Cowshed Red

By roderickfreeman, Feb 1 2017 09:00AM

From the Balkans to the countries of the southern Mediterranean, from Central Asia to Mongolia, there are culinary traditions of cooking plant leaves stuffed with savoury fillings – dolmas, holiskes, golabki, sarma, the list goes on. In France, stuffed cabbage (chou farci) has long been a staple for some rural communities, and this re-working of a Mark Hix recipe elevates the dish from its humble origins.

Serves 4

4 large outer leaves of Savoy cabbage (prep a couple extra in case any tear during stuffing)

400g minced pork (use chicken or rose veal if you’d prefer)

100g chopped chicken liver or pork liver (use streaky bacon if you don’t like liver)

1 medium onion finely chopped (200g approx)

100g fresh breadcrumbs

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or winter savoury

2 cloves crushed garlic

100g Puy lentils (use regular green lentils if you can’t get Puy)

1 large stick of celery finely chopped

1 medium carrot finely chopped

500ml chicken or veal stock

1 glass red wine

1 dried bay leaf

Knob of butter

Salt & pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanche the cabbage leaves for 2 minutes, transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking, drain & pat dry with a tea towel – tip: to make the leaves more pliable, before blanching lay them face down and using a vegetable peeler, pare down the back of the main leaf stem.

For the stuffing, combine the pork, liver, breadcrumbs, half of the onions, garlic, thyme, salt & pepper. Lay each cabbage leaf on a large piece of cling film, share out the stuffing mix (mounding it in the centre of the leaf), fold up the cabbage leaf around it & then gather the edges of cling film up and twist to form a tight parcel. Refrigerate the parcels for at least 30 mins. Meanwhile, cover the lentils with cold unsalted water, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 20-30 mins until tender. Drain and set aside.

In another pan, melt the butter over a low heat, add the remaining onions, carrot, celery, & bay leaf. Allow the vegetables to soften for a couple of minutes, add the stock and red wine then bring to a simmer. Carefully remove the cling from the stuffed leaves and place in an oven-proof dish with the folded edges underneath. Pour over the hot stock mix and cover with a lid or foil, place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 35-40mins.

Carefully transfer the parcels to a warm plate/tray - taste the cooking liquid, if it needs more intensity of flavour then place in a pan over a high heat and reduce until the flavour builds, season to taste (remember the lentils were cooked with out salt, so will need a little help) - if you like you can thicken the sauce a little using a knob of beurre manié or slacked cornflour. Reduce the heat, add the lentils and warm them through for 2-3 mins. To serve, use a slotted spoon to make a bed of lentils and sauce on each plate then top off with a plump cabbage parcel.

By roderickfreeman, Jan 1 2017 11:00AM

The culture and fashion of food is always moving, but whilst some food items enjoy a period of popularity with professional chefs, they may hold less appeal for the home cook – and vice versa. However pork belly is a cut of meat that has not only regained favour on our dinner tables, it is also ubiquitous in the menus of bistros & gastro-pubs. One thing which surprises me though is that a revival hasn’t happened for the equivalent cut of lamb – the breast. Despite possessing the same level of flavour, and a similar unctuous texture, breast of lamb is still often over-looked. That said, at least it is no longer treated with the same opprobrium as it was in my childhood. If housekeeping was short come the weekend, Mother would dispatch me to the butchers with sixpence for two breasts of lamb – yes, two breasts of lamb for six old pence (2 ½ p)! But a key element of her instructions was to ask the butcher for “two breasts of lamb ….for our dog”, heaven forbid that the neighbours should find out that it was actually going to be our Sunday Lunch!

If breast of lamb did find its way on to the table in those days, it was as a rolled joint filled with breadcrumb stuffing of some sort. I don’t think this suits today’s’ palette so well, one of the problems being that the stuffing can absorb a lot of the fat that renders from the lamb during cooking. This recipe treats the meat with Mediterranean simplicity, making the most of the sweet flavour and melting texture of slow-cooked lamb breast.

Serves 4

1 boned breast of lamb 1.1kg - 1.3kg

1 medium onion (200g approx) thinly sliced or pulsed in a food processor

4 - 6 gloves of crushed garlic (or use garlic paste)

1 generous sprig of rosemary, roughly chopped (thyme or dried oregano also work well)

zest & juice of ½ lemon

6 anchovy fillets (optional)

The shape of the boned breast usually gives you thicker meat at one end, the other end often tapers off. There is also usually one straighter edge along its length (that’s the side that was nearest the loin & ribs), the other edge is often irregular – when you come to roll the breast, you can fold the tapered end in so the joint has similar thickness all along. Also start rolling from the irregular edge so that this ends up in the centre of the joint, this will give you a more uniform piece of meat for cooking.

Lay the lamb skin side down and spread the garlic all over the meat. Then cover evenly with the onions, fresh rosemary, the lemon zest & juice. If you are using anchovies (they are a great flavour addition with lamb), lay them nose to tail along the centre line of the breast. Roll the joint and tie with string every couple of inches, or secure with several skewers to stop the meat unrolling. Rub the outside of the joint with olive or cooking oil & preheat the oven to 150C.

I still have Mum’s old enamelled roasting pan & lid which is perfect for cooking this in, but any large casserole dish or deep roasting tin will do. If you don’t have a lid then double wrap with foil. Cook for 2 ½ hours, but check at 2hrs and if the meats needs more colour, cook uncovered for the final 30 minutes.

By roderickfreeman, Dec 1 2016 10:00AM

Would you like to serve a special cake or sweetmeat to guests this Christmas but don’t fancy too much of that baking malarkey, or are just short of time perhaps? Simple to make, Panforte is a traditional cake/confection from Sienna and the surrounding region in Tuscany. The name (strong bread) comes from the peppery spicing that was added to the main ingredients of fruits and nuts in the original medieval recipes. Spices are often less prominent in contemporary recipes, and some (like this one) contain none at all. This version of a Gino d’Acampo recipe also breaks with tradition in that it contains chocolate and doesn’t require baking. It can be made on the day, but also stores well if you want to make it in advance. This panforte works as a dessert dish with whipped or clotted cream, smaller portions are perfect with coffee or desert wine, or as a petit four.

Serves 4 (as a dessert)

350g good quality dark chocolate

3 egg whites

50g mixed chopped glacé fruits and/or candied peel

200g ground almonds

150g mixed nuts (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, whole almonds, macadamia, pecan etc)

270g icing sugar

4 tbsp Amaretto liqueur - Kirsch & rum (amongst others) make good alternatives

Lightly toast your selection of nuts in a preheated oven (180C fan) on a flat or shallow tray, for 6-8 mins until lightly browned, toss a couple of times during toasting so they don’t over-colour on one side. If you want to remove any skins, rub the nuts in a tea towel whilst they are still warm, then set aside to cool.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold in the ground almonds, candied fruit/peel, 200g of the icing sugar and the liqueur. Melt 250g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (make sure the water isn’t in contact with the bottom of the bowl). Tip: let the bowl warm a little before adding the chocolate, this reduces hot & cold spots and the chocolate is less lightly to granulate (seize). Fold the melted chocolate in to the fruit & nut mixture. Line a 7” (18cm) diameter flan or pie dish with cling film, pour in the mixture and spread evenly then allow to stand for at least 2 hours - overnight is fine.

To make the topping, gently melt the remaining 100g of chocolate as before. Meanwhile over a low heat dissolve the remaining 70g of icing sugar with 2 tbsp of water in a saucepan, then gently stir in to the melted chocolate. Turn the cake out so that it is now upside down and remove the cling film, using a spatula or palette knife spread the chocolate syrup over the panforte. Leave for at least an hour to cool and set before slicing (a sharp knife dipped in hot water helps), serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

From Julia, myself and all the team – we wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy & Peaceful New Year!

By roderickfreeman, Nov 1 2016 05:00AM

If you haven’t taken part in the autumn ritual of pickling & preserving before, or you’ve simply fallen out of the habit, how about some delicious home-made piccalilli to go with those Boxing Day cold-cuts or cheeseboard. Piccalilli is one of the simplest pickles to make, and would typically contain a variety of vegetables that were in surplus, cauliflower, French or runner beans, shallots, cucumber, marrow, carrots – the list goes on. However, this recipe uses just three vegetables & some fruit, producing a light and delicious pickle that’s very moreish. It is thought that Piccalilli first arrived on British tables in the 18th century, the oldest known recipe by Mrs Raffald (1772) referred to it as Indian Pickle or Piccalillo.

Ingredients – makes 4 x 340g(10oz) jars

1 small to medium head cauliflower

300g courgettes

3 firm pears, peeled & cored

200g pickling onions/shallots, or frozen pearl onions from the supermarket are fine

850ml cider vinegar

150g granulated or caster sugar

50g honey

4 level tbsp cornflour

thumb length piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp crushed coriander seed

1 tsp crushed cumin seed

2 tsp yellow mustard seed

2 level tbsp English mustard powder

2 tsp turmeric

50g salt

Cut the cauliflower in to small florets, cut the courgette & pear evenly in to ½ inch dice, and place in a bowl with the peeled onions & salt, cover with a litre of cold water and leave overnight in a cool place. Drain the vegetables, rinse briefly under a cold tap then place in a large saucepan, add the vinegar, sugar, honey & the cumin, coriander & mustard seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are just tender but retain some crunch. Drain (keeping the liquid) set the vegetables aside, return most of the liquid to the pan but reserve about 50ml and allow it to cool a little. Bring the pan back to a low simmer & add the grated ginger, meanwhile using the reserved liquid make a paste with the cornflour, turmeric & mustard powder. Stir in the paste a little at a time until a good consistency is reached, then simmer for 2-3 minutes – if you think the liquid has over-thickened, simply add a little water, if it is too slack use a little more cornflour as required. Remove from the heat, gently fold in the fruit and vegetables and put in to warm sterilised jars. Seal and allow to cool, the piccalilli can be eaten straight away if you want, but it will improve with 3 or 4 weeks of keeping, and should store (unopened) for up to a year.

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