Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Baked apples

26 January 2017

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January is the time to huddle close, meet friends, have a pint, a meal, a whiskey nightcap. But after months of cooking and feasting, dim winter days call for easy comforts. Delicious meals that require barely any effort. Hardly a thought. Simple dishes that can be effortlessly adapted with whatever languishes in a pantry in the aftermath of holiday baking marathons.

Baked apples for instance. The basics are simple, the variations many: wash an apple, core it, stuff it, bake it, eat it warm with a dollop of cream.

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Any apple will do. Some hold their figure while others erupt into shapeless volcanoes; anything is fine by me. For the stuffing the elements might be dried fruits — for example raisins, chopped dates, cranberries; chopped nuts — pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds; some sweetness and spice — brown sugar, dark sugar, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon zest, ginger, allspice, cardamom. A splash of fortified wine. For serving, a generous spoonful of cream.

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One whole apple per person

Currants (or raisins, cranberries, chopped dates or apricots)

Pecans (or walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)

Dark muscovado sugar (or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup)

Ginger and cardamom (or cinnamon, allspice, lemon zest)

Sherry (or Marsala, Madeira)

Clotted cream (or crème fraîche, ice cream, yogurt) for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C)

Wash and core the apples (leaving them whole)

Toss the nuts, dried fruits, sugar, and spices together. Stuff each apple with the mixture. Sprinkle with a dash of wine if using. Send into the oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft through.

Let cool just a little and serve warm with a spoonful of cream.

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Roast chicken with lemon and fennel seeds

6 January 2011

Some years ago I discovered that a chicken could be seasoned under the skin with salt, pepper, butter, and herbs. It makes for excellent roast chicken, and I decided it would be the only way to go in the future. But it is also a bit finicky, and somehow roasting a chicken became an unwieldy affair in my mind.

Until recently, when I came across good chickens from Epicurean Farms. They are fairly small, very tasty, and usually sold whole. So I started roasting again and rediscovered that it is actually probably the easiest way to cook these animals, especially if you are not chopping herbs and delicately stuffing them under the skin. Now roasting a chicken seems effortless like an afterthought; it can be done for lunch or dinner, or after dinner – at anytime, really, since it is excellent cold, especially with green tomato chutney.

Chickens can be stuffed with any combination of herbs, garlic, or onion on hand and I usually add a lemon, slashed so it releases its juices. This version with fennel seeds was a staple in our house when I was growing up.

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1 whole chicken

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

1 small lemon

2 small garlic cloves

Butter

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Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. If you remember to do it in advance, let the chicken sit uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours so the skin dries out before roasting.

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt, pepper, and fennel seeds.

Poke the lemon with a fork multiple times on all sides and stuff it into the chicken with the whole, skin-on garlic cloves. Truss or just bind the legs together with kitchen string. Massage the chicken all over with softened butter and season the outside again with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on a roasting pan and into the oven for 10 minutes at 425°F (220°C) then lower to 375° (190°C) and roast for 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of the bird (large chickens may need to cook even longer — pull away one thigh and if the flesh at the joint is still translucent pink, cook a little longer).

Let rest 10-15 minutes before carving. Squeeze the lemon over the pieces of chicken before serving.

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Happy New Year! (Lentil soup with cumin)

4 January 2011

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking – or eating – since early December, but somehow all the feasting and visits from friends and family got in the way of writing. It was a productive period nonetheless, culinarily speaking, in which I unexpectedly improved a foie gras recipe and expanded my cookie baking horizon, all of which should make for a profuse Christmas season next year, if I am better organized.

But it’s 2011, and since I just learned that lentils are a New Year’s tradition in some regions of France and Italy – the way black-eyed peas and collard greens are here in the South – and because I will grab any excuse to make this soup, here it is at last, the deliciously simple lentil soup with cumin from Moro: The Cookbook, somewhat rewritten but barely altered.

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From Moro: The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark

2 cups (400g) lentils (green, red, or yellow)

3 medium onions

6 garlic cloves

Olive oil

3 heap tsps cumin seeds

Sea salt

Freshly ground back pepper

Lemon, plain yogurt, and Harissa to serve (optional)

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To wash the lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Finely slice onions and garlic.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large heavy-bottom saucepan, add the onions and brown over medium heat, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile roughly grind the cumin seeds in a mortar. Once the onions are nicely golden, add the garlic and cumin and stir. Then add the lentils and stir to mix with the onion/cumin mix.

Cover the lentils with 4 times their volume of cold water (8 cups or 2 l), place lid on the pan, and let simmer gently until lentils are soft, about 40 minutes, checking occasionally to add water if necessary. (There should be some excess water in the pot otherwise it will be a purée rather than a soup, but not too much because the soup should be nice and thick.)

Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Squeeze some lemon and add a spoonful of good plain tart yogurt or some Harissa if desired.

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