Legacy

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For my first “Forever Nigellachallenge, I knew exactly the dish I wanted to make. Not for nothing it features in Nigella’s Legacy episode of her Nigella Bites series. This month’s theme is “nostalgia” and for me, this dish is full of nostalgic evocations. Granny Lawson’s pie is surprisingly similar to the empanadas that are such common fare in Argentina, where I come from. I have tweaked the recipe a bit to make it just so. I also noticed when watching the video that Nigella is not quite deft at making repulgue (the border which is twisted in order to prevent the filling from leaking) but I forgive her. So I’ve made it my way.

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Instead of making it square, I’ve made it round, the way I’ve seen it done in the Himalayas (in photos only, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been there). Really, this dish seems to be universal and with good reason. Bon appétit!

Granny Lawson’s Lunch Dish (source: Food Network)

Ingredients

For the pastry

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, preferable Italian 00
Scant ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
Approximately 4 tablespoons chilled, lightly salted water
1 egg beaten with pinch of salt, for brushing
2 to 3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces) or same amount of drained, chopped, canned ones
2 small onions
2 eggs, hard-boiled
4 ounces pitted black olives
2 tablespoons olive oil, not extra-virgin
9 ounces organic ground beef
Fat pinch allspice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the pastry

Measure the flour into a dish that will fit into the freezer (it doesn’t need to have a lid) and cut the shortening and butter into small – approximately 1/2-inch dice and toss them in the flour. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

I tend to make pastry in my stand mixer, but a processor’s fine too. In whatever contraption – fitted with the flat paddle in the one, with the double-bladed knife in the other – mix until you have a mixture that resembles coarse uncooked oatmeal. Now, dribble in the chilled salted water, slowly, with the motor still running, until the dough looks as if it’s about to cohere, but stopped short of its actually clumping totally. Turn out of the processor (though you could still do this in the bowl of the mixer) and squidge together with your hands until all the pastry forms a cohesive ball. Dribble in a little more water if you feel it needs it. Divide into 2 pieces of equal size and form it into fat disks. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. And this can be done a good day or 2 in advance if it helps.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water from the kettle and leave for 5 minutes. Drain, run under the cold tap, then peel, seed and chop roughly (or use canned tomatoes, chopped and drained). Peel and chop the onions, hard-boiled eggs and olives, too.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the chopped onions until softened and beginning to colour, turning the flame down to low if they look as if they’re sticking. Turn the heat back to medium and add the chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the beef. Stir well, breaking up the clumps of meat with your wooden spoon as you go, then when the meat’s browned, stir in the chopped eggs and olives and season with the allspice and salt and pepper. Cook over gentle heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get a baking sheet out, and flour a surface and rolling pin. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out 1 of the disks until you have a thin, but not exaggeratedly so, rough square that will fit on the baking sheet, then place it on the baking sheet. Now roll out the second disk and leave it there while you cover the layer on the baking sheet with the ground beef mixture, leaving a margin of about 1-inch all around. With a bit of cold water and your fingers, dampen this edge. Place the second square of pastry on top and press the edges together to seal. Now, roll these edges back on themselves once or twice, then get a fork and press it, the tines curved side down, against this rolled border. Prong the top of the pastry to make air holes and then beat the egg with a generous sprinkling of salt and brush the top and edges of the pie with it to glaze.

Put it into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, by which time the pastry will be golden and cooked. Slice it into fat oblongs and eat warm with a vegetable or salad, or cold, wrapped in a napkin and without ceremony or cutlery.

 

My changes: I added the boiled egg and the black olives as I was assembling the pie and not before. I think there’s no need to cook the olives or the egg any more than they already are (plus, you’re going to cook them even further, inside the pastry). I substituted fresh tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes, simply because that’s what I had. And, as I mentioned before, I did my own repulgue. I also dispensed with the shortening and used just butter for the pastry. Other than that, it’s Nigella’s recipe.

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You can also make them as individual empanadas if you feel like it.

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!


 

My first catering event!

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Well, OK, it´s not technically my first one, having done big catering events for music festivals and all but it was the first catering event I ran on my own, designed the menu, etc. I loved the adrenaline and, most importantly, how smoothly it all went.

I had initially decided on a starter of figs wrapped in prosciutto with a blue cheese filling as I thought that was easy enough and, most importantly, could be done in advance. All very nice in theory… except it isn’t the season for figs here in Argentina. So, I went for plan B. The hostess had suggested Cantaloupe melon wrapped in prosciutto but I thought that would be baby stuff to do and not really challenging so I suggested a scallop starter. Boy! Was that a wonder! And it looked just beautiful (and very elegant) on the plate. Unfortunately, due to the speed I was cooking with (and the hungry guests that were waiting) I couldn´t immortalise it for posterity… which means I may have to do this dish again… Oh, well…

For the main dish, I adapted a wonderful Nigella recipe for Teriyaki salmon I found here, mainly in that I used my well-tested Teriyaki sauce for marinating the salmon and I also marinated the salmon for longer. Let me tell you, if you leave it overnight, like an ordinary marinade, it will turn into this glossy, thick, caramel you won´t believe you´re eating. They were four children having dinner that night and they all ended up licking their fingers. It is also a breeze to cook for an event if you have the sushi rice prepared (and covered with tinfoil) beforehand.  I had a few unexpected situations, such as being presented with this wonderful (whole) salmon which I had to manually pin-bone with a pair of stolen tweezers but if you ask your fishmonger to do it for you before you take it home, it should be easy peasy, reallly.

For dessert, I chose a classic,  crème brûlée, for two reasons: it is both very elegant to serve and it is very easy to make AND have it prepared beforehand in the fridge. You can even do it the night before. This is the dish I was the least concerned about and the first one I made. Once dessert was out of the way, I could concentrate on my fish. When I suggested this dessert, the hostess said that although she didn´t have a torch, she did have an iron burner which she was confident could be used for caramelising the surface… All I can say is, whatever you do, do NOT attempt this dish if you don´t have a blow torch. Failing that, forget the sugar and serve it in individual pots. I did neither which resulted in a technical fault in the middle of service, but the hostess was very gracious about it. Now I know.

So, if you are tempted to do some professional catering, the moral of the story is… make things easy for yourself, choose dishes that could be done in advance, at least in part (especially if you are feeding a large number of people), dishes that can be finished off quickly, and, most important of all, expect the unexpected, be a problem-solver and be prepared to improvise because more often than not, some things will just not turn out the way you thought.

Scallops and endives with orange sauce – adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes

Ingredients

Bacon, cut into a very small brunoise,  100  g
Scallops  200  g
Endives,  4
Butter, as needed
Sea salt, as needed
Orange, as needed
Lemon, as needed
Coriander flowers, to garnish (I used edible Monks cress flowers, fresh from

the garden)

How to make:

Fry the bacon in its own fat. Set aside and in the same pan seal the scallops. Do NOT touch them too much. For best results, turn them over with a pair of small tongues. Failing that, tumble them over with your index finger. They cook extremely fast, just a couple of minutes each side. If you overcook them, they become rubbery so you really need to watch what you´re doing.

At the same time, in a big, flat pan sautee the endives, previously cut into long strips (into quarters really) in butter. Add the sea salt and the orange juice (if you use freshly-squeezed orange juice it will taste divine). Let it reduce a bit.

To serve: Put some endives on the plate, scatter some bacon cubes and place about 5 scallops on top. Garnish with the edible flowers and drizzle with some of the orange sauce. You can also add a lemon wedge and some orange peel cut into strips.

Mirin-glazed salmon  (adapted from Nigella Express)

Ingredients

  • 60ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 4 x 125g pieces salmon, cut from the thick part of the fillet so that they are narrow but tall rather than wide and flat
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1-2 spring onions, halved and shredded into fine strips

Method

Serves: 4

1.      Mix the mirin, brown sugar and soy sauce in a shallow dish that will take all 4 pieces of salmon, and marinate the salmon in it for 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second. Meanwhile heat a large non-stick frying pan on the hob.

2.      Cook the salmon in the hot, dry pan for 2 minutes and then turn the salmon over, add the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes.

3.      Remove the salmon to whatever plate you’re serving it on, add the rice vinegar to the hot pan, and warm through.

4.      Pour the dark, sweet, salty glaze over the salmon and top with the spring onion strips.

5.      Serve with rice or noodles as you wish, and consider putting some sushi ginger on the table, too.

For the sushi rice

Gohan – © Gabriela R.

Wash 1 kg of sushi rice 3 or 4 times, then rinse for approximately 30 more minutes. Place the rice in a big pan and cover with 1000 cc water. Cook until it boils, WITHOUT stirring, lower the heat to its lowest setting, cover the pan and leave it like that until the rice has absorbed all the water (about 20 minutes). Do NOT lift the lid of the pan during cooking. Turn the heat off and leave to rest, covered, 10 more minutes.

For the sushi vinegar :

Heat 150cc sushi vinegar, 1 tsp. salt and 150g sugar in a pan. Stir until everything is combined and the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.

Place the warm sushi rice in a plastic or wooden bowl. Add the sushi vinegar and stir it in, making sure all the rice has some vinegar. Keep warm.

Note : If you are using this rice for sushi, leave it to cool completely. Spread it out on a flat surface if you are in a hurry. That way, it will cool down quicker.

Crème brûlée

  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • Approx.6 tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

Serves: 6-8

1.      Put a pie dish of about 20cm diameter in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Half-fill the sink with cold water. This is just a precaution in case the custard looks as if it’s about to split, in which case you should plunge the pan into the water and whisk the custard. I’m not saying it will – with so many egg yolks in the rich cream, it thickens quickly and easily enough – but I always feel better if I’ve done this.

2.      Put the cream and vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to boiling point, but do not let boil. Beat the eggs and caster sugar together in a bowl, and, still beating, pour the flavoured cream over it, pod and all. Rinse and dry the pan and pour the custard mix back in. Cook over medium heat (or low, if you’re scared) until the custard thickens: about 10 minutes should do it. You do want this to be a good, voluptuous crème, so don’t err on the side of runny caution. Remember, you’ve got your sinkful of cold water to plunge the pan into should it really look as if it’s about to split.

3.      When the cream’s thick enough, take out the vanilla pod, retrieve the pie dish and pour this crème into the severely chilled container. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge till truly cold. Sprinkle with demerara sugar, spoonful by spoonful, and burn with a blowtorch till you have a blistered tortoiseshell covering on top.

4.      Put back in the fridge if you want, but remember to take it out a good 20 minutes before serving. At which stage, put the bowl on the table and, with a large spoon and unchecked greed, crack through the sugary carapace and delve into the satin-velvet, vanilla-speckled cream beneath. No more talking: just eat.

Good old pestle and mortar



Jamie Oliver’s enthusiasm for the pestle and mortar is contagious.

Indeed, I confess to having bought mine after he enthused the virtues of such gadget in his earlier series of The Naked Chef. Then, it lay neglected for a long time until I moved on my own and I became its number one fan. I can’t think of any other thing which is so versatile: you can make pesto, bash spices, grind pepper and even, make mayonnaise. Well, aïoli at least. When you have as few gadgets as I do in the kitchen this one becomes invaluable.

So there I was the other day watching Jamie’s antics around several countries and having a go at cooking the local dishes.

As he was pounding ingredients in his pestle and mortar on an Andalusian beach he seemed totally happy. Apart from his knees (where he placed the chopping board), a knife, and the pestle and mortar he didn’t seem to need anything else to cook. And I can totally empathise with the lack of space.

So when I saw him making aïoli with just three ingredients I knew I had to try it.

Even though I had fulfilled my culinary duty of the day (I’d just made marinated olives), I set out to making aïoli with home-made nachos.

Now aïoli is not for the faint-hearted and you do have to love garlic. It is deceptively simple, just garlic, salt and oil, but as it’s often the case with seemingly simple things, it can go wrong.

Luckily mine didn’t split but you do have to have some patience (and some strength in your arm) if you’re doing it Jamie’s way with the pestle and mortar. It will be dead easy with a blender or a liquidizer but I haven’t got one.

I realised half way through doing it that Jamie’s programme had been brilliantly edited for mine took a lot longer. Nevertheless I was happy, as only someone who’s doing something productive can feel and I almost felt like Jamie, minus the beach, the sun and the Spanish sea of course.


Aïoli – adapted from Jamie’s website


For the aioli:


• 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
• a pinch of saffron (I didn’t have any left so mine looks white, unlike Jamie’s)
• sea salt
• 50ml olive oil
• 50ml good-quality Spanish extra virgin olive oil

Pound and mush up the garlic, saffron and a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle until you’ve got a smooth vibrant orange paste. Use the pestle to mix in the olive oil, a drizzle at a time. Be patient and wait until you’ve got a smooth emulsion before adding the next drizzle. Do the same with the extra virgin olive oil. If it splits, pour the mixture out, pound some more garlic and salt together, then really slowly add the split mixture to that. Be patient! Have a taste. Initially it will be fiery and you’ll think you don’t like it, but it’s supposed to be that way. Add a squeeze or two of juice from your peeled lemon and taste again.

Serve with home-made nachos. Also brilliant with fish or in a tomato salad.

Big Fish

 

 

Even though half the country is bordered by a sea-shore, I find that people in Argentina don’t eat enough fish. And that is a shame because it is one of the few things you can make that will leave you satisfied. And it contains little fat. Provided, that is, you don’t fry it.

So, when I was over there last year, I tried to cook as much fish as I could. I was sort of on a diet and fish was quite a convenient thing to eat.

 

 

 

Whole Fish Baked in Salt – adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes in Recetas y Secretos de Narda

 

You can do this with almost any big fish. Like for instance whole gutted bream which is what I used.

Mix herbs.

Season sea salt (about 1 kg) with chopped fresh chilli, herb trunks, lemon zest, any fresh herbs you like ( I used what I had handy: fresh chopped parsley, fresh chopped garlic, sage and rosemary) and egg white. The function of the egg white is to make it easier to remove the salt crust later.

Place half the seasoned salt in an oven tray. Place the whole fish on top and cover almost completely with the salt – you can leave the head and the tail out.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for around 20 minutes.

To see if the fish is cooked, crack a small hole in the salt crust in the thickest part of the fish and check the appearance of the flesh. (see notes below)

 

 

 

How to know when a fish is done

 

The appearance of the flesh of the fish clearly changes as it becomes hot.

Raw fish is translucent. Cooked fish, on the other hand, becomes opaque.

Therefore, the briefest inspection of the thickest part of the fish should tell you whether or not it is done. In the case of whole fish (round or flat, large or small) cooked on the bone, the tip of a round-ended knife or narrow palette knife is the tool for the job.

Pushed through the thickest part of the flesh on the lateral line until it touches the backbone, then levered gently to one side, it will expose the flesh to the bone. Take a look: opacity, or otherwise, and therefore doneness, is easily judged.

  

 

A very long interval

 

filete de brotola

It´s finally time for some proper blogging again! I am currently in Buenos Aires, sorting out some stuff. That doesn´t mean I am not cooking, quite the contrary! One of my addictions here is the Gourmet channel (I am cooking a lot from the TV recently). This is just one of my most recent dishes. It was simply delicious so I am reproducing it here never to lose it again.

White fish filet – adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes in Recetas y Secretos de Narda

cress:  1  cup
juice of  1 lemon
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh white fish (any one you like) 4  filets
chopped parsley  1 tbsp.
vermouth or white wine  1/4  cup
boiled potatoes 2 

Cut the filets in portions, season with salt and pepper on both sides.

To cook seal the fish with olive oil on both sides in a very hot pan.

Once cooked, take the fish out of the pan and gather the gravy by adding the vermouth or white wine, lemon juice, chopped parsley and cress leaves, sautee for a few minutes and take off the heat. 

Serve two fish portions with a cress garnish and one whole potato au naturel (boiled) and drizzle with olive oil.

Caramelized tomatoes – adapted from a recipe in Huente-co by Francis Mallmann 

1 ripe beef tomato per person

caster sugar, as needed

a little olive oil for frying 

In a small pan heat up a little olive oil. Cut the beef tomato in half and sprinkle the cut side generously with some caster sugar. Place this side down on the pan leaving the sugar to caramelize.

Note: I don’t particularly like my tomatoes to be too cooked (like the English do) so I just leave the tomato in the pan enough for the sugar to caramelize it and not more. This way the tomato stays nice and raw which is the way I like to eat it!