Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Carrot and Sweet Potato Curry

An unintentional and not all together unwelcome side effect of this year's food challenge, is that when I'm not thinking about pig I'm thinking a lot more about vegetables.  This is possibly down to the amount of time I am spending on Leeds Kirkgate market.  You can find me most Saturday mornings wandering around Butchers Row mulling over the porky possibilities.  Afterwards, meat in hand,  I like to fill my shopping bags with as much fruit and veg as I can carry home*.

I still find myself buying additional veg in the supermarket.  A couple of weeks ago I went green veg mad and bought pak choi, kale and spinach.  I must have been feeling run down and lacking in iron.  We managed to plough our way through the greens but that was at the expense of the carrots I had already bought on the market.

My initial thought, whenever I have any leftover vegetables, is soup.  However this wasn't a handful of carrots left over from a meal, this was a full bag of carrots whose potential had never been met.  I felt that it was only fitting to make them the star of a meal but I couldn't get soup out of my head.  It was the classic Carrot and Coriander that was haunting me.  I just couldn't shift the idea of the sweet earthy and fragrant dish from my mind.  I then realised that it wouldn't take much to convert the ingredients for a good soup into a great curry.

The base of the curry was onion, garlic and ginger, fried in ghee with mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin, coriander, fresh chilies and turmeric.  Once the onion had softened and the spices were toasted I added the carrot, sweet potato and a little red pepper, along with just enough stock to cover the veg.  By the time the carrots were tender the sweet potatoes had broken down into the stock to thicken the sauce.  All that was left to do was to stir in some fresh coriander and serve with naan bread.  I doubt that this is in any way authentic, but the flavour combination is so good it shouldn't be reserved just for soup.

*I'm going to start cycling to the market so the limit to my spend will be the capacity of my rucksack!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Duck with Port and Cranberry Sauce

Who would have thought that deep into January we would still be hoovering up the Christmas leftovers?  We have made stocks of soup and pies out of the leftover turkey and vegetables.  All of the cheese has been consumed and the last of the chocolate pennies have been melted in R's hands and smeared across the furniture.

The final reminder of the festivities was the last of the cranberry sauce that Z made this time last month.  In Christmases gone by we have bought a jar of cranberry sauce and thrown it out in mid June, but because this was home-made we felt duty bound to use it.  A pack of duck breasts in the freezer seamed the perfect foil for the sharp sweet sauce.

I gently fried the duck skin side down to render off the fat*.  After ten minutes I flipped the breasts over, turned off the heat and let the duck sit in the pan for ten minutes more.  Finally I removed the duck from the pan, cranked up the heat again and fried off some onions.  I added half a pint of port** and let that reduce before stirring in the cranberry sauce.  I'm not a fan of slicing bits of meat to serve them but there was a marked size difference between the two breast so the whole thing went a bit cheffy.  It will be around a year before we do this again, but it will be worth the wait!

*which is now sat in a jar in the fridge waiting for the next time we do roast potatoes.
**technically a Christmas leftover but booze doesn't count.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Thai Red Curry Soup

Back in November I made Pad Prig King (to accompany some Thai fish cakes.  I bought some red curry paste for the recipe but it only required a tablespoon.  The small pot of paste claimed to be enough for ten to twelve servings of curry. It also had a short shelf life once opened, so I needed to use it up fast. We had a good curry a few days later*, but that still left me with over half a tub.

One of my favourite tricks for the use and storage of leftovers is to turn them into soup and freeze them.  That is exactly what I did but not before seeking the advice of The Soup Witch**.  I was unsure about what to use as the base for the soup.  I didn't want to use traditional stocks as they are all very western in flavour.  Jo suggested using tins of tomatoes and coconut milk and that is exactly what I did.

After defrosting the soup for tonight, I added sliced peppers, carrots, spring onions, a handful of corriander and some rice noodles to make a meal out of a snack.  I'm not actually a fan of soup as a main meal.  To me it's a starter or lunch dish but the flavours of this rich, sweet and hot soup made all the difference.  There is still a portion left in the freezer.  I think that it will be receiving just a little bit more chilli and possibly some prawns.  I'll let you know.

*missing blog post.
** Jo from Thistlemist Farm

Friday, 4 January 2013

Tarragon Chicken

OK. I know it's been a while but we have been busy.  December was written off with every spare hour devoted to DIY in the run up to Christmas.  Then there was Christmas itself.  We had a house full for all of Christmas week, with both sets of R's grandparents wanting to share in his first proper Christmas.  I'm still, after over a year of blogging, uncomfortable photographing food when in a group of people.  I also didn't think it would be particularly polite to my guests to sit and type for the whole of the holidays.

Needless to say we ate well.  We kept Christmas day traditional with turkey* and all of the trimmings.  We also had; Chicken in Fig Sauce, Salmon in Champagne, Oxtail Ragu, Goat Curry and on New Years Eve we tucked into Steak and Chips.  Needless to say not every dish was to everyone's taste but cooking for six for a week, when you want every dish to be special, is tricky and not something I'm used to.

But that was then and this is now.  2013 is a new year and I was on the hunt for a new food challenge.  I've loved writing this blog but it was starting to feel a little forced.  What I needed was some focus and that has turned up in the shape of Everything But The Oink.  I'm going to attempt to eat everything that is edible from pigs over the course of the year.  I don't know how it will go but you can follow the results here.

However, man cannot live by pig alone** so there will still be room for other dishes and blog posts here on Tonight's Menu.  The first of the year is chicken in tarragon sauce.  I had bought a bunch of tarragon to make bearnaise sauce for our New Year's Eve steak and had lots left over.  This was such an easy and tasty meal to cook I'm amazed we haven't done it before. 

Onions are softened in the pan the the chicken was browned in, before a glass of wine is added.  Once that is reduced to about a couple of tablespoons you stir in a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, double cream and the tarragon.  All that is left to do is return the chicken to the pan and sling the whole lot in the oven until the chicken is cooked.  You could serve this with rice or roasties and you can easily add the veg of your choosing.  After a couple of hectic weeks we kept it simple with boiled potatoes and steamed leeks.

*I know there are foodies out there who turn their nose up at turkey but I maintain that a good turkey is a thing of glory.  We also had enough leftover to line the freezer with goodies for the next few months.
**It is possible that man could live by pig alone but I'm NOT taking that challenge.