Vegetable Pilau

Vegetable Pilau

Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.

A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.

A couple more points: first, I don’t always have fresh ginger in my fridge, but I do make sure I keep a bag of Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients chopped ginger in my freezer, also useful when I’m in a hurry; secondly, when a recipe requires vegetable stock I almost always make it with Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder, which I thoroughly recommend.

Ingredients

For two servings

  • 110g/4oz white basmati rice
  • 175ml/6 floz vegetable stock (see above)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 green chilli, sliced (deseeded if you want less heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Lump of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or some of  the frozen stuff: see above)
  • 100g broad beans, cooked and then slipped out of their skins
  • 200g courgettes, roughly chopped
  • 100g asparagus
  • 100g green beans
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh herbs: dill, coriander, parsley, mint…whatever you have to hand

 

Method

  • First, cook the rice the Aga way in the simmering oven, except using the vegetable stock instead of water. It will wait happily in the simmering oven until you’re ready to add it to the vegetables
  • Meanwhile heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cinnamon stick and cumin seeds
  • After a minute add the onion and stir to coat the slices in the oil
  • Put a lid on and transfer to the simmering oven until the onion is soft and translucent
  • Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and return to the simmering oven
  • Cook the green beans in boiling water and drain them, pouring over lots of cold water so they retain their greenness
  • Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and discard. Slice the spears, reserving the tips
  • After 5-10 minutes add the courgettes to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and add a little water
  • Replace the lid and return to the simmering oven. 10 minutes or so later, do the same with the sliced asparagus and add the tips about 5 minutes after that
  • Finally add the broad beans, green beans and some seasoning. When these are hot and the other vegetables are tender, fold in the rice
  • Sprinkle over the herbs and serve with lemon wedges

 

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

My sons gave me two cookery books for my birthday. My daugher-in-law looked a bit sceptical and asked if I was sure they were what I wanted (I do have quite a few already), but I assured her it was. I had dropped a few (many) hints in the run-up to my birthday. One of the books was Diana Henry’s new one, How to Eat a Peach, which is a beautiful 71ztiybGwmLcollection of menus rather than recipes; it’s also a sort of memoir, an account of the places she’s travelled to since she was a teenager, and where she discovered all the dishes she loves to cook and eat. I have already cooked a few of the recipes from the book, although I haven’t yet put together a whole menu. The first thing I made was this braised pork, which I pounced on because I knew it would be perfect for the AGA simmering oven. I adjusted the quantities because there were only four of us eating and off I went.

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the pork

  • About 1tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 1kg pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 200g shallots, sliced
  • 20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
  • 5 tbsps kecap manis
  • 3 tbsps light soy sauce
  • 11/2 tbsps tamarind paste
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 medium-hot chillies, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 birds’ eye chillies, left whole

For the crispy fried shallots

  • Groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 100g shallots, finely sliced
  • Sea salt flakes

Method

  • Spread the pork out on a large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and drizzle with the oil
  • Place on the top rung or on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 minutes, then remove it, turn the meat over and return the tray to the roasting oven for about 5 minutes. Your aim is to have golden brown pieces of pork; you’re not trying to turn it dark brown
  • Meanwhile  get on with your shallots. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the casserole you want to braise your pork in. Do this on the simmering plate. Add the shallots, turn them over in the oil, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the simmering oven for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden
  • Stir the garlic and ginger in and return the pork to the pan along with the kecap manis, soy sauce, tamarind and stock
  • Bring to the boil on the boiling or simmering plate, add the star anise and all the chillies and place your casserole, uncovered, in the simmering oven for about 3 hours but, as I’m sure you know, when slow cooking in the Aga simmering oven the timing is not crucial as long as you end up with meltingly tender meat
  • Remove the star anise and the whole chillies
  • Meanwhile make the crispy fried shallots by heating about 2cm of oil in a small pan on the simmering plate. Add the shallots and fry, moving them around, until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a sheet of kitchen towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt
  • If the liquid around the pork is not thick and glossy and seems a bit thin, remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a dish and keep it warm in the simmering oven. Boil the liquid for a while on the boiling or simmering plate until it’s reduced and then return the pork to the pan to heat through
  • Serve the pork with the crispy fried shallots sprinkled over. We ate ours with rice and stir-fried pak choi

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

 

Another of my Easter weekend dishes was this simple chicken traybake, which is also a Diana Henry recipe. It appeared in the Telegraph’s Stella magazine a few weeks ago. I tried it then and knew my family would like it. It’s perfectly suited to Aga cooking.

Ingredients

For 4-6 people, depending on hunger levels and the size of the chicken thighs

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 700g sweet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
  • 2½ tbsp white miso
  • 1 ½ tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2.5cm chunk ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, halved and finely chopped (use the seeds for extra heat)
  • 12-18 spring onions
  • 3 tsp black or toasted white sesame seeds (or a mixture of the two)

For the final basting

  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice wine

Method

Pre-heat conventional oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5

  • Place the thighs in a large roasting tin with the sweet potato wedges (they should be able to lie in a single layer)
  • Mix together everything else except the spring onions and sesame seeds. Pour this over the chicken and sweet potatoes, turning everything over so the ingredients are well coated, finishing with the chicken skin-side up
  • Roast for 45 minutes at the top of the roasting oven, basting every so often, and turning the wedges over
  • Mix the final basting ingredients together and about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time, take the tin out of the oven and pour them over, adding the spring onions at the same time. They should become soft and slightly charred
  • When cooked, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve
  • I served ours with pak choi stir-fried in a little groundnut oil with black pepper and soy sauce

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Candles

 

 

When I was growing up people only really used candles on birthday cakes, for a special dinner or if there was a power cut (and there were quite a few in the early seventies during the three-day week).  This was not true in my house, however, because my Norwegian mother brought over her country’s tradition of lighting candles at all times of the day or night.  She would stock up on them during our holidays in Norway because she swore that Scandinavian candles were better and did not drip.  Imagine her excitement (yes, really) when Swedish, not Norwegian, Ikea opened its first branch over here and she could buy candles almost anytime she felt like it.  It meant she could use them with abandon, finances permitting, without having to worry about when she was next going to visit her relatives or when they’d next be crossing the North Sea to visit us and could be persuaded to bring candles with them.

If this is sounding somewhat obsessive I have to admit I’ve inherited the candle dependency.  They add ambience, and let’s be honest, make everything look better and hide a multitude of blemishes, whether it be the lines on your face or the chips on your paintwork.  What with Scandi Noir TV dramas and a growing interest in Scandinavian cuisine over here, we feel that we know a lot more about those countries.  Magazines talk about hygge and give us tips on how to achieve it in our homes.  Well, candles are part of that, and you don’t only have to light them when it’s dark.  In my family a candle would always be lit at breakfast on someone’s birthday, for example.

I didn’t pay my usual pre-Christmas visit to Ikea to stock up on candles because I felt we had enough to see us through.  I was right but I’ve been using them sparingly ever since for fear of running out completely, which would be a disaster.  Seriously.  Anyway, when I was there the other day I picked up my favourites: Jubla (tall, slim and white; see above), Fenomen (fat and white) and a couple of packs of tealights.  I only ever have white candles.  Red is lovely at Christmas but doesn’t go that well with the decor in our living and dining rooms so I find it easier to stick to white.

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No recipes for you in this post but there IS food.  It’s hard to drop into Ikea without picking up something to eat.  This time I bought spicy ginger biscuits or “pepparkaka”: delicious with a cup of tea or, should you feel the urge, a glass of mulled wine.