Cooking At Zero Degrees

This is a blog (it also works on an ipad and now has a Facebook page) about what we eat at home.  Starters, mains, sauces, side dishes, cocktails and links to local shops. It’s all here.

Food is fun,  it should be fun to make and fun to eat. For some people making a meal is a chore. If it is then don’t do it;  but please, it’s better to eat something, anything, that you make at home from scratch, because prepared, packaged supermarket dinners  and food have about as much flavour as the plastic or cardboard package they come in.  Food cultivation and husbandry is not just a moral argument.  Eggs that don’t come from battery hens do taste better, cattle properly reared have more flavour –  and just think about it: at its most simple, if they’re not being pumped full of chemicals then you’re not being pumped full of chemicals. How good is that? If you can buy local, use your neighbourhood shops, you will miss them when they are gone.  Most of all, have fun making a meal of it!

Oh, and why at zero degrees? Because that’s where we live – in Greenwich, London.

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Spinach Feta Pie

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What is it at the moment, that makes me want to recreate recipes that remind me of living in America? Yes, I know this is more a Greek dish, but I lived in Texas where the weather is hotter all the year round, and this pie was always welcome. Here, I make it with fresh spinach, you can use frozen if you wish, but I think fresh is easier. I tend to pack the pie with more cheese and pine nuts. It is a more-ish and tasty lunch, or summer supper.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions  (chopped) and sweated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 500gms of fresh spinach, washed, wilted, squeezed and chopped
  • 6 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
  • 125gms (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 pound good feta, cut cubes
  • 125gms (1/2 cup) pine nuts
  • 1/4 pound salted butter, melted
  • 8 sheets filo pastry.

 

Method

  1. Oven on: 190/375/gas mark 5 – 180 fan oven.
  2. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the salt and pepper and leave to cool down.
  3. Chop the wilted spinach and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Add the spinach to a bowl, then add the onions, eggs, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, feta, and pine nuts. Fold the lot together.
  4. Butter a nonstick pan (I use a cake tin) and then line it with 6-8 stacked sheets of filo pastry, making sure that you brush each with melted butter and letting the edges hang over the pan. I tend to add one, then rotate the pan and add another.
  5. Pour the spinach mixture in and fold the filo edges up and over sealing the filling. Brush the top well with melted butter.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  7. Serve at room temperature
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Walnut, Pecan and Date Loaf Cake

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I have a harvest of walnuts and pecans in the cupboard. Don’t ask me why, I suppose I just kept buying them for some reason.  Some I have used some to make granola, and now I decided to bake a loaf cake.  I just wanted something to remind me of walking to work when I lived in the US: a lovely, sweet, cinnamon fragrance  I recall wafting around (along with the smell of fresh coffee) and this cake does exactly that.  It has a sweetness to it, holds its place but retains a moisture. It tastes even better on day two and will keep fresh in a cake tin for some time – if it lasts that long. I bake it in a loaf tin (hence the name) but it is really a cake – and a lovely cake at that.

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Walnut and Pecan Granola

imageWhen we go to the country we have to think about what we don’t have in the house and how far we have to travel to get it. Breakfast is something many people don’t want to fuss over; something quick but tasty, something that doesn’t take long to prepare. Granola is the perfect example of both. Spoon into a bowl, pour on milk and eat. This works out cheaper than buying from a store, easy to make in advance, will store in an airtight container for a good few months (depending on what you put into it) and you can add your own ingredients into the mix. Have a go – you can even eat it by the handful as a snack!

One tip: When in the oven it will brown evenly; but the more brown it gets the crunchier your granola will be.

Yields 8 servings.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups (two good handfuls) of mixed nuts and seeds (this is your choice I used walnuts and pecans with a dash of sunflower seeds but you can add what you want).
  • 1 cup (good handful) of chopped dates (these are optional and it depends on the time of year)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to your taste)
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 1 /2 cup (two tablespoons)  maple syrup (or to your taste)
  • 1 cup (good handful) raisins or chopped dried fruit.

 

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl combine the oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, salt, and maple syrup. Give it all a good stir. Spread evenly onto your baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. Every so often give the lot a stir a stir again so it gets evenly roasted.
  3. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.  Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until the granola reaches room temperature. Add the raisins.
  4. Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator – it will keep indefinitely- or a sealed jar where you can keep for a month or two.
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Swedish Apple Cake

So here is the thing; you are making dinner for Eurovision fanatics and for each course there must be some link with the competition, but what? Well, this year it was held in Sweden so what better than a dessert of Swedish Apple Cake. This really does give American Apple Pie a run for its money, and while I am sure there are as many versions of this in Sweden as there are kitchens, this is the one I love and it is tried and tested.

Served warm or at room temperature  with a light drizzle of cream or custard, and it can be made in advance and brought out when needed. You can save the left overs for teatime the next day, if it lasts that long – a pudding that goes on giving. Serves 6-8.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Bramley apples, peeled and cored
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
    1 tbsp honey

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4.
  2. Grease and base line a 23cm round loose bottomed tin with baking parchment.
  3. Peel and cut 2 apples into 1cm dice and add to the flour. Mix in the melted butter then the eggs. Spoon the lot into the tin. Peel and slice the remaining apple and arrange on top of the cake.
  4. Into the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes until golden and cooked throughout.
  5. While still warm, mix the honey with the remaining cinnamon and brush over the top of the cake.
  6. Allow to cool before removing from the tin.

 

 

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Stuffed Courgette Flowers

13063232_10208949775358702_3910130674150180427_oSo, I remember first eating these in Hugo’s restaurant in Houston. Take the flowers of a courgette stuff with cream and herbs then deep fry in batter – who thought that one up?  I’m glad that they did, and it really is an easy dish to make.

Better still, they are only around in the early part of the year and look as spectacular as they taste.

 

Ingredients

  • 8 courgette flowers
  • 300g (10½oz) ricotta, preferably fresh
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • about 10g (¼oz) chives, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • generous grating of nutmeg
  • 100g (3½oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1¾oz) cornflour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 250ml (9fl oz) lager [I use Meantime]
  • 25ml (1fl oz) olive oil
  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • wedges of lemon, to serve

 

Method

  1. Leave the stem on the flowers (but trim the base where it was attached to the plant); then carefully open the flower trumpet by simply untwisting then. Take out the stamen.
  2. Mix the ricotta with the parmesan, chives, egg, nutmeg and plenty of salt and pepper
  3. Make the batter: mix the flour, cornflour and baking powder  and gradually add the beer, whisking and then the olive oil. Season with salt.
  4. To stuff the flowers: gently place two or more teaspoons of the ricotta mixture down into the trumpet of each flower [you can also use a piping bag with is much easier]. Close the flower  and give it a little twist at the top.
  5. Heat about 8cm (3in) oil in a saucepan to 190°C/375°F. Keep the heat at a steady temperature.
  6. Quickly dip the first flower in the batter, letting any excess drip off. Carefully lay it in the oil, flower tip first. Repeat. Cook on one side, then turn over and cook on the other. They should be golden brown – it takes two and a half to three minutes in all.Immediately put the flowers on the kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt.
  7. Cook all the courgettes and serve straight away with wedges of lemon.

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Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Each year, around the time of my birthday, I wander up the road to the gates of Greenwich Park. From that vantage point I can watch thousands of not so lonely long distance runners set off on the London Marathon. It is fun, for a while. Then I can stroll back home and watch the rest on the television, or sit down with the newspaper. What has this to do with food? Well, the night before a marathon pasta meals are usually the thing. It is so called ‘carb-loading’. This is fine, but a long distance runner (over 90 minutes) also needs to add the protein in order to feed the muscles. Far more important, however, is that the other people eating with you need to enjoy the meal too.  So here it is, a classic carbonara – balancing carbohydrates and protein. There are two ways of cooking this, the one that follows is the ‘in the pan method’. I will put the other one on here (Zabaione method) for those who like a bit more of a challenge.

This serves two – so you may want to add more if there is a house full.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 garlic clove (sliced)
  • 75gm pancetta, cubed
  • 250gm dried spaghetti
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yoke
  • 25gm pecorino Romano, (finely grated)
  • 25gms parmesan, (finely grated)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • (Optional Nutmeg)

METHOD

  1. Cook the spaghetti.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the sliced garlic and cook then remove from the pan leaving the oil and throw away the garlic. Add the pancetta and cook until golden, but not brown.
  3. In a bowl, beat the eggs and egg yoke, stir in the pecorino and most of the parmesan and plenty of black pepper.
  4. Keeping back a small cup of pasta water, drain the pasta and put into the frying pan. Pour in the egg mixture and toss the pasta like a madman – the add some of the reserved spaghetti water to loosen the sauce.
  5. The sauce should adhere to the pasta when it does turn off the heat and add to the plates. Add some more pepper if you wish and a grate of nutmeg with the remaining parmesan.

 

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Celeriac and Apple Soup

An autumnal or winter warmer if ever there was one. This celeriac and apple soup is made in minutes, provides a wonderful starter (you can add scallops for extra refinement) or just a nice Saturday afternoon dish.  Continue reading

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Lobster Rolls

Boston, Provincetown, Maine, Cape Cod you are taken to the East Coast shores by these classic crustacean sandwiches. Even better, they can only be accompanied by chilled beer or cold white wine. They are a perfect match. The cold chopped mayoed lobster sits inside a buttered, lightly toasted brioche hot dog roll and it all just shouts summer and seashore. Ok so we had these sitting in the garden, but the memories they bring back (or create) are worth the expense and very little effort. Honestly, you will want them every summer. [Serves 6 – makes about 16 rolls]

Ingredients

  • 6 brioche hot dog rolls
  • 1.5 lb cooked Lobster meat (I don’t kill my own anymore than I would a lamb!)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 inner celery stalks and leaves finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • melted butter [enough to give the split rolls a good butter]
  • (optional sprinkle of chopped chives]

 

Method

  1. Make sure the cooked lobster meat it cut into bite sized chunks. Combine the meat, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery and parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Place this lot in the refrigerator for about ten minutes allowing the flavours to be absorbed.
  2. Brush the insides of the split rolls with the butter and toast, or better place buttered side down in a pan and fry until lightly golden.
  3. Brush some more of the melted butter onto the inside of the rolls and fill with the lobster salad.
  4. Serve with fries or potato crisps. You can also serve with a pickle, but why let anything get in the way of the lobster?

 

 A BIT OF HISTORY

Where did it start, this marriage made in heaven? Like all food it has many champions claiming to have been the first. One truth is that it came out of New England. Although the Pine Tree State probably didn’t actually give birth to the complete combination; in the 19th century you simply had to be close to the seashore in order to (safely) eat the lobster. It was here, in Maine, that the lobster salad came together, and then in Milford Connecticut at Revere House in the 1920s that it is said the salad ended up in a bun. Refrigeration has sent it state and world-wide. Just as it has spread so it has its variations. Some add chives, others parsley – some even add (shudder) curry. Whatever floats your boat, whenever you are sitting on that boat there is nothing better than a lobster roll, iced (preferably alcoholic) drink and an imagination that lets you believe you own one of the fine seashore houses in New England.

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Goat Cheese and Spinach Frittata

Frittata,  an omelette is what we would generally call it, but with added ingredients and then pushed under the grill to brown and plump up. They come in various shapes and sizes, and this is based on some we have seen. However, our added ingredient with this mix is onion. I don’t think it works as well without the taste of the sweet red onions. This is used as a light supper or as a side dish (easily for four people) with a griddled lamb chop (three to four minutes either side, so you can add that one to your timing if you wish).

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Wholemeal Bread

Wholemeal Bread

Wholemeal Bread

Baking has never really been my thing. It always seemed to take longer than I would be prepared to wait. Steak in six minutes or fish in four, that was more me. But… but…the smell of bread baking is one of those aromas that just says welcome home. Anyway, I began to wonder if I could bake bread, and was there a quicker way of doing it than what seemed to be such a long kneading…waiting…proving…kneading..waiting….process. Well, I searched around seeing eight or nine different recipes and this is a combination of those. It works. It is lovely, holds firm to cold butter, makes great toast. I have decided I can now.. Bake!

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