Sunday, 24 July 2011

Lamb shank ragú with tagliatelle

Lamby goodness

So, the photo I took of this really doesn’t do it justice. Honestly, this could be a contender for my favourite comfort food meal. Ok, so it’s not the healthiest bowl of pasta in the world, but it does include some vegetation, and if you skim off some of the lamb fat, I don’t think it’s that bad. This is a good one to make if, like me, you loooove Bolognese, but fancy switching it up a bit.
Lamb shank ragú with tagliatelle
Serves 8 (this freezes really well too, so I would encourage you to make this amount, even if you’re only making dinner for yourself.)
4 lamb shanks
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
1 large carrot
2/3 pack of chestnut mushrooms
About half a bulb of garlic
1 tbsp dried rosemary
½ bottle red wine
Chicken/lamb/vegetable stock (I used chicken)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
Olive oil

Tagliatelle, to serve.

Add some olive oil to a large pan and brown the lamb shanks. Once they are seared on all sides remove from the pan. Dice the onion, celery, carrot and garlic very fine and add to the pan with the dried rosemary and some seasoning.  Sweat the mixture on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the lamb shanks, red wine, tinned tomatoes and stock and simmer for a couple of hours, until the lamb is falling off the bone.

Remove the shanks from the sauce and shred the meat off the bones. Chop up your mushrooms. Add the shredded meat back into the sauce along with the sliced mushrooms. Cook for a further 20 minutes.

Skim as much fat as you can from the top of the sauce. Serve with tagliatelle and  lots of parmesan cheese.

Banana cake with chocolate frosting


This recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. The recipe is actually for banana and chocolate cupcakes, but I decided to make one big cake instead. My friend Aaron helped me make, and so consume,  this cake, which was  just as well really as it’s really very rich and doesn’t have a very long shelf life due to the inclusion of bananas – definitely a cake to share.

Looks like a normal chocolate cake, doesn't it?

But NO! Behold the banana-ry innards!
Sweet sweeeeet banana-ry innards...

Generally I’ve found The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook a bit hit-and-miss. Some recipes I’ve tried from it have turned out utterly rubbish, and their insistence to write each recipe around the use of a freestanding electric mixer – a piece of kit which I think most home cooks are unlikely to have – really annoys me. This recipe, however, seems to be one of the good’uns.
Aaron has since replicated this recipe adding raisins to the banana cake, and reported excellent results. Next time I make this I think raisins, possibly soaked in rum, will be added.
Banana cake with chocolate frosting
For the banana cake:
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter
120ml whole milk
2 eggs
120g peeled and mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate frosting:
300g icing sugar
100g unsalted buter
40g cocoa powder
40ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 170ºc/gas mark 3.

Cream together the sugar and butter, then add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time. Finally, mix in the mashed banana.

Pour the mixture in a baking tin and bake for about 50 minutes, until cooked through. If you are unsure whether the cake is completely cooked, stick a kebab skewer into the middle – if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Make the chocolate frosting by creaming the icing sugar and cocoa into the butter, then slowly adding the milk.

Wait for the cake to cool, cut in half, sandwich the two halves together with the frosting, then cover the entire cake with the rest.


Monday, 18 July 2011

Berry bircher muesli

Wakey wakey, rise and shine!

“A healthy breakfast that tastes decadent enough for a Sunday morning?” I hear you cry “And it actually tastes nice you say? What madness is this?!”
No madness friends, no madness...just the gorgeous oaty flavours of my berry bircher muesli.
Yeah, so you have to remember to soak the oats overnight, big deal. Other than that it is easy as pie. But infinitely better for the waistline, natch.
Berry bircher muesli
Serves 2
100g oats
100g Dorset Cereals Berries & Cherries muesli
Enough apple juice to cover the oats and muesli
½ a grated apple
Greek yogurt
Put your muesli and oats into a large bowl and pour in enough apple juice to cover. I used Copella’s cloudy apple juice for this as it tastes LUSH. Leave overnight to soak.
In the morning, mix your soggy oat/muesli mixture with smushed raspberries, the grated apple and some greek yogurt. Top with more (unsmushed) raspberries and retreat back to bed to eat.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Thai green curry with prawns

Tasty curries

Initially I was going to name this post ‘thai green prawn curry,’ but then I thought that that could give the impression that it was the prawns that were green, rather than the curry, which is definitely not the case. If your prawns are green...well, I would probably throw them away if I were you.
Thai green curry seems to be one of those recipes that pretty much everyone has in their repertoire these days. Here’s how I make mine.
*Disclaimer* - This curry is no doubt hideously unauthentic, but it tastes good and is super-speedy, so I really don’t give a damn.
Thai green curry with prawns
Serves 4
For the paste:
3 cloves garlic
3 green birds eye chillis
4 spring onions
Small knob of ginger
1 tbsp phad-kapraow paste (holy basil and chilli)

For the curry:
1 tin coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 sticks of dried lemongrass
1 pack of mange tout
1 pack of fine green beans
Handful of peas
Handful of mushrooms
1 pack raw king prawns
1 pack cooked small prawns
1/2 lime

To serve:
Basmati rice
Lime wedges

Put your rice on to cook.

Stick all the paste ingredients in a blender and blitz.

Phad-kaprow paste! This stuff is crazy-spicy. Seriously. It burrrrrns.

Devein the king prawns and fry with the paste for 2 mins. Add the mushrooms and fry for another minute.

Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lemongrass sticks, mange tout, green beans, and juice of half a lime. Cook for a further 3 minutes, until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the peas and small prawns and cook for a minute more.

Serve your curry with the rice and a wedge of lime.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Two Sawyers, Canterbury.

Yeah, my photos are rubbish.

First, a disclaimer - the proprietor of this lovely little pub, Dougie, is a very good friend of mine. So good in fact, that a couple of summers ago, I spent the best part of 2 months in Canterbury helping him get the Two Sawyers up and running. I think it is only fair that I mention this before I write a review of the truly awesome burger I ate there.
With that caveat soundly in place, I can now tell you, honestly, that the Sawyers burger is up there with some of the best burgers I’ve had the pleasure to eat. It really is. And because I know the man responsible for its creation, I can tell you – a lot of work went into creating this burger.
First, the burger itself – made with lovely lean steak mince and lightly seasoned. Pure and simple, the way it should be.
Salad-y bits are kept to a respectful minimum. Finely shredded iceberg lettuce and fried onions. This is, in my humble opinion a very good thing as there is nothing more annoying than bits of extraneous cucumber squidging out of your bun as you sink your teeth in. If I wanted salad, I would have ordered salad. But I ordered a burger. So you know what I was after? Yup, that’s right – beef.
The cheese used- that luminous yellow burger cheese you get in little plastic wrappers - could be controversial. Now, personally I like fake-burger-cheese on a burger. I *cannot abide* cheddar on a burger, I just don’t think it works. Cheddar melted on toast – ace. Melted on a burger – blergh. It’s the wrong texture, too greasy, just...somehow not right. Having said that, I have been known to smother a burger with a combo of blue cheese and guacamole and happily dig in, so I am fully aware that my concept of yum / yuck may differ to that of most people. The Bear, for instance, will eat fake-burger-cheese on a burger (there aren’t many things he won’t eat to be honest) but would be much happier with a slab of mature cheddar on top. I guess this is a matter of personal taste.
The bun used is wholemeal. This makes me very happy, as it means I can legitimately categorise having a burger for dinner as ‘healthy.’ In fact, if you had the burger with extra salad instead of chips, that’s a positively virtuous supper right there. On the other hand, chips are mega-tasty so you should definitely have them with your burger. The bun is lightly toasted which gives the whole thing a pleasing crispness, and also helps keep the dreaded soggy-burger syndrome at bay.
And so, the final element...the fifth element if you will...the highly-guarded top-secret-recipe utterly-delicious SECRET BURGER SAUCE! I love this sauce. Most of the ingredients you could probably guess, but there is one slightly unusual ingredient. I know the secret ingredient, and it certainly surprised me when I found out (don’t worry it’s nothing dodgy, just something you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a natural pairing with beef).

Half-munched burger...I was hungry and forgot to take a photo before I started eating...oops.

So that’s it – the Sawyers burger. The rest of the menu is all good, honest pub grub, done well and cooked with love. And on top of that, it really is a charming little pub. If you’re in the area I would urge you to give it a go.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Roka, Canary Wharf, London.

(From left to right) Sweet potato with soy, chicken and spring onion skewers,  rice hot pot,  brocolli with miso.

I had a lovely meal at Roka with friends from work. If you find yourself in the Wharf, and are looking for some tasty Japanese food that goes beyond just sushi, I would recommend it as the food is delish.

However, one slight word of warning - Roka is one of those restaurants with a 'concept.' A 'concept' that they feel obliged to explain to you before you order. If you're like me, you are likely to get slightly annoyed by this. The 'concept', as it was, turned out to be nothing more than 'everyone shares what they order.' Which is fine, y'know, because I like trying as many things as possible and so normally end up sharing with friends. However, it vexes me slightly when I am told, in an *ever-so-slightly-condescending* manner how I am to eat the food that I have paid for. Anyway, as I said, this is a minor beef really, as the food is so good. Rant over.

We ate:
tori no kameshi  - rice hot pot with soy chicken and shitake mushrooms
 koika no kara age - fried baby squid with shichimi and lime
kihada maguro no tataki - tuna tataki with apple mustard dressing
yakitori negima  - chicken and spring onion skewers

We also had a couple of side dishes – sweet potato with soy and broccoli with miso.

My favourite bit was definitely the tuna tataki, which was truly spectacular.  It was almost worth the guilt. I KNOW it’s endangered, we really shouldn’t be eating it, I GET IT, I do. It’s just…well, it really is very tasty isn’t it? The Bear was suitable peeved at me when he heard that I’d ordered tuna (he studies marine ecosystems and stuff, so knows about this shiz). I promise to be better from now on guys, honest. Mackerel all the way!

Rhubarb buns

Buns fresh from the oven...mmm

I would say that rhubarb is my favourite fruit, except technically I believe it is classed as a vegetable. A kind of reverse tomato, if you will. Well, call it what you is just as delicious.

These lovely little buns are great for breakfast, as well as teatime, and really are very easy to make.

Rhubarb buns

For the buns:
500g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 sachet fast action yeast
300ml milk
40g butter
1 egg

For the filling:
½ a pot of rhubarb jam

For the glaze:
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp caster sugar

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the milk and add to the flour mixture. Add the egg and mix to form a soft dough. Knead the dough for 10 mins. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and put in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Once the dough has risen, knock back and roll out into a large rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Liberally spread the dough with your rhubarb jam. I used a lovely rhubarb and vanilla jam for my buns – I’ve become a bit bored with rhubarb and ginger as it seems to be EVERYWHERE, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy.


Grease a baking tray. Roll up your jammy dough into a tight cylinder and cut off slices about 1 ½ inches thick. Place your buns on the greased tray, cover with the tea-towel again, and let rise for 30 mins in a warm place. Preheat your oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

Once the buns have risen, bake for 20-25 mins. Remove, allow to cool, and brush with a glaze made from the sugar dissolved in the milk.