Random recipe #17: Albondigas

You know how when you’re a kid you go through a stage of wondering if you’re really a princess and hoping that your real parents will turn up? I know that wasn’t just me, because a few years ago I interviewed a couple who were convinced they were Russian royalty and they had told their nine-year-old daughter that her real name was really Princess Anastasia or something. Nevermind that the poor kid was getting bullied mercilessly at school because of it, her parents were too busy waiting for the gold ingots to turn up in the post to notice.
But I digress. Lately I’ve been wondering if my life would have turned out different if I had a Mexican grandmother. Daniella Germain does and she’s written My Abuela’s Table – a really beautiful book of said grandmother’s recipes.
My copy of this book happens to be in the middle of the middle shelf of cookbooks, so I chose the middle recipe from it for June’s Random Recipes.

Albondigas
Forgive me, but I didn’t exactly follow the recipe in My Abuela’s Kitchen, not least because it has ‘2 chicken cubes’ listed in the ingredients. I don’t put chicken stock cubes in anything, so I’m not about to start crumbling them into meatballs. Perhaps it’s not so cool to have a Mexican grandmother after all. Here’s my version of Daniella’ Germain’s grandmother’s meatballs in chipotle sauce. She cooks the meatballs in the sauce, but I baked mine in the oven and served the sauce separately. This serves four.

Chipotle-tomato sauce
Make the sauce first and let it simmer away on the stove while you prepare the meatballs.

2Tbsp olive oil
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tins tomatoes
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then gently saute the onion and garlic until golden. Tip in the tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer gently for at least 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, squishing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, until the sauce is dark and thick.

Meatballs
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
a splash of milk
350g beef mince
250g pork mince
2 eggs
finely grated zest of a lemon
a handful of finely grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a large baking tray with nonstick paper.
Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and pour over a splash of milk to moisten them. Add all the other ingredients and mix lightly with your hands. Roll the mixture into small balls and place on the prepared tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are crispy on the outside and cooked through. Give the tray a shake halfway through cooking to turn them over. Serve with a pool of chipotle-tomato sauce.

Treat me: Gingery Pear Loaf

Ripe pears are like buses. You wait ages for them to reach the perfect ripeness and then they all go ripe at once. Or, if you’re like me, you happen across a whole swag of perfectly juicy Doyenne du Comice pears at the green grocer and you buy a whole bagful. This is what you should do with the ones you don’t eat standing over the kitchen sink as the juice runs down your forearms.

Easy Ginger And Pear Loaf Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Gingery Pear Loaf
This is barely adapted from a Michael Lee-Richards recipe, snipped from a North and South in 1998. It’s the easiest cake in the world to make, leaves you with just one pot to wash up and doesn’t require icing. Oh, and it tastes amazing hot or cold. It’s probably one of my favourite cakes of all-time (and, despite appearances, I’m quite fussy).

125g butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large pears, peeled, cored and diced
3/4 cup crystallised ginger, chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C. Grease and line a loaf tin or a 23cm ring tin.

Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat and set aside while you get everything else ready.
Tip all the remaining ingredients into the butter and stir well. Scrape this mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden and crusty on top (and cooked in the middle – give it the skewer test to be sure).
Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out to a rack to cool.

Have a sweet, sweet weekend, everyone. Don’t forget to get your entry in for this month’s We Should Cocoa – you have until the end of Monday, NZ time.

Hands-free pumpkin soup

Do you shy away from buying whole pumpkins because it’s such a struggle to cut them up? Well, this is the recipe for you. This is about as hands-free as soup making gets – the oven does all the hard work and all you have to do is a little light stirring and blending at the end. Plus, it looks incredibly cool. What’s not to love about that?

Roast pumpkin, peanut and chipotle soup

1 large crown pumpkin, pierced in a couple of places with a sharp knife
3 onions, unpeeled
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or a spoonful of harissa, to taste)
1/2 cup good quality peanut butter
water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Put the pumpkin on a large, solid baking tray and shove in the oven. Turn the oven to 150C. Leave the pumpkin for about 45 minutes, then put the onions and garlic on the same tray. Bake for another 45-60 minutes, until the onions are soft and the pumpkin is tender when prodded with a fork.
Let everything cool until you can touch it, then carefully peel the onions and garlic, discarding the skin and root ends. Put them into a large pot.
Cut a lid from the pumpkin, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1.5-centimetre shell. Add the flesh to the onions and garlic, then add the chipotles, peanut butter and a cupful of stock or water. Stir well and set over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, taste for seasoning. Add more stock or water to thin it down a little, then blitz with a stick blender.
If you’re going to serve it in the pumpkin, return it to the heat until it’s bubbling again, then gently ladle it back inside the pumpkin shell. Do not attempt to lift the shell from the roasting dish, just take it to the table in all its rustic glory. Serves 4-6.

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns

I’ve fallen off the breadmaking wagon with a resounding thud in the last fortnight, thanks to a combination of factors including too much work, the snow, a warp-speed trip to Sydney and coming to the end of my 20kg sack of flour. But before I fell into the clutches of a bag of Vogels and a stray baguette, I joined the Fresh From The Oven crew, who “meet” once a month to extend their breadmaking skills.

Sally at My Custard Pie set the challenge for August, suggesting participants deal to their zucchini/courgette glut with a recipe for Courgette Cluster Bread. Zucchinis are currently about NZ$13 a kilo here and they look battered, bruised and extremely weary after a long journey from somewhere warmer. But pumpkins are in massive supply at our weekly vegetable market and I had the bright idea to use them instead.

Pumpkin And Parmesan Cheese Bread

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns
These are easy to make, deliciously light and fluffy and they keep really well (if you can resist eating them). Next time I’m thinking pink – beetroot, feta and fennel seeds, perhaps?

450g peeled, seeded and grated pumpkin
675g strong white bread flour
1/2tsp salt
2tsp dried yeast
4Tbsp parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2Tbsp olive oil
Tepid water – about 250ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and grated pumpkin. Add water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. (As per Sally’s instructions, I did this and the kneading in my KitchenAid with the dough hook. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough in the bowl and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 30cm cake tin (or a roasting dish of similar size) with baking papert. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other – about 30 minutes.
Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Random Recipes: Burmese Curry

There are few things more random than the meanderings of a two-and-a-bit-year-old, so I put mine to good use and got her to select the cookbook for this month’s Random Recipe challenge.

I can’t remember how I came to be in possession of Great Ways With Steak & Chops. It was probably a joke gift – I have ‘Cooking For Couples’ and ‘100 Dishes For Two’ that we got as engagement presents. GWWSC was published in 1972 by the Australian Women’s Weekly and written by its well-respected food editor, Ellen Sinclair. Her name should have prompted me to open this book earlier, but food snobbery being what it is, I thought the whole book would be full of appalling examples of 70s cuisine. There are many things in this book I will never, ever, make – such as Veal Oscar (veal steaks topped with canned asparagus, lobster meat and bearnaise sauce) or Pineapple Bacon Cutlets (lamb, topped with tinned pineapple rings, wrapped in bacon, breadcrumbed and baked), but GWWSC actually has some interesting, even enticing, recipes. This is one of them.

Burmese Curry

Ellen Sinclair, who wrote loads of other titles for the Australian Women’s Weekly, certainly knew her stuff. These recipes are very well-written and easy to follow (even if the photos are hilariously awful). The original recipe was very dry, so I splashed in about a cup of water as detailed below and upped the chilli quotient as detailed below. This can also be cooked in the oven – after adding the water clamp the lid on and let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 150C.

900g chuck steak, cut into 2cm chunks

2Tbsp oil

4 onions, finely chopped

5cm ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2tsp turmeric

1/2tsp chilli flakes

1 beef stock cube

1 1/2 – 2 cups water

2tsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan with a lid. Add the meat and brown well, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook until golden brown.

Add turmeric, chilli, water and stock cube and bring to the boil, stirring.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently for one hour or until the meat is tender. Add soy sauce and salt to taste. Serve with rice. Serves 4-6.