Quinoa Risotto with Mashed Peas and Greens

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I made this on Friday – another recipe from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook.

I do love Quinoa and have made some pretty awesome things with it in the past. For me this wasn’t one of them.

The whole dish was lovely. The addition of the feta, parmesan, pine nuts and pea puree were the highlights of the dish – adding salty flavours (the cheeses), crunch (the nuts) and a sweet freshness (the peas). But the risotto was a bit of a let down. It was a little bit bland.

The quinoa is cooked in a similar way as a risotto – but not quite. After frying a couple of thinly sliced leaks in oil you add the quinoa until it start to pop. You then add white wine and lemon juice – let that absorb – and then finally add the stock until that is absorbed. The whole thing takes around 30 minutes. Sometimes that quinoa just refuses to budge.

Once you’ve got your gloopy porridge consistency your quinoa is done. Stir in some shredded greens until they wilt. Finally stir in some grated parmesan to give it a cheesy risotto feel.

While your waiting for your risotto you blitz some peas with some mint and basil until it’s smooth – then add seasoning and the juice of half a lemon. I could eat the puree on its own – maybe on toast or just as a dip – it was amazingly sweet and fresh.

Assembly is simply puddling your risotto in a bowl, crumbling some more parmesan and then some feta, some toasted pine nuts and of course the awesome peas puree.

All in all this is a good dish but you just expect a bit more. The greens and the leeks get lost – you just wouldn’t know they were there.

Making this again I’d have to give the quinoa more zing – it needs more citrus I think. It’s a shame to rely on the dressings to make the dish nice – the quinoa should have been the highlight and it wasn’t.

I’ll experiment and see if I can make it better.

 

 

 

 

Smoky Beans and Sweet Potato Hash Browns

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This dinner was a game of two halves. The beans – awesome; the fritters – not so good.

This recipe is taken from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook, and was one of those where I kind of figured what the result would be before I made it. In fairness even the author doesn’t sing its praises; simply saying ‘a good quick dinner’ – I should have known better!

On one side we had a homemade take on baked beans, only so much better than what you get in a tin – while on the other side we had hash browns which ended up being more like mini frittatas.

A lot of recipes substitute potato for sweet potato and hope it will work. Unfortunately it doesn’t work here. The sweet potato is flavoured only with a small amount of cumin seeds and is bound together with egg. It didn’t take a lot of working out to realise these patties were going to be eggy and generally lacking in taste. For me they were a bit of a fail.

I’ve made fritters with sweet potatoes before and they have been better because the potato has been roasted first and the flavours have been developed by adding spring onion or soy sauce. Blitzing the roasted veg with other ingredients and then forming the patties seems more successful. These raw ones are disappointing. You can’t really get enough flavour into them, they don’t tend to keep their shape unless you are very careful with them and they tend to lose their integrity as you eat them.

Perhaps a pinch of chilli flakes would have woken them up a bit. I might try that some other time.

The beans on the other hand were excellent. Having fried a shallot with some smoked paprika and adding some really tasty cherry tomatoes you add cannellini beans, a little thyme and a dash of balsamic vinegar. These are super tasty and would be a great side. I could see myself whipping up a big batch of these and having them with burgers and fries or something like that.

Not such a successful dinner – but very healthy and a great bean discovery.

 

 

Thrown together Spaghetti in a Smoky Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Chorizo

I had plans for dinner yesterday but time got away from me and I didn’t make it to the shops to get ingredients.  A quick nose through the fridge and the cupboards and I saw I had everything to throw this together.  It was pretty simple.

Fry some smoked bacon and chorizo and put to one side, leaving all the oils from the meat in the pan.  Fry some onions, add garlic, celery, grated carrot, tinned tomatoes and a little smoked paprika and leave bubbling away for 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile cook your spaghetti. When it’s ready drain and pour into a serving dish. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and then the bacon and chorizo.  Mix it all together and hey presto – a simple meal from the cupboard.

A simple yummy fix me up when you don’t feel like following a recipe from a book.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow!

Carrot, Walnut and Quinoa Salad

 I had planned on making three dishes tonight but after the amazing Tabbouleh I decided to forget about one of them and just put this really simple carrot salad together.

This is probably the best carrot salad that I’ve ever eaten. What makes it super amazing is the walnuts and the red chilli. Phenomenal.

This salad is also from The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. New book – two out of two great recipes.

I’d already held back a small amount of cooked Quinoa from the Tabbouleh; and again that is the only cooked element. Putting it together you add walnuts, a red chilli, a shallot, fresh coriander and garlic to mirin, white wine vinegar, and walnut oil. To this mix add your grated carrot and your cooked Quinoa.

I grated half the carrot recommended in the recipe – not out of laziness – I just thought the picture in the book looked too carroty. I wanted to see the Quinoa and the chillies and for it to look more interesting. I think this was a great move.

You serve the dish with some poppy seeds sprinkled over the top. I didn’t have any so I used nigella seeds instead.

Like the Tabbouleh this dish definitely benefits from an hour in the fridge for the flavours to develop. This salad will be seen again at this weekend’s BBQ – weather permitting!

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.

Mexican Griddled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad with Chipotle Mayo

This amazingly tasty dish comes from Diana Henry’s – A Bird In the Hand.  Her style of cooking and the simplicity of her recipes should be a winner for most people that don’t want to slave over meals.

I really like this book.  There was isn’t a thing in it I wouldn’t eat and it is far superior to every other chicken book I’ve ever seen. She also published A Change of Appetite – which I’ve cooked from many times.

This dish combines sweet potatoes, quinoa, avocado and a chipotle Mayo that is to die for – and of course the chicken. The sweet potatoes are phenomenal – they are roasted and then griddle fried with chilli flakes and cumin seeds pressed into them. Amazingly smoky!

It took a while to make and in hindsight I should have marinated the chicken for a lot longer than I did. I only left it an hour but I think the four hours recommended in the book is more reasonable. Even overnight might be better given how basic the marinade is; it only has lime juice, garlic, a small amount of ground cumin and oil.

This could so easily become a vegetarian salad by swapping out the chicken for Halloumi or maybe even just leaving it out. It would be a great companion to a BBQ.

There are many components to this dish but they are all very achievable; perhaps the Mayo will be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have a stick blender as to need to add the oil gradually so that the Mayo emulsified. Mine split a little – but i didn’t affect the taste.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was leaving the chicken thighs whole with the bone in. This was more through oversight than choice. When I make it again – I which I will – I’ll remove the bone and slice the chicken into the salad. It’ll be a more enjoyable eat this way I think.

I might even consider preparing the chicken with a ras el hanout marinade as I think a punchier chicken might bring more to the dish.

Quicker Than Toast Courgette Salad

Courgette Salad

This really is the quickest thing you will every make. And it is so moorish you’ll just keep making it.

Freya said she was hungry and wanted to eat quickly – this was quick. Quicker than Toast quick.

Heat a pan. Get it hot – add a handful of pumpkin seeds until they pop. While that is happening grate a courgette. Tip the hot pumpkin seeds over the courgette and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Done.

It’s so easy – and it’s so good. I just wish I’d thought of it! You could eat this on its own – or it would make an awesome side for a BBQ or picnic. All I would say is make it as you need it. I can’t imagine a grated courgette maintaining its integrity for long after you’ve covered it with hot seeds. Not that I found that out – it was gone in less time than it took to make it!

It would probably also be awesome with tamari pumpkin seeds – but this will take longer (than toasting bread!). But not much I don’t imagine.