Pan seared, oven roasted duck breast with garlic potato mash and roasted beetroot

I was so late with my food shopping order last night, that I wasn’t able to get it for delivery today. I’ve therefore had to rummage through my fridge and freezer for any left over ingredients I can use for dinner tonight. Luckily, I’ve found a duck crown (I’ll be cooking it on the bone), potatoes and beetroot. With these ingredients, I somehow don’t think I’ll be starving tonight.

serves 2-3 portions

250g beetroot
olive oil
salt
black pepper
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1 duck crown
salt
black pepper
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5-6 medium white potatoes
1-2 garlic cloves
50g butter
milk
dash of cream
salt

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (fan) / 355°F.

2. Peel the beetroot, and cut to wedges. put in an ovenproof dish, splash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for about an hour.

3. Peel the potatoes, wash, cut in half (or quarters if bigger in size), and boil in salted water for about 40 minutes or until soft. Pour the water away, and mash the potatoes. Add butter, milk and salt to taste and texture desired, finish with some cream. Squeeze in the garlic.

4. Rub some salt and pepper on the skin of the duck breasts. Cook in a frying pan, skin side down, until browned. If you’re cooking breasts off the bone I would also sear them briefly on the meat side too.

5. Put in the oven, skin side up, and roast for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes (this will allow the juices to stay in the meat better). On high setting, grill for 10 minutes.

Tip I find it easier to get a crispy skin on duck breasts that are cooked off the bone. When cooking this way, I slit the skin with a sharp knife, then rub salt and pepper in. Then fry in a pan in a little olive oil until browned and slightly crispy, and finish off in the oven for 10-15  minutes.

Mince beef soup

This winter warmer soup is especially perfect for those cold, cosy days. This is a very Finnish style soup of basic runny liquid base, with all the ingredients as bitesize chunks, rather than those thick, puréed soups. I personally quite like these kind of soups, because you can see and taste the ingredients separately. This soup contains a lot of healthy root vegetables, and doesn’t actually require a lot of cooking itself, most of the work goes to chopping the vegetables. This recipe makes a big soup, which is perfect. I think homemade soups are a little bit like curry, in a way that they seem to taste even better the next day. Also, the great thing about this kind of food is that you are not restricted to follow the ingredients too strictly, but can add other ingredients too. My recipe will be ever so slightly peppery-hot, if you don’t like any heat in your food you might want to leave out the white pepper, or reduce the amount.

1 onion, finely chopped
250g mince beef
1.2kg potatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp allspice
1.5 litres beef stock click here for homemade recipe
1 large parsnip (200g)
2 small turnips (200g)
300g swede
1/2 large leek, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
2-3 dl frozen peas
(1 tsp salt if necessary, to taste at the end. I tend to use sea salt for this)

1. Fry the onions in vegetable oil in a pan, until starting to get translucent. Add the mince beef and mix with the onions. Add the spices, and fry until cooked. During the cooking process, keep braking into small pieces.

2. Take about a quarter of the potatoes, and peel and chop into small pieces. Boil in the stock, covered, until cooked, then mash them.

3. While the potatoes are boiling, peel and chop all the other root vegetables into small, bite size cubes. Add to the stock and mashed potatoes, together with the bay leaves.

4. Peel and cut the remaining potatoes into small pieces, and add to the soup. Lastly, add the finely chopped leek, peas and the mince beef.

5. Cook until all vegetables are cooked. After all the ingredients have been added this should only take about 10 more minutes, depending on the size you’ve cut your potatoes.

6. Check the taste, and add the salt if required.

Cottage pie / Shepherd’s pie

This is a heart and belly warming classic British dish, however I’m sure other nations have their own variation of the same thing. Even in my native Finland we have something similar. I have added ingredients to the basic version, so it actually probably doesn’t even have any particular national background. For a long time, I always had to check with my British husband what the difference with cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is. The difference is very simple: cottage pie is shepherd’s pie, but with a cheese crust on top. This kind of food is proper, honest home cooking. I tend to make a large batch, which will give you couple of dinners, or dinner for the first night and lunch to take to work with you for few days. I like mine with slight heat from the pepper, if you would like yours mild I would suggest reducing the black pepper and white pepper to half (or just use full amount of black pepper and leave white pepper out).

1.5 kg potatoes
2 tsp salt
50g butter
3dl milk
pinch of salt
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1 medium onion
2 small or 1 large carrots, peeled
1 courgette / zucchini
4 chestnut mushrooms
500g mince beef (if you don’t eat red meat, you can easily swap this to mince turkey)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
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3 dl cheese

1. Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add the salt, and bring to boil. Depending on the size of the pieces, boil gently for about 20 minutes, or until soft.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. I normally use standard brown/yellow onions for cooking, but I have a lot of very strong red onions in my cupboard, so I used that instead.

3. Fry the onions in the oil for few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.

4. Add the meat. Keep beating it with a wooden spatula as it’s cooking, to break it into small crumbly texture. During the cooking, add all the spices. This’s whole step will take you around 10 minutes.

5. Once the meat is cooked, add the carrots, courgette and mushrooms, and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.

6. Once the potatoes are soft, discard the cooking water. Mash the potatoes, and add the butter, milk and salt. I prefer my mash to be firmer when using it in a dish like this, otherwise it won’t hold the mince mixture in a separate layer.

7. Layer half of the mash at the bottom of an oven casserole dish. Then add a layer of the meat mixture. I usually pat it into a firm, dense, even layer. They add the remaining mash. To make sure you have an equal amount to cover the whole dish, I usually start by adding a dollop in the corners, then in the middle, and then plead it across evenly.

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8. Finally, add the cheese. I normally tend to use a mixture of extra mature cheddar and red leicester, however this time I replaced the latter with gruyere. Cook in preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 40-45 minutes until the cheese top has become slightly crunchy.

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Thai green curry paste

When cooking foods that are not part of your original culture, it’s often easy to think that it’s something very difficult and complicated. I’ve loved the fragrant Thai green curry for a long time, but didn’t really know how to make it. Until I started making my own paste, and realized how easy it actually is.

6 small green chillies
1 onion
large piece root ginger
3 cloves of garlic
small bunch of coriander
2-3 stalks of fresh lemongrass
1 lime, juice and grated zest
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Break the whole spices with either a pestle and mortar or a spice mill.

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2. Cut the stalks off the chillis, and chop roughly to smaller pieces.Peel and roughly chop the garlic, onion and ginger, and prepare the lime. Also chop the lemongrass into smaller pieces.

3. Put all ingredients in the food processor, and blitz until smooth paste.

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4. The paste is now ready to be used.

 

Yorkshire pudding

To me, the Yorkshire puddings are a delight of British cuisine. A roast dinner isn’t complete without one or two. Funnily, there was a debate at my husband’s office, where all participants were British, whether Yorkshire puddings should or should not be part of a Christmas meal. From an outsider’s view, Christmas meal, too, is a roast dinner, and it’s therefore crucial that it’s included.

2 large eggs
equal quantity of milk to eggs
pinch of salt
equal quantity of plain flour to eggs
vegetable oil / lard

1. Whisk the eggs, milk and salt together, and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Add the flour, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 210°C / 410°F. Place the oil or lard in tins and heat in the oven for 5 minutes.

 

4. Give the batter another good whisk, adding 1 tbsp of cold water. Fill 1/3 tins, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Chicken fajitas

I may be known for my fine dining hobby, but sometimes you just want that honest food that may be messy to eat. For my fajitas, I tend to make make everything apart from the tortillas from scratch. This Mexican food is enjoyed across the world, and making everything by yourself allows you to adjust the spicing to your liking. The tortillas are usually eaten with a selection of fried meat, fried peppers and onions, tomato salsa, guacamole, creme fraiché and cheese. I tend to leave the cheese out, and just to make things easier, fry the meat together with the pepper and onion. In my blog I have individual posts for my guacamole and salsa, so I won’t write them again on here, but I’ll include links for them. This is great comfort food for those cosy evenings in.

Tomato salsa
Homemade guacamole
crème fraiche
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500g chicken breasts
2 peppers
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 small green chilli
2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
splash of vegetable oil

1. Finely chop the chilli and garlic. Slice the peppers and onions, and set aside.

2. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Fry in the oil, adding the cumin, salt and pepper. Once just about cooked through, add the other ingredients. Fry until onions are cooked.

Tomato salsa

This basic salsa can be eaten hot or cold, and is perfect as a dip with some tortilla chips or as one of the fillings for fajitas.

Tomato salsa
3-4 large tomatoes
2 onions
1 green pepper
1 small (hot) green chilli
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Finely chop the garlic and chilli. I also use the seeds from the chilli. Chop the onion, pepper and tomatoes into small pieces.

2. Place all the chopped ingredients in a pan with the vegetable oil, and add all the spices / herbs. Fry for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomato paste and and the lemon juice, and mix in with the other ingredients.

The salsa is ready to be eaten immediately, or you can cool it to use it as a dip.