Friday, 15 August 2008

Roast dinner

On Sunday I had the gang round for a roast dinner because my sister was up for the weekend, I wanted to show off my newly decorated house and I hadn't had people round for ages. Unfortunately the butcher, who was told to cut the beef rib between the 4th and 5th to give a generous 4 rib joint, cut between the 3rd and 4th. Luckily there was enough for everyone. It was lovely meat, although I did overcook it a little (nb timings given by Gary Rhodes for a beef rib are well over - 20 minutes per pound gave meat that was borderline well done and not medium) . I did write out a timing list as usual but it all went a bit haywire and so I ended up with carrots "al dente" and yorkshire puds that didn't rise (despite that recipe never failing me in the past) - and yes, the fat was searingly hot. I think I'm going to have to experiment with new recipies for yorkshires.

Not up to my usual standards but everyone enjoyed themselves and that is the main reason for having them over in the end. This does just mean that I will have to practice more and I'm sure the village people will not mind assisting in the trials ;)

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Preserves - the jury is out

So the blackberry & apple and raspberry & nectarine jams are now out to the Village People Jury....

Sunday, 13 July 2008

BBQ pt 2 - Mechouia

At S's bbq I also made a version of a Tunisian classic, mechouia. This is a salad of grilled/roasted vegetables and there seem to be as many versions of it as there are days of the year! The basic principle is that vegetables are roasted or grilled and then dressed with a dressing incorporating North African seasoning. You need to get a good smokey flavour into the vegetables so if you could cook them on a blisteringly hot bbq then so much the better. I couldn't so grilled them under a very hot grill until blackened and then ran the larger veg through the oven to cook out.

I suppose that one could use whatever was at hand but I used a couple of aubergines an onion and several large new spring onions, blackened and then roasted, a couple of red peppers, a few courgettes and some cherry tomatoes. The aubergine and onion take the longest so these were grilled first and then put in the oven. When done they were peeled and roughly chopped. The peppers similarly, although the blackening process under the grill was sufficient to cook them and these were also peeled and roughly chopped. The courgette was sliced and grilled until lightly browned together with the tomatoes.

For the dressing grind a teaspoon each of caraway and cumin to a powder with a teaspoon of salt and half of cayenne pepper (I suppose this depends on how you like it, you could use paprika for a milder effect). I did this all in a pestle and mortar and added a peeled garlic clove to the spices and ground that to a paste then ground in a nice spoonful of harrisa - I have a lovely home-made version that incorporates plenty of heat with the wonderful unique flavour of preserved lemon - and some olive oil to loosen it all off. I dressed the vegetables lightly as each was ready, building up the dish and then liberally dressing at the end. I think adding the dressing to the hot vegetables and then allowing them to cool in the liquid adds to the flavour and allows all the different flavours to really come together. If you wanted you could eat this warm, although we ate it at room temperature and it was absolutely delicious. Serve with some fresh coriander if you have it.

BBQ pt 1

So we had a bbq at the weekend to celebrate S's birthday. I helped out by making burgers (meat and veggie) and a veggie side dish. There were a couple of strict vegetarian guests so we had to make sure that there was enough non-meat food. Turns out there was more non-meat than meat!

I went to town on the burgers as I didn't fancy just plain slabs of meat again. First off were the veggies which was very simply a couple of cans of chickpeas drained and processed until fairly fine with a chopped red onion, some chopped coriander, mint and parsley (from my garden), a grated clove of garlic and a teaspoon of the North African spice mix, baharat. In lieu of baharat a little ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander would serve just as well. A good pinch of salt and pepper and we were done.

The meat ones were full of seasoning. We started with a red onion and about 100g chestnut mushrooms finely chopped, which were gently fried until soft and a clove of garlic grated in right at the end of the frying. That was cooled in a bowl and I added 4 cornichons finely chopped, about a tablespoon of thyme (from the garden again), a good grind of black pepper, a splash of Tabasco and 2 anchovy fillets very finely chopped, almost to a paste. For some reason a little anchovy makes meat dishes a little richer, perhaps it enhances the savouriness of it all. I don't know why it works but it does. Apparently so does star anise which Heston Blumenthal recommends adding to meat ragus (such as good old spag bol) to boost the flavour - although not enough to give a full anise hit. Anyway, the burgers - to the cooled seasonings mix in an egg and a couple of pounds of good steak mince then just shape and cook. I made 12 burgers out of that lot.

Monday, 7 July 2008


I've been up to a bit of preserving over the last few days. I do like chutney and pickles so thought I'd make a few. I've previously made some that have gone down very well (piccalilli and pear chutney in particular) and so thought I'd have a crack at a few more. So I've now got a cupboard stuffed with blackberry and apple jam, raspberry and nectarine jam, tomato chutney, Bengal chutney, and some balsamic and thyme shallots.

I have yet to put my efforts out the to the Village People Jury but I'm not sure that they are all going to be successful. Certainly I am not sure about two of them. First the raspberry and nectarine jam and second the tomato chutney.

Jam should be easy as you just boil up equal parts fruit and sugar. However, I ended up with one really good set (the blackberry and apple) and one (raspberry and nectarine) that despite passing the test for a set during cooking, seemed to stay totally liquid in the jars. After a day with no set I decided to boil it up again and see if I could get a proper set rather than ditch it (or pass off as a compote rather than jam!). I did get a set but was amazed at how much I had to reduce the liquid by - I lost a whole 8 ounce jar in the process of boiling the syrup down to get a set. That is a fair amount of liquid to lose for a 10 minute boil. Anyway we have a set now. They both seem good and will soon be passed out to my testers. I'm not going to give away what the extras are in each of the jams and preserves over and above the basic fruit and sugar - I wonder if they'll be able to taste my little additions? Although, if they know me well enough by know they may be able to guess the genre of product that may have been added :)

With the tomato chutney, I seem to have ended up with a total loss of the identity of the tomato and it seems to be just raisins and onions. I think that the recipe might be over kill on the dried fruit on this one, but as always I usually stick to the recipe first time before playing with it (although I did add change this one just a teeny bit to boost the flavour). Perhaps I'll re-name this one onion and raisin chutney. I may also have to keep my tomatoes much more chunky, I wasn't cutting very fine but from the looks of this, quarters or halves would probably have sufficed. Well, the proof will be in the tasting. A hot taste seemed ok, but we'll have to see what it is like in action soon.

My favourite potential is the Bengal chutney but that will take at least a couple of months to mature. The balsamic onions will also probably need a month but a hot taste of the preserving liquid is promising.

Next is to re-create my pear chutney that was so nice last time. As mentioned in my main blog, the cook book fairy has probably got that one so I'm going to have fun deconstructing the little bit I have left and then trying to re-build the recipe.

So, if anyone wants some jam or chutney give me a shout. I also need empty jars!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Sticky ribs

We had a very nice bbq round at my parents house today, and a couple of things came up. Firstly was that my aunt and mum like margaritas. Second was cooking with booze. One of the marinades for the chicken on the bbq was tequila and lime based. I think it also had some tomato base and a bit of chilli - will have to investigate that one further. However, I was also chatting with my aunt about a new sauce that mum had which was a Jack Daniels table sauce with chilli (not bad, basically bbq sauce with a bit of a kick) and we got onto the subject of cooking with JD. A good friend has had success in marinading beef in JD for a couple of hours before cooking (although if on a bbq I might suggest ensuring it is drained well and using long tongs). This was all good but it put me in mind of a recipe I had made last summer for pork ribs which my aunt was very keen to try.

It is one of those recipes for really sticky ribs where the meat is falling off the bone (more American style than Chinese) and is best done with a full rack of ribs rather than individuals, although I suppose there is no reason why individual ribs can't be used. A note of caution, do line your roasting pan with foil or it will be a bugger to clean.

Anyway, with thanks to Diana Henry for this one, for each rack of ribs mix up equally quantities of Jack Daniels (although I have done this successfully with straight whiskey too, bourbon is better here) and maple syrup, to make about a quarter pint of liquid and add 2 or 3 cloves of crushed garlic and about the same volume of grated ginger. You can leave the marinade there as I have done when I couldn't remember the whole recipe and it works well. If you want some extra punch the whole recipe then calls for adding a generous teaspoon of mustard (mild like Dijon as English is too strong), and the same of Tabasco (depending on taste) and Worcestershire sauce. Chuck most of the marinade over the ribs and roast in a moderate oven (170-180) for about 30 minutes, turn down to a low oven (140-150) and then cook for 1.5-2hours basting with the balance of the marinade every so often.

Very sticky, very yummy and with a little kick if you add the extra sauces to the marinade.

If you wanted to adapt for bbq season I would suggest poaching the ribs gently in water until tender and then bbq in the marinade to finish basting liberally and being careful not to burn them as the sugar content will probably caramelise and burn quite quickly.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Indian turkey kebabs

The sun decided to show its face today and so the opportunity for a BBQ could not be missed. L&C kindly hosted the afternoon. K made lovely beef burgers and I made turkey kebabs based on the work of the doyen of the Indian kitchen, Madhur Jaffrey. They went down so well that everyone wanted the recipe (and hence the idea for this blog was born).

Firstly, a comment on kebabs. They are not necessarily cooked on skewers and there are a number of great kebabs that are meat patties. I might look into where the word "kebab" comes from one day. But for present purposes I just wanted to point out that some kebabs, and these included, come in patty form. The best example being the chappli kebab of the Pakistani North West Frontier - some fond memories there of eating fresh chappli kebabs made at the roadside and eaten with a freshly cooked nan bread. A great idea that - if you place the kebab in the centre of the nan, pieces can then be torn off the bread to use to eat the kebab which diminishes in size as the bread shrinks until you are left with the last mouthful (and the last few bites have the yummy juices soaked into the bread). Essentially the nan is part of the meal but also doubles as an edible plate! I digress...

The kebabs, take about 500g of turkey mince and combine with finely chopped chilli to taste 3-4 crushed garlic cloves, a good tablespoon of minced ginger, 1/4 teaspoon (or more if brave) cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 2-4 tablespoons of chopped fresh corriander (or I actually use parsley as I am more likely to have this to hand), 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of yoghurt strained through muslin for a couple of hours but you can easily cheat and add 3-4 tablespoons of greek yoghurt as this is basically just strained yoghurt. To be true to Mrs J you should also add a tablespoon of chickpea flour that you have lightly roasted in a pan. However, I don't usually have this or the time and cornflour works a treat and you don't lose much on the flavour with everything else going on. Mix it all together and leave in the fridge for a good few hours, up to a day. Shape into patties and grill/fry.

A small variation, leaning towards my lazy side and being in a bit of a rush is to place the yoghurt (after straining if not using Greek) in a mini-blender with the roughly chopped chilli, ginger and garlic and then whizz to a fine paste. This saves the grating/chopping and gets the flavours into the meat quicker.