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