Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe: Mel's Perfect Chilli con Carne, with Tomato Salsa

This is my perfected, utterly delicious, beef chilli recipe. Perfect with rice, with cheesy mash, in soft tortilla wraps, or just in a gurt big bowl on it's own!! Spiciness can be adjusted to personal taste, through keeping the seeds in the chillies or adding more. I rarely deliberately promote the use of organic meats, as I know many, like me, are on a budget, and we can't always afford organic products. Always stick to free-range though, no batteries for me! It's just, for me, with this perfected chilli recipe, organic beef mince does make a difference in the flavour I think.

Mel’s Perfect Chilli con Carne, with fresh tomato salsa (serves 4/5)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large handfuls fresh coriander, chopped
2 rashers smoked bacon, diced.
1 red chilli, seeded and diced
1 green chilli, seeded and diced
500g organic beef mince
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 tsp cumin
700ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp Worchester sauce
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
150g mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
50g galaxy milk chocolate
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, finely chopped
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped
Juice of half a lime
½ tsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the red onion, coriander, garlic, chilli and bacon in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook for a further 10 minutes on a high heat, browning the mince. Add the tomato paste and stir in for a couple of minutes. 
2. Add all of the other ingredients, and cook on a low heat for 1 hour. Meanwhile, mix together all the salsa ingredients together and set aside. Season the chilli to taste, and serve, with basmati rice and topped with the salsa.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Recipe: Red Pesto Turkey Lasagne

This is the first recipe that i've made so far with the frozen turkey mince I got from Bernard Matthews at Christmas. I was a bit nervous as the mince looked a little unusual, but this recipe is absolutely delicious! So much flavour- don't believe people that say turkey is tasteless, they obviously haven't tried this recipe yet, haha!! In terms of lasagne recipes it's also pretty easy to make too. Main problem i have is lasagne sheets sticking together, but to get away from that problem, either use loads of olive oil to stop em from sticking, or alternatively, use those ready-cooked fresh lasagne sheets from the supermarkets. Quite a lot of cheese on top I suppose, but at least the lean turkey lowers the fat levels a bit!!

Red pesto Turkey Lasagne (serves 4)
8 lasagne sheets
2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for lasagne sheets)
1 white onion, diced
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp herbs du provence
400g turkey mince
1 tbsp tomato puree
100g finely diced chestnut mushrooms
1 green pepper, seeded and finely diced
100ml beef stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp Worchester sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
100g grated cheddar

White sauce
50g butter
40g flour
500ml semi-skimmed milk
90g tomato pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Preheat the oven to 180C. Cook the lasagne sheets until soft. Drizzle them with olive oil (to stop them from sticking together) and set aside.

2.     Fry the onion, garlic and herbs in the oil for 5 minutes. Increase the heat, and add the turkey and tomato puree, and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the pepper and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes, stock, and Worcestershire sauce, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.     Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, gradually add the milk, and then stir in the pesto. Cook until you have a thick sauce, season to taste, and set aside.

4.     First, put half the mince into the bottom of a dish. Layer with 4 of the lasagne sheets, and then top with the other half of the mince, and half of the white sauce. Add the other 4 lasagne sheets, top with the rest of the white sauce, scatter with grated cheddar, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Recipe: Asian Duck Breast, with Miso Bulgur wheat and a Mango sesame salad

This is one of the nicest meals i've ever cooked i think!! I've eaten duck breasts loads of times but i've never tried cooking it- worked a treat! Bit of a cheat using a packet sauce, but theres a lot of different steps in this recipe so it's just easier using something ready made. I suppose if you wanted, you could make your own sauce before you make this recipe then heat it up as you would do the packet. Duck and mango go so well together! I was thinking of having the duck and the salad with noodles or rice, but didn't have any in the house, so went with bulgur wheat, and was really happy with the results- makes the dish a bit fusion-y I reckon! A nice easy dish to impress a date I reckon.

Asian Duck Breast, with Miso bulgur wheat and a mango sesame salad
2 large duck breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tsp Schwartz Thai 7 spice mix
1 packet Blue Dragon yellow bean and cashew sauce.

Miso Bulgur
100g bulgur wheat
1 tbsp white miso paste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
Plenty of ground pepper to taste
1 beef stock cube

80g watercress, rocket and spinach mix
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

1.       Preheat the oven to 180C. Pat the duck breasts (fat side up) with some kitchen roll. Slash criss-cross lines over the top of the breasts. Season with salt and Thai 7 spice, and fry on a very high heat in a large saucepan, for about 4 minutes each side. Put on a baking tray and put in the oven, 5 minutes for rare, 10 for medium, 15 for well done.

2.       Meanwhile, put a large pan of water on the boil, and add all the miso bulgur wheat ingredients. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the wheat is soft, and drain.

3.       In a small frying pan, heat up the packet of sauce. Remove the duck from the oven, and slice on an angle. Plate up the duck, bulgur wheat, sauce and salad evenly amongst two plates. Top with more toasted sesame seeds if desired, and serve!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Recipe: Turkish Lentil Soup, with Spiced garlicky croutons

I know, 11 days since my last post, but i've been being a very good girl and finishing all my essays up. Once the 23rd May hits, I am utterly free for the summer- and you will see far more regular posting! 4 more essays to complete at hand in, and 2 exams before that though- phew! Made this big batch of lentil soup the other day- I would say it makes about 6 portions. I've frozen a load of it actually, so i can have it as a quick lunch when i dont have time to cook/ am studying. Might defrost some tonight, thicken it up, add some veg to it and make a vegetable dhansak kinda thing actually- yum. I love the comforting thickness, the tang of the lemon, and the unusual flavour of mint in this soup. Sometimes I have this soup with spiced naan breads also, if i dont have any bread or croutons to hand. Oh, and the croutons will last 3 days in an airtight container before going stale. Great way of using up slightly stale-ish bread.

Turkish Lentil Soup, with spiced garlicky croutons (serves 6)

5 thick slices bread (you can use stale bread if you want), diced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp herbs du Provence
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 small onion, diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp cumin
Large handful mint, finely chopped
230g red lentils
115g bulgur wheat
2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1.7 litres vegetable stock
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1.      Preheat the oven to 180C, fan oven. On a roasting tray, add all the crouton ingredients, toss to coat, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Set aside.

2.      Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes. Add the cumin and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add all the other ingredients (except parsley) and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, and cook on a medium heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.      Blend the soup partially (you want it thick, but still with a few chunks in it). Season to taste, and garnish it with the spiced croutons and freshly chopped parsley.  Serve!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Recipe: Lemon and thyme roasted chicken, with Mediterranean butterbeans and sweet leek gravy

Hey guys. Now this is, I must admit, a bit of a lengthy recipe, but then again it is a proper gurt lush roast chicken dinner, with a properly made gravy (no bisto here!) so it requires perhaps a little more effort than a lot of my quick-fix recipes. My housemates loved it, as did I. I've really perfected this roast chicken recipe, i've tried "lemon thyme" chicken's before, but theyve always ended up too lemony! Basically, don't chuck a lemon up the chicken's jacky, nor squeeze a load of the lemon juice onto the chicken/ into the roasting dish. Again- too sharp and lemony! I made a leek gravy in the end because I didn't have any onions/shallots and it's just what i had in the house- use onions instead if you fancy. Cooking time of the chicken of course depends on how big your chicky-bird is, just generally roast until you can put a knife into the thigh cavity of the bird and the juices run clear.
Lemon and thyme roasted chicken, with Mediterranean butterbeans and sweet leek gravy (serves 4)

The Chicken
30g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 clove garlic, crushed
Handful fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
1 rasher smoked bacon
1 small/medium raw chicken
2 shallots
2 celery sticks (plus another celery stick for trimmings stock)
150ml white wine
150ml water
1 bay leaf

The Butterbeans
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 spring onions, sliced
1 rasher bacon, finely chopped
1 tsp herbs du provence
2 tins butterbeans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp diced roasted red peppers (from a jar)
200ml water
Juice of ¼ a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Leek Gravy
1 tbsp butter
1 large leek, finely sliced (the dark green ends kept for chicken trimmings stock)
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch sugar
100ml white wine
400ml chicken stock (made from the chicken trimmings)
1 tsp corn flour, mixed with water

1. Preheat the oven to 180. Soften the butter, and mix it with the olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, thyme, lemon and seasoning. Prep the chicken- cut the strings tying it together, and chop off the wing tips, the bottom of the legs, and part of the tail. Put these trimmings in a pan, with a the green bits of the leek, a celery stick, a crushed garlic clove, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, and some seasoning. Fill this pan up with water, bring to the boil, and cook for 30 minutes (to make a temporary stock) and set aside.

2. Put 2 celery sticks, a garlic clove, and shallots in a deep roasting tin. Place the prepped chicken on top of this. Rub all over with the garlic/herb/lemon butter, and put a rasher of bacon on top. Pour the wine and water into the roasting tin, and put in the oven for about 1 hour/ 1 hour and a half (depending on how large the chicken is). Remove the chicken from the oven half way through cooking, remove the bacon rasher, top up with water/wine if necessary, and put back in the oven.

3. In a medium saucepan, fry the spring onions and bacon for 5 minutes. Add all the other ingredients and cook on a high heat for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste, and set aside.

4. Remove the chicken from the oven, lift it from the roasting tin onto a plate, and cover it with foil to let it rest. In another saucepan, fry the leek, garlic and sugar in butter for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add all other gravy ingredients and all the scraped juices from the roasting tin, and cook on a high heat until thickened (takes about 10 minutes). Season to taste.

5. Carve the chicken, and serve this with the hot butterbeans and gravy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Restaurant Review: Yak Yeti Yak, Bath

I will start this review with the point that this used to be my utmost FAVOURITE restaurant in the whole of Bath, if not, the entire country. This is why, very unfortunately, I was so disappointed in my last visit to this little Nepalese restaurant, Yak Yeti Yak.

The “occasion” for this meal was I had this friend that really really needed cheering up, so I decided I would take him here for a treat, as he loves his food almost as much (I say ALMOST, I don’t know anyone that loves grub as much as me- I ruddy live it!) as I do, and he had never tried this place before.  My friend was running a bit late, so I waited at the bar area for about 20 minutes and ordered a nice cup of chai. Chai is Nepalese tea- it’s not to everyone’s taste, it’s traditionally very sweet, quite weak, but spiced (cardamom, saffron, cinnamon etc.) milky tea. This place used to do THE BEST cup of chai, all frothy and scented and just the right amount of sweetness- beautiful. However, the cup of chai they served me on this occasion tasted like an overly sweet cuppa that at one point flirted with a cardamom pod.
My mate arrived, we took our seats- there are certain tables where you can sit on the floor with cushions and everything but I’ve never really liked that whilst eating. I mean its cool and informal to  do that with cocktails or wine with friends but not in a restaurant- even a chilled out one. Plus when me and my family used to eat there all the time, theres no way we could have done that anyway because my dad can’t cross his legs, haha!
Anyway, after having a nice cold Nepalese lager, we decided to order. In this place, theres a choice of about 6 starters- I recommended the “Momos”- which are traditional spiced dumplings. I had the vegetables ones whilst my friend had the pork variety.  Normally I love these little things- however, I felt that my vegetable ones had a slightly too hard texture (like they had been steamed a little too little or a little too long?).
Main course-wise- generally the way you order in Yak Yeti Yak, that if your’e super hungry, you each order either the “Dal Bhat Takari” or the “Dal Bhat Masu” set meal-  the masu is meaty and the takari is veggie- you basically choose one of the meat dishes off the main menu, or the veggie ones, and you choose between the orange or black dahl (black one is brilliant!), and this comes with loads of steamed rice, aloo channa, and achar (a type of tomato chutney). I decided against this (it is a big big meal!) and ordered the “Muglinko kukhura”- described as “Chicken stir-fried on the bone with our own blend of spices tomato, onion, garlic and ginger.”, the chamsur sag (stir fried watercress and spinach in curried spices- luuush!!!) and some rice.
Normally, I really don’t mind my meat on the bone. I know, like anyone else, that often meat on the bone can taste much nicer- the closer the meat is to the bone, the more flavour you will find- I don’t mind picking the meat off! However…..when this dish arrived, despite being very flavourful, was almost utterly impossible to eat. It was basically like they had smashed a load of whole chicken up, spiced it, cooked it, then shoved it in a bowl. Meat either has to be off the bone, or obviously on the bone- I found myself trying to eat this dish, but constantly picking shards and little fragments of bone out of my meal/mouth/teeth! Hardly very polite! The chamsur sag was allright, and the rice, well it’s just boiled rice- it’s hard to get wrong! During all of this it was also hard to get any of the staff’s attention , they all just seemed to be hanging out at the bar, looking vaguely pissed off. It’s so sad- the place looks so cool and and unique/authentically Nepalese, and the staff used to be so friendly, but the new lot seem so miserable.
I decided after that disappointing main course, that I wasn’t going to order a pudding. However, if this place get’s better, I would very much recommend the “Gajaarko Tartlet”- a rather unusual but delicious dish, a sweet spiced carrot tartlet, served with either cream or ice cream. An absolutely stunning dessert. Luckily, even if things don’t improve there, I can recreate this at home, as I very fortunately went to catering college with someone I found out who worked there- and I made him promise to write me this recipe down- a promise that the boy kept! Shall have to write it up on here one day (with my own adaptions of course!).
Anyway. Gosh. A thoroughly unfortunate visit to the place I used to adore. I have to hope that they’ll get back to their old ways- that the food will be out of this world, and the service warm, however, at this current state, I would have to rate the food as 2/10, and the service the same! Know that I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this place really need to pull their socks up, if they want my (or anyone else’s for that matter!) repeat visits.