Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spicy Sausage Pasta

One of the worst aspects of moving is the cost.  I am not talking about the actual packing up and sea freight, because, while that is indeed very expensive, we are fortunate that the company takes care of those charges.  What with wanting us move and all, they ought to.  No, I am talking about the freezer full of food items I have stockpiled, the opened bottles of sauces and vinegars and condiments and spices that cannot make the traveling team but will have to be replaced on the other end.  Ditto cleaning materials.  And don’t even mention the bottles in the liquor cabinet, so hard come by here in Cairo or I might just cry.  Since I have a month plus a week or two to whittle down what cannot come with us, you may see some unusual combinations in my dishes.  And I may well have a few more drunken typing errors than usual. :)  

The other night, I browsed through the freezer and came out with some lovely cured spicy Italian sausage that we had brought back from our trip to Italy.  It looked like Spanish chorizo with its distinctive red coloring and I just knew it would go nicely with pasta and a spicy olive pesto that we had also bought in Italy.  I am into one-pot dishes when possible, so I decided to add in cauliflower florets and some pasta.  Okay, okay.  I had to boil the pasta in another pot, but that was easily washed!  Topped with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, this dish was perfectly delicious.  And quick to boot.

150g spicy sausage
5 tablespoons or 80g spicy olive paste (called battuto di olive piccante in Italian)
1 small cauliflower (about 1 1/3 lbs or 600g)
3 cloves garlic
9 oz or 250g pasta of your choice
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional for serving)

Remove the skin from the sausage, if it has one.  Chop the sausage in small pieces and put them in a large non-stick pan.

Mince the garlic and then add it to the sausage.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and turn the heat on medium low.   Cook the sausage and garlic until the oil renders out of the sausage.

Put your water on to boil for the pasta and cook it according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, cut the core out of your cauliflower and then separate it into florets.

Add them into the pan and stir well.   Cook until the cauliflower is done to your liking, adding a little water if necessary.

Add the spicy olive paste to the pot and tip in the cooked, drained hot pasta.

Toss well.

Serve topped with freshly grated cheese, if desired.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scottish Shortbread for #RandomRecipe Tea Time Treats

Once again, I am taking part in the #RandomRecipe challenge! This month Belleau Kitchen has gotten together with two other fellow food bloggers, Karen and Kate to come up with our theme for this month’s challenge: Tea Time Treats.  So rather than choosing a random recipe from ALL of my cookbooks, I was allowed to choose from the ones I thought would best exemplify tea time food, which for me means British food.  (If I read the instructions correctly.)  Top of my list were Elizabeth David, Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver and their many cookbooks in my collection.  I was delighted when my random choice fell on Jamie’s Great Britain and then, coup of all coups, it opened to Scottish Shortbread.  I was sort of hoping for a savory treat because, as many of you know, I am not a big sweet eater but these biscuits are deliciously simple (only four ingredients!) and not too sweet.  I am, on the other hand, a lover of all things British, including my dear husband, so this challenge was right up my street, as they say on the small island.

1.6 cups or 7 oz (by weight) or 200g flour
Scant 1/4 cup or 50g sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over
Generous 1/2 cup or 125g unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt (This was my addition, because even sweet things need some salt.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F or 170°C.

Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Cut your butter into pieces and, using a pastry blender, mix it into the dry ingredients.

Once it is almost all mixed in, use your thumb and fingers to make sure that all the lumps of butter are gone.  Jamie says, “Don’t knead it, you just want to pat it down flat,” but I am here to tell you that this was so crumbly that you couldn’t knead it if you wanted to.

Push the crumbs together in the side of the bowl and scrape the resulting lump out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Press it into a flat circle using two hands, one on the outside and one pressing the dough down and out towards your other hand.  Keep going around the circle until it is compact and flat all over.  I couldn't  take a photo with both hands in place, so just put the next two photos together and you'll get the idea.

Left hand holding the side in.

Right hand pressing it flat and pushing the side out.

If it breaks apart, just press it back together but remember, the less you work the dough the lighter and flakier the shortbread will be.

I also crimped the edges, as you can see, but the decorative edge really doesn't show up once baked so just do it if you feel like it.

Gently score lines on the shortbread with a sharp knife, then make some shallow decorative indentations with the tines of a fork.

 Sprinkle over some sugar, then pop the baking sheet into the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes.

Keep an eye on it - you want a lovely light golden color.  Mine turned out a little darker than I would have liked, but it was still delicious.  Truly, shortbread is one of the great mysteries of baking. Without leavening of any kind, these delectable treats do turn out light and flakey somehow.  It must be magic.

When it comes out of the oven, cool for just a minute or two and then, using a sharp thin knife, cut through where you scored the shortbread.   After scoring and baking, you are supposed to be able to snap these apart but that has never worked for me and I end up with irregular shortbread and a small pile of crumbs.

Leave to cool completely and then separate the pieces.  Store any leftover shortbread in an airtight container.  If you have a lovely thistle teapot given to you by a dear Scottish friend, this would be the appropriate time to bring it out.  Shortbread is best served with a nice hot cuppa.


Update:  A couple of days after I made the shortbread, I had guests for dinner.  Taking the simple shortbread a step farther, I dressed it up and called it dessert: a wedge of shortbread, two scoops of store-bought vanilla praline ice cream, all drizzled with warm homemade salted caramel sauce.

To see what other tea time treats have been created for this challenge, please follow these links and scroll to the bottom on their websites:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apricot Pumpkin Muffins #MuffinMonday

The news is getting out so I might as well tell the world here.  It hasn’t even been a year and we are moving again!  We have loved Cairo and would happily stay here for many more years but my dear husband got a job offer that was too good to refuse and we are loading up the camels and heading to Dubai.

We travel light!  Yeah. Right.  Don't I wish!

The United Arab Emirates was our very first long term (read: more than just a few months) posting after we got married so it sort of feels like coming home.  That said, I am fully expecting not to recognize anything though because, by all accounts, Dubai has grown and changed enormously, even in the last few years.  I have been house hunting online today and reading all about the marvelous grocery stores and, as much as I will miss Cairo and the people here (and our lovely home) I am starting to get just a little excited about the move.  Kind of like being pregnant and excited about the baby, while dreading the actual labor, which is the painful process of packing and unpacking in this analogy.  I hate moving.  But I love baking muffins.  So let’s just do that today instead.

This week's muffins are from Celebrating Quick Breads and Pastries and were originally an orange pumpkin muffin with some walnuts for topping.  You know I had to put some walnuts inside as well and I decided that chewy bits of apricot would be better than orange.  I don’t know if I am right about better, but they sure were delicious.

Ingredients for about 16 muffins
1 1/2 cups or 190g flour
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1/2 cup or 100g firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 50g walnuts plus extra walnut halves for garnish before baking
8 dried apricots
1 egg
1/4 cup or 60ml canola oil
1 1/2 cups or 180ml canned pumpkin

Grease your muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.  Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Chop your apricots and walnuts and add them to the dry ingredients.

Use a couple of forks or your fingers to separate the apricot pieces from each other if they are sticking together.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and oil with the pumpkin.   Beat until well blended.

Fold the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

Spoon or scoop the batter into prepared pans filling each cup two thirds full.  Top each with half a walnut.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pans, serve warm or cool on wire rack.

Now wasn’t that more fun than moving house?!