Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Recipe CVI - Pork Belly Stew with Honey and Beans

How do you know when a recipe is fully rounded or not? When you have adapted it three or four times to reach the right flavour and ingredients. This recipe will take some time before it reaches its roundedness, but here is a good base from which to adapt. It is extraordinarily simple to make and your house will smell utterly delicious for hours.

Ingredients (for four people):
A medium-sized ceramic or cast iron casserole dish with a lid
Some butter for frying
500g sliced pork belly, cut into strips or left whole - your choice
4 potatoes
4 large cloves of garlic
1 onion
A cup of broad beans (but chick peas, lentils or something similar will also do)
A cup of yellow peas*
A bouquet garni (fresh herbs - sage, rosemary, thyme, etc...)
Some coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of honey
Salt and water

*fresh yellow peas are rock hard and you should either leave them to soak in water overnight before you use them, or you should cook them for at the very least 2 hours. I chose the latter, as it fit the recipe.

Switch the oven on to about 170°C. Put 2 of the garlic cloves in some butter and allow it to brown. Then remove the garlic from the oil. This will give your casserole a hint of garlic without overpowering it.

Then add the pork with a dusting of salt. Brown it until sealed, then add the black pepper, onion, the rest of the garlic and bouquet garni.

Give it a stir, allow the onion to sweat a little, then put in the yellow peas, broad beans, potatoes and honey. Give it a very good mixing so the yellow peas sink to the bottom. Add water until almost to the level of the ingredients, a good shake of the salt pot and bring it to the boil.

You can then put it into the oven. Give it a minimum of 2 hours, keep trying the yellow peas as they will be the last to be ready. Everything else will be so succulent and moist, and should have a prevailing taste of honey without being overbearing.

Take it out of the oven every 30-45 minutes to fill up with water and to add a sprinkle of salt.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Recipe CV - Chicken Breast in Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Sauce

Sorry for the recent lack of posts - I've had quite a lot to do recently renovating the house, painting and whatnot, and then there's the little matter of work. But now I have a dry run through to October, so I hope to pick up a little more momentum...

This recipe is so easy and a real crowd pleaser, going really well alongside the rocket salad recipe of last time. I bought a metallic frying pan last year specifically for meats. One of those that gets rustier the longer you use them. They cook meat really well and I couldn't ever imagine not using one for this type of dinner. 

2 to 4 chicken breasts
Some thinly diced bacon
An onion
Some sliced mushrooms
Some cream
Some black peppercorns
Some Italian pasta or Greek krithiraki, potatoes or rice
*no salt!!!

Slice the chicken breast exactly as you like it. I prefer large pieces for this, but there is something to be said for fork-sized pieces. Fry the chicken breast in a little olive oil. Keep turning and pressing all the time. Season the chicken with some of the pepper. Add the bacon and onions for about five minutes before transferring them to their own pan.

Add the mushrooms and a little more pepper. After some time you will need to add the cream. Do you want to reduce the sauce? Put it in early. Do you want to have a lot of cream? Put it in 5-10 minutes before serving.

In the meantime, boil the pasta, and keep turning the chicken!!
To present, this is the perfect recipe to think about ways of making the dish attractive and appetising. I like to serve the sauce in a round mini-bowl on the plate, so people can make up their minds where to pour it. Some like it on their meat, some on their side dishes, me all over...

The sauce is salty enough, so don't worry about that. It is just the base - do some experimenting: you could also add ground or whole green peppercorns, white wine or so many other things to it.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Recipe CIV - Rocket Salad

A few days ago, I read something from a Mr Lobstermuncher of Beckenham, Kent, along the lines of "Rocket Salad is rubbish", or words to that effect. Anyhow, I beg to disagree, Mr Lobstermuncher. Rocket salad is really tasty, but that means doing something with it. I have often wondered why kids don't want to eat veggies and salad - if they're so dull and lifeless, I wouldn't want to eat them either. I mean, you wouldn't have ever drunk tonic on its own unless you had spent some time convalescing in the 19th century, so that's why people add vodka or gin. The same goes for salads. Most leaf salads are quite bitter if you do nothing to them. Here's a little suggestion using ingredients nearly everyone has in their kitchens, or are easy to obtain.

Some rocket salad

Some olive oil
Some balsamic vinegar
(Oil : Balsamic ratio = 3 : 2)

1-2 tsp brown sugar in a bowl
20-30 raisins or sultanas
4-5 hazelnuts
Some ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic (cut into pieces)
Some grated slices of hard cheese like Cheddar, Parmesan, Manchego, Leicester, etc...

Take the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, the pepper and garlic, and pour them in the bowl with the sugar. Give them a gentle swirl with a spoon until it's all mixed up.

Take your hazelnuts and crush them with your finger, sprinkling half into the bowl with the salad, and half into the oil and vinegar mix. Cut up half of the sultanas and put them in the oil and the whole ones in the salad. Mix up the salad, then taste the oil mixture and add more of what you think (maybe sugar, maybe oil or vinegar), then pour it all over the rocket salad and toss until all the leaves are saturated.

Finally, add the cheese on top and serve with your main course!

Cherry tomatoes go very well with this dish, as do Mozzarella, basil, chives and a lot of other ingredients. If someone says, "But I don't like .....," just remember that when it's mixed up with other ingredients, it probably tastes fine. But you're going to put people off for life if you serve certain things on their own!