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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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.

Turning Japanese

We really liked the Japanese style food we had over the Christmas break, and we’ve been experimenting a bit here and there since.

I still haven’t tried rolling sushi, but it’s half-term next week and I might clear the decks and give it a go.

Mostly what we have been doing is having a bowl of plain boiled rice, topped with small portions of a variety of protein and vegetables, some hot, some cold, wet, dry, soft, crunchy. It’s been surprisingly filling, you can mix and match a whole range of tastes and textures so that each mouthful is a little surprise.

The toppings so far have been:

  • cold smoked fish – salmon, eel, trout, mackerel (Waitrose do one with honey and soy), and lumpfish roe
  • cold veg – avocado, cucumber, mooli / daikon radish, alfalfa or radish sprouts, shredded carrot, shredded nori
  • pickles – Chinese mustard pickles, seaweed, gherkins, sushi ginger
  • hot meat – variations on marinated grilled or stewed chicken, casseroled pork belly, steamed Chinese sausages
  • hot veg – stir-fried pak choi, steamed edamame beans, miso-stewed white baby aubergines
  • omelettes – made with mirin and egg, rolled, sliced, and served hot or cold – also cold quail eggs
  • also some sprinkle mix of chilli, sesame seeds, garlic and powdered orange peel, the odd dabs of wasabi

I have some crabsticks, smoked and marinated tofu, and kombu seaweed ready to try next. At a northern Chinese restaurant last week I had a starter of sliced cold pork belly, which had been plainly cooked in a clear broth and then dressed with chilli and garlic. I’ve been doing ours in mirin and soy with ginger and star anise, so it’s very dark and rich. This was a lighter and cleaner flavour, so I shall try that next time.

Also on the list for future experiments are:

  • hot fish – stewed squid, grilled salmon, mussels, tuna
  • more hot veg – green beans, aubergines with peanut sauce, something with candied sweet potato
  • hard boiled eggs – soaked in tea, or soy
  • lean red meat – venison liver, buffalo steak

And I want to try some of the mini-burger-type-things, meat and veggie, that are featured on the bento recipe sites.

Bento in a Big Way is beyond my energies at the minute. I could happily make a lunchbox along similar lines to the dinners, but the decorative stuff is so not happening. No colouring eggs, carving hot dogs,  or making little stars out of carrots and cucumbers. I’m up for arranging a box so that it looks appetising, but I’m not making a diorama out of it.

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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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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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Hogswatch Pork Pie

I wanted a giant pork pie for Hogswatch, and I've amalgamated ideas from various different recipes. The main starting point for the mixture was Glynn Christian's Basic Pork Pie from Pies, Pates and Terrines from Sainsbury's, plus some additions from the Artery-Hardening Hogswatch Pie in the Nanny Ogg Cookbook. And what felt good at the time.

I mixed:

  • 1.5 kg pork mince
  • 1 Bramley apple, peel on, coarsely grated
  • 1 onion, finely chopped, about 6 oz weight
  • 3 capfuls brandy
  • 0.25 pint white wine
  • 2 fl oz manzanilla
  • 1 tsp each dried sage, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons wholegrain mustard

I made a hot water pastry crust with 24 oz flour, 2 tsps salt, 250 gms lard, and a quarter pint water. I took 400 gms fancy chipolatas, with honey and rosemary, and twisted them in half – cocktail sausages.

In a 9" springform cake tin, I put three-quarters of the pastry, then half the main mix, then a layer of sausages, then the rest of the mix, and put the rest of the crust on top, leaving a central hole for breathing and addiing jelly later.

It's currently in a Gas Mark 6 oven for half an hour. Looking at the weight of meat, I think after that it'll get 2.5 hours at Gas Mark 3-4. After an hour at the lower temperature, it'll get glazed with an egg-wash.

I haven't decided on the jelly, but I think a mixture of white wine and Calvados for the liquid. It was a very wet mix, it'll probably shrink quite a bit, so I'll make well over a pint of jelly. The 12 oz I made for the game pie the other week wasn't nearly enough.

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Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Port and Cherry Sauce

from the Dr Gourmet website

Dinner 14 August 2006: notes – something very odd with his portions in the original webpage, it said 3/4 lb tenderloin for 6 people then a 4 oz serving per person. I've adapted and reposted below.

Servings = 3 | Serving size = 4 oz meat plus third of sauce

We had it with a few steamed new baby potatoes and a small portion of frozen petits pois.

1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) dried cherries
1/2 cup port
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (yes, really that much)
1/2 tsp salt (oops, forgot that)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (used bottled stock so no-one noticed the missing salt)
1/3 cup (instead of the 1/4 he said) 4% fat creme fraiche
1/2 cup 2% milk (skipped that)
1 x 12 oz pork fillet
  spray olive oil

 

Cook onion and garlic in oil slowly until soft. Do not allow the garlic to turn brown.

Add the dried cherries, port, balsamic vinegar and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, reducing the sauce to about 1/2 cup. The remaining sauce should be a thick glaze. This took a long time, do it first. Get to this stage before you put the pork in the oven.

Scrape into a blender and blend until smooth. Add sour cream and milk and blend. Return to pan and heat through. This may be made ahead and stored a few days. When reheating, add a couple of tablespoons of water if the sauce becomes too thick. There should be about 1 cup (approx. 3 Tbsp. per serving). Didn't bother with blender, just stirred the cream right in. We like yummy lumps.

Roast the pork at about Gas Mark 6 for about half an hour, in a pan with a bit of spray oil, take it out and cut into three equal size pieces. Check how done it is and bung it back until it isn't pink anymore. Remove the pork and let it rest in a warm place for about 5 minutes.

Slice each piece into small medallions (which will make 3 portions of 4 oz) and serve on top of the divvied up sauce, which will be about 3 tablespoons.

Supposedly Calories 268 | Calories from Fat 63, but ours might have been a bit more than that due to having a bit more cream and no milk, and not measuring the sauce exactly just splitting it. And the veg would add to that, of course.

Still, result, it was very very good. The sauce would be lovely with duck, "real" roast pork, or cold beef.

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