Monthly Archives: March 2012

English breakfast

To coincide with my trip home to the UK I thought it could be a good time to showcase a dish close to my heart; the English breakfast!

I’m pretty sure that to other cultures and nationalities this seems quite a heavy dish for breakfast but as an occasional weekend treat, you can’t beat it.

I was fortunate enough to have my mum cook this one so already I have a guest chef in a guest kitchen!

The key ingredients for my perfect breakfast are:

2 sausages
2 pieces of bacon

1 slice of bread, toasted and with butter
1/4 can of baked beans
2-3 tablespoons of sliced mushrooms
1 poached egg
Tomato ketchup to serve

Fruit juice and/or tea

For the quantities, I’ve put what I had on this occasion but feel free to amend to your tastes and appetite!

  

First cook the sausages under the grill on a medium high heat. After 10 mins add the bacon and cook for a further 5 mins, turning as the meat browns.

Fry the mushrooms for 5 mins and break the egg carefully into a saucepan of salted, boiling water and cook for 4 mins (3 mins if at room temperature).  Gently cook the baked beans for 2-3 mins (or until simmering).

                           

As the last step, toast the bread and spread butter generously! Place the buttered toast on a plate and carefully place the egg on top.

  

Then arrange the cooked sausages, bacon, mushrooms and beans around the toast. Serve with tomato ketchup and a cup of tea or glass of juice!

The key to English Breakfast is really the timing of all of the above.  In the final 5 mins it can feel like everything is cooking at the same time so it might be sensible to cook the sausage and bacon first and keep it warm while you focus on the other elements.

Thank you to Sally Jameson for this delicious treat!

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A recipe from closer to home

For my second entry I wanted to make something that was closer to home so either Spanish or English.  In fact, I believe this is cooked all over the world but it is very synonymous with tapas bars here in Spain.  Although this recipe is a fairly standard one to start with, my hope is if I master these then in the future I can experiment with lots of different fillings such as some great ones we had in a tapas place (name to follow, when I remember!) in Poble Sec (a quarter here in Barcelona) which included ricotta and spinach.

So croquetas de jamon…!  (full recipe shown at the end of the post)

Ingredients - gold star for anyone who notices a discrepancy with the ingredients listed below

Again, I already had most of the ingredients (I always keep a supply of breadcrumbs in the freezer).  I just needed to buy mushrooms so a good recipe to do as a last minute option.  In addition, this recipe fitted around my day in that while the mixture was cooling for 2 hours I could have my Spanish language exchange so convenient too!

About half the chopped mushrooms!

After melting the butter and adding the onions, I started working on chopping the mushrooms realising you need quite a lot of space to finely chop 115g of mushrooms!  I didn’t measure this precisely though so maybe I had too many…

I cooked the mushrooms for 5 mins, added the flour, stirred over a medium heat for 1 minute waiting for the mixture to go dry, crumbly and to change colour.  It was definitely dry but I’m not sure it was particularly crumbly and for me, the colour changed more when the mushrooms were cooked rather than when the flour was added!

After adding the milk and stock the mixture was very smooth and it thickened well upon heating.  I added the ham and pepper, put in a bowl to cool and went to meet my friend to talk English and a bit of Spanish 😉

Mixture just before cooling

After 2 hours I returned and with the mixture, flour, eggs and breadcrumbs started to complete the croquetas.  This part was the most tricky as the mixture was so sticky.

Sticky!

My hands were very messy even before getting to the eggs so I’m afraid my end product was not so neat but I’m still at the stage of cooking where taste is much more important (I suspect that will never change!).  I followed the recipe and managed to get 9 (rather large)  croquetas using the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs specified (which I then chilled in the fridge for 30 mins before cooking).  This left me with about half of the mixture remaining which I will use in another batch.  9 large croquetas between 2 people seemed enough!

I cooked them for about 3 minutes and they held together well while cooking (unlike the frozen variety that I have tried many times that always look a bit naked after cooking), they were golden and actually very tasty!  I would recommend this recipe and the last stages could be fun with kids (as in flour, egg, breadcrumbs, NOT cooking them in the 170 degree oil!).

I think a nice salad would go well with these croquetas or they could be presented alongside other tapas dishes.  For us, what with 4.5 giant croquetas each, a little bit of pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato, salt and olive oil) was perfect!

I will cook croquetas again but will definitely be experimenting with different flavours.

Croquetas

  • Butter                       90g
  • Onion                       1 small, finely chopped
  • Mushrooms           115g, finely chopped
  • Plain flour              125g for mixture plus 60g extra for coating
  • Milk                          250ml
  • Chicken stock       185ml
  • Jamon                      115g, finely chopped
  • Eggs                           2
  • Dry breadcrumbs 50g
  • Oil                               For deep-frying

Melt the butter on a low heat in a saucepan and add the onions and cook for 5 mins.  Add the mushrooms and also cook on a low heat for another 5 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add the flour and stir over a medium heat for 1 min.  The mixture should become dry, crumbly and change colour (I think just dry is fine!).  Take off the heat and add the milk, stirring until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add the stock, put back on the heat and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.  Add the ham and some freshly ground pepper, stir and put in a bowl to leave to cool for 2 hours.

Take heaped tablespoons of the mixture and roll into croqueta shapes about 6cm long.  Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls/plates.  First put the rolled croqueta mixture in the flour, then egg (letting the excess drip away) and then the breadcrumbs.  Put on a tray to refridgerate for 30 mins.

Add suffucient oil to a saucepan (I would say so that about half the croqueta is submerged) and heat on high until you can drop some crumbs of bread in that start to cook and turn brown.  Then turn the heat down slightly to medium-high and add the croquetas, frying for 3 minutes.  Be careful not to overload the saucepan.  If necessary you can cook the croquetas in batches.

Drain well on kitchen towl before serving.

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First entry! Chicken Chow Mein

So my first entry…Chicken Chow Mein.  Maybe a little surprising as the first entry from Spain but I wanted to take advantage of a lunchtime trip near the Chinese community in Barcelona to go ingredients shopping.

I started by using one of my favourite food sites; BBC food.  Searching on the recipes section I found three different ones for Chicken Chow Mein.  Each of them included ingredients that I didn’t have so the first hurdle was a visit to the Chinese supermarket hoping my Spanish was good enough to find the ingredients I needed…

The trip was successful; bought the required rice wine vinegar, noodles, sesame seed oil as well as some spicy sauce, coconut milk and thai green curry paste for another time!  The recipe I went for in the end was Ken Hom’s Chicken Chow Mein.  He is well known to me but to be honest, his recipe meant the least purchases from the Chinese supermarket so easier for me!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chowmein_74002

The ingredients!

The ingredients!

So now I’m cooking for a kind of audience I thought I’d better start things well.  First things first, I lay out all the ingredients which is not too easy in a kitchen of our size; it means removing half of the preparation space!  The majority of the ingredients I already had (salt, pepper sugar, chicken, ham) and these were supplemented with the purchases from the Chinese supermarket.  In fact, this recipe is pretty simple so a good one to start with.

While I let the chicken marinate for 20 mins, I chopped the spring onions and the mangetout and got my official photographer back in for some more shots!

Marinating and chopping

Marinating and chopping

Then for the cooking; first I stir fried the chicken for a couple of minutes.  I assumed that as I had to get the sesame oil very hot, I would still keep this level of heat to cook the chicken.  The only problem being the oil was going everywhere and not for the first time (a pity when the hobs are surrounded by utensils and oils).

Cooking the chicken

After cooking and removing the chicken I added the remaining ingredients again keeping the heat very high.  I think maybe it was too high for the garlic as I couldn’t add the other ingredients fast enough (within the required 10 seconds!).

However, it all looked and smelt fine so I finished it off by adding back the chicken and cooking for a further 3-4 minutes before serving.

Adding back the chicken

Serving!  The finished product

Overall, I was happy and my dining companion (and photographer!) even happier!  The taste was good and strong and in reality the recipe is fairly easy so a successful start.  I would like to try some other recipes for Chow Mein in the future but for now I’m already thinking in another theme closer to home!

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