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.

 

 

Avocado and grapefruit salad

SaladAvocados discolour if you don’t put lemon juice on them.

If lemon, why not some other citrus fruit? Grapefruit, for instance. And that is how this recipe started.

After the first couple of goes I realised that I was not made to cut grapefruit open and separate the segments. So I don’t.

Two ripe avocados.
A tin of grapefruit in fruit juice (not syrup), 300g drained.
A bag of Iceberg lettuce, 300g.
Pomegranate seeds, 100g.

Halve the avocados, remove the stone, remove the skin, chop the avocado halves into smallish pieces.

Drain the grapefruit and drink the juice (why not?). If you have the patience, cut each segment in half to make it a more sensible size.

Mix the chopped avocado and the grapefruit segments by hand in a big bowl.

If any of the lettuce leaves seem too big, tear them up. Mix them into the avocado and grapefruit.

Either sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top or mix them in.

Variations

The pomegranate seeds are optional. They are there because I was passing them in the shop once while gathering the other ingredients, and they looked fun. They are, and they add another colour, flavour and texture.

Sometimes tinned grapefruit doesn’t seem to be available. I don’t know if this is Waitrose being erratic or whether there are crop failures from time to time. In any case, when I can’t get tinned grapefruit I use tinned mandarin oranges (again, in juice not syrup) instead. The flavour of the salad is less distinguished then, but brighter and sweeter. (The picture is of the mandarin orange version).

If you have a friend coming to lunch who is allergic to avocados, omit the avocados. I know an avocado and grapefruit salad with no avocado doesn’t sound as if it makes much sense but actually it isn’t bad, and you can eat the avocados yourself later.

 

That squid dish

Squid 1This dish sort of grew.

I saw some of those baby squid – the ones about 3-4″ long that come with a bunch of tentacles tucked into their bodies – and I thought, “Why not?”. So I got them.

Now, streaky bacon works with scallops, so I thought “Why not with squid?”. So I got some.

The idea was to fry some of the bacon until it had exuded a decent amount of fat, then turn up the heat and fry the squid in it. It worked, up to a point, but then the squid started exuding water, and more water, and more water still, and the frying turned into boiling. Boiled bacon.

Turning up the heat didn’t help. It still boiled, just more vigorously. Drying the squid thoroughly beforehand didn’t help either.

Pouring off the surplus liquid seemed a cheat, and besides I was afraid that a lot of flavour would be poured away with it.

Then I had an idea: don’t pour the liquid away, absorb it. To me, “absorb” means “rice”. And so the story begins. If I’m telling it now it’s because so many friends have asked me for the recipe. (Though one should always remember P.G. Wodehouse: “But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is.” “Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir.”)

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Goose giblet sauce

Getting the goose is easy enough: we get ours from Northfield Farm.

Cooking the goose is easy enough: since 2003 we’ve used the wonderful recipe from The Daily Telegraph.

But what to do with the giblets is another story. I used to freeze them, with good intentions, and then throw them away a year or two later. A terrible waste. Then last year I found out, from somewhere, how to make a gravy from them (or sauce: I never quite know the difference). This year I couldn’t find that recipe again, but I patched together a few recipes I found around the place and the sauce was a stunning success. Here is a record of what I did: for Posterity, and, more importantly, for me for next year:

Make the stock

Goose giblets (apart from the liver)
Goose neck
A large onion
A stick of celery
A carrot
A bay leaf or so
Half a dozen black peppercorns

Halve each of the giblets – heart, kidneys, and so on, to give more surface for the water to attack them. Make cuts on both sides of the neck, with the same aim. Quartered the onion, cut the carrot into half lengthways, and chop the celery into chunks.

Put the giblets and the onion into a saucepan, covered them with cold water and bring them to the boil. A lot of scum will rise to the surface: skim it off. Add the other ingredients, bring it all to the boil again, and reduce it to a simmer. Simmer it for 3 hours.

Strain it through a colander. Keep both the stock and the giblets: the vegetables can be discarded. The stock will be watery and won’t taste of much. Don’t worry.

Put the stock in a saucepan and boil it hard to reduce it. I do this by setting a kitchen timer to go off every 8 minutes, which means that I’ll see when it’s reduced enough for use without discovering that it’s burnt to the bottom of the pan and I have to throw the pan away.

(An ingenious idea which I had too late but will try next year is to measure the volume of the sauceboat(s) I’ll be using and measure how high up the saucepan that amount of liquid would come, because that tells me how far I should be aiming to reduce the stock).

While the stock is reducing, chop the giblets into as small pieces as you can manage. Remove the meat from the neck and do the same to it.

Make the sauce

Once the stock is reduced enough, tip the giblets into it and mix it all up. It will be grey and lumpy and taste of not much. There will also be more of it than there was, because the chopped giblets take up space.

Let it cool down to some extent, and whizz it up in the blender. This will make the sauce smooth, though thick. It will still be grey and tasteless.

Boil it up, and simmer it a bit to reduce it. Add some salt to bring out the flavour (remarkably little is needed). Grind some black pepper into it. If you have some red wine around, tip a glass or so into it.

This can all be done the day before. Reduce the sauce down a bit, to the volume you actually want, let it cool, and put it in the fridge.

The next day, the sauce will probably have set into a delightful mousse. Resist the temptation to eat most of it with a spoon. Instead, bring it to the boil and pour a substantial slug of brandy into it. Let it simmer for a few moments, take it off the heat and pour it into the sauceboat(s).

It will still look grey, but it will be outrageously delicious. I think the brandy makes all the difference.

Notes

The above recipe is not what I did, in two respects.

  1. When I went to Northfield Farm’s stall at Borough Market to collect the goose, someone hadn’t wanted their giblets, so I got an extra packet, which made the sauce extra thick.
  2. I’d made a stock from the bones of a roast duck we’d had for Christmas, so I added it to the goose stock when making the sauce.

And the goose liver?

Opinions vary. Some people say that it goes grey and bitter through long cooking, or recommend adding it only at the last moment. So I’ve kept the liver aside altogether and I’m going to see what happens if I dust it with flour and fry it lightly.

PS

H did a comparative analysis on the web and many people recommend sautéing the giblets for 5 minutes, or even sautéing the vegetables too. I’m not convinced, since the idea is surely to get the flavour out of the giblets into the stock, but perhaps it may make the final sauce more brown and less grey. After all, some people roast bones before making stock out of them.

Feijão preto con conchiglioni au gratin (I suppose)

My friend J always has issues, one way or another, and just recently he’s decided to add vegetarianism to his collection. Ah, well. He came round to dinner before Christmas, and the weather being cold, I thought I’d better serve food, which vegetables usually aren’t. This is the result.

120g of black turtle beans
One largish onion
3 cloves of garlic
100g or so of tomato purée from a tube
A level teaspoonful of chipotle paste

8 baby plum tomatoes
One red pepper
Two or three sticks of celery
250g of conchiglioni [dried pasta, not fresh]

Soft breadcrumbs

Parmesan, bought in a lump and grated

Soak the beans. The books say “4 hours”, but it’s less bother to do it overnight.

Drain the beans, put them into a saucepan, put in enough water to cover them by an inch BUT NO SALT, bring them to the boil and simmer them for two hours. Stir them from time to time in case they try to stick to the bottom of the pan, and add a little more water if needed.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel the garlic and chop it finely.

Go to the market to look for mallards for Christmas and, failing to find any, get a duck instead. Noticing some baby plum tomatoes (about as cheap as you’d expect them to be in mid-December), get a few. Get a pepper while you’re about it. Come home.

Halve the tomatoes. Slice the pepper and cut the slices into short strips. An elegant chef would have peeled the pepper beforehand, I suppose. Chop the celery into half-inch pieces. (I only used the celery because I had it there).

When your friend arrives, put the oven on to 180° or so. Boil the conchiglioni for the time it says on the packet (I had been planning to use conchiglie, but I saw their bigger cousins and they looked fun).

In a big frying pan, fry the onions and garlic gently until they’re transparent. Take a tablespoonful of the beans and mash them into the onions and garlic with the back of the spoon. Repeat until all the beans are used up. Mix in the tomato purée and the chipotle paste. Add salt to taste. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the tomatoes, the strips of pepper and the pieces of celery. They will keep most of their texture while the dish is in the oven and they’ll add some juiciness to the final result, which otherwise might be a bit monotonous texturally.

Now put the conchiglioni and the bean mixture together into a casserole. It seems best to put a layer of pasta and a layer of beans, mix them, and then do the next layers.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the grated parmesan and put a thick layer of them on top of the casserole, covering everything. My guess is that it was rather more than half an inch thick.

Put the casserole into the oven, without its lid, and bake for half an hour.

This dish ought to serve more than two people but it was delicious and the weather was cold and one thing led to another. No pictures, I’m afraid, but if I do it again then I’ll take some, because the colours go so well together. Purple-black from the beans, off-white pasta, yellowish and brownish crust, and the odd bit of red from the tomatoes and pepper.

Origins: the feijão preto recipe comes from The Book of Latin American Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. I added the pepper because I wanted to vary the texture, the baby tomatoes because I saw them, and the celery because it was lying around. The bake-with-pasta technique is something I’ve seen used with shellfish in a white sauce, and I thought it might work here.

Sausages

The trouble with sausages is cooking them. If you grill them, they spit. If you put water in the grill pan to stop the juices burning, it sloshes. If you bake them in the oven, it takes half an hour and they come out overcooked and grainy.

I complained to a butcher, and he suggested microwaving them first.

This is for ordinary fat sausages, not chipolatas.

  1. Microwave for 2 minutes at full blast.
  2. Then bake (20 minutes at 210°, turning now and then), or grill (if you have a hot grill) or fry. You can use a high heat and a short time because you don’t have to worry about the inside being raw.

The result has a much smoother texture than usual because the sausage has been cooked more gently. It feels almost like a frankfurter, but seared.