Simple Pork in Cream Sauce

This is loosely based on Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette, from Julia Child. It’s very forgiving, and usually needs very little shopping. Extras freeze well, and you can double up the sauce without a problem.

You want pork shoulder steak, or thick chops – something that isn’t too tender like a medallion, or too fatty like belly. If you ask the butcher (or look on the packet) for something that would take 15-20 minutes to grill, you’re on the right track.

For the sauce, you need garlic, tomato paste, wholegrain mustard, and creme fraiche.

Brown the meat in a little bit of oil in a heavy pan, on both sides. When it’s seared, tip in a chopped clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, and 3 of wholegrain mustard. Stir it around well, and add 250ml of creme fraiche (a whole small tub). Stir again and get it up to a lively simmer, leave it for about 20 minutes (with the lid off).

The sauce should thicken and concentrate. Taste it near the end and add salt if you think it needs it. If it gets too thick, a bit of chicken stock of water will loosen it up. If it’s not thick enough when you want to serve it, take the meat out and keep it warm while you boil the sauce down.

This amount of sauce will do for about 3 big chops or four small steaks. You could also get cubed casserole meat (leg or collar), start if the same way and then stew it slowly in the oven for a few hours.

If you like added veggies, you can put chopped red and yellow peppers, or onions, or mushrooms, in while the meat is browning. And you can increase the garlic to taste.

I sometimes put chopped fresh herbs in at the very end – basil if I’ve used peppers, parsley with mushrooms, tarragon or chives if it’s plain.

It’s good with plain rice, potatoes, pasta, seasonal veggies or a crisp bitter salad.

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.

There IS life after Easter

After an incredibly busy Easter, and the almost inevitable lurgy aftermath, the kitchen is getting back on track.

Celebrating tonight with venison sausages in onion and cherry gravy and steamed cauliflower. Although I could cheerfully have just had the other vegetable dish – celery braised with shallots and garlic in chicken stock, finished with fino sherry and creme fraiche, thickened with ground almonds.

Like a Georgian celery and almond soup, before you puree it.

Gujerati Snacks

From Prashad's in Bradford, we had samosas, some kind of battered fried sandwich with a garlicky pureed veg filling, round dumplings filled with spiced mashed potato. Dhokla, patra, snacks. I made a lassi with fresh coriander, garlic, fresh green chilli and a pinch of salt. Fresh baby tomato, and a little raita sauce.

I also made a quick trashy hot chaat:

Fry:
1 tin new potatoes, drained and cut into small lumps
1 tin pinto beans, or chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sprinkle with powdered hing and fenugreek.
After about 5 minutes add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, cook til thickened.
Stir well and add 2 handfuls Bombay Mix or your favourite Indian crispy snack.
Heat through, take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons natural yoghourt.
Put in serving dish and top with dollop of tamarind sauce.

Served with warm rotis.

With a selection of sweets to finish, I am absolutely podged.

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Sausage Pie

I bought a tube of good sausagemeat at the farmers' market on Thursday. Today I spread it in the bottom of a square baking dish (it came out about a quarter inch thick). Then I topped it with some slabs of mature cheddar, and spread those with wholegrain mustard. I had a tin of pear halves hanging about, so I put a half a pear in each corner of the dish. Topped the whole lot with a square of ready rolled puff pastry, and baked at gas mark 7 for 40 minutes.

We ate all of it, with some peas, but with some more forethought and some potatoes and other veg, it would have easily served four.

I've been thinking of variations –

  • cheese and branston pickle
  • a layer of braised red cabbage, maybe with chestnuts
  • apple sauce or chunks of apple instead of the pear
  • cranberries
  • a chunky tomato sauce
  • hard boiled eggs
  • apricots / dried fruit and maybe some curry powder
  • blue cheese and braised celery or chicory

all of them easy to do, easy to make in advance, cheap, filling and tasty.

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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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Lemon and Garlic Lamb Shanks

We like lamb shanks. I normally do them casseroled with a classic onion and red wine sauce, but I saw this recipe in the Waitrose magazine. It was in an article about steaming things, and to be honest I couldn't be farted running in and out of the kitchen checking on the steamer water for a couple of hours. So I did it slightly differently:

  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsps coriander seed
  • 2 tsps ground cumin
  • Big pinch saffron threads
  • 2 preserved lemons, cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp garlic puree from a tube
  • 2 lamb shanks (we had some small New Zealand ones)

Heat the butter and olive oil in an ovenproof casserole. When it's frothing, stir in the spices, lemons and garlic. Mix well and allow to cook down a bit until the fat is impregnated with the flavours. Don't let it burn, though. Put the meat in, turning a couple of times and making sure it's well coated with the spices. Put in a low oven, Gas Mark 3 or thereabouts, for a couple of hours, longer if you like, turning occasionally.

We ate them with a steamed cauliflower, which was lovely coated with the lemony garlicky buttery sauce. The original recipe suggested serving it with a herby couscous, and that would be yummy too. It's very rich, and a gorgeous winter evening dinner.

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Wicked Chicken Korma

I made this on the fly for dinner the other night, and didn't write it down at the time, but it went something like this:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Butter and oil, or ghee
  • 4 small boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 2 handfuls raw shelled pistachios
  • 1 handful vanilla-soaked dried apricots (or organic apricots and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or half a bean)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 small tin coconut milk
  • Chicken stock
  • Small tub creme fraiche
  • Ground almonds
  • 2 hard bananas
  • More butter
  • A tub of dry crispy fried onions

In a big heavy pan, melt the garlic, ginger and onion in the fat, slowly. Soften but not colour. Add the chicken, nuts, apricots, and spices. Stew gently and stir until the chicken is coated in the spices and cooked on the outside. Add the coconut milk and enough chicken stock to cover. Cover and simmer gently for up to a couple of hours, if you can, but at least half an hour. Take the lid off and mash the apricots into the sauce. Simmer again for at least another half an hour, longer if possible. Top up with water if necessary. When you're getting close to serving time, add the creme fraiche and stir in. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ground almonds on the top and stir in well. This will thicken the sauce, let the first lot swell and do its work before adding more if you want thicker sauce. Watch it as the thicker it gets, the quicker it's likely to catch and scorch. While that's happening, chop the bananas into chunks and fry quickly in butter until golden.

Serve the chicken with the bananas on top, a sprinkling of fried onions, and some plain rice or naan bread to soak up the sauce. We had it with lamb stewed for hours in a low oven with tomatoes and hotter spices, and an aubergine and red pepper madras.

If you can't find the onions in your regular ethnic stores, try the IKEA food shop, or make your own by finely shredding shallots, frying in light hot oil until crisp, and draining well. Dry on paper towels. Or don't bother – a bit of crunch adds a nice texture but it isn't necessary.

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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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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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