Monday, 30 November 2015
I've wanted to cook ox cheek for some time, mainly to wind up the kids about not being entirely sure which end of the ox the cheeks come from. Much nervous laughter later and truth be told I'm genuinely not 100% sure. Surely if it was the arse end these would be huge, right? Right?
Anyway, whatever end they come from they need a lot of cooking to break down that firm buttocky sinew. This recipe calls for five hours in a low oven. Oh, and a whole bottle of red wine. This is a seriously rich stew that is perfect for a busy winter Sunday. Absolutely delicious. The cheeks were ridiculously tender (not a sentence I thought I'd ever write) with a sauce crying out for a hunk of crusty bread.
3 large ox cheeks, trimmed and quartered
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with 1 tsp sea salt
150g smoked bacon lardons
2 onions, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 tbsp tomato puree
1 bottle red wine
salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 150C/gas 2. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.
2. Roll the ox cheeks in seasoned flour, then pat off any excess. When the butter sizzles, add the meat and fry until well browned. Do in batched if necessary. Remove the meat to a casserole dish.
3. Add the bacon to the pan and fry until lightly coloured. Add the onions and bay leaves and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and tomato puree and cook for 5 minutes, stirring well to prevent the puree from catching.
4. Add the red win and bring to a boil. Carefully add all the casserole dish. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 5 hours until tender. Turn the meat occasionally.
5. When ready add salt if necessary and serve with mash and veg.
Anyway, since this odd seafood/US pancake hybrid I've had a hankering for the real thing. Light, fluffy with lashings of crispy bacon and maple syrup. And no fish.
135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp melted butter, cooled slightly, plus extra for cooking
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg and milk, and then whisk in the butter.
2. Combine the two mixtures and whisk until you have a smooth batter. Allow to strand for a few minutes.
3. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. When melted add heaped tbsp of the thick batter mix. You can normally do three to four at a time.
4. Once the tops start to bubble, carefully turn over and cook the other side for another minute.
5. Repeat until all done. You can keep the other pancakes warm in a low oven.
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Sometimes on a Sunday I just can't be bothered. It'll get to 5pm and the usual mouthwatering aromas of roast dinner wafting from the kitchen are conspicuous by their absence. I just don't know where the day has gone and now the kids are getting hungry. It's time to raid the fridge and see what (not literally) leaps out at me... or completely write off the day and order a takeaway. (By the way, is it just me that thinks ordering a takeaway on a Sunday to be slightly sleazy? And I don't mean a hangover-busting breakfast pizza, we've all been there. It's kind of like having a beer while showering. It's a brilliant idea (no, really), but you just know your mum won't approve). Anyway, back to raiding the fridge. Hmm, pork steaks. A bit of leftover black pudding. Some potatoes and watercress. A fuckload of apples from our neighbour Colin (not to be confused with the fuckload of quince from our neighbour Jack). The mind races, the Indian menu is thrown back in that drawer with the matches, loose toothpicks, used batteries and tatty tea-towels. No more than 30 minutes later and dinner is served, and my goodness it's the right decision (mum would approve). Meaty, hearty and ridiculously comforting (the dinner, not my mum). Maybe I'll not be bothered next Sunday as well.
Four pork steaks
100g black pudding, cubed
2 apples, cored and cut into eight
1 onion, halved and sliced
small handful sage leaves, torn (or 2tsp dried)
100ml chicken stock
2tsp wholegrain mustard
For the champ:
1kg potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large bunch watercress
2 bay leaves
1 sprig parsley, chopped
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
50g butter, softened
1. Rub the pork steaks with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan and fry the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a plate. Add a little more oil to the pan and fry the onions, apple, black pudding and sage for 5 minutes.
2. Add the stock and mustard, then return the steaks and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about a third.
3. To make the champ, heat the milk and bay leaves in a pan until boiling then take off the heat and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and add the chopped watercress and parsely.
4. Boil the pototoes in salted water until soft, then drain and mash. Add the milk, softened butter and spring onions, and mix.
Sunday, 1 November 2015
If there are ever two words to send shivers down the spine of anti-hipsters everywhere, then surely "pulled pork" are they. Open a pop-up stall selling pulled pork anywhere in London and within minutes you'll be surrounded like moths to a smoked piggy flame by an ironically uncool army of ridiculous beards, sleeve tattoos and single-speed bikes. That's why when we decided to have a pulled pork night we imposed a strict maximum beard limit on anyone under 35. More than 2mm and you're not coming in. Of course, any hipster trying to circumnavigate our house rule with some elaborate facial latex make-up would instantly be given away by the fact that their trousers are too short and they're not wearing any socks. Divs.
Anyway, back to the pulled pork. If you're considering a party then you really cannot go wrong with this. A decent bit of pork (this recipe calls for 3kg) will go a ridiculous long way and is simplicity in itself to make. Rub your meat (leave it), leave for a couple of hours, then slow cook for about five. Serve with buns, coleslaw, potato salad and corn on the cob. To be honest, pulled pork is probably a bit passé for today's hipsters – I believe they have moved on to £5 bowls of cereals and £8 toasted cheese sandwiches. Divs.
For the pork:
50g soft dark brown sugar
5tbsp smoked paprika
3tbsp sea salt
2tbsp cayenne pepper
2tbsp ground cumin
2tbsp ground black pepper
2tbsp ground fennel seeds
2tbsp ground coriander
2tbsp mustard powder
3kg boneless pork shoulder
For the BBQ sauce:
2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic
200ml tomato ketchup
100g brown sugar
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tsp mustard powder
1/2tsp smoked paprika
black pepper to taste
1. Mix all the dry spiced ingredients in a bowl. Put the pork in a shallow dish and rub all over with half the mix. Cover loosely with clingfilm and chill for 1-2 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 150C/Gas 2. Remove pork from fridge and rub over remaining spice mix. Transfer to a large roasting tin. Add 100ml water and cover with foil. Cook for 5 hours until tender.
3. Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the onions soft. Cool slightly then blitz until smooth.
4. When the pork is ready remove the layer of fat. This is unlikely to have become crackling. You can try putting it under the grill to get it to crisp up, but I feel it's never like proper pork belly crackling. Chuck it and weep silently. Remover the pork to a board. Cover with foil and rest for 20 minutes.
5. Shred using two forks. Add half the BBQ and mix. Serve with buns, coleslaw and add more BBQ if required.
Very quick and easy autumnal soup here, with more than a hint of warm Middle Eastern sun. Smoky aubergine, sweet tomato and apricot, and a truly lovely smack of background chilli. This makes a big batch and it's even better the next day.
675g aubergines (approx 3)
6tbsp olive oil
1tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
110g dried apricots, finely chopped
2.5cm piece ginger, grated (don't bother peeling. Seriously)
450ml tomato passata
juice 1/2 lemon
1.5 litres vegetable stock
salt and black pepper to taste
1tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1. Heat oven to 200C/gas 6. Cut the aubergines in half, brush with 3tbsp of olive oil and bake for approx 30 minutes until soft.
2. Remove from oven and roughly chop.
3. Heat remaining oil in a saucepan and sauté the cumin, onion, garlic and chilli for 2-3 minutes, without colouring. Add the apricots, ginger, passata, lemon juice, aubergines and half of the stock.
4. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then blitz with a blender until smooth.
5. Add the remaining stock, check seasoning and return to heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander and serve.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
Our lovely next-door neighbours, Jack and Peggy (Jack, in his 80s, is a toy boy, the saucy old seadog), have got this quince tree in their front garden and every autumn I've been amazed at the sheer abundance of fruit it produces. Then, after a couple of weeks of watching said fruit drop to the ground and slowly rot to a pulpy mess, it is quickly forgotten as thoughts turn to Halloween and beyond that to Christmas. But not this year. Oh no, this year I snaffled the lot. Yes, every single fruit (with J&P's permission, of course, and in exchange for a jar of raspberry jam and promise or further preserves to come).
I'm gonna be honest, I might have bitten off more of the bitter fruit than I can chew. I have a lot of quinces. My first foray into quince jam (below) used 3lbs of them, yielding four jars and enough left-over juice for three more. The dent into my bag was tiny. I fear that friends and colleagues are going to be politely thanking me for yet another jar of quince jam for weeks to come – and then heading to the nearest Google to find out just what the hell it is they are holding in their hand like a live grenade.
Well let me save them the bother. Put simply, a quince is a member of the apple and pear family and indeed looks like the bastard child of the two. However, if you're unfortunate enough to bite into a raw one (and still have your teeth intact beyond its rather firm flesh) you'll soon realise that this is a bastard child with ginger hair and a stutter. Its intense bitterness is enough to make your mouth shrivel up faster than a wicked witch in a rainstorm. It's no surprise that they're about as rare in your local Sainsbury's as a northerner happily paying 5p for a plastic bag.
What is immediately pleasing about the quince, though, is the fragrance: honeyed, perfumed and, well, surprisingly pleasant. Despite the sharpness, you just know that if you introduce these bitter buggers to a little sugar, ok, a lot of sugar, then you're going to be onto a winner. The recipe I have used adds some great Christmasy spices to complement the fruit, with the result being a delicious, rich-coloured jam that would be equally good as an ingredient for sweet or savoury. My god, it's good with cheese and crackers, and I think would be great to use instead of marmelade when smothering a ham before baking.
If you can source some quince, I urge you to give this go. If not, drop me a line and I'll send you a jar or six...
3lbs quince, washed, stalks removed, cut into eight
4 cups granulated sugar
zest and juice of 1 small orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamon
1. Add the quince pieces, skins, cores and pips and all, to a large pan. Cover with water so the quince floats. Bring to a boil, cover then gently simmer for three hours until the fruit is soft.
2. Strain the juice in fine sieve, squashing the soft fruit to extract as much as possible.
3. Return 6 cups of the juice to a clean pan, add the sugar, orange, lemon and spices, and bring to a boil. Any remaining juice can be frozen and used for another batch.
4. Place a small plate in the freezer.
5. After boiling for 20 minutes the liquid will start to look dark and syrupy. To check it is the right consistency, remove the cold plate from the freezer. Add a tsp of the liquid and freeze for 1 minute.
6. To check if the jam is ready, remove the plate and push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles then the jam is ready. If not, return plate to freezer and continuing boiling the quince for another 5 minutes before checking again. This can take 40 minutes or more for the jam to be ready.
7. Cool slightly, add a small knob of butter to remove any "scum" that might have formed on the surface and remove any peel, cardamon and cloves. Fill sterilised jars and allow to cool before sealing.
Sunday, 11 October 2015
I might have mentioned once or twice before that I bloody love pies. I also love real ale, but have yet to enter that smelly jumper and socks and sandals stage (although it's there thumbing its CAMRA good pub guide just over my shoulder). I'm also a big fan of Iron Maiden – the seminal British heavy metalists, not the medieval torture device. So what better way to celebrate the release of their latest album, Book of Souls – the 15th in their long and brilliant history – than with a meaty steak and kidney pie with Iron Maiden ale. Oh, didn't I mention that Iron Maiden also have their own beer, The Trooper, named after their Piece of Mind classic, brewed by the excellent Robinson's brewery in Stockport?
This will make one big pie to serve six, or, as pictured, three "sharing" pies. And when I say "sharing", I actually mean "touch my pie and I'll rip your bloody arms off"... Prepare the filling the day before for a richer flavour.
1kg beef skirt or stewing steak, cut into 4-5cm chunks
30g plain flour, well seasoned
300g lamb kidneys, cored and cut into chunks
1 bottle Iron Maiden's The Trooper (or similar ale)
1 onion, peeled and sliced
350g button mushrooms, quartered
1tbsp tomato purée
1tsp English mustard
1 bay leaf
400ml beef stock
salt and pepper
For the rough puff pastry
400g plain flour
200g butter, chilled and cubed
200g water, chilled
1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Toss the beef in the flour and fry in batches. When brown all over, transfer to a large pan. Repeat with all beef and kidney, adding more oil if necessary.
2. Deglaze the pan with a third of the ale, scrapping off all the crusty bits of meat. Add to the pan.
3. Add more oil and soften the onion for a few minutes. Add to the pan.
4. Repeat with the mushrooms. Add to the pan with the purée, mustard and bay leaf. Add the stock and the remaining ale.
5. Bring to a boil, the gently simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally and until the beef is tender.
6. Check the seasoning then leave to cool, preferably overnight.
7. To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and bring together with up to 200ml of the chilled water.
8. Form into a rectangle and roll on a floured worktop to a long rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold toward you the top third, then fold up the bottom third to form book.
9. Rotate 90-degrees and repeat five times to build up the layers. Chill for at least one hour.
10. When readyto cook the pie, heat the oven to 190C/gas 5.
11. Remove pastry from the fridge and cut off one-third for the lid. Set aside. Lightly grease a 1.2lt pie dish. Roll out the bigger bit of pastry so it fits the dish with an overhang. Brush the rim with beaten egg.
11. Roll out the lid to fit. Crimp the edges and make a hole in the top.
12. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 50-60 minutes. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving with mash, veg and more Iron Maiden ale.
Top three tenuous Iron Maiden/cooking songs:
1. Aces Pie
2. Bun to the Hills
3. Thyme of the Ancient Marriner