Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweetcorn Polenta

Yesterday we were very pleased to be dogsitting the Coppards' lovely dog Gramsci. After a two and a half hour bank holiday walk around Chorlton Meadows, we needed a filling, quick and yummy meal (for us, not for the dog). So I decided it was time to make another Ottolenghi recipe seeing as I haven't done anything for a while and if I had it my way I would eat his food for literally every meal.

It was very exciting to get myself all prepared because now that I have both of his cookbooks (Bailey very kindly bought me the Plenty book for my birthday) it means I no longer need to surf the net or scramble around in my recipe tin for clippings from the Guardian - I have all the recipes I want at my disposal.

We decided to try out the Sweetcorn Polenta recipe that we saw being so expertly made by that vegetarian contestant on Masterchef a few weeks back which looked so yummy.

It was really easy to make and didn't take long at all. Bailey was somewhat wary given that he doesn't actually like sweetcorn but he actually quite liked it in the end, although both of us agreed that as the texture of the dish as a whole is so similar (Yotam himself actually describes it as being "like baby food"), it would be best to eat just a small portion perhaps as a starter. Or alternatively don't be greedy and make a dish that is meant to serve four and eat it between two of you like we did. Bailey also found it nicer to dip chunks of white bread in to vary the texture a little bit. Bailey also came up with the great idea of using it as a nacho dip which we may try sometime.

I really liked the aubergine sauce that accompanied the dish and reckon I might use it as a base for a lovely sweet pasta sauce sometime.

Oh and finally I must confess that, although I am as much of a lover of fine produce as the next guy, unfortunately the dish I made was Sweetcorn Polenta "Plebian" style... Sweetcorn Polenta "a lo pobre" if you will. That is because it is a recession and Corn on the Cobs are £1.80 for two in Asda and Smart Price tinned sweetcorn is 32p a tin.

Sorry Yotam! If it makes up for it we recently got our hands on some real-life saffron threads for our spice box so we can start doing your Shakshuka some justice!


For the polenta
The kernels from 6 corn cobs (or three tins of sweetcorn!)
500ml water
200g feta
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper

For the aubergine sauce
1 aubergine, diced
2 tsp tomato purée
60ml (4 tablespoons) white wine
200g chopped tomatoes
100ml water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Chopped oregano

Start by frying the aubergine for about 15 minutes until nicely browned.

This takes about 10-15 minutes I find, so what I did was started on the sweetcorn polenta (details below). Now add the tomato purée to the pan with the aubergine and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the wine to the aubergine mix and cook for another minute.

Now add the rest of the ingredients for the aubergine sauce and allow to cook until the tomatoes have cooked down to a lovely thick sauce with yummy flavoursome aubergine in.

In the meantime you could also have been doing the sweetcorn polenta at the same time to speed things up a wee bit. Place the corn in a pan and cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer.

After the 12 minutes, separate the sweetcorn from the water using a slotted spoon but keep the water as you will be needing it again in a jiffy.

Blend up the sweetcorn to a rough paste. On Masterchef the other dude who competed against the veggie woman to make this dish was heavily criticised for blending this down to too fine a paste, the damn idiot. So make sure you don't do that.

Once your sweetcorn is nicely blended, add the cooking water from the sweetcorn back into the mix and return to the heat.

Now cook the sweetcorn polenta for 10-15 minutes until the whole thing has thickened up and is kind of liked mashed potato. Fold in the feta, salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further two minutes before transferring to plates or bowls to serve.

Add a lovely yummy blob of the aubergine sauce into the middle of the polenta and serve.

And there we have it, yet another favourite from Mr Ottolenghi himself. I have an entire two cookbooks to work through so expect to hear more from me about this gentleman's delectable food.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Courgette and Feta Soufflés

Me and Bailey haven't had a nice quiet Saturday night in just the two of us for AGES! That is why last night we decided we would do just that.

Bailey decided he was going to whip up an asparagus and sun-dried tomato risotto for our main and we had a summery strawberry cheesecake waiting for us in the fridge so I thought I would try out a nice fancy but light starter for us - Courgette and Feta Soufflés.

As you, our faithful readers will know, I have only actually ever made soufflé once before when I made Cheese Soufflés last winter and they didn't turn out quite right due to not being left in the oven for long enough. However, this time, with thanks to my gorgeous new Hello Kitty kitchen timer that the lovely Jeni Hall bought me for my birthday, they came out absolutely perfect! Really yummy texture and flavour-wise - firmer on top and soft and just a tiny bit runny in the middle.

In fact we loved the Soufflés so much that we actually scoffed two soufflés each! A bit on the greedy / unclassy side but ho hum, that's what lazy Saturdays are for!

These soufflés were super easy to make and really fun for a number of reasons. Firstly, it required me to make a bain marie which I have never done before even though all the cool kids on Come Dine With Me seem to be doing it. Secondly, the soufflés rose right up just like they do on the telly which was exciting. Thirdly, the recipe required me to whisk eggs to soft peaks with my cool spinny whisk which I always enjoy. Finally, I got Bailey to go outside and get us some mint leaves from our nice mint plant that, despite not being very minty, I am proud of seeing as it survived the harsh winter in our wee yard.

Recipe (makes 6 soufflés):

3 courgettes, grated
Half an onion, chopped
6 eggs, separated
A handful of fresh mint, chopped
170g feta cheese, crumbled
Half a teaspoon of mustard powder
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Pour warm water into an oven tin and place into the oven to make a lovely bain marie. If your oven tin isn't gross and flaky like ours it probably helps but it won't make much difference if it is.

Heat up a frying pan and stir fry your courgette and onion until nice and soft with most of the water from the courgettes having come out.

Tip the courgette and onion mix onto some kitchen paper to dry them right off.

While all this is happening, to save time you could have been separating your eggs and whisking your whites up to soft peaks.

In another bowl, beat up the egg yolks and mix in the salt and pepper, mustard powder and mint. Then crumble in the feta cheese with your hands.

Then add the courgette and onion mix and stir thoroughly.

Once that's all mixed up, you need to fold your egg whites in using a metal spoon. I always used to wonder why it is you use a metal spoon then I read somewhere that metal doesn't break down the stiffness of the egg white. So this also means you need to be quite careful when mixing in to make sure you don't knock all the air out of the whites.

Once all folded, grease up six ramekins so that the sides are lubricated to allow the mixture to rise. I used good old Frylight but I guess you could use butter or oil? Add the soufflé mix to the ramekins.

Carefully place the ramekins into the bain marie and then transfer to the oven. Leave your soufflés in the oven for about 18 minutes. Feel free to sit by the oven gawping inside to see if they rise and getting excited when they do, but don't open the oven door. I don't know why this is but on Masterchef they never do or their soufflés collapse and it's all a big disaster.

Once the soufflés look sort of cooked and omelettey on top, take them out of the bain marie. Be careful as if the bain marie makes your oven gloves wet you could burn yourself. If you have a helpful Bailey equivalent around you could get them to do it for you like I did.

Place your soufflés onto a plate and enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


On Saturday Bailey and I met up for a yummy lunch with two lovely ladies: Kate and Rebecca, who was in Manchester for the weekend.

Following all the talk of sushi that had been flying around in the previous weeks I was actually GAGGING for a bit of Japanese food so was rather excited when Rebecca suggested we go to an Oriental fusion place called Rice just off Oxford Road.

Our first impressions were of a tastefully decorated, simple restaurant interior with a very 'fresh' and modern feel to the place.

However, Rebecca and I did also discover a little hidden treasure on the way to a loo trip - the "decadence" room at the back of the restaurant which had its own private bar and could be booked out for parties and had a completely different feel to the rest of the place. Very intriguing!

Anyway, onto the food. My first thought when I looked at the menu was that there were far too many options to possibly choose from. On further inspection however, the menu was actually quite well laid out and easier to follow than I had originally thought, but I don't think it helped that they had decided to list all the drinks at the front of the menu!

Despite there being an absolutely massive selection of delicious-sounding curries, noodle dishes and grills, I decided to go for the separate sushi menu as I had been dreaming of eating sushi for ages! However, I knew at the time that this was a bit of a risk given that sushi wasn't really the restaurant's speciality and I could see that it wasn't going to be prepared to order as it was all on display in the fridge at the front of the kitchen! Anyway I knew I had to have it so went for a mixed Sushi Platter.

Kate also went for a bit of sushi - a selection sashimi to be precise with some soup, Bailey ordered a Thai Red Curry and Rebecca went for a Jerk Chicken Rice dish.

I was really happy with my sushi as I was given a really nicely presented selection of different nigiri and maki. It didn't matter a bit that they hadn't been prepared there and then as it still tasted really fresh. I also tried a bit of Kate's sashimi which was lovely too.

Bailey enjoyed his Thai Curry although he thought it was too sweet, not quite hot enough and with some pieces of dry chicken. He did however think it was really tasty despite these complaints.

I think Kate and Rebecca also both enjoyed their meals - well I didn't hear any complaints from them! Kate was saying that her sashimi was really filling which was interesting as we had been having a discussion just earlier about how surprisingly filling fish can be.

We did thoroughly enjoy our trip to Rice and I think this would be a really good restaurant for a large group of people with different tastes because there is so much to choose from. Also, as it is quite reasonably priced and located just off Oxford Road it's perfect for students who want a quick lunch.

I'm not sure however if I would go there for a very special occasion or for an evening meal- it felt more like a lunch place. Then again, I haven't had the pleasure of dining in the 'decadence room' just yet!

Anyway whatever they did it must have been good as they inspired me to spend a lot of the next day learning to make sushi - the result being enough sushi to feed a small army...

...so thanks for that, Rice! More sushi adventures are definitely just around the corner so watch this space!


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