Monday, 8 October 2012

Roast Leg of Lamb with Aubergines & Red Onion and Potatoes Boulangère

The bf bought half a lamb a while ago through which we have slowly been working (I’ve wondered what happened to the kidney that surely is part of half a lamb but I guess I’ll, sadly, never know), including the shoulder which I’ve posted recently and also lots of lovely chops and steaks.. oh BBQ season how I will miss you.

I think apart from the leg which obviously we ate the other day there is only the breast left. Naturally I have something up my sleeve for that but in the meantime here we have a lovely leg, roasted with aubergines and red onions and accompanied with tasty potatoes boulangère. The latter is, in my opinion, just as impressive and yummy as a dauphinoise but a million times lighter and healthier.

We had the lamb leftovers a day or so later reheated carefully (on the bone, in the oven, wrapped in foil but laid on some diluted gravy to keep the moisture levels up) with some roast potatoes and mint sauce. Frankly, equally as delicious.

The quantities here for the lamb are fairly vague as I was a little in “make it up as you go along” mode and only scribbled down approximations later - just use your judgement.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Aubergines & Red Onion

2kg (ish) leg of lamb
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
anchovy paste
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ras el hanout
1 tsp cumin
10 baby aubergines
1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges with root still intact
1 tin of cherry tomatoes
small handful of coriander stalks, finely chopped
2 tsp of harissa paste
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato puree
good glug of red wine vinegar
½ tsp sugar
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Make deep slits in the lamb (carefully!) using a very sharp knife, poke some anchovy paste and a slice of garlic into each slit.

Pour a small amount of olive oil into a roasting tin and sit the lamb on top. Mix the honey, olive oil, ras el hanout and cumin together in a bowl so you have a thick paste and rub this all over the lamb.

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the oven and scatter the aubergines and red onion around the lamb in the tin, tossing them around to coat with the oil & lamb juices. Place back in the oven and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes, occasionally turning the vegetables.

Meanwhile, in a jug, mix together the remaining ingredients.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven after the second 30 minutes and pour the tomato sauce over the vegetables in the base of the tin.

Return to the oven and cook for a further half an hour.

Remove from the oven and set the lamb aside to rest for 10 - 15 minutes loosely tented with foil.

Put the roasting tin on the hob and gently simmer the tomato sauce until it has reduced down slightly so you have quite a thick and chunky sauce.

Potatoes Boulangère
serves 3

750g potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5g fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and bruised in a pestle & mortar
a few thyme sprigs
150ml vegetable or chicken stock
75ml milk
20g butter

Lightly butter a gratin or pie dish and preheat oven to 200C.

Take ⅔ of the rosemary leaves and chop them finely then fry the onions, thyme sprigs and rosemary in a little oil in a pan over a medium low heat until softened and lightly coloured (about 5 mins).

Arrange a layer of potatoes in the buttered dish then sprinkle over some onions and season. Continue layering like this, finishing with a layer of potatoes that slightly overlap.

Mix the stock & milk together and pour over the potatoes.

Season the top layer, then scatter over the remaining whole rosemary leaves and a sprig of thyme. Dot little flecks of butter all over the potatoes and place the dish on the highest shelf of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden and potatoes are tender.

Serve with alongside slices of lamb atop the vegetable sauce.

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Monday, 1 October 2012

Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Butternut Squash

Quick and simple is the order of the day with this recipe taken from HFW’s River Cottage everyday which was exactly what I needed for a post-Zumba light dinner. In fact I roasted the squash prior to going to my class, left it in the then turned off oven and finished off when I got back.

As with pretty much all stuffed vegetable dishes, the world really is your oyster in terms of altering the filling or even the type of squash. Small round squashes for instance such as onion, acorn or Crown Prince and different cheeses and nuts, herbs, chopped up crispy bacon or pancetta... you get the idea.

Blue Cheese and Walnut stuffed Butternut Squash
Serves 2

1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthways & deseeded
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
25g unsalted butter
olive oil
40g walnuts, lightly toasted & roughly chopped
100g blue cheese, crumbled
1 tsp chopped thyme
½ tsp agave nectar or runny honey
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Place the squash halves on a baking tray, divide the garlic and butter between the cavities of each half. Brush them with a little oil and season well.

Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes until the flesh is very tender.

Once cooked scoop out the flesh and garlicky butter into a bowl and mash with a fork. Be sure to leave about 1cm of flesh attached to the skin all the way round though else the squash won’t keep it’s shape very well (see my photos for an example of that happening!). Fold most of the cheese and walnuts (keep some back) and the thyme into the mashed flesh and season again.

Spoon the filling back into the squash halves, sprinkling the reserved nuts and cheese over each of them.

 Drizzle with a little agave nectar / honey then pop back into the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Serve immediately with a nice salad.

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Tuesday, 18 September 2012


As often happens when I’m shopping for specific ingredients for something I plan to cook, I end up with something completely different in the basket and vague ideas of what to do with it flitting through my mind.

This particularly happens when I’m hungry.. I know, I know never shop on an empty stomach blah blah... but this was the state of affairs last Saturday when I happened to be  shopping for chicken thighs for a braised with water chestnuts Ken Hom recipe, and haddock for a stove top simmered with tomatoes and olives thing. Naturally I came out with neither and instead found myself with lamb mince (for a Hunan inspired spicy lamb type thing) and, as it was about 11am and I was starving both eggs, bacon and a nice crusty white loaf for a sarnie as well as smoked haddock for a kedgeree.

It was only on arrival home that it occurred to me that a brunch starter of a fried egg and bacon sandwich followed by kedgeree was a bit greedy even for me. In the interests of speed, and assuaging my growly tummy, I opted for the sandwich meaning that I could have a nice leisurely Sunday brunch of smoked haddock kedgeree the next day.

For those that don’t know, kedgeree, a dish consisting of cooked, flaked fish, boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder, and butter or cream, is thought to have originated with an Indian rice-and-pulse dish called Khichri from the 14th century. This was then enjoyed in the Victorian era by British colonials who brought it to Britain on their return and introduced it, as part of the then fashionable Anglo-Indian cuisine, as a breakfast dish.

There is it seems also an an alternative view that the dish originated in Scotland from where it was then transported to India by Scottish troops during the British Raj, where it was adapted and adopted as part of Indian cuisine.

Regardless there are now many variations, some “wetter” than others, some with sultanas and so on and here I have used medium soft boiled eggs rather than hard, and chives (as that is what I had) rather than the more usual parsley. Oh, and if you can, use undyed smoked haddock - unfortunately I could only get dyed so it’s all a bit neon.

Serves 2 (with massive portions!)
250g basmati rice
350g smoked haddock
60g butter
bay leaf
a small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and cut into thin rings
1 crushed cardamom pod
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 medium-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarters
3 tbsp cream
freshly grated nutmeg
small handful chives, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cook the rice in salted water for about 10 minutes and drain. Refresh in cold water, drain again, and pop in the fridge until you need it.

Put the fish and bay leaf in a wide deep sauté pan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Drain the fish, remove from pan and leave to cool. Remove the skin from fish, flake into chunks and set aside.

Meanwhile melt the butter in the sauté pan over a lowish heat, and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry gently until softened, about 15 minutes, then stir in the chilli, cardamom pod, mustard seeds and curry powder. Cook for a couple of minutes, then tip in the rice and stir thoroughly to coat. Stir in the cream and then add the fish and heat through. Taste and season if necessary.

Divide between two plates and then place egg quarters on top of each, grate a little nutmeg over everything, scatter with chives and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

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Monday, 17 September 2012

Hot & Sour Broth with Prawns

So here we have the last of the meals made from one simple chicken! This is a healthy, clean-tasting soup using the carcass and bones of the aforementioned chicken for the stock which is of course the base for the broth itself.

You can play around with this to suit your taste, omitting the prawns for something plainer, or even substituting for some shredded chicken if you like.

You could actually use a very good ready made chicken stock if you really felt the need but I do think that it is best made with the chicken bits and bobs. So just keep it mind then for when you next have a roast chicken.

Hot & Sour Broth with Prawns
serves 2

1 chicken carcass and bones
1.5 litres water
2 large red chillies, deveined and deseeded & sliced
2.5 cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 sticks of lemongrass, trimmed & outer leaves discarded
6 lime leaves, bruised
50g palm sugar
8 raw tiger prawns, peeled
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp fish sauce
small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped (including stalks)

Put the chicken carcass and bones in a saucepan, cover with the water and simmer for about an hour. Strain, discarding the bones and add the stock back to the pan, bringing it back up to a gentle simmer.

Using a pestle and mortar pound the chillies, ginger and lemongrass. What you want is to bruise them by giving them a good bashing - you don’t want a paste. Add these, plus the lime leaves, to the simmering stock.

Add the palm sugar, leave for 5 minutes or so and then throw in the prawns and mushrooms. Continue to simmer for a couple of minutes until the prawns are pink and just cooked through.

Finally add the lime juice, fish sauce and coriander. Give it a good stir then serve immediately in bowls.

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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Chicken Pie with Mushrooms, Sweetcorn and Herbs

There’s not a huge amount to say about this. It’s a chicken pie, made from leftovers from the preceding roast chicken. 

It is very good, excellent comfort food. I think though that next time I will use the Jamie Oliver trick of putting little balls of sausage meat on top of the sausage mixture before topping wiith the pastry - then it really will be something special.

Chicken, Mushroom, Sweetcorn & Herb Pie
serves 4

Stripped meat from the roast chicken carcass (I had about 300g)
1 leek, trimmed and washed
30g butter + a further knob
olive oil
1 tbsp lemon thyme leaves
1 tbsp tarragon, coarsely chopped
100g mushrooms, sliced
35g pancetta cubes
any leftover creamed corn from the roast
2 tbsp plain flour
small glass white wine
75ml cream
sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
shop bought ready made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with a little milk

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Shred the meat from the chicken carcass, discarding the skin (or, as I do, give to the cats). Put the carcass to one side to use for stock for a soup.

Slice the leek in half lengthwise, turn then cut again so the leek is in quarters. Hold these together then slice thinly.

Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large pot over a low heat and add the leek. Cook this slowly, and be sure not to let it colour, for about 15 minutes. About halfway through add the stripped lemon thyme leaves and chopped tarragon.

Add the mushrooms & pancetta cubes and continue to fry for about 5 minutes. Tip in any creamed corn that you may have leftover from the chicken roast.

Push the mixture to the side of the pan, add the knob of butter and let it melt, sprinkling the flour over. Blend the flour into the melted butter with a wooden spoon then mix the leek, mushrooms etc back in with the shredded chicken, a splash of wine and 300-400ml of chicken gravy.

Season generously with freshly ground pepper and a little salt, pour in the cream and stir through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the chicken mixture is cooling, roll out the pastry on a floured surface so that is slightly bigger than whatever pie dish you are using. It should be about 5mm thick.

When the chicken has cooled somewhat, pour it into the pie dish then brush the lip of the dish with a little beaten egg. Carefully lay the pastry top over the filling, crimping the edges and trimming off any excess. Brush the top with the beaten egg.

Pop the pie in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. It should be done when the pastry is golden brown.

Serve with sauté potatoes - if you’re lucky you should also have some of the parsley potatoes left over from the roast, so slice those up and sauté in a little oil.

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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Roast Chicken & Gorgeous Stuffing with Creamed Corn

Another “old” recipe then this. And another taken from Economy Gastronomy. The main concept of the book of course is to buy the best ingredients that you can afford but then make these ingredients work harder for you and in particular choose a “bedrock” key ingredient the leftovers of which can easily be made into at least one other meal.

Here then the bedrock is a a good old chicken - and as a good a one as you can afford, at the very least it should be free range. The initial meal, as I’ll detail here, was a rather lovely roast, and then the leftovers were transformed into a chicken pie with the carcass and bones working their magic in the stock for a hot and sour soup.

The overriding notion is one that I actually try and follow myself as much as possible, as can be seen by the recent lamb ragu recipe. But really I should also be trying to whole chickens more often, and not just for roasting. The price difference for a start is massive - compare the price of a whole chicken to a couple of free range breasts. And the freedom of choice you then have (once you get round the initial trickiness of jointing your own bird) with meals is enormous.

Twice Stuffed Chicken with Creamed Corn and Parsley Potatoes
serves 2
 (with enough leftover chicken for chicken pie)

50g butter
125ml good chicken stock
110g or so of baguette (roughly ¼), stale for preference
40g smoke pancetta lardons
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 banana shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
zest of ½ lemon
3 slices Parma ham, 1 slice of which chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium chicken (around 1.2 - 1.3kg)
8 sage leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
500g potatoes, peeled and halved
another 500ml good chicken stock
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 sweetcorn cobs
few sprigs thyme, leaves picked
30g butter
20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a small saucepan melt 50g of butter in 125ml chicken stock. Meanwhile tear the bread into finger tip sized pieces into a big mixing bowl and stir in the pancetta, parsley, shallot and lemon zest.

Pour in the butter / stock mix and then add the chopped slice of ham. Season and set aside for about 20 minutes.

Wet your fingers and gently ease them under the skin of the chicken breast, gently wiggling to loosen the skin from the breast on each side. Gently moisten the cavity on each side and then wet the ham slices and ease one into each side, making sure the whole of the breast is covered and you’ve got right inside the cavity. Wet the sage leaves and slide 4 in on each side on top of the ham.

Sit the chicken in a roasting tray and stuff with the bread stuffing mixture. Close up the chicken cavity with a wooden skewer then rub the bird all over with the olive oil and season well. Cook the chicken breast-side down for the first 35 mins or so in the middle of the oven (this helps to ensure it will be lovely and moist) and then turn over for a final 20 minutes to brown.

When you’ve turned the chicken over for the final 20 minutes, cover the potatoes in cold salted water, bring to the boil then simmer for about 20 minutes until they are just cooked.

Meanwhile, stand the corn cobs on their flat ends and using a sharp knife cut down vertically to remove the kernels. Fry the shallots and corn in 30g butter over a high heat, stirring so that everything is coated. Turn the heat down a little, stir in the thyme leaves then leave with a lid on for 5 minutes.

Turn the heat off, season well and the pound the kernels with the end of a rolling pin, or even a potato masher until the corn is starting to get creamy.

Take the chicken out of the oven, remove from the pan and leave to one side to rest on a warm plate, loosely covered with foil. Drain the potatoes and toss with pepper and parsley.

Put the chicken roasting tray on the hob, splash in some white wine if you have it and scrape up any stuck on chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes until it has reduced a bit to a light gravy (you will have plenty but the extra will be used in the pie).

Serve a little breast and leg meat to each person along with potatoes and corn (you should have some left over which can be used in the pie, to follow) and a spoonful of stuffing. Drizzle a little gravy over.

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Goan Fish Curry


So, here’s the thing, I had an urge for a lobster based curry the other night: I think my previous venison blog post where I had mentioned Lidl’s lobster had stuck in my head and it was all I could think of. That of course was to be my undoing: naturally Lidl had none of the more exciting stock in. No Barbary duck breasts, no venison or guinea fowl, and certainly no damn lobster.

But having a seafood curry of one type or another was lodged in my little mind. My idea for the lobster curry was to be a Thai red so I decided I would keep that for when I can actually get my hands on some lobster. I’ve a recipe for a sour orange fish curry that I also really like and considered but then I remembered that I’d clipped a Goan fish curry recipe from Felicity Cloake’s “How to Cook the Perfect...” series on the Guardian website.

I love Felicity’s approach as it is much like mine, pulling the best bits from different recipes into one cohesive tinkered with version that suits your own tastes. It also means that when I’m a little too lazy or busy to take this approach myself the hard work has been done for me.

Perhaps the most famous of Goan dishes is vindaloo which, much like many of the region’s cuisine is heavily influenced by centuries of Portuguese colonialism. In fact, vindaloo started life as a Portuguese stew, "Carne de Vinha d' Alhos", pork, with wine and garlic. This was then modified by the substitution of vinegar for the wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chillies. That taste then for sour and spicy food is also characteristic of their seafood dishes and in particular coconut rich, hot and sour fish curries.

For the fish it’s best to use something quite robust so it doesn't flake apart in the pan. My intention had been for some monkfish but Tesco’s fish counter was to let me down here as Lidl had with the lobster. What I did see in the packaged fish section however was “Vietnamese river cobbler”, a quick google search of which was revealed to be Basa, a very firm fleshed with a great flavour. It also has the advantage of being super sustainable and cheap to boot.

A couple more points regarding the ingredients, the recipe does call for dried Kashmiri chillis, which are mild and yet have a lovely vivid red colour. I suspected that my dried chilis, while having a lovely colour were not Kashmiri as they are not particularly mild. To, hopefully, compensate I ripped the chillis up before toasting, shook out the seeds and discarded. Similarly, the original calls for white vinegar where I only had white wine vinegar. How much of a difference this made I’m not sure but certainly the next time I make this I would prefer a little more biting sourness and so will use either extra vinegar or perhaps tamarind. And make it again I will as it is really rather yummy.

Goan Fish Curry
Serves 2

For the masala:
½ tsp cloves
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
4 dried red Kashmiri chillies
1 star anise
¼ tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp palm sugar
½ tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1.5 cm root ginger, peeled and grated
2 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
For the curry:
1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, grated
250ml coconut milk
2 fresh green chillies, slit lengthwise
265g firm white fish (eg pollock), cut into 2cm chunks
¼ tsp mustard seeds
6 curry leaves
Coriander, to garnish


To make the masala, toast the whole spices in a dry pan until aromatic. Grind to a powder using a spice grinder (or failing that a pestle & mortar or food processor) and then add the remaining ingredients, whizzing everything together to make a paste.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium high heat, then add the onion. Fry for a good 10 to 15 minutes until they are soft and lightly golden before stirring in the masala paste.

Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, until it is really fragrant and then stir in the tomato. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated which will be another 10 or so minutes.

Mix in the coconut milk and about 75ml water. Add the chillies and bring to the boil before turning the heat back down to low and simmering for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the fish and cook for about 5 more minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the tarka by heating the remaining in a frying pan on a high heat then adding the curry leaves and mustard seeds. Cook until they begin to pop, then stir into the curry.

Serve with rice and coriander scattered over.

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Monday, 10 September 2012

Foil Baked Halibut Steaks with Samphire, Sliced Potatoes and Olive Paste

I had an appointment with my chiropractor last Friday which meant that I was going to be close to the infamous SJ Hatt’s fishmonger on Essex Road. With that in mind I decided that I would get some red mullet in order to try out a Jose Pizarro recipe that I’ve wanted to do now for absolutely ages... BUT bloody disaster! No red mullet to be had. Chatting with the very friendly fishmonger, it turns out that Steve (Hatt) is extremely particular (good) about what he buys and if the fish isn’t 100% up to scratch, he won’t get any. The majority of the good stuff goes abroad it seems and for a while now, that left over just hasn’t cut the mustard.

So, slightly disappointed, I opted instead for two huge hailbut steaks, the cutting of which brought out at least another two guys from the back to ooh and aah over what a magnificent fish it is and how, one of them at least, could quite happily eat nothing but for the rest of their days. This was all making me feel slightly better about the lack of mullet... there was also a nice big pile of vibrantly green samphire which I bought a large handful of. It’s not something that I see very often so jumped at the chance at having a nice, crisp sea vegetable accompaniment.

I still had the José recipe in mind so took the olive paste idea from that. And as we sat down to eat I was no longer in the least bit disappointed - overall I felt it was a bit of a triumph: the meaty, yet clean and delicate perfectly white fish, the evocative taste of the sea from the samphire, and the olive oil rich slices of potatoes enlivened by a smear of black olive paste all came together pretty much perfectly. Delicious.

Foil Baked Halibut Steaks with Samphire, Sliced Potatoes and Olive Paste
serves 2

2 large halibut steaks
1 lemon, sliced
3 sprigs thyme
10 chives
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium potato, peeled
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
15 Kalamata black olives, pitted
sea salt & black pepper
150g samphire, washed and drained
knob of butter

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Slice the potatoes fairly thinly and evenly - use a mandolin if you have one, but do remember to use the guard to prevent nearly slicing the top off your finger: note to self! Arrange the potato slices on a large baking tray.

Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped garlic and picked leaves from one of the sprigs of thyme. Season, then toss everything together and rearrange so that the potatoes are in a single layer again.

Pop in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a roasting tin with foil both width and lengthways (you will be making a parcel). Pour a healthy amount of olive oil and place the halibut steaks, side by side, on top. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the steaks and then arrange the lemon slices over followed by a sprig of thyme on each steak and scatter 6 of the chives over too.

Make a loose parcel out of the foil around the steaks and pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes until until the flesh has turned opaque and is just starting to flake. Be careful though as they can dry out quite easily.

While the fish and potatoes are cooking blitz the olives, remaining chives and about a tablespoon of olive oil in a foiod processor or grinder to make a thick pureé.

Cook the samphire in boiling water (not salted as teh samphire will be naturally salty enough), drain and then toss in a knob of butter.

To serve, spread some samphire across the middle of two plates. Arrange the steaks, with the lemon slices but minus the herbs on top and place the potato slices around that, dotted with a little of the olive paste. You can have the rest of the olive paste on the table to help yourself if so decided.

Eat up and enjoy!

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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Pork Shoulder Steaks with an Apple, Parsley & Red Chilli Butter

Back to the old recipe folder again and here some pork steaks topped with an apple butter. Again, I really can’t remember where the idea for this came from and doing a google search doesn’t throw anything familiar up so I will have to presume that inspiration just struck one day!

I do know that at the time I was still receiving fortnightly veg boxes and I remember that I had a glut of flat beans with inspiration coming from both some Italian as well as Turkish recipes that I had seen. The similarities being that both cultures have recipes that involve simmering beans, almost stewing, for a fairly long time until tender in olive oil and tomatoes. Here I added green beans also and served with butter and parsley tossed Jersey Royals.

Pork Shoulder Steaks with Apple, Parsley & Red Chilli Butter
serves 2

2 pork shoulder steaks
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
12.5g butter, softened
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ eating apple, cored and finely chopped
1-2 tsp olive oil

Mix the parsley, chilli and apple into the softened butter in a small bowl or ramekin and set aside.

Preheat a griddle or frying pan (or grill) over a medium-high heat and cook the pork steaks, lightly brushed with olive oil, for about 6 minutes each side (although do check - you don’t want to overcook them).

Plate up the steaks and divide the butter between them, allowing it to melt slightly.

Flat Beans with Tomato, Garlic and Olive Oil
serves 2

150g flat beans, cut on the diagonal into 1.5 - 2 inch pieces
100g green beans, cut on the diagonal into 1.5 - 2 inch pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 shallot (or small onion), finely diced
1 tomato, diced
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sugar
small handful chopped parsley

In a medium pan, sweat the shallot or onion in half of the olive oil over a lowish heat for about 10 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.

Add both types of beans and the rest of the olive oil, increase the heat slightly and cook for a further 4-5 minutes.

Turn the heat back down to low again and add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and simmer gently for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the mix appears to be getting too dry. 

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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Celery & Chestnut Soup and Roasted Flat Peaches with Vanilla Crème Fraîche

I mentioned in the earlier prawn linguine post that I'd planned last weekend to cook up some celery soup followed by the venison last posted. Obviously my small plumbing disaster intervened (we opted for an Indian in the end as I was too stressed out to cook) but the celery soup came out earlier in the week and some tired old peaches languishing in the bottom of the fridge turned it into a pretty filling 2 course meal.

Celery and chestnut soup most definitely resides in my top two favourite soups to cook (the other being parsnip with smoked scallops in case you're interested) and, lots of fine dicing aside, is an absolute breeze to make.

I've no idea how exactly I first came up with this but I've been cooking it for years - personally hating raw celery it is an excellent way to use up the rest of a head once a few sticks have been used as the basis of a mirepoix or soffritto. Deceptively simple, the chestnuts really give it quite an intense depth of flavour that, in my opinion, is absolutely delicious.

As stated I also had some manky old flat peaches hidden at the back of the fridge that I'd forgotten about and were clearly past their best for just munching on. Roasting, however can sometimes have a magical restorative effect, turning that past it’s best into something full flavoured and enlivened. Treated with a little cinnamon, sugar & marsala, that was certainly the case here.

Celery & Chestnut Soup
serves 4

1 large onion
37.5g unsalted butter
5 celery sticks, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
240g chestnuts
625ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp Marsala or Madeira
125ml single cream 

Melt the butter over a low heat in a large pot and add the onion. Cook very slowly – for about 30 minutes, until glossy, translucent and softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the finely diced celery sticks, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Pop a lid on the pot and sweat for 20 minutes.

Roughly crumble the chestnuts into the pot, recover and sweat for 10‐15 minutes more, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks.

Turn the heat up a bit and stir in the stock, letting it bubble for a few minutes. Season with a grind of pepper and salt and pour in the cream and Marsala.

Remove the bay leaf then blitz with a stick blender until smooth and velvety.

A drizzle of truffle oil when you serve makes a nice addition here but is in no way essential! What is however is some nice bread..

Cinnamon & Marsala Roasted Flat Peaches with Vanilla Crème Fraîche
serves 2 generously

4 flat peaches
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp Marsala
knob of butter
150ml low fat creme fraiche
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp agave syrup (or honey)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Wipe or wash the peaches if  necessary and carefully remove the stone. Flat peaches obviously have the advantage of being, well, flat meaning that they won’t rock around and the little divot made by removing the stone can be filled when roasting. If you don’t have flat peaches just halve them and remove the stone.

Place the peaches in a small roasting pan, spoon the madeira into each of the holes and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar before dotting with some butter. 

Cook for 20-30 minutes until golden, basting once halfway through cooking if any juices have leaked out.

While the peaches are cooking, mix the creme fraiche with the vanilla and agave syrup.

Serve the peaches in bowls or small plates with a big dollop of creme fraiche. 

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Friday, 7 September 2012

Pan-fried Balsamic Marinated Venison Steaks with Sweet Sour Peppers

I bought some venison steaks from Lidl a while ago which have been sitting in the freezer for a while and with the bf staying (and having just installed a new shower pump for me!) I thought this a perfect time to crack them out and try and do something special with them.

Lidl gets a bit of a bad rap really I think - people tend to just think of it as budget and therefore poor quality. But there aren’t many places that you can routinely pick up venison steaks, barbary duck breasts, lobster and more: plus as anyone who knows me knows I have a slight obsession with their prosecco!

I jotted down a whole page of ideas of what to do with the steaks: with grilled butternut squash, sautéed spinach, port & blackberry sauce, green peppercorn and whisky sauce.. the list was pretty long & detailed. In the end, thinking back to a meal I had in Rome with the girls earlier in the year I fancied devising a sort of sweet sour marinated peppers side, keeping the rest fairly simple.

Deciding to use balsamic vinegar with the peppers to get the kind of mild sweet sourness I was after, I chose to also use balsamic as a marinade for the steaks too which could then be turned into a scant and simple sauce. The balsamic causes blackening of the steaks when they are pan-fried (they may look burnt in the photos but they’re not!) which in turn gives a subtle sweet smokiness to the steaks which goes well with the peppers.

Balsamic Marinated Venison Steaks
serves 2

2 medium venison steaks or 4 small
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
2 small garlic clove, lightly smashed
2 tsps juniper berries, lightly crushed
freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients in a medium bowl or dish and then add the steaks making sure that they all get covered with the marinade. Leave the steaks in the marinade for at least an hour but preferably longer, turning occasionally.

Remove from the marinade and brush off any excess.

Pan fry the steaks over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes on the first side and 3 or 4 on the other.

Let rest for 5 minutes and in the meantime pour a small amount of port into the pan to deglaze, add the marinade, stir around and allow to bubble for a minute or too until you have a fairly small amount of glossy sauce.

Slice the steaks on the diagonal, arrange on top of the sweet peppers as below with a drizzle of the sauce and accompanied with roasted (with a tiny sprinkle of cumin, honey and olive oil) chantenay carrots and sauté potatoes.

Sweet Sour Peppers and Red Onion
serves 2

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion halved, thinly sliced crosswise
3 grilled, skinned red peppers from a jar, sliced into thin strips
⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
splash of extra olive oil
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sweet vinegar from the pepper jar
1 tbsp water
½ tsp soft brown sugar
small sprig thyme, leaves picked and chopped
small clove garlic, sliced
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp drained capers

Heat the olive oil in a fairly heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and sauté over a gentle heat for 10 -15 minutes until tender. Keep an eye on them - you do not want them to colour.

Mix in the red pepper strips and stir to mix. Add the red pepper flakes, sugar, vinegars, extra olive oil, water, thyme, garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes.

Season to taste, cover and remove from heat. Leave to cool.

You can cover and refrigerate at this point if you are making ahead.

You can either serve this at room temperatue, or if you prefer, just warm. In either case, just before serving, stir in the capers. And if you do want it warm, put over a low heat. To allow the flavours to come through you do want this only gently warmed. . Remove the garlic slices and divide between two plates with the sliced venison steaks atop.

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