31 January 2019

Spice Up Your Cooking with Smoky Chipotle Paste

spoonful of chipotle paste for PinterestI was chatting with a friend the other day about cooking in Tortola (“Where?” he said, as usual, because he’s fed up with me mentioning the place I used to live, lucky me!) and how I missed chipotles in adobe; canned smoked chillies in a tangy tomato sauce which I haven’t seen in the UK. 

He suggested I try Asda’s Chipotle Paste and I did, and now I am hooked and chipotle paste has become another of my must-have store cupboard staples.

If you do invest in some I urge to test it tentatively before using it as it can be quite (but not very) fiery.  I use about half a teaspoon in most things I make just for myself but you might feel differently.

smoked dried jalapenos = chipotles
Chipotles are smoke-dried ripe jalapeño chillies. They are medium hot and look like this – happily looks aren’t everything!

I do have dried chipotles in my storecupboard too, but chipotle paste is a much easier way to add their lovely smoky heat to your cooking.

Here are some of the ways I have used it so far …

tomato ketchup with chipotle paste

Chipotle Ketchup

Stir chipotle paste into the ketchup to taste, I really like this with egg and chips!

Pizza Sauce

Taking the above a little further a REALLY CHEATY pizza sauce which these days I use all the time is a mix of equal parts tomato ketchup and tomato paste. You can frown in my general direction if you like!  For myself I add half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to my portions of sauce but, not, of course, for my real man. You can add a little chipotle paste to more sophisticated pizza sauces too.

Chipotle Cheese Straws

cheese straws from pastry scraps
Quite often I cook a pie for my real man, steak and kidney, chicken and leek, that sort of thing.  With the puff pastry trimmings I always make us some cheese straws to nibble on while the rest of the dinner is cooking.  All I do is roll out the pastry, sprinkle with grated mature cheddar, fold in half, sprinkle and roll, fold, sprinkle and roll about 5 times.  I then cut into strips, brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with sea salt and bake along with the pie at 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 or thereabouts.  For me I often spread a little chipotle paste on the pastry before the first sprinkle.  Lots more ideas for leftover pastry here. 

Chipotle Mayonnaise

This is particularly good with seafood and chicken and lovely to dip sweet potato fries into.  Just stir together mayonnaise and chipotle paste. I use about half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to a tablespoon of mayo, sometimes a little lime juice is a good addition. See here for more ideas for flavouring mayonnaise.

Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette

80ml olive oil
80ml cider vinegar
80ml runny honey
½ - 1 tsp chipotle paste – or even more if you like

Liquidise, whisk or shake in a jar the first four ingredients and then season to taste with the salt. Not only good on salads but makes a great marinade for chicken, seafood and beef.

Chipotle Alfredo Sauce

This is delicious served tossed with cooked seafood or chicken and pasta or as a cream sauce for either without the pasta! Just add make this easy Alfredo Sauce and add a little tomato paste for pinkness and chipotle paste to taste. 

Sweet Potato Soup

Chipotle goes brilliantly with sweet potatoes try replacing the Thai chilli paste with chipotle paste in this lovely sweet potato soup.

bowl of sweet potato soup with frazzled sweet potatoes

Chipotle Egg Dishes

~   Add a little to scrambled eggs – see here for how to scramble eggs properly plus other egg ideas that might benefit from a bit of delicious smoky heat. 
~   Egg mayo sarnies
~   Add to the hollandaise when making Eggs Benedict – maybe change the name, any suggestions? Easy hollandaise sauce recipe here
~   Use it in my best omelette ever.

potato, chorizo, cheddar and chipotle omelette

Chipotle Butter

This is wonderful on sweetcorn, more ideas for flavouring butter here

~   Mix a little into Black Bean Dip – see here for hummus and other bean dips etc.  

~  Add to Cheese on Toast  here’s more info for this complicated dish

salmon glazed with chipotle honey butterChipotle Honey Butter Salmon 

For 4

60ml honey
110g soft butter
1 tsp chipotle chilli paste
a little salt
4 x 180 fillets of salmon

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6
~   Gently melt together the first three/four ingredients, taste and add a little salt if you wish.
~   Place the salmon fillets in a lightly buttered rimmed baking dish and pour over the delicious sweet spicy butter.
~   Bake for 12-15 minutes till the fish flakes easily.

White Fish with Beans and Chorizo

I have been making this for my dinner for ages and here’s the recipe, but recently have been adding a little chipotle paste to great acclaim from myself. 

white fish, chorizo and beans

~   Add to Chilli con Carne and other meaty beany dishes.

~   Add to Homemade Burgers, Meatballs, Meatloaf and so on.  Homemade burger are even easier than getting takeaway!

Pin It!

13 January 2019

How to Reheat Leftovers without Spoiling Them ~ which is a Good Idea!

This post is about reheating leftover food so that it is still delicious.  Please see here for How to Store and Reheat Leftovers Safely 

I think that the practice of reheating food wrongly, either in the microwave or other incorrect methods, is why leftovers have such an (undeservedly) bad name.  Leftovers can, of course, be used in so many ways to create completely new dishes and if you are interested in this please see here for 219 Great Ideas for Leftovers but if you just want to reheat your leftovers here’s some useful info.

If you don’t have the right equipment or are in a tearing hurry, I suppose using a microwave can’t be helped but it is not the best way to reheat most foods and in particular crisp foods which will not remain or re-crisp in the microwave.  It can also damage the texture of delicate items such as fish.

Moister foods such as soups and stews will do OK in a microwave if you don’t rush them and give them a stir now and then while heating up.

Foods reheated correctly can be just as good as the first time round.

Preliminaries to Reheating Leftovers

Defrost First – this is where a microwave can come in useful, if your leftovers are frozen defrost them overnight in the fridge or do gently on a low setting on your microwave.

Bring to Room Temperature – if you must use the microwave, again gently, to just take the chill off your leftover.

How to Reheat Dry Cooked Meats and Fish

Here’s the Best Way!
the best way to reheat cooked meat
For this you need a generous amount of sauce – either leftovers of the sauce you originally served the meal with, or a freshly made or bought in sauce.

~   Your leftover should be at room temperature so get it out of the fridge in time.
~   If reheating the remains of a roast slice the meat.
~   When ready to cook the meat first bring the sauce to a good temperature, not necessarily boiling but nice and hot.
~   Lay the meat(s) or fish in the sauce, put a lid on and turn off the heat.
~   When ready to eat return to a slow simmer BUT NO MORE – boiling already cooked meat toughens it.

Failing a delicious sauce reheat these in a dry pan to which you should add a little oil or butter. Keep the heat low, add your leftover gently, if you put a lid on the pan the meat/fish will heat faster and be moister but will not have a crust. Turn the leftover after about 3 minutes and heat for another 2 or 3 minutes before serving.

Reheating Soups and Stews

Just reheat gently in a saucepan with the lid on.  Keep an eye on it and give a stir now and then.  DO NOT BOIL. The microwave is fine for these foods too.

the best way to reheat fried foods

How to Reheat Fried Food including Chips

These should NOT be done in the microwave which will make them soggy.

~   Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 or thereabouts.
~   Place your room temperature leftover fried food on a baking tray and bake till hot and crisp which will of course vary according to what you are reheating.


How to Reheat Pizza – 3 Ways

the best way to reheat pizza

1.   Oven – do the same as with fried foods above.

2.   Grill 
– preheat the grill and place a baking tray underneath it so that it heats up too. This is important as it will crisp the bottom of the pizza while the grill reheats the top. Grill the pizza till hot, keeping an eye on it as being thin it will cook fast. 

3.   Pan – if you just have a slice or so of pizza or are in a hurry use a frying pan. Preheat the pan over, medium heat, then add your pizza slices) and pop on a lid or a sheet of foil. If you don’t cover it, you will probably end up with a hot bottom (excuse me!) and a cool top. Cook for 5 minutes and check, you want the cheese on top to be bubbling

Reheating Baked Goods

These too are best reheated in a moderate oven AND if your loaf of bread is stale run it under a cold tap and reheat in the oven which will result in it having a crisp crust.

How to Reheat Pasta

the best way to reheat pasta

To reheat cooked pasta 

~   Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
~   Place the leftover pasta in a strainer or seive.
~   Dunk the strainer in the boiling water for no more than 30 seconds.
~   Lift out, drain and sauce as usual.

To reheat sauced pasta

Reheat this in a lidded saucepan, it will probably need a little more sauce so either add more of the same, a little cream if appropriate, a splash of stock, wine or even water!  Stir gently turning the pasta over till hot all the way through. A microwave OK for this. 

To Reheat Pasta Bake

This is a good time to use the microwave, but just at first, and is a great way to reheat leftover mac and cheese!  

~   Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5.~   With the microwave on medium power heat the leftover pasta bake till fairly warm. 
~   Pour over a little fresh sauce or cream.
~   Sprinkle with grated cheese and some breadcrumbs and till hot, crisp and golden.
warning about reheating rice

How to Reheat Stir Fries

Just re-stir-fry them in a hot frying pan being attentive to the stirring so as to give all the grains of rice and additions a chance in contact with the heated pan. Make sure the dish is absolutely piping hot throughout as reheated rice can cause food poisoning of not treated correctly

How to Reheat Cooked Vegetables

Boiled and steamed vegetables – melt a knob of butter (relevant joke here!) in a pan and toss the vegetables in the hot butter till heated through. You can do these in the microwave too but not for long or they will overcook.

Roasted vegetables – spread in a shallow pan and pop into a moderate oven till hot through.

the best way to reheat a delicate sauce

How to Reheat Delicate Sauces

Sauces such as HollandaiseAlfredo and similar are best heated in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water but can be achieved with care using just a pan and low heat. Stirring is necessary here too! If the sauce splits, which is particularly likely with Hollandaise Sauce stir in a knob of butter to re-emulsify it.

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

Remember, if you do fancy doing more with your leftovers than just reheating them then this is the book for you!  

creative ways to use up leftovers book

Pin It!

16 December 2018

Christmas Breakfasts so Good the Presents can Wait till Later!

If you do as I do and cook your Christmas dinner the day before, this will free up both you and your kitchen to make a lovely festive breakfast. Here’s how and why to cook the turkey in advance and how to do your Christmas side dishes in advance.

Here are my Christmassy Breakfast Ideas …

Eggs Royale

This is a version of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. All the guidelines, recipes and ideas for Eggs Benedict you need are here. 

eggs royale - poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on a toasted bun

If this seems a bit too much work then serve with some other cooked egg dish  For how to make rich and creamy scrambled eggs, baked eggs, oeufs mollets, omelettes and more see here.

Salted Caramel Toast

~   Toast slices of bread on both sides till golden.
~   Generously butter the toast right out to the edges.
~   Sprinkle reasonably generously with caster sugar.
~   Pop under a hot grill and watch carefully till the sugar has melted and is starting to caramelise.
~   Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt and serve.

salted caramel toast slices

Croissant French Toast

Croissants are perfect for making French Toast; the layers of the cut side go crunchy crisp so make sure to serve cut side up so that said layers trap all the gooey maple syrup and butter or what have you.  

Per person ...

1 croissant – stale is fine
1 egg
½ tbsp sugar
50ml milk or cream or a mixture
a few drips of vanilla extract
pinch salt

~   Cut the croissant in half lengthways.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients.
~   Soak the croissant in the mixture for about 10 minutes till soggy but not falling apart.
~   Fry till crisp in a little butter.
~   Serve cut side up with butter and maple syrup or whatever else you fancy.

croissant french toast with jug of syrup

Of course you can do the same thing with a couple of slices of bread.  For a custardy middle cut the bread on the thick side and soak for a few minutes.  When I did this for brunch when working in the Caribbean, out of respect for their culture, I always added a little rum to the egg mixture - it was well received! 

Festive Pancakes with Warm Boozy Mincemeat Sauce

See here for how to make several types of pancakes (thick and fluffy American style, crepes, gluten free) and serve topped with this sauce ...

180g mincemeat
150g soft light brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
60ml rum or brandy

~ Gently stir together all the ingredients over low heat till amalgamated and hot. That’s it!

This sauce is also good stirred into porridge!

Eggnog Bread Pudding 

- serves four

Croissants work well for this too, make sure the top layer has the cut side of the croissants uppermost for a crunchy finish.

100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
200ml milk
100ml double cream
2 eggs
80g sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
maybe, up to you, 1 tbsp rum or brandy

~ If the bread isn’t stale dice or tear into pieces and either leave it around the place for an hour or so or put it on a baking tray and pop in the oven for a few minutes.
~ Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish or divide between ramekins.
~ Whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over pushing the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do, which is great for Christmas!
~ Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~ Sprinkle the pudding with the extra sugar and bake for about 30 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.
~ Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best!

freshly baked bread pudding

Speaking of bread pudding here’s an easy idea I had but I don’t know what to call it – Stollen Surprise?!

Creamy Stollen Pots

~   Reheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5. 
~   Butter as many ramekins as you have diners.
~   Fill each ramekin with diced stollen.
~   Pour over enough double cream to cover.
~   Bake for about 15 minutes till hot and turning golden.

creamy baked stollen for breakfast

Drinks for Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Mimosa

glass of  cranberry orange mimosaMimosa is American for Buck’s Fizz …

chilled Champagne
cranberry juice
orange liqueur such as Cointreau

~   Half fill glasses with cranberry juice.
~   Add a splash of liqueur.
~   Top up with Champagne
~   Garnish with an orange slice.

Easy Peasy!

Quick and Easy Eggnog for 2

If you are worried about raw eggs, then I’m afraid this isn’t for you.
2 lovely fresh eggs
90 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract – the real stuff, of course
225 ml double cream
300 ml cold milk

~   Whisk together the eggs and the sugar till starting to thicken.
~   Whisk in the vanilla and the double cream till well combined.
~   Lastly whisk in the milk.
~   Chill till needed.
egg nog handy hint note
~   Add a tot of brandy, rum or whisky to the glass when serving. 

For storage I decanted mine into an empty Brandy bottle I had (where do they come from?) so that the aroma can infuse into my nog.  See, I even hate to waste smells!  Serve chilled with a tot of brandy, rum or bourbon in it and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.

See here for some more hot toddies and winter cocktails that you might like for breakfast! 

Pin It!

24 November 2018

How to "Season to Taste"

"to everyhting there is a season" - ecclesiastes 1

Only joking!

A common, almost obligatory, instruction in recipes is “season to taste” but this is quite a broad direction so here's some guidance.

For most of my cooking life (quite a long while, actually) it has been generally accepted that there are 5 basic flavours that we can taste;

Salty * Sweet * Sour * Bitter * Umami

Recently, it has been suggested that we humans can identify other tastes; fat and pungent and/or astringent, but I am not going to deal with these here, probably soon though!

Seasoning with Salt

spoonful of sea saltSalt is amazing stuff, not only does it make food taste, umm … salty, it can also bring out the sweetness of a dish (think salted caramel – yum!) and it can even reduce bitterness, as in when you add a pinch of salt to coffee.  You do that don’t you? If not give it a try!

Which salt to use?

When I am salting potatoes for boiling, seasoning a sauce or adding a pinch to my coffee I use table salt.  When I am seasoning meat or adding a sprinkle to a finished dish, I normally use Maldon sea. In the US kosher salt, which is similarly flaky, is frequently used. 

Salty ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Olives
     ~  Capers
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Prosciutto (prosciutto butter is a great way to add salt to a dish )
     ~  Salty cheese such as Feta
     ~  Soy sauce

Salt can be added at different times whilst preparing a dish ...

Salting Before Cooking

Adding salt at the start of cooking has a different effect than salting at the end; it infuses the whole dish. Two ways to add salt at the beginning are add salt to water when cooking vegetables, pasta, rice etc. and sprinkling salt onto something to be cooked over dry heat such as meat or fish. Although salt is known to draw juices out of meat (and anything else) salting immediately before cooking is nevertheless a good thing, it adds flavour and doesn't have time for any juice-drawing so salt before roasting, frying etc.

Interestingly enough, if you salt large pieces of meat long enough in advance the salt will indeed draw out some of the juices, but they will then be reabsorbed right into the centre of the meat thus seasoning the inside!! Rub a spoonful of sea salt into a joint of meat and leave for 4 or more hours before cooking. Smaller cuts of meat, duck breast for instance or steak, will benefit in the same way from salting say 20 minutes for the duck breast or 40 for a steak, before cooking. Wipe the meat surface before continuing so that you get a good sear and see here for how to make a delicious pan sauce from browned meat juices.  

Salting During Cooking

If you add something new to the dish such as cream, stock, or anything really, add a little more salt.

Salting After Cooking

Once cooked, whatever it is, season “to taste” thus ~  taste, add a little salt, taste, add another pinch of salt, taste again, repeat till it is delicious. You are not aiming for a saltier taste but a brighter one with the sweet and bitter elements balanced out by the salt. Repeat till the food tastes exactly how you like it!

Most people have salt and pepper on the table when serving so diners can also make small adjustments.
add something sweet or acidic to fix a salty dish

Seasoning with Sweetness

At first it might seem strange seasoning savoury foods with sweet ingredients, but a touch of sugar can give a real boost. Consider the many table sauces we use with savoury foods which contain high levels of sugar – mint sauce, tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce etc. Caramelised onions are gorgeous in many savoury dishes.

Adding just a little sugar makes salty things taste less salty and sour things taste less sour – a little brown sugar can be great in beef dishes see this recipe for Korean Bulgogi  and sugar or a sweet ingredient such as tomato ketchup makes a tomato based dish even lovelier.

Sugar is the obvious sweet ingredient here but choose appropriately; dark brown sugar goes well with beef and gives a caramel taste, light brown sugar is a bit butterscotchy, white sugar is probably the best all purpose taste. 

Sweet ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Sugar
     ~  Honey     
     ~  Maple syrup     
     ~  Jam     
     ~  Fruits - sweet ones, not citrus, cranberry or pineapple           ~  Dried fruits     
     ~  Caramelised onions
if food too sweet add sourness or bitternes, not salt
Oddly enough, if a meal is too sweet don’t try to balance it by adding salt – as I said above salt can make things taste sweeter. Instead add a squeeze of lemon or lime or a dash of vinegar as appropriate.

Seasoning with Sourness

squeezing lemon juiceA dash of citrus juice or vinegar can really brighten a dish, in fact if you are nervous about too much salt when tasting and seasoning try a squeeze of lemon. It will also balance out too much sweetness or spiciness.  

Sour ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Lemon and lime juice
     ~  Canned tomatoes (fresh too but not so much)
     ~  Vinegar – lots to choose from so select one that goes with what you are cooking!
     ~  Sour cream and buttermilk
     ~  Tamarind paste
add cream, butter or something sweet to balance an acidic dish

Seasoning with Bitterness

dark chocolate can balance an over sweet dish

Bitter flavours can be used to balance rich or over-sweet dish for instance a dash of coffee in a sweet chocolate dessert. 

Bitter ingredients for balancing a dish include …

     ~  Coffee
     ~  Unsweetened cocoa and very dark chocolate
     ~  Citrus peels 
     ~  Olives
     ~  Grapefruit
     ~  Horseradish.

add something sweet to balance bitterness

Seasoning with Umami/Savourines

jar of marmite

Umami is apparently Japanese for savouriness or a pleasant savoury taste which was identified as a basic taste by Professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 but it seems to have been some while before we adopted the word. I was happy with savoury! I’m not going to go into details here, but it is something to do with glutamate

These savoury ingredients add depth to your food. 

Umami rich ingrediets include …

     ~  Marmite (apologies to American readers, didn't mean to frighten you!)
     ~  Soy sauce 
     ~  Parmesan cheese, Blue cheese & Cheddar cheese
     ~  Mushrooms generally and dried shiitake mushrooms in particular
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Worcestershire Sauce - because it contains anchovies 
     ~  Dry-cured ham 
     ~  Tomatoes
     ~  Oyster sauce 
     ~  Miso
     ~  Beef broth

… and I think reading this list you can imagine the type of taste I am referring to. If you add one or more of these ingredients, as appropriate of course, to your cooking you will give it a real flavour boost.
add someting bland if meal is to overpowering

Important when Seasoning Cold Dishes

chilled foods must be highly seasoned

Pin It!