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Lamb and Chorizo casserole

This dish came about many years ago when I used to go camping on a regular basis with lots of friends. Surprisingly enough it fell on me to do the cooking which I didn't mind. Thing is when camping, you're not going to have the same equipment to hand as when in the kitchen. So I needed to come up with a dish that required easy prep and not too much in the way of washing up and could cook away on a camping stove or BBQ if need be. The lamb and chorizo work well together in this dish and even though I don't go camping any more it is still one of my favourite stews to cook.

Lamb and Chorizo casserole

This will feed about 6 people

450g lamb (neck fillet, shoulder, leg or stewing lamb diced into large 1 inch pieces)
100g chorizo sliced
2 tins tomatoes
2 red peppers (roughly chopped)
2 onions (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
250mls red wine
1 tin chick peas drained
Salt and pepper to season
Oil for frying

Fry the onions in the olive oil on a low heat till soft, 
Add the chorizo to the onions and fry on a medium heat for a few minutes until the chorizo releases some of its oils and starts to colour the onions
Add the lamb and paprika, fry off gently for 1 minute
Add the tinned tomatoes and the red wine, stir gently
Finally add the chopped peppers
Simmer over a low heat for 2- 3 hours on the hob or in a low oven (120 Celsius)
After 1 hour, add the drained chick peas and cook for a further 30 mins

I like to serve this with either steamed couscous with chopped coriander or basmati rice
Sometimes I like to chop up some small potatoes and put them in about an hour before the stew is finished.

Pasta Puttanesca - pasta sauce with that little bit of kick to it

I always enjoy cooking this dish, it makes a welcome break from the usual plain old tomato sauce. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the plain version but this has a nice depth with the capers and olives and a little kick from the chillies. Like many of my dishes this has evolved over the years. I came across the recipe about 16 or so years ago and it's had a few tweaks over the years but stays true (enough) to the traditional. 

I use the guide of 100g dried pasta per person, the below recipe serves 4

75g black olives finely chopped
50g anchovies finely chopped
300g tinned tomatoes
15g capers finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
10g tomato puree
30ml good olive oil
2g sugar
Salt and pepper to season
5g fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
400g  pasta such as linguine or spaghetti (cooked to al dente)

In a pan heat the oil and add the anchovies, chillies and garlic and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes
Add the tomatoes and puree and stir together in the pan to combine with the anchovies, chillies and garlic
Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 20 minutes
Add the olives and capers and cook for a further 10 minutes
Finish with the sugar and season with salt and pepper

To finish the dish add the pasta to the sauce with about 10ml of the pasta water and stir to combine
Garnish with the parsley 

Rhubarb meringue pie

Many of you will be familiar with lemon meringue pie, it's also one of my favourite desserts to make. As it's rhubarb season, I decided to try something different. Sometimes with recipes they may or may not work, and as I'm posting this on the blog, you can guess that it did work.

The recipe will take some time and incorporates pastry making and egg work for both the meringue and custard. 

I didn't say it was going to be easy did I?

The recipe comes in 4 steps
1. Make the pastry
2. Make the rhubarb filling
3. Make the custard
4. Make the meringue topping

Pastry ( for a 6" pie tin)
110g flour
60g butter
30g caster sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
30ml cold water (you may not need to use it all)

Rub the butter and flour together till it resembles bread crumbs 
Add the egg yolk, sugar and water and bring the mixture together till it forms a stiff dough
(this can also be made in a food processor, simply whizz the flour, sugar and butter mix till it resembles bread crumbs, then add the water and egg yolk till it comes together)
Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour to rest
Once the pastry has rested then roll out to 2mm thick 
Next get your pie dish and cut out the pastry using the shape of the pie dish as a guide, ensure you have excess pastry around the edges
Then take the cut out pastry and press into the pie dish making sure there are no air bubbles, pushing the pastry into all the corners
You can trim any excess pastry from the edges of the pie dish using a knife if need be
Place the lined pie dish back in the fridge to allow the pastry to rest for about 30 mins
Pre-heat the oven to 190c (fan), 200c (normal)
taking the pastry out of the fridge, line the dish with grease proof paper and some baking beans
Bake for 10 mins and then remove the paper and the beans, bake for a further 10 mins or until it is pale and light brown coloured with a sandy texture to the touch
Allow to cool 

Rhubarb filling
4 sticks of rhubarb roughly chopped
10g caster sugar
5ml water

Heat the rhubarb, sugar and water in a pan till the rhubarb has broken down and the sugar is dissolved
Place to one side and allow to cool

Custard filling
2 egg yolks (retain the whites to make the meringue)
20g caster sugar
150ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Heat the cream in a pan on a medium heat for about 10 mins, make sure it doesn't boil
Turn off the heat and add the vanilla
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and mix together, slowly add the cream and whisk well

Next steps
Add the custard to the cooled pastry and place in the oven at 150c (fan), 160c (normal) and cook till the pastry has set this should take 15 - 20 mins
Remove from the oven and allow to cool
Once cool add the rhubarb filling on top

Next make the meringue - this is made using the Swiss meringue method which is whisking the egg whites in a bowl above a pan of simmering water. This way the eggs cook slightly.

2 egg whites
110g caster sugar
Pinch of salt

Bring a pan of water up to a simmer
Place the bowl with the egg whites on top, make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water

Using a hand or electric whisk start to whisk the egg whites and salt until they form a medium peak
Start to add the sugar gradually
While whisking check the temperature of the egg white mixture as you are doing so, as soon as it hits 55c, remove the bowl and continue whisking till it forms a stiff peak

Finishing the pie
Top the pie with the meringue, you can either dollop on top and smooth over or pipe it on if you like
I like to colour the meringue using a cooks blowtorch or you can cook it in the oven on (190c, fan, 200c, normal) for 5 -10 mins or until it starts to colour slightly

Sous vide peaches with raspberry ice cream and vanilla meringue

This is my take on a peach melba, call it deconstructed if you will. 

The recipe involves 3 steps; 1. sous viding the peaches 2. making the ice cream and 3. making the meringues. It will take some time, so do give yourself at least 6 hours when making this. Especially to allow the ice cream enough time to set. 

3 peaches halved and stone removed
100ml lillet vermouth
50ml sugar syrup

Vacuum pack the peaches with the vermouth and syrup and sous vide at 82c for 40 min

once finished place in cold water to stop the cooking process

Raspberry ice cream
250g raspberries
20g icing sugar
2 egg whites
100ml double cream, lightly whipped
150g caster sugar
75ml water

Puree the raspberries and the icing sugar together in a food processor until smooth and Whip the egg whites until stiff with an electric whisk or food mixer
In a pan heat the sugar and water together until it reaches 120c
You will need to add this to the egg whites, so start the whisk and pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites keep whisking until the meringue has cooled back down again
Stir through the puree and the cream and then place in an ice cream maker and churn

Once made place in the freezer until ready to serve

1 egg white
50g icing sugar
10ml vanilla bean paste

Whisk the egg white until they form stiff peaks 

Add the vanilla bean paste and start to add the sugar slowly until the mixture starts to become glossy and firmer
Place the meringue mix in a piping bag and pipe into small rounds about 2cm wide
Place in a low oven 120c (fan) 130c (normal) for 30 mins

You can add some fresh raspberries for garnish if you like.

Roux sauce and Cauliflower gratin

This is another of my "request recipes from friends". I think a roux or white sauce is one recipe that is good to have in your repertoire as it forms the basis of many other sauces.

If you've mastered the basic recipe then you can only add more or less whatever flavouring you like. The trick with roux sauce is you always have equal amounts of flour to butter and these vary on how thick you want your sauce. I've given you the recipe for a "standard sauce" which has a creamy consistency but is not too runny. If you want a thicker sauce just increase the amounts of flour and butter, for example 30g/40g/50g of each but keep the amount of milk (150ml) the same. You can also make veloutes which are stock based sauces instead of using milk you will use beef/chicken/fish or veg stock. 

For a standard roux sauce
20g flour
20g butter
150ml milk
Salt and pepper to season

To make the roux sauce 
Melt the butter, add the flour and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes to cook out the flour

Take the pan off the heat and add the milk slowly whisking all the time to ensure it does not get lumpy

Place back on the heat and continue to whisk until it thickens
Season to taste

Now you've got your basic sauce recipe here's where you can have fun with the basics.

50 - 100g grated strong cheese (of your choice, my personal favourite is Quickes mature cheddar as it makes a wonderfully rich sauce)
Add the cheese once you've thickened the sauce slightly and stir so it melts through. 
If I'm using cheddar cheese I like to add a dessert spoon of Dijon mustard as it accentuates the flavour of the cheese
You can also enrich the sauce with an egg yolk (when adding make sure the heat is not on high otherwise you'll scramble the egg) or substitute some of the milk with cream (do not use single or low fat cream, it can split the sauce)

Here's a recipe for good side dish (for 4) or a main (for 2) if you fancy a meat free evening.

I've already used the roux sauce earlier in the blog to make the cheese sauce for the fish pie.

Cauliflower cheese

1 head of cauliflower broken into florets and  par boiled in salted water for 5-7 minutes
Cheese sauce (as outlined above, I also like to enrich mine with 20g of sour cream)
1 baking dish
20g breadcrumbs and 20g parmesan mixed together

Place the par boiled florets in the baking dish
Pour over the cheese sauce
Bake in a moderate oven at 180 for 20 minutes
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parmesan mix
Place back in the oven at 200 celsius for 10 mins or until nicely crisp on top.

Pigs head terrine

I’ve been wanting to make this for quite some time. I’ve had pigs head a couple of times now, the first was at that famous Nose to Tail eatery St John in London where I had a suckling pig feast with friends when I was leaving London and the second was at BROR in Copenhagen.   

Many recipes will refer to it as brawn or head cheese, which are essentially just another name for pigs head. Now this is not a recipe for the faint of heart. You will end up carving up a pigs head and rooting around in skull cavities for meat once its cooked. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I thought it best to put it on the table up front before you embark on this recipe. The recipe itself is simple enough, what it does take is time, so best to give yourself a day and a half to make this.

You’re also thinking where on earth am I going to get a pigs head? Any good butcher will be able to supply one, you will however need to ask them specially. I am lucky in the fact that Paul van den Hooven at Wild Vleesch gives me notice when he’s about to slaughter some pigs so I can put my meat order in. What I like about his butchery is that he cares about his produce. He knows the farmers and knows that they look after their animals and ensures that the animals are slaughtered in a humane manner.

When considering this recipe, I would advise 2 things. One, only buy half a head unless you’re catering for a very large number, and two, make sure you have a very large pot. You’ll need at least a 10 litre pot if you’re considering half a head and 20 litre if you go for a whole one. Even with the half head you will still need to carve the head into pieces to fit it in the pan.

Serves 8 people as a starter

Half a pigs head             
3 onions quartered
4 cloves garlic
1 stick celery roughly chopped
2 carrots roughly chopped
10g salt
10 pepper corns
2 sprigs rosemary
5 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 sage leaf

Place all ingredients in a large pan and top up with water to cover the head
Simmer on a low heat for 4 hours
Allow to cool slightly before removing the head
You will them need to pick out all the meat ensuring you separate the fat from the meat, place to one side in a bowl until you’ve prepared the shallots and garlic for the terrine mix
It is better if you have small pieces of meat, the meat should fall apart quite easily when you are removing it
For the terrine mix
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 shallots finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
oil for frying
Salt and pepper to season
Head meat

Fry the shallots and garlic in the oil on a low heat until soft, allow to cool
Add them to the head meat along with the thyme and season with salt and pepper and stir through
Line a terrine dish with cling film and fill the dish with the meat mix, ensuring it is well compacted together
Place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight to allow it to set

I like to serve this with my fig and plum chutney on some toasted bread