Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stuffed pancakes

I haven't dared get excited about the sunshine for fear of jinxing it - so I'm sort of ignoring it, pretending it's not there. ("Oh I see, a really sunny day again. Whatever.") I've never been that bothered about sunshine - it's nice but really any old weather will do. But with a toddler - even one refusing to toddle, such as Kitty - life is 100% easier if you can doss about all day on a patch of grass somewhere poking at beetles, rather than sweatily pulling on three layers of fleece and puffa and marching grimly down the road to stare gloomily at some goats at the City Farm.

And the good thing about my parents' house, despite it being 800 miles from the nearest shop, pub or tube station, is that is has a massive garden - beetles galore to poke at. And a slide! We may never leave.

Especially not as my mother stuffs us all full of food, all day long. I don't really eat lunch these days, I can't be bothered. But my mother will not take no for an answer and follows me around with halves of sandwiches and peeled segments of apple. And every night she puts dinner on the table for no fewer than five people. Pow, pow, pow, night after night. She's never in a piss about it - like I always am - never in a screeching fury about the relentless grind of it. She just does it. I know that's what most people's mums do, what most of you do, it's just impressive to see it close up.

A recent hit was stuffed pancakes. A lot of you have probably had enough of these after Shrove Tuesday, but if you never got round to it, they are absolutely delicious. Kitty scoffed the leftovers the next day. Kitty is, by the way, roundly humiliating me by eating things out of my mother's hand that she won't touch from me.

Anyway these pancakes are just an assembly job, really. One for a Sunday night, when you've got a weeny bit more time maybe. Make the crepes with a normal pancake batter, sautee ham, mushrooms and whatever else you want, stuff and roll the pancakes and arrange in a line on a baking tray then pour over a cheese sauce (white sauce plus cheese) and cover with grated gruyere, emmenthal, parmesan or any other rubbery/hard cheese you've got knocking about. Stick in the oven for 15 mins at 180C.

No if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and have minor surgery; I'm not allowed to eat anything after 11am today so I've got an hour to raid the fridge. It's nothing serious so don't get all excited that I might finally drop dead. But feel free to be sympathetic all the same.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spicy poussin with tabula kisir

Another knockout post from @EmFrid - and just in the nick of time.

There are certain days when I like to lock myself away in the kitchen and do some therapy cooking in order to keep a tenuous grip on my sanity. Therapy cooking, while not necessarily technically challenging, involves a lot of chopping and mixing. While I do all of this I hold quiet but heated arguments in my head with people that have in some minor or major way slighted me (and I’ve got a long memory for slights, so there’s plenty of material to choose from).

Arguments I win by being terribly clever and witty and scathing. So nothing like in real life, in other words. Or I have day dreams involving massive lottery wins and/or Michael Fassbender/Benedict Cumberbatch/Ryan Gosling. Normally there would be a bottle of wine involved as well, getting me quietly sloshed as  I cook, but at the moment, as I'm pregnant, I’m forced to sip on a bottle of alcohol-free Becks while thinking hopeful thoughts about placebo effects (yeah, I know,  I know. I’ll just wait here while you all run and fetch your violins).

Yesterday was such a day. Goblin – who have taken to the terrible twos with flamboyant gusto – spent all day perfecting her Horrible Little Shit act, and I swear Troll the Foetus somehow contrived to wedge himself in between my second and third rib where he sat bouncing all day. At the end of it I felt positively homicidal. So I scratched around the cupboards a bit and decided to cook some spicy poussin. To go with the birds I made a tabula kisir (a sort of more piquant, Turkish version of tabbouleh), the recipe to which I gotfrom Hugh F-W’s excellent book River Cottage Every Day. As I said, no ttechnically challenging, but it does involve quite a lot of ingredients and chopping, marinades, spices etc. It was all totally worth it though, because it came out bloody delicious.

I used one poussin per person, but that’s pretty much because I’m a ravenous third trimester beast right now. The more sensible among you might want to use just half a bird per person, depending on how hungry you are.Also, the quantities given for the tabula kisir will yield quite a lot, about six decent servings. Though it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days,and makes for a lovely, healthy lunch stuffed into pita breads or similar.

Spicy Poussin withTabula Kisir

For the spicy poussin you’ll need:

Poussins (or chicken legs/thighs)
A head of garlic
1 red chilli, seeds in or out – up to you
100ml red wine vinegar
100ml lemon juice – roughly 4 lemons (reserve some of thelemon peel)
180ml olive oil or rapeseed oil
1.5tsp sea salt
2tsp Arabic Seven Spice, plus extra for sprinkling – Arabic SevenSpice might well be readily available in London/the rest of the country, butindeed not in Letchworth, so I made my own by mixing together 2tsbp groundblack pepper, 2tsbp ground paprika, 2tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander,1/2tbsp ground cloves, 1tsp ground nutmeg, 1tsp ground cinnamon and ½tsp groundcardamom. This will keep well in an airtight container.

1. Score the poussins a few times with a sharp knife, thenplace in a large bowl/container
2. Put the garlic, lemon juice, chilli, vinegar, salt andArabic spice into a blender and whizz. Add the oil and whizz a bit more, then pourover the fowl. Add some of the reserved lemon peel, cover with cling film thenmarinate for as long as you can, turning occasionally.
3. When ready to cook preheat your oven to 180c, sprinklethe birds with a bit of the Arabic spice then cook until done, about 45 minutesto an hour for poussins. Brush with the left-over marinade a few times duringcooking, to keep the meat moist and add flavour.

For the Tabula Kisir you’ll need (note: this isn’t Hugh’s exact recipe – for the real deal checkout River Cottage Every Day):

200g bulghur wheat
About 6 ripe tomatoes
3 spring onions
1 red and 1 green pepper
1 pomegranate
1 big bunch each of mint, coriander and flat leaf parsley

For the dressing:

4tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
1tsp each of ground cumin, ground paprika, sea salt andground black pepper.
5tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil

1. Place the bulghur wheat in a large bowl and pour over approx 200ml boiling water, stir and then cover for about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, mix together the lemon juice, tomato puree andthe spices, then whisk in the oil. Pour over the warm bulghur and stir. Leave to cool.
3. Chop the tomatoes and pepper into small dice, finelyslice the spring onions and chop the herbs finely. Mix it all into the cool bulghur along with the seeds from the pomegranate. Season. Let stand for an hour or so to let the flavours mingle together nicely, then serve with the poussin.

We had all this with pita bread and some half-arsed home-made tzatziki. It was really, really lovely, and made me feel decidedly less homicidal.And what with the weather getting warmer and warmer, I would imagine that this would make for a lovely BBQ meal out in the garden too

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Haddock chowder

We have moved out of our house and are living with my parents, in order to allow our builders to build a kitchen extension in peace, without Giles tearing down the stairs every few minutes telling them they're doing it all wrong.

I sort of hate myself for having the extension done. It's so predictable. But we did such an awful, half-arsed job of dragging the house into the 21st Century during the last round of building works that this is sort of essential. Didn't Simone de Beauvoir say something about those being confined to the domestic sphere contrive to make it complicated or something...? Well I am confined to the domestic sphere and I contrive to make it flipping complicated.

So we're living in my parents' giant house in Hampstead Garden Suburb, back in my old room, Kitty banged up downstairs in a room that has only ever, I think, been a spare room.

My overwhelming emotion being here is one of penance. I wasn't a particularly horrible child or teenager, I don't think, but I was very untidy. My room, really one of the nicest in the house, was always strewn with clothes and general crap and I would leave dirty mugs and plates lying around everywhere.

Now I'm back, I am hellbent on being fastidiously tidy. I want to let my mother know, without actually saying anything, that I am sorry for not understanding when I was a teenager what a fucking pain in the arse keeping a house tidy is and how depressing it is walking into someone else's incredibly disgustingly messy room is.

Over the last few weeks, in my new mania for trying to keep my own house tidy, I have learnt this: if you tidy something away, or fold something up, or wipe down a surface, you instantly forget about it. And when you return, it is AS NICE as if SOMEONE ELSE has done it for you.

Of course a major benefit of living with one's parents is 1) free evening babysitting and 2) someone else making dinner.

Last night we had haddock chowder and it was just sublime. This is technically cullen skink, but I didn't want to call it that because every time I have come across a recipe for cullen skink I have skipped past it, assuming that it is some monstrously fishy yukky horror using a mackerel-like thing called a skink - and I can only assume that you are as thick as me.

My quantities here are not exact, but it's not an exact thing.
Haddock chowder (or cullen skink)
1/2 fillet haddock per person
bunch parsely
medium onion, chopped
two sticks celery, chopped
2 rashers bacon, CHOPPED
salt and pepper
1 potato per person, diced
1 litre fish stock, made with any old fish stock cube
300ml single or whipping cream

1 Sweat the onions and celery with a generous knob of butter - about 50g - for at least 15 mins. If you want to be really classy, lay a sheet of greaseproof paper between your pan and your lid. It is very important to cook the onions through because otherwise the cream will curdle later - I don't know why.

2 Add the bacon and turn in the pan for a few minutes, then add the potato. Add the fish and then pour over the fish stock until everything is covered. Simmer all this for about 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Finish with the cream and some chopped parsley. Season. We ate this with sheets of cheddar laid across the top, which was terrific. Kitty ate the leftovers the next day.