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Archive for the ‘Main Meal (Dinner)’ Category

Sometimes I look at a recipe like this and think that it is almost too simple to earn its place on this site.  However although it was simple I was so pleased with the outcome I just had to add it here.  One of my original motivations for writing here was to add some straightforward and favourite family recipes for my daughter to use (as well as for me to remember).  This certainly fits the bill and anyway, it is about time I shared here my own particular method for crunchy roast potatoes – with or without the sesame seeds.

This method of cooking potatoes is a combination of the method taught by my mother and ideas gleaned from other sources: books and television in particular.  My grandmother roasted potatoes in margerine as my grandad was vegetarian and this gave her potatoes a distinctive taste: actually not unpleasant but something I would not want to copy.  Mum originally used lard but often with dripping from the roasting meat and the potatoes took on some of the flavour of the dinner.  In recent years she has substituted healthier sunflower oil for the lard.  There is family discussion too on how to cut the potatoes: my mother in law favours large flat pieces that keep their shape whereas I grew up with smaller chunkier pieces which tended to crumble easily but had wonderful crisp crusty edges.  The potatoes pictured below are slightly crusty but not as super-crumbly as I like them.  There are many different varieties of potato and each will cook slightly differently, but all will become brown if cooked in hot fat and a hot oven even if they do not crumble very much.  This method is the way I make sure that my roast potatoes have those crispy edges, as well as the ‘cooks perks’ bits that crumble off and are left in the roasting tin.  My own choice of cooking fat is usually olive oil, because of the flavour it gives, though I often use a little sunflower oil and occasionally meat roasting juices.  Recently Goose fat (or Duck fat) has been gaining in popularity.  I bought a jar at Christmas which I combined with olive oil.  Although not especially healthy Goose or Duck fat does give a lovely flavour and a crisp golden finish.  It is quite expensive to use exclusively and most I have seen seems to be imported from France: perhaps another item to put on my ever increasing list of potential holiday food purchases?!  Be warned.  Good roast potatoes are addictive and potato is relatively cheap so don’t stint on quantities.  If you have a one or two left the garden birds will love you for it!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Sesame Roast Potatoes

Allow 2 medium sized or 1 large potato per adult, depending on appetite
Olive oil/Sunflower oil/Goose fat/Duck fat/fat & juices from roasting meat – or a combination
Sea salt to sprinkle
Sesame seeds to sprinkle (optional – be generous if using) at least 1tbsp per person

1.  Preheat the oven if not already in use.  If roasting potatoes alongside a joint I turn the oven up to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 first, putting them into the oven at the same time as I remove the lid from the roasting tin to finish the roasting meat.  Once the meat comes out of the oven to rest before carving I turn up the heat to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6   220oC/425oF/Gas 7 but if possible heat the oven to this higher temperature from the start.

2.  Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces.  A medium sized potato can cut into four larger or eight smaller pieces – your choice.

3.  Plunge into boiling slightly salted water, put on the lid and cook on a gentle rolling boil until you can slip the point of a knife easily into a potato piece.  This will be about 8-12 minutes depending on the type of potato: some break up very quickly so watch carefully especially if you are cooking a new variety.

4.  While the potatoes are cooking put the oil and/or fat into a large roasting tin and place in the oven.  The potatoes do not need to swim in fat but you need enough for them not to stick.  Remember that they will soak up fat as they cook, but you can add more if needed.

5.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and gentle toss them around so the edges of the potato are slightly fluffed up.  How much you do this will depend on how fluffy the potato edges are already.

6.  Tip the potatoes into the roasting tin and turn them in the hot fat.  Sprinkle with a little salt and return to the oven.

7.  Turn the potatoes at regular intervals, adding a little more oil only if absolutely necessary, until they are golden and crispy.  It is difficult to give exact timings for this but for really crisp potatoes you need to allow at least 45minutes and maybe a little longer.

8.  Shortly before the potatoes are cooked remove the tin from the oven and generously sprinkle them with sesame seeds.  The should be returned to the oven for at least five minutes more to allow the seeds to toast.

9.  When serving drain any excess oil away from the potatoes before serving with any dinner of your choice, although this is particularly good with roasted meat.  We enjoy a sprinkling of crunchy bits and toasted seeds that have ended up in the bottom of the pan as well!

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The worst bit of this recipe is probably the pink fingers you will get from peeling the raw beetroot.  The final result is one of the most colourful pies you will come across.  I say pie, but this recipe works equally well as a stew or casserole, omitting the pastry layer.  It is relatively quick to make but impressive enough to serve to guests: just check first that they are beetroot lovers as not everyone is.  They might, of course, be prepared to have their minds changed, especially if their only previous experience of beetroot has been in jars pickled in vinegar, which is definitely love it or hate it.  I am trying to do my bit to try to redress the beetroot’s poor reputation, so on this site you will find a number of recipes which involve neither pickling or vinegar, the only exceptions to date being Raw Beetroot Salad and my most commented upon post, Beetroot Chutney.  However, for a vinegar free beetroot experience, why not try Rosy Potato SaladRosy Roast Root VegetablesMoroccan Style Beef Stew with Oranges & Beetroot … or even Beetroot Seed Cake!

The basic recipe comes from Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones.  It is little changed from the original apart from the addition of a few herbs and the suggestion that a small amount of red wine vinegar, for a similar flavour, could be added in place of red wine if it is not available. (I often reduce the wine a little for everyday meals anyway, hence the two quantities.)  Please don’t think that this is will in any way add a pickled taste but it does enhance the flavour of the dish beautifully.  Use either minced pork, as in the original, or substitute chopped pork.  Top with shortcrust pastry as in the recipe or use puff pastry instead.  As I said earlier it can be made without a crust, just stir the soured cream into the stew just before serving instead of spooning it into the hole.  If soured cream is not available then sour some cream with a little lemon juice (a tip I read somewhere else a year or so ago) or substitute either yoghurt or crème fraîche.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pork & Beetroot Pie
(Serves 4)

12ozs shortcrust pastry (see Basic Recipe: Pastry) or 1 packet of puff pastry
10g/½oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
450g/1lb uncooked beetroot, peeled & diced
450g/1lb minced or chopped pork
1tbsp mixed herbs
1tbsp chicken stock concentrate, powder or 1 cube
300ml/¼-½pint red wine
or
1-2tbsp red wine vinegar and a little water as required
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
¼pint soured cream to serve
To serve: chopped parsley (optional for casserole)

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4  for casserole or 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for pie.

2.  Melt the butter and olive oil together in a pan and cook the onion and the beetroot together until the onion is soft but not brown.

3.  Stir in the pork and fry briefly stirring to break up the meat if it is minced.  Add the stock and stir in.  Season to taste.

4.  Mix in the wine (or wine vinegar and a little water – more can be added later if needed).  Bring to the boil and remove from the heat.

5.  If this is being served as a casserole then transfer the contents to a casserole dish and place in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.  Alternatively cover the saucepan and leave it on a low heat to continue to cook for at least 30 minutes. Check seasoning, stir in a swirl of soured cream (but do not completely combine) and scatter with chopped parsley before serving.

6.  The pie version has a lid but no pastry underneath.  Roll out the pastry until it is just a little larger than the circumference of the pie dish.  Fill the dish with the pork and beetroot mixture.  From the leftover pastry cut a strip and place it round the edge of the pie dish.  Lift over the lid and using a small round cutter (about 2.5cm/1inch in diameter) cut a hole in the middle of the pie.  Pinch the edges of the pastry together with the edge strip in a fluted design, using fingers or a fork, and trim any overlapping pastry to size.

7.  From the remaining pastry cut a circle of pastry about 3.5cm/1½inches in diameter and use it to loosely cover the hole in the pie.  If needed any remaining pastry can be used for decoration.  The pastry can be brushed with beaten egg to give a golden finish or a little milk before baking.

8.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

9.  Just before serving carefully remove the  circle of pastry from the middle of the pie.  Using a funnel pour in the soured cream and then replace the circle and serve the pie immediately.

10. Serve with creamed or small new potatoes and a simply cooked green vegetable.

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One of my favourite orders from the Chinese takeaway used to be one portion each of Special Fried Rice and Chinese mushrooms – haven’t had it for ages, by the way, not sure why.  Special Fried Rice is, as far as I am concerned, as near to comfort food as you can get in Chinese cuisine.  I was delighted to find this recipe in a book of recipes from around the world I found remaindered in bookshop and it was probably the first Chinese style recipe I every tried to make.  It was certainly in the days before I owned a wok.  It is a great way to use up leftover rice and worth making a little extra so you can make this recipe the next day.  It is good to serve as a light lunch as well as part of a multi dish meal.  This was very well received as part of my mum’s Chinese style birthday dinner.

The recipe was mostly based on one in Cooking and Eating Around the World by Alison Burt and I also looked at the Fried Rice recipe in Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery.  It is a versatile recipe where a selection of ingredients are fried with the pre-cooked rice.  If available Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong)” can be added. This is available from Oriental supermarkets. (See also this interesting Fried Rice post using the same Chinese Sausage: Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Mixed Frozen Vegetables & Eggs from Wandering Chopsticks.)  Finally an egg is quickly stirred through the rice mixture and allowed to cook briefly before serving.  A vegetarian version can be cooked, leaving out the meat and fish and if necessary increasing the quantities of vegetables and possibly adding another egg.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Special Fried Rice

This recipe mostly does not have any quantities as it uses a mixture of leftovers and ingredients chosen by the cook.  Rice, oil to fry and an egg to bind are essential, plus at least one vegetable and one other ingredient – the more ingredients you add, the more ‘special’ it is.

Cold cooked white rice
Sunflower oil
Soy sauce
Garlic cloves, finely chopped
Spring onions, white and green, chopped finely
or
Onion
Ginger, finely chopped (not a large quantity)
Frozen Peas, partly cooked
Button mushrooms, quartered or sliced
Beansprouts
Ham or bacon, chopped fairly small – or leftover ham
Poached Chicken, chopped fairly small – or leftover chicken
Small frozen pre-cooked Prawns
Chinese Sausage Lap Cheong/Xuong (available from the Oriental supermarket)
Salt & black pepper
1 egg (more for a larger quantity)
Sesame oil

1.  Fry together the chopped onion/spring onion, ginger, garlic and button mushrooms until soft.  If you are adding any uncooked meat (ie bacon) then add it at this point so it cooks thoroughly.

2.  Stir in the pre-cooked rice and mix thoroughly.

3.  Add part cooked frozen peas, ham, cubed chicken, prawns (and/or other ingredients of choice) plus soy sauce.  Stir well to combine and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.  Watch to make sure the ingredients do not burn.  Season as required with salt and black pepper.

4.  Just before serving add the egg and stir throughly until just cooked.  Be very careful that the egg does not burn.

5.  Finish with a splash of sesame oil, stir through the rice mixtuure and serve immediately.

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This recipe was part of the Chinese style multi dish meal I served for my mother’s birthday though it is also something we now often eat as a midweek supper.  A few weeks ago I posted the method for making Poached Chicken Breasts and this recipe uses a similar method of pre-cooking the Belly Pork strips to tenderise them, as they can sometimes be rather chewy if not cooked for very long.  I am sure that it would be perfectly acceptable to pre-cook belly strips by this method for other non Chinese style recipes.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

I like to consider that this is a pretty genuine Chinese recipe as my brother in law’s family is Chinese.  It came via my sister in law from my brother in law, who learned it from his father.  This was the family’s favourite recipe so my sister in law makes it very regularly, serving it with rice into which pieces of the Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong) Wu Xiang” (available from the Oriental supermarket) have been added.  One day she served it to us and I begged the recipe – here it is.   I was given very specific instructions on how to make the original version (no onion at all and I had to use spring greens) and for mum’s Chinese birthday meal I made it that way but we found the flavour of the greens rather too strong. My brother in law much prefers the original recipe without any onions.  He says he likes this way as it is more savoury and not as sweet.  He also has a memory of his dad crushing the garlic cloves with a knife to just break them, but leaving them intact.  They were then cooked to flavour the hot oil but removed before cooking the rest of the dish: he remembers the smell of the garlic being cooked in this way.  He understands that the Chinese cook garlic in this way as it adds flavour but doesn’t burn.  In the end I have settled on my own variations for home cooking, which does include onion, the flavour of which we really love in Chinese food and replacing the greens with either Broccoli or Bok Choy (or choi, also known as pak choy or choi).  This last was definitely our favourite version and is a very good way to use the Boy Choy which occasionally appears on our local street market.  I also added mushroom slices and some colourful peppers for colour and flavour with a drizzle of sesame oil just prior to serving.  This will be my regular way of cooking the recipe from now on – I just need to track down a source of the chinese sausage in small quantities.  So far I have only found it in multi packs which would last me several years.  A word about the oil too… My sister in law uses a special wok oil, a blend of sunflower, sesame and ginger oils with natural extracts of garlic.  I just use ordinary sunflower oil and finish the dish, as advised by Ken Hom, by stirring through a slug of sesame oil – but I never use olive oil.

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Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy-Pak Choy
(Serves 4)
The ‘orthodox’ original recipe: pork poached in ginger then fried in garlic infused oil with a little more ginger, the soy sauce and Spring greens added towards the end of cooking time.
Below is my own variation.

2 tablespoons of oil
4 large Belly Pork strips – 1 per person (I prefer skinless pieces)
1 large piece Ginger, unpeeled and chopped into large pieces
1 small knob Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves Garlic
1tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
250g/8ozs Green Cabbage, washed and finely chopped (or Broccoli/Bok Choy) – or more
Chinese sausage to flavour rice (optional)
Optional additions:
2 medium sized white onions
or
1 bunch spring onions
125g/4ozs  button mushrooms
1 or 2 Peppers – mixed colours if possible
1tbsp Sesame oil

Poaching the pork and ginger (can be done in advance and refrigerated or frozen for later use)
1.  Put the belly pork strips into a saucepan with a large piece of ginger cut into chunks.

2.  Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 mins

3.  Take the pork out and leave to cool.

4.  Cut the pork into large pieces leave on all the fat – each piece should be should be about the width of your thumb.  Put to one side.

Stir frying the pork
5.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the wok

6.  Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife so they are flattened but don’t fall apart.  Cook in the hot oil to infuse the flavour and then remove them before they burn.
Alternatively …
Crush or chop the garlic and cook along with the onion, ginger and mushroom without removing.

7.  Add a chopped thumb sized ginger piece to the hot oil, along with the finely sliced onion and mushroom and garlic (if using).  Allow them to soften without burning.

8.  Add the sliced pieces of belly pork and cook, initially on a high heat.  Add dark soy sauce to coat the meat: it is suggested the soy is used liberally but I feel this depends on personal taste.

9.  Add the sliced pepper(s) if using.

10.  Cover the wok and turn down the heat.

11.  Add the chopped up greens to the wok containing the pork and ginger.  Add a little boiling water if required and more soy sauce if desired.

12.  Stir the greens when you adding them so they are well mixed with the pork and the sauce.

13.   Cook until the meat is soft and the greens are tender.  20minutes is recommended but I prefer a shorter time so the greens still retain their crispness.

14.  Just prior to serving, stir through the sesame oil.  It is used to add flavour rather than to fry.

15.  Serve with rice (plus Chinese sausage (see notes and below).

A note about Rice
Slice one Lap Cheong/Xuong Chinese sausage and add it on top of the rice once the rice steamer clicks over to warm, (or when almost all the water has disappeared if cooking conventionally in a saucepan).   Leave for 20 mins to heat through (this is about the time the greens are added to the pork, although I like my greens cooked for a shorter time).

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I don’t know what your favourite Chinese dish is, but anything containing duck seems to rate very highly in our house.  Duck with pancakes is regularly ordered when we visit a Chinese restaurant but I don’t think I would attempt the crispy duck or the special pancakes. Duck with Plum Sauce is just as popular whilst being much less complicated and when I came across this simple recipe I knew it would be well received.  The aromatic spiced sharp sweetness of the plum sauce is a perfect contrast for the rich flavour of the simply pan fried and beautifully crispy duck.  I first made it last November for my husband’s birthday supper using duck legs and then once again in this March as part of the Chinese banquet I served for mum’s birthday, instead using duck breasts.  I know I will be making it again.

The original recipe for Duck Breasts with Plum Sauce came from the November 2010 issue of the ASDA Free instore magazine.  It is a useful dish as the sauce can be made in advance and the duck cooked fairly quickly just before it is needed, initially on the hob before being finished in the oven. The amount of sauce is very generous and is enough for at least 8 people, if not more (though 6-8 if you like a large serving).  On both occasions I ended up freezing half of the sauce for later use.  I need to remember to halve it on another occasion but meantime I have sauce to use up!  The sauce would also be delicious with pork, whether a roast joint, chops or belly strips and also with chicken.  It could also be used as a pork marinade in a similar way to that used in the recipe for Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork.  As one of several dishes, I served this on a bed of shredded lettuce, cucumber sticks and tomato wedges.  As a single main dish I would serve it with plain or egg fried rice and a dish of stir fried vegetables.

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Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce
(Serves 4)
4 small Duck Breasts (as a main course – one or two breasts if serving several dishes)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 garlic clove, choppedcrushed
1cm/½inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled & grated
350g/12ozs plums, halved & stoned
2tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp white sugar
1tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2tbsp Soy Sauce
1tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2.  Remove the duck from the fridge and pat the skin with kitchen paper to remove any moisture before leaving it at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

3.  Make shallow, parallel cuts in the duck breast skin, being careful not to slice right through the skin to the meat.

4.  Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the garlic and ginger on a low heat for 1 minute.

5.  Add the plums, vinegar, sugar, five-spice, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.  Cover the pan and gently simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer the sauce for a further 5-10 minutes to reduce.

6.  Liquidise to make a thick smooth sauce and return to the pan to keep warm.

7.  Meanwhile, gently heat a large frying pan and cook the duck, skin-side down, on a medium heat, for 5 minutes.  Thee skin should become golden brown and start to crisp.

8.  Drain off the fat and reserve – it is delicious for roasting potatoes. Turn over the duck and cook on the other side for 1 minute more.

9.  Transfer the duck into a roasting tin and place in the pre-heated oven, skin-side up, for 9-15 minutes, depending on how pink you like your duck meat.

10.  When cooked, leave the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Then slice and place on a serving dish on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and tomato.  Alternatively place unsliced onto a plate and serve with Chinese style rice and stir fried vegetables.

11.  The sauce should be reheated to serve with the duck, either poured over or alongside in a small serving jug .

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A few years ago we visited the Basque region which straddles the South Western French and Spanish borders but although we went into Spain we spent most of our time in France.  One French place we visited was Espelette, home of the famous pepper Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper), some of which I brought back from holiday.  I am always looking for ways to use some of this mild dried pepper mixture.  Not long ago I was directed to another post about Piment d’Espelette by London Eats, when it was used as an ingredient in a Spicy Mixed Bean Stew.  I now know I am not the only person (in London too) with a jar of this delicious pepper looking for suitable recipes!

Back in November I came across a quick and easy recipe called Spanish Gammon Hotpot from The Vicar’s Wife.  (Just a few weeks ago I re-posted her wonderful recipe for Whole Orange Cake.)  The word hotpot, however, is a bit too English for me and reminiscent of Lancashire Hotpot, which is something entirely different, so I have renamed it.  Amanda (the Vicar’s Wife) suggested that it was an adaptable recipe, so that is just what I did.  I am not a great fan of baked beans, though I admit they have their uses, instead using a chick peas plus some mushrooms and garlic. (Amanda suggests haricot or cannellini beans as alternatives.)  For the meat content I used a thick bacon steak, but it could just as well be diced bacon or the leftovers from a piece of gammon, or even chunks of lean belly pork, plus some Chorizo sausage added for extra Spanish authenticity.   As well as the smoked paprika I included a small amount of the piment d’Espelette for a little extra heat.  I liked the idea of adding olives – rather sadly I am the only person in our house who likes them – and had intended to do so, but forgot.  There will, however, be a next time.  The meal was served with crusty bread and green salad.  This speedy supper is definitely a meal for my ‘make in 30 minutes max’ category.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spanish Style Gammon Stew
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
8ozs chopped bacon or leftover ham/gammon
25g/1oz piece chorizo sausage
50g/2ozs button mushrooms
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, slightly chopped
1 x 400g tin chick peas (originally baked beans)
½-1tsp piment d’Espelette or dried chilli to taste (optional)
1tsp smoked paprika
12-15 stoned halved black or green olives (optional)
Salt/black pepper to taste

1.  Gently fry the onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent.  Stir in the garlic and mushrooms.

2.   If using cooked meat reserve it until later, but uncooked bacon should be added now.  Mix in well and cook for 5 minutes.

3.  Add the chopped pepper, tomatoes and chick peas (or other beans) along with the piment d’espelette and smoked paprika.  Cover with a little water.

4.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the peppers have softened.

5.  Serve with rice or crusty bread and a green salad.

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The Basque Country in the western Pyrenees spans the border taking in part of South-west France and Northern Spain.  The coastal part of the region, on both sides of the border, is well known for its fish.  Bacalao, or Salt Cod, is a widely used ingredient in both Basque and Spanish cookery.  Salted fish is often associated with Lent, the six and a bit weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter when, at the end of a long winter, fresh produce was at a premium.  I have recently added a post about how to salt fish at home, which is not a difficult process, however packs of ready salted fish is becoming more widely available in the UK.  I am fortunate to live in an ethnically diverse part of North-east London so usually shop for Salt fish in a local ethnic shop with mostly Caribbean produce, but the major supermarket chains are now starting to stock it too.  I usually buy salted skinless pollack, as it is a sustainable species – I am trying not to buy cod – and quite honestly I can barely tell the difference, especially when it is cooked into a stew.  This recipe, therefore, has been converted for pollack, but if you must then substitute cod – or another white round fish of your choice.

The recipe comes from a library book, The Spanish Kitchen by Pepita Aris.  As I have said previously I substituted ready Salted Pollack, soaked for twenty-four hours before use.  I am yet to try this recipe with home salted fish.  I was also a little unsure about adding the honey specified in the recipe.  Honey with fish?  It seemed  a bit strange!  However as I often add a little sugar to tomato based dishes as it cuts through the acidity I risked the honey and the flavour was not obvious.  The dish was certainly enjoyable.  I notice that there is a similar recipe from Central Spain in Keith Floyd’s book, Floyd on Spain, which includes chick peas.  I’ll have to give that a go sometime as well, perhaps using home salted fish.

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Basque Style Salt Cod (Bacalao) in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Bacalao con Salsa de Tomate Picante
(Serves 4)

400g/15oz salt cod/salt fish, soaked in cold water for 24hours
(I used a 300g pack which was adequate with extra pepper)
30ml/2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 green peppers (or one each red or orange and green)
500g/1¼ lb peeled & chopped ripe tomatoes
or
400g/14oz tin tomatoes
15ml/1tbsp tomato purée
15ml/1tbsp clear honey
¼tsp dried thyme
½tsp cayenne pepper
or
½tsp Piment d’Espelette (coarse ground dried Basque pepper)
Juice of ½ lemon
2 potatoes (medium sized)
45ml/3tbsp stale breadcrumbs (be generous – I’m sure I doubled this amount)
30ml/2tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   If using shop bought salt fish it should be soaked in cold water for 24 hours, drained and rinsed before use.  If home made lightly salted fish is used then an overnight soak followed by a rinse should be adequate.

2.   Drain the salted fish, place in a pan, generously cover with water and bring to the boil.  As soon as it boils remove the pan from the heat and set aside until cold.

3.   Heat the oil in a medium sized pan.  Gently fry the onion for 5 minutes and then add the garlic.  Add the chopped peppers and tomatoes and cook over a gentle heat to make a sauce.  Stir in the tomato purée, honey, dried thyme, espelette or cayenne pepper, black pepper and a little salt.  Taste and sea son as required.  Add alittle lemon juice to make it ‘tangier’.

4.   Peel and halve the potatoes lengthways and cut them into slices about the thickness of a coin.

5.   Drain the fish and reserve the cooking water.

6.   Turn on the grill to heat up.  Cook the potato slices for about 8 minutes, with no added salt, in the reserved water.

7.   Flake the fish and remove any skin and bones.

8.   Make up the dish in layers.  First put in a third of the sauce, cover with potato slices, followed by a layer of flaked fish and the finally the remainder of the sauce.

9.   Combine the breadcrumbs and parsley together and sprinkle over the dish.

10.  Place under the grill for 10 minutes until golden brown.

11.  This is a meal in itself but if you wish it could be served with a side salad.

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As I have said before, Sunday lunches can become rather predictable, but this is one of those accompaniments that adds some new flavours, giving a new twist to the familiar.  Other ways of bringing a fresh approach to a roast joint are pre-marinading the meat, as in Australian Spiced Roast Pork or by adding an unusual sauce, such as Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce.  The moment I watched Nigel Slater make this ragoût recipe on television just after Christmas I knew I had to try it.  All the ingredients were handy, including some juniper berries which I had bought in France (they were a bit old, but never mind – I just added a few extra!).  I was also already planning to serve roast beef the following Sunday.  In place of the fillet beef used by Nigel Slater in the original recipe I slow roasted a topside beef joint using my usual Sunday lunch method.  It was a definite hit with the family and I will certainly be making it again.  In fact it is an unusual dish to serve when entertaining and especially useful as it can be made in advance and reheated – always a plus on a busy Sunday! 

The original recipe was part of the programme Nigel Slater’s Christmas Suppers and was called New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût.  In place of pumpkin I substituted a butternut squash, which is readily available through the Autumn and Winter and useful for so many recipes.  I would be interested in trying this without using white wine as this is not always available, but the  juniper berries gave a delicate flavour and the buttery sweetness of the Butternut Squash complemented the beef really well. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Ragoût
(Serves 6)
For fillet beef see original recipe: New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût

For the pumpkin ragoût
2 large onions
2tbsp of olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 juniper berries
A large butternut squash (or a small pumpkin)
2 tbsp of plain flour
500ml/17fl oz hot vegetable or chicken stock
175ml/6fl oz white wine
salt & black pepper
a few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley

1.  Peel and finely slice the onions.   Gently heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions slowly.   Strip the rosemary leaves from the stems, chop them finely and crush the juniper berries.   Add both to the onions.  Continue to cook gently for about 15-20 minutes until the onions are softened.

2.  Remove the peel from the squash or pumpkin, take out the seeds and thinly slice  into small 1cm/½in thick pieces (or larger if you wish.)  Add the pieces of squash or pumpkin to the onion mixture and fry for 4-5 minutes. 

3.  Sprinkle over the flour, stir well and carry on cooking for about five more minutes.

4.  Add the stock and wine, bring to the boil, season and then lower the heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the pieces of squash or pumpkin are tender. 

5.  Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

6.   To serve, spoon the ragoût onto plates and place slices of the hot cooked beef on top.

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However much you enjoy it, a traditional British Sunday lunch of roast meat, vegetables and accompaniments can become a bit predictable.  It is good sometimes to ring the changes with a slight twist, especially if that twist is a relatively simple one: essential in our very busy Sunday household.  It was the slightly unusual sauce recipe that attracted my attention, which proved easy to adapt.  Designed to accompany expensive beef fillet, I cooked it with a different cut of beef, which slowly roasted while we were out at church.  As I had thought, it was delicious!

The original recipe, Pepper-crusted Fillet of Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onions & Thyme, comes from Delia Smith’s How to Cook, Book 3.  The original recipe was for fillet of beef cooked quickly on the bed of onions which were then made into a sauce.  Using a different cut of beef, which needed a slower cooking time, I prepared and cooked it in my usual way.  (I usually give a silverside or topside joint a slow cooking for Sunday lunch while we are out for the morning.)  Instructions are given below for my version using the cheaper cut of silverside beef (topside beef could be cooked in the same way).  If entertaining and using a finer cut of meat it can, of course, be cooked for the shorter time (refer to the recipe via the link above).  Delia Smith recommends the onions are added right at the start of the cooking time, however if I had done this with the lengthy cooking they would have been cooked to a crisp and useless, hence my adapted version. I also use my own cornflour based method for making the sauce.  Delia suggests the recipe could be accompanied by Potatoes Boulangère with RosemaryIt is difficult though to get away without serving Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings plus any usual favourite side dishes and sauces. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Roast Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce
(Serves 6)

1lb 8oz-2lb/680-900g silverside/topside beef (original: middle-cut beef fillet)
a knob of butter (orig: drizzle of oil)
1-3tsp ground black peppercorns (be generous for a hotter flavour)
2fl oz/55ml balsamic vinegar
1 level tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb/450g medium sized red onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
salt
For the sauce:
1 heaped tsp cornflour
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
½pt/275 ml red wine (can be the end of a bottle which has been frozen)

1.  To allow the flavours to develop start the recipe at least 2 hours before cooking, if possible.  Rub the meat with a little butter and grind the peppercorns over the surface of the beef, pressing in well – the more you add the hotter it will be. 

2.  To make the onion sauce mix the sugar and balsamic vinegar together thoroughly in a large bowl and leave it to rest while preparing the onions so the sugar dissolves.  Peel the onions and leaving the root intact cut each one into eight wedges.  Add the onion wedges and a tablespoon of oil to the bowl with the sugar and vinegar and gently toss to coat.  Cover and leave to one side while the meat is cooking.  (Doing this early in the day is a useful time saver for when time is short later in the morning but alternatively it can be done while the meat is cooking.)

3.  Preheat the oven 150oC/300oF/Gas 2. 

4.  Put about 1cm/½inch water in a roasting dish to keep the meat moist.  Place the meat on a rack in the dish, cover and cook for about 2 hours or even a little longer.  Check that the dish is not going dry when you can (if you are out then look as soon as you return).

5.  Remove the roasting tin from the oven, removing the meat and the rack.  Raise the oven temperature to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

6.  Pour off any excess meat juices and fat which can be used either to make gravy (there is usually someone who wants gravy as well as sauce) or to use in other dishes.   It is not necessary to wash the roasting tin, unless it has gone dry and burned.

7.  Spread the onion mixture out in the base of the roasting tin.  Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well with salt.   Place the beef on top of the onion mixture.  Cover, return to the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes.

8.  Remove the beef from the tin and transfer to a warm place to rest.  Return the tin with the onions to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Depending on size of onion, carefully remove two to three whole wedges per diner from the dish and keep warm alongside the meat.  Finely chop the remaining onion along with any juices from the pan that the meat has been cooked in.  (If needed add some of the meat juice from earlier, but not the fat.)  In a small saucepan mix the cornflour with the Worcester Sauce and the balsamic vinegar to make a paste and then gradually add the wine and finally the chopped onion.  Bring to the boil until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent it from becoming lumpy.  Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about a quarter.  Check and adjust seasoning as required.

9.  To serve, carve the beef and stir any extra meat juices into the sauce.  Serve garnished with the onions and the sauce poured over, plus whatever accompaniments for roast beef you prefer.

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Lamb mince topped with mashed potato is, of course, Shepherd’s Pie and with Beef Mince it becomes Cottage Pie, so what if you use Pork Mince?  In our house we call it Swineherd’s Pie and the version I make has, in place of potato, an unusual mixture of mashed parsnip and cheese.  This makes for a sweetish flavoured but quite delicious topping that complements the pork mixture really well.

The basic recipe comes from a book of recipes for using mince that I have owned for nearly twenty years: Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones where it was called Pork & Parsnip Bake.  In its simplest form it is onion, mushroom and pork mince in a thickened sauce under a cheesy parsnip topping.  Over the years I have put in additional vegetables, usually courgette and red pepper (though these are not in the picture below), which not only makes the rather drab filling more colourful but turns it into a meal in one dish.  The original recipe suggests serving with baked or sautéed potatoes.  I rarely serve additional potato on the side, though doing this would mean it would feed more people as would adding an extra vegetable, such as peas.  It also advises that this can be prepared in advance and frozen, for several months if necessary, ready to defrost and brown in a hot oven before serving.  The instructions below are for my quick version of the recipe, which is finished under the grill, but in the original dish the meat mixture was cooked on the hob for a shorter time and then baked in an oven preheated to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for 30-40 minutes.  Although I have not tried it, as with Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings, this pork mixture could also be cooked with parsnip and cheese dumplings but would need additional liquid.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Swineherd’s Pie – Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
(Serves 4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
100g/4ozs mushrooms, quartered or sliced depending on size
450g/1lb minced pork
2tbsp cornflour
1tbsp chicken stock concentrate or ½ stock cube
450ml/¾pint water (aprox)
1 courgette, trimmed, quartered lengthways and chopped (optional)
1 red pepper, seeded & diced (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the cheesy parsnip topping:
1kg/2lb parsnips
A little milk
A small knob of butter
100g/40zs mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1.  Peel the parsnips and cut them into chunks.  Cook in boiling salted water until they are tender – about 20 minutes.

2.  Meantime heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently until it is starting to soften.

3.  Add the mushrooms and cook gently for around an additional 5 minutes until the onion is softened but not browned.

4.  Stir in the pork mince and fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is lightly browned.

5.  Put the cornflour in a jug with the stock liquid (or crumbled cube), add a little water and mix to a smooth paste.  Top up to about ¼pint with water and mix well.  Carefully add to the meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken.  Add up to ½pint of extra water as needed.

6.  Stir in the diced courgette and red pepper, check seasoning and cover with a lid.  Turn the heat to low and cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.

7.  When the parsnip is soft, mash it throughly: a potato ricer is ideal if you have one.  Stir in the butter and grated cheese plus a little milk to make a soft mixture.

8.  Check that the courgette is soft before spooning the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish.  Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top.  Place under a preheated grill until the parsnip topping starts to brown.

9.  Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parsley if available.  Potato and extra vegetables can be served as well, if wished.

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