Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saag Paneer

I love spinach in all its guises—fresh in salads, with a boiled or poached egg and dried potatoes, in soups, and especially in saag paneer, the lovely curry of spinach with homemade cheese. (Apparently saag is any kind of leafy green and palak is more specifically spinach.)

In contrast to most saag paneer/palak paneer recipes I see these days, I don't believe in using frozen spinach or baby spinach for this dish. It needs to cook for a while with some pronounced spices, and for that you need a sturdy spinach. Besides, I  like the greens to retain some of their structure, not to be a green cream. I like the 'wild spinach' that I can get at my Turkish greengrocer. I doubt that it is really wild—it's just robust.

Paneer is easy to make, but I sometimes wonder if it's worth the effort and time it takes to make—it is so bland. In future, I think I might try it with those mini mozzarella balls or some pressed tofu.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Turkish Lamb Eggplant Stew

I live in a neighbourhood with a lot of Turkish and Moroccan people and that means that there are also lots of grocery store, butchers, bakeries and restaurants catering to them (and the rest of us!). They provide a much better range of produce and meat than the general supermarkets, and you can buy spices in packets instead of little jars. (I still miss the Bulk Store though!)

Occasionally when I don't feel like cooking supper for myself, I pick up an eggplant-lamb stew for take-out from one of Turkish restaurants. However, I do find it too heavy on the oil, so I've been looking for a recipe that I can adjust  to my tastes. This recipe is an amalgam of several that I have found. As is my wont, I've reduced the salt.

Since I'm incapable of making a stew for one, or even two, I make a big pot and freeze it in individual portions.

What to Do with Fresh Figs

You'd think that after living on my own for over 35 years that I would get the hang of cooking for one, I even bought a cookbook called The Pleasures of Cooking for One, which is a pleasant read and has some good sounding recipes, none of which I've made.

So what got into me to purchase a flat of fresh figs, which bruise easily and don't keep well? Of course I ate a few fresh, but that still leaves 14 figs that I had to use up this weekend. Here's what I did.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Focaccia

My newly acquired cookbook, Good to the Grain is providing lots of fodder for kitchen experiments.  One of my faults in cooking is that I rarely follow a recipe exactly, even the first time I try it, and the focaccia made with spelt flour was no different. I followed the flour proportions, but since I had a couple of old dried sun-dried tomatoes lying about that I wanted to use, I incorporated them into the bread as well, and I used the soaking water in the starter.

I am noticing with a number of recipes in this cookbook that the amount of salt required is too high, at least for my kind of salt and my taste. The author, Kim Boyce, always specifies kosher salt, which is really just coarse salt. The brand she uses is Diamond Crystal, which is less salty than Morton's. Since neither of these brands is available in Amsterdam, I just use coarse sea salt. Either this salt is much saltier than her brand, or my taste buds are accustomed to much less salt. Either way, I am now halving all her recommendations for salt, and that is yielding much better results.

Rather than baking one large bread, I divided the dough into 3 after the first rise, reserving 2/3 of the dough in the fridge for future baking.

My New Assistant

I been, 'n gone, 'n done it. I finally broke down and bought a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It is a thing of beauty and I hope it will be a joy forever.

I've been resisting for years because I don't make cakes that often, and I like kneading bread by hand. And it takes up valuable counter space in a small kitchen. I read about all the nifty attachments that turn it into a grater, a grain grinder, a juicer, a vegetable purée-er,  an ice cream maker, a pasta maker. But I've never needed those things before, so why would I need them now? And the cost!

And yet, and yet. Think of all the things I could make that I've never bothered with before. Breads made with unusual flours that I can grind myself, home-made ice cream, pasta filled with vegetable purées.

So I caved, found an online supplier that sold it for way less than cooking stores, and now I'm in love. I love the design, the weight, the power, the sturdiness, the way it's made, and yes, the colour. So far, I've only used it for bread-making, but I really notice that it is giving more loft to the bread.

I've not bought any of the attachments yet, but I will eventually. First I need to bake some more.