Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Feta Filo Borek with Cucumber Yoghurt (Cacik)

After leaving university Mr Dine at Mine had a very jetset job and was sent all around the world on projects for months at a time. So far, so sad (for me) - but sometimes, when we were very, very lucky, his travel allowance would stretch to flying ME out to wherever he was for  a visit. Insert sigh for the once-booming economy here. 

Look, you can see me in the egg yolk! I don't think I've ever said that before.

So, thanks to the absurd largesse of the finance sector back in the Bad Old Days, I was treated to all sorts of free holidays in five-class hotels. Weekends in New York, jaunts to Milan - you get the picture. And as if that wasn't enough, these long projects abroad also meant that Mr Dine at Mine built up hundreds of thousands of hotel loyalty points. Don't yawn, these points definitely meant prizes - free nights in top hotels in the UK and abroad and all sorts of perks in said hotels once you were there. Are you hating me yet? Honestly, it seems like a whole other world now.

The BEST of these perks was free entry into the hotels' posh executive lounges - and with free entry came free drinks and snacks. Oh wow, the drinks and snacks. Bottles of champagne just lying around next to comfy sofas and magazines; piping hot canapes and tables spread with tapas; drinks cupboards clinking with gin, vodka and anything else you can imagine, fridge after fridge of mixers and soft drinks. Free breakfasts, lunches, evening nibbles and afternoon teas; a whole bar just laid out for your slightest whim. Yeah, those executive lounges were pretty good. I miss them.

One of the best ones we tried was in Istanbul. Sitting on a balcony with an incredible view over the twinkling lights of the city, we sipped and supped almost every evening before (and after) heading out to explore the city. Five years later, I can still remember our favourite snack - little cheesy pastries called borek. These were absolutely everywhere in Istanbul and they were addictive. Along with Efes beer and over-sweet apple tea, they taste of Istanbul to me.

When we had friends round for dinner this weekend, I wanted some nibbly thing we could have with drinks before the tagine, sorbet and cheese and my memory dredged up these borek. Surfing the web for a recipe, I found bajillions (it seems to be a generic term like "pasta" or "pie") and eventually plumped for one which looked simple, easy and most similar to the salty crunchy cheesy bites of memory. A hop, skip and a flour-dusting later and there they were - fatter, more bedraggled and less deep-fried than my memory, but otherwise pretty good. I even made some cucumber yoghurt sauce to dip them into, although I seem to have made it in vast quantities so we'll be eating it for a while.

These days we're a bit older, not much wiser, a lot better housed and a lot more married. Admittedly we're not so jet set any more - we ate these in our own lounge, and we supplied our own drinks. But the eternal union of cheese and pastry is still a winner and, as far as I'm concerned, the view is a lot better from our own sofa. 

Feta Filo Borek
Adapted from here
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg
- a good grinding of black pepper
- handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- a packet of filo pastry,
- some melted butter
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix the feta, egg, pepper and parsley together in a bowl and set aside. Flour a clean surface and lay out one sheet of pastry, then brush with melted butter and lay another sheet on top. Brush again with butter, then cut into squares - I made 8. Portion out half of the feta mix among the eight squares, ie: using 1/16 of the whole quantity on each (if that's too mathematical, just add a spoonful and hope for the best). Shape the mix into little sausage shapes, fold in the sides and then roll each square into a cigar shape and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter.
Then do the whole thing again - sheet of pastry, butter, another sheet, butter, cut into squares, share out the rest of the mix, fold, roll, put on tray, brush with butter.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Eat while hot!
Cucumber Yoghurt (Cacik)
Adapted from here
- half a cucumber, grated (I used the food processor which was amazingly quick but slightly too small and wet)
- a few spoonfuls of plain yoghurt
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 handful of fresh mint
- salt
- olive oil
Basically, mix together the cucumber, garlic, yoghurt and salt, then garnish with mint and olive oil. This is fine to make in advance, just be sure to keep it in the fridge.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Lamb and Date Tagine with Red Onion and Pomegranate

I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that Winter is over and Spring is here. I know, I know, there's still plenty of time for me to be proved wrong - there's been snow after Easter before - but I've seen the signs and I believe. What signs? My knee high boots and thick winter coat are starting to feel a bit ludicrous, like when you see people wearing shorts in the snow. It's now light when I leave work in the evenings, and when I get up in the mornings. Flowers are growing outside in gardens and window boxes (including little daffodils outside our bedroom windows, which are officially the cheeriest thing since Doris Day). The sun shone all weekend - not only shone, but was warm! - and for the first time ever, my husband and I did some gardening. In our new garden. We even hung our washing outside to dry, somewhat over-optimistically.

Most conclusive of all, my husband's hay fever has started. His nose is the official Siren of Spring for me and when 14 sneezes in quick succession rang through the balmy air, I knew the truth. So long, Winter! It's been nice knowing you, but it's time for you to bugger off and for me to pack away my extra-thick bed socks and coax the windows open. It'll be barbecues and ice lollies before we know it and, as the proud owners of a garden for the first time ever, I. Cannot. Wait.

While it's still just about chilly enough at evenings to get away with lighting the fire, dinner parties will take place inside. We had a few friends round this weekend to see the new house and that means that we needed food that could be prepared in advance, required little to no last minute faffing, and was easy to make. In other words, we needed Nigella.

This recipe comes from a book which I don't actually own, but it's all over the internet (legitimately) so we went for it. And we were not disappointed. This is the most gorgeously sticky, sweet, spicy, tender, meaty, rich tagine you can imagine, dark and intense and an all round blinder. We also made Nigella's suggested accompaniment, a sort of red onion and pomegranate relish about which my partner in crime had been hugely sceptical. I blithely ignored him and my faith was rewarded - it was fresh and sharp and zingy, a lovely contrast to the tagine itself. Served up with some chickpea-d couscous and roasted courgette, everyone had seconds and some people even had thirds. With a few crunchy nibbly things to start, the ohmygodamazing chocolate sorbet to follow and a selection of cheeses that are making my mouth water even now, two days on, I think we might just have found our new dinner party menu. 

We did make a few changes, though. We'd first tested the tagine a couple of weeks ago, just for the two of us, and although we'd loved the flavour we felt the that the lamb came out a bit tough. This time round, we went to a butcher (I know! it's like we're from the 1950s) and asked which cut he'd recommend for such long, slow cooking. On his advice, we replaced leg of lamb with fillet, and it was a triumph - the meat was so much more tender, and really fell to shreds on the fork. We also increased the onions and the liquid, to make slightly more sauce, and cooked it for longer than she recommended.

The thing that really showed us that this was meant to be? On the morning of the dinner, we went for the first time to a Majestic wine shop to stock up. When the friendly woman asked if we needed any help, we asked for her recommendation of a wine to go with a spicy lamb dish - and it turned out that her "Recipe of the Week" on the tasting bench was the exact same recipe! So she had already chosen five wines to go perfectly with our EXACT dinner plan, and we had the chance to taste-test them all. Isn't that spooky? I've never felt more like a demographic. And I loved it. On current form, it's going to be a very good Spring! 

Lamb and Date Tagine
Adapted from Nigella, available here
- 5 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of ground coriander (it was meant to be turmeric, we freestyled)
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons of ground allspice
- 1.3kg of lamb fillet, diced
- 500g soft, dried, pitted dates
- 400ml pomegranate juice
- 400ml water
- salt, pepper, olive oil

If you have a fancy flameproof casserole, then you can do this all in one pot and cook it in the hob. We prepared it in a big, deep frying pan then transferred to a casserole dish and cooked it in the oven, so if you're doing the same then preheat the oven to 150C.

Warm a splash of olive oil in a large, wide pan and add the onions, stirring occasionally over a gentle heat for about ten minutes, or until softened. Add all the spices and stir well, then chuck in the lamb and turn the heat up high. Turn the meat frequently until browned on all sides.

Add the dates, pomegranate juice and water then season and bring to the boil. Either turn the heat right down and cook gently for a couple of hours, or transfer to a casserole dish and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

We cooked this in advance to let the flavours mingle, and just reheated it in the oven, adding a little water if it looked too thick.

Pomegranate and Red Onion Relish
Source as above
- 2 red onions
- 100ml fresh lime juice (we used one lime and one lemon)
- 100ml pomegranate juice and a small pack of seeds (you could just buy a whole pomegranate and use that)
- pinch of salt
- fresh coriander or parsley

Cut the onions in half, then into incredibly thin slices (or slice themn the food processor, which is the most fun ever). Combine the onion and juices in a bowl and leave to marinate 
for about half an hour - this will stop the onions being too "raw oniony". Yes, that is a good description. 

After half an hour, drain the onion (discarding the liquid) then mix with the pomegranate seeds and a sprinkling of salt. Nigella also adds chopped coriander but I hate it with a passion so I left it out and used some parsley instead.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I'm afraid that I'm about to shatter a few fragile, innocent illusions. As Lady Bracknell said in The Importance of Being Earnest, "Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it - and the bloom is gone". Well, the time has come to tell the truth. I'm about to reveal to my mum that her all time favourite cake - her birthday cake of choice for the last five years, at least - is pretty much the most unhealthy thing since bored Glaswegians decided that Mars Bars were too wholesome and needed to be battered and deep-fried. Sorry, Mummy. Just try not to read this bit. Or, um, look at this picture. 

You see, the cake in question - Chocolate Guinness Cake from Nigella's Feast - uses a whole pack of butter. And a whopping 400g of caster sugar. And I haven't even mentioned the cream cheese icing yet, otherwise known as "the reason why everyone likes carrot cake". But if you ignore the threat to your arteries, or recklessly decide to plunge ahead regardless, I can promise that this is a really wonderful cake. Why else would my dear mother be so attached to it? Mummy Knows Best, that's what I've always been told.

If I may mention a few mitigating factors, this does make a seriously huge cake. Because my mum would never get through a cake that size, I tend to follow the quantities below and bake the mix in two 21cm tins, giving the Birthday Girl one cake to eat now and one safely stashed in the freezer for future greed. When you do the Maths, I'm sure that brings the alarming ingredient quantities down to reasonable levels. Ssh, don't break my illusion.

I should also stress again just how good it is. This cake is tender and moist, and the Guinness is surprisingly subtle. The finished cake doesn't taste of beer, or alcohol of any sort, it just tastes rich and complex. Because the bitterness of the Guinness balances out the sweetness, the flavour can best be described as sort of grown-up. It's much more interesting than a basic chocolate sponge, and much classier than a chocolate fudge. And not at all offputting to anyone who doesn't actually like Guinness (ahem, like me and my mum).

Sadly,the pictures haven't quite captured the full glory of the edible glitter scattered all over the icing (I can assure you that the effect was mesmerising in person). But if you think that sounds tacky, just be glad I didn't photograph the further adornment with edible gold spray paint, which my mum gave me on the same day. It was...remarkable. Never knowingly understated, that's how I was brung up.

Chocolate Guinness Cake
From Nigella's Feast, recipe available here 
Note: Nigella suggests a 23cm tin, but as discussed above I use two 21cm tins. If you do the same, you'll only need half the quantity of icing below.
For the cake
- 250ml Guinness
- 250g unsalted butter. Yes, that's a whole pack.
- 75g cocoa
- 400g caster sugar (gulp)
- 1 x 142ml pot of sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- 275g plain flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
For the icing
- 300g of cream cheese - you really need the full fat stuff, anything "light" will go far too runny and collapse on you
- 150g icing sugar
- 125ml double or whipping cream (if I've used half of a 300ml pot of sour cream in the cake, I use the rest of the pot here)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line one 23cm tin, or two 21cm tins (see note above).
Pour the Guinness into a large, wide saucepan or deep frying pan (I use something like a wok), and add the butter in slices. Heat gently until the butter has melted, then whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Nigella doesn't actually tell you whether your pan should stay on the heat, but I turn it off as soon as the butter's melted and that method's always worked for me. Whisk  the sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl or jug then pour into the pan and whisk in gently, trying not to splash. Finally, add the flour and bicarb and whisk until all lumps have gone. It'll be a very runny mix but don't worry, that's normal.
Pour into your tin(s) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in its tin on a rack.

To make the icing, blast the icing sugar in a food processor to get rid of any lumps then add the cream cheese and whiz together. Add the cream, whiz again, then blob it on top of your cake and try to make it look pretty. You could also try not to lick the bowl but let's not expect miracles.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Chocolate Sorbet

Hello and welcome to a very special DineAtMine blog, coming to you live from wherever you happen to be sitting (or standing) right now. You may have already noticed a slightly different tone to this blogpost, and that's because it's a guest post from me, Greedy Gusto, DineAtMine's resident guest blogger.

It's been a long while since Greedy Gusto has written a blog, and the reasons for this absence are threefold:

  1. Greedy Gusto has been busy moving house, painting rooms, changing light fittings etc.
  2. DineAtMine's popularity and readership has increased massively, and Greedy Gusto is nervous about inflicting his brand of humour and greediness on unsuspecting readers. However most people seem to come to the blog for the Jamie Oliver recipes, so this one should stay safely out of their view.
  3. Greedy Gusto has been awaiting a dish of suitable greediness for him to blog.

But the time has come for me to stop referring to myself in the third person, and to get on with the blog. You've read the title of the blog; you've seen the photos above; you think you know where this is heading. But I'm going to stop you there. Because you've under-estimated just how good this recipe is. I can't take the credit for the recipe itself. That praise must lie with Smitten Kitchen. But when I tasted it, I knew then and there that it was my duty to tell as many people as I could about it. So here goes. 

You know how delicious a chocolate fondant is, with the warm molten chocolate core. This is the ice cream version of that core, and yet somehow better. Because it's ice cold, it takes a few seconds to melt in your mouth, releasing freezing chocolate fumes across your taste buds. And because the recipe is basically just chocolate, sugar and water, it's incredibly pure, like eating delicious raw chocolate. And don't be fooled into thinking it'll be ice-y or tasteless because it's a sorbet rather than an ice cream - it's far better than any chocolate ice cream. When Ms DineAtMine and I first tasted it, we kept on saying to each other "Oh my god, it's so good. So good.". Because it's so good.

The recipe is surprisingly simple too. And there'll be a bit of clearing up to do after the preparation (note artful mess in photo above), but one batch of this will give you sorbet enjoyment for weeks days hours as long as it takes you to finish it!

Chocolate Sorbet
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which in turn adapted it from The Perfect Scoop

Servings: Makes 1 quart (1 litre) - basically that's enough to fit in your average tupperware or ice cream carton

- 2 1/4 cups (555 ml) water
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan whisk together 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk, for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it’s melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds (to remove any gritty granules - we used the MagiMix with the special white circular blender attachment  to get it really smooth). Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (it took 20 to 25 minutes in the KitchenAid). If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Beef, Red Wine and Mushroom Casserole

Brrr! It's bloody chilly, isn't it? And just at the time when we're all getting excited about spring flowers, pastel colours and maybe even leaving work while it's still light (yes, I'm using "we" to mean "me"). It's as though Nature held herself back, frantically trying to suppress her giggles while she watched us marvelling at the unusual mildness. Then she got a big, dead, icy fish out of the freezer and smacked us round the chops with it. While blowing in our faces at the same time. Sorry, that simile got away from me a bit, but you get my drift. It's a bit nippy.

We haven't yet found the thermostat in our new house so it's time to huddle round the fireplace and eat something hot and gravied. This particular casserole is a perfect example of the genre. Tender, rich, fragrant and robust, it's just what you need to keep the icy winds at bay. It's actually my mother-in-law's recipe and when I first started going out with he-who-is-now-my-husband, it acquired quite an intimidating reputation. His favourite meal? This casserole. His birthday treat? This casserole. His ultimate evocation of home which you'll want to live up to? This casserole.

When I first went round to meet his family - nervous, eager to please, trying to look like good son's-girlfriend-material - what was on the menu? This casserole. And after all that build-up, everyone stared at me as I tried my first forkful....and then laughed at me mercilessly when I weakly tried to say "mm, it's lovely". Well, it was lovely! But I was also in an impossible situation because of course I was going to say it was great, there was no other option. So I laughed along, cleared my plate, then nicked the recipe. Now I make the casserole. Ha!


Beef, Red Wine and Mushroom Casserole
Serves 4

- 800g of braising steak, diced
- butter, oil, salt and pepper
- 200g pack of bacon lardons
- 350g onions, roughly chopped (this is normally about 5 onions)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 350g carrots, cut into chunks
- a tablespoon of tomato puree
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of plain flour
- 250ml red wine
- 300ml beef stock
- a bouquet garni
- 2 strips of orange rind (because of the time of year when I make this, I always use clementine peel)
- 12 juniper berries, crushed or chopped
- 250g mushrooms, roughly chopped - ideally shitake or chestnut

Preheat the oven to 150C. In a large frying pan, or a flameproof casserole dish, heat up a largeish knob of butter and a splash of oil over a high heat until the butter is foaming. 

Brown the beef on all sides, in batches if there's too much to put in the pan without crowding, and set aside when done. Add the bacon into the hot pan and fry it until it begins to brown. Then add the onions, garlic, carrots and tomato puree, turn the heat down to moderate and cook, stirring every few minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well for a couple of minutes, then pour in the red wine. Mix, bring to the boil and let it bubble for 3 minutes. Then chuck the beef back in, add enough stock to barely cover, tuck in the bouquet garni , orange peel, juniper berries, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the meat is tender.

At the end of this time, fry the mushrooms in a little oil until just cooked and stir into the casserole, removing the bouquet garni and orange peel as you go. Like all casseroles, this is best made in advance and reheated so that the flavours have a chance to mingle and get to know each other.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Oreo Mint Ice Cream

I know that my recent posts have been all about the technology but don't expect anything to change. We have just unpacked another wedding present - our Kitchen Aid ice cream maker bowl - and oh my god, I'm in love. It's just, it's...there are no words. I love it. He loves it. Our guests loved it, or to be more accurate they loved the ice cream we made in it. Everyone loves it, except for my waistline, and who needs a waistline when it's snowing outside? Not me! You could also say that this isn't the weather for ice cream but lalala, I can't hear you.

For our very first try, we needed something to follow Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder and as I am congenitally unable to resist a theme when it's in front of me, I thought we should try something minty. Incidentally, when we visited Rome when I was little, I remember very clearly that every single ice cream I ate, in every single gelateria we visited, was Mint Choc Chip. My mum and my sister tried a different flavour every time but not me, oh no. I'd found something I loved, something lurid green studded with dark brown nuggets, and nothing else could tempt me. God, what a boring child! I'm ashamed of myself. Still, single-minded fidelity seems pretty appropriate when we're talking about wedding presents.

For recipes, we turned to one of my favourite cookbooks, which I bought a few months ago (for a whole £5) and have longed to try ever since. It's the Ice Cream Bible. It's the Motherlode. It's the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Book. What do you mean you've never heard of it? It's pretty niche, I grant you, and you'll need an American cup measure but the recipes are amazing. Not to mention quirkily presented and incredibly comprehensive for all your Ice Cream needs. Is it wrong if I want to make everything in the book? How about if I just start with the peanut butter ones? Peanut Butter and Banana, my toast addiction in ice cream form. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Oreo Mint was our selection to follow the lamb and if you'll forgive me some technical lingo, it was a blinder. And it was so easy! We just whisked some stuff together(in the Kitchen Aid, normal bowl), transferred it to the frozen bowl, churned it for twenty minutes or so, added the chopped and chilled Oreos a few minutes before the end and ta-dah! Amazing, amazing ice cream. It comes out of the churning process pretty sloppy but after a few hours in the freezer it's ice cream perfection. And no, I can't quite claim that it's healthy but at least it's additive and e-number free and doesn't that count for anything, dammit? Wait, don't answer that. I've got the rest of the book to get through.

Oreo Mint Ice Cream
From the Ben and Jerry's book which is blowing my mind, it's so good
Makes a quart, if that means anything to you. More than a shop-bought tub, anyway

- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped Oreos (we used a few more, I think)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar (we used plain caster) 
- 2 cups of whipping cream (we didn't have quite enough, and made up the difference with milk - it was fine)
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract

Put the Oreos in a covered bowl in the fridge to get good and cold.

Whisk the eggs for a couple of minutes in a large bowl until fluffy, then whisk in the sugar, a little at a time. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk for a minute or so, then the peppermint and whisk again for a couple of minutes until everything is well blended. 

Transfer to an ice cream maker and go! Add the biscuits a few minutes before the ice cream is ready (this stops the chunks from all sinking to the bottom). Yum.
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