This time we cooked from a book purporting to be all about fast food, that being food that is fast to prepare and cook versus fast food you might choose to purchase from a fast food venue. There are many things wrong with this book, which means I really can’t recommend it unless you’re happy to take recipes as a guide and add extra of everything. The recipes tend to be plain and boring. They need more garlic, chilli, ginger, salt, pepper… anything that would add extra flavour. Additionally, the publishers of this book had such little respect for the people who would be using it that they put a vital piece of information on the last page. This vital piece of information is that the tablespoon measurement used in the recipes was 20 ml, instead of the standard metric15 ml. They don’t provide any reasoning behind why they’ve used a different tablespoon measurement, and clearly it isn’t so important to them to put it up the front where most people would actually see it. As I can’t recommend this book for anything other than a guide, I give it 2 out of 5 stars.
Spanish saffron chicken and rice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 1 large green casicum, two thirds diced and one thrid julienned
- 3 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 400g can tinned tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cup paella or arborio rice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large deep frying pan over high heat. Season the chicken pieces well and brown in batches. Remove the chicken from the pan.
- Reduce the pan to medium heat and add the remaining oil. Add the onion and the diced capsicum and cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomato and simmer for 1 – 3 minutes, or until it thickens.
- Stir 3 1/2 cups boiling water into the pan, then add the rice and saffron. Return the chicken to the pan and stir to combine. Season, to taste. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken is tender. Stir in the julienned capsicum, then allow to stand, covered, for 3 – 4 minutes before serving.
Notes on this recipe:
- Easy to make, but really really boring. It might have been improved if instead of 3 1/2 cups of boiling water (that was suddenly in the recipe), 3 1/2 cups of boiling stock was used instead. Also this recipe was lacking garlic and the hint of chilli that many Spanish recipes have.
- Saffron is also bitter, and with nothing else to balance it out, this dish had a slightly bitter taste that didn’t help the overall blandness of it.
Eggplant and buckwheat noodle salad
- 10g dried shitake mushrooms
- 350g buckwheat (soba) noodles
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 Japanese eggplants cut into very thing strips
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 10 spring onions, cut on the diagonal
- 6 fresh shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves
- Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in 1/2 cup hot water for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Discard the woody stems and finely slice the caps.
- Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Refresh under cold water then toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil.
- Combine the tahini, light and dark soy sauces, honey, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the reserved mushroom liquid and the remaining sesame oil in a food processor until smooth.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil in a wok over high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, turning often, for 4 – 5 minutes, or until soft and golden. Drain on paper towels.
- Heat the remaining oil. Add the carrot, spring onion and fresh and dried mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 – 2 minutes, or until just softened. Remove from the heat and toss with the noodles, eggplant and dressing. Garnish with the coriander.
Notes on this recipe:
- This was by far the best main course dish that we served. The flavours in the “dressing” really were quite tasty and the dish itself was good.
- We weren’t able to buy spring onions, so we used an onion sliced very thinly which worked in this dish.
Stuffed mushrooms with spiced couscous
- 8 field mushrooms
- 1/2 cup instant couscous
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Peel the mushrooms and remove the stalks, then grill them top-side up.
- Place the couscous, olive oil,cumin, cayenne pepper and lemon rind in a bowl. Season, then stir the flavourings through the couscous.
- Bring the chicken stock to the boil and stir it into the couscous. Cover and leave for 5 minutes, then fluff the grains with a fork. Stir in the tomato, lemon juice, parsley and mint. Fill each mushroom with some of the couscous mixture and pack down firmly. Grill until the couscous is golden. Serve hot or cold.
Notes on this recipe:
- My sister was horrified that the mushrooms were to be peeled and the stems discarded – the best bits of the mushroom she said.
- She also disagreed with grilling them top side up, so all the juices ran away.
- Overall it tasted good and the couscous mixture was nicely spiced.
- 1/4 cup honey
- pince of mixed spice
- 2 large green apples
- 2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
- 3 tablespoons ground almonds
- 2 teaspoons icing sugar
- 40g butter, cubed
- thick cream, to serve
- Preheat the oven to hot 210C. Place the honey, mixed spice and 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan, and stir to combine. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Add to the pan, cover and cook over a low heat for 8 minutes, or until the apple is tender. Sitr gently halfway through cooking. Cool and drain the apple, reserving the jice. Return the juice to the pan and boil for 10 minuets, or until syrupy.
- Cut the puff pastry into four 12 cm rounds, place on a lightly greased baking tray and sprinkle with the ground almonds. Arrange the apple slices over the pastry in a spiral patter. Dust heavily with the icing sugar and dot the butter over the apples. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Drizzle with the syrup and serve with cream.
Notes on this recipe:
- You can cut 4 x 11cm rounds on one sheet of puff pastry, so put the other back into the freezer.
- I swapped out the honey for brown sugar as I couldn’t find the honey at the time (since resolved). I used about the same amount of brown sugar.
- These are tasty, but I did feel that they were quite cheaty.