Slow cooked potatoes with taleggio and thyme with cavolo nero and balsamic sausages

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This recipe is already on here (16th March 2015) please check it out. I had it tonight with oven baked sausages which I coated for the last five minutes in balsamic vinegar. Also on the plate was some lightly steamed cavolo nero, finished in butter, black pepper and sea salt.

Taleggio is so beautiful!

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Creamy Kale and Bacon Pasta

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Kale is such a favourite green of mine….makes me feel good every time I eat it. It has a wonderfully deep green earthy flavour and a real crunch to it. And it just looks so beautiful too!

Anyway, the other night I had several leaves left over and loitering in the fridge with little to do from a previous meal so I fancied a pasta dish and i fancied kale – a marriage made in heaven!

I pan fried a clove of garlic chopped finely in olive oil with three strips of good smoked streaky bacon chopped into small pieces. You could use lardon also or pancetta.

When it was cooked, I turned the heat down, sliced the kale leaves into small strips and added them to the pan, stirring them round over a medium heat to let them wilt a little – just a minute or so. I had already cooked my pasta. I drained it and left to one side whilst I stirred 150 ml of single cream into the bacon and kale mixture, added a grind or two of black pepper and turned the heat down low whilst I stirred all the ingredients together.

I then tipped the drained pasta into the pan and stirred it all round to coat each piece – I used rigatoni.

You could add a little dried chilli to it with the kale if you fancied a little zing.

It really is a fab way to eat your greens, I have to say!

Easy Beef and Dumpling Casserole

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Not only is this dish simple to assemble, it ticks every box for a sour, dull, dank, rainy day in need of serious cheering up on the food front! I made it yesterday for a late lunch. Cooked for 4 of us and there is still a bowl left over for a late night something later on!

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Ingredients

1 kg beef cubed – chuck steak is great – skirt too – just ask your butcher

Olive oil

8 tulip shallots peeled and roughly chopped (or you could use 3 medium sized onions)

1 tbsp plain flour

900 ml good beef stock

200 ml beer – I used Guinness

Heaped tsp of dried thyme or good sprig of the fresh stuff

2 bay leaves

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tbsp of tomato puree

Salt and black pepper

Method

Heat oven to 140c,

Add a good glug of oil to a large frying pan and when hot add the beef. Stir round til browned all over. Remove and place in a large casserole dish – one with a lid. Add the onions to the frying pan and fry until the onions soften. Add them to the beef and then add the flour. Put over a low heat whilst you stir in the flour.

Add the thyme, bay leaves, garlic and a swizzle of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add the stock and beer, stir and add the tomato puree – you can use a good brand tomato sauce instead if you wish.

Once it is starting to simmer – put the lid on and pop in the preheated oven for 2 hours and ten minutes. 

Now make the dumplings – 

You will need 100 gm of self-raising flour and 50 gm of suet – I use Atora – love the funky 60s retro box!

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl, add a good pinch of salt and then around 5 table spoons of cold water. Mix it together until you get a good consistency and no flour is left in the bowl. Wash your hands and then make 8 golf ball size dumplings.

Put to one side. When the timer goes for the beef, remove the lid and gently place in the dumplings – well spaced out – pop lid back on and return to the oven for twenty minutes.

I served the casserole  with sweet mashed potato, buttered with a little cumin. I also had steamed kale and new potatoes in butter and coriander. It was a marvellous combination of flavours.

As with so many recipes this is one you can tinker with to your heart’s desire – you could use half beer half stock – even all beer if you wished! You could add a little pureed spinach to your dumpling mix – the possibilities are endless.

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IMG_5424 This is funky – admit it !

Simple Sunday pleasures…

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Nothing fancy today – just good honest fresh ingredients. An organic chicken stuffed with a quartered lime, coriander, spring onions chopped and a knob of butter – placed on a bed of thinly sliced shallots and olive oil. The breast and legs smeared with a Thai red curry paste called Gang Ped and popped in a preheated oven at 220c for 30 minutes then reduced to 180 for another 30 minutes. The paste produces a succulent, slightly smoky jus that is fabulous poured over the veg and meat at the end.

I saved it with roast potato and sweet potato chips and steamed buttered kale that had a waft or two of black pepper and sea salt over it.

That was it – and it was good.

Colcannon…a classic….

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Colcannon…a classic….

“Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I’m to cry.
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.”

So goes the traditional Irish song about this wonderful potato dish – there cannot be many food stuffs that have their own song ! – and I guess there are many takes on this classic potato and cabbage dish. Its Irish name is cál ceannann, meaning “white-headed cabbage”, and it is a traditional dish mainly consisting of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage.

It is similar to the Irish dish Champ which is a dish of mashed potatoes, moistened with milk and butter and flavoured with chopped onions or scallions or even nettle tops (much underused veg! See my Nettle Frittata).

The earliest reference i can find to it is by one William Bulkely from Anglesey who in his diary of 31st October 1735 made two journeys to Dublin and recorded that he:

‘Dined and supped upon a shoulder of mutton roasted and what they call Coel Callan, which is cabbage boiled, potatoes, and parsnips, all this mixed together. They eat well enough and this is a dish always had on this kingdom on this night.’

Apparently, colcannon was used on All Hallow’s Eve for marriage divination. Charms hidden in the bowls of colcannon were portents of a marriage proposal should a lucky unmarried girl find one. One other marvellously bizarre tradition was for a young girl to stuff a sock with colcannon and hang it on the handle of their front door. They believed that the first man through the door would become their husband. Could have led to some interesting situations and possible intermarriages….also must have ruined the socks!

The dish came over to English shores in the 18th century and oddly became a favourite of the upper classes. In time the English version morphed into bubble and squeak, which is more of a fry up of left overs rather than this purpose built spud dish.

It is a very hearty and warming dish and you can twiddle with it to your hearts content – but this is a version I particularly like – I had it the other night with a honey and mustard glazed hock of ham and it brought out the Irish in me! (My great grandparents were form Derry). I am sure you must have tried this or something like it but if not, give it a whirl. It is a delicious way to eat potatoes and greens.

And versatile… and it can accompany all sorts – and ’tis just as gorgeous on its lonesome!

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely sliced
250g mashed potato (I used about 6 to 8 potatoes so play it by ear)
50g unsalted butter
30ml double cream
250g Savoy cabbage, blanched and sliced (or you can used greens or kale)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until softened and golden-brown.
In a large bowl, mix together the mashed potato, butter, cream, blanched cabbage and mustard until well combined and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.
Transfer the potato mixture to the frying pan with the onions in and press down to form a large potato ‘cake’. Fry for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown on one side. Turn over, using a plate if necessary to help you, and fry on the other side for a further 4-5 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown on both sides. (This last bit is tricky – in the end if it does break up, it will taste just as good even if it doesn’t look as pretty!)

As I said before I used it to accompany a hock of ham- and i also made a taleggio cheese sauce which really, really went well with the ham and colcannon. I just popped 450 ml of double cream and a clove of garlic into a small pan with a bay leaf. I brought it to a simmer then added a 100 gm slice of taleggio and let it melt. A stunning sauce to go with a stunning and simple potato dish!

Up the Irish!

Roast in peace…!

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Roast in peace...!

Which is exactly what you can do with a classic English beef pot roast. It is cooking serenity. No dramas. Just the ticket for a damp, dreek, early autumn Sunday. And the flavours are on the A+ side of phenomenal – and the ingredients do it all for you! Magical!

Ingredients
1.2 kilo piece of silverside – mine was from those wonderful folk at Parsonage Farm
6 carrots, cut into three hearty chunks
4 onions quartered or you could use 10 or 12 shallots left whole
1 bay leaf
beef dripping or lard
275 ml of beef stock
Thyme – fresh if you can
1 bouquet garni
1 tbsp plain flour
25 gm butter
Black pepper

Right, here we go. Preheat oven to 140c. Into a large high sided casserole heat a good wodge of dripping or lard then brown your meat all over in it. Remove to a plate. Then add the carrots and onions and brown them lightly. You could add celery stalks chopped too, or swede..but I find too much veg takes over.

Pop the joint back on top of the bed of vegetables in the pan – add the hot stock, bay leaf, sprig of thyme or teaspoon of dried, and the bouquet garni. Then grind in some black pepper. Cover tightly with foil, then pop the lid on. Bring to the boil – you should hear it begin to bubble – then slide it into the oven for 2 and a half hours.

When ready remove the beef and cover in foil and put to one side Remove the veg with a slotted spoon and also put to one side. Add the butter to the flour in a cup and with a teaspoon blend together until you have a paste. Bring the stock to the boil and add the butter paste. Stir vigorously until it looks smooth, thicker and creamier. Adjust seasoning if you so desire.

I let the beef rest for half an hour whilst the Yorkshire puds cooked – I leave these in the capable hands of my wife – she has a gift for making these gems! I then arranged the beef on a platter, arranged the veg around the side, then the Yorkshires, and then drizzled a little of the gravy over the meat. I served it with buttered boiled potatoes and steamed kale – and more of the gravy at the table.

The beef simply melted in the mouth – it was just divine. (Thank you to Sarah and John for such fabulous meat!)

So, if you have never had a go at this – do – and roast in peace!

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Late Summer Saturday Supper…enhanced by early Autumn apples!

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Late Summer Saturday Supper...enhanced by early autumn apples!

I wanted something not too heavy for supper last night and not too taxing after two late nights, so I went for something around
apples as I collected a whole basketful of them on an afternoon wander around the grounds.

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Obviously it had to be an apple sauce as I had some gorgeously perfect pork chops quietly ruminating in my fridge. I made the sauce first – 500 gm of apples peeled and cored, 20 gm castor sugar and 100 ml of water – all into a pan with a lid on a low heat until all had blended into a tangy toothsome concoction. I pan fried pork chops til golden with garlic cloves and black pepper. I also wanted something cooling, so plumped for a simple warm potato and red onion salad – using garlic mayonnaise. I steamed some broccoli and kale, taking it off in time to leave the broc with a bit of a bite. I have to say that it was a very satisfying supper – simple – cheap and bursting with flavours and textures – the apple sauce helped it all on its way – as did a very nice bottle of tempranillo thank you very much that had insinuated its way into my presence whilst cooking. I am easily tempted!

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