30 September 2010

Ox tongue with green sauce

Tongue. There is something decidedly old-school about tongue, and especially its smell: corned beef and wartime mess-rooms as well as an animal hit of dog food.

It is pure muscle. There are no bones and once the slightly weird looking bit at the bottom where it attaches to the mouth has been trimmed away there is no gristle. Having been already poached for another dish and then frozen this ox's tongue had already had its skin peeled off and was ready to go. I decided to go for green sauce as a suitably peppy sauce and serve it with mash and some simple vegetables.

My green sauce = lots of parsley, a good amount of olive oil and much smaller amounts of Dijon mustard, raw garlic, capers, caper juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. But I get the impression you can fiddle around plenty and that its make-up differs greatly from country to country. Other things with big and bashy flavours would be welcome: anchovy, dried chilli, herbs.

The tongue was cut into strips and cooked in a heavy cast-iron griddle. It was served with white asparagus which wouldn't perhaps have been first choice but needed eating. Something a bit humbler would be better here maybe - swede, carrots, cabbage, sprouts.

Check the angel wings Fergus Henderson talks about

The tongue is bouncy and meaty. I feel that freezing may have toughened the outer layer somewhat but the inside part was very nice and looked the part with the charred griddle lines.

Halva for pudding.

28 September 2010

Storecupboard soup with preserved lemon

It is incredibly satisfying using up little odds and ends of food and turning them into something enjoyable. With a few greens in the fridge needing to be used up and a smattering or substances from the store cupboard I made a quick and tasty soup.

    • big handful of greens
    • handful of lentils/pasta/barley/chickpeas
    • a piece of bread
    • onion
    • garlic, dried chilli flakes, cumin, olive oil, tomato puree
    • preserved lemon

Firstly I fried some onion and spring onion in a big glug of olive oil. I then added concentrated tomato puree, garlic, cumin, dried Turkish chilli flakes and a crumbled slice of bread. This needs to fry for five minutes.


Then boiling water was added, a handful or something starchy (I added a mixture of green lentils, orange lentils and the delicious rice-shaped Orzo pasta) and a stock cube (no shame at all in a stock cube for a week day meal in my experience - I used chicken) and the mixture allowed to cook for ten minutes. Greens then need to go in (I had kale and cabbage but use anything) and ten more minutes simmering allowed for the all the ingredients to get to know each other and relax. I added a few scraps of leftover lamb here. Add some preserved lemon after rinsing. Correct the seasoning and serve. I think black pepper is important here, ideally in large pieces approximately a third the size of the peppercorn itself.

Lovely. The kale is refreshed by immersion to a mineral green. The soup base is sour, salt and spice. The bread, lentils and pasta mix at the bottom of the bowl and catch the chunks of pepper. The olive oil and traces of lamb fat float on the top of the soup deliciously and the occasional pieces of lamb are welcome indeed. I enjoyed this more than yesterday's roast really. It must be the parsimony of the north in me...

Six-hour lamb

Long cooked shoulders of lamb seem to be everywhere at the minute. And they sound like a wonderful idea for this time of year when each days seem noticeably shorter than the last - the cut is a bit cheaper than leg but still very meaty and palatable to those that don't like sucking and fiddling with bones to get their food. I got a half-shoulder from a supermarket and after browsing a few different recipes decided to go for a simple moist roast with lots of onions and garlic and a little white wine. The food went in to a low oven at about 1pm and the inclement weather meant I felt only a small speck of guilt at lounging at home and finishing watching Series 4 of The Tudors (err..).

For The Vegetarian a butternut squash and veg sausage toad-in-the-hole seemed like a good idea. I cut up the squash to roast and toasted the seeds with salt as a snack (forgetting to keep an eye on it and burning them in the process).

Every hour or so the lamb was inspected, prodded and puzzled over. Was it actually cooking at such a low temperature? Should I add more liquid? When, if at all, should I cover with foil? Would the onions be cooked, in fact should I have cut them into much smaller pieces?

As the hours progressed the meat was undeniably being cooked, but the great gusts of appetising lamb smells multiple blogs had promised me were not apparent.

Eventually everything seemed cooked and it was time to serve. I allowed the lamb a good rest of half an hour whilst the toad was being done.

It's very fatty lamb shoulder isn't it? I hadn't fully appreciated this. Big ribbons of stiff, opaque fat were all over the joint on both sides before cooking. It had been at least partially rendered during cooking of course, but in truth the grease of it was a little over-facing. It also tasted exactly like a normal piece of roast lamb. Bah! Am I doing it right? Maybe a full on braise next time: it's sure to become very moist and will allow a fat-skimming stage.

26 September 2010

Quick tea of vegetables and bread

Quick tea before heading out. Asparagus with bread crumbs and broad-beans. This was just a handful of ciabatta breadcrumbs from the freezer (great way to save stale bread from the bin) fried with thyme and chilli flakes and tipped over some white asparagus and broad-beans done in a griddle.

Then a soup of roast tomatoes and peppers. Roast them in a 50/50 ratio with some garlic and olive oil, blitz and top up with water to a good consistency. Add a pinch of stock and salt and pepper and that's it! Couldn't be easier. Eat with more bread.

Restorative brunch

Fried potatoes with smoked paprika, fried egg, sprout-tops and liver.

22 September 2010

Cauliflower, peppers and tomatoes

Having got a super bargain cauliflower on Ridley Road market for 50p as well as five peppers for a quid and a big bowl of tomatoes for the same I wanted something that could combine the three. The bargains to be had at Ridley Rd are wonderful and I urge anyone in the area (E8) to get down there quick-sharp. The stuff available fluctuates quite a bit but can be great, I've spied a cardboard crate of cherry tomatoes for a pound once which is just ridic when you clock the prices in the supermarkets. The one caveat to add is that it's worth using the veg fairly quickly as some of it is at (or just past) ideal ripeness. Anyhow, I digress...


A little googling found this recipe which looked perfect for using them as all the other ingredients are standard spices which should be on the spice rack of any self-respecting home cook! (Apart from canola oil that is, I didn’t even know exactly what that was until I Wikipedia-ed it (it's rape oil basically and 'the name "canola" was derived from "Canadian oil, low acid" in 1978' apparently). I used use plain vegetable (a strangely ambiguous and non-specific descriptor when you think about it…!) oil with a little bit of butter for some ghee vibes (must get some ghee)).

So I heated my fats and fried the spices and chilli. The recipe specified some ground spices but I used whole ones which probably didn't help things. The colour is a nice yellow-brown from the turmeric. I then added the cauliflower in smallish florets and cooked for about ten minutes. I then added a couple of small peppers cut into pieces to cook for a few minutes and then eight or so tomatos cut in half and cooked for a further five minutes.

The flavour of the dish represented the sum of it's parts, no more or less. Just as some amazing combinations of food elevate a dish's ingredients beyond their normal status this one confirmed them in it. It wasn't nasty, where the food actually tastes less than the sum of it's parts, but it wasn't no great shakes neither. Maybe my fault for not using ground spices. The cooking times in the recipe seemed very short also.

Source: NY Times. Verdict: so-so. Condiments accompanying the meal (depicted below): tasty.

18 September 2010

Lentils and sausages

I think there is a recipe for something very similar in Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries but it’s not a dish that demands to be assembled too slavishly. The basics are lots of onions cooked for a long time with tomatoes, lentils and some sausages thrown in. It would also be nice served with the sausages separately. I added peppers as I had some in the fridge.

Flavour wise I went for thyme, paprika, a big (though fairly mild) dried chilli, garlic and a swush of red wine vinegar.

  1. Fry two onions with three cloves of garlic in plenty of olive oil for twenty minutes.
  2. Add tin of tomatoes and cook for twenty minutes until onions really soft. Add puy lentils and cook until done.
  3. At the same time cook/burn the peppers a bit and fry the sausages till a good colour and done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Assemble! I put a bit of feta on top too.

16 September 2010

Ottolenghi's cauliflower with tahini

Quick, easy and cheap salad that would be nice with pitta and bulgar/feta salad for a whole meal. Check the recipe.

I didn't have yoghurt for the dressing so used a little olive oil instead to thin the tahini and it worked fine. To this I added lime instead of the specified lemon, plus chopped garlic, parsley and salt and pepper. The dressing is fairly forgiving and I did it by eye. The key is to get something sweet and nutty but citrusy from the molasses, tahini and lemon/lime respectively. You then just chuck the fried cauli and sections of spring onion in with the dressing and give it a taste. I put a small amount of raw spring onions in too for texture.


14 September 2010

Lamb soup with preserved lemons

The idea for this soup comes from the second Moro book where they do a steamed lamb dish. This is a soup version of this with lamb neck (scrag). It's super cheap and tasty. It's well quick to prepare, though needs a couple of hours on the hob.

The prep time is very low and you can forgo browning the meat for ease (I'm still on the fence about the value of browning, Harold (McGee) says that the idea of sealing the juices in is nonsense but it does get the wicked Malliard reaction started and the roast meat flavour going on, still are you gonna notice that in a big stew or soup, I don't know...ho hum. If I do brown meat I reckon putting on in a non stick frying pan on a high heat so it gets really brown is the one, I'm not sure a gentle browning serves much purpose, answers on a postcard.) Lamb neck is such a great ingredient - it made me realise it's the lamb version of oxtail (and half the price). It's rich in collagen and gelatine, the bone gives amazing flavour for stocks and sauces and the meat can be shredded and put back into the dish.

I'd really recommend preserving your own lemons. I did mine from the same Moro book and they taste amazing. They need to sit in the salt solution for around three months but are just so good and much cheaper than buying them - they taste like a grown-up lemon sherbet, all salt and savour.

Garlic, cumin and chilli fried in olive oil really sum up the taste of Turkish soups and stews to me and are a great base from which you can just add anything, eg chickpeas and spinach and bread and have something good to eat.


    • 1 scrag end of lamb cut into large chunks (mine was just over three quid in Turkish shop)
    • preserved lemons
    • two big potatoes / a tin of chickpeas / a handful of barley
    • parsley or coriander (I know they don't taste that similar but both would be fine here)
    • 2 onions
    • garlic
    • cumin
    • dried chilli
    • olive oil

  1. Fry the onions in olive oil for five minutes.
  2. Add four garlic cloves chopped roughly, one tablespoon of cumin and one of chilli flakes (Turkish shops good for this) and one large or two small preserved lemons rinsed and chopped. Fry for another five minutes.
  3. Trim any excess fat from the lamb and pull out the spinal cord sections if you fancy. Brown if you can be bothered.
  4. Add to the pan with the veg and fry for a couple of minutes before adding a litre or so of boiling water. Cook on lowest heat for one hour and a quarterish.
  5. Check out the meat and if really soft take out and take meat off bone.
  6. Add the potato, chickpeas or barley. The chickpeas will only take a minute to warm up but the other things longer natch so simmer accordingly.
  7. Add the meat back to the soup and check seasoning - add salt (shouldn't need much as lemons are pretty salty), plenty of pepper and a bit more lemon or juice from the lemons if need be (the lemon should provide an amazing background tang that cuts through the richness of the lamb fat). Add the herbs - I like lots of flat leaf parsley here.

There you go, it's rich and meaty as you would expect, comforting flavours for the colder weather. You could put anything in really - tomatoes towards the end, courgette, more chilli etc.If there is some left and you stick it in the fridge you can skim off the fat from the top when cool if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Source: Moro and me. Verdict: tasty.

PS Blog still a bit rubbish probably but hold tight I'm working on it. :)