Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lamb Stew and Suet Dumplings

Mmm, yum. This made a fabulous Sunday lunch on a clear, crisp and chilly day. It uses a reasonably cheap cut of lamb, so it requires slow cooking, but the flavour and texture is wonderful.

I bought two lamb shanks, which rightfully feeds about 3 people. Lamb is great at this time of year, much better than in the spring, having had a lovely summer roaming free to express natural lammy behaviour.

Chop up a big onion, a couple of sticks of celery and a few cubed carrots along with several cloves of garlic. Add them to hot oil in a large pan, give them a quick stir, and then drop in your lamb shanks. Let them brown all over before adding a big glug of red wine and 500ml (2 pints) lamb stock, or whatever stock you have to hand.

Bring up to a simmer and add a cup (or tin) or cannellini beans, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of bay leaves. Leave to cook, lid on, over a low heat for 1 hour.

After an hour, give it a good stir and add cubed parsnips or potatoes, I had some brocolli and cauliflower stems so I cubed and added them in as well. A big dollop of redcurrant jelly really helps the gravy along too.

After another half an hour, add in some whole mushrooms and green veg like broccoli, savoy cabbage, peas, green beans or whatever you happen to have. Give it a good grinding of black pepper and salt to taste.

To make the dumplings, the ratio is twice as much self-raising flour to suet. For two people, I used 80g flour to 40g vegetable suet, with a pinch of salt, brought together with a few spoonfuls of cold water. Roll them into balls about the size of a golfball and plonk them on top of the casserole. Put the lid back on and leave to cook for 20 minutes until they've puffed up.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Buying and Roasting Wild Grouse

From the 12th of August, grouse season begins and greedy game-lovers like myself start to think about the wonderful juicy birds who will shortly grace our kitchens. Grouse usually gets cheaper as the season goes on and, by October, it's possible to get a brace from well-managed suppliers for around £16.

There is a dark side to gamebird production and the larger the shoot that produced your bird, it certainly sounds as though it will be less likely to have been managed ethically. Still, it is a good thing that you are able to buy it - historically, some estates have been known to avoid the hassle of selling the hundreds of poor creatures that their wealthy clients have killed in a shoot, instead ploughing them into the ground like so much landfill - a despicable practice and one that, hopefully, is now in decline.

There is also a wide gap between the rearing methods of estates: some hens are kept, and chicks raised, in little better than battery conditions and enjoy only the briefest weeks as outdoor birds. Some though, are luckier, and get to live a relatively long and completely natural life with as quick and skilled an end as can be given them. There are decent gamekeepers out there, who strive to be both conservationists and welfare champions, it's just worth asking a few questions before you buy.

Some questions to ask a game supplier:
  • Are all of your birds from the UK or do you deal in imports?
  • Under what conditions are laying hens kept, if not in the wild? 
  • What is the survival rate in the hatchery where birds are kept after hatching? How much space per bird is given? Are "bits" (masks over the beaks) used?
  • How shortly after hatching are the birds released into the wild, if they are not born in the wild?
  • Are the bird's diets supplemented? If so, by how much and are soya pellets used?
  • Are the birds killed in large-scale commercial shoots?
  • Is every bird shot carefully collected and offered for sale or eaten?
  • How are predators (such as foxes, badgers, otters, weasels and birds of prey) and competitors (such as deer, rabbits and hares) managed?

I get mine from Hampshire Game, via Abel & Cole. I asked them about their birds and they replied that their birds are "not reared or released by the gamekeepers but grow up in their natural environment on the moors", making some of the questions above automatically inapplicable to their business. The grouse eat "young heather as a food source, they are supplemented with natural grit by gamekeepers". All of the birds shot on their estate are collected and sold as game. 
They believe that "the wild game population benefit the eco-system in their own way for example the deer population eating the heather allows young heather shoots which all wild birds will then thrive off.  All [of their] gamekeepers are aware of these things so do not allow a population of one species to grow too big or too small."
Anyone can visit the estate, whether on business or for pleasure, due to the "Right to Roam" Act (UK legislation), which applies to moorland.

So, assuming you have managed to procure a couple of tasty birds, here is a really good way of serving them!

Bacon-wrapped Roast Grouse with Bread Sauce, Recurrant Gravy & Buttered Savoy Cabbage

Heat up the oven to 200 degrees and take the birds out of the fridge to come up to room temperature. When the oven is hot put a baking tray in with some oil to heat up.

Slice up half a small onion and put to one side. Pat down the birds with kitchen paper and rub them inside and out with a mixture of butter, thyme, salt and pepper and lay bacon over the top.
Take the tray out of the oven and put the onions in to form a layer between the birds and the tray. Pop the birds on top and put back in the oven for 20-40 minutes, depending on their size.
Grouse is traditionally served a bit rare and we didn't wait for the juices to run clear. Instead we did the same test as for steak, pressing the breast with a finger to judge how firm it was.

To make the bread sauce put half a pint of milk in a saucepan with a couple of bay leaves, the other half of the onion studded with a couple of cloves, a few peppercorns and a peice of mace. Warm up to almost boiling, but don't actually bring it to the boil. Take off the heat and leave to cool down.
Slice the crusts off a few slices of stale white bread and cut into small cubes. Pour the cooled milk liquid over, straining it as you do. Mix and mash with a fork. Put this mixture to one side until the grouse are cooked.

When ready, get the grouse out of the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes. Get some sliced savoy cabbage on to steam.

Put the bread sauce mixture back into a saucepan and add a few knobs of butter and a good grating of nutmeg. Heat up on a low heat.

Put the, now empty, baking tray over a low heat and add a glug of red wine and a splash of hot water to the juices. Scuff the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift all of the grousy residues and caramelised onions. Add a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and stir until melted into the gravy.

Serve up a heap of bread sauce and cabbage with each grouse, melting some butter into the cabbage and topping with ground pepper. Pour the gravy over the cabbage and around the plate. Enjoy!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Homemade Fish Fingers

Even people who don't generally like fish will often eat fish fingers quite happily. I'm not sure whether these are truly fish fingers or are really goujons - or are those just two ways of saying essentially the same thing? They are very easy to make, though, and contain only things that I wanted them to: sustainable fish with organic breadcrumbs, flour and eggs.

I bought some gurnard fillets and they worked beautifully, being quite meaty and holding together really well during cooking. Gurnard is rated 2 by the Marine Conservation Society.

So, first slice the fish into finger-sized peices. Lay out three saucers or bowls and fill the first with plain flour, the second with a beaten egg and the third with some breadcrumbs. Coat each peice of fish in the flour, then with egg and finally the breadcrumbs. That's basically it!

Heat up a frying pan with some oil and cook the first side, without moving them, until brown and crispy, then flip over and do the other side. Fish cooks pretty quickly so expect them to be ready in 5-10 minutes depending on how thick the fish is.

I just put them with curly fries and broccoli with a bit of ketchup but I'm planning to make fish finger sandwiches at some point with tartare sauce.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Salmon with Sorrel Sauce

I knew that I wanted to cook something along these lines, after seeing a recipe in Raymond Blanc's "Simple French Cookery" and noticing how much the sorrel had grown in the garden. However, for a mid-week meal, not even I could excuse lashings of cream in the sauce nor the junior role of vegetables in the dish.

I substituted half-fat creme fraiche for the cream, added celery, leeks and extra tomatoes to the sauce and served up a kohl rabi bake on the side. It's a weird looking vegetable, makes me think of daikon/mooli in taste - a bit radishy. It's not my favourite but what's in the fridge must get eaten!

If you are making the kohl rabi bake, skin and finely slice the vegetable and layer the slices into a baking dish, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Pour over enough vegetable stock to almost cover them and grate some parmesan over the top. Pop in the oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour, until the vegetable is tender. 

First, chop up your alliums (in my case a purple onion and a couple of leeks), and a stick of celery. Put a frying pan on the heat with some oil and cook them until softened.

Pour 100ml of white wine into a saucepan and add the cooked vegetables, stir in and bring up to a boil to cook out the alcohol. Add two diced tomatoes and a big bunch of de-stemmed and sliced sorrel, along with half a pot of creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season well and cook until the sorrel leaves have wilted, then add a little chopped parsley. If you don't have sorrel, substitute any leafy green and an extra squeeze of lemon.

Season the salmon fillets with salt, pepper and parsley, coating them in oil prior to cooking. Heat up a frying pan and wipe round with oil, when very hot, lay the fillets in skin-side down and cook without moving them until the sides start to turn opaque. Flip them over and cook for another minute or so until the flesh has only just turned opaque the whole way through.

Put the chunky sauce on the plate and some of the bake, then lay the salmon, crispy skin up, on the top.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lamb Burgers with Houmous, Courgettes & Mozzarella Salad

This is a great easy-to-prepare and healthy-ish dinner, perfect at this time of year when courgettes and tomatoes are filling the weekly veg box. Lamb is also at its best in autumn, after spending a whole summer fattening up on rich pastureland and frolicking about in the outdoors.

If you're a veggie then this would work just as beautifully with my homemade veggie burgers
The Lamb Burgers
Just in case plain lamb-and-mint doesn't tickle your fancy, I have a more summery recipe with redcurrants here.
These burgers are very simple, you just need 250g minced lamb, a small onion diced very small, a crushed garlic clove, some chopped mint and parsley, salt and pepper. Squish together in a bowl until thoroughly mixed and then form into two patties.
Grill or pan-fry until cooked through, although if the meat is very fresh these are lovely served a little bit rare in the middle.

The Houmous
Homemade houmous is so wonderful because you can tweak it according to your own tastes - extra lemony if you like that, a super hit of garlicky goodness if that's your thing, spicy or cool, smooth or textured; whatever you like best.

You need a tin of chickpeas, rinsed under the tap, and plonked into a food processor. Add to this a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, a couple of tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed paste) plenty of salt and the juice of a lemon

Whizz these up and then, with the processor still running, start to pour olive oil through the "chimney" in the lid. Try a couple of glugs to begin with and keep stopping to taste the mixture, adding more seasoning, lemon and olive oil until it's exactly how you want it. Spoon out into a bowl and top with paprika.

The Courgettes
You need to thinly slice your courgettes, approximately one small courgette per person, using a mandolin or sharp knife.

Melt some butter and a little oil in a large frying pan and gently saute the courgettes until they have softened but still retain some bite. Season well with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper.

The Salad
Easiest recipe there is! Slice some ripe tomatoes and a ball of buffalo mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Chicken Teriyaki Bento

Teriyaki is, alongside katsu curry, one of my husband's favourite Japanese dishes. I think it's pretty popular although not many people cook it at home, perhaps because it sounds like it might be complicated, but it is really one of the simplest meals that I make.
This time I made it into bentos for lunch, but it makes a fabulous dinner as well.

I got the ratios for teriyaki sauce from Harumi Kurihara's book "Japanese Home Cooking", but as there's only two of us and this is just lunch, this is half the amount from her recipe. Pop 100ml mirin into a saucepan and heat up for a few minutes, then add 50ml shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and 1 tbsp of caster sugar and simmer for a couple more minutes. That's it - teriyaki sauce.

De-bone a couple of chicken thighs and pan fry with just a suggestion of oil wiped around the pan. Do the skin side first and cook without moving until the skin is really nice and crispy, then flip them and cook for a few more minutes before pouring the teriyaki sauce into the pan and leaving them to gently bubble away for five or so minutes. 

Put the chicken to one side to rest and keep the remaining sauce to drizzle over the chicken and rice, once they're in the bento.

Cook some rice (good instructions for stove-top steamed rice here) and a couple of vegetable sides to go with it. I've done sesame chard leaves and steamed chard stems. In the box I added a couple of cherry tomatoes and a small handful of grapes for variety and extra vitamins. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Homemade Filet O'Fish (with Sweet Potato Mash)

There are times in everyone's lives when the comforting appeal of junk food, especially those we enjoyed as children, is just too much to ignore.

Although a lot of these commercial food giants are, outwardly at least, making some changes to their businesses - such as switching from polystyrene boxes to recycled cardboard - there is still a lot of work to be done, from animal welfare to factory conditions, before their products could be judged hedonethical.

Here's one of my old favourites, the ubiquitous "filet o'fish", in a healthier, more ethical and homecooked format. I served it with sweet potato mash, instead of chips.

Instead of a deep fried fish waffle (well, I think they look like waffles) I used fishcakes and even cheated on the making of them and bought these ones, I also cheated on the buns and bought organic poppyseed topped white rolls. If I was less lazy I could have made both, but the plan was for an easy dinner that was naughty, but not as naughty as buying from a fast food place.

The fishcakes were easy to cook in a hot pan with oil, the important thing was to not move them around until the bases were properly crisp and browned, this avoids them sticking to the pan. 

I toasted the buns but would be curious to see how it would work out if we steamed them afterwards, as the fast food chain does. I couldn't be bothered with this extra step but it didn't matter, they still tasted great.

I chose red leicester cheese as it has the better qualities of processed cheese, like the way it melts, whilst still being proper cheese. After toasting the buns it was just a matter of laying slices of cheese on the base of each and grilling them until melted.

Tartare sauce is equally easy: just mix some chopped sweet cucumber / dill pickles and finely chopped capers and chopped parsley into mayonnaise and season with salt, pepper and sugar (optional) to taste.

Sweet potato mash just involves peeling the potatoes, cutting into chunks and pre-boiling them. Drain them and add butter, salt and pepper and mash them up.

So, yes, this isn't *exactly* what you'd get if you walked through those plastic arches, but I think it tastes better, fills you up for longer and still gives you that comforting hit of carbs, fat, salt and sugar.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Hedonethical Kitchen is now on Facebook

Just a super quick post to let you all know that there is now a Facebook page for my kitchen!

Please check it out and "like" it (if you do), and definitely feel free to post comments - I would love to see some dialogue to go with those page views.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Baked Fish Italian Style

I used sardines in this recipe but I really think mackerel would have been loads better, just because sardines have lots of tiny bones which are hard to make out under the topping. 

I suspect white fish would also work well with this. I got the inspiration from a recipe in "Two Greedy Italians".

First of all gut, fillet and pin bone your fish and lay the fillets side-by-side in a well oiled baking tray. Cover with lots of breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, parsley, basil and a thinly sliced mild chilli or bell pepper. 

Drizzle over some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees C, for about 25 minutes.

This was lovely with a watercress, tomato and cucumber salad.