This is a diary of what I cook and what I eat.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Lamb Shank

I was in the Butchers the other day and saw some lamb shanks and thought I'd get them and see what I could do with them.  Here is my really simple way of making roasted lamb shank with a red wine gravy.

serves 2

2 lamb Henrys/shanks
unsalted butter
beef stock cube dissolved in 500ml hot water
a bottle of robust red wine
sea salt
Cinnamon stick
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
olive oil
2 carrots chopped into chunks
1 onion roughly chopped

  1. Make sure the lamb shanks are dried with paper towel before you start and then season the meat. Then fry them in some olive oil so that all of the sides have browned off. Use a heavy based large pan as this will be sufficient Remove the lamb shanks from the pan and add the onion and carrot and fry gently over a low heat.  for all of the liquid to fit in.
  2. Add the bottle of red wine and then the beef stock and add the lamb shanks to the pan.  They should be half covered by the liquid.  Now here is the bit that can be altered by you.  If you want to cook it on the hob this is possible and just add the lid and turn the heat to low.  If you want to cook them in the oven then place them into a casserole dish or heatproof pan and place the lid on and cook them in a low heat.  They will take 2-3 hours depending on the size of the Henrys but essentially what you are looking for is a real softness and tenderness to the meat.  If you try to get meat off with a fork it should come away with some ease.  For the last 20 minutes of cooking, throw a cinnamon stick in.

  3. Now remove the lamb from the dish/pan and allow to rest while you drain the liquid through a sieve and then a muslin cloth to remove the impurities and the carrot mixture.

  4. Set the cooking liquor aside and place the lamb Henrys into a roasting dish.  Pour a little of the cooking liquor over them, around 2-3 ladles full, and place them into the oven in a moderate oven for roasting, around gas mark 4.

  5. Reduce your cooking liquor so that it becomes thick and glossy.  I found that it needed some extra water at the end and then I added the redcurrant jelly to give the sauce its sweetness but also because it thickens the sauce up.  Finish with a few knobs of butter for a silky sauce.

I served mine with crushed potato but mash, cous-cous or just some asparagus would be lovely; especially as its in season.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Grow your own... lettuce?

I mentioned a few entries back, that I wanted to really concentrate on sourcing where my ingredients come from and find out a history, a story or a background on my meats.  Well I thought the answer might be for my to get a little green fingered and grow my own food.  Whilst I can't start a mini farm in my little yard I can use the space I currently have, while I wait for my allotment allocation, to grow a few veggies or something resembling an edible product. 

Obviously, I'd have to start small as up to now the only thing I've ever been known to grow is mold in my room at University.  Its a shame really because my upbringing involved being around a lot of home growing, in particular my grandad took me to his allotment where he grew raspberries, strawberries, carrots, onions, peas, broad beans, potatoes; both new and larger varieties and an array of salad ingredients and in truth this doesn't cover the other things he has grown over the years. 
Essentially, he could grow enough to provide meals, fair enough they would be minus meat, but they could provide meals from their allotment alone. 

This sustainability is an essential part of not only knowing where your food comes from, the bottom of your garden in this case, but it is vital for us to play a role in our food preparation right from seed. 

So I've started with lettuce; can grow within two weeks, is easy to plant, can be put into my yard and was the only thing I really trusted myself to grow.  Would you believe that after two weeks I could see little green shoots and I'm not sure what my neighbours thought when I was jumping around after having actually being able to grow something.  As you can see I need to leave it a bit longer before using it but its looking healthy right now.

I'm not suggesting that I'm helping sustainability just by growing my own lettuce because its really a big task and you have to be prepared to make big changes if you are to encompass what we mean by sustainability.  These changes could be sourcing British produce, growing your own food, having an allotment, not using plastic bags or purchasing food with immense amounts of packaging and that's just the start. 

So I'll let you know how I get on but hopefully this is just the start of my talents.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Chorizo and chicken spaghetti with a white wine and tomato sauce

I am a massive fan of chorizo both as an ingredient and eaten by itself. And wierdly enough my partner with his not to discerning taste has become so obsessed with chorizo that he actually looks miserable at the mention of me using an alternative cured meat for our fortnightly home made pizzas.

 I tend to use it in my everyday cooking as a consequence of this, which some of you may have already seen in my bolognaise recipe. I use it in soups, stews, pastas, risottos and even use it with meaty fishes such as monkfish as a stuffing or topping.

What the chorizo provides for me, I think this is probably why Mr Foodie loves it so, is a delicate spice and aroma, especially if you choose to buy the variety with the spicy paprika added. 

In this particular simple recipe for chicken and chorizo spaghetti the flavour lends itself to the absorbing quality of the chicken. The idea for me, is that the white meat of the chicken takes on the colour and taste of the chorizo so you pack in immense amounts of gutsy and tangy flavour without spending loads of time trying to get it.  You can use red wine for a richer colour and greater depth of flavour.

A perfect mid week meal

Serves 2

100g dried spaghetti
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
250ml passata
1 glass of white wine
pinch of sugar
generous pinch of sea salt flakes
150g chorizo, diced
2 chicken breast fillets, skins off and diced
1 tbsp mascarpone cheese

1. Gently fry the peppers in the olive oil over a moderate heat for five minutes or until you can see them gently 'wilting'.

2. Add the chorizo and chilli and fry for 1 minute

3. Add the chicken chunks and stir until the chorizo oil is coating the chicken. Fry for 4 minutes.

4. Add the glass of wine and fry for 30 seconds and then add the passata and turn the heat down. Simmer this sauce for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. At this time you should put the spaghetti to boil with some well salted water and cook till al dente. I also check to see how acidic the sauce tastes as passata can really vary. If you feel it is too acidic then add the pinch of sugar.

5. Add your spaghetti to the sauce and stir in the sea salt to taste and add your mascarpone and then stir well.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Do you know where yours comes from?

I wonder if anyone else saw the brilliant 'High Street Dreams' last night on BBC one?  A fantastic display of hard work, determination and a dedication to sourcing excellent produce.  I have to admit that having the opportunity to enjoy such success would be a wonderful one for me and would certainly fulfil my foodie dreams. 

'Muddy Boots' mirrored the feelings that I constantly express at home to my partner that unless we source local produce and handle it ourselves then how do we really know where our food comes from?  This got me thinking about whether anyone really knows where all their food comes from. 
Yes, we might buy organic and we may trawl the local farmers markets finding fresh free range meat but what about the odd bagel and cream cheese you consume with your hot, steaming and expensive latte?  I know I'm guilty of forgetting the bits and pieces I wedge into my daily eats and whilst I avidly buy local and always check my labels for the Great British sign, I slip up sometimes.

So i'm launching my own campaign to attempt to know where every morsal of food comes from that goes in my mouth!
And it starts now.