30 September 2011

Red Wine Beef with Coriander Dumplings

I'm tired of waiting for summer to end to cook some hearty winter comfort food. Temperatures are still in the 40's but this week I cooked my first winter stew - Red wine beef with coriander dumplings.

The stews I remember from my childhood were hearty affairs with loads of vegetables, served with a mound of mashed potatoes and peas. I still love the simple flavours in the stews my mother used to cook, but I also like to punch them a bit with wine and herbs. I change out the mash as well with parnsip, celeriac or sweet potato and in this recipe I make some chunky floury dumplings to top it all off. As with any recipe, change things around to suit your tastes, subsititute parsley if coriander isn't your thing, leave out the parmesan cheese if you're not a fan, and add in potatoes or red kidney beans to change the texture.

Is there anything more comforting on a cold winters day (and I chuckle as I write that on a bright sunny Doha day) then a big bowl of stew, some fresh crunchy white bread and a pile of mash.

Red Wine and Beef Stew with Coriander Dumplings
This stew also freezes well, so make two, one in a tinfoil container so it's easy to reheat straight from the freezer.
  • 2 kgs beef chuck steak, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes diced (or 1/2 can diced tomatoes)
  • 2 large parsnips, chopped into 1cm pieces (I used carrots as couldn't find parsnips)
  • 5 cups good quality beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon worcestshire sauce
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 50mls water
For the dumplings
  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons chopped coriander (or parsley)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Heat half of the oil in a big pot and brown the beef (you might need to do it in two batches), set aside
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in the pot and fry the bacon (you lucky thing), onions and garlic for  few minutes
  3. Add the beef back in with the parsnips, wine, beef stock, thyme, tomatoes and worcestshire sauce. Cook stove top on a low heat for 1 hour.
  4. Thicken with the cornflour and water mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper - transfer the beef mixture to a casserole dish.
  5. To make the dumplings - whisk together the milk and eggs, and add the herbs. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add the egg mixture and parmesan and stir. The mixture will be quite sticky.
  6. Put teaspoonfuls on top of the stew about 1cm apart and bake in the oven at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 minutes until dumplings are puffed up and golden on top. Serve quite simply in bowls with some crusty french bread to mop up the sauce.

15 September 2011

Arggghhhh...school lunches!!!

The kids are back at school and I'm determined not to let the school lunches overwhelm me. Last year I spent many an evening staring blankly at the fridge, wiggling my nose, or clicking my heels in the hope that I could magic up a filling and nutritious lunch for the little chefs. Instead, lunch invariably included yoghurt, a piece of fruit, some crackers and the inevitable vegemite sandwich. Filling - check, Nutritious - check, Boring - most definately check.

So this week I started a new regime, they still get the sandwiches and yoghurt a couple of times a week, but on the other days I mix it up a bit. This week I made a fabulous quinoa, sweetcorn and black bean salad, which they both ate or at least made an attempt to try. Quinoa is my new favourite no fat, high fibre, seriously protein rich carbohydrate - it has all of the essential amino acids that our  body requires. I'm surprised there was any left for the kids as I made it at lunchtime and scoffed half of it straight out of the pan.

I also baked some easy high fibre pear and apple muffins and popped them into the freezer in bags of 4 so they'll always have a treat in their lunchbox too.

I'm feeling very virtuous right now and determined to keep it up.

Sweetcorn, Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

You can put different vegetables into the salad if you like, it's fab with some pomegranate seeds and pinenuts as well and I quite often spice it up with a pinch of chile pepper (though not for the kids)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped finely
  •  ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •  400 mls vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernals
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup chopped coriander
  • 3 spring onions, chopped finely
  • juice of a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1.       Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, sauté, garlic, onion, and cumin for 5 minutes until onion is softened.
2.       Add quinoa and stir to coat, Add vegetable or chicken stock, and simmer covered for 20 minutes, add frozen corn and simmer uncovered for an extra 5 minutes
3.       Remove from heat, add in black beans, spring onions and coriander. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze in lime juice, mix and chill overnight.

Wholemeal and Rolled Oat Apple Muffins
·         1 egg
·         ¾ cup low fat milk
·         ¼ cup vegetable oil
·         1/3 cup sugar
·         2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
·         1 cup raisins or sultanas
·         1 cup wholewheat flour
·         1 cup rolled oats
·         1 tablespoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon nutmeg
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Beat oil, milk, egg and sugar together and add grated apples
  2. Mix dry ingredients, included dried fruit together
  3. Fold wet ingredients into dry carefully, don't over-mix as muffins can be tough
  4. Put into muffin tins or cases and bake at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

5 September 2011

Meringues for the Little Chefs

I was making some aioli this week and had egg whites left over, and what do you do with egg whites? Make the little chefs favourite treat - 'white cookies'. They really aren't white cookies, they're meringues, but the kids have always called them 'white cookies', so that's what they'll always be.

Meringues are easy to make, just a simple combination of sugar and egg whites. The trick is to beat the egg whites long enough for the sugar to completely dissolve, and to bake them at just the right temperature to get a blindingly white crisp hard shell and a delicate chewy texture in the middle. I baked mine on an extremely humid day (aren't they all in Doha at the moment), so cooked them for 30 minutes longer than the recipe suggests. I also like to make small meringues (about 5cm wide), but I make larger ones for dinner parties and serve them individually, loaded with freshly whipped cream and a mixture of berries.

Here I've served them with a raspberry & yoghurt puree, and fresh red currants, because that's what was in the fridge and I was too lazy to make my favourite combination - whipped cream with home-made lemon curd.

Meringues (White Cookies)
  • 4 medium egg whites (about 90 grams)
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
  2. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks
  3. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition, once the last sugar is added keep beating until the egg whites are thick and glossy and form stiff peaks, and there is no 'grittyness' in the texture.
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place spoonfuls on the baking paper (use two spoons, it's easier) or fill a piping bag and pipe the meringue onto the baking tray
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 100 degrees celsius, and cook for 90 minutes (about). Meringues should be crisp on top, but still white (if they start to colour during the cooking, lower the heat by 10 degrees).
  6. Turn the oven off, and leave the oven door slightly ajar, let the meringues cool completely in the oven, a few hours, or overnight to dry out. Serve with cream, yoghurt or icecream and fresh fruit.

3 September 2011

Asam Masak Merah (Tomato Chicken Curry)

Ok, so I'm taking a lot of license in calling this dish Asam Masak Merah. The traditional dish is usually prepared for special occasions like EID as part of a feast, it's spicy, crunchy, creamy and smells divine. My version is a creamier version, still with all the lovely fragrance and spice of the original, prepared quickly and served with lashings of spicy creamy sauce to spoon over the rice or mop up with flaky roti bread.

I've tweaked the recipe a little to make it easier to prepare, and most importantly I don't deep-fry the chicken first, which is the traditional way of preparing the chicken, and by far the tastiest as well - but adds a bit of time to preparing the dish. Don't shoot the messenger if this isn't what you're used to in this dish, but do try it as it's one of my favourite Malay curries.

I love cooking curries using chicken on the bone - the chicken stays moist and the marrow in the bone infuses a wonderfully earthy chicken flavour into the dish. Lately, I've taken it one step further and use a whole chicken which I cut up myself - finding good quality chicken pieces in Doha is not easy, and chopping the chicken makes me feel quite 'chefy' and a brings out the inner Hunter Gatherer in me.

Asam Masak Merah
Curry Chicken in a Tomato Sauce
  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 large dried red chillies, soaked in water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2cm piece of galangal, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, inner white bits only, chopped roughly
  • 5cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 420 gram can chopped tomatoes
  • 420 gram can coconut milk
  1. Rub the chicken pieces with the turmeric and salt and set aside for 30 minutes
  2. Pop soaked chilies, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass into food processor with a little oil and blitz until it becomes a paste (alternatively use a mortar and pestle)
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and star anise for a few minutes until fragrant, add curry paste and cook until paste changes colour and oil starts to separate from the mixture.
  4. Add chicken pieces and brown in the spices on both sides to seal
  5. Add tomatoes and coconut cream, turn to low, and simmer on low heat covered for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked, stirring occasionally
  6. Serve with roti and rice