Harumi Kurihara’s Green Beans with Minced Pork

A few days ago I shared my review of Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara. Kurihara is one of Japan’s most well known cookery book writers and TV cookery show presenters and also runs a chain of home ware shops and cafes, and publishes a quarterly recipe magazine. To write Everyday Harumi, she spent time living, shopping and cooking in England all the better to ensure that the recipes were achievable for British cooks.

We have made her delicious green beans with minced pork a few times and love the balance of flavours and textures. It’s quick and simple to cook and a small amount of meat goes a long way, so it’s perfect if you’re trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat.

Don’t forget, you can win a copy of the new paperback edition of Everyday Harumi in my latest giveaway.

greenbeans/mincepork

Green Beans with Minced Pork

This dish is something of a tradition in my household. It is easy to prepare, only needing soy sauce for seasoning, and makes use of wonderful ingredients like ginger, garlic and Japanese leeks. It is a great dish that can be rustled up quickly if guests drop in unexpectedly. I usually serve it with white rice and if there are any leftovers, they don’t last long in our house.

Serves 4

Ingredients
500 g green beans
40 g leek
15 g fresh ginger, peeled
8 g garlic
Sunflower or vegetable oil – for frying
200 g minced pork
30–45 ml soy sauce
sliced fresh or dried red chillies – to taste
sesame oil – to taste

Method

  • Prepare the green beans, lightly cook in boiling water, then rinse under cold running water.
  • Drain the beans, pat-dry and cut diagonally into easy-to-eat pieces.
  • Finely chop the leek, ginger and garlic.
  • Put a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the chopped leek, ginger and garlic, allowing the flavours to infuse in the oil, then add the minced pork and stir-fry.
  • Add the green beans, then add soy sauce and red chilli to taste.
  • Continue to cook until the beans have heated through. Add a little sesame oil to taste and serve with hot white rice.

Recipe extracted from Everyday Harumi with permission from Conran Octopus.

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara is published by Conran Octopus. The hardback edition is currently available on Amazon for £16.59 (RRP £20). The newly published paperback version is available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

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Chinatown Kitchen | Lizzie Mabbott’s Chinese Spag Bol

Lizzie Mabbott is a prodigious cook and a prodigious eater!

I’ve been following her cooking and eating exploits on the web for many years, first on the now-defunct BBC food discussion boards and since 2008 on her well-known blog, Hollowlegs. If she isn’t eating she may well be cooking, if she isn’t cooking she might be shopping for ingredients, and if she isn’t doing either of those things, there’s a good chance she’s pondering on what to eat or cook next!

When I learned that she had secured a book deal I was not surprised in the slightest as her delicious personal twists on classic British, European, Chinese and other South East Asian dishes have long made many readers salivate, myself included.

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In Chinatown Kitchen she draws upon her amazing heritage; Lizzie is Anglo-Chinese, born in Hong Kong where she spent her formative years growing up not only on Chinese food but also exposed to the many cuisines of South East Asia. At 13 she was transplanted to England, where she has been ever since – albeit with some judicious globetrotting to feed those hollow legs!

To describe the book as simply another tome on South East Asian cooking is to put it into a box that it doesn’t neatly fit into. It’s much more than Chinese – or even South East Asian – food made easy; rather it’s a very personal collection of recipes that represent Lizzie’s personal food story. There are classic Chinese and South East Asian dishes, sure, but there are also a fair few of Lizzie’s own inventions including some excellent mashups such as this Chinese Spag Bol recipe and an Udon Carbonara.

Most recipes are illustrated with colourful and appealing photographs, styled but not overly fussy and with the focus firmly on the food.

At the heart of the book is the idea of seeking out ingredients in the food shops of your nearest Chinatown – or indeed any oriental supermarkets or groceries you can find – and putting them to delicious use. To that end, the book is not just a set of recipes but also a shopping and ingredient guide. Add to that an introduction to key equipment and techniques and you are all set to get cooking.

I tried hard not to bookmark every single recipe on my first pass, when trying to narrow down the list of what to make first. I ended up with 23 recipes bookmarked: Deep-Fried Whole Fish in Chilli, Bean Sauce, Japanese Spinach and Cucumber Salad, Grilled Aubergines with Nuoc Cham, Korean Rice Cakes with Chorizo and Greens, Sesame and Peanut Noodle Salad, Cabbage in Vinegar Sauce, Chinese Chive Breads, Griddled Teriyaki King Oyster Mushrooms, Banana Rotis, Poached Pears in Lemon Grass Syrup, Braised Egg Tofu with Pork and Aubergine, Spicy Peanut and Tofu Puff Salad, Fish Paste-Stuffed Aubergine, Mu Shu Pork, Steamed Egg Custard with Century and Salted Eggs, Cola Chicken Wings, Red-Braised Ox Cheek, Xinjiang Lamb Skewers, Red Bean Ice Lollies and Black Sesame Ice Cream with Black and White Sesame Honeycomb, plus the two I’ve already mentioned!

So far, we’ve made two recipes, Chinese Spag Bol and Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken. We’ve loved both and will certainly be working out way through the rest of my “short” list over coming weeks and months.

Lizzie Mabbott Chinese Spagbol - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle overlay

Lizzie Mabbott’s Chinese Spag Bol

As Lizzie explains, this recipe has little in common with the bastardised ragu we call Spag Bol in Britain – there are no tomatoes, nor red wine for a start – but it is made by simmering minced meat in a sauce and dressing noodles with the results. The predominant flavour comes from yellow bean sauce, with additional notes from soy sauce, hoisin and Shaoxing wine. Lizzie servies it with fresh vegetables and finely sliced omelette.

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 free range eggs
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 spring onions, white parts finely chopped, green parts sliced into rings
5 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tsp peeled and very finely chopped fresh root ginger
400 g (14 ox) fatty minced pork
3 tbsp yellow bean paste
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
100 ml (3.5 fl oz) water
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 carrot, peeled
Half cucumber
300 g fresh Shanghai noodles

Method

  • Firstly, beat the eggs. Heat 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil in a wok, or a nonstick frying pan, until shimmering, add the beaten eggs and cook them over a medium heat until set to make a thin omelette. Remove to a plate and set to one side.
  • Heat up the rest of the oil in the wok over a medium heat, add the spring onion whites, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Then add the minced pork, breaking up any clumps with your hands, and cook until browned. Add the yellow bean paste, soy sauces and hoi sin sauce with the water and Shaoxing rice wine and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s looking a little dry, add a touch more water.
  • Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and cucumber and set aside. Roll the omelette up and slice finely.
  • Cook the noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for a minute, then drain and place in a big serving bowl. Pour the meat sauce on top, then add the vegetables and omelette and stir to combine. Garnish with the greens of the spring onion and serve.

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Lizzie Mabbott’s Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken

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The Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken is a slightly more involved dish requiring the chicken to be marinated overnight (in a marinade that includes red fermented tofu and oyster sauce, amongst other ingredients) and the sticky rice filling to be made ahead ready to stuff inside the chicken before roasting. I made the wrong call to substitute a black sticky rice I had in my larder for the white sticky rice Lizzie’s recipe stipulates, and I’m sure that was the reason my mandarin peel and Chinese sausage-studded rice wasn’t sufficiently cooked through, but I do want try again with the right rice, as the flavours were fabulous. What’s more, the marinade on its own was super easy and amazingly delicious; even if we don’t have time to do the rice stuffing every time, I know the marinade will be used again and again.

 

Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham is currently available on Amazon UK for £10 (RRP £20). Kavey Eats received a review copy from publisher Mitchell Beazley. Recipe text reproduced with permission from Mitchell Beazley.

Sausage Ragu Stuffed Courgettes

I love the courgette season!

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Many home gardeners and allotmenteers love growing courgettes as these summer squashes are easy to look after and usually give an abundant harvest. But it’s surprising how many don’t like eating them as much as they do growing them; they give most of their bounty away. Of course, I am happy to share a few gorgeous courgettes with friends – it’s a lovely feeling giving someone home grown produce picked from the plant moments before. But Pete and I love eating courgettes so it’s very much a case of finding as many ways as possible to enjoy them while they last.

We like to grow different varieties. For many years, we’ve grown yellow spherical courgettes – they taste the same as green ones but look, they’re just so beautiful! We have also grown green balls and both green and yellow varieties of the regular baton shape. I’m thinking about planting some of the pale green or white types next year.

By the way, while we use the French word courgette, the Americans took the word zucchini from Italian, which seems appropriate since courgettes were developed in Italy after the Cucurbita genus was introduced to Europe from the Americas. That said, Americans now seem to refer to yellow courgettes by the umbrella term of summer squash rather than as yellow zucchini, I’m not really sure why.

Any courgette / zucchini variety can be used for this recipe, but it’s best to choose smaller fruits rather than large ones.

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Sausage Ragu Stuffed Courgettes

Serves 3-4

Note: My photos show three halved courgettes, but we had enough leftover ragu to stuff a fourth courgette the next day. Exact portions will depend on the size of courgettes used.

Ingredients
Vegetable oil, for cooking
1 small onion, diced
400 grams (1 tin) chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
600 grams herby pork sausages, skin removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 small courgettes, halved and scooped out
125 grams (1 ball) fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh oregano, to garnish

Tip: Read the instructions before starting – you can prep the sausages, courgettes and mozzarella while other elements of the recipe are cooking.

Method

  • Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion over a low to medium heat, to soften.

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  • Add the tinned tomatoes and oregano and let the tomato sauce cook. You can peel the sausages during this time.

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  • Add the sausages to the tomato sauce and use the edge of a wooden spoon to break them into pieces. Continue to break the sausages down, mixing them into the tomato sauce, for the first several minutes of cooking.

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  • Then cover the pan and leave the ragu to cook for about an hour. During this cooking time, once the sausage is cooked through you can taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • After an hour, remove the lid and turn the heat up a little to allow the sauce to reduce – this will take about 10 to 15 minutes. You want quite a dry ragu, as the courgettes will release juices as they cook. Prepare the courgettes during this time.

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  • To prepare the courgettes, slice them in half and carefully scoop out the seeds and pulpy flesh from the centre. Leave a nice thick layer of flesh in the skin, and take care not to pierce the skin while you’re working.

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  • Preheat the oven to 160° C (fan).
  • Stuff the courgettes with the ragu and pack down tightly.

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  • Bake the courgettes for 30 to 40 minutes until the courgettes have softened and the ragu has taken on a little colour.

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  • Slice the mozzarella finely and arrange over the top of each courgette half. Add a sprig of fresh oregano for decoration, if using.

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  • Return to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted and taken on a little colour.

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  • Serve with your chosen side. You can see that we had some of ours with an extra dose of courgettes in the form of courgette crisps – thinly sliced, lightly floured and deep fried!

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Looking for more delicious ideas for courgettes / zucchinis?

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Do you have any favourite recipes for courgettes?

If so, please do share them here – we still have lots more on the plants and I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy them!

(You are welcome to include recipe links in your comments, but they may not appear straight away; comments with links are usually diverted into an approval queue to check they aren’t spam!)

A Higgidy Pork and Apple Stroganoff Pie with Cheddar Crust

Camilla Stephens began her culinary career developing food for (UK-based) coffee chain, the Seattle Coffee Company. When it was bought out by Starbucks, she stayed on board creating tasty treats to be sold across the chain throughout the day. Somewhere along the way, she learned to make really tasty pies. Fast forward several years to 2003 when Camilla and husband James created Higgidy, selling beautiful handmade pies – even though the business has grown phenomenally in its first decade, every single pie is still shaped and filled by hand and the product range now includes a variety of quiches too. There are more traditional recipes such as beef, stilton and ale in a shortcrust pastry case and bacon and cheddar quiche, as well as more inventive recipes like sweet potato and feta pie with pumpkin seeds.

Pete and I aren’t averse to buying ready made meals so we’ve enjoyed Higgidy products at home a number of times. The key to their success is that they really do taste home made.

So we had high hopes for Camilla’s recently-released Higgidy Cookbook, promising “100 Recipes for Pies and More”. We were not disappointed and it didn’t take long for me to bookmark a slew of recipes that appealed: chicken and chorizo with spiced paprika crumble, chinese spiced beef pies, no-nonsense steak and ale pie, giant gruyere and ham sandwich, melt-in-the-middle pesto chicken (filo parcels), hot-smoked salmon gougère (scuppered, on the first attempt, by our inability to find hot-smoked salmon in our local shops), rösti-topped chicken and pancetta pie, wintry quiche with walnutty pastry, smoked haddock frying-pan pie, cheddar ploughman tartlets, cherry tomato tarte tatin, sticky ginger and apple tarte tatin, pear and whisky tart, oaty treacle tart, chocolate snowflake tart and sticky onions!

Of course, many of these recipes are wonderfully hearty and perfect winter warmers at this this cold, dark and wet time of year.

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Pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust; lamb hotpot

So far, Pete’s made two recipes from the book and we have been delighted with both. The hearty lamb hotpot was a classic; simple to make, tasty and warming to eat. The pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust was fantastic. Oddly enough, after making (and blogging) an apple pie with an almost identical design on top (which I made before having seen the Higgidy pie photograph) I had been chatting on twitter about trying apple pie with a cheddar crust, so finding this recipe soon afterwards was serendipitous! It didn’t disappoint.

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Higgidy Pork and Apple Stroganoff Pie with Cheddar Crust

Equipment
1 x 1.4 litre ovenproof pie dish

Ingredients
For the cheddar pastry

230 grams plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
0.5 teaspoon salt
125 grams butter, chilled and diced
40 grams mature cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the filling
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A good knob of butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, thinly slievd
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600 grams pork tenderloin, cut into 2-3 cm pieces
2 eating apples, such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into small wedges
2 tablespoons plain flour
200 ml cider
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
150 ml full-fat soured cream
150 ml hot chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Note: We skipped the egg-wash, so our pie didn’t have the pretty glossy appearance of Camilla’s.

Method

  • To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese, then add the ice-cold water, just enough to bring the pastry together. Shape into a round disc, wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a tablespoon of oil with the butter in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onion and leek, and cook gently for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Spoon into your pie dish.
  • Increase the heat, add a splash more oil, then fry the pork for a couple of minutes only, just enough to brown the meat. Spoon into the pie dish.

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  • Keep the pan on a high heat and fry the apple pieces in the remaining fat, until lightly browned and Beginning to soften. Transfer to the pie dish. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir well, to evenly combine.

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  • Pour the cider into the empty pan and bubble until reduced by half. Lower the heat, add the mustard, soured cream and stock and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and immediately pour over the meat in the pie dish. Give it all a good stir and set aside to cook completely.

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  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / fan 180 C / gas mark 6. Brush the edges of the pie dish with beaten egg.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and drape it over the top of the filling. Crimp the edges to seal. Cut a steam hole in the middle.
  • Decorate the top of the pastry with your pastry trimmings (cut into apple shapes or leaves) and brush the pie all over with beaten egg.

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  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with wilted kale.

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The Higgidy Cookbook published by Quercus, is currently available (at time of posting) on Amazon for a very bargainous £7 (RRP £16.99).

Kavey Eats was sent a review copy of the book by Higgidy.

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderstem Broccoli

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For most of my 40 years, I’ve labelled broccoli as The Devil’s Vegetable (along side celery, which still is). I’ve huffed and puffed indignantly about the increasing prevalence of this vegetable over the years – order a dish that comes with “green vegetables” and 99 times out of a 100 you’ll get a plate of green florets!

But a couple of years ago I experienced a broccoli epiphany.

You see, what I’ve always disliked about the most common broccoli, Calabrese, is the floret at the top – the bit that looks like the canopy of a tree. The stem, of which there is precious little, has always been the best bit.

Back in 2010, buying vegetable seeds for our back garden, we chose some that came with an offer for a free packet of purple sprouting broccoli. I wasn’t sure I’d like it but I could see from the picture on the packet that this variety produced long, slim stems with small florets at the end. Worth a shot, I reckoned. And lo, I found myself avidly eating the foodstuff I’d turned my nose up at for so long. Indeed, in the two years since I’ve keenly anticipated our harvest, lamenting when it’s late or not sufficiently high yield!

More recently, I came across another kind of broccoli that I’m loving – it’s a cross between Calabrese broccoli and Gai lan. (I’ve been ordering Gai lan for years in Chinese restaurants, but didn’t know until recently that it’s known as Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli and is also part of the Brassica oleracea species; I love Gai Lan for it’s long crunchy stems).

In the US, the cross is commonly known as baby broccoli though different producers have registered trademark names including Broccolini and Broccoletti.

Here in the UK, it’s marketed as Tenderstem.

To spread word about British grown Tenderstem and to show how versatile and quick it is to use, the Tenderstem press office have invited bloggers to suggest our own recipes for their “Tenderstem in 10” (minutes) challenge.

They sent me some to experiment with.

The first portion I fried in a heavy based pan over high heat, to recreate the charred broccoli we enjoyed recently at Paul Merrett’s pub The Victoria – part of a dish of rabbit loin and liver. 5-6 minutes of cooking allowed the stems to soften a little, but retain a decent crunch, and the florets to char enough to provide that smoky extra flavour. We served these over a steaming parmesan risotto. Delicious!

Inspired by the common pairing of Parma ham wrapped around asparagus, the second portion were wrapped in rashers of smoked streaky bacon and fried in the same way as the first. Even with wrapping time, they took less than 10 minutes!

We had these on their own for a light but tasty evening meal, but you could serve them with Hollandaise or with soft boiled eggs if you like!

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Bacon Wrapped Tenderstem Broccoli (Tenderstem in 10)

Ingredients
Tenderstem broccoli
Streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked, as you prefer)

Method

  • Wrap each stem in a rasher of bacon, starting at the cut end and spiralling up to the end. Press the bacon firmly where you finish.

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  • Place a heavy based pan on the heat, add a little oil and allow to heat up before adding the broccoli stems.
  • Make sure to place the broccoli stems into pan with the exposed end of the rasher at the bottom, so the bacon doesn’t unravel during cooking.

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  • After a few minutes, turn the stems over to allow the bacon to brown on the other side.

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  • Depending on the thickness of your bacon rashers and broccoli stems, the stems will take 5-10 minutes to cook.
  • Serve plain, with Hollandaise sauce or soft boiled eggs for dipping.

Kavey Eats received a complimentary parcel of Tenderstem broccoli.

Pasta with Black Pudding, White Pudding & Roasted Tomatoes

Having been sent a Clonakilty black pudding and white pudding for St Patrick’s day, we ate half of each in a mighty fine fry up.

That left us half of each sausage, already sliced and fried, ready to use.

From the freezer, we pulled out a box of home-grown tomatoes, which I’d roasted with a little olive oil and pureed into a smooth, thick sauce, before freezing. For this quick and delicious dinner, we simply chopped the pudding slices into small pieces and mixed into the tomato sauce. Once heated, we stirred the chunky sauce through some pasta.

Absolutely delicious!

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Pasta with Black Pudding, White Pudding & Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 2

Ingredients
200-300 grams fried, chopped black and white pudding
200-300 grams tomatoes, roasted then pureed
120 grams pasta, choose your preferred shape

Note: we cook 120 grams of pasta when cooking dinner for 2, but understand that some prefer larger quantities, so cook your usual amount!

  • Combine cooked and chopped black and white pudding with roasted and pureed tomatoes. Heat. Once pasta is cooked, stir through the sauce and serve.

 

When we made this and as I wrote this post, I was chuffed to bits my new recipe idea, but of course, like all good ideas, others got there first, as I discovered reading the newspaper a few days afterwards. Do click through to see Niamh’s Spaghetti Corkese recipe.

Boston Baked Beans & British Bangers

Last time I made Boston baked beans, I used slices of pork belly, but Pete’s not a huge pork belly fan, so I wanted to make a version that he’d enjoy as much as me.

As is so often the case in life, bangers (and bacon) were the answer!

I put bacon in at the beginning, so it could release its porky goodness into the beans. I browned the bangers in a frying pan and added them for the last hour of cooking time. As we had lots of soft white bread to mop up the sauce, I didn’t reduce the liquid down completely, but you can let it simmer a little longer without a lid, if you’d prefer the sauce to be thicker.

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Kavey’s Boston Baked Beans & British Bangers

Ingredients
400 grams good quality pork sausages
2 x 400 gram tins of white haricot beans in water
200 grams smoked bacon, cubed
2 heaped tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons black treacle
2 tablespoons French mustard
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
350 grams shallots, peeled but left whole
4 cloves
Salt and pepper

Note: I had a tin of butter beans in the larder, so substituted those for one of the tins of white haricot beans.

Method

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  • Tip the contents of the tins of haricot beans, liquid and all, into a large casserole. Add the sugar, black treacle, mustard, tomatoes and bacon. Add freshly ground black pepper at this stage, but adjust for salt later, as the bacon will add some during cooking.

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  • Stick the four cloves into one of the shallots, then add all the shallots to the pot.

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  • Cover and cook on the stove (medium heat) or in the oven (140 C) for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

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  • Shortly before the two hours are up, fry the sausages in a hot pan for a few minutes. They do not need to be cooked through, just browned all over.

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  • Add the sausages to the pot and cook for a further one hour, with the lid removed to allow the liquid to reduce, stirring occasionally.
  • Check and adjust seasoning before serving.

I served this with some fresh soft white bread. A green side salad would also be a nice addition.

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I was really happy with my culinary handshake between Britain and Across The Pond; the porky bangers worked a treat with the smoky BBQ flavours of the Boston beans.

Do let me know what you think, and how you get on if you have a go at making this yourself.

Bacon Banana Cookies from The Great Hog Cookbook

Chatting to the UK arm of US publisher Rizzoli about titles I might like to review, the pull of the pig drew me towards The Whole Hog Cookbook. Promising “chops, loin, shoulder, bacon and all that good stuff”, author Libbie Summers draws on childhood memories of her grandparents’ hog farm together with “modern sensibilities [that] lend new twists to beloved dishes”.

As the front flap declares, “the best way to honor an animal like the pig is to appreciate every part”.

The book starts with an introduction to the strengths and characteristics of various heritage breeds of pig before sharing recipes divided into chapters for loin, Boston shoulder, bacon, spare ribs, picnic shoulder, leg, offal and slices.

The names of these cuts remind you immediately that the book is an American one, though there are plenty of websites online that will help you translate the names of cuts to their UK equivalents.

That said, the recipes themselves take inspiration from all around the world, including Hangover Irish Crubeens, Spaghetti alla Carbonara (made with guanciale) and Pork Osso Buco, Serrano Ham Croquettes and Rioja Potatoes, Summers’ Aunt Setsuko’s Ham Fried Rice, Crispy Thai Pork Belly, West Indian Pork Roti, Cuban Pork Roast Someone needs to tell Summers, though, that the “scotch” in scotch eggs doesn’t mean they’re Scottish, as she’s called them!

And of course, there are many American-inspired recipes, gleaned from all across the country and adapted and refined by Summers. I’m tempted by lots of them, including Prodigal Chocolate Pig (a moist chocolate cake featuring bacon and rum), Buttery Potted Ham, Sweet Tea-Brined Pork Roast, Grilled Summer Corn Soup, her grandma Lula Mae’s Double Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder, Citrus Sugar Rubbed Ribs, Southern Peanut Soup, Savoury Mushroom and Bacon Bread Pudding…

Summers also provides a number of recipes for side dishes and condiments such as Clementine Prosecco Marmalade, Buttermilk Biscuits, Stout Mustard, Lemon Mint Mashed Potatoes, Creole Mayo, Moon Gate Bacon Jam, Lemon Thyme Custard, Applesauce, Hot Guava Dipping Sauce, Banana Chutney, Butt-Kickin’ Ketchup

I think I might leave the Hot Peppered Pickled Pig’s Feet for someone more adventurous though!

I’ve already taken inspiration from Summers’ South Cackalacky Spare Ribs recipe, though I created my own recipe for the Cackalacky sauce, I used Summers’ rib rub, on beef instead of pork. And I’d never have heard of Cackalacky if not for the book.

Intrigued by two baking recipes, the husband’s disdainfully raised eyebrows at the thought of sweet scones ruled out the Rosemary Bacon Scones (which also feature white chocolate), so I decided to make the Bacon Banana Cookies instead.

Immediately, I was confronted with the other weakness of the book (from my British point of view) – it’s use of cup measures instead of weights/ volumes.

Whilst a cup of sugar is quick and simple, a cup of peanut butter is much more of a pain.

Luckily, Summers doesn’t drive me to complete distraction and mostly lists ingredients such as fruit and vegetables more rationally with numbers of carrots or bananas, though she occasionally refers to onions by cup after peeling and dicing, which surely depends on how small I dice and gives me little guidance on how much to purchase in the first place.

I realise cups are easier for those who grew up with them, and one gets better at estimating how much to buy with experience, but it strikes me as a dreadfully inaccurate way of measuring for many ingredients and makes it difficult when purchasing unfamiliar ingredients.

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image from the book; my cookies

Bacon Banana Cookies

Ingredients
1.5 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.25 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon kosher salt (large grained salt, a little like sea salt)
0.5 cup / 1 stick unsalted butter (113 grams)
1.25 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 bananas, mashed
0.5 pound bacon, cooked crisp, chopped (225 grams)

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Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

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  • In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, half teaspoon of the ground cinnamon and the salt.

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  • In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until they are fully incorporated.

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  • Beat in the vanilla.

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  • Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture.

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  • Then stir in the mashed bananas, beating well after each addition.

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  • Fold in the bacon.
  • Stir together the remaining quarter cup sugar and the remaining cinnamon and set aside.

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  • Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart.

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  • Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly browned.

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  • Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for 5 to 7 days.

Note: I missed the instruction to separate out some of the sugar and ground cinnamon to sprinkle onto the cookies before baking, so they were mixed into the dough along with the rest.

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So what did we think?

Pete wasn’t convinced by the flavour combination of banana and bacon – he didn’t dislike it but didn’t particular fall for it either. But I loved it! I’d probably up the amount of bacon a touch more actually, to bring it out even more.

Where we both agreed was on the texture – far more bread or cake like than what we expect from a cookie.

Worst of all, although the recipe advises that the cookies will keep for 5-7 days, after less than 24 hours in a plastic box (into which they were placed only after they had completely cooled down for a few hours) they were already a little soggy!

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Sadly, I can’t recommend this recipe as it stands, however, I liked the flavours enough to want to find a successful version.

(I might try it as a loaf of banana bread though, as I think that would work).

If you have any advice on how to bring banana and bacon together in a cookie that has a texture more like the traditional slightly chewy centred American cookie, please let me know!


Libbie Summers’ The Whole Hog Cookbook is currently available from Amazon for £13.97 (RRP £19.95).

Making Cheese Vareniki and Meat Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)

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When twitter friend Sabrina saw my plea for authentic recipes for Russian pelmeni she kindly offered to loan me her copy of a charming Russian cookery book called Please To The Table. Written by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman, the book includes 400 recipes from the former Soviet Union, “from the Baltics to Uzbekistan”.

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Why the urge to make dumplings?

Because Pete and I had happily decided upon a voddie and dumplings evening with our good friends, Stephen and Chaundra. As part of her undergraduate studies Chaundra spent a happy six months living in St Petersburg and has been back again since then. Both she and Stephen are big fans of vodka and dumplings!

Chaundra took on the role of vodka master and Pete “volunteered” to make the dumplings. I’ll be posting the results of our blind vodka tasting in a later post, but for now here are the dumplings!

Both the cheese-filled vareniki and the meat pelmeni came out rather well indeed. We ate them with copious amounts of sour cream and hearty Russian salads. And vodka!

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happiness is plenty of vareniki

Cheese Vareniki

Vareniki are dumplings made of a simple pasta dough, which in Please to the Table, is called a noodle dough. They can be filled with almost anything including cheese, fruit and vegetables.

We didn’t count how many dumplings Pete made but the dough and filling recipes state that these amounts should make 50 to 55 vareniki.

Ingredients

1 large egg white, lightly beaten
For the dough
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7-8 tablespoons water
salt
For the filling
2 cups farmer’s cheese (see note, below)
1 large egg yolk
salt to taste (see note, below)

Note: A quick Google revealed that farmer’s cheese is a very simple, young and unripened curd cheese – it is like a firmer version of cottage cheese, with more of the liquids pressed out of it. We found a Devonshire-made soft curd cheese from Langage Farm that was perfect.

Note: for a sweet cheese filling, omit the salt and add 3 tablespoons sugar.

Method

  • To make the filling, simply combine the filling ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • To make the dough: in a food processor blend the flour and salt, and with the motor running, add the egg yolks and oil through the feed tube, and then the water, in a slow steady stream until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Then cover with a linen or cotton cloth and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. Keep one ball covered with the towel whilst working the other.

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  • On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a very thin sheet, about 1/16 inch thick, making sure it doesn’t tear. With a round cookie cutter, cut out circles about 3 inches in diameter. Gather the scraps into a ball and set aside, covered.

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  • Have a bowl with the egg white by you. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. Brush the edges with the egg white. Fold the dough over the filling to form a semi-circle and press the edges firmly together with the tines of a fork to seal. Place the vareniki as they are made onto a lightly floured baking sheet, about an inch apart and keep covered with a damp cloth.
  • When you have finished the first batch, roll out the second ball and make a second batch. Add the leftover scraps of dough to the scraps from the first batch, knead into a ball and roll out for a final batch of vareniki.
  • We made the dumplings at home and then transported them to our friends’ house where we cooked and served them.
  • In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, so that the water simmers, and carefully lower a batch of vareniki into the water. (We cooked in batches of 8 as this is how many fitted comfortably inside our largest pan).
  • Boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. When they rise to the surface, they are cooked through, in 6-7 minutes.
  • With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the vareniki to a colander, drain them thoroughly and serve, hot.

Note: The recipe suggests tossing the cooked vareniki in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter before serving, which we omitted.

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(Meat) Pelmeni

Unlike vareniki which seem to be made with a wide range of fillings, pelmeni are most commonly filled with meat. Traditionally, they are made by the hundreds and stored outside (where the temperatures are below freezing) throughout the long Siberian winters.

Some Russians like to brag about how many they can eat in a single sitting!

Pelmeni can be served in beef or chicken broth or fried in butter. Traditional accompaniments are sour cream and white vinegar.

We didn’t count how many dumplings Pete made but the dough and filling recipes state that these amounts should make approximately 100. Pete halved the recipe amounts below.

Ingredients

1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Salt, to taste, for cooking the pelmeni
For the dough
3 cups sifted unbleached plain flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup cold water
For the filling
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 medium-size onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup crushed ice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  • To make the filling, simply combine the filling ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • To make the dough: in a food processor blend the flour and salt, and with the motor running, add the egg through the feed tube, and then the water, in a slow steady stream until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Then cover with a linen or cotton cloth and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. Keep one ball covered with the towel whilst working the other.

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  • On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a very thin sheet, about 1/16 inch thick, making sure it doesn’t tear. With a round cookie cutter, cut out circles about 2 inches in diameter. Gather the scraps into a ball and set aside, covered.

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  • Have a bowl with the egg white by you. Place a scant teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. Brush the edges with the egg white.

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  • The original recipe suggests folding the dough over the filling to form a semi-circle, as for the vareniki, however as you can see from the photos, Pete opted not to fold the circles but instead topped them with a second circle of dough, and pressed the edges firmly together with the tines of a fork to seal. This shape better matches the wonderful pelmeni we’ve enjoyed at Bob Bob Ricard over the last couple of years.
  • The original instructions suggest making one dumpling and cooking it in boiling water, to check for seasoning, before going on to make the rest, but Pete didn’t bother with this.
  • Place the pelmeni as they are made onto a lightly floured baking sheet, about an inch apart.
  • At this point, pelmeni are usually frozen. To freeze, cover the baking sheet with aluminium foil or plastic wrap and place in the freezer until they are completely frozen and then transfer the pelmeni to a plastic bag or box.
  • To cook: in a large pot, bring lightly salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, so that the water simmers, and carefully lower a batch of pelmeni into the water. (We cooked in batches of 8 as this is how many fitted comfortably inside our largest pan).
  • Boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. When they rise to the surface, they are cooked through, in about 8 minutes.
  • With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the pelmeni to a colander, drain them thoroughly and serve, hot.

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Note: We served them straight away, with lots of sour cream and a little white vinegar. However, the recipe suggests tossing the cooked pelmeni in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter before serving. It is also traditional to fry them in butter after they’ve been boiled, which Stephen and Chaundra did with the leftovers, the next day.


Please to the Table is no longer in print, but second hand copies can be found in the Amazon marketplace.

Discover the Origin of Prosciutto de Parma

A few weeks ago, I was invited to Parma by Discover the Origin, to learn more about the production of two of Parma’s most famous products – Parma ham and parmesan cheese, known locally as prosciutto de Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Both have PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status, which means that only products made in the area, to very strict and specific rules, can be labelled as Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Our small group were invited to take a tour of two producers, where we learned about all the stages of production of these two very traditional and delicious products. Both Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano have been produced for many, many centuries employing methods that have been honed over time and handed down from generation to generation.

The PDO rules not only control methods of production but also the source and quality of ingredients. There are also very strict quality assurance processes that ensure that any products that don’t quite match the standards, even if they’re pretty darn close, are not permitted to be sold under the PDO names.

We discovered, in the two factories we visited, that producers today are carefully combining modern technology with traditional methods. The advantages to modernisation include being able to more carefully control conditions to produce a more consistently excellent product, and being less dependent on the weather – for example modern refrigeration rooms can produce the exact temperature and humidity conditions that were once only possible during winter.

You can find out more about the stages of creating Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Discover the Origin website.

Below are some images from the Parma ham producer, and a walk-through the production process. I’ll post about Parmigiano-Reggiano soon.

 

Making Parma Ham

The pork, which must be born, raised and slaughtered in authorised farms and slaughterhouses in specified regions, is delivered on a regular basis.

The maestro salatore (master of salt) takes the fresh pork, puts it through a machine that applies a salt wash and massages the meat, and then carefully applies dry salt by hand.

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The hams are then stored (in temperature and humidity controlled rooms) for a about a week. Residual salt is removed, another layer applied and they are stored again for another couple of weeks. The maestro salatore checks and adjusts them daily to ensure that just enough salt is absorbed to cure the meat without making it excessively salty – Parma ham is known for it’s sweet flavour.

The hams are then hung for 70 days, during which the meat darkens. (It returns to a pale pink colour towards the end of the curing process).

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The hams are washed with warm water (in enormous showers that look like car washes), brushed to remove excess salt and then hung in drying rooms.

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The next stage is the initial curing, in large ventilated rooms that recreate the conditions in the open-windowed upper floors of local houses, where hams were traditionally hung to cure over winter. This phase lasts about three months, and by the end of it, the exposed surface of the meat has dried and hardened.

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Hams are marked at various stages of the process. There is a mark to show the originating farm where the pork was bred and raised, and one to show the slaughterhouse where it was butchered. The Parma ham producer also marks the ham, buying special metal pins from The Parma Ham Consortium, that are stapled into the hams.

The consortium was set up in 1963, on the initiative of 23 producers who wanted to find a way of safeguarding the genuine product and image of Parma ham. The PDO was awarded in 1996, one of the first agreed by the EU for a meat product. There are now nearly 200 members and the consortium is a marketing as well as quality assurance body.

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Next, the exposed surface is softened and protected with a paste of minced fat, salt and pepper.

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The hams are then hung again for their final curing, which lasts between 12 and 30 months.

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After 12 months curing, an inspector from the Istituto Parma Qualità (an independent quality assurance body) checks every single ham meticulously, to ensure that it meets standards.

We watched an inspector at work, piercing each ham in at least five spots using a special horse bone needle and sniffing the needle after each puncture. The needle itself is quite specialist; horse bone is porous to just the right degree that it takes in the smell from the piercing, holds it long enough for the inspector to smell it, but allows it to dissipate before the next piercing. The speed at which the inspector worked was impressive!

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Working alongside the inspector, others apply additional fat to complete the protection of the hams.

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Only hams which pass the test are then fire-branded with the Parma ham mark.

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During my short stay in Parma, I sampled quite a bit of Parma ham and really appreciated being able to learn about how it is created. I hope to share some great Parma ham recipes with you in coming weeks.