Monday, 26 November 2007

Cheat's Burger and Chips

Every so often I go past a kitchen shop and get drawn in by the idea of a deep fat fryer and wander home dreaming of tempura, and onion rings, and battered fish, and chips. And, even though I know it is BAD and will surely lead to BURNs I attempt to convince A with my dreams of freshly fried goods. Which is the point at which he lists the terrible things that happen to people with deep fat fryers, a tale in which if you don't immerse some part of you in boiling oil, or burn your house down, the mentioned freshly fried goods lead to obesity, and heart disease. And in this way we have so far resisted temptation.

The downside of this is no fresh chips, double fried and crispy. So we have developed a way of cooking them which, though unlikely to ward off obesity and heart disease, is (or at least feels) marginally less dangerous than a vat of boiling oil. So we cut our chips from potatoes, skin on, making sure they are of even thickness. And then we whack the temperature on the oven as high as it will go (a measly 220oc), space the chips out on a baking sheet, and spoon on a couple of generous dollops of duck fat and shake them around to cover before popping them in the oven. 30-40 minutes later and hey presto, chips. These easily rival your average home-made restaurant chip (it may be the duck fat) though I admit they do not rival the wonderful chips at La Tupina in Bordeaux which double fries its chips in duck fat.

Anyway, we ate lots of these last night, with suitable lashings of fleur de sel and mustard (and ketchup for me because I am a philistine). They were great with the last of the beef burgers from our Riverford Meat Box and fresh bread rolls that A made, although as you can imagine both of us were rendered unable to move from the over-consumption of beef, potatoes, duck fat and bread.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Delia's Cottage Pie

Our veg box last week had two swede in it, and what do you know, they're still malingering in my fridge. My only brush with swede is in my childhood in Edinburgh, where Burn's night is celebrated with haggis, neeps and tatties (neeps being another name for swede). They're boiled or steamed and served with lashings of butter, salt and black pepper, and maybe a little nutmeg if you're lucky. I'm not adverse to this, but I can't eat two of them like this, and getting haggis in Oxford may be a stretch. But I came across a Delia receipe for shepards pie with swede in it, so thought I'd try it out, substituting beef for lamb and hence turning it into cottage pie.

500g of minced beef
2 carrots
2 large onions
1/2 swede
a glass of red wine
a good handful of parsely
3 leeks
a handful of chedder cheese

Dice the onions, carrots and swede into small cubes. Brown the onions with the thyme and some olive oil, then add the diced carrot and swede and cook for a few minutes. Transfer to another dish and turn the heat up high. Brown the mince in batches, then turn the heat down and sprinkle in a spoonful of flour, browning it gently in the fat from the mince. Add the cooked vegetables and the glass of wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Chop the parsely and add, taste the mince and season. Meanwhile boil the potatoes until tender and mash with a few knobs of butter. Season well.

Layer the mince at the bottom of an oven dish, and spoon the mashed potato over it to cover. Slice the leeks into rounds and cover the mashed potato with them, then sprinkle over with chedder cheese. Bake in a 180oc oven for 30 minutes.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Mussels with Chorizo

I cannot take credit for the cooking of this, nor really the recipe (see Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook), but it was just so good, that it needed a mention. Everyone has those tired days, when you arrive home soaked through by rain, cold, shivering and fed up with life. Cooking is a far away dream but you think you might just be able to summon the energy to order takeout, though even deciding what you want to eat is a little beyond you.

I arrived home in just such a state a few nights ago and A. happily sat me down in the kitchen and cooked me this. The smell of the shallots and chorizo cooking was heavenly, and then the white whine bubbling away, and then a big bowl full of steaming mussels, with the chorizo and herbs jostling for space. It was really a wonderful meal.

1 cooking chorizo
a handful of shallots
1 1/2 kilos of mussels (well bearded)
a handful of parsley
two handfuls of coriander
a glass of dry white wine (and the rest of the bottle for drinking)
lots of crusty bread for dipping

Chop the onions and chorizo finely and fry in a little olive oil until the onions are translucent and the fat is coming out of the chorizo. Add a glass of wine and bring to the boil. Check through the mussels one last time discarding any that are open and do not close when tapped. When the pot is boiling add the mussels and pop the lid on. Chop the herbs. After about 8-10 minutes the mussels should have opened wide. Now chuck in the herbs, and serve in bowls with bread for mopping up the juices.

A note of caution. Buy mussels on the day you want to eat them, and don't store them in the fridge (most fridges are to cold and they will die), but wrapped in newspaper and covered in damp cloths. A few hours before you want to eat them empty them all into the sink and scrub (no soap!) off any barnacles and pull off any beard. Any mussels that are open and do not close when tapped are dead and should be thrown out.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Carrot Soup

I spent the last two weeks in France, attempting to do some work and with A cooking me up all kinds of delicious things in the kitchen to fuel the study. The weather was crisp and clear, and the countryside around us as beautiful as ever.

It all seems a distant memory now that we are home, on this bleak Oxford day. I have that overtired feeling where I just want to wrap up warm and cook cosseting food thats gentle and cosy. A little carrot soup seems in order.

2 large Onions
6 large carrots
olive oil
4 garlic bulbs
salt and pepper
chicken stock

Slice the onions finely and then cook them long and slow with the olive oil and thyme, adding the garlic. When you have a rich colour add the chopped carrots and cover with the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the carrots are tender. Use a hand blender to get a thick puree, and season with salt and pepper.
This is best served with thick hunks of good bread spread with generous quantities of butter.