Surely it’s impossible not to love soda bread! Not only is it soft and delicious, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to make.

Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5239 Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5241

When I talk about soda bread, I am using the term to cover any bread where bicarbonate of soda is the rising agent, rather than yeast.

This type of bread making is thought to have originated in the Americas, where European settlers and indigenous peoples used potash to leaven quick breads. Recipes began to appear in American cookbooks from the last few years of the 18th century onwards. The technique didn’t really appear in Europe until the middle of the 19th century, when bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) first became available here.

Regardless of the origins, for me Ireland is the spiritual home of soda bread where it’s widely enjoyed, much loved and considered a classic, perhaps even a staple.

Soda bread can be made with wholemeal or white flour, or a combination of both. In Ireland, only versions made from white flour are commonly called soda bread. In Northern Ireland, wholemeal varieties are known as wheaten bread (and are often a little sweetened); in Éire, wholemeal versions are simply called brown bread.

With the exception of buttermilk, the ingredients are all long-life store cupboard essentials, so you can knock up a loaf at short notice. Even if you don’t have buttermilk, which is used in most traditional recipes, natural yoghurt or acidulated milk can be substituted in its place (see recipe). The key is to include an acidic element to activate the bicarbonate of soda.

Indeed, this recipe came about when Pete and I fancied some warm, freshly-baked home bread for lunch but weren’t prepared to wait the several hours a yeasted loaf would have taken.

I have a trusted recipe for soda bread but this time we decided to replace the whole meal flour with spelt – spelt flour is better suited to soda bread than yeasted recipes, as its gluten doesn’t readily form the elasticity required to stretch and trap the air bubbles created by yeast.

We also added malt extract, to give a little more flavour.

Some recipes use a higher proportion of oats to flour than ours, but we find this can make the texture a little too dense and heavy for our liking. Here, we used Mornflake medium oatmeal. Mornflake has been milling oats in South Chesire since 1675 and is still family-owned and managed by the descendants of the original miller, William Lea. The company contracts farms throughout the UK to supply it with grain and now sells both milled oats and a range of breakfast cereals.

We used Sharpham Park white spelt flour, grown on an organic farm in Somerset. We are also huge fans of their pearled spelt, which we use regularly in recipes like this chicken and pea farotto, a risotto-like dish in which spelt takes the place of rice.

 

Malted Spelt Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients
175g spelt flour (wholegrain or white)
75g strong white flour
25g medium oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon malt extract
250-300ml buttermilk

Note: The spelt flour in this recipe can be replaced with regular wholemeal flour.
Note: If you don’t have any buttermilk, you can use plain (natural) yoghurt thinned down with a little milk or sour 250 ml of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Note: This recipe can be doubled up to make a larger loaf, but you’ll need to increase baking time accordingly.

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 210 C (fan).
  • Combine flours, oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt and malt extract together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half the buttermilk and mix with the dry ingredients to start forming a dough, then add the remaining buttermilk a little at a time – you may not need the full 300 ml and adding too much results in a very stick dough that’s hard to handle. There’s is no need to knead the dough; simply mix quickly until everything is properly combined and avoid over-working.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in the centre of a baking tray lined with baking parchment or a silicon liner.
  • Pat down to flatten into a disc, about an inch deep. For a traditionally shaped loaf, press the blunt edge of a knife down into the dough twice to form a cross-shaped indent.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Check the bread at 20 minutes by tapping the bottom – the crust should be firm; the sound should be a dull thwack – if not, return to the oven for a few more minutes before checking again.
  • Once done, leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Break into pieces along the indentation lines and enjoy warm with salted butter and your favourite sweet or savoury topping.

Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5240

Kavey Eats received product samples from Mornflake Cereals. We have previously received samples from Sharpham Park.

 

Given how much I enjoy coleslaw – it’s a must-have accompaniment to breaded chicken fillets, deep fried chicken and chicken burgers – it’s a little surprising to me that I’d never made my own; It’s not exactly complicated to shred some raw vegetables and toss in a home-made dressing, after all.

I was finally prompted to do so by my desire to road test two food slicer appliances I was sent for review.

But I couldn’t decide which recipe to use for the dressing. I found many recipes for mayonnaise sweetened with a little sugar or tarted up with horseradish or mustard. I found yoghurt-based recipes and recipes for buttermilk with maple syrup. I found recipes for dairy-free vinaigrette versions. I even found a recipe for a flour-based roux “mayonnaise” that looked like no mayonnaise I’ve ever heard of!

But when I asked friends for tried and tested suggestions, one recommendation immediately stood out:

My friend Jaxie told me about  her partner’s condensed milk and vinegar dressing, assuring me that although it “sounds insane”, actually, “it’s bloody delicious”. As I love condensed milk in coffee, there’s always some in our house, so I just had to give this unusual coleslaw dressing a try.

She advised that TS adds mustard powder for extra flavour, but I had a eureka moment and decided to use some wonderfully smoky sweet paprika I bought from a Spanish market in London last May. I chose cider vinegar to pair with the condensed milk as I love the gentle fruitiness it provides.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5370 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5377

All I can say is “Wow” – this was definitely a winner!

The tart vinegar balances out the intensely sweet condensed milk. The smoky paprika gives a fabulously earthy flavour that brings to mind the smoky aromas of a summer barbecue.

For me, an equal amount of cider vinegar and condensed milk created just the right balance, but you can adjust the ratio to create a sweeter or sharper dressing if you prefer.

Although I’ve provided approximate amounts for the salad vegetables, I suggest you grate as much or little coleslaw as you like, mix up a batch of dressing and mix it in a little at a time until you have a ratio of salad to dressing that works best for you.

You can always mix up another batch of dressing if you need more.

Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe

Ingredients
For the salad

100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) white cabbage
100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) red cabbage
100-150 grams (about 1 medium) carrot
For the dressing
3 tablespoons condensed milk
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Half teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

Note: The salad ingredients are, to my mind, the three core choices for a traditional coleslaw. You might also like to add red or white onion or sliced spring onion greens.
Note: Make sure you use sweet smoked paprika rather than the hot kind. The smokiness is key to the flavour of this dressing and sweet paprika gives a pleasing but mild kick.

Method

  • Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add a little more vinegar or condensed milk if you would like the dressing to be a touch tarter or sweeter. Taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5368 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5330

  • Remove any damaged or tough outer cabbage leaves. Wash your vegetables. Top, tail and peel the carrot.
  • Grate your vegetables using a food processor or finely shred by hand. Mix together in a large bowl.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5345 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5363 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5367

  • Add the dressing to the salad and combine thoroughly. If you prefer lightly dressed coleslaw, you can add the dressing in batches, mix well and add more as required.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5372

  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5376

I absolutely love the simple combination of condensed milk and cider vinegar, and will definitely make this again, not just for coleslaw but as a general salad dressing.

The addition of a generous amount of smoky sweet paprika provided a very distinctive flavour for my coleslaw but you could stick to TS’s original suggestion of mustard powder or try other spices and herbs, to ring the changes.

 

I’m entering this recipe into Helen and Michelle’s Extra Veg Blog Challenge.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

 

Coming soon… a side-by-side review of the two food slicers pictured.

 

You know that thing when you come up with an original recipe idea, and it’s utterly brilliant, and you’re so so pleased with yourself, and it’s so damn tasty, and you’re really excited about sharing your genius new idea with the world…

…and then you search the internet and realise that the old adage “there’s nothing new under the sun” really is true after all, because loads of people have come up with the same idea before you, and now you feel rather deflated?

Yeah. That.

Our home made yakiniku (indoor barbeque) was fantastic but the sliced sweet potato just didn’t work, so we had around 350 grams of thinly sliced sweet potato to use up. We also had 4 thick slices of ham leftover from the cheese, ham and chilli jam pancakes we made the day before that. The leap to creating a sweet potato and ham dauphinoise seemed ingenious!

Well, it was! The resulting dish was so darn delicious that I’m going to share it with you anyway, even if it’s not as much of an innovation as I thought at the time!

We decided to base the recipe on the easy potato dauphinoise recipe we make regularly, so we added 150 grams of regular potato to the sweet. And as we had some grated cheese left over (from those same pancakes), we sprinkled that over the top before baking, too.

SweetPotHamDauph-5160 SweetPotHamDauph-5162
Apologies for the photos – I just grabbed a couple of snaps to record it and I want to share it with you right now!

Sweet Potato & Ham Dauphinoise

Ingredients
200 ml double cream
200 ml full fat milk
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
Salt and pepper
350 grams sweet potato, peeled and sliced fairly thin, about 3mm
150-200 grams regular potato, peeled and sliced fairly thin, about 3mm
100-150 grams thick sliced ham, cut into small pieces
Optional: handful of grated cheese

Note: A mandolin makes slicing the potatoes thinly and evenly very easy, but it’s not difficult by hand.

Method

  • In a large sauce pan place the double cream, milk, garlic, salt and pepper on a gentle heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  • Add the potato slices into the cream and milk and simmer for 15 minutes, until they have softened a little.
  • Use a slatted spoon to transfer some of the potatoes into an oven dish, so that the slices are reasonably flat. Scatter some of the ham pieces across them before adding another layer, and continue till all the potato and ham are in the oven dish. You don’t need to worry about being very neat, but it’s best to get an even height to the top layer, so everything bakes evenly.
  • Pour or spoon the remainder of the thickened cream and milk over the potatoes.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • Check if done by inserting a knife into the dish; the potatoes should feel soft all the way through.
  • Serve hot.

Tell me, have you had any of those moments I describe at the top of the post?

 

I love biryani!

I mean the real deal, with beautifully spiced meat between layers of fragrant basmati rice…

NOT stir-fried rice with a few bits of meat thrown in, served with a side of sloppy vegetable curry, that is sold as biryani by so many curry houses across the UK. *rolls eyes*

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference between pulao (pilaf) and biryani it is in the cooking method rather than the ingredients: rice is the core ingredient in a pulao, often supplemented by meat or vegetables, just like a biryani, however all the ingredients of a pulao are cooked together. In a biryani, the meat or vegetables are prepared separately, then assembled into a cooking pot with the rice, before the biryani is baked to finish. In some variations, the meat and rice are par-cooked before assembly, in others they are added raw.

Biryani” comes from the Persian birian / beryan, which is a reference to frying or roasting an ingredient before cooking it. The actual dish was likely spread across the wider region by merchants and other travellers many centuries ago.

Biryani was very popular in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled between the early 16th century to the early 18th century and it remains a much-loved dish in India today.

The Mughals were a Central Asian Turko-Mongolic people who settled in the region in the Middle Ages; their influence on architecture, art and culture, government and cuisine was significant. Mughlai cuisine is today best represented by the cooking of North India (particularly Utter Pradesh and Delhi, where my mother and father are from, respectively), Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Hyderabadi area of Andhra Pradesh in South East India. It retains many influences from Persian and Afghani cuisine.

There are many versions of biryani but two of the best known in India are Lucknowi (Awadhi) biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. For a Lucknowi biryani, the meat is seared and cooked in water with spices, then drained. The resulting broth is used to cook the rice. Both the pukki (cooked) elements are then layered together in a deep pot, sealed and baked. Hyderabadi biryani uses the kutchi (raw) method whereby the meat is marinated and the rice is mixed with spiced yoghurt (but neither are cooked) before being assembled in a deep pot and baked. The flavours of the meat and rice components in a Hyderabadi biryani are quite distinct, as compared to the Lucknowi biryani where they are more homogenous.

Also popular is Calcutta biryani, which evolved from Lucknowi style when the last nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata in 1856; in response to a recession which resulted in a scarcity of meat and expensive spices, his personal chef developed the habit of adding potatoes and wielding a lighter hand with the spicing.

What is common to most variations is the dum pukht method – once the food has been arranged in the cooking vessel, the lid is tightly sealed (traditionally using dough but foil or rubber-sealed lids are a modern-day substitute) and the pot is baked in an oven or fire; the steam keeps the ingredients moist and the aromas and juices are locked in.

LambBiryani-5218

Biryani is often served for celebratory feasts such as weddings, though most don’t take it quite as seriously as the two families involved in a cautionary tale that my friend alerted me to – a wedding was called off after an argument between the two families about whether chicken or mutton biryani should be served at the reception!

My mum, who grew up in Utter Pradesh, makes a delicious pukki method biryani, in the Lucknowi style. However, rather than using the liquid from the meat to cook the rice, she makes a fragrant lamb curry (with just a small volume of thick, clinging sauce rather than the usual generous gravy) and she flavours the rice with fresh coriander and mint and rose or kewra (screw pine flower) essence. Her recipe involves slowly caramelising onions, half of which go into the lamb curry and the rest of which are layered with the meat and rice when the biryani is assembled. The pot is sealed tightly and baked until the rice is cooked through.

You’ll notice that I specify basmati rice for this recipe – and that’s because it’s the most traditional rice used for Indian biryani. Of course there is the taste – basmati is a wonderfully fragrant rice – but it is also important that the grains remain separate after cooking; some rice varieties are much stickier or break down more on cooking. Longer grained basmati is prized over shorter grain, perhaps because rice must be carefully harvested and handled in order not to break the grains or just because it looks so elegant?

LambBiryani-5195 LambBiryani-5216

Tilda, the best known brand of Basmati rice in the UK, recently launched a new product into their range. They describe Tilda Grand as a longer grained basmati rice, particularly well suited to making biryani and other Indian and Persian rice dishes.

Mum comes from a Basmati growing region of India and has seen Basmati planted, growing and harvested many times. Her family in India buy large sacks of rice when it is newly harvested and store it to mature because the flavour gets better with age; indeed I remember mum telling me how her parents saved their oldest basmati rice to serve to guests and on special occasions. Since I was a child, mum has always bought Tilda Basmati rice, so I asked her to try the new Tilda Grand and give me her feedback.

She didn’t find it as fragrant as usual but confirmed that it cooked much the same as the rice she regularly uses and commented that the grains remained separate and were longer than standard. That said, the grains weren’t as long as she was expecting; she has come across significantly longer grained rice in India in recent years.

This biryani, made to my mum’s recipe, is the first I’ve ever made and it was utterly delicious!

 

Mamta’s Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I have halved mum’s original recipe. The amounts below serve 4 as a full meal.

Ingredients
For the rice
500 grams basmati rice
Large pinch salt
1.25 litres water
Small sprig mint leaves
Small sprig coriander leaves
For the meat
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
3 large onions (about 600 grams), peeled and thinly sliced
500 grams lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, grated or pureed
2-3 teaspoons (0.5 inch piece) ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 brown cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark *
2 bay leaves *
4-5 black peppercorns *
4-5 cloves *
0.5 teaspoon black cumin seeds (use ordinary cumin seeds if you don’t have black) *
1-2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your taste and strength of chillies)
0.5 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (quarter cup) thick, full-fat natural yoghurt
100-150 grams chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
Half a small lemon, cut into small pieces
For the biryani
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
A few drops of rose water and/or kewra (screw-pine flower) essence
Optional: Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 1 teaspoo water
Optional quarter cup of cashew nuts or blanched almonds

Note: The quality of the meat is important, so do buy good quality lamb or mutton. I used lamb steaks for my biryani.

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee and fry the onions until they are dark brown, stirring regularly so they do not catch and burn. This is a slow process; mine took approximately half an hour.
  • Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the whole spices (marked *) plus the ginger and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes to release the aromas.
  • Add the lamb, salt and chilli powder and stir fry to brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, two thirds of the mint and coriander that is listed for the meat, the sliced green chillies, lemon pieces and half of the fried onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is done and only a little thick gravy is left. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the quality and cut of the meat.
  • Once the lamb curry is made, turn off the heat and set it aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Boil briskly with salt, the mint and coriander leaves listed for the rice until the rice is nearly cooked. (When you squash a grain between your fingers, only a hint of hardness should remain).
  • Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Grease a large oven proof dish or pan with ghee or vegetable oil.
  • Spread a third of the par-cooked rice across the base of the dish.
  • Spread a quarter of the reserved browned onions over the rice.

LambBiryani-5196

  • Sprinkle a little saffron water, rose and kewra essence over the rice.

LambBiryani-5200

  • Spread  half the lamb curry over the rice.

LambBiryani-5197

  • Repeat to add another layer of rice, onions, lamb curry and the saffron and flavourings.

LambBiryani-5201

  • Top with the last third of the rice, the remaining browned onions and another sprinkling of saffron and flavourings.

LambBiryani-5207

  • Dot the surface with a little ghee plus a few drops of colouring, if using.
  • Sprinkle cashew nuts or blanched almonds over top, if using.
  • Cover the pan tightly with foil and then the lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180° C (fan) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

LambBiryani-5215

 

Kavey Eats received samples of Tilda Grand rice from Tilda; as usual, there was no obligation on my part to write about it or to review favourably.

 

After my introduction to sous vide –  in which I explained what sous vide means, its history, how it works and the advantages and disadvantages of this cooking technique – I was planning to share a clever, inventive recipe with you… something to show off the cheffy possibilities… something unusual and impressive.

I’ve been admiring lots of wonderful sous vide recipes online. Delicious ideas by fellow bloggers include Dom’s fennel risotto, Jan’s pork belly with honey and apple cider glaze, Mardi’s caramelized bananas with coconut gel and snow, Helen’s rhubarb compoteJeanne’s 20 hour oxtail stew, and Luiz’ Tamago Onsen. I’ve also found much to tempt via Google and Pinterest, such as 48 hour Momofuku short ribs, 36 hour chashu pork belly, olive oil poached salmonpeach bread pudding with sweet tea rum sauce, duck fat fried potatoes, white chocolate rum caramel bananas and salmon confit in elderflower oil.

But after all that, I decided to talk to you about sous vide steak!

SousVide-4343 SousVide-4346 SousVide-4348
supermarket sirloin medallions

I have always loved steak and we often cook it at home, varying the cut depending on our mood and what’s on offer, though most commonly settling on rib eye. We were happy enough with our technique – oil (and season) the steak not the pan, heat the pan until it’s properly hot, add the steaks and don’t move them at all until it’s time to flip them over, cook the second side, remove from the pan and rest for several minutes while making the sauce – but it wasn’t unusual for us to cook the steak a little more or less than we’d intended; the finger test is helpful but still a little tricky to call. And then I read that using a sous vide machine to cook steak should make it impossible to over or undercook, so steak was an obvious candidate for one of our first experiments.

And we discovered that cooking steaks accurately is ridiculously easy this way!

We have now cooked several steaks in our Sous Vide Supreme, including sirloin medallions (on offer at the local supermarket), rump and some fabulous grass fed New Zealand wagyu rib eye steaks from Provenance Butcher. Each time, we’ve been thrilled with the perfect cooking, even texture and excellent flavour – even less expensive steaks (that haven’t been dry-aged for a long period or aren’t from rare breed animals) taste intensely beefy. The wagyu rib eye in particular really benefited from the gradual melting of the marbling into the surrounding meat.

Recipes list cooking times anywhere between 1 and 6 hours for steak; however, we find 1.5 to 2 hours is plenty of time for the meat to cook through, for steaks up to 3 cm thick. We like our steaks medium rare, so we sous vide them at 56.5 °C (133.5 °F); I found this chart very useful in selecting the right temperature.

Be prepared for the steaks to look rather unappealing when you take them out of the sous vide machine – a rather pallid pinky-grey; the caramelised flavours and dark brown colour that most of us appreciate on a steak are created by the Maillard reaction, for which one needs higher temperatures. For this reason, we briefly sear the steaks after they come out of the sous vide machine.

How To Sous Vide Steak (Medium Rare)

Ingredients
Steaks of your choice
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Method

  • Pre-heat sous vide machine to 56.5 °C (133.5 °F).
  • Very lightly season the steaks and vacuum seal into bags.
  • Submerge steaks fully and leave to cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • Before finishing the steaks, cook your vegetables and your sauce, so that they’re pretty much ready to serve.
  • Preheat heavy-based pan to scorching hot and very lightly oil.
  • Remove steaks from the bags.
  • When pan is really scorching hot, briefly fry the steaks on both sides to sear – only for about half a minute on each side as you don’t want the heat to penetrate too far into the steak and change its perfect texture
  • Assemble all your elements and serve.

Note: The steaks can remain in the sous vide for quite a lot longer than the required cooking time – the beauty of sous vide is that they will not overcook, since the internal temperature will not rise above the temperature of the water bath. That said, I have read that leaving steak in the sous vide for a very long time can result in the meat becoming mushy, usually in reference to cooking times of 15 hours or more.

SousVide-5092 SousVide-5094 SousVide-5101
Grass fed New Zealand wagyu rib eye from Provenance Butcher

One of the questions I’ve been asked, by friends who know I’m experimenting with the Sous Vide Supreme, is whether we’ve found it worthwhile using it just to cook steaks, given that we’d previously cooked them happily enough in a frying pan. I asked myself the same question before I started using it, because it’s quite a bulky piece of kit and it really needs to justify itself, given how much storage space it takes up. In fact, we have found it quick and straightforward to fill with water, set the temperature, seal food into bags and submerge to cook, so it’s not felt like a chore to use it at all. When we’re done, it’s easy to empty into the bath, leave aside to dry and put away again. Of the equipment we own, it’s our deep fat fryer that we use more rarely because filling (and emptying) the oil is far more of a faff. That’s been a good benchmark for us to use for assessing how we feel about the Sous Vide Supreme.

What do you think? Do you have a Sous Vide Supreme? Or have you considered buying one? Do you think you’d get enough use from it? Would it be a white elephant or kitchen hero? I’d love to know your thoughts, and for those of you that have one, please let me know your favourite sous vide recipes and techniques. (For fellow Pinterest users, here’s my Pinterest Sous Vide board).

 

Kavey Eats received a SousVide Supreme and vacuum sealer in exchange for sharing my experiences using the equipment.
The sample of Grass fed New Zealand wagyu rib eye was courtesy of Provenance Butcher.

 

The generation of cooks before me bemoan the price of lamb shanks. Lamb shanks were once a really cheap cut, they say, but chefs made them trendy and demand and costs went up and, oh no, now they are just so expensive. And I nod, because I didn’t discover them in the days when they were cheap as chips, so their change in fortunes doesn’t really affect me.

But ox cheeks? That’s a different matter. For the last few years, I’ve become more and more single-minded about ox cheeks being the best cut of beef for braising and, simply put, no other stewing cut will do. So imagine my distress when I noticed that ox cheek is now £7.49 a kilo at Waitrose – yes, the price is creeping up. It’s no surprise really, given ox cheek’s popularity on restaurant and pub menus, but there’s still a part of me selfishly wishing that more shoppers would carry on dismissing it as some odd or offal-ly cut.

And yes, I do realise there are those who’ve been cooking ox cheek for years and years and years; I’m still a Johnny-come-lately in their eyes!

I don’t help my case in hoping the enthusiasm for ox cheek will die down again – when I bought the ox cheeks for this recipe, another customer came to the meat counter while the butcher was carefully cubing it for me (far faster with his sharp knives and experience than I am at home); I ended up telling the waiting customer how wonderful a braising cut ox cheek is and, when she expressed more interest, we chatted about potential recipes. Now I’m torn between hoping she’ll go ahead and discover for herself just how good it is and wanting her to dismiss it as the ravings of a talk-to-strangers crazy lady. Hey, I’m a contradictory creature, what can I tell you?

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4945

A couple of weeks ago, when we made baked chorizo, cod and potato, I mentioned foul weather being the inspiration for hearty dishes. As we move into March it’s still pretty cold, though the rain has been punctuated by some gloriously sunny days. I’m still craving comfort food.

We made this simple Chinese-Style Braised Ox Cheek for visiting friends and it was utterly delicious. We followed this BBC Good Food recipe almost exactly, but added button mushrooms; mushrooms work so well with Chinese flavours plus they’re a favourite of mine in any meat stew. One of the things that drew me to this recipe was its recommendation of ox cheeks as a perfect cut for the dish.

Please note, this dish makes no claims to be authentically Chinese – the technique of flouring and browning the meat is a firmly European method of stew-making, as far as I’m aware. However the Chinese five-spice, anise, garlic, ginger and soy sauce create a distinctly Chinese flavour profile that is very satisfying!

Chinese-Style Braised Ox Cheek

Serves 6

Ingredients
3-4 tablespoons cooking oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed (or equivalent good quality garlic puree)
Large thumb-size piece fresh root ginger, peeled and shredded (or equivalent good quality ginger puree)
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 4 cm lengths
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (or equivalent good quality chilli puree)
1.5 kg ox cheek, cubed (or other braising beef)
2 tablespoons plain flour, well seasoned
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 star anise
2 teaspoons muscovado sugar (or any sugar you have in stock)
3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry)
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
500ml beef stock (from cube or melt pot)
200-300 grams small button mushrooms, washed

Note: ox cheek is the common name for this cut of beef, but it’s also sold as beef cheek in some shops.

Note: I was introduced to Gourmet Garden’s herbs and spices last year. These are pureed and packed into tubes, genuinely do taste just like using fresh, and last for 90 days in the fridge after they’ve been opened. We’ve really loved using them in our cooking and I’m really pleased they’re now available in some of the major supermarkets.

Method

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4933

  • Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a large casserole and fry the garlic, ginger, spring onions and chilli for a few minutes until soft. Tip into a bowl and set aside.

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4937 ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4936

  • Toss the beef in seasoned flour, add more cooking oil to the pan and brown the meat in batches, adding more oil as and when needed. Don’t try and brown too much meat in one batch as this causes it to steam. It took us 4 to 5 minutes to brown each batch. Put the browned beef into a large bowl or plate and set aside.
  • Add the five-spice powder and star anise into the pan, add back the spring onion mix and fry together for a minute. Add the sugar and all the browned beef. Turn the heat to high, add the Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry and mix vigorously, scraping any meaty bits at the bottom of the pan into the liquid.
  • Preheat the oven to 150 C.

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4938

  • Pour in the soy sauce and stock, bring to a simmer, place the lid onto the casserole and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours, stirring after the first hour.

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4940

  • An hour before the end of the cooking time, add the button mushrooms and stir them in.
  • If the stew has a lot of liquid, remove the lid half an hour before the end of the cooking time, to allow it to reduce a little.

ChineseBraisedOxCheeks-4942

  • When the cooking time is up, the beef should be very very soft. Taste, season if necessary and serve.

We followed the original recipe’s serving suggestion of pak choi (which we stir fried with a little garlic and sesame oil) and basmati rice.

As we were cooking for four, we had some leftovers. These were delicious the next day, re-heated, the beef shredded into small pieces and served mixed into big bowls of pasta!

Does winter weather make you long for hearty stews too? If so, what’s your favourite recipe and which cuts of meat do you like to use?

 

I wrote recently about a weekend spent with friends during which we did little other than cook, eat and play games. It was relaxing and wonderful and is the kind of weekend that is restorative in so many ways. The kind of weekend that reminds you what life is all about.

You can read more about (and see photos of) the food we cooked from Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen. Here are some images and notes about the rest of our weekend feasting.

I’ve had this Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce bookmarked on my Pinterest boards for a very long time, and suggested it as a possible for our weekend of cooking. Monica very kindly made it as a welcoming lunch, confirming that it was a simple dish to make. It was just as tasty as it looks and lovely served with edamame beans, rice and broccoli.

OrchardCottageFeb2014-132533 12404408175_e6214fcb06_c
OrchardCottageFeb2014-03 OrchardCottageFeb2014-133416

For dinner on our first evening, we decided on panko vegetables to start, which were expertly fried by Monica. These were served with a delicious Poblano Mustard, from the Coop Chile Company in Chicago and a miso tahini dressing.

OC-Feb2014--2 OC-Feb2014-4558

We followed the veg with two Asian-inspired recipes by Fuchsia Dunlop. I made the simple spicy peanut butter noodles and Marie looked after the ginger and spring onion steamed fish.

OC-Feb2014-4561 OrchardCottageFeb2014-14
OC-Feb2014-4562 OrchardCottageFeb2014-40

Our get-togethers are never complete without a cheese board, though this one is our most restrained yet, given all the other courses we knew we were having.

OC-Feb2014--3 OrchardCottageFeb2014-000526

We followed the cheese with Monica’s whisky-soaked date clafoutis, served with the frozen yoghurt and condensed milk ice cream I made from Uyen’s book.

Day two’s breakfast was fresh juices made by Monica and some leftover clafoutis and ice cream. Monica made us some great juices over the course of the weekend.

OrchardCottageFeb2014-45 OrchardCottageFeb2014-132921

Lunch was a delicious Vietnamese omelette sandwich with pickled carrots (same link as above).

Pete made another of my long-time Pinterest bookmarks – an egg-enriched spring onion and sesame bread, rolled and sliced to create pull-apart portions. Unfortunately, the slices were a bit too thin and spread out, rather than squished upright together in a smaller dish, and the bread was quickly overbaked. I’d like to try something similar again, though.

OC-Feb2014-5990 OC-Feb2014-5998
OC-Feb2014-6006 OC-Feb2014-6020

I had some Draft Beer Flavoured Jelly Belly Jelly Beans to try. I liked them and liked the sweet beery taste, Pete didn’t think they tasted anything like beer but ate quite a few and Monica and Marie were definitely not keen at all. I found the golden metallic sheen a little strange.

OrchardCottageFeb2014-123544

Monica experimented with some coffee jellies, adding different flavours including Amaretto and condensed milk.

OC-Feb2014-6016 OC-Feb2014-6011 OC-Feb2014-6014

For our second evening meal, we had tempura vegetables, made using a Sainsbury’s tempura batter mix I’d recently seen demonstrated by Jun Tanaka. As instructed, we made it with beer (using Harviestoun’s The Ridge). Monica expertly fried again, and made more of that fabulous miso tahini dressing. (The batter was good, it coated the vegetables with just the right consistency, crisped up beautifully and I’d buy it again).

OC-Feb2014--6 OC-Feb2014-6025

After tempura we had summer rolls with mackerel ceviche, also from Uyen’s book (same link as above). It took longer than expected when the mackerel fillets we purchased turned out to be full of bones and it took me an age to pull them all out, before making the ceviche!

Dessert was a Dutch baby pancake with Matcha ice cream. Monica made this to David Lebovitz’ recipe ingredients, but adapted the technique to use her Vitamix.

OC-Feb2014--7 OC-Feb2014-4569 OC-Feb2014--8

Our last meal was Sunday lunch. I was delighted that yet another of my long-time Pinterest bookmarks came into play, when Marie made these utterly delicious grilled onions with blue cheese and balsamic.

OC-Feb2014-6036

And Marie also took charge of the fantastic caramelised mackerel in coconut water (same link as above), which we made from yet another of Uyen’s Vietnamese recipes.

We also had great fun playing various table games over the weekend, Pete and I taught Monica and Marie Fluxx, Carcassone and Settlers and Monica quickly got us addicted to Banagrams, and back into Yahtzee!

OrchardCottageFeb2014-36 OrchardCottageFeb2014-40-2 OrchardCottageFeb2014-235436
OC-Feb2014--4 OC-Feb2014--5 OC-Feb2014-

Thanks again to Monica for additional photos, as per credits.

 

Every time we make pancakes I say the same thing: we don’t make pancakes enough! They are simple and quick to make and so versatile when it comes to fillings or toppings. On those rare occasions we actually get crêpeing, I tend to veer towards the sweet side more often than not. This time it was the turn of savoury.

Cheese and ham are a classic pairing and a favourite in our house. We often add a smear of sweet hot chilli jam when making cheese and ham on toast, so I was confident the same combination would work in a pancake. For the Madame version, we simply added an egg! (I’ve provided recipes for both versions, below).

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5110 CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5123

To make the pancakes, you can use your standard crêpe recipe – we’re looking for thin French-style pancakes here, not the thick and fluffy kind. I tend to refer to Delia for this. Alternatively, use the Asda Mix-o-meter which helpfully scales the batter recipe up or down for you depending on how many pancakes you want to make.

I’d suggest making all the pancakes first, so you can find your rhythm and get your cooking time and flipping technique down pat.

 

Recipe: Pancakes Cheese, Ham & Chilli Jam

Ingredients (per pancake)
1 crêpe
1 slice good quality ham
1-2 teaspoons chilli jam
Approximately 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

Note: I recommend two pancakes per person.

Method

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5107

  • Spread the chilli jam onto one side of the ham.

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5108

  • Place the crêpe into a flat-bottomed frying pan on low to medium heat. Put the ham on top – chilli jam side up – and sprinkle the cheese over it.
  • Fold the pancake in half and cook on one side for a minute or two before turning over to heat the other side. This shouldn’t need long as you’re just heating through and melting the cheese.
  • Serve hot.

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5113

 

Recipe: Pancakes Cheese, Ham & Chilli Jam, Madame!

Ingredients (per pancake)
1 crêpe
1 slice good quality ham
1-2 teaspoons chilli jam
Approximately 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
1 egg

Note: I recommend two pancakes per person.

Method

  • Turn your grill on to medium-high heat.
  • Spread the chilli jam onto one side of the ham.

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5115 CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5116

  • Place the crêpe into an oven-proof pan. Put the ham on top – chilli jam side up – and sprinkle the cheese over it.

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5120 CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5121

  • Carefully break the egg into the centre of the pancake and fold the sides in to form a square. The egg yolk should be uncovered, in the centre (nudge with your finger if necessary).
  • Place the pan under the grill for a few minutes until the egg white is cooked.
  • Serve hot.

CheeseHamChilliJamCrepes-5122

 

This is a paid post for ASDA. Kavey Eats has been paid for developing and sharing this recipe.

 

On a rainy day in February, when it seemed that half the country had turned into an inland sea, we unexpectedly found ourselves with over four kilos of incredibly fresh, top quality Skrei (line-caught Norwegian cod).

We’d been expecting a far smaller delivery but a miscommunication somewhere along the line resulted in “individual portions” being swapped out for “kilos”, and we were the happy if slightly bemused beneficiaries of the error. After an hour of carefully cutting three gargantuan sides of fish into portions, double wrapping them all in cling film, labelling them with their weight and squeezing all but a couple of them into an already groaningly-full freezer, I took to the web in search of cod recipes.

ChorizoBakedCod-4702
My recipe

With the wind outside slamming never-ending needles of cold rain against the thankfully solid walls and windows, I yearned for something hearty, filling and cheering – the weather howled approval of my demand for punchy flavours, plenty of protein, comforting carbs and copious colour.

A recipe for baked cod with chorizo, potatoes and saffron fit the  bill.

ChorizoBakedCod1-4603 ChorizoBakedCod1-4608
ChorizoBakedCod1-4616 ChorizoBakedCod1-4620
Original recipe

We liked this recipe a lot but agreed it needed quite a bit of tweaking. Against the strong flavours (and colour) of the chorizo, the saffron was lost; I decided it was superfluous. Our sauté pan is pretty large but the half kilo of sliced potatoes was difficult to move around the pan. The potatoes also made it difficult for the heat to reach and soften the leeks in the short time they had to cook before the liquid was added and came to a boil; I decided to cube the potatoes and add the leeks at a much earlier stage. Lastly, instead of plain oil, I used oil that I’d flavoured and coloured with the chorizo to drizzle over the fish before baking.

ChorizoBakedCod-4695
My recipe

My new recipe was everything I hoped.

Cubing the potatoes made them cook more evenly, and also provided lots of edges and corners to crisp up a little in the oven. The softer leeks integrated much better into the chorizo and potato base. And the chorizo-infused oil gave the baked fish a little extra colour on the plate.

 

Baked Chorizo, Cod & Potatoes Recipe

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
120 grams soft Spanish chorizo*, cubed or thinly sliced
1 leek, white and pale green parts sliced into thin half-discs
500 grams potatoes, peeled and cubed
120 ml (half cup) water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
500 grams fresh skrei or cod fillet, cut into two or three portions as required
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Note: Spanish chorizo can be purchased either as a fresh, soft sausage that requires cooking, or a harder and drier cured version which can be eaten as is. Make sure you buy the soft cooking chorizo.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).

ChorizoBakedCod-4678

  • Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large oven-proof pan, add the chorizo and cook over a medium heat until the chorizo starts to change colour, about 2-3 minutes. The oil will take on plenty of colour from the chorizo spices.
  • Carefully retrieve a tablespoon of the cooking oil from the pan and set to one side.

ChorizoBakedCod-4679 ChorizoBakedCod-4683

  • Add the leek and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the leek softens.

ChorizoBakedCod-4684

  • Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes soften a little around the edges.

ChorizoBakedCod-4687

  • Add the water, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. As the pan is already hot, this should only take a few moments.

ChorizoBakedCod-4688 ChorizoBakedCod-4690

  • Place the pieces of fish over the contents of the pan and drizzle with the reserved chorizo-flavoured oil.
  • Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the cod is opaque. If your fillets are much thicker or thinner than those shown, you may need to adjust cooking time by a couple of minutes in either direction.

ChorizoBakedCod-4691

  • Either serve the pan to the table, family style, or plate individual portions. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

ChorizoBakedCod-4703

This is a really simple dish to make. Prep (of chorizo, leeks and potatoes) doesn’t take very long and the entire cooking time is not much more than half an hour, so it’s ideal any day of the week.

 

Kavey Eats received samples of fresh skrei (line caught Norwegian cod) from the Norway Seafood Council.

Feb 062014
 

In December I was invited to a seafood cookery class hosted by my friend Signe Johansen (blogger, food writer and food anthropologist) on behalf of the Norwegian Seafood Council, to showcase the quality of Norwegian seafood and share some ideas for how to make the most of it. Having cooked several different dishes with the skrei they sent me last year – miso marinated cod, fish and egg pie, fish and chips and a cod and chive dish, I was keen to try some of the other seafood available.

NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-162945 NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-4304 NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-4307
Signe and Hannah (her sous chef for the class)

Sig’s menu included prawn and crisp bread canapés, smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche, beetroot and pickled cucumbers, some deep fried cod fritters, a warming Norwegian seafood soup and a fantastic rice pudding with whipped cream and berry compote. There was warming gløgg too!

The recipe I’m sharing below is for the seafood soup, which Sig called a Norwegian chowder, in recognition of the American side of her family background. Unlike the American chowders I’ve had, it’s not thick – the soup is broth-like in consistency – but it does have a great depth of flavour and plenty of richness from the cream. Sig recommends serving with crisp bread but I enjoyed it with regular white bread to soak up the liquid.

NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-4302
NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-164512 NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-171941
NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-184353

 

Signe’s Norwegian Fish Soup

Serves 6-7 as a starter, 3-4 as a main

Ingredients
For the chowder base
200g Norwegian cold water cooked prawns, shell on
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 small fennel, finely diced (keep the fronds for garnish)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
2 litres fish stock
2 star anise
2 parsley stalks
2 threads saffron
5 allspice berries
For the soup
500g Norwegian salmon, sliced into bite-size chunks
300g cooked new potatoes, sliced in half
300ml double cream
100ml good cooking brandy
1 large leek, thinly sliced
Chives for garnish
300ml crème fraîche to garnish at the end (optional)
Salmon roe to garnish (optional)

Note: We didn’t have any prawns on the day, so these were omitted (which meant we didn’t need to strain the stock-flavouring vegetables out). We used a mix of salmon and other fish. We didn’t garnish with crème fraiche or salmon roe.

Method

  • Start by making the chowder base. Sauté the onion, carrot and fennel in a skillet or frying pan over a low heat until soft and translucent. This should take about 5-10 minutes depending on the pan.
  • Peel the prawns and keep the shells, adding the latter to the pan with the sautéed vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes (keep the prawns to one side to add as garnish to the chowder).
  • Transfer this mixture over to a medium-large saucepan along with the fish stock, allspice berries, star anise, parsley stalks, bay leaf and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes until the stock turns a pale orange from the shells and saffron, and then sieve the stock into a slightly smaller saucepan. Throw away the prawn shells and other flavourings, as you don’t need these anymore.
  • Flambé the brandy or cook off the alcohol in a small saucepan and add this to the stock. Boil this soup base until it has reduced by half; if the base tastes bland at this stage, keep reducing until the flavour takes on a concentrated seafood note. Every fish stock is different, so judge to your taste.
  • Meanwhile sauté the leek in a little butter until soft and add to the stock, along with the double cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add all the salmon. Allow to cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the fish is pale pink and opaque.
  • Adjust the seasoning if necessary then add the cooked, sliced new potatoes, the prawns and serve while warm with a chive, fennel frond and salmon roe garnish. Rye bread complements this tasty chowder perfectly and a dollop of crème fraîche is an indulgent optional topping.

NorwaySeafoodCouncil Jan2014-175301

Kavey Eats attended this cookery class as a guest of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha