Monday, 30 November 2015

Pasta with ham and mushrooms

Time for a sweary confession. It's hopefully obvious from this blog that I really love food and, more, that I'm fairly discerning about what I eat. I believe that great meals need good quality ingredients. All this is true, but I absolutely fucking adore pork scratchings. Pig rind, pork crackling, pork crunch, call it what you will, but in my opinion scratchings are the food of the fucking gods. Quite honestly, to me, scratchings are the ambrosia (no, not the rice pudding, you knob) to the nectar (no, not the loyalty scheme, you knob) that is beer. I would live on them if I could, though you would definitely be well advised to stand upwind of me if I did as they do not make a pleasantly aromatic bedfellow with my gut microflora.

I'm so much of a scratchings nerd it's often the second thing I look for in a new pub, after what beer they do. The most exotic of these was when I was getting pissed on San Miguel (Filippino version, not the Spanish version. They are supposed to be the same but they taste very different) it is in a small beach bar in Manila (in a street, not on a beach). They had vendors coming round to sell all sorts of weird things including knock-off watches, knock-off viagra (at least I assume it was knock-off) and even live snakes. Then a guy appeared who was selling actual pork scratchings which were fantastic. Of course, scratchings are also quite possibly the very worst thing you can actually eat: thick with fat, caked in salt and can shatter your teeth if you get bad batch. And don't even get me started on the smell that literally farts from the bag when you open it. Negative points aside, the point of all this is that, with all due respect to my vegetarian, Muslim and Jewish friends, surely pigs are meant to be eaten if even their packaging tastes so fantastic.

Filipino pork scratchings!

Obviously, there is far more to (from?) the pig than scratchings. There is a phrase from Spain saying they use "everything but the squeal" from the pig, (which is also the title of a book by a British expat living in Galicia), in that pretty much the entire animal is used in some way. If you think about it, there are a multitude of things derived from the original pig. Scratchings I've already mentioned, then there's bacon, sausages of various types, uncured pork meat in various forms, a whole anatomy of offal and even the blood in the form of blackpudding. There are less "meaty" products like lard and suet, then there are other uses for pigskin as leather and gelatine. Let's also not forget a wealth of medical uses: porcine insulin is used in treating diabetics and pig skin can be used to make dressings to treat burns patients. Pig products even find their way into cosmetics

I couldn't do a comedy/cookery blog mentioning Spam and not put this, could I?

One of the greatest product of the pig is ham. Like any food, ham can vary from the sublime, like Jamon Iberico from Spain, to the revolting, like tinned spiced ham otherwise known as Spam (so bad they named nuisance e-mail after it). In fairness, Spam is not a good representation of actual ham since it is at least partially mechanically recovered meat and not entirely pig in origin. Generally, real ham tastes good however much you pay for it.This is especially true if you intend to use it in a recipe like this rather than stick it in a sandwich. True, cheaper versions are pumped full of water so you're getting less meat per penny, but the flavour should still be there which, for the purposes of this recipe, is all you need.

This is yet another cheap, quick and easy meal. These factors are all well and good, and they form a bit of a theme in many of my blog entries. The most important thing, however is that this dish really tastes fucking fantastic which is a more prominent theme I hope runs through every single one of my recipes.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped
150g cooked ham, roughly chopped (smoked if you prefer)
pinch of fennel seeds
pinch of mixed herbs
dash of lemon juice
1/2 a vegetable stock cube
100ml red wine
100ml pasata
Black pepper
All ready to cook
From 9 o'clock: ham, mushrooms, garlic, red onion

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a good heavy pan and add the onion and garlic.
Slowly cook the onion for 5-10 minutes then throw in the mushrooms.

Keep sauteing until they are cooked and add the ham to warm through.

Add the fennel seeds, herbs and lemon juice before crumbling in the half stock cube.

Pour in the wine and pasata and stir well, adding freshly ground black pepper. Leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Serve on pasta. Tagliatelle works quite well

Ready to eat

NOTES
You can use smoked or regular ham. The tastes are different but both make a great dish.

For the version I took photos of for this recipe I used a cheap off-cuts pack of smoked ham from my local super market. It's not going in a sandwich and you're chopping it up so the original form doesn't matter too much and this was also quite cheap.You could use panchetta if you were feeling particularly foodie wankerish but it is a little over-powering in this dish.

I'm glossing over the recent WHO report naming  processed meat products such as ham as carcinogenic.

Yet again I need to point out that, while my regular blog guest star, Rick Stein, may mention being somewhere exotic like the Philippines in his painfully meandering stories, he probably wouldn't be talking about getting rat-arsed on cheap local beer and being offered drugs to give you a prolonged stiffy, or indeed pork scratchings. Sweary Chef wins again.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Burgers!


William Shakespeare was not only probably the greatest writer in the English language, he was also incredibly prophetic when his witches from Macbeth accurately predicted the composition of your standard burger available on the British High St 500 years after his death (see above). Generally, if a burger is made of crap it will taste like crap. Mind you, putting a slightly different spin on things, who needs to go to the zoo to see lots of animals when you can take a bite of a cheap burger and have an entire menagerie parading across your tongue and into your stomach? It's like a multi-species game of Operation "I'll go for the aardvark pancreas, then the walrus foreskin, and the hypothalamus of a couple of squirrels". On more pertinent note, a good burger can be a wonderful culinary experience and even better if you make it yourself and you know what's in it.

Authentic street or peasant food is often wonderful and can tell you a lot about the place it originates and the people who make and eat it. This stuff is often made for workers in offices, in the fields, those cleaning streets, often all standing in the same queue, all of whom need something quick, cheap and nutritious. More than that, good street food thrives through word of mouth recommendation so any street food seller depends on the quality of their offerings and is therefore usually made with more than a little bit of love. It's often eaten on the hoof, or at plastic tables at the side of the road, served from a shack, a kiosk or just a barrow. Think Belgian waffles, Thai noodles, German wurst and even, dare I say it, Gregg's pasties. On the other hand, street food is also one of those current wanky food fads that are increasingly misappropriated of late by middle class people in gingham shirts and tweed, sporting ridiculous facial hair (aka fucking "hipsters") and sold from the "pop-up" restaurant. These are the sort of people who had a couple of tacos at Chiquito's and then decided to go off touting their food as authentically Mexican when, in fact, all they've done is buy an economy tub of Old El Paso fajita mix and thrown it over some Iceland chicken portions in a huge fuck-off bucket the previous night before banging them out from the back of a trailer for a tenner a pop.

Hamburgers get their name because they were once street food in Hamburg, or maybe it was because  they were produced by German immigrants in America. Actually, the true origin of the burger seems a bit fucking hazy. Well, after a cursory Google search it does, at any rate. Wherever the thing started, the hamburger basically uses cheap cuts of beef and makes them quick to cook, easy to eat and downright delicious if done right, so what's not to love?

Now, while it's true that hamburgers are still very much the food for poor, lazy or inebriated people, with our streets lined with fast food outlets, many upmarket restaurants now also have them on their menus. Probably the most ridiculous and obscene example is something like the Fleur Burger made in Las Vegas and costs $5000. OK, it's not really your normal hamburger. It's got truffles in it and it's made with Wagyu beef, but it's a bit of a stretch that one of these is a few hundred times better than a Big Mac. Wagyu beef is rumoured to be the very best sort of beef there is, as the cows it comes from are given the finest grain, plied with beer and their farmers massage them and probably fellate them on a daily basis, all in an effort to give beautifully fat-marbled beef. This attention doesn't come cheap, making Wagyu beef the most expensive form of cow flesh in the world. I have trouble understanding what sort of fuckwit takes the finest quality steak, mashes it up then puts it back together again in the form of a burger. It's the kind of cuisine that kind of makes you hope for a shred of truffle getting stuck in the recipient's windpipe. Nothing fatal, you understand, just enough to require a fairly violent and undignified Heimlich Manoeuvre to project the sliver (all couple of hundred quidsworth) across the room.


The Heimlich Manoeuvre
Never has the line between first aid instruction and soft-core gay porn been so blurred

INGREDIENTS

1/2 a medium sized red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
500g beef*
2 tsp Worcester sauce
dash Tabasco sauce
pinch mixed herbs
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp (or more) freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp coarse grain mustard
salt
1 medium egg

To serve:
Buns

Grated cheese
mixed leaf salad
Tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
Gherkin slices

Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Mustard
Chilli sauce
Sliced jalapenos

*The beef can be mince, stewing beef like chuck steak or, on a couple of occasions, I've used some very cheap sirloin steak from my local butcher which was awful as steak but made pretty good burgers. If not using mince, remove any really stringy or gristly bits from the meat then chop it roughly. I'll twat on about this more in the notes

RECIPE
Heat the oil is a small pan and add the onions and garlic to fry gently until soft, around10 minutes.

Allow to cool and add it to a food processor along with all the other ingredients. If you don't have a food processor, you need to use mince and mix everything together by hand in a bowl though the texture won't quite be as fine and the burger is more likely to break apart when you cook it

Take a quarter of the mixture, roll it into a ball then squash it into a patty between your hands.

Alternatively, if you're a foodie wanker like me, you might possess a burger press which means you can make nice, regular-shaped burgers.

When formed you can keep these in the fridge for a while if need be, for example if you are planning to barbecue them later, and they also freeze pretty well too.

A burger press doing its stuff


Smear the burgers with a little oil, slap them into a hot griddle pan and cook for maybe 4-5 minutes each side, turning regularly. Alternatively do them on the barbecue where they taste fantastic.

Unlike steak, the suggestion is that burgers are cooked through. See notes.

Before

After
Perfectly griddled

Stripes like this are NEVER out of season

Toast the bun a couple of minutes before the burgers are cooked then serve them on the buns with the salad ingredients plus condiments of your choice. Serve them up with chips, or better still, potato wedges like these I posted a while back.

Done to perfection
I'm not going to win any awards for food photography.  I'm not David fucking Bailey, OK?


NOTES
I've tried making burgers a few times in the past and they never worked as they tasted just like mince. The key is in the other things that go into the mix: the onions, garlic etc.

Having tried this with different types of beef, they all have different properties. The cheap sirloin I used tasted great but the burgers were a bit dry. Chuck steak made burgers that were a bit more moist but still a little drier than I prefer. Mince made the best patties in terms of being moist as it's all down to the fat content so cheap mince would probably work best as it has a higher percentage fat. This means that the cost of the burgers is really low as well, and the recipe could even be classed as yet another of my mince wonder.

Burgers ought to be cooked through completely. This is apparently true even if they are made from steak. The reason is because if you cook a steak, the bugs are on the outside and get killed by the searing whilst the under-cooked inside stays fairly bug-free (don't mention the parasites!). However, if you mash it all up to make a burger, the bugs are then spread through the whole patty. Saying this, I'd risk doing a burger rare if it was made from steak, but if it's made from mince you really need to make sure they are cooked properly. Besides, minced beef tastes like shit if it's under cooked.

The composition of the final burger in its sandwich form is very much a personal thing: how much salad, what salad ingredients, which sauces. Personally I like some cheese, a bit of lettuce, some sliced tomato, sliced onion, sliced gherkin, mayonnaise, ketchup or some sort of chilli sauce and perhaps some jalapenos. Mrs Sweary, on the other hand, has her burger totally bare with perhaps a few leaves of lettuce and a bit of sliced onion, a statement which would not have been out of place in the script of a Carry On film or indeed on my blog entry for pork afelia.

Shakespeare quote pic from http://leyendomucho.blogspot.co.uk/2013_10_01_archive.html
Heimlich manoeuvre pic from http://www.firstaidreference.com/first-aid-for-choking-heimlich-maneuver-adult-choking-infant-choking/139/

Friday, 13 November 2015

Mince wonder part 3: Bolognaise

It was only a matter of time before I got round to posting my version of this old kitchen standard and it's yet another addition to my array of mince wonders following chilli con carne and shepherds' pie. Mince doesn't cost a lot and can also be replaced by veggie mince if necessary, making it flesh-dodger friendly, so this dish is really versatile, tasty and cheap. It's the ultimate student/laddish meal but nice enough for a more sedate dinner with polite company.

It's a cliché to refer to the 1970s as the decade that style forgot, but this isn't really fair. Sure, the fashion was largely pretty ludicrous, but this was also the decade that gave us punk and decimalisation. It's also the time when we Brits started to look to our new European chums for food and style tips. These aspirations to European cool may have left a lot to be desired by today's standards, but then again, you do need to learn to shit in a potty before you can use the toilet.

70s fashion
This much polyester in one location is now banned due to the fire risk

In the 1970s spaghetti bolognaise was the absolute fucking zenith of continental sophistication. In fact this dish is so 70s you could put a droopy moustache on it and call it Peter Wyngarde. I know it's easy to scoff with the benefit of hindsight, but its competition in terms of continental sophistication at the time included crème caramel in plastic potsColman's Beef Bourgignon ready-made sauce mix in a sachet; and Blue fucking Nun Liebfraumilch German white wine, so it won hands down on being something that tasted nice.

Label from a Blue Nun bottle
and a video giving correct response to being offered this awful excuse for wine

Anything from mainland Europe was considered stylish. Even British cars of the time had an aura of continental mystique about them with names like Allegro, Cortina and Capri. This was, of course, long before our era of Easyjet and Ryanair flights, the Channel Tunnel and the EU. This was an age when these places across the Channel in Europe were exotic and sophisticated. They were separated from us by water, they were "other". These countries were so exotic you needed visas to enter them, so sophisticated that you could get ameobic dysentery from merely looking at a glass of the local tap water (or so travel advice of the time would lead you to believe).

Europe had an edge, it seemed a dangerous place. There was often a pervading mistrust of Germany from those who had lived through WWII. France ate funny-shaped bread, molluscs and amphibians. Spain was just recovering from being under a Fascist dictatorship and was on the verge of a military coup in order to return it to one at any time (yes, this really almost happened).

Nowadays things are different. Forty years on and we find that we Brits are more worldly wise. Foreign travel is nothing we think twice about. We pay the price of a pint of Belgian lager (brewed under licence in Wales) allowing us to be herded onto a 737 to Barcelona or Bratislava for a weekend. We get there and immediately find an Irish pub to get shit-faced on Guinness while watching the Man U game before getting a Big Mac on the way back to our hotel to crash out before a full English in the morning to dissolve the hangover. Like I said, exotic and oh-so-fucking worldly.

As I've alluded to in other blog entries, this was my very first taste of Italian food. As I've also alluded to, I was raised in a house that was hardly an outpost of culinary exploration. Bolognaise in my family went through various incarnations as I grew up though, in fairness, many of them were actually quite tasty if not authentically Bolognaise. For example, baked beans don't really grow on trees in the fair city of Bologna, but did find their way into some of my parents' incarnations of this ragout but made for a reasonably palatable dinner. My version is a bit more authentic and certainly doesn't have baked fucking beans in it.

INGREDIENTS
500g beef mince (or vegetarian mince if you are so inclined)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finey chopped
1medium carrot, finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
250g mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tins of tomatoes (or replace 1 tin with a 500g carton of pasata)
2 table spoons of tomato puree
1 tsp mixed, dried herbs
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 beef stock cube
150ml red wine
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Worcester sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
2 tsp dark soy sauce

RECIPE
The vegetables
Carrot, celery, garlic, onion and mushrooms.
Note how finely chopped they are, apart from the mushrooms

In a heavy saucepan dry-fry the mince to brown it for about 5 minutes (essentially until it's cooked), making sure it's well broken up with no lumps, and pour it into a sieve to get rid of the excess fat.

To the empty pan add the olive oil and heat on medium before adding the onion and garlic to fry for 5 minutes.

Throw in the celery and carrot and gently cook for 10 more minutes, ong enough to soften, then add the mushrooms for another 5 minutes until they look cooked.

Return the cooked mince to the pan and add the tomatoes, breaking them up (or use chopped tinned tomatoes), before stirring well and adding the herbs, bay leaf, paprika, black pepper and mix well.

Crumble the stock cube in and squirt in the tomato puree, again stirring well.

Pour in the wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcester sauce and (if you're using it) Tabasco.

Stir well, bring to the boil then turn down the heat to simmer with the lid on for at least an hour, ideally two or more.

Keep checking intermittently and stirring. Leave the lid off for a while if the sauce is too liquid.

It's a pan of pasta sauce
What more do you want?

This recipe makes plenty for four adults.
Serve with pasta (well, duh!) and bread

NOTES
As a pasta sauce this needs to be nice and smooth, so the onions, carrot and celery need to be finely chopped. Also, make sure the mince is nicely broken up when frying it. The mushrooms add a bit of texture so need to be chopped larger. It's actually a good way to hide vegetables if you have a sprog with an aversion to culinary plant matter.

Using pasata instead of a tin of tomatoes makes a more smooth, almost creamy texture. Tinned tomatoes are cheaper though

Tabasco adds a bit of subtle piquancy so don't use too much. It's not supposed to be "spicy". On the other hand, my piquant might leave some chilli-dodgers with steam blowing out of their ears. These things are relative so leave it out if you or your guest(s) are effete.

Pasta for this is traditionally spaghetti, but in the Sweary household we tend to use something that takes less cutlery skill to eat, like penne or fusilli, mainly because Mrs Sweary can't eat spaghetti without looking like an extra from True Blood when she's finished (see picture for an idea of what I mean).

Darling, but you've got a wee bit of sauce round your mouth.
I told you you should have ordered penne for your bolognaise instead of spaghetti

70s fashion pics from https://www.pinterest.com/hippyali/70s-men/ and http://www.paintlouisville.org/70s-fashion-trends.html. Blue Nun label image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassy-50/13336957223. Messy eater picture sourced from http://weheartit.com/entry/154371114/in-set/93667449-blood?context_user=loverofsatan666&page=2

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Hyderbadi black pepper chicken

Spices are incredible things. Seeds, fruits, roots, even tree bark. They generally look, at best, unimpressive and at worst just plain fucking nasty. Take the star anise. It looks like a brown shuriken but adds the subtle aniseed flavour to Chinese cuisine. Cloves look like rusty nails but they also give the heady, numbing aroma to mulled wine. Worst of all is root ginger which looks like Boris Johnson but is an integral flavour as part of Indian and Chinese food. and of course in sweet recipes like ginger biscuits and cakes. Without spices food would be just so dull.
Spices and the things they resemble
(from top: a star anise and a shuriken; a clove and a rusy nail; root ginger and BoJo)

I could go off on a tangent and twat on about how some spices are important in traditional Chinese, Ayuvedic and other historic mystical system of pseudo-medicine and they can cure all sorts of shit but if you're a regular follower of this blog you'll know I don't subscribe to any of that new age bollocks. True, herbs and spices, like any natural products from animals or plants, contain all manner of substances which may have beneficial effects and there is a lot of good research underway to look into these possibilities. Sometimes the effects aren't necessarily beneficial. For example, I could mention how capsaicin, the component that makes chilli hot, is actually neurotoxic, how you can actually get high on nutmeg if you eat enough of it and if you eat too many poppy seeds you can test positive for heroin at roadside drugs tests. Indeed the "poppy seed defence" is a well known in legal circles when people have claimed that their positive drug test was due to eating a poppy seed bagel rather than being off their tits on smack.

Anyway, onto the recipe in hand. If you've read a few of these entries you'll know I really love my spices. Most of these dishes have a good measure of spice, especially chilli.This doesn't have so much as a whisper of chilli in it. It isn't actually a curry. Yes, it's Indian. Yes, it's got some spice content. Yes, it's actually hot in a spicy way, but it's not really a curry. No coriander, no cumin, no aromatic spices, no chilli. I ranted about what made a curry in one of my previous entries but this doesn't fall into that category because it's only got tumeric, ginger, garlic and black pepper. Lots and lots of black pepper.

I have to say that this dish is probably one of the tastiest things I have ever cooked. The combination of black pepper, vinegar, ginger, garlic and onion is actually quite magical.

INGREDIENTS
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp salt
4 tsp crushed back peppercorns
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground tumeric
3 tbsp vegetable oil
500g chicken fillet, diced
1 onion, puréed
1 onion, sliced

RECIPE
Mix the garlic-ginger paste with 1 tsp of the black pepper, tumeric, vinegar and 2 tsp of the oil.

Add the chicken and stir, ensuring it's well coated, before putting in the fridge to marinate for 2-3 hours.

Add the remaining oil to a pan, and the rest of the black pepper then fry for a few seconds before adding the sliced onion. Sauté this until soft then add the puréed onion and fry until it starts to gain some colour.

Add the marinated chicken along with any liquid from the marinade and gently cook the chicken through. How long this takes obviously depends in what form the chicken is. For this entry I used diced chicken breast which took 15-20 minutes, though other times I've used chicken on the bone which is in bigger pieces and so takes longer, but I'll come onto that in the notes.



Makes enough for two adults served with rice or an Indian bread, plus maybe a vegetable curry to make a more complete meal



NOTES
Garlic-ginger paste is exactly as it's described: mushed up garlic coves and fresh ginger. I pounded it into a paste in a pestle and mortar, but you could use a small hand blender. If you don't have either you could get away with crushing the garlic and grating the ginger then mashing it up further with the back of a spoon. Two teaspoons is about 2-3 cloves of garlic and a small thumb-sized piece of root ginger. The actual amount you need isn't actually that critical, as long as there's enough to coat the chicken as part of the marinade.

The original recipe for this was from celeb chef Atul Korcher and uses a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces. That's shit-loads more chicken than I needed since I made this for two people. Also, the original cooking method is a bit of a pain in the arse with on-the-bone chicken plus originally the recipe used 100ml oil which is way too much though makes cooking larger chicken pieces easier but makes the dish greasier than a Tory MP who fell in an oil slick while lubing himself up to participate in an orgy.

Using diced chicken may lose out on flavour of bone-in chicken, but it's so much easier to make as the chicken really needs to be rubbed with the marinade if it's in big, bony lumps. This makes the preparation more messy than Mr Messy visiting a scat party (possibly attended by a ready-lubed up Tory MP) and has the effect of giving your fingers the look of someone who smokes 40 a day plus if you have a cut on your finger it hurts like hell, thanks to the vinegar.