Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Week 4, Stephanie Alexander's Baked Beans from The Cook's Companion

I'm a bit of a homemade Baked Beans fan, in case you couldn't already tell. I think this is about my fifth baked beans post!
Recently, I've eaten some bloody amazing baked beans out and about. The two most memorable were at The Little Ox in Brighton and at the Wye River General Store. Ever since then, I've wanted to attempt to recreate some beans as good as I'd had there. I knew that was going to take some slow cooking and patience. It turns out that Stephanie Alexander's Book, The Cook's Companion calls for both of those. I'd heard good things about her baked beans recipe, so I thought I'd give it a go.

The beans turned out sensationally. I think the two things that really help this dish along are making sure that you use the best bacon you can find. I honestly believe that free range bacon tastes bettter. If you don't believe me, give it a go - you'll smell the difference when you're cooking it. The other thing is to use REAL Maple Syrup. However, if you can't get a hold of real maple syrup or just don't want to spend the money on a bottle, you could really just use honey, golden syrup or treacle. All will produce a slightly different final result, but just experiment, I say. Just be warned that you need to be patient when making these beans. Best to make them the day before you want to eat them, then slowly reheat them in the morning for breakfast.
Here I've attempted to copy the Little Ox's poached egg on top. Give it a go, it's delicious to have the runny yolk mix in with the tomato sauce. Wow!

375g dried Borlotti or Red Kidney beans - soaked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 cloves garlic - chopped
2 carrots - diced
2 rashers thick, streaky bacon - cut into 1cm wide strips
2 red peppers - cut into 2cm squares
1 green pepper - cut into 2cm squares
1 400g can peeled tomatoes - don't drain
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons maple syrup, treacle, golden syrup or honey


Preheat oven to 160 degreesC.
Rinse soaked beans, then put into saucepan & cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then strain & rinse with cold water.
Heat oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole & saute onion, garlic, carrot & bacon. After 5 minutes, when onion has softened & bacon is sizzling, add red & green peppers.
Puree tomatoes & juice in a food processor & add to casserole with beans (I just used passata here) & remaining ingredients, except maple syrup.
Mix well. Add sufficient cold water to cover beans by 4 cm.
Transfer casserole, tightly sealed, into oven & bake for at least 4 hours.
Stir well after 2 hours, checking that it is still reasonably sloppy ( if too dry, add a little water & reduce oven temp).
After 4 hours, stir in maple syrup, extra salt & plenty of freshly ground pepper.
The beans should now be in a rich sauce. If too thick, add a little water; if too runny & the beans are tender, increase oven temp & continue to cook.

Be careful not to allow the bottom of the beans to burn, especially when you're reheating them.

Cookbook Challenge, Week 3, Pork Sausages from A Little Taste Of Thailand

Ok, I'm still a few weeks behind in posting my dishes... but I'll get there, I promise!
I'm a big fan of the 'Little Taste' series. Lots of (to the best of my knowledge) authentic looking dishes and the recipes are always relatively easy, too. As much as I love this book, it's one I never seem to pick up because I usually go for my fancier Thai books like Longrain by Martin Boetz or Lotus by Teague Ezard. At a recent BBQ, we had a Thai theme, so I thought it was a good time to incorporate the cookbook challenge and also make something out of this little used book.

For week 3, the theme is Hor d'oeuvres. I thought these little sausages would make perfect 'little food' before we dig into the bigger salads and main courses. These are really simple to make, take little time and because of their size - they're fast to cook. No need for messy sausage casings here, you just shape them the same way you would a hamburger patty, only in a sausage shape.
They're slightly sweet and very moorish. Everyone was a big fan of these!

It's probably best to leave them in the fridge for a while once they are shaped, to help them hold their shape once their on the BBQ. If you're a fan of char-grilling, I'd recommend it for these sausages, as it adds to the flavour and I think the authenticity of them. I can imagine street vendors in Thailand selling these little beauties. However, they'd probably add a whole heap
more Chilli than I did!

Here's how you make them:

3 Coriander (Cilantro) Roots
1 Lemon Grass Stalk
4 Garlic Cloves
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 Small red chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of sugar (I'd use brown or palm for a slightly more caramel sweetness)
300g Minced Pork

Using a Pestle and Mortar or food processor (easiest option), pound the coriander, lemon grass, garlic and pepper to a paste.

Add the chilli, fish sauce, sugar and pork to the paste mixture and combine well. Form into sausage shapes.

Heat a BBQ or grill and cook the sausages for 4 or 5 mins on each side until cooked through.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Week 2 - Bill Granger's Fragrant Chicken and Spinach Curry

It's week 3 of the cookbook challenge and I'm only up to posting week 2. I'm trying to catch up, I promise!
This week is Indian week, so who else would you look to for Indian recipes? None other than the world famous Bill Granger, of course!
Indian food isn't something I've ever cooked a lot of and not something that excites me all that much. Maybe I've just never eaten really well cooked Indian food.
I thought that if anyone was going to make Indian Food accessible it would be Bill Granger or Jamie Oliver. I decided to go with Billy on this occasion.

This is a simple curry, which anybody could prepare. It's probably a really good curry for kids, as there is a distinct lack of spicyness and could be compared to something like Butter Chicken.
If you're not a fan of real curries, this is probably the curry for you.

Fragrant chicken and spinach curry (serves 4)

2tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground coriander
½tsp turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1tbsp freshly grated root ginger
750g (1lb 10oz) boneless chicken thighs, cubed
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
½tsp salt
2tsp soft brown sugar
1tbsp fresh lime juice
90g (3¾oz) baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
large handful fresh coriander, chopped
steamed rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is soft.

Add the spices, garlic, ginger and cook, stirring for 2 minutes more. Add the chicken and increase the heat to medium high. Cook stirring often until the chicken is browned – about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and salt and bring to simmering point. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Add the brown sugar, lime juice and baby spinach and stir until the spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.