January 25, 2010

Bubble & Squeak Cakes with Tomatoes & Poached Eggs

Bubble and what?...You've gotta give it to us Brits. We certainly know how to name our dishes! Spotted Dick, Toad in the Hole, Bangers and Mash, Bubble and Squeak! I don't understand this silliness any more than the next person, but I do love it.

This traditional English dish is made up of several different vegetables, typically leftover from a Sunday roast. Taking a mixture of any cooked vegetable, mashing it up, and pan frying it until golden will qualify as Bubble and Squeak. Traditionally though, potatoes, onions, cabbage or sprouts are used.

I like to mold my bubble and squeak into little cakes and serve them with a nice poached egg on top. The occasional piece of crispy bacon is also a welcomed addition!

Instead of making individual cakes, you can make one big portion if you prefer. Just pat the mashed vegetables into a pan heated with olive oil and fry until golden and crisp.

Feel free to experiment with leftover vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips or swede. And remember... watch out for the bubbles and listen carefully for the squeaks!

Makes 4 cakes (serves 2)

Note: These cakes can be made from scratch or you can use leftover cooked vegetables.

For the Bubble and Squeak:
1lb potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed with a tablespoon or two of butter
1/2lb Brussels sprouts, cooked and roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup seasoned flour
Olive oil for frying

To Serve:
2 eggs (optional)
Cherry tomatoes on the vine (optional)

In a large bowl, roughly mix together the potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Melt a knob of butter in a pan and cook the onion until really soft and beginning to brown. Mix with the potatoes and sprouts and season generously with salt and black pepper. Form the mixture into cakes and chill until firm for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours. Coat each cake in the seasoned flour. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan and fry the cakes until golden and crisp on both sides. At the same time, poach the eggs and grill the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill (broil) until they begin to soften and blister. About 3-4 minutes. Top two cakes with a well drained poached egg and serve with the grilled cherry tomatoes.

January 18, 2010

World's Best Baked Onions

"I've found it. The best onion recipe—it's smashing, pukka, the absolute dog's kahunas! I love it served with cod, but it's also great with roast chicken. You've got to try it."

Above were Jamie Oliver's exact words when describing these onions in the cookbook 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef '. And the man wasn't kidding! These really are the worlds best onions!

I received the Happy Days cookbook back in 2002, shortly after it was published. It's one of Jamie's earlier books and probably the first decent cookbook I owned. Since then, I have made these onions many times. The original recipe consists of onions, double cream (heavy cream), Parmesan, garlic and rosemary. However, I often take advantage of their versatility by tweaking them here and there. For example, I like to add finely chopped mushrooms to the the cream as they offer a bit of texture and tremendous flavour to the filling. Also, I sometimes replace the Parmesan with blue cheese when serving them with steak. Another variation I like, is to top the onions with some breadcrumbs mixed with freshly chopped thyme. Delicious!

Today I have prepared them with the addition of finely chopped mushrooms, a mix of both light and double cream, and a little extra garlic.

If you're looking for a recipe that is decadent, delicious or 'the absolute dog's kahunas' as Jamie Oliver so eloquently put's it, then try this one, you won't be disappointed!

Serves 4

4 tennis-ball-sized white onions, peeled
3/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
8-9 tbls double (heavy) cream. You can also use light cream or a mixture of both
4 slices of pancetta or streaky bacon
A few good handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little extra for topping

Note: In the book, Jamie boils the onions but I prefer to steam them. Steaming takes a bit longer but the onions will be more crisp.

Boil the onions for 15 minutes or steam for about 25. The onions need to be slightly tender.
Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. With a sharp knife cut an inch off the stem end of each onion. Then, cut about a heaping tablespoon out of the inside of each onion being sure to leave the outer layers intact. Finely chop and set aside for the filling.

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap each hollowed onion with a slice of pancetta or bacon and secure with a sharpened sprig of rosemary if desired.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Add reserved chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary. Cook for a few minutes until softened. Add cream and remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Place onions onto a roasting tray and spoon some of the cream mixture into each one. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan and bake for about 25-30 minutes until tender, depending on the size of the onions.

Recipe adapted from 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef' by Jamie Oliver.

January 12, 2010

Roasted Beetroot Soup

Beetroot. There was a time when the mere thought of eating it would make me shudder. This aversion was doubtlessly associated with the pickled horrors of my youth ... thick slices of soft, slimy, vinegary beetroot. Yuck.

However, after a recent and successful bid to forgive foods that in my earlier days were labeled inedible, I decided to make an "All" beetroot dish! A fresh, vibrant, sexy, beetroot soup.

This soup is healthy, wholesome and satisfying. The perfect combination for a winter warming dish. It is also wonderfully refreshing when served chilled in the summertime.

Like most vegetables, beetroot benefits from roasting, intensifying it's sweet and earthy flavour. The tangy creme fraiche pairs fabulously with the naturally sweet beetroot.

This recipe is so simple and can be made up to two days in advance. Roasting the beetroot ahead of time will make it even easier.

Serves 4

4-5 medium to large beetroot, trimmed and scrubbed
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 large bay leaf
4-5 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbls or more of whipping cream
Creme fraiche or sour cream to serve

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap each beetroot individually in tin foil and cook for one hour until tender. Insert a knife or toothpick into the center to check. Allow to cool. Using gloves, pinch the skin to remove. It should come off with little resistance. Chop beetroot into bite size pieces.

Meanwhile, heat a few tbls of butter in large pan. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds or so. Add the bay leaf, thyme and 4 cups of chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Add the cooked beetroot pieces to to the pan, stir and remove from the heat. The goal here is not to overcook the beetroot in order to retain its vibrancy. Allow mixture to cool. Once cooled, discard thyme sprig and bay leaf. Transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth. The soup should be thick but not too thick. Gradually add the leftover cup of hot stock if needs be. Reheat soup over a medium-low heat and slowly stir in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with creme fraiche or sour cream.

January 3, 2010

Vegetarian California Rolls

New Year's Resolution # 6: Make More Sushi!

After traveling around Japan, I developed a love for Sushi. Well, almost all Japanese food actually. You may be surprised to know; however, that the "California Roll" is named that for a reason. It was born in California. Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef at the Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in LA invented the rolls in the early 1970's.

Traditionally, California Rolls consist of avocado, cucumber and crab meat. However, if you're like me and aren't a huge fan of spider-like crustaceans, I recommend trying this vegetarian version of the California Roll. Alternatively, you could use imitation crab meat or cooked shrimp in place of the crab.

Getting sushi rice right can be a challenge. I've gone through my fair share of it in attempts to master the art. Rice vinegar, sugar and salt is a mixture referred to as Awase-zu and is the seasoning added to cooked sushi rice. Finding the right ratio between these simple ingredients is key. Also, it is very important to properly wash, rinse and drain the rice which in turn can seem tedious and time consuming, but essential for good results. I guarantee, once you get the hang of it, your kitchen will become your new "sushi place"!

I hope everyone had great New Year!

I leave you with a picture of me dressed as a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan. A beautiful city that I hope to return to one day.

Makes approximately 5 Rolls (between 35 and 40 pieces)

Note: I highly recommend using a rice cooker to make sushi rice as it produces the best results at the click of a button.

For the rice:
3 cups raw sushi rice
3 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup plain rice vinegar
2 tbls superfine (caster) sugar
1 tsp salt

For the filling:
5 toasted nori sheets
1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 English cucumber, cut into long spears
1-2 carrots, peeled and julienned
About 1 tbls each of black and white sesame seeds
Cooked shrimp or crab (optional)

Rice cooker
Bamboo rolling mat
Wooden rice paddle

Place rice into a large bowl and fill with cold water. Stir briskly with your hands and pour away the cloudy water. Repeat this process 5 or 6 more times or until the water runs clear. Next, drain the rice in a colander for about 30 minutes.

Once the rice is drained, tip into a rice cooker and set to cook. Once the cooker bleeps, let the rice sit for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the hot rice into a large, shallow, nonmetallic bowl. I use a large baking dish. Spread out the rice and slowly add the vinegar mixture. While adding the vinegar mixture, mix the rice with a wooden paddle using quick cutting strokes. While mixing the rice in a slicing motion you will need to fan it with your other hand. I use a large circular lid to do this. Fanning will cool the rice and help it to produce a wonderful glossy shine.

Cover the rolling mat completely with cling film (plastic wrap). This makes the mat easier to clean.
Lay one nori sheet onto the rolling mat. Using wet hands, evenly spread a portion of the rice over the nori sheet, leaving 3/4 inch visible at the end furthest away from you. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds and carefully turn the sheet over. Place the cucumber, carrot and avocado in the center of the sheet. At the base of the mat, start to roll over the ingredients, pressing firmly as you go. Once you have formed a log shape, lift up mat and apply gentle pressure back and forth to ensure the roll is firmly molded.

Using a very sharp, wet knife, trim the ends of the roll and cut into thick slices. Repeat process with the remaining nori sheets and ingredients. Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.