Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Beetroot, Chilli, Cumin and Satsuma 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

Lamb Shanks Braised in Dry Cider and Brown Lentils

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.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Steak, Kidney, Mushroom and Ale Pie

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 160C/Fan 140C/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.

Monday, 8 October 2007

A Pea Packed Paella

A Pea Packed Paella
Feeds 4-6

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.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Smokey 3 Root Northumbrian Chorizo and Spinach Hash

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. 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 on a home cooked meal.

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.

Christmas Pavlova

I’ve invented a twist on a traditional Pavlova, a meringue, cream and fruit-based dessert. Made to resemble a Festive wreath, it not only lo...