Categories
Beer Cooking Food & Drink

Cooking out – why do we barbecue?

West Indies porterNow this is my kind of beer. A rich dark stout with a malty sweetness.

Never mind your beardy, skinny-jeaned, over-hopped craft beers (otherwise known simply as beers).

Give me a full-on porter any old day of the week, especially a Guinness West Indies porter. You can almost hear the rigging creak under the gentle Caribbean swell as the crew carouse in the fleshpots of Tortuga.

Cut-throats every last man-jack of them, not one would scruple to slit your throat so sweet and so neat you wouldn’t wake from your drunken slumber in the warm Haitian night, lost in the scent of the Governor’s African Lilies.

And yet, you’d wish for no finer cut-throat at your back when fighting some snooty English privateer or maybe boarding a fat Spaniard on the way home and laden to the gunwales with tribute for a King.

Ah, heady days indeed.

What else could a fellow do but light a fire and fling on an inch-thick steak?

Barbecue

When I was a child, we never had barbecues.

Why?  I don’t know. Maybe we just weren’t posh enough although now that I look back on it we did occasionally heat a tin of beans over a fire made of sticks on the river bank.

Does that count? I don’t know. Maybe that was an Irish barbecue.

Leaving aside the peculiar Aussie barbie, which I suspect isn’t all that old, the first time Irish people heard of the barbecue was when television arrived.  That was when most Irish people first encountered a way of life they’d never imagined, thanks to bizarre 25-minute comedies like I Dream of Jeannie and Mister Ed, depicting a way of life that only the wealthy have ever enjoyed.  And the Irish lapped it up, even though most of them barely had an indoor toilet in those days. Even though they had about as much hope of sharing in the American Dream as the majority of Americans did. About as much hope as most Americans do today.

But yet, we managed to improve our lot, or at least many of us did, and so here we are, fifty years after Mister Ed, scorching a hunk of meat over burning coals, praying to the Sun God and slugging this thing we call beer.

Why?

I suppose there’s something atavistic about it. I suppose there’s a trigger deep down in our amygdala, emitting floods of pleasure at the thought of killing and eating something.

To my vegan friends, I say, sorry but that’s ok by me. I like the idea of having friends around, roasting things over hot coals and throwing back cold beer. But  yet, I’m fully aware that it might be the result of a cultural expansion from our United States cousins. After all, what else have we not adopted from Stateside?

For now, I’m not going to over-think it. Crack open another bottle of West Indies porter there me hearties and strike up a shanty.

 

Categories
Cooking

Chicken Bhuna

Confession: I might have burnt this a little.

Oops!

Chicken bhuna curry

Anyway, I’m sure you’ll forgive me, since I’m still giving you the recipe and unlike me, you’ll do it properly.

In many ways, this is a sort of poor man’s tandoori if you bake it in the oven, but of course nothing would do me but to barbecue the goddamn thing. Blame the sunshine. Blame the dear friends sharing it with me on the overgrown patio. Blame the beer, blame the wine, blame it on the boogie.

Does it matter?

Here’s a bhuna recipe and you can use it with anything. Meat, vegetables, captured vegans. It’s up to you.

For myself, I didn’t fancy going to all the effort of boning a vegan, so I bought some chicken instead and in the end we all agreed it tasted slightly veganish with nutty overtones and a strong demand to be heard.

The Spices

Cumin seeds : 2 spoons

Coriander seeds : 4 spoons

Mustard seeds : 2 spoons

Dried chillis to taste. I like it hot but you might not.

Fennel seeds: 2 spoons

Fenugreek seeds: 2 spoons

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

Stir them constantly on a heavy frying pan at medium heat. Not too high or they’ll produce a poison gas that will kill everyone in the house. Just enough heat to darken them slightly but not enough to burn them.

They should come out nicely browned. In fact, I think I might have overdone it a bit with this lot, but it worked out all right in the end.

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

When they’re roasted, fling them into a food processor or else grind them up with a mortar and pestle until you get a nice powder like this.

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

The Other Stuff

You need some onions, ginger and garlic.

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

Skin them, chop them up finely and fry them in light oil.

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

Add some curry leaves and some tomatoes.

Let me confess that I had no fresh curry leaves and no tomatoes, so I cheated and just tossed in some dried curry leaves and a couple of cartons of passata. It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference.

Chicken bhuna curry recipe

Add your spices.

Add your meat, whatever it is. In this case, I used chicken.

Let it all cook away until it reduces down to a thick paste and the meat is cooked through.

Serving

Now you have a choice. You can just serve the bhuna straight from the pan with any accompaniment you like. It might be rice, it might be chapatis or for that matter it might be chips. We won’t get precious about it.

On the other hand, you can bake it all in the oven and it will come out very like a tandoori.

I chose to barbecue it, which might not necessarily have been the best decision since I managed to scorch it, but at the same time, nobody was complaining. That might have been due to the beer, it might have been due to the sunshine or it might have been due to the laid-back music, but I like to think it was due to the delicious  food.

Chicken bhuna curry

 

One way or another, we won’t fall out over it. Have a beer.

 

Categories
Cooking

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Vegetarian lasagne.

I said vegetarian, not vegan. There’s loads of cheese in this, so if you’re a committed vegan, this one isn’t for you, just like all the other recipes on this site.

If, on the other hand, you fancy a tasty dinner without meat, you could do worse than have a shot at this vegetarian lasagne. It won’t take you long and you’ll impress the living shit out of your non-cooking friends.

Now, this recipe is based on what I happened to have handy, so don’t feel bound to follow it slavishly. If you prefer different vegetables, toss them in. It’s all good. Like any other lasagne, this consists of two main components: a tomato-based sauce and a Béchamel sauce, which is just a fancy name for a white flour-based sauce. I like to add cheese to this, but some people just use it plain.

Here’s what you need.

Vegetables: peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms and aubergine.

Lasagne sheets

Passata or tinned tomatoes.

Cheese: Grated cheddar and grated parmesan

Butter, flour, bay leaves
Vegetarian lasagne recipe

 

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

 

Start by slicing the mushrooms and onions. Crush the garlic.  Fry them all gently.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

 

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Then add some passata or tinned tomatoes

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Toss in a glass of wine. Obviously.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Crush a nutmeg and toss it in. Add some herbs to taste. Some oregano, maybe, some basil or parsley. It’s a matter of personal taste.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Add the carrots, some good quality vegetable stock and let it all cook away gently for an hour or two while you polish off the rest of the wine and make the Béchamel sauce.

There’s no mystery to this, by the way. All you need to do is melt some butter in a heavy pot and gently sift in flour until you have a reasonably solid mix. This is a roux. Let it cook thoroughly because you’ll be using it to thicken the sauce and you don’t want to get an uncooked flour taste.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Meanwhile, heat a pot of milk and add a couple of fresh bay leaves and a pinch of whole black peppers. Add shallots to the infusion if you have them but don’t worry if you can’t find any, and If you haven’t got fresh bay leaves, dried will do. Let the milk simmer gently for maybe a half hour, but don’t let it boil over or burn. The important word is gently.

When the roux is thoroughly cooked — but not burnt! — add it a bit at at time to the hot milk until the mixture thickens. Then add the grated cheddar and parmesan mix very gradually, stirring all the time until you end up with a smooth cheese sauce. (I actually forgot to add the bay leaves and the pepper to the milk, and that’s why I had to throw them in later. Not to worry).

A Béchamel sauce with cheese added is called a Mornay sauce, because that’s how the French are about stuff.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Now you’re ready to put it all together.

Assemble your sliced vegetables.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Line the base of a cooking dish with sheets of lasagne and spoon a layer of your tomato sauce onto it. Then apply a layer of vegetables and cover with the cheese sauce.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Add a layer of lasagne sheets and repeat the process until you’ve used almost everything up.

Finally, apply a top layer of pasta, spoon on the remaining cheese sauce and cover it with vegetables.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Sprinkle it with the two-cheese mix and pop it in the oven.

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Voila!  Vegetarian lasagne in minutes.

Delicious!

Vegetarian lasagne recipe

Categories
Cooking

Beef Curry Recipe – Ceylon style

Here’s a thing I haven’t made in years: a rather quaintly-named Ceylon beef curry recipe. I just happened to be thumbing through an old cookery book when I stumbled across it, which wasn’t hard. Did you ever notice that all your favourite recipes are in the pages caked with dried food and marked with grubby fingerprints?

Ceylon Beef Curry

A long, long time ago I discovered by accident that coconut goes very well with large amounts of garlic, so I modified the original recipe a bit.  I also had no coconut milk so I adjusted by using creamed coconut instead.  Apart from that it’s pretty much the same as the original, and I can tell you this. It is absolutely delicious, so get cookin’!

What do you need?

Get some beef, cut into cubes.

20 dried chillis

2 teaspoons of coriander seeds.

10 cardamoms. I used black, but next time I’ll try the green ones and see what difference it makes.

A one-inch stick of cinnamon or thereabouts. Roughly. Don’t worry too much about the proportions.

 

Ceylon Beef Curry

Pound up the coriander, the cinnamon, the chillis and the cardamoms. This mortar-and-pestle business is all very well, and it looks better in the pictures, but I think I should get myself a small coffee grinder instead. Sieve the spices through something coarse like a colander to get rid of the cardamom husks or else you’ll be spitting them out the whole way through your meal, and it isn’t a great look really.

Ceylon Beef Curry

Roast the ground spices in a dry hot pan until they begin to give off a pungent aroma but don’t make the mistake of inhaling deeply to check progress.  This stage is very important for any recipe involving aromatic spices, so don’t skip it.

Ceylon Beef Curry

Add the roasted spices to vinegar. I used wine vinegar but it’s up to you. Malt vinegar might be a bit strong.

Ceylon Beef Curry

 

Marinate the beef in the spices for about an hour.

Ceylon Beef Curry

 

Now you’ll need some more ingredients.

Onions, garlic and ginger.

Ceylon Beef Curry

 

For this, I used about five or six garlic cloves but you could use more or less depending on your taste. Chop up the garlic, onions and ginger and fry them until they’re soft.  I use ghee which I make myself, but you can always use vegetable oil if you prefer.  When the mix is soft and browned, take it out of the pan and set it aside for a while.

Fry the marinated beef in small batches. The reason for this is because if you add too much at one time, the pan will cool down and you don’t want that.  When you have all the beef nicely fried return the cooked vegetables to the pan.

If you have coconut milk put that in now, but don’t worry too much if you have none. I just added hot water and grated creamed coconut. Personally, I think it’s a better option anyway because tinned coconut milk can give food a slimy texture at times. Stick with the creamed coconut.

Ceylon Beef Curry 008

 

Ceylon Beef Curry

Then throw in some curry leaves if you have them, and let the whole lot stew away until the sauce thickens and the meat is nice and tender.

 

Ceylon Beef Curry

 

When you’re happy with all that, cook up some nice brown rice or else make a few chapatis.

Invite some friends around. Enjoy your meal.

Ceylon Beef Curry

Categories
Cooking

Mince pies – simple and delicious

Mince Pies 010

I put  a picture of hot mince pies on Facebook the other day and to my surprise a lot of people came back looking for a recipe.

Recipe? Isn’t this the simplest thing in the world?

Apparently not.

Therefore, in the interests of bringing mince pies to the masses, here’s a step-by-step account of making mince pies with puff pastry like the Mammy used to do.

First, buy some ridiculously inexpensive puff pastry from Lidl. 79 cents or thereabouts.  Also buy a jar of ridiculously inexpensive mincemeat from Lidl. I can’t remember how much.

Mince Pies puff pastry

Let it sit for a while until it reaches room temperature. This technique involves going away and forgetting about it.

Once you’re sure your puff pastry is more or less at room temperature open the pack and peel it back gently.

Mince Pies puff pastry

Now roll the pastry out as thinly as you can and then divide it into circles using a glass or a pastry cutter.

Mince Pies

Split the circles in two groups and lay out one half on the board. Add a spoonful of mincemeat to the centre of each.

Mince Pies recipe

Take the other half of the discs and dip them in water to make the edges stick. Lay them down over the top.

Mince pies recipe

Squeeze the edges together but don’t forget the spare offcuts. You can stick them on the top to make the things look a little prettier if you like that sort of thing.

Mince Pies recipe

Mince Pies recipe

Shove it all in the oven at about 200C and wait for it to puff up and go brown.

Mince Pies recipe

What more do you want me to tell you?

Get stuck in. Delicious.

Categories
Cooking

Let’s make hummus

I love making grub, as you’ll know if you happen to be a regular here, but I can’t see the point of putting up recipes of things you already know.

Hummus

Why would I do that?

Of course, admittedly, you might well know how to make hummus, but there’s a good chance many people won’t, so let’s give it a go.

It’s ridiculously easy.

All you need to do is buy a couple of cans of chickpeas, throw in some tahini, add a few cloves of garlic, maybe a fist of coriander, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a shot of olive oil.

Whizz it all together using a stick blender and before you know it, you have hummus.

You probably have so much hummus you’ll have to give it away to friends and neighbours but that’s all right too. That makes you even more Levantine than you were before. That makes you an absolute decent hospitable Arab.

My question is this: how can I make this hummus recipe better?

How can I add to this, or remove from it, so that my hummus begins to approach the wonderful quality of hummus in Lebanon?

I have this  wonderful book of recipes, but I feel I can do better.

Lebanese food

How can I make better hummus?

 

 

Categories
Cooking

Home-made ice cream recipe

There’s a huge amount of mystique associated with making ice-cream, not to mention downright mystification and, I must confess, I was as much a victim of it as anyone else. I thought it was impossible for anyone to make real ice cream unless they were born under the shadow of Mount Etna.

All the same, I decided to give it a shot even though I have no ice-cream maker. The odds were against anyone in 17th-century Sicily having an electric ice-cream machine either and they somehow managed to turn out a passable frozen delight, so I thought it was worth taking a chance.

I do have a fridge, which is always an advantage in making ice-cream, unless you have access to a 20,000-ton iceberg towed south from the Arctic circle, as they used to do in centuries gone by, and anyway we’ll soon have melted all the ice in the Arctic, rendering the question completely abstract.

But anyway, despite my ignorance of ice-cream making, I plunged in, ignoring the advice of Polonius to Hamlet:

As the monkey knoweth not his father, so the fool knoweth not his own folly.

All right. I made that bit up.

I tried a few different ways of doing it before settling on this, but I’m a complete beginner, and there’s every chance you know of much better techniques, so please tell me if you do.

A warning. This recipe uses raw eggs. Do not make ice cream this way if you’re giving it to an ill person or somebody of a great age because there’s always a danger of salmonella. If you’re concerned, use a little custard instead.

Here’s what you need.

Some whipping cream.

A couple of eggs.

Icing sugar.

Colouring and flavouring of choice. For this recipe, I just used vanilla extract, but you could use anything you like, from cardamoms to lemon juice, with or without alcohol. I understand that booze makes the ice-cream a little softer out of the freezer but I can’t say for certain since I haven’t tried it yet.

It’s remarkably easy to do.

First, separate the yolks and the egg whites.

Home-made ice cream

 

Whip the egg whites using a hand whisk. I’ve found that this works much better than mechanical devices like stick blenders, though I don’t know why. Perhaps they’re a little too violent, but anyway, the resulting foam is much lighter. If the yolk breaks, discard the whole lot because the egg white won’t whisk properly if it has any yolk in it.

 

Home-made ice cream

 

Whisk in some icing sugar to taste, along with whatever colouring and flavouring you choose. I just used vanilla for this example because it’s all new to me.

Beat the egg yolks and fold them into the whipped egg whites.

Whip the cream, also using a hand whisk. You can of course use an electric mixer, but the whisk seems to make the results much lighter which is a good thing in an ice cream.

Home-made ice cream

Then fold in the egg mixture.

Home-made ice cream

Home-made ice cream

 

Pop it into glasses, tubs or whatever you prefer.

Freeze it.

Serve it to your family and friends.

Accept compliments with good grace.

Feel good about yourself.

Home-made ice cream

Categories
Cooking Food & Drink

Mulligatawny Recipe

I bumped into a friend today who shares my interest in cooking.  He’s an excellent cook, much better than I am, but today he was looking a bit under the weather.  We’ll call him “John”.

Are you a bit under the weather, John? I asked him.

Jesus, I am, he croaked.  I was out till four in the morning, but I’m much better now.

Glad to hear it, I assured him as the conversation drifted around to other matters.

Do you know what I made last week? he said.

No, John.   How would I know what you made last week?   I don’t even know what you made yesterday.

Well, he perked up, as it happens, I made bacon and cabbage yesterday for the very first time in my life.

Comfort food, I observed.

Mmm-hmm, agreed the obscure hungover-looking character in the corner.

Not something I’m particularly fond of.

Mulligatawny recipeMe neither, said “John”, I just got a figary to do it, but anyway, last week I made kedgeree.

Kedgeree?  I was taken aback.   How very Raj of you.  But as it happens, I’ve found smoked fish to be a wonderful cure for hangovers.  There was a time, many years ago when we used to have all-night house-parties, and I always found that the perfect breakfast was a kipper and a bottle of Guinness.

Precisely, agreed “John”.  That kedgeree knocked my hangover for six, old chap, and then I bagged an elephant.  Kedgeree for tiffin.  Can’t beat it, old boy.

You’ve got me thinking, I told him.  Here’s a thing I haven’t had in yonks.  Mulligatawny.  I first had it in an East End restaurant run by a Bangladeshi wallah years and years back, and damn tasty it was too.   Maybe I’ll revive the old Bock recipe series and see how it goes.

Splendid! said “John”, brandishing a buffalo gun.  Tally-ho!

_____________________

So here we go.

My ad-hoc Mulligatawny based on whatever I happened to have in the kitchen.

Now, here’s the thing about most recipes: you really can’t go wrong even if you don’t have all the stuff  because there’s no such thing as right and wrong ingredients.  In my case, the first Mulligatawny I ever had, back in the East End of London, had a strong lemon character to it and that’s what I continued to expect over the years, but another man’s recipe might be completely different and that’s fine too.  We make it up as we go along, based on what we have.

For this, you’ll need some spices.  Cumin seed, haldi, cracked peppercorns and plain old curry powder.  I prefer hot but you might like it milder.  That’s fine. It’s up to you.  As a matter of fact, I might even toss in a load of hot chilli as well just to liven it up, but that’s me.  Live and let live.

Mulligatawny recipe 003

The next thing you’ll need is some onions, some carrots and a few garlic cloves.

Mulligatawny recipe 005

 

Mulligatawny recipe 006

 

Mulligatawny recipe 004

Now.  When you have these all chopped up, you should fry them in clarified butter, although to be honest, unclarified butter is fine too as long as you don’t make it too hot and burn it.

Mulligatawny recipe 007

Fry them away gently until they’re soft, and at the same time, put on a pot of rice.  I prefer brown, but white is fine.  When we’re finished, we’ll mix the rice in with the sauce (or we might not, as I’ll explain in a little while).

When the onions, carrots and garlic are soft, you should toss in your spices and some flour to thicken things up.  Stir the whole lot around to get it well mixed.

Mulligatawny recipe 010

Mulligatawny recipe 011

Now add some chicken stock and cook it all up until it thickens.  Let it cook away for a good while.

Mulligatawny recipe 013

Now you can chop up your chicken and cook it in some clarified butter.

Mulligatawny recipe 009

When you think the sauce is well cooked, throw in some natural yoghurt.  Some people use coconut milk, but I haven’t tried that so I don’t know what it would taste like.  I must  try it next time.  Other people throw in a couple of chopped Granny Smith apples, which sounds interesting.  Nothing like a bit of variety.

Mulligatawny recipe 014

Then add the chicken and the juice of half a lemon.  Maybe you’d prefer it to be a bit tangier but you can always add the other half if it’s not to your taste.  There are no hard and fast rules in this.

Mulligatawny recipe 015

Now.

Let this cook away for a while.   Go off and shoot an elephant, but don’t forget to drain the rice first.

When you get back, it will all be ready and you can serve it, but here’s where you have to make a decision.  Traditionally, Mulligatawny has the rice mixed into the entire dish, but these days not everybody wants to eat rice.

You could serve it mixed like this.

Mulligatawny recipe 001

But I think it would be better to offer it in two separate bowls, and let people decide for themselves how much rice they want mixed in with the sauce.  It’s only fair, really.

Mulligatawny recipe 002

Three other things.

First, you can always add more spice or other flavours later.  Play around with the proportions.  Nobody will arrest you for getting it wrong.

Second.  Before adding the chicken you could, if you wished, blend the whole lot to a smooth consistency, and that’s what I myself intended to do, but I forgot.

Third, you don’t need to add meat.  This would make a very tasty vegetarian dish if you substituted sweet potato or butternut squash, for instance.

Anyway.  Enjoy your Mulligatawny and let me know how you get on.

Categories
Cooking

Stuffed Mushrooms

It’s been ages since I put up a recipe, so I thought maybe I’d try this really quick one.  You can prepare and cook this all in about 15 minutes, which I like, being lazy.  I just kinda made this up.

You’ll need :

Stuffed Mushroom  Mushrooms

 

Stuffed Mushroom  Garlic

 

 

Stuffed Mushroom

Brie

 

 

Stuffed Mushroom  Chorizo

 

 

Stuffed Mushroom  Lemon

 

 

_________________________________

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and chop them up finely.

Stuffed Mushroom 002

Chop up some garlic to taste and fry it gently in butter until it’s soft.  Then remove the garlic pieces and get rid of them.  Fry the chopped mushroom stalks in the garlic butter.

Chop up the chorizo into very small pieces.

Stuffed Mushroom

Add the pieces to the pan with the chopped mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushroom

Then cut up the brie into small pieces.  If it’s too gooey, don’t worry.  It’ll melt anyway.  Add the cheese to the pan and stir the whole lot around until it blends together.  Throw in a squeeze of lemon juice for a little extra piquancy.

Stuffed Mushroom

Stuffed Mushroom

Lovely.  Now spoon the mix back into the mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushroom

Put a little cap of Brie on each mushroom.

Stuffed Mushroom

You can cook it in the oven for about 15 minutes, or if you prefer, you can cheat like I did and microwave it for two minutes.

Nice!!

Stuffed Mushroom

Finger-lickin’ good.

Categories
Cooking Favourites

Bacon Pancakes With Maple Syrup

Bacon pancakes with maple syrup.

Suggestions?

 

Bacon pancake-