The Shed

If I can't eat it I don't want to know. Unless it gets me drunk.

Month: September, 2010

My first grouse

Following a bad experience cooking pheasant I’ve tended to steer clear of game in the kitchen. Under the impression that I didn’t have the skillz I avoided anything more robust than a free range chuck, until a chat with my boss revealed that it was the [over-hung] pheasant and not me. Huzzah, jubilations, a new culinary door opens up. Obviously this was months before the start of the season so I’ve had to wait until now to give game another shot, so to speak. (sorry)
Enter Gerald Grousington III. Cute, no?
And dare I say it was a succulent success. I had a little moment of panic – does one chop off the feet?, but as you can see below, that didn’t last long.
Served with bubble n squeak patties, “sweet and sour” carrots, mushroom and kidney gravy and a spoonful of shallots, a mighty feast for the lone meat eater (meater?) of the house.
Here’s what I did, all very simple homely stuff.
For the grouse
Grouse (oven ready – I’m not mucking about with feathers)
2 rashers streaky bacon
1/2 banana shallot, cut into rings
Bubble & Squeak cakes
2 handfuls mash potato
3 leaves savoy cabbage, finely sliced
1 banana shallot, finely sliced
1 large carrot, cut into batons
1tsp honey
knob butter
1tsp red wine vinegar
Small handful chopped parsley
Mushroom & Kidney Gravy
1/2 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 posh mushroom stock cube (yes, a stock cube)
200ml water
if required, smidge cornflour, loosened with cold water to thicken
1 cooked kidney from your bird (see instructions)
Heat the oven to 220 degrees / gas mark 7, and bring a pan of water to the boil. Fry the cabbage and shallot in butter until nice and soft, then combine with the mash and season well. Shape into little patties, and set to one side. Fry the chopped (gravy) shallot in a little butter, then add the mushroom stock cube and water, and simmer until reduced and a bit syrupy. I’d have liked to have thrown in some wine here too, but the booze cupboard was (unsurprisingly) dry.
Butter, season, and bacon your bird. Inspired by Oliver Thring‘s recent nutmeg post, I threw on a tiny bit of that too, just before the bacon.
Pop the grouse in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, before turning the oven down to gas 180 / mark 5 and roasting for a further 10.
Meanwhile, boil the carrot until just cooked, drain and mix with the other carrot ingredients. Leave it in the hot pan, with the lid on until ready to serve.
Just after you turn down the oven, heat a frying pan and fry the potato cakes until golden and crisp on the outside. Once the grouse has finished cooking, fish out a kidney (in the cavity), wrap the bird in foil, and leave to rest for ten minutes.
Whisk the cooked kidney into the sauce, adding the cornflour to thicken if needed. Pile the fruits of your labour onto a plate, and enjoy with a glass of wine, should you have any in the house.

Beetroot and Mackerel, a couple of recipes and a plea for more

I know, I know, it’s terrible.

Following a vegetarian meal in The Shed, I had leftover an enormous bowl of beetroot mezze dip. Not because it was bad – highly acclaimed in fact, even by the beetroot haters – but because there is always something I make far, far too much of and have to eat for days and days.

Anyway, on spying this recipe on eating queen Hollowlegs’ blog, the mezze is such an obvious pairing for mackerel that I am mildly ashamed it didn’t before cross my mind. Salty mackerel, chilli kick, earthy heat of horseradish, botanical nuance from healthy handfuls each of mint/coriander, and a zip of balsamic to bring the whole thing together. Here’s the recipe for the beetroot puree, which I heartily recommend dolloping over smoked mackerel fillets and devouring with a hunk of bread and token greenery.
Predictably, I over-ordered on mackerel to do the above. If ever there’s a woman to have Eyes Bigger Than Belly engraved on her tombstone, I am surely she*. However, a surplus of mackerel is no bad thing and taking inspiration from Lizzie’s recipe I made the salad below. If you don’t own walnut oil, go out and buy some right now, it’ll revolutionise your salads no end so long as you like walnuts.
*not that the belly isn’t substantial in it’s own right
I still have four mackerel fillets left; does anyone have a whiz-delicious recipe?
Beetroot & Mackerel Salad, to serve four as a starter
1 pack cooked beetroot (you get slightly more flavour if you roast or boil raw beetroot, but for heavens’ sake who has the time after work?)
2 fillets smoked mackerel.
1 small read onion, finely sliced
2 handfuls sugar snap peas
6 big radishes, finely sliced into rounds
2 handfuls rocket
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
Handful toasted walnuts (optional but nice)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 dtsp honey
100ml walnut oil
Black pepper
Thinly slice the beetroot into skinny rounds and arrange on four plates in an attractive fashion. Whisk together the mustard, lemon and honey, before adding the walnut oil, whisking as you go, to create an emulsified dressing; season with black pepper.
Remove the skin and any bones from the mackerel fillets, and flake the flesh into chunky pieces. Combine in a large bowl the red onion, sugar snap peas, radishes, rocket and mint with the mackerel flakes, and toss the whole lot in the dressing; taste for seasoning, I found it needed no additional salt due to the mackerel. Serve the salad atop the beetroot discs, and adorn with toasted walnuts if you feel it necessary. Pieces of soft boiled boiled egg would also be a nice touch.

Salt beef pho: East meets East End

I’m not attempting any fancy posturing with all the greenery,
the garden is simply the only place there’s any light

If someone were to offer me plane tickets to a destination of my choosing I’d almost certainly plump for Vietnam. I’m pretty pleased with where I am life-wise, but I do experience the occasional pang of jealousy at those who spent their early twenties flitting about the world, engorging a rich mix of culture and foreign grub. Then I remember I would hate pretty much everything involved in travelling of the backpacking sort, and resign myself to earning a fat pay rise and seeing the world in style, or at least from a proper apartment with fluffy towels, fewer insects and air conditioning.

So my experience of Vietnamese food is limited to London’s offering, but as the chefs are Vietnamese the dishes must be a pretty good approximation, right? Regardless of authenticity, I love what I’ve tried so recently invested in Luke Nguyen‘s Songs of Sapa, which technically leaves me another £20 further away from those plane tickets, but happily has brought the taste of Vietnam (probably) into my Newington Green flat.

Having dipped into the book to steal dressings and dipping sauces for other dishes I finally attempted my first full recipe, his monumental beef pho. My local butcher didn’t have quite the right ingredients, so off-piste I went swapping brisket for salt brisket, and oxtail for the biggest beefy bones you did see. The results were very agreeable indeed, just the satisfyingly savoury hit I was looking for.

This is most certainly a weekend recipe, but of the 4 hours cooking time most is spent simply waiting, spoon in hand, forlornly looking at flight prices. I’ve made a few other tweaks, more herbs and chillies, less salt to account for the salt beef. The broth freezes for up to 2 months accordingly to Mr Nguyen.

To serve 8 (or 1, repeatedly, several days in a row)

2kg raw rolled salt brisket
3 big raw beef bones
1 unpeeled bulb garlic
4 unpeeled onions
large piece unpeeled ginger
150ml fish sauce
2tbsp palm sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
5 star anise

To serve;
1.6kg rice noodles
500g raw beef sirloin, sliced into strips
8 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
Big handful chopped coriander
Handful mint
Handful sweet basil
3-4 limes, cut into segments

Soak the brisket in water for 1-2 hours as time allows, refreshing the water a couple of times. On a griddle, dry cook the garlic, onions, and ginger over a medium high heat until the outsides are blackened and in insides are going soft (this will make your flat smell delicious, like your own little ockabasi). Discard the chared skins, and roughly chops the squishy, sweet insides.

Dry fry the spices then bash roughly in a pestle and mortar. You’re not looking for a fine powder, just smallish chunks which you can strain out later.

Discard the salty beef water. Fill your largest pot with 6l water, and slowly bring the beef bone and brisket to the boil, skimming the water for 25 minutes to ensure a clear stock. You may have to divide the water and bones between two pots to begin with, reuniting the liquid once it starts to reduce. Lower the heat to give a very gentle simmer, and add the garlic, onions, ginger, spices, fish sauce and sugar. Go off and potter, leaving it the simmer very gently for 3 hours. Remove the brisket and strain the stock through muslin, discarding the bones and other ingredients.

To serve, cook the rice noodles as per the pack instructions, and divide the cooked noodles and raw beef sirloin by the 8 bowls. Slice the salt beef and chuck into the bowls as well, discarding any particularly fatty bits. Put the herbs, chillies, and limes onto a plate and place in the middle of the table. Ladle the stock over the beefy bits and noodles and serve, allowing people to add the botanicals as they feel necessary. Make sure you get plenty of slurping in, it’s one of the few times it’s truly acceptable.

Bangin’ Bangra Bangers

I want to say from the off that these are made by a friend, and that I’m doing a bit of rudimentary [unpaid] PR for them. I also want to state that part of my actual real day job is, well, Food Taster and without being a bit of a nob, I generally know what I’m talking about, right? Errr, right.

Singhs Daljit & Vivek – the former a design wizz, the latter exec chef of The Cinnamon Club – have brought to life Daljit’s grandfather’s receipe for an Indian-influenced sausage. Daljit makes the best Indian food I’ve tasted; I would literally walk across London for his chicken tikka or lamb curry*. And he’s not even the acclaimed, award winning restaurateur of the two.

Anyway. Unifying what are arguably two of Britain’s favourite foods – curry and sausages – the original Bangra uses cardamom and sweet onion, with hints of aniseed and big chilli kick, where it’s newer counterpart is an altogether more middle Eastern affair. Made with dates and apricots, with the signature hit of spice it’s the North Africanesque equivalent to pork with apple and cinnamon, which just so happens to be my favourite sossy (I love you, Ginger Pig).

There’s a rather jazzy recipe for spiced mash to go with, here, though I like just a blob each of mango chutney/raita and a bit of salad, wrapped up in a home made flat bread.

*thankfully, he lives across the road

Quick Mango Chutney
This isn’t your slow-food, artisanal, leave-it-a-month-before-eating chutney, but it’s a million miles better than anything you’ve had from the shop. It’ll keep, covered, in the fridge for about a week.

Groundnut oil
1 banana shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli, finely chopped (seeds are optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
3 ripe, sweet mangoes, diced
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp water
S&P to taste

Gently cook the shallot and garlic in a little oil until soft, then add the chilli, spices and caraway seeds. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding the mangoes, vinegar, sugar and water, then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Check for seasoning, sweetness, and acidity before serving – make the day before if you want it cold.