Saturday, 23 February 2008

burgers and the glasgow film festival

In the previous post kels mentioned that we were going to see a movie that was part of the Glasgow Film Festival. Last week we were at the movies almost every night. Of the ones we saw, one was a disappointment, one had the most vivid colours, and the last, though it was made last year, transported us back to the sumptuous big studio style of 1930s Hollywood.

With all that movie going I was looking for ultra fast and delicious so that we could resist the temptation to eat out every night. My ultimate shallot and stilton burgers did just the trick. I was also inspired by a thorough peruse through one of my favourite sites A Hamburger Today and an interesting thread in Serious Eats about whether Texans do or don't eat their burgers with ketchup, further added to my inspiration.

Ultimate Shallot and Stilton Burgers
500g beef mince
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp Millstone steak seasoning (or salt and pepper)
stilton cheese, cut into cubes
sesame seed burger buns
beef tomato

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 4. In a large bowl combine the shallot, garlic, seasoning and mince.

  2. Mix together with your hands until well combined and form into 4 patties. Push a piece of stilton into the middle of each patty, deep enough so that the meat surrounds it.

  3. Heat a seasoned, heavy cast iron pan until very hot. When smoking add the patties and fry on each side for 3 minutes. Place the patties on a baking tray and put in the oven for another 5 minutes. This will ensure that the stilton in the middle gets to that perfect state of meltingness. Meanwhile, spread a little butter on your buns and lightly toast them in a non-stick pan.

  4. While the burgers are finishing off in the oven assemble your toppings. I like pickled jalapenos, mayonnaise, wholegrain mustard, beef tomato, lettuce and Frank's hot sauce.

This is guaranteed to bring a smile to your sweetie's face!

Monday, 18 February 2008

osteria piero

Mel and I had tickets to see a Spanish movie, mataharis, which was showing at the GFT as part of the Glasgow film festival. True to form we decided to eat out first and Mel had spied a new Italian kid on the block on West Regent Street. We set off with our forks to hand. Joined on this outing with our friend Erick; an aspiring screen play writer and audio technician.

A very welcoming atmosphere awaits you when you walk in the bar area. We were quickly ushered to a table and promptly handed menus to mull over. We ordered a bottle of house wine from a well stocked wine list. Pretty much as soon as we sat down a plate of free tapas was brought to the table, with marinated anchovies, assorted olives and marinated peppers.

There is a rotating menu of specials. On the night we went there was pork filled tortellini in brodo, beef carpaccio, and trout. Our waiter also said they could prepare scallops and pasta or prawns and pasta. Also on the menu was 8 varieties of pizza --we didn't order but they looked appetising.

There was also something called l'orologia -- literally clock face -- platters of cured meats, cheeses or grilled vegetbales.

This is what we ordered:

  • scallops and pasta: perfectly grilled scallops with angel hair pasta, dressed with olive oil, garlic and parsley

  • l'orologia of cold cuts and cheese which comes with a free glass of prosecco: the star of the plate was Coppa

  • tusan pork sausages stew with potatoes: a very hearty stew perfect for a cold winter's night

  • prawns and pasta: this one came dressed with a light tomato sugo. the prawns were large and juicy

  • ensalate caprese

Mel ordered the caprese and she reckoned that it was the best she has had yet in glasgow. We tried it and agreed. It was really fresh mozzarella di bufala, which, we were informed by the very helpful owner/manager is flown in twice a week. It was served on green tomatoes.

The manager/owner also explained that the restaurant is trying to stay true to the ingredients and seasons. He made us feel very welcome and was intrigued by Mels New York accent. She gets quite a kick outa saying she is from Springburn when they ask her where she is from.

All and all we felt very comfortable in the restaurant; almost like being in your own dining room with a bunch of friends. After the mains we were all too full for dessert which was a compact menu of tirimisu, meringue with ice cream and strawberries, italian ice cream with fruit salad, or lemon sorbet. Instead Mel topped it off with a perfect cup of double espresso.

dinner for 3 with 2 bottles of wine + espresso: £81

OSTERIA PIERO / 111 West Regent Street, Glasgow / 0141 248 3471

Sunday, 17 February 2008

using up the box part 4: baked king prawn and broad bean rice

On thursday i was slightly hungover from the pizza night at dave's. when i got home i wanted to eat something with minimum effort involved. this recipe definitely fits the bill.

I saved it to my recipe database last year. It came from the February 2007 issue of delicious magazine and was part of an article about money-saving meals. In terms of this recipe I agree it's fairly low-cost. The most expensive ingredient was the king prawns. I usually keep a bag of prawns in the freezer for when i make fried rice anyways. You could say it's one of my freezer staples.

A bit about the broad beans from the organic box. For this recipe I actually used up broad beans that i received 2 weeks in a row. They were still in their pods. With fresh broad beans you actually have to pod them twice. First you remove them from the long green pods, and then you blanch them for about 30 seconds and remove the individual beans from their second pod. Before the second podding they look fairly translucent. But once you take off the second pod, you see the bright green beauties.

Baked King Prawn and Broad Bean Rice
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 slices chorizo, sliced into thin shreds
olive oil
300 g long grain rice
2 tsp paprika
750ml hot chicken stock
300g prawns, shelled and deveined
85g broad beans, double podded

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C/fan170C. Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof casserole. Add the onion, garlic and chorizo and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

  2. Stir in the rice and paprika and cook for 30 seconds. Pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cover with lid and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

  3. Remove the pot from the oven. Stir in the prawns and broad beans and return to the oven for another 6-8 minutes.

Friday, 15 February 2008

using up the box part 3: spinach and goats cheese pizza

The only thing i can think that's better than making your own pizza is making your own pizza and sharing it with friends. My friend Dave and his flatmates had us over for dinner on Wednesday night. He was helping Kels out with some Mac stuff and i offered to cook us all dinner. We were also joined by Matt who added to the festivities with his wit and wine. Not only does Dave take great pictures but he's also adventurous in the kitchen -- a quality i much admire.

Kelsie brought over the essentials:
the spinach from the organic box
chorizo (for the meat eaters)
goats cheese

Dave kindly supplied the rest:
flour, milk, olive oil, salt, garlic, and a nice toasty radiator

On to the recipe:

For the dough: (if you can't read the post-it)
650g plain flour
2 tsp salt
50 ml warm milk
325 ml warm water
1 x 7g packet active dried yeast

For the topping:
1 bunch spinach
3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
olive oil

  1. First make the dough. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Combine the milk, water, olive oil and yeast in a jug and stir. Make sure the liquid is not too hot before you add the yeast or you might kill it. Alternatively, if it's too cold it won't activate the yeast. The way i make sure is for the 325 ml water i use 100ml boiling water and top up the rest with cold water.

  2. Add the liquid to the flour and work in with your fingers until it becomes a ball of dough. Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth. Oil a large bowl and put the dough in, turning once so that the dough has a coating of olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and keep in a warm place for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

  3. Preheat your oven to 220C/fan200C/gas 5. If you have one, put your pizza stone in the oven to preheat too.

  4. While the dough is rising, prepare your toppings. For garlic oil, combine the chopped garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. In a frying pan heat some olive oil and add the sliced garlic. When it starts to colour add the washed spinach and a pinch of salt. Cook until just wilted.

  5. Once the dough has risen punch it down and separate into 4 pieces. Stretch each piece into a circular or rectangular shape. I find holding onto an edge and letting gravity do the rest of the work does a better job than a rolling pin. Just be careful not to let it get too thin!

  6. Place the pizza-shaped dough right on the stone or pizza pan. Brush the surface with the garlic oil. Distribute the cooked spinach and crumble the goats cheese all over.

  7. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are brown, the topping is bubbling, the house smells like heaven, and your friends are gathering around the stove asking when it's going to be done.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

using up the box part 2: ratatouille pasta bake

Ratatouille is a great way to use up all that med veg we got this week. I usually don't make this in February as I associate it so much with summer abundance. It's great just on it's own, with some nice crusty bread and a good bottle of wine.

This recipe extends its usefulness and turns it into a mix-in for a pasta bake. The additions of black olives and toasted pine nuts really turns it into something special. I've just at the last of it today for lunch (i made the ratatouille on sunday and we had the complete dish for dinner on monday and tuesday).

Two things to note about this particular batch. In addition to the red bell peppers i got in the box last week, i also had spicy red peppers from the previous week's box. I didn't think they were going to be quite as spicy as they turned out to be. I'm not complaining though; i think the added spice works really well in this dish. The other thing to note is that toasted pine nuts are what makes this dish stand above your average pasta bake. It's always a nice surprise when you get a couple in a forkful. They have such a distinctive nuttiness and add another texture dimension to the dish. On to the recipe....

Ratatouille Pasta Bake with Pine Nuts and Black Olives
For the ratatouille:
1 x 400g tin peeled plum tomatoes
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch basil, shredded
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 aubergine, cut into 5cm cubes
sea salt
2 courgettes, quartered lengthwise and cut into 5cm cubes
2 red bell peppers, cut in 5cm pieces
2 spicy red peppers

For the pasta bake:
350g penne pasta or another similar shape
25g pine nuts, toasted until golden brown
150g black olives (i used kalamata)
250g mozzarella, cubed or grated

  1. First start the tomato sauce for the ratatouille. In a medium saucepan heat 4 Tbsp olive oil. Add in the sliced garlic, parsley, basil, and whole tomatoes. Simmer about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes break down. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  2. While the tomatoes are cooking, place the aubergine in a colander over a bowl and salt the cubes. This will draw out any liquid from the aubergine.

  3. Heat 3 Tbsp in a heavy frying pan. Add the onion and saute until softened and starting to colour, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer the cooked onions to a bowl.

  4. In the same frying pan add another 2 Tbsp olive oil and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until the peppers start to soften and colour. Transfer to the bowl with the onions. NOTE: with the hot pepper there was quite a bit of smoke, so keep your extractor fan on high or open a window!

  5. Add another 3 Tbsp to the frying pan and cook the courgette until light golden. Transfer to the bowl of vegetables.

  6. While the courgette is cooking pat the aubergine cubes dry with kitchen roll. Heat another 4 Tbsp olive oil in the pan and cook the aubergine until it starts to soften. You may find that you need to add in more olive oil. Try not to add too much or else the dish will become quite oily.

  7. Once the aubergine is cooked combine it with the rest of the cooked vegetables and transfer all of them to the tomato sauce. Add in the tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer the ratatouille for another 10-20 minutes to let the flavours develop. Season to taste.

  8. At this point you can continue with the recipe or serve the ratatouille on its own.

  1. To continue with the pasta bake, preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C/gas 4.

  2. Cook the pasta shapes until just before al dente. They will finish cooking in the oven when you bake the dish.

  3. Combine the ratatouille, cooked pasta, mozzarella, olives and toasted pine nuts in a bowl and transfer to a large rectangular baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden and the contents are bubbling.

Monday, 11 February 2008

using up the box part 1: caldo verde

yesterday i made two dishes out of the veg box. one was ratatouille which i'll feature tomorrow, and the other was Caldo Verde.

Caldo Verde is a hearty Portuguese soup/stew made of potatoes, cabbage, and linguica sausage. I haven't found any Portuguese ingredient purveyors in Glasgow yet. Let me know if you know of one! Otherwise i'll try a mail-order of linguica from here. Another alternative would be to try it out with luganega sausage as apparently both varieties of sausage stem from the same family of people. To be honest though, I made it with chorizo sausage and it was just fine!

I must have first tried Caldo Verde when I was on holiday in Provincetown, MA. There are a lot of people of Portuguese descent there and you can find lots of places serving Caldo Verde. Here is a nice write-up about Provincetown's Caldo Verde reputation.

On to the recipe. I used the one from The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook. I really enjoy their programs and especially like how they use food to make a connection with a new place. The recipe in the book serves approx 8 people so I halved it:

Caldo Verde
3 baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
750 ml chicken or vegetable stock
150 g chorizo
large bunch kale or greens
1 tsp smoked paprika
olive oil

  1. In a large pan, sweat the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. add the chorizo and cook and 5 minutes, until the sausage starts to brown.

  2. Add the potatoes and stir until they absorb some of the oil that has been released from the sausage. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaf. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and falling apart.

  3. Meanwhile, finely chop the greens. I used the shredding disc on my food processor to do this, but you're fine to just finely chop them with a knife. the key is to not have any large pieces of the thick woody stalks.

  4. When the potatoes are ready, remove the bay leaf from the pan and mash the potato into the broth making a thick chowder-like consistency. Blanch the greens in boiling water for a minute or two, and add to the potato broth. Season to taste.

  5. Mix together the smoked paprika and some olive oil and stir into the soup just before serving. Serve with toasted sourdough or rustic bread to mop up all the yummy juice.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

what i'm doing with this week's organic box

in a previous post i mentioned that we're subscribing to an organic box scheme from Grow Wild. for the first three weeks we were getting the medium uk box. in those boxes we were inundated with cabbages, cauliflower, beetroot and neeps. now we're trying out the mediterranean veg box.

this week we got:
1 aubergine
1 bunch of swiss chard
1 bunch of spinach
1 courgette
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
a bag of carrots
1 bag of fresh broad beans (in the pod)
2 red bell peppers
2 onions

here's the menu i put together for the coming week to use all this goodness up. the only thing i'll have leftover will be the carrots:

Caldo Verde -- this is a hearty Portuguese soup of cabbage and ideally linguica sausage. but i'll be using chorizo instead. it'll use up the bunch of swiss chard from this week as well as the bunch of kale we got in last week's box

Baked King Prawn Rice -- this is kind of like paella. i'll be using up all the broad beans in this dish.

Spinach and Goats Cheese Pizza -- yep, this will use up the spinach.

Ratatouille and Pasta Bake -- this will be my lunches for the week. the ratatouille will use up the tomatoes, aubergine, onions, peppers and courgette.

stay tuned! i'll be posting the recipes here all week, hopefully with photos.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

how much would you pay for a slice of leek tart?

My full-time job is a project manager/scrum master at WeeWorld. I was lucky to get my job at WeeWorld. It's a cool mix of people who care a lot about what they do, and do it well.

Still, for me professionally it has felt a bit like a step backwards. I had hoped to leave project management forever once we moved to Scotland. I went to catering college and started working in kitchens. It was hard work but i loved it and time just disappeared when i was in the kitchen. The problem was the food industry notoriously pays ridiculous wages. So after thinking long and hard I decided to take the job at WeeWorld.

I've lately been thinking up different schemes to fit in cooking and the WeeWorld job. This blog is one artefact of that. The latest idea i've been playing around with is bringing in home cooked lunches for the team to have during the week. I figure i can leave it to them to donate what they think it's worth and see how it goes.

Yesterday I brought in a slice of this leek tart and casually asked around how much my co-workers would be willing to pay if they bought it take-away from a local shop. Let's just say that I would only need to sell 3 slices to break even (not including overhead.

The recipe comes from Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook by Tessa Kiros. It's a gorgeous cookbook with stunning photographs. For each month she includes a diary-like intro describing the sights, smells and tastes of the Tuscan countryside at that time of year. The recipes are easy to follow. This is the book where I got the Budino di Semolino recipe that I made last month.

Shortcrust Pastry(enough for a 26cm tart tin)
200 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
100g chilled, unsalted butter, diced
2-3 Tbsp cold water

Leek Tart
3 leeks, about 800 g, trimmed and cleaned
3 Tbsp olive oil
250ml white wine
3 eggs
150 g grated parmesan cheese
125 ml cream

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually work in enough water to form a soft dough. Alternatively, whizz together the flour, salt and butter until it resembles bread crumbs. Add well chilled water through the feed tube 1 Tbsp at a time and keep whizzing until the dough starts to come together

  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour before using.

  3. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface and fit into the tart tin. Make sure the edges are smooth. Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes to chill.

  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4. Take the pastry out of the fridge and prick the base all over with a fork. Line the base with parchment paper and use baking weights or dried beans to cover the surface. This help keep the pastry from shrinking.

  5. Place the pastry on a tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the baking weights and parchment paper and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.

  6. Meanwhile make the filling. chop leeks and sauté in olive oil until soft. Season. When lightly golden add white wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add 250 ml water and sauté another 10 minutes and no liquid left. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

  7. Beat eggs and add leeks, cream and parmesan cheese. Season to taste.

  8. Pour the filling into the baked tart shell and return to the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is brown and the filling is set.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

All is right with the world when we eat Sag

In the past 6 years, Kels and I have moved around a lot. First we were living together in Hyde Park, NY. Then we moved across the pond to Scotland and have pretty much moved house every year since being here. It's not fun moving house, and even less so when you've got a lot of stuff to move. But we've gotten pretty good at it.

One of our 'settling in' rituals when we get to a new place is to make Sag Paneer. Something about the smell of it cooking, and the overall comfort it gives us makes the moving blues, or any blues for that matter, go away. As Kels says, 'all is right with the world after a bowl of Sag.'

The recipe i have below is based on the one in Yamuna Devi's The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Btw, that book is a treasure trove of recipes. I usually substitute paneer cheese with tofu and it works fine. We always have Sag with the same accompaniments -- steamed basmati rice and cucumber raita.

Cucumber Raita
1 large cucumber, peeled and shredded
1.5 cups yoghurt (we like greek style)
1 teabag mint tea, or fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp black mustard seeds

Sag Paneer
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp turmeric
3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 chilli (if there is scotch bonnet i use that, or use any available)
olive oil
500g spinach
1 packet paneer cheese or firm tofu
100g freshly grated grana padano cheese or pecorino romano
1 tsp garam masala

  1. salt the grated cucumber and place in a colander for about 20 minutes so the liquid can drain away.

  2. toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and starting to colour. remove from pan and grind in a mortar and pestle.

  3. whizz together the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and chilli with a little water to make thick spice paste

  4. heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the spice paste until fragrant. add the spinach and cook over high heat until wilted

  5. transfer the wilted spinach to a food processor or blender and whizz until a thick puree.

  6. meanwhile, heat some more olive oil in the same wok or frying pan and add the cubes of paneer or tofu. fry until starting to colour. turn the heat down to low and add the spinach puree. let this cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes while you finish the raita.

  7. squeeze out as much liquid from the grated cucumber as you can and transfer the cucumber to a bowl. add yoghurt and mint.

  8. heat the sesame oil in a small pan until smoking. add the black mustard seeds and fry until they start popping. immediately pour the oil and seeds into the bowl of cucumber and combine everything well.

  9. finish making the sag. add the grated cheese and stir until completely melted. taste and adjust for salt. stir in 2 tsp garam masala just before serving.

  10. serve the sag over steamed basmati rice and top with raita.