Friday, 20 August 2010

Cooking Cabbage the Delia way

Fresh cabbage lightly cooked is full of goodness, packed with vitamins, minerals and flavour and it’s not expensive.

Cabbage should always be eaten as fresh as possible – it loses nutrients if stored for too long. An unwrapped fresh cabbage should look bright and crisp, with its outer leaves intact (often if it’s had its outer leaves removed, it was because they were limp, which is not a good sign). The heart should feel firm and the leaves should squeak as you pull them apart.

To prepare cabbage: with a leafy variety such as spring greens, it’s best to discard any tired, floppy outside leaves, then separate the other leaves down to the central bud and place them one by one on a flat board. Then, using a sharp paring knife cut out the stalks, running the point of the knife down each side. When the stalks have been removed, pile the leaves on top of each other and, using a larger knife, shred the cabbage into strips, then do the same with the centre bud to shred that, too.

For a more compact variety, such as Savoy, once the outer leaves have been discarded, halve and then quarter the cabbage lengthways, then cut out the hard core from each quarter and discard. Finally, slice thinly across each quarter to shred it.

I have tried every method under the sun for cooking cabbage and I am now convinced that boiled cabbage needs plenty of water. The secret is to shred it quite finely and cook it briefly in rapidly boiling water. What I do is pack it down quite tightly into a saucepan, sprinkle with salt, then place the pan over a high heat, pour in boiling water from the kettle, which re-boils instantly, and time it for 3-5 minutes.

The one way to tell if it’s cooked is to bite a piece, as you would pasta. Then tip it into a colander and squeeze out as much excess water as you can, using a saucer to press the cabbage down. Then turn the saucer on its side and use chopping movements to push any excess water out.

Serve it straightaway in a hot bowl, tossing it with a minute amount of butter, and season it with salt and pepper. One medium-sized cabbage will serve 4 people.

From Delia On-line

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cooking cucumber

Most people think of cucumber as a salad ingredient but it can also be cooked as a vegetable.

Peel cucumber and slice in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and chop into C-shapes about one third of an inch wide. Put butter in frying pan. Add the cucumber and season with salt and pepper. Fry gently for about three to five minutes.

If cooking in a stew or curry you can leave the skin on so that it doesn’t disintegrate.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cooking scallops

"Assuming your scallops are sparklingly fresh (and if they're not, you shouldn't buy them in the first place) they don't actually need cooking at all - they can be eaten raw as sashimi. Now you may not want to do this, but the point is, short cooking time is fine and in fact better.

Of course it depends on the size of the scallop as to how long it needs to cook - and whether you are cooking just the meat or the meat plus the orange-pink coral - the coral takes less time to cook. This is why many top chefs remove the coral before cooking. The coral doesn't have to be wasted - it can be pounded with butter to make scallop butter - very nice on grilled fish - or left to dry overnight in a very slow oven and crumbled over finely sliced and stir-fried cabbage or seaweed.

However, my advice on cooking the scallop meat is to get a heavy based pan very very hot - leave it on the heat with no oil or butter for several minutes. Rub the base of the hot pan with a block of butter and add your dried scallops (dry them beforehand on kitchen paper).

Take a look at the pan-side after 30 seconds - is it crusting nicely? If so, turn it over and give it another 30 seconds. If not, give it another 10 secs then turn it.

The key to this is really to get that pan hot hot hot before you cook - otherwise the scallops will stew rather than fry and caremelise nicely.

(SS’s notes – if you want you can add lemon juice to the frying pan and many people will halve the scallops).

And another thing - please please please use hand-dived scallops. They're much more expensive but the alternative involves dredging the bottom of the sea bed and removing everything from it - meaning there's no breeding ground for scallops or fish for years to come."

Richard Leader

(The above scallops were cooked with samphire, cabbage and salmon.)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cooking Marsh Samphire

Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes. Samphire is at is best in July and August. Buy bright, fresh looking plants with no signs of wilting. Wash thoroughly under cold running water before eating. Trim off any root. Buy samphire as you need it - it doesn't keep for long. If you must, tightly wrap and refrigerate for not longer than a few days.

Pop into a pan of boiling water for one minute, drain and toss in butter. Or steam over a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes and serve with melted butter.

(Though there are two types of samphire - marsh and rock - only marsh samphire is widely available. Rock samphire has a rather unpleasant smell and flavour. Occasionally you may also find jars of pickled samphire in gourmet shops.)

P.S. I  quite like snacking on it raw! Lovely.