31 March 2015

British Rose Veal & Cauliflower Dhansak

This curry was really never meant to happen.  You see, we were doing a freezer audit yesterday when out came a plastic bag with what appeared to be meat in it.  The appearance looked for all the world like as though it was the other half of a roasted joint of meat, that we'd forgotten about and had been pushed to the back of the freezer.  I decided to defrost it and use it up over successive lunches, whatever it was.

Well, it turned out to be two lovely but raw British rose veal steaks.  Oops!

I was planning a lamb & cauliflower curry this week, so it occurred to me that to make it veal instead of lamb was no bad thing.  I'd never had a veal curry before and the thought appealed to me.

It had been ages since I made a home-spiced curry - that is, one where I choose the type and amounts of spices used, instead of one where we just use a Sharwood's curry paste for speed - and for all that the results can be a bit hit and miss, I thought I'd give it a go.

I had been intending to make the lamb curry one that was finished in the oven, rather than the speedier "on the hob" type of curries that we so often make and continued with that for the veal.  British rose veal is naturally very tender and as such not really suited to the more hurried "on the hob" type of cooking, which can either dry it out or toughen it.  You really need one of two ways with it - either quick cooking in a frying pan which doesn't allow it to toughen or longer, slower cooking that softens the fibres and gently encourages them to become tender, whilst retaining all the natural moisture in the meat.  So the long, slow, oven based cook was perfect.

One aspect of currying British rose veal did concern me, which was that I didn't want to lose the delicate flavour of the meat by bashing it over the head with curry spices.  However, for all that the sauce is right up there in the flavour department, the meat withstands it exceptionally well and if anything the flavour was enhanced rather than overpowered.  To make sure that your veal doesn't become swamped, make sure to cut your pieces into a decent size.  Ours were a decent forkful sort of sized and I'm quite sure that smaller pieces would easily have succumbed to the powerful flavours going on in the sauce.

I know that the spice list seems a bit daunting and over-long, but bear with it.  The riot of all those different flavours - coupled with the onion, garlic, veal and cauliflower - is really lovely and well worth the effort of digging them out of your spice rack and working your way through them.

The other thing that is very well worth doing, is toasting the three types of seed.  I know this seems like a faff and you find yourself thinking "well it can't affect the flavour THAT much, surely!", but it does.  It really does!  As such, you would be well advised to make the curry earlier on in the day, when you have more time to spare and aren't watching the clock so badly as at dinner time.  That way, you can take your time and carry each process out with care and a little bit of extra love, which will all tell when it comes to the eating.  At dinner time, just switch the oven back on, pop the casserole dish back in and give it a half hour to heat up.  In the meantime you can be cooking the rice and everything will happen in a relaxed and easy manner.  Perfect.

The end result is not a saucy, wet curry - but a hearty, filling curry that is best eaten with rice and maybe some poppadoms with chutney.  Definitely not a naan bread, dipping style kind of curry.  It is also quite light on the tummy from a fat point of view, as British rose veal is naturally very lean and no extra yoghurt or cream goes in.  However, it definitely isn't light on the tummy from a spices point of view!  So many of the spices used here are good for you in various ways, however, that instead of leaving you feeling heavy and sluggish, this curry can leave you feeling rather energised and you can almost feel it doing you good.

As the recipe stands, the curry is not a spicy hot one.  There is very little actual chilli goes into it - just a pinch of red chilli flakes and however much there is in the curry powder and Garam Masala.  So, if you like your curries rather more in the nose-meltingly spicy range, you might need to up the quantities of chilli flakes you add.

Also, please don't be tempted to drop the jaggery goor or brown sugar at the end of the curry.  The sugar is quite fundamental to the sweet/bitter flavour balance of the spices and without the added sugar, the curry might taste too bitter to your palate.  You can always add the sugar to taste and if you like it with less, or want to add more, then go ahead!  Everyone's taste buds differ.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating this curry - and I hope you enjoy it too.

I'm really quite proud to announce that this recipe has been awarded eRecipe.com's "Recipe of the Day"!



Ingredients :

1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
0.5 tsp fennel seeds
1.5 tsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp mild curry powder
a pinch of red chilli flakes
2 tbsp groundnut oil
500g British rose veal, trimmed and cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 baby onions, peeled & halved
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 tomato, chopped
1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes (a waxy potato such as Jelly is best)
1 baby cauliflower, divided into eight pieces
500ml veal stock
3 tbsp red lentils
1 heaped tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp jaggery goor, or light brown sugar.

Method :

1.  To begin with, make the spice mix by taking a small frying pan and adding the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds.  Dry fry the seeds until they are toasty, slightly coloured and fragrant.  Decant them into a pestle & mortar and grind them into powder.  Add the ground coriander, ground cinnamon, ground fenugreek, ground turmeric, ground ginger, curry powder and chilli flakes and mix to combine.  Set this mixture aside.

2.  Take a large high sided frying pan and add the oil over a high heat.  Once the oil is smoking hot, gently add the veal pieces and fry until caramelised on at least two sides.  Decant, using a slotted spoon, into a casserole dish (with a lid) and add the potato and cauliflower to the dish.

3.  Add the onion, baby onions and garlic to the pan and season with a pinch of sea salt and a good quantity of freshly ground black pepper.  Cook slowly over a moderate heat until the chopped onion is transparent but a light golden colour and just beginning to caramelise on the edges.  Beware of burning the garlic, so don't try to hurry this process by increasing the heat.

4.  Add the tomato and cook for a few moments to soften.

5.  Add the spice mix and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes until the raw edge has gone and the spices are smelling fragrant.

6.  Add the veal stock and stir to combine.

7.  Add the lentils, fenugreek leaves, Garam Masala and jaggery (or sugar).  Stir to combine, then once the sauce begins to thicken, taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

8.  Decant the sauce into the casserole dish and stir gently to make sure everything is coated.

9.  Add the lid and place into a pre-heated oven at 160degC/325degF/Gas 3 for 2 hours.

10.  Once the two hours are up, remove the lid and very gently stir the contents.  If necessary, add a little more boiling water to loosen the sauce - and serve with steamed basmati rice.

Printable version

16 March 2015

"Woodsy Quiche" - a creation for hubby's birthday

It was dear hubby's birthday this last weekend and he'd agonised for weeks - literally - over what to have for his birthday dinner.  Finally, the night before we went shopping for it and in what amounted to something of a desperate moment of being backed into a corner over the whole thing, he decided upon a quiche.

Not just any old quiche though.  He wanted a quiche that contained tiny sausage meat meatballs, along with chestnuts and a British white cheese.  Something of an artisan quiche, it seemed like!

Now I'm not exactly a dab hand with quiches, but I have made some creditable attempts at them in the past.  So I had a good idea of what to put with these ingredients to make a proper quiche-like texture and the additions of some curd cheese (bought from our local Polish shop), creme fraiche, a shallot and chives seemed to me to have the potential of doing the job.

We debated over adding mushroom, but didn't want the filling to become squishy.  Mushrooms are such a high percentage of water, this seemed highly likely unless they were fried off first and with the sausage meat, we were a bit leery of everything becoming too fatty.  Mind you, the sausage meat was 90% pork - so not much room for fat there.  As it turned out, I had a last minute good idea and added a couple of mushrooms as decoration - which because they were on top of the filling mix, were able to dry out under the fan of the cooker and so not cause any soggy problems.

Cooking and combining the ingredients for the filling was a simple matter of a bit of cutting and a-chopping, a little bit of rolling and frying and a lot of mixing - so no great difficulty there.  For some reason, the pastry had turned to concrete in our fridge (I think it may be turned up a little too cold) and it took a good few minutes of heaving and grunting over the rolling pin before it succumbed (warmed up, more like) and rolled out.  I was using a large quiche dish and had literally just enough pastry to line it, rolled really thin.  However, the thin pastry was a good thing, as it gave the filling lots of room to shine without having a mouthful of thick shortcrust pastry to contend with.

The flavours matched up really well.  The sausage meat loved the chestnuts, the chestnuts loved the cheese and the cheese loved the well seasoned egg mixture.

I don't recommend eating the quiche when it has just come out of the oven, as it is too bubbly then.  Allow it to calm down and cool to warm before you serve and it will be a lot more agreeable.  In fact, I ate the remainder for lunch today - cold - and it was excellent, so I can see the recipe would be well suited to a picnic or as a pot luck contribution, too.

I served ours with hubby's choice of vegetables; minted new potatoes, buttered asparagus and mange tout and it ate very well.  Cold, it would be just as nice with a potato salad and any number of green leafy or garden salads.

Summer is just around the corner, so why not tuck this recipe behind your ear for then!

I'm happy to announce that this recipe was "Recipe of the Day" for 1st April 2015 with eRecipe.com - and as such we have a badge to prove it!  Yay!


WOODSY QUICHE    (serves 5-6)

Ingredients :


165g plain flour
pinch of salt
75g butter (if you're using salted butter, leave the pinch of salt out), at room temperature
100ml or so of cold water.


3 eggs
100g curd or cottage cheese
100g creme fraiche
pinch of sea salt
half a tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped finely
100g chestnuts, halved
250g (4 sausages) of 90% pork sausage meat
100g good Wensleydale cheese, crumbled into pieces
10g chives, chopped
2 mushrooms, sliced, to decorate.

Method :

1.  Begin by mixing up the pastry.  I use a food processor for this, but you can do the entire process by hand if you wish, in which case rub the butter into the flour until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.  If using a food processor, add the flour, salt (if using) and butter and process for as short a time as possible, or until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Add the water little by little, mixing it through or by pulsing the processor and adding water in between pulses, until the dough has come together in a fairly dry, sandy, ball.

3.  Wrap the pastry in cling film and place into the fridge to rest for 20 mins minimum.

4.  In the meantime, mix up the filling.  Begin by rolling the sausage meat into tiny meatballs the size of your thumbnail.

5.  Then, pour the olive oil into a small pan and add the shallot.  Cook on a gentle heat until the shallot is beginning to soften, then remove it with a slotted spoon and reserve.

6.  Add the sausage meatballs and increase the heat a little.  Cook until the outer surface has turned golden on at least two sides.  There is no need to ensure the balls are cooked through.  Remove them and reserve to cool.

7.  Roll the pastry out and line your quiche dish.  Cover the pastry with some baking parchment cut to fit and pour in some baking beans or rice.  Place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas4 for 20 minutes or until the pastry has turned a light golden sandy brown.

8.  Remove the baking parchment and set the baking beans or rice aside to cool before going back into storage.

9.  Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk to combine.

10.  Whisk in the curd cheese, creme fraiche, shallot, chopped chives and seasoning.

11.  Add the chestnuts, sausage meatballs and crumbled cheese to the mixture and stir to combine.

12.  Pour the filling mixture into the casing and gently spread everything around evenly.

13.  Add the sliced mushroom in a decorative pattern atop the mixture and press lightly into the mix.

14.  Place into the oven (still at 180degC/350degF/Gas4) for some 30-40 minutes or until golden in colour on top and, when pressed, the surface feels firm.

15.  Set aside to cool slightly and serve warm, not directly from the oven.

Printable version

11 March 2015

Navarin of lamb - at long last!

Way, way back in the olden days (also known as "when I had horses"), I didn't have a lot of time for cooking but did have a great relationship with my slow cooker.  I would prepare the ingredients the night before, then throw them all into my little slow cooker, turn it on and leave it to chuckle all day while I was at work - much to the annoyance of my dogs, I dare say.  Coming home to a ready to eat meal, usually around 9pm and once I'd walked the dogs and put the horses to bed, was just such luxury.

One of my absolute favourite meals cooked this way was Navarin of Lamb.  However, not the authentic kind of Navarin of Lamb, but a Colman's Casserole Mix - yes, one of those from a sachet, just add water, pour over ingredients and cook.  I would whip up some mashed potato and cook some frozen runner beans and sit down to a fantastically comforting hot dinner.  Just perfect.

Then there came a bit of a hiatus in my lamb cooking as I swapped from horses and one person cooking, to babies and two persons (and a baby!) cooking.  Over the course of this period, eating lamb was a once in a blue moon experience owing to the price - we didn't have a lot of cash at the time.  Well, babies cost more than horses to run y'know.  Who'd have thought it!  So I lost touch with my favourite Navarin of Lamb and in the meantime, sadly Colman's decided to discontinue production of the casserole mix.  I never forgot that particular dish though - and would often hope that I'd be able to re-create it one day.

Over the years, various cuts of lamb came (largely due to special offers and money off counters) and were devoured.  However, none of them were really suitable for a voyage back in time to the lovely Navarin of the past.

I found recipes that seemed as though they would get close to how the casserole mix tasted, but there was always something missing.  I'd think about the recipe and, over the years, had pretty much got the recipe in mind.  All that I needed was the right cut of lamb - for the right price.

Then came Farmer's Choice (Free Range) Limited and as we got to know one another through working together over various recipes, I plucked up the courage to ask for the correct cut of lamb for my Navarin - the fillet (see here for details).  Lo and behold, two perfect fillets arrived for me to wreak creative havoc with.  I was in quiet transports of anticipation at finally being able to (fingers crossed) get back to the halcyon days of satisfyingly lamby deliciousness.

Now, if you look at various recipes and photographs of Navarin of Lamb on t'internet, you will see different cuts of meat, some bone in, some bone out, but largely all in a broth type of liquid, accompanied by spring vegetables of different shapes and sizes.  Yes, I am sure that is a perfectly authentic Navarin of Lamb, but the one I was aiming for was nothing like this.  (As is often the way with sachet casserole mixes).  I make no apology for this, because I was on the trail of a food memory, not authenticity.

My Navarin of Lamb was in a fairly thick sauce, that was orangey red in colour, contained flecks of herbs and tasted very lamby.  Nothing like these Navarins looked.  So I had to back-engineer the flavour that was in my memory.

I will admit that I included one ingredient that wasn't part of my memorised recipe, but was included in most up to date recipes - and that was beans.  Because I was aiming for a real comfort food vibe, I went for butter beans.  Is there anything nicer than butter beans for delivering that comforting substance in a casserole?  I don't think so.

I also wanted the flecks of herbage, but without being inundated with tasty greenness and as most recipes recommended the use of a bouquet garni, it made sense to follow along.  However, I also used some fresh parsley (love parsley) to give that "herbs in here" feel.

The flour in the recipe gave the sauce the opaqueness of the original casserole mix, while the tomato puree gave it the colour.  The real stroke of genius, that made the flavour just right, is the inclusion of the whole shallots.  Over the course of the cooking period, the small shallots just melt into the sauce whereas the larger ones stay around for a supporting role to the lamb once on the plate.

The long slow cook (even though it wasn't THAT long or slow) was perfect for this cut of lamb as it enabled the marbling through the meat to render down, adding its perfect lamb flavour to the sauce.  The meat was as tender as butter and the flavour was sublime.  All those years of virtual recipe development carried out in my head were worth every minute.  It was even better than I'd hoped and so very close to the original flavour that I'd held in my memory for all those years.  Satisfied?  I should say so!

I don't even have any cook's tips for you.  The recipe is so simple, it is difficult to imagine how it could go wrong for anyone, so long as you follow each instruction and include all the ingredients listed.

Even if you've experienced the authentic Navarin of Lamb, do give this one a go.  Comfort food at its best - and then some.

NAVARIN OF LAMB    (serves 2)

Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
300g lamb fillet (neck fillet is perfect), cut into centimetre thick medallions
1 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced finely
8-10 small shallots, peeled
15g salted butter
20g plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
pinch sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
600ml strong low salt lamb stock (Essential Cuisine lamb stock is perfect for this)
2 bouquet garni
400g tin of butter beans
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley.

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot.  Gently add the lamb pieces and leave them where they fall, to gain a golden crust.  Once the crust has formed, turn them onto their other side and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Remove to a casserole dish.

2.  Reduce the heat under the pan to moderate and add the onions, garlic and shallots along with a pinch of sea salt.  Cook until the onion (not the shallots) is transparent and softened - around 8-10 minutes.

3.  Add the butter and, once melted, the flour and tomato puree.  Stir to combine and cook gently for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to let it burn.

4.  Add one half of the stock and stir well to combine with the flour mixture without forming lumps.  Add the other half of the stock mixture and stir until a smooth, thickened sauce has formed.  You may need a little more stock or a little less, depending on your flour.

5.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt if required, plus a good helping of pepper, to taste.

6.  Stir in the two bouquet garni plus the drained butter beans and decant the sauce into the casserole dish.

7.  Stir to combine with the lamb, then add the lid and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160degC/325degF/Gas 3 for two and a half hours.  Check the casserole contents half way through, to make sure the liquid level is still good.  You can take this opportunity to give the contents a bit of a stir, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the casserole.

8.  Once the cooking time is up, remove the casserole dish from the oven and add all but a pinch of the chopped parsley.  Stir through and taste for seasoning, adding a little more if necessary.

Serve with the remaining parsley sprinkled over, with mashed potatoes, runner beans and carrots.

Printable version

9 March 2015

Pork, aubergine & porcini ragu - natural umami!

I have a very embarrassing confession to make. I can't remember what inspired hubby to make this Italian style, porky, auberginey, mushroomy deliciousness - not because I am singularly forgetful (which I am!), but because he made it *blush* on the 26th January 2013.  Yes, it is now the 8th of March 2015.  *hangs head in shame*  I'm a bit behind with some ~koff~ of my blog posts.

Because these "forgotten" posts (which aren't really forgotten, but have just slipped on by in the rush of other things) are burning their unsung presence into my brain, I have decided that I must bring them to the forefront of existence.  Hence, I am going to do my best to remember at least something of the why's and wherefores of their creation, but the more important thing is to get them out there where they can be enjoyed by others!

I do recall that hubby was really keen to make a dish which did justice to the wonderful woody, rich flavour of the porcini mushroom and who who better to pair it with than with pork?  After all, both of them live in wooded areas (well, given the chance the piggies would!).  The aubergine, we felt, would give the ragu a smokiness and subtle creaminess - and so it proved.  My memory of this ragu is of a really intensely mushroomy, savoury, umami-filled forkful that was both satisfying from a comfort food angle and complex from a flavour angle.  It wasn't a simple combination of flavours, but one that developed on the tongue depending on how much of what was in your forkful.  Now you don't find that every day!

I have a few Cook's Tips for you with regard to this one :

Firstly, when you're char-grilling the aubergines, always oil the aubergines and not the pan.  Aubergines are total sponges and will soak up as much oil as you want to give them, so make sure to brush on just enough to help them to cook, or you'll end up with a greasy ragu.

Secondly, with regard to soaking the Porcini mushrooms.  When it comes to adding them to the dish, take care not to disturb the bottom of the soaking liquid.  Porcini's are renowned for containing little pieces of grit which will sink to the bottom of the bowl as the dried mushroom softens.  Pour the liquid gently and leave the last little bit in the bowl and you will be as sure as you can be, that your ragu will be grit free.

Lastly, be aware that as the ragu sauce reduces, the intensity of salt and pepper will change accordingly, so be sparing with the salt to begin with.

We didn't serve ours with any Parmesan cheese for sprinkling, but if you particularly enjoy a dash of Parmesan, then by all means feel free.  The flavours can certainly cope!

I have just received notification that this recipe has been awarded "Recipe of the Day" by eRecipe.com!  ~curtseys and composes a winner's speech~



Ingredients :

Olive oil

500g minced pork
1 large aubergine, cut into 7mm slices and chargrilled
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful dried
porcini mushrooms, soaked in a little boiling water
3 chestnut mushrooms
75ml red wine
500ml pork stock (or 1 pork stock cube, dissolved in 500ml water)
400g tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried sage
half a tsp smoked paprika
half a tsp dried basil
half a tsp dried rosemary
a dash of Worcestershire sauce

sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Method :

1.  Firstly, prepare the aubergines.  Using a blisteringly hot griddle pan, barbecue or cooker grill, cook the aubergine slices until they are softened, ideally with dark griddle marks.  Once cooked, place onto a plate, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool.

To make the Ragu :

2.  Dry fry the minced pork in a large wok or deep frying pan until lightly browned, then remove from the pan and set aside.

3.  Add a little olive oil to the pan and cook the shallots, chestnut mushrooms and garlic until soft but not coloured.

4.  Return the pork to the pan and turn the heat up to high.  Once the pan is sizzling, add the red wine and stir for five minutes to allow the majority of the alcohol to cook off.

5.  Add the tomato puree and stir well to combine with the pork for a couple of minutes.

6.  Now add the paprika, herbs, tinned tomatoes and stock.  Bring the pan to a lively simmer before adding the porcini mushrooms along with their soaking liquid.

7.  Season with the Worcestershire sauce and simmer until the ragu sauce has reduced to a thick consistency.  Once at your preferred consistency, taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Serve with freshly cooked pasta.

Printable version

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...