Beef Thick Rib, Oxtail, Crispy Kale and Asparagus

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Well chaps, we’ve hit ‘peak beard’ apparently. I am one of the apparent bandwagon jumpers clinging to the coat-tails of the rich and famous by aping their facial fungus fad. Except, I didn’t as far as I was aware – maybe it was a subconscious thing having noticed all the hipsters knocking around the various new undecorated bars eating pigs ears and cauliflower fritters with their American hop ales. Or, I took the opportunity to pack in the daily ritual of shaving for the last 20-odd years and make it look intentional. Yeah, it must be that.

[Dubious link alert] It got me thinking though: have we hit the slow cook peak? The current trend for cheap and unusual cuts of meat and offal. I don’t think so yet, and I certainly hope we haven’t. Use more of the animals we choose to kill for our meat I say. 1 – because it seems the right thing to do and 2 – because it’s bloody delicious.

This recipe actually took a couple of days to prepare, but in the tradition of slow cooked foods, actually takes up very little of your time. Pot. Meat. Veg. Lid on. That’s it. There is a little bit to do at the end of course, but that’s the fun part.

Beef thick rib

Here I used a thick rib of beef on the bone and some oxtail. Both are slow cooked kings and cheap as chips. If you cook them in a casserole pot/dutch oven with some liquid you can leave it and forget about it. Again, as I always do nowadays, I switched off the oven and left the pot to rest. The best thing about these cuts is that they make their own stock as you go.

Made a nice combination, but you need a weekend to make this. The asparagus is the first of the new season too. The kale is pretty much as you’d make kale chips – with the brine water evaporating to leave the leaves nicely seasoned. The onion puree is nice and sweet to compliment the very savory ingredients otherwise.

The oxtail and barley croquette is a bit of a job to do but was very good so I urge you to try it.

Serves 2:

For the beef/oxtail braising

  • 1x600g thick beef rib, on the bone.
  • About 300g oxtails
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 celery stick, halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 star anise
  • Water to cover
  • Salt and black pepper.

For the crispy kale:

  • 4 handfuls of kale
  • 2 good pinches of salt and a little water

For the onion puree:

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • A little light cream (enough to loosen)
  • Salt

For the asparagus:

  • 6 pieces of asparagus
  • A little oil
  • Pinch of salt.

For the oxtail and barley croquettes:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Barley (about 3 handfuls)
  • Salt and black pepper.

Fry the meat in batches until well browned in a hob proof casserole pot. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Place in a low oven (130 degrees C) for 3 hours – then turn the oven off and leave overnight – it will be fine if you leave the oven shut and the lid on.

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The next morning, chill the pot in the fridge. This hardens any fat on the surface so you can scrape it off.

About 2 hours before, pick the meat from the oxtail. Cook the barley in a pan for about 20-30 minutes until soft but with bite. Drain, cool, mix with the oxtail, season and chill until cold and ‘mouldable’. Meanwhile, trim the beef rib of remaining fat, removing the bone, into neat oblongs.

Set aside. Heat the pan back up and pour the cooking liquor, which will have ‘jellified’ into a small pan for later (cover with film for now).

Chop and fry the onions and garlic in a pan with a little oil or butter until browned and caramelised. Blend well with enough cream to make a loose puree. Pour back into the pan and season to taste. Put the lit on and keep until needed.

Put the oven on for the kale and beef rib (moderate heat will do).

Heat a griddle pan and char the asparagus with a little oil and salt until nicely marked and softened. Delicious.

Flash fry the beef rib in a pan and transfer to the oven to heat through. Leave to rest somewhere wam. Heat the saved cooking liquor, reducing a little if necessary to make an intense sauce

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Roll the oxtail/barley mix with wet hands into golf ball sized rounds (one each) and dip first in the seasoned flour, then egg and finally the bread crumbs. Deep fry them gently until nicely golden.

Meanwhile, and lastly, mix the kale with the salt/water to produce a mild brine and bake in the oven until crisp. It takes only minutes.

Serve it up and enjoy with a nice big Shiraz as you’ll deserve it after doing all this.

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Bratwurst, Green Slaw and Mushroom Hash

Bratwurst, green slaw and mushroom hash

Driving home in the sun this evening, I started to feel that spring has really sprung. Once I got in I opened the back doors and the birds were singing. The frog spawn in the pond was incubating its inky black spots and the tree blossom was being carried in the breeze. I just knew it was time to uncover the BBQ for the first time in 4 months.

Right.

…So anyway, whilst that’s being steeped in bleach, I thought I’d use the griddle pan in the kitchen for this dish.

This is pretty simple but something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. The Bratwurst sausages are great with the green slaw, which is inspired by a version found in the Pitt Cue Co’s book. A good book by the way. The sweet and sour dressing was all mine though and I added some tahini for a little bitter richness.

The mushroom hash was actually more a kind of warm potato salad, but worked well.

Serves 2:

4 Bratwurst sausages if you’re hungry. Two if not.

For the green slaw:

  • 3 savoy cabbage leaves
  • About a quarter to a third of a white cabbage
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • Half a green pepper
  • Half a celery stick
  • Handful of hazelnuts

Green slaw ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp raspberry and chilli vinegar (very much optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/s tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of sea salt
  • 1 tsp tahini

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For the mushroom hash:

  • 2 large flat mushrooms sliced.
  • About 12 baby potatoes, halved
  • Dried thyme
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, left in their skins
  • 1/2 a white onion, sliced thinly
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to moderate-high.

Start with the potatoes. Par boil them for about 10 minutes. Drain and lay on a deep baking tray with the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Season with salt and sprinkle over thyme and olive oil.

Roast until the potatoes are browned.

Mushroom Hash

Meanwhile, make the slaw by very finely shredding the two types of cabbage, onion, celery and green pepper. Mix well in  bowl. Roughly crush the hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar (or with a rolling pin) and add them in.

Hazelnuts

Make the slaw dressing by mixing the ingredients in a bottle (I used a squeezy serving bottle) and shake well to mix. Taste and adjust it as you see fit.

Griddle the sausages until marked well then transfer to the oven to heat through.

Bratwurst

Serve the sausages on the hash with the dressed slaw on top and your choice of sauce – I had some good Dijon mustard, and a nice cold continental beer.

Bratwurst, green slaw and mushroom hash

Mango with Yoghurt and Cinnamon Crumble.

Mango yoghurt Crumble

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and you can probably tell that by the dearth of dessert recipes on here. I do appreciate a good pud though and when I have them, it tends to be something like this.

To be fair, I guess you could eat this for breakfast too, but as I mentioned previously, mornings are not my natural environment and the likelihood of knocking this out on a weekday morning is about the same as Miley Cyrus turning out to be a Mormon.

I liked this though – it’s a nice balance of smooth tangy yoghurt and mango, super-sweet maple syrup, and crunchy oat crumble.

It was only after putting it all together, in a nice pot, that I realised what I’d done. It’s a bloody Muller® Crumble Corner.

So, 0/10 for originality, but this is hand-made and uses fresh fruit so take that Muller.

Mango yoghurt crumble ingredients

Makes 2

  • 1 Mango, peeled, stoned  and cubed.
  • About 6 heaped tbsp of plain yoghurt (3 in each)
  • Maple syrup

For the crumble:

  • 20g Rolled oats
  • 50g Plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 20g Sugar (or to taste)
  • 40g Butter

Mix all the dry crumble ingredients into a bowl and then rub in the butter to make a crumble.

mixing crumble

Lay it out on a baking tray. Bake on a high heat in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, but being careful not to burn it.

Crumble on baking tray

Set aside to cool

Add the mango pieces and yoghurt to a pot, and swirl in some maple syrup.

Sprinkle over the crumble topping and tuck in.

 

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables.

chicken teriyaki

Japanese food remains a bit of an enigma to me. I love it, don’t get me wrong but having had limited exposure to Japanese restaurants, other than the few westernised versions scatted here and there around the North East, I don’t understand it.

I Google/Binged it of course and there are a number of helpful websites out there demonstrating how Japanese ordinarily eat meals, nicely preceded by a simple and typically efficient “itadakimasu”. The trouble is I have to try and translate this to the local restaurants. There’s a good one I like in Newcastle called Osaka: friendly service, informal atmosphere, plenty of Japanese diners (my favourite yardstick for ethnic restaurants). The menu however, is a bit of a dichotomy; on the one hand I love the variety, but on another, it confuses the life out of me.

Now I must point out at this stage, that this is far from the biggest problem life can throw at a person, but then this is a food blog. ‘Order-panic’, when the waitress comes over for the second time, is up there with wanting to use the salt and noticing someone seated  after  you had their order taken first. Major dining issues.

I’m going to try and learn more about Japanese food though. Fortunately these days Japanese ingredients are getting easier and easier to find – another benefit of international  students coming to study in my local cities

This is something I made a little while back with moderately tangible Japanese origins. It’s healthy though (or so I believe this week – see my last piece) and tasty. Chicken thigh would have been better as I find no matter how long I marinate chicken breast, it struggles to take on flavour, but the glaze is intensely flavoured.

I use a plastic food bag as you can push most the air out and well cover the chicken, rather than have the marinade pooling in the bottom of a container. You can get away with making much less marinade too that way.

I cooked the vegetables on a stupidly high heat for only a minute with a small amount of soy and  sesame oil and were nicely smoked as a result.

And, yes I’m aware the chicken is not getting eaten with those chopsticks.

Serves 2:

  • 2 Chicken supremes, skin on or off, I removed it later anyway.
  • Teriyaki marinade:
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 3 tbsp honey
    • 2 tbsp mirin
    • 2 tbsp sake or Chinese rice wine
  • Sesame seeds to finish.
  • 100g rice.
  •  1 tbsp ground nut oil
  • Mixed vegetables, I used: thinly sliced spring onion, sugar snap/snow peas, baby corn, red chilli, garlic and small broccoli heads.

A little soy and  a few drops of sesame oil to flavour.

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki marinade for a day, or two (preferably two as I did here).

chicken in a teriyaki marinade

Heat then oven to a high setting – 200 to 220°C or 390-430°F

Boil the pain rice for about 15 minutes, using the absorption method.

Remove any skin, as it will just shrivel up, and roast in the oven on a wire rack/tray. Brush with the marinade frequently to get a nice glaze. The chicken will be done once at 60-65°C/140-150°F in the centre. Check using a thermometer probe, but it will be about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

Sprinkle the seeds over the chicken and leave to rest.

Make the vegetables: stir fry them in smoking hot oil for just a minute or two, flavouring with the soy and sesame oil at the end.

Serve it all up. Itadakimasu.

chicken teriyaki

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamb Kleftiko Flatbread Wraps.

Lamb kleftiko wrap

In my recent absence, I’ve seen a lot of articles on food and now I’m really confused.

I thought I had the food and nutrition thing sorted. Alcohol is bad. Or not, if you don’t drink too much. A little is good for you though, but don’t drink it everyday. But they say a little red wine each day is good for you – ask the French or the Italians. It continues…

But come on now, everyone knows that saturated fats are bad and to be eliminated from your diet it you want to dodge coronary heart disease. Right? A report in the Telegraph says otherwise……

Carbohydrates are good for performance if you’re an athlete but unhelpful in maintaining the waistline if not. In sugar form? Don’t even think about it, that’s now the devil incarnate according to the media and is the current bad boy of processed food, being used to replace the flavour lost in our quest for ever ‘lower fat’.

The upshot is – I’ve stopped worrying about it all honesty.  Proper butter is high in calories and cholesterol, I know that, so we use less of it. Mayo? I normally make my own and bear witness to the amount of oil going into it so the same goes. Fresh bread is delicious, just don’t go mad.

It’s all about balance isn’t it? So, if you make from scratch wherever you can (or buy non processed ingredients at least) I don’t think you can go far wrong.

So that said, here’s a dish which includes salt, sugar, saturated fats, carbs and dairy. All in moderation, of course, and a glass of decent wine to wash it down.

I make lamb kleftiko a lot as it’s one of those dead-easy one pot Sunday specials you can leave in the oven whilst you get on with the rest of the day. I was actually going to post it before, but never got round to it.

Here's one I made earlier...

Here’s one I made earlier…

This is a slightly different take on it – a sort of Gyro with tzatziki, fresh tomato sauce and grilled aubergine. It may invoke distant memories of dodgy kebabs eaten in post-pub youth, but this is a world away from those spinning mystery meats. Considerably better for you too.

Lamb

Lamb kleftiko wraps for 4 (or fewer hungrier people :)

Lamb:

  • 1.5kg leg or shoulder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • About 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 sprig each of thyme & rosemary.
  • Salt and pepper

Tzatziki:

  • 1 small tub greek yoghurt.
  • 1/3 cucumber, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced chopped
  • Lemon juice and salt, to taste.

Tomato sauce:

  • About 300g good tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves and the onions from the lamb pot
  • A good pinch of sugar (not essential of course but balances it up)
  • Salt to taste

Aubergine:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • Oil to drizzle
  • Pinch of salt

Flatbread (makes plenty):

  • 500g strong four
  • 300g water
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sachet (or 5g) yeast
  • 10g salt.

Olive oil and oregano to serve.

In a lidded pot, heat the oil and brown the lamb. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover tightly with baking parchment and the lid. Place in a low oven at 130°C/260°F for 4 hours. Longer the better.

Lamb kleftiko cooking

For the last hour, start the bread by combining the ingredients and knead. I use the dough hook on a mixer, but knead until smooth and the dough can stretch thinly without tearing – 5 minutes with a mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Cover the dough and leave to prove.

Once done the lamb should be almost falling apart. Pull it apart and place in a tray. Pour over the cooking liquor, but keep the onions and garlic for later. Cover the  tray with foil and keep warm, or just reheat it later.

For the tzatziki, just combine the ingredients and set aside. I prefer to do this a while before to let the garlic ‘mellow’ a bit.

Diced cucumber

For the tomato sauce, blitz the tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves and the onions from the lamb. Heat though in a pot and stir in the sugar and salt to taste, if needed at all.

Slice the aubergine fairly thinly, drizzle with oil and season. Griddle them on a hot pan until charred and tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to maximum – use a pizza stone if you have one. Roll out the dough in a circle to the size of oranges for big wraps or the size of golf balls for small ones. Cook on the oven stone, but be careful not to crisp it up too much or it won’t wrap. Which is kind of the point of flatbread wraps….

Flatbread wraps

If you prefer, you can cook the wraps on a hot iron skillet, like tortillas.

Once ready, serve it all up on the flatbread with a little extra virgin olive oil and some more oregano.

Lamb kleftiko tzatziki

A Simple Breakfast and Helen’s Bright Idea

Smoked salmon and egg with tartarte sauce

I must admit, I’m not a morning person and definitely not a ‘breakfast person’. The last thing I need as I drag myself around the house in the morning is a plate, or bowl, of food. Coffee, however, is another matter entirely.

The problem is by mid morning at work I’m famished and with a deficit of cafes around selling anything other than heart-attack-inducing hot sandwiches, I tend to take those God-awful microwave porridges into the office. People of Scotland: please don’t judge me.

So come the weekend, with a little more time and a kitchen at hand, I try and make something properly. Ironically, Saturday tends to comprise the aforementioned heart-attack-inducing sandwich, or even the delicious but deadly “full English”. I see it as a reward for navigating yet another working week without killing anyone (I’m of the opinion that deceased clients are bad for cashflow and expired staff rather less productive).

This breakfast dish is typically something we have on a lazy Sunday. It’s quick, filling and actually inexpensive – a little smoked salmon goes a long way. I actually prefer it with some nice freshly hot-smoked salmon, but this is nearly as good. I made a ‘kind-of’ tartare sauce with home-made mayo, gherkins and finely minced picked onion. It was nice and sharp against the egg and salmon.

It’s not normally something  I’d post about, especially as I wrote about something similar a while back, but there were a number of reasons for doing so today:

  1. We have a new dining table
  2. It’s the first time I tried making Mayo in the mixer therefore NOT getting it everywhere.
  3. This morning, for the first time in living memory, it wasn’t CHUCKING IT DOWN WITH RAIN and therefore had some decent light. Oh, now wait, it’s started chucking it down…..

Lastly, Helen’s bright idea was a simple and foolproof way of getting leftover mayo into the squeezy bottle – a greaseproof paper cone. Just top it up every now and again and let it drip through. She was very pleased with herself:

May in a bottle

The mixer-mayo was actually brilliant: just beat one egg yolk, one tbsp white wine vinegar, one tsp of dijon mustard on the highest setting with the beater attachment.

making mayonnaise

Gently pour in the oil

Mayo - pour in the oil

A few minutes later, season with a little salt, et voila:

homemade mayo

For the breakfast, I simply added some chopped pickled onion and gherkin (about a tablespoon of each) to a ramekin of the mayo to make the ‘tartare’ sauce.

Scramble some egg with a little butter and season to taste. Keep it soft if you can. Stir in the smoked salmon and allow to warm a little. Serve it on toast or potato cakes if you have them.

Scrambled egg and smoked salmon on toast

Braised Ox Cheek with Celeriac Puree, Oyster Mushrooms and Charred Baby Leek

Braised ox cheek, oyster mushrooms and charred baby leek

It seems every other week in Newcastle, my nearest City, there’s a new restaurant/eatery/bar opening up. “Excellent” I hear you cry and I agree.

One thing most have in common is the stripped back austere look, reinforced by enamelled pie dishes, menus on a clipboard and exposed brickwork. Just a few ‘dig for Britain’ posters and some bunting and it’s the 40’s all over again. I actually like this trend. Whilst I’ve no doubt it is styled to within an inch of its life, it feels unfussy and casual especially when pouring milk into my coffee from something that looks suspiciously like a specimen bottle.

Another curiosity is the proliferation of ‘little plates’ and ‘large plates’, which is a new one for me. I think it generally means ‘starter’ and ‘main’ but it does tend to suggest that you can order what you like. Small plates, if you’re peckish, large plates if your famished. It would have been weird to sit in a bar and order a just a ‘starter’ I guess.

A further common thread though and it’s where I’m going with all this, is the trend back toward the good honest food, starting with slow cooked meats (such as the ubiquitous pulled pork sandwich and oxtails) and robust traditional vegetables and pulses (beetroot salads, barley risottos, that sort of thing).

My cooking is no exception, as you can probably see if you browse my site, but one cut that has been eluding me though is the humble ox-cheek. No doubt it was a hard sale for butchers at one time but with the current clamour for ‘low and slow’ I’m surprised it’s still so tricky to find.

I’ve written about it before but I first tried it in a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Vegas and was hooked. It was cooked in a thai broth, but the flavour was amazing, but then I guess it should be at $250 a head.

I got just over a kilo from a a certain higher end supermarket butchers the other week. It was actually all they had on display and at £7.50/kilo, a bargain. It’s a very hard working muscle so needs plenty of gentle slow cooking, but it is worth the wait. Better still, just half of it made two dinners for Helen and I and 4 lunches. Superb value.

Ox cheek

One was a typical slow cooked dish, braising the ox cheek in red wine with some creamed celeriac, meaty oyster mushrooms and charred baby leek. The other, a very similarly cooked ragu with fresh pasta. The pasta itself was actually better a day or two later as the flavour really developed. I’ll post the ragu dish soon.

 For the Braised Ox cheek with celeriac and charred leek:

 For the ox cheek:

  • 300g ox cheek, cut into two portions
  • 100g bacon lardons
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large glasses of fruity red wine – I used Malbec
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 baby leeks
  • Tender stem brocoli

Mushrooms:

  • A couple of handfuls of oyster mushrooms (about 100g)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp butter

 Creamed celeriac:

  •  Half a celeriac
  • 100ml light/single cream
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Salt to taste

Cut the ox cheek into two portions and brown well in a iron casserole pot with a pinch of salt.

Remove and add the onion, lardons, sliced garlic, carrot. Stir until the onion softens – ad a little water if it begins to burn. Deglaze with the wine and return the ox cheeks along with the stock, the star anise and bay leaves. Put the lid on and bring to a simmer.

Either continue then to cook on the hob at the lowest possible heat setting, or a I did, place it in an oven at 120°C/250°F for 5 hours.

When done, remove the ox cheeks carefully, so as not to break them up. Keep warm in an oven at 60°C/140°F

Strain the cooking liquor into a saucepan and gently reduce until thick and viscous (coating the back of a spoon). Taste and season if necessary, but it probably won’t be.

reduced cooking liquor

Meanwhile, chop the celeriac into chunks and boil for about 15 minutes until soft – add the broccoli for the final few minutes to save on pans. Remove the broccoli and keep warm. Blend with the cream and butter until very smooth – season to taste. Keep warm in a lidded pan or covered bowl.

Coat the leeks in oil and a good pinch of salt. Char on a griddle pan until nicely marked and tender throughout (about 10 minutes).

At the same time, fry the mushroom in a little oil and the butter until softened and season slightly.

IMG_5646-imp

Bit of a juggling act at the end but very much worth it when you plate it all up. May as well finish off the Malbec you just opened too ;)

 braised ox cheek