Saturday, 27 December 2014

I did squid

We had the best squid of our lives at a tapas place in Barcelona this year. Having been presented with three squid caps by the Carlsbergs (together with a lobster) back in November, I tried following Raymond Blanc's Golden Rule of Squid: one minute, or one hour.

I portioned and scored the squid, then marinated it in olive oil, garlic, chilli and lemon juice for twenty minutes. I got a frying pan very hot and I gave the squid thirty seconds on each side. I served it with fries and ailoli.


Next we'll see how the frozen squid turns out.

Cooking Peter

Looking for a good old-fashioned Lancashire duck for Christmas dinner, I ran across the website of Johnson & Swarbrick of Goosnargh. A couple of emails later, I was scanning happily through their price list and, having chosen my duck, saw that they also supply wild rabbits.

On those rare occasions when I see rabbit on a menu, I'll order it. I think there's some nostalgia there - my Dad's upbringing having been heavily influenced by WWII and the rationing that continued afterwards, when rabbits were something you could rear or hunt for food - but I really like the flavour. So I ordered a couple along with the duck, one for Boxing Day and the second for the freezer, maybe to find its way into a stifado in the summer.

I'd never jointed a rabbit before, but found a decent guide here - and I was glad of a cleaver. The carcass included the liver, kidneys and heart, but I left them out of the pot this time; a lovely stew we had in Corfu incorporated them all, but for this first attempt I decided to play it safe. The carcass also included a membrane all over, which I read you can eliminate by putting the rabbit in the freezer for twenty minutes before skinning it - but mine arrived ready-skinned (no complaints). I tried removing the membrane in the same way you'd skin a fish, but that started to damage the meat, so in the end I just left it on, pulling off any residual fur. After slow cooking, you'd never notice it was there.

Serves 2
A wild rabbit, cut into six joints (four legs and the saddle halved)
A large onion, chopped.
Two medium carrots, cut in large dice
Two sticks of celery, thickly sliced
Two small cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A good handful of diced pancetta
A third of a bottle of red wine
Half a litre of hot chicken stock
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
Two tablespoons of plain flour
A teaspoon of mustard powder
Two good sprigs of thyme
A bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 150 degrees (fan).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Mix a tablespoon of flour and the mustard powder in a freezer bag, with a good pinch of salt and some pepper. Toss the rabbit joints in it, then fry till golden and remove.

Fry the bacon till it starts to crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Fry the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and thyme sprigs for three or four minutes, then remove them too. Turn the heat right up and add the red wine to deglaze the pan, simmering till the alcohol has mostly evaporated. Sieve in the second teaspoon of flour, plus any remaining from the bag and whisk

Tip the vegetables, herbs and bacon into an oven-proof pot with a lid, lay the rabbit legs on top (leave the saddle out for now) and pour over the red wine. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a bay leaf and enough of the chicken stock to almost cover the rabbit. Cover and cook for three quarters of an hour. Turn the rabbit legs, add the saddle and cook for another hour. Turn the saddle pieces, topping up with chicken stock if needed, and return to the oven for twenty minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and some green beans.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A beef stew

My mum used to make beef stew with dumplings - the beef was never my favourite bit, being diced too small and quite dry as a result, but I loved the dumplings and the barley. When the Highland summer turned suddenly into autumn a couple of weeks ago, I started making stews and pies. Today, I made beef stew again, and the sun decided that it was time to make picnic weather. It's roasting (comparatively, in Ross-shire terms) and we only ate about half the pot. The other half went next door to the Carlsbergs (as in "If Carslberg did neighbours...") and I didn't bother with barley. Anyway, I've been told to write it down, so here we go.

For the stew
750g stewing steak, diced
a small swede, cut into large dice
four carrots, cut into large rounds
two sticks of celery, chopped
a big sprig of thyme
a medium onion, roughly chopped
a shallot, roughly chopped
a handful of barley
two cloves of garlic, sliced
500ml of beef stock
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
250ml of red wine
50g of plain flour
a bay leaf
4-5 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper

For the dumplings
100g of self-raising flower
50g of beef suet
½ teaspoon of mustard powder
½ teaspoon of dried sage

Heat the oven to 150C.
Season the flour and toss the steak in it.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy casserole dish. Fry the onion and garlic and remove from the pan. Turn up the heat a little and brown the steak in batches, adding more oil as required.
Toss the carrots and swede in the flour and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the celery, then turn the heat right up and pour in the wine. Scrape away at the pan to mix in the browned flour and meat scraps, then bubble the wine until reduced by half.
Meanwhile heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown the onion and garlic.
Add the steak, onions, barley, thyme and bay leaf to the casserole, then tip in the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Sieve in any remaining flour. Mix well and bring to the boil.
Cover with the lid over a piece of foil to ensure a good seal. Place in the oven for two hours, then remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200C.

Mix the flour, suet, dried sage, mustard powder and a heaped teaspoon of salt with five or six tablespoons of cold water to make (as Atora puts it) a firm but pliable dough. Divide into twelve pieces and roll into spheres. Press into the stew (check the seasoning of the gravy) until just the tops are poking out, then re-cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Meat loaf

My auntie had a pretty limited repertoire of dishes she'd actually cook (as opposed to buying from M&S), but she made a mean meat loaf - a legacy of her time living in the USA.

This is an amalgam of a few different recipes, notably a Jamie Oliver version and a Delia Smith one.

Serves 2, easily, with leftovers.

three or four Lincolnshire pork sausages
400g lean beef mince
five or six rashers of streaky bacon
a large egg
a medium onion
a garlic clove
8 cream crackers
a handful of sage leaves
a handful of thyme leaves
a teaspoon of English mustard
a tablespoon of tomato ketchup
a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
half a teaspoon of ground cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Chop the onion finely, mince the garlic, and fry gently in the olive oil for five minutes or so until golden, seasoning with a little salt and the cumin. Set aside to cool a bit in a large bowl.
Put the kettle on to boil, finely chop the herbs and crush the cream crackers to small crumbs.
Split the sausages and discard the skins. Crumble the mince and sausage meat into the onion and garlic, followed by the cracker breadcrumbs, the herbs and the egg. Mix by hand for a while, then add the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, again by hand.

Press into a loaf tin - non-stick or else lined - and cover the top with overlapping bacon rashers. Finally cover with some oiled, greaseproof paper or with foil, almost sealing the top. Place the loaf tin in a roasting tin and add about an inch of hot water from the kettle.

Cook in the oven for 1¼ hours or until the juices run clear (the internal temperature should be over 170C), then rest in the tin for twenty to thirty minutes.

Serve with baked potatoes, chips, salad...

If you have pork mince instead of pre-seasoned sausages, just bump up the seasoning - a pinch or three of nutmeg, mace, allspice, ground ginger, white pepper, black pepper - that sort of thing, and maybe add few more breadcrumbs.