Tag Archives: cooking
With this blog I have always attempted to bring recipes to the table with the idea that meat can be part of a sustainable diet and not a source of exponential environmental degradation or animal suffering. Be they less commonly eaten cuts or animals altogether, I still believe – perhaps in vein – that this approach with the right consumer attitude can secure meat as a viable menu option for the future.
One masters in Corporate Social Responsibility and a couple of sustainability research positions later, and my belief in business as an agent for sustainable development and not just blinkered economic growth remains. My research over the past two years has opened my eyes to the difficulty of operating sustainably in global markets where influence and accountability are often lost in complex supply chains that serve price first, ethics second consumers.
Perhaps India is a good place to return to to ease myself back into this blog and approach to food. While as a country it faces many of its own food security challenges, if there were to be a vegetable haven in the world then India must surely be it. But away from the billion preparations for daal, bhindi, and aloo, there is an approach to meat-eating that reflects many of my own values. Although maybe not out of choice, meat is a rare luxury for many of India’s non-vegetarians – something for feasts and celebrations not just mindless consumption.
During a trip there a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to stay with a family who, as Indian hosts tend to do, go the extra mile for their guests. After an impromptu cooking class in their idyllic space on the edge of the Corbett National Park, we would feast on the most vivid flavours imaginable.
This is an involved dish, but the resulting flavour complexity and the satisfaction from having transformed a tough old goat into something wonderfully rich, moreishly spicy but equally fresh are worth it. Pungent spices permeate the once tough but now meltingly tender goat, marrow waits to be slurped out of bones and everything is punctuated by the freshness of lime, coconut and coriander.
If you can’t get hold of goat, then mutton or lamb can be substituted
Spice proportions are very open to interpretation
25g each fennel seeds, coriander seeds, poppy seeds,
5-10 dried red chillies
10 black peppercorns
1 coconut, white flesh only, liquid reserved
Toast the spices in a small frying pan over a low heat. Crush in a pestle and mortar until fine.
Blitz the coconut flesh in a processor or blender until a thick paste forms. Loosen with the reserved coconut water. Add the ground spices, combine and set aside.
2kg goat, mutton or lamb (neck, shoulder or any tough cut) in 5cm chunks, bone-in
1 cinnamon stick
3 red onions, thinly sliced into rounds
1 bay leaf
3 black cardamom pods (or green if unavailable)
2 teaspoons garam masala and coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)
3-4 tablespoons ginger and garlic paste
4 medium tomatoes, grated
To serve: 1 lime, coriander, small green chillies (optional)
Lightly salt the chunks and brown the mutton in batches in a large saucepan or pressure cooker on a high heat. Return all mutton to the pan with the cinnamon stick, add water to a 1cm level, cover and leave to cook on a low heat. 1 1/2 hours for a pan or 30 minutes for a pressure cooker. Remove from the heat and leave meat in cooking juices.
30 minutes before the meat is finished cooking, heat 1cm of preferred cooking oil in a large, heavy pan. Fry the onions until golden-brown (around 15-20 minutes). Add the dry spices and stir for 1-2 minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic paste, the coconut paste above and the grated tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
Switch to a low heat and add the cooked mutton pieces, leaving the remaining liquid in the other pan. It should be falling off the bone as you stir it in but don’t worry about this. Leave to combine on a very low heat for as long as you like or until needed. Add a ladle of the mutton cooking juices and the reserved coconut water every 20 minutes or if the curry needs loosening. These juices combine with the other ingredients to slowly form a thick gravy.
When ready to serve, squeeze the lime juice into the curry. Sprinkle with coriander and green chillies (if using). Serve with some good raita, chapatis and plenty of cold beer.
At midnight last Saturday I stood with ten pigeons spilling out of a bin liner onto the kitchen counter, needing to be tended to before any flies could do their damage. Somewhat to my relief, my girlfriend’s father who had shot them all said there was no point in plucking the whole bird as they weren’t that big and so it was just a matter of cutting the breast out. This was relatively simple and caused far less mess than when I had attempted to pluck a couple at home the year before. Although it did seem like an awful waste to just cut out these tiny breast and discard the rest of the bird, at that time of night I wasn’t complaining.
I’ve always thought of pigeon as a particularly British game bird but it is put to use worldwide in all manner of preparations. In London I’ve always considered it as quite a delicacy, but this status also extends to Egypt and the Middle East where birds are stuffed and cooked whole; something I would definitely like to try. I had always associated a slow braise in red wine with the bird, but as I just had the breast I decided I would also go for a lighter, more ‘summery’ preparation and just sear the breast meat.
In Spain, the broad bean season is at the beginning of the year and each stall had machines through which the pods were fed, separating the beans to be sold and the skins to be put back to other uses. The fresh beans were then quickly bagged and sold that day. Although ‘de-podding’ broad beans isn’t such a difficult task, I quickly understood why they had these machines as after getting through a kilo I was surprised at how few I actually had to work with at the end; 250g would be my estimate, so enough for a small serving between 4 people. The beans have a wonderful sweet freshness, and my favourite preparation is one an Italian friend showed me, serving them raw or quickly blanched and tossed with balsamic, parmesan or aged pecorino. The freshness of this salad and subtle saltiness in the cheese paired excellently with the earthey and gamey flavours of the pigeon which had been marinated with juniper berries and coriander seeds.
I am off to Cesena, Italy to stay with the friend I mentioned above next week and so hope to return with a bounty of products and having learnt a whole set of new recipes. I am extremely excited, especially at the prospect of staying in a house with a wood-burning oven, a family with a passion for good food and of course, returning to a climate with some consistent warmth. I imagine I won’t get any more food posts in between now and my return, when of course I shall have a lot of photos and food to share.
Seared Pigeon Breast, Broad Bean & Pecorino Salad
serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main
For the pigeon:
6 small or 4 large wood pigeon breasts
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
4 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a pestle and mortar crush the berries, coriander seeds and peppercorns until fine, stir with the olive oil and then pour into a ziplock bag. Place the breasts in the bag, seal and shake well ensuring they are well covered with the marinade. Leave in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours.
When ready to cook, heat a frying pan or skillet with your preferred oil until the oil is smoking. Lay the breasts in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan and flip every 15 seconds. A thin breast will take around 90 seconds, but obviously as size and heat varies, do one as a tester and apply this time to the rest. Allow to rest on a rack for a further 90 seconds or so before cutting.
For the broad bean and pecorino:
1kg fresh broad beans or 250g shelled broad beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon aged balsamic
20g pecorino stagionato in fine shavings
Shell the broad beans, then separate them into large and small beans. Place the larger ones in boiling, salted water and balnch for 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
Remove the pale green casing which should have split whilst blanching and place the bright green bean with the smaller raw beans.
Mix the beans with the oil, balsamic and salt adding half the pecorino.
To serve, plate the broad beans and lay the warm sliced breast on top, sprinkle over the remaining pecorino shavings either on indivifual plates or a platter.
And for good measure here is a photo of the red wine braise I did the remaining breasts in; definitely more of a winter dish, but this is a British summer.
There is a memory I have of sitting on a beach somewhere in Europe, sinking my teeth into the ripest, juiciest and most flavoursome peach of my life which seemed to melt in my mouth. So vivid was this bite that I have a near sensory experience upon thinking about it now and long to eat a fruit so perfect again.
Throughout my year in Spain I have eaten my way through the very best each season offers, purchasing from one of the World’s greatest food markets with a daily turnover of the freshest produce available. From this I have learnt the importance of exhibiting the natural qualities of ingredients and not over-loading dishes with too many flavours. I had thought about how to honour the glorious peach without just simply eating it, for I know back home in England that these fruits are not what I have become used to here over the last few weeks.
There is a distinct lack of sweet things on this site and I put that down mainly to lack of equipment here which just about stretches to an overheating hand blender. But a couple of weeks ago I met an editor who asked me to do a simple dessert for the 4th edition of her magazine ‘Revista Couche’. I was over the moon and immediately knew I wanted to do something with peaches, one of my favourite fruits, whose peak season is arriving and at least some Spanish people must be in search of new uses for the copious quantities they have.
I quickly decided on a ‘tarte fine’ as I feel its elegant simplicity wouldn’t vow for attention with the real star of the show, and to keep the recipe easy a shop-bought puff pastry can be used. I spent some time working on how to keep the peaches moist and flavoursome throughout cooking. Experimenting with poaching in syrups before baking but felt they imparted too much sugar and over-softened the already ripe peaches. However, this would work for the unripe offerings at home and allows for extra flavour to be infused if they were otherwise tasteless (star anise went particularly well). Finally, to retain their natural flavour I settled on a short maceration with brown sugar which drew out some of the juices but then allowed for a syrup to be poured over at the end of cooking, adding moisture and a rich peach flavour.
The idea for the rosemary pairing is taken from Heston Blumenthal’s peach ‘tarte tatin’ served with a rosemary and syrup cream. I instead infused mascarpone whose addictive creamy richness features more and more in my food. The aromatic peach boosted by a peach syrup sits perfectly alongside the subtle pine notes within the mascarpone upon a thin flaky pastry.
Unfortunately in a rather dramatic and rapid turn of events, the magazine has had to stop. Some powerful ans seemingly threatened competitors applied pressure upon the sellers of advertising space to cut their links and within two days the free magazine had no choice but to close. It is a shame and lost opportunity for me; but for the young, ambitious team behind it, it means losing their career and years of effort. I felt it captured the mood of the Spanish economy perfectly: the established staying put nicely at the top without many problems whilst the small man is left without any hope of joining and sharing with them.
Peach Tart with Rosemary Infused Mascarpone
makes 4 individual tarts
For the tart:
6 of the best peaches available
2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the rosemary infused mascarpone:
4 tablespoons whipping cream
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
200g mascarpone cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
For the peach syrup:
liquids remaining from maceration
oven @ 180C
Using a heavy knife aim to cut the peaches first in half and then cutting through the stone into thin slices (some impact from above onto the blade should slice through it nicely). By cutting through the stone, the slices retain their shape well. Use a small knife to then cut out the stone from each slice.
Place in a bowl and mix well with the sugar. Cover and leave to macerate 1 hour in the fridge. If using unripe fruit then this stage can be substituted for poaching the whole fruit in syrup or macerating for longer and/or with alcohol.
Meanwhile, roll the pastry to a 2mm thickness and cut out four individual tarts of around 5″ diameter. Place on baking parchment and use a fork to poke holes in the centre of the tart, around 5 stabs is fine.
Lay the slices onto the tart bases as desired, allowing a second for any excess moisture to drip off back into the bowl before placing. Place the tarts on a tray in the oven for 25-30minutes, checking regularly and removing when the pastry is golden.
Meanwhile, place the cream and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat before it boils completely. Allow to infuse for 20 minutes.
Using a fine sieve strain the infused cream into a high-sided bowl or jug, discarding the rosemary. Add the other ingredients and whisk for 5-10 seconds with an electric whisk to combine well, soft peaks should also form.
With the tarts removed from the oven and allowed to cool on a rack for 5 minutes, add the syrup which is left in the macerating bowl to a small saucepan and on a high heat reduce until a syrupy consistency. Stirring constantly. Don’t allow to thicken too much as it has to cover four tarts and will continue to thicken whilst cooling.
To serve, place a spoonful of the mascarpone into the centre of each tart. Then, using a spoon, drizzle each tart with some of the syrup. Enjoy warm or cold.