Scandinavian pickled cucumber

Scandinavian pickling is sweeter than what you would normally expect from pickled vegetables elsewhere, but nevertheless very tasty. You can of course pickle a variety of vegetables, rather than just cucumbers. I often make cucumbers and radishes. They are also ready within a couple of hours so even if you haven’t been very organised with the planning, can easily make them for your meal. This recipe is for light pickling solution, meaning delicate vegetables requiring short pickling time, for example vegetables with higher water content. Good general rule is vegetables you would eat raw.

125ml apple cider vinegar
125ml water
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 juniper berries (dried is fine)
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
~~~~~
1/2-1 cucumber
4-6 radishes

1. Boil all solution ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved (couple of minutes), then let cool.

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2. Thinly slice the vegetables. For this kind of slicing, I tend to use mandoline, as it will give you equally thin slices. On my mandoline I used level 0.5 for the radish, and 1.5  for the cucumber.

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3. Place the vegetables in a ceramic or glass bowl (metallic one can affect the flavour). Pour the cooled solution over the vegetables, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

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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.

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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Lobster bisque

To make this food sing, you do want to make the effort. The shells of this crustacean are packed with flavour, so you must use them to your benefit. Lobster is an expensive ingredients, so this is perhaps something to make when you’re seriously trying to impress someone. This soup is very decadent and luxurious. Most of the meat will be used in the base of the soup, however you could save some of the meat to be eaten either on it’s own, or as pieces in the soup. It’s always satisfying to bite into a juicy piece of meat. I got my lobsters from the fishmongers already boiled. You can serve this as a main soup, or it works very well as a starter.

serves 6
2 fresh lobsters
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 litres water
2 tbsp tomato paste
200ml brandy
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
5 parsley stalks
25g butter
~~~~~
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flour
150ml double cream
handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

25g butter

1. Cut the shell on the belly side, to remove the meat. Pull the tail part of the shell separate from the head. Discard what’s inside the head, but keep all the shell of the lobster. Set all of the tail and claw meat aside.

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2. Place the butter and all other ingredients apart from the brandy and water into a large pan. Fry on medium to high heat, stirring, to ensure the shells are fried. Then, pour in the brandy, and let it bubble for a few minutes, then add the water. Simmer the stock for about an hour.

3. Melt the butter in another pan, and fry the shallots and garlic on a medium heat for couple of minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the flour, and stir together. Add the lemon juice, and start straining the stock from the shells. Keep stirring the mixture, to incorporate the liquid into the flour mixture. Little by little it will become thinner liquid.

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4. Once all the liquid had been used , place in a blender, together with the lobster meat, and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, and add the cream and dill. Season to taste.

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Crêpes

Crêpes are a good, easy choice when you feel like you would like to treat yourself (or your family) to a sweet breakfast. All ingredients are part of most households’ basic cupboard, so this doesn’t require much pre-planning. And why not make a big enough batter to have some left over, to use for savoury galettes later?

makes 8 large crêpes
2 eggs
600 ml milk
250 ml basic wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
~ tbsp butter, melted, + extra for frying

1. Slightly whisk the eggs so that the yolks and the whites are combined together. Whisk in half of the milk. Then add the flour little by little, whisking in until all the flour has been added and the mixture is slightly thick batter. Mix rest of the milk into the batter, then add salt, sugar and melted butter, and whisk just to mix everything together.

2. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Give the batter a slight stir. For each crêpe, use a small piece of butter for frying. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add a ladle (about 100ml) of batter into the pan. I have a large frying pan, and this amount works well. If your pan is smaller, less might be better.

4. The first crêpe tends to take slightly longer to fry, than the rest of them, but generally it will take around 3-4 minutes to cook the first side, and around one minute for the second side, depending on heat. I use medium heat, and fry the first side one setting higher than the second side. When cooking the first side, when the batter has become firm on top, and the crêpe has normally gotten holes in the batter, you can start checking the underside to see whether it’s browned enough. Once the underside is nice golden colour, flip the crêpe over and fry the other side until nice colour.

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5. Serve with your choice of topping and enjoy!