You must all know by now how much I like interesting vegetables. If not, then…well, I do. My mother always says judge a restaurant on their vegetables, and it’s true. If chef can only be bothered to cover up some barely turned vegetables with some cling film and nuke them, with a flick of butter and no seasoning or, heaven forbid, boil them, then what does that tell you about the rest of his cooking. Vegetables deserve respect and they take an equal amount, if not more, skill to do well than any meat or fish ingredient.
This is a recipe for a yummy and quite different Indian carrot salad, adapted from a recipe of our beloved Jamie Oliver. Cumin goes fantastically with anything sweet – see my mango chutney recipe! –the same applies here with the sweet, raw carrots. The lemon juice adds zing and acidity, ginger and the coriander and mint a freshness and perfume.
I think you’ll like this. Serve with meat or fish, for example with spiced lamb cutlets, or just on its own.
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 pound carrots, peeled
A small bunch fresh coriander, chopped (leave the tender stalks in – they contain the majority of coriander’s flavour. Chop off the very bottom thick bits of stalk, leave the top tender ones.
A small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
For the dressing:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thinly
1 lemon, zest and juiced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1. Heat a small frying pan on medium high heat, don’t add any oil, and when it is hot throw in the cumin seeds and toast, tossing frequently, until they are darker and fragrant. Their scent should be strong and a faint smoke is sometimes visible from the pan. The point of toasting spices is to release their flavours, so this is what is happening here. Once toasted remove from the heat, cool and grind into a powder in a pestle and mortar, or by putting in a freezer bag and crushing with a rolling pin.
2. Slice the carrot very thinly in long strips using a mandolin slicer or just a peeler.
3. To make the dressing: place the lemon zest and juice in a dish and add the onion, cumin, ginger, salt and pepper and about 4 seconds worth of glug of good olive oil. Whisk up with a fork to combine.
4. Toss the carrots in the dressing until combined. Add the chopped coriander and mint and stir in. Taste – add more lemon juice/salt/pepper according to taste if needed. Serve!
Travelling to the USA has gotten me more than a little bit excited about BBQ. BBQ is a big deal here and is a far cry from the British conception of a barbecue; the act of grilling meat fast over high heat in your garden on a Saturday afternoon. Burnt bits, raw insides and testosterone fuelled battles between dads are defining factors. Things are a little different here.
I'll be following up with a more extensive article on US BBQ in the Food Travel section once I reach the BBQ portion of my current Food Tour in Texas and North Carolina, but I thought I'd get into the swing of things by preparing a home cooking version of BBQ pork ribs. Without a good quality barbecue, preferably wood burning, it is not possible to replicate some of the wonders I will be gorging myself on in weeks to come – however, this, while certainly not BBQ, is a delicious way of cooking pork ribs. Roasted for a long time at very low heat, marinated in a delicious, savoury, spiced rub and finished off with a sweet glaze. If done correctly the pork should fall off the bone and should remain juicy and moist. I adapted this recipe from the excellent one provided by www.soupbelly.com.
Serve with vinegar based coleslaw or salad with a slightly acidic dressing, to cut through the fattiness of the pork.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
1 rack good quality Pork ribs – approx. 12 ribs.
1 tablespoon honey
2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tsp. pork rub seasoning – you can grab this from most supermarkets. If you can’t get it, then just add 1 tsp extra paprika, 1 tsp garlic salt, ¼ tsp chilli powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 good glug of vegetable oil
1. Mix together the rub ingredients. Rub into the ribs, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat an oven to 200 Fahrenheit, 95 Celsius.
3. Cut the rack in half, dribble a bit of oil on each and seal each half in a parcel of tinfoil. Make sure the seal is at the top so that the juices don’t leak out, and make sure that the seal is tight. Place on a rack in a roasting tray and bake in the oven for 4 hours. The ribs should be cooked through, tender but still juicy.
4. Remove from the oven and remove from the foil. Carefully pour all of the juices left in the foil into a saucepan. Place the ribs to one side, covered, and leave to rest. This helps tenderise the meat as it relaxes, as its juices are released and then reabsorbed into the meat.
5. Heat your oven grill on high.
6. Reduce the juices in the saucepan for a few minutes until they are well reduced and take on a syrupy texture. Add the honey.
7. Brush the ribs with this sauce and place under the grill for around 4-5 minutes until they are caramelised, dark toffee brown and delicious looking. Remove from the oven, serve.
ribs, fresh from the oven, post glaze
SO MUCH MEAT
A slice of ribby, porky bliss.
Granita, frozen ice, is a dessert marvellous for a hot day, great to finish off a large meal, delicious as a palate cleanser, fantastic as breakfast, as they do in Sicily and generally just overwhelmingly super at all times. It is originally from Sicily and comes in many different flavours, perhaps its most famous being lemon, spectacular when made with real Sicilian lemons, sweet, not so sharply acidic as others.
Granita is a frozen ice dessert; not like sorbet, not like ice-cream and certainly not like a slush puppy. It consists of….almost snowflakes, intensely flavoured, made by freezing water, sugar and various flavourings, e.g. coffee, lemon, almond, lime etc, and scraping the forming ice crystals regularly to form fluffy, soft flakes of ice that should look dry and light. It is perfect for dinner parties as you can make it well in advance, once scraped and flaked the granita can just be stored in the fridge until ready and re-fluffed up just before serving. SO easy - would you believe that it only has 2 ingredients in it!! Extremely versatile, granita can be made into almost any flavour – I’ve had huge success with Mojito flavoured, recipe to follow in the not so distant future, and will be trying out Margarita too very soon! The recipe below is for coffee granita and I think it is absolutely fantastic. Almost a twist on an after dinner coffee, it is intense with espresso flavour and the chocolate cream adds a smooth richness that results in a luxurious, yet light dessert.
I hope you enjoy it as much as me and my family and friends have.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
3 cups strong, good quality coffee
½ cup white sugar – or more or less, to taste. You must use sugar though – it is vital for the forming of the granita crystals.
2 tablespoons coffee liquor (optional – you could also add the zest of an orange, a tablespoon of cocoa powder). Don’t add too much – the alcohol can affect the freezing point of the whole granita.
Double cream, 300ml
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Chocolate liquor – or use coffee liquor, brandy, rum, whisky… anything you fancy. If your guests are driving or don’t drink, heat the alcohol first in a pan over a medium heat and leave for a few minutes, to evaporate off the alcohol. Do this before adding any booze to the granita too if you need to. Again, flavour the cream with something else if you like, e.g. vanilla, orange zest, almond etc.
1. Mix the coffee and sugar and optional extras in a large metal tray. A roasting dish would be ideal.
2. Place in a freezer, uncovered and leave for half an hour.
3. After half an hour take a fork and scrape any ice crystals forming on the sides. Repeat this, scraping at any ice with a fork until the whole block is frozen and scraped – approximately 5 hours. Don’t worry too much if you can’t be there the whole time. If the worse happens and it freezes into a giant solid block, you can just scrape it all at once with a fork. It’s an effort though so try and scrape it up more regularly. Place back in the freezer for 30 minutes to dry out the flakes. This can be left in the freezer for some time and just fluffed up when required. The granita should be light, fluffy and dry looking.
4. Whip the double cream until it is thick and glossy, but not over-whipped. It should support itself when the bowl is turned over, but still retain some shine. Stir in the icing sugar, add more for taste. Add in a good tablespoon of the liquor. Taste. Add more or less depending on your own preference/the strength of the alcohol. I like a good, punchy cream so I added about 5 tablespoons of my chocolate liquor.
5. Spoon the granita into tumblers, or into the receptacle of your choice. Make a rough quenelle (or just a layman’s dollop!) of the cream (by taking a teaspoon of it and passing it from that teaspoon to another, scraping up the inside of the first spoon with the second and repeating this until the cream has three straight lines to it. You should probably watch a youtube of this – it’ll be easier to get having seen it and just takes a bit of practice). To be honest just a dollop of it with a spoon is also fine. Place this on top of the granita. Serve!
sugar and coffee mixture
People don’t cook with beetroot enough, in my opinion. Beetroot is a brilliant ingredient; tasty, healthy and versatile. Forget the mounds of acidic stodge found floating in pickling juices in jars on supermarket shelves. Go back to the raw ingredient; beautiful beets, vibrant pink stalks sprouting from their tops, headed with green leaves. Have you ever tried it roasted? No? You haven’t lived. I’m envious of you, for being able to experience for that first time the revelation that is fresh roasted beetroot. Endlessly sweet, earthy, juicy, sweet again. Serve it lukewarm with a drizzle of honey, good balsamic and a young goats cheese. Maybe some walnuts. Jesus.
Now that I’ve set the stage and beetroot is once more in your good books – try out this recipe. Beetroot is also brilliant raw! Fresh, crunchy and perfectly paired with sweet and tart flavours. This recipe is an adaptation from the lovely Jamie Oliver, whom I adore. Try making it using different types of fresh beets – they come in lots of beautiful colours; the traditional pink/deep purple that stains your hands for days after (caught red handed, ho ho ho) plus golden and yellow! The sweetness of the pear, together with the tartness of the lemon vinaigrette is a perfect complement and the fresh mint lifts it and makes it even more fresh and fragrant. Great with fatty meats, to cut through the richness, or just by itself, a simple summer salad.
Jamie adds feta. This would be beyond superb, but it is equally yummy without.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
4 fresh beets, medium sized, peeled and cut into very thin match sticks
4 fresh pears, not too ripe, peeled and cut into very thin match sticks
Good glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls of fresh mint, chopped
1. Make the dressing by combining the juice of three lemons with equal quantities of olive oil, salt and pepper and whipping up to combine with a fork.
2. When ready to eat, not before, combine the pear and beet matchstick and toss together. Add the dressing and stir to combine.
3. Add the mint and combine. Taste and season if needed.
4. Serve! To make it extra pretty, thinly slice circles of the pear and beetroot with a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife. Overlap these on a plate in a circle and then heap the salad in the middle of them, but so that their edges can still be seen. Garnish with more fresh mint and olive oil.
beautiful fresh beets. objects of great beauty.
Pork is a King among meats. It lords over venison with its superior fat content, rules over chicken with its more distinguished flavour. Beef and lamb are but peasants to it, be it suckling piglet or hoary boar. Game birds pay homage to the majesty of its crackling and goat, mutton, hoggart and kid are the humblest of subjects to its sausage. Besides, how could any animal that produces bacon be anything but a King.
I like pork in all its cuts and cooked in all sorts of ways. Am sure you do too. If you don't...well, awkward.
This recipe is for slow roast pork shoulder. Shoulder is a great cut for long roasting because it has a high fat content. When cooked for extended periods the fat renders, penetrates the surrounding meat and infuses it with moisture and flavour. Cooking for a long time at a low temperature also results in meat that is extremely tender, having had longer to break down the muscle fibres. Try to buy a shoulder with the bone in still. Meat cooked on the bone tends to be much more flavoursome from precious minerals and fats that come out from the bone and the marrow during cooking. It also tends to be tenderer, less prone to drying out.
The recipe calls for the meat to first be put in the oven at a high temperature; this produces much loved, in my family anyway, crackling. The heat is then turned right down for 8-9 hours of long, slow roasting.
Anyway, enough from me. This tastes good.
Ingredients (Serves 6-8):
1 7-8lb pork shoulder joint, skin on and bone in if possible. Allow to reach room temperature before cooking - this means that it will cook evenly and will start actually cooking from the minute you first put it in the oven, rather than staying cold in the centre and getting scorched on the outside.
1 head of garlic
5 spears of fresh rosemary, stems removed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 large white onion, sliced
1 large carrot or 2 small, chopped roughly
1 cup/250mls white wine
4 cups/ approx. 1 litre chicken stock
1. Heat the oven to 450 Fahrenheit, 230 Celsius.
2. Take the pork shoulder, rinse it with water and pat dry. Score its skin/fat with diamond shapes, penetrating almost totally through the fat, but not penetrating the meat below itself.
3. Grind or process the rosemary, garlic, thyme, spices, salt and pepper and mustard into a paste. Add a little oil if you need to help it blend. Rub this paste all over the pork joint on all sides, getting it fully into the cracks of the fat, setting aside 1 teaspoon for later. Rub a bit of oil onto the skin too.
4. Place it into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. The crackling should be nice and crisp and the joint should be dark brown, though not burnt, all over. Its scent should be intoxicating.
5. Remove from the oven. Turn the temperature down to 225 Fahrenheit/105ish Celsius.
6. Scatter the onions and carrot around the pork. Pour in the chicken stock and white wine and the teaspoon of the paste you saved from earlier. Baste the joint with this juice.
7. Return to the oven for 8-9 hours or until the pork is cooked through and tender. Its internal temperature, if you're a meat thermometer kind of guy, should read 170-175 Fahrenheit. You can keep it warm in the oven by reducing the heat to 160 until you are ready to serve and it will keep good for a few hours like that. To make the fat extra crispy, remove from the joint with a knife, place on a tray and bake at 400 Fahrenheit/200 Celsius for around ten minutes. The meat should be tender, deeply browned, endlessly juicy and flavoursome.
8. To make a quick gravy, remove the joint from the roasting pan and set to one side. Set the pan over direct heat and heat on high until bubbling and reducing. Add a bit more wine if you like. Do this for around 7 minutes. Strain through a sieve and skim off the fat. Serve. Enjoy!
Joint after the first session in the oven at 450 Fahrenheit. Note crispy fat and deepy browned exterior.
Pork post long cooking sitting in its juices.
For the last 4 years I have been on a mission to spread the word of offal. Delicious, iron rich, melting offal. I tried to sneak as many offal dishes as my colleagues would allow into my cookery classes and considered it a personal triumph to have tricked several people into tasting, and enjoying, kidneys! See, I told you it's good!
Offal is cheap, readily available, hugely versatile and, most importantly, delicious! Liver is my absolute favourite and especially chicken or any sort of poultry/game bird, calf or beef, but hell, I'll take it all. Kidneys need handling carefully but can elevate the eater into foodie heaven. Heart; fantastic when braised or very quickly pan fried. Sweetbreads; meaty, soft, succulent little clouds of dreams. Other, less common, forms of offal are great too in context; eat lambs intestine in traditional Italian trattorie, sometimes served in richly herbed pasta, indistinguishable from the penne surrounding it, eat head cheese whenever you can, a kind of meaty terrine made from the brain of a calf or a pig. I personally dislike tripe, the stomach lining of a cow or sheep; I've given it several chances, served in several different manners and it has consistently defeated me. But maybe you'll like it. Avoid placenta. Please, we're not animals.
The recipe that follows is for one of my favourite ways of serving offal. It is entirely user friendly - suitable for an offal first timer, perhaps already acclimatised to retro chicken liver pate. Chicken livers, simply sauteed with garlic, rosemary and butter. Soft and rare on the inside, melting on your tongue, browned and flavoured on the outside. Salt, iron, garlic, butter. MM MMM. Served on soft slices of garlic butter brioche fried in the fat the chicken livers were prepared in. Enjoy.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 lb chicken livers (free range), trimmed of fat and sinew and patted dry
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 rosemary spear
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
glug vegetable oil
salt and pepper
For the brioche:
loaf of good quality brioche, cut into 1 inch thick slabs
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper.
1. Heat a saute pan with 2 tablespoons of the butter and oil in it over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic and rosemary and saute until the garlic is soft and just starting to brown.
3. Increase the heat to high, add the chicken livers. Season with salt and pepper, generously. Saute for around 4-5 minutes until the chicken livers are brown on the outside but are still very pink and juicy on the inside. Remove from the heat and the pan and rest, covered.
4. Mix the garlic and the butter into a paste. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Smear the brioche with the garlic butter mix.
6. Return the empty pan to the heat. Add the remaining (1 tbsp) butter and a small splash of oil and heat.
7. Place the slices of brioche in the pan. Brown for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and toasted. Remove from the heat and pat the surface oil off with a paper towel.
8. Serve the rested chicken livers on top of the brioche, spooning all the juices from the livers on top.
Grandma Jersey hits back with another absolute stonker. Such a simple recipe but, in my experience, it is that simplicity itself in food that produces the most striking dishes. Achingly clean and fresh, sweet, sour, almost asian - serve ice cold with fish, meat or anything that could do with an acidic side, to refresh and to cut through rich flavours.
This lady is proud aunt to a very prestigious chef on the USA food scene - when he shared this recipe with his bosses at the restaurants they went crazy for it and served it on the menu of one of the foremost restaurants in New York for a long time!
Make it once and you'll get it.
Recipe (Serves 6)
Time: 10 minutes + 24 hours marinating time.
3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thinly
4 medium sized spanish white onions, sliced thinly - judge yourself though how many you need depending on size. There should be the same proportion of cucumber to onion.
2 tablespoons white sugar
250ml white vinegar
1. Combine all the ingredients in tupperware. Mix up so all are well mixed. Taste - increase the acidity or sweetness as desired.
2. Leave in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.
3. That's it! Serve ice cold.
Cucumber and Onion in the sweet, sour marinade
Part of my Food Tour across the USA has been, and continues to be, spent with a great family friend and a fantastic cook - our American quasi-Grandma who heralds proudly from the state of New Jersey and is more than adapt at Jewish, Jersey cooking. Instantly my feverish mind was flooded with visions of brisket, matzo ball soup, chicken soup, noodle salads.... I resorted to flattery and outright mendicancy. I needn't have bothered - after barely 2 minutes of fawning, Harriet enthusiastically volunteered to disclose her, until now, well-guarded secrets of great Jewish Jersey food.
What follows is the first of hopefully many recipes to come.
Recipe (serves 4 normal people, 6 abstemious ones):
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 10 inch 'graham cracker crust' - this is a bizarre American invention - a ready made cheesecake crust that you can buy in a shop. Make your own by crushing up about 12 digestive biscuits, adding approximately 50g melted butter and packing into the bottom of a spring cake tin.
2 eggs, whisked up
2 x 226g cream cheese
2 cups cherries, pitted
juice of half a lemon
1. Heat an oven to 180 Celsius/350 Farenheit.
2. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla and beat (or process) until the mixture is smooth and unctuous.
3. Pour onto the crust. If you are using the phoney, bizarre already made one (which I am assured is the best) you just pour it straight on and bake it in its packaging! If you are using one made yourself, just pour on top of that.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes. When done the top should all be solid, though the middle should retain a slight wobble. Don't worry about if a few cracks appear.
5. Leave to cool for an hour on the side, and then pop in the fridge for at least another hour.
6. To make the cherry compote: put the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer for about 12 minutes until the cherries are soft. Add more sugar if you like it a bit sweeter. I like mine a little sour - the creamy sweet cheesecake compliments the tartness nicely. Once cooked, leave to cool.
7. Spoon the cherry compote on top of the cheesecake and spread it out so that it covers the white edges of the cheesecake. Pop in the fridge for 30 minutes or until you are ready to eat it. Slice and serve.
Baked cake - slight wobble in the middle, some cracking, very little colouring
On with the cherries!
contentment in a slice
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