Impromptu salad

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This is a salad I made back when I was in Argentina a couple of years ago. I made all sort of delicious food there because I had the opportunity of cooking for a family with an unusually well-provided pantry and kitchen garden so, as you can imagine, I was in heaven!

This salad was born from playing with what was at hand on one particular day. Since I’ve twittered about it, I thought I might as well share it here. It had grilled peppers, blue cheese, croutons, toasted nuts, crispy bacon, boiled eggs, really good!

House’s (meat)balls

Instructor: In a lot of ways, cooking is like music. Different elements combine to make a symphony.
Dr. House: Difference is that Beethoven’s 5th isn’t going to be poop tomorrow.
Dr. Wilson: What was my one condition for allowing you to tag along?
Dr. House: “Try not to be a jerk”. I’m trying. I’m just failing.
Dr. Wilson: Roll your meatballs and keep an open mind. (House smiles) How hard are you trying not to make a ball joke right now?
Dr. House: They’re smoking. Your balls.
Dr. Wilson: Oh! Ow. No, no. They’re browning way too fast.
Dr. House: Blue is the color you’ve got to watch out for.
Dr. Wilson: Enough. My god, they’re… they’re still raw inside. By the time they’re cooked through, the outside will be burned.
Dr. House: I think there’s a medicated powder for that.

 

                                                                                               (House ‘Epic Fail’)

 

 

Watching Jamie Oliver has really inspired me. In spite of my minimal (i.e. non-existent) kitchen space, I want to start teaching friends how to cook. After all, if Rachel Khoo could open a restaurant in her tiny Paris flat, why not?

 In the meantime, I cook for myself.

 You would think that a medical drama would be the last place to look for culinary inspiration, right? But that’s where you’d be wrong.

 I made no secret of my addiction to House and it just follows I had to watch it back-to-back.

 I was feeling like having meatballs today so I bought some organic mince but, in spite of it being more expensive, I will avoid the other stuff like the pest as Jamie has also scared the hell out of me with his American Food Revolution. Good for him.

 To the basic mince, I added crushed Jacob crackers (Jamie’s idea again), 1 egg and I rummaged the pantry to see which spices I had at hand, so that’s what I used.

I also like to roll mine in some flour, it just helps them go crispier. Another thing I do is put them in the fridge for a bit so that they don’t fall apart while I fry them.

 Now, I normally fry them in very little oil first and then add the tomato sauce and leave them simmering there. As I was just going to have meatballs and tomato salad I had to think of another way of cooking them without simmering them in sauce as I really don’t like pink meat. (Call me weird but very pink meat is the one thing I will not eat).

And that’s when I remembered House.

 

House’s meatballs © Gabriela R.

500g organic mince (or have the butcher mince it in front of you)

1 egg

Handful of creamed Jacob crakers (I didn’t count them, sorry)

Dried oregano

Herbes de Provence

Paprika

Cinnamon

Fennel seeds

Cumin seeds

Balsamic vinegar, to taste

Caster sugar, to taste (you can also use honey)


Put the crackers in a tea towel and wrap them completely. Bash the hell out of them with a rolling pin. Alternatively, crunch them in the pestle and mortar. It will take a bit more time but it will also be less messy.

Mix the mince with the egg and add the crumbs. Add your spices and mix really well.

With wet hands shape your meatballs to the size of your choice. I prefer mine small. They also cook quicker. Roll them in some plain flour and dust off the excess flour. Place them on a tray or plate and put them in the fridge for a few minutes or until you’re ready to fry them.

 Fry them in a very little oil in medium to high heat. When they’re brown and golden, add some balsamic vinegar because, as House rightly says, this slows down the cooking process.  In a nod to Japanese teriyaki sauce, add a pinch of sugar to caramelise the meatballs. Cover with a lid and leave them to cook for about 5 minutes. When the vinegar is reduced, the meatballs are ready.

 For the tomato salad:

 Simply mix some cherry tomatoes with some pesto (I bought a jar).

 Amazing!


 

Jubilee picnic food

 

 

Everybody seems to be in Jubilee picnic food mode. Nigella has come up with a whole bunch of Jubilee-themed ideas and so has Jamie.

I didn’t want to be any less (as if…) so I decided to make my humble contribution to the festivities…

Even though the weather is not with us this weekend apparently (translation: it is v. wet and rather chilly today) we can still celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee with some tasty food.

 

Croquetitas de pollo © Gabriela R.

This is so typically Spanish, I am not even translating the title. It is a traditional component of the tapas where you would get a selection of both hot and cold nibbles. A relative of that would be what we in Argentina know as picada.

 

Ingredients:

 ¾ cup leftover roast chicken, chopped as finely as you can

½ cup thick béchamel sauce

1 tbsp grated onion

1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped very finely

1 tbsp. red pepper, chopped very finely (optional)

1 egg yolk

Salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste

 

To coat:

 flour

1 or 2 eggs, whisked

Breadcrumbs, sifted

Vegetable oil for frying

 

 

Mix everything and shape them into small (golf sized) balls. Dust in flour, making sure to get rid of the excess, dunk them in the egg and roll them in the breadcrumbs. Put them on a tray and place them in the fridge until you’re ready to fry them. That way, you minimize the risk of them falling apart as they fry.

Fry them in hot oil and drain them on kitchen paper before you eat them. Nice hot or cold.

Scotch eggs © Gabriela R.

 

Scotch eggs are ideal for picnics as portable food. They are also a lot more interesting than a plain boiled egg, of which I have fond memories of eating at the beach in Miramar (if the weather was particularly windy, we would always invariably have it with a rather unwanted and sandy seasoning!). In Britain, it is traditionally made with sausage meat which is shop-bought (even Jamie uses it so if he condones it, it’s fine by me). In Argentina, however, this product is not commercially available (and I would be mad to make it from scratch just for this recipe).  I had, however, leftover mixture from the croquetitas (see above). So instead of turning the whole batch into croquetas, I had an eureka moment and wondered how it would taste if I used it in lieu of the sausage meat for an impromptu snack with a British vibe. It was spot on.

 

Ingredients:

 

Boiled eggs, as needed

Leftover chicken croquetitas mixture

 

To coat:

 

Flour

Egg, whisked

Breadcrumbs

 

 

Poach the eggs in boiling water for 5 or 6   minutes. You want them quite soft as this stage because they will continue to cook as they fry and cool down. The egg white has to be firm enough for you to be able to peel them but the yolk has to be very runny. That way, you will still get a runny yolk at the end.

Peel them under cold, running water and, once cold, wrap them in the chicken mixture. I simply used my hands to do this but a very handy trick can be to put the mixture on a piece of clingfilm and place it inside a cup (bigger than the egg, obviously). Then place the boiled egg inside and, using the clingfilm to help you, wrap the meat around it. It must cover it completely. Peel the clingfilm, dust each egg in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then fry in vegetable oil.

 

 

French tomato salad © Gabriela R.

This is so simple it’s not even a recipe. I was told, however, that the traditional way of serving tomato salad in France is with some fresh, chopped garlic.

 Slice beef tomatoes into fine slices and arrange them nicely however you want. Chop some garlic and scatter it on top. You can finish it off with some fresh chopped parsley.

 


Greed

It happened again. For the second time, watching a TV series I was stuck with pure greed. And it was while watching Jamie doing the French Pyrenees that I started salivating while he was assembling a beautiful rustic French salad.

From that to the supermarket and I was cooking it in my minimalist kitchen in the blink of an eye. The man is evil, as I have already mentioned, it makes you want to cook everything he does. And he did it before in the chapter on Andalusia for which I indulged in lovely, very garlicky aioli.

I guess I’ll stop talking and I’d better leave you with this and a request: please, make it. You will think of me in a very nice way when you’ve finished eating it.

Roquefort salad with warm croutons and lardons

Ingredients:

• olive oil
• 250g piece of smoked bacon,
the best quality you can
afford, rind removed
• 2 thick slices of sourdough
bread, cut into 1cm pieces
• 4 large handfuls of lamb’s
lettuce, watercress or rocket,
washed and spun dry
• 2 large handfuls of radicchio,
washed and spun dry
• a large handful of shelled
walnut halves, sliced
• a bunch of fresh chives,
finely chopped
• 100g Roquefort cheese
For the dressing
• 6 tablespoons extra
virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons red
wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper

Put a large frying pan on a high heat, and once hot, add a good couple of lugs of olive oil. Cut your bacon into thick 1cm lardons (have a look at the picture – that’s roughly the size your croutons and bacon should be), and add to the pan. Fry, stirring occasionally, for around 3 minutes, or until you’ve got a good bit of colour on the bacon and a lot of the fat has rendered out. Turn the heat down a little and add your bread to the pan, making sure you spread the croutons out so they take on some colour. Fry for another 3 minutes, or until they’ve sucked up all the wonderful flavour and are lovely, crisp and golden.

Put the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a clean jam jar. Put the lid on and give it a shake, then have a taste and make sure you’ve got the balance right. You want it to be slightly too acidic at this stage, as you’ll get quite a bit of saltiness from the bacon and French dressings tend to be quite sharp.

Once your dressing is made, get everyone around the table so they’re ready to tuck in as soon as the salad is ready. Put your salad leaves on a big platter, tear in the radicchio, then pour over that wonderful, thick dressing. Scatter over most of your walnuts and chives and all the croutons and lardons. Quickly mix it all up with your clean hands so that every single leaf is coated.

Use the tip of a knife to crumble off little nuggets of Roquefort and let them fall straight on to your salad. Finish by scattering over the rest of the walnuts and chives from a height, and tuck in.

A quick way with leftovers




Here’s a quickie for all of you who don’t want to hassle over lunch and yet want a tasty treat.

This is another gem from my beloved Nigella.

Enjoy!


Chicken, almond and parsley salad – by Nigella Lawson (taken from here)


Ingredients


1 cold cooked chicken breast, sliced and shredded

couple of handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon or so extra virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

Maldon sea salt

50g or so flaked almonds, toasted


Serving Size : Serves 1


METHOD

1. Using your hands, mix the chicken and parsley together in a large bowl or on a large plate. Dribble over the olive oil and, still using your hands, toss to mix. Now squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle over the salt and tip in most of the toasted almonds and toss again. Sprinkle over the remaining almonds, and your work here on earth is done.

Facebook cooking

I think we’ve definitely entered a new era in cooking… first it was food blogs, now it’s facebook.

I happened to publish the ingredients for this salad which is simplicity itself, and surprisingly for me, it was fairly popular.

I just had a few ingredients: some cherry tomatoes, gherkins and olives, some chopped garlic thrown in and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Plus salt and pepper, of course. That’s it.

I know it doesn’t sound like much but it admits endless variations: avocado and croutons, anchovies, Parmesan shavings, capers, tuna, some chopped and lightly fried chorizo or bacon, a boiled egg… and the list goes on and on…