Quick and Tasty Beef Koftas

Looking for a winning dish for dinner?

Cooked beef koftas

In that case, you should know that these beef koftas are almost effortless to whip up; the bulk of the time it takes to make them is actually the 30 minutes chilling time. Winner.

They don’t seem that effortless to the people eating them, who will demonstrate their appreciation of your ‘slaving’ over dinner by showering you with attention and affection.  Win, win.

They’ll probably do the washing up too.  Win, win, win.

Of course, they taste amazing too.  Win, win, win, win.

Well, would you look at that!  It would appear that the beef koftas are quadruple winners!  There’s clearly no need for you to continue your search for a dinner dish, which is happy news, because by now you must be very hungry.  I shall delay you no longer and will proceed to tell you how to make this scrumptious meal…

Kofta ingredients

Serves 3-6 people, depending on accompanying dishes

Ingredients
500g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon harissa paste (If I’d had harissa paste in the stores I’d have used it, and the dish would have benefited from it, so I’ve included it here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 wooden skewers
Music

Done your onion and chilli chopping?  Ok then, let’s get this show on the road…

Mix ingredients by hand

Throw everything (apart from the skewers) into a bowl and use your hands to mix well.

Shape onto skewers

Divide the mix into 12 rough balls then form into oval shapes on the wooden skewers (or make into patties if you don’t have any skewers).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Beef koftas

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or grill and cook for around 8-12 minutes on a medium to high heat, turning to ensure they’re browned all over.

Job’s a good ‘un!

Beef koftas with Mediterranean dips

Served here with a minty cucumber sauce*, pitta bread and a selection of Mediterranean dips*.

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* Recipes to follow shortly 🙂

Stuffed Peppers

After a slightly confused conversation with Chef J recently I feel I should explain something, for the benefit of the non-European readers amongst you: what we call ‘minced’ beef/pork/lamb you would call ‘ground’ meat.

You should also be aware that mincemeat (all one word) has nothing to do with meat at all (any more) and is in fact a sweet mixture made with dried fruit, spices, suet and sugar, used for filling pies at Christmas. I say ‘any more’ because originally there was chopped up meat in the mixture; I believe it was a way of using up roast meat left overs, with the spices used to help disguise the less than fresh quality of said meat, but that may be wrong…who knows what went on in the minds of 17th century cooks?!

Does that all make sense?  We don’t want any Rachel’s trifle type dishes now, do we 😉

halved peppers

Serves 4 hungry people

Ingredients
4 red peppers, washed halved and de-seeded
500g minced pork (or beef or lamb – as you fancy)
1-2 red onions, finely diced
1-2 celery sticks, finely diced
1-2 carrots, finely diced (no need to peel unless they’re very old carrots)
a good glug of olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 red chillies, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 slices of cheese – not pre-sliced, processed nastiness – some slabs of something good, like a very mature cheddar, carved from the block.  Don’t forget to eat one or two pieces, for quality control purposes.

For the sauce
a splosh of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock pot/stock cube
½ a glass of white wine (optional)

Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350°F

diced courgette and onion with tinned tomatoesFor the sauce – heat the olive oil, add onions and courgettes and cook over a low heat until the onions begin to caramelise (go a little bit brown and sticky!)

Add wine, tinned tomatoes and stock pot. Stir well to mix, bring to a simmer then turn off heat and set to one side.

diced red onion, carrot and celeryIn a different pan, heat a small amount of oil, add minced pork and cook, stirring, until there is no pink left.  Drain off any excess fat, put in a bowl and set to one side.

Now heat another glug of olive oil, add onions, celery and carrots and cook over a medium to low heat until soft but not brown.

spices and chopped garlicAdd chillies, garlic and spices and cook for another minute or so.

Throw the cooked meat back in and give it a good stirring to be sure everything’s mixed well.

Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of an oven proof dish,keeping a few tablespoons in reserve for topping your peppers.

slices of cheese on topFill each pepper half with meat mixture, squashing it down well with the back of your spoon. Top each one with a spoonful of the reserved sauce and a slice of cheese then place into the sauce bedded dish.

Baked peppersBake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes, or until the pepper has cooked. To test cookedness, you’ll have to put on you asbestos fingers and give it a little squeeze – I know of no other way!

served on a bed of riceServe on a bed of steamed rice with now thickened sauce spooned over or around.
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8 – 12 Course Menu, with paired drinks

I have been a bad blogger.  There have been reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them.  Instead I shall offer a gourmet feast for your delectation.

Birthday Dinner TableHowever, before I do that I’d like to quickly address a couple of things:

Firstly, number of courses…it helps to know how many you’re creating so you can brag say, “I cooked an X course meal for eight people”.  I promise, I can count up to twenty and beyond, without even using my fingers and toes, but on this I’m a little confused.

When making the count apparently certain parts of a meal don’t qualify as a course.  If you discriminate against certain foodstuffs in this fashion, and don’t include palate cleansers or coffee, then this would be an eight course meal.  I have questions about the validity of this counting method.

Then there’s the order of courses… Soup before salad? Cheese before dessert? Where do palate cleansers fit in? Surely there must be some kind of standard?  But no, apparently not.  I’m telling you, a quick look around the internet and you’ll see what I mean…anything beyond three courses the whole thing’s up for debate.  Right or wrong, this is how we opted to do things (‘we’ being me, of course!).

Centre pieceThis meal was a really fun thing to do for Big Sis’s birthday.  I had an awesome time, from planning to consumption. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed themselves just as much!

Recipes will follow, as will the update on the now completed Cupboard Challenge, but for now, let me run you through the menu…

Amuse bouche - dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Now, those eight courses I mentioned – that includes the amuse-bouche…but are you supposed to include them?

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta
Drink pairing: Wheat beer

Twisted Waldorf Salad - savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing

Twisted Waldorf Salad – savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing
Drink pairing: Dry cider

Lemon sorbet (Not home made.  Don't judge.  Time constraints guys, time constraints!)

Lemon sorbet.  Not home made. Please don’t judge me…time constraints guys, time constraints!

Seriously now, why do palate cleansers not qualify as a course?  In a meal of this type they’re about the same size as other things that pass muster.  Seems a little wrong to me.  It’s like saying, “You’re just here to clean my mouth out…you can’t be a course, you’re not substantial enough.  You’re not even really food.”

Poor bullied sorbet 😉

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Steak ‘n’ salad

The last few days have been utter madness.

Firstly, someone drove into the back of the car Barn was travelling to work in.  Fortunately no-one was seriously injured, and for that I am truly grateful.

However, Barn and one of his colleagues sustained some damage to neck, shoulder and back.  Barn has been a little vexed and cranky about this; not because of the discomfort per se, more because it’s impeding his usual gym routine – challenging times for this born again fitness enthusiast (and his long suffering wife 😉 )

Additionally, things have been particularly  demanding at the day job – it’s one of our busy periods, so long and late shifts are currently fairly standard. On top of that it seems that anything that could go wrong, has been going wrong, particularly anything computerised; we barely get one thing sorted when another implodes. Pile on top of that a couple of ‘problem’ employees, impending deadlines for important paperwork, and a sudden procedural change that requires my whole team to be retrained.  A tad stressful.

Crazy EmpressNow, just for good measure, let’s add in the Crazy Empress, who has suddenly decided to spend 90% of her waking time sitting at closed doors crying to be let in/out.  It’s not that she wants to actually be somewhere…she just wants to be on the other side of any closed door.  As soon as you let her through, she wants to come back again.  So essentially, all internal house doors must be open, or she will cry.  That’s such fun!

MoochFinally, we have Mooch who, never wanting to be left out of anything, has decided to cry every time the cat does.  Not for anything, just because the cat’s doing it.  It’s like having a pair of toddlers in the house.

Perhaps then, you will understand why on Day 5 of the Cupboard Challenge, I was seeking the easiest of easy food?  Comfort food with a vitamin punch was needed, sought and found in the form of steak, baked potato, salad and blue cheese dressing.

And some music to go with it…

I’m absolutely positive you don’t need me to tell you how to cook a steak, so I’m not going to.

Steak, baked potato and saladI used up a lovely little piece of fillet steak that had been loitering in a corner of the freezer just waiting for me to want it;  Barn had half a chicken but I forgot to photograph that.  I’m sure you can imagine what half a roast chicken looks like.

Salad stuffI’m pretty sure you can bake a potato and make a salad too.  This is what went into my salad.

Blue cheese dressingI made a blue cheese dressing by mashing some Danish Blue together with mayonnaise; in the absence of soured cream I loosened it with a little balsamic dressing.  The consistency was more like a dip and visually it was a bit like cement, but my word, it tasted divine!

Steak, salad and baked potatoAnd there you have it – a simple, comforting, nutritious dinner to fortify the flagging Renegades.

I hope you’re all having a smoother week than we are?

If not, hang in there, the weekend’s coming! 🙂

x

Thai Style Meatballs

The first focus for the Cupboard Challenge was to use up six Italian herb flavoured meatballs that were in the freezer. We’d eaten their compatriots with tomato sauce and spaghetti, but had not been wildly impressed – that’s why the last six were still in the freezer waiting to be cooked.

I’m happy to say they were quite delicious served up like this.

To serve two:

herbs and spicesCurry Paste Ingredients
4 cloves garlic
2 red bird’s eye chillies (I remove the seeds – you might like to keep them in and set your mouth on fire)
1 green finger chilli (see above)
1 kaffir lime leaf
a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon galangal paste
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 teaspoons tamari (or use soy sauce)
A good handful of fresh coriander
Approx. 150g soffritto

Other Ingredients
Approx. 2 tablespoons rapeseed/canola oil
6 meatballs
5 tablespoons passata
1 tin coconut milk
1 chicken stockpot (I’m sure a stock cube would do just as well)
1 handful green beans
Rice noodles
1 spring onion, chopped, to garnish
Music

Ready?  Ok, let’s get started…with soffrito, chopped

Chuck all the curry paste ingredients into the food processor and whizz until finely chopped.

browning the meatballsHeat oil in pan (you need to use one that has a lid – the lid comes later), add meatballs and curry paste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meatballs are browned and spice mix is beginning to release those yummy oils.

passata

coconut milk

Chicken stockpot

Add passata, coconut milk and stockpot.  Stir well, bring to the boil then lower heat.  Cover pan with lid (there’s the lid!) and gently simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

green beans

Add green beans and cook for a further 15 minutes.Rice noodles

While the beans are cooking, get your rice noodles under way.  These ones just need to be soaked in hot water for 15 minutes – simplicity itself.Thai style meatballs with rice noodles

Drain noodles, ladle on meatballs and sauce, scatter with chopped spring onion, say, “ta-da!”

So that’s what I cooked up.  What would you have done with the six bland meatballs?

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Introducing the Cupboard Challenge

Cupboard ChallengeI collect ingredients with the compulsive fervour of a school boy collecting football cards.

Our ‘big shop’ is done (online) with some consideration and a degree of meal planning.  However, if I allow myself to roam, in real life, anywhere ingredients are sold, I tend to buy like a hoarder, without plan or direction.

A fresh, shiny purple aubergine, a little tub of some exotic spice, a wonderfully shaped pasta, salty white truffle butter, a pile of glistening, fat olives…when it comes to quality ingredients, I have scant self control – sensory pleasure takes over and I just have to possess it.  I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to use it, but I’m sure I will .  

Now, there’s one thing that stands between me and becoming a scoundrel who contributes significantly to the profligate waste of the planet’s resources – the fact that I hate seeing food go in the bin.  Combine this with the inevitable overstocks resulting from my purchasing habits, and you will see why there are times when our meal preparation resembles an edition of Ready, Steady, Cook.

A recent inventory of our food resources has indicated the need for a whole cooking programme series, never mind a single edition.  And so it came to pass that Barn and I made a pledge – for at least a 10 days we will cook using only what is already in the house – we call it a Cupboard Challenge.

Truth be told, this is not going to be a particularly difficult challenge; the cupboards are well stocked with basics, including an untold number of spices, varieties of pasta and rice, tins of tomatoes, and canned beans.

The fridge contains our usual wide selection of cheeses and massive array of condiments and pickles, plus veg, salad items, cream, butter and other general nonsense.

Our freezer is currently filled with a wide range of odds ‘n’ sods:  half a dozen or so different pots of sauces, wraps, soffritto, a variety of veg,  lots of ‘odd’ portions of meat and fish – one lamb chop, one salmon fillet, one pork loin steak…  There’s a few good portions of meat (minced pork, chicken breast, a beef joint, 12 pork sausages) but it’s mostly stuff that is insufficient in quantity to be a meal, in and of itself, for two or more people.

Oh, and of course, due to our miserably haphazard to non-existent labelling systems, there’s also the mystery pots – those items whose true nature won’t be revealed until they’re thawed.  Exciting times!

So good people, brace yourselves for the oncoming slew of rather imprecise, slightly unusual recipes.

🙂

x

P.S. You didn’t think that picture was my actual pantry, did you?  I wish!

The food week that was – 09/03/15

A slightly strange week, filled with carbohydrates and see-saw emotions…Baked spud and sausagesMonday: Exhausted from our day jobs, and suffering severe Monday-itis, we slung potatoes into the oven, defrosted leftover veg chilli, grilled sausages, chucked cheese all over it and ate.  There was a definite correlation between the decline in grumpy silence and the progression of food consumption 😉

Savoury bread puddingTuesday: Savoury bread pudding made using left over olive bread and an onion bagel, layered with more olives and crumbled Stilton, then saturated with a savoury egg custard, topped with cherry tomatoes and grated parmesan, baked ’til golden brown.

Spag BolWednesday: Rich, meaty, wine steeped, mushroom studded, slowly simmered, Bolognese sauce served with Fusilli lunghi bucati (aka Rasta Pasta), with plenty of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan to finish.

Soup ingredients

Thursday: Having been variously chopped, sautéed, simmered, blended and seasoned, these ingredients (plus some veg stock and cream) became…

Soup…this delicious soup.  A stack of door-stop style roast beef sandwiches rounded things off nicely.  Petit Man has been suffering with a harsh cough and cold (a real one, not a Man one), so this worked well to soothe and comfort.

Shortbread

Thursday snacking: Gluten free shortbread – probably the quickest and easiest sweet baked snack you will ever make!

Here’s how to make them:  You require three ingredients – butter, caster sugar and gluten free flour – in the weight ratio 2:1:3.  I also use a small amount of baking powder (about 1 teaspoon per 300g of flour) as I prefer the more open texture this gives, but it’s not necessary.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift in flour (and baking powder, if using).  Using your hands gently fold and knead the mixture until it comes together into a firm ball.  Press into an appropriately sized, greased baking tin then chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  Bake at gas mark 5/190°C until golden brown.  Cut while still warm, cool on a rack and dredge with caster sugar before serving.

If you like a flavoured biscuit you can add lemon/lime/orange zest to the flour, or chuck in some vanilla, or drizzle with melted chocolate when cooled, or…whatever else you like.  There are no strict rules 😉Baked spuds and tuna

Friday: Baked potatoes stuffed with tuna, sweetcorn and sliced black olives, served with beer battered onion rings and rather over baked cherry tomatoes.  About as simple as it gets – I think the only way less effort could have been put into this meal is if it had been made into a sandwich. – nonetheless, satisfying.  Sometimes simple is just what you need.

Cheese, olives & crackers

Saturday: We like cheese.  We amass cheeses like a weird, hoarding, mischief of mice.  We currently have 11 different cheese varieties in our fridge.  For the dairy-curious amongst you, they are : Stilton, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, extra mature Cheddar, oak smoked Cheddar, farmhouse Cheddar, grated Mozzarella, Edam, Camembert, Cambozola and Halloumi.

It’s somewhat inevitable then, that some meals are nothing but cheese.  And so it was on Saturday evening.  With crackers, olives and a glass of wine, I’d call this a very well balanced meal 😀

Cornish sardines and Staffordshire oatcakes

Sunday Brunch: Fresh Cornish sardines, topped with a little crushed garlic and a good squeeze of lemon juice, then grilled until the skins were crispy.  Served with lemon wedges and Staffordshire oatcakes.

Sunday Dinner: It was Mothers’ Day here in the UK – those of the family who were able to gathered at Mum’s house where Medieval, despite being in much pain with an injured foot, cooked an incredible roast chicken dinner for us all.  He presented us with rosemary and lemon chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, roast squash and parsnips, broccoli, carrots, Spring cabbage and gravy – the only fault to be found was that it was so delicious and tempting, it was gobbled up before I remembered about taking a photo!

Just Something I Wanted to Say: Whether you feel that Mothers’ Day is just another commercially driven construct, or see it as a wonderful chance to express love and gratitude, it can, like any other celebration, be a difficult, sadness triggering time for many.  Within my own small sphere there are people whose mothers have died, ones who have troubled relationships with emotionally distant mothers, ones who were brought up in care and who don’t know their mothers, ones who are estranged from their mothers, ones who cannot have children, those whose children have died…many, many reasons why a little extra love, thought and tenderness might be due to them on the day that is all about celebrating motherhood.  So I send extra special thoughts and hugs to anyone who felt that tug of sorrow yesterday, whoever you are and wherever you are.

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The food week that was – 02/02/15

I believe, for a variety of reasons, that it is a good thing for me to have a regular publishing schedule for this blog; taking account of other commitments I’ve decided that I will post once a week.  There may be extra posts when things are happening, or if the mood takes me, but as a demonstration that I can stick to a schedule, I hereby commit to posting at least every Sunday.  Cakes and parties (oddly) come along in little clusters and so, on their own, will not promote regularity of posting.  If I have nothing else to bring to show and tell (like today), I’ll post about the week’s meals (oh, the thrills, I hear you gasp 😉 )

Oven 'Fried' Brie (Mon 2nd)Monday: Something extra yummy to take the sting out of the start of the working week – crispy coated oven baked brie wedges, oozing their unctuous goodness onto crisp cos lettuce leaves,  scooped up with crusty bread, with a dollop of deliciously sticky rich onion marmalade on the side.Carrot & Coriander Soup (Tues 3rd)Tuesday: Working late and having dinner there.  A homely, satisfying bowl of freshly made carrot and coriander soup for lunch before leaving.

Pizza collageWednesday: Mid-week pizza night to try out some new frozen pizza doughs I discovered – one flavoured with chilli, the other with rosemary.  I made a base sauce using passata, garlic and herbs, then with a selection of toppings we each came up with our own perfect creations. Making them was companionable and fun, and the dough turned out to be really good – the whole thing was a BIG success!

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Beef Wellington – simply the best pie ever?

I’m going to interrupt this parade of cakes to show you the glorious Beef Wellington made by Petit Man for our Christmas dinner in 2013.

Beef Wellington 2013His first time making this and and would you just look at what he produced – is that not a thing of beauty?

Beef Wellington Cut 2013Unfortunately due to my poor photography skills, and the fact the mushroomy goodness has covered part of the beef in this picture, you can’t see the perfect pink that it actually was.

Served with roasted vegetables, some creamy mash and a to-die-for gravy that involved a lot of red wine, beef stock and reduction, this was one of the best Christmas dinners ever.

Of course, the fact that I didn’t have to cook it just made every mouthful all the more heavenly. 😉

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