Tag Archives: cookery

Week 8 – easy all-in-one turkey roast

Having picked up a rolled 1.5kg piece of turkey breast at a bargain price the other week, I went in search of a suitable recipe for how to roast it – it needed to be something not too awfully complicated and that wouldn’t mean spending the entire afternoon in the kitchen. After quite some searching around and drawing a blank, M found this recipe (in German) and we decided to follow it. I haven’t found a direct equivalent in English so am going to write up my version of it here, including some modifications to the original. It was amazingly tasty, and the best thing about it was that you had the meat, vegetables and a magically generated gravy all in one roasting tin…

Stuffed rolled turkey joint with vegetables

Ingredients

2-3 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
75g fresh spinach (we actually used a bag of baby-leaf salad, containing spinach, chard and rocket)
a medium-sized onion, finely chopped
125g mozzarella, diced (I might try feta next time)
1.3-1.5kg rolled turkey joint (the original recipe suggested the piece should be about 3cm thick)
6 slices Parma ham (or equivalent variety)
2tbsp olive oil
750ml chicken stock
200ml dry white wine
1kg root vegetables, cut into largish bite-sized chunks (I used potatoes, carrots, celeriac)
250g shallots, peeled (halved or quartered if larger ones)
several peeled, whole cloves of garlic (optional)
fresh thyme
 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C or equivalent. Roll out the turkey on a chopping board. Make small incisions in it and push the garlic slivers into these. Then lay the ham slices over the turkey, followed by the spinach leaves (removing any thick stalks beforehand), chopped onion and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper, and you could also sprinkle over some thyme. Then roll up the turkey as tightly as you can and tie it up securely with kitchen string. Place in the centre of a generously sized roasting tin (any stuffing that fell out during the rolling process can be placed under the joint) and brush with olive oil  – you might not need the whole 2tbsp if the turkey still has skin on it. Mix the chicken stock and wine in a jug and ladle some of this over the meat before putting it into the oven for 45 minutes. You will probably need to ladle over some more of the liquid once or twice during this time so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t dry out and burn.

2. When the 45 minutes have elapsed, add the vegetables to the tin, along with some fresh thyme and the rest of the reserved liquid. Give the veg a good stir in the juices, then return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes.

3. Leave the meat to rest briefly when it is done, then cut into thick slices and serve with the vegetables and gravy.

turkey

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Quick mango and lemon cake

Yesterday I found myself needing to produce a cake fairly quickly and at short notice. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not much of a one for baking, and as usual I spent far too long leafing through cookery books and magazines, only to find that I couldn’t find a recipe that I really fancied and that matched the ingredients I had. The one “must-use” ingredient was a very ripe mango that was getting dangerously close to the point at which it would suddenly become not very appetising any more, but all of the (not very many) mango baking recipes I could find were either very complicated, too rich for my taste, or a bit odd sounding (mango and chilli cake, anyone?).

I ended up having to improvise on both the recipe and the final list of ingredients, though the final result was a great success. And now it’s time to write it down before I forget…

Ingredients

1 ripe mango
1tbsp cornflour
a handful of raisins
a dash of lemon or lime juice
150g self-raising flour (or plain flour with a generous teaspoonful of baking powder)
150g soft butter or margarine
125g sugar (I used fine light cane sugar)
150g ground nuts (I used half almonds, half hazelnuts)
1tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground nutmeg
½tsp ground allspice
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

 

Method

1. Peel and dice the mango, mix with the raisins, cornflour, lemon or lime juice and set aside.

2. Mix the other ingredients thoroughly and divide this mixture roughly in two.

3. Spread half the mixture in the bottom of a greased, loose-bottomed 18cm diameter cake tin.

4. Pour the mango mixture in on top of this, and spread it around a bit.

5. Add the other half of the cake mixture on top of the mango, distributing it as best you can. I put it on in small clumps, and the finished cake had quite a pleasant bumpy look to it – like a thick, almost solid sticky streusel topping.

6. Bake at 180°C (fan 160°C) for about 50 minutes. Check it after about 30 minutes, and if it is looking too brown, cover in foil.

7. I left the cake in the tin to cool, which probably helped to conserve some moisture. It was certainly easy enough to remove it from the tin.

Variations on a theme

  • I love the combination of mango and root ginger, so next time I might add some finely grated ginger either to the cake batter or to the fruit mixture. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a cake recipe that asked for fresh root ginger (instead of stem ginger or ground ginger) – is there a good reason for that, I wonder?!
  • The cake would probably work well with any softish fruit; I might use a bit more sugar (say, 150g total) for the cake mixture if using a fruit that was more acidic than mango.
  • I’d love to try the recipe with a fresh dark cherry filling, and grated dark chocolate instead of the spices.

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Goat’s cheese and asparagus quiche

I made this quiche this week, and very nice it was too. When I posted a picture of it, several people asked me for the recipe. And so, without further ado, here it is…

Ingredients

  • Enough pastry to line an approx. 30cm round flan dish (or equivalent)
  • Oil, for frying
  • About 12 spears of green asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 80-100g cubed bacon or ham (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour*
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Fresh herbs (I used thyme but might try sage next time for a punchier flavour)
  • 120g “goat log” cheese (preferably smallish diameter), thinly sliced
  • Salt & pepper

Method

1. Roll out the pastry and line the greased dish with it. Allow to rest briefly before trimming the edges (do leave enough excess for shrinkage, though), pricking the base with a fork, lining with foil, putting some baking beans (or equivalent) in the base and baking blind at 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for about 15 minutes. Lower the oven heat by 10C / 1 gas mark  after this period and remove the beans and foil from the pastry case.

2. Meanwhile, fry the onion gently, together with the bacon (if using). Slice the asparagus diagonally into lengths of 3-4cm and add to the pan once the onions and bacon have had a chance to take on some colour. Continue to fry gently until the asparagus has softened and any excess liquid has more or less evaporated.

3. Beat the eggs together with the milk, cornflour and mustard. Add some pepper, plus salt if you feel it is necessary (bacon / ham and the goat’s cheese also contain a fair amount of salt, normally).

4. Arrange the asparagus mixture evenly in the base of the pastry case. Sprinkle with herbs; ham cubes could also be sprinkled over at this stage, if you are using them instead of bacon. Pour over the egg mixture carefully to just a fraction below the upper edge of the pastry case; do not overfill, though. Arrange the slices of cheese evenly on top.

5. Bake at the slightly lower oven temperature for about 40mins. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with crusty bread and a green salad, though something tomatoey might also go well with it.

* Quiche purists (if there is such a thing!) might not approve of adding cornflour, but it did prove useful in binding any remaining moisture in the asparagus and thus stopping the quiche from getting a soggy bottom! 😉

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My top 5 cookbooks

Today I’m taking inspiration from Ruth, whose post on this topic made me curious as to which cookery books I’d select from my largish collection as being my favourites. In the end the choice was quite simple – there really is only a handful of recipe books that I keep going back to again and again. So here are my five, with a brief bit of information about what makes each one  a firm favourite…

1. Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

50th Anniversary edition – published by Random House, 1998

If I had to pick just one cookery book to keep from here to eternity, I think this would be it. Unless I’m looking for something from a particular cuisine (e.g. Indian), this is invariably the place I look first for inspiration. It strikes – for me – exactly the right balance between traditional and modern, familiar and unfamiliar, manageable and challenging, healthy and tasty, text and pictures. It is mercifully free of both pretentiousness and over-simplification while including really helpful selections on buying, storing and preparing everyday foodstuffs as well as more unusual ingredients.

For me, the test of a good cookery book is whether most of the recipes are such that, if they were to appear in a magazine, you would cut them out and keep them. I can open this book at any page and immediately find something delicious.

As a result, it’s extremely difficult to pick out a favourite recipe or two, but the rabbit casserole with red wine and sherry and the filo pastries with feta and herb filling are certainly a couple that I’ve made quite often.

2. The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

(German edition: Vegetarische Küche)

Originally published by Konemann UK, 1997

I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat a lot of food that is, plus I have several friends who don’t eat meat. Given that it’s not healthy to eat meat every day in any case, I get exasperated at people who either think it’s not a proper meal if it doesn’t contain meat, or whose world order disintegrates if it turns out that one of their dinner guests is vegetarian.

The back story to this recipe book is that M and I originally bought it as a gift for a friend who was finding it hard to find inspiring things to cook for his vegetarian partner and had developed an “awkward” tendency to diss vegetarian food. Sensing that a gentle nudge in the right direction was needed, we chose carefully, wanting to avoid anything that was too reminiscent of his “rabbit food and lentils” stereotype of vegetarian food and looking instead for something that fitted in with his own tastes.

This book ticked all the right boxes – modern, fresh ideas with plenty of Mediterranean influences as well as forays into Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: exactly the kinds of things our friend loves to cook (and so do we, which is why we ended up buying a second copy of the book). There is also an excellent section on nutrition at the front of the book, which is well worth a read in itself and is certainly not restricted to vegetarians in its scope.

This being a very recent addition to the cookbook shelves, I haven’t actually made any of the recipes yet but have already pored over it for hours working up quite an appetite. I love the look (and the imagined flavour) of the hummus with beetroot, there’s a great-sounding carrot lasagne (yes, really!), and I can’t wait to try some of the savoury scones, muffins and polenta recipes.

3. 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

(German edition: Indische Currys)

originally published by Kyle Cathie, 2004

Funnily enough, this book was a gift from the friend mentioned above, and although I already possessed several Indian cookery books (including The Curry Cookbook, a throwback to my student days…), this one quickly became my favourite.

It’s an almost ritualistic book – each recipe is prefaced by an interesting explanation of any unusual features and about the part of India and/or cultural milieu the dish comes from, and Panjabi cuts no corners in the preparation of each: no ready-made spice mixes, purees or pastes are used, and whole spices form the starting point for almost all the recipes.

The detailed introduction is a real culinary eye-opener and adds considerably to this ritualistic feel, explaining – among other things – the philosophy of Indian cuisine, the impact that the method and order of preparing / adding your spices has on the flavour of the dish (dry-roasting, frying in oil, when to add liquid etc.), the importance of balancing ingredients such as ginger and garlic (the former raises blood pressure, while the latter lowers is), and different ways of using and combining ingredients.

My favourite recipes from this book are the lamb madras, chicken dopiaza, and aubergine curry. The most surprisingly delicious one has to be the watermelon curry, which I thought would be awful but actually works really well.

4. Backen! (= Baking!)

(only available in German, as far as I know)

published by Gräfe & Unzer, 2005

I don’t bake much as I find it quite scary, and the reason I find it scary is probably that I don’t bake much. Nevertheless, I thought it was important to have a good staple cookery book for baked goods so that I couldn’t use the lack of a suitable book as a further reason not to wield the hand-mixer. And this is the one I settled on.

Its 450-odd pages are jam-packed with recipes, usefully subdivided into common or garden cakes, cakes with fresh fruit, gateaux (Torten), muffins and pastries, biscuits and cookies, bread, pizza and savouries, with the odd but welcome addition of a final – and very detailed – section on coffee and tea. Most sections are further divided according to what kind of pastry, dough or cake mixture  (the word Teig covers all of these) forms the basis for the recipe – Rührteig, Mürbteig, Hefeteig, Blätterteig, Brandteig, Plunderteig, Sauerteig, Quark-Öl-Teig or whatever.

I have a friend who is a very proficient baker, and she dislikes this book as it doesn’t have any pictures. “I want to see how it’ll look when it’s finished!” she protests. Given that the stuff I bake only rarely comes out looking as it’s supposed to, I hardly feel that I need see this as a disadvantage. While pretty pictures can be appetizing and nice to look at, there’s nothing I dislike more than cookery books where more than 50% of the entire book consists of pictures. This book contains 888 recipes, and that’s the reason why I bought it.

My occasional forays into baking have seen me make several of the savouries in this book – they’re fantastic for parties, picnics or feeding a crowd in other situations – and there’s a rather fabulous baked cherry ricotta cheesecake with an amarettini base and almond topping. Yum!

5. Farmhouse Kitchen

published by Yorkshire Television, 1975

This is a 1970s cookery book based on the Yorkshire TV series of the same name. It has a glorious naffness to it as a result, but also some hidden jewels that are priceless – please bear with me while I explain.

As the name suggests, the emphasis is on traditional cooking, and as I’m someone who’s interested in the history of food and its part in culture, that’s something I’m all for preserving. Many of the recipes are submitted by viewers from all over the country, so there is a lot in terms of regional variety. There are some pretty odd sounding concoctions in part (there is one recipe called “Love in disguise” which seems to be stuffed sheep’s hearts, and a “Thatched house pie” that requires “1 dressed pigeon”(??) as its main ingredient), including some of those inimitable 1970s attempts at crossover cuisine: sausages in sweet and sour sauce, anyone?

Many of the recipes still bear the signs of postwar thrift – using cheaper cuts of meat, making the most of leftovers, preserving food – and reveal skills and a standard of nutritional value many people struggle to keep up with today. It’s good to have a book like this in the house, to remind you of what home economics really is about.

Despite the oddness of some of the recipes, there are some really reliable ones for traditional favourites such as Yorkshire parkin, old-fashioned puddings (pineapple upside-down pudding – yay!) and a whole range of good, wholesome comfort food. I’m also determined to try some of the pickles and chutneys, maybe even the wine recipes.

The best thing about this book, though, is the fact that it belonged to my grandmother, and I kept it mainly because here and there in between the pages there are scraps of paper she’d scribbled her own recipe memos on (some of these pre-date the book, including one for home made “pietsa” (her spelling was actually very good, but pizza was simply not so common in Britain back then)), or newspaper cuttings, leaflets and so on. The value of the book itself only became apparent to me later.

Snippets from Grandma's cookery book

If you are interested in seeing what other people picked as their top 5 cookbooks, you can find out here.

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