Monday, 28 January 2013

Recipe - Macaroni Cheese with Leeks & Bacon


Last week I was asked by a friend if I had an easy macaroni cheese recipe that I could pass on to them as it is one of their favourite meals. I also love macaroni cheese but haven't cooked it in a long time, probably due to the fact that Nicola doesn't see this as a proper meal. As luck would have it, Nicola has had to travel down to London for a few days with her work, leaving me in a position to cook whatever I want over the next few nights so after dropping Nicola off at the railway station, "Operation Macaroni" was put into place.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 125g dried macaroni
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon, cut into 1cm wide strips
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 20g plain flour
  • 20g butter
  • 300ml milk
  • 85g strong cheddar, grated
  • 35g Grana Padano, grated
  • 40g breadcrumbs
Method

  1. Cook the macaroni to packet instructions then drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a little oil in a pan before adding the bacon and frying for a couple of minutes before adding the leek and garlic. Continue to fry the contents of the pan until the bacon begins to crisp and the leeks begin to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a pan and add the flour when the butter begins to bubble. Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes before adding the milk, remembering to whisk continuously to avoid lumps. Keep stirring the sauce until it thickens, this could take up to five minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar and Grana Padano. Do not put your cheese sauce back on the heat as this will cause the sauce to become stringy.
  4. Mix the cooked macaroni, bacon, leeks and garlic into the cheese sauce then place in an ovenproof dish before sprinkling the breadcrumbs over the top.
  5. Place the dish in a preheated oven 180C, and heat through for 15-20 until the breadcrumbs are golden in colour.

The resulting dish was so more-ish. My cheese sauce was deliciously creamy and the bacon, leeks and breadcrumbs added a great mix of textures. The combination of flavours that you could add to the macaroni is endless, why not throw in some sun-dried tomatoes and torn basil leaves, or spicy chorizo? In fact, I'm already wondering what I'll add to my next batch, although I better cross my fingers that Nicola has another work trip scheduled soon!


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Recipe - Sesame and Ginger Pork Stir-Fry

Last week I asked Nicola to look through some of my cook books again as I had got to the point where I felt that I was cooking the same things over and over. My instructions were simple, look through the books and make a note of any meal that she would like me to prepare. If the marked recipes could be prepare quickly, I would add them to my midweek repertoire as soon as I could.
The first meal on the list was a very simple Sesame and Ginger Pork Stir-Fry which was full of flavour and took less than twenty minutes to reach the table.
Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 250g pork steak, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 150g mixed Chinese stir-fry vegetables
  • Medium egg noodles
Method


  1. Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger in a shallow dish. Add the pork to the marinade and season with black pepper. Toss together and set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat a wok and toast the sesame seeds (There's no need for oil) for a few minutes until coloured and fragrant. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  3. Lift the pork from the marinade and add to the hot wok. Sear the pork until browned all over. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  4. Add the vegetable to the wok, pour over the remaining marinade and stir-fry everything together for 3 minutes. Return the pork to the wok , continue to stir-fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
  5. Cook the egg noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes, until tender. Drain the noodle before adding a splash of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil.
To serve, divide the noodles and contents of the wok between two plates and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.


All of the ingredients for this stir-fry are things that I would normally have in the fridge, which is just as well as dinner was delicious, and I expect to see it on the menu again in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Recipe - Chicken Korma

A couple of weeks ago I attended a day course at The Cook School Scotland and had a great time in their state of the art facility. The subject matter was 'Curry', and on the day we prepared three very different curry dishes. One of those dishes was Chicken Korma, a dish that originates in South Asia and a meal that I would never order from a restaurant or takeaway, generally due to the fact that the few kormas that I've tasted in the past have been sweet and sickly, poorly spiced offerings.
The korma that we prepared at The Cook School has changed my perceptions on what a korma should taste like, so much so that I have since recreated the dish at home with good success.
Cooking an Indian meal from scratch can be a daunting due to the amount of ingredients that are often used, as well as the many steps involved in the cooking process. This in turn makes it very easy to pick up the phone and call your favourite takeaway. Now although this recipe does look like it might become quite involved, the processes are simple and easy to follow, and you probably have most of the required ingredients in your store cupboard.

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 2 Chicken
  • 25g root ginger, finely grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 75g Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 red chili, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 100ml of coconut milk
  • water or chicken stock, enough to cover
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 20g desiccated coconut
  • fresh coriander
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Method
  1. Marinade the chicken pieces with the ginger, garlic and yogurt - cover it and place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour, ideally overnight.
  2. Heat a the vegetable oil in the pan and then add the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ground coriander, turmeric and garam masala, and fry it for about 1-2 minutes over a low heat.
  3. Turn the heat up and then add the onion and chili and fry for around 4-5 minutes with no colour, then add the chicken and the marinade. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Next add the coconut milk and just enough water or chicken stock to cover the chicken, bring this to the simmer and stir in the ground almonds and desiccated coconut.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan, let it simmer until the chicken is lovely and tender which should take about 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. When your chicken is cooked, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken Korma, pilaff rice & Naan bread

Serve with pilaff rice and naan breads, not forgetting to scatter with a handful of freshly chopped coriander. You can increase the amount of chilli to suit your own taste, I added a whole chilli as I wanted more heat to counteract the creamy coconutty flavours from the sauce. The only other change that I will be making in the future will be to reduce the amount of desiccated coconut that I add, this is simply down to own preference as I felt that the texture of sauce was just a little too grainy for me.
There's something incredibly satisfying in cooking your own curry from scratch. This might be down to knowing that you've managed to combine lots of individual ingredients to create a wonderfully spiced meal, or it could be breathing in the heady spice aromas that fill the air as you cook. Whatever it is, why not have a go at this dish over the weekend and see how you feel when you serve up this creamy spicy korma.




Friday, 18 January 2013

Recipe - Stirfried Chicken with Hoisin & Spring Onion

After a long day at work and a slow bus journey home, The last thing I need is to be spending forever in the kitchen making dinner. Most meals that I serve up on a work night are ready in less than 30 minutes and this delicious stir fry was no different.
Tip : Make sure all of the ingredients are prepared and ready for use because the cooking process is very quick.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 shallot, sliced finely lengthways
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 6 spring onions, cut into 1" pieces
  • 100ml hoisin sauce
  • a splash of rice wine vinegar and light soy sauce
Method
  1. Slice the chicken breast into very thin strips and place in a bowl with a splash of rice wine vinegar and light soy sauce. This will start to break down the protein strands in the chicken and allow the meat to take on the other flavours when cooking. Set the bowl to the side until needed.
  2. Heat a little groundnut oil in a hot wok. Once the oil begins to smoke, add the shallots into the wok. Keep the contents of the wok moving to stop them overcooking. Add the garlic 30 seconds after the shallots.
  3. As the garlic starts to colour, add the chicken and spring onion into the wok making sure not to add too much of the vinegar and oil that will have pooled in the bowl. The chicken will cook quickly so keep an eye on the wok, making sure that the contents are not catching on the bottom of the wok.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through, add the hoisin sauce, stirring until heated through. If your sauce looks a little dry, you can add a splash of water to help thin it down.
Once your sauce is heated through, you can serve up your stir fry with rice or noodles. Last night I cooked my long grain rice along with an Oxo Chinese stock cube, which flavoured my rice with the aromatic flavours of Chinese five spice. To finish, you can garnish the dish with toasted sesame seeds or finely slice spring onion.


Thursday, 17 January 2013

5 Questions - Galloway Chillies

One of the best things about writing Gerry's Kitchen is that I've been able to meet some incredibly talented local producers and sample the fantastic products that they have poured their heart and soul into. More importantly, by writing my '5 Questions' posts, I've been able to provide a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
After publishing an article about Sarah Redman and her business, Creeside Charcuterie a couple of months ago, Sarah informed me that one of her friends was also a producer and that she would likely be keen to have her own business story told on Gerry's Kitchen.
The business in question was Galloway Chillies run by Sheena Horner. Based in Scotland's National Book Town of Wigtown near Newton Stewart, Sheena spices things up by growing a wide variety of chilli plants (at least 35 varieties planned for this years harvest) which are painstakingly made into delicious chilli jam.
Unfortunately Sheena doesn't sell Galloway Chillies products in my own local area (yet?), however by using the wonders of social media, I was able to make contact with Sheena and we arranged for Creeside Charcuterie to bring a jar of chilli jam to the Christmas Farmers market at Clarkston. Who says that social media can't connect businesses?
Here's Galloway Chillies story;

How did you get started?

I have always loved chillies and use them lots in cooking but got frustrated by the choice available in the area. So I started growing my own and then made the fatal mistake of buying a poly tunnel at the Royal Highland Show this year. The rest they say is history.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

Take things slowly if you can and gauge the interest in your product(s). I even gave away free samples of my chilli jam to get peoples honest feedback. Oh and believe in yourself and of course enjoy what you do.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

Oh now that a toughie. I have just started out and I’m also in full time employment so possibly leaving my job or at least going part time to run a profitable business.

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

Would have to be fresh chillies as they are so versatile but couldn’t pick one single variety.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

Sorry can’t be just one. It would have to be all my twitter friends. I launched my account on the 8th October this year to see what the interest would be in Galloway Chillies. I still can’t get over the enthusiasm and support that I’ve had from them all. You ask a question and they will try to answer or pass the query on to someone who will. Oh and on the menu, well it would have to be local produce with chillies incorporated somewhere in it no doubt.


After a few tweets back and forth between Gerry's Kitchen and Galloway Chillies, I decided that I wanted to try the hot version of the chilli jam. There are varying heat intensities available and with so many different breeds of chillies on the go, there'll be no shortage of spicy flavour.
I served the jam alongside fresh chicken liver pâté from Creeside Charcuterie and myself and dinner guests all loved the sweet, sticky jam that packed an intense chilli punch, so much so that my jar was quickly demolished! A blend of Apricot, Trinity, Jamaican Jerk and Orange Habanero are used to create the hot version with quantities of sliced chilli that leave Sheena with tingling fingers.
So if you're a fan of relishes and chutneys, then Galloway Chillies is worthy of a place in your fridge. If it worked so well with the pâté, then cheese and cold meats better look out!
Keep up to date with Galloway Chillies on Facebook & Twitter.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Beans Meanz Heinz


I've always love baked beans. As a child it was common place that I would have a pile of beans with almost every meal that was served up at home. I expect that this was down to the fact that beans have always been an inexpensive food source, although maybe my parents were simply aware of the health benefits of the beans and wanted them to be in my diet as much as possible.
That's right, the humble baked bean is a nutritional powerhouse of protein, fibre, iron and calcium. It contains carbohydrate that, like that in apples, is of the low GI variety.The tomato sauce covering baked beans is also a good source of lycopene, another powerful antioxidant shown to help prevent heart disease and prostate cancer.The insoluble fibre in baked beans is not digested but moves into the large intestine, or colon, where bacteria act on it and produce short-chain fatty acids.These fatty acids are thought to nourish the colon lining and protect it from carcinogenic (cancer-causing) invaders.
Even now, one of my guilty food pleasures is beans on toast, which I often have for dinner after my late night at work. Recently, Heinz launched Five Beanz, something that they are marketing as baked beans for grown ups. In addition to the haricot bean, Heinz have also packed red kidney, pinto, borlotti, and cannellini to the classic tomato sauce.
I had picked up a couple of tins of Five Beanz at the weekend with the intention of tucking into beans on toast tonight, interested to see what the big deal is with this new grown up version of baked beans. I would love to say that they are the best thing since sliced bread..........but I can't.
Don't get me wrong, they tasted like baked beans and had a slightly different texture due to the mix of beans, but they just aren't Heinz Baked Beans.
My conclusion - if it's not broken, don't fix it. If you love beans on toast, stick to what you know.



Monday, 14 January 2013

The Cook School Scotland, Kilmarnock

A couple of christmases ago, I was given some gift vouchers to use at The Cook School Scotland in Kilmarnock. The school is situated just 30 minutes from Glasgow, offering corporate events, private dining, children's birthday parties and a wide range of classes. Not only do you get to cook with great chef's but you also get to work in a state of the art kitchen which is fully equipped with Miele appliances. Miele is a German manufacturer of high quality domestic appliances, regarded by many as the market leader.
After months of struggling to find a course that I fancied, I eventually booked up for the Curry class that I attended last Friday. Upon arrival, myself and the other pupils were treated to coffee and fresh shortbread as we waited on our day to start.
Just after ten o'clock, resident head chef Philip Lewis and chef Jim Miller welcomed us to the Cook School, and after running the house rules by us, as well as being given an introduction to the dishes that we would be preparing over the day, we were invited to take our place at our work station.
After familiarising ourselves with the kitchen workstation we would be using, we gathered around the demonstration area at the front of the kitchen where Jim showed us just how easy it can be to make our own naan bread to accompany the three meals that we would be preparing.
The first dish that we would be making was Lamb Rogan Josh, a slow cooked aromatic curry of Persian origin and a signature dish of the Kashmiri region. Phil talked us through and demonstrated the various stages of the meal from toasting and grinding the various spices needed, through to sealing the lamb, and getting the dish to the point when it was ready to go into the oven.
We returned to our stations where all the required ingredients were waiting for us. The first stage of the rogan josh involved sealing the lamb in a happy pan, before removing from the pan and setting aside until the spices and vegetables were cooked though.
Next, onions were cooked in a pan before the garlic and ginger were added, followed by the ground and powdered spices. Once everything was well combined, chopped tomatoes joined the other contents, finally the lamb was put back into the pan before putting the pan into the preheated oven.
The rogan josh would cook for a few hours, allowing the lamb to become wonderfully tender, and the sauce to develop the rich fragrant flavours from the spices.
Once we had got to the stage when our lamb was in the oven, we needed to start thinking about lunch. Phil and Jim called us back to the front so that they could demonstrate the second meal that we would be preparing, Chicken Korma. The Korma is a characteristic Indian dish that dates back to the 16th century.
The korma benefits from marinating the chicken with garlic, ginger and natural yogurt for a lengthy period, ideally overnight but as this was to be our lunch, we took a couple of shortcuts. In all fairness, this is a really easy meal to prepare and after a quick walk through from the experts, we were let loose back at our workstations.
At this point in the day the general noise in the kitchen dropped, probably down to the fact that we were getting hungry and we were solely responsible for the quality of the meal that we were about to serve ourselves..... Concentration levels were at an all time high as we carried out the various stages of the chicken korma.
It didn't take too long before we were serving up and heading through to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of our labour and the naan breads that Jim had prepared earlier were served alongside our chicken korma.
Ordinarily, I would never order a korma in a restaurant or think about making it at home, mainly due to the fact that my own experiences of korma is the sickly sweet, overly coconutty, heavy and creamy dish that is served up across the UK. My Cook School korma was a deliciously fragrant yet spicy, creamy yet textured curry that has completely changed my perception of what a good korma is. This is a dish that I will be cooking in Gerry's Kitchen again and again.
With the bloood sugar levels topped up, it was time to return back to the kitchen and make a start on our final meal which was a spicy Goan seafood curry. Phil prepared the fish for our curry whilst providing a little information about the importance that Goa played in the spice trade over the years. The Indian port of Goa was an important stopping point for the traders sailing across South East Asia, before moving their important cargo of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and peppercorns onto the Middle East and Europe. It was at this point in the afternoon that we removed our lamb rogan josh from the oven. The lamb was cooked perfectly and the sauce was deliciously rich, reminiscent of quality curry from my favourite Indian restaurant. The rogan josh was set to the side to cool, before it was packaged up for our own private takeaway.
Before Jim talked us through the cooking process of the Goan seafood curry he showed us how to make the 'perfect rice', a foolproof way to cook rice that can be served with any curry dish.
After watching our final demonstration, we headed back to our workstation to prepare the meal that would effectively bring our day to a close. This dish was a little trickier than the other two curries that we had prepared mainly down to the fact that the monkfish, mussels, salmon and sea bream that we used, all take differing amounts of time to poach in the sauce from the curry. However, by following the printed instructions and notes taken earlier, my curry was ready in no time.
Jim's rice was removed from the oven and we started to plate up our early dinner. With all the cooking now at an end, it was time to head back through to the dining area and sample the seafood curry with a glass of wine
I didn't know what to expect from the Goan seafood curry, it's not a meal that I would ever have ordered in a restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised. The sauce which had a base of natural yogurt and coconut milk wasn't as creamy as I expected it to be whilst the addition of paprika an cayenne pepper gave the curry a decent level of spicy heat. The sea bream and monkfish worked brilliantly in the sauce but I felt that the salmon was too strongly flavoured for the sauce. I think if I were to make this meal at home that I would stick to using various white fish while staying away from some of the oilier fish.
With our dinner plates cleared away, we were served a simple palate freshener of macerated fruits served with natural yogurt. After the heavily spiced meals that we had been enjoying over the day, this dessert was a great way to end our day.
After spending the best part of six hours in the kitchen, it was time for all of us aspiring chefs to go our separate ways. However before we left we had to collect our lamb rogan josh and any other leftovers that we had from our day of cooking.
I had a great day at the Cook School and would definately go back and try another course. The curry cookery day that I attended costs £100, which I thought represented pretty good value for money. We were given expert tuition from two top chefs who each have many years experience within the hospitality industry, and throughout the day they were both on hand to answer questions and offer assistance where needed. We cooked three meals from start to finish, using fresh fish and lamb, and chicken. (The two half portions that I took home was still enough to feed me and Nicola a decent sized dinner, whilst the lamb rogan josh meant that our Saturday night dinner was also taken care of). Finally, before we left, we were given a branded bag for life, a ring binder folder with the recipe cards from the course, and we also got to take home or Cook School apron that we had been wearing on the day.
Check out the the Cook School website for information on the range of courses and events available. Keep up to date with the Cook School on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 4 January 2013

5 Questions - IceDelight

Gerry's Kitchen has been up and running for almost one year now and so far I've had a lot of fun writing the blog and getting feedback from people who have visited the site. My initial reasons for putting the blog together was simply to pass on some recipes that I like to cook at home, as well as give feedback on some of the places that we enjoying eating from. However over the last year, I have been lucky enough to get chatting with food producers through farmers markets, Facebook & Twitter, and have published a number my '5 Questions' articles to help give a little insight into the fantastic people that are creating wonderful food in and around my local area.
Things took a surprising turn when I was recently contacted by Mark Rennie from Belhaven Fruit Farm, asking if they could supply me with some samples of IceDelight in order for me to provide them with an honest Gerry's Kitchen review. In the name of research, I took Mark up on his offer and after a few tweets back and forth, we set a delivery date and time for Belhaven Fruit Farm to drop some samples off to me.
Delicious & healthy frozen desserts
Fat-Free, Dairy-Free, and Full of Fruit!
Family run business, Belhaven Fruit Farm have been producing IceDelight since 2007. A fat free, dairy free, and gluten free dessert blended from home-grown Scottish fruit with an authentic Italian recipe to create a unique, luxuriously creamy dessert as healthy and tasty as real fruit.

Here's IceDelight's story;

How did you get started?
IceDelight started in 2007 when our fruit farm experienced a brilliant summer and we were left with a bumper crop of strawberries and raspberries. We set about making a fruity, fat-free dessert and even visited Tuscany to find out how authentic gelato was made. Returning from Italy bursting with ideas we set about making what eventually became IceDelight.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

We believe that honesty is the best policy – we only use hand-grown, hand-picked fruit from our fruit farm and ethically sourced fruit when it’s not possible to grow our own. This way we can ensure the integrity of our product.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

We would like IceDelight to be available globally – the next year will hopefully see the product rolled out to supermarkets across the UK so in 5 years’ time what’s to stop us going multinational! The scientifically-proven health benefits of IceDelight are universal and we also think the warmer climates of other countries are perfect for enjoying a refreshing, fat-free, fruity dessert; something us Scots can but dream of at times!

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

That’s a tricky one – my personal favourite is lemon IceDelight. It’s a great pick-me-up if you’re feeling under the weather due to the antiviral properties of the lemon. It’s also gaining a bit of a cult following as a hangover cure…

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

I would invite Richard Reed from Innocent Smoothie. The way in which they’ve conquered the smoothie market is inspirational. Of course, IceDelight for starters, main and dessert would be on the menu...maybe washed down with some Innocent Smoothie just so Richard didn’t get a complex.



With all the running about that is done over the Christmas period, it wasn't until Hogmanay that myself and Nicola were able or dig our spoon into the samples that Mark had delivered to me. At this point, I'll mention that I'm not the biggest fan of ice-cream (but Nicola is), however in the name of research I persevered and plunged my spoon into the bowl. We had all five flavours to try, Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackcurrant, Lemon, and Gooseberry & Elderflower.

More like a sorbet than ice-cream, every flavour tasted exactly as the fruit pictured on the front of the tub. The raspberry and strawberry were packed with real berry flavour, the vivid purple blackcurrant (which was my favourite) reminded me of my Gran's homemade jam, the gooseberry & elderflower was sharp but well balanced, and the lemon (Nicola's favourite) was tangy and zesty. The thing that surprises me most about IceDelight is the fact that all these fruity flavours are fat free! In fact, researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh studied the possible health benefits to be had from eating IceDelight and the results were startling - the product kept all the vitamin and antioxidant properties of the real fruit and could even be counted as one of your 'five-a-day'. Whatever your favourite, each serving has less than 90 calories.

Now available in farm-shops and delicatessens throughout Scotland, as well as a few select stockists across England. To find out if IceDelight is available near you, simply follow the link.

So to sum up, IceDelight is fruity, flavoursome, fat free, gluten free, packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. in fact, a healthy dessert that everyone can enjoy.

The next thing I need to work out is how to use IceDelight as an ingredient, at this early stage I'm thinking along the line of frozen margaritas, although I am open to suggestion so any feedback will be gratefully received. So if you have any ideas, please do get in touch.......

Keep up to date with IceDelight on Facebook and Twitter.