Friday, 30 November 2012

Boiled Brisket of Beef with Roast Potatoes and Trimmed Green Beans

Brisket of beef, roast potatoes and trimmed green beans

Boiled beef does not immediately sound particularly appetising. There is perhaps an automatic perception that the beef will be bland in taste and probably dry in texture. This definitely need not be the case, however, provided the right cut of beef is selected and it is cooked appropriately. Brisket is a great piece of beef to boil and in this instance was not only delicious to eat, but perfectly moist and tender. I chose not to serve gravy with the beef on this occasion (almost a crime in the eyes of many people - I know!) and gravy could of course be included if you wish but instead I served it with a fairly recent discovery for me, Beetroot, Apple and Horseradish Chutney. See the bottom of this post for more details on this ultra tasty creation.

Ingredients (Serves 2 to 4)

2lb piece of beef brisket
1 medium white onion
2 medium carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried thyme or 4 fresh sprigs
Baby new potatoes as required
Green beans as required
Beetroot, apple and horseradish chutney

Rolled brisket of beef


Put the beef in to a large soup or stock pot. Wash the carrots and celery, top and tail and roughly chop. Peel and quarter the onion. Add the vegetables to the pot along with the seasonings and pour in enough cold water to ensure the beef is comfortably covered (approximately 5 or 6 pints).

Vegetables for poaching with beef brisket

Prepared vegetables for poaching with beef brisket

Put the pot on a high heat until the water boils. Reduce the heat to achieve the gentlest possible simmer, cover and leave to cook in this way for two and a half to three hours, until the beef is tender.

Beef brisket, vegetables and seasonings are added to a large stock pot

Wash but don't peel the potatoes. Add them to a pot of cold salted water, bring it to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and let them steam for around five minutes to get rid of the excess moisture. Cover and leave to cool completely.

Green beans are trimmed before being blanched

When the beef is cooked, carefully remove it from the liquid with a carving fork and large slotted spoon or spatula to a plate. Cover it and leave it to rest and cool for at least twenty minutes.

Peel the skins from the potatoes by hand. They should be roasted in hot oil for about five or six minutes until crisp and golden. It may well be that you have bought your beans already trimmed but if not, trim the ends and blanche them in boiling salted water for five minutes.

Boiled and cooled potatoes are peeled for roasting

When you come to carve the beef, don't try to cut it too thinly or you are likely to see it break down and essentially crumble. Cut nice thick slices and arrange on the serving plates.

Brisket of beef is carefully carved

Drain the potatoes on kitchen paper, the beans through a colander and plate with the beef. Finish off with the Beetroot, Apple and Horseradish chutney.

Beef brisket is plated with roast potatoes and green beans

I found this chutney in my local supermarket when looking for something totally different. If you can't find it in yours, it is currently available on both Amazon and Amazon UK. I hope you get the chance to give it a try.

Beetroot, apple and horseradish chutney

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Winter Warmer One Pot Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

Beef and root vegetable stew is garnished with fresh parsley

Winter is already starting to bite for many of us and the days of summer salads for dinner are pretty much over for another year. It is more likely to be a hot, hearty meal you crave for dinner when the nights are dark and cold and although this stew does take a few hours in total to prepare, there is very little hands-on prep required and everything is simply cooked in the one large pot. You could of course even prepare this stew in your slow cooker or crockpot, leaving it to gently simmer away while you are at work. A further alternative would be to prepare the stew one night, let it cool, then refrigerate it in an appropriate container that it only takes a few minutes to gently reheat for dinner the following night.
Principal ingredients for beef and root vegetable stew

Ingredients (Serves Two)

3/4lb diced stewing beef
2 medium potatoes
1 small Swede turnip/rutabaga
2 medium carrots
1 small onion
1 small leek
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 pints homemade beef stock
Chopped parsley to garnish

Vegetables are sliced and chopped for adding to beef stew


Start by preparing the vegetables. The onion should be peeled, halved and sliced. The carrots, potatoes and Swede/rutabaga should be peeled and roughly chopped. The stem only of the leek should be washed and sliced in to quarter inch thick discs.

Beef for stew is firstly browned in a large pot

Put the olive oil in to a large pot and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the beef only and stir it around with a wooden spoon until it is evenly browned and sealed.

Vegetables and seasonings are stirred through the browned beef

Add all the vegetables, the thyme and some salt and pepper to the browned beef and continue to stir over a medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Beef stock is added to the browned beef and vegetables

Pour the beef stock in to the beef and vegetables and turn up the heat until the stock reaches a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and cook for two and a half hours or until the beef is tender.

Beef and root vegetable stew is ready to serve

When the stew is ready, taste it for seasoning and adjust where required, turn off the heat and leave it to rest for fifteen minutes. Ladle in to two deep serving plates and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Beef and root vegetable stew is ladled in to serving plates

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Homemade Venison Game Pie

Red deer venison game pie is served with homemade chips and garden peas

A game pie is very often - or perhaps even most often - made with a variety of three or more different types of wild game. That does not mean for a second, however, that an excellent game pie can not be made with just one type of wild game. In this instance, advantage was taken of a really good deal obtained on Scottish red deer venison and the pie was delicious. This recipe will work with any type of venison, from moose, to caribou to roe deer.

Ingredients for Two Servings

3/4lb chopped venison haunch
Olive oil
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 pint fresh beef stock
1/2 bottle red wine*
1/2lb puff pastry
Flour for rolling the pastry
Beaten egg for glazing the pastry
Homemade chips/French fries as required
Frozen garden peas as required

* Do you get confused about which type of red wine you should use in your cooking? I have heard some top chefs say that only the cheapest of red wine should be used in cooking (to save money) but equally, I have heard other top chefs say that only quality red wine that you would really enjoy drinking should be used. If top chefs can't agree, how can we be expected to judge? Personally, I tend to go somewhere between the two. You don't want to use a wine that is of such poor quality that you couldn't possibly force yourself to drink it - but equally, why waste the good stuff that is far better consumed straight from a glass? The bottom line is that it's all down to personal taste, as well as the nature of the dish you are making. In this particular instance, it doesn't really matter - go with what you can afford and what you prefer and don't get too hung up on the issue. 

Vension is quickly browned in a little olive oil


Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil (a good glug, is the technical term!) to a large pot and gently heat. Add the diced venison and brown and seal, stirring with a wooden spoon. This will take a couple of minutes.

Carrot, onion and seasoning is added to the browned venison

Peel the carrots and onion. Slice the carrots in to discs. Half the onions and finely slice. Add the vegetables and thyme to the venison and season. Stir for a further minute or so.

Red wine and beef stock are added to the venison and vegetables

Pour the stock in to the pot along with the red wine. Bring to a simmer and cook in this way for two hours, stirring occasionally and carefully keeping your eye on the liquid level. If your simmer is gentle enough, it should be fine, but you can top up with a little hot water if necessary. After two hours, try a small bit of the venison - it should be beautifully tender. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool completely. (This will take around another couple of hours but note that the meat combination could now be refrigerated to assemble the pie for dinner the following evening).
Venison and stock ready to be topped with pastry for the pie

Put the meat and stock in to a pie dish, measuring 9" by 6". The stock should almost but not quite cover the meat.

Rolling the pastry for the venison game pie

Roll out your pastry on a clean, dry, floured surface to about 10" by 7", so that it will be slightly larger than the pie dish. Lay it carefully on top of the dish and crimp and tuck the edges.

Venison game pie is ready for the oven

Glaze the pie with beaten egg, using a pastry brush. Remember also to cut a steam vent in the centre. Lay it on a roasting tray (helps prevent possible spillage necessitating an oven clean) and bake in the oven, preheated to 400F/200C, for around 40 minutes, until the pastry is beautifully risen and golden.

Venison game pie removed from the oven

When you take your pie from the oven, don't cut it for service immediately. Remember, meat should be rested after cooking, whether it be a roast or a pie like this. Set it aside for fifteen minutes.

Plating the meat of the venison game pie

Cut the pastry of the pie in half and remove to a temporary holding plate. Use a slotted spoon to divide the meat between two serving plates and top with the pastry. Serve with your homemade chips/fries and the frozen peas cooked as per the instructions on the packet.

Pastry is added to the venison game pie filling

Friday, 2 November 2012

Lebanese 7 Spice Lamb and Pepper Stew

Lebanese 7 spice lamb and bell pepper stew is served with rice and garnished with fresh mint

Lamb is one of the most popular meats cooked and eaten both in the Middle East and in North Africa. It is delicious roasted but it is also perfect for making in to a spicy stew. This lamb stew also incorporates mixed bell peppers and the deliciously spicy and tangy Lebanese 7 spice.

Principal ingredients for Lebanese 7 spice lamb and pepper stew

Ingredients (Serves Two)

3/4lb diced lamb
1 small red bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 small yellow bell pepper
1/2 medium onion
Large clove of garlic
1 tsp Lebanese 7 spice*
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint fresh chicken stock
Olive oil for browning lamb
6oz basmati or long grain rice
2 mint sprigs plus chopped mint to garnish

*Lebanese 7 spice is not something I have ever seen in an average supermarket. On this occasion, it was bought at a large, Asian speciality hypermarket in Glasgow. The good news is, however, that if you are having trouble getting hold of it, it can be bought both from Amazon and Amazon UK.

Vegetables prepared and chopped for lamb stew


Begin by preparing the vegetables. The onion should be peeled and moderately finely sliced. The garlic should be peeled and finely diced. The bell peppers should each be seeded and cut in to long strips between a quarter and half an inch in width.

Lamb for stew is browned in olive oil

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in to a large stew pot and heat. Add the lamb and stir with a wooden spoon to brown and seal before adding the spices and seasonings, followed by the vegetables. Stir for a further couple of minutes.

Chopped vegetables are added to browned lamb and spices

Pour the chicken stock in to the pot. Bring the stock to a simmer for one hour or until the lamb is tender. Be sure to stir occasionally and keep an eye on the liquid level. It shouldn't be necessary but a little boiling water can be added if required.

Chicken stock is added to lamb and vegetables

Put the rice in to a fine sieve and rinse under running cold water. This removes a lot of the excess starch. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil and add the rice. Bring back to a simmer, stir well and cook for ten to twelve minutes.

Rice is thoroughly rinsed before it is cooked

The rice could of course simply be served as a bed in the base of the plate. Here I have lined a couple of small bowls with clingfilm, prior to carefully draining the cooked rice through a sieve.

Clingfilm lined small bowl is used to shape rice

Pack the rice in to the bowls. Sit a serving plate on top of each bowl and carefully invert. Hold the edges of the plastic down tight with one hand and carefully lift away the bowl. The plastic should then easily peel free.

Rice is packed in to film wrapped bowl for presenting

Use a large slotted spoon to carefully arrange the stew around the rice on each plate. Garnish the rice with a sprig of mint and the stew with freshly chopped mint.

Spicy lamb stew is spooned around central bed of rice