Sunday, October 30, 2016

Braised Beef With Polenta Mash

Polenta was a new one for me. I’ve always seen the stuff being made on cooking shows but never tried it myself. It took a bit of supermarket hunting (and googling) to find it – international food section if you were wondering – but I’m glad I went to the effort. It’s much more exciting than plain old mashed spud and versatile too. I can’t wait to use it in other dishes now like polenta chips or polenta crusted zuchinni.

Braised Beef With Polenta Mash
Time: 45 minutes working time (with 3 or so hours for braising)
Serves: 4

About 700grams of braising beef steak (depending on how many people you’re feeding)
1 onion, roughly diced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Vegetables: I used 3 carrots cut into rough chunks and a leek cut into smaller rings
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup of red wine
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by cutting the beef into smaller steaks. Coat the steaks in flour then brown on each side in a hot pan. Remove from the pan and set aside in a casserole dish. In the same pan, brown off the onions and garlic before adding the carrots and leeks and stirring until they are on the ‘not raw’ side (about 5 or 10 minutes).

Add the beef stock, red wine, rosemary, salt and pepper, stir for a further 5 minutes then transfer to the same dish as the beef. Bang in the oven with a lid on at 160degrees for about 2 or 3 hours.

When the meat is looking tender and you are about 30minutes from serving start on the polenta. In a large saucepan bring the milk, water and salt to the boil. Then drop the heat and slowly (and I mean snails pace) add in the polenta, whisking constantly. It should start to get more and more solid until it comes away from the side of the saucepan. Continue to cook, stirring every few minutes for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat then stir in the butter and a handful of Parmesan. Done.

For this kind of dish, the polenta is usually served as a gluggy smear on a large chopping board with the meat and gravy cradled in the centre but, as I had no such board, a large serving plate did well. This was enough for both dinner and lunch the next day for Chris and I, which is a winning recipe in my books.

The polenta was divine, I can’t wait to use it again. Such a weird texture and even weirder concept (pretty much flour and water??) but so yum especially with added butter and cheese. Lets be honest though what doesn’t taste good with butter and cheese.

Baba Ganoush, A Delightful Middle East Appetizers

Baba Ganoush is one of my favorite appetizers. It’s a big go to for me if I’m preparing appetizers for company. It’s easy to make, delicious, keeps well, and has healthy ingredients (though I recommend avoiding eating too much in one sitting, it’s pretty fat heavy from the olive oil and tahini).

I hope you find you love it as much as I do.
Baba Ganoush

To make Baba Ganoush, we start by cooking the eggplant. Some people will throw the eggplant on the grill to get a nice charred, smokey flavor, but I generally cook it in my oven. You want the inside of the eggplant to get very soft and well cooked but not burnt (but like I said, some charring on the edges is perfectly okay).
To do this, we’ll cut the eggplants in half and broil them until the skins are well charred and the eggplant starts to collapse.

If they are cooked well, a lot of the inside will just fall out. The rest can easily be separated from the skins with a spoon and the skins can be discarded.

All of the eggplant is collected into a food processor with lemon, tahini, garlic, salt, and olive oil and blended until smooth. I will usually collect the juices that result from the roasted eggplant and add this as well.

Unless you let it cool for a long time before blending (not necessary), the eggplant will still be hot at this point. Despite this, you can give it a taste and see how you like the levels of lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and salt.

With a dish like this, it is so easy to adjust these things on the fly, so I recommend playing with different amounts of each until you find the combination that you like best. Even after you’ve taken it out of the food processor, it’s relatively easy to add to it in a bowl.

Often with Baba Ganoush, the olive oil is left out and just drizzled on top at the end. I personally prefer having some of it mixed in, so I put half of the olive oil in for the food processing stage and drizzle the remaining on top when serving.

If you make a large serving, it may be best to “drizzle as you go”. Maybe use one tablespoon of olive oil to start and as the dish and the olive oil get eaten, drizzle another tablespoon.

Regardless of how you adjust your ingredients, at this point you’ll transfer your mixture to a bowl and put the finishing touches on it. Like I said, I will usually drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then sprinkle some paprika on top. Other common additions include cumin, parsley, mint, and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Serves: 10-12

2 large eggplants
2 lemons
3/4 cup tahini
4 cloves garlic
1.5 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Begin by removing the tops of the eggplant and cutting them in half lengthwise.
2. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet with the flat side down. Set on the top rack and turn the oven on broil.
3. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes and check. Keep checking them in 5 minute increments until the outer skin is well charred and the eggplant is soft and easily collapses to the touch.
4. Remove from the oven and let the eggplant cool enough to handle.
5. Once cooled, remove the soft flesh from inside and discard the leftover skins. If there is leftover juice from the eggplant on the baking sheet, collect this.
6. Add the eggplant (and juices, if any), juice of 2 lemons, tahini, garlic, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a food processor or a blender. You can mash the garlic beforehand to reduce how much processing you need to do, but this is not required.
7. Run the food processor until everything is well mixed.
8. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top.
9. Sprinkle with paprika (or other preferred toppings) and serve with pita bread.
Serve and enjoy !

2 Step To Make Perfect Beef Pot Pie

This recipe was really easy compared to the nightmarish cannelloni of two weeks past so I was grateful for that. Especially considering it’s a million degrees here and I spend most of my waking hours wanting to nap. Great little recipe and will definitely be making again, perhaps with more finesse and skill in the pastry department!
Beef Pot Pie

Time:  A few hours with a bit of down time in between to have a wine

Serves:  2  fatties or 4 skinnies

Step  1. Learn How to Make Pastry

I laugh in the face of a recipe that calls for store bought anything so I found a recipe online and bada boom bada bang – made pastry for the first time ever. I halved the original recipe because I was only making a pie topping rather than the base too.

1 cup flour
140grams cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp cold water

1. Put the flour and about half the butter into a whizz and pulse until breadcrumbish. Then add the rest of the butter and pulse a few times before adding the cold water (with salt dissolved into it) and pulsing a few more times. It should be kind of firm to touch when you pinch it between your fingers.
2. Dump the contents onto a floured piece of cling film then bring together into a rectangular looking lump. Chuck some flour on the dough then sandwich another piece of cling film on top. Now roll it out until it’s thin.
3. Then peel of the cling film and fold it lots of times in an elaborate manor (I didn’t follow the folding method specifically). It should fold down into a small rectangle that you then wrap in cling film and cool in the fridge for at least an hour.

Step 2. The Filling

Olive oil
Braising beef (I went with about 400grams) cut into 2cm chunks
1 onion, thinly sliced
200g button mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp paprika
1 cup beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I used soy sauce instead)
2 tsp mustard
1 egg lightly whisked

1. Heat the oil in a pan then add half the beef to brown off. Then remove to a side dish and repeat with the remaining beef. Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan (I also added a clove of garlic) and cook until onion softens. Return beef to pan, sprinkle with flour and paprika then cook for a minute.
2. Add the beef stock and tomato paste. At this point I also added in some leafy green vege and chopped up carrots to up the healthy factor.
3. Cook covered over a low heat for an hour or so until the beef is deliciously tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Add sour cream, sauce and mustard. Season well.
4. If you are doing a base to the pie, blind bake some shortcut pastry for about 15minutes then spoon the meat mixture onto the pastry and top with the puff.
5. Due to my lack of appropriate dishes I went more rustic and put the mixture into a dish then just covered with the puff. Paint the egg wash over the pastry then put in the oven.
6. Bake at about 200degrees until pastry is golden brown and puffed (or in my case just golden brown). The final result was YUM but I don’t think the pastry was as it should have been.

It reminded me more of a shortcrust pastry and was weirdly sweet so I may have put in too much butter – it would have helped if I had actually measured out the butter in the first place but my scales were broken so I winged it.

Oh well, next time I’ll ace the pastry and have pie tins to make individual pies and keep in the freezer for lunches.