Friday, 26 June 2009

Tandoori Turkey Sticks with Mint Raita

It has been absolutely scorching recently and our commitment to a British only holiday this year is appearing to be a wise choice if it continues like this. We risked getting the BBQ out yesterday. From the garage was wheeled the creaking cookery platform with distant memories of BBQs long gone still evident. A good scrub, some new coals and it was ready for some food.

Now I've always been a bit sceptical of BBQs of the British variety. Anything that gets a bloke who never cooks donned in a comedy pinny, lager in one hand and tongs in the other ready to tease a few economy sausages over the flames isn't my idea of culinary heaven. Put it this way; I've had a few close shaves in one or two smokefilled gardens over the years. And salmonella roulette isn't a game I enjoy too much.

Thankfully it was just the family around and it all turned out to be rather lovely if a little optimistic; 6pm in a small garden in South Tyneside is never going to be the Algarve no matter how you look at it. But a few sticks of tandoori turkey stuffed into warm flatbreads and smothered with cooling raita made for a nice introduction to, fingers crossed, good times to come this summer.

Tandoori Turkey Sticks with Mint Raita

1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground turmeric, ground coriander and chilli powder
4 ground cardamom pods
Salt and pepper
200ml natural yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
500g turkey breast cut into chunks
4 wooden skewers, soaked in water for a couple of hours, or metal skewers

For the Raita
3 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
Half a cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
200ml natural yoghurt
Salt and pepper

1 – Put the yoghurt into a bowl and stir in the spices along with a little seasoning and the lemon juice.
2 – Thread the turkey onto the skewers. Put the turkey skewers into a shallow dish and pour over the marinade, ensuring that it is covered. Leave to marinade for 2-3 hours or overnight in the fridge.
3 – To make the raita, mix everything together in a bowl with a little seasoning.
4 – BBQ the turkey skewers for 10 minutes, turning regularly, until golden and charred in places.
5 – Serve with chapattis or naan breads, plain or lemon rice and the raita.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Crab and Aubergine Spaghetti

I can feel the anticipation already. Silver shoals of mackerel are now heading for our shores and the greediest, most delicious and easiest to catch of all fish will be getting caught using nothing more than a piece of foil on a hook by yours truly.

I've been fishing with my daughter recently in an effort to get her passionate about our nearby free food larder. Unfortunately the experience has been fruitless. Hopefully the bounty of mackerel we will soon be catching will make up for it.

The people in the know on South Shields pier reckon it will be another couple of weeks before they appear. So in the meantime I've been grabbing the odd brown crab, my favourite food by far, and making all kinds with their sweet meat. From crabby tatties to crab salads, not a week passes when I don't indulge in our classy crustacean.

Like the mackerel, they are cheap and sustainable and it is worth every effort buying live crabs, boiling and cooling then spending some time with the back of a small spoon extracting every last piece of creamy white meat from the body. And if you are lucky enough to get hold of some sea spinach, salty and packed with iron flavour, it will only benefit your crab themed plate.

Crab and Aubergine Spaghetti
Feeds 4

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 aubergine, cut into roughly 1 cm dice
2 tbsp olive oil
4 anchovies, roughly chopped
A handful of black olives, stoned and roughly chopped
A handful of capers, rinsed
A handful of sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 400ml tin of chopped tomatoes
White and brown meat of 1 crab
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A couple of handfuls of sea spinach or baby spinach

1 - Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and aubergine. Cook and stir for 5-10 minutes until they are softened and beginning to colour.
2 - Stir in the anchovies and cook until dissolved. Then add the olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until slightly reduced.
3 - Stir in the crab meat and lemon juice and heat through for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve stirred into spaghetti with spinach scattered on top.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Rhubarb and Custard Burnt Cream

What does a man do with excess supply of rhubarb? Well, the sensible option is to of course eat it. Rhubarb isn't around for too long and like I said last week, you need to at least try to make the most of the seasonal vegetables and fruit that are now beginning to appear.

Rhubarb has long been subjected to the old crumble treatment and although there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, we usually stop there, wondering what else to do with this highly acrid vegetable that requires a good dose of sugar to stop your face disappearing into itself on eating.

Grated and stuffed into duck with some fresh herbs is a good place to start, sitting the bird on a few sticks as a roasting bed which makes superb gravy. A tart rhubarb puree perhaps with a kick of chilli makes for a great accompaniment to oily fish such as the soon to appear mackerel or sardines. Or you could always do what my mam used to do to us as kids and walk around with a bag of sugar and a stick of rhubarb and give yourself an unusual belly churning Geordie treat, the treat being 'Treat with caution.'

Rhubarb and custard is probably the simplest partnership and a nice way to transform this classic into an alternative dessert is to mix the two together, bake slowly in the oven then burn a little sugar on the top for a rhubarb and custard burnt cream, or crème brulée to the masses. I prefer the word 'burnt' in the description. If anything it may put people off eating it and leaving more of this delicious dessert for yours truly...

Rhubarb and Custard Burnt Cream
Feeds 4-6 people depending on size of ramekin

4 small sticks or 2 large sticks of rhubarb, washed and trimmed
50g sugar
200ml double cream
100ml single cream or full fat milk
3 large egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
50g sugar
Icing sugar

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 140C, GM1.
2 - Chop the rhubarb into chunks and place in a saucepan with a little water and the sugar. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes until broken up completely. Leave to cool then stir to a puree.
3 - Pour the creams into a pan. Spilt the vanilla pod and scrape in the seeds then bring almost to boiling point before taking off the heat.
4 - Beat the egg yolks with the sugar thoroughly, and then pour onto the hot cream, stirring all of the time. Fold in the rhubarb puree.
5 - Pour the hot custard into the ramekins. Place into an oven tray then pour enough hot water in to reach halfway up the ramekins. Cook for 45 mins-1 hour or until it is just cooked with a slight wobble when you shake them.
6 - Cool completely, place in the fridge then when ready to eat, sieve on a good layer of icing sugar and tidy up the sides. Use either a cook's blow torch or a hot grill to 'burn' the sugar to a crispy topping to smash your spoon through.