Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Dinner a Deux

Some days, spending a night in can produce wondrous results. Rather than go out one weekend we decided to stay home and try our hand at cooking. I’ve been hoarding some incredible new cookbooks and that weekend seemed like the weekend to try something new. As you know, I love Nigella and find her recipes the easiest to reproduce, they look almost like they do in her books.

Oddly, I watched an episode of Nigellisima this week which had the same combination so I guess we weren’t completely off the mark! 

Tuscan Fries a la Nigella

You will need
Potatoes – cut into chips, but not peeled
Vegetable oil to fry, and lots of it
Whole garlic clove
Rosemary
Thyme
Basil


Step 1
I know one normally peels potatoes, but this recipe calls for them unpeeled, which is fantastic because the skin gets super crispy at the end. Put the potatoes in a liter (or more) of cold oil and start your stove. Make sure the potatoes are completely covered in the oil. (This method took us by surprise. I’m a big fan of avoiding oil unless necessary, and the thought of boiling chips in oil was a little scary. Luckily the chips don’t retain that much oil, they just fluff up a whole lot more than if you were to make them the normal way.)

So much oil
Step 2
Leave the oil and potats to come to the boil, which should take a good twenty minutes.  Don’t stir them; in fact try not to look at them for the first fifteen minutes. (Get started on your dessert, or the marinade for the main course)

Step 3
Gently stir the chips and unstick anything that has clumped together or stuck to the pan. Add your garlic to the oil and stir once more. Leave alone for another 10 minutes. (Is the marinade ready? Are the steaks at room temperature?)

Step 4
At this point, make sure you’re watching the pan so you don’t burn the chips. There’s an instant where they suddenly go from delicious to destroyed and you need to be on the correct side of that second. Test the chips out to make sure they’re crisp outside and tender inside.

Step 5
Add the herbs and stir again. You will only need a few minutes after this before you can scoop out the chips onto a platter lined with kitchen paper to absorb any extra oil. Add salt flakes, make sure the herbs are still on the plate and eat immediately. Yum.
How tempting is that
Drying out
Ah perfect

Now, finish your main course. You’re having 

Steak Tagliata, once again a la Nigella

You will need
1 or 2 fillets of steak
Oregano
Red chilli flakes
Red wine vinegar
½ cup Olive oil
A handful of cherry tomatoes

Step 1
In a shallow bowl, combine olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, chili flakes and oregano. Mix and set aside.
Marinade chilling

Step 2
Place the fillets on the gas, and cook them for 2 to 2 and a half minutes a side depending on thickness of the steak. You want them rare, but not bloody.

Step 3
Once the fillets are cooked, add them to the marinade and let them rest for 2 minutes a side. This gives the steak a chance to absorb the flavours of the marinade, and the marinade a chance to enjoy some yummy steak juice.


Step 4
Slice the steaks into thin strips and put on a plate. Dribble the marinade over them and add a handful of halved cherry tomatoes. Serve hot and serve immediately.

yummy
An accompaniment
pretty please with a cherry tomato on top

If this isn't enough to stuff you (it isn't, is it?), make room for dessert. A meringue is the most difficult thing to perfect and i have been trying with varying successes for the last few years. This one came out almost perfect.  

Strawberries & Cream Pavalova 

You will need 
4 egg whites
200 gms castor sugar (50 gms sugar to 1 egg white)
A pinch of salt

Fresh strawberries, hulled & sliced
Cold heavy cream 

I suggest making this first, putting it in the oven and forgetting about it. It takes over an hour to cook  so you have enough time to make it, bake it, eat your dinner, take a break and then have dessert. 

Preheat your oven to 110 - 120 degrees C. Meringues cook best on low heat. 

Step 1
Put the egg whites into a mixing bowl, making sure there is not even a spec of yellow in there. Make sure there is no moisture in the bowl or on the mixer you use - even one drop of water can spoil the consistency of a meringue. Whip the egg whites on a medium speed until they're frothy and ever so slightly stiff. They should rise considerably. 
(In the Mumbai heat, be very careful that you don't whip too quickly, and watch that the eggs don't fall. If they do, you'll have to start over.)

Step 2
Once the egg whites are stiff, slowly start adding the castor sugar. There are a lot of recipes that say add it all at once but I find the slower you add it, the more time the sugar has to combine with the egg whites and the glossier it gets. 

Shiny, glossy meringue in the making
Step 3
Add the salt too. You know the meringue is ready when they don't move while you're shaking the bowl. Jamie Oliver likes to test his by turning the bowl over his head, however it's not something I'm eager to do even the risk of egg whites in my hair is enough to deter me. 

Step 4
Using a metal spoon (not wooden or plastic) spread the meringue out on a sheet of baking paper making one large disc. I like to take a tiny bit of the mixture and dab it on all 4 corners of the sheet to keep it down. It's easier than using butter. 

Style the meringue as you will, but remember to use the back of your spoon to create a slight dent in the centre where your topping will go. 

Step 5
Place it in the oven for 2 hours and go about your day. Check in on it at 1 hour 30, 1 hour 45 and 1 hour 55. If the meringue starts browning too much, turn the oven temperature down. 


Step 6
When the meringue is done, turn the oven off and leave the door slightly open. Leave it in there to cool and dry out as long as you can. (I know some people who make this the night before and leave it in overnight to cool). 

Step 7
Using a hand held mixer or beater, whip the cream until it thickens and spread onto the meringue base. Scatter strawberries at will and garnish with a few mint leaves if you fancy it. 

Gotta get me some..

Serve on a flat plate with a smile. Enjoy.



So good
I'm a proud mommy