Thursday, 29 July 2010

Seasonal produce

 I was impressed on my last shopping trip to see that Waitrose have expanded their range of 'South of England' regional produce!  Vegetables on sale included peas, broccoli, dwarf beans, courgettes, two varieties of potato, runner beans and spinach.  This is great to see and even better to eat!  It gives a real feel for when certain vegetables come into season, which is nice and helps to create a more varied diet in my opinion.

 I also came across this article on the Guardian website the other day, which claims that for the first time ever, British grown mange tout will be available, although I think it will only be in Marks and Spencer.  I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but I will as soon as I can!

It really does seem as if demand for British produce is increasing.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Paprika Beef

 A nice, simple dish that can be made with a relatively cheap cut of beef, such as braising (or chuck) steak.

 When using these cuts of meat, they can be a bit tough, but this problem can be solved by pounding the meat with a meat hammer.  If you don't have one of these, you could always use a rolling pin or something, but you'll need to hit it quite hard.  The advantage of using a meat hammer is that they have a face with a number of sharp points on it which really helps to tenderise the meat.  Anyway, once that's done, cut the meat into strips.

 Then, a hot frying pan, cook the meat along with a roughly sliced onion.

 The frying pan shown here is a cast iron type, which adds a wonderful flavour to many dishes, in particular steak.  However, any frying pan will do really.  While the meat and onions are cooking, season liberally with paprika, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Once the meat is cooked through (roughly 5 minutes per side, if you've pounded it quite thin), transfer to a sauce pan.  Add some water to the frying pan and use a spatula to make sure anything left over from the frying is transferred to the water.

 Remember, this was a cast iron pan!  If you're using a non-stick pan, don't use a metal spatula!  Pour the water from the frying pan into the sauce pan, cover and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes.

 That's it!  This is particularly good served with mashed potatoes and peas.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Barbecue trout

 The weather here in the UK has, for most of us at least, been fantastic for the last few weeks.  Some have even complained that it has been too hot!  Typical then, that on the day I should decide to have a barbecue, it turns out to be pouring with rain.  Anyway, I'm not the kind of person to let a mere bit of weather get in the way of a good plan, so I persevered.  I have been meaning to write about barbecues for a while, since although I like a good barbecue as much as anyone I often find that they are far to heavy on the red meat front.  Its always sausages, burgers, steak and maybe some chicken legs if you're lucky.  There's nothing wrong with any of those of course, it's just that I find it hard to consume nothing but red meat!  So, I have set out to try barbecuing fish, in this case trout.

 Here we have your basic farmed trout.  I'm not sure of the exact species, but I suspect from the pale pink band down its side that it is a rainbow trout.  Now, I've been fishing once or twice and I know that a rainbow trout caught in the wild looks much more obviously like its name-sake, but for a farmed fish this isn't a bad example.  My friendly, local fishmonger has already gutted this fish for me and I suggest that you get yours to do the same.  The first thing to do, as the coals of the barbecue are heating up, is to wash the fish to remove any remaining blood from inside.

 That's more or less all the preparation the fish needs!  All that remains is to season the inside of the fish with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I also added some roughly chopped fresh parsley and a couple of bay leaves.  I then used some wooden cocktail sticks to hold it all together so that the herbs wouldn't fall out during cooking.  That's the fish ready for the coals!

Since I didn't feel that the trout would be quite enough for one meal, I've also added some sausages and an orange pepper (barbecue's particularly well I find, particularly when seasoned with black pepper and a little olive oil.  Leave it until the skin starts to go black).  In this case, the fish took about half an hour to cook, 15 minutes per side.

 I've served this with a basic potato salad made from new potatoes boiled with the skins on, which were then left to cool and sliced into a mix of natural yogurt and cream, along with some chopped spring onion and some freshly ground black pepper and salt.  The fish was really nice, although trout has a very subtle flavour so you have to be a bit careful not to overpower it.  Ideally, I would have added some fresh dill to the herbs I put inside the fish, but I didn't have any on this occasion.  Let's hope that the sunny weather comes back!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sausage gratin

This is a slight variation on a recipe I've done before with sausage and asparagus, but it's a great way of cooking sausages if you're fed up of frying or grilling them!  To make, simply cook some potatoes in lightly salted, boiling water until they are nearly done.  Test them by sticking a fork or a skewer in and feeling the texture, it should still be firm and just ever so slightly 'gritty' which indicates that the potato is not fully cooked.  As we are going to be finishing them off in the oven, this is OK.

 While the potatoes are boiling, wash and chop some asparagus, peel and finely chop an onion, slice the sausages (I used three good sized, pork and apple sausages in this case) into good sized chunks.  Layer all of these ingredients into a heat proof dish, with the chopped onion at the bottom.  I added a layer of cherry tomatoes as well, as you can see.  I also put in a good bunch of freshly chopped herbs, in this case thyme, rosemary and sage.  A small pinch of course sea salt is a good idea at this stage to.  In this case, I am relying on the tomatoes to produce juice as they cook.  If you don't use tomatoes, you might find it necessary to add a little stock - chicken or vegetable would work well.

Once you've done that, slice the par-boiled potatoes and use the slices to cover the top of the dish, like so:

 Add some grated cheese and some freshly ground black pepper and place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes to an hour.  You can tell when it's cooked because the top will be all nice and brown and the juices in the bottom of the dish will be bubbling away nicely.  I'd recommend at least 40 minutes though, just to make sure that the sausages are cooked through properly.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Marrow and broad bean risotto

 I mentioned in my last  post that I would write something about marrows, so here we are!  I think, as vegetables go, marrows are fairly exciting.  To start with, they are quite big and can be huge!  Secondly, I think anything that has stripes just looks good.  Marrows are the tigers of the vegetable world.  Truly, a vegetable to admire.  Handily, they taste pretty good to, if you cook them right.  This is one vegetable that I would not recommend eating raw.  As far as I am aware, doing so won't do you any harm, it just doesn't taste that great.  So, I decided to turn this marrow into a risotto.

 This is very easy to do.  Simply wash the marrow and then cut it into roughly 1cm cubes.  Meanwhile, heat some oil in a heavy-based sauce pan (olive or rape-seed oil works very well) and when hot, add some finely chopped onion.  Cook the onion until it is nice and soft and just starting to turn brown.  Now, add about half a cup of risotto rice.  I use Arborio rice, which is particularly good I think.  Stir the rice around with the onion and then add enough chicken stock to just cover the rice and onion.  Then, put the lid on the sauce pan and leave it simmering for a while.  Keep an eye on it and when it looks like most of the fluid has been absorbed, add a little more to again just cover the rice.  For half a cup of rice, you'll want about 450ml of chicken stock.  You may want to give it a stir from time to time as well to make sure it doesn't stick and burn in the bottom of the pan.

 Once you've added about half the stock, add the chopped marrow.  Now, I have chosen to add broad beans as well, because they are in season right now, so these can go in at the same time.  Flavour the dish with some freshly chopped sage, ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.  A knob of butter really adds to the flavour, but is optional.  Stir it around and add the rest of the stock.  Put the lid on the pan and leave it to simmer until the marrow has gone really soft and most of the fluid has been absorbed.  That's it!

 Now, a risotto should really be served with Parmesan cheese, but of course that's not British.  So, I have to admit I went without the cheese, but it would be really good to be able to find a good British alternative to Parmesan.  I shall investigate this.