The Parmo (aka The Parmesan)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

As many of you know, I lived in Middlesbrough for several years. I studied there and became familiar with the Parmesan (more commonly known as the "Parmo"). The parmo is Teesside's regional post-pub take away and is actually quite simple to make.

It's a fairly simple premise. Chicken breast or pork escalopes are flattened out, covered in egg and breadcrumbs and fried. The crispy meat is then covered with bechamel sauce and grated cheese and grilled until melty and golden. It is usually served with chips and salad, but there is also the option to add extra toppings too, some of the more popular variations being mushroom and onion, or pepperoni and chillies.

Al and I have been making parmos for a while but have been generally quite lazy. We settled for slightly soggy breadcrumbs as our grill was unreliable in Middlesbrough. We now have working appliances, a bit more space and extra hungry mouths to feed so we felt like we should do an ode to this wonderful beast that nursed us in our alcohol fuelled nights and still stayed good enough for breakfast the next morning (too much info?).

4 chicken breasts
1 beaten egg
Golden breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil
1oz butter
1oz flour
1 pint milk
Salt and pepper
More grated cheese than is reasonable to consume in one sitting

Make up a white sauce by putting the milk, flour and butter into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place a chicken breast in a sturdy food bag or between sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin until flattened and even. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Dip the chicken breasts in the beaten egg and follow with plenty of breadcrumbs. The amount you need will depend on the size of your chicken.

Heat some oil in a frying pan until quite hot. Fry the chicken on both sides until crispy. We did ours one at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. It's not necessary to make sure the chicken is cooked through at this point as it will get cooked through in the oven.

Place the crispy chicken onto a rack above a baking tray and place in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Preheat the grill to a medium heat. Take the chicken from the oven and cover each piece with the white sauce. Sprinkle with plenty of cheddar and any additional toppings you fancy (Al's favourites are chillies and pepperoni or chorizo).

Place under the grill until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden and melted. Serve with chips (and salad if you want to).

It's really quite a simple recipe but one that is quite close to our hearts. These taste like authentic parmos but are slightly healthier (lower fat milk, not so much cheese, not deep fried).

Parmos can be found under many guises around the world;

Wiener Schnitzel is the closest thing found in Germany and Austria and is traditionally made with veal.
Italian equivalents are Chicken Parmigiana which is served with a marinara sauce rather than a bechamel and Milanesa
In the USA, Chicken Fried Steak is a similar dish though made with beef steak coated in breadcrumbs.


Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Flourless chocolate cakes fascinate me. Soft peaked egg whites give the cake air and structure and the ground almonds create a delicious texture. In this recipe, pears are rested gently on top of the light cake and it is baked in the oven. The cake come out moist and delicious with a good chocolate flavour. The pears bake until soft but still hold their structure well.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food. We've got a glut of pears at the moment since we harvested them from our pear tree and even though this only uses a couple; every little helps!

85g butter , plus 1 tbsp extra for tin
85g golden caster sugar , plus extra for tin
85g dark chocolate , broken into pieces
1 tbsp Sailor Jerry rum
3 eggs, separated
85g ground almonds
4 pears, peeled, halved and cored (I only used 3 as that's all that would fit)
icing sugar, for dusting

Cut a circle of baking parchment to fit the base of a 25cm loose-bottomed tin. Melt 1 tbsp butter and brush the inside of the tin, then line the base with the parchment and brush again with more butter. Spoon in 2 tbsp caster sugar, swirl it around to coat the base and sides, then tip out any excess.

Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water, remove from the heat, stir in the brandy and leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick; fold into the chocolate with the nuts.

In a separate bowl, with a clean whisk, beat the whites until they reach a soft peak (try not to whisk them too stiffly or you'll have trouble folding them in). Stir a spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mix, then carefully fold in the rest of them in 2 additions. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level, then arrange the pears over the mixture, cut-side down.

Bake for 30-40 mins until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked all the way through. Leave to cool in the tin slightly before releasing it, then place on a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve


Lentil Bites

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I'm slowly getting better and decidedly less snotty. My nose has stopped glowing red in the night. I've stopped needed afternoon naps (much to my dismay).

I found this recipe on The Hungry Tiger while looking for something different to go in lunch boxes. I get bored with sandwiches and cold pasta salad just doesn't do it for me. I also make my mum's lunches sometime and she's much fussier than I am with regards to what she will have for lunch.

These little beasts are similar to falafels but have a softer centre and a nice crispy outside. For me these are a little under-seasoned so I think next time I'd go ahead and add a mixture of spices rather than just cumin and I'd include some bombay spice, ground coriander and plenty of salt and pepper. I couldn't get hold of "fine bulgar" which was stated in the original recipe and my processor wouldn't crush the bulgar so normal went in. It didn't make much of a difference I'm sure.

These were fine but there is definitely room for improvement. Plus sides are that these are pretty easy to customise and are vegan (no egg to bind).

I've modified this recipe in order to make it easier to follow. I've added my changes and also converted to metric.

200g red lentils
600ml water
115g bulgar wheat
1 1/2 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp chilli sauce
2 tsp chilli powder
2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
(also add other spices e.g. bombay curry mix, ground coriander etc. to taste)
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of lemon juice

Put lentils in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the foam that collects on the surface. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are yellow and very mushy, 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put bulgar in a large bowl.
Stir the tomato paste and chilli sauce into lentil mixture, turn the heat back up to high and bring this mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn off the heat and pour it over the bulgar. Stir well and set aside for half an hour.
Meanwhile, chop the onion quite finely and saute in the olive oil. When it begins to get golden brown, add the garlic, cumin, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook about two minutes more.
Once the bulgar and lentils have sat for their full half hour, add the contents of the skillet, oil and all. Mix very well, kneading everything together. Add the coriander, chilli powder and lemon juice. Mix again and adjust for salt.
Preheat the oven to 350. Shape the mixture into an small rounds and arrange on a baking sheet, preferably one lined with parchment.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tray then transfer to a wire rack.
Serve warm or cold with raita or dip of your choice.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Status Report

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I'm ill. I've been struck down with a terrible cold and sore throat. My taste buds are shot and I've little energy to cook. I've got a recipe ready to post in the next few days from my sick bed but that's about as far as it goes.

I'll hopefully put together a post of Tasty Morsels from other blogs to keep you all engaged while I plough my way through endless packets of tissues.

I'll be back soon with proper food.

Stay well!


Vegan Banana Oat Muffins

Monday, 5 October 2009

This was a recipe of necessity (no, really). Okay, so maybe one doesn't have to eat or even make muffins but they're yummy. These muffins include some wholemeal flour and some oats so they have some vague healthful properties (I try to kid myself...). The necessity came from the need to use up some ingredients. We had a selection of sad looking, browning bananas in the kitchen just begging to baked with, there's a carton of soy milk in the fridge waiting to be baked into a delicious treat (yes, my ingredients talk to me).

Anyway, these were delicious. They stored very well for several days but the topping lost its crunch during storage. The oats gave the muffin a lovely texture and the wholemeal flour gave some depth to the overall flavour. I used 3 1/2 bananas as they needed to be used up. You can use more or less depending on what you've got. Just make sure your bananas are really ripe to get the best flavour.

I originally found this recipe here but as I made some changes I'll convert it to metric and rewrite it here.

85g plain flour
90g wholemeal flour
25g rolled oats
170g white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
80ml vegetable oil
120ml soy milk
3 1/2 mashed bananas

For the crumb topping
50g brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp wholemeal flour
3 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tsp ground cinammon
3 tbsp rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with liners.
In a bowl ix the flours, rolled oats, white sugar, salt, and baking powder together.
Whisk the rest of the ingredients in a measuring cup. Mix on low and slowly add the wet to the dry.
Now fold the bananas in and fill the muffin liners about 3/4 full.
For the topping cream the butter with the brown sugar. Then add the rest of the ingredients until it becomes easy to sprinkle.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over all 12 muffins and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.


Damson Jelly

Sunday, 4 October 2009

We've been on a bit of a preserving rampage recently. We've pickled shallots, vodka-d some sloes, curded some grapefruit, cooked up some mincemeat and jellied some damsons.

I've not had a lot of experience with jams and jellies. I have memories of my mum and my gran both making big pans of jams and marmalades, checking the setting point on a chilled saucer and carefully lifting hot jars from the oven. I have fond memories of unusual jams (marrow and ginger being a personal favourite - I must find a recipe for that) and the ubiquitous jar of tomato chutney lurking at the back of the cupboard.

My mum came home from work with two bags full of damsons from her friend's garden. They sat in the kitchen for several days until we finally decided what to do with them. Jelly. Jelly is not the same as jam. the fruit is simmered and then put into a straining bag (a specific jelly bag or muslin) and the juice is collected underneath. This sits for several hours (ours sat overnight) to make sure all the juice is extracted. The juice is then boiled until it reaches the setting point and then poured into hot jars to create a smooth, clear, set jelly. It's perfect on toast or fresh bread and even goes well with roast meats as an alternative to cranberry or redcurrant.

We found a simple and easy recipe here at BBC Good Food.

1.8kg Damsons
Juice of 2 lemons
Preserving sugar

Wash the fruit, then tip into a preserving pan with the lemon juice and 300ml/1⁄2 pint water. Bring slowly to the boil, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the fruit is soft.

Carefully pour the contents of the pan into a scalded jelly bag with a large bowl set underneath to catch the juice (see the Step-by-step photo). Leave for several hours.

Measure the juice back into the pan, then add 500g of sugar to every 500ml of juice or 1lb sugar for every pint of juice. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and rapidly boil until setting point is reached. Test this by spooning a little on to a chilled saucer. Cool slightly then push with your finger - if it wrinkles it is ready. If not return to the heat, boil for 5 more minutes and test again.

Pot into warm sterilised jars and cool before sealing. Can be eaten straight away, but keeps for up to a year.


Slow Cooker Recipes: Christmas Mincemeat

Friday, 2 October 2009

I've been thinking about christmas. I know, it's too early but I can't help it. The supermarkets are stocked up with decorations, advent calendars and more. I can't help but notice the sparkling tinsel. To be honest it fills me with hope that this christmas season will be a healthy, happy time. I like being organised and have already started making plans. Stir up Sunday will soon be upon us and with it comes the baking of the christmas cake and (if I get organised) the christmas puddings. I'm sorry to put this christmas talk onto you but I have to share this recipe.

Mincemeat is a staple at christmas time. I make my own mince pies every year but have never attempted mincemeat. I thought about it last year and decided that this year was the time to go for it. Usually the ingredients are mixed cold and then placed into jars or tubs to mature a little before the season but this recipe struck me because it is cooked (in the slow cooker no less). I liked the idea of cooking the apple and spices and warming the fruits in some alcohol. The smell while this was cooking was amazing. There was a real warming scent that permeated the kitchen and the recipe was so easy to make. I'm contemplating making another batch before christmas so that we have plenty to go around and give out. It lasts in sterilised jars for 6 months is deliciously boozey and bursting with fruit. This made several jars of varying sizes.

450g cooking apples
115g candied peel (I used homemade candied pomelo peel)
115g glacé cherries
115g dried apricots (unsulphered apricots have a lovely flavour but use whatever you like)
115g blanched almonds
150ml Sailor Jerry rum (you can use whatever rum/brandy/booze you have)
225g dried cranberries
225g sultanas
450g raisins
225g brown sugar
225g suet (I used vegetable suet)
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange

Peel, core and chop the apples, chop the peel, cherries, apricots and almonds. Place into the slow cooker.
Put half the rum and the rest of the ingredients into the pot and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
Stir the mixture well then recover and reduce the temperature to low. Cook for a further 2 hours stirring halfway through to prevent the mincemeat from sticking to the sides of the cooker.
Remove the lid and leave the mixture to cool completely stirring occasionally.
Stir the reserved rum into the mixture and spoon into sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Label and give as a gift or keep for your own mince pies!


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