Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Recipe LXXXIV - Slow Roasted Lamb in a Rosemary and Red Wine Sauce

Making Christmas dinner for everyone is my yearly task and every year I try and outdo the main course from the year before. If I think of something new, I try to add to the other courses. At the weekend, I tried out my new enamel roasting tin, to see if it gives me inspiration for this year. And you know what? It wasn't bad. Here are the results.

500g-700g lamb (leg, shoulder, etc.) with the bone
A slice of butter, kneaded with rosemary and whole black peppercorns
Half a bottle of red wine (Greek or south Italian, for a fruity, less acidic taste
4 tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
8-15 potatoes, fairly whole
4 large carrots
2 bay leaves
3 onions, quartered

Turn the oven on to about 150°C. Take your roasting tin and coat it in a layer of butter. Although it is enamel and self-basting, this will make sure, as producers are a little over-confident in their own products' capabilities. So, peel your potatoes, cut your carrots. You can parboil them or you can leave them unboiled and put them later straight in the roaster. Anyhow, take the butter, rosemary and peppercorns, and grind into a consistency. Spread it out on the top of your lamb and put it in the roaster, alone, for 15 minutes.

Put two of the onions, the carrots, the potatoes and bay leaves in the roaster and cook for a further half and hour to 45 minutes.

Before you remove it from the oven, get your tomatoes and red wine, plus more rosemary and the last of the onions. Give them a good blitzing in the mixer.

Pour the liquid around the outside of the roaster, leaving the lamb untouched.

Put it back in the oven for at least an hour, removing the lid for the last 20 minutes and serve the meat thickly sliced.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Recipe LXXXIII - Venison Steaks in Brandy Sauce with Spätzle

German food. In terms of oxymorons, it ranks alongside French self-deprecation, Scandinavian beach resorts and beautiful Belgian scenery. What is Germany's greatest contribution to food? The hamburger? Not in the least. The schnitzel, maybe? That was stolen from the Czechs. The frankfurter, possibly? If you can find any meat in it. The apple strudel? Strong contender if it wasn't originally Czech too.

No, amongst all the stodge, the greatest contribution the Germans have made to food is their cakes. The Black Forest gâteau being exhibit number one. But amongst all the cream and fruit, there lies an alternative German cuisine that never raises its head above all the commercial stuff: their pasta. German pasta? Yep. And it's quite good. Spätzle is like short linguine, but unlike the Italian version, it can also be fried and is much more satisfying to the stomach. This recipe is one of my own, although I am sure variants exist.

Ingredients and instructions for the venison:
500g venison, cut into steaks or medaillons
2 tablespoons of cinnamon in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of flour (1:2 ratio, depending on your need)
10 peppercorns, black, ground
Salt the venison a little.

Put the flour, cinnamon and pepper into a flat bowl and mix until homogeneous.

Roll the venison in it, then set the meat aside (fridge) for a while, whilst you cut up the vegetables.

Ingredients for the sauce:
4 shallots or small onions
Some porcini mushrooms
Some whole black peppercorns
Some currants, sultanas or raisins
2 apples, diced
Some red berry confit (blackcurrant, redcurrant or something similar)
Some old-style mustard (seeds included)
Some thyme
A glass of brandy

Fry the steaks and onions/shallots in butter for a few minutes, then remove the meat. Add the whole peppercorns, and stir until they puff up. Then add the mushrooms, raisins and apples, and stir for a minute or two before you add the brandy, which will hiss and bubble with an aroma that should make small animals pass out, so put a lid on top and reduce the heat. About 5 minutes later, add a spoonful of mustard and confit, and some thyme. Keep on the lid and allow the liquids to run. You can put the venison steaks back on top, to integrate. Do not fear, the cinnamon exterior remains.

While that is going on, boil your spätzle. This takes between 10 and 12 minutes. Don't believe the packets in Germany which tell you to boil pasta for 2 minutes longer than necessary. Germans like soggy, runny pasta apparently.
As a nice touch, when you serve, why not put the spätzle all round the outside and fill up the middle with your sauce, putting your venison on top?

This goes well with a young, tart red wine from Navarra or northern Italy.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Recipe LXXXII - Homemade Burgers and Potato Wedges

One thing I really appreciate in the UK is proper unassuming pub food. Burger, potato wedges and mayo please my taste buds far more than anything from a fancy restaurant. And that's not only because of the food, but because of the atmosphere of the place. The people there are far more accessible, the service is (usually) with a smile and the food is filling. Plus you don't get stared at if you eat your short pasta with a spoon. This recipe is so simple and takes twenty minutes to prepare and half an hour to cook.

Ingredients (for 2 people)
500g minced beef
1/2 an onion (finely chopped)
A spoonful of thyme
A spoonful of oregano
5 cloves of garlic (chopped - optional)
10 peppercorns (crushed)
Some salt
1 egg
A tablespoon of flour
10 smallish potatoes, cut into wedges

Put your beef in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, onion, herbs and peppercorns, and give it a really good mix. Then add the egg, which acts as a binding agent.

Once everything is mixed in well, divide them into two balls and put them on a lightly-floured plate and put some flour on top. Flatten them with a spatula or the ball of your hand to the thickness you require. I like mine thick, so I cook mine for longer, but it's up to you.

Put it in a buttered, non-stick pan and fry until done. I like mine slightly burnt on the outside, so for the last ten minutes I turn up the heat.

For the potato wedges, I'm sure you know how to do them, but anyway - heat up some oil in a deep pan. While it is getting nice and hot, cut the potatoes into fairly large pieces. Wash and dry them. The easiest way to dry them is to put them on a towel and dab them. Pick them up to put them into the frying basket, then deep-fry them for five minutes. This is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Remove the basket for a while and put it back in for four minutes. Remove again, then three, repeat, two, and just before serving, one minute. They will be lovely and crispy by then!

I served it with a mix of fennel and onion, plus a good spoonful of mayonnaise.