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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