Sunday, 25 November 2012

Recipe LXXXI - Potato, Carrot and Leek Stump

Today is Stir-up Sunday and I've been busy making this year's Christmas Pudding (see Recipe XXXV), so this week's recipe is very simple. I'm going through a side-dish period - last week was red cabbage, this week potatoes, carrots and leeks. If you want to get your kids to eat their vegetables, don't chuck it on the plate having boiled the Bejayzus out of it: put a little love in there. All you need is a bit of thought and attention to detail. This is a typically northern English recipe, but it is very well-known in other northern European countries. In Flanders, it is called Stoemp. You can replace the leek with swede (rutabaga), which is the purest northern English recipe.

6 potatoes
4 average-sized carrots
1 leek
50g butter
75cl milk
A hardish yellow cheese, like Cheddar or Grimbergen, cut into cubes (optional)
Some more butter for frying + olive oil
Salt & fresh ground black pepper

Cut the potatoes into boiling size, so a little bigger than the circle created by your thumb and forefinger. Slice the leek into rings and then in half. While the potatoes are boiling in salted water, fry the leek gently for ten minutes in some butter and olive oil with the sausages, which will give it some flavour, adding some salt and pepper.

Once the potatoes are nicely boiled, put some butter and milk in it, and mash it up into a consistency.

Then add the leek, mixing well. At this point, you can slip in some small blocks of cheese if you want. Serve with sausages and a nice sauce like mayonnaise, pickle or mustard.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Recipe LXXX - Czech-style Braised Red Cabbage with Roast Pork, Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

On 28th December, I will be returning to my true home, the place I feel most like me, the place that loves me like a favourite aunt, Prague. I will only be there for six days, but the knowledge I will return to Base Camp is what keeps me going every day through the dark hours. The Czech Republic is one of Europe's best-kept secrets when it comes to food. I decided to recreate one of the dishes that will fill my stomach when I arrive.

Ingredients for the cabbage:
1 red cabbage
1 piece of fennel, sliced, but not too small
10 peppercorns
2 apples, chopped
1 onion, cut into rings
1 glass cherry schnapps
1 litre beef stock, warmed up
1 knob of butter
(Sultanas are also good with this dish! You are also welcome to add other things that would suit it: red onions or shallots, parsnip, pumpkin,  whatever...)

Take a large saucepan and melt some butter in the bottom on a medium-low heat. Add the fennel, a little salt and stir until it sweats. Then the onions and peppercorns. Finally, add the apples 2 minutes before you put in the red cabbage. Stir continuously.

Add the cabbage and continue stirring for a good 5 minutes. This allows the vegetables to get softer without burning.

Put in a good 20cl of fruit schnapps. I used cherry, as it's also a red fruit. Allow it to bubble in the bottom, then continue stirring.

Add the beef stock and put on the lid. Turn the heat right down and allow everything to run for as long as two hours, always checking the liquid level. With the right saucepan, nothing should escape, and you should end up with a truly delicious jus.

I served it with roast pork belly with crackling, roast carrots and Brussels sprouts.

To get a hard roast pork skin:
All you need to do is put the oven on at a low 150°C, cut your pork skin at each end a couple of gashes (this hardens it more easily), not forgetting to rub salt over it, baste your pork in the oil, put the pork in the baking tray with the skin facing upwards, leave some butter on top of it and allow it to melt in the oven. After 45 minutes, you can add the sliced carrots and baste the pork a little more. After an hour, turn the heat up to 200°C. For extra crackliness to the skin, spread some honey or caramel on it 10 minutes before removing it from the oven.

To get a tasty Brussels sprout:
After boiling in salt water, pour out the water and put a knob of butter in the pan. Once sizzling, add the sprouts, stirring constantly. Put in some ground black pepper and grate some nutmeg over it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Recipe LXXIX - Irish Stew

The great comedian Spike Milligan once wrote:

"You must never bath in an Irish Stew.
It’s a most illogical thing to do.
But should you persist against my reasoning,
Don’t fail to add the appropriate seasoning."

And who could argue with that? This particular dish is too tasty to bathe in - I can't think of anyone who has ever eaten the contents of his/her bath, but it could be a new trend...
The ingredients of this dish are, like a lot of things Irish, a matter of hot dispute. The purists maintain that there is very little in it except lamb, onions and potatoes. But this is the 21st century and we can make our dishes a little more interesting, if just for the flavour.

A cut of lamb, usually the neck, but I used the shoulder because it had a lot of meat on it.
3 carrots
1 onion
1 fennel
4 potatoes
2 handfuls of green beans
500ml beef or lamb stock
500ml (or less) water
A sprig of rosemary

Take the lamb and cut it into manageable pieces - I cut them into 2-bite-sized pieces. In this way, you get to chomp off a bit of it later on the end of your fork. I love that.
Salt it and fry it in some oil in a casserole dish on a medium temperature. Once the lamb is sealed, add some rosemary to it. Then add the vegetables. Salt them and pour over the stock. Add some water if necessary.

Boil for between 90 minutes and 3 hours, checking every half-hour.

Serve in a wide, flat bowl.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Recipe LXXVIII - Spiced Pork Ribs

Supermarkets and food companies have one thing to thank for their success over the last 50 years - that the human being is inherently lazy. They know this, and that's what makes them able to control profits and sell you all kinds of stuff that you could easily make yourself. There are rows upon rows of ready-made foods: canned, packaged, frozen, even put in a bag for you and sold for a higher price than if you put it in your own bag. If you go to the meat counter, they'll even sell you a lump of meat with its own marinade. In Germany, this amounts to three flavours: brown flavour, orange flavour, or red flavour. Goodness knows what they taste like, but they're pretty distressing to lok at. I feel sorry for the poor animal who sacrificed its life only to find itself painted a gaudy luminous colour and sold for a ridiculous price.
For this healthy recipe, you need very little, and it's so cheap. For the same amount as the supermarket's price mark-up, you'll have enough of this stuff to last the rest of the year: and unlike its supermarket counterpart, it doesn't have a use-by date. Firstly, pay a visit to your local spice merchant - the local merchant deserves your business much, much more than any vast food wholesaler ever did.

Pork ribs, however many you need
33% cumin
33% ground coriander
33% tandoori massala
2 onions
Carrots, potatoes and other veggies
1 freezer bag
You need no salt for this recipe, as the spices provide the savoury flavours for you.

Switch on the oven to a low temperature of 150°C and put some oil in a baking tray.
Take the spices and mix them well in a bowl. Put a proportionate amount in the freezer bag, take one of the pork pieces and slide it in, giving the bag a good shake.

Massage the spices into the meat until it is totally covered. This has a second effect, tenderising the meat.

Halve the onions and put them in the baking tray. Lay the meat on top of the oil and onions. Put it in the oven for a minimum of one hour.

You can add parboiled carrots and potatoes to the roast a little later on. For the last 10 minutes, turn up the heat to 180°C to give it a crisp finish.

Serve with steamed vegetables and a nice bottle of Gew├╝rztraminer!