Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Pizza tomatoes

A barely there recipe for a barely there blog. Current favourite breakfast, tomatoes-that-taste-like-pizza on toast. Slice a beef tomato into discs and arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Douse with olive oil, scatter with sea salt and pepper, add a few tiny slivers of garlic and a sprinkling of fresh (preferable) or dried thyme. Grill under a high heat for five minutes, scoop onto toast, eat.

Still here, still eating lots. Just not writing it down :-)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Chipotle beef back ribs, butter rice & scotch bonnet sauce

FACTOID: short ribs are the back of the ribcage, near the flank and sirloin bits, and the meat is on top of the bones. Back ribs – rather confusingly – are from the front end near the tasty rib-eye stuff, and the meat is between the bones. There’s a higher bone to beef ratio with back ribs but they’re subsequently cheaper - the racks below were £3 each from Ginger Pig in Hackney - and, with all that lovely fat, have bags of flavour. Nose to tail kids, nose to tail.

Nice rack.

Serves two very hungry people (or one slightly less hungry person four times)

For the ribs

2 racks of beef ‘spare’ ribs

2 red peppers, roughly sliced

15 shallots, peeled

2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic

The stems from a bunch of coriander

1kg vine tomatoes – you can go for fairly big ones, they don’t need to be tiny – cut in half

1 scotch bonnet chilli

2l beef stock

A massive, massive cooking pot, suitable for the oven

Spices and stuff

2 chipotle chillies

3tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

2tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp turmeric

3 star anise

6 bay leaves

3tsp sea salt

1tsp ground black pepper

To finish the sauce

Large bunch of coriander

1 scotch bonnet chilli – without or without seeds as is your preference, I included them

2tsp caster sugar

Juice of 2 limes

Butter rice

200g rice

50g butter

1tsp salt

Heat the oven to 150 degrees C / gas mark 2.

Chop the racks in half by following the edge of one of the central bones with your knife.

Split the chipotles in half and flatten them before tipping them seeds and all into a hot, dry frying pan. Toast for a couple of minutes – be sure to stick your nose above the pan and inhale the deliciously evocative smoky pepper smells – then remove from the pan.

Add a massive glug of olive oil to your massive, massive cooking pot, and gently cook the peppers, shallots, celery, carrots, garlic and coriander stems until they start to soften and smell sweet. Chuck in the spices and stuff, and cook for a further ten minutes. This bit also smells ace.

FACTOID: turmeric isn't really used for flavor – it tastes a bit gross – but is an excellent coagulant so keeps meat all moist and juicy, thus its prevalence in slow cooking and BBQ dishes.

Add the tomatoes to the pot, and leave them to get a bit squishy for ten or so minutes.

Add the stock along with 1 scotch bonnet chilli, then add the ribs, maneuvering the contents of the pot so that everything sits obediently just below the surface (you might need a smidge more liquid).

Cut a circle of foil large enough rest on the surface of the liquid and be wrapped over the top of the pan, and do just that. Stick the pot in the oven and go distract yourself for 3 hours…learn the rudiments of a foreign language…tidy your bedroom…paint your finger nails an attractive shade of purple before removing the whole lot because you can’t colour between the lines…I don’t care, just leave the oven alone.

Butter rice

Butter rice is essentially just an excuse to add even more butter to life. Rice is THE best carb and no one will convince me otherwise, and forcing it to absorb delicious, delicious butter is adds a subtle but welcome layer of additional food sexy. You can cook this between 30 minutes and an hour before you want to serve - it'll stay nice and hot.

Put a pan of water onto boil and rinse the rice under cold running water for a couple of minutes. Add the salt to the water, then add the rice. Give it s stir, let the rice sink for a couple of seconds and pour off all but 2cm of the water. Add the butter, stir again before putting a lid on the pan and turning the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. DO NOT lift the lid or it’ll go all wrong. Just leave it alone until you serve, okay?

Back to the ribs

When the braising time is up, carefully remove the ribs from the pot. Skim the fat from the liquid, then boil rapidly and reduce by 1/3 - this took around 15 minutes. Add the sugar and scotch bonnet, blitz the lot, and pass through a seive. Add the coriander and lime juice, blitz again and taste - I added a fair amount of salt at this point. You'll have LOADS of sauce, but it's okay - it doubles as a spicy soup, or can be frozen in batches for future times.

To serve

Heat the grill as high as it’ll go – this would be FABULOUS on the BBQ but alack! I don’t own one – baste the ribs with the skimmed-off fat and sprinkle with salt. Stick them under the grill for a couple of minutes each side, until the fat sizzles and they’re nicely browned. Serve them with the butter rice, sauce and - if you can be bothered – some guacamole.

Tender beef that just FALLS off the bone, loads of chilli and fluffy rice. The only thing I will say is be careful with the bones: watch out for rogue bits. This will be even better the next day - let the ribs cool down in the cooking liquid, refrigerate. When you come to serve, heat the meat gently in the liquid and proceed as above (from the sauce bit).

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Trotter beast goes East

However utterly lovely - silky, savoury, surprisingly delicate - the chicken in trotter jelly was, there's only so much of it one person can eat. So...gently heat the jelly in a saucepan, add a dribble of water to loosen it a bit. Chuck in chilli flakes and fish sauce and let it simmer for two minutes, before pouring into a bowl and throwing in chopped spring onions and lime juice (I *wish* I had some coriander in the house). Really, really, bloooooody good. I surprise myself sometimes, I really do.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Chicken in trotter jelly

I wanted to make something meaty. I knew it should involve jelly. Thank you Lithuanian Jotter for providing a welcome spot of direction, and Ginger Pig for selling me random bits of animal.

Trotters aren't really for the faint of heart, or at least the faint of feet. I’m not a huge fan, aesthetically speaking, of the human variety so these porkers turned my stomach a bit.


So, tackle the feet. You may wish to pour yourself a fortifying drink now, or you might want to wait until the foot-hair-be-gone debacle is over and celebrate then. Or perhaps you do both and pretend to be Anthony Bourdain guest-starring in My Drunk Kitchen. Anyway, put a large pan of water on to boil and de-fuzz them feets. You can try to remove the bristles with a flame but I found this ineffective and TOTALLY stinky so got busy with a razor, all the while cursing epilation attempt number one for making my flat hum so heinously. Try as I might, I just couldn’t remove every hair from in between the toes (srsly, BLEEEEUUUUGGGGH), but as I was going to strain the liquid to buggery at the end I didn’t panic too much.

Add the trimmed trotters to the boiling water, allow to boil again and bubble for five minutes. Strain, discard the liquid, refill the pot with fresh water and set to boil once more. Being a glutton for punishment I gave the trotters a final once over at this point, but to be honest it wasn’t pleasant and I’d fully support you in not bothering.

Par-boiled trotters. I repeat, BLEEEEEUUUGGGGGH..

While the fresh water is coming to the boil, prepare the vegetables and assemble the aromatics. Chop two ribs of celery and two carrots into thirds, quarter two onions and slice a leek into fat rounds. For aromatics I used five bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary, two star anise, a handful of parsley, lots of black pepper and 2tsp salt. Should you feel the need, place everthing in bowls and on plates, in order to give that newly-minted cookery show-type feel.

Once the water is boiling, add the trotters, veg and aromatics, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and leave the pot alone for two hours. I gave the pot the occasional poke with a wooden spoon but that’s because I’m an only child and felt left out. I’m sure it’s fine left to its own devises while you do something constructive.

I’d bought some raspberries in order to pay on my card at the greengrocer, and at this point I squished them into a vodka, swigged gratefully and gave myself a little pat on the back for being such a brave girl.

After two hours, pop in two big, free-range chicken drumstick thighs (the leg and the thigh together), ensure they're submerged in stock and poach them gently for an hour - until the flesh is soft and cooked but not overdone. Skim as much fat from the top of the stock as you can.

When the final hour is up, strain the bits out and for CHRIST'S SAKE do not let your megawesome stock disappear down the sink with a momentary brain fart. Discard all solids with the exception of a couple of bits of carrot and the trotters and thighs. Strain the stock through a fine sieve several times, before putting it back on the stove on a fast bubble and reducing for ten minutes. While this is happening, pick the meat from the chicken and trotters, breaking any larger pieces down a little. Slice the carrot pieces into thin rounds. Taste the reduced stock and adjust the seasoning if necessary - it should be savoury and well seasoned, as the flavour can dull a little when it chilled.

Add a couple of tablespoons of stock into the base of four, small, Chinese-type bowls. Add a few bits of carrot, the meat, then pour in the stock until everything is just covered, pushing any rogue bits down if needed. Allow the jellies to cool before covering in cling film and placing in the fridge.

They're ready! Remove the jellies from the fridge, run a flexible knife around the edge, invert and shake gently until they ffffffffffffffffffffftssss satisfyingly onto waiting plates. Garnish with coarse sea salt and serve with toast and something acidic - I used pickled shallots.

Silky poached chicken set in spreadable, flavoursome pork juice. What's not to love?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

My first photo shoot

Gadzooks, a blog post! And with pretty pictures too. Who are you and what have you done with Shed?

If these shots suggest I locked myself away with a snazzy camera, Food Photography for Dummies and an assembly of props appropriated from someone with a sense of style much greater than mine, apologies, it’s all lies. They’re the result of a long – but hugely enjoyable – summer photo shoot which Lex, Y and I did for Hubbub, which incidentally is where my recipes have been going for the last four months (or did you think I’d stopped eating?).

With the exception of a little kitchen prep the day before, we cooked and shot 28 recipes in one day, with Y behind the camera, Lex arranging things artfully in front of it and me swearing at ingredients until they behaved reasonably and resembled nice grub. I would have been
extremely uncomfortable putting anything in front of the camera that I wouldn’t put in my mouth, so everything was made as if for the table; seasoned well, with all ingredients present and correct*. There would be a huge irony in making crap food to sell amazing ingredients, so it was all made properly and the day concluded in a bizarre, eclectic, but ultimately delicious feast.

Here are some we prepared earlier, many are linked to the recipes should you find the urge to make any of it, and here is Lex's post where you'll find a few more shots.

*with one exception. Here’s a video of that sexy little buttermilk pudding, really rather impressively bouncing off the patio. Oops. More agar agar anyone?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Pie Shed

Pie Shed: where people eat pie, in a shed. We make pie, people eat pie, everyone brings a thing, no cash changes hands. Simples.

Our inaugural pie shed involved a splendid beast made from beef, ale and aubergines, and a veggie number along these lines which even the beefies declared a fine specimen of pastry-topped goodness. Pots of herby mash, two types of gravy, bowls of buttery green cabbage and honey drizzled carrots completed our pie-fest.

Attendees eat for free, but they have to bring something into the mix. And by golly they did well. Our guests brought:

* a scrummy handmade rhubarb and strawberry cordial
*12 individual lemon possets set in dinky little espresso cups, the latter of which was gifted to us. Lovely! The possets were finished with a strip of zingy homemade candid lime, and were absolutely delicious. Kavey needs to share her recipe...
* an outstanding home-made banana cake - the best I've tasted - and a bottle of Champagne to ring in the Vietnamese New Year
* mountains and mountains of fabulous quality cheese, posh biscuits, oatcakes, good bread and fine French plonk.

And last, but by no means least....this!
My very own branded apron!! Bloody brilliant. Thank you Gail, I love love love it.

Cheers to our lovely guests, we had a wonderful night. Roll on #pieshed mk II...

Monday, 10 January 2011

Makin' bacon

The Shed, my friends, is open once more. Sad though we were to close over the festive period, there was one upside: The Shed makes the ideal environment for curing bits of pig.

Making your own bacon is so gratifyingly simple, I'm shocked and appalled it isn't strictly advised - particular denominations of faith schools aside - on every home economics syllabus in the land. I had this long, inspirational ranty call to action half-drunkenly bashed into a word document about how easy and empowering it is to Make Stuff, but it was probably a load of rubbish, and anyway it disappeared.

This isn't quite the Best Bacon Eva, but it's pretty close to very decent stuff from your local butcher, and far and above anything you can buy in a supermarket. Slicing is the tricksy bit, so either ask nicely next time you're buying produce from your friendly neighbourhood butcher, or make do with gratuitously fat slices. Shame, eh?

I didn't use saltpetre or nitrites and everything worked out pretty well, though I'd be eager to hear any advice people might have on this aspect. The recipe below is a basic common-or-garden cure which will show off decent quality pork very ably. I'm planning to experiment with various flavourful additions - maple, honey, spices etc - and again, would welcome any tips and recipes.

You will need
Whole pork loin or belly (the latter makes streaky), cut into two or three lumps
800g sea salt (no need for Malden)
250g light brown sugar
1tbsp ground black peppercorns (optional)
A large non-reactive container (big plastic boxes, the kind in which boyfriends keep records, are good)
A cold place
Three weeks

With a skewer, pierce the skin of the pork several times to help the cure penetrate. Put the pork into the container. Mix together the dry ingredients, and work 1/3 of this mixture into the pork. Cover the container, place in a cold, dry place and leave. After a day, drain off any liquid, and coat the pork in more of the cure. Repeat this process the following day. Leave the pork for 3 more days turning half way through, before rinsing off the salt, and patting the meat dry with kitchen towel. Wrap the meat in clean muslin, before hanging in a cool dry place for a minimum of two weeks.

Slice and eat! I had my cured porky chunks vac-packed after the hanging time, though apparently the pork will keep well in the muslin so long as it's in a cool, dry atmosphere.