Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Kinda Carbonara

This isn't really carbonara in the truest sense, it's a carbonara inspired leftover-ham-dinner, it was pretty tasty though.

The sauce is dead simple, you just need some kind of cured pork like ham or bacon for the main flavour. I used a few slices from the Christmas ham, which is still good for the moment but is probably on its last legs so it needs using up.

Fry up a little garlic and thinly sliced purple onion with a finely diced red chilli. When soft add in thickly sliced mushrooms and the pork, let them cook through.

Add the juice of half a lemon and a good sized slosh of single cream. Season with lots of black pepper and chopped parsley then serve mixed in with some lovely fresh pasta. Doddle.


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Steak and Kidney Pie

This is another great winter dinner, although it does take a bit of effort to make. It can be expensive or cheap, depending on which cut of beef you use.  

Skirt steak (bavette) was awesome when I tried it on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's advice (in the River Cottage Meat book), so if you can get it maybe try that, otherwise any stewing cut will do - long slow braising before the main bake is the key.

You also need some kidneys, lamb or calves is fine, but be very aware of the source as some calves liver will come from inhumanely treated veal calves, imported to the UK. There's a little bit more info about this in my earlier liver, onion & colcannon post.

I was feeding four fairly greedy people (including myself!) and used two 360g packs of beef skirt and six lamb's kidneys. This was enough to allow for two people coming back for seconds! Use scissors to snip them into bitesized chunks before rolling them in well seasoned flour and pan-frying in batches.

When all the meat has been browned, tip everything into a large pan, then fry up a large, thickly sliced onion in the juices, deglaze with red wine (a good, large glassful) and put this mixture into the casserole pan as well. Finally, add a couple of bay leaves, a dollop of English mustard, a dash of worcester sauce, a tablespoon of ketchup and a pint of really good beef stock.

You can now partially cover the pan and leave to simmer slowly for a good hour and a half. Add in a punnet of halved or whole mushrooms (chestnut are my favourite) for the last 15 minutes.Take the mixture off the heat and season it to taste.

Line your pie dish with puff pastry and pile the filling in. Cover with more puff pastry and any design you like on top, then brush all over with beaten egg. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and bake the pie for another hour. 
Serve with mashed potatoes and green veg, such as kale.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Balsamic Beetroot Soup

This is an easy, warming soup which uses up a bunch of lonely beetroot from the bottom drawer of the frdge. It was inspired by a recipe in the new HFW book "River Cottage Veg Everyday", but I pretty much completely changed the character of it based on what I had available.

Roast your beetroots with a few garlic cloves in the oven at 180 for about 45 mins to an hour, coated in oil and alongside some thyme leaves, a bay leaf, salt, pepper and a slosh of water. When ready, skin them and chop into smallish pieces.

Fry up an onion in a saucepan until soft, then add the beetroot and a pint (500ml) of stock. Bring up to a boil and then keep at a simmer on a low heat for ten minutes or so.

Season well with salt and pepper, then with a small dash of worcestershire sauce *, a squirt of lemon juice and a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If the brew still tastes "unfinished", try a small blob of redcurrant jelly - it worked for me.

Shove the lot into a blender and process until smooth. Pour into bowls and finish with a swirl of cream and some fresh chopped parsley.

* btw, in case you didn't know, you can now get vegetarian worcestershire sauce if you are so inclined. I found this one on the internet, but am sure I also saw one in Waitrose the other day.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Ragu (Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta)

Ragu is a hearty, happy dish with bags of flavour and is a lot less work than might be expected. I do feel that it needs a fresh egg pasta to do it justice, but that might just be me and my penchant for rich food! Tagliatelle is certainly a fabulous type of pasta for this sauce either way.

This is my made-up version of ragu, it isn't nearly as good as my Mum's but hers has a list of ingredients that fills a an A4 page and takes hours to cook... this one is a speedy little number which still manages a beautiful flavour and a great texture. The amount below serves two hungry people, with just enough left over for one of you to have lunch the next day.

So, dice an onion, a stick of celery and a couple of garlic cloves and set them to gently fry in a pan. When they're softened, add in half a pack of mince (about 250g) and give it a good stir. Once that's going brown, add in a tub's worth of chopped chicken livers and keep stirring to brown those as well.

Throw in a diced carrot and a couple of bay leaves, and a glass of red wine. Let that bubble for a bit before topping up with a tin of tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato puree and a large pinch of dried oregano. Add a little water to help form a sauce and leave to simmer for as long as you can manage - a good half hour at least.

Finally, season with salt and pepper before serving with hot pasta.