30 June 2014

Rose Veal topside roast - super gorgeousness!

A quite disgracefully long time ago now (I've been SO remiss in not blogging stuff that needs to be blogged), I was contacted by the lovely Julie at Barcut Rose Veal in Wales, about taking some of their produce to try - and blog about.

Now those of you who have been reading along for a while will know about my own particular keenness for that jewel in the butcher's crown that is British Rose Veal.  Not only that, but the knock on effect that is finding a job for the many millions of bull calves to do, rather than be shot at just 2 days old (or less, in some cases).  These bull calves are a by-product (what a horrid thing to call a calf) of the already beleaguered dairy industry.  You see, the mother cows don't produce milk willy nilly for the whole of their lives.  No, they need to keep on having calves to stimulate the milk supply.  Now a heifer  calf (they're the female ones) are easy to find a job for as they can go straight back into the dairy business and have their own babies and supply their own milk.  But what happens to the boys? 

Some of Barcut's happy calves
In far too many cases, they are either shot at or very near to birth, or alternatively are sold on to be produced for beef (which they're not very good at, being of a breed that makes milk well and doesn't make beef well).  As a result, they - not in every case, it's true, but in most cases - aren't worth very much and aren't really valued as a "crop" as such.  In lots of particularly awful instances, the bull calves are sold at market where they're picked up by European (or further distant) purchasers who will then ship the animals huge distances to the kind of future that nobody in their right mind would wish for.

So how much better is it, for a calf to be bought by a local producer who takes care of them in an ethical manner - with large strawed pens, where they can play with their mates, eat to their hearts' content and be happy (most even spend time out at grass, in the field, in the sunshine) - before being taken to a local abattoir (the important bit about that being both local and British) at 8 months of age where they are killed humanely and their meat is valued by home cooks and chefs alike.   It's just a no-brainer, so far as I can see.

Barcut Rose Veal is just one of those ethical producers.  A quick look at their website's "Why our Rose Veal" page gives you all the assurances you could require.  So I was very excited to be the recipient of an enormous box of their beautiful, lean, Rose Veal.

As always, the quandary is what to do with the sudden rainfall of choice cuts of meat.  We had a gorgeous lean topside roasting joint, some braising steaks and some cubed topside.  Now we generally use 500g of meat per meal for the three of us - so we had at least five or six meals to think of!

The meat arrived exceptionally well packaged in vacuum sealed bags with freezer blocks to keep it cool - and looked as fresh as a daisy.  It felt almost sacrilegious to put it in the freezer, but as it is fresh and not previously frozen, in the freezer it went.  With the best will in the world, even my family can't eat five or six meals in one go.  Well, everything except the topside roasting joint.  That one's destination was marked out for our Sunday dinner almost as soon as I clapped eyes upon it.

Now I won't lie and say that I knew exactly what I was going to do with it, because when you've got the one go at an ingredient (who knows when I would find another piece of roasting Rose Veal as good as this one), you have to give your next move some serious consideration.  Or I do, at any rate.

Eventually - after much thought, a significant amount of changes of mind and some considerable research, I came to a conclusion.  I would prepare a rub, then roast the joint (hopefully) to a state where it remains just pink in the middle.

Now the rub I devised was one of my own concoction which I hoped would bring out the delicate flavour of the Rose Veal, without stamping all over its own characteristics.  It would be a terrible shame to lose the gentle flavour by heavy handedness in the dressing of it.  So, I put together some dried rosemary, fennel seeds, lemon zest, sea salt and ground white pepper into my pestle and mortar and gave everything a good crush, then brought it together with some lovely fruity rapeseed oil.  It smelled divine.

Rubbed all over the Rose Veal joint - into every nook and cranny - it looked suitably dressed and ready for the party.  I made a trivet in the roasting pan of whole carrots that had been sliced in half and added a sliced onion, on top of which balanced the Veal.

Into the oven at 200degC it went, for just 10 minutes.  Then the oven was turned right down to 160degC and I left it to chuckle along slowly (with the occasional pause for some basting) for around an hour and a half.  I tested the joint with a meat thermometer and waited until the internal temperature was up to a minimum of 65degC before removing from the oven and covering it in tin foil (still in the roasting tin), to rest in a warm place for around 30 minutes.

It looked incredible and smelled even better.  

When it came time to carve, the Rose Veal just accepted the carving knife without complaint.  You know how sometimes when you're carving a joint, your arm feels a bit like chewed string by the end of it all?  Not with this one.  The meat, although not as pink in the centre as I had hoped, was just so tender and so juicy it was making my mouth water.  My Dad introduced me (years ago) to the concept of "cutter's tasters" thanks to which I was able to tell that the herby, fruity rub had done its work well.  The flavour of the Veal was still there, just accentuated with layers of rosemary, fennel and lemon.  Naturally, I had saved the pan juices along with a little of the veal stock from the celeriac fondant, which together with some Sherry, made a completely fantastic gravy.

Oh my gosh but what a meal that was.  I served the Rose Veal with Duchesse potatoes, Chantenay carrots, broccoli, celeriac fondant (braised in veal stock with butter) and Yorkshire puddings, along with the glossy rich gravy that just brought everything together.

I look at these photographs of that meal and can remember every nuance of every flavour involved with that veal.  It fed the four of us (we had a visitor that day) with enough left over for a terrine of Rose Veal with Antipasti vegetables and asparagus the following day, served with salad.  So gorgeous!

Barcut Rose Veal are based near Abergele in Wales, so if you are in the area it is worthwhile visiting any of the shops on their website and enquiring.  They also sell wholesale, so if you and a few friends can get an order together and share the cost, it is also well worth doing - after all, the Rose Veal freezes perfectly.  Who knows, as the business progresses, they might even consider selling retail to the world at large.  Well, we can but hope!  For those of you on Facebook, you can support Barcut Rose Veal by visiting their page at https://www.facebook.com/barcutveal


Ingredients :

1kg topside Rose Veal
1 tsp dried rosemary (chopped fine)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
a pinch of sea salt
a large pinch of ground white pepper
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 chunky carrots, halved lengthwise
1 onion, sliced.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.

2.  Prepare a roasting tin by placing the carrots, cut side down to form a trivet, in the bottom of the roasting tin.  Scatter the onion rings on and around the carrots.

3.  Prepare the rub by placing the rosemary, fennel, lemon, salt and pepper into a pestle and mortar (or use a spice grinder) and give everything a good bash to release the oils.  Add the rapeseed oil and stir to combine.

4.  Rub the Rose Veal all over with the mixture, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies.

5.  Place the Veal onto the carrots and onions, making sure to keep the fat uppermost.  This will allow the fat, as it melts, to slowly baste the meat and keep it moist.

6.  Put the roasting tin and contents into the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160degC/325degF/Gas 3 for another hour and a half - or until the inside temperature of the meat reaches a minimum of 65degC/149degF on a meat thermometer.

7.  Once the correct temperature is reached, remove from the oven and cover the meat and roasting tin with silver foil.  Keep in a warm place to rest for approximately 30 minutes, then carve.

Serve with roasted potatoes and vegetables of your choice, making sure to use the pan juices in your gravy (which is made extra delicious by the addition of a little Medium Sherry).

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28 June 2014

Yummy breakfast idea - Baked tomatoes, egg & cheese

I don't have a million words to say about this one - well, it's breakfast so that means it needs to be a) quick and easy to put together and/or b) easy to cook - and it's both.

I wouldn't recommend trying to make this for the family on a weekday before school - but when you've got half a tin of plum tomatoes without a job to do, it's a definite.

For those of you who aren't following my Facebook page, you might not realise that I'm having a serious crack at whittling the waistline.  As such, I'm trying to keep my calories for the day to 2,100 - and it can be a challenge.  This breakfast rocked up at under 200 calories, so it's a goodie!

You need (for one person) :

half a tin of plum tomatoes, each tomato roughly chopped into three;
a dessertspoonful of tomato ketchup;
a whisker of tabasco;
a pinch of sea salt;
a good pinch or more of ground black pepper;
one fresh egg, and
a very small piece of mature cheddar cheese (just enough to grate over).

You can, if you have them, add anything you like to the tomatoes - such as chives, basil, parsley, chargrilled peppers - anything you like.

Hungry people can add another egg - but that will increase the calorie total by 80 or so.

What you need to do, is :

1.  Get yourself an ovenproof individual dish about twice the size of a ramekin.

2.  Mix the tomatoes with the ketchup and whatever other flavourings you are using, including the salt and pepper.  I mixed them directly in the dish.

3.  Crack the egg onto the top of the tomatoes.

4.  Grate the cheese - sparingly - over the top.

5.  Place into a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or so until the top is lightly browned and the egg is firm.  I cooked mine in my combi oven (the Beastie) on the oven/grill/microwave setting which sped things up even more - but I appreciate that not everybody has a Beastie in which to do that.  You could always pop it under the grill if the cheese isn't golden enough for you by the end of the 30 mins.

Mmmmn.  The slightly spicy tomato mixed with egg and cheese is a time honoured match made in heaven that didn't need anything more.  What a great way to start the weekend.  Gets a great big thumbs up from me!

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22 June 2014

Pineapple & Coconut Chicken Curry

For absolutely ages - and I do mean ages - hubby has been asking for a "fruity, mild, creamy, Caribbean type curry".  However, I've really only just begun to get my head around Indian curries, without trying to expand my repertoire to the Caribbean!  However, I've been reading, watching, thinking and reading a bit more, to absorb all that is encapsulated within a "Caribbean type" curry.

I've had a few false starts, too.  Curries that started off with every intention of going Caribbean, but wound up being resolutely Indian.  I've had one or two "nearlies", in that they have been too heavy and a little bit cloying (forget using cream then!) and too rough in the spicing (leave out the ginger and cayenne), but nearly there.

Last night, however, I hit the nail right on the head.  Now please don't - for a millisecond - think that this is an "authentic" Caribbean curry, because I wouldn't know one of those if it jumped up and bit me on the nose.  No, this is "our idea of what a Caribbean curry would be like" - so is quite probably very different.

However, if you forget where I was trying to go with it and just take it on face value as "a curry", it was blinking marvellous.

Friends have suggested that maybe it has a flavour of Thailand, or Singapore.  Well, I'm sure it probably does, as in the course of my reading and absorbing, I visited both those destinations and no doubt tucked some of their methods and/or flavourings under my wing.

I was jolly pleased with it, anyway.  You know you are on the right track, when you take that first taste of the very young sauce and your immediate reaction is "Mmmmmmn!".  Oh it tasted good - and very right - and very promising.

I had originally intended to make this curry with some of the Barcut Farms rose veal - and I'm quite sure it would be fantastic with that.  I shall do a slow cooker version that would be perfect for the rose veal, now that I've had such success with the chicken.  If only I could remember to take the meat out of the freezer the night before, so that it has defrosted by the time it comes to putting it in the slow cooker.  But I didn't - and so off we went to Spring Fields butchers for some chicken, which doesn't take anything like as long to cook.  D'oh!  Nothing lost, however, as the chicken curry was a singular triumph.

I'd had plenty of time to formulate a plan for the chicken version, so a sudden change of protein type wasn't a problem at all.  For once, I allowed plenty of time to do all the cutting, chopping and peeling - particularly as I also had a plan for a fruit salad, to use up the leftover pineapple.  (A few leftover strawberries and a well ripened papaya worked beautifully).

I do so much prefer to cook knowing I've got time in hand.  I hate the frenzied, Masterchef style of cooking where an imaginary Greg Wallace is yelling "only 45 minutes to go!" in "you should be panicking now!" tones in my head.  I much prefer the Two Fat Ladies' style of "I'll just be peeling and chopping this onion, whilst regaling the assembled throng with a tale of breakfast at the Thruppington-Smythes, back in 1944" cooking.  Much less stressful - and I'm quite sure that the end result is better for it, too.

So, with Clarissa Dickson-Wright (bless her) controlling my knife skills, I had a happy hour or so at the chopping board, before moving to the cooker and adopting a more Jennifer Paterson approach.  Woe betide any onion chunk that decided to become airborne and avoid my frying pan.  One stern look soon took the wind out of its sails and everything was peace and tranquillity again.

I love cooking curries.  You just sit there and add stuff to your frying pan in order and lo and behold, a curry appears.  Magic.

There is also magic to be had when cooking with coconut milk, I think.  It's the transformation that occurs.  When you open the tin you are confronted with a supposedly impenetrable wall of thick white goo yet, suddenly, there comes a flood of sweet coconutty water.  After five minutes' stirring in the pan, you suddenly realise that the contents of the tin seem to have doubled in size and turned to - albeit delicious - pond water.  Minutes spent diligently and gently reducing said pond water, turns it into a delicious sauce - however, beware turning your back on it, or within seconds it will dry out, the fat will separate and you'll wonder what the heck happened and where did the magic go.  Fickle, that's what it is.  Fickle coconut milk!

Ahem.  So anyway - back to the job at hand - if you're not moved to poetry by pineapple, I am quite sure you could substitute mango without seriously damaging the balance of the dish.  However, the two ingredients that are essential to the balance, are the sweet potato and the green pepper.  You just have to have sweet potato, even if you hate the stuff and throw it away before you eat, or the sweetness balance just won't be right.  Likewise, with the green pepper, it lends a savouriness to the balance that would be utterly lost without it.  So there.  Don't say you weren't warned.

A perfect curry for the hot weather, this one will fill you full of Caribbean sunshine without weighing down your hammock.  Lovely!  Chin chin! 


Ingredients :

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, half chopped fine, half left chunky
a pinch of sea salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small sweet potato, cut into 1cm dice
4 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 green pepper, cut into 1cm dice
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp Garam Masala, divided into two
2 tsp mild curry paste
200ml chicken stock
400ml coconut milk
200g fresh pineapple cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped and divided into two
1 tbsp coconut powder (optional).

Method :

1.  Heat the sunflower oil in a deep frying pan or wok.  Add all the onion and a pinch of sea salt and gently fry until the smaller pieces are golden brown and the larger pieces transparent.  This should take around 10-15 minutes.

2.  Add the garlic, sweet potato, mushrooms and green pepper and continue to fry until the mushrooms are beginning to soften.

3.   Move the vegetables to the outside of the pan and add the chicken to the centre.  Increase the heat slightly and fry the chicken until most sides of each chunk are whitened.  The vegetables will mix in as you turn and fry the chicken.

4.  Add the ground coriander, cumin, 1 tsp Garam Masala and the curry paste.  Stir to combine.

5.  Add the chicken stock and stir to combine.  Bring to a gentle boil, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes or so, or until the sweet potato is softened but not cooked through.

6.  Remove the lid and, stirring occasionally, allow the liquid to reduce by two thirds.

7.  Add the coconut milk and stir to combine.

8.  Add the pineapple, half the fresh coriander and the coconut powder (if using it).  Bring to a gentle boil, but stir gently and more regularly to avoid the mixture catching on the pan.  Continue to cook while the sauce reduces, until it reaches your preferred consistency.

9.  Add the remainder of the fresh coriander and the last tsp of Garam Masala.  Stir through and serve on fluffy Basmati rice, with naan bread for dipping.

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20 June 2014

Slow Cooker Char Sieuw Pork .. or Char Sui ... or however you want to spell it!

I have a lovely Facebook friend, Mab, who very recently made Char Sui Pork - and it looked SO good, I just had to have a go at it myself.  

I knew that any version of Char Sui Pork that I might make would be quite different to Mab's version, as I had my fat-phobic menfolk to take into account.  After all, if I'm intending on making something so delicious, I can't possibly leave them out of the experience!  Now Char Sui (or Sieuw) Pork should, ordinarily, be made with a quite fatty piece of meat so that as it cooks the fat will baste the meat, keeping it moist and flavourful.  Obviously, in the circumstances, I couldn't do that.  So I had to think hard about how I was going to keep the meat tender and juicy, whilst rendering down the majority of the fat.

So the first thing to think about was the cut of meat.  Pork shoulder is okay for me to use in things like Pulled Pork, as the very nature of the dish means that I can remove any unrendered fat at the "pulling" stage.  However, it's not much use for anything else - because of the lovely (well, I think they're lovely) veins of fat that run through the meat.  The meat of choice, then, for my menfolk is loin.  Fortunately, our local butcher sells six pork steaks for £2.99 that are cut across the loin and are just perfect.  The back of each steak has a neat line of fat that helps in the cooking process and can be removed in a twinkling just before serving.  Of course, you do still have to concentrate on keeping the meat moist, as loin can dry out and become unpalatably sawdust-like when you're not concentrating.  As such, I have included pork shoulder in the recipe - but if you have to cater for fat-phobics, then go for some loin with the fat still attached.

Now the original recipe - which I used as a guide more than instructions - was for an oven cooked pork.  However, knowing how my menfolk like their pork to be tender, I opted for the sure fire guarantee that is the slow cooker.  Give a car tyre enough time in a slow cooker and I reckon it'll become palatable somewhere along the line.

See the difference between this (still cooking) and the finished article. Huge.
However, just cooking the pork in the slow cooker wasn't enough.  You are required to marinate the pork before cooking - to enable those lovely flavours to gain a good toehold in the meat.  Because a slow cooker takes so long - the clue's in the name, folks - I felt that marinating as well as cooking was a bit of overkill.  Spending 7 hours in the slow cooker - in all its marinating juices and flavours - would be a splendid way of giving them a toehold of deliciousness, with marination taking place as it went along.

The end result worked very well indeed!  The aromas wafting through the kitchen and beyond, were just incredible.  I took the lid off at half time and turned the pork steaks over, which were looking pretty much done.  However, the difference a number of hours more made to the meat by way of colour and flavour was incredible.  So don't be tempted to take it out too soon.  It is well worth the extra time.

Also, save the cooking liquid as it makes a fabulous basic sauce for either noodles, or with rice.  Not to mention that being so tasty, it would be criminal to throw it away!

Having taken the pork out of the slow cooker, saved the saucy juices and removed the fat, I basted each piece with a little of the cooking liquid (again, to prevent the meat drying out too much) and drizzled with honey.  Into a very hot oven for around 10 minutes - or under a hot grill would do fine - just to get the charred edges and you're there.

This pork was so good that it moved Son & heir to shout from the living room to the kitchen to say that he thought it to be "absolutely fantastic".  Gosh, there's approval!  I will admit that I had to agree with him - considering the huge flavours that had been jostling for position all day, to be able to still taste the pork under it all was something of a miracle, I thought, but you could.  Being scrupulously honest, it didn't taste like the "red pork" that you find in Chinese Takeaway meals - but did it taste authentically "Chinese"?  Yes, it certainly did.

The vegetable noodles - made using a sliced Portobello mushroom, Bok Choy greens, spring onions and beansprouts - were very happy to have the cooking liquid added to them and accompanied the meat very well indeed.  I am sure the meat would do very well in a stir fried rice dish too - and it'd be well worth making a little extra just for that!

So thank you, Mab.  Now, what are you making tomorrow?  :D


Ingredients :

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
120g sachet black bean sauce
120g sachet hoisin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp medium Sherry
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Mirrin is acceptable)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 star anise
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1kg Pork shoulder, cut into thick steaks or thick strips
Runny honey for drizzling.

Method :

1.  Mix all the ingredients together well, except for the pork and honey.  Pour the resultant sauce into the slow cooker and spread out until the base is completely covered.

2.  Place each steak or strip of pork into the sauce and turn until completely coated.  Then lay out in the slow cooker in one level layer - or successive level layers.  You need to maintain the layers so that when it comes to turning at half time, the pork is easier to get at.

3.  Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for 7-8 hours.  You can reduce the cooking time, by increasing the heat.

4.  Around 4 hours into the cooking time, remove the lid and turn each steak over, giving them a baste in the sauce if possible.

5.  When the cooking time is done, remove the pork from the slow cooker and place onto a flat baking tray.  You can take this opportunity to remove any fat that is surplus to requirements.

6.  Spoon a little of the sauce over the steaks, then drizzle with honey and place into a hot oven (220degC) for 10-20 minutes (or alternatively, place them under a hot grill for a similar time), so as to get the charred edges.

Serve with noodles, rice or just a spoon and a good t.v. programme.

Printable version

19 June 2014

A few milestones made ... and surpassed.

Every morning I open up Blogger to have a look at the figures for Rhubarb & Ginger and do whatever admin is required - deleting spam posts, etc.  For the past few weeks, this has been quickly followed by a sharp intake of breath as I read the figures for page views from the previous day.

Take this morning, for instance.  Yesterday's page views are recorded as being 13,465.

*blink*  What?  ~looks again~  Yup, it's there in black and white.  Thirteen thousand four hundred and sixty five page views in the one day.


At the beginning of this month, we were receiving an average of 5,000 page views a day - which I thought was amazing enough!

There are probably all sorts of reasons for this upturn in events, so I thought I'd share a couple with you.

I've recently been working with "The Besty" - a restaurant recommendation site - in return for their publishing a writeup for Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger.  It all went very well and I was quite satisfied with the results.

Then, purely by accident, today I discovered the following vimeo video : http://vimeo.com/96637172 go on - have a look.  It's full of wonderful American joi de vivre.  LOL

Not content with appearing in some mad American video, it would seem that The Guardian has noticed us!  The lovely Marmaduke Scarlet included us in her column on what to do with leftover ham (of all things!).  LOL


You need to roll down the page, but we're there - at number 22, honest!

British rose veal with rosemary and lemon .... mmmmn.
So even though I have been remiss in not posting for ages - been taking a bit of a "sudden onset summer holiday", if the truth be known - I have still been working away behind the scenes and will have new recipes (some fantastic Rose Veal recipes particularly) arriving soon.

I thank everyone who has contributed to making Rhubarb & Ginger the force to be reckoned with that it is - and that includes you, the reader.  You're all brilliant, in your own particular, many and varied ways.


2 June 2014

Incredibly, we've broken another record!

Yes, folks - during this last month of May, Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger managed to break its own record for page views for the month.

The new record is ...... 156,471.

I am just so happy that so many people are finding the contents of my blog, an inspiration.

Again, I thank you.

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