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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Orange Rice

Went really well with spiced lamb, better with a plainer meat than a rich sauce or casserole.

In a heavy pan (preferably one that has a lid for later), fry in a little oil:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cut mixed peel (or diced citron, or shredded tangerine peel)
  • 2 handfuls carrot batons

When it's all soft and smelling spicy, stir in a cup or so of preferred rice (tonight was easy cook brown Italian), and cover with boiling water, some chicken stock concentrate or salt to taste.

Cook slowly-ish, for about half an hour, with a lid on. In the last few minutes, nibble a grain or two of rice to check it's cooked, add a little fat (butter, or fat off the meat if you're having it with a roast), and raise the heat to boil off the liquid.

Take the cinnamon stick out, and warn people about the cloves and peppercorns.

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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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Christmas Dinner 2007

Found some goose breast crowns in LIDL, weighing about a kilo each, for £8. The instructions were to roast at 200 (Gas Mark 6) for an hour, and that worked really well. I was using a single small oven this year, and that let me roast the potatoes underneath and the celery stuffing on the bottom.

Two of them gave off about a pint of good quality fat, and we carved off two whole breasts from each one, one breast per person. That was a large portion of solid meat, and there was a spare breast for slices if seconds were required.

The German meat stall at the Sheffield Christmas Market sold sealed longlife bags of shredded red cabbage cooked in apple juice, I microwaved one of them as a veg.

Dad did his oriental braised sprouts, and carrots with soy sauce and star anise. There were some steamed new potatoes, as well as the roasties.

Plain gravy made in the goose roasting tin, with some Chardonnay left over from Christmas Eve supper.

EDIT: Whoops, forgot, apple butter sauce with cloves as well

Bottle of Quinze President with main course.

A Waitrose "richly fruited" christmas pudding, with cream or white sauce, and a tiny bottle of Royal Tokay wine.

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Thanksgiving Jello Salad

I don't know how exactly she made it, but this is a reasonable simulacrum of my mother-in-law's Thanksgiving Dinner Salad.

A packet of orange jello, enough to make 570 ml / 1 UK pint (I used a block of tangerine today)
A medium tin of pineapple pieces in syrup
Apple juice, less than a pint
1.5 large fresh crisp carrots
A clear glass or plastic dish that you can serve from, or a nice-shaped dish if you plan to turn it out.

Drain the pineapple well. Heat the syrup and melt the jelly into it. Make up to a pint with cold apple juice.

Pour a small amount of jelly into the dish and pop it into the fridge until it sets well around the edge. Grate the carrots, not too finely. Sprinkle the carrot into the dish, fill up with most of the rest of the jelly. Adjust the amount of carrot so that there will still be room for the pineapple and the last of the jelly.

Arrange the pineapple pieces on the top, and gently add the last of the jelly. Refrigerate until set, turn out if you like to slice, or spoon from the dish.

You can always make more jelly if you need to, for example if you've chosen a bowl-shaped dish. Don't try to use fresh pineapple, the jelly won't set. You might be able to get away with pineapple in juice, but I'm wary. And if you like to turn it out and make a centrepiece of it, you can put the pineapple in first and add maraschino cherries to make a pattern.

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Moroccan Salad

Back to the recipe library backlog … A Waitrose card for a salad, good at any time of year. Serves 4 at 412 cals per.

  • 500 gms carrots, cut into 2cm lengths
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsps white wine vinegar (unless you're using pickled or marinated beetroot, in which case miss it out)
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 oranges
  • 250 gms cooked beetroot, cut in chunks
  • 2 x 100 gm packs goat's cheese, in chunks
  • 20 gm pack flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Cook the carrot until tender. Toast the cumin seed, and mix with the vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning (salt and pepper, presumably). Coat the hot carrots in this mix and leave to cool to room temperature.

Peel the oranges and cut into chunks. Fold everything together and serve.

(I'd be tempted to marinate the cheese in with the carrots, and not add salt until I was sure it needed it – goat's cheese can be well salty. That's a lot of calories to say there's no bread with it, but the carrots and beetroot should keep it quite filling.)

 

 

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Pimms Winter Carrots

Before I forget. Last night we had Christmas Eve again, and I bought some little salmon en croute parcels (which were actually fairly boring). They had ginger and spinach in them, and I'd decided on quite plain veg, with steamed new potatoes, frozen peas, and a dish of carrots. I'd bought the carrots already cut in batons, with the intention of poaching them in fruit juice and a bit of butter. In went the ends of the nice juices in the fridge – ruby breakfast, orange, and clementine. A sprinkling of salt, and a knob of butter. Looking at the salmon and thinking it would be quite dry, I wanted to keep the carrots wet with a lot of juice to make a sauce. And I thought I'd pep it up a bit as well. On the way to the spice cupboard I passed the drinks bar still laid out from New Year, and sat right at the front was a bottle of Pimms No 3, the winter brandy-based one with orange and spices. A few good slugs of that, some at the beginning and a bit more at the end to freshen the sauce. Brilliant.

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