Monday, 24 September 2012

Recipe LXXIII - Mint and Mustard Marinade

I love lamb. But here in Germany, it's really hard to find. In fact, if you go to the supermarket in this area, you find a thousand kinds of pork. I had an argument with the local butcher because once I dared ask for wild boar and she thought I was being awkward. Who's the customer here?? So I do most of my non-pork meat shopping in Luxembourg. I picked up these delicious lamb chops on a recent shopping trip there and I wanted to give them proper respect, especially as the pack said "Origin: UK", which was a pleasant surprise. The proportions in this recipe are purely by rule of thumb, so if you want it sweeter or spicier or sharper, you just add more of one ingredient!

A few sprigs of fresh English mint
A teaspoonful of ground cumin
A tablespoonful of mustard (you choose the kind - I used a Dijon-style, but I'm pretty sure English or Russian would be just as good)
A tablespoonful of balsamic vinegar
A tablespoonful of golden syrup, molasses, caramel or honey
Ground black pepper

Chop your mint into small pieces. I used a blender. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix until they form a sticky consistency. Dip the lamb chops in there one by one or all together and coat them. Put them in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of two hours.

They will take on a tremendous amount of flavour in that time.

Put a high-sided non-stick frying pan with some olive oil on a medium-high temperature and once hot, place the lamb chops in there. Fry them until the outside is done to your liking.

I served mine with roast carrots and potatoes, but use your own discretion, of course.

I will be making this again very soon!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Recipe LXXII - Chicken Clare Balding

This is a recipe I designed myself with very careful thought. I wanted to honour the person who most epitomised my wonderful summer of sport on TV and my time in London during the Games. This person is, for me, someone who straddles classes, who is at home sitting next to other presenters and pundits in the studio, interviewing an elated tongue-tied competitor or mingling with crowds inside and outside venues. She explains everything so clearly and is most obviously hyper-intelligent without having any airs or graces. She is also one of those who is on my list of living people I'd most like to invite to a dinner party. I hope she gets to read this recipe one day and if she makes it, that she likes it. I apologise for the three horrid photos, but I have a new light in the kitchen and it is somewhat over-bearing for my poor little camera... Just like Clare Balding, this is an extremely adaptable recipe for the season, the taste and the consistency, but below are the original ingredients I used, the essential items having asterisks (*).

Ingredients (for 2 people):
200g Greek krithiraki / manéstra pasta * (an Olympic commentator should have something Greek in her eponymous recipe, although I used Turkish as that's what they sell locally!)
Half a courgette
Half a pâtisson (yellow squash or in the US pattypan squash) *
(in different seasons I see no problem in using sweet potatoes, aubergines or the like to add seasonal taste)
1 sweet red pepper *
1 onion
1 spoonful of chili powder *
2 breasts of chicken (sliced into strips) *
(A handful of green beans is a pleasant variant)
1 carton of single cream *
Some olive oil *
3 sprigs of English garden mint *

I think it was a pleasure to make this dish. Slice the squash into thin strips. You can halve those strips or keep them the same size, but they should be no thicker than a third of a centimetre. Cut up the chicken breasts into chunky pieces. Slice the courgette, pepper and onion in any way you wish.
Take two frying pans, on a medium heat, with olive oil - in one, begin frying the chicken, in the other, the squash. In the one with the squash, add some chili powder, and in the other once the chicken is sealed, add the vegetables. Stir-fry both pans, the squash for a good ten minutes. Add the chopped mint to the squash after seven, and in the other pan stir-fry the chicken for up to half an hour, or until everything is nice and soft and the flavours have run.

Once it is cooked, add the squash to the chicken for the remainder of the cooking time, and with ten minutes to go, turn down the heat and add the cream to gently heat up without evaporating. While the other ring is hot, heat some salted water and cook your Greek pasta. You can either mix it in with the other ingredients once cooked, or as I did, serve the chicken on a bed of pasta.

Above is one I made with green beans.

Serve in wide bowls or flat plates, with a nice bottle of medium Kent, Sussex or Hampshire wine.

My person of 2012, Clare Balding - photo:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Recipe LXXI - Bread and Butter Pudding and Custard

Yes, you read that right. Bread and butter pudding; the childhood memory of most British adults who went to a school with a good kitchen. And here's the thing: with the UK being this year's country of focus, it heartened me a lot to read reports of its culinary resurrection. The UK has always been a pioneering food nation, but this is back to basics.

Whilst I was in London a few weeks ago, I went to "Fish!", my favourite restaurant, and as I promised, a recipe from their desserts menu. This is it. I love that restaurant's commitment to excellent food without the pretentiousness and stuffiness of many quality establishments.
It is so simple, so delicious and so pleasing to the eye and the stomach that it is a wonder that it has not ventured out of the English-speaking nations. You hardly need anything for it, and it
makes a truly lovely setting on the table after a delicious dinner.

A bag of sliced bread (but you can do your own, for example sweet bread, panettone or something similar)
A block of butter
3 to 5 eggs
About 0.5 litres of milk
3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar
Some vanilla essence or sugar
A bag of raisins/sultanas
Some cinnamon powder
A decent baking tray

Put the milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla into a bowl and give it a very good mix. Leave it on the side. Turn on your oven to 180°C.

Cut the crusts off your bread, butter both sides of the slices and start packing them into your baking tray in layers. It's easier to butter one side of the bread before you put it in, then the other side once it's fit into place. Put some raisins onto the first layer, then do the second with more raisins, until you have reached about two-thirds of the way up the baking tray. I used only half the bread, so I'll make some more tomorrow when I've been to the shop for more eggs and milk! You can put some cinnamon in each layer, or just sprinkle the top layer with it.

Then return to your milky mix and give it a good stir before you pour it over the bread and put it in the oven for twenty to thirty-five minutes, depending on your preference. I like the tope slightly burned, so I had mine in for about half an hour.

Serve it with custard (see the second part of recipe LIII for details, or make some from an instant packet, like back at school!)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Recipe LXX - Lamb Cacciatore with Cellentani

To make up for last month's sparse amount of recipes, here is a midweek extra for you...
This Italian recipe is so easy and perfect for a romantic meal where you'd rather not spend all evening in the kitchen making, if you know what I mean... Anyhow, although lamb is the principal meat here, the true star of this recipe is the wild mushroom. It is a true flavour provider, and quite meaty, so you don't need too much lamb. I got mine from Poland in a jar, but if you go out picking your own, don't forget to take someone who knows a bit about wild mushrooms, as you don't want to have a romantic meal only to start seeing dancing purple squirrels and singing lemons...

1kg of leg or shoulder of lamb
1 long red pepper (of the sweet variety)
a minimum of 10 dried mushrooms (e.g. porcini)
5 cloves of garlic clove, crushed and chopped
some dried or fresh rosemary
some dried or fresh sage
1 tsp plain flour
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
about 250ml of hot water
10 roughly crushed black peppercorns

Pour boiling water over the mushrooms in a bowl until they are just about immersed. You can remove the mushrooms after fifteen minutes, Cut off the fat and skin from the outside of the lamb, then chop the lamb into bitesize pieces. Cut the pepper into small, long strips and chop the garlic and herbs.

Put some olive oil into a medium-hot casserole dish then add the lamb, and seal the outsides. The lamb will start leaking in to the oil, so that's what the flour is for. Put it in to soak up the liquid, along with some salt. Then add a little more oil and the red pepper, and soften it. Then put the herbs, peppercorns and garlic in. Shortly after, add the vinegar, and some hot water. Turn the heat right down and cook on a low heat for up to an hour. About twenty minutes before you serve up, put the wild mushrooms in.

Serve with one of the three Ps: polenta, potatoes or pasta. I had mine with cellentani, but farfalle or tagliatelle go well too.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Recipe LXIX - Parsley Sauce (on fish)

I'm not a great fan of fish. However, my favourite restaurant in the world is under London Bridge and is called "Fish! " and if you know someone who has a fishphobia, that's the place to take them. Their desserts are delicious too, and I'll do one of them soon. This tremendous English recipe, though, is so easy to make and thankfully gives you time to do the rest of your cooking.

400ml full cream milk
1 bunch of parsley, chopped (keep some of the stalks!!)
1 small onion
60g butter
Up to 150g plain flour
1 bay leaf
A mix of whole and crushed peppercorns
Some nutmeg or mace
a pinch of salt

Cut up your parsley, keeping some of the stalks. They are very, very flavoursome and give such a kick to the sauce. Let's be frank - you an either use a knife to cut it up or you can stick it in the blitzer. I stuck it in the blitzer.
Slice the onion in half. A small one is good as they're much more pungent. Put some milk into a saucepan, and add the parsley stalks, onion, peppercorns, nutmeg (or mace), the bay leaf and salt. Then very slowly heat it up to simmering point. Milk is notoriously volatile boiling, so you need to do this carefully.

After a few minutes of simmering, strain the larger bits out and leave the flavoured milk to cool. You can do your fish now. *See after the last photo below for a frying tip for your fish.

Once you are almost ready with the fish, it's time to make the sauce, and it'll take just a couple of minutes. Put your butter in a saucepan and in Béchamel-style, add the flour until it thickens. Once this happens, add the milk back bit-by-bit, allowing the fluidity to return, whisking as you pour it in.

Add the parsley to the mixture and continue to whisk.

Pour it on your potatoes and fish. I made mine very thick, but if you have a lot of visitors and you need a lot more, you just need to add more milk as you whisk. It won't affect the overall flavour. Some people add some lemon juice but I think it's fabulous without.

*TIP: If you decide to fry your fish, cut up some garlic and fry it in the olive oil for a couple of minutes before you add the fish. Remove the garlic first, as it'll just go black and give your fish a burned flavour.