Archive for the ‘slow cooking’ Category

One of my all time favourite restaurant dishes is fillet steak with garlic prawns – served rare! But whenever I order this some diners will always question the whole meat and seafood combo and whether it really works.

So what is Surf and Turf?

Surf and Turf or more commonly ‘Surf ‘n’ Turf’ or better still, ‘Beef ‘n’ Reef’ (Australian); is a restaurant term that refers to a dish incorporating both a portion of meat and a portion of seafood.  The term appears to have originated along the East Coast of the United States during the 60’s.  The “Surf” in the title clearly refers to seafood – usually lobster – but it can be any other type of crustacean.  “Turf” is any type of grass-fed land animal but usually refers to beef in the form of steak.

The steak part is usually grilled with dark brown grill marks clearly showing its proximity to fire!  The seafood is usually boiled, baked or grilled to retain its contrasting purity in both texture and colour.

Whereas sceptics might argue their dislike because of the decadence of the dish with its extravagant ingredients (traditionally fillet mignon and lobster) others will defend the complementary pairings where one item works almost as a seasoning; a vehicle to carry flavour e.g. frying salmon fillets in bacon fat is about boosting flavour, wrapping the salmon in bacon is about insulating the fish from the intense heat of the grill and stopping them from sticking to the pan whilst also continuously basting them in salty, smoky fat that renders out of the bacon!

Here are some of my Surf ‘n’ Turf home favourites:

Salmon wrapped in streaky bacon, Lamb shanks with Anchovy and red wine, Spaghetti with Prawn and Chorizo

Salmon with streaky bacon is very simple to make.  One piece of Salmon fillet per person, wrapped in streaky bacon (OR use lardons should you be cooking with larger pieces of salmon).  Please don’t skip making the mushy peas which add a grassy ‘turf-like’ note to the dish.

The lamb shanks must be cooked for a long time to become fall-off-the-bone tender.  Unless using a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, cook in the oven at a low heat for 2 hrs+.  Do yourself a favour – if entertaining with this do not bother telling anyone about the anchovy in the dish as people have an immediate prejudice against these salty fish.  They dissolve into the red wine meaty juices and add a saltiness that you just cannot get with salt and no one will know that they are there!

Spaghetti with prawns and chorizo is just a pasta version of a stylish restaurant starter: Scallops and prawns / black pudding.

By adding the pasta you can make the prawns go further; the chorizo renders out its smoky, paprika fat which coats the spaghetti.  Substituting the prawns for scallops could make this a more decadent alternative.

So if you you’re a surf ‘n’ turf cynic why not give one of these combos a go?  You never know – you may even make some discoveries of your own…

Autumn finally decided to creep out from behind the shade of the beach umbrellas and tiptoe into the limelight of falling leaves and cooler, darker evenings.

The duvet finally came out.

Over the past week the temperatures have dropped; especially noticeable at night time and early morning.  Autumn has made a proper appearance and it doesn’t feel as if it’s going anywhere in a rush.

So what does this mean in terms of the kitchen and the food we eat?  If we are trying to eat seasonal it means that there are some great opportunities to be had with game at this time of year.  Venison steaks with blackcurrants and blackberries is absolutely delicious as is the one pot dish of duck magret with cannellini beans.

But I’m not after something that will be a quick flash in the pan; on these cooler, darker evenings nothing calls out to me as much as a hearty venison stew.

The great thing about a stew is that it’s a chance for you to experiment with cheaper cuts of meat that are packed full of flavour that you might not be accustomed to using, however they will generally need longer, slower cooking on the hob or in the oven.  If you’re not pushed for time putting a stew together can be very liberating as there are no measures or rules you must adhere to – it’s go with the flow time.

Venison Stew

This is what I do but is by no means a recipe that you need to follow – most of the ingredients are optional and you can substitute them for those you prefer.

I use diced venison dredged in seasoned flour and coloured in the pan.  Then fry onions in the meaty juices at the bottom of the pan (you may need to add more butter).  Deglaze the pan with red wine or port and then add the diced venison back into the pan.  Add potatoes and top with either or a combination of the three: water/beef stock/tinned tomatoes.  Chop mushrooms into quarters and add to the pot.  Make sure to season well, add oregano and bay leaves and chilli flakes for added warmth.  Chop a couple of carrots lengthways and place into the pot.  Bring to the boil on the hob and then put into a low oven 160˚C for 2 hours.  After two hours fish out the carrots and add green beans.  Let the beans cook in the residual heat of the stew.

Cook’s treat: sprinkle sea-salt and drizzle olive oil over the carrots and have as a sneaky treat before serving everyone else!

But the best thing about a stew is that with whatever is leftover you could always turn it into a pie the following day.

Venison Pie

Either use shop bought pastry or make your own shortcrust pastry.

Line a tart tin and bake blind in the oven.  Remove your baking beads/pulses and egg wash the base – baking for a further few minutes until golden.  The reason for this being that the egg wash will prevent your pie from having a soggy bottom.  No one likes a soggy bottom!

Chop the potatoes into smaller pieces and add as much leftover stew as you dare.  Then top the pie with either a full cover (make sure to leave some vent holes for the steam to escape) or create a simple lattice pattern over the top.  If the idea of having to make a pie is scaring you, a pasty might be easier but I would use ready-rolled, shop bought puff pastry for this.

If however, the thought of having to eat the same again is putting you off giving this a go remember that stews freeze very well.  I would fish out the beans and potatoes before freezing and probably serve this with fresh veg and mash next time!

Perfect for Bonfire’s Night to be eaten outside watching the fireworks…

On Thursday evening I was treated to a wine & tapas tasting event at El Capote, Gibraltar.  Organiser and host, Ian Gareze, informed us by email that:

“the food & wine matching evening consists of 6 french wines accompanied by 6 tapas designed to best compliment the characteristics of the wine and  vice versa”

I replied immediately and booked myself in knowing how popular these evenings are.

I was really looking forward to this!

Having arrived on my own I wasn’t really too sure where to sit but was quickly reassured by our host that it was a mash-mash of people with the idea being to mingle with like-minded people who enjoy good food and good wine!

Tables were laid out as one long table, banquet-style, along the length of the room with chairs placed on either side of the table (it’s an intimate venue.)  Wine glasses stood proudly along the table accompanied by water jugs.  Apparently so as to rinse out your wine glass before trying the next wine.

As people arrived and took their places at the banqueting table it was evident that this was not to be one of those pretentious evenings where people talk about the bouquet of the wine whilst spitting half of it out into a bucket!

This was simple – 6 wines, 6 tapas, enjoy yourselves!  It did exactly what it said on the tin.

1) Bouchard Pouilly Fusse (white) with Moules Mariniere and Sautéed Calamares

All three components of this course were very well balanced.  The wine was chilled but not cold.  It had a delicate herbal note that was reminiscent of recently mown grass which was very well matched to the thyme in the sauce in which the moules were bathing.  This sauce was flavoursome yet light.  The calamares – something which can sometimes become tough and rubbery through over cooking, were tender and exquisite on the tongue.  My only complaint was that there was no bread at the table to mop up the herby, garlicy juices that remained at the bottom of the dish.  But my panic was immediately abated by the waiting staff as they swiftly came round leaving bowls of rustic, chunky, Spanish bread for everyone to get their fill of the juices.  De-licious.

2) Maison Brotte Rose Tavel (Rosé) with Cheese and Potato Nests

Not generally a fan of pink wines (probably because I drank copious amounts of Mateus Rosé in my youth!) I was slightly hesitant about trying this wine.  However after my first sip I was in danger!  This wine was so quaffable; I couldn’t get enough of it.  I could imagine myself sitting in the sun guzzling glass upon glass of this wine.  It had a robustness and lingering finish that I would never have associated with a Rosé.

The birds nests were prepared with brie and lardons (to stay in the french vein).  I thought this combination might not work with the wine, as the saltiness of the lardons would interfere with the floral notes in the wine.  A vegetarian at our table had her own lardon-free nests.  For research purposes I tried both with the wine and surprisingly, the lardons made the wine taste sweeter and almost intensified its flavour and finish on the pallet.

With the white and rosé unscrewed and consumed we moved onto the reds.  Two Bouchard Burgundy Reds were on the menu – Fleurie and Morgon harvested from different villages within the Beaujolais region.

3) Bouchard Fleurie (Red) with Chicken Liver Pâté and Goats Cheese Pâté

Chicken liver pâté with caramelised onion chutney was beautiful.  I must confess I do have a weakness for any pâté on crispbread but the star here was the goat’s cheese, with its mix of herbs which gave the dish a shimmer of sophistication.

This was matched with the Bouchard Fleurie.  This wine was deceptive.  It had a slightly shocking pink hue to it but was still full bodied.  The creamy goats cheese and the velvety mouth-feel of the wine were in great partnership but I was intrigued to see if the white wine we tried at the beginning would have been as good a partner to the goat’s cheese pâté as the Fleurie?  Food for thought (pardon the pun!).

4) Bouchard Morgon (Red) with Coq au Vin

Classic Coq au Vin deconstructed and presented en brochette.

The chicken itself had been marinaded in the Bouchard Morgon overnight.  And you could taste it.  The eternal worry with cooking chicken is always presenting it underdone and even worse nuking it within an inch of its life.  Our host apologised for the length of time we had to wait for this to finish cooking but to be honest we had been plied with so much wine by now that it really wasn’t a worry!  Everyone was mingling and chatting away as if we all knew eachother previously.

As instructed by our host, we removed the pieces of the brochette onto the plates provided.  The chicken was succulent and tender.  The marinade had been reduced to make a sauce to go over the chicken.  This was packed full of flavour and finished the dish off perfectly.

I was very impressed by this take on a classic dish.

5) La Fiole Du Pape – Chateaunuef Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon

The megastar of the evening in both the wine and food was the matching of La Fiole Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon.

La Fiole is surprisingly soft on the palate but its strong tannins lead to a powerful almost majestic finish.  It is full bodied but silky and smooth at the same time.

The boeuf bourguignon was melt-in-your-mouth tender!  The intense red wine flavour coming through with every mouthful.  I must mention the dumplings; these were a clever addition to this dish as more bread to clean the plate with, at this time of the proceedings, would have literally been gut busting!

6) Ochoa Moscatel (White) with Chouquettes

Fair enough – Moscatel is NOT a French wine!  I know.  We all know.  Unfortunately we were meant to try a French variety of this wine but alas it was not possible.  According to the professionals though, the only difference between this white and the French version was the label and hence the price.

Chouquettes, as there name implies are choux pastry sweet treats.  I had to research these online as I had never heard of them before.  Fellow food blogger, David Lebovitz, refers to them as:

“Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar”

So close your eyes and imagine a profiterole in your mind.  Erase the chocolate coating on top.  Now remove the cream that’s inside.  Sprinkle some coarse/pearl sugar over, and presto you have a choquette.

Parisians would have these in the afternoon as their le snack with a cup of coffee.

However, being neither Parisian nor the  afternoon we were jovially chomping our way through these sweat treats drinking copious amounts of sweat white wine.

My tip: dunk these in the sweet wine.  Not only did it serve to help restore some moisture to these cream puffs but they symbiotically sweetened eachother creating a tantalising dessert that relinquished their secret juices with every bite.  It had me going back for more!

A perfect end to what was a truly a enjoyable experience.

Next time, barring epidemics and natural disasters, I shall also go on my own, unfazed by the prospect of being alone,  knowing that from the minute I get there I will be in the presence of good food, good wine, and good company.

Here’s to the next one!

It’s not very often that I can say this, well, once there was a salmon and spinach en croute thing that should NEVER be repeated but nonetheless I tend to be adventurous as well as optimistic in the kitchen. However, whilst trawling the aisles at the supermarkets I’ve always tried to look for something unfamiliar that I should be able to cook. If I don’t have the skill set to cope with certain foods then it is up to me to research what it is that I need to do to be able to do to work with that ingredient and it was this supermarket-philosophy that I picked up ox-tail at my last food shop.

Having researched online as to what treatment this cut of meat needed as to create the perfect winter warmer, I set about the task.

Visually, this looked fatty and therefore I imagined would need several hours of slow cooking.

I rushed home after work and dredged the ox-tail through seasoned flour and sealed the meat in hot butter and oil. In the meaty flavoured fat I gently fried the onions, celery and carrots (aka mirepoix). Once these were translucent I added the sealed ox-tails and added a glass of red wine, beef stock, seasoning and herbs.

Whilst I had a much needed power-nap the ox-tails were stewing for the desired time (3hrs) in a low oven (180°C). I even added the potatoes within 45mins of the remaining cooking time as instructed by the online recipe.

As delicious and welcoming as this pot looks it fooled me too!

“This is an eat at the table meal – preferably with lots of napkins!”

The meat was not falling off the bone as the recipe suggested. I made a mess of the shirt I was wearing as I tried to negotiate the meat from the sinew. My table cloth is also in need of a washing machine!

I would not be much of a food writer if all I ever wrote about were my kitchen successes. If anyone can produce an ox-tail stew worth its credit please send me your recipe as I would be more than happy to try it again and give this meat the credit I have heard so much about.

“With a heavy heart and a somewhat heavy stomach I write that I was disappointed with dinner.”