Monday 10 November 2008

Lancashire Hotpot

Having seen some good looking, cheap, lamb neck chops in my local 24 hour butcher on Friday night, and the cold weather really suggesting good, traditional, comfort food, I decided on making my first Lancashire Hotpot.  I could think of nothing better to have after an afternoon and early evening of watching international rugby.

This is definitely a satisfying, and pretty cheap dish to prepare, especially for those who are feeling the credit crunch.  As I discovered, lamb neck is about half the cost of some other cuts, and having seen it as the ingredient of choice when looking at Lancashire Hotpot recipes in the past, I put off making it no longer.

Most recipes I’ve seen for Lancashire Hotpot include Lamb Kidneys in the ingredients.  There are a few ingredients that readers are unlikely to see included in recipes on this site, and Kidneys are one of them, but feel free to add a few yourself if you are partial to them.  I’d actually meant to get some black pudding to substitute for the Kidneys, but, as with most of my cooking experiences, this was the ingredient which got away.  Cooking for me is a bit like any mechanical task in that there’s always a spare washer/screw/ingredient, left over when I’m finished.  But then, if the car still runs/computer hasn’t blown up/food tastes fine, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Carrots definitely seemed an optional inclusion too, although as we had some to go with it anyway, and they helped fill in a few gabs in the layers, I thought it was worth sticking a few in.

Lancashire Hotpot Recipe (serves 4)

  • 8 Lamb Neck Chops (about a kilo)
  • 2 Large Onions, chopped
  • 1 kilo King Edward Potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • A handful of Chantaney Carrots (optional)
  • A small glass of Red Wine
  • A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme and Rosemary (leaves only, finely chopped)
  • 1 Pint of Lamb Stock
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Plain Flour
  • 30g Butter

First, season the Flour in a bowl with Salt and Pepper, then mix the Lamb Neck Chops in the Flour to give it a light coating.  Heat up a little of the butter in a pan with a little vegetable oil, and lightly brown each piece of Lamb and set aside.  If you are using Kidneys or Black Pudding, you should lightly brown these now as well and set aside.  Next add the Onions, adding a little more Butter if the pan is becoming dry, and cook these for about 5 minutes to soften.  Then add the fresh Herbs and the Wine, and reduce until it becomes a bit syrupy.  Pour in the Stock, season with Salt and Pepper as necessary and bring to the boil.

Now, lightly grease the pan or deep casserole you are going to make the hotpot in.  Put a lining of Potato slices at the bottom of the pan, then a layer of 4 overlapping Lamb Chops, maybe a few Carrot pieces and onions from the stock.  Add another layer of Potato slices, with the remaining Chops on top, a few Carrots, etc, then, pour the stock over the top.  Melt the remaining Butter in a small pan, and use it to brush over and between the last layers of sliced Potato which top the hotpot. 

Cover, and put in a 170 degree Celsius oven for about one and a half hours.  After this time, uncover the pan, brush a little more melted butter over the top, then cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes until the top is golden.  Serve with some seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Monday 27 October 2008

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken and Peanuts)

I’ve always been a fan of Chinese food, but until recently, I had never really tried very hard to make it.  This was partly because I only recently got a Wok which works on my stove, and partly due to a friend of mine saying that even if you find the right ingredients in London, it will never taste the same as it does in Beijing.  Perhaps that is once reason why I have never tasted anything remotely like it in a Chinese Restaurant in the UK.

This Chicken and Peanut dish always seemed to be a popular choice in Beijing, especially in some of the Sichuanese restaurants we tended to visit.  The Sichuan Peppercorns tend to have a bizarre, mouth-numbing effect, that definitely seems a bit strange when you first try them, but which helps with the heat of the Sichuan Peppers.  This is definitely a taste sensation that everyone should try at least once in their lives.

Part of the inspiration for making this came from reading the recipe at Rasa Malaysia, one of my favourite food blogs.  The recipes and photography definitely make subscribing to the RSS feed well worthwhile for the occasional inspiration, however, the recipe here doesn’t include Sichuan Peppercorns, and so I had to look elsewhere for a recipe which included them.  It’s also worth checking out the Ma La Crayfish photo, and if you ever order it in Beijing, try and make sure you get latex gloves to eat it with if you want to be able to touch any sensitive areas of your (or anyone else’s) body in the next 24 hrs!  It takes a lot of hand-washing to get the Chilli off your hands.

For me, the most important ingredient in this recipe is the Sichuan Peppercorns, as without them, I don’t think it would quite re-awaken the memories of the dish I enjoyed in Beijing so many times.  They’re not the easiest thing to find, although a trip to my local Wing Yip found pretty much everything required.  The ones I bought were definitely not as potent as the ones in Beijing, so it is probably worth using the upper amount in this recipe.

This recipe literally takes minutes to cook, so personally, I like to have everything prepared beforehand so that I’m not looking for stuff while I’m cooking.  It’s also worth trying to getting quite thick spring onions, rather than the thinner, salad variety, as you then get nice chunks of spring onion, about the size of the chicken pieces, rather than weedy little bits.  The Chillies should also be of the Sichuanese variety.  They had sold out of these in Wing Yip, and the ones I got as an alternative were really too big and although tasted alright, for me, they were too mild for this dish.

Recipe for Gung Bao Ji Ding (serves 2)

  • 2 Chicken Breasts (cut into 2cm cubes)
  • 6-10 Spring Onions (white parts only, cut into 2cm pieces)
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 2cm piece of Ginger (thinly sliced)
  • Half cup or so of Peanuts (roasted, unsalted)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Whole Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 10 Dried Red Chillies (seeded and cut into 2cm pieces)
  • Groundnut Oil, for stir-frying

For the marinade
  • 2 Teaspoons Corn Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons Shaoxing Rice Wine

For the sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Corn Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Chinkiang or Black Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 2 Teaspoons Sugar

Mix the cubes of Chicken with the marinade, and keep in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of Groundnut Oil in a wok until it’s nearly smoking, then add the Whole Sichuan Peppercorns and Dried Chilli pieces and stir until the oil is fragrant.

Next, stir in the Chicken pieces, and when they’re all separated, stir in the sliced Garlic and Ginger.  Stir fry for a couple more minutes, then add the spring onion.  After about another minute, pour in the sauce and ensure that everything gets a good coating before finally adding in the peanuts.  Give it a quick stir so that the peanuts also get a coating in the sauce, and serve immediately.

Serve with Rice, e.g. Thai Fragrant Rice. 

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Hara Shorva (Green Soup)

I’d be planning on making some kind of pea soup for a couple of weeks, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for Green Soup in Madhur Jaffrey’s Illustrated Indian Cookbook, it sounded well worth a try. My only complaint with Madhur Jaffrey’s book is that many of the ingredients are measured by weight, and personally, I don’t tend to weigh anything (including myself), instead, I tend to go by rough volume for the various ingredients. So in choosing the potatoes to use, rather than going by the kilo weight that was suggested in the recipe, I just chose two huge baking potatoes, that I decided would take less time peel and cube for the soup.

I also skimped slightly on the amount of salt, and added some black pepper, as there is very little that I don’t add black pepper to.

The only other deviation I made from the recipe was with the Ginger. I put the thumb-sized piece in without a hitch. However, the recipe said to remove it after the first 30 minutes of cooking, something I forgot to do, and so it got blended with the other ingredients a bit later on. To be honest, I don’t think it spoilt the flavour at all. There was definitely a noticeable Ginger flavour, but it didn’t overpower the others. I suppose it depends on how much you like Ginger, and of the people who tasted it, nobody seemed to be complain.

Recipe for Green Soup (serves 4-6)

  • 2 huge Baking Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 large Onion (roughly chopped)
  • 2 inch thumb of Ginger (peeled)
  • 2 pints of Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • Half teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half a Hot Green Chili, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • 1.5 cups Peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Half teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • Half cup of Double Cream

Put the Potatoes, Onion, Chicken Stock, Ground Coriander and Ground Cumin into a large pan, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes, so that the potatoes are cooked. Add the Chili, Fresh Coriander, Peas, Salt, Pepper and Lemon Juice, bring back to the boil, then simmer for a further 5 minutes. Once the peas are cooked, remove from the heat, then blend until smooth (personally, I used my usual hand-blender). Stir in the Double Cream while gently reheating and serve immediately.

Friday 14 March 2008

Chicken and Chorizo Risotto

Risotto is a bit of a recent discovery for me, and since Andrew got me the Silver Spoon, I've experimented with a few different varieties. Lots of people seem to think that it's really difficult to make, but so far, that's not the experience I've had, although not all of my efforts have been tasted by anyone but myself. One of the things which tends to put me off Risotto in restaurants is the fact that they always tend to be some form of Mushroom Risotto, and with me being pretty much allergic to Mushrooms, it's not something I'm every likely to order. However, there seems to be an almost limitless variety to what you can have in a Risotto, and so I tend to use what I have to hand.

One of the things I like about Risotto is that with minimal ingredients in the house, I can quickly cook a simple meal in a small pan which is pretty tasty. I have tried using Chorizo in a Risotto before (as I was told it was illegal to use it in Paella) as I find it adds a nice flavour and texture to the dish when in small cubes, but this time, my creation ended up being somewhere between a Risotto and a Jambalaya. Not particularly traditional, but very tasty all the same. I made enough so that I could take some and reheat it at work the next day, and although it's definitely at its best when fresh from the pan, it was still very tasty. The boys in the office who had some all gave it the thumbs up.

Recipe Chicken and Chorizo Risotto (serves 2-3)

  • 1 Chicken Breast, cut into cubes
  • 1 Round of Chorizo, cut into cubes
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped
  • A knob of Butter
  • 1 cup of Arborio Risotto Rice
  • 1 cup of White Wine
  • 1 pint of Chicken Stock
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup Peas
  • 1 cup Sweet corn
  • 50g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
  • Freshly grated Black Pepper

Add the Chorizo cubes to a pan over a medium heat and as it starts to release some of the fats, add the Chicken pieces, and stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the Chicken and Chorizo with a slotted spoon and keep to one side.

In the same pan, add the Garlic, Onion and Red Pepper and cook for about 5 minutes or so, until the Onion is turning transparent. If the pan is quite dry, add in a knob of Butter, turn the heat up a bit, and once melted, pour in the Risotto Rice and stir into the Onion and Pepper. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn't stick or burn, then pour in the White Wine. This should help de-glaze the pan, and you should let cook until it is almost all evaporated.

Now you should add the Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce, and then you can start to add the stock, about a ladleful at a time. Stir occasionally to ensure the Risotto doesn't stick, and as the Stock is absorbed by the Rice, add in another ladleful. After about 20 minutes, just as the rice is becoming al-dente, add the Chicken, Chorizo, Sweet corn and Peas into the mixture. Add a little more stock if necessary and continue cooking on a low heat for a few minutes. Finally, stir in the Cheese and Black Pepper, then cover for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday 10 March 2008

Leek and Potato Soup

I've already got two other variations of this recipe on this site, but this weekend, with one of my local shops having some enormous leeks that looked perfect for the job, I decided to make the plain old simple version of it. I always find that leeks from the supermarket are always over-trimmed for making this soup as you get none of the green part of the leek and so the soup can look a little pale. The previous photo of Leek, Potato and Carrot soup definitely highlights this fact.

This was probably the first soup I ever tried to make, and I remember asking my Mum for the recipe and thinking that it just sounded far too simple to taste as good as I remembered. The recipe she gave me is the same as below, although in those days, she just told me to use Water instead of the Bouillon. This still tastes good, but a little Bouillon definitely enhances the flavour.

It has been pretty cold and wet over the weekend, so I wanted to make the soup nice and thick, especially as I wasn't having any bread with it. It also helped in the detox process which was needed after the excessive alcohol consumption during and after the Rugby on Saturday. For the final day of the Six Nations, with all games being on the same day, I think I'm going to cook the night before (like last year) so that there is something here that I can easily reheat. With Wales looking good for the Championship, I'm sure there will be more excesses.

Recipe for the Leek and Potato Soup (Serves 4)

  • 25g Lightly Salted Butter
  • 2 huge Leeks, green bits and all, roughly chopped
  • 2 Baking Potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 0.5 Litre Swiss Marigold Vegetable Bouillon
  • 0.5 Litre Water
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Add the butter to a heavy bottom pan, and gently soften the leek in the butter for about 10 minutes. Add in the potato cubes and continue to gently cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the Vegetable Bouillon, Bay Leaves and lots of Fresh Ground Black Pepper and simmer for 40 minutes until the Potato is fully cooked. Add a little salt to taste, but personally, with there being Salt in the Butter and Bouillon, I prefer to just add Black Pepper myself.

You can serve the soup immediately, or blend to make completely smooth. Personally, I like to blend just half of it so that you get a nice thick soup with nice big chunks in it.

Sunday 2 March 2008

Lamb Korma and Masoor Dahl

The last time I made a Korma, it went down very well with my sister, so I decided to try again, only using Lamb this time. I modified the recipe a little after reading a few others on the internet, but it's basically the same technique. I also had another go at making Masoor Dahl (Red Lentil Dahl), and although I didn't use Sandra's technique of frying the spices, then adding the lentils and water to that, it did come out a lot better than the previous effort and had a lot more flavour. The main reason I think is because I made a lot less, but used the same amount of spices as last time.

Another reason for the difference with the Dahl could have been that I used Asafoetida for the first time in my cooking. Many Madhur Jaffrey recipes list it as an optional ingredient, however, in the Monisha Bharadwaj book I have, she often lists it as an ingredient and has two pages of the book devoted to it. It wasn't the easiest thing to find, although, I eventually found it in Waitrose, and I have to say, it's got one of the worst smells of anything in my spice drawer. It's kind of sulphurous, perhaps something like the worse pair of trainers worn without socks during a long hot summer. However, once a pinch is dropped into the hot oil, it doesn't smell nearly as bad. Monisha Bharadwaj says that it can make a dish. I'm not sure about that, but the Dahl was good, so I'm going to stick with it in future, although just a pinch. It really doesn't smell like something you should be putting into your food though, although, funnily enough, it's supposed to reduce flatulence among other things!

Although the Korma wasn't as hot as I would have liked, it was still pretty nice. I think I probably got the amount of Chili about right, but next time, I will leave the seeds in, or perhaps add a little more Cayenne Pepper. During cooking it really smelled like it was going to be a hot one, but the Coconut Milk really cools it down.

The nice thing about both recipes is that they taste just as good, if not better, the next day, and in fact, the photos were taken of my reheated curry lunch as the ones I took on the evening just weren't that great, and I much prefer shooting in daylight.

Recipe for the Masoor Dahl (Serves 4)

  • 1 Cup of Red Lentils, washed
  • 1.5 Pints of Water
  • A few thin slices of Ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of Turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • A pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1 teaspoon of Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of Mustard Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander
  • Half teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt

After washing the lentils, put them into a heavy pan along with the Water, Ginger Slices and Turmeric. Bring the pan to a simmer, then cook for an hour and a half, making sure to stir in the last half hour to make sure it doesn't stick. Remove the slices of Ginger.

Heat up some oil in another pan and drop in the Pinch of Asafoetida, Cumin Seeds and Mustard Seeds and once they start popping, add in the Ground Coriander and Cayenne Pepper, stir a couple more times, then pour into the Lentils. Finally add Salt to taste, and garnish with Fresh Chopped Coriander.

Recipe for the Lamb Korma (Serves 3)

  • 500g Lamb Pieces
  • 6 Tablespoons of Natural Yoghurt
  • 5cm Piece of Ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 Medium Onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of Garlic
  • 4 Green Chilies, seeds removed
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Large Onion, finely sliced
  • 5cm Cinnamon Stick
  • 4 Green Cardamoms, broken
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • Half teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Half cup of Hot Water
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 2 tablespoons Almonds, finely chopped
  • Handful Fresh Coriander, chopped
  • Juice of half a Lemon

Marinate the Lamb pieces in the Yoghurt, Grated Ginger and Chopped Garlic for a few hours at least (preferably overnight). Put the roughly chopped Onion, Garlic Cloves and Chilies into a blender, blend to a fine paste and set to one side.

Heat up the oil in a heavy bottom pan and fry the onion slices for about 5 minutes, until turning golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set to one side. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the Cinnamon Stick, Cardamoms, Ground Coriander, Turmeric, Cayenne Pepper and Black Pepper and stir. Now put the lamb and marinade into the pan, stir to ensure they are coated in the spices and cook for about 10 minutes. Next, add the paste and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add a little hot water to help de-glaze the pan a little, and add the Coconut Milk and the fried Onions. Cook for another 30-40 minutes, or until the Lamb is tender. Stir last of the ingredients and serve.

Monday 18 February 2008

Lamb Rogan Josh (Red Lamb Stew)

I've cooked at Eduardo's flat a few times, but recently he got a new kitchen fitted, and finally has a half decent gas stove and had been trying to get me to come around and cook for a while. As it was a new-ish kitchen, I couldn't think of anything better than letting it have that cooked-in smell of doing a good curry.

The last time I cooked at Ed's place, his girlfriend reckoned she had a reaction to the coconut milk in the Thai curry I cooked, so I decided that this time I would cook an Indian using yoghurt instead. I had wanted to cook something with Lamb, and after flicking through the Madhur Jaffery book, I settled on doing a Lamb Rogan Josh, as it seemed nice and simple, and I wouldn't have to carry too many ingredients with me (knowing that Ed was unlikely to have most of the necessary spices for even the simplest curry). Also, Lamb Rogan Josh is one of those dishes that I would regularly order in a restaurant, so I really wanted to have a go at doing it myself.

To be honest, I think I made it a little hot, so the recipe I'm writing is how I would do it if I made it the same again. This was partly because I was cooking less due to Katia being ill and not wanting to eat any, and so I didn't buy as much Lamb as I would have done if everyone was hungry. Also, it really could have done with a vegetable dish to go with it, but I forgot that I had considerably better cooking facilities, so concentrated on the main dish and forget to get together a vegetable dish to go with it. Due to the hour long simmering time, there is plenty of time to get something else together while waiting for the lamb to become tender.

Recipe for Lamb Rogan Josh (serves 2-3)

  • 3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 8 Cloves of Garlic
  • 5cm Piece of Ginger (roughly chopped)
  • 500g Lamb Shoulder Cubes
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 5cm Cinnamon Stick
  • 10 Peppercorns
  • 10 Cloves
  • 8 Green Cardamoms (Broken)
  • 2 Onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 3 Teaspoons Paprika
  • Half Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 5 Tablespoons Natural Yoghurt
  • 200ml Water
  • Half Teaspoon Garam Masala

Put the Garlic, Ginger and a few tablespoons of water into a blender, and blend to a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan and then lightly brown the Lamb in batches, and remove to a bowl.

Drop in the Bay Leaves, Cinnamon Stick, Cardamom Pods, Peppercorns and Cloves into the pan and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the Onion and fry until lightly browned for about 5 minutes. Add the Garlic and Ginger Paste and stir and fry for about 30 seconds before adding the Ground Coriander, Cumin, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper and Salt. Stir these in well. The mixture will probably be fairly dry at this point, but then add the Lamb and juices back into the pan, and it should start to moisten up again.

Next start adding the Yoghurt, a tablespoon at a time, stirring it into the mixture and ensure that it's fully combined before adding the next tablespoon. Cook for a further 4 minutes, then add in the water, stir and bring to the boil, then reduce the meat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for an hour, or until the Lamb is tender, and the sauce has reduced to a nice Gravy. Finally stir in the Garam Masala.

Serve with Rice and ideally a nice vegetable dish.

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Beef Bourguignon

I remember this dish being a regular instalment on the Tower Restaurant menu at South Bank University in the days when I used to type up menus for the day, but it was never anything I had thought of making myself until reading Pille's post at Nami-Nami. Her version looked really tasty, so I decided I just had to have a go myself. The only problem was that I mentioned this to my friends, Natalia and Gosia, making the further mistake of saying I'd cook it for them one day, and now, about a year later, we finally made the date, and I have finally made it.

The biggest obstacle to making this in the past is that most recipes I've seen require preparing the Beef in the marinade the night before, so if there is any chance that diners won't appear the next day, one may be lumbered with a large amount of food which will never be eaten. Most stews I make require a good few hours to cook, but with Bourguignon, I figured the overnight marinating was something which really had to be done.

There seems to be a couple of different camps when it comes to making Beef Bourguignon. Some cook the stew the night before, then store overnight and reheat before serving. Others seem to go for either a cold or cook marinade, leave overnight, then, cook for 3 or 4 hours the next day. Gordon Ramsay even has a same day recipe, but that feels like cheating to me. Personally, I went for the cook marinade method, although I couldn't fit it in the fridge, so I just left it near the window overnight.

Recipe for Beef Bourguignon (serves 6)

  • 1kg Braising Steak, cut into nice chunks
  • 1 large Onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 ribs of Celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 large Carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 bottle of Red Wine (preferably Burgundy)
  • A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
  • A bunch of Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley
  • 5 Bay Leaves
  • A bulb of Garlic, cut in half across the cloves
  • 25g Butter
  • 250g Smoked Bacon Lardons
  • 400g Shallots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 400g Chantaney Carrots
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Plain Flour
  • Half pint of Beef Stock
  • Salt and Black Pepper

First fry the Onion, Celery and Carrot together in a little oil for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the Wine, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Parsley and Garlic, remove from the heat, drop in the Beef, cover and keep in a cool place overnight.

The following day, drain the vegetables and Beef, reserving the marinade. Put the vegetables into a large casserole dish, and pat the Beef dry using kitchen roll. In another pan, add butter and fry the Bacon until golden, adding the shallots about halfway through. Remove from the pan and add to the Casserole. Next, add a little oil and brown the pieces of Beef in a couple of batches in the pan. Remove and add to the Casserole. Now add a little of the reserve marinade to the pan to de-glaze it, followed by the Mustard and Flour, stirring continuously to ensure there are no lumps as you add the remaining marinade and beef stock. Pour, this into the casserole, cover, and cook in a preheated 160 degree Celsius oven for about 4 hours.

If you want the gravy a little thicker, you can mix more flour with a little of the existing gravy, then add back into the casserole an hour before the end of the cooking time.

Garnish with Freshly Chopped Flat Parsley and serve with Potatoes, Rice or French Bread. In my case, Mash Potato with Chopped Spring Onions was requested, so that was what I cooked.

Monday 21 January 2008

Roast Chicken with Sage, Onion and Apple Stuffing

With all the publicity that Free Range Chickens are getting at the moment due to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out campaign, I really fancied a Roast Chicken myself this weekend. I wasn't planning on cooking for anyone except myself, but I wanted the leftover chicken for other recipes, and wanted the carcass to make the stock, too. However, I was slightly upset to find that none of the chickens in my local Waitrose came with Giblets. This was definitely mildly annoying as I wanted to use the Giblets to make the stock for the gravy at the very least.

Still, it was a nice Chicken which I managed to cook just right so that the breast was still nice and moist without being undercooked at all. I think it's definitely worthwhile getting a chicken larger than you need so that there are enough leftovers for another meal or two as it's definitely cheaper than buying in smaller pieces of Free Range Chicken.

With or without Hugh's Chicken Run, I'd been put off mass produced, Non-Free Range Chicken for a while after a documentary highlighting the fact that the burns often seen on the legs of these birds are due to them sitting around in their own filth all day long as they can barely stand up. Also, my Mum has bought free-range since we were kids, and I remember everyone commenting on the difference the first time she did. It is more expensive, but then, more recently, I have tended to go for more expensive pieces of meat, but just eat less of it, or at least, less often.

To go with the Chicken, I made a few Roast Potatoes, plus some Carrots and Sprouts. I reckon that most years I probably have sprouts only for Christmas Dinner, and very occasionally at someone else's house. I never cook them myself, even though I absolutely love them. I really didn't need all the stuffing I made, and ended up keeping most of it for sandwiches, but I wanted to make it simply because I'd never bothered in the past. I based the recipe on lots of similar stuffing recipes which I found searching on Google, and for me, it tasted great, so I'd definitely follow a similar route with that another time.

Recipe for the Roast Chicken

  • 1 Free Range Chicken
  • 25g Lightly Salted Butter
  • Freshly Ground Salt and Black Pepper

Recipe for Sage, Onion and Apple Stuffing

  • 3-4 slices of Whole Meal Bread, with Crusts
  • 454g Sausage Meat, or peeled Sausages (not low fat)
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and finely cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of Fresh Sage Leaves, finely chopped
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

In a food processor/blender, convert the bread to breadcrumbs. In a frying pan, cook and break up the Sausage Meat, until no longer pink. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the breadcrumbs. If there is a lot of oil in the pan, pour away most of it, leaving a little to fry the Onion, Apple and Sage. Fry gently for about 5 minutes, then add to the breadcrumbs and Sausage Meat. Either blend together in the food processor, or simply mix by hand, ensuring all the ingredients are well mixed together.

Put stuffing into the cavity of the Chicken. Any remaining stuffing can be cooked in a casserole dish, or rolled into balls and cooked for 30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Cut the butter into two thin slices, then from the neck of the chicken, carefully lift the skin from the breast and insert the two slices of butter under the skin, on top of the breast. Sprinkle Freshly Ground Salt and Black Pepper over the skin, then cover with foil and cook in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius, following the pack instructions (normally around 45 minutes per kilo of chicken, plus an additional 20 minutes). Remove the foil covering for the last 40 minutes of cooking.

Friday 11 January 2008

Carrot and Coriander Soup

This is another one of those recipes that I've wanted to make for a long time, but have somehow never got around to it. A few times, I've gone to the shop with the express reason of getting the ingredients, only to find there wasn't any nice looking Fresh Coriander, and so have ended up buying a couple of Leeks and Potatoes and making that soup instead.

I don't ever remember having this soup as a child, so couldn't just steal my mum's recipe on this one. In fact, I think the first time I ever tried this soup was when a friend had a carton of the Covent Garden Soup Company version in the fridge. Searching for a recipe on Google revealed lots of different variations on ingredients and preparation methods. A lot of the more 'British' sounding recipes seemed to keep things relatively simple, and just have the one clove of Garlic and relatively small quantities of Fresh Coriander (obviously from people who buy their Coriander in the Supermarket, rather than getting big cheap bunches from alternative retail outlets). Recipes from sites with a more Asian flare seemed to go for a lot more Garlic and Coriander, plus a few additional ingredients and in some cases, a much more complex preparation method.

There were also versions which included Tomatoes, others used Sweet Potatoes instead of Potatoes (and some no potato at all) and lots which called for the addition of Single or Double Cream, something I would maybe do if cooking it as a starter for a meal where health factors are not an issue, but as I predominantly made this Soup to take into work in a Flask for a healthy lunch, it was left out this time. However, I did add a little Semi-Skimmed Milk at the end as the soup was quite dark in colour and I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

With so many variations, I decided to try and go somewhere in the middle of them with my version, but with Coriander being one of my favourite herbs, there would definitely be a lot of it in there. I did think about using Sweet Potato rather than normal Potato, but I didn't want to make it too sweet, so for this first attempt at this soup, they're just normal white potatoes (in this case, a few small Vivaldi Potatoes).

Recipe for Carrot and Coriander Soup Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 large Onion (chopped)
  • 1 rib of Celery (finely chopped)
  • 6 cloves of Garlic (chopped fine)
  • 5 medium Carrots (chopped)
  • 3 small Potatoes (cubed)
  • Half a cup of Fresh Coriander Stalks (finely chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • Half teaspoon of Black Pepper
  • 1 litre Swiss Marigold Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 cup Fresh Coriander Leaves (chopped)
  • Half cup of Semi-Skimmed Milk (optional)

Heat the Oil in a heavy based pan, then fry the Onion, Celery and Garlic on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the Onion is translucent. Next add the Carrot, Fresh Coriander Stalks and Potato and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the dried Spices and stir into the vegetables so that they're all nicely coated, then add the Stock and Bay Leaves, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Let it cool down a bit, then blend until you have a nice smooth soup. Add the remaining Fresh Coriander Leaves and gently reheat the soup (without boiling). My soup was darker than I'd like, so added about half a cup of Semi-Skimmed Milk at the end to lighten the colour a little, but this is definitely optional.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Guinness Shepherd's Pie (Guinness Cottage Pie for the Pedants)

I'm not going to be drawn into any arguments of whether something is Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie. For me, if it is made from mince from either lamb or beef, with a few vegetables perhaps, and covered with mash potato, it is Shepherd's Pie, and I'm one of the biggest pedants around.

I don't make Shepherd's Pie that often, although it is definitely a favourite of mine. I'm not sure where I learnt how to make it, although it's like that I got it from my mum. However, the other day I saw one of the super-quick Gordon Ramsay recipes on the 'F-Word' compilation they put on over Christmas, and was interested in his alternative methods to the way I make it. Plus, I thought it would definitely make a nice, warming dish with it feeling like snow will fall at any minute.

There are a lot of things I like about Gordon Ramsay, and probably as much that I dislike about him. I haven't had the opportunity to sample his cooking first hand, but he does make a good TV series and provide welcome entertainment along with his annoying quirks. 'Yes?' Still, looking at the results of his Shepherd's Pie, I thought I might try something similar, although where he used Red Wine, I used Guinness. I'm thinking that next time I might try both together as it was such a good combination in the past, but still, I was very satisfied with the result, although I did probably add a few more ingredients than Gordon Ramsay suggested after careful tasting during cooking.

The main differences between his and my version were that with his, the mince was cooked first with the garlic, without the addition of any oil or anything, then, the grated onion and carrot added once it was lightly browned. I quite like little cubes of carrot and peas in my Shepherd's Pie (although Ramsay didn't even bother adding peas, and so he's obviously a bit of a peasant), but this time, I went with grating the carrot along with the onion just to see how the texture of the finished filling differed. I must say, it was nice, but probably immensely improved because of the peas which I added. Ramsay also stuck a couple of egg yolks into his mash, something I've seen other chefs do also, but have no idea why. All the same, I added them myself, just to see if I could work out what the difference was. I'm still not sure, but the mash was good. I pushed the potatoes through my sieve for a change, and the resultant mash was probably the smoothest I've ever made.

Recipe for Guinness Shepherd's Pie (Serves 4)

For the Filling
  • 454g Lean Steak Mince
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large Onions, grated
  • 3 large Carrots, grated
  • 1 tablespoon Concentrated Tomato Purée
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Dried Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Beef Stock Cube
  • 1 bottle of Guinness
  • 1 cup Peas
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

For the Mash
  • 1.5kg Vivaldi Potatoes (or other potatoes suitable for mash)
  • 100g Parmesan Cheese
  • 25g Butter
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • Black Pepper

So, discarding my previous recipes on Shepherd's Pie, take a heavy bottom pan and brown off the Mince at a medium heat. There should be enough fat and liquid still in the mince to let this cook easily without additional oil, etc. Once there is a little liquid in the pan from the Mince, add the Garlic and continue to cook and stir until the mince is lightly browned all over. Then add the Onion and Carrot and continue cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add the Tomato Purée, Ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon Mustard, Thyme and Oregano and crumble in the Stock Cube. Stir well and cooking for a further few minutes before adding the Bottle of Guinness. The Guinness should help you de-glaze the pan of any burnt pieces of Mince from the bottom. Stir in the peas, then, cover the pan and leave to simmer until nearly all the liquid has disappeared.

While the filling is simmering, peel, boil and drain the potatoes. Mash the potato with the Butter and most of the Parmesan, reserving some to be sprinkled over the top of the Shepherd's Pie before the final cooking in the oven.

Once the filling is nice and thick, with the Onions and Carrot almost completely disintegrated into the Mince, and nearly all the liquid disappeared, put it into the bottom of roasting dish, then leave to cool for about 20 minutes, so that the filling has solidified slightly. Then cover with the Mash Potato, stripe with a fork and put the final layer of Parmesan and Fresh Ground Black Pepper over the top. Put in a preheated 200 degree Celsius oven for about 25 minutes until the top is golden, then serve.
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