Slow Wonders

This is another one of those concept dishes rather than an actual recipe.

The concept here is to go over the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning or stumble into the local butcher’s shop, then prepare a meal for slow cooking based on whatever was available or discovered in the fridge or larder.

Preparation takes about an hour, followed by an afternoon free for frolicking. Return hours later to a satisfying stew, on the table and ready to eat within minutes if you plan it right.

You’ll need a slow cooker or an oven with a low temperature cooking programme, or simply an oven which can hold 65 to 75 C for a couple of hours. You could even dig a traditional cooking pit! The trick is to stay below 80 C and leave the dish in peace for a couple of hours.

I like a piece of meat. Lamb shanks or leg slices, goat, mutton, high rib of beef or venison leg are my preferred choices. Clean the meat from sinew and remove skin, perhaps remove some of the fat.

Then clean a curiosity shop of vegetables. You will need onions and lots of garlic no matter what, also peeled waxy potatoes unless you wish to serve the meal with bread or other carbs, or no carbs at all!

Pretty much all vegetables that are in season are fine by me. Fennel, parsnips, savoy cabbage. Tomotoes, beans, peas. I’d stay away from courgettes or aubergines on this occasion but even cauliflower works thanks to the low temperatures.

Clean, peal, dice.

I caramelise the meat by searing in clarified butter on the cooker, using the same casserole dish that I plan to use for the whole process.

Remove the meat, then lightly caramelise the vegetables in the same pot with the help of olive oil or clarified butter.

Season to taste with salt, black pepper, red chillies, thyme, rosemary, lovage, star anise and cinnamon. Bring the meat back, add 75 ml of wine and 75 ml of water. Close the lid, put into the oven and forget about it for a couple of hours, four hours at least, five or six won’t give you trouble.

Allow for even longer if you are using tough meat such as ox tail, but for the types of meat listed earlier, four to six hours are just fine.

Sexy Soups

DSC_1199Following on with the theme and tone set by the Sexy Salads article, this is about Sexy Soups. Soups which surprise, which take you on a journey of discovery through different colours, textures and tastes, soups for more than just to stain your shirtfront.

They can be vegetarian, but I confess that pork belly with crisp skin, or a juicy chicken breast, a pink seared duck breast, some prawns or at least a poached egg or a poached egg yolk are normally my very personal star of the show.

I usually begin with chicken stock, nice and easy to make and less overpowering when compared to a beef stock. I get a whole chicken, fill it with plenty of grated fresh ginger and garlic, then add enough cold water for the soup I need. This will gently simmer for 90 minutes, after which I remove the pot from the heat but leave everything to cool down as is.

One idea is to remove the breast before the cooking. They don’t really add to the soup but can be seared with rosemary butter, then served with the soup. It all depends on your plans for the soup and tomorrow’s meal.

When the soup has cooled down, remove the meat and discard the bones. The meat should make for a fabulous Chicken Fricassee on the next day, or perhaps a quick Coq au Moutarde or a sexy chicken salad with the remaining fennel, apples, oranges and bitter chicory.

A little extra effort pays dividends: whisk up one or two egg whites until they are just  foamy, then add to the cold soup. Gently bring it back to the boil, occasionally lifting the egg white very gently off the pot’s bottom in the beginning to prevent it from sticking. Once the soup is at the boiling point and all the egg whites are floating on the surface, drain through a mousseline sheet or at least a very, very fine sieve to complete the clarification.

The rest is up to you, your imagination and whatever you’ll find in the back of the fridge or kitchen larder: croutons from garlic bread are always nice with a broth, and so are mustard greens, skinned cherry tomatoes or charred little Gem lettuce. Mushrooms and egg noodles perhaps, or fresh garden peas and a poached duck egg yolk?

It always pays to heat some clarified butter and crisp fresh Sage leaves to top the soup, but young pea shoots, cress, radish or mustard shoots are also nice for visual appeal, a bit of a spicy bite and a fresh taste.

 

Sexy Salads

DSC_0781_v1We love sexy salads, by which I mean complex salads with layers and multitudes of flavours, colours and textures. The in-house joke is to¬†quickly make a salad but these are of course anything but quickly made. They’re much better when you take your time for preparation and execution. Just like sex, really.

This is not so much a recipe but a concept, and an invitation to become creative even if it is only about an assortment of leftovers.

The must recent sexy salad was based on Lambs Lettuce with a Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing, supported by charred little Gem lettuce, red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Raddish and spring onions in a soured cream dressing, beetroot dressed in Balsamic Vinegar, cress and slices of fresh pear and avocado complete the support team to feature slices of our recently made Game Terrine, crisped Black Pudding, soft-boiled quail eggs dressed with fennel seeds and baked goats cheese. Oh, and a gorgeous drizzle made from reducing pear poaching liquor with Japanese rice vinegar.

That, and a glass of wine, and a fresh bread, and Bob’s your uncle.

Other variations of this theme featured chicken livers, Feta or goats cheese, chicken breast. Poached eggs or poached egg yolks, Raspberries when in season, scallops, prawns and just about anything else you can imagine: sauteed or pickled mushrooms, caramelised onions, pickled onions and vegetables, fennel shavings, grilled summer vegetables or green asparagus, fresh mango, fresh broad beans all worked well on many prior occasions. Croutons can provide extra crunch.