Archive for the 'Mains' Category

one for the barbeque: lamb koftas

June 26, 2008

Is it barbeque weather where you are? Even if it isn’t, why not try these lamb koftas? They’re really quick to assemble and taste great fried or grilled on a barbeque. Serve with couscous or with pitta bread and a yoghurt and cucumber dip.

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on Venezuelan Black: marinated roast pork

June 19, 2008

As I’ve mentioned before, we eat a lot more pork now that we’re living in East Anglia. Sometimes the best part of a roast pork dinner is the crackling. Yes, you read that correctly, sometimes the crackling is even better than the roast potatoes! We’re very lucky because the cuts we buy from our local farm shop yield the most delicious crackling. I didn’t think we could make it any better, but press some crushed fennel seeds deep into the fat and, oh my, the crackling is heavenly!

See, I’ve digressed already – back to the purpose of the post: the Venezuelan Black marinade. To inject the marinade into the flesh, you’ll need a syringe. I bought a silicone baster with a detachable stainless steel injector.

It did leave holes in the meat and some of the liquid did ooze back out but the cooked joint was moist with a delicate flavour and the juices in the roasting tin produced the best gravy we’ve had in a while.

We used boneless pork leg that had a lovely marbling of fat. Get your butcher to score the fat.

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lamb filo triangles

June 11, 2008

Filo pastry is one of those products that seem to last forever. No matter how many times I take out a batch of silky smooth rectangles, I never manage to get to the end of the box. After last week’s attempt at a variation on tarte tatin, which mrB said needed more work, I thought it wise to go for a savoury dish. There’s something moreish about moist fillings encased in crisp, buttery parcels. And this time, mrB was more than happy with the results of my baking efforts.

These triangular parcels are filled with a sweet and spicy lamb mixture. The sweet part comes from a handful of chopped dates and the spicy part from a harissa-style paste. If you have some harissa to hand, you can substitute it for the paste.

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the cupboard was bare: pasta bake

June 5, 2008

Besides tending the garden, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading in recent weeks, including chef autobiographies as well as the usual cookery books. One of the autobiographies I thoroughly enjoyed and found difficult to put down was White Slave. In this book, Marco Pierre White describes a party where everyone is hungry but the host’s cupboards are bare. He volunteers to cook and in the kitchen he finds some onions, pasta, tomato puree, garlic and bacon, and serves up an amazing pasta dish inspired by the way his mother used to make it.

I remember a similar evening when I was a student – no party, but the same empty cupboard scenario. Back in the early nineties, my weekly food budget was about £10. In my shopping basket there would usually be a carton of milk, some rashers of bacon, a piece of meat, onions, carrots, potatoes and either some cheese or eggs, but never both. At the end of one particular week, I’d eaten all the interesting stuff and was left with an onion, a tiny piece of cheese and a limp carrot. One of my housemates rose to the challenge of cooking me dinner using those seemingly limited ingredients, together with whatever we could find in our store cupboards.

Using my leftovers she cooked the tastiest dinner I’d had all week. Carrot salad with a dressing to start, followed by a grilled pasta bake. I’ve tried to recreate the pasta dish here.

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on Venezuelan Black: chicken mole

May 12, 2008

In the weeks leading up to Easter, Channel 4 television aired the series Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory. During four hour-long episodes, we watched Willie Harcourt-Cooze set up his chocolate factory in the South West of England and cook some twenty recipes. The programme also included fascinating footage from his cacao plantation in Venzuela.

Willie’s enthusiasm for Venezuelan Black (made from 100% cacao) was infectious and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a few bars. I was particularly intrigued by the use of chocolate in savoury dishes. But what would I start with? In the programme, we’d seen Willie make:

  • gaspacho with roasted red peppers
  • black turtle beans with sweet peppers served with corn bread
  • roast pork with fennel seeds and injected with ginger, apricots and white wine
  • porcini risotto
  • fish in coconut sauce
  • venison in port gravy
  • partridge wrapped in pancetta and sprinkled with thyme leaves
  • chicken mole

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cornish pasties: or are they?

April 28, 2008

There is much debate about how to make a traditional cornish pasty. Should the filling be raw or pre-cooked? Should the crimp be on the top or the side? And there is even debate about the origin of the pasty. A recipe from Devon found in a book dated 1510 pips Cornwall’s oldest pasty recipe by over 200 years, according to an article I came across in the Independent.

One thing is for sure though: if you don’t live anywhere near Devon or Cornwall, a homemade pasty beats a shop-bought pasty every time. The filling of a pasty I sampled recently consisted mainly of mashed potato, tiny traces of meat and the odd stripe of carrot. Not a bit like the real thing, which usually contains small pieces of steak, onion, potato and swede.

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one pot dinner: sausage casserole

April 24, 2008

Last Saturday, mrB and I went to Bury Lane Farm Shop, near Royston in Hertfordshire. This farm shop has an excellent meat counter stocked with delights such as venison, rabbit and a great selection of sausages. The sausages include local ones such as Musk’s of Newmarket and sausages from further afield such as  Toulouse.

When you cook them, Toulouse sausages retain their deep pink colour and meaty texture, and ooze a rich garlic flavour that mingles with the rest of the ingredients in the pot. Perfect for cassoulets and casseroles.
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comfort food: bake in the oven crinkle-cut chips

April 18, 2008

I woke up with a stinking cold this morning. And it’s been making me feel miserable I can tell you. There’s only one thing that’s going to make me feel better. Crinkle-cut chips.

Preparing chips using a crinkle cutter increases surface area, which means the chips will absorb more oil when they cook. Not very healthy, but then you do end up with crunchier chips which is good because that’s how I like them. Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, served with a dash of cider vinegar and a sprinkle of sea salt.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can bake your chips with thin slices of garlic and fresh thyme leaves.

What do you eat when you’re feeling under the weather?

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waiter, there’s something in my … flageolet beans with lamb

March 31, 2008


Here goes my first food blogging event! Waiter there’s something in my … is a food event with broad themes, hence an easy one to get started with.  This month the theme is pulses and it’s hosted by Jeanne from Cook sister.

Now that the spring lamb season is about to begin and it’s still cool enough at night for casseroles, I’ve chosen braised lamb with flageolet beans. The beans absorb all the juices from the lamb and the flavours of the stock while they’re bubbling away, resulting in a soft, velvety texture.

Cooking with dried beans can be a chore. First of all, you have to remember in advance to soak the beans. Then, if you’re using kidney beans, they need a ten minute blast of rapid boiling to get rid of the toxins. And finally, there’s the lengthy cooking time. If your beans are past their best, throw them away because you’ll find that they never quite soften, no matter how long you cook them.

With this dish, it’s not cooking the beans that’s the hard part. It’s that look on Mr B’s face when you tell him that’s your lot, it’s all gone.

Update: Jeanne has now posted the roundup of WTSIM March 2008.

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the queen’s pizza: margherita

March 10, 2008


With the sun streaming in through the patio doors, my thoughts turned away from hearty stews and casseroles to lighter, more summery* dishes like pizza. My ideal pizza has a thin crispy base, topped with juicy mozzarella and as much tomato sauce as I can get away with.

For the tomato sauce, I’d planned on whizzing up a tin of tomatoes and then adding a little salt and pepper. Quick and easy it may be, but the end result is a little lumpy. After a quick flick through Jamie at Home, I stumbled upon a tomato sauce recipe that is infused with basil and garlic, pressed through a sieve and reduced to a smooth liquid. It really is a joy to spread and well worth the extra effort.

* By the time I’d eaten the pizza, the weather had turned and flurries of snowflakes were coming down. So much for spring!

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