29 April 2011

winter warmers #4

A top-five of winter warmers wouldn't be worth anything if bangers and mash were not included.  It is one of the most warming, quintessentially wintery meals I can think of.  Basically it's a simple meal - sausages on mashed potato, with a gravy poured over it.  Doesn't sound all that appetising, or worth blogging about, does it?  Well, that depends on how you go about the gravy... 

I learned the key to amazing bangers and mash a few years ago, when working in that well known Wellington haunt Kitty O'Sheas.  The chef would make an onion gravy, with red wine and other tasty goodies and, once it had reduced a little, bang it into the oven for  a half hour, to produce sausages covered in a lovely, slighty sticky, caramelised onion sauce.  Amazing, seriously.  The mash, well that's up to you how you do that.  Using kumara is always a good idea, or add a little sour cream or cream cheese while mashing (as well as the obligatory knob of butter and dash of milk!). 

So here it is, the tastiest bangers and mash you'll come across.  That's a big call, but I reckon it'd hold up.  Yum! 

potatoes, enough for three people
butter, milk etc (for mashing later)

6 sausages (I like beef ones - make sure they're real meat, not flavoured muck)
olive oil

4 onions, sliced thinly in rings
50 g butter
pinch sea salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with blade of knife
1 tbsp brown sugar
good grind of pepper
1 glass red wine (c. 150 ml)
dash worchester sauce
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 L stock (I used beef)
sprig fresh rosemary or thyme (or both!)
  1. Have the potatoes all peeled, chopped, and sitting in pot of water, ready to go later on.
  2. Heat oil in large pan (one which can go in the oven.  If you don't have one, use a casserole dish which is okay on the element.  Failing all else, use pan for stove-top stuff, then transfer into ovenproof casserole when the lot goes in the oven) on medium-low.  Brown the sausages slightly, but don't worry about cooking them - just colour the skins.  Remove and place aside on plate (you'll add them back later).  
  3. Melt butter in pan, add onions and sea salt (to bring out the flavour) and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until softened and slightly translucent.  Don't trade butter for margarine, if you can help it - butter has a flavour that margarines just generally don't.  
  4. Stir in brown sugar, garlic and pepper.  Turn up the heat and add wine, to deglaze the pan.  Simmer for a few minutes, to slightly reduce the liquid.  Add all other ingredients and let it burble away for 20 minutes, to reduce a bit.  
  5. Add sausages back to the fold and place the lot in a pre-heated 180 degree oven, for 30 minutes.  At this point turn on your tatties, and organise any other veges you want on the side.  
  6. Enjoy your sticky, yummy onion gravy with the sausages on a nice fluffy bed of mashed spud.  Brilliant, and best served with a glass of winter warming red.   

20 April 2011

winter warmers #3, a.k.a. apologies to the village chicken, again

Last night was one of those more balmy autumnal evenings, when you almost think you might like to sit outside in a singlet.  Hmmm, maybe not.  But casseroles and the like take a seat on the back burner for a bit, making way for something a little lighter, but still warming - stuffed chicken breasts.  About a year ago I gave a jar of Sabato (Julie le Clerc) harissa to KB, 'cause he's into his spice.  We demolished that quick smart, discovering just how versitile the hot little paste is.  Last night he whipped up one of my new favs (using a subsequent jar of harissa, obviously) - baked chicken breast stuffed with harissa and cream cheese.  A good dollop of each is needed per piece of chook (which he sliced through the centre, to stuff).  We served it alongside oven-baked kumara chips and BBQed zucchini and cobs of corn.  Yum - summeryish, but warming enough to last into autumn.  One of the yummiest meals we eat, that harissa is GOLD! 

Fancy harissa, like the Sabato, can be found in various deli stores, but it don't come cheap.  Indian and general Asian groceries usually have it, often several brands, of varying degrees of spiciness.  You can make your own too, though that's an endeavour better left for summer, when capsicums, tomatoes and the like are abounding.  I'll hunt out my recipe and pop that up.  Enjoy the weekend! 

18 April 2011

winter warmers #2

Chilli's a pretty obvious choice, really, when you're thinking of something warming for those cooler winter nights.  The best thing about chilli is that it's not only tasty and guaranteed to crank your internal thermostat, but it's a base for a myriad of dishes - nachos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, chilli con carne on toast, chilli beef pie, with rice, as a spicy alternative to traditional meat sauce in lasagne, the list is pretty endless, so will stop there, but if you're making anything which essentially uses a bolognaise sauce, then chilli can be your substitute. 

Now, chilli con carne can be made using any meat (the standard is beef mince, but any type of mince works, or even finely chopped chicken breast, etc), and with as many variations to the sauce as there are endings to a Woody Allen film, so I'll just give you what I do when making a basic chilli, then list some personal favourite alternatives at the end.  Muy gustoso!! 

500-750 g beef mince
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2-3 tbsp tandoori paste (or harissa, tikka masala paste)
2 tbsp tomato paste
herbs and spices, to taste (I typically use cumin seeds, ground cumin and fresh basil)
1 tin red kidney beans
1 tin tomatoes
  1. Fry onions and garlic in a little oil.  When softened add meat and brown thoroughly. 
  2. Stir through tandoori and tomato pastes. 
  3. Add herbs/spices and tins of kidney beans and tomatoes. 
  4. Stir so all meat is coated with tomato and reduce heat to allow mixture to simmer gently for up to an hour.  Serve with dish of choice. 
Some additions which I've made in the past have been finely grated dark chocolate, and fresh chilli.  If using fresh chilli I up the tomato paste and remove the tandoori altogether. 

If you're going to eat something containing chilli con carne then, more likely than not, you'll be wanting some extras on the side (unless it's being used in a lasagne), such as sour cream, grated cheese, guacamole and salsa. 

A basic salsa just needs a tin of tomatoes (or a cup of finely chopped fresh ones), red onion, fresh herbs and a chilli, all finely chopped (omit the chilli if you don't do spicy). 

Guacamole is a chameleon, but mine is made a la Clara, with balsamic vinegar added to the mashed avo and lemon juice mix.  Mix through a finely chopped red onion too, if you want a bit of texture.  So, mes amis, stay warm and eat well.  xx A

winter warmers #1

Last night Jim Hickey forecast a southerly making its way up the country.  It hit us mid-morning - rain, wind and general bleakness.  But, to be honest, it's all good - indoors, with the dog, holding a hot cup of coffee.  Sweet.  It did, however, meddle with my projected dinner plans.  Fresh snapper was going to be on the menu, accompanied by some roasties.  But when the sky turns leaden, and the temprature drops so as you're forced to add another layer (and KB to come home to hunt out a hat) nice light meals go off the menu.  Warm, hearty food becomes the order of the day.  So, fish tomorrow (the southerly is going to be overcome by a few more lovely sunny days), tonight - sausage casserole. 

Sausage casserole, it just doesn't sound very appetising.  I think it's the two words.  Sausage.  Casserole.  They sound sort of squelchy and gross.  But that's a misleader, 'cause as most of us already know, sausages are wonderful, and sausage casserole is in the top five for winter warmers (stay tuned for the rest, in no particular order).  You can use whatever's to hand in the pantry, and make it upon arriving home, or in the crock pot.  In my crock pot today I have thrown...

6 bacon sausages (from Hurley's Butchery in Patea, best butchery in NZ)
2 carrots, chopped up
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, whole
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin pea & ham soup
2/3 cup water
cumin seeds, garam masala, black pepper

This is going to be served with the casserole's staple sidekick - mashed spuds (maybe mashed with some cream cheese, or sour cream...), and a couple of panfried zucchini (the last of the summer wine, so to speak).  If I hadn't had the tin of soup, I'd have used a tin of tomatoes, equally tasty.  Keep warm! 

feijoas a-go-go

It is well and truly feijoa season now.  Some people's trees are still producing the smaller, tarter fruit, but there are enough booming with big, ripe, tasty goodness to fill shopping bags aplenty.  Our neighbour down the street has such a tree, so it was time to stop talking about trying out this recipe, and actually do it. 

Dad and Ann gave KB an annual gardener's diary at Christmas, packed with useful tips and recipes for the kiwi gardener, as well as a guide on what to plant, at what time etc.  There's a recipe in there for this 'easy feijoa loaf', which seemed like a good way to deal to some of the green beasts now taking over our table.  A friend, Tee, tried the recipe already, so I knew it was a winner.  Eaten with a good covering of butter, this loaf is indeed a soft, tasty morsel, perfect with a cup of coffee mid-morning or -afternoon (or for breakfast, live a little). 

1 cup feijoas, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
50 g butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius. 
  2. Place feijoas, water, sugar and butter in pot (large enough to fit dry ingredients in later), bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then fold in remaining ingredients and mix well. 
  4. Pour into greased load tin (lined too, if using a metal one) and bake for 50 minutes. 
In our quest to get through all the feijoas before they start to turn (given the season is relatively short-lived, it seems sad to allow any to get away) KB and I decided to use them as a blueberry substitute in sunday-morning pancakes.  YUM.  Seriously, what a bloody good idea that was.  Better than blueberries, I reckon.  We squeezed some lemon juice over the pancakes, drizzled with maple syrup (okay, I drenched) and the result was a tart and sweet plate of tastiness.  Fully recommended, it rocked. 

11 April 2011

how to dress your cabbage

Had the most amazing cabbage salad on Saturday.  A cole slaw, I suppose it was, but not in the typical sense.  No cole slaw mayonnaise, this was a light, oriental-styled, incredibly tasty masterpiece.  Not the easiest feat, to have someone waxing lyrical about cabbage, but seriously this salad warrants every accolade it gets.  So thanks, Alex Baker, for making what is the yummiest cabbage dish I've ever eaten.  Even went for seconds (as did numerous others).  For the salad proper you need to chop up as much cabbage as you are needing (there was a large bowl full on Saturday, so presumably a whole green cabbage).  This was topped with tasted slivered almonds and those crispy noodle things.  But the key was the dressing that was stirred through, just prior to serving...

1/2 cup oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup malt
  1. Mix all together and stir until sugar is dissolved.  YUM!! 

05 April 2011

seven deadly sins

Okay, only one, and not deadly, but i've committed the cardinal sin of bloggery - I've left it close on a whole month between blog posts.  I do, however, have an excuse.  Whether or not it's a good one is subjective, but it's all I have.  I went to Australia for a week (including Paddy's Day, which is always going to take over the priorities), have been away at the beach for another week, therefore requiring a month's worth of work and study to be crammed into two weeks.  So, little time for recipe-hunting or experimenting, let alone writing about it in my egomaniacal manner. 

I have had some pretty tasty foodie treats though, which I will share, by way of peace offering.  My olive branch, to use a vaguely food-related analogy.  If you're ever in Melbourne, go to Noodle Box, on the quay along the riverside - AMAZING.  And Gordon Ramsay's Maze is a lot of fun too - small portions, but very very tasty and presented like you're in a fancy TV cooking show.  Very la di da, with great wines to match (even some kiwi pinots and sauvs). 

I promise to be back with a little more before too long, there's a fejoia loaf I'm keen to try, so keep your eyes on here over the next few days...  A bientot!