Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Courgette in tomato

What can you say about courgettes? They're green and phallic, like a verdant winky, disembodied from its Martian owner in some horrendous intergalactic Bobbit incident. They're small marrows with a French name, except in the USA and Italy where they call them zucchinis. They are also quite tasty.

After an opening salvo of dishes which are New World, in-your-face, chilli-laced and full of dead animals to start the blog, this is a simple, fresh, vegetarian dish that works as a side dish as one of the two veg of a Sunday roast dinner or on its own as a pasta sauce. It's the sort of recipe that Rick Stein would twat on about in a flowery manner, relating how he had seen it made from vegetables fresh from Monet's garden by some elderly matriarch in Provence one year when he was a student. It's at  that stage in his programme when you're screaming at the telly "Just shut up and cook the fucking recipe, you pretentious prick!". I got my courgettes from Sainsbury's.

1 medium courgette: topped, tailed and sliced
Half a red onion, finely choppped
Two cloves of garlic, crushed
Half a tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp or more olive oil*
Pinch of Salt
Black pepper
Small bunch of fresh oregano, finely chopped (or a pinch of dried)

Pour the oil in a pan and heat. Fry (or sautee if you're of the foody wanker persuasion) the onion and garlic until the onion is transparent, about a couple of minutes.

Throw in the courgette and fry for another 10 minutes until they start to get tender.

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano and salt and pepper.

Let it stew for 30 minutes or so, until the courgettes are cooked, and serve.

You could pep up the dish by adding a splash of lemon juice but taste before serving as it might need some sugar to offset the tartness. Also, like any dish, this would be improved by a good slug of white wine.

Oregano goes well with tomato, but you could use thyme. 

*This is what Nigel Slater might call "a glug". Now, I'm not aware in which system of mensuration (no, not that)  the "glug" is a unit. Presumably it's from the same descriptive system as "a tit of milk", "a turd of mashed potato" and "a fart of lettuce". Whatever, it's definitely not an SI unit. This is in contrast to the "slug", as mentioned for wine above, which is (SI standing for "Sweary Implementation" in this case).

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mince Wonder 1: Chilli con Motherfucking Carne

You've never had chilli like this.

The name literally means "chilli with meat" which sounds about as appealing as sex with William Hague while your Mum watches. On the other hand, put an exotic spin on the most mundane dish and it will sound so much more vibrant. Carne y dos verduras sounds a lot more interesting than meat and two veg, alternative name for male genitalia not withstanding. You could say, maintaining the same comparison and in keeping with the Latino theme, "chilli con carne" sounds as appealing as sex with Jennifer Lopez. Anyway, literal meaning aside, my version of chilli con carne has grown and evolved over years to become the masterpiece it is now and would be my signature dish if I were running a restaurant.

It's a little known fact that chilli con carne isn't actually a true Mexican dish, but Tex-Mex, which is a bastardised version or, as some twatty restuarants bill themselves, a "fusion" (to-MAY-to/to-MAR-to) of Mexican food with that from north of the Rio Grande. This is because it contains meat and a significant tendency to increase your BMI to morbid obesity levels. Your average Mexican peasant couldn't afford meat and carrying an additional few stone of adipose tissue doesn't help with tilling the fields. It also generally contains fewer pulses so is also less likely to have the effect of making your friends avoid standing downwind or sharing a lift with you after a meal of this cuisine, though not so much in this instance. Since this is a bastardised cuisine I don't see any need to stick to authentically New World ingredients so this recipe includes Bisto, British beer, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

This is enough to make 4 or 5 adult-sized portions

500g beef mince (low fat if you're a ponce like me)
1 tin of tomatoes
250 ml beer (good, dark British ale. Not pissy lager, not even Mexican)
1 tbsp Bisto powder or similar (see notes)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1tbsp tomato puree
2 big tsp whole cumin seeds
2 big tsp oregano
2 big tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
½ tbsp tomato ketchup
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
One large red and one large green pepper, or combination of colours if they're smaller chopped chunkily (yeah, I just made that word up, but you know what it means so get over it or fuck off)
2 or more fresh chillies (see later), finely chopped including seeds
Tin of kidney beans (See notes below)
Balsamic vinegar
Dark soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
A small piece of your immortal soul (optional, but don't expect your chilli to be truly great without it)

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: Upwards of 2 hours

Brown your meat. No, that's not a euphemism, I mean stick the mince in a pan on the hob and heat it until it's cooked. Drain off the fat in a sieve. Tip it back in the pan and add the tomatoes plus half the beer and bring to a gentle boil.

Mix up the Bisto in a cup with a little remaining beer to make a slurry and pour it in and stir well. Add the onion (uncooked) and stir in the tomato puree. Add the spices and the stock cube and mix in well, adding the rest of the beer.

 The spices
From 11 o'clock: cumin seeds, coriander, smoked paprika and oregano

In a separate pan, fry the garlic in the olive oil for a minute or so and stir into the mixture. Add the peppers, chillies, beans and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, then let it stew on a low heat for at least an hour and a half, enough time for the onion to become transparent and peppers to become tender.

Taste it (the chilli, not the vinegar, you fuckwit). It should have a good balance of sweetness and tang so you can add a drop more balsamic or Worcester if necessary. Also, if it seems a bit wishy-washy (similar, I would imagine, to the aforementioned sex with William Hague, though far less unarousing) add a splash of soy sauce to give the whole stew more umami, the meaty flavour that is the recently discovered companion to salt, sweet, sour and bitter sensing tastebuds on the tongue.

You may need to boil off some of the liquid as it starts closer to soup than a stew, but also this helps concentrate the flavour. It should still be quite runny. Before serving add the spoonful of ground cumin.

In da pan

This makes easily enough for four people with some left over for lunch the next day. It serves well with  plain boiled rice or baked potatoes.

The clue's in the name: chilli with meat. This recipe needs to be hot, as hot as you can stand it. If you have a bowl of this and aren't sweating like an art dealer trying to shift the last few Rolf Harris pieces in his inventory on the day of the verdict, you've made it wrong. You may experience what feels like actual hellfire spewing from your arse the next day, this means you've done it right. The depth and complexity of the chilli heat and flavour increases if you use different types of chilli: fresh ones of different types (jalapeno, bullets, fingers, birds eye), dried (chilli powder, cayenne, chilli flakes, dried chipotle), chilli sauces (for example Tabasco, Cholula, Encona Hot Pepper sauce) or pickled chillies like jalapenos. Obviously, you need to make it as hot as the person with the lowest chilli tolerance you're feeding. For example, I need to tone down my preparation to accommodate my wife and toddler son and add more chilli to my own portion. On the other hand, if I was making it for myself it would have enough chilli to register the next day on the Beaufort, the Richter and the Bristol Stool scales as well as having a shit-load of zeros on the Scoville scale when you're actually eating it. Science fact: heat of chillies is due to a compound called capsaicin which is actually neurotoxic.

Oh, and also, remember not to touch your genitals for any reason after you've been chopping chillies unless you think thrush just isn't painful enough

It has got to be a dark, British ale because it needs the richness this comes with. If you use lager in it, you might as well piss in the pan. Cheap supermarket own brand bitter in cans does the trick but if I want to make it that bit more special I add Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger.

Kidney beans
You can use fresh beans, though I've never bothered. The reason is because if you don't prepare them properly you will be ill, and not in the good "Oooh, that chilli last night was bloody hot!" way. They've got a poison in them that is related to ricin, as favoured by eastern bloc spies, would-be terrorists and Walter White Sr. It's kind of ricin-lite

A British staple of many a kitchen, the original Bisto gravy powder makes great gravy with meat juices if you do a roast, but adds some well needed richness and helps thicken up the sauce in this chilli. This is what I'm talking about:

Supermarkets will also do their own version. If all else fails, improvise with some cornflour, more soy and even some Marmite or similar yeast extract.

Is it called chilli con carne y chocolate? No it's not. Neither is it mole and it's definitely not a fucking dessert. Leave the cocoa for the nighttime drink of nursing home residents. If you do put chocolate in this dish, I will find you and I will kill you.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pulled pork

Not that long ago if you threw a shitty stick down the magazine aisle in Smith's you'd render at least three different magazines containing a recipe for pulled pork unsalable due to contamination with faecal matter. The recipes were everywhere. It's probably less popular now but I thought I'd give it a go because a: I've tried it in a restaurant and the way it melted in my mouth was like pig-flavoured chocolate and b: the name gives the potential to make more double entendres than you can shake the aforementioned shitty stick at, which is ideal for a blog such as this. Combining this with elements of the dish conchinita pibil (slow-roasted pork in banana leaves with orange), originating from the Yucatan in Mexico, and it is potentially a great way to do pork. This was one of my favourite dishes while we were on holiday there.
I fused a recipe from Simon Rimmer (another great opportunity for double entendres) and one for conchinita pibil to produce my version.

Pork rub (ooer, matron)
1-1.5 kg pork shoulder (boneless, rolled. Needs to have plenty of fat in order to keep the meat moist)
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp chiptole paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of half a lime
1tbsp olive oil

Cooking liquid
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 large orange, juiced and husks retained
200ml cider
50ml white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Dry off the pork joint with kitchen roll. You could use a hair dryer if torrential diarrhoea is your thing, but I'll stick to the paper towels personally.

Mix together the coriander, cumin. oregano, smoked paprika, garlic, chipotle and lime juice to make a paste and rub it into the pork.

Rubbed and ready for the fridge

Cover and put in the fridge and leave it overnight if possible, or for at least a couple of hours.

Put it in a roasting tin with the onions, the rest of the garlic and the orange husks.

Mix together the cider, orange juice, vinegar and Worcester sauce.

Pour the liquid over the meat, cover the tin tightly with foil and replace to the fridge for another hour or two

Remove from the fridge and put it into the oven at 140 to 150°C.

Roast for at least 3 hours like this.

Under the foil, 3 hours in

Remove the foil and turn the oven up to 220° for 15 minutes to finish the meat off.

Take out of the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes

I admit this recipe takes a frigging long time, but that's the idea: cook it long and slow so the meat stays moist and tender.

Serve the meat by tearing it apart with two forks in the cooking liquid so it stays moist and bathed in the unctuous, tangy cooking liquor.

You could serve this as a twist to the pork in a Sunday roast, but it really  as something a bit more exotic with buns and coleslaw.

Ready to serve on a bun
(with homemade coleslaw and potato wedges)

As I mention, you serve the pork by shredding it with a pair of forks. This is the somewhat disappointing reason it's called "pulled", because you pull it apart, and not because of some revolutionary cooking technique like "jerking", or even an obscene reference to Rebecca Loos. Anyway, the point is there's no need for any of that carving shit. In fact, I do wonder if the dish originated as something to cook for people who weren't allowed to have knives. I served it up with roasted butternut squash and  sweet potato wedges which meant the whole meal had a similar colour to Dale Winton (I believe the Dulux colour chart calls it "Genial Host Orange"), not that this ought to put you off.

One further tip: feel free to take the words "cumin", "paprika", "pulled", "pork" and "Rimmer" and you too can make your own schoolboy-humour cookery blog.