Fried apples

An ingredient which has vanished entirely from the shops is frozen concentrated orange juice. As a substitute for the real thing, it did indeed have its limitations; but as a cooking ingredient it was unparalleled. One can still guy it, but only in 40-gallon drums. This recipe achieves a similar effect in a different way.

The sauce

Take a one-litre carton of orange juice. Pour it into a big frying pan and put it onto the stove.

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Turn the gas up high and boil the juice to reduce it. The idea is to boil away as much water as you can without boiling it all away. I do this by setting a timer to 5 minutes and having a look (and a stir) every time the timer goes off. After 20 minutes, this is what I got:

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Pouring it into a jug, I found that the litre had reduced to 200ml: a 5-to-1 reduction. If I had gone on for another 5 minutes, all the water would have gone and I would probably have had to throw the frying pan away.

The apples

Use eating apples, not cooking apples, because cooking apples are designed to collapse into a mush when cooked, and that is not the effect we want. I used Cox’s Orange Pippin:

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Peel them, quarter them, core them, and slice the quarters:

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Now put a nice big lump of butter in a clean frying-pan, and fry the slices until they start to colour nicely. The golder the better, and a little blackness here and here won’t be a disaster. But if the slices start to disintegrate then stop, because that isn’t the point.

(By the way, adding cinnamon or allspice or cloves at some point greatly improves the flavour, if you remember to do it).

Putting it together

Now you have a choice. You can simply take the fried apples, serve them and pour the hot orange sauce over them. (You can try improving the sauce, if you like, by pouring a shot of brandy into it while you are heating it up).

Alternatively, having got the apples to the right state of friedness, with the gas turned off but while they are still in the hot pan, you can add some of the reduced orange juice, a bit at a time. Each time you add a bit it will boil, because the pan is still hot, and just as it is turning into caramel you can push the apples around so that it sticks to them and not to the pan. In that case the apples will end up looking like this:

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Either way, serve it with double cream, with the [remaining] orange sauce in a jug ready to be poured over the apples. Pouring or whipping cream might be an adequate substitute for double; but I think double cream is really needed to unite the intense sweetness and acidity of the dish.

 

 

Braised ox heart

I remember having heart as a child, and enjoying it, so when I came across it on the Wild Beef stall, I had to try it. (It is cheap, too: £4.50 for a heart which will feed two people easily, or four people if there are enough vegetables).

I was told that because it was good quality muscle meat one could just cut the heart into strips and fry it quickly. I didn’t try this, because it wasn’t how I remembered it and I wasn’t sure how well it would work. So here is what I did instead. I didn’t look up any recipes – I just guessed. So I may have made many mistakes, but the result was still very edible.

To prepare the heart: Cut it open and remove anything that is obviously not meaty. For instance, there are strong sinews holding the whole thing in shape, and there may also be tough linings to some of the blood vessels and heart valves. How much you remove depends on how sharp your knife is, how sharp your eyes are, and how confident you are. I removed quite a lot because I wasn’t very confident. I’ll take more care next time.

I also removed the layer of fat on the outside of the heart, but on reflection I think I needn’t have done that because the fat would have melted away during cooking. It was only a thin layer anyway.

Chop the meat into small pieces. I would guess that mine were a bit smaller than half-inch or one-centimetre cubes.

Cooking

Heat the oven to 170°C.

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Put the meat into it and fry it until the outside of most of the cubes is brown. You are not trying to cook the meat, only seal it. A thick gravy will come out of the meat, which means that your frying will turn into boiling eventually. Don’t worry about that: it probably means that you have done enough frying and you can stop. Salt the meat a little when you are frying it, but not much, because not much salt is needed.

Put the meat into a casserole together with a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (mine were “chopped tomatoes with garlic and olive oil”). I put the tomatoes in the casserole and heated it on the stove until the tomatoes were starting to boil, then added the meat. But equally you could add the tomatoes to the frying pan and turn up the heat until everything is at boiling point, and then pour it all into the casserole together.

Put the lid onto the casserole and put it into the oven. Set the timer for 70 minutes, and go to bed. In the morning, take it out and put it in the fridge. When you want to eat it, warm it up.

This means that in practice it will have cooked for a bit more than 70 minutes, because the oven will have taken time to cool down after it switched itself off. So for a daytime version of this recipe, you might say “80 minutes and take it out”, or “70 minutes and then have a look at it”.

Beef mince

This is how I do mince.

900g minced beef (if there is a choice between coarse-ground and fine-ground mince, choose the coarse)

2 medium-large onions (I use red onions but white ones will work too)

30g dried wild mushrooms (mixed wild mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, or whatever you can find)

Start by soaking the dried mushrooms in a jug or bowl. I use hot water, just enough of it to cover the mushrooms. I leave them to soak for about an hour. Once they have been soaked, take them out of the jug and cut them into smallish pieces. They are going to go into the mince, and people won’t want to find a huge bit of fungus on their plate. Keep the liquid from the mushrooms because it’s important.

Peel the onions and chop them finely. Fry them lightly (on oil or butter, you choose) until they go soft. They will turn slightly translucent at the same time. For best results, don’t use a very high heat, and salt them lightly because that seems to help the process.

Put the onions and mushrooms into a bowl.

Fry the minced beef. I do this in two 450g instalments.  The aim is to turn it from a pink lump

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into separate, brownish-grey grains.

Fry on a little oil or fat, not butter. With a wooden or plastic spatula, chop the lump into smaller lumps and turn them over

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As you carry on doing this, you will get more grey-brown and less pink until there is no pink left at all. At the same time some liquid will come out of the meat, so that it seems to be boiling rather than frying. Don’t worry about this but turn up the heat a little bit and carry on chopping and turning over. When the water has evaporated and the mince is all the same colour, turn off the gas, and tip everything from the frying pan into the casserole:

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If you taste a bit of it at this stage, it will feel like rubber and taste like it a little bit, as well. Don’t worry.

Put some more oil into the frying pan and do the second lot of minced beef in the same way as the first. Put it into the casserole.

Take the onions and mushrooms from the bowl and put them into the casserole as well.

You can add some spices at this stage. I use juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife:

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Juniper is very good with pork, but I like it with beef as well.

Some people add peppercorns, also slightly crushed, but I think it’s so discouraging when you’re eating mince and crunch a peppercorn by mistake, so I add some ground pepper instead. If I have bay leaves, I put in a couple, and in winter I also like to add some warming spices. This time I’ve used powdered cloves – they are very aromatic, so I use about half a level teaspoonful: no more.

The one thing left to add is the liquid from the mushrooms. I heat it up and dissolve a stock cube in it (I use the Kallo organic chicken ones, because they are not too salty – not the low-salt ones, though, because they taste of nothing).

When you have poured the liquid into the casserole and mixed everything up nicely, it will look something like this.

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Put it into the oven (which you turned on some time ago) at 200˚ for 30 minutes. Leave the lid of the casserole off.

At the end of this time the mince will have browned a bit on top. The liquid may have reduced a little bit, but the onions give off liquid of their own, so don’t worry if it all still looks wet.

Put the lid on, and put it back into the oven. Reduce the heat to 160˚ and let it cook for 2 hours.

At the end of this time, the mince should be a decent shade of brown and it should be moist but not drowning in liquid. If it seems too wet then I give it a stir, raise the heat to 200˚, and put it back in the oven without the lid, making sure to look at it and stir it every 10 minutes, so that it doesn’t burn.

Removing the fat

Minced beef isn’t usually very fatty, but just in case, what I do is this:

1. Push all the mince to one side of the casserole.

2. Tip the casserole so that the liquid flows away from the mince.

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3. Put the lid back on.

4. Leave it to cool for a few hours. I usually leave it overnight.

5. Put it in the fridge for a bit.

6. With a spatula or something, gently scrape the solidified fat off the liquid (which has now turned into a jelly).

7 Warm it all up and mix the liquid back together with the mince. I do this in the oven but if you have the sort of casserole that can be put on the stove, you can boil it up on the stove and mix it together there.

Final seasoning

Now it’s all been cooked, and is hot, it’s time to check the seasoning. It probably needs more salt, because the stock cube at the very beginning wasn’t very salty. Taste it and see, but remember that you probably need very little extra salt. You can’t take it out after you’ve put it in!

Let it cool, put most of it into boxes which you will freeze for later, but keep some to eat now.

While you are transferring the mince, try to get the bay leaves out because they have sharp edges and are not good to eat.