Picnic Food

Week 82: Corned Beef & Onion Pie

I have been threatening to make a pie for years, long before I started teaching myself to cook on this blog.  Not counting that quiche or the flan I threw together last year – or my world famous indestructible mince pies – this is my first ever proper pie.  My pie-ginity.

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Week 75: Spring Vegetable Couscous with Chicken

So I’m not nailing my colours to the mast and saying that spring has sprung, but its not far off!  I’ve replanted my window boxes after killing my winter plants, and as a bonus; some crocuses I thought I’d killed last year have come back out for another year 🙂

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Week 42: Fruity Rice Salad

I’m back!  With party food!  Well, a rice-y salad – but it’s much better than the Martha salad I made the other week.  This last week has been insanely hot, 30c and really clammy.  Hate it.  I thought that making a salad would be the ultimate rain-dance.  It wasn’t, it was still hot and I was covered in pineapple (I obviously wasn’t sticky enough), and the rain that tried to fall in my corner of London came down as steam… but at least I had salad; and it’s the salad I’m bringing along to Fiesta Friday!  It’s been a while!

When I was young my gran would always make a rice dish at family parties – it was yellow with bits of tinned orange and peas in it, and I thought this was an update of that recipe (I’d make the actual recipe but every time I ask my gran she says it’s a secret, which either means she makes it up as she goes along, or has been secretly buying it frozen since 1964).

This recipe is in the Hairy Bikers diet book, and like all the recipes – it uses a lot of ingredients, but I had all the spices and just had to buy in the rice and fruit/veg. That would never have happened when I started the new recipe night project.  This week the ingredient that had never before darkened my kitchen was wholegrain rice – I’d had it at friends’ houses, but never cooked it myself.  I don’t know why I left it so long – it didn’t take as long to cook as I thought it would, and I’ve been getting a bit bored of bismati rice.

This recipe serves 4 as a lunch, or 6 as an accompaniment, or maybe more in a bowl at a barbeque, and is roughly 800 calories for the whole dish.  You will need 125g easy-cook wholegrain rice, olive oil, half a medium red onion, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, half a tsp ground turmeric, a small un-waxed lemon, 1 small pineapple (200g prepared weight), half a cucumber, 100g red grapes, handful of chopped up coriander.

Tip 125g of rice into a half full pan of boiling water, stir the rice then bring to the boil.  The recipe says to cook for 10 minutes, but this depends on how easy-cook your rice is, and if it’s not easy cook then follow the instructions on the packet.

Once the rice is on, finely chop the onion, half the grapes, cut the cucumber into into 1.5cm chunks and the pineapple into 2cm chunks.  I think I’d cut the cucumber up smaller next time, the chunks were too big – and I’d use prepared pineapple.

Heat 2tsp of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and soften the onion in it for about 4 minutes.  Add the cumin, ground coriander and turmeric and cook for about 30 seconds before adding 2 tablespoons of cold water.

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Cook for about 2 minutes – stirring continuously – until the the water has evaporated, then remove from the heat and add the zest and juice of the lemon.  Stir and leave to cool.

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Mix the cucumber, grapes and pineapple in a party-proof serving bowl.  When the rice is cooked drain it in a sieve/strainer and then run it under the cold tap until the rice is cool, then tip it into the onion pan and stir it around until the rice is fully coated in the onions and spice mix.  Stir the rice mix into the fruit in the serving bowl, scatter it with chopped coriander and serve to your adoring guests.

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HA the ultimate serving suggestion!  I should have added some more cocktail umbrellas but I can’t remember where I put them.

Would I make it again?  Yes and no… I would make the rice and stir it into the onion and spice, maybe with some sultanas, but I don’t think I’d go the whole hog with the bits of pineapple.  The second night we had it I served it with some barbeque chicken I got from the deli counter and it was much nicer than eating it on its own.

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The Hairy Dieters by Dave Myers and Si King (Weidenfield & Nicholson/Orion 2012 ISBN: 978 0 297 86905 4)

Hairy Dieters

Week 37: Mediterranean Grain Salad

This is my first attempt at a Martha Stewart recipe, from a book that’s been baffling me for years.  It was sunny again and it was demanded that I make another salad… and as a bonus this recipe is perfect for Fiesta Friday and a very tenuous contender for June’s Cheese Please (if you count parsley as a herb).

Martha suggests that this is an ideal dish to make the next time you’re invited to a pot luck party.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the car-keys party… but even if it is, bulgur wheat is a healthy alternative to pasta.

All the measurements are written in crazy measurements, so I’ve put them into grams.  This will make enough for 4 as a main course, or 8 as a side salad with something more filling.

You will need 275g Bulgur Wheat, 300g (a pack) cherry/grape tomaoes, parsley, 2 shallots, 4tbs red-wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, 120g fresh goats cheese.

Firstly put the bulgur wheat, a teaspoon of salt and a pint of boiling water into a heatproof bowl and cover with clingfilm for 30 minutes.  While the wheat is soaking half the tomatoes, mince the shallots, and roughly chop up the parsley.  The recipe calls for an actual bush of parsley but I probably put in about a handful.

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Drain the bulgur wheat really well so no water remains and put back in the bowl with the 4tbs of vinegar, 2 tbs plus 2tsp of olive oil (I’d just round it up to 3tbs), the tomatoes, shallots, and parsley, stir it all up so the oil is combined.  Next season it with some pepper.  Serve with goats cheese crumbled over the top.

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I’m not sure what I think about this salad.  I love bulgur wheat so that was good – but it really wasn’t very Mediterranean.  Maybe if it had used some sun-dried tomatoes it would have been a start… and been less vinegar-y.  I think to change the recipe I would try putting the vinegar in with the boiling water so it’s less over-powering.

One of my favourite things about doing New Recipe Night is cooking with new ingredients that have newer before darkened my kitchen counter.  This week that honour fell to the the humble shallot.  They’re pretty tricky to cut aren’t they?

This time I just used bog standard goats cheese from Chiswick Sainsbury’s, but next time I’ll head over to the cheese shop and get a better one.

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I would recommend this for a party, or a barbeque, or just a simple fiesta, but you should make it the day before and keep it in the fridge over night so the flavours blend better, and then drizzle with some fresh olive oil before fluffing it up and serving.

 

Check these out for something else to cook if Martha’s not so Mediterranean Grain Salad doesn’t tickle your fancy:

Fiesta Friday #21 http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/fiesta-friday-21/

Junes Cheese, Please! http://fromagehomage.co.uk/2014/06/02/junes-cheese-please-recipe-blog-challenge-herbs/

 

Martha Stewart’s Everyday Light, by Martha Stewart (Transworld Publishers 2011, ISBN 9780593070529)

Marthaeverydaylight

Week 33: Savoury Clafoutis

I always said that if you hung on in there, I’d show you my Clafoutis.

Actually, it’s not mine, it’s Rachel Khoo’s from her Little Paris Kitchen book.  A Clafoutis is traditionally a French Dessert, but recent the French have started to cut out the sugar and swap the fruit for savoury treats like cheese.

And that’s just what I’ve done (like the recipe told me to)  To make a 2 man Clafoutis you will need: 2 eggs, salt, 25g ground almonds, 1 tbs plain flour, 50g creme fraiche, 50ml milk, 50h mature cheese (I used Comte, but you can use Gruyere, Cheddar or Goat’s Cheese), 50g cherry tomatoes and 25g of black olives.

To start, butter and flour your Clafoutis-ing tin, and turn the oven up to 180c.  Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt until they are pale and thick.  Sift in the flour and almonds and then fold them in with the creme fraiche and the milk.

Scatter the cheese, tomatoes and olives in the prepared Clafoutis-ing tin and pour the batter over it and sling it in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Now here’s where I got slightly confused, I genuinely thought that a Clafoutis would be more like a toad-in-the-hole than a fritatta… and it wasn’t even that much like a fritatta:

Behold!  My Clafoutis! (As the actress said to the bishop) it was kinda like an omlette-y foccacia.  My lover told me that it was pretty bland and I shouldn’t make it again, but I liked it.  Clafoutis for one I think!

The Clafoutis recipe is in the summer picnics section of the book, and it can be eaten hot or cold.  I was tempted to go and eat it on the front step for the Lazy London Picnic experience but chose plates around the coffee table instead.  Unlike the quiche I didn’t get to try it cold.

I’ve got the recipe for a sweet version, so I might inflict that on him over the summer.  As punishment.

 

The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo (Penguin Books 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15811-8)

Little Paris Kitchen

Week 31: Quiche Lorraine

A familiar cry that goes out around the kitchens of Britain on an unusually sunny day:  “Oo it’s nice out, lets just have a salad”.  The weather needs to perk up before I start plonking a bit of iceberg on a plate and calling it dinner,  so I went for the next best thing – quiche.

It is actually illegal to eat quiche in winter, so I’ve been holding back on the ‘picnic foods’ until the weather perked up.  I have a love-hate relationship with quiche.  I like it, but one bad quiche can put me off for a whole ‘quiche season’, so I thought it was quite a gamble making my first ever quiche at the start of May.  Daring huh?

For quiche number one I chose a classic Quiche Lorraine, which is basically an egg and bacon tart.  The recipe I chose marked my second go at a recipe from Rachel Khoo’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ – I’d been itching to have a crack at French style pastry!

To make the pastry for a quiche that will serve 4 – 6 you will need 90g soft butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, pinch of salt, 180g plain flour, 2 egg yolks and some ice-cold water.

For the filling, Rachel Khoo recommends 150g lardons or cubed of smoked bacon, 4 eggs, 2 extra egg yolks, 300g creme fraiche or double cream, salt and pepper.

With a wooden spoon beat together the butter, sugar and salt until soft and creamy.  Mix in the flour then the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water.  Keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth ball.  The recipe says that if its a bit too crumbly you should add a bit more water, but I didn’t need to do that.  Wrap it in cling-film and pop it in the fridge overnight (but an hour or two is fine).

Thirty minutes before you want need to use it, take the pastry out of the fridge.  Roll it out between two sheets of greaseproof paper until it is 5mm thick and big enough to line your quiche dish.  I’ve never rolled out pastry in this way, it was surprisingly hard work but worked well.  Line the tin in one go, brush with some of the egg whites you saved earlier (I should have mentioned that earlier) and put the pastry case back in the fridge.

Turn the oven on to 180 and make a start on the filling.  Fry the bacon until golden brown then leave to cool on some paper towel to soak up the extra grease.  My lover likes his bacon burned to a crisp, so I really should have bought bigger lardons…

Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks, add the creme fraiche (I used double cream) and season.  Take the pastry out of the fridge, spread the bacon on the bottom, then pour in the egg mix and put in the oven to 35 – 40 minutes.

This is where I started to panic.  The quiche swelled up like a massive eggy-bouffant.  I had no idea what to do.  I thought about poking it but decided against in case it exploded.

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Luckily it deflated when it cooled down.  I had no idea that quiches did this while cooking, but it does at least explain why some shop bought ones look a bit like cats arses.

It was getting a bit late by the time I served it up so I had to eat it hot – I have a genuine dislike for warm quiche, but this was alright.  If I could make it again I would get taller bacon so it was more than just a massive scrambled egg on top of a thin layer of carbonised lardons, but it tasted really good.  The bacon wasn’t as good cold the next day, but I shouldn’t have bought ready-cut lardons from Tesco’s.

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I’ve not forgotten about quiche-ing that risotto.  I declare quiche season open!

 

The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo (Penguin Books 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15811-8)

Little Paris Kitchen