Kitchen tips #19 - Nice rice

Monday, March 31, 2008
You always want your culinary creations to look good in front of your guests. Curry can be one of those dishes that while tasting amazing, can look a bit like a dogs dinner. Less is always more.

To turn out your rice pilaf as a tower, pre-cook the rice earlier in the day, and once cool keep in the fridge. To re-heat pack in to tea cups and cling film the top. Microwave for 2 - 3 minutes or more, depending on how many cups you have there at once. Leave to stand for a minute, then press down on top of the cling film, pressing the rice into the cup.
Turn your plate upside down on top of the cup, then turn the cup and plate over and remove cup, leaving you with a dome of rice.

Pork curry

While you can make your curry in a hurry, there are times when you want something much superior.

I took some spices - a dessert spoonful of cumin, caraway, fennel and coriander seeds, half a tsp nutmeg, half a cinnamon stick, 3 cardamon pods, 4 cloves and half a tsp black and pink peppercorns.

These were dry-roasted which releases the flavour.

Then blitzed in the proccessor to a powder.

Before being mixed with the pork from our local farm and left to marinade all day.

After marinading it was browned, removed to a oven tin, then the same pan used for searing the onions.

garlic, ginger, a whole chilli (with seeds) and a couple of curry leaves all chopped were added, then chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. This was covered with foil and left in the oven for a hour and a half. After this the meat was removed and cooled while the sauce was adjusted for taste (the chilli had been too big and it was too hot, so the sauce was let down with a bit more chicken stock to weaken the heat, then thickened with cornflour.
If you are serving the curry there and then you can drop the meat back into the sauce for it to get back to temperature.

I also added a couple of spoons of yogurt, chopped fresh mint and coriander.

For the rice, again I dry fried cumin, caraway, fennel and coriander seeds, 3 cardamon pods, 4 cloves mixed with about 1/2 tsp of turmeric which gives you the colour.
To avoid stodgy rice you need to rinse through a sieve with cold water to remove the starch. Then you can transfer it to an oven tin and mix through your spice mix. Add double the quantity of chicken stock to rice.
Just before it's cooked (about 25 - 40 minutes depending on the quantity or size of tin you can mix through raisins which till take on some of the stock and become juicy. When it's cooked (all liquid gone and al dente texture) mix through chopped coriander and toasted flaked almonds.
To turn out as a rice tower, see kitchen tip #19
Finish with coriander leaves and dried coconut

Cauliflower - Top 5 flavours

Saturday, March 29, 2008
When not eating cauliflower raw as carpaccio, there are lots of other things you can do to bring life to an old favourite - after all we live to eat.

1 - Baked with Simon Weaver's Blue Brie

2 - Raspberry vinaigrette

Amazingly good either cold or hot.

3 - With curry sauce and coriander

4 - Almond noisette butter

5 - Red pepper coulis

Is five ever enough?

6 - Stir fried with soy sauce

Just as purple sprouting broccoli the caramelisation when you stir fry caulifower tastes amazing.

Don't overfill the pan or it steams. Add soy sauce and a little toasted sesame seed oil right at the end.

Kitchen tips # 18 - If life gives you lemons

Well yes - you can make lemonade, but you can also cut one in half and put it in the pan of boiling salted water before you add the cauliflower.

It's the middle of the week and you can't fit anything else in the fridge so you decide it's time for a fridge turn-out. That is when you find the grey, furry and slimy vegetables that have creeped to the back, and have been making your fridge smell bad every time you opened the door. And why is this? Because while you had time to chop up the veg for the first meal, the next day you had had a long busy day at work and it was easier to buy some ready-cut or ready cooked veg from the supermarket on the way home.

How do we save the waste?

Instead of using just the amount of your chosen vegetable for that evening and putting the rest back in the fridge where it creeps ever near the hidden zone at the back, cook all of it in one go.

Cooked veg will last up to 3 days in the fridge, or 3 months in the freezer. If cooked and frozen in meal-size portions it just needs to be steamed, heated in the oven or microwave on those days when you don't have time or energy to cook fresh.

In the case of cauliflower however, left in the fridge for 3 days it goes grey. Squeeze a lemon into the boiling salted water and drop the skin in, and the citric acid will keep your cauliflower pristine white. This means you can have cauliflower for Sunday lunch, serve half and leave half chilled in the fridge for a midweek meal.

Red pepper coulis

Red peppers, in this case though of course you can use yellow peppers or orange.

Sweated down in a little olive oil till soft. Then blitzed in the proccessor with a little vegetable stock and seasoning.

You can use this as a sauce or in a bigger quantity as a soup. Add cream and gelatine to set it and you have red pepper bavarois which is great as a vegetarian starter with homemade bread or with parma ham. With a little white wine or white balsamic added it can also be a salad dressing.

Boulangère potato

Monday, March 17, 2008
Boulangère definition - what is boulangère potato?

Boulangère - baker in french - gives its name to this potato dish because after the bakers had finished baking their bread for the day, the locals would take their pot of potatoes to bake in their ovens as they cooled down.
Sliced potato is layered with veal stock and seasoned. For the best texture use a mandolin as shown in the dauphinoise entry. Caramelised onions can also be added.

It is then covered with foil which creates steam inside - it is this steam which cooks the potato. Cooked for about 1 ½ hours on 180 oC. Remove the foil and brush the top with butter for the last 10 minutes of cooking to crisp the top, or place under a hot grill.


As I have done this so many times, it's another thing I never measure but do by eye, but you could work on ¾ - 1 baking size potato per person.

Adding onions -

If you're adding onions add caramelised onions - if they’re not cooked first they end up tasting raw, and slimy. I leave the onions with a little olive oil in a big pan on the lowest heat for a hour to an hour and a half (depending on how many you have it may take less time - see onion tip here) stirring every 5 minutes or so so they don't stick. If they are drying out/ sticking before they are cooked add a little water.

Vegetarian boulangère -

Make it the same way but use a vegetarian sauce/ gravy such as this one. Instead of yeast in that recipe you could use vegemite.

Top boulangère tips:

  • Don't add too much stock to the potato so it’s watery - less is more. This gives you a potato you can cut out.
  • To cut out - let the potato cool and refrigerate (so this could be made the day before your dinner party), then cut out with a pastry cutter. To re-heat place the cut outs on a plate, clingfilm and microwave for 2 ½ - 3 minutes.
  • You can use left over gravy let down with a bit of water - if you have some left over from a Sunday roast put it in the freezer, then defrost it next time you're making boulangere. Alternatively you can find good quality ready prepared stocks/ sauces in your local butchers shop.

Related posts:

Red onions - caramelised
Fondant potato
Dauphinoise potato
Rosemary roast potatoes pronto
Rosti potato
Sunday roast

Mashed/ creamed potato


Venison and shitake mushrooms in red wine sauce

Cooked in the same way as the beef for the Beef and Cotswold Way ale pie

Kitchen tips # 17 - After dinner mince

If you are vegetarian or have a nervous disposition look away now.

Your guests loved the saddle of lamb you cooked for them on Saturday night. Maybe it was the way you cooked it, or the fact that you picked it up from the local farm, so know it has been reared, hung and butchered with care. On the Sunday after the washing up you still have the trimmings from the lamb left in the back of the fridge and are wondering what you can do with them.

You have eaten the kidney devilled with some scrambled egg for breakfast.

You used some bones for the gravy - roasting them in the oven first for extra flavour. The rest of the bones and left over cooked trimmings have been used to make scotch broth.

Now the rest of the trimmings - trimmed off to leave just the eye of the meat - can be put through the mincer to turn into minced lamb.

For a finer texture you can put the mince back through the mincer.

The resulting mince can be used for moussaka, shepherds pie, meatloaf or a simple pasta sauce.

For a reduced fat diet, once the mince is cooked allow to cool. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, this can then be taken off with a spoon.

Banoffee pie

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Related posts:

Raspberry trifle

1001 kitchen tips # 16 - Walking on egg shells

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Well not so much walking on egg shells as crawling on them. Slugs and snails don't like it. They stay away. So there you have an organic slug repellant.

I was considering what to do with my rhubarb plant.

Rhubarb, like asparagus take a while to get anywhere. I only planted it last year, and it was eaten by slugs almost straight away. I had written it off, until I saw the new leaves at the begining of February, one stem fell away in the heavy frosts, but others survived, although one of those it looks like have been eaten by catterpillars, so this led me to the anti-slug trail.

Apart from having tea with the neighbours, making meringues and aubergine fritters, one of the highlights of the 180 mile journey to visit my granparents when I was 8 was smashing up egg shells with a rolling pin. That and setting off the timer on the kitchen hob. Kids love any time spent at Destruction Juction.

Every shell from breakfast eggs to meringue making eggs, to cake making eggs would be added to the tin in the bottom of the oven. Then each time you switch the oven on, they cook/ dry out a little more. Every so often when the tin got too full they would be tansferred to a carrier bag and hung up in the utility room waiting for that smashing time.

Funnily enough, sprinkling them around all the plants in the garden didn't have as much allure at 8 as the smashing did. How times change.

Don't they?

Kitchen tips #15 - The best balsamic

Onions, anchovies, peppers - all the elements of Worcestershire sauce are fermented individually for a year before being blended to make the store cupboard staple that is the answer to anything in the kitchen that needs a bit of je ne sais quoi. Or it was, before balsamic syrup came along.

I had my balsamic revolution at Claridges where we used Olive Tree Company balsamic in glass bottles. Very expensive, but the best things always are. In these days where friends and family put unwanted gifts on eBay I find food gifts (if you can’t eat it, drink it or soak in it, you’re not getting it) are the way forward, and there can be no better way to give a friend a mini revolution in their life than giving them a bottle of real balsamic.

Move along malt vinegar, balsamic syrup is great with chips. Leave the vinaigrette in the fridge, just drizzle balsamic syrup over your salad (it takes buffalo mozzarella and plum tomatoes on the vine into a whole new league). Fat free sauce? Drizzle your salmon with balsamic. And the gravy to go with your Sunday roast - it’s OK, but it’s missing a certain something…. Squeeze in a little balsamic syrup, and it‘s the best gravy they‘ll ever be served.

It’s not to be confused with cheap thin balsamic vinegar. This is a gloopy, sweet-sour confection - a good claret to cheap vin de table. I did see a chef’s cheat recently (it seems to be the latest celebrity chef thing) which involved cheap thin balsamic and cornflour. I didn’t read any further. Others take normal thin balsamic and boil it till it’s reduced. It may look the same, but there is no match in taste. There are some things that are just wrong.

If you don’t shop at Selfridges food hall, Fortnum and Masons, or in a Stow on the Wold deli all places where I‘ve found the Olive Tree Company version, you can also <have to> find the Merchant Gourmet version in Waitrose and the rest of the big four, normally on the specialist ingredients shelf. But for the most exquisite flavours you have to turn to the Womersley range of flavoured balsamics made with white balsamic.

Kitchen tips # 14 - Oh crumbs!......

Monday, March 03, 2008
You've cut out the bread circles to make the bread and butter pudding, you've cut out the discs of bread to make your canape bases, and then you throw your bread left overs into the........ no not the bin - the oven.

Place on a baking tray right at the bottom of the oven (where the temperature is lower, so less chance of burning) while something else is cooking so you're not expending electricity or gas on your oven specially. When dried to a crisp the bread trimmings can be ground into bread crumbs in your food proccessor. These will last in the store cupboard for a month or two, on hand for those recipes you need bread crumbs for......

.... like breadcrumbed fish on Fish Friday (choose pollock - the new favourite sustainable fish over the endangered cod or haddock). Cook in the oven for a low fat diet or use olive oil for healthy frying and serve with low fat creme fraiche dressing or traditional tartare made with low fat mayonnmaise.

You can also collect the bread crumbs from the side of the bread board after slicing your bread for toast & sandwiches and dry those - nothing is wasted in an efficitent kitchen.