Saturday 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween

I haven't cooked anything Halloweeny, but I did carve my annual cat pumpkin. I hope everyone celebrating has a lovely evening!

Friday 30 October 2015

Nigella's cumin lamb ribs for potluck week

I actually hadn't planned this, but the other day we had a Nigella Lawson dish for tea, and this week it is Potluck Week on I Heart Cooking Clubs, so it was clearly meant to be.

The recipe - lamb ribs with cumin and nigella seeds - is in her new book, I think, but she's got it on her website as an exclusive for community members. Worth signing up just for that, I think. And it's good enough to tempt me to buy the book.

Lamb ribs are very popular in South Africa, as a snack, grilled over a wood fire, simply seasoned with salt and pepper (I posted about them after a trip to SA) but you don't tend to see them as much over here. But Ocado have started to stock them, so hopefully they will take off.

Paul was very sceptical about me cooking ribbetje in a newfangled way, but the weather wasn't up for lighting the fire and I didn't give him much option.

The recipe takes about a minute to put together, and then two hours of slow roasting while all the fat renders out of the ribs leaving tender meat and an abundance of crispy bits. We had them as a main meal, piled on stir fried vegetables, but they would make great party food, as long as you don't have a white carpet and aren't wearing a posh frock.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Duckherd's Pie - duck and celeriac shepherds pie

Duck scratchings

I am pretty sure "duckherd" isn't a word. And I am reasonably certain the Goosegirls of Grimm's Fairy Tales don't exist as a profession any more - if they ever cared for ducks as well as geese. But if a shepherd looks after sheep and a shepherd's pie is made of lamb, I decided that a duck pie, topped with celeriac mash, had to be a duckherd's pie.

Skinned duck breasts
It has lovely autumnal flavours and all the comfort you want from a mash-topped pie, but a bit of luxury from the duck.

This is a fiddle, because you have to render the duck skin into scratchings and mince the duck breasts, but you can do it in advance to take away the memory of the pain and it ends up tasting delicious. And we have extra pies in the freezer for another day.

Duckherd's Pie (serves 4)

4 duck breasts
2 leeks
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
1tsp green peppercorns in brine
2 bay leaves
sprig thyme
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
1 small celeriac
2 medium potatoes
2 cloves of garlic

Skin the duck breasts. This is pretty easy - basically just grip the edge of the skin and pull it back, using a sharp knife to coax any membrane away, so you end up with a clean, lean piece of meat and a thick piece of skin with a nice fatty layer.

Slice the fat into 1-2cm wide strips, put in a small saucepan with some cold water and bring to a boil on a medium heat. This will look very unappealing for quite some time as the strips go grey and wrinkled. But then the fat will start to render out and the water will evaporate (it's just there to stop things from sticking while you get going) and eventually you will be left with a pot of clean duck fat and a treasure trove of crisp brown duck scratchings. Drain, reserving the fat. Tip the scratchings onto a paper towel-lined plate and don't eat all of them because you need some for the garnish.

Cut the duck breasts, leeks, celery and carrots into chunks your mincer can manage. I try to keep the pieces a bit separated so I can do the duck first, followed by the veg, because I think it makes the mincer easier to clean.
Ready for mincing
Run the duck, green peppercorns and veg through the mincer on a coarse blade. Some of the peppercorns will stay whole, some will be minced, but I like that. If you don't like the peppery shock of biting into a whole peppercorn, chop or crush the peppercorns first.
Minced and ready to cook
Add a couple of tablespoons of the rendered duck fat to a heavy bottomed sauté pan and brown the minced duck and vegetable mixture. Add bay leaves, thyme and vermouth or white wine, put the lid on and let it simmer for about an hour until thick and rich. The minced vegetables give off a lot of liquid so you shouldn't need extra, but if it is looking too dry add a bit of chicken stock or some more wine. Season with salt.

The remaining duck fat can go in a ramekin covered with cling film for a couple of weeks of good roast potatoes, or into the freezer for the Christmas spuds.

Divide the mixture between four ovenproof bowls, removing the bay leaves and woody thyme sprig if you come across them. Or make just one large one if you don't have to worry about portion control or there are more than two of you at dinner. I made two to eat that night and two in foil containers for later.

Peel and chop the celeriac and potatoes into even-sized chunks and boil until tender, giving the celeriac a 10 minute head start. Add the peeled garlic cloves in with the potatoes. Drain the veg and mash thoroughly with a good knob of butter.

Spread the mash over the duck ragu. I don't go in for piping that sort of thing but you could if you wanted to. I did try to pretty it up a little bit though. Allow another little nut of butter to melt over the surface of each one, and garnish with a couple of duck scratchings.

Allow the ones you are freezing to cool completely, cover and freeze. The ones you want to eat sooner rather than later will need a 180C oven for 35-40 minutes until the top is well-browned and the filling is bubbling up around the edges. Serve with a simple green vegetable.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Curry week

Apparently it is National Curry Week. I'm not sure what the aim is, but several people have tweeted. Anyway, let's assume that the awareness of curry in Britain is poor and needs to be raised.

This is actually our second curry of the week, but I didn't take a picture of Murali's chicken dry fry on Monday night. We had it with tomato rice, also courtesy of Murali, as his wife brought us a jar of fab tomato pickle which is apparently what single men in Bangalore live on. You stir a couple of spoonsful of this pickle into your rice and supper is prepared. Beats the hell out of a ready meal.

So: pork vindaloo, from Richard Turner's book Hog. Delicious, and much more subtle than you would expect from the amount of garlic in it. Shredded cabbage, stir-fried with mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic, chilli and ginger. Flatbreads, seasoned with kalonji seeds. Completely delicious.


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