A Week in the Life

London has an incredible diversity of activities to experience and I’ve been out there doing just that. In this past week, I’ve shopped at the fabulous Borough Market,

walked through a gorgeous tribute to India’s use of orchids at Kew Gardens,

and seen how they play ice hockey in England as the Streatham Red Hawks took on the Invicta Dynamos

And after all that running around we still had to eat. A look in the fridge revealed leftover roast chicken and not much more than that. I remembered Lancashire hotpot from the comforting detective show “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates” and came up with this recipe using chicken instead of the traditional lamb. It’s an easy way to use up leftovers for a quick, nourishing supper.

First, sauté onions in olive oil until golden

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Then whisk in some flour to make a roux

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Stir and cook the roux until it is lightly browned then whisk in chicken stock

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Bring to a boil then lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes or so until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Fold in the chicken and some cooked vegetables and incorporate well.

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Transfer the stew into an oven proof casserole and top with thinly sliced potatoes then brush the potatoes with olive oil or melted butter and pop in the oven.

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Voila! In no time flat a hotpot worthy of Hetty and her crew is ready to enjoy.

Chicken Hotpot a la Hetty Wainthropp

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

2 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces

2 cups cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, turnips, zucchini, mushrooms

2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350F/160C. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat then add the onions and sauté until golden and softened. Whisk in the flour until a smooth roux forms and cook for a few minutes then add the chicken stock and whisk rapidly over high heat. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and fold in chicken and vegetables then transfer to a medium ovenproof casserole dish. Smooth the top then lay the sliced potatoes in a spiral design over the stew. Brush the potatoes with the remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the stew is bubbling and the potatoes are browned and crusty, about 35-40 minutes.

 

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Signs of Spring in London

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Since my last post, I picked up stakes and moved from sunny California to London, arriving in mid-October. The city is quite a contrast to my suburban West Coast home with it’s large garden and temperate climes. Here, the constant frigid grayness of January has merged into rainy, chilly February – which had me searching last weekend for signs of spring.

Delicate snow drops are peeking out of just-thawed dirt throughout London’s vacant lots, public parks and gardens. I took this photo at Chelsea Physic Garden last weekend.

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Another sign showed up on the produce shelves at my local Waitrose grocery store. Known as “forced rhubarb”, this typically spring vegetable (that is treated like a fruit) is grown indoors under curious circumstances. Coming from an area known as the rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire, the rhizome is initially started outdoors where it absorbs nutrients from the sun, and is moved indoors after the first frost in November. Once inside the rhubarb shed, it is grown in complete darkness and harvested by candlelight (Image courtesy ChicagoNow) throughout the winter months.

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This treatment creates ruby red, subtly sweet and tender stalks. In 2010 the EU designated the rhubarb triangle a PDO – Protected Designation of Origin status – a recognition bestowed on such lofty products as Stilton for its cheese and Champagne in France.

The cheery crimson sticks make a great compote when cooked up with exotic spices. I used star anise, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick along with orange juice and zest and layered the compote with rich rice pudding in parfait glasses.

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However the mixture would be tasty paired with your morning porridge or yogurt and granola or delicious served alongside sausages, roast pork or duck, turkey and chicken.

Start by cutting the trimmed stalks in 1 inch pieces.

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Then simmer them in a wide saucepan with the sugar, spices and orange until just soft.

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My hope is that this little taste of spring will stay with me until the days get longer, the gray skies clear and London bursts into the blooming, bird singing springtime of my dreams.

Spiced Poached Rhubarb

1 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut in 1″ pieces

2 whole star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

Juice and zest of 1 large navel orange

6 tablespoons brown, muscovado or coconut sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a wide saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so mixture is on a gentle simmer and cook until rhubarb is just-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

 

 

 

 

Bowled Over

Meal bowls are an easy way to get dinner on the table in a jiffy. In my recent article on Zester Daily  I explore the topic and give some recipes using seasonal ingredients and tips on how to creatively repurpose leftovers into yummy bowls for every meal of the day.

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This savory yogurt bowl doubles as a fantastic dip with pita chips or crudités.

Green grass and springtime

I was lucky enough to go on a tour recently of Bellwether Farms sheep creamery. The Callahan family has been making a variety of dairy products using both sheep and cow’s milk for almost twenty years on the property. Some of their most popular offerings are ricotta, creme fraiche and fresh and aged Italian style cheeses such as pepato and crescent.

During my visit, cheesemaker Liam Callahan was making a batch of ricotta in two 250-gallon steam kettles. Here is the moment the mixture started to form curds.IMG_1798

The ricotta is ladled into baskets and left to drain before packaging.

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The sheep milk ricotta (they make jersey cow milk version as well) is luscious and creamy without a hint of the grittiness often found in commodity ricotta. Once home, I set about creating a simple pasta that highlights this delicate cheese and incorporates the bounty of spring produce at the market now.

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Bow tie pasta is cooked with shelled English peas and asparagus then drained – be sure to save a little pasta water for the sauce!

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The drained pasta is mixed with the veggies, Meyer lemon zest, ricotta and grated Parmesan. A splash of pasta water creates just the right texture while the ricotta melts in to the ingredients resulting in a light, creamy sauce.

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Buono Appetito!

Spring Pasta with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

1/2 lb. farfalle pasta

1 c. shelled English peas

1 cup asparagus, woody ends broken off, cut in 1″ pieces

1 heaping teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for serving

1/2-12 oz. basket of Bellwether sheep milk ricotta

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of fiercely salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and peas, stir and set your timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the asparagus and set the timer for 4 minutes. Taste the pasta and vegetables for doneness then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water as you go. Put the drained pasta and veggies back in the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and add a little pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the dish and create a saucy texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide amongst plates and pass extra Parmesan for the top. Yield: 4 servings

 

 

The Workday Dinner Challenge III

With spring in full swing, the markets are full of crisp, colorful vegetables and there is no better way to celebrate them than to make a stir fry. It’s a dish that comes together quickly and easily, once the veggies are chopped, so you can have dinner on the table on 15 minutes or less.

First start with a mixture of spring vegetables. In this recipe I used baby bok choy, asparagus, red bell pepper and zucchini.

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Have on hand peanut oil, soy sauce or tamari (I prefer tamari) and sesame oil for cooking and flavoring your stir fry.

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A wok works best for a stir fry, but you can get away with a 12″ frying pan. Get it hot over a medium high burner and add a good splash of peanut oil. Once it’s hot, add the minced ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.

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Add the diced chicken and cook until opaque then add all the veggies and stir over high heat, tossing, so all the pieces get a turn on the hot walls of the wok.

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Once the vegetables are mostly cooked, add some fresh rice noodles that you’ve softened in the microwave, just until they are pliable. Toss all the ingredients, shaking in a good dose of tamari. I like to use wooden salad servers to move the mixture around.

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Voila! It’s ready. Finish the stir fry with a splash of sesame oil, it adds a delicious flavor.

Spring Vegetable Stir Fry

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 half chicken breast, diced

6 asparagus spears, woody ends broken off and cut in 1″ pieces

2 baby bok choy, trimmed and cut crosswise into ribbons

1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise then sliced on the diagonal into half moons

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned

1 bunch green onions, white and light green part only, sliced crosswise in 1/2″ lengths

1 12 oz. package fresh rice noodles, softened in 30 second bursts in microwave just until pliable or 2 cups steamed rice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Heat peanut oil in a wok over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add the ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until opaque then add the vegetables, tossing to coat with the oil and evenly distribute the ingredients. Cook in this way until the veggies are crisp tender, about 4-6 minutes. Add the rice noodles and continue stir frying until noodles are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tamari, mixing it in then finish with the sesame oil, giving everything a final toss. Divide amongst plates and pass additional tamari at the table.

Serves 2-3

SO MANY LEFTOVERS, SO LITTLE TIME!!!

Just in case you’re wondering what to do with all that leftover food crowding your fridge, check out my latest article on Zester Daily:

http://zesterdaily.com/recipe/nine-fresh-ideas-for-memorable-thanksgiving-leftovers/

There are recipes for soup, salad and several main courses with creative ideas on how to reinvent the turkey and trimmings into something new and tasty.

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The Workday Dinner Challenge II

This week I was preparing a favorite around my house, channa masala. It is vegan, quick to make and delicious with some fragrant basmati rice and store bought naan bread.

First you sauté some onion in oil. I added a tablespoon of minced jalapeño, kicking up the heat a little. Start a pot of rice now so it will be ready when the dish is finished.

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Then add a can of chickpeas and their liquid, some channa masala spice mix* and  vegetables of your choice. In the winter months I add cauliflower broken into small florets, in warm weather, summer squashes work well.

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After the liquid reduces a little stir in a chutney* – such as mixed fruit, mango or tamarind – then it’s all ready to go. Mix toasted almonds and raisins (about 1/4 c. each per 1 cup dry rice) to the basmati rice right before serving for crunch, sweetness and an exotic note.

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Top the channa masala with chopped tomato and spicy cilantro* or mango chutney and voila! A tasty dinner is on the table in 30 minutes without too much effort.

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* I like Sukhi’s brand of channa masala spice mix and chutneys and Trader Joe’s organic basmati rice and garlic naan from their freezer section.

 

CHANNA MASALA

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon jalapeño, minced (optional)

1- 15oz can chickpeas or 2 cups cooked chickpeas with 1/3 cup cooking liquid

1 cup summer squash, cut in medium dice

2 tablespoons channa masala spice mix*

2 tablespoons tamarind or fruit chutney*

2 tomatoes, cut in strips

 

1. Heat oil in a 10 inch frying pan until shimmering.

2. Add onion and jalapeño and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes

3. Add peas and liquid and summer squash and simmer over medium low heat until liquid has reduced by 1/4 and vegetables are tender.

4. Stir in chutney.

5. Serve the channa masala on a bed of hot basmati rice, top each serving with the tomato strips and cilantro chutney.

Yield: 4 servings