-White Pasta Bake

I usually have keep tomato sauce in the freezer in 500g portions, but you could just as easily use 400-500g's worth of some ready-made stuff.

300g lumaconi
500g tomato sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
1 tsp mustard powder
3/4 pint milk
40g Red Leicester Cheese, grated
80g Cheddar cheese, grated

Boil the pasta in lots of salted water until just al dente.  Meanwhile, put the flour, mustard powder and butter into a saucepan with the milk and bring to the boil, whisking continuously.  When the sauce has thickened, stir in half the Cheddar cheese and set the pan aside.  Mix the rest of the Cheddar and the Red Leicester together.  Drain the pasta into a colander and transfer it to an ovenproof dish (the pasta should, ideally, sit in one layer).  Pour the tomato sauce unevenly over the pasta, leaving some areas bare, filling some of the hollows and not others, etc.  Repeat with the cheese sauce; you should have a pleasant 'patchwork pasta' effect (or something like that, anyway!).  Scatter the mixed cheeses over and bake in a 180°c oven for 20-30 minutes, until the surface is crisp and browned.

The great thing about a pasta bake like this is that you can assemble it, up until the point of baking and then either pop it in the fridge for the next day, or even freeze it.  In that case, I suggest lining the ovenproof dish with a large piece of heavy-duty kitchen foil.  Once, cool, overwrap the food and pop it all in the freezer (only if your dish is freezer-safe; most are, but do check!).  Then, once the food is frozen solid, you can slip the food out of the dish with no difficulty and transfer the foil-wrapped parcel to a big ol' freezer bag.
Cath xx

Monday, 23 August 2010

Back with a Biryani

The summer holiday is almost over and, once again, we find ourselves asking "what summer?".  Apart from the odd nice day here and there, we have been disappointed again.  Yah boo sucks to the weather!  We did, thankfully, have a good day for my little brother's wedding at the beginning of August and we've managed to make a few nice memories but still, I'm sure the summer was better, hotter and longer when I was younger... or is that just the rose-tinted memories of childhood?

Meals, for us, have taken a decidedly exotic turn  over the last few weeks, I think in lieu of the BBQ-and-Pimm's summer of my dreams, I sat, salivating, over cookbooks and planning how to cook away the pain.  We have done Mexican, Spanish, Middle-Eastern and all those beautifully-spiced and fully flavoured cuisines.  I keep returning, though, to the flavours of Indian cooking and, after a veritable curry banquret at the weekend (when a very dear friend was visiting us), we had a large cache of cooked basmati in the fridge.  This, therefore, took about 20 minutes all in, which is heroically fast, judging by my standards at the moment!

Chicken Biryani

2 tbsp oil (I use rapeseed for cooking)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
small knob fresh ginger root, grated
2 tbsp garam masala
'knife tip' of cayenne pepper 
1 chicken breast fillet, cut up into small pieces
150g purple sprouting broccoli, chopped
300-400g cooked basmati rice
small handful flaked almonds
small handful sultanas

Heat the oil and fry the onion until golden.  Add the chicken, garlic, ginger and spices and fry until the chicken is sealed, then add the chopped purple sprouting and 50ml water. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli wilts and softens, then tip the rice, almonds and sultanas into the pan and mix thoroughly to coat everything in the spicy, oily, juices.  Cover the pan tightgly with foil and remove from the heat for 5 minutes.  Serve with raita and Indian pickles.
Cath xx


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