23 June 2010

next stop, IHOPS

America knows how to do pancakes, doughnuts and waffles.  Other things too, but those are things which really are just best in the USA.  No matter where you are there are restaurants and stores which will cater to your every syrupy need - IHOPS, Waffle House, Krispy Kreme, not to mention the myriad of smaller, privately-owned establishments (if you're in Allen, Texas, may I suggest you try Max's, for a very tasty doughnut?). 

A friend of Mum's from Michigan kindly brought her a bottle of her nephew's hometapped and produced maple syrup last week.  Needless to say I needed to try it.  So tonight we had pancakes for dinner (this is something you can do when you're on holiday).  I had never made american-style pancakes (I make thin, French-style crepes usually) so I did what every self-respecting cook would do, consulted the internet.  Nigella Lawson had a nice and easy recipe to go by, so here it is... (this is a doubled amount, as there were five of us - it made 35 stackable pancakes)
450 g flour
pinch salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
600 ml milk
60 g butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
  1. Mix all ingredients in food processor or blender (or by hand).  It's good if you've time to let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, but this isn't imperative. 
  2. Heat large, flat pan, spray with a little oil (you'll only need to do this once or twice throughout, if your pan is non-stick). 
  3. Cook the pancakes in batches, keeping the cooked ones warm in the warming drawer of your oven (or serve in batches) - you know it's time to turn them when they start to bubble.  Once turned they only need a minute to cook the second side. 
  4. Serve warm with syrup, or lemon and sugar, or whatever you fancy!! 

Jugosas Empanadas Criollas Argentinas

At Easter I stopped in at my friend's parents' house, because Kush had come home for the holiday.  Clara, her Mum (of avocado + argentina = muy gustoso fame), had made argentinian empanadas.  I had only ever come across Mexican-style empanadas, which are a completely different kettle of proverbial fish.  Argentinian empanadas resemble a half-moon pastie, or pie, and have the most amazing flavour!  When asked for the recipe I was lucky, as Clara was only too happy to share - she even wrote some tips alongside, to assist the kiwi cook (traditionally there are some minor differences, such as using diced veal rather than mince, and a sort of clarified butter). 

Clara's empanadas were larger then mine, but I was making these for my Mum and Larry's wedding party BBQ, so bite-size was de rigeur.  I was so happy with these little beasts and can't WAIT to make them again.  I only bought 4 sheets of pastry and the recipe makes enough meat filling for at least double that.  I've frozen the excess, ready to make more to take camping in a couple of weeks.  Enjoy, these are so far my favourite Claration. 

savoury short pastry - I use the ready rolled sheets from the supermarket
1 kg beef mince
3 onions, diced finely
2 tbsp smoked paprika (normal is also fine)
1 tbsp dried crushed red pepper (chilli flakes)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups tinned tomatoes (or homemade, if you have it)
dash olive oil
pitted olives (optional)
  1. Prepare meat filling - heat oil to sauté onions until softened (but not browned).  Add mince and brown lightly.  Stir in spices amd tomatoes.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then take off heat and allow mixture to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. 
  3. Cut circles of rolled-out pastry (I used a lid from a plastic container which was about 12cm in diameter). 
  4. Place about a teaspoon of mixture into centre of pastry circle (and an olive, if you're using them), fold over and press edges closed, with fork or pressing - it can help to brush a little water around the edge before pressing, to help it stick. 
  5. Place empanadas on buttered/greased baking tray and bake until golden brown.  I finished mine under the grill for a minute or two, to get some real colour (brushing the tops with butter or egg will get a good glaze, but it's more effort). 
  6. Serve warm - I didn't serve with sauces, but salsa, or a soy-based dipping sauce would work well.  The paprika flavour is pretty strong, so they're good alone, or perhaps with sour cream.  YUM!! 

15 June 2010

zuppa zuppa zuppa!!

Last summer we weere inundated with zucchini - the plants went crazy, producing so many vegetables that anything that could be made with zucchini was - lasagne, muffins, pasta, antipasto - you name it.  After a couple of courgette-intensive months however, the plants slowed down and the season was over (at the time I was thinking, thank goodness, but now I'm kinda looking forward to the next lot...).

Upon arriving in Texas last week I discovered that my prayers had been answered - it's summer here, so zucchini (courgettes, squash, whatever you want to call them) are in season.  Larry has a friend who keeps them in constant supply of zucchini - when I arrived there were easily 18 of the things in the fridge - and a good portion of them were pretty big, more the size of a marrow.  So, what to do with waaaayyyy more zucchini than 3 people can eat?  Lasagne - that took care of about 3 of them.  So then soup.  Zucchini soup (I made a double batch, so as to use up more zuccs, but have listed the original single quantity here, for serving about 4 people) - it's really tasty, dead easy to make and, because it's meat-free, keeps really well for a good week or more.  If it lasts that long. 

onion, finely chopped (I used red)
30 g butter
4 zucchini, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 L vegetable stock (I used chicken, 'cause ran out of vege)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat butter in pan over medium heat and gently fry onion until softened.  Add zucchini and garlic, stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Add stock, bring to boil, reduce heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. 
  3. Stir in feta, season and serve. 

13 June 2010

Summer grillin'

I'm in Texas, it's summer, and that means it's grillin' time.  Grab a cold brewski, fire up the barbee and get ready!  A few days ago we went for dinner at LT and Jen's (friends of Mum and Larry's) and had the most AMAZING BBQed steak and chicken.  I enquired as to the secret in the sauce, so to speak, and discovered the following tricks to perfect-tasting grilled steak and chicken (they used tenderloins)...

Steak - buy fillet steak and ask the butcher (that's right, go to the butcher so you can specify which piece you want) for the middle of the fillet, rather than the end pieces.  Fillet is the most expensive cut, but if you're going to be eating it without sauces etc, you want it to be tender, it should cut like butter when cooked.  Obviously most of us can't necessarily afford to buy solely fillet to satisfy our red-meat needs, but use cheaper cuts for stir-frys, curries, stews or steaks being served with a sauce. 

Chicken - Jen's chicken tenderloins were incredible.  They were marinated, then BBQed, that's all.  So the secret was in the marinade.  What was in it...?  Italian salad dressing.  That simple.  Seriously, I was blown away - who'd have thought italian salad dressing would be so flavoursome as a marinade?  She said she chucked the tenderloins in with the dressing about 4 hours before they were cooked, but as with most marinades that's a movable feast - 12 hours, a half hour...  Try it 'cause I swear you'll not find any other marinade for chicken that works so well which is this easy.  Ever. 

Serve these beasts with salad (green, potato, coleslaw, all of the above!!), or with mashed potatoes and BBQed veges - asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli all do well on the barbee.  The polenta strips from polenta - provola!! would be good here too - just BBQ them instead of baking or frying them.  Watch this space for more grillin' tips - I'm sure to come across some more as I traipse about Texas and Louisiana over the next month! 

07 June 2010

more chicken for the salad-eater's soul

I arrived in Texas yesterday evening, tired, vaguely disorientated, and very very hungry.  So, first things first, deal with the disorientation, have a glass of wine.  Next on the list of priorities, hunger.  As it was about 36 degrees celcius nothing too heavy was key.  Mum had prepared a salad, the recipe for which a friend, Cathy, had given her.  It was AMAZING.  So much so that I insisted we make it again today, for lunch.  A chicken salad, with loads of goodies, but I reckon it'd be versitile - if you haven't almonds, use pecans, walnuts, peanuts.  No grapes - how about some chopped up capsicum?  Etc etc etc.  So, from the deep south, ya'll enjoy!! 
  1. Mix together in a bowl 2 cups cooked chicken meat (about 2 skinless, boneless breasts), 1 cup red grapes (halved), 1 finely diced apple (leave skin on), c. 60g roasted, slivered almonds, 1/2 cup chopped celery. 
  2. Mix up the dressing - 1/2 cup mayonnaise (Best Foods lite is good), 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp celery salt (if you can't find this, leave it out, don't use normal salt). 
  3. Stir dressing through the salad and serve on some leaves of good, crunchy iceberg lettuce.  Great in hot weather, keeps well in the fridge.  YUM!!!! 

02 June 2010

The Tales of Naania

One of the best things about eating out at the local indian is the naan bread.  The soft, slightly sweet and, in my case, very garlicky flatbreads are the perfect sidekick to a tasty curry.  I like to cook curries at home but haven't, until now, ventured into the bread side of the bargain.  Having decided to add naan bread to my repetoire (I was making malaysian goat curry again - this time we slow-cooked the goat in advance, so it was more tender) I did a search online, to compare a few different recipes.  This one came from allrecipes.com, with a few amendments (they recommended one cook on the BBQ, which would be ideal, but I used the oven, as it is winter, after all).  Give this one a try - it makes 14 naans, so I cooked 6 and froze the rest of the balls of dough, for next time.  
7 g active dry yeast (one packet)
1 cup warm water
50 g sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 egg, beaten
615 g flour
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
55 g butter, melted
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat grill (or BBQ).  Roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Brush one side with melted butter (or oil, if you prefer). Place dough on grill, buttered side up, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over, another 2 to 4 minutes.  Continue until all the naan has been prepared.