Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Beef and Tomato One Pot Stew

This beef and tomato stew is incredibly easy to make and is delicious perhaps particularly on a cold Winter's night but very much at any time of year. The only possible drawback with this one pot stew is that it does require a good couple of hours' cooking time. The good news, however, is that making it one night, cooling it, refrigerating it and reheating it (thoroughly) for dinner the next night gives the flavours additional time to infuse and makes it even more tasty. Try serving it with some warmed chunks of fresh, crusty bread.

The beef I have used in this recipe is shin of beef. That is not simply because shin of beef is one of the most inexpensive cuts of beef you can buy but very much because, when the time is taken to cook it properly, it is also one of the tastiest.

Ingredients for Two People

3/4lb shin of beef
1 14oz can of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 pint of fresh beef stock
1/2 medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp freshly chopped basil leaves (plus two small sprigs for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the shin of beef in to three-quarters to one inch chunks. Any excess fat can be discarded but do not trim off all the fat. It is the fat which will keep the beef moist and tender during cooking and which also contains a lot of the flavour. Heat the olive oil gently in a large stew pot and add the beef to brown, stirring it frequently with a wooden spoon for three or four minutes until completely and evenly sealed.

Finely slice the half onion and the garlic. Cut the green bell pepper in half and remove and discard the seeds and white inner membrane. Slice to a quarter inch thickness. Do note, however, that only half the pepper is incorporated in the stew and the remainder is reserved to garnish and add a little bit of crunch to the presented dish.

Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the beef. Stir well and cook for two to three minutes, while you heat the beef stock in a separate pot. Add the canned tomatoes to the mix, followed by the seasoning (salt and pepper) and beef stock and bring to a simmer.

It will take at least two hours, perhaps two and a half, for the shin of beef to become properly tender. Stir the stew occasionally during this time and watch that it is not becoming too thick and devoid of moisture. If necessary, add a little bit of boiling water as required, to ensure there is always some liquid present and that it does not burn.

When the beef is tender, add the chopped basil, stir through and cook for a further five minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining strips of bell pepper and sprigs of basil. Alternatively, cool and refrigerate for a quick and easy dinner the following evening.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Pork Tenderloin Fillet with Blueberry and Apple Cider Sauce

The tenderloin is not only the most tender part of a pig, it is also probably the tastiest. Although not the cheapest cut of meat, pork tenderloin generally remains considerably less expensive than even a moderately decent beef steak. It is important when we are cooking tenderloin, because it is so lean, that we take care that it doesn't dry out and become tough and/or unpalatable. Equally for this reason, it is nice to serve a rich, fruity sauce with the cooked tenderloin fillet.

In a majority of cases, people thinking of a fruit sauce to serve with pork will automatically think of apple sauce. While apple sauce is indeed an excellent accompaniment to many different cuts of pork, it is refreshing on occasion to find and try an alternative. The sauce in this instance was originally intended to be a straightforward blueberry sauce and the meal accompanied by the bottle of cider. The decision to actually incorporate a little of the cider in the sauce was very much a last minute one but definitely something I believe worked well.

Ingredients per Serving

3/4lb fillet of pork tenderloin (it will shrink significantly during cooking)
5 or 6 small new potatoes
2oz trimmed green beans
1 tbsp fresh blueberries
2 tbsp apple cider
1/2 tsp sugar
1oz butter (plus a little extra for potatoes)
Little olive oil for greasing foil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Lay a large sheet of aluminium foil on a baking tray and very lightly grease the centre - where the pork tenderloin fillet will sit - with a drizzle of olive oil. Place the pork on the oiled area, season with salt and pepper and wrap the foil into a loose but sealed tent. Cook in the oven for twenty-five minutes. It should then be removed from the oven and set aside (still wrapped in the foil) to rest for ten minutes while your potatoes finish cooking and you cook your sauce and beans.

Wash but don't peel your new potatoes. Add them to a pot of cold, slightly salted water and put on a high heat until the water boils. Reduce to a simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes until the potatoes are soft when tested with a metal skewer or the point of a sharp knife.

Wash the blueberries and add them to a small saucepan, along with the sugar and cider. Place the pan on a medium heat and cook until the blueberries burst and the sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. This should take around four to five minutes. Reserve the remainder of the bottle of cider to enjoy with your plated meal.

The green beans could of course be blanched in water if you prefer but in this instance I have quickly fried them off in some butter. Put the 1oz of butter in to a small, non-stick frying pan and gently melt. Add the beans and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Cook on a fairly high heat for two to three minutes, moving them around frequently with a spatula.

Drain your potatoes and return them to the empty pot with the remaining butter. Swirl them gently around to ensure even coating. Carefully unwrap the pork and lay it on a heated serving plate. The potatoes and beans should be arranged alongside before the blueberry and apple cider sauce is carefully spooned over the pork. Serve immediately - not forgetting the remainder of your cider!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Grilled Coley Fillet with Herb Baked New Potatoes and Mushrooms

Coley is one of the sustainable types of fish which is perfect for eating instead of the desperately endangered Atlantic cod or haddock. It is a white, meaty fish, just like cod or haddock, and where it is cooked properly, coley can be every bit as tasty and enjoyable as its distant cousins. Coley is known by a number of different names just in the UK alone, such as coalfish, saithe or cuddlings. In the US, coley is commonly linked with pollack and the two are known collectively as pollock.

This grilled coley is one of the quickest and easiest ways of cooking fillets. It is a domestic, overhead grill that is used, rather than an outdoor grill. The potato dish made to accompany the coley is actually my own adaptation of an outdoor grilling recipe devised by a friend of mine on Hub Pages, who writes under the name, "Just Ask Susan." I would strongly recommend you take a look at Susan's original, spicy version of this potato recipe, especially where you are lucky enough to live in a climate where outdoor grilling is a regular option. You can find the details by clicking here, after you have read this coley recipe.

Ingredients per Serving

1 fresh coley fillet (skin on - very important)
1/2 oz butter
3 medium sized new potatoes
2 closed cup mushrooms
1/2 medium onion
Large clove of garlic
Generous pinch of dried thyme
Generous pinch of dried rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and white pepper

Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C. Wash the potatoes and add them to a pot of cold water. Put the pot on to a high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Take the pot to the sink and run cold water in to it for a minute or so to rapidly cool the potatoes. Peeling the potatoes is optional. Normally I wouldn't but in this instance, the skins were particularly blemished so I simply rubbed them off with the ball of my thumb. Chop the potatoes in to approximately 1" chunks.

Pour the olive oil in to a glass or stone mixing bowl. Add the herbs and season with salt and white pepper. Mix well. Mixing the seasoning with the oil before adding the remaining ingredients allows the seasoning to be distributed much more evenly and effectively.

Roughly chop the onion half, cut the mushrooms in half and peel and finely slice the garlic. Add the onion, potatoes, mushrooms and garlic to the bowl. Instead of stirring the ingredients, hold the bowl at a slight angle with one hand and fold the vegetables through the oil with a wooden spoon, similar to how you would fold flour in to wet ingredients. This method will be less likely to damage the potatoes or mushrooms.

Lay a large sheet of aluminium foil on a baking tray, shiny side uppermost. Carefully pour the vegetable mix in to the centre and wrap in to a loose but sealed tent. Bake in the oven for forty-five minutes.

If, like me, you have a combination oven and grill, it is clearly not practical to use both at the same time. In this instance, this is not a problem. When the potatoes are ready, turn off the oven and remove the tray to a heatproof board. Being very careful of escaping steam, unwrap the foil enough to test the potatoes are done with a skewer or the point of a sharp knife. Rewrap and leave like this while you grill the coley fillet. The vegetables will easily remain hot during this time.

Take about a third of your half ounce of butter and use it to lightly grease a non-stick grilling tray. Lay the coley fillet on the greased area, skin side down. Season the coley with salt and white pepper. Break the remainder of the butter in to small pieces and distribute evenly over the top of the fish. Grill under a moderately hot grill for six or seven minutes until the coley just starts to separate in to flakes and you can clearly see it is cooked.

Use a fish turner to carefully transfer the coley fillet to your serving plate. Add the potato mixture alongside and if you do wish to add further garnish, try some sliced cherry tomatoes, or freshly chopped parsley.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

All Day Breakfast With A Difference

The all day breakfast is a very popular concept, here in the UK at least. After all, a lot of people who love the combination of ingredients can't face a large fried breakfast in the morning before they go to work - or alternatively, they simply don't have time to make it. One of the dangers of visiting a cafe, however, for an all day breakfast, is that by doing so in the afternoon or early evening, you run the risk of simply getting that morning's unsold reheats. It will by no means always be the case but I vividly recall one experience in Central London, near Kings Cross Station, going for an all day breakfast that would have put anyone experiencing it for the first time off the idea altogether for life!

This all day breakfast is different in the sense that it uses a variety of cooking methods, as opposed to simply the one or two frying pans options. The ingredients - most importantly - are all freshly cooked. If you are someone who has a heartier appetite in the evening than in the morning, you can enjoy an almost traditional fried breakfast to full effect at the best time of your choosing.

Note: Although you may not have access to Lorne sausage, or even black/blood pudding, you can mix and match, with perhaps the likes of small burger patties. It must also be remembered that bacon is very different here in the UK to what it is in the USA. British bacon is taken from the back of the pig, while US bacon is taken more from the belly. This Ayrshire middle bacon is almost a combination of the two but bacon rashers of any type will suffice.

Ingredients per Person

2 beef link sausages
1 Lorne sausage
1 slice of black pudding
2 slices of Ayrshire middle bacon
1 large breakfast mushroom (4 to 5" diameter)
1 medium tomato
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying

You will need ideally two frying pans for this meal, even though the bacon is going to be grilled and the egg hard boiled. Pour a little bit of oil in to the larger pan and add the two link sausages. Do not prick the sausages. This only causes the juices and the flavours to be lost in to the pan. They are going to be cooked very slowly, which should prevent them from bursting. Put the pan on to a very low heat and fry for ten minutes, turning occasionally with cooking tongs.

After ten minutes, leave the sausages where they are (they require twenty minutes' cooking time) and add the black pudding and Lorne sausage to the pan. These two items should be fried for five minutes each side.

At this point, add your egg (which should be at room temperature and not straight from the refrigerator) to a pan of cold water. Put on a high heat until the water starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for six or seven minutes. Add a little vegetable oil to the smaller frying pan and bring up to a fairly high high heat. Carefully pull the stalk out of the mushroom and half the tomato. Put the tomato halves flesh side down in to the frying pan and the mushroom in, cup side up.

The sausages and black pudding should be removed from the large frying pan to a heated plate and covered with foil to keep warm while the remainder of the meal is completed. You will likely find that water has accumulated in the cup of the mushroom. Use your cooking tongs to lift the mushroom and pour the water in to a small cup or bowl to be discarded. Fry the mushroom cup side down for the last few minutes while you grill the bacon under an overhead grill for a couple of minutes each side.

Take the pot containing the egg to the sink and run cold water in to it for about thirty seconds or until the egg is cool enough to handle. Crack the shell of the egg all around on a hard surface and peel under running cold water. Carefully quarter the egg lengthwise on a wooden chopping board with a sharp knife.

Plate the mushroom cup side uppermost. Arrange the sausages, black pudding and tomato halves around it. Shake the excess grease off the bacon before laying it as a bed for the egg quarters inside the cup of the mushroom. Arrange the egg as shown at the top of this post and serve immediately, with HP Sauce or Tomato ketchup, as desired.

Important: Do remember that the skin of the black pudding is likely to be plastic and should be removed and discarded.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sustainable Fish and Chips: Whiting in Fresh Breadcrumbs

The Big Fish Fight is a campaign which was launched in January 2011 by the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The campaign is targeted specifically at eliminating the horrendous process known as discard - whereby fishermen are required to throw dead fish back in to the sea to comply with quotas - but also very much at highlighting the plight of the endangered species in our seas and oceans and encouraging people to eat more sustainable species of fish. Last night, I was one of what I sincerely hope were many millions of Britons who watched an update on Channel 4 regarding the success of the Fish Fight to date.

The news was largely good and encouraging and full details can be found on the Fish Fight website linked to in the first sentence of the above paragraph. Many supermarkets and fish suppliers, as well as the bureaucrats in Brussels, have been moved to action to at least some extent. What I have to confess to being extremely disappointed in, however, was the actual content of last night's programme. I felt that there was far too much time devoted to showing the EU Parliament and repetitive interviews. Yes, the information is important but could easily have been condensed in to a quarter of the time period devoted to it. What I would much rather have seen is time spent showing people how to cook and enjoy the less endangered species of fish in our oceans. "Show, don't tell," is an excellent piece of advice in many respects...

There was one statistic given in last night's show which horrified me above all others. I did not realise that whiting - one of the most beautiful eating fish in any sea - was so badly affected by discard. Apparently, more than two-thirds of all whiting caught in the North Sea are discarded! From the second I learned of this onwards, there was no doubt about what would be appearing on this blog today. Beautiful, traditional, British fish and chips - made with the delectable, delicious, sustainable and grossly under-rated, whiting.

Ingredients per person

1 4oz whiting fillet
1 large floury potato
2 slices of bread made in to breadcrumbs
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedge and sprig of parsley for garnish
Vegetable oil for frying


The chips in this recipe are prepared in exactly the same fashion as they have been prepared many times before on this blog. I am seriously considering getting a panel in the right hand column of the blog to which I can simply refer new readers, to save on repetition. Briefly, however, the potato is peeled, sliced and chopped in to chips. The chips are added to a deep pot of cold water, which is brought to a boil before the heat is reduced and the chips are simmered for only five minutes. After this time, they are drained and submerged in cold water for a further five minutes to cool them rapidly. Place them in a plastic dish and in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Dry the chips carefully in a clean tea towel. Deep fry them for five minutes, drain on kitchen paper, cover and leave to cool. Put them back in to the dried dish and the refrigerator for a further half hour. After this time, begin preparing your whiting.

Spread your fresh breadcrumbs on to a dinner plate. Break the egg in to a flat bottomed bowl, season with salt and pepper and beat only enough to combine.

Add enough vegetable oil to a non-stick frying pan to comfortably cover the base. It is important to have a reasonable amount of oil in your pan when frying fish, especially in breadcrumbs, if you don't want the fish to start to break up during cooking. Bring the oil up to a fairly high heat.

Draw the whiting fillet through the egg to ensure it is fully and evenly coated. Pat it gently on both sides in the breadcrumbs and shake lightly to remove the excess breadcrumbs. Repeat this process. Twice in the egg and twice in the breadcrumbs will give your whiting fillet a much more even and crispier coating.

At this stage, get your chips back in to your deep frier. They will require a further five minutes to crisp up and turn golden. They should be removed from the frier and drained on kitchen paper just before your whiting fillet is ready to come out of the frying pan.

Place the whiting fillet carefully in to the frying pan and reduce the heat slightly. Fry for two or three minutes each side until the breadcrumbs are beautifully crisp and golden. Be sure that when you are turning your fish and ultimately plating it, you do use a proper fish turner. Otherwise, you risk breaking your fillet and irrevocably spoiling final presentation.

When your fish is ready, remove it from the pan to the plate. Add your drained chips alongside, garnish with the lemon wedge and parsley and serve immediately. Suggested condiments include salt, malt vinegar, HP Sauce and tomato ketchup.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Sausage and Tomato Naan Bread Pizza

Naan bread pizza may just change the way you think of pizza for ever. Not only is it absolutely delicious, naan bread pizza is a fantastic way of using up leftover food items, including everything from the naan bread itself, to perhaps roast chicken, to - as in this instance - sausages. The items which can be incorporated in naan bread pizzas are virtually limitless and given that I presented a vegetarian naan bread pizza on this blog a few weeks back, I am now evening up the score with this sausage and tomato option.

It is possible of course to use tomato sauce from a jar for this recipe. If making your own, however, as I have done, note that it is vital you leave it to cool before spreading it on the naan bread. Otherwise, it will simply soak in to the naan, making it soggy and spoiling the whole effect of your pizza. Remember, therefore, to factor in around an extra hour to your cooking time for this purpose. Alternatively, make the tomato sauce the night before and refrigerate it.

Ingredients per Naan Bread Pizza

1 10" long naan bread

1 8oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and black pepper

2 sausages (precooked)
1 medium tomato
1/2 small red onion
2oz pizza mozzarella cheese
2oz cheddar or similar hard cheese
3 or 4 basil leaves for garnish


Pour the tomatoes in to a small saucepan. Peel the garlic clove and grate it in to the tomatoes with a small hand grater. Season with the dried basil, salt and black pepper. Place on a high heat until the tomatoes reach a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until a lush sauce is formed. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside to cool.

The naan bread pizza will need to go in to a hot oven so put your oven on to preheat to 450F/220C before you start building the pizza.

Lay the naan bread on a large baking tray and pour the tomato sauce in the centre. Spread the sauce evenly over the naan bread with the underside of a large spoon.

These sausages which I had leftover were organic pork, Cornish cheddar cheese and tomato. Any type of sausage will do, however, provided they are precooked and ideally cooled. Slicing them at an angle as shown makes for bigger, more attractive slices.

Slice the tomato as thinly as possible and arrange the sausage and tomato slices in even layers over the tomato sauce.

The red onion could also be sliced and arranged in a layer. I prefer, however, to moderately finely dice it and scatter it over the pizza. The flavour distribution definitely seems to be better.

It is important that the mozzarella cheese used for any type of pizza is the firm type, normally labelled pizza mozzarella. The soft mozzarella, usually sold in ball form in brine, is not suitable for this purpose. The mozzarella cheese should be sliced and chopped and the cheddar or other hard cheese should be coarsely grated.

Scatter the two types of cheese evenly over the naan bread pizza. Season with some freshly ground black pepper. Put in to the hot oven for ten to twelve minutes until the cheese has melted and started to bubble. Garnish with the torn basil leaves and serve immediately.