20th July 2020
Along Came A Spider
At Home with the Kissandtells

I'm not quite sure if my life has suddenly become simpler, or more complicated. Definitely more complicated - Ed.
On the one hand I've finally moved out of my boat. Hurrah!
On the other hand I've moved in with my brother to help look after his two traumatised children who have had to be rehomed following family difficulties.

I've been given a list of acceptable dishes for the children, who simply refuse to eat anything icky, yucky, lumpy or unfamiliar. Hmm, déjà vu? Life's a circle I recall!
Which includes (almost) none of the below...

Reindeer Meat and Horseradish Vol au Vents, with Green Beans and Mashed Potato
meat main snack
At Christmas Flora gifted me a horseradish root, for our bloody marys, and a packet of dried reindeer meat from her visit to Norway. A sort of reindeer jerky, if you like. It's sliced very thinly, almost like a prosciutto and packs quite a lot of flavour, if a little on the salty side.

I decided to use them both up in making a vol au vent filling. Together with some of the remaining Christmas Stock (it'll be fine - it's only late February yeah, OK - I'm a bit late writing this up).

Just because I'm using up leftovers doesn't mean it can't be presented with style. Hence the green bean parcels and the shaped mashed potato. But you could serve just the vol au vents as a canapé instead, if you liked.

Serves 3-4

Make the Horseradish Cream
Make up a strong horseradish sauce with 6" grated horseradish, 250ml sour cream and the juice of a lemon, then leave to mature for a day or two. Push the sauce through a sieve to remove the horseradish bits and create a smooth sauce.

For the Vol au Vents
Lightly beat two egg yolks with a little water.
Prepare the vol au vents: Roll the puff pastry to about 4-5mm thick. Using a 8-10 cm fluted pastry cutter cut out twice as many rounds as final vol au vents. You should be able to get around 16 rounds for 8 casings from the pastry.
Cut the centre out of half of the rounds using a smaller 5-6 cm fluted pastry cutter. Make a light cut into the centre of the whole rounds with the same cutter but don't cut all the way through - this will help them rise.
Brush the top of the whole rounds with egg wash and lay the cut-out rings on top, then brush both tops again. Avoid getting egg wash on the sides as it will inhibit their rising. If you like you can also make shallow, angled cuts along the outside edges of the rings with a small knife to aerate the dough and help it puff.
Chill for 15 minutes or as long as you can arrange. This will help to prevent shrinking during baking.

Heat the oven to 180-200°C/350-400°F/Gas 4-6. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and lay on the chilled pastry cases. Brush the tops (and only the tops) a final time with egg wash. Bake for 10-20 minutes until they have risen and are golden on top.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then cut the centre of the cases away with a knife and keep for later as a cap. Dig out any excess pastry from the cavity to make room for the filling. You can return the cases to the oven for an additional 4-5 minutes to dry out slightly if they need it.

For the Filling
Shred the thinly sliced dried reindeer meat, and simmer, lidded, with just enough stock to cover reindeer stock if you have it :) for about 15 minutes until it softens. Uncover and reduce until there is no excess liquid.
Slice up one or two small gherkins, then cut across the rounds to make short matchsticks. Set aside.
Cook a couple of tablespoons each of flour and butter in a small saucepan without browning until the mixture smells like pastry, then gradually add ½ a cup of milk, whisking until it thickens. Add ½ a cup of cream, whisk and heat through until it thickens. Add the softened reindeer meat and stock, and as much chopped gherkin as tastes well. Add milk or cream to adjust the consistency to that of thick custard. Add the chopped parsley.
Remove from the heat.

Blend the egg wash left over from glazing the pastries (there should be more than one yolk worth) with ½ cup of the strained horseradish sauce. Stir into the filling mixture. Taste and adjust the proportions and seasoning as necessary. If your reindeer meat is as salty as mine you won't need to add any extra salt. Fill the vol au vents with the sauce, put the little caps back on and serve still warm.
If you need to reheat the filling now, avoid boiling it - this will curdle the eggs and also extinguish the heat of the horseradish.
To serve the vol au vents from cold, you can warm the casings in the oven at 200°C either filled or empty, in which case carefully reheat the filling separately on the stove-top without (anywhere near) boiling it.

For the Mashed Potatoes
Peel the potatoes, cut into large even chunks (or not, depending on size) and simmer for 15-20 minutes until easily penetrated with a knife. You can use the same pan of boiling water to blanch your green beans too. Just dunk the sieve into it. Push the potatoes through a sieve or a potato ricer, mix with a generous lump of butter and season.
Use one of the earlier pastry cutters to shape the potato on each plate; fill the cutter, smooth the top, lift off the cutter.

For the Beans
Top and tail the green beans and cut into manageable lengths. Strip the parsley leaves from their stalks and chop them.
Blanche the beans and the parsley stalks; dunking them in a sieve into boiling water, then removing and draining them when the water returns to the boil.
Mince or press one or two garlic cloves. Chop up about a half-dozen anchovies (depending on size). Heat a little olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic and anchovies, sweat without browning until they melt down. Add the lime zest, then the par-boiled green beans, the reserved chopped parsley and lime juice.
Cover, shake, and heat through.
Make a loop of each softened parsley stalk by winding the ends around each other, then stuff the loop with green beans until it holds together.
Stand a green bean bundle on each plate and dress with pan juices.

Place two or three vol au vents on each plate and serve.
Excellent. I give myself a little pat on the back :)

Broccoli with Feta and Soy Sauce
meat side
A reasonably tasty broccoli preparation that goes surprisingly well with roast red pepper cream.

Serves 4

Mince the bacon and fry in a little olive oil until beginning to crisp.
Chop the chorizo and the garlic reasonably finely and add to the bacon. Fry until the garlic begins to colour.
Separate the broccoli florets, splitting any particularly large ones. Peel the bottom end of the stalks to remove anything fibrous, then roughly chop them. Add the stalks to the pan and stir-fry. Then add the florets stalks down and press into the bottom of the pan.
Cover and fry for a few minutes, then moisten the pan with some suitable liquid or liquor I may have used Becherovka, or possibly Chardonnay vinegar or Forvm - I'm not sure and a good splash of soy sauce I definitely added this!, cover and leave to steam until the broccoli is tender.
Scatter with the halved black olives, add the cubes of Feta, sprinkle with paprika and serve.
Good with rice, or mash. Even boiled potatoes at a pinch.

Roast Red Pepper Cream
veg sauce
A similar sauce to Joyce Molyneux's, but with more garlic and less chilli.

Makes 1 Cup

Cut the peppers in halves or quarters and remove the core and seeds. Lay skin-side up on a baking sheet and grill until the skin blackens, moving the peppers to get them evenly grilled. Seal the peppers in a plastic bag to cool, then peel the skin away and roughly chop the flesh.
Chop a couple of cloves of garlic and sweat them in a little butter until softened, add the pepper and continue cooking until they all begin to collapse.
Add enough cream to loosen and then purée with a hand blender until smooth. Add more cream to make a rich pink sauce and heat through.
Season, add the lemon juice, sprinkle with paprika and serve.
Very tasty - goes well with salmon, or with broccoli and soy sauce (surprisingly).

Spicy Tuna Pasta
main fish pasta
I suppose you could use a fresh sliced chilli instead of the dried flakes. The chillies should give a faint blush of heat to the dish without overwhelming it. It's not a curry!

I used tuna in oil, but you could use tins in water. Well, not the tins. The contents.

Serves 4

Slice the garlic, slice up the spring onions, drain excess oil from the tuna, halve or quarter the olives, roughly chop the rocket, grate the cheese.
Heat a puddle of olive oil until shimmering, turn down the heat, add the chilli flakes and allow to fizz for a few seconds then add the garlic.
Fry until beginning to colour then add the tomatoes you could chop up some fresh ones if you prefer and cook for a few minutes to thicken.
Add the spring onion and the olives and stir in the tuna without breaking it up too much.
Simmer briefly, season, toss with the pasta and the rocket. Serve dressed with extra rocket and grated cheese if you like.
I felt it needed cheese, but the sauce wasn't too bad on its own.
Some herbs, capers, a grating of lemon zest, or a squeeze of lemon juice might be nice.
You can add chopped anchovies with the garlic too.

Whole Cauliflower with Truffle Oil in Cashew Milk
veg main
A good vegetarian main dish if you omit the anchovies.
Serve in a tureen so guests can just cut themselves slices.

Serves 4

Remove thick outer leaves from the cauliflower and trim down the stalk. You can leave on some inner leaves if you like.
Blend the onion and garlic to a smooth paste, add a little water if necessary to get it going.
Blend the cashews with enough milk to make a thick paste, then trickle in half a litre more I used UHT milk.

Find a pot only slightly larger than the cauliflower.
Heat olive oil (from the anchovies, if they're in oil) and butter together in the pot and sweat the onion purée with a teaspoon of sugar, stirring frequently, until it begins to caramelize at the edges.
Mince the anchovies and add to the pot. Continue sweating for a few minutes until the anchovies melt into the mix.
Twist the whole cauliflower stalk-down into the pot, turn the heat down as low as possible, cover and fry until the bottom of the cauliflower colours. Watch out for burning - you may have to raise the pot above the gas flame a little to avoid this.
Add the cashew milk paste and enough milk to come two thirds of the way up the cauliflower.
Stir thoroughly.
Cover and continue cooking on a very low heat the milk will try its hardest to burn until the cauliflower is tender.
Serve drizzled with truffle oil and scattered with chopped parsley.
Pretty nice.
I added minced parsley stalks to the milk cooking with the cauliflower. I'm not sure it helped.

Pan-Fried Potatoes
staple veg
Roast potatoes, but in a frying pan.
Much like this recipe, but still worth re-visiting. If only for the rant :)

Par-boil the potatoes (no need to peel them, unless you want to) until easily penetrated with a knife.
Drain then cut into 1-1½" cubes, and shake to coat with well-seasoned flour in a plastic bag.
You can flavour the flour anyway you like (ground pepper, paprika, mustard powder, ground ginger, turmeric, chilli powder, crushed mustard, fennel or cumin seeds, etc) but include a generous amount of salt.
Heat a lavish amount of your oil or fat of choice in a frying pan and fry the potatoes in a single layer over a medium/high heat, tossing occasionally until golden all over.
Drain any excess oil probably your potatoes will have drunk it all.
Throw in some chopped spring onions or herbs and serve.
Good, though dry. Serve with a tomato sauce, or maybe some mustardy mayonnaise.

Parsley Sauce
sauce veg
I have horrid childhood memories of insipid, soapy dried parsley sauce the consistency of snot.
Probably we all do.
This is not that sauce. Quite.

Make a roux by cooking equal amounts of butter and flour in a saucepan until it is lightly coloured and smells biscuity.
Gradually whisk in enough milk, reheating to simmering each time, until the sauce reaches a pourable thick custardy texture. Somewhat resembling snot. Or as you prefer...
Simmer for 5 minutes, then season, add any extras, and stir through the chopped parsley leaves.
Less offensive than my childhood anyway.
You can even add a touch of grated horseradish to the sauce, but let it cool off a little first and don't reboil it - the pungency of horseradish is dulled by heating.
If you want to avoid the slightest hint of waste you can first simmer up the milk with the broken-up stripped parsley stalks, then strain it into the roux.

Tomato, Chicken and Green Olive Pasta Sauce
main meat fowl pasta
Yet another way of cooking up those relatively low-cost pack of chicken thighs.

Serves 6-8

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and fry chopped bacon until it begins to colour, add sliced garlic and stir through until they begin to colour too then scoop everything out with a slotted spoon into a large pot.
Finely slice a yellow onion and fry over medium heat in the pan with an extra knob of butter until it is golden and well caramalized. Stir frequently to make sure it browns evenly without burning. Add the sumac, cumin, garam masala, clove powder and 1 tablespoon of the paprika and fry briefly then add the tomato purée and fry until the aroma softens and the oil separates.
Add to the pot.
Lightly re-oil the frying pan. Chop the chorizo into roughly ½" pieces and fry quickly until beginning to crisp at the edges and add to the pot.

In the frying pan, cook down a cup or two of tomato juice if you have some you fancy getting rid of - it does make for a particularly deep, rich tomato base though and add to the pot. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes to the pot and bring to the boil. Season with salt and ground pepper, add the lemon zest and simmer until the sauce thickens and deepens in flavour.
Cut the olives in half (or smaller) and add to the pot feel free to use herb-flavoured olives.
Finely chop a small red onion or slice a few spring onions and add to the pot for texture.
Stir and simmer together briefly then add the lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of paprika.

Slice the chicken into strips I used de-boned chicken thighs with the skin still on, shake in a bag with well-seasoned flour, then fry until crispy in a generous amount of oil or fat in the frying pan.
Throw the chicken into the sauce along with freshly chopped herbs if you like and serve over pasta with a grating of cheese if you like - though the sauce is pretty good on its own too.
Sharp, sour and delicious.

Chicken Fried Rice
fowl oriental main
Allegedly the rice fries better (without sticking or clumping) after it's been cooked and thoroughly chilled, though Serious Eats opines that it is in fact the dryness which matters.
Makes sense.

Serves 2

Cut the chicken into small pieces. Mix it with the cornstarch, soy sauce, oil and baking soda. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Crack 2 eggs, beat well.

Heat up the wok. Add about 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Give it a toss, so the bottom is coated nicely.
Wait until it starts to smoke. Pour in the egg. It will take about 30-50 seconds to get it fluffy. Break it into small pieces and set it aside.

Add more oil into the same wok. Heat it up and add in the chicken. Saute it about 1 or 2 minutes. Then push it to the side so you have room for the vegetables. Dump them all in - garlic, onion, peas and carrots if using frozen or tinned peas, add them at the end when mixing everything back together. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.

When the onion becomes transparent, add some salt to taste, mix well and empty everything out.

Loosen up the rice before frying.
Turn gas on high, heat up the wok for about 15 seconds. Then add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Put in the rice right after that. Use your spatula to break down the big pieces.

Stir fry for 3-5 minutes then add the soy seasoning.
Now you really have to mix this quickly. Because the wok is hot, the liquid will evaporate quickly - then you will never get to mix it evenly. Once you cannot see any white rice, add back all the reserved ingredients. Veggies, chicken, oh and the egg... Toss everything together. Give them about 2 minutes to be infused with each other.

Add in the spring onion right before serving.
Finally, a dish I cooked that was awkward-Kissandtell-child-friendly! (Omit the oyster sauce)
Bit bland for anyone else though.

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