Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Autumn is in the air and I am already craving for comfort food. The trouble about winter recipes compared to summer ones is they always take so much longer to cook. Gone are the warm evenings and just chucking something on the barbie.

Winter is all peeling, chopping, stewing and slow-cooking. What I like about this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s fabulous recipe book “Cook”, is that although it obviously needs hours to bubble away, the actual prep is really quick. There is no laborious and messy browning of the meat and the result is sensational. I usually make a double batch and put one pie in the freezer for a rainy day.

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Serves 4

3 red onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

4 field mushrooms

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

olive oil

1 kg quality brisket or stewing beef, cut into 2cm cubes

440 ml Guinness (no lager, please!)

2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

150 g Cheddar cheese

170 g all-butter puff pastry (I used ready rolled)

1 large free-range egg

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.

Peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, slice the mushrooms, and pick and finely chop the rosemary. Heat a lug of oil in a large ovenproof pan over a low heat, add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms, then mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, and a pinch of sea salt and 1 level teaspoon of black pepper. Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover.

Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick, stirring halfway. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob and reduce until the sauce thickens.

Coarsely grate the cheese, stir half through the pie filling, then transfer to a pie dish and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (or use ready rolled like I did.)

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pie filling. Place the pastry over the top of the pie dish pinching or folding and tucking in the edges to seal, piecing the pie with a knife once or twice to let out the steam. Beat the egg, then brush over the top of the pie and bake directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked, puffed and beautifully golden. Delicious served simply with peas.

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Now you have made your Preserved Lemons in Salt you are going to want to use them!

 

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Olive oil (or Argan oil if you have it)

1 kg of free-range skinless chicken thighs

1 heaped teaspoons of Ras-el-Hanout (Barts is excellent)

2 onions, finely chopped

2 large courgettes, very finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Large pinch of saffron

½ a large preserved lemon, seeded and chopped

One bunch coriander, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a tagine or large saucepan with a lid. Fry the chicken until all sides begin to brown. Remove and add the onions.  Scrape to remove all the nice bits of crispy chicken from the bottom of the pan. Cook for onions for 10 minutes until soft and just about to brown.  Add the courgettes and a large pinch of salt and cook down slowly for about 25 minutes until completely collapsed and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic, the Ras-el-Hanout, the cumin and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Fry for a few minutes to release the spices. Add the chicken back to the pan and ½ pint of water and the saffron. Bring briefly to boil, reduce the heat right down and cover, but leave a crack for steam to escape. Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes or more. When the chicken is cooked, check the sauce. Add the preserved lemons and the coriander. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with Cous Cous.

Channa Masala with Spinach

When I served this up for dinner the other night my partner announced that he didn’t much like chickpeas and he didn’t much like spinach but it was the best vegetarian dish he had ever eaten. Praise indeed! Probably why it is one of the most popular curries in India.

Channa Masala with Spinach

You could use fresh tomato instead of tinned and another leafy green such as chard can replace the spinach.

2 large onion, finely diced

3 medium cloves garlic, grated

Large knob ginger, scraped and grated

1 or 2 fresh chilies (depending on size and heat) finely chopped

2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil, vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon ground cumin seed

1 tsp garam masala

1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes

2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Large handful of spinach

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil or ghee in a large heavy based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes until really soft and beginning to brown. Add a little water if necessary. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and spices and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tomatoes and rinse out the can with a little water and add that two with pepper and salt to taste. Cook down gently for 10 – 15 minutes or so adding more water if necessary. When the sauce tastes really nice, it is done. Adjust seasoning. Add more spices if necessary. Puree with a hand bender. You want a spicy, savoury gravy. Add the drained chickpeas and allow to cook a little to allow all the flavours to amalgamate. Remove the stalks from the spinach, wash and drain. Roughly chop the leaves if they are large. Add to your chickpeas mixture and cook the spinach for a few minutes or so until just done. Add the coriander and serve with rice and/or naan.

Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Marsala Frittata

And for my final Frittata, this might even have been my favourite, which I wasn’t expecting, as I mainly decided to make it because I liked the name!

Marsala Frittata

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

3 onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp. Garam Marsala

1 tsp. ground cumin

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

4 large eggs, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 170C. Heat some oil in a medium non-stick, ovenproof frying pan. Tip in the sliced onions and cook over a medium heat with a pinch of salt, for about 10 mins until soft and golden. Add the chilli and spices and fry for 1 min more. In a bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Season lightly and add the tomatoes, the chopped coriander and the onions. Wipe out the frying pan. Add a dash of olive oil. Put the pan back on a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and leave on the heat, just until the bottom and sides begin to set. Put in the oven until just firm, about 10 minutes. It is up to you whether you flip the frittata over or serve it the same side up. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice salad.

Summer Greens with Lentils, Chilli and Coriander

I know we have has two rather labour-intensive recipes this week and I know that you are probably all in a hurry so here is a really quick and easy and healthy way of using up all your summer greens. I will be serving this up for the vegans tonight,  amongst other things, at the SupperClub in Putney. I hope they like it!

Summer Greens with Lentils, Chilli and Coriander

You can use all manner of greens with this recipe, spring greens, spinach, kale, Cavalo Nero or any type of cabbage. Just remember if the greens are very fibrous they may need blanching first, but If they are tender you can just sweat them down as in this recipe.

This makes a lot. Enough for 4 as a main or 8-10 as a side. Half the quantities if you are not very hungry.

for the lentils:

300g Puy lentils

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp olive oil

for the spring greens:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 chilli, chopped

500g spring greens, shredded

Juice of ½ lemon

1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

First cook the lentils. Put them in a pan with the garlic and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until tender, topping up the water if necessary. Drain, then season well and mix in the olive oil.

For the spring greens heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic and chilli, then cover and sweat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the shredded spring greens and season well. Cook, stirring, over a high heat until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice, lentils and coriander and adjust the seasoning.

Onion and Thyme Tart

It is onion season. Riverford are using Barbosa new season onions grown by their friend Pepe on his organic family farm in Spain. They have a slightly fresher, sweeter flavour than standard onions, and as they don’t have a ‘set skin’ they are easier to peel too. Try them in this onion tart. It makes a fabulous starter or a great lunch with some crisp green salad on the side. I know pasty sound tricky but this one is really easy so give it a try.

Onion and Thyme Tart

Serves 8 / Tart tin 10” – 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

4 large onions, peeled and very thinly sliced

Olive oil

Butte

Bunch of thyme, tied into a bundle with string

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks

80g grated Parmesan

Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 170C.  Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Use a small piece f pastry dipped in flour to really push the pastry into the edges of the tin to avoid it shrinking. Get a round piece of grease proof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the onions gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan, with some butter, a glug of olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until beginning to caramelise. Remove from the heat. Remove the thyme and squeeze all the juices out into the onions. Add the cream and the yolks and the grated parmesan cheese. Season to taste. Pour into the tart case and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Last week it was all summer fruits and ice-cream and salads and then the weather changed. I was almost tempted to turn the heating on – in June – as the temperatures plummeted and the rain lashed at the windows. Forget the ice-cream, it was back to stew weather. But what stew do you eat in June. A Navarin of lamb of course packet with lots of tender, young spring vegetables and lots of vibrant fresh mint. So delicious you could forget about the awful weather!

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

The vegetables are flexible here – use what you have. Tender new seasons carrots, little spring onion heads or French beans all work well.

Serves: 4

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions or leeks, chopped

A couple of sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

450 g (1 lb) lean boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes

150 ml (5 fl oz) red wine

450 ml (15 fl oz) lamb or chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 or 2bay leaves

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

Baby new potatoes, scrubbed (cut into bite sized pieces if large)

Small turnips, scrubbed and quartered

Bunch of asparagus, cut into even sized pieces about ½ cm

Large handful of shelled fresh peas

Large handful of shelled broad beans

Fresh mint

Heat some oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the seasoned lamb, in batches so as not to over crowd the pan. Brown evenly on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Turn down the heat of the pan and add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Scrape the browned bits of lamb of the bottom of the saucepan and stir them into the veg. Add the cubes of lamb back to the pan with the wine, rosemary, bay leaf and stock

Bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Let it gently bubble away for 1 hour.

Meanwhile boil the broad beans for three minutes and then plunge them into cold water. Shell.

Add the turnips and potatoes to the stew and stir. Cover the casserole again and continue cooking for 30–45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Next add the peas and asparagus and cook until just done. Finally add the broad beans and mint. Check seasoning and serve.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

I am going to share a little secret with you. If you love lamb chops but are the kind of guy who is not very keen on fat, then you will probably love the very expensive cut of trimmed rack of lamb. You are probably looking at about £30 a kilo, and that is not cheap. However, check out your local Halal butcher. (Often found inside Arabic shops which have lots of fruit and veg outside. There are at least three in Morden.) They more than likely sell these fabulous little lamb chops, completely trimmed of all their fat. They might not look quite as professionally butchered as a French trimmed rack, but they are half the price and chuck them on the BBQ, they taste absolutely delicious, no one is going to care what they look like anyway.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

Serves 2

10 lamb chops (I allow about 5 chops per person)

For chard

1 bunch Swiss chard (1 lb)

1 large red onion, finely sliced

2 garlic clove, very finely chopped

Small bunch mint

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest from 1 lemon

Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Wash and drain well. Cook the onion in olive oil, gently, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper and cook down until well wilted. Whilst the chard cooks, grill your seasoned chops. Add the mint and lemon to the chard and check for seasoning. Serve with the chops.

Home-made V8

I have been desperate to make my own tomato juice ever since I got a juicer so I was waiting to have a glut of tomatoes. Obviously I had to wait until winter was over to have any decent tomatoes at all, but then this week I seemed to have somehow collected three punnets. So without hesitation I chucked one punnet into my juicer. Absolutely nothing came out and when I peered inside, I seemed to have made little more than some tomato froth. Turns out you really have to cook the tomatoes to get the sort of juice I had in mind. There is a raw version but it is just not the same. So you simmer your tomatoes for about 25 minutes and push them through a sieve. No juicer required. However, if like me you wanted to use your juicer, there are all sorts of favours you can add to make your tomato juice a bit different. Mine ended up tasting a bit more like V8, but I didn’t mind, because I love the stuff. I added a little beetroot, which is great as it gives it a better colour, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and a couple of carrots. Obviously salt, onion, pepper, sugar, Worcester sauce or tabasco can help add a kick, but that is up to you.

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