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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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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Teriyaki Salmon

imageHow did it start that I wanted to eat teryaki salmon? First, I fancied a weekday supper dish that didn’t take too long to cook but it had to be fish. Then I wanted something with a sweet yet salty flavour. How often can you find that in a fish recipe? This is it. You get that ping of soy sauce, the hit of chilli and the clean sharp line of lime. On top of noodles, this fish stands out as a clear winner, and made in less than 30 minutes it is a sure favourite. This is changed from some other recipes you may find, I add a bigger hit of chilli and ginger then reduced the amount of noodles, but that is up to you. This feeds two.

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Cheese, Broccoli and Onion Tart

Vegetarian Tart

Vegetarian Tart

There is the complete version of ingredients and method here. Although that one is for a meat version, and this is vegetarian.

Either way, you could do a lot worse for supper on a blustery Saturday evening.

 

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Shortbread

Classic Shortbread

Classic Shortbread

Shortbread (makes 12 pieces)

I really wonder at the ease of this one. There is something wonderful about making a batch of biscuits within an hour, even when you come back from the pub (which I have done). These are one of my favourite, easy to make and easier to eat. Make sure you are watched when in the kitchen and they are cooling down or you may be tempted to take one .. or two … or..

Ingredients

  • 225g soft butter
  • 100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 280g plain flour

Method

  1. Grease a 23cm round (or 20cm square) tart tin with a little of your butter then put the rest of the butter into a large mixing bowl and beat until it becomes creamy and pale.
  2. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla and then beat again.
  3. Sift in the flour and mix to an evenly blended dough.
  4. Press the dough into the tin, smooth it out with the back of a spoon and mark the edge of the shortbread with a fork and cut into 12 wedges. Prick each piece twice.
  5. Chill the shortbread for 20 minutes.
  6. Heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 2½ and bake the chilled shortbread for 70 minutes or until golden and a sandy colour.
  7. Leave to cool for five minutes and then recut into wedges and serve.
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