27 October 2011

SD, ON's back in the pot pork (hui guo rou)

This is a delightfully rough-and-ready stir fry with a prominent black bean flavour suggested in Fuchsia Dunlop's Hunanese cookbook. It's best to use pork on the bone in some form - I used some pork chops and they worked admirably.

Best also to avoid parsimony with the beans here. I am sometimes over cautious in my allotting as they looks so potent but use a generous hand. The overall vibe is robust and farm-housey: whole cloves of garlic, big slices of ginger and the salty black beans.

  • pork on the bone for two or three
  • a small handful of back beans, a thumb of ginger and a head of garlic
  • a couple of handfuls of some type of greens and/or spring onions
  • soy sauce, sesame oil
  • a couple of fresh chillies

Simmer the pork for a few minutes in some water (the first stage of cooking - it being 'returned to the pot' when stir fried). Remove and slice. This is the traditional Chinese method of removing impurities from the meat and partly cooking it before stir frying. I'm still on the fence with it to be honest but open to suggestions.

Peel the garlic cloves and slice the ginger thinly. Fry them both on a medium heat in some oil for a few minutes. Add the meat and cook until it has some colour.

Add the black beans, fresh chillies, greens and a few slugs of soy sauce and a little sesame oil. I used some super pokey home-grown rocket here which worked well. I also added some celery and pepper to turn it into a complete meal. Use anything you have to hand - FD presents the recipe as something a Hunanese mate of hers cooked for her and I guess it's a home-style dish unbound by the dogma of restaurant process or official recipe. Cook everything for another couple of minutes and it's done.

Very pleasing. It's not a very moist dish so it might be nice in future to have alongside some steamed aubergine or similar.

21 October 2011

Pasta with roast cauliflower and pumpkin

Cheap cauliflower is a boon. It's one of those vegetables (like aubergines) that isn't often had for bargains on markets. When you see some cheap snap it up, take it home and roast it. I was prompted to roast mine by this post. I did it slightly differently, but the great thing is if you cook loads you can then have it in the fridge and ready to use in different things - a little side dish, the basis of a salad (would be great with chickpeas, turnips and preserved lemons) or, as here, with pasta.

  • cauliflower
  • pumpkin
  • garlic, chilli flakes, cinnamon, olive oil
  • pasta

Roast your cauli: in florets, with butter and salt. It will need half an hour - forty-five minutes on a medium heat.

Make the sauce: fry lots of garlic in olive oil and add the pumpkin chopped small with a little twig of cinnamon. Chuck in some chilli flakes. Put a little water in there and add a lid. Allow this all to cook down for ten or fifteen minutes, using your spoon to mash the pumpkin into a sauce. You don't need loads here - it's designed to lubricate the pasta and augment the cauliflower. If your pumpkin is anaemic and lacking taste, as mine was - from our communal garden, sprinkle a little veg stock on.

When the pumpkin is well cooked and the sauce has come together de-engage the cinnamon and discard. It has done an important job here - a slight sweetness that boosts the pumpkin and bonds with the chilli. Stir into your pasta and toss in the cauliflower. Anoint with oil or bless with parmesan as you see fit.

Yes. Sheer niceness. Where the cauliflower browns against the metal of the tray you are rewarded with a wonderful sweetness, whilst the roasting in general gives the vegetable a savour not attained through boiling or steaming. It gains an almost truffle like richness which combines with the pumpkin to make a wonderful sauce.

17 October 2011

Chickpea and pumpkin with creamed feta

You know those brown chickpeas with their skins still on that you get in curries sometimes? Get involved. They're well nice. They need to be soaked overnight in boiling water and will then cook in about half an hour. No need to mess around with bicarb of soda or anything. Just a minute's prep the night before and then thirty minutes on the hob while you get everything else ready. I still have canned chickpeas in the cupboard for impromptu salads etc. but the texture of these dark chickpeas makes them well worth a go if you have time to plan. They seem hard and under-cooked in their jackets but when bitten into are delightfully earthy - initially resistant but ultimately giving.

This is one of those simple assemblages that makes a lot of sense on an inclement mid-week evening.

  • lots of chick peas
  • a third - a half that amount in pumpkin/squash
  • a third that amount of onions
  • a few nice ripe tomatoes
  • a block of feta
  • preserved lemons
  • olive oil, cumin, chilli flakes, garlic

Soak your chickpeas over night. Put them on to boil on a moderate heat. After twenty minutes check their progress and add chunks of pumpkin/squash.

Chop lots of garlic and fry in plenty of olive oil with cumin and chilli. This is my Turkish holy trinity of flavours which you can use all over the shop to flavour soups, salads and stews. Add the onions in slices and cook these down on a medium heat. They are a key ingredient here, not just background mulch, so make sure they are good and soft.

Meantime mash and thin the feta with a little olive oil and a drop of cream (or water if you have none to hand) in a bowl. Add plenty of black pepper and some rinsed preserved lemon sliced thinly. Mash until you have a thick paste - this is the taste bomb necessary to perk the mash beneath it - salt, sheep, adult/child lemon sherbet. Herbs such as thyme and rosemary would also work well.

When the chickpeas are done put them in with the onions and a a few ripe chopped tomatoes. Cook this all for five minutes to relax it and so the tomatoes break down to make a sauce. No need for salt as the feta will supply this. Serve with a dollop of creamed feta on top and some red wine or Turkish beer.

12 October 2011

Spicy green tomato chutney

As well as cucumbers my communal garden has lots of tomatoes. Unfortunately they too have been a bit neglected and I fear that it's a bit late in the year for them to ripen. So I picked a load of them and made a spiced green tomato chutney. I like Nigel Slater's suggestion of putting a few ripe tomatoes in the mix as well, so I chucked in a few shop bought ones.

In the spirit of educating myself about chutney-making I did everything by eye.
  • the amount of tomatoes above (two kg?)
  • 400g sugar
  • 350 ml vinegar (try malt/white wine mix)
  • chopped fresh chillies to taste
  • two onions chopped small
  • a handful of raisins
  • a few cloves, peppercorns, star anise, cumin, coriander seed - take your pick

Fry your onion in oil for five minutes then add everything else (easy huh?). Cook on a low heat for fifty - sixty minutes.

After finding the plum chutney (which I recently broke out - very nice. It had softened and rounded over time.) I made a while ago a little bit liquid I was careful to leave this one for an extra twenty minutes or so. It probably had about an hour in total. The tomatoes break down very thoroughly and make a wonderfully jammy matrix for the other bits.

Push a bit to one side and if it doesn't rush back immediately it's nearly ready.

Have your empty jam jars immersed in another pot with boiling water and decant your hot chutney into them.

My chutney draw is getting pretty healthily populated!

7 October 2011

Guinea fowl with cabbage and bacon

Ever since making Da Pan Ji way back in June I've had a second guinea fowl in my freezer. Now I'm a big fan of the fowl - to me it's like a farmyard-charged chicken. Not as fully gamed up as pheasant by a long way, but a hint of something beyond the quotidian enjoyment of the much abused chicken.

This recipe is a piece of piss I have to say. It's also really, really nice.
  • one guinea fowl
  • one cabbage
  • two glasses white wine and a bit of water (by eye - about half the amount of wine)
  • some smoked bacon
  • sage and/or bay, juniper berries, peppercorns

Brown your bird in some fat. You can walk around here and do a few odd jobs, just coming back every so often to flip the fowl.

When it's brown add the bacon in biggish pieces. It's really worthwhile using something smoked as this merges with the wine and meat juice to make an amazing light broth.

When this is cooked toss in all the other ingredients. It's nice to keep the cabbage fairly large, but small enough to cook through, so use your judgement here. I lifted the recipe from Ripailles, which suggested sage but I lacked that herb so substituted bay. I think the occasional peppercorn adds a certain pleasurably spicy note to this otherwise deliciously moderate combination.

Cook it all for forth-five minutes to an hour on a low simmer. The bird should stay very moist. Serve with boiled potatoes, a ladle of broth and some wholegrain mustard if feeling exotic.

This dish is that wonderful type of French farmhouse or basic bistro cooking and hits all the right notes - smoked meat, fresh green veg, fowl, wine, herbs. It doesn't get much easier for a top-notch Sunday dinner. I think I prefer this type of thing to a full on roast with all it's greasy crispness, but then I am generally predisposed towards things in liquid or stock.

4 October 2011

Dal 5 - corn and dal soup

There is an interesting looking recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's Easy Curry for a fairly thin dal with slices of intact corn cob. You cook the corn in-the-piece with the husk presumably enriching the dal itself and the corn a plump treat needing a quick finger grapple or fork stab.

I used yellow lentils for this. It's all very simple and fairly familiar probably.
  • corn
  • lentils
  • onion
  • nice ripe tomato or other veg
  • mustard seed, asfoetida, cumin (use these three in ratio 3:3:1), turmeric
  • dried red chilli and/or fresh chilli to your liking

Boil your lentils in water with turmeric. Skim off the scum that comes out of them (why do nice wholesome lentils yield scum, I thought this was mainly grotty lamb neck and other tendon, bone and cartilage heavy meat products?). This is well worth doing by the way - my eyes often glaze over when reading recipe steps like this which seem vaguely optional, but they really do give up a strange and not very enticing scum that's better out the pot.

When the lentils are partly cooked add the slices of corn and top up with water to a soup consistency. After five minutes add a few roughly chopped tomato.

Meantime fry your onion in ghee for ten minutes. Then add all the spices and the chilli and fry until the mustard seeds start to pop. This will be around a minute with the onion sharing the heat - a matter a seconds in a naked pan. When the corn is nearly done put in the onion mixture - the onions should be really soft.

Cook for another five minutes and then adjust seasoning/flavours if needed with a little salt, pepper or ghee. Sprinkle on some veg stock if the flavour is thin.

And there you have it. I like doing this type of soups if people come over - it's all in one pot and with some Indian bread and some pickles it's a whole easy meal. If you fancy the proper dal version just use less water - it's equally tasty.