Sunday, 30 October 2011

Beef and Guinness Casserole with Sage Dumplings

25 grams butter
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced,
1 stick celery, diced
Handful thyme leaves, chopped
Few tbps flour
Olive oil
1 kg beef shin or other stewing beef, cut into 3cm pieces
200 grams bacon or pancetta, diced
500 ml Guinness or other stout
500 ml beef stock
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
250 grams chestnut mushrooms, sliced

For the dumplings:
175 grams self raising flour
80 grams suet
Pinch salt
5 sage leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. In a casserole, slowly cook the onion, carrot and celery over a medium-low heat in the butter on the hob. While the vegetables are doing their thing, heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and spread the flour out on a plate with some seasoning. Toss the beef shin in the flour and when the pan is good and hot, brown the pieces in batches, transferring to a bowl or similar as you go. You may need to add some extra oil. Cook the bacon in the same pan until the fat starts to run, and put with the beef. Return your attention to the vegetables by stirring in the thyme leaves. Cook for about half a minute. Put the meats into the casserole along with the Guinness and the stock. Season with salt, pepper and Worcestershire Sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. Now leave it to cook for at least 2 hours until the meat is very tender.

At this stage you can let it cool and continue when you want to eat it later. Otherwise, about half an hour before you want to eat, cook the mushrooms in a little butter until the juices start to run. Add them to the casserole. Sift together the salt and flour in a mixing bowl, then stir in the suet and chopped sage. Mix with enough water to make a firmish dough, and shape into 6 balls. Place them on top of the stew, and cook for another 25 minutes with the lid off until the dumplings are golden on top. Serve with bread and butter, or creamy mashed potato.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Apple, Blackberry and Almond Crumble

Instantly comforting and rewarding, especially now the weather has turned. I made this to follow a delicious goulash made by the lovely Daz, perfect winter food. I always forget how much I like crumble until I eat it, and then wonder why I don't make it more often, it's so easy to make and everyone loves it.

For the crumble topping:
225 grams plain flour
125 grams unsalted butter, diced
100 grams caster sugar
125 grams soft brown sugar
50 grams flaked almonds
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

For the fruit:
1kg Bramley apples
250 grams blackberries
150 grams caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
In a mixing bowl, rub the butter in the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. You don't want to use all your fingers here, just your fingertips to bring the flour and fat together.  Stir in the sugar, spices and flaked almonds and set aside whilst you deal with the fruit.
Butter the crumble dish.  Peel, core and chop the apples, place in the bowl. Tumble in the blackberries, and stir in the sugar. Evenly sprinkle over the crumble mixture, and bake until golden and the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Wonderful Onion Gravy: A Guide

I struggle to write up the recipe for anything I've cooked, it feels overly prescriptive when I have made the dish to suit my tastes entirely. As I feel this is a recipe that you can play around with, and be fairly liberal with the quantities, I'm ditching the standard recipe format for something altogether more relaxed.

Peel and finely slice some onions- four will do for about 5 people. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt a generous amount of unsalted butter over a low heat. Add the onions and cook very slowly until golden and  collapsing. Turn the heat up, and stir in a tablespoon of plain flour. Let the onions caramelise, stirring all the time so they do not not burn. Now add about 750 ml stock- light chicken or vegetable are good, but if you can get hold of some porcini mushroom stockcubes from an Italian deli or elsewhere, use these. They add a lovely depth to the gravy Bring to a simmer and add some Marsala or Madeira wine, about 125ml. Cook until the harsh alcohol smell evaporates, and season with some Worcestershire Sauce, and a touch of Tabasco if you like a little heat. Let it simmer until you get a consistency you like, and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Kale with Lardons, Fennel Seeds and Chilli

Delicious as the essential green component to go with sausages and mash, as I can testify.  I often do my greens- spring, savoy cabbage or kale- with bacon and caraway seeds, this is a less Germanic variant. You just want to cook the kale until it is just tender and still fresh tasting, especially if you're attempting to convince the vegetable phobic that the Brassica family can be something other then a dinner time chore.

100 grams lardons, cubed pancetta or bacon
250 grams kale or other greens
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp chilli flakes
100ml vegetable stock

In a saucepan with a lid, fry the lardons until the fat runs and they are slightly crispy. Stir in the fennels seeds, cook for about 30 seconds, then add the chilli flakes and kale. Stir so the greens are nicely coated in the bacon fat, add the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, clamp on the lid. Leave to steam for about 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Baked Lamb Meatballs with Feta

Not baked to avoid frying and smugly avoid fat content, these are still fried. They are then cooked in the oven in a rich tomato sauce which I have attempted to infuse with Greekish flavours, and topped with feta and mozzerella. They don't need much by way of accompaniment, just some bread and maybe a green salad. Perhaps a few black olives to nibble on while you wait- although I would be tempted to add them to the sauce if I had them lying about.

For the meatballs:
1kg lamb mince
1/2 red onion, very finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
4 tbsp fine semolina
Olive oil for frying

For the sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tins chopped tomatoes
175ml white wine
strip of orange zest, plus juice from 1/2 the orange

To finish:
1 ball mozzerella, sliced thinly
150 grams feta

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs together, leave the flavours to mingle while you make the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then add the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, then put the cinnamon stick, coriander, oregano and chilli flakes into the pan. After about 30 seconds pour in the tomatoes, squeeze in the orange juice and add the zest. Turn the heat up slightly, and add the white wine. Let it bubble fiercely until the harsh alcohol smell has evaporated. Turn down again, but let it simmer quite hard until you have reduced it to a rich pulpy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Shape the mince into meatballs about the size of a walnut in its shell. Heat the olive oil for the meatballs in a frying pan. Brown them in batches, removing to a baking dish once well coloured. You may want to drain them of there fat by putting them on kitchen roll first if your lamb is particularly fatty. I think it's quite clear by now that I am not fat-phobic, but there is a balance to be made. Richness and flavour is desirable, but greasiness is not. Pour over the sauce, turning the meatballs gently to cover completely. Sprinkle with the cheeses and bake until golden browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Thai-ish Pork Burgers

My attention span for cooking is extremely low, the thought of cooking large quantities of a dish to save myself the bother of having to make dinner another night does not sit right with me at all. I'm always scanning books for the next thing to make, living from one new recipe to the next. I have tried the admittedly more sensible option, I end up with a freezerful of soup or stew or chilli that I will guiltily ignore for as long as possible. So even though I loved green curries I made from the paste, I was itching to make something different with it. The very happy result were these pork burgers. In fact, I loved them so much I went against everything I have said above and made them for dinner again the next night. High praise indeed.

For the burgers:
500grams pork mince, not too lean
2 tbsp green curry paste
2 tbsp fine semolina
3 spring onions, finely chopped
groundnut oil for frying

To serve:
raw peanuts, finely chopped and toasted
julienned carrot and red pepper, tossed in a mix of lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar
soft floury rolls, ideally, or whatever bread you like

Thoroughly mix the burger ingredients, except the oil, together- it's easiest with your hands. Shape into 4 burgers, heat the groundnut oil over a medium in a heavy based frying pan, enough to cover the base of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the burgers and cook so they are nicely browned on each side, not just greyed. You don't want too high a heat as they need to be cooked through without burning on the outside. When the are ready, serve in buns sprinkled with your chosen topping.