Monday, 30 January 2012

Recipe XLIII - Salmon with Stir-Fry Noodles

Can you believe it? It's been about 10 months since I started these recipes, and in that time, no fish. So I'm putting this right with this post. To be frank, I am not a fan of fish, but fresh river salmon I can handle.
The Japanese are probably the best in the world for their imagination with fish dishes, and this one is like a bad detective novel - it starts off pretty slowly and remains rather uneventful until the very last part, when everything happens at the same time.

500g fresh river salmon
1 long red pepper
2 onions
7 button mushrooms
4cm ginger
7 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
4 tablespoons of sake or white wine
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
400g egg noodles

Slice the salmon into appropriate pieces. To cut it, you need an incredibly sharp knife. Slice the fish with the skin facing upwards.
Slice half the ginger and 4 cloves of garlic, and put them in a bowl along with the sugar and wine. Stir it until the sugar has dissolved and then pour it over the salmon.

Marinate it for about an hour.

In the meantime, cut up the vegetables.

Take the salmon out of the marinade and fry it in butter. Keep the marinade for later. In another frying pan, fry the vegetables. Cut up the rest of the ginger and garlic and fry it too.
Put the noodles in boiling water, take it off the boil and let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes. Taste it to be sure the noodles are ready, then pour them into the vegetable mix.

Take the salmon out of the frying pan and cover it to keep it warm for a few minutes while you finish the rest off. Pour the remaining soy sauce from the marinade into the frying pan. Once it thickens, pour it into the pan with the noodles and vegetables, giving the whole thing a good toss.

Finally, serve up the noodles and put the salmon on top.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Recipe XLII - Roast Belly of Pork, Red Cabbage and Roast Potatoes

It's Sunday, it's freezing outside, I've swum 40 lengths in the pool, there's Sherlock on TV this evening and I want a warm, glowing feeling inside whilst I'm watching the final of the professional darts on BBC2. I need something that cooks itself, so I can watch the opening rounds of the darts without spending too long in the kitchen. The oven is the perfect tool for my lazy evening. Here's a true winter warmer!

Ingredients for the Pork:
600g belly of pork
5 medium to large cloves of garlic
10 whole peppercorns
A large pinch of salt
A nob of butter
Some cooking fat
7 medium-sized potatoes

Instructions for the pork:
Take a deep and large baking tray and put some butter and/or oil in it, and switch on the oven to 175°C, putting the baking tray in to heat up. Peel your potatoes, cut them into manageable pieces and parboil them for 10 minutes.
While this is going on, with a very sharp knife, cut off the pointy bits of the pork and give them to your cats/dogs, then slice through the skin of the pork. This stops your meat getting singed round the edges, and gives you manageable slices of pork crackling (my favourite part of a pig!), but it also means your meat will cook more effectively.
Then cut some holes in the pork and fill them with half-slices of garlic and a whole peppercorn.

Before putting it in the oven, don't forget to salt the skin very well by rubbing it in. Put some on the meat underneath too. To avoid using too much salt, take little but sprinkle it in the right location.

At the same time as you put the pork in, your potatoes should be boiling nicely, and in ten minutes you can transfer them to the same baking tray.
When you do this, make sure you splash the oil all over the potatoes, to give the skins a truly crispy outside, and a soft interior.

Ingredients for the red cabbage:
1 small to medium red cabbage
10 peppercorns
2 glasses of red wine
1 onion
Some butter
1-2 apples (cored and chopped)

Instructions for the red cabbage:
Take the red cabbage and cut it into thin strips. Salt and steam it until it is almost soft (20 minutes with the lid on should do it). In a high-sided frying pan, heat some butter and fry a thinly-sliced onion until it sweats. Take it off the cooker, turn the heat right down, give it a minute to cool, add the red wine, the apple, the cabbage and the peppercorns to the pan and simmer it for as long as you wish with the lid on. Some add raisins, some add nutmeg, but I chose not to this time.

Putting it all together:
With the last 5 minutes of cooking, you might wish to turn up the oven to 200°C, just to brown the potatoes and pork skin. Upon removing the pork from the oven, you will find it easier to divide into pieces, because you cut the skin earlier on.

Having put the pork and potatoes on the plate, take the oil and spoon it into the pan with the red cabbage. This will make the basis of your gravy, along with the juice and red wine still in the bottom of the pan. Swirl it around a little, add the red cabbage to your plates and spoon the gravy over it. Serve in front of the TV and don't be scared to pour yourself a glass of sweet red wine - Greek, Bulgarian or Croatian red wine goes down perfectly!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Recipe XLI - Fennel and Potato Gratin with Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Fennel: one of the most underrated vegetables you can find. I simply adore fennel - it needs no seasoning if you don't want, it has its own distinct flavour and compliments so many other dishes. In this recipe, I wish to illustrate how to entice reluctant visitors or children to eat this sadly ignored yet adorable bulbous vegetable.

Ingredients for the gratin:
1 or 2 bulbs of fennel
5 medium-to-large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm³-2cm³ pieces
1 onion
1 pot of cream
250g of a decent yellow cheese (e.g. Gruyère, Emmental) - I used sliced Fol Epi
10 ground peppercorns
A couple of knobs of butter
Some olive oil

Switch on the oven to 180°C and put a ceramic baking dish in it. Parboil the potatoes, drain them and let them rest for a few minutes. While that is going on, put some butter and olive oil into a deep frying pan and add the fennel. Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes before adding the onion. Add the ground pepper and some salt, and continue to fry on a medium heat for another ten minutes. Take the baking dish out. Put some fresh olive oil in the bottom and a knob of butter. Add some potatoes, then some fennel, then some cheese. Repeat the process, until all the ingredients have been used up, not forgetting to put a layer of cheese on top (see below).

Pour the cream into the dish and put it in the oven for about an hour.

Ingredients for the meatballs:
500g minced beef
1 shallot
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of oregano
1 egg
Half a carton of tomato passata
A glass of red wine

Instructions for the meatballs:
As soon as the gratin goes in the oven, you will have exactly enough time to get this bit ready, and a bit of time to spare.
Crush and chop the garlic, slice the shallot into very small pieces. Put the minced beef, the garlic, the oregano and the chopped shallot into a bowl. With a fork, work all the ingredients together until they form a homogeneous consistency. Add the egg and mix that in to act as a binding agent. If you have done your job well enough, you may think you do not need the egg. Using both hands, pick up a piece of the mixture and make it into a round shape, as below, as big or as small as you would like. Repeat until all is used up. Remember how many guests you have, and make the balls accordingly. I made 12 in the end, for three guests.

Using the frying pan you had previously for the fennel, heat some oil and fry the balls on a medium heat until all the balls are sealed on the outside. Add some tomato passata, some red wine and some herbs. Once the liquid has heated up, turn down the heat, cover and cook for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Add some herbs to taste.