Category Archives: Meaty

Wheat-free me

Or fad at the weekend perhaps? I hope not…

Thanks for the photo Sally

Those of you who know me will be familiar with a florid range of rather unattractive nasal challenges that I seem to have to deal with on an almost daily basis. It’s always been like this, from waking up every morning as a teenager at school adorned with other people’s pillows, shoes, books, porn mags (in fact, anything to hand that they could throw at me in the middle of the night to curtail my incessant snorting), to (as I found out recently) whole swathes of staff and colleagues at EMI and News International over the last 10 years firmly believing I had a nasty habit (I don’t. I mean, I do have plenty of nasty habits, but none that make me sniff incessantly).

And without getting into too much detail, I have, from time to time over the course of my life, taken a variety steps to try to do something about this socially debilitating affliction but to no avail – making me slowly but surely come to the conclusion that I must accept my fate as a terminally snotty man.

So, while chatting to a friend of mine a few days ago and answering the question that I get asked on a pretty regular basis: “why do you seem to have a constant cold?”, it dawned on me that I really needed to sort this once and for all. And as luck would have it, it turned out that she had an approach that could indeed help me. Not with surgery or medication, but by removing certain things from my diet and making a few other simple life changes. Never one to shy away from a challenge I thought I’d give it a go – and as I journey through the process, I’m going to bore you lot with all the details – a problem shared and all that…

These are the instructions that she gave me:

1.       Nutrition – no grains, no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar. So for 2 weeks your diet will be made up of good wholesome natural foods: meat, fish, eggs, veg, seeds, nuts and limited fruit (1 piece a day max) Make sure you have protein with every meal (protein shakes are a good snack) and try to get your carbs from green veg (kale is amazing as is broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts) Sweet potato is a great source of starchy carbs and as you’re burning lots of calories cycling you might want to make sure you add these to your diet.

2.       Probiotic – healing the gut is key to good health. Here’s one I recommend. http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/shop/for-daily-wellbeing.html Its great value.

There are other things I have to do, but they are less relevant to a food blog, and to be honest, they will probably put you off eating for a good day or two, so I shall omit them for now.

Day one started badly, as I nipped into the supermarket to grab some provisions for breakfast and lunch, and went to pick up things that I might normally grab for a quick bite at work:

  • porridge – nope
  • yoghurt – naha
  • bacon sarnie – nein
  • falafel wrap – non
  • pasta salad – no way
  • bean salad – no
  • croissant – no
  • bagel – no
  • cappucino – no

and on and on and on.

So I end up with a bag of apples, dried mango, fruit juice, a bag of nuts and a crappy salmon salad. Feels like I need more practice…(oh and it cost ten times as much as the croissant)

I had a better start this morning – a cup of coffee and half a smoked mackerel. Most painful though is that I baked this for the kids and can’t even have a mouthful – it’s a sight that I am going to see far less off for some time…

More to come (and I might even post some new recipes up here too – that would be novel).

Bread I'm not allowed to eat

Thanks to Caroline, who’s training to be a nutritionist and who pointed me in the right direction…
(and thanks for the photo Sally)

Down I say, Pork Pie

In fact it’s a pork and venison pie, but my copy fitting urges overcame me.

As I look back at the goings-on of the last two weeks, it’s hard to remember a period in recent times where there was more happening in the world (or at least the world that I consciously inhabit). New York was turned upside down by Sandy, turning the lights out on businesses right across Manhattan and effectively shutting down the city for over a week, and yet this, which in a quiet week would have been a major news event here in the UK, was largely relegated to a few shots of floating cars and reporters being blown over by the wind. The world held its breath as Obama managed to cling on to power, leaving 48% of Americans unhappy but 99% of the rest of the planet extremely relieved. But the story that seems to have gripped our nation, and that threatens to turn one of our greatest institutions upside down, is that of a grubby little man who died just over a year ago, and who during his life, horribly exploited countless children supposedly in his care. But what stands out for me in all of this, is not so much the ever growing list of accounts that are being surfaced, but more, the way in which (as often seems to have been the case in recent news stories – hacking, expenses for example) the story so quickly transcended the individual that it centred around and exploded with such force that it impacted so many peoples’ lives who were in no way implicated in or impacted by the events at the time. And today, we have reached the point where Lord McAlpine has been wrongly accused of being a paedophile, Newsnight has twice in two weeks been threatened with immediate extinction, The director general of the BBC, (only in his post for 54 days) is forced to resign and now Andrew Marr is debating with the home secretary whether the institution of the BBC itself is now under threat.

What I find sad is the fact that our capacity as a culture to accept honest mistakes seems to have diminished to the point where we simply can’t do anything any more (and to be clear, I’m talking about Entwistle here, not the grubby little man). The cynicism of british journalism is for me, one of the most depressing things about living in this country. What makes it worse is that it seems to have rubbed off on the rest of us to the extent that it’s now become a stubborn stain on the fingers of our national psyche. And you can see it everywhere – we complain about everything. Everything. “But that’s nothing new!” I hear you exclaim. I have to disagree – it may have always been there, but the noise-level of discontent has risen steadily in the past decade to the point where everyone expects everything and everyone expects perfection. At all times. It’s unrealistic folks – get real and start being more accepting of an imperfect world. It will probably make you happier. And of course we should question things, and we should investigate when things go wrong and work out how to make them right, but please – just a little perpective.

I only write these things so that when in a few years time I’m looking for a pork pie recipe, I’ll have a little context to put it in (or I’ll simply scan past the first two paragraphs like you probably just did).

So here goes – Pork and Venison Pie

Just found the gallery feature on here, so click on an image below to see a step by step guide on how I got there…

Recipe coming soon when I have the energy to write it down…

Does Mark like it crispy?

Facebook just IPO’d and I expect Mark Zuckerberg is probably just a little bit shitters right now. I hope he is anyway – I would be. It’s not too long ago that he refused an offer from Yahoo for $1Bn and everyone thought he was arrogant and deluded. Now Facebook has a $100Bn market capitalisation. Over a thousand FB millionaires were created today and Mark Zuckerberg is worth over $20B. News like this used to make me jealous – now I just love it. And while it’s a little disconcerting that a twenty-something in a hoodie runs one of the largest businesses in the world that has deeply personal information about over 900 million people, it’s just amazing to think that all this can have been over the course of 8 years. We do live in exciting times.

As an aside – if I ever use the phrase serial entrepreneur in any circumstance apart from the next paragraph please kill me immediately. Put me out of my misery as quickly as you can. The only time it is ever acceptable to use such a phrase is if you build a business empire from the ground up selling a new form of coco-pops that actually have some nutritional value. And even then you would have to spell it differently. I mean honestly – what does it even mean? You were an entrepreneur, and then you became an entrepreneur, and after that you were an entrepreneur? How about just calling yourself an entrepreneur (which, let’s be honest, is pretty wanky on its own without the serial bit)? People don’t call themselves serial bank managers, or serial mechanics, or serial hairdressers, even if they manage more than one bank, fix cars in more than one garage or cut hair in more than one salon, so why the fuck should anyone call themselves a serial entrepreneur? Seriously.

Semolina.
As it turns out, that’s the trick to a getting a really good crispy pizza base. That and rolling the pizza dough out very thinly. and putting it into a really, bastardly hot oven.

So this is what you do: Make a strong white bread dough as normal, but add a good handful of finely ground semolina. Divide it into balls that are about the size of oranges, wrap them individually in cling film and stick them in the fridge. Leave them in there until you want to make your pizza. I’ve left them in there for up to a week and they’ve been fine (and as the yeast gets to work expanding the dough within the cling film, they turn into something looking not too dissimilar to rather substantial breast implants – great fun to play with). Now when you roll out the dough, instead of flouring the surface, use semolina again, and remember to roll it very very thinly.

For the tomato base, I get a tin of tomatoes, a clove of garlic, a chopped onion and handful of oregano or basil and whizz them together in a blender along with plenty of seasoning.

Now get your oven hotter than hot, stick your rolled-out pizza dough on a large baking tray and chuck a bunch of tasty things on top.

This time I used a few spoonfuls of the tomato base along with some torn mozzarella and olive oil, whacked it in the oven for 5 mins, brought it out and added a pack of good prosciutto, scrunched up a little over the top of the pizza and whacked it in again for another 5 mins. Then I took it out, covered it in rocket, more olive oil and a little more seasoning. Perfect.

Cannelloni and green fingers

I think I may be getting a little better at gardening. And I think, in a small way, it beautifully illustrates a simple flaw in human nature. The garden that was here when I arrived at my modest mid-terraced house (in a vaguely attractive corner of an otherwise nondescript part of what has become a completely homogenised North London) wasn’t mine. I think that was the problem. It was here when I got here and as such it was someone else’s creation. I had no part in its conception and I therefore had little interest in its upkeep. I can imagine bringing up someone else’s kids might feel pretty much the same. And while I understand that the livelihood of a small child is more important than that of a Magnolia Stellata, I think there are similarities nonetheless. Similarities that I don’t think I should go into on this blog for fear of being set upon by my own little Daily Mail rapid action response and becoming ostracised from quasi-polite, middle-english society (although thinking about it – that would be a wonderful achievement).

But I think I’m right aren’t I? I mean, I did look after the garden when it wasn’t mine. I weeded it every now and again. I even pruned the odd branch and cut it back from time to time, but it was usually only when ordered to by the estate agent (acting as proxy for the landlord who was too chicken to tell me to my face that my front garden needed a trim). So I did care for it – but only I think through a basic sense of duty (or contractual obligation?) and often under duress (divorced mothers up and down the country are now quietly crossing me off their eligible bachelors list as they read this. I’m mortally wounding my chances of any association with a whole cadre of the female population in one blog posting – nice work)…

Anyway, the good news is that as soon as it became mine all of that changed, as I ripped everything out and laid the garden bare ready to sow my own seed. I lovingly prepared the ground, carefully selected and planted my progeny and now I nip outside every hour or so to see how they are doing. I know every little plant and shrub in there by name and I fully intend to nurture them and tend them as my own, watching them flourish, caring for them from season to season until the day when they are fully grown and they make me truly proud.

So what does this all say about human nature? Bugger all I expect, but it seemed to make sense as I was writing it… It’s certainly true that in almost every walk of life, when people (you know who you are) come into a new situation, they invariably believe that the only way they can feel a sense of achievement is to rip out everything that preceded them and start again. And while their little front garden might look fresh and new and full of promise the day after they’ve planted it, the likelihood of it bearing any fruit is no higher than it was before they started, and I’ll bet my life that in a couple of years time it will be full of bloody weeds again… amen.

So, as ever, that has nothing at all to do with what I cooked tonight for the shorts. And why should it? If all I did was post recipes on here I suspect it would get even less views than it gets now. And that’s not easy to do I can promise you…

Cannelloni with Ragu

This is really simple. First make your ragu – standard lasagne style – as follows:
Take 500g of beef mince and fry in batches until it caramelises and then stick it in a large saucepan with a tin of chopped tomatoes (and a little extra water). Now gently fry a finely chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil and again add to the saucepan. Deglaze the frying pan with a glass of red wine, and into the saucepan with it. Now season with salt and pepper and and a big handful of finely chopped fresh basil and/or oregano.

Now make the bechamel. in another saucepan melt a large knob of butter (25g) and add four tablespoons of plain flour, mixing it well, Gradually add milk constantly stirring until you have a thick smooth paste. Now, keeping it on the heat, add more milk and single cream until you have the consistency of thick double cream (as you cook it, it will get thicker). grate in a third of a nutmeg and again season with salt and pepper. The sauce should taste rich and creamy.

Ok, by now the ragu should have cooled, so you take your cannelloni and stick them in the pan with the ragu so that you force it gently into the tubes. Use you fingers if you have to. Once each one is filled, lay them in an over proof dish, filling the bottom with a single layer of the cannelloni. Once you’re done, put the rest of the ragu over the top (hopefully you’ll have almost 1/4 of it left) and let it fill in all the gaps between the tubes. Then pour over the bechamel and finely grate parmesan on top.

Cook it in a hot (180c) oven for about 40-45 mins and serve with a green salad and plenty of good bread. Oh and check out the image in full screen – looks even tastier.

Shorts happy. Shrubs happy.

Chick and Dal

We might not have left the house for more than a couple of hours but that’s not to say that we sat on our arses all weekend watching 35 episodes of The Office. Far from it. In fact, we sat on our arses most of the weekend watching 35 episodes of The Office and then we got up and did a little cooking. Next week I’m going to get on the bike if it kills me, but in the meantime here’s a really good curry to keep you warm over the winter months…

Chicken curry and Dal

First, a disclaimer – I don’t pretend any of the following dishes are done in the correct way. All I can say is that I think they taste good – so if you read this and you start to become irate because I’ve missed something, or I have used the wrong spices then I apologise – I really am truly sorry that you feel that way. And do feel free to tell me about it.

Let’s start with the Dal – take about 250g of red split lentils and put them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and put it on the heat. As the water starts to boil, spoon away the frothy scum that forms on the top – let it boil gently for about 15 minutes, ensuring the pan doesn’t boil dry. Now chop an onion, a thumb of ginger, four fat cloves of garlic and half a red and half a green chilli (seeds removed) – fry them all in oil along with the following, all pounded in a pestle and mortar: a quarter of a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, a tablespoon of salt, garam masala and turmeric. Once the onions, garlic et al are soft, add them to the cooked lentils with a little more oil, a knob of butter and a large handful of chopped coriander leaves. If at this point it’s a little too gloopy, just add a little water.

Now for the curry – the base of the curry is pretty much the same as the dal, just with more chilli (and with the seeds) – so start with the spices, heated in a dry frying pan, then put them into you casserole dish with a tin of tomatoes and a little water. Then as with the Dal, fry onions, garlic, chilli and ginger and add to the casserole. Then take 6 chicken thighs, pare away the flesh and fry in batches until golden brown and add to the curry sauce. Add  a handful of chopped coriander leaves and let it cook slowly for about 35 minutes. Just before serving, add another handful of chopped coriander leaves (and do the same with the Dal).

For the rice, follow my Iranian rice recipe – works every time…

What’s bad for the goose…

…is good for our Christmas lunch

It’s six fifteen and it’s all over bar the shouting, the arguments over monopoly (my nephew is a slippery little bugger), doctor who, indigestion and falling asleep during It’s a Wonderful Life (I don’t know what it is about that film, but I’ve tried three times to watch it and I’ve failed every time).

I’m not feeling at all inspired creatively at this moment, so I fear that all I’m going to be able to manage is to document the cooking events of the day that have taken this family on a journey from hunger to light inebriation, food ecstasy and utter fulfilment, where we stayed for a brief moment, before plummeting into overindulgence, fatigue and mild sickness (all, as ever, with no regrets).

Roast goose

This may take a while, but I want to get it down for the record (even if only to refer back to next year).

We’ll start by concentrating on the goose. Remove the giblets and any excess fat and set aside. Now prick the skin of the goose all over, rub with olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper (and five spice if you wish). Put it in a large roasting tin on top of a selection of roughly chopped carrots, onions, celery and a garlic bulb cut in half. You’re going to cook it for 30 mins per kg and then let it rest for 30 mins, so time it accordingly.

Take the giblets (not the fat) and put them into a pan with an onion chopped in half, a bay leaf, some peppercorns, a carrot and water. Heat the water and boil for 30 mins then set aside to cool – this is your stock.

For the stuffing, finely chop a large onion and two cloves of garlic, add to four large handfuls of breadcrumbs, a small handful of chopped sage, seasoning, a beaten egg, olive oil and 300g of sausage meat. Mix it all together and put a few balls of it into the goose. put the rest into a shallow wide ovenproof dish (you want the maximum surface area exposed) and rough it up a little so there are plenty of rough edges to get nice and crispy.

Preheat the oven to 220c and when it’s ready put in the goose for 30 minutes, then take it out, turn the heat down to 180c, remove the excess fat in the bottom of the pan, cover the legs in foil and then put it back into the oven for the remaining cooking time.

When your time is up, take the beautifully cooked goose out of the oven, cover it in foil and a few tablecloths and leave it to rest. After about 10 mins, drain all the juices from inside the carcas into the roasting tin and transfer it to a large warm plate, keeping the foil and tablecloths over it to keep the residual heat it. It can now sit for another 20 mins before you carve and serve it.

Now, everything else you do needs to work around this timing. What I have done for years is start with when you want to eat and work backwards with each step above along with the appropriate timing, then slot in all the other things you have to do and when you have to do them. Then you have your plan for the morning – here’s one I made earlier, complete with goose fat…(don’t worry about the upside-down bits)…

Now for everything else. We had the following – naturally I’d recommend them all:

Roast potatoes and parsnips, peas, carrots and leeks, shredded sprouts with bacon, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon, red cabbage, stuffing and gravy. So here we go:

The red cabbage is best done the night before – chop a whole red cabbage, an onion and a few cloves of garlic very finely and put them in a large saucepan with a large block of butter and a couple of peeled and chopped apples. Add a few large tablespoons of berry jam, a glass of port and season well. Let it cook on a low heat for a couple of hours stirring from time to time. Now all it needs is reheating when you need it.

Now prepare all your veg – peel and chop the spuds, parsnips and carrots and leave them in cold water until you need them, also finely shred the sprouts and blanche them for just a few minutes and refresh in cold water before setting aside.
Next you can kick off the bread sauce: Chop an onion into four and put it in a saucepan with 6 cloves, 6 peppercorns , a bay leaf and a 500ml of milk. Bring it to just below simmering point for ten minutes and then set it aside for later.
Then, take a load of cocktail sausages, wrap them in streaky bacon rashers cut in half and pop them in a roasting tin.

For the cranberry sauce, take an onion and chop it finely along with a quarter of a chilli (no seeds) and a clove of garlic. Fry in plenty of butter and then add a bag of cranberries and a glass of port. season well, add two tablespoons of sugar and cook it gently on the hob until the berries pop, creating a semi smooth sauce, while maintaining a decent level of texture. Now taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a serving dish – it’s done.

About an hour before you’re going to eat, drain as much fat from under the goose as you can without throwing it around the kitchen and save for later use (putting the goose straight back into the oven and turning it up again to 220c). Take some of the fat, pour it into a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat. Par boil the spuds in boiling salty water for about 8 minutes, then drain off the water (into the saucepan with the parsnips), rough the spuds up in the saucepan with the lid on and then put them into the roasting tin with the hot fat, roll them around, season them well with salt and pepper and straight into the top of the oven. Put the dish with the stuffing in now too.

Now par boil the parsnips for about 5 minutes, drain them (keeping the water again) and set them aside.

By this time, the goose will be ready to take out of the oven, so take it out and replace it with the parsnips in a roasting tin with boiling hot goose fat (not too much by the way) and seasoned as with the spuds. Now’s probably a good time to put in the sausages too…

Right. So the goose is out of the oven wrapped in foil and tea towels, the spuds and parsnips are cooking nicely, the stuffing is in the oven and the cranberry sauce is sitting on the table ready – you’re nearly there…

Bread sauce – drain the infused milk into a fresh saucepan and add 4-5 handfuls of white breadcrumbs, and a very large knob of butter grate in a quarter of a nutmeg and pour in 200ml of double cream. Season and then heat it gently, adding more cream if necessary until you get the consistency you like (I know how personal the desired consistency of bread sauce can be so I’m not going try to tell you how it should be) bearing in mind that it will thicken up when it cools.

Nearly there…

Gravy – remove most of the fat from the bottom of the goose’s roasting tin, take all the vegetables that were roasting under the goose and put them into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of flour. deglaze the roasting tin with a large glass of red wine or port making sure you get as much of the juices from it as you can and into the saucepan. Mix in the flour well and put in the hob along with the goose stock. Bring it to the boil and reduce and season if necessary. This will give you the most beautiful gravy.

Finely chop a leek and fry in a saucepan in butter for a few minutes before adding the carrots, then a little of the water from the spuds to steam the carrots. Season with pepper (no salt as it was already in the water). After five minutes add the peas (which you defrosted by putting them straight from the freezer into a bowl of hot water).

Sprouts – finely chop 6 streaky rashers of bacon and two cloves of garlic and fry in lots of butter until the bacon starts to crisp a little. drop in the shredded sprouts and some of the buttery water from the carrots and heat for a few minutes…

Phew – I think that’s it. Serve. Enjoy. Receive praise. Eat too much. Feel sick. Fall asleep on the sofa. (oh and Happy Christmas)

 

(this one has the bread sauce and gravy added…)

Not for lily-livered chickens

I’ve done this before, but it was a long time ago and in the spirit of keeping up this Christmas food thing, I think it’s worth including again –

Sadly though, it seems to be another one of those foods that divides people – mention chicken liver pate in passing conversation and you can bet that someone will pull the same sort of face that you would expect them to reserve for bee stings and treading in particularly squidgy dog turds. I understand that we all have different tastes, I really do, but I will never understand how people can have such a violent reaction to foods that millions of other people are perfectly happy to put in their mouths and enjoy? You’re just a bunch of chickens – give it a try and see. It won’t poison you. You won’t spend a week on the loo. And you may just find that you like it. As long as you open your mind and give it a chance.

For those that don’t need convincing, do give this a go – it’s very quick, it freezes well and it’s another great thing to have on the table at Christmas.

Chicken liver pate

Roughly chop an onion, a few cloves of garlic and a little chopped red chilli and fry in a pan with butter. After a few minutes add about 250g of chicken livers to the pan and continue to fry on a moderate heat. Next add half a glass of white wine and a good splash of brandy, plenty of seasoning and cook for about five minutes allowing the wine to reduce and the livers to cook through.

In a blender, add a handful of chopped parsley and few tablespoons of cream cheese then add the liver mixture and blend to a smooth paste.
Turn in out into a bowl and top with  a large nob of butter which will melt and form a seal over the pate.

Leave it in the fridge – if you can bear to wait then give it a day before cracking it open…