Italian Sausage

I love American breakfast sausage, thin crusty patties, over-seasoned and excellent with pancakes, french toast and syrup. Nom nom nom. But it’s even better when it’s Italian-style – herby, flecked with colour and flavour. I’ve been making it for Big Breakfasts for a long time, it also does well as burgers for bbqs, meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta, and most recently it’s done duty as a meatball mix for my attempt at home-made Chicago deep dish stuffed pizza.

Just mix together:

3 lbs minced meat, not lean – beef, pork and veal are all excellent candidates. You could use chicken or turkey or venison, but you’d need to make sure you added some really fat pork to balance it out. You don’t have to make 3 pounds weight, it’s just an easy amount to buy.

Fresh vegetable flavours, finely chopped – you can pulse them in a processor but the mix will be wet. For this big a batch of meat, use fresh garlic, at least 6 cloves, a bunch of green onions, two fresh peppers (one green and one red). A red chilli if you like it hot.

Herbs and spices – fennel seeds, dried oregano, fresh basil, salt, black pepper. Start with a teaspoon of each and see how you go. Other things to sneak in are grated orange peel, nutmeg, sage if you have a lot of veal in the mixture, coriander or paprika.

The flavours meld well if you leave it overnight in the fridge, and it will keep a few days.

When you’re ready to cook it, pinch off a small ball and fry/grill it to check the seasoning’s OK, and adjust to preference.

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Bloody Volcano

The skies have been wonderfully clear, brilliant blue air – and it’s getting colder again. Even lit a fire again tonight. So although my kitchen is full of fresh veg, I want something dark and warming. Result?

Braising steak cut up bitesize and cooked long and slow with wedges of carrot, massive slices of ginger, crushed pineapple, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Served with long strips of crunchy veggies stir fried with black beans and wild garlic.

There are Daleks visiting Sheffield railway station tomorrow, we shall go and investigate. A friend has good news, we may celebrate with cake from Fancie in the Winter Gardens.

Planning Ahead

Now I've gone back to work, I'm finding it diffcult to guarantee enough energy to cook properly in the evenings. Plus it's COLD, and we want the sort of food that takes ages and ages. And we're poor. So I've been cooking several stews or similar over the weekend, that can just be finished off and reheated. Today I've made:

  • red cabbage in red wine, with onions, bacon, goose dripping, thyme, bay and lots of pepper – to be finished with vacuum packed chestnuts and to eat with gammon steaks and baked potato if we're really hungry
  • beef braised with fresh ginger, star anise, slices of mandarin orange, lots of carrots, beef stock and sake

I've got something with celeriac and blue cheese in the pipeline, but that will have to be last minute. There's a curry sauce and veg waiting to be stir-fried with some chicken. Which makes four huge meals and puts me ahead of the game. In the past few weeks we've had:

  • goose legs cooked in fat with garlic and thyme in the slow-cooker, fished out and flashroasted
  • venison liver braised with bacon and lots of red onion in stock and redcurrant jelly
  • soft tortillas stuffed with beans, or veg, or chilli, coated with spicy tomato sauce, topped with cheese and baked
  • giant suet herb dumplings cooked in thin veg soup

The larger Christmas meats are beginning to show up now, especially in freezers, and I'm thinking about how to do those and then portion them up.

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Chinese Braised Oxtail

We liked the lamb shank braise, and I was reading Nigel Slater the other day, and he suggested oxtail. And I remembered I'd seen some excellent fresh oxtail in Waitrose, so I went and bought some. Stupidly cheap, half the price of braising steak and not that much bone. Nigel had a recipe variation on the standard red wine braise, which had a Chinese theme, with ginger and star anise. I like star anise with carrots, Dad does them like that for special dinners. I was most of the way through preparing this when I realised it's also a variant on the beef stew with clementine and ginger that we had before Christmas. I didn't follow the Nigel recipe, which involved flouring the oxtail and included onions. I just assembled in a casserole dish:

4 pieces of oxtail (weighed about 1.3 kgs)
3 capfuls Winter Pimms (the orange brandy one)
10 slices of peeled ginger, each about the size of a 10p / quarter
3 cloves garlic, chopped in half
4 medium carrots, in wedges, cut on the diagonal
3 sticks trimmed celery, ditto
3 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 whole star anise
A few grindings of black pepper

I brought it up to hot but not necessarily boiling, covered and bunged it in the oven at Gas Mark 3, it's had three hours so far and will get about another one. Every so often, I took it out, turned the oxtail over, and submerged the veggies more in the juices. Smells lovely. John has some work to do this evening, as soon as he's ready I'm going to zap some Thai noodles and dish up, probably in time for Coronation Street.

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Proper Chilli

I had a recipe years ago, on a scratty bit of paper. An award-winning chilli cook-off recipe, from somewhere in Texas. The bit of paper is long gone, but Heston reminded me of how much fun it was to make, and I started again from basic principles. As follows.

Day 1, Pan 1

  • 4 rashers of pork belly, about half a kilo
  • Splash of sunflower or other light oil
  • 3 teaspoons chipotle paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 x 275 ml bottle lager beer

Fry the pork in the oil in an oven-proof casserole, top with the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours in a low oven, Gas Mark 2-3. Or longer if possible. Allow to cool.

Day 1, Pan 2

  • 1 onion
  • Splash of light oil
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 500 gms beef mince (quite fatty)
  • 2 tsps oregano
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 2 handfuls chopped coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp ground ancho chilli
  • 1 tbsps tomato puree
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 mug good concentrated beef stock
  • 1 tsp Splenda or sugar

Fry the onion, chilli and garlic in the oil. When everything's softened and starting to brown a little bit at the edges, add the mince. Sprinkle the spices and herbs on top of the slab of mince, and mix it all together, cutting and stirring until the meat is well-seasoned and brown. Add the puree, tomatoes, stock and sweetener. Cover and simmer very slowly for about 3 hours, adding water if necessary. It shouldn't be dry at this stage. Cool in the pan overnight.

Day 2 (or 3)

Take the meat out of the jelly in pan 1 and cut it into small pieces. Some will just fall into shreds, that's fine. Tip the whole lot, meat, jelly and fat into pan 2. Heat very slowly and mix together. Simmer gently for 2 – 3 hours, After about an hour, add 4 fresh tomatoes chopped up. The longer you cook it, the drier and milder it will get.

Serve with whatever you like – we had sour cream, avocado chunks, chopped fresh tomato, chopped fresh coriander, refried beans and savoury cornbread. You could have rice, tortillas, nachos, cheese, guacamole.

You can add beans to the chilli if you want, but it will seriously mess with the seasonings. This is a very mild chilli anyway, if you want it hotter, don't cook it for so long, use more raw chillis at the beginning, or add your favourite ground chilli with the ancho – something a lot hotter. I like the smoky taste, I would put in maybe crunched up smoked hot chillis.

It was enough for a good-sized dinner portion for 2, a couple of lunch portions cold, and a couple of dinners in the freezer. With side dishes, it would easily feed 6 – 8 for a dinner, it's very rich.

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Beef Stew with Clementine Juice and Ginger Wine

I saw this recipe in a recent Waitrose magazine, and adapted it for our tea today.

800 gm pack diced braising steak
1 oz plain flour, seasoned
4 banana shallots
2 tbsps oil
1 piece star anise
Half bottle (250ml) fresh clementine juice
250 ml reserve (red top) ginger wine
75 ml beef stock

Heat oven to Gas Mark 2. Toss the meat in the flour, fry in batches in half the oil. Put aside. Chop and fry the shallots in the rest of the oil. Stir in the anise and the liquids, tip the meat back in and boil. Put a lid on it and bung it in the oven for an hour. Take the lid off and give it a stir, and another hour. If you're not ready to eat it, chill it and reheat, or keep on very low for another hour or so.

It was nicely orangey, and a tart orange rather than a sickly one. The ginger smelled good initially, but faded and you could only just taste it. Maybe a bit more fresh or powdered ginger towards the end? It smelled of a good Chinese restaurant while it was cooking, they recommended mash and green veg with it (which is what we had), but I'm thinking boiled rice and a crisp veg stir fry. There was lots of gravy, it was a bit pale and pasty, like flour-based stews often are. Perhaps keep the flour out, just cook in less liquid initially and then thicken at the end with some cornflour and more ginger wine. That was quite a hit of sugar, though. That quantity gave us two large portions each and there's a good portion left.

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Yorkshire Wraps

Have just been out to The Museum pub in Orchard Square. John's in town for a job thing, so we had a treat lunch together. I noticed a strange item on the menu, but it was too hot to order it and see what it actually was. Luckily the woman on the next table had one, so I now understand the principle behind the Yorkshire Wrap.

In a lot of pubs round here you can get a yorkshire pudding, usually somewhere between 4 and 10 inches across, filled with meat and gravy. The meat is traditionally a roast dinner – beef in gravy, say, and you get chips or roast potatoes on the side, plus boiled veg sometimes. The puddings are thick and flabby, like a very stodgy round pancake but with high side edges to hold in the filling. Someone has had a flash of inspiration, and re-created it as finger food.

Take a ready-made catering size pudding, and warm it through. Don't let it get crisp (which I think of as one of the key criteria for a yorkshire pudding, oh well, never mind). Lay it out flat and top it with slices of roast beef smeared with horseradish. Roll it up. Put it (or, dear god, more than one) on a hot plate, add a portion of chips and a large ramekin of good gravy, a salad garnish to look healthy and colourful. Eat with your fingers, dunking as you go.

The pub does two of these, the beef one as described above and another one with sausages and fried red onions, each priced at £6.25. Which is slightly cheaper than one of their (rather good) burgers.

 

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