Celeriac and Potato Mash with Cabbage and Roasted Chicken

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Celeriac and Potato Mash with Cabbage and Roasted Chicken

There are foods you grow up eating and then there are foods you discover. Most often, the former carries a greater sense of importance and realism especially if you aspire to have a life somehow centered around food.

Celeriac is a food that I discovered, not without prompting from television cookery shows, of course. While browsing a local fruit and veg stand for dinner accompaniments one afternoon a few weeks ago, I saw it. It was sitting there with the potatoes and the mushrooms, looking like an out-of-place, small-scale meteor. Instantly, I went over to it and ran my fingers across its tough skin and fantasized about slicing into it and discovering what it was made of. I happily added to the mix of arugula, radicchio and fennel in my basket and proceeded to checkout.

When the time came to slice into the celeriac, I grabbed the newest addition to my knife family, a splurge purchase: a santoku knife, and delved into the celeriac's thick root skin, forcing the milky flesh away from the hull.  

When I finally got inside, I was reminded of a dried coconut. Although celeriacs are very heavy, the flesh is light and porous. In fact, it floats, like a life raft. You should have seen it in my pot, just buoying and bobbing up and down as the water came to a boil, until it submitted to the heat and began to cook.

The smell it emits ... is interesting, unmistakable and very nearly indescribable. I felt like a witch pouring over a steaming cauldron of potion while cooking this. It has this ... heady, earthy, almost terrifyingly fantastic smell. It smells sinister and intriguing, like nothing I've ever cooked with before. Slightly peppery. It's been described as being foul smelling ... I'm not sure if I would agree with that 100 percent. While it was a bit foul and while it did leave my house smelling of its unusual scent for days, I'm not sure I hated it.

 When it came to preparing it for serving, I stuck with a tried and true classic: pairing it with potatoes to make a mash. Simple, yet the taste was elevated.

The celeriac added an earthiness to the potatoes that the spuds were enviable of, I'm sure. It added an interesting pow. Not one that I would want every time I ate mashed potatoes, but every now and again it wouldn't be too bad.

Anyway, dished up with steamed, buttery cabbage and tarragon-covered pan-seared, roasted chicken breast.

I personally think the tarragon, which was sprinkled over everything, added a nice hint of flavor to the celeriac. I think the two ingredients played off of each other's pepperyness and really elevated it. It might be worth considering mixing tarragon throughout the mash next time.

To recreate this meal, you need: chicken breast, dried tarragon, cabbage, two or three good-sized potatoes, one celeriac, milk, white cheese, salt and pepper.

Cut the flesh away from the celeriac's skin, dice and boil for about 15 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, in another pot, boil the peeled and diced potatoes for about 15 minutes until tender. While the root vegetables are boiling, sear the chicken in a hot pan. Then put the chicken in the oven at about 180C/350F for 20 minutes in a pan of butter and olive oil. Baste every now and then to keep from drying out.

Strain the root vegetables and cook the cabbage however you'd like. I like to steam mine and add a little salt, pepper and butter. Mash the potatoes and celeriac together, add in a glug of milk, salt and pepper, cheese and any other secret weapons you use when making homemade mash potatoes.

Top with dried tarragon and serve.

Three Meat Cannelloni Casserole

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three Meat Cannelloni Casserole

One of the coolest things about preschool was making pasta necklaces. You remember it, don't you? You'd come into the classroom and there would be seemingly millions of bowls of brightly colored pasta all in different shapes and sizes. I was the type of kid, whose hands twitched (literally) with excitement when I was near something I was thrilled about.

Without fail, my enthusiasm would get the better of me and I would immediately lurch for the bowls of pasta, grabbing at the shapes as if they were treasures and not cleverly disguised food. Of course, my zealousness always sent me to the corner (this was before naughty steps and before ridiculous research suggested that banishing kids to corners of rooms caused low self esteem) and I had to wait a whole two minutes before being allowed to join the group!

The maverick that I was at three, felt like this was an unjust punishment, for my only transgression had been to be excited about learning! (They were using those brightly colored pasta pieces to help us develop our motor skills and our dexterity, weren't they?) Why I should be made to stand with my nose against a wall while my classmates plucked up the good pasta always confused me. Alas, some 20-odd years later, while standing in my kitchen, stuffing a concoction of meat and vegetables into cannelloni pasta, I was reminded of my edible jewelry making days.

Three meat cannelloni casserole is what I'm calling it. The original recipe, swiped from a comfort foods cookbook, called it something else, but, like always, I have adapted this recipe.

This is one of those, home-y meals, where measurements aren't important. For that reason, and the fact that I didn't bother with measurements and I can't be bothered to go downstairs to the kitchen to get the original recipe, I'll let you work out your own measurements.

What you'll need:
  • Three types of ground (minced) meat--I used pork, beef and turkey.
  • A carrot
  • An onion
  • Oil of your choice
  • A can of peeled plum tomatoes. You'll need to chop these.
  • A box of cannelloni pasta
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • A packet of cheese ( I used cheddar because it's what I had on hand. But I'd suggest Dutch Edam, because it gives you those long, melty cheese strings that Italian food is known for.)
  • You'll also need to make a bechamel. None of that going out and buying pre-made white sauce; bechamel's easy to make and if you learn how to make a good one, you'll use it over and over again

    For your bechamel (measurements are important):
  • 500 ml milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
 Method:
  1. Fry the diced onion and carrots in oil until soft. I left the carrots kind of big because I like the texture they bring to the dish, but you can make both as fine as you'd like.
  2. Add the tomatoes and generous helpings of salt, black pepper, oregano and basil.
  3. Add all of the mince, being sure to break up any large pieces. Stir occasionally and let cook for about 20 minutes until cooked through. Once cooked, set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F. 
  5. Prepare your bechamel by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add in the flour and stir until a roux is formed. Then gradually, whisk in the milk. After all the milk is whisked in, stir the sauce until it thickens.
  6. Pour a bit of the bechamel into the bottom of a casserole dish/roasting tray.
  7. Stuff each cannelloni needed until you have one layer in your dish. Spread any leftover stuffing mix over the top of the cannelloni, cover with the remaining sauce, a bit of oregano and basil, handfuls of cheese and then bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. I serve it with garlic flatbread.
P.S. Apologies for being away! But I was still cooking while I was gone, so I have an arsenal of posts to create and recipes to share including pork and pease pudding, seafood risotto and a celeriac dish!

    Fancy a Stroll Down Mexico Way?

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Mexican Lasagna

    If I had to choose two global cuisines to rule the world, they would Italian and Mexican, respectively. Although, Mexican food only falls into second place slot of my Best Ethnic Cuisine of All Time list, this dish, an interpretation of a Nigella Lawson recipe, is good enough to make me reconsider my ranking.
    Me and Mexican food. Me and tacos, taquitos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas ... we go way back. I'm sure by now, you're aware of my infatuation with Italian food, and my opinion that it is the single greatest cuisine on the planet ... so, what could be better than marrying the pizazz of spicy, colorful Mexican food with the carbby, rich, decadent palate of Italian food?
    I present to you the greatest, Friday night dish ever: Mexican Lasagna with avocado dip.
    Mmmm mmmm mmm.
    What you need to make this mouthwatering and tummy-filling meal:

    an avocado
    a red bell pepper
    green chillies (as much as you can handle)
    coriander (cilantro)
    sweet corn
    black beans
    a can of chopped tomatoes
    1/2 an onion
    ground nut oil
    spicy cheese
    tortillas
    chili powder
    Mexican flavored chicken breast from the deli
    lime juice
    spring onions (scallions)
    a bit of lemon juice just to keep the avocado from discoloring

    There are no measurements because this is the kind of dish that you fill with all the things you like and use less of the things you don't like. This is the kind of dish that will turn out fantastic no matter if you use twice as many black beans and just a few ounces of corn or if you scrap the corn altogether! Experiment and make it to reflect your tastes, not mine.

    Method

    Fry the peppers, onion and chopped, deseeded chillies in the groundnut oil. Salt and cook until tender.

    Boil the black beans and the corn together according to the instruction on the black bean package. Strain and topped pour into a bowl and top with a generous portion of the cheese. Cover.

    Add a generous serving of coriander and tomatoes with a little bit of water to the pan with the onions and chillies and allow to bubble away for about 10 minutes.
    Layer to make your lasagna:
    Take one tortilla shell and place it in the bottom of your dish. (I used a circular Pyrex.)
    The spoon over 1/3 of the tomato/onion mixture. Top with a few pieces of chicken and some cheese. Layer another tortilla and spoon over 1/3 of the black bean mixture. Top with chicken and cheese. Continue on this way until you have used all the ingredients that you would like to use, ending with a tortilla.

    Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.
    For the avocado dip:
    Mix the avocado with a bit of lemon juice, lime juice, spring onions, coriander and some chopped chillies if you'd like. You can make this as chunky or as smooth as you like. Pack into a bowl and refrigerate until the lasagna is finished. Serve on the side with sour cream or dolloped on top.






    Do you know the (blueberry) Muffin Man?

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Do you know the (blueberry) Muffin Man?




    The Muffin Man aka Mambru, for all my Hispanic readers, may live on Drury Lane, but the Blueberry Muffin Man and his whole little muffin family lives in my kitchen belly. These little guys were so moist and delectably delicious and vaguely lemony with a hint of vanilla. Blissful way to end a Monday, let me tell you.

    Blueberry Muffin Me

    There's no point in me giving you a recipe for blueberry muffins. You're bound to have some indeed, but, enjoy the photos of my adorable blueberry muffin men. I'm planning on making a whole army of them once the blueberries get a little sweeter!



    For those of you who don't like the idea of eating little men.














    Here are the bulbous babies from the front.














    And with more definition from the back.















    Okay, go make some!