Sausage and Beans

A kind of elemental cassoulet, this is a good thing to cook when you’ve got a large hungry group to deal with. Maybe your church choir has been playing drinking games in the crypt. Who knows. To feed sixteen (not the sixteen) you’ll need the following quantities:

  • 3kg pork sausages (they need to be moderately fatty, some expensive sausages are commendably lean, but no good for this recipe)
  • 1kg onions
  • 1kg carrots
  • 1 large head of celery (800g or more)
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes and their juices
  • 1kg tinned canellini beans (that’s four 450g tins’ worth)
  • one head of garlic (or as much as you dare)
  • a bunch of thyme
  • a few dried bay leaves

You can cook this in two stages:

  1. Start by putting the sausages into a large roasting tin (single layer is best) and into the oven at Gas 6. They’ll need around an hour – but check and turn them every fifteen minutes or so. We’re aiming for dark wrinkly skins and sticky fatty juices at the bottom of the tin. So maybe they’ll need longer.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up the carrots, onion and celery: no need to dice, just 1cm pieces. I don’t bother peeling the carrots, but just give them a good scrub to get any dirt off the outside. Peel the individual garlic cloves; no need to chop or crush.
  3. When the sausages are done, fish them out of the roasting tin, and leave them somewhere to cool. The tin should have a layer of fat in it, do not discard.
  4. Put the carrots into the tin, combine with the sausage fat, and return to the oven for half an hour. Carrots are tough little bastards, and they need a head start.
  5. Add the onions, celery, garlic and bay leaves, plus salt and pepper. Return to the oven for another half an hour. Check them regularly and turn every ten minutes or so, making sure they’re lightly coated with the sausage fat. Again, we’re aiming to get them properly cooked, and lightly caramelised, with a hint of brown about the edges. Onions have a slight tendency to burn, so feel free to reduce the temperature if they’re browning too fast.
  6. When they’re done, decant them, and if there’s a particularly good fond on the roasting tin, then deglaze it with a little hot water, reduce, and add that liquid to the veg.

At this point you can stop, and park the cooked sausage and veg into a large container. When you’re ready to continue:

  1. Into a large pot, pour in the tinned tomatoes, and about a litre of water, bring to the boil, and simmer for about half an hour. (This is just to get the tomatoes properly cooked, which makes them sweeter and less acidic.)
  2. Add all the other ingredients: roast sausages, roast veg, beans, herbs.
  3. Gently simmer, stirring from time to time, until everything is hot, and you’re ready to go.

A few things to note:

  • If you want to double the quantity of garlic, then go for it. Double it again if you need. Go on. You know you want to.
  • You can perform the second stage in the oven if you have a large enough roasting tin, or tins. Make sure that the meat and veg are poking above the liquid, and the heat from the oven will make them get sticky and crisp.
  • You could replace the sausage with an equal quantity of hacked up pork shoulder.
  • If you want to use dried beans, then you’ll need to soak and cook in advance.

 

Monster Marmalade Muffins

orange-poppyseed

A quick fix for morning tea that takes about five minutes to whip up. You will need some large muffin cases, sometimes known as tulip cases: either buy them or make using six inch squares of baking parchment. The quantities here will produce four quite large muffins.

Preheat the oven to Gas 5.

In a saucepan, melt 50g of marmalade and 30g of butter, stirring to combine, turning off the heat just before melt is complete, and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 125g self raising flour, 30g sugar, ½tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of poppy seeds; mixing well.

Make sure the saucepan of melted butter/marmalade has cooled. Docteur de Pomiane’s expedient of sticking in one’s pinkie and ensuring it’s not painful works. Add one egg, and mix well, and then 100mL of milk, mixing again. (Add the ingredients in this order, otherwise you end up chasing lumps of solidified butter around the milk.)

Now pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix. Make sure all the flour is incorporated: it will be a little on the lumpy side but that doesn’t matter. Divide the mix between the four cases, and pop in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack for around five minutes before serving.

The orange flavour is fairly subtle, so you could add the zest of a lemon if you want something more fruity. (Some people use a drop of orange oil, but be careful, as this is immensely strong, and will irritate your skin in undiluted form.)


Fish Stock

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Making fish pie today so plenty of grisly remains, in particular, prawn heads, which are The Best Thing Ever for making fish stock. I had twelve “large” prawns which weighed around 350g in total. (Yes, I know, in certain parts of the world, these would be considered tiny, but hey ho.)

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So, heads cut off, shells removed, and into a medium saucepan. The meat was butterflied (use a small pair of scissors to do this) to remove the vein (well, the gastrointestinal tract) and reserved for the fish pie.

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Meanwhile, the grisly remains were given a good rinse, and I added: half an onion, salt, a few black peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Oh, and since I was skinning a cod fillet, I threw the skin in as well. (I was also skinning a smoked haddock fillet, but didn’t use that skin as the stock would have tasted of nothing but smoked haddock. The salmon skin was too oily, so also discarded.)

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Topped up with cold water to 2L, and the whole lot brought to a gentle simmer for twenty minutes, and then strained through a fine sieve.

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The resulting liquid was allowed to settle, disgorging quite a large amount of sediment.

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The saucepan was given a perfunctory rinse, and the liquid carefully poured back, so the sediment stayed in the bowl. Finally, brought back to the boil briefly, and the small amount of scum skimmed off. Final yield: one litre of fishy goodness.


Upside Down Fish Pie

I love fish pie, but I think baking in white sauce doesn’t show off nice fish to best effect, and it’s better steamed on top of the potato. If you’ve never tried the combination of chilli, garlic, cream and basil, then hold on to your hat.

To feed four greedy people plus leftovers, you will need:

  • 1kg potato (any variety)
  • 1kg fish (see below)
  • 350mL stock (fish, vegetable, or just hot water)
  • 150mL cream
  • one head garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • one bunch fresh basil (30g if you’re feeling precise, but you’ll only need the leaves)
  • 2tsp chilli flakes (more if you dare, or fresh hot chilli)
  • 15mL vegetable oil + 25g butter

For the fish I use a mix of cod, salmon, smoked haddock, and prawns; the fillets skinned and chopped into chunks. Check for bones and remove if necessary. Avoid heavily smoked or cured fish: tuna and mackerel would be out of place. If the prawns are whole, you can make quite nice stock with the shells and heads.

Peel and chop the potato into pieces no more than half an inch thick. If you’re using baby potatoes, don’t bother peeling, and just halve them.

Heat a large shallow casserole, and melt the butter in the oil, and fry the chilli flakes for around a minute, add the garlic, and keep frying until a pale gold colour. Add a generous pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Tip in the potatoes and continue to fry until they’re lightly coloured; probably a few more minutes. Pour over the stock and the cream, but don’t fret if there’s no stock to hand, just use water from a freshly boiled kettle. Crucially, try and arrange the potato pieces in a single layer and make sure there’s enough liquid in the pot for them to be mainly submerged but not drowned.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let the potato cook, stirring from time to time. Depending on the species of potato they will exude some starch and thicken the liquid. You may also need to top up the liquid from the kettle if it’s getting too low.

Once the potatoes are done – test by piercing a piece with a sharp knife; it should offer no resistance – fold in the basil leaves and layer the fish on top. Reduce the heat and cover. The fish should take around ten minutes to steam, but do keep an eye on it. A sure sign is that the cod is starting to separate into flakes.

Serve the whole thing at the table, with some steamed kale and bread to mop up the highly addictive juices.

You could, I suppose, do this with coconut cream, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, purple basil, and a blob of red curry paste.

Addendum, May 2015: unsure about the timing of guests’ arrival, so steamed potatoes first until they were done. One guest was on low FODMAP diet, so garlic and chilli fried in separate pan, and the oil reserved for cooking. (Three birds eye chillis verging on too hot.)


Naan

The following quantities make four naan.

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 2.5g salt
  • 1tsp dried yeast
  • 200mL warm water
  • optionally, 3tbsp plain yoghurt and/or a knob of melted butter and/or some vegetable oil; up to you

Mix dough as usual. It is much harder to measure 3tbsp of yoghurt than it sounds, so don’t worry too much about exact quantities, and the dough may need more/less water depending on the flour. Knead for 5 minutes, rise for 90 minutes, knock down, divide into four balls, roll out and cook in hot heavy pan (no oil) for a couple of minutes a side.


Saag Paneer

For four as a side.

  • 300g paneer, cubed – the shop bought stuff is best
  • 300g tin of spinach, and by this I mean a tin that yields 300g drained
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
  • as much as chilli you fancy, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1 clove, 1 cardamom pod, salt, black pepper
  • as much grated ginger as you dare (fine to use the stuff in jars, in which case at least one tablespoon)

Not much to say. Bash up the spices in a mortar. Melt the butter in the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the spices and fry for a minute. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add the paneer, and fry until lightly golden, stirring gently. Add the ginger and fry for another minute. Tip in the spinach, turn down the heat and stir until combined and the spinach is hot.

Don’t try and make your own paneer; too much pain. You could also brown a sliced up onion to the point of collapse before adding the paneer.  Tinned spinach won’t hurt, and will be more reminiscent of an English curry house, but you could obviously wilt down some fresh spinach on top of the fried paneer instead.


Spuds of Shame

These are a little naughty, and will have your guests licking their plates. To serve four people as a side dish you will need…

  • 1 kilo potatoes (any variety, I use baby potatoes)
  • 10g butter
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • as much garlic as you dare (four very fat cloves or half a head, peeled and finely sliced or chopped)
  • as much chilli as you dare (2tsp chilli flakes)
  • 150mL cream (single, double, doesn’t matter)

…and then…

  1. Hack up the potatoes into pieces of roughly equal thickness, maybe an inch or so; peel them if they have thick skins. When I use baby potatoes I just halve them down the long axis.
  2. Pop the spuds into a steamer and, well, steam them, until they’re done, which will probably be around 20 minutes. Check that they’re tender when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.
  3. Just as the spuds are finishing, melt the butter in a large pan, with the vegetable oil to stop it burning, and fry the garlic and chilli, until the garlic is translucent and golden.
  4. Tip in the potatoes and combine well, adding a generous sprinkle of salt and a thorough grind of black pepper. There’s no need to sauté the spuds.
  5. Finally, add the cream, combine well, wait for it to boil, and turn off the heat.

You could add more cream, more chilli and more garlic. Some finely chopped fresh basil leaves won’t hurt either, but don’t bother with dried for this dish.


Saag Aloo

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A useful side dish, or weeknight main. The following quantities will produce sides for four people or mains for two.

  • 800g potato
  • one small onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • one tin spinach (yes! a tin!)
  • spices, namely
    • ½ tsp cumin seeds
    • ½ tsp mustard seeds
    • ½ tsp chilli flakes
    • 2 cloves, bashed
    • ½ tsp turmeric

Finely slice the onion and pop in a large heavy pan with a smear of vegetable oil, and a generous pinch of salt, on a low heat to colour. Don’t let it burn.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato, keeping an eye on the onion. Don’t let it burn. Peel and chop the garlic. Boil the kettle.

When you’ve finished the potato, the onion will be done, if not, be patient. Push the onion to one side, and fry the garlic, adding more oil as necessary. When it’s slightly translucent, shove it to one side, and add the spices, except for the turmeric. Toast them for a minute or so, and then add the potato and the turmeric, mixing everything up.

Finally, arrange the potato in a single layer, and pour over enough boiled water to almost cover. Bring the whole lot to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

The potatoes will cook in their own darned time, which will be around 25 minutes, and as they cook they will exude starch, thickening the liquid, which is also reducing. So. Don’t forget to stir occasionally and, if it starts to stick to the bottom, add a splash more water from the kettle.

Finally, when the spuds are done, add the tinned spinach (casually, but not exhaustively drained) and stir well, to combine. Another minute or so, and it’s ready to serve, although may need more salt.


Braised Pork in Cider

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What it says on the tin. To feed four, you will need:

  • 750g pork shoulder (or something fatty, sinewy and interesting)
  • 750g baby potatoes
  • 500mL of cider (you could use a light sweetish ale, if you prefer)
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves (or thyme)
  • half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • salt, pepper
  • 60mL cream

Here’s what you do.

  1. Chop up the pork into 3cm pieces, doesn’t need to be particularly neat and leave the fat attached.
  2. Halve the potatoes lengthways – if there are any large ones chop them in four. (Baby potatoes have delicate skins, so no need to peel.)
  3. Wash and pull the stalks off the sage leaves; I ended up with about 10g of leaves. (I don’t think dried sage will work.)
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  4. Place everything in a shallow casserole, add the fennel, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over enough of the cider so everything is half submerged, you’ll probably need most, but not all of your 500mL.s-DSC01704
  6. Pop into a pre-heated oven on Gas 5, around 180°C, or 160°C if using a fan oven, what you’re aiming for is a gentle bubbling in the liquid around the very edges of the pot. Turn the oven down if this becomes too furious.
  7. Give everything a stir from time to time, so the meat and spuds are browned all over.
  8. It will need around two hours; less if everything is in a single layer. Start checking after ninety minutes: the pieces of pork will fall apart quite easily when they’re done. Note that a fan oven may cook things faster than this, so watch out. The liquid will reduce, and you’ll end up with less than a centimetre at the bottom when done, but if looks like drying out, top up with water from a freshly boiled kettle, and again, consider reducing the temperature.
  9. Stir in the cream just before serving.

Serve with something wintery, like kale.

And plenty of beer.


Carnitas

s-DSC01688This is ace. I used:

  • 1 kg diced pork shoulder from the posh supermarket (a whole five pounds)
  • 10g sea salt
  • 3 whole dried chipotles, roughly chopped, seeds and all
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and squished
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

Mix the pork and salt and leave for an hour two, or overnight in the fridge.

Put everything into a roasting tin, where it will fit in a single layer, and pour over boiling water to almost, but not quite cover the meat. Place in the oven for two hours at Gas 4 (thermometer reckoned 160°C) – uncovered – stir once or twice as the top starts to brown. It may dry out a little fast in a fan oven, so you may want to top up the liquid level. After two hours, start poking and prodding: the meat should more or less collapse given a squeeze, the fat should have rendered, and there will be a scant quarter inch of dark gooey juices at the bottom of the tin, into which the chilli and garlic will have collapsed and dissolved.

Extract the meat with a slotted spoon and shred with a pair of forks, but leave the roasting tin on the bench, and under no circumstances discard the liquid.

carnitas

Return the shredded meat to the roasting tin, and combine with the liquid: the extra surface area will probably absorb most, if not all of it.

Return to the oven for another half an hour to crisp up, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.