Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chocolate scones

I've been making scones with Sammy for a while and over time he has gradually taken over more and more of the process, and also introduced a few little improvements of his own. Here is the (for now) definitive version.

300g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g caster sugar
75g butter
100g very dark chocolate
170ml milk

  1. Heat the oven to 200oC. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the baking powder and sugar, and stir in with a spoon. Cut the butter into pieces, and add to the flour and sugar mixture, rubbing it in until it is the texture of breadcrumbs.
  2. Bash the chocolate bar with a rolling pin until thoroughly broken. Add the chocolate pieces to the flour, sugar and margarine, mixing in with a spoon, then add the milk and mix until it comes together to form a ball.
  3. Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a fat, rough disk. Don't try to make it too perfect - cracks and folds will help add texture to the finished scone. Place the rounds on a non-stick baking tray. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sammy's chicken kebabs

Sammy and Carmela are gradually doing more and more cooking, and right now this is Sammy's favourite thing to do with chicken.

1 kg skinless chicken breast
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 tbsps of natural yoghurt
2 tbsps of chickpea flour
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt

  1. Cut the chicken into chunks, put in a bowl and mix well with the lemon juice.
  2. Mix the yoghurt and the chickpea flour, then add the ginger, garlic, spices and salt, and mix well. Pour over the chicken pieces, mix well and leave to marinade (anything from 30 minutes to overnight).
  3. Preheat the oven to 220oC, and line an oven tray with lightly greased foil.
  4. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers, and cook in the hot oven for 12 minutes.

Chicken curry with cardamom

This year I finally bit the bullet and brought back a whole suitcase of spices from Edinburgh to Cadiz: garam  masala, ground coriander, curry powder, chilli powder, black mustard seeds, cardamom, fenugreek ... Appropriately enough, they are kept in a medicine cabinet in our kitchen.

This recipe comes from a little Madhur Jaffrey book that I bought over Christmas and which has been part of my "one curry a week" drive. I made it with Sammy last Saturday morning, together with a vast quantity of rice, which turned out to be fortuitous as about 30 minutes later our friends James and Monica phoned and I felt happy to invite them round for lunch, knowing that I had a big pot of curry and rice on the go.

stage 1: marinade
1 whole chicken, skinned and jointed
1 onion
2-inch piece of ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp black pepper

stage 2: curry
vegetable oil
1 onion
2 cinnamon sticks
16 cardamom pods
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
100g natural yoghurt
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
juice of 1 lemon
150ml water

  1. Marinade: Peel and roughly chop the onion, and chop finely in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, chilli powder and black pepper. In a large bowl, mix the chicken pieces and the onion and spice mixture, cover and leave for anything from 30 minutes to overnight.
  2. Curry: Peel and finely slice the second onion, fry gently in a large saucepan until they start to brown. Add the whole spices and cook for a further 30 seconds or so, reduce heat to minimum and add the yoghurt a spoonful at a time, stirring well to make sure it is incorporated.
  3. Now add the tomato, chicken pieces, marinade, salt and lemon juice and water. Turn heat up, bring to a simmer, cover and cook at minimum for an hour.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pork ribs with chilli and ginger (pressure cooker version)

I got market inspiration the other day, and after clam and potato stew, and rabbit dhansak I thought I would try to pressure cook some spare ribs. I wanted this to be really simple and quick, with just a couple of clear, strong flavours.

1 kg pork ribs (cut into small pieces, if possible)
2 tsps chilli powder
2 tsps ginger powder
1 tsp salt
100 ml chicken stock
100 ml red wine
vegetable oil

  1. Mix the chilli, ginger and salt together, rub into the ribs and leave to sit in the fridge for anything between 1 hour and 1 day.
  2. Heat a little vegetable oil in an open pressure cooker, add the ribs and fry for a couple of minutes until browned.
  3. Add the stock and the wine, bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes uncovered to release the alcohol.
  4. Put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring to full pressure, turn heat to minimum and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool slowly.
  5. You can serve the ribs straight from the pot, or if you want that 'sticky ribs' effect you can bake them in an oven dish.

Hip pot
I'm not a great recipe follower, but even without following someone else's instructions word for word, I still draw heavily on other people's expertise and inspiration. There is a brilliant site I have mentioned before called hip pressure cooking, which,  in addition to being a wonderful source of information about all things pressure pot related, is a constant reminder that cooking is all about finding new combinations and new ways of performing old tricks. I couldn't find a spare rib recipe on the site, so I dedicate this to Laura at hip pressure cooking.

Rabbit dhansak

I have mixed feelings about market shopping: it's time-consuming and can be both physically and mentally exhausting, as you struggle to make sure the stallholders don't palm off shoddy produce on you and have to adapt your cooking to what's available. But when I'm in the right mood, I find it really stimulating. I often have great recipe ideas while looking at what's on display, sometimes directly inspired by whatever is laid out in front of me, and sometimes taking advantage of a bit of daydream time while I wait to be served.

When I got back to Spain from Italy the other day, the first thing I did (after frantically feeding the washing machine and hanging up wet clothes) was to pop down to the market. In the fish section, I bought a kilo of clams. And at the butcher's I picked up a beautiful free-range chicken, which I intend to do al ajillo but with the added twist of a pickled lemon, and I also got some pork ribs, which I plan to pressure cook with chilli and ginger. My final purchase was a free-range rabbit, but instead of doing my usual coniglio alla cacciatore, I thought I would do a bit of fusion cooking, so I came up with this rabbit and brown lentil curry. I don't know if this really qualifies as a dhansak or not (usually, I think, a meat curry where the sauce is thickened with red lentils) and I don't care either.

1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
2-inch piece of fresh ginger
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 teaspoons of mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 free-range rabbit, jointed
250g brown lentils
800 ml of chicken stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
small bunch of fresh coriander

  1. Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger, and puree in a food processor with the vegetable oil.
  2. Gently fry the puree in an open pressure cooker, being careful not to burn.
  3. When the onion is turning golden, add the curry powder and salt, fry for another 30 seconds, then add the rabbit pieces and fry for a minute or so, turning them so that they become well coated with the onion and spice mixture.
  4. Add the lentils, chicken stock and lemon juice, close the pressure cooker and bring up to full pressure (2 rings). Cook for 15 minutes, then cool the cooker under runninng cold water.
  5. Open, check for seasoning, add chopped coriander and serve.

Googlewhacking is the sport of trying to find an elusive query (two words - no quote marks) with a single, solitary result. Googlecooking is the art of producing a recipe (two-word title - yes quote marks) for which there are no other hits. I give you "rabbit dhansak"!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clam and potato stew

I'm always intrigued by how certain combinations of food become fixed. It's more obvious in Spain, where there is both a more extensive repertoire of traditional dishes and a more conservative approach to cooking (facts which I guess are related).

I was in the market today shopping for fish and, as usual, not quite sure what to buy when I spotted some nice-looking clams at 6 euros a kilo. I usually just cook clams a la marinera, with paprika and sherry, but I wanted something that would turn them into a one-pot meal. At first, I thought about doing them with rice, but then it struck me that they would be good in a potato stew. In Cadiz, the usual thing to combine with potatoes like this is cuttlefish (papas con choco) but it worked very well with the clams and I will definitely be repeating this one. I think I might also try to work out a curried version with coconut milk and turmeric at some point.


1 head of celery
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of cumin
2 kg of potatoes
1/2 kg of green beans
4 ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1 glass of white wine
1 glass of chicken stock (or replace with fish stock or water)
2 bay leaves
1 kg of clams

  1. Clean and chop the celery and garlic, and fry gently in plenty of olive oil.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Cut the green beans into 2-inch segments. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks. Wash the clams thorough in plenty of cold water.
  3. Once the celery begins to soften, add the paprika and cumin and fry for 30 seconds or so before adding the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, bay leaves and salt.
  4. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are just done.
  5. Add the clams, stir well, cover and continue cooking for a few minutes until all of the clams have opened.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pork meatballs with squid, in a green curry sauce

I'm always a little nervous when people introduce me as a foodie. It's true that I love food and love cooking, but I would hesitate to describe myself as a good cook. I'm well aware of my shortcomings - gaps in my knowledge and my technique, and the more than occasional mediocre dish that I produce.

However, every now and then I cook something that makes me think that maybe I do deserve to be described as a good cook. It's usually when I bring together some slightly unusual ingredients in an inspired combination that I have not knowingly copied from anywhere else, and this was the case with this meatball curry that I cooked up this evening, having spent the day out drinking beer on the first Saturday of Carnival. The ingredient which lifts it up onto another level is the inclusion of some squid in the meatball mixture.

100g squid, cut into small pieces
1 leek
2 cloves of garlic
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
500g minced pork
2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tbsp white wine
2 tbsps green chilli chutney (substitute with 1 tbsps of minced green chilli and 1 tbsps lemon juice)
4 tbsps breadcrumbs

vegetable oil
1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass
1/2 tin of coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsps green chilli chutney (substitute with 1 tbsps of minced green chilli and 1 tbsps lemon juice)

  1. Peel and chop the garlic and ginger, and wash and chop the leek. Put the cuttlefish, leek, garlic and ginger into a food processor, and chop finely. Transfer to a large bowl, add the pork, soy sauce, wine, chilli chutney and breadcrumbs, mix well, return to the food processor and whizz briefly.
  2. Form the mixture into walnut-sized chunks and fry in vegetable oil until browned. (You will probably need to do 2 or 3 batches.) Remove to a plate.

  1. Peel and chop the onion, garlic and ginger, transfer to food processor and chop finely.
  2. In a medium saucepan, fry the onion mixture gently in vegetable oil. Once the onion has softened, add the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce and green chilli chutney, and stir well.
  3. Bring to a simmer, then add the meatballs, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with rice.