Creamy Honey, Mustard and Cider Pork

Creamy honey, mustard and cider pork

This is very simple and ready in less than 15 minutes – a superquick and tasty midweek supper. Good flavours, and you can make it low-fat by using low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream. I actually prefer crème fraiche to ordinary cream anyway, it’s more zingy.

Ingredients
Serves 2

1 pork fillet (tenderloin)
½ a large onion or 1 small one
2tsp wholegrain mustard
2tsp honey
3 tablespoons crème fraiche (I use low-fat)
About 100ml dry cider
A knob of butter
salt and pepper to taste

The Cooking

First slice the tenderloin into medallions, about 1 or 2cm thick. Mix together the crème fraiche, mustard and honey in a bowl and set aside.

Put the butter in a frying pan and set it on a fairly high heat. Slice the onion finely and once the butter is frothing, add them to the pan. You’re not doing long, slow cooking here (although you could if you really wanted to), so simply soften and brown the onions, making sure the stir frequently so they don’t burn. Once they’ve got a nice colour, either remove the onions from the pan or move them to the edge. Add a bit more butter if the pan is dry and add the pork medallions.

Now don’t touch it for 1 minute. Don’t be tempted to faff about, moving them round the pan. It doesn’t need it. After 1 minute, turn the medallions over and do them on that side for another minute. Now pour over the cider and let it bubble away for a minutes or so and reduce a bit. Take the pan off the heat and add the onions (if you previously removed them) and the crème fraiche/honey/mustard mix. Stir in well, reduce the heat and put the pan back on the heat. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, have a taste and add salt and pepper as you feel it needs it. Voila, it’s ready.

I like to serve it with rice, but you can also have it with potatoes, veg, noodles, whatever you like. Very nice.

Mussels in Cider and Cream Sauce

mussels

As you can see, I served my mussels in cider with linguini. You could too, or just have it on its own with some bread to mop up the sauce. It’s not pretty food, hence the rather messy composure of the photo – sorry – but I assure you it tastes amazing. And I find it’s not worth trying to get the mussels out with a knife and fork – dive in and use your hands. It’s hands-on food. Rar.

Ingredients
Serves 2

About 300g mussels, alive
A knob of butter
1/2 an onion, or a couple of shallots
1 clove garlic
About 100ml cider
2 or 3 tablespoons double cream

The Cooking

First, clean your mussels. Wash them and throw away any that don’t close when you tap them sharply. Pull out their “beards”. I always used to assume that this “beard” was trapped seaweed but it turns out it’s actually called the mussel’s byssus, and the mussel manufactures it itself in order to attach itself to rocks. Pretty cool.

Chop the onion/shallots and garlic finely. Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to accomodate all the mussels. Gently fry the onions for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic. Fry for another minute or so, and then pour in the cider. Once the cider is bubbling away, put the mussels in and put the lid on tightly.

Give it a good shake every minute or so for 3 or 4 minutes, by which time the mussels will probably all be open and cooked.

Drain the mussels, reserving the cooking liquid. Put the cidery cooking liquid back into the pan and turn up the heat. Add the cream and simmer the liquid until it’s reduced and thickened a little.

To serve, pour the creamy liquid back over the mussels and mix with cooked pasta if you’re having it with that. Eat eat eat!

Chocolate Profiteroles

profiteroles

There’s a lot of emphasis these days put on “easy” cooking. And sure, it’s important to have a good stock of simple recipes you can knock up in no time. But sometimes, it’s good to take on a challenge. Choux pastry takes a bit of concentration, but it’s not the hardest thing on he world and once you’ve learnt how to do it, it’s an excellent string to a cook’s bow.

Ingredients
Serves 6-8

CHOUX PASTRY
225mls/7.5fl.oz water
75g/3oz butter
95g/3 3/4oz plain (all-purpose) flour, seived with a pinch of salt
3 medium eggs, beaten with a fork.

FILLING
300mls/10fl.oz double or whipping cream

CHOCOLATE SAUCE
175g/6oz plain chocolate
300mls/10fl.oz water
125g/4oz caster (superfine) sugar

The Cooking

With most recipes you can mess around a bit, fudge the amounts, cut stuff out if you feel like it. But please, don’t do that here. Measure carefully, that’s the secret to choux pastry. I made this in a cookery class and the teacher was standing over me, making sure I measured exactly, and it’s good that she did because it came out well. Follow the recipe carefully, it’s tried and tested and will work, I promise.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6

First, put the water and butter for the pastry in a saucepan and bring them slowly to the boil, making sure that that the butter melts before the water boils. Grab a whisk, have it handy, then pour in the flour all at once, immediately whisking firmly and quickly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. It’ll be a bit like wallpaper paste, smooth and glossy.

Take the pan off the heat and add the beaten eggs a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time. Don’t panic if it goes a bit sloppy, just keep stirring. Once all the eggs have been added, it should have the same texture as it did before you added the eggs but will now be glossy. Glossy wallpaper paste. Lovely.

Grease a baking tray and using a spoon (or two) , put small balls of the dough about the size of a pingpong ball onto the tray.

Sprinkle water around the pastires and turn the oven up to 220F/425F/Gas 7. Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes until well-risen and light brown.

While the pastries are in the oven, make the chocolate sauce:

Melt the chocolate with the water in a saucepan over a low heat. When it’s smooth, add the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved bring the solution to the boil and boil for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is rich and syrupy.

TO FINISH:

Lift the pastries off the baking tray and prick each one to release the steam. Allow them to go cold. Whisk the cream until it’s light and fluffy, make a slit in the bottom of each pastry and either spoon or pipe the cream in.

Pile the pastries into a pyramid and pour over the sauce. Await praise from your friends and family.

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Chicken in a Brick (with gravy)

chicken brick

I recently acquired this chicken brick (for free! I love freecyle). For those not in the know, a chicken brick is a clay pot into which you put a chicken and because of it’s shape and the fact that it’s a sealed environment, the chicken cooks lovely and moist. It takes longer than simply roasting a chicken on a roasting tray, but it’s worth it. Also, there’s no basting so you’re free to go off and do other things while it’s cooking.

Apparently you can also cook all sorts of other things in a chicken brick – lamb, soup, casseroles. And why not? It’s just a pot, after all. I’ll let you know how I get on with my experiements. But first, the roast chicken.

Ingredients
Serves 2 or 3, plus leftovers for sandwiches.

1 chicken (about 1.5kg)
An onion or a couple of shallots, peeled and quartered
A few carrots, peeled
A couple of stalks of celery
1 lemon, cut into quarters
4 bay leaves
A handful of fresh tarragon
150ml dry white wine
150ml water or chicken stock

The Cooking

First soak, the two halves of the chicken brick in water for about half an hour. This is important, it helps stop the pot cracking in the heat of the oven.

Then, do your prep:

prepper vegetables

Ignore the small sheep in the bobble hat there, he’s just trying to get in on the picture. He loves attention.

Pop the veg into the bottom of the brick. If you haven’t got all the veg or want to use different varieties, go ahead.

Put the lemon quarters, a couple of the bay leaves and the tarragon into the chicken cavity and then place it on top of the vegetables.

Pour over the wine and water or chicken stock (I just used water. I think roast chicken is chickeny enough). Season with salt and pepper and put the top of the brick and put it in a COLD oven.

Turn the oven on to 180/350/gas mark 5. Now, because you’re starting with a cold oven it’s going to take longer – about 2 to 2.5 hours. But because you’re not having to baste it every half an hour you can go and have a bath. Or to the pub. Or cook other things.

When it’s done, you get this:

cooked chicken

Set aside the veg and chicken and keep warm while you make the gravy.

Gravy

Pour the juices from the brick into a saucepan. Have a smell, it’ll be lovely. Bring it up to a simmer and if you’re feeling cheffy, thicken it with a roux. If you’re not, simply mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and pour it into the gravy to thicken it. Simmer for a few more minutes and you’re done. Serve the chicken, veg and gravy, perhaps with a potato dish (perhaps boulangere potatoes).

Don’t forget to make chicken stock with the chicken carcass.

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Liver and Onions

Liver and onions

Yes, it’s liver. And yes, it’s tasty. Offal’s becoming fashionable again and if you’re not prepared to venture as far as hearts or kidneys (or, heaven help us, lungs), liver is an easy introduction. It couldn’t be simpler to cook and it’s very good value for money (I got enough to feed two for £1.70 today and that’s from the posh supermarket). When your work-mates or friends ask you what you had for dinner and you say “liver” they may say “ew”, but really they will wish they were you and had such sophisticated tastes.

My dad used to make me liver and onions and really overcook the liver, which makes it rather leathery. I like it that way because all girls like the way their daddies cook special meals, but on cooking it myself I aimed for non-leathery. It came out well.

Served with steamed asparagus and garlic roasted cauliflower, inspired by Cooking Debauchery. Note: this meal is low-GI and low-fat for those of us who like that kind of thing.

Ingredients
Serves 1

150g Lamb’s liver
Plain flour
1/2 pint/ 300ml beef stock (cube wll do)
50ml Madiera/Sherry
1 small onion, halved and sliced
A couple of mushrooms (optional)
1tsp mustard (Dijon if you have it)
Thyme if you have it.
Some olive oil

For the Cauliflower
About a quarter of a head of cauliflower
4 cloves of garlic, peeled (less if you’re not a garlic fiend like me)
Olive oil

The Cooking

Okay, you’re going to have to touch the liver. There’s no getting round this. Put some flour on a plate and then dip the liver in the flour to coat it. That’s it. You don’t have to touch it anymore.

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil to a high heat (as a guide you should be unable to hold your hand an inch above the pan for more than 3 seconds) and fry the liver for a couple of minutes on each side. It won’t take long.

Remove the liver from the pan and set aside. Put the onion and mushroom (if using) into the pan and, remaining on a high heat, fry for about 5 minutes until the onions get a nice colour. While this is happening, measure out the stock. After the five mins are up, add the liver back in and pour in the stock. Also add the madeira/sherry and the mustard and stir it all together. Now leave to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Check it every now and again and if the sauce needs thickening sprinkle in some of the flour leftover from coating the liver.

The Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

Differing slightly from Cooking Debauchery, I parboiled the cauliflower for a couple of minutes before popping it in the oven at 200C/390F with the garlic and drizzled in oil for 30 minutes. Move around half way through. Simple, effective, tasty.

Mayonnaise

mayonnaise

This was my second attempt at home-made mayonnaise. The first time I tried, I made it with olive oil and frankly, it tasted like oily ass. I threw it away. This time I made it with groundnut oil, which is flavourless.

Ingredients (makes 300ml)

2 egg yolks
1tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
250ml oil
2tsp lemon juice
Salt and white pepper (I left out the pepper because all I have is black pepper and I didn’t want the mayonnaise to be all speckly)

Cooking

Put the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Handy tip – steady bowl on a dampened tea towel so it doesn’t slide about.

Add the oil, drop by drop to begin with, then in a steady thin stream, whisking all the time. When all the oil has been incorporated and the mayonnaise is thick, stir in the lemon juice. Marvel at how clever you are.

Pesto

Pesto

Pesto is one of those things which is absolutely always worth making yourself because it tastes so much fresher and it’s incredibly easy. I mean really, really easy. Made in five minutes easy.

To make the amount shown in the above picture (which should serve four):

Ingredients
Basil (about 30 leaves)
100ml good olive oil
40g pine nuts (you can toast these if you like, I don’t always bother)
50g Parmasan cheese, freshly grated. If you can get pecorino cheese, use 25g pamasan and 25g pecorino
Salt

Cooking

“Cooking” is a bit of a misnomer, because all you need to do is bung it all in the blender and whizz it until it’s the consistency you want. Ta dah! I think it’s even nicer the next day when the ingredients have had the chance to get to know each other. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few days (but not much longer).

And it doesn’t just have to be served with pasta. It’s good on chicken, fish, asparagus too. Or stir some into a vegetable soup. I urge you, make your own pesto today,