Monday, 28 October 2013

A hearty pumpkin soup with pork and pearl barley

I know that hearty soups without meat do exist (I'm sure they do), and I certainly do not feel the need to eat meat every day of the week, yet I have found that the addition of meaty goodness is what constitutes a hearty soup for me personally. At the risk of sounding like a witch, I always like to boil a good carcass. To make my own stock or as a soup base. And I get 2 carcasses for £1 at Ginger Pig, so it's a small price to pay for the depth that it will give a dish. I also bought some good quality lardons from them (by good quality I mean from happy pigs, which is the only kind I like to eat), so this soup is more than a little meaty
Start off by making the chicken and onion stock - boil a couple of carcasses with a peeled onion and some salt for 2-3 hours. You can add a bay leaf in there if you have one, I didn't. Meanwhile, roast the pumpkin, in chunks, with some olive oil and salt, for about 20min. It's much easier to peel then. Drain the stock into a new pan, so that you are left with a clear liquid. Add the pumpkin chunks and any meat that's on the carcasses to the clear stock and allow to cool. Blend. Pour it back in the pan, season with garlic salt, black pepper and nutmeg, then add the pearl barley and bring back to the boil. Simmer until pearl barley is ready (about 30min). Chop the lardons up if they are quite big, like mine were, then fry until crispy. Add to the soup. Deglaze the pan with the soup to get all the flavour off it. Add chilli sauce if you like it spicy

Half a pumpkin
2 chicken carcasses
1 onion
Handful of Lardons
Pearl barley (large handful)
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Chilli sauce
Olive oil
As for the seeds, you may want to roast them for an hour with some salt and a little olive oil. Half way through, sprinkle with a little soya sauce and chilli sauce for an amazing beer snack. I like to leave a bit of the pith on there too as it turns brown and crunchy

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Pickled Pumpkin

October is one of my favourite times of the year. I like the slight nip in the air, the fact that the sun still comes out often enough for me to run by the canal a few times a week and I especially like the way the wind makes the smell of food cooking carry down the street, so that it seems as if the entire population of London is eating delicious, hearty meals. Even as I write this I smell gravy! I also like the way I start seriously thinking about making mulled wine "sometime soon". I've already made mulled beer... I was coming down with a cold, so it was medication really. I warmed a can of beer with a couple of inches of cinnamon stick, lots of good quality honey (my mum's friend who keeps bees near Rye gave us this "Romney Marsh honey"), a slice of fresh ginger and some freshly grated nutmeg, finishing it off with a squeeze of lemon. It's not quite my dad's creamy mulled beer, but it was very easy and quick to make and it certainly hit the spot - the next day I felt much better
And I love the way I get slightly obsessed with pumpkins now. It's a very short, intense love affair, where I attempt to find as many things to do with the pumpkin as possible before getting thoroughly tired of it and moving on to the next food obsession (mulled wine usually). I've never pickled pumpkin before, so this is truly an exciting experiment for me. I am, however, Polish, therefore I do have a natural confidence with pickling, an almost genetic advantage I like to think
First, take the juice and rind of 1 orange, 2 inches of ginger (peeled and chopped), half a nutmeg and about 3 or 4 cloves and simmer with 2-3 tablespoons of water for approximately 7-8min. Meanwhile in another pan, I cooked half of the peeled and chopped pumpkin (about 300g) in 250ml of white barley vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar. The other half of the pumpkin is going in a soup that I shall tell you about shortly. Make sure that the sugar has dissolved first, before you put the pumpkin bits in. Cook for about 5min on a low heat then pour in the spicy water mixture and cook for a further 3-4min. At the same time, in a third pan, you need to steam the jars - you'll need 2. Put them in the pan, pour some boiling water on top, cover, bring the water back to the boil and turn it off. Allow them to steam for about 5min before removing. There are a lot of things going on at once, I know, but believe me, it's all very simple in practice. Put the pumpkin bits in the jars and cover with the liquid. Close the jar immediately and leave to pickle in room temperature for at least 18 hours, before putting in the fridge
Now, this is the proper science experiment bit: As with gherkins, you need to check and see when the taste of the pumpkin is right for you. I will let you know my findings below. Remember, once you open a jar, you should eat the contents within a week
After 18 hours: Already very good! Now the jar is open in the fridge, so it's progress will probably be different to the jar which is closed, but I will let you know how they taste in another 48 hours anyway

A couple of days later: They were indeed a little better after 48 hours, but the difference was not astounding

Monday, 21 October 2013

Pumpkin placki with almonds and honey

It simply wouldn't be Autumn without you being inundated with my pumpkin experiments. So here we go. This is my take on the traditional Polish recipe of "Apple Placki". If you would like to try the original recipe, then simply replace the pumpkin bits with apple bits (they do not need to be cooked obviously) and the nutmeg with cinnamon
We need to cook the pumpkin a little first, before adding it to the batter – par-boil it for around 20 minutes in salted water - before draining, peeling and chopping it into little bits. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add with the egg, milk and yoghurt and blend it into a  batter - just a bit more runny than pancake batter. You may want to beat it a little to get it nice and smooth. Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Heat the oil on a large pan and add small ladles of the batter onto it. Fry until golden on both sides. Put the made ones in  a warm oven, drizzle runny honey on top and add the flaked almonds too at this point, so that they brown a little in the oven


250g flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp yoghurt
1 cup almond milk
½ small pumpkin
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Coconut oil for frying
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon runny honey
Flaked almonds

Friday, 11 October 2013

Salad with roast peppers, red onion and home-made croutons (Cooking for Simone part 2)

I have been traveling for ever now it seems like. Living out of a suitcase, waiting for delayed planes, lost luggage and suspected terrorists. Meeting friends in unlikely places, swimming in any bit of water I can find, whether it's a sea, ocean or an unexpected lake. Eating pastas and pizzas in Italy, oysters washed down by plenty of wine in Napa and San Francisco. Some tacos and beer too. Quite a few burgers. The last time I properly cooked was in LA, when I made healthy stuff for Simone and myself every day. This was a particularly well-turned-out salad with some of those small red and yellow peppers (they should be called baby peppers but they're not as far as I know), a large red onion I found lying around the fridge and some warm, crunchy home-made croutons. There is really nothing in the world like home-made croutons, I seriously must encourage to make them yourself
I cut the tiny peppers in two, took the seeds out and roasted them with the roughly chopped red onion, plenty of olive oil and some dried herbs (thyme and rosemary I believe it was). At the end of the roasting time (it should take about 40min in total) squeeze some lemon in. I picked my lemon straight from the tree in the garden - and this is one of the reasons why I would live in LA. I made the croutons by frying cubes of bread in very hot olive oil until brown on both sides. Then you need to take them out and drain them on some paper to remove excess oil, and add a bit of salt. Serve all this on a bed of lamb's lettuce and cherry tomatoes with your favourite vinaigrette. Unfortunately, Simone will not give me the recipe for her special vinaigrette, as she is convinced that one day she will bottle it and make her millions. She is probably right