Tag: recipes

Pork and Beef Ragu

Pork and Beef Ragu

This ragu is a regular in my house – we eat it at least once a fortnight. My son is really fussy when it comes to vegetables but he barely notices them in this rich meaty sauce, so it’s a great way to sneak them into his diet.  It is also really tasty, so it doesn’t feel like a compromise meal which, for me, many child-friendly dishes do.

TIPS:  Although the cooking time is quite long, it can be made a day or two ahead and then reheated, making it great for a week-night supper. The recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 people (depending on appetites) or it can be frozen in smaller portions to provide two or more meals.  Alternatively you could make a smaller batch by simply halving the quantities listed.

 

Pork and Beef Ragu (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

2tbsp vegetable oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 sticks celery finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

500g pork mince

500g beef mince

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

2 red peppers chopped into 1cm square pieces

200g chestnut mushrooms, halved and sliced

2tbsp smoked paprika

1tbsp dried Italian herb blend

1l beef stock (I use Knorr stock pots)

800ml passata

Black pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole, over a medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly, until they are soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and fry for another minute, being careful to ensure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  2. Turn the heat up to high and add the meat to the pan.  With the quantity involved here it won’t brown – just keep stirring until it is all mixed evenly and you can’t see any pink. Next, add the carrots, peppers, mushrooms, paprika and herbs, stir to combine and cook for a minute or two longer.
  3. Add the stock and passata to the pan, stir to combine, bring to a simmer then turn the heat down to low.  Leave the sauce to simmer and reduce for 2-3hours, stirring occasionally. If the liquid reduces too quickly, add a little water to the pan.  The finished sauce should be thick enough to stick to and coat the pasta you serve it with, but still have plenty of liquid.
  4. Serve the ragu with pasta of your choice (I like tagliatelle), salad and, finally, a grating of fresh parmesan to garnish.
James on Books – ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ & ‘The Angry Chef’

James on Books – ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ & ‘The Angry Chef’

Although Literary review does not really come within the remit of this blog, the summer holidays have afforded me a little more time and there are a couple of books I have been reading recently that are extremely enjoyable.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

If you are reading this (and not related to me – hi Dad!) then odds are you like your food and probably enjoy cooking.  I picked up Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat entirely on a whim – Viv needed me out of Waterstones quick and I was drawn by the fact it was not just a cookbook.  What Nosrat manages to do in this book is break down the fundamentals of cookery into the four elements of the title, allowing the reader to develop a deeper understanding of not just what to do but most importantly why to do it.  There are countless cookbooks out there that will guide you towards creating tasty food, but this will teach you how to create your own dishes.  If, like me, you already experiment in the kitchen, then Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will prove utterly indispensable as it not only provides valuable tips to improve your cooking but also various beautifully illustrated tables, graphics and guides to help match flavours and styles of cuisine.

The information is presented elegantly too.  Nosrat balances the science of cooking with observations and anecdotes from her own experiences – often her mistakes – to ensure that the content is accessible.  She also does a wonderful job of allaying any fears the reader might have – constantly reminding us that mistakes will happen to even the best chefs but all can be used to learn and improve. The foreword strongly suggests reading the book from start to finish – not something I would naturally do with a cookbook – but it is well worth doing, not only because of how it will develop your understanding, but also because it is a damn good read.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is, in essence, a book of two halves; in the second half there is a wonderful collection of recipes – many of which are suggested as ways of experimenting with the principles laid out earlier, but all of which give the reader a chance to test out their new-found understanding and eat very well at the same time!  In the spirit of discovery and experimentation that runs through the book, there are numerous variations suggested too, encouraging us to truly play with our food in the best possible way!

As a final endorsement I will take a leaf out of Nosrat’s book (pun intended) and use an anecdote.  In my excitement over the book, I showed it to a friend who had come over for lunch, expecting her to politely flick through a few pages before putting it down.  When she did finally surface, after reading the first 40-50 pages, it was to try out one of the suggested experiments into the effects of salt on bitterness in food. As the book then did the rounds all afternoon we lost person after person to its charms.  Buy this book: read it, enjoy it, learn from it, cook from it – but hide it when people come over for dinner!

The Angry Chef

The second book I have devoured recently is Anthony Warner’s deeply scathing look at pseudoscience in the world of nutrition.  I will freely admit that I bought this book because some very creative swearing in the introduction made me smile, and although there was less profanity than that intro led me to believe, it is a compelling read nonetheless.

Much of what The Angry Chef aims to do is look at the science behind the claims of many of the diets and health advice that is so freely available today, as well as debunking some of the myths that exist around food.  The subject matter has been researched in extraordinary detail, creating a compelling argument against the quackery of many so called wellness gurus.  I should probably say – if it wasn’t already obvious – that with me as his audience, Warner is preaching to the choir. But behind the vitriol and poking fun at high profile proponents of ‘nutribollocks’ (Gwyneth Paltrow takes a pummelling) seems to be a genuine concern – that people might do themselves harm because of following a diet that has no scientific sense.  There is also the message that a healthy diet is not one of restriction and denial but one of moderation and enjoyment.

Warner has managed a great balancing act – the book is informed and informative while being entertaining, scientifically rigorous yet accessible and wonderfully crude while remaining charming.  It is unfortunate that those who probably need this book the most – the fad dieters who jump from trend to trend desperately hoping for some perfect version of themselves to emerge – will probably never even pick it up.

 

 

Have you read any interesting foodie books recently?  Let me know in the comments below!

Chicken and Chorizo Tray Bake

Chicken and Chorizo Tray Bake

This is barely a recipe – more just something I threw together once and have repeated a number of times since, but it is quick to prepare, cooks in under 30 minutes and is really tasty.  Treat the recipe here as more of a guide – It is great the way I have described but is also a fantastic way of using up a few leftover odds and ends that are in the fridge. This has become something of a family favourite in our house – give it a try and I’m sure you will love it too!

TIPS – Salting the chicken in advance is not essential but worth doing if you can.  If you don’t have time, just follow the method as described, but leave the chicken out while you prepare the marinade and chop the vegetables.

Chicken and Chorizo Tray Bake (Serves 4)

Ingredients

1kg Bone in, skin on chicken thighs and legs
2tsp table salt
2tsp smoked paprika
1tsp herbs de Provence (or similar mixed herb blend)
1tsp garlic puree
Juice and zest of one lemon
2tbsp olive oil
200g chorizo
2 red peppers
1 medium courgette
1 bunch of spring onions

 

Method

  1. Place the chicken pieces into a roasting pan and sprinkle with the salt. Try to ensure you evenly coat all the pieces. Do this job on the same day you are cooking as early as possible – if you can season in the morning before going to work, the meat will be more evenly seasoned and really tender once cooked. Store in the fridge until about 30 minutes before you want to start cooking then leave out to come up to room temperature.
  2. Heat the oven to 190ºC fan (210ºC conventional).
  3. Mix the paprika, dried herbs, garlic purée, lemon juice, lemon zest and oil together in a large bowl to create a marinade.
  4. Slice the chorizo into rounds about 1cm thick, then halve these to create semi-circular chunks. Chop the peppers and courgette into bite-size pieces.  Trim and clean the spring onions.  Cut each one into 3-4 pieces.
  5. Put all the vegetables, the chicken pieces and the chorizo into the bowl containing the marinade. Mix everything together thoroughly with your hands. Make sure the spice and oil mixture has coated everything, then spread the vegetables and chorizo out evenly in the roasting pan and place the chicken on top, skin side up.  Wash your hands.
  6. Place the roasting pan into the middle of the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes. It is ready when the chicken skin is crisp and the juices run clear from the meat if pierced with a skewer.
  7. Serve with whatever takes your fancy – crusty bread and a salad works brilliantly, as do roast potatoes.
Beef, and Shmeji Mushroom Stir-fry

Beef, and Shmeji Mushroom Stir-fry

This recipe is something that I came up with one evening when I was eating alone – I simply threw some of my favourite things together, including some amazing shmeji mushrooms from Forest Fungi.  My first attempt was a little too salty, but the recipe below is the tweaked and (hopefully) improved version. I have also scaled the original recipe up to feed 2 people, but I would advise against trying to double it up to feed four – the pan will likely lose its heat and you will end up with a stew rather than a stir-fry.  Save this one for a cosy date-night!

Tips:  The quantities in this recipe do not need to be followed precisely.  If you buy a bunch of spring onions and there is 7 in there?  Chuck them all in.  Can’t find exactly 300g of steak? A little bit more or less won’t make a lot of difference. In particular check the quantity of oyster sauce that you use – I have found that some varieties are much saltier than others so when you make the marinade, check the seasoning before using it.  For this recipe I used Blue Dragon Oyster Sauce due to its wide availability (most supermarkets).

If you can’t get your hands on shmeji mushrooms, you could use oyster or shiitake mushrooms instead.

You will also need a large wok.

 

Beef, Spring Onion and Shmeji Mushroom Stir-fry

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the marinade:
1 birds eye chilli
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry or rice wine
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2½ tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic puree
2tsp rice wine vinegar

 

For the stir-fry:
300g rump steak
150g shmeji mushrooms
6 spring onions
75g curly kale
3 tbsp water (if needed)
Fresh coriander to garnish

 

Method

 

  1. Finely chop the chilli and place into a glass bowl with all the other marinade ingredients. Mix together and taste. If it tastes too sour add a little more oyster sauce. If it is too salty add a little more tamarind.  Thinly slice the steak and add to the marinade, stir to ensure the meat is coated and leave on the side, covered, for twenty minutes.
  2. While the steak is marinating, prepare the vegetables. Separate the mushrooms and brush off any dirt. Slice the spring onions lengthways, then slice thinly on the diagonal.  Lastly remove any stems from the kale and chop the leaves into bitesize pieces.  Keep these ready for when you start cooking
  3. Heat a large wok over a high heat. When it is smoking hot, add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Once the oil is hot, lift the meat out of the marinade and place it into the wok. Do so gently as it will spit.  Stir-fry for two minutes or until the meat is just coloured, then add the mushrooms, spring onions, kale and any remaining marinade and fry for a minute or two more. If the pan starts to get too dry, add the water – once the kale softens it is ready.
  4. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with boiled rice and steamed tenderstem broccoli, which is especially good if dressed with a little sesame oil and soy sauce once cooked.
Smoked Halibut and King Prawn Kedgeree

Smoked Halibut and King Prawn Kedgeree

Kedgeree is often thought of as a breakfast dish, but I can tell you categorically that I have never, nor will ever, make this for breakfast.  To me, the combination of smoked fish and spicy, fragrant, curried rice, with the added bonus of sweet, succulent prawns in this recipe, is definitely something to be enjoyed with a glass or two of white wine, and even I draw the line at drinking wine at breakfast.

This recipe is inspired by one of the fantastic products on offer at Southwest Smokehouse.  The method is a little different to many recipes for kedgeree as the fish doesn’t need to be poached before being added to the dish.  Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list; most of the ingredients are really common and everything except the Halibut can be found in all good sized supermarkets.

TIPS: If you want to use smoked haddock (the typical choice for this dish, and more widely available) it will need to be poached first, but can then be added to the dish at the same step. That said, it is well worth getting your hands on the smoked halibut I used – it is divine.

Smoked Halibut and King Prawn Kedgeree

Serves 2

Ingredients

3 eggs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp Ground coriander
½ tsp Ground turmeric
1½ tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp ginger paste
150g Basmati rice
1tsp salt
100g frozen peas or petit pois
150g raw peeled king prawns
Small bunch parsley, finely chopped
Small bunch coriander, finely chopped
1 lemon – half juiced, half cut into wedges
100g smoked halibut
A few twists of freshly ground black pepper
1 med red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

 

Method

  1. Rinse the rice under running water then soak for 20-30 mins in cold water.
  2. Hard boil the eggs by placing in boiling water for 7mins. Strain the boiling water off and run refill the pan (with the eggs still in it) with cold water. When you are ready to peel the eggs they should be cool enough to handle without being cold.
  3. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan then fry the onions until soft and translucent. Add the ground spices and curry powder, fry for another minute or two before adding the ginger paste and frying for a further minute.
  4. Strain the rice and add to the pan, together with the salt and stir gently to coat the rice in the spices. Don’t over work the rice. Add 275ml of boiling water. Bring back to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with a heavy lid or seal up tightly with tinfoil. Leave the rice to simmer for 10 minutes then turn off the heat and leave the rice with the lid on for a further five minutes.
  5. While the rice is resting, cook the peas by blanching in boiling water for a minute or two. Strain and keep to hand.
  6. When the rice is finished, remove the lid and add the prawns. Push each one down into the rice – the residual heat will cook them.  Cover with the peas and put the lid back on the pan.
  7. Chop the fresh herbs, setting a little aside for garnish, juice half the lemon, and flake the smoked halibut. Once this is done, add these ingredients to the pan along with some black pepper, then stir in gently with a fork (using a fork will help to fluff the rice rather than breaking it).  Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  8. To serve, put the kedgeree on a large serving platter or bowl, garnish with the eggs, halved; lemon wedges; reserved herbs and fresh chilli (if using). Then get stuck in!
Mushrooms on Toast with poached egg

Mushrooms on Toast with poached egg

Given the name of this site, I figured it was about time I got a toast based recipe up here.  This dish was inspired by some gorgeous shimeji mushrooms from Forest Fungi that I picked up at The Exeter Food Festival but could be prepared using any fresh mushrooms you can get your hands on.  It is also ridiculously quick to throw together. Just make sure you have everything ready to go before you start cooking, because it all comes together in minutes.

TIPS:

  • A fairly dense bread works best as the moisture from the mushrooms will quickly soften your toast if you use something too soft. I used a spelt and sunflower loaf that I got from Sainsbury’s which kept its texture brilliantly.
  • Shimeji mushrooms are well worth finding, but if you use something else, you may need to adjust the cooking times slightly. The bigger the pieces, the longer they will probably need. (For the photo, I actually bulked the dish out a bit with oyster mushrooms because I was a little short).
  • Try replacing the paprika with a spoonful of chopped tarragon. This will give the dish a fresh, aniseed flavour that works brilliantly with mushrooms.

 

Ingredients

30g unsalted Butter

1 large clove garlic

100g white shimeji mushrooms (or what you can get – see above)

¼ tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

1 medium egg

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 or 2 slices of good quality bread

Butter for spreading.

Flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Get a pan of water boiling for poaching the egg. Keep at a low boil until ready to use.
  2. To cook the mushrooms: Put the butter into a frying pan over a med-high heat and heat until foaming. Turn the temperature down slightly, add the garlic, peeled and partially crushed with the flat of your knife, and allow it to infuse into the butter for a minute or so.
  3. While the garlic is infusing is a good time to get the toast on. Cook to your own liking!
  4. Turn the heat back up to med-high. Add the mushrooms into the frying pan and stir to ensure they are all evenly coated in butter. Leave to fry unmolested for a minute, shake them up again then give them another minute or so.  Add the paprika, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. To poach the egg: As soon as the mushrooms are in the frying pan, break the egg into a ramekin and add the vinegar to the boiling water. Stir the water to create a whirlpool in the centre of the pan, then gently pour the egg into the centre.  Leave to poach for 2-3 minutes – as soon as the white is even coloured and opaque it is cooked.  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and leave on the spoon to drain, until ready to serve.
  6. Finally, butter the toast and place it on a plate, pile the mushrooms on the toast then top it all off with the poached egg. Finish with a little black pepper, a pinch more paprika and some chopped, flatleaf parsley if you want.  Eat immediately.
Spiced Banana Bread

Spiced Banana Bread

I love banana bread but find that some are a little sweet for my tastes, so I have developed this recipe through a bit of trial and error.  It is still undeniably banana flavoured, but the addition of black treacle and a little spice creates a slightly more complex, interesting flavour.  I would argue that this recipe is a bit more grown-up but my two year old goes mental for it so what do I know? Still, it is dead simple, has very little hands-on time and is a great way to use up a couple of bananas that are past their best.

TIPS:

  • You can make this recipe with self-raising flour (I don’t tend to bother buying it anymore after reading a post on Nigella.com on the subject which you can see here). Simply use the same quantity of flour but only one tsp of baking powder.
  • Stand the spoon you are going to use to measure the black treacle in boiling water for a minute or two before using it.  The treacle will come off the spoon much more easily.
  • If you want to step things up from tasty tea-time treat to an indulgent dessert, try toasting thick slices of banana bread until the edges start to colour, then top with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. It is honestly far greater than the sum of its (already pretty awesome) parts!

Spiced Banana Bread

Ingredients

100g  unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the loaf tin

175g  soft light brown sugar

2 medium eggs

1tbsp black treacle

2 overripe bananas (200g approx.)

2tbsp milk

1tsp vanilla extract

225g plain flour

3tsp baking powder

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp ground cinnamon

 

You will also need:

1 loaf tin 17x9cm (approx.)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan. Grease the loaf tin generously.
  2. Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is completely combined with the butter and sugar. Add the black treacle to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a separate bowl, place the bananas, milk, and vanilla extract, and mash together until they form a fairly smooth puree. Don’t worry if there are a few small lumps. Add this mixture to the butter, sugar and eggs and stir to combine.  The mixture will almost certainly curdle at this point but this is normal. Don’t panic.
  4. Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon and sieve into the wet ingredients. Stir until all the flour is combined. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and give it a little shake to level the mixture out.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer poked into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin, before running a knife around the edges of the tin and turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack.

Eat as soon as it is cool enough to do so.  Wrapped tightly in tinfoil and stored in a sealed container the banana bread will keep for a couple of days, if it lasts that long…

Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

I spotted a bag of peanut butter chips while doing my weekly shop the other day. As Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are among my favourite chocolate treats,  I couldn’t resist grabbing them. Although I’m sure they could be used to make a variety of treats, I immediately decided to use them to make cookies.  Below is the recipe I came up with. It produces thick, soft cookies with crisp, crunchy edges and a lovely balance of bitter cocoa, sweet milk chocolate and salty peanut butter.

TIPS:

  • The uncooked cookie mixture will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and can be sliced into cookies when you are ready to bake them. If you want to store it for longer, slice into pieces and freeze with a layer of grease-proof paper between each slice.  These can then be baked from frozen; just add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time.

Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 16-20 cookies

Ingredients

225g  softened, unsalted butter

125g  caster sugar

1 medium egg

1tsp Vanilla Extract

225g Plain Flour

50g Cocoa Powder

100g Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

75g Milk Chocolate Chips

 

Method

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until the sugar is no longer grainy.Add the egg and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix thoroughly then sieve the flour and cocoa into the bowl and mix until completely combined.
  2. Add the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips to the rest of the mixture. Knead briefly by hand to ensure the chips are evenly distributed through the mixture.
  3. Place a couple of sheets of cling film onto the work surface. Shape the mixture into a sausage approximately 2 inches in diameter and then roll up in the cling film. Place the mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.
  4. Heat the oven to 170C Fan.
  5. Slice the cookie mixture into pieces approximately 1cm thick pieces (each cookie will be roughly 45-50g) and place each slice on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave plenty of room between each cookie as they will spread while baking.
  6. Bake for 10-13 minutes. Keep an eye on the cookies while they are cooking as a minute or two will make all the difference between soft or crunchy cookies. They are ready when the tops have formed a cracked crust but the cookie itself is still soft and squidgy.
  7. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet to cool for ten minutes.
  8. Eat with a glass of gold-top milk (or a White Russian). If you must, store in an airtight container for a day or two.