Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hearty casserole

This is a basic recipe for a meat, offal and potato casserole, which makes a complete meal. Quite a few variations are possible, involving pretty much any cuts of meat and offal, and most of the veg and herbs could be varied too. It would just be necessary to find the appropriate cooking times, which is quite possible, given that the meat items are added one at a time.

Serves 6
Total cooking time around 90 minutes.

Lamb neck fillet 200g
Lambs liver 200g
Beef heart 150g
2 Merguez sausages
Black pudding 50g
4 good-sized potatoes
2 shallots
4 cloves garlic
2 sticks celery
1 can butter beans (optional)
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 carrot
1 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika puree
0.5 glass red wine
dash of red wine vinegar
a few drops Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp sauce flour
0.5 tsp paprikon (Spanish smoked paprika powder)
salt, pepper
400ml stock
bay leaves
olive oil

Chop the lamb into bite-sized pieces, and chop the shallots and celery. Fry in olive oil in a frying pan for two or three minutes then add half the shallot and celery, and two of the garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed. Cook until the lamb is browned, then turn into a casserole pan big enough to take all of the ingredients with the stock. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and vinegar and add to the pan. Add the herbs, tomato and paprika puree, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and allow to simmer for 15-20 mins while you prepare the other ingredients.

Chop the remaining meat into bite-sized pieces, coating the heart and liver in flour. Chop the potatoes and remaining vegetables into small pieces.

Add the potato, carrot and remaining celery, shallots and garlic to the casserole pan. Heat some more olive oil in the frying pan and then briefly fry and add the remaining meat items into the pan in the following order (replacing and heating oil whenever necessary):
merguez, black sausage, heart, liver. Keep the pan simmering, and stir occasionally to cook evenly and stop the flour from sticking on the bottom. Add more stock or water if necessary to obtain the desired amount of liquid and the right consistency.

When the potatoes are nearly cooked (about 20 mins after they were introduced) add the kale, stir in well, and allow to cook for a couple of minutes then serve.

I made this quantity just for myself and froze 5 portions in take-away containers for future offaly ready meals. It freezes and reheats well, and due to chopping everything up in small pieces, is easy to eat.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Much of what I cook is inspired by Japanese and Chinese cuisine and is based on what I call 'potions'. The basic ingredients are:

  • Japanese dark soy sauce

  • Mirin (sweetened rice vinegar)

  • Sake

in roughly equal proportions, to which I would usually add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce (after discovering that this is ubiquitous in Japan!). Other ingredients to vary the flavour include:

  • Reduced marinades

  • Stock (meat of various types, vegetable)

  • Light soy sauce

  • Tamari soy sauce

  • Beetroot vinegar (the vinegar from a jar of pickled beetroot, a delicious and much under-used resource!)

  • Sesame oil

  • MSG

  • Dashi powder

  • Oyster sauce

  • Tabasco sauce

  • Liquid from steeping dried mushrooms

The basic idea is simple. About 25mg per person of potion provides the seasoning for stir fries, along with added fresh ingredients such as chilli, garlic and ginger, or dried chillis and spices such as Chinese 5-spice.

Stir frying

Heat the oil or fat in a wok. Groundnut or vegetable oil are fine, maybe with a dash of sesame oil for extra flavour. I sometimes also use pork fat saved from an earlier roast, bacon or other such.

I like to throw in some black mustard seeds when it I think it is ready, and they will pop and jump if the oil is hot enough.

Make sure everything is ready to hand for cooking, and the you have set the table and got the serving utensils ready, and warmed bowls or plates if you need them. You'll need 100% concentration on the frying for a few minutes!

If the dish includes meat, I would cook it twice. Stir frying is great for left-over meat from roasts or other meals. If the meat is fresh, I wouldn't just toss it in the stir fry with everything else. It is likely to give out too much liquid. I'd fry or poach it (in sake, soy sauce and mirin), and then put it aside, reduce the liquid and use that as the base for the potion. More on potions here.

Keep the heat high, and keep stirring! Throw in the meat first, and make sure it is starting to brown, then pour in a little (c. 0.5-1 tbsp) of the potion. Let the sauce evaporate before throwing in the veg. Don't put them all in at once - it will reduce the heat in the pan too much. Phase their introduction with the things that take the most cooking first (mange-tout, chilli, garlic, ginger, carrot), then medium items (mushroom, spring onion, pak choi, chinese leaf) then things that hardly require any cooking (bean sprouts, sweet pepper), although cooking times will depend on how you have chopped them. Add a little of the potion from time to time, but only as much as will evaporate quickly - don't flood it and start poaching the food instead of frying it. Straight after the last veg add the noodles and then the rests of the potion. Ensure it is all piping hot and then transfer everything to a warmed bowl. Serve and eat!

Teriyaki pork stir-fried noodles

Serves 2

There are two stages to this dish, and two sets of ingredients - see also stage 2 below.

Stage 1: Teriyaki Pork

  • 1 good-sized boneless pork steak (150g or more)
  • a little oil or pork fat for frying
Teriyaki sauce:
  • 2 tbsp Kikkoman sweet soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 3 tbsp sake
  • Sprinkle of Chinese 5-spice seasoning
(or use an equivalent quantity of a bottled teriyaki sauce)

Mix the teriyaki ingredients in a glass. Heat the oil or fat in a wok. I used some pork fat which I had in the fridge from an earlier roast. Groundnut or vegetable oil are fine, maybe with a dash of sesame oil for extra flavour. When the oil is hot, throw in the pork steak whole. Fry it on a high heat on one side for about 1 minute, until starting to brown, then turn and do the same on the other side. Turn the heat down and cook slowly for around 2 minutes on each side.

Pour in the teriyaki sauce ingredients, and gently poach the pork for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness, turning occasionally, until it is no longer bloody in the middle. Still pink is good. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the pork into small pieces appropriate for stir-frying when it has cooled a little. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce in the pan until it starts to thicken. Set aside the sauce as the base for the potion for the stir fry. Clean the wok.

An alternative option at this point...

Stage 2: Stir-fried noodles

  • Chopped pork and reduced sauce from stage one.
  • Stir-fry vegetables (I used pak choi, bean sprouts, spring onions, grated carrot)
  • Fresh green chilli (any hot element) (I used half of a very hot small green chilli. Any kind of chilli, red or green, fresh or dried, or something hot added to the sauce could have a similar effect)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • fresh ginger (roughly the same quantity as the garlic)
  • 140-150g buckwheat noodles (or any other kind of noodles)
  • 1-2 tbsp oil (e.g. groundnut and sesame)
  • juice of half a lime
Bring a pan-full of water to the boil, then add the noodles. Keep on a rolling boil for the amount of time specifed on the packet (minus 1 minute or so - they are going to get a bit more cooking in the stir-fry). When ready, remove from the heat, drain into a strainer with a handle and run under the cold tap to cool them down and stop them from continuing to cook. Set aside and allow to cool.

Wash and chop the vegetables. Keep these to hand, along with the sauce. Add the lime juice to the teriyaki sauce. There should be about 30ml - add a little soy sauce and mirin to the teriyaki sauce if you need more. This is the potion - read more about Martin's potions.

Heat the oil in the wok. Throw in the pork first, and make sure it is starting to brown, then pour in a little (c. 1 tbsp) of the sauce. Let the sauce evaporate before throwing in the veg. Add the veg and add a little of the sauce from time to time, but only as much as will evaporate quickly. Straight after the last veg add the noodles and then the rest of the sauce. Ensure it is all piping hot and then transfer everything to a warmed bowl. Serve and eat!

Read more about stir-frying.

Drinking suggestions

I find this best matched with lager. I had Kirin Ichiban. I tried it with a Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc 2010 (South Africa), £3.99 from Majestic, but the strong chilli taste meant that I couldn't taste wine, so I reverted to the beer. The wine was very drinkable though, and we enjoyed it after the meal.

An alternative

After completing stage 1, you could slice the pork into bite sized pieces for eating with chopsticks, reduce the sauce down to a sticky syrup and pour it over the pork. That would be teriyaki pork, good served with plain boiled rice. Adding some ginger juice to the sauce, or frying the pork with some ginger slices would be good for some extra flavour. This would basically be Tsuji's 'Ginger Pork', which I will make on a future occasion.