Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Beef in Black Bean and Chilli Sauce

Contrary to popular belief (work colleagues) I actually really like Chinese food, the problem is most restaurants or take-aways, serve up the same old thing wherever you go, they all look and taste the same and there’s very little to distinguish the myriad of places I’ve eaten in. Plus if you go with a group, someone usually suggests the set menu and you end up with the usual and stymied choices none of which are exciting or to be honest, that tasty.

Making your own is a much better option. Everything is fresher and of course cooked to your own tastes.

Chinese cooking can require some initial investment and the odd trip to the Chinese supermarket but it can be very rewarding. Some dishes can be complex but the majority are all about the prep and 5-10 mins actual cooking

This dish is one of my favourite Chinese meals, I love the flavour of black beans and amount they deliver is not in keeping with their size. I’ve never seen them in normal supermarkets so you may need to go further afield. Worry not though, they will keep in airtight container in the fridge forever (don’t hold me to this). The chilli gives it that all important kick, the various sauces are pretty standard fare but marry perfectly with the black beans.

Some prep, really tasty, why not give it a go?

600g of Rump steak thinly sliced across the grain
2 Spring Onions very thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons of Shaohsing Rice Wine (or Dry Sherry)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white sugar

Black Bean and Chilli Sauce
1 Small red onion finely sliced
Thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped
3 Garlic cloves roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons of salted black beans
2 Tablespoons of Shaohsing Rice Wine (or Dry Sherry)
1 tablespoon of white sugar
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of malt vinegar
1 Birds eye Chilli , de-seeded and very finely sliced
100 ml of cold water

Mix the marinade ingredient, add the beef and coat thoroughly, leave for 30 mins

Heat the wok until very hot, add a tablespoon of groundnut oil, fry the beef in batches around 30 seconds per batch, remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side

Rinse the black beans in a sieve under cold water, drain and then in a pestle and mortar mash the beans into a paste like consistency

Combine in a bowl or glass the rice wine, sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce and malt vinegar

Heat the wok again, add a tablespoon of groundnut oil, very quickly fry the onion, garlic ginger and chilli, stirring all the time for about 30 seconds. Add the black beans, stir fry for another 30 seconds. Stir in the rice wine mixture, bring to the boil, Add the water and combine thoroughly. If the sauce looks a little thick add more water until you achieve the consistency you’re happy with

Add the beef again, bring to the boil, simmer for 2 mins


Stir through the spring onions and serve with steamed rice

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Leftover Potatoes with Bacon and Egg

Leftovers eh? You’ll very probably be hearing, seeing and tasting a lot of leftovers during the next few weeks. To be honest, it is difficult sometimes to know what to do with that bowl of “stuff” in the fridge especially when inspiration is not forthcoming and there’s loads of other food in the house. The thing is though, right, is that when you do create something wonderful with the scraps in the fridge, you get a great sense of achievement with an added dash of go me.

So these little buggers have been staring at me for a few days now, daring me to do something different and I’d toyed with the usual potato salad idea but then I remembered this old favourite, adapted it to what I had to hand and this is how it came out

As well as tasting great this can be done in 10-15 mins or so, which makes it ideal for a midweek supper

Pancetta cubes are awesome, they can form the base of many a dish and for me have the edge over their bacon cousins taste-wise. The potatoes are great on their own, I think they’re available in most supermarkets (certainly Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s) and they’re called apache.

Spring onions add fresh crunch and the parsley adds the earthy depth.
Finally the poached egg, cooked right, the yolk makes the dish self saucing. 
A Drizzle of oil? Don’t mind if I do sir.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

Handful per person of pre boiled potatoes cut into chunks
100g Cubetti Di Pancetta
1 Spring onion finely sliced
Sprig of parsley finely chopped
2 Fresh eggs
Splash of white wine vinegar

Fill a saucepan ¾ full of water and put onto boil, or boil the kettle and empty into the pan
In a small frying pan add the pancetta then on a high heat fry until the cubes start to brown and the fat is released.
Empty the potatoes into the pancetta pan and gently warm through, stiring to ensure the potatoes are covered in the lovely pancetta fat.

Add a splash of vinegar to the water, stir through and then add the eggs to poach for 3 mins

Meanwhile stir the spring onions and parsley into the bacon and potato mix, season to taste.

When eggs are done remove from the pan and place on paper towel to soak up any excess water.

Plate up the bacon and potato mix and top with the poached egg, finally drizzle with oil if required.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Two types of beans, tapas style

I love making this, both dishes use up what I have in the freezer, fridge and store cupboard. There’s a very distinct nod towards a couple of tapas dishes I’ve had previously and the inclusion of the sherry vinegar certainly lends that Spanish feel to the dishes

Beans are quite obviously key elements but equally prominent is the inclusion of the bits of salami from the back of the fridge.

Once created, how you eat them is up to you. You could perhaps serve them up with other tapas type dishes, have as a light snack or on toasted bread like I have here.

However you have them, you’ll find yourself with something very tasty, simple to make and with all that bean type goodness its fairly healthy

Butter Beans and Chilli

1 400ml tin of Butter Beans
1 Shallot finely chopped
1 Clove of Garlic finely chopped
1 Green Chilli Finely chopped
½ Glass Dry white wine
Splash of Sherry Vinegar
Handful of flat leaf Parsley roughly chopped
About 8cm Salami/saucisson Sliced thinly then into batons
Squeeze of Lemon Juice

In a medium frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the Shallots and Garlic for a minute
Stir in the Salami and keep frying for about 2 mins
Add the beans and chilli cook for another 2 mins
Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half
Add the vinegar and stir through
Simmer gently for about 5 mins until the beans start the break-up slightly (It’s at this point you can start cooking the broad bean dish if you’re doing both)
Season to taste

Add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir through the Parsley, then drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil

Broad Beans and Mint

Two large handfuls of broad beans, cooked and podded
1 Shallot finely chopped
1 Clove of Garlic finely chopped
Handful of frozen peas
½ Glass Dry white wine
Splash of Sherry Vinegar
10 mint leaves finely chopped
About 8cm Salami/saucisson Sliced thinly then into batons
Squeeze of Lemon Juice

In a medium sauce pan , heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the Shallots and Garlic for a minute

Stir in the Salami and keep frying for about 2 mins
Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half
Add the peas, and cook for two mins
Add the Broad beans, stir through then stir in the vinegar
Stir in the mint
Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice to add freshness and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Yuk Sung

You know what?  If you can persuade your fellow diners to move away from crispy duck and try something new then they may thank you for recommending Yuk Sung.

It’s a wonderfully simple but an equally impressive little starter or if you like it can replace the duck course in a Chinese set meal, it follows similar principles in that you wrap the main content in lettuce rather than pancakes. Given the right ingredients, sauces and fresh lettuce this is equally as good as it’s Duck counterpart.

The chilli is optional as it gives the whole thing a kick you may or may not want. What’s key is the minced pork and the addition of mint for freshness and spring onion for crunch.

Plum or Hoisin Sauce, dropped into the centre of each little lettuce parcel goes very well indeed

Ingredients Serves 6

500g Minced Pork
2 cloves of Garlic finely chopped
Thumb size piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
2 Carrots
1 Stick of Celery
1 Birdseye Chilli finely chopped
3 Spring Onions roughly chopped
Tin of Water chestnuts
Tablespoon for fresh, finely chopped mint
Handful of coriander leaves
3 Little gem lettuces, leaves separated, to make little containers for the mixture
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine
2 Tablespoons Light soy
1 Tablespoon Dark soy
2 Tablespoons of oyster Sauce
1 Teaspoon of Sugar
Groundnut oil

Food Processor, you can chop the carrots, celery and water chestnuts by hand but this will take ages

First Blitz the carrots in the food processor until finely chopped, add the celery and pulse until chopped, repeat the process with the drained water chestnuts

Mix the sugar, rice wine, both soy’s and the oyster sauce in a glass until the sugar has dissolved

Heat the wok until smoking, add a little , swirl round the pan, then fry/brown about ¼ on the mince, remove from the pan to a plate and repeat until the mince is all cooked

Reheat the pan and fry the Garlic, chilli and Ginger for around 30 seconds, then throw in the Carrot, celery, water chestnut mixture and fry for 1 minute

Return the pork to the pan and stir well for around a further minute

Now add the Sauces and sugar, cook for about 2 mins stirring well

Stir through the mint and Spring Onions then empty onto a warm serving dish

Serve with a pile of lettuce leaves, dipping sauces such as Hoisin or Plum.

Oh and napkins as it gets a bit messy

Friday, 21 September 2012

Salt Beef

This has been on my “To Do” list longer than decorate the bathroom and mend the front gate. By the way this does not mean they’re next

I first had Salt Beef in Smiths of Smithfield (London) and have been in love with it ever since. Imagine a beef that crumbles to the touch, yet is moist and so full of flavour your taste buds will melt into oblivion. Got that image? Good, because you’re somewhere near what this is like.

As it happens I’ve only ever had Salt beef in London and If ever you’re in Borough Market, there is stall that sells hot beef baps. Slabs of beef with layers of Pickles and English Mustard … hmmm heaven. It’s from that stall that I took my inspiration for this.

Salt beef has become fashionable of late, as it takes a cheaper cut of meat and turns it into something divine, think of it as pulled pork but with beef. I believe (could be wrong) that this comes from the States.

So the prep time is a week is it, surely you’re having a laugh? No and if I’m honest that’s what’s been stopping me from making it before, the amount of planning etc ..., finding a box big enough to keep it in and convincing the other half, that sacrificing half the fridge for a week is worth it. I think, now we’ve eaten it, she will agree.

The brining part of the recipe came from Diana Henry in the Daily Telegraph, the rest of the recipe is my own

Ingredients and Equipment

You will need a massive container, bowl or similar receptacle to hold the meat and all of the liquid. I opted for one of these lads from Sainsburys

You’ll also need a suitably sized sauce pan with lid to simmer the beef

275g (9¾oz) soft light-brown sugar
350g (12oz) coarse sea salt
2 tsp black peppercorns
½ tbsp juniper berries
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme

2.5 Kg of Brisket
2 Carrots cut into chunks
1 onion peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
2 Sprigs of thyme

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a very large saucepan, pour in 2.5 litres (4½ pints) of water and gradually bring to the boil, stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Once it comes to the boil, let it bubble away for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.

Usually brisket comes pre-rolled I found it easier to untie the meat and lay it flat in the container

Pierce the meat all over with a skewer or as in my case a knife. Put it in your large container (something non-reactive) and cover the meat with the brine; it must be totally immersed. I put two small side plates on top to hold it down. Cover and leave in the fridge for 7 days

After a week remove the meat and discard the brine. Rinse the meat thoroughly under a cold tap and then pat dry with a paper towel.

Re-Tie the beef, you may need two people for this

Place the beef along with all the other ingredients in a large pan and then cover with cold water.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 3-4 hours. Make sure it’s a very low simmer

By the end you should be able to push a skewer into the beef with little resistance.

You could serve hot with Mash and gravy, on this occasions I went for  Sandwich

Using thick sliced wholemeal bread, layer on Mayo, English mustard, sliced pickles, the beef, 
Emmental cheese and rocket.

Then chomp down, gorgeous

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chicken and Fennel Stew (with a touch of Slovenia)

Bear with me whilst I indulge in some self indulgent trumpet blowing for a minute would you.
I love being able to cook well and one of the most pleasing things about having the confidence and the knowledge, is the ability to just coming up with something out of the blue. It could be based on something I had once, seen on TV, read in a magazine or just the thought of certain ingredients seem to spark an idea

For me this was a combination of the arrival of summer (it had better be), Dan coming back from Slovenia and bring some dried herbs with him, a hankering for a light, flavoursome dish and of course chicken

Chicken, Fennel and Tarragon work really, really well and the addition of lemon lifts everything to a new level. The stock is obvious in a stew and the light yellow Pomodpri tomatoes add body but are subtle enough to blend perfectly with the other ingredients

Prep time is minimal and would suit a long afternoon lounging outside whilst you soak up what sunshine there is this year. When the heat of the day begins to wane, remove from the oven and ladle into generous bowls, add a green salad is you wish, some bread and a glass of crisp cool white wine, perfect!

700g Boneless Chicken thighs
750g Small potatoes chopped into chunks (I used Anya)
1 Red Onion Finely Chopped
4 cloves Garlic finely chopped
1 Large fennel bulb washed, tough bits removed and quartered
1 tin of Sainsbury’s Pomodori D’Oro Plum Tomatoes
80g plain flour, seasoned well
1 Large Glass or Dry white wine
500 ml Chicken stock
Tablespoon of Chopped Tarragon
Mixed Dried Herbs, in this case Bad Ischler from Solvenia (Thanks Dan, you may have to source something more local)
Squeeze of lemon Juice
Handful of chopped Parsley
2 Tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 160o
In a large flame proof casserole dish add the oil and put on the hob until hot
Brown the chicken in batches of about 4 at a time until browned, remove and put aside
Fry the onions until soft

Add the fry gently for another min
Add the Fennel and fry for another min

Add the remaining flour from the chicken and fry for 1 min
Add the wine stirring vigorously then leave to reduce by half
Add the tomatoes, stock and dried herbs stirring to combine everything
Finally re-add the chicken, stir well
Place the lid on the dish and cook in the oven for around 3 hours

Before you serve stir through, with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then finish with the chopped parsley

Serve with a green salad, some bread and of course some white wine

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Beef Ragu

There appears to be something quite sacred about Ragu, many families will guard their recipe with the utmost secrecy. Debate still rages today as to what a “True” Ragu should contain. In fact I’m sure I’ve committed some kind of Ragu heresy by adding tomatoes as it’s supposed to be a meat sauce.

If you love a good spag bol have a go at this, please don’t be put off by the cooking time, most of that is popping back into the kitchen for a quick stir

The beef, with a long slow cook, will literally fall apart into little fibres and the pork adds flavour brilliantly.

What I, Lisa, the kids and my friends like about this is the almost luxuriously rich and deep flavour. The beauty is that with such a strong flavour you don’t need much on a plate as it should be used sparingly against a larger amount of pasta. The pasta for Ragu purists is supposed to be tagliatelle but I’ve used spaghetti as Lisa insists on it.

Equally worth a mention is the low cost, this recipe here will probably feed around 12-14 people depending on their appetite of course. Just remember use the sauce sparingly. Fortunately it freezes really well. Go on have a go everyone will love it, honest Guv, just look

Cooking time 4 Hours

500g Cubed, Stewing, Braising, Blade or Skirt Steak
500g Minced Pork
500 ml of Beef Stock
2 Chicken livers chopped (lamb livers also work well)
2 Large onions diced
2 Carrots diced
1 Stick of celery finely chopped
3 cloves of Garlic finely chopped
2 Tins of Tomatoes
1/3 Bottle of red wine
Tablespoon of Tomato paste
Sprig of Rosemary finely chopped
3 sprigs of Thyme
Pinch of Chilli Flakes
80g Plain flour, seasoned

Dredge the beef through the flour covering all the pieces
In a big pan heat about a tablespoon of olive oil, and brown the beef. Once brown remove and put to one side.
Fry the onions for 2 mins, put the lid on and sweat for 5
Add the Garlic and fry for 1 min
Add the livers and fry gently for 3 mins
Add the Carrots and Celery then fry for another 2 mins
Add the Tomato Puree and cook for another 2 mins
Add the Minced pork fry, stirring all the time until brown
Add what’s left of the flour and fry for another min
Add the tomatoes, red wine sprigs of thyme (remember to remove at the end) and stock
Bring to the boil add the beef, rosemary and chilli flakes

Simmer very gently for 3-4 four hours, until the sauce is thick and the meat falls apart.
Taste and season if necessary, if it’s a little bitter, try adding ketchup or sugar or Worcestershire sauce.

Serve with pasta of your choice