April 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Region(s), Mediterranean, Main Ingredient — ros @ 6:48 pm

So it would appear that blogging is a holiday only activity for me now. I can’t apologise any more for my infrequent posting but I’ll try my best to not disappear completely.

I suppose the reason for my lack of writing is three-fold. Firstly, I spend most of my day talking, generally saying the same thing over and over again in various different ways, phrasing and rephrasing over until I’m convinced I’m never going to get through. After a day like that, my brain loses the ability to produce any more words.

Secondly, spending time doing after school stuff with the kids is far preferable to spending time alone in your poky little studio flat and finally, it’s hard to get motivated when you rarely have anyone to cook for. The last point makes the biggest difference. I really need to invite more people over for dinner.

However one thing recently proved to me that, at heart, I am definitely still a foodie. That was the look on my mortgage broker’s face when I put down my anticipated food budget for next year. Aprroximately three times the average. Whoops. But,then again, good quality food costs money and I’d much rather have this swordfish…..

Marinated swordfish and potato salad

than that extra glass of wine in the pub on a Friday. Let’s face it, if I had that extra glass of wine I probably wouldn’t be capable of cooking properly and I’d probably convince myself to have a skanky chinese take-away. I’m sticking with the swordfish.

The real gem in this meal was the sweet and sour potato salad. it was a first for me but definitely one to become a regular. It’s Sicilian in origin, simple to make and a light reefreshing accompaniment to the fish.

Garlic and Mint Marinated Swordfish with Sweet and Sour Potato Salad

  • 1 swordfish steak
  • 10-12 finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 small cloves garlic, made into a paste
  • the grated zest and juice of half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut narrow slashes into each side of the steak, just a few millimetres deep and about 1 inch appart.
  2. Season the steaks with pepper- leave the salt for just before cooking the fish
  3. Mix the rest of the marinade ingredients with just enough oil to lightly coat the fish. Brush this over the fish and leave to marinate for at least two hours.
  4. Shaking off any excess marinade from the fish, griddle it on each side for about two minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak. I aim for the fish to be just pink in the very centre.
  5. Take it off the heat, wrap in foil and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with chopped parsley, lemon for squeezing over and the potato salad.

For the potato salad

  • 4-5 new potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • half a small onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 level talespoon caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped tsp capers, well soaked and drained to remove as much salt as possible
  • 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
  1. Sauté the potatoes in the olive oil over a high heat until crispy on the outside. Turn the heat down and add the onions and cook until the onions are soft and the potatoes are just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the capers and olives,
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. This will be the salad dresing, so taste it and adjust quantities to your taste.Add this to the potato mixture, stir well, bring to the boil for just a minute, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

February 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Light, Chicken liver — ros @ 1:21 pm

I need to do more storecupbioard based cooking. The results never fail to please and it’s always a good feeling to know you’re saving money. I guess I do it less than I used to because I’m spoiled by the area in which I live. Everything’s available within a five minute walk unless, of course, it’s Sunday.

Last Sunday I wandered into Waitrose on my way home and found a pack of duck liver in the bargain bin. At £1.30, I couldn’t say no. Although I’d never cooked duck liver before, I thought it fair to assume it tasted similar to chicken liver and that’s the basis I worked on when I made this.

duck liver, apple and black pudding salad

Lurking in my fridge was a bunch of parsley and a bag of rocket which, combined with some walnuts from the storecupboard and a chopped granny smith apple made a nice tart accompanimnet to the livers. I dressed this salad with extra virgin olive oil mixed with a little apple juice and brown sugar and then served it on a bed of black pudding. The potatoes were just thickly sliced and roasted until golden brown in duck fat (from the last time I had duck). The livers were simply seared until just browned on the outside.

And that was it really. No need for a recipe with something so simple, and I doubt I could remember quantities anyway. The duck livers were, as I thought, similar to chicken livers but more rich with a great texture. At that price they’re a much better choice than calf liver.

December 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Unusual meat — ros @ 12:55 pm

after several months of not being able to properly access your blog. When I finally opened up my admin page after goodness knows how long, I was pleased and slightly suprised to find some people had linked to me. Of course I was less pleased when I found they’d just been hotlinking my photos. Chuh! :roll:  

Then there were the forty or fifty comments largly made up by spam. Having been there when my spam filter was designed, I know that this spam isn’t made by spam robots as it used to be. There are apparently now many hundreds of trained spam monkeys trawling the internet and leaving badly disguised links to their websites, masqueraduing as gushingly complementary comments.  

Anyay, yes, hello, I’m back, at least temporarily. I still don’t have a real computer. Just a laptop with a screen I can barely read and no keyboard. Thank God the boredom of the Christmas holidays has finally forced me into typing on a barely functioning USB device to update this poor, neglected website. So now I can tell you about my recipe for sheep.

No, of course I couldn’t eat a whole one. Not in one go anyway. But this dish includes a fair number of sheep consituents.

sheep dish with offal

Towards the end of August, I went to the Covent Garden Night Market specifically to see Fergus Hendrson perform on their stage kitchen. Softly spoken and slightly awkward in front of the large audience, he was a far cry from what you’d expect from a ‘celebrity chef’, yet he conveyed his passion for good cooking and ingredients better than any popular household name. Two things in particular stick in my mind. The first is his assertion that recipes are merely guides, not rules, for a genuinely good cook. The second is what I have come to hold high in my list of cooking commandments:

Love Thy Butcher

According to Henderson, if you find a butcher worthy of your custom and let them know how much you love them, you can expect great things. In his case, he got pig trotters. I was after sonething slightly different.

I was expecting a negative reaction clutching my short but unusual shopping list but the gentlemen at H G Walters barely batted an eyelid when I handed them the piece of paper. One veal kidney, some lamb sweetbreads and two lamb tongues would apparently be no problem.The two latter ingredients were destined for a recipe that held my fascination for some time: lamb rack with sauteed tongue and sweetbreads.

The original recipe, from the first series of ‘The Great British Menu,’ had obviously been created in the summer and required fresh broadbeans and samphire. I made do with defrosted peas but otherwise the ideas are largely unchanged. 

Sheep Feast (Rack of Lamb with sauteed tongue, sweetbreads and peas)

For Two People

  • 1 large rack of lamb (wih about 6 rib bones in)
  • 2 lamb tongues
  • 350g lamb sweetbreads
  • 2 handfuls of peas, fresh or defrosted
  • 200ml fresh lamb stock
  • unsalted butter- around 30g
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley to garnish
  1. Prepare the sweetbreads: If they’re frozen, allow them to defrost. My butchers say that if you’re short on time, let them sit it some warm water to speed this up. Then soak them in cold water in the fridge for two hours.
  2. Drain the sweetbreads. Bring a pa of water to the boil. Drop in the sweetbreads, bring back to the boil. Drain immediately and refresh in cold water. When they’re cool, peel off the tough outer membrane, then pop them in the fridge until ready to cook.
  3. Prepare the tongues: Place in cold water and brinng to the boil. Simmer until tender (around 1 hour 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the cooking liquid.
  4. Roast the rack of lamb as you norally would. I brushed mine with olive oil, seasoned and roasted it in a preheated oven at gas mark 6 for15 minutes This gave me pleasantly rare meat. Wrap in foil and leave to rest.
  5. While the lamb is roasting/resting, cook the peas in boiling water then drain.
  6. Pat the sweetbreads dry and dust them with the seasoned flour. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and when it is foaming add the swweetbreads and fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  7. Drain the tongues and cut in half. Sautee on both sides auntil golden brown.
  8. Add the sweetbreads, stock and peas to the pan Simmer together for a few minutes.
  9. Cut the lamb rack into cutlets and serve with the peas and sweetbread mixture. Garnish with parsely. Minted new potatoes made a good accompaniment to this.

 

All in all a good recipe. The slighly diappointing thing for me is that the sweetbreads weret te crispy type I’ve had before. Perhaps that is easier to achieve with calf sweetbrads. Still, the flavour was good and I imagine that if I’d had a chance to get my hands on some samphire, it would have been even better. Incidentally, lamb sweetbreads are CHEAP. Excellent value for money if you have a good butcher that can order them for you. The most expensive part of this meal was the lamb rack but, given the quality it was well worth it. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

July 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Chinese, Fusion, Fresh salmon — ros @ 6:41 pm

We are now on a tighter budget than ever before. In a couple of weeks I will be putting down a deposit for a rented flat. I suspect that many of you are lucky enough to not have to deal with the London rental market at the moment. To give you an idea of what it’s like, a small studio flat suitable for one person, that is not near any tube station requires an up front payment of just over £2,100. The ones near tube stations were approximately 30% more expensive.

This is why Goon and I will not be living together next year. He is still looking for a job and there is no way I can afford a flat to fit two people, especially not after I’ve supported both of us through the first year of my career.

Needless to say, I’ve spent most of this week with my head buried in various bargain bins around Hackney and Islington. Apologies to the peaople that I’ve hissed and/or snarled at for getting to the best deal before I could fight my way forward. Hunting for cheap food brings out the killer instinct in me. To make things even more exciting, as soon as the hot weather started, our ancient freezer let out a final wheeze, fell over and died. No more hoarding bargains for me- everything is now bought on the day. Of course, we’ve been having a lot of vegetarian food (more on that when camera is fully fixed) and eating meat only when it’s on offer.

Last Sunday, I was doing my usual rounds when I found a pack of two decent sized salmon fillets for just over £2. It was carried to the tills in a vice like grip. Salmon cheap! Salmon mine! Since it was the end of the week, I had spent all but £1 of our budget and so the salmon would have to be paired solely with things I had in the house already or could be bought at practically no cost. 

I carried out a cupboard and fridge audit and discovered that I have a lot of very useless stuff: little that could help me with the salmon. However, with a quick trip to the Turkish Grocers across the road, my remaining £1 bought me some coriander, three chillies and a red pepper, which combined with storecupboard stuff, made this.

crunchy sesame salmon

I’ve heard it said that, in order to enjoy salmon, you don’t need to do much to it at all. Just grill it until the skin is crisp and the fillet is slightly pink in the middle before serving with a wedge of lime and some buttered new potatoes. Not this salmon. This salmon was from a farmed fish, a touch fatty and just about to go out of date. Simplicity would merely accent it’s lack of freshness. But this is what strong marinades were made for. The fish was subjected to a burst of honey, soy, garlic and ginger, coated in sesame and fried untll golden. Then i contrasted the sweet saltiness with some earthy, spicy noodles. 

Crunchy Marinated Salmon with Hot Coriander and Peanut Noodles 

For the marinade… 

  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 level tablespoon light soy
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon five spice
  • a touch of dry sherry or rice wine- enough to make this into a thin paste

and the rest….

  • 2 skinned salmon fillets (around 175g each)
  • sesame seeds- around 100g
  • 2 portions egg noodles, cooked.
  • half of a large bunch of coriander
  • 1 large green chilli 
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 red pepper, cored and sliced
  • 100ml sesame oil
  1. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade
  2. Cut the salmon into bite sized pieces. Toss in the marinate and refridgerate for at least an hour.
  3. Scatter the sesame seeds into a thick layer over a small plate. Keep another small plate at its side.
  4. Take a piece of salmon, shake off the marinade, then roll it into the sesame seeds, pressing down firmly, until it is well coated., Put it on the spare plate and repeat with the rest of the salmon.
  5. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan. Fry the salmon pieces over a medium heat, turning every 30s or so, until they are golden brown. You may need to do these in batches, so keep a side plate handy.
  6. Put the salmon pieces on a plate, cover with kitchen foil and keep warm.
  7. Put the corianderand chilli into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Adding a little oil, at a time, continue to pulse until you have a medium thick paste. stir in the peanut butter and mix until smooth. This will prbably thicken the mixture, so you may want to blend in some more oil.
  8. Quickly stir fry the noodles woth the paste until heated through and well coated. Keep warm while you finish up.
  9. Sautee the red peppers in a little vegetable oil until they have softened slightly.
  10. Pour over the excess marinade from the salmon and let it bubble down to a glaze.
  11. Serve the crunchy salmon on the noodles with the peppers, pour over the reduced marinade and garnish with coriander leaves.

 

April 8, 2008

Filed under: Northwest European, Calf liver — ros @ 10:31 am

Calf liver is my treat for when Goon is away. It’s an automatic reaction now. If Goon is going away to work on his business or visit his parents, I head straight into Borough Market, find my way to the Ginger Pig and buy myself the nicest bit of veal liver they have. You see Goon isn’t a big liver fan. He can cope with chicken livers providing I soak them in enough cream and alcohol, but he hates lamb liver and is ambivalent about calf liver.

At £25 per kilo, ambivalent isn’t allowed!

So calf liver is reserved for the days when I have the flat to myself. My problem is I always buy the liver without knowing what to do with it. Last weekend I was after a change from the usual creamy marsala sauce but the internet was providing little inspiration. In fact, the recipe websites seem alost saturated with straightforward liver, bacon and onion recipes. That’s not quite what I wanted for my treat!

Eventually an idea came from an old BBC recipe. A liver, bacon and onion recipe by Gary Rhodes involves serving liver with melting onions with marmalade. A bit of musing led to the recipe below. Unfortunately, due to the great Islington juniper shortage that hit last weekend, I didn’t sprinkle my calf liver in finely ground juniper as intended. Instead, I dusted it with 1 juniper berry I had left, after giving it a good soak in gin.

Then I gave my own liver a good soak in gin. Happy times. :)   

Calf Liver with Juniper, Caramelised Apples, Maple Cure Bacon and Tangy Apple Onions

posh liver bacon onions

  • 200g calf liver
  • around 8 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 6 pieces
  • around a level tablespoon of honey
  • around 30g-40g butter
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 rashers maple cure bacon
  • half a small onion, sliced
  • a tablespoon of apple sauce
  • a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar to taste 
  • half a glass of fruity red wine

 

Sprinkle the liver with finely crushed juniper berries and press them in properly (or soak it in gin!). I suggest the calf liver is  cooked to pink in the middle. For the liver you see in the picture, that involved dry frying for approimately 30 seconds on each side and resting for 5 minutes wrapped in foil.

Melt 3/4 of the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and stir in the honey. Add the rosemary sprigs and allow to infue for a minute or two. Add the apple slices, sir to coat in the butter. Turn the heat up slighty so the apples caramelise. They should be golden brown on the outside, but firm. Discard the rosemary sprigs before serving.

The bacon was grilled until crisp. Easy

And for the onions, the only involved part of the meal, soften them in the rest of the butter until golden brown, add half a glass of red wine, allow to bubble down until almost completely evaporated then stir in a tablespoon of apple sauce. Add balsamic vinegar to taste- this will depend very much on how sweet/tart your apple sauce was. Calf liver has a delicate flavour compared to, for example, lamb liver, so you don’t want the onion to be overwhelmingly tart, just slightly tangy. I doubt you’ll need to add sugar but it is probably worth having some on hand just in case.

I served this with some simple buttered wilted spinach but spiced braised red cabbage would also be good.

July 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized, Quick, Pork/Boar — ros @ 3:37 pm

Undeterred by the witty and cutting insult :wink:  left for his previous culinary effort, Goon has agreed to go ahead with my plan to help him learn to cook. This is a great step forward for someone who has flatly refused to make anything more complicated than an omelette for the last six months.

Now, it is clear that Goon and I have completely different cooking styles. I never learned to cook at home as my parents had me on low calorie ready meals through my teenage years. Then, all of a sudden at age 22, when I finally got a long term boyfriend, I just started making simple things but without any recipe books. Those came later, when I got bored of making basic things and wanted ideas for new meals. I never followed a recipe as such, just got an idea of the ingredients and improvised. I find that I’m so impatient, I get bored reading instructions and just get them wrong.  Things are much more reliable when I make stuff up, which is why I’ll probably never be a good baker.

Goon is completely the opposite. He can follow a recipe really well but if there’s a typo (or the chef writing the recipe is a bit mad) Goon can’t make adjustments. He has no idea of how to compensate for things going wrong…. at least not yet.

So we’ve formulated a plan. Once a week (or more if he feels like it) I will go through my recipe books and find a recipe that I think will suit Goon’s cooking ability. Goon will try it with as little help from me as possible, then we’ll blog it. It should be a good way of reviewing basic recipes as well as being great for teaching Goon to cook.

For the first experiment of this kind, I found an exciting looking recipe by Nigel Slater from his book Real Food. It is a stir fry of pork fillet and cashew nuts with strong vibrant flavours of lime, chilli and mint. Since it is a stir fry, there wasn’t anything involved that was too scary for Goon. However, I didn’t agree with the recipe completely, so I adjusted the quantities to what I thought would work. There was a decrease in chilli, as Goon doesn’t like too much heat in his food, and I reduced the amount of lime because it just seemed totally ludicrous.

Of course, we need to go one step at a time. Goon can’t cook two things in parallel yet, so I made some fried rice to go with the pork and some wilted pak choi in oyster sauce, but he made the meat dish entirely on his own.

Pork with Lime, Cashews and Mint (Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Food)

  • 400g pork fillet
  • flavourless oil for frying (vegetable, groundnut, etc)
  • 75g cashews, roughly chopped (90g was suggested, but I ate some before we started. I think 75g was plenty and I prefer the nuts chunky, so I changed the ‘finely chopped ‘ stated in the original recipe to roughly chopped).
  • zest of 2 limes plus the juice of one (the recipe suggested 3 whole limes, we used 2 and it was still a bit much.)
  • 3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (maybe go for the suggested 4 red chillies if you like heat.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (the original recipe suggests 2, but I knew this would make it too salty for me)
  • handful mint leaves, finely chopped
  • handful basil leaves, torn to shreds
  1. Cut the pork into 2cm thick rounds, then cut each round into thin strips.
  2. Put the oil into the wok, get it really hot and then brown the pork by quickly stir-frying it until it is golden brown in places. Pour the pork onto a plate with its juices.
    [Goon observation: It says to use a wok for a good reason. If you use a big saucepan like Goon did, not much of the pork will be in contact with the pan surface and it will take longer to brown. Since it doesn’t seal as quickly, it may lose more water than it should. It’s not the end of the world. Just pour off excess liquid and carry on.]
  3. Turn down the heat a little and add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan. Fry, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. 
  4. Return the pork to the pan and add the cashews and continue to fry these, whilst stirring, for another minute or two.
  5. Add the fish sauce, lime zest and juice and stir through.
  6. Finally, add the mint and basil.
    [Ros observation: The original recipe stated ‘add the herbs.’ This confused Goon as he thought there weren’t any herbs in the ingredients list.  Sometimes it helps to really spell things out.]
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    [Goon doesn’t like doing this. In fact, he tasted it and just said, ‘it tastes weird’. It turned out he meant ‘the lime is a bit strong’. In compensation I added some more mint and garlic, which seemed to help in balancing it.
  8. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve immediately with some fried rice.

***

So how did it turn out?

 Pork with lime cashews and mint

Not bad I say! With the minor adjustments I made, this turned out to be an excellent recipe, with wonderful bold flavours and a refreshing citrusy-heat that wasn’t too much for Goon. The lime wasn’t so overpowering by the time it reached the table, although I would stick to the quantities above rather than using 3 whole limes as Slater suggested.

So I think we have a success! :) Hopefully in time, Goon will be able to do the rice and vegetables too.

June 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized, Unusual meat — ros @ 8:23 am

Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a Wellington, but it was wrapped in pastry.

Another day, another new meat to try. This time it is the South African antelope, kudu, which is steadily growing in popularity amongst game eaters in Britain. I’ve been inspired by this page at the BBC and, reading that rose flavours work well with game, I thought I’d try it out on my kudu steaks.

There is an Iranian (I think) shop on my way to college and I found a selection of rose condiments there. I got some rose petal jam to make a paste to smother on the steaks. I mixed the jam with some lemon juice and zest, wrapped the entire thing in a rosemary and thyme crepe, covered it in puff pastry and baked it. It nearly worked very well. The problem was, the pastry wouldn’t rise!

Icouldn’t understand it. Usually gas mark 7 for 15 minutes will suffice. This time  it didn’t show signs of  puffing for about 25 minutes. After 40 mintes it was ready. This was all fine apart from the fact the kudu was now well done. I wanted it rare. I was annoyed.

Apart from that it was great. Kudu is very tender and juicy. I had it with lemon and coriander cous-cous. I had a bit of rose petal jam left so I made a sauce by mixing it with some white wine, cinnamon  and half a capful of cherry brandy, just to give it extra richness. It seems that cherries+roses+game=tasty. It’s definitely one to try with venison and pigeon. 

So, for those of you who like your meat well done, this is a good way to do kudu. Full details are here.

Next time I’m making my own pastry. :(

May 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Unusual meat — ros @ 7:51 pm

I first had kangaroo steak a couple of years ago at Archipelago, near Russell Street. This is an excellent restaurant which has a very original menu. However I think I did badly with the kangaroo dish, it was a touch overspiced and so I didn’t get chance to taste the meat properly.

I tried it again a couple of months ago in a Walkabout pub. They do several kangaroo dishes. I opted for a salad and it was very good. Since then I’ve found places to buy this meat online. Osgrow and Alternative Meats both stock this as well as a wide variety of other exciting things. Gamston Wood who have a stall at Borough Market but, sadly, no website, sell Ostrich and Kangaroo  and I am informed they will be expanding their selection soon.

Kangaroo has a very similar flavour to venison and there isn’t a huge difference in price. Half a kilo of a good quality steak cost me about £11 - about the same as an off the bone venison haunch. I had been told it went well with berry sauces so after a bit of internet research and looking at the special offers in the local supermarkets, I came up with this recipe. The idea for the sweet potato came from The Amateur Gourmet. It doesn’t look like he’s put up a recipe so I’ve offered mine.

May 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean, Sausages — ros @ 3:28 pm

This happened in true “Ready Steady Cook” style last Sunday. There was a French rabbit in the freezer, chorizo in the fridge, a big pan and not a lot of space anywhere. Paella was the obvious choice. Fortunately, it turned out to be a tasty choice too, although its construction turned out to be quite stressful.

It should have happened like THIS. But that would be far too easy.

Problem number 1: No Paella rice. Solution - substitute Japanese sushi rice and believe it or not… it worked!

Problem number 2: No red pepper.  Solution- stir in  some red pepper soup and put in fresh chopped tomato for colour.

Problem number 3: No herbs. No solution to this one. I just prayed there’d be enough herbiness in the stock to make up for it.

Problem number 4: The chorizo was covered in a shrink wrap plastic that I mistook for the chorizo skin. I’d added half the chorizo before I noticed and spent a while picking plastic out of the pan.

Problem number 5: The rabbit was looking at me funny. No - not really a problem but why leave the head on the rabbit when packing it? It’s pretty useless. Isn’t that weird? Guess it isn’t in France. Also we had a freak rabbit with a disturbingly big liver.

After all that we eventually had a paella that was very nice apart from the occasional bit of chorizo plastic floating about. We paired it with a nice Rioja and some dolmades we found in the freezer.