Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Papas Rellenas Colombianas - WCFC2014 : Colombia


This is my last entry for the World Cup Food Challenge of 2014, and at least one of my teams got through to the quarter finals - Colombia.  Over the (admittedly brief) course of this challenge, during my research and cooking the dishes, I've fallen a little bit in love with South American food.  There are some amazing recipes out there and I feel like it is the undiscovered continent of food.

Of course, probably come this time next week we'll all be eating Arepas Colombianas from street food vendors like the hipsters we are and the secret will be out, but until then, I highly recommend tracking down some South American recipes and giving them a go yourself, there's a (fifth of a) world of taste excitement out there waiting for you...


On to the recipe though.  When I was a kid, I remember going to my Nana's house and there, on the stove top was a huuuuuge black pan that she used to fry chips in (my Nana had two methods of cooking - boiling for hours or deep frying) and I used to love her chips.  As a student, one of my favourite meals was Crispy Pancakes and potato waffles, all chucked in the deep fat fryer and served with mushy peas and drowned in so much vinegar it made my eyes water (Yes, I've come a  long way since then...)

Over the years, deep fat frying has gotten a bit of a reputation as being unhealthy but as I've learned during this food challenge, it still seems to be big in Colombia, and this dish is a fine example - deep fried mashed potato stuffed with beef and eggs - whats not to like? Its like a Shepard's Pie drowned in hot fat, and then served with a spicy fresh salsa called an Aji.

So until the next world cup, Olympic games or other excuse for a blogging food challenge, its back to soup for me...
  
Ingredients
1kg Potatoes
250g Minced Beef
2 Hard Boiled Eggs
2 Tomatoes
1 Onion
4 Spring Onions
2 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Garlic Salt
1/2tsp Paprika
Salt
Pepper

1 Egg
30g Plain Flour
60ml Milk
1/2tsp Paprika

2 Tomatoes
4 Spring Onions
1 Red Chili
1 Lime (Juice Only)
50ml White Wine Vinegar
50ml Olive Oil
25ml Water
 Handful Fresh Coriander
1tsp Caster Sugar
Salt

Method.
1. Peel and cube the potatoes.  In a pan, cover with water, add a some salt and boil until they are cooked (10-15mins) and the drain, set aside to cool

2. In a frying pan, heat some oil and then add finely chopped onion and spring onion, plus the garlic.  Fry for 5 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Then add the minced beef and continue to cook until the beef is broken up and browned.

3. Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes, along with the cumin, garlic salt, paprika, salt and black pepper.  Cook for 2 or 3 minutes then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  Roughly chop the hard boiled eggs and add these to the mixture

4.  Put the ingredients for the Aji in a food processor and blend roughly.  Pour into a bowl and put in the fridge until it's time to serve.

5. In a large bowl, mix the batter ingredients, whisking until smooth.


6.  Mash the cooled potatoes and then split into roughly 8 balls.  Roll them out until they are about 8mm thick and spoon some of the filling into each one, carefully shaping into a ball.

7.  In a heavy pan, heat your oil to 180ºc and then carefully put the batter covered balls in, frying them for 4 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen towel to remove any excess oil.

8. Serve with the Aji.  Enjoy!




Friday, 27 June 2014

Avgolemono -WCFC2014 : Greece


The second country that made it through to round 2 from Group C is Greece (Not The Ivory Coast, which is both a shame - as I'd bought the ingredients for an Ivorian soup as it looked like they would get through and I'd done my research, and a blessing as it was a gaspacho soup style made with avocados, and as we all know from yesterday, I really don't like avocados) and as this is the Soup Round, we're having a Greek soup.

A while ago, I made a Turkish dish - it's name escapes me right now - but it was basically lamb meatballs in lemony custard.  This soup is very similar and I would say it's kind of an acquired taste. It's a standard chicken soup but it's thickened with an egg and lemon mixture that resembles a custard as it's cooked.  It was, ummm, interesting, but worth a try as it was also quite a summery taste

Also, if you can't get orzo (rice pasta) you could just use ordinary white rice, and cook it for a little longer than you would pasta


Ingredients
4 Chicken Breasts
2 Carrots
2 Celery Stalks
1 Onion
60g Orzo Pasta
3 Eggs
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of 2 Lemons
Bay Leaf
Salt and Black Pepper

Method
1. Put 1.5 litres of water into a large pan, then add the chicken, finely chopped carrot, onion and celery.  Bring the water to the boil and cook for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.  Remove any foam that forms on top of the pan.

2.  Remove the meat and vegetables, shred the chicken and set aside.

3.  Add the orzo pasta to the stock and simmer for 10 minute, until the pasta is cooked.

4.  While this is cooking, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until they are fluffy, and then add the juice and zest of the lemon, mixing thoroughly.

5. Take about 2 cups of the stock and slowly add them to the egg and lemon mixture, whisking constantly to stop the eggs from curdling or separating

6.  Return the egg mixture to the pan, along with the vegetables and chicken, taste and adjust seasoning as you like, then simmer over a low heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes

7.  Garnish with some fresh parsley and then serve.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ajiaco - WCFC2014 : Colombia


And so Team Soup head into the second round with our heads held high, unlike *some* teams I could mention, where the two qualifying teams get a second crack of the whip.  And because we are Team Soup, this 2nd round will henceforth be known as The Soup Round, where, you guessed it, I'll be making soups from the Group C qualifying countries.

First on the list is Colombia.  Much like the huge Colombian fry-up that I made for round 1, this soup is an 'everything and the kitchen sink' type of soup, which skirts closely to being a stew (but remember, it's not a stew unless it has dumplings in it, and even then that distinction is blurred) Many versions of this recipe call for not two, but three types of potato, but that seems like it might be over-egging the pudding (over potato-ing the soup doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?)

Also, it's been ironic that pretty much every Colombian dish I've looked at involves avocado in some way, either as a main ingredient or as a garnish, when it's just about the only fruit that I don't really like.  I find its texture unpleasant, and the taste vaguely awful too, yet here I am, manfully preparing dishes and then eating them, piled high with avocado.  The life of a food blogger isn't as easy as you think it is, I suffer for my 'art' sometimes too...


Ingredients
3 Chicken Breasts
2 Ears of Corn
400g Red Potatoes
400g White Potatoes
1 Large Carrot
1 Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
Chicken Stock Cube

3 Spring Onions
1 Tomato
2 Red Chillies
3Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

Sour Cream
Avocado
Capers
Coriander


Method
1. Cut the corn in half, peel and cube the potatoes, slice the carrot and onion and chop the garlic

2. Put 1.2l of water in a pan and add the chicken, veg and stock cube, then bring to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just starting to break up.

3.  Put the spring onions, tomato, chilies and vinegar in an blender and puree until smooth

4.  Once the soup is cooked, shred the meat and then put into a bowl, put some of the purée over the top and garnish with sour cream, avocados, capers and freshly chopped coriander.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Kedjenou - WCFC2014 : Cote D'Ivoire


Today's dish in the World Cup Food Challenge is from the Ivory Coast, and is the last of the first round dishes I'll be cooking.  Whichever teams go through to the next round will get another dish, those who go home, well... I'm never eating anything from their country again.

Before we get to the food, let's hit up some Cote D'Ivoire facts, for your edification and mine...
1. The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa beans
2. You've heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, but have you heard of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize? Named after the first President of the Ivory Coast, amongst its recipients was Nelson Mandela
3. The national motto of The Ivory Coast is Unity, Discipline, Labour. Which, whilst being inspirational, is also a bit dull

One of the fun things about the World Cup Food Challenge, as well as compiling my fun facts, is researching the recipes, finding out what fun and unusual ingredients I might need for a dish and where to find them.  Some of these things are relatively easy to find - Plantains are found in most supermarkets, if you're lucky, Cassava in good markets, duck tongues in any Chinese food suppliers, but then some things are almost impossible to find.

When I googled Ivory Coast cuisine, I found that giant land snails were an ingredient that is eaten in that country, which peaked my culinary curiosity, but alas, no giant land snails were to be found anywhere (and I didn't want your common or garden small snails.  Where's the fun in that?)

I finally found a dish that sounded fun - a stew called Kedjenou, traditionally cooked in the embers of a fire, but seeing as there are court orders preventing me from setting fire to things (not really) I decided to do mine in the oven - of which more later.  Kedjenou can be made with a variety of meats - beef and chicken seem to be most common, but then I can across Kedjenou avec Agouti.  Ooooh, what can that be, I thought and promptly searched for it, only to be greeted with... this


A Cane rat.  I giggled.  Where the heck could I get a cane rat from? I checked, I asked twitter, I considered stealing the next door neighbour's Guinea Pigs (But their grandkids would be heartbroken) but sadly, my search was frustratingly drawing a blank.  So in the end, I had to settle for chicken.  Bah! I feel defeated.  Still, the kedjenou was delicious, but it just goes to illustrate that even in the days of being able to get most things from Amazon, it's still a struggle to make some dishes authentically


Ingredients
4 Chicken Thighs (or 1 Cane Rat, quartered)
1 Large Onion
1 Aubergine
1 Red Pepper
1 Green Pepper
3 Tomatoes
4 Cloves of Garlic
2tbsp Chopped Ginger
1tsp Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper

Method
1. In a large heavy pan, add a little oil, heat and brown the chicken pieces.

2. Add the vegetables, chopped and seasonings then cover the pan with silver foil before putting the lid on, to create as near to an airtight seal as possible.

3. Put the pan in the oven at 150ºc for 90 minutes, shaking the pan regularly to ensure that the ingredients don't stick.  You don't need to add any more liquid, the vegetables should provide enough to cook everything properly and make a sauce.

4.  Serve with cous cous or white rice.  Enjoy


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Souvlaki - WCFC2014 : Greece


Our trip round the great (and not so great) footballing nations of the world has reached number 3 in Group C, and as is customary, we'll start with some fun facts about Greece

1. Greek citizens are required by law to vote in elections.  This is presumably because they invented the whole democracy thing...
2. Greece is the world's leading producer of Sea Sponges
3. Football is the national sport of Greece.  They must be good at it then (checks results. Hmmm hold that thought)

And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to the dish I've chosen for Greece, souvlaki (Which has nothing at all to do with the Slowdive album of the same name, 90's shoe-gazing indie fans...) but it a fast food that is popular in Greece.


One of the things I hate is watching a TV chef lecturing me about how, instead of eating a burger, kebab or other fast food, it's really easy and healthy to make your own.  Whilst this may be perfectly true, it's kind of missing the point. When I want a greasy kebab, I'm usually drunk, on the way home from the pub and in no fit state to have a crack at anything more elaborate than opening a bag of crisps.  Therefore takeaway food is the perfect solution and all those multi-millionaire TV cooks so 'do one' in the parlance of the youth. 

The same thing goes for any restaurant that advertises 'dirty' burgers. No, sir, your burger is prepared with the finest ingredients, served on a clean plate that I sit in your tastefully decorated establishment to eat with a knife and fork.  There is nothing 'dirty' about it.  'Dirty' is a burger from a pizza/kebab/fried chicken/burger shop at 2am that drips with grease and assorted and unidentifiable other sauces.  Anything else is simply for people with too much money and too little sense trying to relive their student days in the safety of a street food vendors. (takes deep breath and thinks about meat to calm down...)

That being said... if I could get my hands on some awesome souvlaki at 2am, I would die a happy happy, drunk man. Its a tasty, meaty, sloppy delight and would work just as well for a family BBQ as a tasty snack. Still, I'm not trying to claim it will replace your takeaway treat, I'd never be that much of a hypocrite...


Ingredients (Makes 4)

For the Souvlaki
500g Shoulder of Pork
30ml Lemon Juice
3tbsp Olive Oil
1tsp Dried Oregano
1tsp Dried Mint
1tsp Chili Flakes
4 Cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper

For the Peppers
3 Peppers

For the Flatbreads
200g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
200g Greek Yogurt

For the Tzatziki
1/2 Cucumber
200ml Greek Yoghurt
1tsp Dried Mint
4 Cloves Garlic
2tbsp Lemon Juice

Method
1. Mix the ingredients for the marinade and cover the meat. Put in the fridge overnight.  At the same time, soak 4 wooden skewers to stop them from burning when you grill/BBQ the meat

2. Grate the cucumber, then squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as you can.  Add this to the yoghurt along with the mint, crushed garlic and lemon juice. Mix well and refrigerate until needed

3.  Heat your grill to maximum and put the peppers under it.  Keep turning them until the skins are charred and black on all sides.  Remove from the heat and put into a bowl, then cover with cling film and allow to cool.  Then remove the skin, seeds and stalk and cut into strips.  Put aside until needed.

4.  Make the dough for the flatbreads by combining all the ingredients and kneeding for 3 minutes.  Then cut into 4 chunks and roll into flat circles about 15cm in diameter.


5.  Put the meat on the skewers and then put under a hot grill (or BBQ) until they are cooked through - about 10-15 minuted, depending on the size of the chunks. 

6.  Heat a griddle pan and cook the flatbreads for about 2 minutes per side


7.  Assemble the dish - put some tzatziki on the flatbread then peppers and finally chucks of pork.  Eat them with your hands, not knife and fork, and from a polystyrene carton for that '2am takeaway' feeling, or possibly overlooking a sunny Mediterranean beach for that authentic Greek feel





Monday, 16 June 2014

Japanese Feast - WCFC2014 : Japan


Mrs Soup is a bit of a Japan-o-phile, so I turned over responsibility to her for this dish.  I was good and didn't even hang round in the kitchen, fussing and 'helping' like I often do when someone else is cooking for me.  What I got in return was a rather magnificent feast.

First a bit about Japan, which, it turns out has never been attacked by Godzilla. 

1. Japan has the worlds largest population of robots! Over 800,000 of them live and work in the country, although none of them play for the national football team (as far as I know)
2. Japan has the world's oldest national anthem - Kimigayo - which dates back to 1880, but is based on a waka poem from the Heian period (794–1185) but it doesn't feature any lines about pouring gifts on people, like the British nation anthem does.  (This is why it's considered bad form to give the Queen a present of soup)
3. My Neighbour Totoro, a Japanese animated film directed by Hayao Miyazake is THE BEST FILM EVER MADE


So, anyway - now that you know more about Japan then 97% of the people who actually live there, on with the food. Rather than cook a single meal, Mrs Soup opted for a number of small dishes served at the same time.

All the recipes came from a book called Hashi by Reiko Hashimoto, which is a brilliant introduction to Japanese cuisine, I can't recommend it enough and I'm totally hooked on it.

Amongst the dishes were Tamago-yaki, which are slices of sweet omelettes with ham, sweetened with sugar and mirin, then sliced thinly and served cold.  Like most Japanese dishes, everything is served sliced on the plate to make them easier to eat with chopsticks (although I opted for a knife and fork as I lack the co-ordination for chopsticks, or walking in a straight line for more than 4 meters)



Next up was Spinach with Gomadare Sesame Sauce, which was blanched spinach leaves again served cold accompanied with a sauce made of tahini, caster sugar, mirin and sesame seeds. This sauce definitely had umami coming out the wazoo, so to speak.  This is a brilliant way to make spinach a tasty dish without actually doing much to it. 

And finally (unless you count the aubergine and miso dish which was somehow left in the oven and burnt to a rather exciting purple crisp, but we wont mention that...) we had prawn and vegetable tempura with ponzu sauce.  2 things I learned watching Mr Soup prepare this dish was that 
1) Chopsticks are a brilliant utensils to aid in the deep frying process, great for making sure the food doesn't stick together and perfect for grabbing things from the hot oil

2) Ponzu is a sauce, not an elaborate insurance scam, made with lime juice, soy and dashi.

Also, being a Northerner experiencing oriental food, I was excited to find that tempura comes with scraps like you used to get from the chippy.   Well, maybe it isn't actually meant to be part of the dish in the strictest terms, but the light golden and crunchy batter was so amazing that I couldn't help just eat it on its own....







Friday, 13 June 2014

Bandeja Paisa - WCFC2014 : Colombia


Aaaaaand they're off. Oh, wait, that's horse racing isn't it? Well, the World Cup is under way and love it or loath it, you can't escape from it. My plan is to lock myself in the kitchen and cook so much food I can't even see a telly, much less a football match.  But there's a challenge to be undertaken that is football related, and I shall rise to it...

First out of the hat is Colombia.  I know nothing about the prowess of Colombia's football team, so here are some facts to distract you from my shocking lack of soccer knowledge (and why I suck at the sports rounds in all pub quizzes, although these facts may aid you should your pub quiz have a round about Colombia in it...)

1. Colombia is where 95% of the world's emeralds are mined
2. Women were first allowed to vote in Colombia in 1957
3. Colombia's national animal is the majestic Condor.

First port of call for me when I'm researching a country's cuisine is to find out what it's national dish is, closely followed by what gross or weird ingredients do they cook with.  In Colombia's case, the national dish is Bandeja Paisa, which, rather brilliantly is basically a huge fry-up, so that's the first dish I cooked in the World Cup Food Challenge.

Much like the English fry-up, there seems to be a few opinions in what goes in a good Bandeja Paisa, so I picked a few components that seemed to go together.  Other things you could add are steak, arepa (Colombian Cornbread) or black pudding.   The main philosophy of a good Bandeja Paisa seems to be More is better so if you're trying it at home, pile as much on the plate as is humanly possible (I didn't for the pictures because I don't want you all to think I'm a fatty, but as soon as I'd finished snapping, I doubled the quantity that you see here...)


Carne en Polvo - Powdered Beef

450g Braising Steak
5 Spring Onions
1tsp Cumin
Salt and Pepper

Cut the steak into cubes and rub with the cumin, salt and plenty of black pepper, finely cut your onions and then put everything in the fridge to marinade for 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and put in a pan, then cover with water.  Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for 45 minute to an hour, until the meat is cooked and starting to break up.  Remove from the heat, take the meat out of the liquid and leave to dry and cool thoroughly

Once it is dry and cold, put the meat in a food blender and process until it's a fine, powdery consistency.

Chicharron - Fried Pork

300g Belly Pork Slices
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Salt

Rub the pork slices in the salt and baking powder, and then fry gently for 10-15 minutes, until its golden and crispy on the outside

Frijoles Paisas _ Colombian Style Beans

200g Dried Pinto Beans
1 Large Onion
1Carrot
50g Bacon
3 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Salt
1tsp Baking Soda

Soak the Pinto Beans overnight (or use tinned if you are totally lazy) in water with the baking soda to help the beans soften

Drain the beans and rinse, then add to a pan with some water, the bacon, cumin, chopped onion and carrot garlic and salt.  Bring the pan to the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes, until the beans are softened and cooked through.  Drain if some of the liquid if you don't like it too runny and then serve

Hogao

1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
5 Spring Onions
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp White Vinegar 
1 Tsp Cumin
Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion and fry gently. Add the tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and cumin, then simmer for 10 minutes.  Season to taste


Serve the meal with Fried Plantains, Chorizo Sausage, white rice, avocado and a fried egg.  Enjoy!  This meal also works well as a breakfast to chase away a hangover caused my drinking too much during a game, or drinking too much trying to avoid a game...