Tuesday 27 January 2009

Indian-Spiced Lamb Chops

Lamb chops aren't a cut of meat I often buy. It's fairly expensive and you don't get a whole lot of meat. Besides which, I don't often see it in the supermarket. Any I do find always look rather anaemic and skinny. However, when I managed to get to GG Sparks last weekend, I took full advantage of the trip and picked up these lovely chops. At around £6 / £7 for 4 chops (albeit organic), they're not something to be taken upon lightly...

There has been much, much talk to the lamb chops at New Tayyabs. The last time I went, I asked the chef what the secret was to such delicious chops, but alas (and unsurprisingly), he wouldn't reveal their secret. So I had to make it up as I went along.

Of course, my chops will never be the same as the Tayyabs one, but I think I did a pretty good job. The charring was delicious, the lamb tender and the marinade worked its way right through the meat. As they're served on a sizzling plate in the restaurant and I don't have one, I figured a ridged griddle pan might have the same effect - certainly in the summer, the bbq will also work well.

Indian-Spiced Lamb Chops

For 2

4 lamb chops
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
2" ginger, minced finely
1 green chilli, chopped finely
Zest of a half a lemon
1 tbsp tomato puree

In a small, non-stick frying pan toast the cumin, cardamom pods and the black mustard seeds until fragrant. Take care not to burn them. Add them to a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the lamb chops and mix well. Smear over the chops and refridgerate, marinating overnight. I actually marinaded them for three days, which meant that they were very tasty indeed.

Bring to room temperature before cooking. Scrape off the marinade (the garlic and ginger burning will become bitter). On a super hot , dry griddle pan add the chops. I didn't find there was any need for oil. Griddle for 2 minutes each side for medium rare, and leave to rest somewhere warm for 10 - 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I served this with cardamom rice, cucumber raita and sprout tops stir-fried in garlic, ginger, chilli and mustard seed.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Apples

Oh, how I love pork belly. The fat is so flavoursome, and it keeps the meat tender and unctuous. It's not exactly a diet food, but that's probably why it's so tasty.

I've cooked a good few pork belly recipes. When braising, I use the slices but I also love using a whole piece, such as in this Dong Po Pork recipe. I was really hankering after a big lump of belly - it has been a while, after all - but I wanted to do something different with it. I've noticed a lot of my recipes are Oriental and I'm in the danger of being stuck in a food rut. So I plumped for something rather more British.

As I was rather hungover today, there was no choice as to what potato preparation we would be having with it. What could be more comforting than a big plateful of creamy mashed potato and a fatty piece of pork? This one tray recipe created a great sauce to have with the pork; it was deliciously apple-scented and the onion and garlic provided a great savoury background. I'm also really (pleasantly) surprised with how the crackling turned out. In the past I've never been able to get it to puff up as much, other times I've left it under the grill and it burned and even caught fire!

Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Apples

Serves 4 (or 2 greedy girls)

1kg pork belly in one piece, skin scored

4 russet apples

1 onions

1 head of garlic

1/2 bottle of white wine

250mls pork stock


Ensure the skin of your pork belly is very dry before you put it in the oven. Preheat the oven to full whack, rub oil and salt all over the skin of the belly and immediately put it in the oven. Roast for 30 mins, then turn down to 140 degrees. Remove the pork belly, pour the fat off and lay the pork belly on top of the onion, cut into segments. Scatter the unpeeled cloves of garlic around it, and pour in half a bottle of white wine into the tray. Make sure the wine only comes part way up the pork and doesn't touch the skin.

Roast at this temperature for 1.5 hours. Then cut the apples into segments and add to the tray and roast for a further hour. When it's done, remove from the oven and add the apple, onion and garlic mixture to a sieve over a bowl. Using a spoon, press, squeeze and squish the mixture and scrape off the bits that come through the sieve - this will make up the sauce.

Next, very carefully, put the pork belly under the grill. Keep an eye on it because it burns very easily. Grill until the skin puffs up. Remove and rest the meat.

For the sauce, heat up some butter and add plain flour to it to make a roux. Add the pork stock slowly, whisking it as you go along to avoid any lumps, then add the apple mixture and simmer until thick.

I served this with mustard mash and steamed savoy cabbage. I'm about to dive into the seconds...

Thursday 22 January 2009

St John

I was recently invited to St John's for dinner. Shortly afterwards, the Michelin list came out; St John had been awarded a star. Most excellent timing.

I had been meaning to go to St John for a while; nose-to-tail eating sounds great and also challenging. I'm not offal's biggest fan - kidneys and liver aren't my favourite, but I do like tripe, so I was looking forward to pushing my own boundaries a bit.

Myself and a few other bloggers (Niamh, Helen G, Helen, Chris) were kindly invited along by Rob from Wine Conversation so that he could tell us about some wines that we were drinking, and in turn talk about the impact on social media tools - such as Twitter - as well as food, drink, and general banter.

So, upon arrival I was surprised to see the restaurant itself looking quite spartan. High ceilings, stone floors and plain tablecloths is very different from what I'd expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant, but there was a heathy buzz in the restaurant and a lot of full tables. We were seated in the private room, which was perfect due to so many of us taking photos!

To start, I ordered the 'Pig's Head & Radishes'. In my mind I expected some sort of pressed terrine, and was quite surprised when I got this. Amongst the radishes there were chunks of pork, quite fatty and flavoursome pieces. The radishes worked well in this dish. The contrasting textures were very pleasing, and it was all lightened with a warm vinaigrette. Excellent crusty bread helped mop up all the lovely juices.

Others had the signature dish from St John, the 'Roast Bone Marrow on Toast with Parsley Salad'. It was an impressive plate, with the bones standing tall like the pillars of the Colosseum. Armed with what looked like a torture instrument with which to extract the marrow, the bones released a luscious paste with which to spread on the toast. The parsley and caper salad was perfect to cut through the richness of it.

With this, we had the first of the wines, a white Rioja. I had commented that I'd not had a white Rioja but apparently it's not that common to find it. This wine was perfect, and possibly my favourite of the night - it was light and refreshing, matching my pork dish perfectly.

Next came the mains. When I first saw the menu, I saw several things that I wanted to try - roast kid, woodcock, teal, ox hearts. But one thing caught my eye, which was 'Chitterlings & Turnips'. I've never seen chitterlings on a menu before, and I wanted to seize the opportunity to give them a go. I've had pig's intestines in Chinese cuisine before, but I don't remember much about how it tasted. Besides which, in true food envy paranoia, I made Helen promise I could try her roast kid dish...

When the plate arrived, I was surprised to see the size of it - I shouldn't have eaten so much bread... I loved the turnips; they were juicy and had absorbed much of the porky goodness. The pork itself was tender and some pieces fell apart at the touch of a fork - other pieces had a pleasing, jelly-like wobble. The Dinastia Vivanco Crianza was my favourite red; it was robust, slightly smoky and stood up well to the meaty mains.

Speaking of jelly-like wobbles, this rhubard jelly, compote and shortbread was one of the highlights of the food. The jelly was just the right consistency and was the right side of sour. The sugary shortbread and the custard balanced it out perfectly and was a light and refreshing end to the meal.

I had a great time at St John - good food, excellent wine and great company. I must say it's very different from other Michelin starred restaurants and I did come away feeling a bit confused about them being awarded one. Of course the food was gorgeous in it's own right (although perhaps I over-did it with the double pig courses), but when compared to places I've been to like Maze, Benares and Umu, it wasn't really in the same league. I mean, there was no one to walk me to the toilet or to pull my chair out for me - or even to pick my napkin off the floor (!). That says a lot, really; obviously these things aren't always needed.

The great thing is that the menu is contstantly changing, meaning I have an excuse to go back.

Edit - check out Rob's excellent post for more info on the wines we drank.

St John on Urbanspoon

Monday 19 January 2009

Double-Herbed Meatballs

I have the January guilt.

I keep pinching my sides, convinced I've piled it on (I have actually gained half a stone) and every time I waddle past the gym, head down, a pang of guilt shoots through me because I have no willpower to actually get my backside in gear. And yet, because of all the stomach stretching I did over the festive period, I'm still eating like it's going out of fashion. In my thrify moods I've been making two portions of my evening meal to take to work for lunch, and instead, I've scoffed it all with protestations of "but it's so cold outside, I need fat on my bones for insulation!"

So instead I've been desperately trying to eat more vegetables. Tonight was my first experiment; instead of making meatballs and pasta or meatballs and rice, I've just bulked it out to make a kind of meatball stew and have foregone my usual carbs. I sense a midnight fridge raid coming on... feel free to eat this with a hunk of crusty bread.

Double-Herbed Meatballs

Serves 2

200gr minced pork
1 medium white onion
2 cloves of garlic
A large pinch of chilli flakes
A handful of curly parsley
4 hefty sprigs of dill
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp tomato puree
A small glass of white wine
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of cannellini beans
Salt & pepper

Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. In a sauce pan, heat up some oil and add the onion. Fry until translucent, and then add the garlic. Sweat very gently with the pinch of chilli. When it's softened, add the glass of white wine and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, chop the herbs finely and add it to the pork. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Bash the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, and then add them. With your hands, make sure all the herbs are evenly mixed into the meat. Roll the meat into ping pong sized balls.

Add the tomato puree and the tin of tomatoes and bring to the simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the meatballs, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally. Add the rinsed cannellini beans about 10 mins before the end. I simmered mine for about 30 minutes, until it got thick. Serve (in my case) atop a pile of steamed Savoy cabbage with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Sunday 11 January 2009

New Tayyabs

2008 passed by really quite quickly. A lot has happened for me; this blog was born, for a start. Relationships ended, new ones discoveries were made, and new friendships (some through this blog) were made. One such discovery was New Tayyabs. There are loads of food bloggers who have blogged Tayyabs, I am by far from the first, but it's generally accepted that Tayyabs is THE BEST. Really decent Pakistanni food, and cheap to boot. The queues are legendary, and it's BYO.

Recently I was having a discussion with fellow bloggers about lamb chops and who does them the best. We reckoned Tayyabs was it, and so myself, Niamh, Chris, Helen, Charles and Joel from Tipped made arrangements to go and have a blow-out. We really went for it, but there was a revelation from the evening -Tindi Masala, pumpkin curry. The picture (right) doesn't look like much, but it was delicious. Myself and Charles almost passed on it as we both said we weren't huge fans of pumpkin, but I'm really glad I gave it a go. The pumpkin pieces were juicy and bursting with flavour, with just a hint of sweetness. I've been thinking about it ever since. The chef came to our table and had a chat with us and whilst sadly he wouldn't tell me the secret to the lamb chops, he gave me a rough outline of what the pumpkin curry contained. Once I find some baby pumpkins I'm giving it a go.

Another excellent dish was the fish masala which took me by surprise. I'm not quite sure why, but I was expecting a whole fish to be brought but I was quite pleased. I'm all for eating fish as a whole beast but on a table of 8 with forks flying it would have been tricky. Anyway, the chunks were succulent and tender, with just a hint of spicing.

We did pretty well - some naan and roti, the rather unappetisingly named but extremely delicious 'dry meat' and a super spicy dhal set us up nicely and came to a mere £15 each with service. All this was washed down with another discovery made at the latter end of this year, thanks to Charles and Joel - Sierra Nevada IPA. I first tried this at The Rake, a brilliant pub in London Bridge. It was the perfect beverage for all the spice consumed.

New Tayyab on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Keema Curry

So cutting meat out of my diet after the Christmas binge was never really going to happen. I know I should be more creative with veggie meals, but well, I need my protein (I am fully aware that there are vegetarian proteins). However, I have cut down on the meat consumption. Honest!

One way I've done this is to use half the amount of meat and bulking it out with vegetables. I often eat a lot of vegetables anyway, but when added to a curry as I have done here, it also adds another texture to the dish. This keema and cauliflower curry was a great example of this.

When I was living at home with my parents, we often made curries using Patak's curry pastes. They were convenient and when you need to feed four hungry people who have just come home from work or school, time is of the essence. Especially if you were constantly hungry, as I was as a teenager (and perhaps still am in my early twenties). Recently though I've been making curries from scratch. Ok, I don't grind my own spices nor do I make my own garam masala, but baby steps... Once you have all the basic spices, it becomes really quite easy to whip a curry up. Chickpea curry is my favourite, especially as it uses mainly store cupboard ingredients, but as I had some minced lamb I plumped for the keema option.

Keema & Cauliflower Curry

Serves 3

1 large white onion

3 cloves of garlic

4" ginger

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 heaped tsp garam masala

250gr minced lamb

200gr frozen peas

Half a small cauliflower

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Small bunch of coriander

Chop the onions, garlic and ginger finely. Heat up some oil or ghee in a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds. After they have browned slightly, add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry until browned but not burnt, then add the turmeric, chilli powder and coriander powder. Add a large pinch of salt. When the onions are coated with the spices, add the minced lamb and fry until browned. Add the tin of tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then add the half head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets. Put the lid on and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then add the garam masala and the peas. Cook for a further 5 minutes and take of the heat. Let it all sit for 5 minutes or so, and upon serving scatter with the coriander, chopped finely.

Of course like most curries, this curry definitely tastes better the next day when all the flavours have had time to properly amalgamate.

This dish, although quite full of vegetables, also benefits from a vegetable side, which is where my beloved sprouts made an appearance. Simply steamed and then stir-fried with garlic, chilli, ginger and mustard seed it provided a great contrast in textures and a fresh flavour to it all.

Friday 2 January 2009

Thai-Style Beef Salad

After the excesses of Christmas, a light and fresh salad was needed. I ate more roast potatoes, roasted meats and cheese than ever this year, and I was really craving something spicy to waken those tastebuds again. I call this Thai-style as I used vegetables I found in the veg drawer which aren't strictly authentic, but all the flavourings of the dressing are definitely Thai.

Usually Thai beef salads use freshly cooked sirloin or rump steak; in my case, I had some lovely rare roast rib of beef to use up. I didn't want to cook it any further, say in cottage pie, as so much care was taken to ensure it was cooked pink and rare, so this salad was the best thing for it. The slices of beef were beautifully tender, and yet the dressing didn't overwhelm it's flavour.

Thai-Style Beef Salad

Serves one greedy person

200gr beef, cooked to rare (if using leftovers, make sure they're at room temperature)

1 large carrot, grated

A handful of green beans, cooked to al dente and cut to 2" lengths

A few sprigs of coriander, chopped roughly

1 stalk of spring onion, sliced on the diagonal

1 small clove of garlic, minced finely

The juice of half a lime

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

A few roasted peanuts, bashed lightly

1 red chilli, finely sliced

In a bowl, combine the chilli, garlic, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Mix until the sugar has dissolved, and leave the flavours to mingle for 15 minutes. Slice whatever beef you're using into strips, and add this to the bowl. In goes the carrot, spring onion, green beans and coriander. Toss well to make sure all the ingredients get a coating in the dressing, and then place on a plate. Garnish with the peanuts.