26 January 2011

Sweet and sour poached leeks

This is a very nice side dish from the second Moro book.

I think the real key here is the make sure you use young and tender leeks. I used some bargain but borderline superannuated ones from Ridley Rd and their outer layer turned out to be extremely chewy. They were edible but after a going over the soft inner bit disappeared and just the stringy outer bit left with its gentle throttle on the way down.

The key to the poaching liquor is the sweetness from the sugar and the sourness from the lemons - I used chopped preserved lemons here and it worked well. Their salt-sour taste made the liquid extra jazzy. The books suggests using other green vegetables you may have to hand - peas, broad beans, cabbage or artichoke.

  • leeks, young and slim
  • sugar, water, garlic and lemon

    Old school

      Fry a few chopped garlic cloves in olive oil lightly and then added the trimmed and cleaned leeks. Add a couple of hundred mills of water, a tablespoon of sugar and either the juice of a lemon or some chopped preserved lemon. Poach until done - around fifteen or twenty minutes. Get some young ones and save the big woody leeks for the soup pot.

      With grain salad again

      I made this a week or so ago and, lo, what appeared on Ridley Rd this week but packs of tiny leeks!, snaffled naturally. In a bizarre reversal of the laws governing vegetable behaviour the leeks looks like small spring-onions whilst the actual spring-onions have gone rogue: giant, tough and whip like, barely fitting in the fridge. The little ones worked a treat with this dish.

      24 January 2011

      Teochow braised duck

      I don't know about you but I find I turn to blogs as much as cookbooks when looking for recipes these days. People odd enough to bother setting up a blog dedicated to food are clearly carrying out a labour of love and this is usually apparent in the writing. They also tend often to furnish the recipe with excellent photos - just flicking though Google reader or the like grants access to an enormous, international, multi-authored, open-source cookbook personalised by the stars or bookmarks you have added.

      So when I had a duck in the fridge (half price at Co-op, sweet) I had a little dip and came up with Teochow braised duck. The other idea was Fergus Henderson's wonderful (and extremely simple) duck with carrots. I'm gonna do that again next time I guess. For the Teochow braise I liked the idea of putting the ingredients and a pot and basically leaving them for an hour half to relax and simmer away. All I had to pick up on the cycle home (another benefit of the bike - stopping for crucial foodstuffs mid-commute!) was some lemongrass and I was set.

      The ingredients are listed in the original post so I won't replicate them: I was fastidious is my following and added only a single chilli as I couldn't bear the thought of all those fine spices within a tiny bit of heat.

      After an hour-and-a-half the duck was tender and I removed it to a frying pan to  crisp up the skin while the thin sauce was reduced a little and had some mushrooms added. We ate the heart and liver fried for starters and then the duck with the sauce and some pickled vegetables as suggested in the original link. Unfortunately the rice was that cloudily translucent easy-cook type which went a bit Uncle Ben when cooked and not the proper regal white stuff. The sauce was pretty good, the star anise goes very well with a dash of sweet soy I put in. Not mind blowing though.

      I'm sometimes a little scared of poaching or braising birds but this came out wonderfully tender. The fat all rendered out and the finished article was not particularly greasy. I now have a cup of duck fat in the fridge and a bag of potatoes in the cupboard begging me to fry them in it.

      The stock from the carcass was deep & ducky on a profound & infrequently achieved level

      18 January 2011

      Braised pig's cheeks with paprika

      Pig’s cheeks are of course made to braise. They are fatty and rich and extremely easy to cook. All you need is some strongish flavours to stand up to them and an hour-and-a-half and they practically prepare themselves. Rather than do the standard onion/carrot/celery (shame seems we don’t seem to have a word in English like soffritto or mirepoix to describe this fine mix), wine and herbs I thought I’d do a vaguely goulash inspired thing with plenty of paprika.

      • pig’s cheeks – two each (they are quite rich so it’s not a meat to gorge on)
      • onions (no. cheeks X 0.5)
      • celery (no. cheeks X 0.33)
      • lardons, bacon or a little chopped chorizo
      • lots of smoked paprika, some garlic and minor gestures of dried chilli and caraway
      • tinned tomatoes or passata
      • cream
      • glass red wine

        Fry the onions and the same number of garlic cloves chopped in oil on a low heat for twenty minutes, adding the celery chopped after the first five. Brown the cheeks in a frying pan. Brown also the lardons or chorizo till the fat runs. Add to the onions mixture along with tinned chopped tomatoes or passata, deglaze the meat pan with a glass of red wine and scrape up the fat deposits. Add this mixture the pan, season lightly and bring to a light putter. They will need around ninety minutes to get soft – you should be able to split a cheek with the modest application of a blunt wooden spatula.

        Serve with a little cream, plain boiled potatoes and a massive heap of humble greens. We had with brussels sprouts and winter greens mixed. Hope you enjoy!

        12 January 2011

        Yoghurt pie and grain salad

        What I like about Ottolenghi is that he suggests things I’d never make myself without prompting in a million years. Anyone can dream up a few salads or roast veg tarts and the like, but mixing yoghurt with chopped herbs and nuts, thickening it with flour and baking it is a combo that would not have cropped up in my head any time soon. Obviously I have inherent cultural bias and all the rest but just saying...

        As ever the ingredients were tinkered with as I’m mean and don’t like buying things when other things I have can do the job. Check the official recipe.

        The nature of the beast is this: fry some onion or shallot, toast a few nuts, chop lots of herbs and mix with rich (‘Greek’) yoghurt to form a thick paste. Season. Thicken this with flour and encase with vine-leaves slathered in melted butter and olive oil in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for forty minutes.

        Pine nuts can be a bit dear and I found the walnuts I had worked fine. I also used normal flour instead of rice with no obvious adverse effects.

        I’ve gotta say I was initially wobbling on the fence a bit with this one – not outright horrid or anything you understand but not a straight-off head nodding success. But having some of it later and cooler after a trip to the pictures it started to make more sense. Rather than a hot pie this is much nicer as a room temperature slice of contrasting but complimentary flavours and textures – the leathery, briney vine leaves, the modest crunch of nut and crumb, the herbs in their giving yoghurt matrix, the butter sheen of fat that coats the thing. In fact, looking back at the recipe Otto specifies leaving it for ten minutes to cool – something I totally missed - eek!

        If I made this again I’d serve it more as a mezze component and add garlic to the onion/shallot stage.

        We had the pie with roast toms and grain salad – all you do is chuck in small amounts of every grain in the cupboard according to cooking time and then flavour when cool. We had puy lentils, rice, bulgar and orzo pasta with chopped preserved lemons and olive oil. Delicious.

        10 January 2011

        Pasta e fagioli

        Fiending for a cheap and cheery soup fix I trawled my Google reader archives and found this excellent looking recipe for Pasta e fagioli. As a peasant dish I think the ingredients are fairly flexible and I was happily able to make something from the stuff in my cupboard and fridge. Out went the bolotti beans and in came the chickpeas. Some beautiful tiny tomatoes went in instead of a whole tin and a crumbled dried chilli or two subbed for the fresh one. Also a drop of cream left over from the pheasants. What’s good here is that if you include a decent amount of pasta it becomes a meal in itself. The gentle crushing of the veg releases enough starch to thicken the liquid which raises wholesomeness and satisfaction levels.

        The ingredients can be found in the link. I added some extra parmesan at the end and only roughly followed the recipe but can confirm it a good one. Thanks rachel eats!

        8 January 2011

        Xmas 2010

        Bit late on this.

        Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels for breakfast

        Roast pork loin, parsnips and potatoes, swede and carrot puree

        We had this with the sauce from the roast pork loin dish in Nose to Tail - roast garlic, parsley, capers, anchovy, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Not was christmassy but well tasty. I love a roast like this without too many elements as the full trimmings at xmas can mingle together and become a bit of a greasy mess sometimes.

        Pedro Ximenez sherry - sweet like chocolate

        4 January 2011

        Pheasant stew

        One of the better presents I got for xmas this year was two dead pheasants in a plastic bag. I have never hung, plucked, skinned or gutted a pheasant or any game bird but that, of course, made the process all the more interesting.

        Hugh suggests around five days for the ideal hanging period and that, through happy circumstance rather than supreme planning skills, was exactly what these guys got. The hanging was done in a plastic bag suspended on string through the window of my sitting room and anchored to the radiator. The hanging process gives flavour and character to the meat by allowing it to begin the first stages of decomposition.

        The thought of plucking the birds was a little daunting so I decided simply to skin. Not remotely knowing what I was doing, I sharpened up my favourite knife and slit the skin down the front of the birds' chests. This peeled off fairly easily and a few more slices around the top bit of the legs meant I could rip off a trouser like configuration of copper feathers and sticky skin. Some more cutting at the head end allowed me to get the crop out – packed full of grain in both birds - without puncture. Slashing the abdomen released the innards into the bin. The livers of the birds seemed incredibly hard and distended – a result, perhaps, of them gorging on freely available grain – but the pungency of their viscera disinclined me to root through the bloody strings and clumps in the bin and I must embarrassingly admit I chucked the lot. Just think – possibly two natural and humane pheasant foie gras wasted. Oh for shame.

        The legs were easy to snap off and remove but I ended up chopping the carcass in a rather irregular manner probably not known to any reputable school of butchery.

        Check the outrageously yellow fat

        I followed a really basic recipe for these – browned meat, bacon fried to render its fat, lots of standard veg (onion and both carrots and celery in big amounts to serve as an actual feature and not just background flavour mulch), wine, dried herbs and an hour-and-a-half 'pon the hob. I think white wine might have been best as the red sent the stew a grey colour.

        The flavour of the pheasant was very fine. Chicken like, but with a denser and drier meat and with a musty countryside aftertaste, especially in the leg parts. The bacon and veg did the business as expected and the resulting stew, finished with a little lick of cream, was hearty and pleasingly unfussy. We ate it with potato and parsnip mash with plenty of pepper in which was a delight. Many thanks to the pheasant bringers - you know who you are.


        Happy 2011 dear readers!