Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Turkey meatballs with a simple tomato sauce.

We recently added a new member to our kitchen family. A microwave. It's actually very exciting even though it is one of those appliances which is a stock standard for some people. It was refreshing for a while not having one  - I felt like a bit of a rebel and I was determined it was better without... you know more bench space and... and... Ok lets face it, I was brought up with a microwave and I have missed the luxury and convenience of having one.

I can now soften butter for baking, defrost frozen meat in 10 minutes rather than 24 hours, warm milk up for a coffee in the actual mug (saving washing a pot up) and reheating leftovers are so much easier now for snacking! But the defrosting meat in minutes feels like such a revelation. The possibilities which are open to me as an unorganised cook during the week are now endless if I have a well stocked freezer and pantry. To say I'm excited is an understatement!

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

Early in the week I defrosted (still a novelty!) some turkey mince which had been floating around our freezer for a while as I never was quite organised to take it out the night before and I didn't feel like tackling a huge turkey ice cube in a frying pan to make some sort of sauce. I knew there were two recipes I have been wanting to try and it all depended what other ingredients I needed and had to which one I was going to make. Unfortunately I didn't have most of the ingredients for either recipe but with my now defrosted turkey mince and turkey meatball on the mind I thought stuff it. I can do this without a recipe.

Starting with a simple tomato sauce I fried off an onion and some crushed garlic in olive oil until soft then adding a splash of red wine which we didn't finish from the weekend and a can of chopped tomatoes brought it to a simmer. Adding a pinch of salt, pepper and half a teaspoon of sugar, I let it bubble away while I got on with the turkey-balls.

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

I placed a small brown onion, a couple of garlic cloves, a big handful of home grown parsley - stalks and all, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a good splash of extra virgin olive oil into a small food processor and blitzed until it was a rough paste. Emptied it into a mixing bowl then used the same food processor (no need to wash it) and threw in some stale bread that had also been floating around my freezer and gave it a whizz to get some rough breadcrumbs. I then put the bread crumbs into the mixing bowl along with the (defrosted!) turkey mince, an egg and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mixed it all together then rolled them into golf ball sized balls ready for frying.

I panfried these in some olive oil on a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until they were dark golden all over and cooked through. I always have to open one up to make sure (I have a fear of serving raw meat) but I never mind because it also means you get to have a quick taste - a little reward for the cook. I served these with pasta and a good snowing of parmesan cheese but these would be great with some fresh crusty bread if you don't want another pot to wash up. They didn't take very long to cook, in fact the washing up took longer I think so if your blessed with a dishwasher I envy you :) ... the next appliance on my wish list... just need a bigger kitchen/apartment first!

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

Turkey meatballs with a simple tomato sauce.

Serves 4 (approx. 20 balls)

Turkey meatballs:
1 small brown onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
a hefty handful of parsley, stalks and all
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 slices of stake crusty bread
500g turkey mince
1 egg
a good pinch each of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons regular olive oil (or vegetable oil), for frying

Simple tomato sauce:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 clove garlic, crushed
a good splash of red wine - optional
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper

Pasta or fresh crusty bread
and parmesan cheese, to serve

- Start with your simple tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan then add your onion and garlic and fry until onions are translucent. Add your splash (or two) of wine, let it bubble then add your canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let cook away wile your prepare the turkey-balls. Season with salt and pepper.

- In a small food processor put the onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and give it a good whizz until it becomes a rough paste. Empty into a mixing bowl. Next add your stale bread to the food processor (no need to wash the food processor) and whizz until it becomes rough bread crumbs. Pour that into the mixing bowl along with the turkey mince, egg and salt and pepper. Give everything a good mix using a fork making sure you don't have clumps of any ingredients anywhere.

- Form mince mixture into golf ball sized balls. This will make about 20.

- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your turkey-balls, turning regularly so they cook even and until golden on all over and cooked through.

- Serve them along side the simple tomato sauce with pasta or some fresh crusty bread, a sprinkling of parsley and a generous snowing of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce - a dinner worth sharing.

For the past two weeks during the weeknights Tristan has been away doing courses near Newcastle. This has meant it's been just Arthur and me. The first week I managed to have dinner at someones house nearly every night which was great except that Arthur was pretty pooy at me for never being home on time to feel him dinner.

The second week I had planned to be home some nights and did a small grocery shop so I wouldn't be tempted to get takeaway. I bought Tofu with the idea that Tristan doesn't like it so this was my chance to eat what I wanted without having someone complain there was no meat in it. I was a little excited on Monday but you know what it's not all it is cracked up to be.

I struggled.

I didn't enjoy anything I made and the tofu is still in the fridge, untouched. The idea of eating alone in front of the tv felt lonely.  I was completely unmotivated when there wasn't someone to cook for or share a meal with.

There was hopeful ideas for a few posts about cooking for one but I'm sorry to say I don't have any helpful hints or insightful knowledge on this subject. I don't really know how to do it myself so how can I tell all of you how to do it. So instead I will share this recipe for Chilli Mussels, which Tristan made last weekend when he was home that you can share with a partner, a friend, or a crowd around a table. It's a fun, full of flavour, finger-licking messy dinner which reminds me that cooking is all about sharing a meal with people who make you laugh and let you be you. What more can anyone ask for?

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce by salt sugar and i

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce.

serves 2 greedy people (or 4 with sides)

(Note: this can easily be double for a group, just increase the cooking times a little bit and obviously the size of your pot... don't do what I normally do and cram it all in a tiny pot then transfer it at the last minute and have two pots to wash up in the end.)

2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 - 2 red chilli's, finely diced (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 table spoons tomato paste
1 lemon, juice and zest finely grated
1 cup white wine
800g can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
Cracked pepper, to taste
1kg pot ready mussels
1 bunch parsley, stalks finely sliced and leave roughly chopped
Crusty bread and salty butter, to serve

- In a large pot heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion, garlic, chilli and parsley stalks. Cook for about 5 minutes until onions have softened.

- Next add the tomato paste and lemon juice. When the tomato paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pot (but not burn) add your wine and scrape all the tomato paste that has stuck to the bottom off. This is a flavour hit!

- Add the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Taste and season with a pinch of pepper. You won't want to add any salt yet as the mussels let out salty water when they open as they cook.

- Once your sauce has simmered, add your pot ready mussels, cover with a lid and cook for about 2-4 minutes (if you have whopper mussels you will need to judge by eye). Check and see if they have all opened. If they haven't then cook for a further 2 minutes or sometimes all you need to do is leave the lid on with the heat off for an extra couple of minutes and they steam inside without over cooking.

- Stir through the parsley, take the pot to the table with plenty of napkins and dig in with a friend or two. Enjoy.

Note: any mussels that don't open in the cooking process (still jammed shut!) discard.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Since it started to get chilly here I have been completely obsessed with soup. Yes soup.

Growing up there was a few soups we got the choice of; pumpkin soup with a swirl of cream on top, chunky beef with vegetable and lentils that always tasted better the next day and parsnip soup which was only ever made when Mum was hosting a dinner party and she made extra for my dinner as well.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

The first soup I made was Nigella Lawson’s Minestrone soup from ‘How to Eat’ and it was about 7 years ago. I remember this soup being a huge deal. I searched for a perfect minestrone recipe for days and when I found Nigella's I had to have the exact amount of everything and chopped exactly as it was written in the book. I even insisted on making homemade bread from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' to go with it which turned out like a large rock that just crumbled. My intentions were good and all I wanted to do was serve a homey meal and use the huge stock pot in the back of the cupboard but we ended up eating dinner at 10 o’clock at night and I’m pretty sure I yelled at one or two family members who attempted to enter the kitchen to see how dinner was coming along.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Had I cut the vegetables in the right sizes? What if mine were bigger than Nigella’s? What if they wouldn’t cook perfcetly? or what if they were smaller and they turned to mush? These were my worries when I made my first soup.

I’m feeling like a soup-pro these days and my soup making skills have come a long way since I was 19 and cooking in my mother kitchen. The chicken soup a made a few weeks ago was a revelation. I was amazed that I could create a chicken soup in less than an hour and that is had all the flavour locked in it still. The vegetable soup with a dollop of pesto on top is always a winner in our apartment but now I wanted to try Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds from Food 52's Genius Recipes. And by golly it's a winner!

I’ve been wanting to make something out of this cookbook for a couple of weeks now but haven’t gotten around to it until recently.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

I made it for a couple of girlfriends who came over for dinner and I’ll be honest I was hesitant to make it...I mean potato soup isn’t the most appealing sounding dinner is it? But I trusted the reviews of the recipe and the fact that it was in a cookbook call ‘Genius Recipes’ and let me tell you it didn’t disappoint. I loved it! It was easy to make, ready within the hour and really freakin’ delicious.

You can easily double the recipe to feed more people like I did, (I made one and a half recipes) as I have nightmares of having people over for dinner and them leaving hungry…

I’m not really sure how else to explain this soup but Luisa from the blog ‘The Wednesday Chef’ (one of my favourite blogs) made this soup a few years ago and called the soup 'sexy'. I guess it kind of is but I don’t have a way with words like she does and can’t quite explain why. Just make it!

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds

(Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 for dinner)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
6 large garlic cloves
55g finely diced prosciutto 
680g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cut into irregular 1 1/2-inch chunks (I used ordinary 'washed' potatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron, crushed (I forgot to crush it...)
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (I used verjuice as I didn't have any sherry vinegar)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crusty bread & Salty butter, for serving

- Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the almonds and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat so the oil doesn't burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds and garlic to a bowl to cool slightly. 

- Add the prosciutto to the pan and stir for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the soup.

- Meanwhile, place the almond and garlic mixture in a food processor and grind it. Add all but about 2 tablespoons to the soup. 

- Steep the saffron in a few tablespoons of the soup broth for 2 minutes, then add it to the soup. Simmer the soup, partially covered, until about half the potatoes have disintegrated, about 35 minutes. Continue to skim the soup as it cooks, and add a little more stock if the soup seems too thick.

- When ready to serve, break up some of the potatoes using a fork. Add the vinegar (verjuice) to the reserved ground almond mixture and stir it into the soup. Add the parsley and cook for a minute. Season with salt and pepper and taste, adding a little more vinegar (verjuice) according to taste. 

- Serve with bread smothered in salty butter.