Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

In my search for new recipes, I've been checking out the various BBC sites. Here's my search strategy: Google "BBC chicken" (or whatever ingredient you feel like eating). That search resulted in this Chicken Cacciatore recipe that was rated among their best and for good reason. Here's my version.

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Note: This makes really good leftovers too so don't feel shy about adding more chicken fillets; there's plenty of sauce.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (400 gram tins)
4 tbsp mascarpone (I bought a 250g tub [found it near the cream cheese] and used half of it)
fresh basil
vegetable oil
6 chicken breasts (or more)
salt & pepper

1. Prep
Dice the onion and garlic.
Preheat oven to medium heat.

2. Stovetop
Using a medium size pot, heat up the olive oil.
Add the diced onion and garlic and gently saute for 5 minutes.

3. Stovetop
Add the tins of diced tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. While that pot is simmering, heat a bit of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the chicken breasts, turning often.

4. Preheat the oven
to a medium setting. I'll apologize for this right now. You'll notice that I'll probably never give an oven heat. That's because in the states I cook just about everything at 350F. Here, the recipes call for something like 190C/fan 170C/gas. Heaven knows what that means because if I cook at either of those settings, something burns. I'll pay more attention and try to get this straight.

4. Stovetop
Stir the mascarpone into the tomatoes. Tear the basil and add that too. Stir well and season to taste. Immediately remove from heat.

5. Put it all together
Place the chicken breasts into a baking dish so that they're lying flat and not piled on one another. Pour the tomato mixture over the top.

6. Oven
Bake in medium heat oven for 40 minutes so that the chicken cooks through.

7. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hearty Mushroom Soup

I was never one for making soup. I think I tried a couple of times in the states, turkey soup maybe, made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass, but it was watery and tasteless and I gave it up. In England though, soup seems to be just right. The World Peace Cafe in Ulverston has absolutely delicious soup and so I'm getting into trying again. This mushroom soup recipe is yummy.

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
a couple of springs of rosemary, finely diced
500 g fresh mushrooms, chopped
vegetable stock (5 cups water and 2 chicken stock cubes)
1/4 cup marsala (or dry sherry but I used marsala)
2 tbsp tomato puree (one 70g container)
1/2 cup pearl barley
salt & pepper (our favorite ingredients)

1. Prep
Dice the onion, carrots, garlic, and rosemary. We have a mini chopping machine that I bought when we arrived and I just love it because it saves me lots of time.
Wash and do whatever you need to do to the mushrooms.

2. Stovetop
Using a big pyrex pot, heat up the olive oil.
Add the diced onion, carrots, garlic and rosemary and gently saute for 5 minutes.

3. Stovetop
Add the chopped mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes or so.

4. Put it all together
Pour the vegetable stock over the mushrooms; add the marsala, tomato puree, and barley.
Stir and season to taste.
Cook on low heat for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

5. Serve with rolls and butter. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving at Braddylls Arms

The Braddylls Arms in Bardsea is one of our favorite pubs. Last year, they put out a big spread for the Americans working in the area. This year, to our delight, they agreed to do it again.

The pub has a wonderful back room with a huge (and perfect for Thanksgiving dinner) 3 plank table. A bunch of the gals worked that afternoon to decorate. Very festive!

Now the thing about Thanksgiving is that it's all about being with other people. Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving if you eat alone. It's family time. And if you're not close to family, then it's time with friends. And if you have no friends, then you volunteer at a soup kitchen and make friends.

And, of course, it's got to be about traditional (New England) food. So a typical meal will include turkey, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Of course, slight variations from that and each family has something different. My family always has black olives, creamed onions, dates stuffed with peanut butter, and celery stuffed with cream cheese.

Thanksgiving day is a day off from work and, unless you're the one doing the cooking, is truly relaxing. Watch the Macy's Day parade on tv. Watch endless televised football games. Or go out and watch a local high school football match. Or go out for a Turkey trot (5k fun run). The point is - no work.

But here we are in the UK with no family but lots of friends. As for food, the Braddylls Arms' menu included squash and pumpkin soup (very smooth), salad, bread & butter. For the main course we had roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted sweet potatoes, and corn with green beans. Oh! - and balls of stuffing (they looked like little meatballs). Apple pie and pumpkin pie for dessert with special whipped cream. Everything was simply delicious.

The three things that I'll remember from this dinner are:
  1. The whipped cream - it's more than just whipping up some heavy cream. The cooks put some other sweetener in there that really made it taste great and firmed it up quite a bit.
  2. The stuffing. I think the idea of making little balls is genius.
  3. The oyster. I never heard of this before but the fellow who carved our turkey (Eric, pictured with the chef in one of the photos) said that it's the little piece of brown meat on the back of the turkey - just about where the shoulder blade is so there are two of them. I've eaten them before; just never knew that it had a name.
I supposed there's one more thing. Try not to drink more than one glass of wine! Oh my head!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Steak and Ale Pie (of course!)

Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Note: I'm baking the pie in one big casserole dish rather than preparing 4 or more separate pies (because I don't have small pie plates).

500g braising steak (one fairly large steak)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
250g shallots (about 12), peeled and quartered
250g button mushrooms (about 20)
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree (they have these cute little cans containing just 2 tbsp each)
500ml ale (one bottle with none left over so buy at least 2 so you can have one while you cook)
400ml beef stock (1.5 cups water plus one beef stock cube)
1 tbsp demerara sugar (I buy cubes so I used 2)
salt & pepper (our favorite ingredients)
1 roll of puff pastry (who knew this existed? I love this stuff. It comes already rolled)

1. Prep
Cut the steak into bite sized cubes.
Peel and quarter the shallots.
Wash and do whatever you need to do to the mushrooms.

2. Stovetop
Using a medium-sized pot over low heat, prepare the beef stock.
Add the Worchestershire sauce, tomato puree, the ale, and sugar and mix well.
Remove from heat.

3. Stovetop
Using a big pyrex pot, heat up the vegetable oil.
Fry the beef until evenly browned all over.
Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes or so.
Sprinkle on the flour, stir really well, cook for another 2 minutes.

4. Put it all together
Pour the stock over the beef; stir and season to taste.
Cook on medium low for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

5. Preheat oven to a medium heat (you just want to brown some pastry).

6. Pour the beef mixture into a big casserole dish.

7. Unroll the puff pastry and lay it on top of the beef mixture. Make it pretty. At the least, poke a couple of holes into it to let out steam.

8. Bake for 30 minutes or so until pastry is nice and brown.

9. Enjoy!

[Adapted from Morrisons Steak and Ale Pie]