Saturday, March 21, 2009

Roast Chicken Dinner Provençal

Roast Chicken Dinner 2, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Our first full day in Nice was very domestic - we went shopping in the local supermarket and cooked and ate at home.

On our first shop this visit at the local Monoprix, I was very impressed with the Meat and Poultry section - the meat was very fresh-looking (and included veal, fresh brains and pig trotters among its many delights) and the poultry didn't look anything like what I've become accustomed to living here in Britain: besides the usual chickens (which were all 'corn fed') there were chickens from several different farms. While I didn't spot any 'poussin', (the British equivalent of the 1-2 person Rock Cornish game hen we have in the States), there was something called a "coquette" which was just a little bit larger and perfect for 2 - 3 people.

Duck (both mature and duckling) appeared in several forms in the poultry cabinet - there were, in addition to whole duck and duck breast, duck drumsticks and duck wings (the latter, presumably, used to make stock). I was in heaven!

I can't overstate the freshness and delights of the "wet fish" counter - everything 'delivered daily'... or the deli counter with its salami, saucisson and fois gras... or the meat counter - a groaning board of veal, fresh farmed rabbit, pig tails and things I'd never even seen before (but wouldn't shy away from trying to cook).

Hmmmm... I digress.

To sum up this particular evening: we bought a regular, farmed chicken, some (really good, La Molisana) pasta, and some screamingly fresh-looking lettuce and tomatoes for a salad.

Once home we decided to prepare the chicken simply with salt, pepper, butter and herbs de Provence. We ended our meal with a fresh salad, simply dressed, with home-made vinaigrette...


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ham hocks and beans

Ham hocks and beans, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Okay! Last post of a heavy day of blogging and Twittering and all that...
In amongst all the internet activity, I managed to cook dinner for us. This was thanks, in no small part, to the pressure cooker (once again):

Because I've recently been so distracted and doing too much at once, I hadn't soaked the red kidney beans beforehand, so I cooked them in the pressure cooker with an onion and six peppercorns before I started cooking the ham.

Once they'd cooked for 10 minutes, I let them cool at their own pace until the pressure dropped and I could remove the lid.

Then I added the ham and some bay leaves and 4 cloves of garlic. I let them cook (with slow rocking of the weight on my cooker) for 15 minutes and let them cool. This turned out to be insufficient time for the meat to be 'falling off the bone" so I put the pot back on the heat and let it cook an additional 10 minutes. That seemed to do it.

I served this with rice and Romanesco cauliflower (from the vegetable box!) and my "must have " side salad/salsa of chopped tomatoes and red onion mixed with olive oil, vinegar and salt.


Have some.

Lemon Sole à la Lisa

Lemon Sole à la Lisa, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Tonight's repast... Lemon sole from the fishmonger in Cambridge Market, baked on a bed of lightly sautéed chunks of vegetables - Zucchini, tomato, red onion, scallion and garlic seasoned with lashings of (very good) balsamic vinegar and olive oil:

Cook the vegetables until they begin to 'give'. Once softened, use them to line a baking tray and lay the fish on top. That done, 'garnish' the fish with a flurry of freshly ground black pepper and flakes of sea salt. Scatter everything with a half dozen fresh bay leaves and a generous handful of flat leaf parsley and the zest of a lemon. Anoint the tray with further lashings of olive oil, the freshly squeezed juice of a lemon and some more balsamic vinegar. If you're feeling frisky, add a splash of white wine, too!

Bake in an oven (pre-heated to 200˚C) for 17 minutes. Test for doneness - the fish should separate from the bone when poked - and allow to rest for 2 minutes.

Serve with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sautéed vegetables.

Mmmmmm! Now, isn't that good?

Love, laugh, cook, eat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday's Chicken

Wednesday's Chicken, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

This could almost be called "Kitchen Sink Chicken" or "Chicken Whatever" but that wouldn't do it justice, really. This was an invention necessitated by the need to use up sweet red peppers and onions - and a taste for an easy, warming and fresh-tasting chicken dish. The basic elements of this repast were:

Chicken legs and thighs
1 large red pepper, sliced into strips
2 medium onions, sliced
250 ml white wine
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, bashed with a knife
100 ml olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves, crushed

These are the basics - see what you make of it OR tune in a few days time to see what I did with them!

Cooking is such good fun!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Provençal Daube

A Provençal Daube, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

More midweek madness - made possible by the miracle of pressure cooking!

This lovely recipe appears in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's comprehensive book about meat called, well, "Meat"! Quick and ridiculously easy if you've got a pressure cooker - it just takes a little bit longer if you haven't got one. We keep returning to this recipe so I think it ranks as a 'favourite'. Unusually, Hugh recommends macaroni for the starch -and we think it works well. The ingredients are very simple and we like to raise the stakes (!) by using organic topside of beef cut into 2 x 3 inch chunks instead of stewing beef.

Marvellous! Bon Apétit.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner
Sunday Dinner, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

It's been a good weekend, full of fun and food and, er, photography!

Yesterday we went to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens so that I could try out my new camera on something other than food. The trip was a success and we both enjoyed our day out in the fresh air. After uploading a (very) small selection of my photographs to my Flickr site, I decided that the best way to keep track of the photos was to start a new blog. Sorting through 300 photos didn't leave any time for that this weekend. When I get the new site up and running I'll post a link here.

Today we did somewhat of a reprise on last weekend's Chinese style meal:
Steve bought, at my behest, a piece of belly pork from the Farm Market on his way home from work on Friday. It was the last one on the shelf and it turned out to be quite big so I decided to separate the belly from the rib portion and have the ribs tonight. I did them Chinese style (again!) and served them with a medley of stir-fried vegetables - mange tous (snow peas), bak choi and bean sprouts. The verdict from Steve was "delicious!" It wasn't bad, really...

Plenty of left-overs means that we're due a quick meal during the week - something that we both appreciate with our hectic schedules.

Enjoy cooking, eating, drinking and living!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Calamari and Linguine

Calamari and Linguine, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

The weariness that we feel at the end of a long week spent working and keeping the cats happy is no excuse not to cook a really great meal to celebrate the beginning of the weekend!

This afternoon I sneaked off to Market Square to do some shopping for the weekend: First stop - the fishmonger. Stephen Wright's stall is our first stop for really fresh and delicious fish in Cambridge. Recently, too, they've been undergoing something of a renaissance; the range of fish on offer has expanded and the fish seems even fresher and more delectable than it has been in the past (if that is indeed possible!) As the week before, I found myself almost overwhelmed by the rich variety of seafood on offer - in weeks to come I shall list some of them here...)

I eyed the fish and chose a beautiful wild bream for Saturday and a huge, incredibly fresh-looking squid for this evening.

Squid is an easy meal from my point of view - I only really know one way to cook it:

Squid and Linguini

First, clean the squid and slice it into thin rings.

Then, finely chop 4 cloves of garlic and a handful of flat leaf parsley and set them aside.

Heat a large pot of water to cook your pasta (we recommend linguine or buccatini). Cook your pasta before you cook the calamari and drain it while it is al dente. Chill it down with cold water before you begin cooking your squid.

Heat an iron skillet 'til very hot and add 4 tbsp olive oil, heat until nearly smoking and immediately add the chopped garlic and the calamari rings.

Stir-fry these, briskly and when the calamari start releasing their fluid, continue to stir fry until about half of the fluid has been absorbed (about 1 minute longer).

Add 150 mls of dry white wine and salt and pepper to the pan.

Stir fry for a further 2 minute then add 1tbsp butter to the calamari, and a handful of chopped parsley.

Stir and fry for an additional 1 minute. Check seasonings and....


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saturday Night Chinese Feast

Sichuan Stir-fried Aubergine
Sichuan Stir-fried Aubergine Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

Saturday night at our house means more time for cooking! After a very lazy day (too lazy for words...) we were inspired to cook something out of the ordinary. A careful examination of the refrigerator revealed lots of ginger, garlic, an aubergine ('Eggplant' to you 'mericans) and a head of Chinese cabbage. Together these ingredients suggested the perfect foil for the belly pork I'd picked up from the Farm Market in Lensfield Road Friday evening.

Braised Pork Belly
Braised Pork Belly Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

We decided to braise the belly pork Chinese style and in the absence of a recipe I winged it - based on having watched our friend Emma prepare this this dish for us one evening. As I've been trying my hand at using the pressure cooker lately, the belly pork seemed a perfect candidate for this method - it would cut the cooking time down considerably.

To accompany this darkly flavoured, meaty dish we made Spicy Sichuan-style Aubergine (top) - a quick and easy dish that has become one of my favourite dishes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cook Book.

White-cooked Chinese Cabbage
White-cooked Chinese Cabbage Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

We needed a simple vegetable dish to round off the meal so I chose White-Cooked Cabbage from Kenneth Lo's New Chinese Cookery Course cookbook.
The resulting meal was very good and I'm committing the recipes herein - so I don't forget them!

Hot and spicy Sichuan-style aubergines

450g aubergines (the best ones to use, according to MJ are the long thin Japanese kind)
3 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
2 spring onions (white and green parts) cut into fine rings
3 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 tsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp chilli bean sauce
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt, if needed
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

  • Roll cut the aubergines or simply cut them across, at a diagonal at 4cm (1-1/2 inch) intervals.
  • Put the aubergines in a colander or on a steaming rack and steam for 15 -17 minutes or until tender*.
  • Put the oil in a large well-seasoned (or non-stick) wok or frying pan and set over high heat. When hot**, put in the spring onions, ginger and garlic, Stir-fry for 1 minute. Put the aubergines in the pan and stir for another minute, Next add the soy sauce, chilli past, sugar and vinegar, Stir and cook for 3 minutes, Taste and add a little salt, if needed, Add the sesame oil and stir once.
  • Remove from the heat, Sprinkle the coriander over the tip before serving. Serves 4.

*I found the aubergine too soft to retain their shape during the subsequent stir-frying step after this amount of steaming so I recommend reducing the steaming time to 12 - 15 minutes.
**Make sure the oil is very hot (but not smoking) before cooking commences.

White-Cooked Cabbage

1-1/2 tbsp dried shrimps
1 medium Chinese white or Savoy cabbage
2 slices fresh root ginger
4 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
20g butter
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
8 tbsp good stock (I used some pork stock from a cube)
1-1/2 chicken stock cubes (or equivalent of powdered stock)
1 tsp sesame oil

Soak the dried shrimps in hot water to cover for 15 minutes.
Drain. Remove the cabbage stalk (I didn't!) and any discoloured leaves before cutting to 6X5 cm pieces. Finely shred the ginger.

  • Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large saucepan.
  • When hot,. stir-fry the ginger and shrimps for 15 seconds.
  • Add the cabbage and sprinkle with salt, pepper, stock and crumbled stock cubes. Bring to the boil.
  • Toss a few times and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

Braised Pork Belly (Pressure cooker method)

2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
300 ml stock (I used pork stock)
3 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small or 1 large onion, sliced
4 tbsp chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
2 tsp castor sugar
2 pieces star anise
salt to taste (approx. 1/2 tsp, to start)
freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Wash the pork belly and cut into large 3X4 cm (or larger) pieces. If the meat contains ribs, cut the ribs away from the main meat, cut into 2 or 3 pieces and cook with the rest of the meat.
  • Put the pork into the pressure cooker, fill the pot with water to cover the meat and bring to the boil. Boil for 8 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat, pour the meat into a colander discarding the water, and wash the scum from the meat.
  • Return the meat to the pressure cooker and add all of the remaining ingredients. The liquid should come 1/2 to 2/3 the way up the meat in the pot.
  • Close the lid of the pressure cooker and turn the heat on high to bring the pot to the boil. When boiling rapidly, turn the heat down until a steady rocking of the weight is achieved. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool gradually. This will take an additional 20-30 minutes, during which time the meat will continue to cook.
  • Once cool and returned to atmospheric pressure, remove the lid and poke the meat. It should be soft enough to break with a pair of chopsticks. [If not, return to the heat, boil again and cook under pressure for an additional 10 minutes.]
  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.
Serve in a heated casserole with the juices poured over the top.