Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Hot Beets

The beetroots are still arriving each week in my little organic bag, and that is good news. I can't get sick of them. If I'm not roasting them to sweet perfection to serve simply as they are, I'm blitzing them to a purée to serve with sizzling black pudding or slicing them thin to toss into a winter leaf salad.

When time is against me, as it has been recently, a soup is always a quick option to use up my favourite finger staining root. Beetroots are so versatile to a number of flavours. They go well with hot and pungent spices such as chilli and cumin, the heat of the chilli and the aromatic cumin lifting the earthy sweetness of the root to another level.

This soup incorporates both spices, along with a lovely import we see at this time of the year, the satsuma. Roast a little of the skin of the satsuma along with the other ingredients, your nose tells you that you could be in heaven and that a real treat is in store. A slice of hot toasted rye bread, rubbed with garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, is all that you need to finish off a vibrant and fresh flavour packed winter soup.

Beetroot, Chilli, Cumin and Satsuma Soup
Feeds 2

4 beetroots, peeled and cut into cubes
1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 dried chilli
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 satsuma with half of the zest thinly peeled
750ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

1 - In a deep pan, heat up the olive oil then add the onion. Cook stirring for 5-10 minutes until soft and beginning to colour.
2 - Add the beetroot, potato, garlic, spices and satsuma zest, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the aromas are released and everything is beginning to colour.
3 - Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the beetroot and potato are soft.
4 - Blitz until smooth in a blender. Squeeze in a little of the satsuma juice and taste for seasoning. Pour into bowls along with a round of toasted rye or wholemeal bread, rubbed with garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Shanks For The Memory

Lamb shanks are a dream to cook with. Not only are they cheap, but they are incredibly flavoursome. Like most of the cheaper cuts of meat from an animal, they do tend to be the tastiest. And shanks are no exception. As long as you can wait a few hours for them to cook, you will be awarded with supreme gelatinous succulent meat that falls from the bone in large slabs.

I mentioned in a previous post about the therapeutic qualities of warm comforting food. Lamb shanks are in that category, and at this time of the year it is a cut of meat I turn to quite regularly. It needs nothing more than a quick browning then a long slow braise is an aromatic sauce. So as well as being tasty and economical, they are a breeze to cook.

Rather than turn to the ubiquitous red wine braise, I prefer a more fresh and earthy sauce to go with lamb. A good English dry cider is an amazing accompaniment, the sharp fruit of the apple cutting nicely through the deep rich meat. An addition of brown or green lentils thickens and adds texture to the sauce, and a little zest and juice of lemon is a surprising back-note without being overpowering. 2-3 hours in the oven, the house will be filled with amazing smells, the kind of smells that make you instantly ravenous. Serve it with a simple mash and some good buttery Savoy cabbage, it needs nothing more. No fuss food of the highest order - that will do for me.

Lamb Shanks Braised in Dry Cider and Brown Lentils
Serves 2

2 lamb shanks
1 carrot, chopped into small dice
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped into small dice
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 bay leaves
Fresh thyme
1 tbsp tomato purée
500ml good dry cider
500ml hot lamb or vegetable stock
1 lemon
4 rashers of streaky bacon
100g brown lentils
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

1 - Pre-heat the oven to GM2, 150 degrees C.
2 - In a large non-stick frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Season the lamb shanks and quickly brown all over. Remove and place into a deep ceramic Pyrex dish.
3 - Add the carrots, onion, celery and bacon to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, thyme and tomato purée and cook for a further minute. Remove and add to the Pyrex dish along with the bay leaves.
4 - Pour the cider into the frying pan and bring to the boil, scraping off anything that may be stuck to the pan. Add to the Pyrex dish.
5 - Finally, add the hot stock to the shanks until just below the meat, along with the zest and juice of half of the lemon and good grinding of black pepper.
6 - Place into the oven and cook for 1 and a half hours. Stir in the lentils then put back into the oven for 1-1 and a half hours, until the lentils are soft and the meat comes away from the bone when pushed.
7 - Taste for seasoning. You may want to thicken the sauce. To do this, remove the shanks and keep in a warm oven and reduce the sauce in a pan on the hob. Serve with mashed potato and buttery cabbage.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Things That Go Pump In The Night

The time of the year has arrived when strange things happen. I don't mean ghosts and goblins appearing, or witches flying over your roof. I mean that tradition of carving out a delicious pumpkin and making a scary face, then putting a candle in it and walking around half of the night with it before throwing it in the bin. What a waste of delicious pumpkin!

Without sounding like a kill joy, I love getting involved at Halloween and carving out pumpkins with the kids. But imagine the amount of orange pumpkin flesh that sits on landfill sites each October!? Instead of giving it a sad send off, celebrate its final hours with a few simple dishes. It should already be half cooked after a good scorching off the candle!

Pumpkin is a really lovely versatile vegetable; mash it, roast it or churn it into a soup, either way it is a top vegetable. Take out the seeds and pan roast them with a few spices for a delicious nutty snack. It is also very child friendly. Any squash is, and it was one of the first vegetables I introduced to my daughter. So what timing for our friends at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge to be moving onto P for Pumpkin. Whilst young Freddie is out scaring everybody with his carved out pumpkin, he can have thoughts on some sensational pumpkin related meals courtesy of the family of kind Bloggers that are all linking on this day.

My pumpkin effort involves what could be another scary thing to a young child - a mussel. A spanking fresh mussel such as the hand picked mussels I used, picked that very day from Amble in Northumberland, are surprisingly brilliant accompaniments to a pumpkin. Both are sweet and earthy, and both have similar orange flesh. So they can compete against each other in the spicy crisp bacon and garlic flavoured sauce I enveloped them in with conchiglie pasta. I thought it was only right to serve something from the sea with a shell shaped pasta. Good luck Freddie. And whatever you do, don't be scared....

Spiced Pumpkin, Bacon and Mussel Conchiglie
Serves 2

200g of conchiglie pasta
5 rashers of smoked bacon, sliced into strips
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Leftovers of one halloween pumpkin, skinned and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
10 fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 small glass of dry cider
Fresh chives, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese

1 - Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan with a lid. Add the bacon and cook until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
3 - Add the pumpkin to the oil and bacon fat and stir fry for 5-10 minutes until golden and cooked through.
4 - Add the shallots, chilli and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Turn up the heat then add the mussels and cider. Put on the lid and cook through for 5 minutes or until the mussels have fully opened. If any remain closed, throw them away.
5 - Tip in the drained pasta then the crisp bacon, a good grinding of black pepper and a handful of fresh chives. It should not need salt because of the bacon.
6 - Serve in large bowls with more fresh chives and some Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Eat

Eat to live, or live to eat? That is the question. For me, it is the latter every time. Each day I enthusiastically approach a meal or snack with the same attitude; that I am really looking forward to it. From the moment I awake, I'm thinking about the porridge with raisins and honey or the hot buttered toast and strong builder's tea. Once finished, I'm usually thinking about what to have for lunch and dinner. And why not? Food can enhance your life; you are what you eat can never be a more true statement and it can affect your moods in so many ways.

Some foods are born to make you instantly cosy, warm and happy. Now that the days are getting frosty and the night is drawing in quicker, you need to start filling yourself with 'feel good' food in order to have a happy winter. So the likes of shepherd's pies, slow braised meat and vegetable casseroles with proper suet dumplings and fruit crumbles with creamy hot custard all spring to mind as essentials. Lots of flavour, lots of warmth and instant resuscitation after a hard day at work.

One of my absolute favourite 'winter warmer feel good foods' has to be a good old steak and kidney pie. Succulent slow braised beef that melts in your mouth, with sweet kidneys accompanied by whole shallots and drowned in a rich beer gravy, all topped off with a thick shortcrust pastry which cracks like an ice covered lake when punctured with a serving spoon. When I eat something like this, no matter how miserable I feel, it cannot help to put a smile on my face and make me feel better about the world.

We have loads of these types of recipes over here in the U.K. If only we sang about them a bit more often, told people how fantastic they were and devoured them with the passion that they deserve, then we would surely be the happiest nation in the world. Live to eat. Eat to be happy. Eat.

Steak, Kidney, Mushroom and Ale Pie

Feeds Lots

1kg braising beef
Plain flour
Olive oil
200g cow's kidneys, chopped into bite size pieces
20 whole shallots, peeled
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
250g mushrooms, halved
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp thyme, dried or fresh
1 bottle of good ale, I used Jarrow Brewery Rivet Catcher
500ml beef stock
1 quantity of shortcrust pastry to fit your pie dish
1 egg, beaten

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM4.
2 - Heat some olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Season a quantity of plain flour then coat the beef and kidney. Cook quickly in batches until golden, then tip into a large casserole dish.
3 - Add more oil, then add the shallots, onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until they begin to colour, then add the garlic, herbs and tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, stirring all of the time. Tip into the casserole dish.
4 - Pour a little of the beer into the frying pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove any essential bits that may be stuck. Pour into the casserole dish along with the rest of the beer. Then add the beef stock until the meat and vegetables are just covered. Bring to the boil then put into the oven for 2 hours.
5 - Cook the mushrooms in the frying pan with a little oil until they have released some water and coloured slightly. Add to the casserole, then tip into a pie dish.
6 - Dampen the edge of the pastry with a little egg wash, then cover the pie with the shortcrust pastry. You may want to add a pie support to stop the pastry from sinking, I used a steel chef's ring. Cover with egg wash with a pastry brush. Puncture the centre with a small hole to allow steam to escape.
7 - Put into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with mash and lots of vegetables.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Bronski Beet


A bonus with getting a fresh bunch of beetroot at this time of the year are the succulent leaves you should get with them. Beautiful ruby red veined leaves sprouting quite dramatically from the top of a beetroot are a rare sight in a supermarket, but if you know a good local provider, you must take advantage of this leaf.

Like the tops of a fresh bunch of carrots, I know that people often just cut them off and take them to the compost heap or the bin. But the chard, or leaf beet, is a vegetable in its own right and it is good habit to use it in the same way you would with spinach. Lightly steamed or blanched, a good knob of butter and a little seasoning, it is arguably tastier than spinach and it looks sensational.

A quick, tasty and healthy pasta recipe is always good to turn to when time is against you and mouths need to be fed. This recipe uses my favourite beet leaf along with bacon, onions and a little créme fraiche which can be stirred into any pasta. Spinach would work perfectly well, but there is something about the red ribbed leaf of a beetroot that taints your food with a mild pink that appeals to me. And 10 minutes for the time it takes the pasta to boil to whip up a lovely seasonal sauce has to be good news.

Beet Leaf and Bacon Penne
Feeds 4

The tops of 6 beetroots, removed, washed and roughly chopped
6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small slices
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
A pinch of chilli
1 small tub of low fat créme fraiche
Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Penne pasta

1 - Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a quantity of pasta to feed your number.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan then add the onions and bacon. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion is softened and bacon is beginning to crisp.
3 - Add the beet leaf along with the garlic and chilli, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring all of the time until wilted and reduced and much of the water has evaporated.
4 - Stir in the créme fraich, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a good grating of Parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Drain the pasta then pour into the frying pan with the sauce. Coat and then serve in bowls with more Parmesan cheese.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Cob On

Thanks to the generous cob nut tree in my street and the bags of nuts left tied to the kind owner's gate every few days for us to collect, my cob nut collection is growing ever bigger. Last year I made the mistake of storing a batch unopened in a tight jar which was left too long. Damp caused mould and I lost a few. This year I'm not risking it so I've cracked them all, roasted them for 20 minutes in a hot oven and then stored them. Happy days.

A lovely thing to do with a few roasted cob nuts is to blitz them finely and then fold them into a cake. The aromas of any cake baking is pretty special at the best of times. Imagine the smell of a cake baking packed with nuts. It is sensational. The only problem is that smell is a certain giveaway that something heavenly is growing in the oven. And my daughter can sniff out a cake a mile away.

This cake is sweetened using some local honey from a bee keeper here in East Boldon. Freshly potted from the hives, the bees have fed themselves on brambles and pine and the dark aromatic caramel-like honey reflects this. Lemon juice and zest work fantastically in a cake, and with a little hot syrup made from more honey and some juice, it stays very moist.

The only problem with making this cake was the distribution. It was one of the best cakes I have made this year. My parents were round so they had some. Wife and daughter had large slabs each, and I also thought it would be a good thing to give a piece to the kind lady who gave me the nuts. So not much left for me. As Billy Bragg once said, that's the price I pay for loving you the way that I do. Cakes and nuts. Love 'em.

Cob Nut, Honey and Lemon Cake


100g cob nuts or hazelnuts, roasted and ground
200g butter
150g self raising flour
150g honey
3 eggs
Zest and juice of one lemon

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM4. Butter and line a 20cm removable base cake tin.
2 - In a large bowl, cream together the honey and butter.
3 - Break in the eggs one at a time and whisk in thoroughly. This may curdle but don't worry.
4 - Fold in the flour, ground nuts and zest and juice of the lemon. Pour into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 30-40 minutes until a knife inserted comes back clean.
5 - Make a simple lemon syrup using a the juice of one lemon and same quantity honey, warming up in a pan. Just before serving, drizzle some over and serve with creme fraiche, yoghurt or whipped double cream.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Tastes Of Britain

In a small break from the Pea Challenge, just a bit of news/self congratulating on my part for interested parties.

In 2008 I will begin an exciting new venture in my life in which I will become a writer for a new food magazine on the block called Tastes Of Britain. Tastes Of Britain was released this weekend, so issue 1 is fresh in the shops. In a welcome relief from the norm, TOB concentrates on the food issues that matter in the U.K., with articles about local food producers and retailers along with recipes aplenty.

In MasterChef finalist Hannah's own words, this magazine is a very 'me sort of publication'. It is unashamedly patriotic, but why not? I've never been shy in saying that we have a lot to celebrate in the U.K. when it comes to food, produce and the people who work hard to create a quality product. So I am honoured to be on board.

Please check it out if you are interested, you will not regret it (and my ugly mug won't be seen in there until the New Year!).

Thanks
David x

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

'Pea'r Pressure

The 'Try to get Freddie to like peas', mission continues. Thankfully we all love peas in our house. So even though it is out of pea season and the ones I am using are coming out of a frozen bag on a daily basis, we will hopefully not be sick of them by the end of the week.

When I first approached this task with great enthusiasm, the first thing I wondered was, do they need to look like a pea to get Freddie to eat them? As I said yesterday, I think if you are going to love something, you need to be able to approach it in its true form. But anybody who has tried and failed to get their child to eat something, often you need to disguise it. Anything is better than them not actually eating it.

Yesterday's 'Pea'aella had the little green balls staring you in the face saying, 'Come and eat me if you dare!'. This dish is a little more subtle, but there is still no disguising them. It is all in the taste for this filling stew, using up some simple store cupbaord ingredients with ease. Sweet and hot and combined with fruit, it is a little winter warmer with a good measure of exotic spice thrown in. If you can lift a spoonful to your mouth, close your eyes and delve in, you should be more than happy with the taste. The evidence sits in a house somewhere in London. I await the report....

Spicy Pea, Mint and Apricot Stew
Feeds 2

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp cumin seeds
A good pinch of chilli flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tin tomatoes
300ml water
1 tbsp honey
Several handfuls of frozen peas
A good handful of fresh mint, chopped
A handful of dried apricots, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - In a large pan, heat the oil then add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes until soft and just beginning to colour, then stir in the garlic, spices and potato. Stir for 2 minutes until fragrant.
2 - Add the tomatoes, water, apricots and honey and bring to the boil. Simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes or until the potato is soft.
3 - Add the peas and mint and cook for a few minutes.
4 - Using a hand blender, pulse a little to break up some of the fruit and vegetables. Taste for seasoning. Serve in bowls with a little fresh mint scattered over.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Freddie And The Pea Dreamers

There are rumours abound that certain people do not like certain foodstuffs. I don't mean a person who hates, say, a multi-coloured chemical filled sherbet bag from the sweet shop or something. That would be understandable. What I mean is, apparently there are people who stalk this earth with a hatred of the humble pea. And it ain't no joke. Step forward Sir Freddie of Great Big Vegetable Challenge fame - your tremendous vegetable learning curve is about to be put even more to the test.

The pea to me was a vegetable I could stomach as a child. To people who know me now, it may shock them to know that when I was a small person, I was incredibly fussy. For a number of years, processed cheese triangles were my number one choice and anything else was dismissed. With the exceptions of peas. For some reason, those bland watery marrowfat peas out of tins were okay to me. I would eat them much to the amazement of my folks. And as time went on, and I became more adventurous in my food to the extent that now I will eat anything that grows, moves or sneezes, I still held the pea in great esteem.

The pea is a great thing. Sweet and succulent, edible in its raw state or boiled to smithereens, it is also adaptable and seems to work in most creations. That dangerous and well used phrase in cookery terms, 'Throw in a handful of ...', is a phrase I have used for years with peas, simply so that I can get some of my favourite little green balls on the plate. I eat them like sweets when they are growing on vines like little cocoons of pleasure, and I eat them in a thousand different soups during the frozen pea season.

Now Freddie is a little fella who needs no introduction. With the aid of his caring, creative and determined mother Charlotte, Freddie has been on the most precarious and steepest of learning curves that any young man could wish for. With a disdain for vegetables, the pea being his most hated of veggie foes, Freddie has worked his way through a whole mountain of things that come out of soil and has been a minor miracle in this world of fast food nonsense. And as I work with children and food on a daily basis, Freddie has become a kind of bastion of light to me, a little mascot to prove that ANYBODY can change their world and make it a better place if they can get over a hatred of vegetables.

But rumours still continue. And the rumbles I hear are that Freddie still holds huge suspicion for our little green friend. For that reason, a mission impossible has been set for me and 2 of my fellow food bloggers; Amanda of Figs, Olives, Wine and Hannah of Hannah's Country Garden. On what has now become known as pea Monday, we have all written a recipe or two in a huge effort to hold cyber hands and try to encourage Freddie to start to love the pea. All of this will cumulate into a Pea Party for Freddie and his friends to celebrate the green one in a variety of guises. So I have decided to dedicate my whole week to the pea, as I'm not sure in what form it is best to show Freddie the delights of a pea. Should it look like a pea or not?

I begin with my mission with a Paella, or a 'Pea'ella. Nothing unusual, nothing flash and nothing too scary. Just a huge pan of paella will feed Freddie and lots of friends, and I also think that this Spanish classic is the perfect no fuss food that can be experimented with at will. Peas scatter this flavour packed beauty, and there is no escaping them, but if you are going to learn to love a pea you need to look it in the eye and say, 'I love you pea', then swallow it whole and savour the combination of saffron and paprika that goes hand in hand with this fantastic child friendly dish. The mission has started. Turning Freddie's pea nightmares into sweet pea dreams. I sense it will not be an easy peasy week....

A Pea Packed Paella
Feeds lots of young Freddies

300g long grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper, chopped into large chunks
3 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 chicken breasts, sliced into small lengths
1 medium chorizo sausage into small chunks
A large pinch of saffron
2 tspns smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli powder
A bag of frozen prawns, defrosted
As many frozen peas as you can handle
Fresh basil and parsley
Lemon juice (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

1 - In a large pan, heat the olive oil then add the chicken and quickly brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2 - Add the onion, peppers and chorizo to the pan and stir fry for 5 minutes until starting to soften and colour.
3 - Add the tomatoes, saffron, paprika, chilli and rice and stir for 1 minute. Then return the chicken and pour on boiling water to just cover the rice.
4 - Bring to the boil then put a lid on and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring gently from time to time to ensure that the rice is cooking evenly. You mya need to keep topping up with water.
5 - For the final 5 minutes, add the prawns and peas and heat through thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, then add the optional lemon juice.
6 - Serve in bowls with a good scattering of fresh herbs and a slice of lemon.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Hilarious Harry

"Boiled beef and carrots,
Boiled beef and carrots.
That's the stuff for your "Derby Kel"
It makes you fit and keeps you well.
Don't live like vegetarians,
On food they give to parrots.
From morn till night, blow out your kite,
On boiled beef and carrots!"


Although I'm a massive music fan, you wouldn't see English Music Hall classics from the early 1900s on my MP3 player. But despite his obvious loathing of the food of our vegetarian friends, a gentleman called Harry Champion was a man after my own heart.

Harry apparently was obsessed with 'hilarious' songs about food which often brought the house down. Who else do you know who would sing a song about 'A Little Bit Of Cucumber' and make a career out of it? Whether it was meat pies, pickled onions, pig's trotters or a sheep's heart, Harry would sing amusing ditty's about them and always get a laugh. How grateful we should all be that humour has moved on so much.

He obviously had great taste in British food, hence the reason why I am waffling on about the author of 1907 'classic', Boiled Beef And Carrots. For it is this very meal that is an absolute classic and, quite ironically, we simply do not sing enough about it. The French have their daube and tell everybody how fantastic it is. We have essentially exactly the same dish and prefer to stick it in the 'embarrassing foods of yesteryear' cupboard. When was the last time you saw it on the menu of a good restaurant?

The list of ingredients below may seem long. But if you can find a local supplier of great beef and take a rolled brisket, a shin or any cut of slow cook beef you can make a very easy to prepare meal that tastes amazing, sustains and gives pleasure on lots of levels. Put it in the pot with some seasonal root vegetables, leave it to fall apart and create its own broth which needs nothing more than a spoonful of English mustard and perhaps a few fresh herbs. Make some suet dumplings and pop them in for the final 20 minutes to make an even more filling meal. Sensational.

Because he decided to sing a song of celebration about this fine dish, I would have Harry Champion as guest of honour at my celebrity table of choice, regaling us all with songs about food and probably making us laugh. I think.

Boiled Beef and Root Vegetables
Feeds 4-6 people

1-1.5kg of rolled brisket, shin or any good slow cook beef
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 glass of white wine
A few black peppercorns
4 carrots, peeled
1 turnip, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and halved
8 small onions or shallots, peeled
2 celery sticks, cut into chunks
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 savoy cabbage, sliced
2 tomatoes, halved
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
2 tbsp English mustard
Fresh parsley chopped roughly
Salt and pepper

1 - In a large casserole dish, heat the rapeseed or olive oil. Season the beef and then brown quickly on all sides. Pour in the wine and scrape off anything stuck to the bottom. Put in the herbs and pour in enough water to just cover the beef. Bring to the boil,cover then simmer for 1 hour, skimming regularly.
2 - Add the vegetables except for the cabbage, bring back to the boil and simmer for a further hour. Add the cabbage after 30 minutes.
3 - When the vegetables and beef are tender, remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. It will need a little salt and you may want to spice it up a bit with pepper and English mustard.
4 - Serve chunks of beef and vegetables with hot broth in large bowls with a sprinkling of herbs and perhaps some bread to soak up the juices.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

A Right Hash

If you are anything like me, you will understand what it is like to suffer from the mid-morning munchies. Despite eating a healthy breakfast each morning, come 10am, my stomach starts to sting and I feel the urge to eat anything in sight. When I was office based, that usually meant a large cup of tea and several dunked biscuits. Nowadays, with food surrounding me most of the time, I can afford to be a little more adventurous.

A great weekend treat is a hash. A hash, because it can consist of anything that will combine in one big pan to make for a delicious irresistible meal. It is a meal you can eat at any time of the day as it can't make up its mind whether it is a breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you skip breakfast and eat one of these at 10am, you will be full for the rest of the day. Although I can't make any promises.

This hash uses chorizo. My chorizo comes from a local supplier based in Northumberland, and the sausage is less salty and produces less oil than some of the commercial Spanish sausage I have used. And now that root season is upon us, you can experiment with your roots and make up a fantastic colourful hash. Stick a fried egg on the top and release the tomato ketchup from the grasp of your little ones; it is the one time I will forgive anybody for having a squirt of the dreaded red stuff.

Smokey 3 Root Northumbrian Chorizo and Spinach Hash

Feeds 2

1 beetroot, peeled and cut into cubes
2 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
2 handfuls of spinach, chopped roughly
1 tsps sweet smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli
1 tbsp tomato purée
Freshly ground pepper
Olive or rapeseed oil

1 - Place the beetroot in one pan and the carrot and potato in another (so that the colours don't run). Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Drain, cool and set aside.
2 - In a large frying pan or wok, heat up the oil and then add the onion and chorizo. Quickly stir fry until golden and some oil has been released. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3 - Add the drained root vegetables and cook until golden and as crisp as you can get them. Return the onion and chorizo along with the paprika, chilli and tomato purée and combine thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Finally, add the spinach and toss briefly until wilted. Serve in bowls with an optional fried egg on the top, optional squirt of the red stuff and crusty bread.