Friday, 31 March 2017

Out for the day then feed a group? Eeek!!

During the week, I got wind of an impending family get together, which was going to wind up leaving the small group at a loose end. Eat out? Not on my watch!!

I put out the offer of a casual feed if anyone wanted - just asked that each of the three couples provide a bottle. Great!! I didn't need to drive.

In a situation like this, you want nice fresh food, but you will be away from home, so how to achieve this poses some issues. I decided to make 3 items - one which would improve overnight, one which took less than 15 minutes to cook, and one which was a combination of these. 6 people, so it should be plenty of food too.

Everything needed to be eaten from ramekins or in the hand.

A big pot of Chilli Con Carne was first cab off the rank. Slow cooked, and definitely improves over 24-36 hours. I have a new recipe which oozes smoked paprika - a true winner. (Recipe and photo later.)

A margarita pizza always wins guests over, and no veggoes in my family so plan to add bacon. I made the base while the Chilli cooked - if you have a bread maker this is a piece of cake. If not, a small effort of rising and kneading. I dry fry my pizza bases to get some char marks. Leave it to go cold, then put in a large sealable bag and into the freezer to stay fresh overnight.

Item 3 has to cook quickly. I have a recently discovered specialty which I showed in my last blog - a penne with chorizo and bacon, tomato cream sauce with pine nuts. Perfect. No action required on day 1.

Day 2. Water the herbs so they are nice and fresh. Take pizza base from the freezer. Chilli can stay in the fridge for the day. I make fresh pasta, so I get that going. It can happily sit, covered from flies, for the day. I pre chop the onions, bacon and chorizo and bag up into the fridge. Roast the pine nuts and keep aside. That is all I can do for this until the guests are here.

Assemble the pizza. Brush the base with extra virgin olive oil. (Don't worry if it is still frozen, it won't be for long.) Put chopped bacon on if using, followed by chopped tomatoes, torn basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. Cover loosely and put in the fridge.

Go and do your family duty.

Uggh. Done.

OK fire up!! The family arrives in a hit, so somebody needs to be deputised to ensure everyone has a drink if they want and generally host. Get to work. (Not sure yet if I will include the half-drunk video.......)

Get the pizza and the chilli out of the fridge. Heat the oven to 180C.

Put the chilli on the back burner and give it a stir every now and then. Job done. Pop the pizza into the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Boil a large pot of well salted water and put the pasta in - 6 mins for fresh, or according to packet instructions for dried.

Get a large pan out, and heat some oil in it. (I use rice bran oil for cooking. High smoke point and it doesn't kill orangutans in the making.) Fry off your bag of onion, bacon etc., on medium heat for 5 minutes.

Once the onions etc. are nice and soft and the bacon is cooked, stir in a tin of diced tomatoes. (I get very nervous if I have less than 4 tins in my pantry.....) Once that is bubbling nicely add cream - I used a 300ml carton this time because I was making a large batch. You really only want this to come to a simmer. Drain the pasta and pour into the sauce, mix well and add the pine nuts. Mix well.

At this point, I just put the pots and pizza out and gave everyone a bowl and a serviette.

Job done.

I did promise the Chilli recipe - I'll show you Sue Style.

Mix together 2 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp. dried oregano, 1 tbsp. smoked paprika, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp garlic granules, 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Keep aside.

Other ingredients

200g pork sausages
500g minced beef
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large brown onion, halved and sliced
2 large beef stock cubes (think good quality ones.)
500ml tomato puree
1/4 cup tomato paste

2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

Take the meat from the sausages and keep with beef mince. Heat some oil in a large pan and cook the onions until soft - about 5 mins on medium heat. Add the meats and the garlic and fry until the meat is brown, breaking it up as you go.
Add 1 and 1/2 cups of water, then stir in everything else on the list- including your mixed spices- except for the beans. Add salt and pepper, mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly for 45 mins. Stir occasionally. You don't really need to, but you want to, don't you?
After that time, add the kidney beans. Check then for seasoning and adjust as required.

You can serve this as it is, or with rice, or corn chips. For a real treat, top with rounds of bread sprinkled with grated cheese and put under the grill to melt! On this occasion, I just served it as it was.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Simplifying recipes

I've touched on this one before, but I've also been gone a while and watched as my nieces turn into adults and claim they "can't cook." If I was young and looked at a recipe I might also be tempted to turn to the nearest takeaway. But recipes aren't as complex as they look.

I had a house guest over the weekend who was pretty rapt over my cooking. Both the main meals I presented gave the impression of being difficult and time consuming and they could be, except I am experienced. Nothing to do with whether I "can cook" or not. And there is only one way to gain experience.......

The best meal we had was a pasta dish. I made it up but probably stole it from various pasta places. I'd call it Bacon and Chorizo Penne in Tomato Cream Sauce if I had to name it. My recipe (if there was one,)  would be:

2 tablespoons cooking oil
4 slices short cut bacon chopped
1 chorizo sausage sliced
1 brown onion halved and sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cups uncooked penne pasta
parsley and parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the bacon and chorizo and lower the heat to medium. Fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. add garlic and cook for one minute.

In the meantime cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Drain and keep in a warm place.

In a small pan toast the pine nuts. Watch carefully as they burn easily. Put aside.

Add tomato paste and cream to the onion and bacon mix. Turn heat to low. Mix well then toss in cooked pasta. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsely and serve in individual bowls. sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Far out. That even scared ME.

OK, so knowing what I was cooking and how to do it - I took these early steps (like way earlier in the day when I had free time...) I prepared the onion, bacon, chorizo and garlic. Popped them in a glad bag and into the fridge. Toasted the pine nuts and kept them aside - they won't go off. Mixed the cream and tomato paste - into the fridge with them. Picked and chopped the parsley at the last minute to be honest, but only took seconds.

So my revised METHOD is:
Put water for pasta on to boil. Plenty of water and plenty of salt.

Heat oil in a pan and empty out the onion mixture. When it begins to sizzle, turn heat to medium. Stir occasionally so it doesn't burn. Put your penne in to cook.

When onion mixture is cooked, add the tomato and cream and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally until pasta is done. Drain pasta well, and add to main pot. Mix well.

Serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with pine nuts, parsley and parmesan cheese.

THAT is way easier. Still needs forethought, but that comes with experience. So now I expect a niece to post a pic like the one below on Facebook, some time soon!!

Next time, I will show you how to make a pizza from the flour and water stage and make it awesome and fresh....... (Thanks Marie for that description.)