Tag Archives: Winter

Baked Pears

Don’t know where this one comes from. To feed six you’ll need:

  • six large pears (doesn’t matter if they’re a bit bland or a bit woody, this recipe works with all sorts)
  • two lemons
  • 50g sugar
  • 50 butter
  • vanilla pod

Peel the pears and slice them thinly. Modern breeds of pear don’t need coring, but pick out any gnarly bits. Arrange the pears in a shallow dish and squeeze the lemons over them. If you’re going to leave them for a while, give them a good toss, as the lemon juice will stop them going brown. (Ditto, if you’re using apples instead of pears.)

Meanwhile, melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan, split the vanilla pod, and throw it in. Not worth trying to extract the seeds. Bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly, and if the mixture darkens very slightly, all the better. Pour this over the pears.

At this point, you can leave the dish until required.

When ready, pop into a hot oven, around Gas 5, for about forty five minutes. Keep an eye on them, and occasionally rearrange, so all the pears are coated with juice, and none dry out. I use a pair of barbecue tongs to do this. They may get a little brown and sticky about the edges (good!) but you don’t want to burn them.

The sophisticated would probably serve this with mascarpone, I’d go for vanilla ice cream.


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Simple Stew

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Sorry about the slightly murky photo, but it’s that kind of a dish: essentially one pound beef, one pound veg, and a pint of porter.

In this case the beef was just some generic stewing steak, and the veg were some baby charlottes, a large carrot, and a leek. The beer was Guinness’ West Indies Porter, which is a strong, fruity brew, with undercurrents of bitter chocolate. The meat was tossed in seasoned flour before browning in oil and butter, the beer added, followed by some vigorous scraping and stirring to dislodge the fond and then the veg added after that. I had a small bunch of thyme handy, so that and a bay leaf were popped in for good measure. (You could use dried thyme and maybe also add a few peeled cloves of garlic.)

Brought to the boil, and then reduced to a firm simmer. It can’t just gloop gently, or the collagen in the meat won’t break down; it needs to be bubbling gently. Around two hours, but it’s one of those things that’s done when it’s done.

Serves two; obviously with more of the porter to wash it down.

Suet Dumplings

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A quick note: per person you will need 50g plain flour, 20g suet (the shredded stuff in packets, e.g. Atora), 1tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Mix dry ingredients, and add just enough water to bring it together into a ball of dough.

Divide into four pieces and roll between the palms of your hands to render them spherical and dust with a little extra flour if they’re sticky. Pop them on top of a firmly simmering stew for 20 minutes; covered.

If you forget the baking powder, then you will end up with quite solid dumplings: still very tasty, but unmistakably Victorian.

Winter Salad

Just a quick improvisation: chicory leaves, walnuts, black grapes, satsuma segments, and a very basic honey mustard dressing.

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.


Happy Sprouts

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My childhood memories of sprouts are not happy ones. My family’s traditional approach meant Christmas sprouts went on the boil in late November, and were little flaccid bags of sour farty nastiness. They have since been rescued from my hate list by pancetta, which improves just about everything, except perhaps ice cream.

This is based on something that Him What Knows dishes up on a regular basis, although I confess I don’t have the original recipe. Even devout sprout haters like me will be happy after a few mouthfuls of this.

Start by getting a large frying pan going at a low heat, and gently frying 75g of pancetta, stirring occasionally. Nowt of that foreign muck? Just some sweet cured belly bacon will do.

Wash 600g of Brussels Sprouts and slice off the stalks and any icky bits. If you slice off too much stalk, the sprout will come to pieces.

By now the pancetta should be well on its way to being golden, crispy and oozing out most of its fat, so boil the sprouts in a small saucepan of water until you can pierce one with a skewer. Expect a reasonable amount of resistance: they’ll keep cooking in their own heat and they’re due for more in the frying pan.

Drain them and add to the frying pan, along with 200g cooked chestnuts (you can purchase these in handy vacuum sealed bags), 25g butter, a generous grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. Raise the heat slightly, and fry for five minutes, stirring from time to time. Quite a lot of gunk will build up on the bottom of the pan, so deglaze with around 30mL of Vermouth, which will be absorbed quite rapidly, before transferring to a warmed dish to serve.


Root Veg

Here’s what goes with the slow roast lamb shoulder. In terms of timing, it’s quite forgiving.

  • 600g parnsnips
  • 600g carrots
  • salt, pepper
  • 2tbsp honey

Wash and scrub the veg thoroughly, but I wouldn’t bother peeling them. Quarter them lengthways: you want pieces of roughly equal thickness, so slimmer roots can just be halved or trisected if your knife skillz are up to it. Some parsnips have very thin spindly ends, which will burn, so chop them off.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and add the carrots. After five minutes add the parsnips. After another five minutes try piercing a piece of carrot with a metal skewer. If you can, albeit with a little resistance, then they’re done.

Drain the veg and then tip them into small baking dish (one or two layers) and add 25g fat: duck fat or butter is preferable; lard or vegetable oil in an emergency. Toss them around with a spoon to get them coated, and season lightly. You can now set aside, at room temperature, for as long as you need.

If, like me, you’re doing lamb at Gas 2, then pop them in an hour before the lamb is done. When I remove the lamb, I then crank the oven up to max, and also remove this dish, so I can pour over the honey, toss again to coat, and then return to the oven for another fifteen minutes. That way they’re done at the same time the lamb has finished resting. Do keep an eye on them, as the honey glaze can burn quite rapidly.

Otherwise about half an hour on Gas 5 (190°C, less in a fan oven) basting with the honey after fifteen minutes.


Slow Lamb III

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There are variants of this published elsewhere, but with timings, temperatures and instructions that simply don’t work for me. I blame publishers’ timetables and the lack of decent testing and copy editing, rather than the authors.

Anyway, this is a handy dish as you get the meat and spuds out of the way up front, giving you a chance to get on with everything else. The layer of skin, fat and connective tissue on top, combined with the steam from the stock below, will keep the meat moist for the long cooking period.

To feed six you will need:

  • a whole shoulder of lamb, bone in: this will be around two kilos
  • a kilo of potatoes: the floury sort, e.g. King Edward, work the best
  • one large or two medium brown onions
  • a whole head of garlic (or more if you want)
  • a fistful of herbs (fresh thyme is best, however, if you use rosemary, then just half a dozen stalks, as it’s a bit of a bully)
  • around 800mL stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • salt, pepper, bay leaves

Start with the spuds. You’ll need to peel them and slice them to around an eighth of an inch in thickness. I use a mandoline for this. Ditto the onion. Put a layer of potatoes at the bottom of a large roasting tin, then the onion in a single layer, a couple of bay leaves, and a grind of pepper, and just a touch of salt. Continue to layer the potatoes on top: it needs to be even but not pretty. The combined potato and onion layer should be around an inch deep in total. Pour over the stock, it should almost, but not quite, cover the potato. (Just top up with water if you don’t have enough stock.) Spread the herbs in a layer on top of the potato.

Pre heat the oven as high as it will go.

Use a sharp knife to score the very outside of the joint in five or six long cuts, about two inches apart. (That’s the convex side, with membrane or possibly skin depending on how real your butcher keeps it.) Rub some salt into the cuts. Dismember and peel the garlic, and using a sharp knife, make holes in the underside (that’s the concave side) of the joint, and insert the garlic cloves. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, just spread the cloves on top of the herbs.

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Put the whole lot in the oven, leaving it at maximum for five minutes before reducing to gas mark 2, which is around 150°C in my oven. Fan ovens probably need to be around 135°C.

It will need five hours. Check every hour or so, and don’t be afraid to top up the liquid if it seems to be drying out. It is almost impossible to overcook this, the risk is undercooking. After about two hours the stock should be glooping gently, and the joint softly hissing at the fat runs out from under the skin and gently bastes the meat. At the end of the fourth hour, slide a skewer into the thickest part of the joint. If you’re met with a lot of resistance, you may need to turn the oven up a notch.

(If you just happen to have about a kilo of parboiled carrots and parsnips tossed in a couple of tablespoons of duck fat or butter, and lightly seasoned, slide them into the oven on the shelf beneath the meat at this point.)

By the end of hour five, a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the joint should meet with no resistance at all, and the job is done. Remove the tray from the oven, cover with foil, and leave to rest for twenty minutes.

(The theoretical carrots and parsnips should be removed, doused with two tablespoons of honey, tossed, and returned to the oven, set again to maximum, whilst the meat rests. Sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts would complete the picture.)

Dish up. You should be able to carve the lamb with a spoon. Try not to fight over the potatoes.


Minestrone

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Just a simple Friday night supper with The Major and Him What Knows in attendance. Since The Major might have been delayed, mains was a large pot of minestrone, biding its time on the hob, whilst we waited and devoured olives and schinkenspeck. The latter is as tasty as Parma ham, and about half the price.

I sweated 150g pancetta until crunchy and rendered; about fifteen minutes. Added 400g diced aromatics (onions and carrots), a knob of butter, salt and pepper, and then continued to sweat until the veg were soft and starting to caramelise. Another half hour – I wasn’t timing as I was doing the washing up. One 450g tin of chopped tomatoes, an equal amount of water, and a 450g tin of cannellini beans were added, the whole lot brought to the boil and then reduced to a simmer. A teaspoon of dried oregano and a bay leaf dropped in.

Secret ingredient time! Right now, you can get baby white cabbages in the shops, only slightly larger than your fist, which are full of flavour, and none of the unpleasant side effects of their larger brethren. I took one of these, only around 400g, peeled off the outer couple of leaves, and then sliced into segments, with a bit of stalk attached to each to hold the leaves together. Soup topped up with a bit of hot water from the kettle as it was getting gluggy, and the cabbage dropped gently on top. Another hour’s simmering, and a handful of cooked macaroni tossed in before serving with plenty of bread and grana.


Marmalade IV

Much better this time. The oranges peeled first, and the peel shredded before plonking in pot, as per this procedure.

This time, however, the innards of the oranges were popped into a jug, water added to cover, and then blitzed into a rough pulp with a hand blender, which is one of my favourite kitchen gadgets. (I’d be less fond of it with children on the premises as there are no safety features whatsoever.)

Thence into the muslin, which had been damped first, so it could be tied into a ruthlessly tight knot. Note that it’s worth shopping around for your muslin: the Middle Class Retailer near my office sells a single 46cm square for five quid, whilst Nisbet’s sells a 1m × 10m piece for twenty pounds. That’s £20 and £2 per square metre, respectively. (Lakeland worked out at £6/m2 but it comes in 12″ squares, so hardly useful. They are, however, just about the only place that will sell you non posh jam jars.)

The finely shredded peel took only an hour to cook – crucial that it reaches the stage where it can easily be crushed by light pressure between your fingers.

The bag of innards was hoisted out, and popped into a jug with some cold water to cool it down. With the knot being firm I was able to simply hold it by the knot, and twist the bag, to get all the gooey slimey pectin out, which obligingly stuck to my hands, but could be washed off in the aforementioned jug. When I’d finished, the squeezed bag was barely bigger than a single one of the oranges I’d started with. Contents of jug then added for the second stage.

As usual for me, 1.5kg of caster sugar (to an original 1 kilo of Seville oranges) and the whole lot topped up to 3 litres. The usual boiling and waiting for “a set” followed.

Cooled for 15 mins and stirred so the peel would be more evenly distributed when finally popped into jars.

And now, having become almost as obsessive about marmalade as I once was about pastéis de nata, I shall sign off, biding you all a rousing Fat Tuesday, and a suitably mournful Lent.