Poached pears with ginger, chilli pepper and star anise

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I saw it on TV, I did it and I ate it… well, with a bit of help from the mobile calorie intake units. It is just the perfect dessert – it is glamorous, delicious and can be made in advance. There is not much technique to it, except, maybe, peeling the pears. And, it might be the healthiest part of dinner, even…

Poached pears with ginger, red chilli pepper and star anise (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking) 

Ingredients

  •  8-10 ripe conference pears, peeled but with the stem intact
  • 200g of sugar
  • 3 thumbs of ginger, cut into thick slices (about 20cm)
  • 4 star anise, crushed to fine powder with a mortar and pestle
  • 3 peperoncino (or red chillies peppers, to taste)
  • Enough cold water to cover the pears.

Method

Peel the pears with a potato peeler, taking care to leave the stems intact.

Put the water, the sugar and the ginger in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the pears and peperoncino and poach for about half hour until their are soft and cooked through.

Set aside and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.

When you are ready to serve, just put the pears in the plate and sprinkle them with the star anise dust.

If you want, you can bubble the syrup for a a few more minutes to thicken a bit and serve with the pears. Or, you can prepare a chocolate sauce (just melt the chocolate in bain marie, with a bit of butter, being careful not to boil it. Add some cream and mix well). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra quick.


Roasted chicken, fennel and mandarines

yotam orange fennel chicken roast ok ok

A not so good picture for a great dish.

Roasted chicken, fennel and mandarines (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi‘s Jerusalem)

Ingredients 

  • 100ml pernod (or other anisaldehyde licor)
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 3 tbs orange juice
  • 2 tsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced into wedges
  • 1 free range chicken, divided into 8 (see here for help)
  • 3 mandarins, unpeeled, sliced horizontally into 1 cm slices
  • a good few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • salt and pepper

Method

In a dish combine the first 6 ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken, fennel, mandarins and thyme and let marinate for a few hours. If you’re not super organised (which I wasn’t) you can skip the marinating and just jump straight into the cooking.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Transfer the chicken, fennel and all its marinade into an oven proof roasting tray large enough for everything to sit in a single layer. Making sure the chicken is skin side up. Place the tray in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked, and its skin is crispy and golden.


Roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs in a reduction of balsamic

roasted sweetpotatos with figues and a reduction of balsamic

Apparently, it is one of the most popular Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes – and rightly so…. A few tweaks to the recipe, though. Onions were replaced by leeks as one of the mobile calorie intake units guests is allergic to it. Fresh figs were replaced my dried ones, due to sourcing and budgetary constraints. Probably not the dish Yotam envisioned, but still… it is a pretty good way to start your Autumn.

Roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs in a reduction of balsamic (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi‘Jerusalem)

Ingredients

  • 4 small sweet potatoes (1 kg in total)
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 40ml balsamic vinegar (you can use a commercial rather than a premium aged grade)
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 3 leeks  halved lengthways and cut into thin slices
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 250g of dried figs, sliced
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 240oC/220oC Fan/Gas Mark 9.

Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthways and then cut each again similarly into three long wedges. Mix with three tablespoons of the olive oil, two teaspoons of salt and some black pepper. Spread the wedges out on a baking sheet, skin-side down, and cook for about 25 minutes until soft but not mushy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down.

To make a balsamic reduction, place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2–4 minutes, or until it thickens. Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Stir in a drop of water before serving if it does become too thick to drizzle. Arrange the sweet potatoes on a serving platter.

Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan and add the spring onions and chilli. Fry on a medium heat for 4–5 minutes, stirring often, making sure not to burn the chilli, and then spoon the oil, onions and chilli over the sweet potatoes.

Dot the figs among the wedges and then drizzle over the balsamic reduction. Serve at room temperature.


Lemon pudding cake with berries

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To keep up with the spirit of seasonal cooking,  a lemon pudding cake with raspberries… Only one word to describe this: yum. Too bad soon enough berries will be gone from the supermarket…

Lemon pudding cake with berries  (adapted from Bill Granger‘s Easy)

Ingredients

  • Enough berries to cover the bottom of a tray (about 250g)
  • 75g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300mL buttermilk
  • 125g unsalted butter (melted and cooled down)
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Method

Preheat the stove to 180oC

Grease a 750mL to 1L baking dish. Make sure this dish fit fits larger tray, so you can have a bain marie. Scatter the berries over the base of the greased dish, making sure the whole surface is covered

Combine in a large bowl the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.

In another bowl, lightly whisk together the melted butter,  the buttermilk, the yolks, the sugar and the lemon zest.

Stir into the flour mixtures

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks forms

With a metal spoon, fold in the batter half of the egg whites until well incorporated. Then, fold in the remaining half.

Spread the batter over the berries in the baking dish.

Put the baking dish in the large baking tray. Poor boiling water in the larger dish until it reaches halfway up the sides, creating a main marie.

Transfer to the stove for about 45m to 1h, until it starts to get fluffy and golden (it should be cakey on the top and soft in the middle).

Let it cool for a bit and serve.


Baked salmon with an orange chilli ginger sauce

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In one word: yum. And I am not even such a big fan of salmon… It was probably one of the most cooked dishes of this year, together with the fennel orange salad. It was quite hard to explain that indeed this is supposed to be diet food and that indeed there was no added fat in this dish

Baked salmon with an orange chilli ginger sauce (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

  • 2 ball stem ginger in syrup, sliced into matchstick strips
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange (about 150mL)
  • 1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced (or flaked dried chillis)
  • 2 x salmon fillets, skin on (about 300g each)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

In a bowl large enough to hold both slices of salmon, mix the sliced ginger and garlic with the ginger syrup, the orange juice and the soy sauce. Add in the orange zest and the freshly ground the black pepper. In case you cannot source the ginger in syrup, fresh ginger can nicely replace it. In this case, add a couple of tablespoons of unrefined sugar.

Put the salmon in the bowl with the marinade. Turn a couple of times, ending with the fish skin side up. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220oC. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment. Take the salmon fillets out of the marinade, scraping off any bits and pieces, and place them on the tray, skin side down. Season with more ground black pepper. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Pour the marinade into a tiny non-stick pan and bring to the boil. Cook for 6 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half and the garlic is softened.

Put the salmon fillets on warm plates and spoon over with the sauce. Be careful not to damp the fish with the sauce. Serve immediately.


Apricot, walnut and lavender cake

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It was love at first sight. And, timing couldn’t have been better. I was just looking for my annual super baking project when I bumped into this recipe.  It was so delicious, I will have to bake it again. And again… and again. Never mind the Modern Art Cakes – this the one I want I want for my birthday. Truth to be said, it is not particularly difficult dish.  But the flavours, oh!, the flavours….  It were layers upon layers of fresh, summery and nutty flavours, each mouthful different.

Apricot, walnut and lavender cake  (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 120g ground walnuts
  • 90g plain flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
  • Salt
  • 600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed

For the icing

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 Method

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.

Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.

While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.


Fennel orange salad with harissa dressing

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Every now and again, I find a dish that I like so much I do it over and over and over again. Like, for example, the Russian egg salad. Or, this cauliflower soup. And, let’s not even mention the whole #beetrootgate affair. This is one of those dishes, which has become one of the staples of last Winter (and Spring…  and even Summer). It is just divine with smoked trout, baked salmon, cold cuts… And all this for less than 250 calories for a reasonable sized portion. Really, what not to like this salad?

Fennel orange salad with harissa dressing  (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 2 medium size fennel bulbs, trimmed,  woody central core part removed and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 oranges peeled (white parts out) and cut into 5cm chunks.
  • 1/2 radicchio washed and thinly sliced (escarole or endive also will also works well)
  • About 20 roasted salted almost slightly crushed with a mortar
  • Handfull of raisins or sultanas (or a mix of both).

For the harissa dressing

  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place the sliced fennel in a salad bowl. Carefully remove the white bitter parts of the orange and slice the oranges to divide flesh sections. Add to the bowl Crush the roasted salted almonds with a mortar and tip in the bowl. Add the sliced radicchio In a small bowl whisk well the harissa, honey, coriander and white wine vinegar. Pour in the olive oil in a very thin stream (spoon by spoon),  beating all the while. The sauce is ready when it you obtain a glossy, slightly thick mixture. Drizzle the harissa dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Sweet and sour chicken

sweet and sour chicken

This has become one of my favourite dishes to take work for lunch. It is easy to make, healthy and very convenient to eat. It is also comforting…  It is probably miles away from the real thing, but it still tastes good enough to pass every foodie standard of deliciousness.

Sweet and sour chicken (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

  • 1 x 425g/15oz can pineapple chunks in natural juice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
  • 2 peppers, red, green, orange or yellow, deseeded and cut into chunks of about 3cm/1¼in
  • 100g of Brazil nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 25g/1oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

To make the sauce, drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice – you should have about 150ml/5fl oz. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in three tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and 150ml/5fl oz water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Cut each chicken breast into eight or nine even pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the onion and peppers for two minutes over a high heat. Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.

Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for two minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30–60 seconds.

Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times. Serve with a small portion of rice.


Orange and date salad with orange flower and cinnamon syrup

orange pomagrante dates spices

… and this was what we had for dessert. Recipe is here, but without the spices it won’t work.


Quince poached in pomegranate juice and clotted cream

quitten pomegranatte clotted cream 

I can remember those cooking marathons my Mother used to endure around Christmas time, when all the cooking would be put to an halt to produce countless pots of marmelada. Do not confuse with marmalada... Marmelada is a very sugary quincy purée, which is a staple in every Portuguese kitchen. It seems to be something the Romans learnt from the Greeks, and which staid with us  until today,wikipedia dixit.

In any case, I would have thought to use the actual fruits for a dessert until I saw this recipe. And, I am glad I have tried it. Once you start with it, you just want to come back for more.

Quince poached in pomegranate juice (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients 

  • 2 large quinces, peeled and quartered
  • 800ml pomegranate juice
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
  • The shaved peel of 1 large orange, plus 50ml juice
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 65g pomegranate seeds
  • 120g clotted cream
  • 2 tsp fresh mint leaves (optional)

Method

Core the eight quince quarters. Discard four cores and tie the others into a bundle with an old tea towel or muslin. Put the cored quince quarters into a heavy-based pan and add the wrapped-up cores, pomegranate juice, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds, orange peel and juice, and star anise. Bring to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15-25 minutes, until the quince is soft.

Remove the quince quarters with a slotted spoon and set aside. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes or so, until it’s thick, syrupy and reduced to about 75ml. Just before serving, squeeze all the thick juices out of the core bundle into the sauce, then discard along with the orange peel, star anise and vanilla. Return the quince to the syrup and gently warm through. Place two quarters of quince on each plate, pour over some syrup and serve with clotted cream and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and shredded mint (if using)