Monday, 26 January 2015

Vietnamese Beef Pho

When a friend, who lived in Vietnam for a while, said she was making a Beef Pho I thought this was something I had to try for myself particulary as I had a little rare beef left from a roast.  She texted me a couple of photos of recipes from two recipe books and I muddled through from there.

A lot of 'proper' Vietnamese recipes instruct you to roast beef bones and make your own stock.  Don't bother!  I came across beef bones by chance (I buy chicken carcasses weekly to make stock for Watercress Soup that I sell to a local farm shop) but it was a long, steamy, and ultimately greasy task.  And I think I'll stick to organic beef stock cubes in future.

Serves 2

200ml wide rice noodles
500ml beef stock
1 star anise
3cm root ginger, shredded

3 bunches bok choy, shredded (I used equivalent amount of sugar snap peas, baby corn, spring onions)
Thinly sliced red onion
Handful thinly sliced raw or rare beef
Half a large bunch of coriander
2 tbsp chopped mint or 1 tbsp dried mint
1/2 tsp hot chilli flakes

Fish sauce and lime or lemon juice to serve

Prepare the vegetables, onion, beef, coriander and mint first.  Bring the stock to the boil and add the start anise and ginger and simmer whilst cooking the noodles according to the packet's instructions.

When the noodles are cooked, drain and divide between two large bowls.  Quickly divide all the other ingredients and place vegetables, onion, beef, and herbs into the two bowls and pour over the simmering stock.  Add fish sauce, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, and chilli flakes before eating immediately.

 Twitter: Leesa@sunhillcurry

Monday, 19 January 2015

Hearty Slow Cooked Oxtail Soup

I had hoped sell this at Alresford Country, but unless someone tells me of a source of cheap oxtail this will have to remain a family treat.  And after a 4km frosty cycle ride followed by a 2km walk up St Catherine's Hill and back I think the kids (on an inset day) and 1 deserve it.  It is, however, a 24 hour process so plan ahead for a chilly day's reward.

600g oxtail (local butcher seems to sell in this size pack)
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tin tomatoes
2 organic beef stock cubes
Boiled water
Thyme sprigs
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1 tbsp plain flour or 1 medium potao

Brown the oxtail in the oil in a frying pan and place in the warming slow cooker when browned.  If not using a slow cooker, use an ovenproof casserole dish with a lid and place the browned oxtail on a place to one side instead.

Peel and roughly chop the onion and carrot.  Fry this with the roughly chopped celery in the pan after removing the oxtail.  When it starts to brown and the tomatoes, stock cubes, and 500ml of boiling water.  Add the herbs and peppercorns and bring to the boil, scrapping all the lovely caramelised meat off the bottom of the pan.

Pour this into the slow cooker together with another 500ml of boiling water ensuring the meat is covered with liquid.  Cook on High for 6-8 hours or when the meat is falling off the bone. If using a casserole dish, return the meat to the boiling liquid and again add another 500ml of hot water.  Cover and leave simmering for 2.5-3 hours.

When cooked, take of the heat and remove the hot oxtail carefully and leave to cool on a plate.   When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and drop back into the soup.  Refrigerate the soup overnight.

The next day, about half an hour before mealtime, get the soup out of the fridge and scrape off and discard the congealed fat off the top of the soup.  Bring to a gentle boil and then either add a peeled chopped potato or 1 heaped dessertspoon of flour.  Simmer the soup with potato in for a further 20 minutes with the lid on before blitzing with a stick blender.  If adding flour, blitz immediately and simmer for a couple of minutes for the flour to thicken the soup.  Season to taste and enjoy.
Twitter: Leesa@sunhillcurry 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Courgette, Lentil & Cottage Cheese Lasagna

I made Jamie Oliver’s Leek Lasagna before Christmas, and although the grown ups thought it was delicious, it was a bit too leeky for the kids.  It also had a fair degree of prep, and wasn’t cheesy enough for me.

So today I have experimented with my own version, which seemed fairly well received by the kids. The courgette is still crunchy, which is what I wanted, as my inclusion of Big Boy’s favourite courgette salad was one of my selling points to him (that, and the argument to a raging carnivore that lentils are a kind of meat - well protein)

100g green lentils
1 large onion
1 large clove of garlic
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 large pot of cottage cheese
3 medium courgettes
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Pepper & salt
Lasagna sheets
Handful of cheddar cheese or parmesan

Cook the lentils according to the cooking instructions.  Take off the heat when cooked and leave to one side, keeping the cooking liquid.

Grate or julienne the courgettes.  I did mine with a cutting disk in the food processor.  Add the small garlic clove crushed or grated, a pinch of salt and ground pepper, lemon juice, and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Toss together and leave to one side.

Finely dice the large onion and garlic clove. Fry gently with 1 tbsp olive oil to soften.  Add the chopped tomatoes, cooked lentils, and any remaining liquid.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Season to taste.

Finally, before assembling, stir the cottage cheese into the courgette. And preheat the oven to 200C or 180C Fan.

When assembling, I like to put as many pasta sheets in as I can manage as I find most recipes only use about 6 sheets of pasta which my other half complains is not enough.  So, last time I made it I mentally divided both my tomato sauce into 4, and my cottage cheese mix into 3.  Starting with a layer of tomato sauce I put a layer of lasagna sheets onto this, then a layer of cottage cheese mix with a layer of lasagna sheets on top.  I repeated this twice more to end up with a few ladlefuls of tomato sauce to put on top and then sprinkled this with a handful of cheddar cheese. 

Putting lasagna sheets on top of every different layer I reckon I ended up using 6 layers of lasagna so 18 sheets in total.  I might possibly half the layers next time for the simple reason that the courgette and cottage cheese layer was a bit dry, and without being cooked in a sauce, the courgette remained too crunchy/recognisable for the kids.  Putting the cottage cheese mix straight on top of the tomato sauce, then lasagna sheets, should result in a more creamy sauce?  Divide your tomato sauce and cottage cheese into 4 if doing this.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden and bubbling.  British tradition seems to be to serve it with garlic bread, but if you’ve managed to put in as many lasagna sheets as I did you probably don’t need any!

 Twitter: Leesa@sunhillcurry

Monday, 5 January 2015

Vindaloo Sauce with Leftover Roast Turkey 
The last of the Christmas turkey was seen off a couple of days ago with some fiery homemade vindaloo sauce.  The kids had fish fingers!

I usually follow a Anjum Anand’s recipe when I make a vindaloo, but this is quite a dry dish and as I didn’t have much turkey left I decided to make a thicker vindaloo sauce to stretch the meat a little further.  And after combining several recipes I found online, this is what I came up with.

Serves a greedy 2

2 tsp cumin seeds, or 2 tsp ground
2 tsp coriander seeds, or 2 tsp ground
5 black peppercorns, left whole
2 green cardamom pods, seeds only
2 cloves
1cm cinnamon stick, or 1 tsp ground
1 tsp garam masala
1cm fresh root ginger
7 garlic cloves
1 tsp hot chilli flakes
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds, or 1 tsp English mustard powder
1 large onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes or passata
A large handful of leftover roast turkey, chicken, pork or fresh pork, prawns, chicken…
1/2-1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

If using whole dried spices, dry roast these in a heavy based frying pan for a few minutes and then grind to a powder in a spice grinder.

If using ground spices, add these to the garlic, ginger, salt, and vinegar in a mini food processor and blitz to a paste. Rub the paste all over your leftover meat, or whatever you are using, and leave to marinate for a at least a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, sizzle the onion seeds in the oil in a sauce pan until they start to pop (if using mustard powder either add to the marinade or with the chopped tomatoes), finely slice the onion and fry gently stirring only now and then (this takes about 20-30 minutes) until the onion is brown and caramelised. Add the marinated meat, stir, then add the chopped tomatoes and half a tin of hot water.

Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes if using cooked meat and prawns, or 30 minutes if using raw meat.

Serve with basmati rice or naan.

 Twitter: Leesa@sunhillcurry

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!