28 September 2012

Jamie Oliver's Minced Beef Wellington - my version thereof!

I have been promising you all that I'd blog this one - and since all the excitement of the photograph being shown to Jamie on Zoe Ball's programme on BBC Radio 2 today, I thought there might never be a better time!

It had been a while since I'd made this recipe and I'd forgotten the finer details.  However, just a quick look at the blog post from the last time (which is here) and it all came back to me.  So I put the mince back in the fridge, as I wouldn't be needing that until later!

Just the sheer fact that this is, quite probably, around the fourth or fifth time I've made this one should tell you that it is well worth doing.  In the last couple of days, with all the Radio 2 thing going on, I've received a couple of comments along the lines of "it just looks like a big pastie".  Well, I suppose you could think of it in that way, but in truth, it is a lot more than that.

For starters, there's an awful lot more meat than vegetable (which in your average pastie, is exactly the opposite), there's an awful lot more filling than pastry (which again, in your average pastie is exactly the opposite) and I've yet to find a pastie that can feed 3 people for a main course dinner, then three people for lunch the day after!

Yes, it does involve two cooking instalments - one to make the vegetables for the filling, then another to finish the Wellington and cook it - but neither of those instalments are particularly taxing.  As a great mid-week dinner, you just can't beat it.

With this particular incarnation, I made a couple of changes from a) Jamie's original and b) my last blogged version.  I added some leftover Celeriac that had been diced finely, used mushroom ketchup instead of Worcester Sauce and had run out of frozen peas, so substituted sweetcorn instead.

The end result was just as good, just as tasty - and well worth doing!.

MINCED BEEF WELLINGTON (serves 4 with leftovers)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, peeled & cut into fine dice
1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into fine dice
1 potato, peeled & cut into fine dice
a large chunk of celeriac, peeled and cut into fine dice
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
2 large chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, removed from the stalks and chopped finely
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce or Mushroom Ketchup
a big handful of peas or sweetcorn niblets (frozen is fine)
500g good quality minced beef
sea salt & black pepper
500g puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly whisked.

Method :

1.  In a frying pan, heat the rapeseed oil over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry until light golden brown, then add the remainder of the vegetables and the garlic and continue to fry until the veggies are showing signs of softening.

2.  Add the rosemary and the Worcester sauce or Mushroom ketchup and stir to combine.

3.  Add the frozen peas or sweetcorn and cook for another couple of minutes until thoroughly defrosted and mixed in.

4.  Decant the vegetables into a large bowl to cool completely.  I find that if I smooth them as far up the sides of the bowl as possible, it allows them to cool more quickly than leaving them in a lump.

5.  When cool, preheat oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

6.  Add the minced beef to the bowl with salt and pepper and half the egg.  With your hands, scrunch everything together until thoroughly mixed.

7.  On a clean worktop, roll out the pastry to the size of small tea towel and place the mince mix along one long side, in a sausage shape, but leaving a small area of pastry, so that you have something to start the rolling with.
8.  Brush edges of pastry with egg and roll pastry to cover mince completely.  Tuck any escapees into either end, then fold the ends together and squeeze the joins so that they hold.
9.  Flip the Wellington over so that the pastry join is underneath and transfer to a baking tray that has been lined with either non-stick silver foil or baking parchment.  
10.  Use a knife to cut a couple of holes in the top to let any steam escape, then brush with egg.
11.  Bake for approximately one hour (I'd check it after 30 minutes and turn it to ensure an even bake) until golden.
Serve with steamed vegetables and gravy.

27 September 2012

Rhubarb & Ginger on Radio 2? Whatever next!

There is the slightest possibility that Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger might get a mention on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show (which Zoe Ball is hosting at the moment) tomorrow morning!


I was listening to the radio this morning, while hubby was rambling around Sainsbury's looking for a tin of red kidney beans to go in tonight's dinner, when she started telling her listeners that Jamie Oliver was going to be on the show tomorrow morning (28th September 2012).

She suggested to listeners that they might like to send in photographs of their dinner - Jamie Oliver inspired dinners particularly - and they would put them up on their Facebook page.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I immediately thought of the Jamie's Minced Beef Wellington that I'd made for dinner the week before last.  It is blogged here on Rhubarb & Ginger (see link above), but I haven't got around to posting up the new and improved recipe for it yet - but I will!

So as soon as we got home, I sent the photograph of it off to Zoe - and received a lovely note back, giving the link to the Facebook page and inviting me to put the link to Rhubarb & Ginger on there too.

The photograph album for the feature can be found here.  You never know - we might get a mention!

26 September 2012

Meal planning is so much easier in the Autumn!

Cranborne Chase, Dorset
Or is it just me that thinks this?

There seems to be a much greater selection of dishes that are available to make, as not everything has to have a salad with it, or be a salad.  It's lovely to consider using the slow cooker, or to break out the soup pan again.

Of course, the downside of all this is that - being Dorset - the rain has started up again.  ~rolls eyes~  Nobody told us before we moved, about the link between the lush greenness of this area and what seems to be above average rainfall.  I suppose we could have put two and two together ourselves, but we didn't.  Now, whenever I say "I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow", hubby will say "It's Dorset - it'll rain" - and be absolutely right.

Ah well, better that than living in a desert.  I certainly couldn't handle somewhere like Arizona!

We almost adhered to last week's meal plan.  The only thing that fell by the wayside was the Bacon & Onion Pie - and then only because I lost confidence in how well it would be received by my potato-hating hubby.  Yes, it was his choice of meal so I should have felt more confident in it, but it just seemed to be way too much potato - which is never a good thing.

The Sausage & Bacon Pilaff was a bit of a weird one.  I won't be blogging it, basically because it made me feel quite disgustingly bilious.  Now I do accept that it might just have been the black pudding that did it - as I seem to have developed a distinctly unpleasant reaction to the stuff, even though I really like the flavour.  However, even after I'd pulled out all the black pudding and stalwartly continued munching, I did not have a happy belly by the end of it - so we'll skip lightly over that one!

So what's on the menu for this week, then?  Well, it goes like this :

Tues : Shop bought cheese & bacon lattice topped pie with vegetables & cheese sauce
Weds : Curried Butternut Squash soup with flatbreads
Thurs : BBQ Pork Wraps with sour cream & salsa, plus curly fries
Fri : Pasta Sardinia
Sat : Cajun smoked sausage ricey thing (good name, eh?)
Sun : Shepherd's Pie and vegetables
Mon : Fish crumble with fine green beans, carrots & new potatoes.

Now that's a bit better balanced than last week's bacon-fest!

We had the lattice topped pie for dinner last night, which was okay - nothing to write home about, but okay.  However, what completely made last night's dinner for me, was that hubby (well done, that man!) found a Romanescu Cauliflower in the supermarket when we were shopping.  Now I had never tasted Romanescu and it was on my Bucket List of "things I need to sample".  I was so excited, you would have thought he was serving up lobster with white truffles.

Last year, we had attempted to grow some Romanescu - tried and failed, as it turned out.  The plants did have some teensy tiny florets that might have been something vaguely akin to a Romanescu Cauliflower, or they might have just had a fractal trip, man.  Either way, none of them produced anything edible - and I was so disappointed.

So to find one in the supermarket-that-never-tries-new-things was little short of astounding.

Also, is there any better way of eating vegetables (especially cauliflower-type vegetables) than dousing them in cheese sauce?  No?  I didn't think so.  Parents all over the globe take note - your children WILL eat vegetables, if you cover them in cheese sauce.  Son and heir was getting almost possessive over the remaining cheese sauce and was even - *gasp* - heard to ask whether any vegetables were left over!  Kudos, hubby, for your cheese sauce making abilities.

Romanescu is now my new favourite vegetable.  Prepare to find it featuring in main courses from now until it is out of season again!

Getting back to the purpose of this post, tonight's meal is to be a hearty curried butternut squash soup, with added vegetables in the shape of carrots, peas, chick peas - oh, and (you guessed it) Romanescu cauliflower.  What?  I told you I liked it!  The curry base will be made with coconut milk thickened by the use of red lentils and I'm liking the sound of the whole thing already.

We'll be eating it (or should it be "drinking it?") with some of Asda's Coronation Flatbreads alongside.  Yum!

Thursday is an extraordinarily easy meal, involving frying off some pork mince and onion and adding Mic's Chilli El Loco BBQ sauce.  Bung it in a wrap, add sour cream & salsa and Bob's your uncle.

Oh, incidentally, the threatened germs of last week seem to be staying away - but I thought I'd add a really easy dish in the middle of the week, just in case!

Hubby has already declared Friday's "Pasta Sardinia" (my title) to be a tad frightening.  I'm not so scared about it, but I'm still in two minds as to whether to use fresh sardines or tinned.  We've bought some tinned sardines already, but I'll take a gander at the sardines on the fishmunglers slab on Friday morning and decide then I think.

Do you remember the t.v. programme when Giorgio Locatelli took some art historian around Sicily (apologies, art historian, I've forgotten your name) and cooked him a very interesting dish of sardines with sultanas and pasta?  Well, that's what we're going for here.  You probably understand hubby's qualms a bit better, now.

It's funny, because Saturday's dish of "Cajun smoked sausage ricey thing" (my title for an as yet unnamed dish created by hubby) strikes a note of trepidation into my heart.

I've always been a bit dubious about Cajun style dishes, mainly because I've never had one that really floated my boat.  They always seem to be a bit pale pink, whereas I'd been expecting something with big flavours.  Hubby's plan with this one involves a jar of German Bockwurst, but I have faith.  I know that hubby likes his flavours to be big and bouncy, so I'm trusting in that and going with the flow.  If he can cope with my sardines and sultanas, it'd be rude not to.

Aaaah, now, everything should calm down beautifully for Sunday.  After the singularly spectacular success of my Rich Beef Cottage Pie, I thought it only right to present its counterpart, the Deliciously Lamby Shepherd's Pie.  I'm quite excited, too, because it will be the first chance I've had to make use of Essential Cuisine's lamb stock powder.  Fingers crossed!

Hubby devised his plan for his Fish Crumble after I'd made the Fish Pie recently.   From what he says, it seems to involve a creamy mixture with fish much the same as the base of my fish pie, except with a crumble topping instead of the mashed potato.   Sounds like it could be really nice and if he can, I'd advise him to get son & heir to do the rubbing in of the butter to the flour for the crumble, as he does it really - no, really - well.

So there it is - our next week's menu plan.  As for any additional makes or bakes, I had no plans for anything but hubby has been out and harvested Ruby the Rhubarb this morning.  The high winds of the last few days had beaten her down and broken a lot of the stalks and it really needed doing before all that lovely rhubarb rotted on the plant and went to waste.  So, I can see some cooking with rhubarb in my immediate future!


Egg & Vegetable Curry

It has been a long time since I made a curry.  Well, a curry from scratch that is - you know, without the "benefit" of a shop bought curry paste or suchlike.  One where you devise the spicing yourself and pray it comes out okay.

Now I have made a couple of meals that involved curry in the recent past and all have been pretty darned poor.  Take the Kedgeree that I made only a couple of weeks ago.  It really was horrid.  For some reason I overcooked the rice and also used a pre-made curry paste that was really bad.  I've no idea why I didn't spice it myself and have no clue as to why we seemed to go back to buying curry paste - as the marked decline in my curried fortunes seemed to coincide with that.

I have been having a dalliance with "authentic" type curries recently, which has meant that hubby hasn't been too pleased with them.  You see, generally, "authentic" i.e. not British Indian Restaurant style curries are a lot wetter than the BIR style ones.  I've talked in the past about hubby's hatred for "pond water" (i.e. broth) rather than a more robust sauce and these "authentic" style curries (such as Malay and Thai) just aren't his "thing".  It's a shame, because I was quite keen to investigate these more "brothy" types of curry and explore the flavours involved.  Hey ho - another single person lunch project, maybe!

Looking like magma with a couple of eggs inside it!

Hence, I had made a mental note that my next curry was to be a BIR style one - and I suspect that the curry paste came along because I'd lost confidence in my ability to cook a curry from scratch.

However, the meal on this night wasn't supposed to be curry at all.  It was supposed to be cornish pasties!  Not a lot of difference there, is there?

I served mine with curried flatbreads
Well the cornish pasty thing got scotched (or cornished) when I realised that I'd left the beef in the freezer and it wouldn't be defrosted by lunchtime, when I was going to be making the pasties.  This demanded a bit of a side-step and an audit of the contents of said freezer and the fridge, for alternative ideas.

I'd accumulated a fair amount of little bits of vegetables that had been left over from previous meals and which set me to thinking about a vegetable curry.  At this point, a lightbulb went on and I remembered that I'd been vaguely hankering after an egg curry, after seeing a photograph of one on the excellent Facebook page "The Food Court".  Obviously, I couldn't make simply an egg curry, as hubby's sensitivity to eggs would rule him out of one of those - but a veggie curry with a couple of additional hard boiled eggs for son & heir and myself was sounding increasingly good.

A quick rummage in the tin cupboard turned up a tin of coconut milk and a small tin of chick peas and a rummage in the larder cupboard turned up a carton of tomato passata.  Along with a bit of leftover single cream in the fridge and a well stocked spice cupboard, I had just about all I needed.

The curry was delicious.  Hubby really enjoyed his vegetable version and son & heir loved his egg along with the curry.  My vague lusting after an egg curry was assuaged and we all went away smiling.  Can't ask for more than that - especially from a last-minute decision of a curry that was made out of leftover and forgotten ingredients!

EGG & VEGETABLE CURRY    (serves 3)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
15g butter
2 onions, one chopped fine and one sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp ground black pepper
1 flat tsp ground turmeric
a hefty pinch of red chilli flakes
1 heaped tsp Madras curry powder
3 green cardamom, crushed
250ml tomato passata
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
a quarter of a swede, peeled and cut into small chunks
400ml can of coconut milk
1 heaped tsp (or 1 crumbled cube) vegetable stock powder
220g tin of chick peas
2 big pinches of dried Methi (Fenugreek) leaves
1 courgette, sliced thickly on the diagonal, then halved
sea salt
200ml single cream
a knob of Jaggery (or 1 tsp brown sugar)
another (smaller) knob of butter
3 eggs, just hard boiled (around 7 minutes).

Method :

1.   In a deep saucepan, heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted.  Add the onion and fry on a medium heat until soft and deep golden brown.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add the cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, chilli flakes, curry powder and cardamom and stir to combine.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent the spices burning.

3.  Add the tomato passata and stir to combine.  Continue to cook until the mixture has lost a good deal of its water and the fat is being released.

4.  Add the carrots, potato and swede and stir well until the vegetables are all coated in the spice mixture.

5.  Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock powder and gently stir to combine.

6.  Add the chick peas and the methi leaves and bring to a simmer.  Cook, simmering, until the vegetables are softened, but not quite tender.

7.  Add the courgette, stir to combine and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender.  You may need to add a little water from time to time, if the curry begins to get too thick.

8.  Once the curry has thickened, add the cream, jaggery (or sugar) and salt to taste.  Once you are happy with the flavour and the cream is well combined, add the knob of butter and the three shelled hard boiled eggs.

9.  Allow the eggs time to heat through and serve on white rice, with the eggs halved and placed on top.

Serve with naan bread, chapatis or flatbreads.

Printable version

24 September 2012

Pot roasted English Rubbed Silverside of Beef

Monday morning dawns and every week, I remember that today I have to put together a menu plan for the rest of the week.

The first thing to consider is how much money we've got available to us.  Do we need to be a little circumspect, or is the full budgeted amount available?  What is happening in the evening across the week?  Do we have any late school pickups?  Is son & heir going to be out for any of the evenings, or alternatively, is he likely to bring a pal home who might need dinner?

All these things having been taken into consideration, I then start by thinking about dishes I've been wanting to make, plus dishes I've been lusting after - and the same goes for hubby.  If son & heir is around, we ask him too - but his reply is often just "pizza" - although he did suggest last week's Carbonara, which was a stroke of brilliance on his part.

Inevitably, however, we wind up sat there pondering FOR EVER on what to have for Sunday's dinner.

This last Sunday was a different kettle of beef (see what I did there?) altogether.  I knew immediately what I wanted to do - which was throw a lump of beef in the slow cooker and have hubby do the rest.  No, not really (although that was kind of how it happened).

All rubbed, snuggled down on its celery & onions - see you in 8 hours!

You see, just recently we investigated making Pulled Pork by using the slow cooker - and very successful it was too.  (Yes, I know I haven't blogged that one yet - but I will!).  I had been pondering on why it was that the Americans seem to have the monopoly on "doing stuff with a huge lump of meat and loads of different rubbed on flavours" and came to the conclusion that it would be interesting to try creating an English Rub for meat.

Now the sensible choice would have been to try the process with a piece of pork, as I'd already done an American version with some success.  No.  I don't work like that.  I like a bit more jeopardy in my life.  ~rolls eyes~  I'd begun the process by thinking about what an "English Rub" would consist of, when all of a sudden realised I was considering rubbing it onto beef.  Well, it just made sense!  What is more English than Roast Beef?  So, if you're looking to create an "English Rub", it just made sense to use beef rather than anything else.

Eight hours later ...... cor!

Thankfully, our local butcher is currently doing a special offer on Silverside of beef - which also just happens to be one of hubby's favourite cuts of beef.  Not mine, I have to say, as I like to have a little more fat running through the meat - and the lack of fat gave me cause for concern as to the success of the rub.  After all, it's the rendering down of the fat in the pulled pork that gives it a lot of its flavour.

Silverside does have some fat - but it is a line which runs along one side of the meat (like with a Sirloin Steak).  I figured that if I could arrange the meat with that fat uppermost, as it rendered it would drip down and through the meat.  So I crossed my fingers and went for it.

The rub that I settled upon - and which worked so well - was made up almost entirely with ingredients that are best friends with beef and was as follows :

3 small bay leaves & 2 teaspoonfuls of yellow mustard seeds, which I pulverised with half a teaspoonful of sea salt in my pestle and mortar.  That gave me the deep flavour of the bay, along with the slight warmth and earthy flavour of the mustard.

Next, was a teaspoonful of dried thyme - for its overall herby flavour, a half of a teaspoonful of mace - for its fragrance, two teaspoonful of ground black pepper - for its warmth and deep savouriness, two teaspoonful of creamed horseradish - for its spicy kick and traditional flavour, two teaspoonfuls of redcurrant jelly, for a balancing sweetness with a fruity tang and a Knorr beef stock pot, just to add a lovely background savouriness.

All these ingredients went into a large freezer bag, followed by the beef.  It's a great way of being able to massage all those flavours into the beef, without massaging them into your hands, too.

I didn't leave the beef to marinate in the mixture, as I reckoned that eight hours in the slow cooker was probably long enough for it to do any marinating it might want to.

I sliced up two onions and three sticks of celery and piled them into the bottom of the slow cooker and placed the beef on top.  No water was added at this stage - or at any stage up until the end of cooking.  Whatever liquid was in there, came directly from the vegetables and the beef - which is why, when the time came to remove the beef to rest, I was surprised to see a good half an inch of liquid in there - which was deliciously oniony and made quite outstanding gravy.

The beef had shrunk a bit and developed a crust on the outside of it.  However, under that crust the meat was softly moist and completely delicious.  A friend commented on Facebook to ask whether we could taste the meat still - and believe it or not, all those flavours had accentuated the beefiness of the meat, not swamped it.  This was why I wanted to make sure I had predominantly classic flavours that went with beef, so that nothing would clash.  The only joker in the pack was the redcurrant jelly, which provided that lovely sweetness and tang that went so well with the horseradish and mustard.

The beef would have pulled apart (in the way of pulled pork), but it could also be carved, so we went for that option as we were serving it alongside roast potatoes and parsnips with steamed vegetables.  It was very worthwhile serving it this way, as it made use of the juices in some amazing gravy.  I can quite imagine, however, that it would have been completely spanking in a substantial bread bun, with more horseradish and some watercress.

So there you are!  The next time you have a piece of Silverside and don't know what to do with it - remember the English Rub!


Ingredients :

1kg beef silverside, raw and whole
2 large onions, peeled, halved and sliced thickly
3 sticks of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into three
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
3 small bay leaves
a large pinch of sea salt (for the pestle & mortar method)
1 tsp dried thyme
half a tsp ground mace
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp creamed horseradish
2 tsp redcurrant jelly
1 Knorr beef stock pot.

Method :

1.  Place the sliced onions and celery into the bottom of a slow cooker.

2.  Put the mustard seeds and bay leaves into a spice grinder and grind to a powder.  Alternatively (which was my choice) put them into a pestle & mortar along with the pinch of sea salt and grind until a rough powder.

3.  Take a large freezer bag and into it, put all the rub ingredients : the mustard/bay/salt mix (or add the salt, if you've used a spice grinder), thyme, mace, black pepper, horseradish, redcurrant and stock pot.  Twist the top of the bag and massage all the ingredients until well smooshed together.

4.  If your piece of beef has been tied, remove the ties and around a third of the fat.

5.  Add to the plastic bag and seal the top.  Massage the rub into the meat by squidging the bag and turning the meat over and over - until it is coated completely with the rub.

6.  Cut off the top of the bag and place the beef on top of the bed of onions and celery.

7.  Turn the slow cooker on to medium and cook for the next 8 hours.

8.  Once the cooking time is up, remove the beef from the accumulated juices (there will be quite a lot!) and put onto a place, cover with foil and leave in a warm place to rest.

9.  Drain the juices from the slow cooker into a saucepan.  Add a little water or beef stock if you need to increase the quantity and heat until simmering.  Add either Bisto Rich Roasted Beef Gravy granules if you are after a big flavoured gravy, or some plain flour mixed with a little water, if you are happy with the flavours as they are.  Stir through and once thickened, serve.

Slice the beef with a sharp knife and serve with roasted potatoes, roasted parsnips, steamed cabbage, carrots, peas and your lovely gravy.  A couple of Yorkshire Puddings generally go down fairly well, too!

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23 September 2012

Slow cooker braised British Rose Veal - such a treat!

Do you remember, all those months ago when Farmers Choice Ltd kindly sent me some British Rose Veal to play with?

British Rose Veal is a guilt-free, ethically raised alternative to continental veal.  With continental veal, the poor calves are raised in veal crates which leave them very little space to move and they are pretty much force fed on milk so as to retain the white colour of their meat.  It is a hateful way of producing meat and not something that I would ever endorse.  So please - don't be tempted to buy veal if you don't know where it came from.  British Rose Veal is another kettle of baby cow altogether.  British Rose Veal calves are allowed room to play, run and lay down.  They are kept in "gangs" of several calves, so they always have pals and company.  They spend a certain amount of time at grass, before being brought in to big strawed pens under cover, where they finish out their time before slaughter.  As a means of providing dairy calves with something of a life, rather than immediate slaughter, I find it to be infinitely preferable to the horrible waste that currently goes on where dairy calves are concerned.  We just need the consumer to take up British Rose Veal in numbers enough to make it viable for dairy producers to do, as currently the price of British Rose Veal can be a little high.

Well, I've still got the escalopes to work with yet, but a little while ago decided to braise the roasting joint in the slow cooker.

I had been tossing various ideas around with regard to what I should do with this roasting joint.  Yes, I could have just plain old roasted it in the oven but for some reason I just didn't fancy doing that.  I suppose it all comes back to my abiding love for comfort food - and braising is just that notch above roasting, in the comfort food stakes!

The important thing with braising this piece of veal, I felt, was to retain its veal flavour.  I didn't want to use very strong flavours that might have overpowered the delicate flavour of the veal, so was very careful about what I put with it.  This is why I used vegetable stock instead of beef.  I felt that vegetable stock was a suitably "blank sheet" upon which to build the veal flavours.

A stroke of brilliance was to use one of Knorr's herb infusion stock pots along with the vegetable one.  These herb infusion stock pots will bring the lovely flavours of bay, parsley and thyme, without your having to go fishing for the bay leaves or have millions of tiny thyme leaves floating about in your gravy.  I felt that it complemented the gentle flavours of the veal really well.

The aromas issuing from the slow cooker as it did its work were just amazing.  There's something of the tease about a slow cooker, don't you think?  You spend all day sniffing up the deliciously changing aromas as the contents cook, knowing that there's no point to your having either a sneaky spoonful because a) it won't be cooked and b) you'll lose a great deal of the heat - and so it'll take longer to cook.

I would often use the slow cooker when I worked and had horses.  It was perfect, considering how little time I had to cook, but I'd feel so sorry for the poor dogs who had to share space in the flat with it all day!  Imagine what a tease it must be for them - as they have much greater capacity for appreciating a lovely smell than we do.  I always made sure to put the cooker up high, with that in mind.  Wouldn't have done to have come home to a burning slow cooker and no dinner - or worse.

At the end of the cooking time, the veal was literally "falling apart tender".  It looked quite dry on the outside edge, but that was misleading as inside was succulent and gorgeous.  The outside edge had made something of a crust which contained such fabulous flavour, it was just divine.  Not beefy, not porky - just a very gentle, slightly earthy, sweet flavoured meat.

There was plenty left over from the joint, too.  I had intended to make a pie with it, but temptation got the better of me and I'm afraid it disappeared into several simply amazing British Rose Veal sandwiches!


Ingredients :

1kg piece of roasting British Rose veal
1 carrot, cut into pieces
1 onion, quartered
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 celery sticks, washed and cut into pieces
a large bunch of parsley
400-700ml vegetable stock (depending on size of your slow cooker)
a Knorr Herb Infusions Stock Pot
a pinch of salt and a good quantity of black pepper
2 tbsp plain flour.

Method :

1.  Heat a non-stick frying pan until very hot, then seal the veal on all sides.  Leave the veal in place on each side, so as to gain a good colour on the meat and fat as this colour equates to flavour.

2.  Place the meat into the slow cooker and replace the lid.

3.  Add the stock and the contents of the herb infusions stock pot to the frying pan and heat through, stirring, to de-glaze the pan of all the veal flavours.

4.  Add the vegetables, herbs and seasoning to the slow cooker, replace the lid and cook on high for 4-5 hours.

5.  At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the slow cooker to a warmed plate, cover with silver foil and leave to rest in a warm place while you make the gravy.  Increase the slow cooker's heat to maximum.

6.  In a small bowl, place the flour and moisten it with a little cold water until a fluid paste texture is achieved.

7.  Using a slotted spoon, remove all the vegetables except the carrot and discard.

8.  Using a potato masher, mash the carrot until it has thickened the gravy a little.

9.  Pour the flour mixture into the slow cooker, stirring all the time.  The gravy should thicken almost instantly, but replace the lid and give the gravy 5-10 minutes for the flour to cook.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

10.  Carve the meat and serve with roast potatoes, vegetables and the lovely gravy.

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21 September 2012

Chipotle meatballs in rich tomato sauce - definitely "spicy meatballs", mama!

Of all the products that Sainsbury's kindly sent me to try, the Chipotle Paste from the Speciality Ingredients range has been the one to cause the most deliberation.

I pondered for what felt like ages upon what to do with it, as I felt I should be thinking of something a little out of the ordinary.  Chipotle chillies have a particular flavour, as they are not only fairly spicy but are smoked and the drying process seems to bring out their sweetness.  So something that might make people think "oh! I didn't think of doing that!" would be good.  None of my deliberations struck me as being particularly exciting though - and I figure that if I'm not excited about it, neither will anyone else be.

I may have been smarting a little from the shock news that none of my meatballs have ever found particular favour with hubby.  Yes, he's eaten them and they've been okay on occasion, but never particularly nice.  *blink*  Well, that came as something of a surprise - until he elaborated and declared that there was always "too much garlic" in them.  Mhmnn!  Yes, I will admit, I have had some very garlicky moments (*burp* Pardon!) following on from my meatballs in the past.

So the desire to put my meatball problems to bed, was right up there on the "things I need to do" list - and meatballs kept on jumping up and down and waving at me, every time I thought about the chipotle paste.  So I gave in.

The next thing, was to decide what to do with the chipotle meatballs.  Do I go down the Mexican route and do a kind of chipotle meatball chilli con carne?  Yawn.  Dull.  Okay, so who else uses meatballs in their cuisine?  Aha!  The Italians do.  So, could smoky chipotle meatballs combine with an Italian style pasta dish?  (After all, there is the Amatriciana line of dishes).  Oh yes it can, especially if you think a little outside the box and head to America for your Italian pasta dish!

Spicy meatballs, mama!

(It'd be best if you could say that in an American/Italian accent, okay?  Good).

Chipotle Meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.  Holy macaroni, I think I'm onto something.

I decided to use a combination of pork & beef mince for the meatballs, as I felt the beef would be too strong a flavour and purely pork would be too weak a flavour.  Asda have a "cheap as chips" combination of pork & beef that is in their economy range and at £1.56 for 500g, you just can't go wrong.  Yes, the mince carries a quite high percentage of fat - but that was exactly what I was wanting for these meatballs, as I felt they needed to be juicy - and fat does that for a meatball.

When it came to making the meatballs, it couldn't get any easier.  Take a jar of Sainsbury's Speciality Ingredients Chipotle Paste and decant just over half the jar into a bowl.  Add the mince and scrunch together, then roll into small meatballs.  I made 26 from the 500g.  Now don't be tempted to put any more than half the jar into the mix - not without first dunking the tip of a teaspoon into the jar and tasting.  I guarantee you won't be overdoing the paste after that - because this stuff is dynamite!  Lovely dynamite, but pretty darned explosive all the same.

A pan full of spicy meatballs - mama mia!

I had decided to seal the meatballs in the frying pan before finishing them off in the sauce, as they would provide a great base flavour for the sauce and the majority of the fat would be rendered that way, whilst leaving them succulent and juicy.  In fact, an enormous amount of fat came from them and I spooned away all but a dessertspoonful into the dogs' bowls.  They were happy about that!

I then removed the meatballs to one side and started the sauce in the remaining meatball fat.  I didn't do anything particularly special with the sauce, except for adding some sliced mushrooms and all the usual flavour builders like tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, fresh Basil and a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot.

The meatballs went back into the sauce for the last 10 minutes or so to finish cooking while the pasta was doing.

Serving the meatballs was easy enough - a bed of pasta with lovely juicy meatballs in rich tomato sauce on top - and a handful of grated cheddar cheese to finish.  I felt that the cheddar went so much better than parmesan would have - and it added a little nod towards the Mexican, as we love cheddar with our chilli con carne.

A really simple, easy to produce and cheap but delicious mid week pasta dinner.  Oh - and hubby declared that they were the best meatballs I'd ever made.  I think - no, I hope - that means he liked them!


Ingredients :

500g minced pork & beef (500g in total)
45g chipotle chilli paste
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated or minced
3-4 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tin chopped tomatoes (Tarantella, if you can get them)
1 Knorr chicken Stock Pot, made up in 200ml hot water (or just throw them in together and stir!)
1 tbsp tomato puree (Tarantella again, if you can find it)
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
half a tsp of paprika
sugar to taste (I used Jaggery, which is unrefined cane sugar)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
4-6 sprigs of fresh Basil, leaves removed and torn into small pieces.

Method :

1.  In a large bowl, combine the mince (taken directly from the fridge to ensure it is as cold as possible) and the chipotle paste.  Smoosh with your fingers until the paste is evenly distributed.  You might want to use latex gloves for this bit, as chipotle will find every little scratch you've got - and set fire to it!

2.  Form the combination into small meatballs - about walnut size, or smaller, and set aside.  You can chill them now if you want to, but if the mince was cold to begin with, this shouldn't be necessary.

3.  Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs on a medium to hot heat.  Make sure they don't burn, by continually moving them around.  Once they are all sealed and a good quantity of fat has rendered from them, remove them onto a plate and reserve.

4.  Spoon as much of the fat from the pan as possible, leaving around a tablespoonful with which to start your sauce.

5.  Add the onion and cook on a medium heat until soft, golden and just beginning to take on a caramelised colour.

6.  Reduce the heat slightly and add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes.

7.  Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and paprika and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for some 10 minutes or until the sauce has reduced slightly and thickened.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, including adding sugar if required.  (The amount of sugar will depend on the quality of the tinned tomatoes.  Better quality tomatoes won't need as much sugar).

8.  Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or so, while the pasta cooks in another pan.  You may need to add a tiny bit of water, if the sauce begins to thicken too much.

9.  Finally, add the fresh basil and stir through.

10.  Serve on spaghetti or Mafalda Corta pasta, with a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese and a sprig of fresh basil as garnish.

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20 September 2012

Recipe development in action : Smoked Haddock Chowder

It had been some months since I last cooked my Smoked Haddock Chowder.  Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'd forgotten how to do it, but I definitely needed to have a look at the recipe on Rhubarb & Ginger here.

A quick squizz down the recipe reminded me of how it went, what the ingredients were and I was away.  Or so I thought.

It is amazing how, when you've been cooking something for long enough that you don't need the recipe to follow, how you can often develop that recipe just because you're not restricted by following the steps!

I suddenly found myself creating what was the same soup, but in a significantly quicker and less involved way - and without the butter!  All of which resulted in a slightly healthier, delicious end product with no adverse effects from the new method.

I also left out the frozen peas, as I felt that they added a certain amount of unwanted water to the mix.

So, in order that I don't forget what I did (which is always possible) and to pass on to you this new, quicker, way of creating what has become a family favourite - here's how it goes!


Ingredients :

a small glug of rapeseed oil
3 rashers of streaky bacon, fat removed as much as possible and chopped finely
1 onion, finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1 leek, quartered, then sliced finely
2 pints full cream milk
100ml fish stock (I used Essential Cuisine fish stock powder, mixed with hot water)
a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp plain flour
200g tin of Cannelini beans, drained (rinsed if in brine)
140g tin of sweetcorn
500g smoked haddock fillets, skin removed and cut into large chunks
sea salt to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley.

Method :

1.  In a large, deep saucepan, gently heat the rapeseed oil and add the bacon pieces.  Fry until the bacon is cooked through, but not crispy.

2.  Add the onion and potato and continue to fry until the onion is transparent and the potato is beginning to take on colour.

3.  Add the leeks and continue to cook until softened.

4.  Place the flour into a small bowl and wet it down with as little of the milk as it takes to achieve a wet, lump-free paste.

5.  To the pan, add almost all the remainder of the milk (leave around 2-300ml) and all the stock, the cayenne and black peppers.  Before heating through, add the flour paste and stir through.

6.  Increase the heat under the pan and, continuing to stir, heat until the soup has thickened significantly and is simmering nicely.  You can add a little more milk as the soup thickens, if you feel it requires it.  You cannot leave the soup from this stage, without removing it from the heat, or you'll find it will burn on the bottom.  So watch it like a hawk and stir!

7.  While the soup is heating through, add the Cannelini beans and sweetcorn.

8.  Once the soup is the consistency you want, taste for seasoning (remembering that the fish will add salt) and adjust if necessary.

9.  Stir through one tablespoonful of the chopped parsley.

10.  Add the chunks of fish and from henceforth in, stir very very gently, so as not to break the fish too badly.  Allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes and test your fish chunks.  Once they fall apart and are done, you are ready to serve.

11.  Sprinkle each bowlful with a little of the remaining parsley.

Serve with warm crusty buttered rolls.

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