29 November 2006

Royal Pickle

This is a traditional Bulgarian method of preserving vegetables for the Winter. Pickle in Bulgarian is "turshiya". This particular variety is called "tsarska" which means royal. It's super easy to make and is particularly tasty with the Bulgarian national brandy called "rakia".



Ingredients

Cauliflower
Carrots
Red peppers
Celery
salt, 20 g per 1 kg vegetables
granulated sugar, 40 g per 1 kg vegetables
Bay leaves, 1 per 1 kg vegetables
Crushed black pepper
Apple Cider vinegar, 2 dl per 1 kg vegetables + top up
Water

Method
  1. Wash all the vegetables. Break up or cut the cauliflower into small bunches, cut the peppers in largeish chunks and the carrots in slices, about 0.5 cm thick.
  2. Place all vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt and the sugar. Cover the bowl and give it a good shake to distribute the salt and sugar.
  3. Place in the fridge and leave for 24 h.
  4. Pour the liquid that the vegetables have released into a saucepan. Add 2 dl of apple cider vinegar for every 1 kg of vegetables and the bay leaves and pepper.
  5. Bring the liquid to the boil, then take off the heat and let cool completely.
  6. In the mean time, put the vegetables in jars.
  7. When the marinade has cooled, remove the bay leaves and distribute it between the jars. Generally it won't be enough to cover the vegetables, so top up with equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water.
  8. Close the jars and place in a cool place for at least 3 days, after that it's ready to eat.
This is a very tasty snack or a good nibble with rakia. Because the vegetables are not cooked, they remain crunchy.

Lundulph (and my Dad, I found out) is very partial to the cauliflower, so this year, I'm making one large jar with only cauliflower. Also he suggested I put some baby corn in as well. The reason I made the turshiya last year was because I had some left over green tomatoes that I didn't want to throw away, so if you grow your own tomatoes, this is a nice way to use them.
Generally I skip the celery, as I don't like it, but will try some next time.

Update 2nd December 2006:
The turshiya is ready, we've had some with rakia we bought last Summer. The baby corn worked very well and tasted very nice. Also, because I put together the juices from the cauliflower bowl and the mixed vegetable bowl when I cooked it with the spices, the cauliflower from both jars tastes the same.

The rakia was interesting - we visited a monastery in the town where we were staying and there was a strange man selling wine and rakia with monastery labels. We bought a bottle, and this is the one we tried today, surprisingly tasty. It has a twig of what I think is lavender and it tastes very flowery. Neither of us is blind yet.

Update 6th December 2013:
Going through my paper recipes, I notice that I've jotted down a couple of things on the paper version of this blog entry.
One kilogram of vegetables gives approximately 2 dl of liquid. It also fits nicely into two 1 litre jars. To top-up, use 2.5 dl of cider vinegar and 2.5 dl of water.

26 November 2006

Arunachal Fish Curry

I haven't cooked this for a very long time, but I found a couple of salmon fillets in the freezer, so I thought it would be nice for a Sunday dinner.

The recipe is from Mridula Baljekar's Fat Free Indian Cookery. Lundulph heard about this on the radio and downloaded the recipe from the Beeb. Sadly no longer available there.

I was quite skeptical, since I don't like fish and such much, but salmon is an exception, so I cooked it and let me tell you: the curry is fantastic! We bought the book immediately after that, the other recipes are fabulous too, so full of flavour and yes, definitely no added fat.

The difference is that I tend to double the amounts for the sauces, because I like to dip.

And in the case of this curry in particular, I'm using salmon fillets rather than steaks.

Also, Mridula Baljekar explains in the book about different spices and different pastes and purees that can be made in advance. Since we got the book, I've increased my spice collection to include about 30 little jars - almost the entire list of the book. And I keep ginger puree, boiled and browned onion purees in the freezer too, so making the tasty curries is very quick.

Photo will soon follow.

23 November 2006

Cooking with fresh herbs

I'm not an expert, far from it, but I have worked in restaurants and have picked up a few tricks, that I'd like to share.

Parsley

Most people know that the curly and flat varieties taste the same. Up until recently, only flat leaf parsley was used in Bulgaria. In England, it seems that the curly type is a lot more popular. I tend to get the cheaper of the two for cooking and the curly one for decoration.

The main thing is when cooking is that the curly variety has a more robust cell structure, so it can readily be chopped. The flat leaf parsley should never be chopped, as it goes soggy, it should be finely cut or snipped with sharp scissors.

Another thing about parsley, it tends to go very bland when it's dried, so it's better to buy a larger amount, chop or cut and freeze in a box, ready for use. Don't bother with ice cube trays and water, it's a hasle and would probably need some defrosting before it can be added to the food.

I never liked this as a child and used to pick it out of my food. It's still not a favourite, but I do use it, as Lundulph likes it a lot.

Dill

This herb should be cut with a knife or scissors, no chopping. It's good dried too.

Lovage

I haven't seen this in the supermarket, but it is available in gardening shops. It's a rather invasive perennial herb, like mints, so should be managed in the same way. It has quite a strong flavour, so might not be to everyone's taste. It is good for chopping, freezing and drying.

Coriander

This is called Indian parsley in Bulgaria, it looks a bit like flat leaf parsley, but feels a lot more tender, so should be cut, not chopped. Good for freezing. I haven't tried dried leaves. Not one of my favourites, but is very nice in curries and spanatchnik. Another one of Lundulph's favourites.

Savory

This is the herb that defines Bulgarian cuisine, I think. It comes in two varieties - Summer, which is an annual and Winter, which is a perennial. Generally Summer savory is used, as it has a more delicate flavour. I don't see why it can't be used fresh.

Mint

In Bulgarian cooking, spearmint is used. I'm not sure what type is sold in the supermarkets in England, but it's close enough. The smaller leaves are nice as decorations on desserts. It can be chopped and steeped for tea or used in Summer salads together with dill.

Lemon balm

This herb is used as decoration on desserts in Sweden, I think it's nicer than mint, which has coarser leaves. I haven't had any success with drying it or making tea from it though, fresh or dry.

Thyme

In Bulgaria, thyme is used in herbal teas. I think it's very nice in my ratatouille. I think it's a very nice tasting herb. Choppable, freezable and dryable.

Bulgarian Bean Soup with Gammon

I've spent most of the week clearing out the freezer. Still it's quite full. However, I think it's about time I made some nice Bulgarian bean soup. It's completely vegetarian, which is great, but Lundulph is not designed for vegetarian food, so I've added the gammon to give it more substance.

IMG_0330

I think this is one of the most popular Bulgarian dishes and there are probably lots of variations in the different parts of Bulgaria. This is my Mum's recipe. There are two ways to make it. If you have a pressure cooker, then this comes in handy, as it shortens cooking time considerably.

Alternatively, it can be slow cooked in the oven, which makes it even tastier. My earliest memories of the soup is watching it cook on an open fire at my Grandparents' allotment. Then it was made in a terracotta pot and is definitely the tastiest way to do it. I'll describe the pressure cooker method. The recipe contains a spice mixture called Vegeta, which I've found available in Turkish shops. It contains salt, so you can either use it or just add salt to taste (not necessarily the same amount!). Also if you are doing gammon, that's quite salty, so reduce the amount of salt in the soup.

Bulgarian Bean Soup

500 g dried white beans
2 medium sized onions
2 medium sized carrots
2 - 3 green peppers
2 - 3 cloves of garlic
black pepper
2 - 3 tbsp Vegeta
3 - 4 tbsp dried savory
1 tsp sugar
1 dl olive oil
2 medium sized grated tomatoes or 1 tbsp tomato puree
1 dl fresh chopped or finely cut parsley
0.5 dl fresh finely cut spearmint
0.5 dl fresh chopped lovage
3 - 4 tbsp fresh finely cut dill

  1. Clean the beans and place in a large bowl and fill with water. Depending on how old the beans are and what type they are, leave them to soak for 4 h up to 2 days for very old beans. I've found that the beans I buy in the supermarket are OK with about 8-10 h soak, I fill the bowl in the morning before I go to work, then I cook them in the evening when I get home. This reduces the cooking time a bit.
  2. At the end of the soaking, remove any remaining water, place in the beans in the pressure cooker and add water until it reaches about 5 cm above the beans.
  3. Close the pressure cooker and bring to the boil and let boil under pressure for 15 - 20 minutes.
  4. In the mean time peel and dice the vegetables and measure up approximately the same amount of water and boil it in a kettle. It depends on how much soup you want.
  5. After the initial cooking, take the pressure cooker off the heat and place under cold water to cool it off quickly. When the pressure is gone, open it and remove the water. Don't skip the cooling, because it's almost impossible to open the lid otherwise and should you manage to do that, the contents will explode in your face.
  6. Add the new hot water, then add the vegetables and bring to the boil without the lid.
  7. After the soup has started boiling, add the spices and olive oil, then cover and cook under pressure for 1 - 2 h on low-medium heat, again depending on the age and type of the beans.
  8. When the time is up, take off the heat and place under cold water to cool it quickly.
  9. Open and taste a bean. If it's soft, stir in the tomato(es). Add the fresh herbs as well. The measures are quite approximate, I generally put a handful or so of each. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes. If the bean is still a bit crunchy, close and cook under pressure for a bit longer.
At this point it is ready to eat. You can use dried herbs, they should then be added along with the savory. As for the savory itself, I've rarely seen it fresh in the supermarket, so haven't had a chance to try cooking with it so far.
What my Mum does, is serve the soup in this state immediately and the next day. After that she does the following.

Bean stew

3 - 4 tbsp of grapeseed oil
1 tbsp of sweet paprika

  1. Heat up the oil on low heat.
  2. Add the paprika and stir very vigorously, as it burns easily.
  3. Pour over the soup, stir well and bring to the boil.
This "re-juvenates" the soup and it is good for another couple of days. Of course I can't remember that ever happening in my parents' house - the soup disappears very quickly independently of original amount made. Lundulph is not as big a fan as my Dad, so I make half the amounts and it lasts quite a long time anyway.

Lately my Mum has been experimenting with slow cooking and says that the bean effect doesn't take place if you use this method. I've never had this problem with beans, so I'm not bothered, but I'll ask her for the details and add it here. Yes, the beans are still done in the pressure cooker, but there is no need to soak them in advance, but put all vegetables in together with the beans from the beginning, then close and cook on the lowest possible heat for 1 h. At this point the pressure vent should have started to make a noise indicating that pressure has built up. Now you can increase the heat to low-medium and leave for 2 to 2.5 h. The trick is to heat up the soup slowly and cook for a long time. No need to change the water. At the end, add the spices, both fresh and dry. Do the stew mix as well if you want. Then just bring it to the boil again and it's done.

My idea is to do the above in a terracotta pot in the oven on the slow cook setting overnight. I'll try this next time and add an update on how it went.

Finally the gammon.
I bought boneless piece of gammon for roasting, removed as much of the fat as I could and cut up in 1 cm thick slices and grilled for about 8 minutes on each side. Cutting it was difficult, so if you can find ready sliced gammon, I recommend it.
Lundulph thought it was OK, but would be better to cut the gammon in small pieces, fry them shortly to seal them, then cook together with the bean soup. I'll try this next time and let you know what happens. Watch this space.

20 November 2006

Sunday laziness

Yesterday was Sunday and as usual our plans for the day had been ruined the day before, buy the plumber that didn't turn up when he said he would (Saturday), but offered to come in on the Sunday.

Lundulph had to work and so did I, so it was quite late when we both realised we were starving and the fridge didn't have anything appealing, so it was time for another quick and lazy meal.

Swedish Meatballs with Potatoes and Gravy


Swedish meatballs - pork from Sainsbury's
baby salad potatoes - steamed
1 packet powdered Swedish gravy from IKEA
semi-skimmed milk as per instructions on the pack
lingonberry jam (optional as it is an acquired taste for non-Swedes)
  1. The Swedish meatballs come in 500g packs and are excellent for freezing, I freeze them in bags of 15 - 5 for me and 10 for Lundulph.
  2. IKEA sell the creamy gravy powder in their food shop. It is of course much tastier to make it at home, but I don't have the recipe, so powder it is. I'll find my old recipe and add it to the site. So bring the milk to boiling, add the powder and stir. Done.
  3. I steamed the potatoes, keeping an eye on them all the time - no charcoal-potatoes or soot anywhere.
  4. Well, that's about it really. This was definitely my favourite amongst the school dinners.

14 November 2006

Chinese Noodle Soup

This is a hearty soup that I learned from a former colleague and a friend. I've mentioned it earlier. It's fairly quick to make and is great for cold evenings.


Ingredients

2 boneless pork loin steaks
3 - 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 - 4 tbsp light soy sauce
3 - 4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
100 - 200 g (1 pack) mangetout
100 - 200 g (1 pack) baby corn
1 head of broccoli
1 large carrot
1 pack instant noodles (I used the beef flavoured ones and used the sachet, but I think it'd be better without it. Also I used 2 packs, that was a mistake.)
boiling water
1 - 2 large eggs

Method
  1. Remove as much as possible of the fat off the steaks, then slice into thin strips, about 0.5 cm thick.
  2. Place the pork in a bowl, then pour the two soy sauces and stir through to get the meat well coated. Cover with cling film and leave to one side for at least 10 minutes (I left it for 40).
  3. While the meat is marinated, cut the broccoli into smallish bunches, peel and slice the carrot thinly, wash all vegetables and cut the baby corn in two along it's length.
  4. Also boil water in a kettle or the large pot where the soup will be made.
  5. Heat up the sesame oil on high heat in a non-stick wok type pan. When it's really hot, add the meat along with the marinade and stir fry for a few minutes to get it browned.
  6. Add the vegetables and stir so they can pick up some of the flavour. A few minutes should do it, then take off the heat.
  7. If not already there, pour the water into the soup pot and place on medium heat. Break up the lump of dried noodles and put in the water. Stir for a couple of minutes to loosen the noodles.
  8. Transfer the pork and vegetables into the pot as well, add more water to reach the consistency you want. Taste the liquid and add salt if needed or more soy sauce.
  9. Let simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat.
  10. In the mean time, break the two eggs into a cup and whisk them. After switching off the heat, slowly pour the eggs into the soup, while stirring vigorously.
It would be good with other ingredients as well I think, like bamboo shoots, mushrooms, pak choi.

13 November 2006

Cinnamon buns

These are the well known Swedish "kanelbullar". A tea party is not a tea party without these. I've been wanting to make these for a long time and since today is my friend Simon's birthday, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for making some for him.

I didn't read the recipe very thoroughly and decided to make a double dose. This was not too big a problem, because since last Christmas I have an Electrolux Assistent (the link is a Google search, it seems that only the Swedish site of Electrolux has any info on this). This is an ingenious device and my Mum has had one for many years, being a passionate baker herself. If you don't have a machine to help you mix the dough, then do a smaller quantity. The following should yield about 32. I managed to get 32 nice looking ones and 3-4 ugly ones from the edges.

Ingredients for the dough

50 g fresh yeast or equivalent dry or quick yeast (I used the quick variety)
0.5 l full or semi-skimmed milk (I used semi)
100 g unsalted butter
1.5 dl granulated sugar (or caster sugar if you want a sweeter dough)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 l strong white flour + 0.5 l strong white flour (this can vary)

Ingredients for the filling

100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1.5 dl granulated sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Decoration

1 egg, whisked lightly
perl or nib sugar

Method

  1. If you are using fresh yeast, break it up and mix with a little of the milk to get it to dissolve. If you are using dry or quick yeast, mix it with 1 l of the flour.
  2. Melt the butter on very low heat, then add the milk and bring it to a lukewarm temperature - if you put your finger in it, it doesn't burn.
  3. Add all dough ingredients together, apart from the extra 0.5 l of flour. The dough should be fairly sticky at this point and not really possible to work with your hands. Keep adding flour until the dough stops sticking, a little at a time, so that you don't end up with a stiff dough that's too hard to work.
  4. Leave in the container where it was mixed, cover with a tea towel and leave for at least 40 minutes in a warmish place for it to rise to double it's size.
  5. In the mean time, mix all ingredients for the filling into a smooth brown paste.
  6. When the dough has risen, take it out of the container and knead it for a couple of minutes to get it ready for rolling.
  7. Divide in two equal parts, replace one in the container and cover with the tea towel.
  8. Roll the other part into a rectangle, of about 1 cm thickness, it would be approximately 50 x 30 cm.
  9. Now take half of the filling and spread it over the rectangle, taking care to spread out to the very edges of the dough.
  10. From one of the long sides, start rolling and make a roll.
  11. Cut off the edges, where the rolled out dough is uneven, then cut the remaining nice roll into 16 slices and place each into a paper cups (like the ones used for muffins).
  12. Place the buns on baking sheets and cover with tea towels and leave to proof (rise a second time) for about 30 minutes.
  13. After the first lot of buns has been proofing for 20 minutes, turn the oven on 220 degrees to pre-heat it.
  14. Once each lot of buns has proofed, brush with the whisked egg and sprinkle the perl sugar, then bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. When ready, leave to cool. The buns can be frozen.
An alternative is to add 1 dl ground almonds to the filling mixture.

I baked two sheets at a time and had to swap them around half way through the baking. Also I managed to burn a couple, ah well, nevermind.

Update on 1st February 2009:
Since having been to a baking course at The Bertinet Kitchen, I've started using less flour when I bake. I made a very good lot today with 1.1 l flour. I left the machine knead it for maybe 10 minutes while I was preparing the fancy curry for tomorrow. I also used fresh yeast, I think it does make a difference.

11 November 2006

Seared Venison with Redcurrant Sauce

Every now and then I go to Waitrose. Not too often, as it's a bit expensive for me. They have a selection of recipe cards at the entry. I picked this one a while ago and found it the other day and thought it would be an interesting to try out.

Seared Venison with Redcurrant Sauce


Photo courtesy of Lundulph, who has kindly volunteered to be official Caramella Cooks photographer.

I can say that it's very yummy! Scrumpylicious!

Except that I didn't do steamed rice and steamed spring onions. Instead I steamed some baby potatoes, broccoli and carrots, then sautéd them in butter.

Mmmmm, so tasty!

Word of warning: this is luxury food, two steaks (270 g) cost almost £6, so not a thing for every day.

6 November 2006

Mum's Pilau Rice

To be honest, I didn't write it down, so I've probably missed out some vital ingredients, but this one works OK anyway, though I don't recommend it for everyday use as it is a bit greasy.

3 tbsp grapeseed oil
4 dl rice
8 dl boiling water

  1. Heat up the oil on medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and stir. Keep stirring until it starts getting a nice golden colour or goes transparent.
  3. Add the water and boil as per recommendation for the rice type.
So far, I've tried this with brown easy cook rice, it went rather nice with my Thai yellow curry, though not extremely noticeable.

I think I'll try swapping half the oil with butter or toasted sesame seed oil next time.

3 November 2006

List of recipes so far

I'm beginning to realise that the form of a blog is perhaps not the most suited form for a cook book. Because I do go back to some posts, if I've repeated the dish and add further comments. Probably doesn't work with RSS feeds either. Not to mention that it's darn tricky when I need to refer to one of the recipes.

So, without further ado, I'll try to keep a list entry with direct links to particular dishes. I am aware of the search facility at the top left, I just choose to ignore it.

Aioli
Alternative sushi
Apple puree
Asparagus dip
Baba ganoush
Baked potatoes with Mexican topping
Baklava
Bavarian potato salad
Bean and courgette casserole
Bean and red onion salad
Bean plakia
Bean sprouts
Beans with chilli and garlic
Beef sarma
Biff à la Lindström
Bread and butter pudding
Brioche
Broccoli, leek and ham pie
Brown nutty scones
Bulgarian bean soup
Bulgarian festive bread
Bulgarian lentil soup
Bulgarian meatball soup
Bulgarian meatballs/meatloaf
Bulgarian moussaka
Bulgarian vegetable stew
Cake pops
Caramel walnuts
Caraway bites
Carrot and date cupcakes
Chewy crumbly biscuits
Chicken Bourguignon with cider
Chicken do-piaza
Chicken liver pâté
Chicken tagine
Chicken with curry rice
Chinese noodle soup
Christmas ham
Chocolate cigars
Chocolate panettone
Cinnamon buns
Clotted cream
Coconut cups
Cold smoked salmon with Hasselback potatoes
Courgettes with rice
Courgette patties
Creamy potato salad
Creamy potato and mushroom bake
Crème caramel
Creme parfait
Crumble fruit pie
Crunchie bar
Daim
Dammsugare
Dauphinoise Potatoes
Dill and mustard sauce
Duck pie
Egg yolk ravioli
Filo pastry dishes
Fried courgettes with garlic yogurt
Fruit sponge cake
Garlic horns
German Baumkuchen
Gingerbread biscuits
Gooseberry meringue pie
Gotlandian saffron pancake
Grilled duck breast

Vegetarian Gyuvetch
Hummus
Hummus with flavourings
Ice cream cake
Jam - Raspberry
Jam - Rhubarb
Karelian pasties
Kashmiri meatballs with tomato sauce
Kavarma
Kebabcheta
Kejsarkronor
Kneadless bread
Knäckebröd
Kokostoppar
Kongresser
Kozunak
Kulfi
Kyopoolu
Lamb Barbecue
Lamb rack with aromatic crust
Lamb steaks with potato wedges
Lasagne without cheese
Lazy apple cake
Lemon and meringue ice cream
Lingonberry and hazelnut bread
Lou's birthday cake
Lundulph's chilli con carne
Lundulph's chilli con fowl
Macarons
Macarons without nuts
Mackerel with garlic and paprika
Marbled butter biscuits
Marinated salmon en croute
Mashed potatoes
Mekitzi
Meringue bites
Meringue chocolate cupcakes
Miso soup
Milinki
Milk banitza
Mille-feuille
Moose burgers
Müsli
Müsli bar 1
Müsli bar 2
Müsli bar 3
Müsli Evolved
Mushroom crispbread
Mushroom nibbles
Mushroom risotto
Mushrooms with rice
Nibbles
Oat and raisin biscuits
Omelette
Oven-baked mackerels
Pancakes
Panettone
Pasta
Pear crumble
Pickled roasted chillies
Pigeon stock
Pigeon with sweet potato rösti and buttered Savoy cabbage
"Pilau" rice

Pizza
Pizza rolls
Poached eggs
Poppy and sesame seed bread
Pork and noodle pan fry
Pork Bourguignon à la Julia Child
Pork steak and cabbage
Pork vindaloo
Potato and mushroom bake
Pumpkin cream
Pumpkin dessert
Pork chops
Pork tenderloin en croute
Quick fruit tart
Quick pizza
Quince jam
Raggmunk - Swedish potato pancakes
Raspberry jam
Ratatouille
Rhubarb Muffins
Rich tea biscuit dessert
Risotto
Roast Pheasant
Roasted Chantenay carrots
Roasted Lamb Rack with Aromatic Crumb Crust
Roasted nuts
Roast poussin with rosemary and garlic potato wedges
Root vegetable soup
Root vegetable soup 2
Royal pickle
Saffron buns
Salmon and spinach pie
Salmon baked in paper
Salmon pie 1
Salmon pie 2
Salmon pie 3
Salmon pie 4
Salmon roll
Satay turkey
Sausage rolls
Sausage Stroganoff
Seared venison with redcurrant sauce
Semla pops
Semlor
Sjömansgryta with a twist
Slow cooked rabbit stew
Smoked salmon ravioli
Smoothies
Smörgåstårta
Soft thin bread
Sourdough cinnamon buns
Sourdough mekitzi
Spanatchnik with salmon
Spelt wheat couronne
Spinach and chickpea salad
Sponge cake without eggs
Steak
Steamed tuna
Steamed tuna improved
Stoichkov cake
Strawberry cake
Strawberry compote
Striped cake
Stuffed peppers
Sujuk
Swedish crisp bread
Swedish meatballs with potatoes and gravy
Swiss meringue
Swiss roll
Tabbouleh variant
Tagliatelle with salmon sauce
Tarator
Tarka masala chicken
Teriyaki chicken with noodle rösti
Thai {some colour} curry
Thai wide noodles in creamy sauce
Toffee cake
Toffee sweets
Tosca pears
Upside-down greengage cake
Vegetable soup
Vegetarian lasagne
Wiener Apfelstrudel
White bread
White sauce
Yogurt

Tagliatelle with Salmon Sauce

Tonight is the Guy Fawkes celebration in our village. As new villagers last year, we went at the announced hour and ended up standing in a very muddy field for two and a half hours. Nice, but too wet and cold. So this year we only went for the actual fireworks. Perfect, half an hour's walk after dinner, 15 minutes of a nicely composed professional fireworks display and 15 minutes walk back home again.

It's Friday and because the working week is over, I like to make a special dinner, make things a bit more festive. Sadly, the organisers of the bonfire night celebration have missed a vital point in timing. We are within the commuter belt. A lot of people work in London and don't really come home until after 7 pm, so beginning the celebration with a procession with torches at that point, means a lot of people rushing home to make it. Lundulph usually comes home around this time, and is also usually starving. I can imagine others are the same. Yes, of course you could wait a bit with dinner, but this is November, and the first frost is here, so personally I wouldn't be in a good mood if I had to delay dinner and go and get cold watching the fireworks. On the other hand I don't want to miss it. So I think the event should start a little bit later and get people a chance to get home, get some food and change clothes and shoes and catch their breath before venturing out in the muddy field.

Enough ranting.

So I did a quickie tonight.



250 g tagliatelle

Sauce:

20 g lightly salted butter
2 tbsp grape seed oil
2 small onions
1 can of whole button mushrooms (400 g/230 g)
3 tbsp plain flour or sauce flour
5 dl milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 can of sweetcorn (300 g/285 g)
225 g smoked salmon in thin slices
salt, black pepper and dill

Watercress or wild rocket for decoration.
  1. Cook the tagliatelle as per instructions on the packet. Hot tip, try not to coincide the putting of the pasta in the boiling water at the point when you need to add liquid to the sauce, unless you have a helper, two hands are just not enough.
  2. Peel and coarseley chop the onions.
  3. Melt the butter and oil.
  4. Pour out the liquid from the cans, but don't throw it away.
  5. Fry the onions and when they start going translucent, add the mushrooms and keep stirring until they get a bit of colour.
  6. Add the flour and stir vigorously to soak up the fat.
  7. Slowly add the liquid from the cans and keep stirring it in.
  8. Then continue with adding the milk, little by little. If the sauce seems too thick, add more milk.
  9. Leave to simmer for 6-7 minutes, then add the sweetcorn and stir in well.
  10. Add the salmon slices and stir for 4-5 minutes. Once the salmon has cooked, it'll start coming apart into small pieces.
  11. Season with salt, black pepper and dill to taste. Remember that smoked salmon tends to be quite salty, so careful with the salt. Leave to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  12. Serve the tagliatelle with the sauce and watercress or wild rocket on top.
I think the amount of the tagliatelle would have been enough for three people and the sauce for a lot more. All in the fridge now.

How this came about:
I'd spotted packets of thinly sliced square salmon slices - for sandwiches. Odd, but it was on offer, so I bought it. Tasted like any other smoked salmon, great for decorating, not sure if I want to put it on a sandwich, though.

Today I went to Lidl. This shopping chain is brilliant. They do lots of German food, not a complete selection, but mainly biscuits and a few other bits and bobs. I got the panettone from there for the bread and butter pudding. No other shop had any. This time, they had salmon flavoured tagliatelle and I just couldn't resist. Though I couldn't really notice the flavour. Still, a but of novelty.

Lundulph also recommends fresh baby leaf spinach to stir in just before serving. This will keep the leaves still crunchy, but will give out some flavour into the sauce.

Steaming...

After all the years of cooking, I still don't have the hang of steaming.

I prefer steamed vegetables to boiled ones, they don't go soggy. My Mum gave me a steam inset - it's like a flower made of metal with lots of holes punched in it and the "petals" are hinged, so that the thing can fit various pot sizes. It has three pegs on the underside, to keep it away from the bottom of the pot. You put it in, pour water until it reaches the inset, then place whatever vegetables into the inset and cook away.

Not quite, I seem to leave it for too long, all the water boils away and some sort of coal making process begins. At this point your fire alarm should have gone off. Mine doesn't, since I've taken out the battery. This, because it keeps going off, when we boil the kettle.

The other day, I took the coal making to new heights. I set up my small saucepan as above with potatoes and left them to steam. By the time Lundulph came home, the burnt smell had reached my nostrils in the next room, but at low concentrations, it smelt like roast potatoes. Which is a nice surprise.

Entering the kitchen, I identified the smell for what it was and switched off the hob. The potatoes were on the dry side, and had some black burnt marks on them, where they'd been in touch with the metal, but were totally edible.

Dinner came and went, and I tucked into sorting out the dishes. The remaining potatoes were moved to a box and put in the fridge. The steaming inset was taken out and at this point I noticed the damage - the whole inside of the saucepan was sooty black! This has never happened to me before, I really need to keep track of this in the future.

So, I decided that the dish washer won't be able to handle this and went ahead with scrubbing. Hot tip - washing up liquid with metal scourer for 20 minutes, keep rinsing. Then do the same with a sponge for 5 minutes, rinse, then get some Cif and go back to the metal scourer again for another 10 minutes. Rinse well. At this point the pot inside was a greyish brown in colour. I've now placed it in the dish washer to see if it can do the rest.

Sadly I didn't take any photos of this incident, but I'm sure there'll be more opportunities in the future.

So now you know it. I may sound even more patronising that Delia (she's a bad influence there I suppose), but there you go, I can't do steaming.