Archive for August, 2007

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Ratatouille

August 25, 2007

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Taking part of its name from the French word, touiller (‘to stir’), this delicious vegetable stew is the kind of dish you can enjoy cooking on a lazy afternoon – chopping, sauteing, stirring, tasting, until all the vegetables are soft and tender, and you’ve got the flavour just right.

The key to making ratatouille is enjoying it – don’t regiment quantities or chopping.

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Recipe for Ratatouille
2 large onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 sticks of celery
2 aubergines
2 medium courgettes
4 large tomatoes
1 tin cherry tomatoes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
basil
thyme
parsley

Start with heating a large, thick-bottomed pan on a medium heat and add a slug of olive oil, then simply start chopping and adding your ingredients to the pan in the order they are listed above. I have found that the best size to chop vegetables for ratatouille is about an inch for everything bar the onions, which you should cut into the normal small dices you would use when making any sauce. Keep stirring as you add each element, and introduce the lid ever so often to keep things extra moist.

It’s a satisfying process to see your ratatouille build up in the pan, and watch the vegetables saute and soften together, sharing flavours and juices. Once everything but the tinned tomatoes have been added, let it all cook together for 20 minutes or so, stirring every so often.

Finally, add the tinned tomatoes. I suggest adding the cherry tomatoes first, incorporating them into the ratatouille and then deciding whether you need the second tin. It depends how juicy and tomatoey you would like your ratatouille to be.

So, now it’s ready, choose how to serve it. Crusty bread is a delicious accompaniment that will soak up some of the lovely juices. Grated cheese scattered over the top will melt all over the ratatouille, giving it a creamy dimension. The possibilities are endless, but all will be satisfying and delicious.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Courgette & Ginger Muffins

August 18, 2007

These weird-sounding cakes give you the feeling you are eating something pretty healthy whilst still tasting lovely. My initial reason for making them was thatI had too many courgettes, thanks to a bumper Abel & Cole delivery. And again, the organic grocers have come up trumps with a really original recipe, which I have adapted here, to include more protein and slow-burning carbohydrates. Courgette is not an obvious cake ingredient, but it adds a really light taste, lots of moisture and a soft little crunch.

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Recipe for Courgette and Ginger Muffins
50g wholemeal plain flour
150g ground almonds
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
2 medium courgettes, grated
120ml vegetable oil
240ml honey
2 eggs, beaten
ginger syrup
zest of one orange
100g stem ginger
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp linseeds

Icing
200g cream cheese
3 tbsp unsalted butter
50g icing sugar

In a medium sized bowl mix together the flour, ground almonds, fresh ginger, cinnamon, salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. In larger bowl, combine the vegetable oil, honey, eggs and ginger syrup and stir thoroughly until combined, then add the courgettes and mix well. In a third, smaller bowl mix the orange zest, chopped stem ginger and all the seeds until everything is equally distributed. Then add this lot to the courgette mixture, and finally add the flour mixture. Stir carefully until all properly combined, and transfer straight to your cooking tins. These quantities make a fair amount of mixture, and it’s up to you what kind of tins you use. I use a combination of large and small muffin tins, and a flat tray-bake style tin as well.

Cook in the oven at 180C for 20-25 minutes, until golden and a tester comes out clean. Leave to cool for a while before removing them from the tins to a cooling rack.

Whilst the muffins are cooking, make the icing. Mix all the ingredients together, using an electric whisk, until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then cool in the fridge until needed. Smooth the icing generously over the muffins and chill in the fridge. They are lovely and moist, so will not dry out in the fridge. They also freeze really well.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Potato Salad

August 14, 2007

Another from the family recipe book, this potato salad is so simple. Everyone has their own version of this summer dish, and I have found this one, which has a taste that evokes memories of childhood, to be the best combination.

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Recipe for Potato Salad
8 medium potatoes, skin on
2 eggs
6 spring onions
4 tbsp mayonnaise

Scrub the potatoes, but don’t peel them. Chop them into inch-sized chunks, and boil them for 10-15 minutes until they are soft, then drain them in a colander. Meanwhile, boil the eggs too, for 7 minutes, so the yolks are a bit soft. When you have removed them from the boiling water, put them straight into a bowl of cold water. This will cool them down and also stop the yolks getting that grey tint. While the eggs and potatoes are cooling, mix the mayonnaise with the chopped spring onions and any seasoning in a big bowl. Peel the eggs, rinsing them under the tap to make sure all the shell is gone, then chop them as finely as you can (an egg slicer is best – chop them both ways to get thin strips). Then add them to the mayonnaise and mix well. Finally, add the potatoes, which should still be warm, and serve.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Beetroot, carrot and potato cakes

August 11, 2007

You need to limber up for a bit of a grating session for this recipe but it’s well worth it. I’ve adapted it from an Abel & Cole recipe, using wholemeal flour and also including lentils, adding protein and lowering the overall GL value.
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Recipe for beetroot, carrot and potato cakes
2 medium beetroots, greens removed, peeled & grated
2 medium carrots, skin on, grated
2 medium potatoes, skin on, grated
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
½ tin of green lentils
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
25g wholemeal plain flour
3 chopped spring onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 150C/300F/gas2. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl, then mix in the lentils, egg, salt and pepper. Sieve in the flour and seasoning and stir well until it’s all blended.

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Using 2-3 tablespoons of mixture per cake drop four cakes into the frying pan. Flatten each out with a spatula, and cook until just browned and cooked through, which should take 3-4 minutes per side. Be careful that the pan isn’t too hot, or the cakes will burn before they’ve cooked in the middle. When they are done on each side transfer the cakes to a tray in the oven to keep warm, then repeat with remaining mixture until finished.

Serve with a green salad, houmous and if you’re feeling frivolous, put them under the grill and melt some cheese on top.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Thai & Co, North Finchley, London

August 7, 2007

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The best Thai in North London. What could be more pleasurable than chunks of aubergine, slices of bamboo shoots and succulent chicken, infused with the sweet, medium hot flavours of the perfect green curry, soaked up with fragant, sticky rice?

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Mixed hor d’oevres: a funny looking selection in the photo but absolultely divine to eat. Clockwise, left to right: Fish cake, spring roll, mee grob, chicken satay, dim sum, prawn tempura.

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The Pad Thai had just the right balance of the unique signature flavours, and was filled with egg, prawn and chicken, and a healthy topping of peanuts. But the crucial question is, does the Pad Thai past the next day test? Does it re-heat, retaining the same quality of flavour, without turning greasy or stodgy? It does. Perfect.

Whatever kind of Thai craving you have – takeaway at home or a relaxed meal in sweet surroundings, Thai & Co can be relied on every time.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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The Ranelagh, Bounds Green Road, London

August 4, 2007

Recover the chairs in velvet, get a few old dining tables and a chaise longue from the auction house and throw in a couple of chandeliers and hey presto, you’ve got a trendy boutiquey pub everyone will love to be seen in of a weekend. Except you need something more than that – if you expect people to come in and spend a tenner on Sunday lunch, you should expect them to want their money’s worth.

Unfortunately the Ranelagh in Bounds Green is suffering from profit-hungry, bandwagonitis. Customers may fall for trendy decor and poncey soft drinks, but usually because they take this as an indication that the food will be pretty decent and they won’t be made to feel like mugs when the food is served. Despite appearances, the Ranelagh is not independently owned. It belongs – like many, many others to huge brewery Mitchells and Butlers.

Last time we spent sunday afternoon there, we enjoyed a hearty sunday lunch, lots of vegetables, a healthy helping of meat, rich gravy and yorkshire puddings. It couldn’t have been more different this time round. The poor blokes in our gang were horrified when their roast lamb arrived with two mean slices of lamb, three tiny potatoes and barely a handful of veg. The gravy was flavourless and watery, and the carrots were hard, raw, and tasteless. The ‘roast’ sweet potatoes were sliced, dry and tough. Cauliflower cheese was two pieces with a couple of gratings of cheddar on top. The only redeeming feature was a generous half roast chicken – which I had to share with my companions to stop them storming the kitchen to demand more.

It had been a toss-up between here and the Wrestlers in Highgate, and boy, did we wish we’d gone to Highgate.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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