Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Stuck on the bus, a 10 minute journey taking an hour, no food in the house and a house guest salad

You know when you have one of those days? The ones where you've got things nicely planned out, you stay back at work to get ahead on stuff for the next day, you get on the bus to go home and then... traffic chaos! The nice, easy trip home via the grocery shop to grab a few bits and pieces for dinner with one flatmate and one friend who's staying a few days is all of a sudden a flat out pelt around past Victoria station, sprint through Sainsbury's (cheating by grabbing tins of ready cooked lentils), high-tail it home, drain, chop, crumble and throw it all in a bowl.
Two things on the plus side - I know it's going to taste okay and there's very little washing up!
Thank you to Hoochie Mama's in Newtown, Sydney (who apparently no longer serve the salad that inspired this one).

Puy Lentil Salad with Chorizo, Feta, Beetroot and Greens

2 400g tins prepared puy lentils
1 long, dried chorizo (the sort you can eat without cooking)
cooked beetroot (around 350g - I get the traditionally prepared ones in a packet at Sainsbury's)
1 block of feta
1 bag of salad greens - water cress, rocket, baby spinach, all are nice

salad dressing
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove freshly crushed garlic (optional)

Tip the lentils into a sieve, rinse and drain. Make up the dressing in a jar and shake well. Chop the chorizo into bite sized chunks. Do the same with the beetroot. Put the lentils, chorizo, beetroot and greens in a serving bowl. Crumble the feta over the top. Pour over enough dressing to coat and toss (I'm big on using hands here). Serve - can go with crusty bread if you like.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Warm weather - salad time!

The World Cup is in full swing and the weather is breezy. And balmy, at a nice 27 degrees. It was kind of funny walking from Pimlico to Sainsbury's down near Victoria at the same time the Germany/England game was playing. I didn't need to see anything to know each time a goal was almost scored, I only had to listen.
Anyway, in a salute to the lovely day and the lack of people grocery shopping (note to self - a big match is a great time to do a really fast shop [and I'm in a bit of a snit at having lost pretty much all chance of getting any of my money back in the office World Cup sweep stake and am therefore not watching games]), I decided to treat myself to lamb neck fillet, served as a warm salad.
Turned out quite nicely - if I don't blow my own vuvzela, who else will?

Warm salad of lamb neck fillet with baby potatoes, spinach and watercress

Serves 2

2 lamb neck fillets
salt and freshly cracked pepper to season
1 tsp olive oil
10 - 14 baby potatoes (depends on size and hunger)
2 good handfuls of baby spinach
1 good handful of water cress

For the dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 tsp French Dijon mustard
1 tsp runny honey

balsamic glaze/reduction

Pat the lamb neck fillets with kitchen towel to remove any moisture. Season with salt and pepper and leave on a plate to come to room temperature - I'm cooking for me and I prefer my lamb tender, so I like it not to go from one temperature extreme to another. Turn a fan forced over to 200 degrees and place an oven-proof dish in it - the lamb will be finished off in the oven.
Put the potatoes in a pot with enough cold water to cover. Place a lid on the pot, bring the potatoes up to a boil and then simmer for around 20 minutes, until tender when stabbed with a fork. Drain the potatoes and leave uncovered to cool off a bit.
On the stove, get a medium sized frying pan on a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, put in the olive oil and then sear the lamb on all sides, should be about 30 seconds per side, just so it's caramelized. Put the lamb into the ovenproof dish, back into the oven and cook for 12 minutes for lamb that's still pink but not running around the place, baaing its little head off. This is one for you to cook to your preference. Around 15 minutes should see it getting to medium, if not well done.
While the lamb is in the oven, make the dressing. I use a glass, screw-top jar to do this (high tech, I know). Place the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, mustard and honey in the jar and shake well.
Put the warm potatoes onto two dinner plates, lightly smash with a fork to break them open and pour over around half the dressing between the two plates. Just let it sit and soak up.
When the lamb is done, take it out of the over and very loosely cover with a piece of foil while it rests for around 10 minutes. The idea is to allow steam to escape in order to stop the lamb from continuing to cook.
After the lamb has rested, uncover it while you place the salad leaves on top of the potatoes, drizzle on some more of the dressing (you don't have to use it all, it will keep quite happily in the fridge for a week) and toss with your hands to get things evenly distributed.
Slice the lamb diagonally, into something like 1cm wide strips. Place on top of the rest of the salad, drizzle with the balsamic glaze and serve (you may need to mop up round the edges with some kitchen towel). I had mine with a glass of rose - lovely!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Quick, easy and quite good for you - I'm talking Quorn!

Relatively new to my repertoire, mainly due to it not being available in Australia I suspect, is Quorn. Read all about it on the website, but in really simple terms, it's a meat substitute that's made from mycoprotein, which is a type of fungus. I get mine from Sainsbury's.
I've been using the chicken style pieces for a while for easy lunches for work - fresh egg noodles, frozen Quorn, stir fry veg and sauce of choice (usually a few splodges of ketsup manis) in a microwave-proof container. Stick the lot in the microwave when you're ready for lunch, with the lid loosened, nuke it on high until everything is piping hot and enjoy.
Today was my first go with Quorn mince. The really great thing is that aside from two ingredients, you're fairly likely to have most of the ingredients in your freezer or cupboard (okay, so the Quorn may be a new thing, but I'm betting you'll soon have it as a staple). So, Middle Eastern Quorn with spinach and couscous. Took me all of 15 minutes to cook and be sitting down to eat, very little washing up and although it's not the prettiest of dishes, it's proving to be pretty tasty!
Turns out that Quorn IS available in Australia - not quite the same variety at this stage, but the mince is there. Coles has the full range, Woolworths has some of it, and then various independent grocers.


1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp vegetable oil
300g bag Quorn mince - you cook it from frozen
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 lamb stockcube (I'm not veggie at the mo, but by all means use a vegetable one instead)
8 lumps frozen spinach (Sainsbury's frozen spinach portions)
2 tbs sultanas
1/2 cup water approx - plus more on standby
good handful of baby spinach leaves
enough pistachios to scatter over the top

rice or couscous to accompany

Heat oil in a frying pan on a low medium heat and add the garlic. Saute to flavour the oil, then add the Quorn mince. Add the spices and crumble the stock cube in. Stir for a minute or two to stop from sticking and to make sure the stock and spices are mixed through. Add the frozen spinach and the water. Let the spinach break up a bit and stir through.
In the meantime, make up some couscous according to directions. Or rice. Whatever takes your fancy. Pide (Turkish bread) would be nice too, lightly toasted.
Back to the Quorn, make sure that the spinach is thawing and cooking in through the mince. Add water to keep things moist. Add the sultanas. When everything is piping hot, you're ready to serve.
I just put some couscous in a bowl, added some baby spinach leaves that I had in the fridge, put the Quorn mince on top and then a scattering of pistachios.