Niku jaga, literally means “meat and potatoes” in Japanese. I’ve had such a hankering for this simple hearty stew lately. I first tried it in the depths of a very snowy Saitama Winter when my neighbours Kei-chan and Masa-chan invited me over for dinner. Slightly sweet, savoury and rich with soy and caramelised beef, this is more comforting than a Hello Kitty onesey. It might seem a bit odd to add sugar to a beef stew, but my mum always adds a hefty pinch to her phenomenal meat curries and here the see-saw of salty-sweet really works. The niku is traditionally wafer-thin slices of fatty steak but I found it to be just as satisfying with some leftover roast topside. If you do invest in steak, the whole thing is padded out with enough potatoes, carrots and shiitake mushrooms to justify matters. Perfect with a fat tangle of udon or steaming rice and fantastic the next day once the flavours have done that developing thing.
- 1 tbsp. oil for frying
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into wedges
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- leftover roast beef or steak, thinly sliced
- 500ml dashi stock/beef stock
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. sake/dry sherry
- 3 tbsp. mirin
- 4 tbsp. soy sauce
- shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 100ml boiling water
- handful of green beans
Heat the oil up over a medium heat and saute the onions. After a few minutes add the potatoes and saute for another five minutes.
Add the carrots and mix well. Finally stir in the beef and continue to cook until it’s just turned pink.
Sprinkle over the sugar and stir until everything begins to caramelise then throw in the sake and reduce. Add the mushrooms and the soaking water.
Add the dashi, mirin and soy and bring to the boil (skim off any scum that arises)
Reduce and simmer for 15 minutes, add the beans.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes and serve.
Summertime stodge. Nobody nails it quite like those canny Greeks. This classic melange of lamb, tomato and rice-shaped pasta is the ideal thing to simmer up and leave on the blip while you crack on with more important things (like constructing makeshift paddling pools from plastic buckets, for example). I particularly love the way the grains of orzo swell up with cinnamon scented lamby juices and have included smoked aubergine and anchovy stuffed olives in my version. Although I’m guessing it’s not completely authentic; I can confirm that by heck it’s tasty.
This is at it’s most delicious served ever so slightly warm with lots of Greek salad and ripped up baguette.
half a shoulder of lamb, cubed
1 aubergine, chunked
8-10 shallots, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 glass red wine
2 tbsp. anchovy stuffed olives
1 cinnamon stick
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 pint stock (lamb or vegetable)
2 tsp. each of dried oregano and thyme
1 dried chilli
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
100g feta, diced
fresh mint leaves
- in a large pan brown the lamb in batches and set aside. Fry onion and garlic in the fat. Place the aubergine over a gas burner or in the oven to blister. Cool when black.
-return the lamb to the pot, crank up the heat and pour in the wine. Reduce and introduce the olives, tomatoes, rosemary, chilli, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and stock. Peel and dice the aubergine and add to the pot.
- simmer over a low heat for at least 2 hrs (I lasted for 4). Stir occasionally and more water as necessary.
-Remove cinnamon stick. Add more water and tip in the orzo. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the orzo is done.
- Serve in shallow bowls strewn with feta and mint.
Those unbelievably generous folk at the Ginger Pig gifted me a couple of geese, one of which formed the centrepiece of my son’s first ever Christmas lunch this weekend. We invited a load of mates round and our friend Charlie (seen here making his cookery demo debut) helped out with the hacking duties; despite not really knowing his oysters from his eyeballs.
- Wash the goose and pat dry. Prick the skin all over (taking care not to puncture the flesh) especially targeting those ultra fatty pockets around the wings.
- Combine the five spice, sea salt, citrus zests and thyme and rub all over the skin and in the cavity.
- Chop the zested fruit up and mix with the sage, garlic and onion and push into the cavity.
- Roast the bird at 200C for 10mins, then turn down to 190C for 30mins per kilo. Baste every 30 minutes and pour off excess fat (to roast vegetables in).
- Wrap in foil and a bath towel to rest for 45 minutes (while you roast your veggies) and serve with roast apples, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, peas, stuffing and gravy.
*winner to be picked on Thursday 19th, goose to be collected from E17 by Sunday 22nd
If you’re after boozy, creamy, gorgeousness as well as a full on exercise in kitschness, then look no further. I’ve always preferred lamb to beef so decided to give some thick cut lamb steaks the old brandy-cream treatment. Crumbling feta and showering dill into the sauce really took things somewhere special. This was so tasty we had it twice in the same week.
6 thick cut lamb chops
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. Worcester sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
A knob of butter
200g chopped mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
75ml cider brandy
2 tbsp. double cream
2-3tbsp. finely chopped dill
- combine the dried parsley, thyme, garlic, Worcester sauce and olive oil and coat the chops. Leave in the fridge for anywhere between 3 hours-overnight.
- Heat the butter in a large frying pan and once it’s foaming add the meat plus any excess marinade, browning well all over.
- Nudge the chops to one side of the pan and add the chopped mushrooms and onion. Cook until everything takes on a nice mahogany hue, then crown each chop with the mushroom-onion mixture.
- Turn the heat up and pour in the cider brandy. Reduce until syrupy and pour in the stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the meat and keep warm. Turn heat up again, crumble in the feta and simmer with lid off for about 10 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Stir in the double cream and allow to bubble a little.
- Finally sprinkle in the dill and serve the chops with the sauce poured over, sautéed potatoes and something green.
I’ve got really into pot roasting lately and had been thinking about making this dish for ages. I wanted to experiment with the combination of robust curry spicing and the technique of browning off a choice hunk of flesh before leaving to languidly blip away in the oven for hours with a bit of stock and some vegetables, then maybe stirring in a touch of dairy to enrich matters. Ultimately you’re left with a supper that satisfyingly disintegrates at the merest suggestion of a spoon.
The results are mind blowingly good. Mouthful after mouthful of unrelenting deliciousness sort of good. The shanks provide the vertebrae of flavour while the roots become melting and sweet, with kicks of heat from the spice, then finally the whole lot is mellowed with thick cream…scooped up with some blistered chappatis I can think of no finer way to herald the colder months.
1 large onion, diced
2 lamb shanks
1 dsp mustard oil
1 dsp vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
7 green cardamoms
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp each of crushed garlic and finely chopped ginger
2 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp asafoetida
I tsp each of salt and black peppercorns
1 tsp dried fenugreek
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 heaped tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2-3 green chillies, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 small turnip peeled and diced
A dozen new potatoes
¾ pint stock (I used chicken)
3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 heaped tbsps of double cream
- Heat the oils in an ovenproof casserole dish and add the onion. Gently brown over a low heat.
- Grind the cloves, coriander seeds, asafoetida, salt, black peppercorns, methi leaves and fennel seeds to a powder.
- Add this powder, the ginger and garlic to the caramelised onions and mix in the chilli powder, along with the fresh green chillies.
- Turn the heat up, add the lamb shanks and brown all over. Add the carrots, turnip and potatoes and stir well.
- Pour in the stock and add the tomatoes. Stir again and cover the pan with a close fitting lid.
- Place in the oven at 160C/320F/Gas mark 3 for about two and a half hours or until the lamb is meltingly tender.
- Uncover and place over a high heat on the hob to reduce the liquid slightly. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving with hot chappatis to scoop up all that delectable sauce
Cumin isn’t really a spice you’d associate with Chinese cooking is it? However, head for the more Islamic districts of North West China and these cumintastic lamb skewers are all the rage. Sadly, I’ve never had the chance to check out the street food of Xinjiang, but I have spent many a belt-loosening evening in Chilli Cool, the Sichuanese hotspot in King’s Cross. There the skewers come fried and spice encrusted on a plate that’s practically scarlet with chillies.
I decided to make my own for a spot of Victoria Park BBQ action and I must say these really couldn’t be easier. Super nice with a hot and sour cucumber salad (diced and dressed in salt, garlic sizzled in sesame oil, sugar and rice vinegar) and crammed into toasted pitta, these were wolfed down the very minute they came off the heat and I only wish I’d made more.
The Sichuan peppercorns add that “ma la” hot, numbing and almost lemony back note which works gorgeously with the toasted cumin. You can get them in most Chinese shops or online. If you really can’t be bothered, just stick in a bit more chilli powder/paste and a load of black pepper- it won’t be the same of course but you’ll still be dead chuffed with the results. It’s important to toast and grind the cumin – you want that lamb properly infused. Like all the best hot-coal related treats, the longer you marinade the tastier the rewards (I held out for two days). If you don’t have access to a barbecue, you can always slide them under a hot grill. Either way, you’re guaranteed all manner of smoky, juicy, spicy fun times.
(makes four generous skewers)
500g lamb steaks hacked into skewerable hunks
skewers ( if wooden, soak in water for at least an hour)
For the dry spice mix
1 ½ tbsp dry roasted and ground cumin seeds
1 ½ tbsp dry roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
2-3 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground fennel
½ -1 tsp chilli powder
For the wet mix
2 tsp sesame oil
1 ½ large red chillies, sliced roughly
2-3 large spring onions, cut roughly into chunks
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tbsp groundnut oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Combine the ingredients for the dry marinade and coat the lamb chunks thoroughly.
- Combine the ingredients for the wet marinade. Tip the contents of the dry into the wet and mix well.
- Cover and leave overnight in the fridge or for a couple of days if you can.
- Thread onto skewers. Fish out the chilli and spring onion chunks and alternate the bits of lamb with these.
- Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side over or under a medium to fierce heat. You basically want these to be charred on the outside but still a little pink in the middle. Devour while hot. Regret not making more.
About a month ago a very lovely friend presented me with a couple of grouse from Allen’s of Mayfair. I was excited, having never eaten the stuff before. I tend to associate grouse with the very posh and faintly eccentric. My pal is both, as well as huge hearted and a brilliant laugh. Although they came ready prepped, all trussed up with streaky slices, I still had to rip out the gizzard, heart and liver. There were no neat little plastic giblet bags in these cavities. There was a lot of blood. Relishing in my own squeamishness, I tore off the claws and talons and hid them in the bin, like a filthy secret.
There are hundreds of recipes for chicken curry. This is the stuff I was brought up on.
Think aromatic delicately spiced meat, chunks of tender, melt-in-the-mouth potato in a thin and deeply savoury gravy. The complex layers of flavour are born from a very specific mixture of whole and ground spices. This recipe was my late grandmother’s – she passed it on to my mum who passed it on to me. It’s been tweaked a little over the years (my gran would use skinned chicken pieces and just add them to the spiced onion mix) but that’s the beauty of curry, you can always experiment and make it your own.
If you want to make like a proper Bengali housewife, then be sure to make this in the morning and leave it all day to allow the flavours to marry. If you can leave it overnight so much the better.
It’s such a shame that some of our finest British snacks are more often than not made with cheap evil factory meat; and there have been various articles linking our shonky meat production methods with the recent spate of viral disease. So when I was summoned to an impromptu picnic in London Fields I decided it was time to get creative; some Ginger Pig lamb and beef sausages, a lump of feta, some quails eggs and half a packet of puff pastry, all burning a hole in my fridge.
These are my pork-free versions of Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. I soft-boiled the quails eggs for exactly 2 minutes, so they were still slightly runny inside and then coated them in the beef sausage meat which I’d seasoned with a touch of horseradish and some parsley. I then dipped them in beaten egg and covered them liberally in Panko breadcrumbs before deep frying.
I didn’t really have enough lamb sausage to make full on rolls, so decided to make these little “puffs” instead. Curry and feta don’t sound like ideal partners, but bizarrely enough in this recipe they flatter one another to mouthwatering effect. If I had some mustard or poppy seeds I would have pressed them into the pastry, but they were still pretty damned tasty without.
I make absolutely no claim to the Hellenic qualities of this in any way whatsoever. Far from it. “Baigun bortha” is a classic Bengali mash-up of flame-roasted aubergine-flesh, coriander, lemon, garlic, mustard oil, cumin, chilli and salt.
As a major keema fan I was always going to love this. The idea of making it has been teasing me for ages, and this spate of gloomy weather was the perfect excuse for its execution. Fragrant spicy lamb layered with smoky roasted aubergine, smothered with a creamy Gruyere-flecked sauce; and then baked in a hot oven until the flavours “get together” in a way that would make my dear old Grandma blush.
My idea of heaven.
I know, I know. Fusion food is more often than not a bad idea, but this is something special. Seriously. It’s one of those inventions that’s so utterly delectable you can’t wait to make it for everyone you know (a salve for my poor bruised arms/ego, following my recent sojourn into the hellish world that is home-made mayonnaise).
I decided to splash out on a whole chicken last week. Label Anglais are the Rolls Royce of the chicken world. They are raised slowly and allowed to mature, and celebrity chefs make glowing references to them.Although they are pricier than supermarket chickens (around £10 for a medium one) you can easily get 3 meals out of a bird once you’ve picked over the meat for a salad and boiled the carcass up for soup or stock.
I quickly bought a modest looking bird from Wyndham House Poultry at Borough Market before I could change my mind, and they generously chucked in the giblets and knocked off a pound because they’re very nice like that.Read the rest of this entry »
I went to a talk by Neil Boorman at the inspirational Affluenza exhibition. It was a great talk and I came away feeling super-sensitive to all the adverts I numbly absorb every day. Whereas Boorman’s Achilles heel was fashion, I am a massive sucker for food adverts. In particular, and at certain key moments of vulnerability I find myself unable to avoid those air brushed money shots of KFC, McDonalds and Burger King fodder. Don’t get me wrong, I only have a quarter pounder with cheese once a year if that, but I do find myself thinking about those action shots of slow motion bouncing juicy burgers and processed cheese (it has to be processed cheese) melting to golden perfection far far more than I should…
Anyway, I digress. So I was having one of these moments of weakness when I realised I had a bag of Karaage chicken stashed away in the back of my freezer. Karaage chicken is basically soy, ginger and garlic flavoured deep fried chicken. Not exactly diet food, but nowhere near as depressing as a “boneless banquet”. You can buy it from Japanese supermarkets or online from the Japan Centre and it’s nice to have a couple of pieces with some rice and salad in a bento box or with a very cold beer. I also had a jar of garlic mayonnaise. And some wraps. And some jalapeños….
(the following is not so much a recipe as it is an insight into the mind of a weak and confused glutton)Read the rest of this entry »