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.

Turkish Breakfast Eggs

eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce

Breakfast at Cumulus Inc

In Melbourne, food blogger Ess Jay took us to Cumulus Inc one morning for breakfast. It was all very swish and stylish. Excellent coffee, as we’d come to expect already, standard local breakfast dishes like Bircher Muesli, and some wonderful specialities. I had to try the 65/65 egg, which is an egg poached at 65 degrees for 65 minutes – the white sets beautifully while the yolk is still creamy. I opted for it atop some home-baked beans and ham hock. John is a big fan of eggs for breakfast, and chose the Turkish baked eggs. The menu description just says “Turkish baked eggs, spiced tomato, dukkah, labne” so we weren’t sure how it would be presented.

In the end (see photo) it was a version of Huevos Rancheros, or Eggs in Purgatory, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods. A skillet of thick highly-seasoned tomato sauce, stirred through with cooked greens, with eggs dropped into it and baked. Fresh labne (yoghourt cheese) dabbed on the top, along with dukkah. Two slices of what Melbournians call Turkish bread on the side, toasted.

Dukkah is strange stuff. It’s basically roast and coarsely ground seeds (sesame, coriander and cumin being the mainstays), mixed with coarse salt. You can put a little bowl of it out with bread and olive oil, for texturised dunking. Or you can use it as a crumb, a sprinkle, a rub … possibilities are endless. It’s Egyptian in origin, and can include dried mint, pepper, aniseedy flavourings, and things to bulk it out. Commercial ones include roast ground chickpeas, which are cheap, but you could use finely chopped nuts. I found an Australian recipe which features hazelnuts and looks very yummy.

We used to make labne years ago when I was a vegetarian hippy, although we didn’t know to call it that. We just took our homemade thick yoghourt, wrapped it in cheesecloth and hung it to drain overnight. You can form it into balls and preserve it in olive oil, and you can buy that sort of labne in a jar at speciality shops. I made a brief sortie in search of some the other day, but they were sold out. So I bought some mozzarella “pearls” instead, and they’ve been lurking in a jar with some thyme and lemon peel, covered in good dark green olive oil.

Currently on the stove I’ve got the tomato sauce simmering.

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • sweated in a reasonable amount of olive oil with 2 sprigs of thyme and 3 fresh bay leaves
  • mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp crushed garlic

heated until the flavours rise

  • plus a good splurge of tomato paste, and 2 tins of plum tomatoes, plus some water to stop it burning

It’s been simmering for about an hour. I’ll let it thicken up in a bit, and drop some eggs into it – not sure yet if I’ll bake them properly or just let them poach in it. John isn’t too keen on greens, so I’ve left that out, and I’m doing some lemon creamed chard anyway as another dish. I have a commercial dukkah from Sainsburys, just to see what it’s like. But I may abandon it and mix a home-grown one if it’s boring. And as we’re having a Middle-Eastern sort of supper, there may well be pitta bread.

(In the end I put 6 large eggs in the sauce, topped with random splurgings of cheese in oil, and cooked on the stovetop with a lid on. Served 3, sprinkled with the commercial dukkah and some extra roasted chopped hazelnuts, and a couple of pittas each.

The tomato sauce could be varied by popping some heat in it, paprika or chilli, but didn’t need it. I need to practice with timing, the eggs were cooked all the way through and would have been better soft.)

The Fifth Quarter – an offal cookbook

I borrowed this from the library, hoping to find some recession-proof recipes. It's not brilliant for that, a bit too esoteric (Anissa Helou, the author, mentions her good friend Arabella Boxer which is a Big Clue, not to mention the foreword by Hugh Fearney-Wittingstall.). A lot of the offal is of academic interest as it's difficult to get, and many of the recipes are so ethnic they're virtually impossible. Brains and lamb tripe are not easy to find, but goose feet and abalone (at least one of which is endangered) are in the You're Just Avin A Larf category. As is Singapore Fish Head Curry. There were some good hints and tips buried in it though.

I had always thought of heart as a long-cooking casserole meat (although I've had cold smoked moose heart, which was gorgeous), but apparently lamb heart and liver make a good mix and can go on a bbq kebab or be grilled briefly. Lots of yummy Moroccan flavours.

You can hollow out a giant potato, bury a well-seasoned lamb kidney in it, and bake it. We're trying that one this week.

Kidney can feature in Chinese dishes, stir-fried and with a sweet and sour sauce. Liver salad with a Chinese sesame and garlic dressing.

There was also a recipe for Little Pots of Curried Kidneys which is basically a very mild extra-creamy curry sauce, with kidneys and onions fried in butter mixed in, topped with breadcrumbs and briefly flash-baked. Looks like a good breakfast, or starter, or lunch with kedgeree.

A Spanish recipe for pig's trotters simmered with onion, tomato, garlic, with added prunes and pine nuts, thickened with ground almonds and crushed biscuit. That would do for a belly pork or lamb breast as well, I would think.

It was an interesting book to read, difficult because there is a lot of text on darkly coloured pages. I wasn't sure whether the aim of it was to enthuse me or gross me out (tripe makes me heave at the best of times, but fish tripe?), but it's certainly given me a few ideas. I certainly wouldn't buy my own copy, though.

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Blueberry Muffins

DrGourmet has changed the Blueberry Muffin recipe, which I used to have a lot for breakfast. The new one has loads more fibre, and I'm sure will be very nice. But I like the old one too! good job I printed it off. This quantity made 6 big muffins, at 174 cals per muffin. It doubled up easily, and you could freeze them individually, they defrost overnight in the fridge.

 

  • 3 tbsps light spread
  • 0.5 cup Splenda
  • No-fat dried egg subsitute, 1 egg's worth, plus the liquid to make it up
  • 2 tbsps non-fat yoghourt
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 cup non-fat buttermilk
  • 0.5 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Cream the spread and Splenda til smooth, whisk in the yoghourt and vanilla.

Sift in the dry ingredients. Gently fold together, adding buttermilk and the required amount of water for the egg substitute. (If you're out of egg substitute, put 1 whole egg in with the yoghourt.) Don't overmix. Fold in the blueberries last.

Put in a muffin tin, with papers if you can get them.

He says bake 12-15 minutes, but that was never enough, I found half an hour was better.

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Christmas Day menu

Breakfast:

Beetroot-cured salmon, blinis, hardboiled quail eggs, creme fraiche, Ovruga fake caviar, chives and dill. Champagne or clementine juice, coffee.

Dinner:

Glass of Taylor's Chip Dry White Port, chilled.

Roast goose, goosefat roast potatoes, butter roast parsnips, sausages in bacon, sage and onion stuffing balls, plain boiled sprouts, petits pois, ginger cream sauce, port and redcurrant gravy. Choice of spiced pickled pears, sweet spiced prunes, cherry compote, cranberry and horseradish relish. Chateau Neuf du Pape.

Christmas pudding with cream or white sauce or rum butter. Orange Muscat Flora.

Coffee and Bendicks mints.

Late supper:

Winter apple, Comte cheese, clementine.

Phew.

 

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Carrot and Coriander Muffins

I lik muffins for breakfast, and most of the recipes I have are sweet. These looked interesting and different, and come out at 204 cals per muffin. My normal blueberry muffins have 174, but I use non-fat yoghourt, low-fat buttermilk, sunflower spread, Splenda and non-fat egg substitute. So I expect with some tweaking I could get these down. Recipe makes 9 deep / large muffins. From delicious, September 2005.

 

  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 175 gms carrots
  • 50 gms pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 150 gms plain flour
  • 100 gms wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • some black pepper – doesn't list it on ingredients but is mentioned in recipe
  • 200 ml milk (it doesn't say, but go for semi-skimmed)
  • 1 egg (try soy egg replacement)
  • 4 tbsps olive oil (think this might be necessary … the lightest you can find)

Preheat oven to Gas 5. Line 9 holes of a deep muffin tray.

Dry fry the cumin seed until toasted. Put into a large bowl, and add the carrot (coarsely grated), the pumpkin seeds and coriander.

Sift and add all other dry ingredients.

Add milk, egg and oil, stirring lightly until just mixed.

Fill each muffin hole 2/3rds full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and firm. Cool 5 minutes, turn onto wire rack. Best the day they're made but can be frozen.

 

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Beetroot-cured salmon

We always have salmon over the holidays. Smoked, whole baked Crusader style with cinnamon and dried fruit, cold decorated with citrussy mustard jellied mayonnaise, or Russian pie with rice, hard-boiled eggs, dill and puff pastry. I like it with horseradish, too. We love beetroot as well, best of all being Russian beetroot caviar with garlic, prunes and brandy.

I've never tried making home-cured gravadlax, but this looks like an interesting place to start. From Good Food December 2005. Says serves 8 with leftovers, the calorie count is 306 per serving but that's based on 12 servings.

  • 2 skin-on salmon fillets, about 3lb in total
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz seasalt flakes
  • 3 oz fresh horseradish
  • 3 medium raw beetroot, grated but not necessarily peeled
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped

SALAD

  • 1 frisee or oak leaf lettuce
  • 4 medium beetroot, cooked, peeled and diced (that would be one vacuum-pack of pre-cooked)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • drizzle olive oil

DRESSING

  • 1 200ml tub creme fraiche
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp fresh horseradish
  • handful dill fronds, chopped

Check the salmon fillets for pin bones. Mix up all the other ingredients to make the cure. Lay out a double-thickness of cling film and spoon on some of the cure. Top with one piece of salmon, skin side down. Add most of the rest of the cure. Sandwich together with the other piece of salmon, skin side up. Add the last of the cure, wrap up tightly. Put in a container (like a roasting tray), and weight. Keep somewhere cool (fridge or garage if it's cold enough) for at least 3 days or up to a week. Check every day, pour away surplus liquid, turn the salmon, and re-weight.

On the day, unwrap the salmon and brush off the remaining cure. Slice into thin slivers. Mix up the dressing and toss the salad.

The salmon will now keep in the fridge for a week and can be used as smoked salmon.

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