Monday, 28 March 2016

Rice and peas

Rice and peas is up there along with delicacies such as Bombay duck (see my thoughts on this from an earlier blog recipe here), water biscuits and crab sticks as actually not being composed of what their name actually suggests. And don't even get me started on the whole fucking omnishambolic multiple personality defect that is the "pudding" (steak and kidney? Christmas? Black? Bread and butter? Sweet? Savoury? Make your fucking mind up!)

The "peas" in rice and peas are actually beans, kidney beans in this case. It's a Caribbean classic and goes very well with my Jamaican lamb curry or something like jerk chicken.

As in most Jamaican cuisine, the chilli ought really to be a scotch bonnet and put into the rice whole to impart a bit of flavour, rather than making it spicy hot. In this instance I used a bird's eye chilli which doesn't have the same fruity flavour as a scotch bonnet, but it still worked.

1 large spring onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 whole chilli
½ tsp allspice powder
200ml coconut milk
200g rice
300ml water
½ a vegetable stock cube
½ tin of kidney beans

Rinse the rice in a couple of changes of water to get rid of excess free starch.

Add the oil to a pan and fry the garlic and spring onion.

Add the allspice and chilli.

Stir in the rinsed rice.

Add the water and stock cube, stir, then add the coconut milk.

Stir well, bring to the boil, cover, and turn the heat right down.

Leave for 15-20 minutes to let all the liquid get absorbed by the rice leaving (hopefully) a pan full of light, fluffy, delicately flavoured grains.

Serve with any Jamaican main course such as my Jamaican lamb curry or jerk chicken.

OK, it's not much to look at
It's rice and it's got beans in it. What do you expect?

The mild coconut flavour works well to temper the heat of something really spicy like jerk chicken.

Unlike a lot of rice dishes, which can be a bit bland, this has enough taste to make a light lunch in its own right with the leftovers next day. Make sure the leftovers are kept in the fridge. Also, if you do have it the next day, make sure you seriously fucking nuke it in the microwave to kill off any bugs and avoid food poisoning from good old bacillus cereus which is actually quite fond of rice and doesn't like to share.

Other beans can be used in this, like black turtle beans. Some recipes recommend using dried beans and using some of the cooking liquid from preparing these. I didn't. Some versions of rice and peas  call for bacon in as well. If you do use dried kidney beans, bear in mind that if you don't prepare them properly you're arse might end up resembling a garden sprinkler the next day, thanks to the fact that the beans are poisonous if they aren't soaked and cooked according to instructions.

I used Thai jasmine rice for this. It tastes great for any savoury rice dish. As I've said in several previous entries, but a huge fuck-off bag of it from an Asian supermarket and you will have great rice on tap for months and it's cheaper and better than most of the crap you buy at the local Western grocer.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Leftover symphonies 2: Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Who first thought the idea of eating some rotten milk that had putrefied so far as to be actually mouldy was actually a good idea? I mean, eggs are a pretty dodgy concept when you think it just came out of a hen's arse, but at least they are in a shell you get the edible part out of. But, blue cheese, it's just there, all veiny and smelling like a tramp's underpants in the middle of a heatwave. Whoever it was, he or she was definitely onto something as it tastes fantastic. And probably the best of all blue cheeses is Stilton

I know Stilton has its haters, but there are worse forms of cheese. Take Casu Marzu, for example. This cheese from Sardinia has actual live maggots in it. Thinking that you might try the cheese with the blue mould on it is one thing, but to actually have an internal monologue saying "You know what this cheese needs? Maggots who've been pre-eating the cheese" really is overstepping the mark. The taste of this monstrosity apparently lingers with you for hours. I've not actually eaten Casu Marzu, but I hazard to guess that even this aberration of putrid milk, complete with maggots, still tastes better than Cheese Strings. Young Master Sweary would probably eat shit if you sprinkled it with chocolate, but even he won't touch Cheese Strings and, having tasted them myself, I can understand why. They are truly fucking diabolical.

Though it's in the shops all year round, Stilton in the UK is really only promoted to sell at Christmas. Indeed, most people who eat it only have it in the festive period when it accompanies crackers after a stomach-rupturing Christmas dinner as the Queen delivers her message to the Commonwealth. The nature of the extravagant feast of Christmas means that there is invariably a mountain of food left over, most of it perishable. This includes a pyramid's worth of cheese which presents the dilemma of what to do with what's left before it goes completely off. Stilton probably doesn't lend itself to using up in sandwiches, besides which there is usually the remains of a large turkey to consume which is best in sandwiches (as well as the obligatory turkey curry, which is another recipe in the pipeline to post at a later date). This soup is ideal to dispose of, not only the large block of blue cheese that needs to be consumed, but also the remains of the broccoli that is likely to be festering in the salad bowl of the fridges. This pleases me greatly since, when it comes to food, I really fucking hate throwing good stuff out. Better still if it makes something like this classy soup that gave me three or four good lunches at work the following week.

This soup, despite being made from leftovers, really is fantastic.The subtle blue cheese and broccoli go together so well and it beats anything you can buy in a tin.

1 tbsp olive oil 
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery
1 potato, diced
1.2 litres water
2 vegetable stock cubes
100g Stilton, crumbled
300g broccoli, cut into chunks, including stalk
Black pepper


Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion to gently sauté for 10 minutes or so.

Add the potato, carrot and celery and carry on cooking for another 15 minutes.

Add the water and stock cubes and throw in the stalk pieces of the broccoli.

Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 15-20 minutes then add the broccoli florets.

Simmer for another 10 minutes then scatter in the Stilton and add black pepper to taste.

Allow the stilton to melt into the soup then liquidise until smooth, or leave it a little chunky if you prefer.

I took this to work to have as lunch. You could serve it as a starter, maybe. Serve it however you want to, I'm not your Mum. It is great with some crusty bread, though.

You could add to the richness of this soup by adding a slug of cream (again, a common thing to use up after the Christmas binge). A good nip of sherry would also be a good idea.

To liquidise, use a hand blender or put the soup in an upright blender. However, if it is an upright the soup might have to be cooled if the jug is plastic and also it might spray all over the kitchen and could give you a broccoli and Stilton face peel if you don't close the lid properly. I don't know, as I said above, I'm not your Mum. Figure out how to use your own kitchen equipment for yourself.

This recipe is a rare event for this blog in that it includes cheese in it, and blue cheese at that. The recipes I usually post are things I make for my family and Mrs Sweary doesn't eat anything containing cheese or with a creamy sauce (yeah, yeah, go on with that line of thought and its eventual outcome yourself). I knocked this up for my own benefit to bring to work for lunch from Christmas leftovers before they needed to be chucked out.

I appreciate the irony of this is a way to use up Stilton before it goes off since it is, by pretty much any definition you care to look at, already off.

I couldn't mention cheese in a humorous cooking blog without referencing the famous sketch.So here is the reference, courtesy of the Young Ones

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Rhubarb Triangle 2: Baked chicken thighs in sherry and rhubarb

Despite my profane critique of the 1970s in an earlier blog recipe, there was actually quite a lot to enjoy about that decade. I had a great time growing up then, though hindsight suggests that's as much to do with the fact that I didn't manage to get onto Jim'll Fix It to meet R2D2 and C3P0 as I asked for in a letter. Talk about a lucky escape.

One of the best things I remember was that five minute slot that was the bookend of the children's programmes on BBC1, just before the news on schooldays. That had some truly wonderful animated shorts like The Magic Roundabout, Ivor the Engine, or my particular favourite: Roobarb and Custard. Whereas the Magic Roundabout was suggested to have been influenced by psychedelia and LSD, you could had to suspect a hint of amphetamine, crack cocaine or possibly methamphetamine use in Roobarb and Custard, with it's wobbly, seizure-inducing animation and bright colours. It's got fuck all to do the rhubarb the vegetable, beyond the name.

So here's side 2 of my Rhubarb Triangle (side 1 here). This is based on a dish that Mrs Sweary does with chicken thighs, lemon and white wine that's then roasted in the oven so the chicken skin gets nice and crispy, while the meat is braised in the wine and stays really moist. It's the most easy recipe I think I've made. Apart from toast. Or Pot Noodles.

1tsp runny honey
150ml fino sherry
Juice of half a lemon and the husk sliced into 1cm strips
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
 ½ a red onion, sliced
2 sticks rhubarb, leaves trimmed off and finely sliced
4-6 chicken thighs with skin on
Salt and pepper

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours

Combine the sherry, lemon juice, olive oil, honey and pour into a shallow oven-proof dish or baking tin (it needs to be big enough so the liquid is deep enough for the thighs to wallow in)

Add the garlic, red onion, rhubarb, lemon rind and garlic

Mix so that there is an even distribution of ingredients

Place the thighs in, skin side up into the liquid

Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on the skin of each thigh (the chicken's, not your own you fuckwit) and a little salt and pepper

Cover the dish with foil and place in a heated oven at 150°C for 1½ hours

Remove the foil and turn up the heat in the oven to 200°C for15-20 minutes to crisp the skin.

Serve the chicken thighs with the braising sauce along with baked, sauteed or Hasselback potatoes (recipe to follow). Alternatively, it makes a good meat addition if you're doing a range of tapas.

With Hasselback spuds and asparagus


Roobarb and Custard was one of the animations made by Bob Godfrey in his very long career. He made various other films for kids like Noah and Nelly and Henry's Cat which all had the same simple artwork, multi-layered humour and great voicework (Roobarb and Custard was voiced by the late Richard Briers). Besides this, he also made animations for the more mature audience like Kama Sutra Rides Again, a humourous take on kinky sex; and Great, an animation about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which won an Oscar.

Mrs Sweary's original version of this is pretty good too. The major difference is use a full lemon (juice and segments) and throw in a handful of whole garlic cloves in their skins, replace the sherry for a nice dry white wine and leave out the honey and red onion. Mrs S would probably also use less oil (but that's just her way, so I wouldn't). Cook it exactly the same way. Serve with bread so you can spread the cooked garlic cloves on it.

The sherry needs to be decent stuff. Dry and pale. It also makes a good aperitif while you wait for the chicken to cook.

If you have any left over cooked thighs, they are great cold for lunch the next day.

As great as the cartoon Roobarb and Custard was, it was no excuse for this piece of shite rave tune from 1992 which sampled the theme tune

There's another rhubarb triangle recipe in the pipeline and will be posted soon.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Jamaican lamb curry

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s there was a big influx of migrants from the British Commonwealth to the UK who were a vital part of rebuilding the country following WWII. A large contingent came from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica. In the late 60s, eminent scholar, Conservative politician, and, as it subsequently became apparent, massive racist cockwomble, Enoch Powell, foretold there would be rivers of blood as a result of this influx. Anyone who bought a pair of gum boots to spare their socks from getting stained in the gore must look pretty fucking stupid now as this hasn't happened.

It's nothing new, of course. There were doubtless a few resident Neanderthals probably grunting the same about the Cro-Magnons (ugg ug-uggg ug'g ugg or "fucking neo-hominids. They come over here with their complex language abilities and their way of crafting superior arrowheads and hand-axes from flint") when they arrived; and no doubt there would have been a subsequently vocal minority of the residents who said similar things about the Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, the Jutes, the Saxons, the Normans, the Hugenots, the Jews, the Indians, the Pakistanis, as there is saying the same thing about the Poles and the Syrians now. The worst of the bunch were the fucking Angles. Those bastards came over to Albion, next thing you know we have to change the name of our entire fucking country to Angle-land, or England, to suit them. It's just Germanic feudal correctness gone mad.

Anyway, despite the naysayers, the little Englanders, and the out and out fucking racists, we have a fucking proud history of welcoming immigrants, and them becoming part of the fabric of British life with their culture enriching ours. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the British national dish these days is now accepted to be chicken tikka masala, and Melas and Eid have become massive community events for everyone living in towns with a big Asian population.

This is equally true of the Caribbean immigrants from the late 20th century. One of the most vibrant events in the national calendar is the Notting Hill Carnival, arguably the largest street festival in the world, is a huge celebration of West Indian culture. The musical landscape was changed drastically by reggae and ska in the 70s and 80s; and restaurants specialising in Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines are often a gem of the culinary life of any town.

The most well known dishes of Jamaican cuisine include jerk chicken, rice & peas and goat curry. Being a bit of an aficionado of curries from across the globe, I had to try this, but goat tends to be a bit in short supply in these parts so substituted lamb.

Preparation: 10 minutes (plus marination)
Cooking: 3 hours

500g diced lamb
2tbsp Jamaican curry powder (see notes)
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 thumbs-worth of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
200ml coconut milk
200ml water
1 chicken stock cube
1tbsp tomato pure
2 regular red chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2 regular green chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2tsp Encona chilli sauce (see notes)
Half a butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed

Trim off any excess fat from the lamb and put it in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the curry powder and shake the bowl to cover the meat

Leave to marinate for at least an hour, overnight if possible.

In a flame-proof casserole dish, heat the oil on the hob and brown the lamb for 5-10 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon

Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the dish and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the curry powder

Return the lamb and add the rest of the ingredients.

Stir well, cover and place in an oven at 150°C for three hours.

Check the stew every hour or so and add more water if it's getting dry.

 How it is cooking

Makes enough for two people. Serve it with rice and peas (recipe to follow)

With rice and peas

There are loads of commercially available available blends of Jamaican curry powder. Now, some cookery columns, celebrity chefs etc would insist you must make your own. As a rule I'd say fuck that for a game of soldiers. Why reinvent the wheel? However, I actually did make my own, but mainly because I couldn't find any in my local supermarket. This is how I made it:
  • 2½ tbsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole fenugreek
  • ½ tbsp star anise
  • ½ tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 large stick of cinnamon (10 cm)
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp whole black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
Put the spices in a dry frying pan and heat for a couple of minutes on the hob to toast. Let them cool then grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container

As mentioned above, this is based on a goat curry. Fortunately it works very well with the lamb I used which is readily available. Goat would probably need more cooking, but who knows? Not me, I've never fucking cooked it.

I'd intended to use sweet potato in this recipe but couldn't find any so substituted squash. Squash or pumpkin is great in any curry, but this would also work with regular potato.

Coconut milk in tins is great for this

I used the chillies I could find in my local supermarket, which were some not-too-hot non-descript variety. However, the chillies used in this ought to be scotch bonnet chillies which are hotter than Satan's urinary tract when he was having a severe case of urethritis during Hell's great cranberry shortage of 1986. As well as being stupid hot they also have a fantastic fruity taste that is as much a part of Jamaican cuisine as the other spices. Again, I couldn't find any scotch bonnets locally so used the bog standard chillies in the ingredients. On the other hand, Encona Hot Pepper Sauce is made from Scotch Bonnet chillies, hence why I add some to this dish.

Scotch bonnet chillies and Encona Hot Pepper Sauce which is made from them(You can get an extra hot version of the sauce)
(Chillies pic from Sauce picture from Tescos website)

Sweary jocularity aside, I'm conscious of the fact that the as well as enriching British culture, the influx of immigrants from former British colonies in the West Indies betrays a dark history of the slave trade that saw huge numbers of African natives captured and shipped across the Atlantic to provide a cheap workforce for plantations in these selfsame former colonies.

Many immigrants live in some of the most deprived parts of the country complete with the social problems that afflict such areas, as well as often being vibrant centres for diverse cultures. The vibrancy then leads to more affluent people moving to the area, gentrification and next thing you know, the area is no longer vibrant and is the setting to some Richard Curtis (yes, him) bland, middle-class Rom-com as was the case for Notting Hill.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Leftover symphonies 1: Lamb in garlic, tomatoes and white wine

I've slated my parents' cooking skills while I was growing up in several previous posts and I've also had a significant go at the British contribution to world cuisine. However there is one thing that puts we Brits on the throne of cooking, at least once a week: The Sunday roast.

I was raised on a Sunday roast every week, be it chicken, beef, pork, lamb. It was the diamond in the dust of otherwise domestic culinary mediocrity. It's very much a British thing which really can't be beaten and it's simplicity means you have to try quite hard to fuck this up. If not the absolute pinnacle of cuisine, it's certainly one of its munroes. Tender, melt-in-the-mouth slivers of meat, roast potatoes, a couple of gently cooked vegies, all caressed in rich gravy and a whisper of the right condiment (mint sauce, horseradish, apple etc), maybe with Yorkshire pudding and or a nice stuffing (and everyone knows nothing's better than a good old fashioned stuffing. Well, unless you fancy a good, hard shag). More than any other facet of weekend life it lessens the impending blow of the working week that you know is heading your way, like the proverbial shit towards the fan, to scatters the last of your weekend comfort into the air when the alarm clock goes off 15 hours later.

As utterly wonderous as the Sunday roast is, I truly fucking hate the leftovers. The cold, roast meat that was a common meal in my household for dinner on Monday, accompanied by chips (fucking chips) and something like baked beans. That once delicate, silken-textured meat has, in the fridge overnight, become some sort of tough, greasy, stringy-textured secondhand chewing gum, akin to freshly lubed shoe leather. It's such a crime to do this with a lovely cut of meat, because those wonderful leftovers could still be used for something nice. It cost enough, why not get yet another decent additional meal out of it? I have tried a few recipes for leftover roast meat in the past and most of them have been, quite frankly, a bit shit. Then we came across this wonderful way to make your leftover lamb almost as nice as the first time out. It's a Spanish dish and I've raved about my love of Spain and its food in the past, and the flavours in this recipe are as Spanish as you can get with all that garlic, the tomatoes and olives.

Preparation: 15 minutes (not including the roasting of the original lamb, obviously)
Cooking: 40 minutes

Cooked, leftover roast lamb, trimmed of any excess fat cut into bite-sized chunks (ideally about 400g for two people)
Plain flour for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 good-sized cloves of garlic, crushed
3 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (around 400g, or use tinned if out of season)
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
salt and pepper to taste
50g pitted green olives (about 25 actual olives in total), drained


Dust the lamb with the flour to lightly coat.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the lamb until it gets a nice golden brown.

Remove it with a slotted spoon to leave the oil behind.

Add the onion and garlic, adding more oil if the pan is too dry.

Fry for 5-10 minutes, so the onions are transparent.

Add the tomatoes and allow them to break down over a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the white wine and tomato puree.

Bring to a low simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

Return the lamb to the pan and stir in to allow it to heat through.

Before serving throw in the olives and mix.

Serve with sauteed or oven-baked potatoes and bread to mop up the sauce.

A decent cut of roast lamb would usually be leg or shoulder. Leg is better as a roast with shoulder usually fattier, though this does add flavour. Either one is good in this dish, but the fattier shoulder probably works better.

The wine cuts through the greasiness as well as tasting great.

Don't skimp on the oil for the first part of frying the lamb as a lot of the rehabilitation of previously roasted meat in this recipe is in the frying part. This also goes for the garlic, you can't use too much garlic. Ever.

Plain olives work in this though I like pimento stuffed ones. These are not to be confused with Olive from On the Buses.
Olives Go for the ones on the right for this dish

In my haste to eat this I forgot to take my usual crappy pictures. What can I say? It's tomatoey, there's lumps of delicately browned meat and it's studded with striking green olives so you get an idea what it looks like. I'll add pics next time I make it.