Monday, 3 November 2014

Italian Rabbit Stew

We've been meaning to have rabbit for a while now but weren't too sure what the kids, and 6 year old Big Boy in particular who once tried to release a baby crab from a paella back into the sea, would make of the idea.

By coincidence, I had only just listened to a BBC Radio 4 Food Programme In a Stew about Rabbits when Dad emerged from the butcher's on Saturday with my two beaming younger children and two jointed rabbits.

So I put together the first recipe on the web page, Barny Haughton's Italian Wild Rabbit Stew.

For 4 people

1 wild rabbit, dressed & jointe
4 rashers streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into 1cm lengths
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
2 medium sized onions
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
½ bottle dry white wine
a small bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
I small bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Black pepper, salt, olive oil
Seasoned flour (3 tablespoons flour, 1 tsp each salt and pepper)

Thankfully our rabbit was already jointed, but I did have to remove the heart, lungs, kidneys, and several pellets of poo from one of them!

Dust the rabbit pieces with seasoned flour (It took a lot more flour to flour the rabbit pieces than it said in the recipe, but I did end up with a lovely rich sauce) and brown a few pieces at a time with olive oil.  Again it took a lot more olive oil that the recipe said, but given that there is no fat on a rabbit it didn't seem to much of an issue to add more to the pan.

Dice the carrots, celery and onion and fry in the oil after you have browned all the rabbit and placed in on a plate, or the lid of the casserole.  When the onion starts to brown, add the garlic and bacon and fry for a few minutes.  Return the rabbit pieces to the casserole dish, plus the wine, herbs (not parsley) and top up with water to just cover.  I did not season as the flour was already seasoned and decided to leave season to just before serving. Bring to a simmer, put on the lid and place in the oven at 150C for one hour.
Having just suggested this with my recent Chilli con Carne recipe I was interested to read "As with all casseroles and stews, if you can leave it to cool and then refridgerate overnight, the flavours and texture will improve".  I left it to cool on the back doorstep for a couple of hours with the lid on.
To serve, reheat gently on the hob.  Add chopped parsley if using (I didn't have any) and season to taste.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Slow Cooker Chilli con Carne

I cooked last night's Halloween tea in the slow cooker.

I had presumed that I would take my standard chilli recipe and just leave it blipping away in the slow cooker until tea time.  But, as ever, I made a few tweeks as I went along.  The result was a beautifully rich chilli.  So much so I resolve to cook it this way every time in future.

1) Use cubed shin of beef or ox cheek.  This tough meet tenderises beautifully and the connective tissue, gristle, and fat (yep, you need this) melts with the slow cooking into a thick rich sauce.

2) Possibly a personal foible, but forget celery or carrots.  Whilst I happily add them to stove top chillis I have a personal grudge against slow cooked vegetables as they taste overly stewed. 

3) Add a stock cube.  Slow cooked dishes tend to be a bit watery.  A stock cube adds an additional depth of flavour.

4) Tomato paste is a great thickener, and more added flavour, stirred in right at the end.

Serves 6
500g cubed shin of beef or ox/beef cheek
1 large onion
1 large clove of garlic
1 red pepper
1 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp oregano
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney bean cooking water (if available)
2 tins kidney beans or 250g beans, soaked and pre-cooked
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1 beef stock cube
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt & pepper

Finely chop onion and garlic and fry gently in large frying pan with the oil.  Cube the meat if not already cubed.  If using ox cheek, slice off as much of the fat off in one piece as you can.  You should cook this with the meat, but leaving it as a large piece makes it more easy to remove it at the end of cooking!

When the onion has softened a little, push it to the side of the pan and add the beef in small handfuls.  Leave it as long as you can to brown, only moving it to make room for a later handful of beef.  Add the fat too. Dice the red pepper and stir this into the meat to fry for a few minutes.  Next time I might  chop this finely in a mini food processor as the red blobs were the only thing my kids grumbled about

Add the tomatoes, beans, 1 can full of bean cooking water or just plain water, cumin, oregano, vinegar, chilli, stock cube and bring to the boil.  Do not add salt or tomato paste until just before serving.

Tip everything into your slow cooker and cook on high for 6-8 hours. When ready to serve, add tomato paste to thicken a little and season to taste.  And whilst this has arguably taken a long time to cook already, we discovered last night that the flavour is better still if left to stand for an hour or so after the first helping was served to the kids.

I usually serve ours up with rice or baked potatoes.  And a generous handful of grated mature cheddar cheese. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chunky Lentil & Bacon Soup

I posted Lentil & Bacon Soup about a year ago, and probably didn't make it again until a few weeks ago.  I made it for Alresford Country Market and promptly sold out.  I then made it for West Lea Farm shop and they too keep running out.  So now I seem to permanently have some on the go.  The kids, too, were introduced to it this week on balmy October half term day at Alice Holt Forest (soup flask + plastic mugs, butter bread 'croutons' + spoon = picnic lunch) and have now declared it their second favourite soup after Minestrone.  Here is my new improved recipe.

Makes 6-8 mugs of thick spoonable soup!
Prep 5 minutes
Cooking Time 25 minutes (I cooked this whilst the kids were eating breakfast on the day we went to the forest)

1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
1 clove of garlic
100g smoked bacon lardons or streaky bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
200g red lentils
1 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 litre (2 canfuls) just boiled water
2 chicken stock cubes
Salt & pepper to taste

Boil the kettle.  Chop the bacon into 1cm pieces and fry over a medium heat in the olive oil whilst you peel the onion, garlic, and carrot and finely dice along with the celery.  Add the vegetables when the bacon starts to brown, and fry for a couple more minutes with the lid on stirring from time to time.

Weigh out the red lentils and stir into the vegetables, then add the tomatoes, crumbled stock cubes and hot water.  Bring to the boil with the lid on then simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.

When served immediately this is quite a sloppy soup but it will thicken if not eaten straight away into a stew-like consistency, something which goes down well with my kids as they stand a better chance of getting it into their mouths and not down their fronts!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Classic Roasted Pumpkin Soup

A random tweet about Autumn things, and the fact that slugs had detected a weakness in my kids' pumpkin's soft underbelly, found me googling 'classic pumpkin soup' the other day.

There are a wealth of recipes out there, some less classic than others, but in the end I settled on an American recipe - and then tweeked it.  I really wasn't sure about the spices, and cinnamon in particular, thinking I was going to end up with a pumpkin pie affair on my hands.  But it works.  I ended up with a lovely warming savoury soup.  Just what I was after.

Serves 6-8 (It made 4 500ml pots)
Cooking time 1.5 hours 

1 medium pumpkin (scrapings from the inside of your halloween pumpkin can be used instead)
1 medium onion
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
1 clove of garlic
1tbsp olive oil
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (2 stock cubes + 1l recently boiled water)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
100g full fat soft cheese

Cut the pumpkin into quarters and scrape out the seeds (these can be rinsed, tossed in oil, salt, and paprika, spread out on a shallow roasting tin and roasted at the same time as the pumpkin).  Rub a little olive oil into the quarters, sprinkle over a little salt and roast on a baking tray for about 1 hour at 200C until the pumpkin cuts like butter with a knife.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool whilst you prepare the other vegetables.

Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic and carrot.  Fry the onion and garlic gently in a saucepan, adding the carrot when it is ready, and then the roughly chopped celery. Stir the vegetables for about 5-10 minutes to allow them to soft but not brown.

Scoop out the soft pumpkin flesh and add this to the softening vegetables.  Stir around and then add the stock and spices.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Take off the heat and leave to cool a little with the lid off for 5 or so minutes before liquidising with a stick blender.  After a first quick blitz, add the soft cheese and blitz again until the soup is smooth and silky.  I had to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar as the pumpkin had a slightly bitter aftertaste for some strange reason, but hopefully yours will not.

And I have promised to buy the kids another pumpkin to carve next week.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Jalfrezi

I started yesterday morning thinking I was going to make a Chilli con Carne.  I had 600g of ox cheek in the freezer which would need a bit of padding to make it into enough for a family of five.  But then I remembered that there was a curry with peppers in it, and after a bit of googling, I turned up a Beef Jalfrezi.

I loosely based my slow cooker version on The Curry Guy's recipe for Chicken Jalfrezi.  This, he describes, is usually a kind of Indian stir fry.  But mine was cooked in the slow cooker out of necessity, a) because that is the only way to cook ox cheek, and b) I needed a no fuss meal blipping away out of my way.

Interestingly, having toyed with making a Chilli, 6 year old Big Boy walked back into the house after school, sniffed the air, and said "smells like we're having Chilli con Carne".

600g ox cheek, cubed
3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp turmeric powder
5  garlic cloves
3 cm root ginger
1 large onion
1tbsp cumin seeds
1 tin tomatoes
1 bell pepper (any colour)
1tbsp coriander powder
1/2-1 tsp hot chilli flakes
1tsp garam masala
1tsp salt

Place the peeled and roughly chopped onion, garlic and ginger (no need to peel the ginger), and turmeric in a mini processor with a little water and liquidise.  

Brown the cubed ox cheek in the oil in a frying pan.  When browned, lift out with a slotted spoon and place in the warming slow cooker.

Add the cumin seeds to the hot oil left in the frying pan once the meat has been removed.  As soon as they start to sizzle, add the onion paste.  Fry the paste until it starts to stick. 

Meanwhile liquidise the tomatoes in the the mini processor and add these to the frying pan when the paste starts to dry out and catch on the bottom.  I then blitzed the pepper to hide it from the kids, but you could just cube it if you wish.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients, plus a can full of recently boiled water.  When it starts to simmer, pour over the ox cheek in the slow cooker and cook on high for 6-8 hours.  Serve with boiled basmati rice.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Slow Cooker/Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken

I had the slow cooker out last week for the first time this autumn.  With the need to have 4 out of 5 weekday dinners ready by 4.30pm, I, for one, am quite pleased that the weather has turned and piping hot food at the end of the school day is required.

I was bought a slow cooker curry recipe book a few years ago but when I read through it, all the recipes involved various ready made curry pastes which I don't keep in stock.  We do, however, have a cupboard full of Indian spices so I have based mine instead on Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken with Tomato Sauce & Butter from The Essential Madhur Jaffrey, with a few additions from her later Butter Chicken recipe from Indian Cookery

8 chicken thighs
2 medium tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic
5cm piece of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
8 cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp chilli powder
6 tbsp sunflower oil
6 cardamon pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp hot chilli flakes
1 tsp garam masala
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tsp salt
4 pats of butter
200ml double cream

In a frying pan, brown the chicken thighs in batches.  Place the browned thighs in the warming slow cooker.

Whilst browning the chicken, peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and place in a liquidiser.  Add the roughly chopped ginger, crumbled cinnamon stick, cloves,peppercorns, bay leaves, and chilli powder and liquidise with enough water to make a smooth double cream like puree.

When all the chicken thighs are browned add the cumin seeds and cardamon pods to the hot oil.  Stir them around and when they start to pop add the onion puree into the pan carefully as it will spit violently! Stir the paste regularly until it starts to brown and start to stick to the bottom.  Liquidise the tomatoes and add these to the onion paste and wash the liquidiser out with a can of just boiled water and add this to the pan.  Add the rest of the ingredients (chilli flakes, garam masala, and salt) apart from the cream and butter.  Bring to the boil and pour over the chicken thighs in the slow cooker.  Stir the chicken into the sauce and leave to cook on High for 6 hours.

Before serving melt the butter into the sauce and stir in the cream.  Season to taste.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Sherry

The soup making side of me is thrilled that today is cold, windy, and rainy as finally my soup selling season has returned.  To celebrate, I have turned on the heating and defrosted a pot of mushroom soup that didn't sell at Alresford Country Market a few weeks ago.  Warm inside and out, with a Indian Butter Chicken blipping away in the slow cooker, I am planning my autumnal offering for this week's market.

This particular soup was made with reduced mushrooms from my local greengrocer.  Whenever I saw a reduced bag I would buy them, take them home and fry them and then freeze them when cool so that I built up 600g over a few weeks.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Serves 6

600g mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme
Chicken or vegetable stock cube
1 shot glass sherry (optional)
1l boiled water
100ml double cream
Salt & Pepper to taste

Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and fry in a big saucepan with the olive oil for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms which have been brushed with kitchen paper to remove any soil and roughly chopped.  Fry over a gently heat until the moisture has come out of the mushrooms and then boiled away. 

When the pan starts to dry out for the second time add the sherry if using, then the hot water, the thyme leaves stripped from their stalks and the crumbled stock cube.  Bring the boil and then simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes blitz in a liquidiser or with a stick blender, adding the cream and season to taste.  The colour may not look very appetising, but I can assure you it tastes delicious and hearty especially with the sherry!