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You may remember that last week’s blog ended on my expressing a hope that the weekend’s fare would yield better results than had the previous few days. Well, my mojo returned and I’m pleased to say that it all went really very well.
The Oriental Beef & Butternut Squash we had on Sunday evening was, quite simply, a triumph. What made it especially good was that it purported to be a low-calorie meal. Well, if all low calorie meals tasted as amazing as that one, we’d all be stick thin!
The use of beef brisket in the dish is a sneakily wonderful idea, as brisket tends to be a fairly lean cut of meat – made even better by judicious trimming during preparation. I cooked it for rather longer than was dictated by the recipe, as I wanted to avoid any chance of it being rubbery. The extra-long cooking time worked a treat and the meat just fell apart. With the star anise, the five spice, fresh ginger, orange juice and soy combining into a beautiful rich, dark, aromatic sauce, you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps you wouldn’t bother with the butternut squash. However, when it came to eating, the butternut squash provided that stroke of difference to the textures that kept your brain interested while your tongue went into rhapsodies over the flavours.
Next on the list of lovelies, comes the Cheesy Celeriac Slice. It’s a fairly ordinary name for something so wonderful. I have to blow my own trumpet here a bit (I hope you’ll forgive) and say that the recipe is my own adaptation of a standard cheese & potato pasty. Bearing in mind hubby’s total dislike for all things potato, I set my mind to wondering what would make an admirable understudy – and I instantly hit up on the gnarly charms of the celeriac. Celeriac will cook like potato, mash like potato and basically do everything that potato would do, in this recipe. Plus, celery in cheese sauce is one of my all-time favourites and as the two main ingredients were to be celeriac and cheese, I was sold. I used two cheeses – approximately 200g ordinary strong white cheddar, grated, plus another 200g of a lovely red Leicester, diced very small. Stirred into the mashed celeriac with chopped spring onions, a little Dijon mustard and a good dash of cayenne pepper, they made a rather odd-looking filling for the puff pastry.
However, once the lot had been cooking in the oven for around 15 minutes, everyone in the house had gathered around like the Bisto kids, with their noses in the air. I have got to say that it made an inordinate amount – we all ate it cold for lunch the next day – but it was as good cold as it had been hot and served with baked beans. Very definitely a “do it again” job!
Wednesday brought about our next big success, which was a slow-braised pork with cider, crème fraiche and mustard recipe. I used some of our local butcher’s pork steaks, which cooked up beautifully. The recipe recommended the use of pork shoulder but being leery of the amount of fat involved, I opted for their somewhat leaner loin steaks.
The cider I opted for was a single variety cider that is big on flavour and stands up very well to the onions and pork flavours. Bolstered with a little Dijon mustard (what would we do, without Dijon?) and enrichened with a little low-fat crème fraiche, it really was glorious. It really couldn’t have been any easier to make, either.
The really big accolades, however, should go to hubby for his Asparagus & Prosciutto risotto, which he crafted with love and skill for our dinner last night.
It is really magical – I think – how the use of the right kind of rice, some vegetable stock, a bunch of asparagus and a little prosciutto ham (basically) can result in such a taste-bud pleaser.
He had used the inedible woody ends of the asparagus to enrichen the vegetable stock as well as making the stock with the water from blanching the asparagus tips. All of which gave the asparagus pride of place in the chorus of delicious flavours. It was fresh, light, deliciously salty and perfectly creamy. Personally, I don’t think he’s ever made a better risotto, this one could definitely be right up there if ever he were to have to name a signature dish!