Beetroot and dill cured salmon

Cured salmon is one of the foods often enjoyed as part of the Scandinavian kitchen. There are many variations to it, however the basics you will need are sugar and salt. The whole process is based on the reaction called osmosis, and is an ancient way of preserving foods that wouldn’t last fresh for long otherwise. During the curing, you will notice a lot of liquid will be drawn out of the fish. The cured fish will last in the fridge for few weeks, however I doubt you will have anything left for that long.

2 raw beetroot, grated
500g piece of fresh salmon
50g table salt
90g caster sugar
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
a bunch of fresh dill

1. Dry roast the mustard seeds, until fragrant and popping. Cool, and crush together with the peppercorns with pestle and mortar. Mix together with salt, sugar and finely chopped dill.

2. Place a large piece of cling film to cover the dish you’re using for your curing. Place half of the raw, grated beetroot at the bottom. Then add half of the mixture of the other ingredients.

3. Add the piece of salmon on top of the beetroot and sugar / salt mixture. Leave the skin on the fish.

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4. Add the salt / sugar mixture and the beetroot on top of the fish too.

5. Tightly pack the fish and curing mixture. I used three different layers of cling film, however some of the liquid will still seep through. Place something to act as weights on top of the fish, and put in to fridge.

5. About every 12 hours (or every morning and evening), turn the fish upside down. I also change the direction my weights are, to try to ensure they are covering as much as possible during the process.

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6. After two days, your fish is ready. Drain all liquid, and wipe the fish piece clean.

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Roasted butternut squash soup

This soup is super tasty, and also pretty easy to make. Even though a couple of chillies are used, it’s not at all spicy. Butternut squash gives the soup a wonderful, sweet taste. This velvety soup is perfect for the approaching winter.

1 butternut squash
2 onions
1 garlic clove
2 chillies (I use green chillies)
900ml vegetable stock (I use Bouillon powder)
100ml double cream
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
black pepper and salt to taste

1. Peel and chop the butternut squash, and discard the seeds. Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F). Place the pieces in an oven dish, and sprinkle half of the oil on the pieces. Roast for 30 minutes. Half way through, turn the pieces.

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2. While the squash is in the oven, put the rest of the oil and the butter in a pot. Peel and chop the onions to large pieces. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and the pith. Finely chop the chillies and peeled garlic. Place onions, garlic and chilli in the pot, and fry on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent.

3. Once the butternut squash pieces are done in the oven, add them to the pot, together with the hot vegetable stock. Let cool for a while, before whizzing into purée.

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4. Pour back into the pot, reheat, add the cream and season to taste.

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Homemade chicken stock

I take great pride for making most things from scratch. I would say a general rule is that homemade is always much tastier and healthier, whatever it is. Please don’t be put off making your own chicken stock even though it does take quite a while to make; after the initial steps it won’t need much attention from you, and you can use the remaining cooking time doing other things. The absolute key to a good, flavoursome stock is bones. You must, must, must use chicken on the bone, and for richer flavour you do also want to ensure you have some meat. I usually use chicken legs, drumsticks and wings. Once the cooking of the stock is finished, you can  remove the meat off the bone and use it for other meals. Once cooled, I freeze the stock in portion sizes. Since I started making my own stock, I hardly ever use shop bought ones anymore, those are now in my cupboard merely for back up for when I’ve run out of my own. I often make a double batch of the recipe, as it does take quite a long time to make.

1 chicken leg
475g chicken wings
500g chicken drumsticks
3 liters water
1 celery stick, chopped into big pieces
1 carrot, chopped into big pieces
1 medium onion
~15 black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
~~~~~
I sometimes make a Chinese variation, and replace the celery, carrot, onion and bay leaves (use the other remaining ingredients) with

1 thumb size piece of root ginger, sliced
4 spring onions

1. First, place the chicken and water in a large pot, and bring to simmer. Bare in mind that for the best results, the stock shouldn’t boil at any stage, only simmer.

2. ‘Scum’ will start coming to the surface of the stock. Keep skimming this away, however don’t stir or disturb the stock otherwise. I use a slotted spoon for this. At this stage, it’s important to give the stock attention.

3. Once there is no more scum rising to the top (this can take about half an hour), you can add all other ingredients. Then cover with lid, and set the temperature to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil. Cook for 3 hours.

4. Strain the stock through a sieve. I tend to also use muslin, to get rid of even finer impurities.

5. If freezing some of the stock, let it cool. Portion into containers, and put in the freezer. Work through all the wings, legs and drumsticks (by hands) to remove all the meat. If not using straight away, freeze in portion sizes. You will get quite a lot of meat out of them, don’t waste them!

Moussaka

Greek food somehow seems to often get forgotten in my kitchen, as well as when dining out. There is no particular reason for it, but it just doesn’t seem to be an obvious first choice. Apart from moussaka that is, which is a dish I make quite regularly.

3 aubergines (eggplants)
~~~~~
2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 green peppers
bunch of parsley
50ml olive oil
25g butter
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1 dl tomato puree
4 dl water
500g minced lamb
~~~~~
3 dl milk
2 1/2 tbsp plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs

1. Finely chop onions and parsley. Cut the green peppers into small pieces.

2. Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the chopped green peppers and parsley, squeeze in the garlic and fry for 5 minutes.

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3. Add butter, salt, pepper, oregano, tomato puree, water and the lamb. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the taste, add more salt and pepper if required.

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4. Mix the flour with the milk, and heat until the mixture thickens. Pour the eggs in whilst mixing, and season with salt.

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5. Cut the aubergines lengthwise, to about 1cm thick slices. Use half of them to layer bottom of an oven casserole dish. Add the lamb mixture, and put a layer of aubergines on top. Pour the white sauce over everything.

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6. Cook in preheated oven 190°C / 375°F  for 45 minutes.

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Scones

Scones are very British, and traditionally eaten with afternoon tea. Go anywhere for your high tea, scones will be served after your finger sandwiches, before the cakes. You will usually have a selections of ones without raisins, and ones with them. I personally tend to prefer the ones without. I’m a big fan of using buttermilk in baking, and I do use them for scones as well. Scones are traditionally served with some jam and clotted cream (I normally prefer whipped cream). There is a long standing debate about whether the jam goes on first, followed by the cream, or vice versa. One thing is for sure: they are indeed very easy to make, and you will be wondering why you never made them yourself in the past!

makes about 10-12

350g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
180ml buttermilk
~~~~~
clotted / whipped cream
jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan).

2. Measure together the flour and sugar, and mix. Add the butter pieces. Rub together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, and mix together into a dough.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface. I tend to cut the dough into half, to make it easier to handle the dough when making the scones. Shape it into a ball, and flatten with your hand. Finish flattening with a rollin pin, until about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Cut out the scones. I use a glass that is about the size I want the scones to be, about 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Repeat with all the leftover dough, to use it all.

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4. Place on a non stick baking paper and baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. After the time has passed, you can check they are cooked through by piercing one with a metal pin. If nothing sticks to the pin, they are cooked.

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5. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut in half and fill with jam and cream.

My weight loss journey series: vol 7 – Problem of becoming complacent

It has been a couple of months since my last post. My weight has only been creeping down a little bit, before coming to a halt. Currently my total weight loss stands at about 13kg (28.66 lbs).

The weight aside, how about my waist measurement? To my amazement, it has gone down by 10cm (4 inches), however, it only became reality in it’s all glory when I put the old measurement around my waist. Only then I realised how much it actually means! My husband found it difficult to believe the starting measurement was correct, as did I, as it looks like such a big difference. So even though the weight hasn’t moved down by a lot in the recent months, there still has been some amazing development.

Now, what are the reasons why I haven’t been able to shift the weight as according to my targets in the recent months? I hold my hands up and say it’s because of my own doings.

I’ve become complacent because of my to-date success, and very relaxed with my diet. As the scale is showing great numbers as opposed to the starting weight, as well as the tape measure, and I’m wearing smaller size clothes, I’ve become happy about the current weight, and have taken my eye off the ball.

As I’m not anywhere close to where I should be, I must get back to being strict again. It’s not always easy. As I’m on a journey that takes a long time, it’s hard to keep going. My journey has been knocked back by a few months, which means it’s now going to take a lot longer for me to reach my targets, however I’m still determined to get where I want to be.

Hopefully in my next post I have regained some new energy and have been able to get another kick-start.

Butternut squash tortellini

I don’t often cook full vegetarian meals (I should try to do it more), but at the end of the day, as long as the food delivers on flavour, it doesn’t really matter what it is. These vegetarian  tortellinis filled with butternut squash definitely do just that.

Serves 4
1 butternut squash
250g fine white wheat flour (00 grade is best)
2 large eggs
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion
50ml double cream
50ml pine nuts
1tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place half in a pot with two cloves of garlic and the thyme sprigs. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer until soft (around 20-30 minutes), drain the liquid in another pan, saving it for later.

2. Peel and chop the onion, and place in the same pot the squash was cooked in, together with the olive oil. Heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Squeeze one clove of garlic in, and fry for another minute or so. Remove the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves from the cooked butternut squash pieces, and add the butternut squash to the pan. Stir together, and set aside to cool.

3. Bake the remaining half of the squash pieces in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

4. Prepare the pasta.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

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5. Once cooled, prepare the filling. Put the boiled squash pieces,  fried onion and garlic in a blender. Add half the cream and half the pine nuts, then blitz together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cut the dough into four pieces. Repeat the next stages with all pieces. Roll the piece to a cigar shape, then flatten the piece with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I would say from 7 down to 2 should be fine.

7.  Cut your pasta. Brush half of the pasta round with egg, and add the filling (make sure it’s cooled). Fold the other half of the pasta over, and close with your fingers, pressing the pasta firmly together. Make sure you don’t leave air in.

8. Boil a large pan of water, with a generous amount of salt. Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

9. Bring the saved cooking water of the butternut squash to boil in a separate pot. Reduce to about half. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add 25ml double cream. Mix the oven roasted squash pieces into the sauce.

10. Serve the tortellini and the sauce together with the rest of the pine nuts sprinkled on top, and with some pea shoots and grated parmesan cheese.

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