Friday, March 30, 2007

Treasures of the Freezer

What wonderful things I found when I started delving into the freezer for most of this weeks dining. It has essentially fed us for the whole time. Sunday we had half a shoulder of lamb stuffed with spinach and mushroom and roasted for supper and then cold for lunch for a couple of days, Monday was stir fry noodles with the steak left over from Saturday's supper so not actually from the freezer but very good. Tuesday we had duck breast - still in the freezer from the last french trip - with sauté potatoes and beetroot salad. Wednesday was some frozen pork chops from a few weeks ago and some chicken stock frozen with the last batch I made to make grilled pork and noodle soup. Thursday was more thawed chicken stock along with frozen peas to make cheesy peas - that are also the lunchbox du jour for Friday. Friday supper is steak sandwiches with some minute steaks I bought a while ago from Wild Beef with some onion gravy and the rest of the beetroot salad. Yum.

I'm pleased that there is still plenty more in the freezer though it is possible now to see small spaces... a definite achievement.

And that's your lot for a few weeks. We're off to France to execute some diy on the house - and no doubt have an occasional lunch out somewhere.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spiced Orange Oil

Though it is a simple thing these days to buy flavoured oils it is difficult to find ones that are exceptional, or even particularly interesting. It is also a simple thing to make this spiced orange oil and it doesn't fail on either of the other two counts, being intense and complex with what can only be described as a long finish. I made my first batch a couple of years ago and was smitten. It's easy to make - just bung everything into a pot and warm gently for fifteen or twenty minutes then allow it to steep while it cools. Decant back into the bottles the oil came from and voila! what was pale and inconspicuous is now a rich gold and tasting fabulous. It is a great base for salad dressings and stir fries, marinades and rubs. I use it any time I want to add a little kick to a dish.

The recipe comes from Spice, the quite wonderful book by Christine Manfield. She now makes a range of spiced products selling widely in Australia and available at Harvey Nicks in London but this oil is not amongst them.

Spiced Orange Oil
4 pieces of dried orange peel, broken up into smaller pieces
10 large dried chillies, crumbled
4 fresh small chillies, sliced
Zest of 3 oranges
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 stalk lemon grass, sliced
1 litre vegetable oil or light olive oil
150 ml sesame oi

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and heat gently for 20 minutes without boiling. Allow to cool completely - if you leave it overnight the flavour develops further. Pour through a fine mesh and decant back into the original bottles. Some of the oil is absorbed into the dry ingredients so you end up with about a litre.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Garlic Bread

I love garlic - the creamy colour tinged with purple, the smoothness of it when peeled, the light scent it leaves on your fingers when you cook with it, the smell of it frying in butter or oil, the melting softness of it if you roast it in foil with a splash of olive oil. Many years ago I went to the cinema to see a documentary about Werner Herzog called 'Burden of Dreams' made by the American documentarist Les Blank. It was a double bill starting with another Blank film called 'Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers' an amazing, wonderful, extraordinary paean to this little stink bomb. It's not only me that loved this film that was made in 1980. This film is so great that the US Library of Congress deemed it to be 'culturally significant' in 2004 and selected it for the National Film Registry for preservation in perpetuity.

At the end of the film we went home inspired with the number of garlic treats we'd never sampled and tried out baking heads of garlic till soft then squeezing the warm soft paste onto crusty bread. Wow! My friend Vicki picked me up next morning on the way to work. Recoiling in horror she said 'Bloody hell you stink! How much garlic did you eat last night? Wind down that window or walk!!!' Though she was my friend I knew that she meant it. I nonchalantly hung my head out the window for the rest of the journey and kept my distance for the rest of the day. Later I introduced her to the pleasures of making decorative patterns with molten garlic onto bread before eating the lot - if you both smell of garlic nobody notices. Perfect.

These days I don't make that version very often - though I still recommend it amongst consenting adults. I make, most often, the one I used to eat at home as a kid, made by my very own one good mother pretty much as often as we had spaghetti bolognese. It is still blissfully good.

Garlic Bread
1 baguette, thick as possible in diameter to allow for plenty of surface to spread
125g/4oz butter (NEVER margarine)
4-12 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A couple of tablespoons of soft cheese - whatever you like or have a little of
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to gas 4/moderate. Slice the bread into 2cm/1inch segments down to, but not through the base. Mix the rest of the ingredients thoroughly then spread both sides of each slice with a generous slather of butter. Place the bread onto a piece of aluminium foil and wrap firmly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then open out the foil and cook for another 10 minutes till the outside crust is crisp.


The only thing to bear in mind is no matter how much garlic bread you make you will eat it all. So, big loaf and four people, no leftovers. Big loaf and two people, still no leftovers. Best cook extra.

And this week ... I bought

Borough Market was busyish first thing Saturday morning but not heavingly manic and so we shopped in relative peace. First up, as always, was Ginger Pig. They had rump steak - hung for 35 days - at a mere £12.95 a kilo. As the plan had been for steak dinner Saturday night this was a gift. A brilliant dinner with salad and garlic bread Bought a thick slice and a box of eggs and that was all as the quest to empty the freezer continues - £13.50

Still have some rochetta so didn't buy more cheese but did get some chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - they call them misshapes but they taste divine £3

My man wanted dressed crab for a change for weekend lunch - a fine desire - so popped into Shellseekers £5.50

Fruit and veg next from Booths - potatoes, cabbage, for Sunday dinner with roast stuffed lamb spinach, mushrooms, shallots for the stuffing of my lamb, parsnips, spring onions for parsnip pudding to go with lamb, onions, bananas, sugarsnaps lunches - £6.90 Still had rhubarb fennel, celery and chicory from last week

Bread and milk from Neals Yard - £5.40

Almond croissant and hot cross buns from Flour Power - £3.50 Proper afternoon tea with toasted tea cakes

Mandarins from Elsey & Booth - £1.80

Thought about buying some potted herbs but it still felt too cold to be planting out so that was the lot - £39.60

Later, after cinema in the west end I went to chinatown and stocked up on noodles, sauces, chillies and chinese greens as I have a hankering for a slippery stir fry with the rest of the grilled steak

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Decadent Beef Stew

Marrow is a bit of a mystery to me. I know that's what it is on the inside of bones, I know I first discovered it as a kid, sucking a sweet dollop from the middle of lamb neck chops in winter stews or occasionally from the end of a hot bone in a roast and first time round being surprised to like it. I've been to the famous St John's for dinner and knew to start with the incomparably wonderful roasted marrow bones and parsley salad. Part of me thinks anything that amazing has to be a little bit bad for you and part of me knows that if it's that good it can't really hurt.

The reason I'd started wondering about marrow was because I'd taken out some veal marrow bones to thaw that had been in the freezer for ages. I was utterly convinced they would add something wonderful to blanquette de veau but then realised I was perhaps a little thin on the details of what and why. In fact bone marrow is the soft tissue inside the bone where new blood cells are created in animals - including us. It is high in protein and though it can also be high in fat, it is a 'good' fat - monounsaturated - which lowers some forms of cholesterol and thereby helps to reduce the chances of heart disease.

Make a stock with veal bones and you will discover that once chilled, the stock will be as stiff as a bowl of the stiffest jelly. Bones - and the cartilage that surrounds them - are high in collagen, a protein that dissolves into gelatin when heated. Similarly, a braise made with lamb shanks will have more body - and delectability - than the same dish made with boneless lamb. The younger the animal, the more collagen in the bones and cartilage, hence more body in stocks and the reason most chefs prefer veal bones over beef bones when making it.

Using bones and even buying and cooking meat on the bone is becoming ever rarer which should be a source of anxiety to all who care about food and the pleasures that it provides. More and more meat is sold already boned, even by the butchers of Borough Market. It may be easier to carve a roast that's boned and rolled but you'll never get that primordial pleasure of chewing on the bone for the last little skerrick of the juiciest meat and the thrill of sucking out that blob of creamy marrow. A serious loss.

Stock is one of the essential building blocks in savoury cooking - no bones, no meat stock, no joy. A litre of stock will make a fine risotto or cheesy peas, any number of soups, the base for stew or will reduce down for a lush gravy. Stock in the freezer makes possible a variety of meals - quick and simple. It gives power to you as a cook and as someone who eats well. I tend to make big batches and freeze them in washed out milk cartons - don't overfill or they'll burst as they freeze. It's a good use of the cartons and a handy way of having the right measure. Let me think, do I need a pint or a litre - big carton or small?

When I made this stew on Sunday I didn't make stock first - I simply added the bones to the pot and cooked the whole lot together for about 6 hours in a very low oven. I refrigerated the resulting stew, bones removed, overnight. Next day it had set so thoroughly I could have sliced it thinly and made a stew sandwich. It did cross my mind.
Heated through again, it made for one of the richest, most decadent stews I have ever eaten. And yet it was, undoubtedly, a simply attained pleasure.

Rich Beef Stew
1kg/2.2lbs of stewing steak or shin beef
About the same weight in veal bones
100g/4oz bacon, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbspns goose fat or olive oil
1 tbspn tomato paste
2 tbspns plain flour
Bouquet garni - bay, rosemary, thyme, celery leaves, parsley
600 ml red wine
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil or goose fat in a large heavy based pan that has a well fitting lid. Gently brown the meat then remove it with a slotted spoon. Add the onion, garlic and bacon and cook over a medium heat till the onion is translucent. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir thoroughly. Return the meat and the bones to the pan, mix well then add the wine. Bring to the boil then tuck the bouquet garni down into the stew. Season. Cover the top of the pan with a sheet of aluminium foil and then fit the lid tightly. Turn off the hob.

Heat the oven to as low a heat as possible then put in the covered pan. Cook for 6 or 7 hours till your home is filled with the most delicious aromas. Remove the pan from the oven and when cool enough take the bones out, adding any marrow that remains back into the stew, then discard. Refrigerate overnight and skim any fat from the top before reheating. Serve with mashed potatoes and carrots or cabbage.

The beef I used was from longhorn cattle that had been hung for 12 weeks, on special for £7.99 a kilo at Ginger Pig, the wine was £5 from the Londis on the corner up the road from our flat, the other ingredients another £2 at most. In total this cost £15 and made more than enough for six generous dinners. You don't have to be rich to eat the very best. Give it a whirl.

Highly recommended.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pilau Rice

Have got to a point where the freezer seems to be permanently full. Of good things it must be said but full, always full. So I am trying to use what is there ahead of buying more at the market. This works to an extent but not always as planned. This week I took out some veal bones to thaw and thence to make a blanquette only to be unable to get fresh veal at Borough so I bought a kilo of beef instead to make an ultra rich daube and have enough now for three meals, two lots of which will go back into the freezer. Probably use the space where the bones had been.

After our evening class boning and rolling bits of lamb and pork we brought home lots of lovely meat which went, of course, into the freezer. Another of my plans this week involved using the lamb shanks we'd separated off from the shoulder in class to make a pilau for Sunday supper and leftovers cold with a boiled egg or some cucumber and yoghurt for lunches for a few days. Almost genius - but not quite. I made the stock then cooked the rice with onions and spices and the meat from the shanks and finally studded it with bright peas and toasted almonds and garnished it with boiled eggs and a side dish of cucumber with yoghurt and chopped coriander. The result was nice - not a whole hearted endorsement I'm sure you'll agree. It lacked sufficient depth of flavour and a half remembered complexity from the last time I made it. Cold next day was better, but still ever so slightly disappointing. Though it undoubtedly provides a challenge to do it better next time, and there will certainly be pleasure in researching another version, it infuriates me to make a dish that is only fair to middling. I want all my food to be amazing. Have to keep working at it I guess. Please help me if you can.

Pilau Rice

2 meaty lamb shanks
4 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
10 whole black peppercorns
4 1/2 tspns salt
1 onion, peeled
3 whole cloves
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
5 tbspns ghee
1 large onion, finely sliced
1/4 tspn saffron strands, soaked in a tbspn of boiling water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tspn garam masala
1/2 tspn ground cardamom
1 tbspn rose water
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup dry fried almonds
1 cup hot cooked green peas
3 hard boiled eggs, halved

Make a strong, well-flavoured stock by simmering the lamb shanks in water to cover, with cardamom pods, peppercorns, 2 teaspoons salt and the onion stuck with cloves. Bring to a boil, skim then simmer for around 2 hours. Cool slightly, strain stock and measure out 4 cups. Strip the meat from the bones, breaking it into small pieces and put to one side.

Wash rice thoroughly and leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan (rinse out the stock pan and use it to cut down on the washing up) and fry the sliced onion till softly gold. Add saffron, garlic and ginger and fry for a minute, stirring. Add rice and fry for 5 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring with a metal slotted spoon to avoid damage to the grains. Add hot stock, garam masala, cardamom, remaining salt, rose water, sultanas and reserved meat and stir well. Cover pan with a tight fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Do not open the lid or try to stir the mix during this time.

When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and stand, uncovered for 5 minutes. Fluff up rice gently with a fork and garnish with almonds, peas and eggs and serve with cucumber in yoghurt and coriander and some papadoms.

I think some more fried onions, more ginger and the addition of some cinnamon stick to the cooking rice would help to make this a tastier dish.

My only complete success last night was removing something from the freezer that wasn't turned into something that needed to go back into the freezer!

And this week ... I bought

Running a little late Saturday morning Borough Market was already heaving. When I rule the world people with huge pushchairs and backpacks will be banned from all public places. They can stay home and trip over themselves. That may take a while obviously - but one day.

In the meantime I'd taken some veal marrow bones from the freezer fully intending to buy some diced veal and make blanquette de veau for dinner Monday as a defence against the forecast big chill. Chill has indeed arrived complete with snow but Ginger Pig had sold out of veal already so I bought stewing beef instead - for a decadent beef stew - as well as some eggs - scrambled for breakfast one day and boiled to go with pilau rice - and had the rare experience of spending less than a tenner here - until I paid for the sausage making course next month but that's a different budget! - £8.40

Then bought some parma ham and mozzarella from the Italian stall - it is so very good and makes a quite spectacular lunch platter - £8 Made for an even more decadent breakfast on Sunday

Coffee from Monmouth - dark roasted Colombian beans as they'd run out of my favourite New Guinea - £8.50

Then came across a new stall from Wales, couldn't resist buying a couple of steak pies to see what they were like - very good with big chunks of meat in a serious gravy - the stall won't be regular but I'd certainly buy more next time I see them - £2.40 - a bargain!

Needed some veg - onions, fennel, chicory - for salad - cabbage, bananas, cucumber - with yoghurt and coriander, blanched almonds to garnish the pilau - from Booths £6.70

Tried for Yukon Gold potatoes at Turnips but they only had them in big packs so bought rattes instead - boiled with carrots and decadent stew Friday night - £1.20

Clementines from Elsey & Bent - £1.85

Milk bread and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £6.50

And a brownie for my man - £1.50

A very reasonable £45.05

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Barbecued Mutton Chops & Sounding Radish Slivers

Asian has become a bit of a guiding theme this week. We had noodle soup Saturday night, stir fried noodles Monday and then a mini banquet Tuesday night for no reason in particular except that Chris had given me some little mutton loin chops to try and I found a recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's book for an adaptation of lamb ribs and so it was serendipity. I was attracted to the loin chops because they were quite small and delicate looking but much darker in colour than lamb. I'm a fan of mutton slow roasted or in curries but know nothing of how to cook other cuts. I asked Chris and he said they should be okay to grill as they were fairly juicy. How right he was.

Marinating them for an hour or so tenderised the meat a little, then they were cooked on a very hot grill pan for a very short time to create juicy, spicy, intense little morsels on bones. Seriously good. The radish dish was also a new one - sounded interesting and it was a strongly contrasting texture to the meat. The whole lot served up with sea spice aubergine, for soft and delicate, and steamed basmati for background substance made for a great meal - if a little later than usual by the time it was all done. Cooking times are very short on all but the eggplant so it is do-able on a week night - if you have the will.

Barbecued Mutton Chops

2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sweet bean sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
1/4tsp five spice powder
8 mutton loin chops or neck-end lamb chops
6 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
ground cumin
dried chilli flakes
sesame oil

Combine the soy sauce, sweet bean sauce, Shaoxing wine and spice powder in a non-metallic bowl. and then apply to the chops with a little salt to taste. Mix well and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan over a high flame until very hot. Add the chops and cook for 3-4 minutes then flip over and scatter generously with cumin and chilli flakes. Continue cooking for a further 2-3 minutes (2 minutes each side if you like your meat rare), then scatter with spring onion when nearly done.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle generously with a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil and scatter with coriander.

Sounding Radish Slivers

500g/1lb 2oz asian white radish (daikon)
1 fresh red chilli
2 spring onions, green parts only
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp clear rice vinegar
1/4 tsp potato flour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
1tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp groundnut oil or lard for cooking

Peel the radish and cut into 6cm/2 1/2 in sections. Cut each section first into very thin slices, and then into fine slivers (a mandolin will make it easier, give the details to the man and ask him to do it while you just have to go and update your blog is easiest). combine with 3/4 teaspoon salt, then set aside for 15 minutes or so.

Discard the stem and seeds of the chiili, and cut into fine slivers to match the radish. Cut the spring onion greens into similar slivers.

Before cooking, drain the radish slivers and squeeze dry; set aside.

Heat the wok over a high flame until smoke rises, then add oil or lard and swirl around. Add the chilli and sizzle for a few seconds before adding the radish slivers. Stir-fry vigorously for a couple of minutes, adding the soy sauce and salt to taste.

When the radish slivers are hot, add the spring onions and vinegar and stir well to combine. Then add the potato flour mixture to the midle of the wok, stirring rapidly as it thickens to a gloss. Finally, remove the wok from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

This poetically named dish refers to the crunchy sound the salted and barely cooked radish slivers make when you bite into them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rice Noodles with Pork and Cabbage

medium rice sticks = Thai flat rice sticks = dried rice noodles = rice fettuccine = Mekong rice stick = ban pho (Vietnamese) = banh pho (Vietnamese) = ho fun (Chinese) = hor fun (Chinese) = haw fun (Chinese) = lai fen (Chinese) = laifen (Chinese) = sen lek (Thai) = kway teow (Malaysian) = kway tio (Malaysian) = gway tio (Malaysian) = kui teow (Malaysian) = kuey teow (Malaysian)

Thanks to the Cook's Thesaurus for this wonderful listing of names for dried rice noodles. I could learn it by heart and repeat it like a mantra in the hope of inducing a zen like calm.
I have always found it confusing when I'm shopping in Asian food stores - I think something looks like the thing it is I want to buy but deep down I don't really know. The name on the packet is diffferent to the one I have carefully noted before I went shopping and I get anxious about whether it is the right thing. And if it's not - how will I know? I do ask whoever I can find who works in the shop if it's the right thing but then if I'm using the wrong name for what they know that it is, even if I'm right then they don't know. You can see how it could all be a disaster.

But not with rice noodles. They are an easy thing to recognise - sold in cellophane packs in different widths they are stiff and white and have a sort of translucency like tissue paper. Made with rice flour and water I suspect they would proabably last forever if they never came into contact with moisture. Once soaked in hot water they acquire a much more substantial entity and become creamy and tender and very slippery. They don't add much by way of flavour to a dish but they do add great texture.

This is a very simple dish - quick and easy. I like the lightness of it as a mid week supper and though the principal ingredients would suggest a very substantial meal in fact it's a great way to use wintery ingredients and serve up a spring like dish. You get lots of flavour and textures and the chilli gives it a kick that seriously brightens your day.

Rice Noodle with Pork & Cabbage

400g/1lb pack dried medium rice sticks
1oog/4oz cooked pork, from cooking bones to make stock, or use raw finely diced pork
1 tbspn minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
25ml sesame oil
50ml light soy sauce
50ml kecap manis - sweet soy
30ml shaoxing rice wine
25ml fish sauce
30g palm sugar, shaved (use a sharp knife or a grater)
1/2 tspn ground pepper
2 tbspns vegetable oil
1 tbspn chat masala spice powder - from Asian food stores like Taj in Brick Lane in London
6 spring onions, sliced into 1cm/ 1/2 inch pieces
2 small red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 small savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 cup coriander leaves

Put rice noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle, soak for 10-15 minutes till slippery. Then drain.

Combine ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauces, rice wine, fish sauce. palm sugar and pepper in a bowl, then add shredded pork and marinate for 10 minutes.

Heat your wok, add vegetable oil and fry chat spice powder for just a moment then stir in the pork and its marinade. Toss over a high heat for a couple of minutes. Add noodles, spring onion, chilli and cabbage and toss over a high heat.

Mix in the chopped coriander and serve immediately in big bowls.


Monday, March 12, 2007

And this week ... I bought

A gloriously sunny start heralded the onset of spring, in London at least, and Borough Market was decidedly busy first thing on Saturday. But the sun is making promises the stalls can't quite deliver on - it is still too early in the year to find much more interesting fare than muscular piles of cabbages and parsnips, celeriac and squash. The sun does promise at least that patience will be soon rewarded with more delicate flavours, reason enough to smile.

I set out to shop with my man but he's a man in pain having done a mischief to his back and so though we arrived together he was soon flagging and made his way home, alone, on the bus with only a chocolate brownie for comfort - £1.50

Having brought home a huge swag of pork from the butchery class on Wednesday night I had only a very short list for Ginger Pig - some pork bones to go with the ones I had to make a light chinese stock for soup, pork chops for the same soup Saturday night and some extra mutton loin chops to go with the ones from last week to try out a new recipe Tuesday night barbecued mutton chops - £10.50

Next was cheese from Gastronomica - a rich piece of aged Pecorino and a thick disc of robiola - £9.90 perfect as a nibble with a glass of wine and a game of scrabble

I could not resist bags of 'misshapes' from L'Artisan du Chocolat at only £2 - so one for my man and one for the office - £4 Sheer greed

On my way back to Booths for veg I found Marie from the olive stall so we had a good chat about the state of things then I went on to buy Yukon Gold roasted to go with porchetta Sunday night, savoy cabbage for a big wok of noodles and pork Monday night, peppers roasted with pasta Wednesday night and chopped into fried rice Thursday night, onions, sugarsnaps, butternut squash roasted with dinner Sunday night and cold with pork for lunches in the week, coriander garnish for soups and stir fries and spring onions - £8.60

Been a long time since I had one so I bought a pork pie for a change - £4.90 Yum

Then had to have some parma ham and buffalo mozzarella to celebrate sun and to tempt my sweetheart to lunch - £8.90

Couple of aubergines sea spiced with mutton chops from Tony - £1.40

Bread and milk from Neals Yard - less than usual as the bag was getting very heavy by now - £4.70

Had to have an almond croissant for my brunch when I got home - £2

Fruit from Elsey and Bent - clementines and bananas - £2.70

£59.10 - and that really was as much as I could carry

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Had another interesting night at the Ginger Pig after closing on Wednesday. Chris and Karl, the two New Zealand guys from the shop at the market are running butchery classes a couple of nights a week at the decidedly more glamorous shop in Marylebone. In February they taught groups of six how to bone and roll a shoulder of lamb. We seriously enjoyed that class so happily signed up for March. This time they cut down half a pig - 7 months old, weighs 75kgs (the half) lovely piece of meat, as you can imagine. Much more detailed explanation of the meat this time and as each bit was done they laid it out on the butchers block - so what started as half a carcass hanging on a hook ended up in pieces laid out along the length of the table. In some ways it made more sense than the briefer demonstration of butchering a lamb that they gave last month or it was at least more comprehensible. One thing I learned was the idea of using pork bones for stock - hadn't thought to do that for some reason, but they are perfect for light aromatic base for Asian cooking.

Then we were each given a pork loin. First we boned it - a simpler process than boning a shoulder. We took out the fillet and then cut under the skin most of the way through to create a flap. Sharpen the tip of that knife to very very sharp and score the skin for crackling. Then the fat under the skin was smeared with a mix of fennel and garlic, made earlier by the chef in the shop, the skin was flipped back over the spiced meat and then the whole piece was rolled and tied. When it is cooked it is traced with the spice mix to make porchetta.

Which is what was cooking away in the oven along with roasted veg - and being kiwis the veg included butternut and roasted carrots - and, after we cleaned up, we had a fine supper and a glass of wine. Home by 10.30 with two huge pieces of pork loin, a couple of pork fillets and a bag of bones.

It was simpler this time but I think that was deliberate on the butcher's part - as skilled as they are it must be easy to overestimate the abilities of a group who do their course. They have also got better at explaining the details and showing how to tie knots. Chris and Karl make a great double act - one from the north and one from the south island, the banter never dries up and the competition between them is good humoured but intense. Their skill as they work is fascinating, like watching theatre close up. Liked it a lot and six thirty till ten just flies by. They may soon be famous - apparently the Gaurdian has already called to ask if they can do a piece about them...

Next month is sausages and bacon. I plan to be there.

Don't know for sure the mix they used on the night but the following is one that would definitely create a great roast.

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbspn fennel seeds
4 branches of rosemary
4 branches sage
A piece of boned pork loin, about 1.5 kg in weight

The day before your meal make small incisions into the flesh side of the meat (away from the skin) and lard the pork with the garlic slivers then season generously with salt and pepper.

Crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar. If you have created a flap under the skin rub the ground seeds into the meat and then cover with the skin. If you don't have a knife sharp enough to open out the skin then simply sprinkle over the flesh side of the meat. Press the herbs into the flesh. Using butcher's twine or strong string roll and tie the roast with a series of strings and slip knots. Then refrigerate overnight.

Next day take the pork out of the fridge a couple of hours before you intend to cook it to let it reach room temperature.

Preheat the oven as hot as it will go. Put the pork loin into a roasting pan, rub some more salt into the scored skin to make for crackling, then put the meat into the oven. Cook at full heat for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to gas 5 without opening the oven door. After another 15 minutes baste the meat and continue to do so every 15 minutes till it is cooked - about 80 -90 minutes.

Place the roast on to a plate and cover with foil. Let it rest for 20 minutes then unstring and carve into thick slices. Serve the juice that gathers under the meat on the plate as a delicate jus.

Enjoy with roast potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage and carrots. Utterly brilliant. And the same goes when it is cold next day with salad or in a sandwich.

Monday, March 05, 2007

And this week ... I bought

On my own at the market this week so bought a little less than usual. Started with a coffee and a chat with Marie in the sun - very pleasant. Then off to Ginger Pig for a beautiful piece of gammon for lunches in the week after Sunday dinner with fried eggs and crusty bread, some stewing beef for a stew! Monday and Thursday night and eggs - £24 - and then a bonus of a few mutton loin chops to try - I'd asked Chris if you grilled them - they look so delicate - and he told me that normally they would be best into a braise but it was worth trying them grilled Eggs fried with gammon and crusty bread for Sunday night supper. Mutton chops are in the freezer for next week

Next was Total Organics for chick peas and short grain brown rice - the peas for the cupboard, the rice for salad for lunch - still have some carrots from last week which were lovely with beef stew Thursday night - £2.30

At Booths they had no Yukon Gold so I bought green peppers in the rice salad, fennel, chicory both for a salad with dinner Friday night, sugarsnaps lunches, sweetheart cabbage as a change from Savoy - very nice it was too with beef stew and mash on Monday night and a lovely packet of dried cep - I feel a risotto coming on even though I hadn't planned one for this week but it's a good supper for Tuesday - £7.50

Back to Turnips for Yukon Gold potatoes - they are a current must have - £2.40 Mashed Monday and Thursday night with stew and sautéed Friday night with a little duck from the freezer and winter salad

Back past Ginger Pig for a sausage roll and a scoth egg - £6 Lunch

Neals Yard for bread and milk and they had packets of penne so I had one of those too - £6.60 Daily for milk Bread with dinner Sunday

Bananas from Tony for 50p Lunches

Clementines from Elsey and Bent - £1.40 Lunches

And that was as much as I could carry - £50.70 the lot