Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pasta day...

Hi - I had a few comments on my first post and I'd like to say thanks for reading - I didn't think anyone would be bothered to tell the truth....So - now the pressure is on. 

It's been a busy week and, even though I've been off work for a few days, I haven't had much time to relax - holidays seem to be the only time we can get work done around the house as we both work (I've always wondered how other people do it?) and my daughter is looking to be entertained constantly.

So for last nights dinner I went with a simple pasta disk which only took 20 minutes to make (with a marinade 30 minutes beforehand)

BBQ Chicken with Pasta in a White Cheese Sauce (without the BBQ unfortunately)
This should probably have a better name but that's life......I should point out at this stage that the BBQ sauce came out of a bottle - time isn't always a friend.  This blog is more for the quick, simple and tasty Pasta Sauce, perfect for a weekday dinner - I promise I will do proper BBQ during the summer - it's one of my personal favorite ways of cooking

Chicken - I marinated 2 chicken breasts in "Newmans Own Sticky Rib Sauce" for 30 minutes and then grilled for 15 minutes while making the pasta (all the time basting the chicken with the rib sauce)

Pasta -  Cook your favorite Pasta according to instructions


2) Ingredients for the Pasta Sauce
1/2 oz Butter
1/2 oz Flour
300ml Milk (I use low-fat 2%)
1 small to medium Red Onion (finely diced)
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika
1oz Cheese grated (I use Mature/Sharp Cheddar)
Pinch of Salt and a few twists of fresh ground Black Pepper

P10100083) Making the sauce
Before you begin, heat a pan to medium and fry off the onions in a little oil for 5 minutes - This can be done beforehand but I would tend to start this when I start the Roux.

Now, first you need to make a Roux. This seems to frighten people but shouldn't - it's very simple and forms the basis of a number of classic sauces. 

a) Melt all the butter over a medium heat in a heavy bottom saucepan (a heavy bottom helps spread and maintain a constant heat and helps to prevent sticking and burning)
b) when the butter is melted add the flour, a heaped teaspoon at a time, whisking to incorporate all the flour before adding the next teaspoon - this needs to be done quite rapidly. 
c) when all the flour is incorporated, fry for 1 minute whisking continously (see above) - don't miss out on this step or the sauce will taste of raw flour - congratulations, you have just made a Roux.......

Once the Roux is made, start adding the milk a little at a time, whisking throughout to ensure no lumps (it may start a little lumpy but these will work out)
Add the Dijon Mustard and Paprika along with the salt and pepper to the sauce and continue to whisk.  At first it will be quite liquid but as the sauce heats up you will start to notice it begin to thicken. 

At the point you begin to notice it thicken there is only three or so minute to go - the sauce thickens much faster at this stage
The cheese gets added just before serving - add in in small amounts and stir for a few seconds whilst it melts.  You may not meed the full amount depending on the type of cheese used and it's strength so add to taste - Note that the cheese also adds to the thickening process.

Pour over the drained Pasta and serve with the Chicken.
I added a salad and french bread for texture.

The Basic White Sauce is Butter, Flour, Milk and Pepper/Salt - This is a great base to experiment with, be it Curry Powder and Coriander for an Indian twist, Fresh Herbs and Scallions/Spring onions or Shallots or Cayenne Pepper, Red Bell Pepper and White Onion for a Southern Feel.

Mixing the sauce with leftover Turkey and Ham can be used to fill Vol au Vent cases which served with rice makes a great way to use leftovers.  Look up white roux sauces for inspiration and have a go - let me know if you get any great mixes and I'll include them here.

'till next time

The Old Fella

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Ever Blog

For years now I've been looking at cookery programs and reading books in an attempt to better my skills and abilities. Until recently, I have hardly been inspired by the pompous "gourmet" food I saw - does anybody actually make this type of food for daily meals?

Recently in America I happened upon a Food Network program called "Good Eats" hosted by Chef Alton Brown. Up until now I have happily disregarded US cookery instructions as they invariably list ingredients where one is always "add a packet of .... or "mix with a can of...." - rarely do I see American magazines, books or shows actually make a meal fully and completely from scratch.

But Alton changes that - the "Good Eats" program (for those who aren't familiar with it) picks a different food item each week (Steak, Potato, Duck, chillies etc) and not only shows different ways to prepare the item but gives the science behind it - how it cooks, why it blends with other ingredients and so on but always maintains a light hearted and funny presentation style.

IMHO one of the best family shows on TV and should be compulsory viewing for all teenagers in school. Please please show this on Irish TV.........

My wife bought me "Good Eats - The Early Years" for Christmas and, in short, Alton has actually inspired me to start cooking again - If he ever reads this - Alton, thanks and keep up the good work!!

So, I decided to write this blog to:

1) Encourage myself to start cooking again
2) Try new and different dishes
3) Prove to myself that everyday cooking can be tasty and healthy if you know what goes into your food and how to prepare it.

First on the agenda was Thai Fishcakes which my wife asked for as a special request - so, not being a good idea to deny a wife's special request, I made these last night....

Thai Fishcakes with a Thai style Basmati rice
Despite what I said above, this recipe is quite complex but, if you prepare in advance, it doesn't take much time or effort.

Attack the meal in three stages:

1) Red Curry Paste
This form the basic flavour for the dish and can also be used to make Thai Red Curry (which is equally as good as any you can get from a Thai Restaurant) - I'll do this another time. This is my own recipe which I tweeked from a class in Asian cooking I did with my sister last year....
8 Long Red Dried Chillies, deseeded and chopped
P10109301 tsp Coriander Seed
1 tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Cumin Seed
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
2 Stalks Lemongrass (chopped)
1 tsp Kaffir Lime Leaves (chopped)
2cm Fresh Ginger peeled and chopped
1 or 2 tsp Shrimp Paste (to taste - some people find it quite strong)
1 tsp Salt

Using a mortar and pestle - grind all the ingrediants into a thick paste (I used a Magic Bullet blender...)

Note - this can be made up in advance and refrigerated or frozen until needed. It makes about twice the amount needed for the fishcakes.

2) Thai Fishcakes
I picked the recipe itself from Here

Raw Mix

P1010934Finished Product

3) Thai Style Basmati Rice
This is a mix of my own which tends to go down well at home. 

1 Cup Basmati Rice 
2 tbls vegetable oil
1 large Onion fine chopped
2 cloves chopped Garlic
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1oz Coconut Cream liquified in 1/2 Cup water
1 sliced Red Chilli
1 tsp Red Curry Paste
2 Spring Onions chopped
1 large Carrot chopped into small pieces
1/2 Cup frozen peas
1 tsp Salt
1 to 1.5 pintes of water

Soak the rice for 15 minutes in cold water
On a medium hot frying pan, fry the onions for 2-3 minutes until they begin to sweat
Add the Garlic, Salt and Red Curry Paste and fry for a further minute
Drain the rice and add to the Frying Pan - mix well to ensure the mix coats the rice.
P1010936Add the Chicken Stock and the Coconut Cream, Spring Onion, Carrot and Peas and mix together
Add enough water to cover and come about 1/4 inch above the rice in the pan
Cover and lower the heat to low for about 12 to 15 minutes until the rice is tender

Overall, they were good and tasty and I would make them again but next time I feel I would add something else to the to break up the texture which I felt was a bit too chewy - maybe rice or potato would help.  I'll try them again sometime and update this when I do.

Let me know if you try any of these recipies and any thoughts or words of wisdom are appreciated.