Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Pan-fried scallops with white bean puree, roasted heritage beetroot and herb oil

The beautiful beetroots caught my eye, jewel like in the vegetable isle, and I simply had to have them.

It's more the kind of thing you'd hear a women utter when it comes to shoes / handbags / clothes (delete as appropriate), but I get just as (and sometimes more) excited by interesting ingredients. Perhaps its a sigh of age. More likely it's my gluttony.

Today was Mathews birthday and I wanted to do something for him I've not done before. Hmmm, am sure in other households when a wife says this on her husbands birthday she means something different...but in my world it means cooking something new and interesting, and the colourful beetroots certainly tick that box.

These flavours and textures work brilliantly together - earthy, sweet, creamy and fragrant, plus the overall dish has a bit of a special feel about it in that it doesn't feel overly familiar, and the combination of ingredients are a little different.

For two:
10 scallops (preferably with roe, I had to get a mix but go for with roe if you can)
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can haricot beans, rinsed and drained
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
A handful each of fresh mint and basil leaves, picked from their stems
Juice of half a juicy lemon
A fresh bunch of small heritage beetroots
A small handful of watercress leaves, picked from their stems
Sea salt and black pepper
Unsalted butter and olive oil for frying

- Preheat your oven to 190 degrees. Top and tail the beetroots and rinse them to remove and dirt and place them on to a baking tray, then into the oven for 45 minutes
- Put your herbs, a generous glug of extra virgin and a scrunch of salt into a food processor, give it a squeeze of lemon juice and blitz for a minute until the herbs are as blended as they'll get
- Place the drained beans into a saucepan and cover with just enough water to cover them, put the lid on the pan
- Wash your scallops to clean them of any grit or nasty membrane bits, then set aside to keep them dry
- Put a knob of butter and a little glug of olive oil into a frying pan ready for cooking
- When you're 10 minutes off the beetroot being ready, turn the pan on to get them cooking. Once they are boiling which should take about 5 minutes, cook for a couple of minutes then drain them and pop into a food processor. Add a generous glug of extra virgin, scrunch of salt, grind of pepper and the remaining juice from the lemon, then blitz for a minute or two. Put the bean puree into a bowl and put it in the oven to keep warm
- Turn the oven off, remove the beetroot from the oven and (with your asbestos fingers!) gently rub the skins to peel off the beetroot skins. Then place them in a bowl, give a light drizzle of extra virgin and scrunch of salt and mix together, then half each with a knife. Pop the bowl into the oven just to keep them warm
- Put the frying pan with the butter onto a high heat and once the butter begins to foam place the scallops into the pan. Cook on one side for 1.5 minutes ish, then turn over, cook for a further 30 seconds then turn the heat off
- Leaving the scallops in the cooling pan (the residual pan heat will continue to cook the scallops until they are ready) get ready to plate up
- Take your plates and using a spoon drizzle on the herb oil, followed by the bean puree, then the halved beets, then the scallops dotted amongst them, and finally the watercress leaves on top.
- Eat and enjoy with a glass of something very cold and slightly dry - we had a rioja rose that worked perfectly

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Vietnamese beef pho with rice noodles

Heady, fragrant, aromatic and cleansing - pho is one of my top noodle dishes of all time.

And it's this favourite dish of mine I decided to break the blog silence with - what else would do? You see, for the last four weeks we've been a bit like hobos...out of bags and my grandmas.

I know how it sounds, but grandma is a rather cool lady. Nifty in her little Mercedes, off out with her girlfriends from the golf club whenever she has the chance, and she likes a good glass of wine or two. Being here is really quite good fun. Plus I get to use all her antique dinnerware (see pics for a lovely duck egg blue set).

But, this isn't a move for the long term - it's temporary whilst we find our next house. This time up north in Manchester where I've been offered a fantastic new job, so I'm soon again to be Hannah-the-Planner, I can't wait.

Enough of me, on to the dish...
Given I'm still off the chillies, this is the ideal noodle dish for me to devour because that the dish itself is entirely without heat- if you want a dose of the hot stuff you simply add some shredded red chilli before eating.

There are a couple of ways you can make it; as a labour of love, or a quick hit - and both ways yield excellent results.

The long way:
If you have the time to get hold of some beef bones and oxtail, then roast, boil, skim and simmer with peppercorns, carrots, celery, peeled onions and the aromatics for several hours before clarifying with egg whites, you'll create an intense, rich, deeply flavoured stock.

The short way:
But if you're lacking time you can use a fantastic cheat ingredient instead - canned beef consomme. Its flavour still delivers the beefy taste you need and mixes well with the additional aromatics and you don't have to go through any of the pain to get there.

Perhaps one version is for weekend eating - put it on in late morning then eat it early evening, and the other version is post work - cooked and on the table within an hour.

The recipe below is the short version, which isn't completely authentic I know pho aficionados will say, but is still incredibly aromatic and delicious.

Pho for two:
10 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 lemongrass stalks, halved through their centres
1 very large thumb of ginger, cut roughly into stalks
2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 cans beef consomme (Baxters one is very good)
800mls water
A small handful coriander
A small handful fresh mint
A small handful Thai holy basil
Rice noodles - I like the wide variety for this, however many you like for two
2 sirloin steaks
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Black pepper - ground
5 radishes, sliced very finely (and carefully) on a mandolin
A couple of handfuls of beansprouts
One lime, cut into quarters

Method:- In a large saucepan combine the consomme, ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Simmer for 20-30 minutes with the lid on
- Whilst this is happening heat a dry frying pan until its very hot, and season your steaks on one side with a sprinkling of the sesame seeds, salt and black pepper before putting them seasoned side down in the pan. Now season the other sides whilst they're cooking ready for when you turn them. Cook them for 3 minutes before turning over. Cook for 3 minutes this side then remove them from the pan and set aside on a chopping board. Leave for 5 minutes before slicing thinly with a knife
- When you're around 10 minutes from the pho being ready, cook your rice noodles as per the pack instructions, by the time the water has boiled and they've cooked you should have both things ready at the same time
- Strain the noodles and separate them into two large pre-warmed bowls
- Strain the pho and all its contents through a sieve into another saucepan, then pick out a few of the star anise and the ginger from the colander, and put them back into the saucepan with the liquor (I like to do this for decoration, they shouldn't be eaten)
- Add the radishes and bring it back to the boil
- Place the sliced steak over the rice noodles along with a handful each of the bean shoots, holy basil, mint and coriander, then ladle over the hot liquor