Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Runner beans in a red wine tomato sauce

The beans for this week are a real summer time treat. Had plenty, and some tomatoes and basil from the garden too as well as most of a bottle of the most vile red wine it has ever been my misfortune to drink. It was actually fizzy - can't have been corked as it came with a screw cap - but seriously can't believe anyone could drink it. Would normally have emptied the lot down the sink but this recipe was in my mind so thought I'd keep a little back. I know the general rule is don't cook with wine you wouldn't drink but I suspect that advice is tied to the pleasure of having a little something nice to sip on whilst you rustle up dinner and the better it is the greater the pleasure. Actually I have to say that though it worked well when just cooked, the sourness of this nasty wine came through next day when I had them cold for lunch. Back to drinkable wine only for cooking. Yay!

Runner beans in red wine tomato sauce

25g butter
1 tbspn olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
150g mushrooms, thickly sliced
250g tomatoes, roughly chopped
350g runner beans, topped and tailed and sliced on an angle into 2cm pieces
100ml red wine
2 tbspns roughly chopped basil leaves
salt & pepper

Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan and cook the onion and garlic over a low heat until just soft, about 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine and tomatoes with any juice, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the liquid is reduced and you have a chunky sauce.

Stir the beans into the sauce, cover tightly and cook for 10-15 minutes until the beans are tender but not soft.

Stir in the basil and season.

We had this warm with grilled pork chops and some crusty bread and it was great. It would work equally well cold or I think too it would be a good pasta sauce with some penne as it is rich and soft and well textured.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spicy fried beans

We may be approaching a glut. Quite an achievement I think given our garden is about 10 feet square. But the lovely purple beans we planted onto an 8 foot wigwam in the spring is simply laden and the more we pick the more we get. Magic.

Last week I dry fried beans with pickled turnips, a little beef mince and lots of chilli heat, the week before I stir fried beans to go with ma po tofu and the week before that sliced some raw into a green salad. Next week I will cook some to go with roast beef Sunday night and stew some with tomatoes as a side dish to pork chops.

Last night I consulted the trusty Charmaine Solomon and found a recipe for spicy bean curry that also used a ripe tomato from the garden. There is a really unattractive photo of the finished dish - the book was first published about 30 years ago and the photos are from the original. It shows a bowl of beans floating in a muddy brown liquid and otherwise unadorned. Makes you realise just how far the art of food porn has progressed! For some reason though the image has stuck with me and, upon the picking of the beans it was definitely what I wanted to be making with them.

Over rice it made for a really quick simple, well flavoured mid week supper. Good enough to buy beans for should you not have your own wigwam.

Spicy Fried Beans

Use any kind of bean - broad beans, skinny beans, french beans, snake beans - they all go well with this kind of spicing

500g tender beans
1 tbspn ghee or oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbspn grated ginger
1 tspn ground turmeric
1 tspn garam masala
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1 tspn salt
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped or 1/4 cup hot water
squeeze of lemon juice

Top and tail beans, remove strings if necessary and cut them into bite size pieces. Heat the ghee ina saucepan and fry the onions and ginger over a medium low heat until the onions is golden - about 15 minutes.

Add the turmeric, garam masala, chilli powder and salt and fry for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes or water and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp and most of the liquid evaporates.

Add beans and stir well. Partially cover the pan with a lid and cook until the beans are just tender - about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Stir in lemon juice to taste and serve with plain boiled rice or as one of a number of dishes.
Perfect seasonal treat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Actually it may be me wanting but this week it is the man shopping. By himself.

We are off to a family do Saturday so he volunteered to have the day off Friday - how did I miss that trick?! We are taking a gammon with us as our contribution to the feast for lunch, so he will buy that and cook it before I come home. He's clever, is the man. So that's Saturday sorted as we will be having the day away and not return till late. All that worked a treat but, as is the way with big get togethers there was vast amounts of food, so we brought half the gammon home again and it was a treat for the week.
Sunday I'm thinking roast beef, easy peasy and always lovely cold and it will be another day as it went into the freezer after being replaced by the gammon with salad. Monday grilled pork chops with green beans from the garden as you can see above, Tuesday pasta with zucchinis made a tortilla that went disastrously wrong, Wednesday the paella we didn't have last week still haven't but did have an extraordinarily decadent supper of baked camembert studded with garlic slivers on crusty bread from St John that I had in the freezer and a cucumber salad from the garden and it was utterly fabulous, Thursday we are out and Friday some salad we are out again.
And that's it for a few weeks - we're off to France to sort out the house and have a little holiday and some duck related dinners.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I wanted... I bought... I made

Jambon Persillé

Vaguely craving a steak dinner so might make it a Saturday special had that other Saturday special, cold collation with fresh prawns, avocadoes, napoli, a little camembert from the fridge, tomatoes from the garden, crusty bread, very yum. Sunday we are off to lunch at St John so dinner will be easy, thinking a terrine perhaps that I can make Saturday jambon persille that set perfectly and can be lunches too. Monday the pork chops the jambon with potato salad, rocket from the garden and a little avocado perhaps with salad. Tuesday noodles we had the leftover spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread that I'd made Friday night. Wednesday some spanish rice dandan noodles and tiger skin peppers. Thursday pasta green bean curry using our extraordinary beans we grew. Friday omelette and salad and the rest of the garlic bread from the freezer.

Saturday was nice, warm, sunnyish, Borough Market not too busy early on. The man fancied cold collation for Saturday supper so steak was off (for now!). At Ginger Pig I bought a big fistful of bacon which the man cooked with eggs and toast for a stunningly fabulous breakfast on our return from the market - am thinking of making decadent breakfast, made by the man, obviously as breakfast is his fortĂ©, every week, a couple of pork steaks in the freezer and a pigs trotter cooked with the hocks to make a jelly that would set round the ham and parsley that they very kindly split for me - £8.20

A couple of meaty ham hocks jambon persille that we had for dinner Monday and lunches all week from Silfield - £5.90

At Booths I bought garlic, lots of, carrots, massive bunch of parsley to go with the hock, was taken with some lovely looking white grapes lunches and a bunch of spring onions noodles - £4.50

From Brindisa I bought a couple of noras peppers - which I can now recognise - and a tub of calaspera rice for paella that I didn't make this week but will next week - £3.80

Cold collation made me think of sweet little prawns, easily tempted by Shellseekers - a tub weighed out came to £4.99

Lizzie had her usual lots of eggs Friday omelette - £1.50

A rye tin and a crusty stick from Rhodes £3.55

Napoli cold collation and on rye for tea Sunday from Gastronomica - £2.20

Coffee from Monmouth - £10

Milk, yoghurt and pasta from Neals Yard - £9.80

Cottage tin from Flour Power - £1.10

And a bag of little avocadoes as a spur of the minute purchase from the unhappy bloke next to Elsey and Bent mashed onto fresh bread with tomatoes from the garden for lunch, and mashed with black pepper and helmans to dip sweet prawns into Saturday night - £1

All in £56.54 - cheaper than usual as we have some lovely veg in our own garden and so no need to be buying lettuce or rocket or tomatoes or beans. Feeling very pleased with ourselves! Didn't need to go to Waitrose this week (yay!) but did go to chinatown for rice, ginger, coriander seeds and five spice powder but that was the extent of the extras.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Ham hock slow cooked in chinese stock

I have a tendency to get excited about a recipe that I haven't tried but which I decide for whatever reason will be fabulous. Got to be said the reasoning is not necessarily logical or particularly well thought out but I will set out on the process full of hope and expectation. Sometimes it must also be said that I have not thoroughly thought through each individual element required to get from raw ingredients to finished fabulousness.

This method of cooking a ham hock was no exception. I've been looking at different ways to use this lovely piggy treat recently and read a couple of restaurant reviews of a hong kong dish described as having flesh slow cooked in stock and crispy skin which sounded divine to me. Crispy pig skin is always a winner! The very idea set me off looking for a recipe - the point of google, surely. But though I found other mentions of it at various restaurants in different countries no one was coming up with details. Frustrating. Then I tried a few different key words and - voila!

I had a recipe. It came from Ezard, a Melbourne restaurant where I had a very fine meal a few years ago. Coincidence? No - definitely a good sign. It was long and detailed and not entirely complicated so ideal then, for a Saturday night special.

It meant starting Thursday night with the making of a master stock and the soaking of the hock to leach any excess salt from the meat. Easypeasy.

Friday I put the hock into the pan of boiling stock put the lid on the pan and tucked it into a very low oven for a couple of hours. Turned off the heat but left the pan where it was. You can see that we're not talking massively complex operations here. But the smell, oh the lovely smell of gently spiced stock filled the flat with perfume and me with anticipation.

Next morning I took the pot from the oven and it was still just warm. The hock had taken on the rich dark hue of the stock and wobbled slightly when touched. I lifted it gently from the poaching liquor and, with no effort at all, slid the bone out from the centre of the meat. Perfect. I wrapped it very tightly in clingfilm to make a perfect dense mini ham shape and popped it into the fridge.

And that was when I realised that my plan was flawed. The next step involved thickly slicing the pressed meat so that it could be deep fried to make the skin crispy. The whole point of the dish - rich flavoured meat surrounded by crispy skin. But I do not own a deep fryer and I know from bitter experience that my hob does not reach sufficiently high temperatures to cook things well submerged in oil. All it does is make them nasty.

Oh dear.

Thought about it for a while. Decided that I would shallow fry thick slices to at least attain the maximum unctuousness in the meat, and hope I might get an odd bit of crispy. First half worked... And it was just great - beautifully flavoured meat, very moist and not a great deal of fat, and though the skin was the opposite of crispy it was juicy and slippy with just a tiny bit of resistance.

So good in fact the man wants more, soon. It will be a pleasure.

Slow cooked asian flavoured ham hock

3 L Water
250 ml light soy sauce
500 ml shao hsing wine Chinese cooking wine
200 g yellow rock Sugar
40 g fresh Ginger, thickly slices
5 Cloves Garlic, unpeeled but squashed
4 star anise
3 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon quills
10 g dried mandarin peel
1 large ham hock, about 1.5kg or 2 smaller ones, soaked overnight in water
4tbspns sunflower oil

Put all the ingredients except the hock into a large pan and bring to the boil on top of the hob. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

When the stock has cooled refrigerate overnight with the spices still in the liquid to intensify the flavor.

Next day, fish the whole spices out and bring the pan back to the boil.

Drain and rinse the hock and put it into the boiling stock. Cover with a lid.

Put into a low oven, Gas 2/100C/200F and cook, undisturbed for about 3 hours. Turn off the heat but leave the pan in the oven overnight.

Next morning carefully take the hock from the stock. Gently pull the bone from the centre of the meat - it should slide out really easily.

Put a large sheet of clingfilm onto your workbench. Put the hock in the centre and pull the edges up and tightly wrap the meat into a football shape. Refrigerate for 12 hours or so.

In a non stick pan heat the oil till very hot.

Unwrap the hock and slice into 1cm thick pieces. Put a couple at a time into the hot oil and fry for a few minutes on each side. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat till all the meat is cooked.

Serve with rice and a crisp spicy salad.

If you do have a deep fat fryer you should seriously give it a try.