Thursday, January 26, 2012

OXTAIL IN BRODO. It's not all about tomatoes you know.

This is categorically the worst time of year. Christmas is over. Nothing is going on. Money is sparse. And the tax man is calling. The only thing to do then, is to cook hearty warming foods full of comfort and reassurance. In response to my, frankly, suicidal mood today, I'm cooking Orecchiette in Oxtail Broth. I love Italian broths. Not the Italian food that most people think of. Not tomatoes and sharp sweet sauces but deep pale meals cooked over long periods of time, invented before America was found and the tomato pillaged the character of all subsequent dishes. Don't get me wrong. I really love tomatoes. It's just that there was life before the tomato you know. A life full of delicate subtle-sweet European vegetables and meaty broths.

I bought my oxtails from my nearest butcher 'Dombey's' in Market Row, Brixton. This meal is clean and fresh and has almost improved my mood! Oh and by the way, ordinarily I would use tagliatelle but we haven't got any at Rosie's at the moment so I've made do with another favourite.

For the broth:

400g oxtail joints
3 litres of water
1 tsp all spice berries
2 bay leaves
1 stick of rosemary

Place the oxtails in a medium saucepan. Cover generously with water and add to this the all spice berries (for a deep wintery aroma), bay leaves and rosemary. Bring the pan to a gentle boil and then lower the heat to a lazy simmer. Place a lid on the pan and continue to heat for 2 hours or until the meat is soft and succulent and falling off the bone. Strain the broth into a jug and set aside. Shred the meat off the oxtails and set aside. Discard the aromatics.

For the rest:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and diced
1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced
1 big glass of white wine
lots of maldon sea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
a few leaves of fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in large pan on a moderate flame. Throw into the pan, the carrot, celery and leek. Sweat, stirring often, until it's all soft. Now add about a litre of the stock that you have kept aside. And also the wine. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the stripped oxtail meal. Season. Boil the orecchiette until really soft. Serve all together in bowls with shredded basil and more pepper.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

....and some more Baking.

This week seems to have flown by. I had planned to have this recipe up by Wednesday and I find myself here on a Sunday night with a heaving belly after a massive Sunday lunch! Hey ho, here you go. It's a bloody delicious Pistachio and Orange cake, dense and wet and really good. And the really good bit is that it was photographed by the inimitable Lisa Barber, a local to the shop. She very very helpfully offered to come down to the shop when she saw that I was baking this peach of a cake. Isn't Brixton brilliant? I couldn't wish for a better community. For more recipes like this, you can preorder my new book here. This cake really is the ticket. The pistachios combined with the orange zest is a well worn path that works every time, like an old friend. And the introduction of ground almonds adds a fantastic moist sponge that rises just as much as is needed, from the beaten egg whites.

Dense Orange & Pistachio Cake

2 oranges, zest and juice
330g butter
330g golden caster sugar
5 large free range eggs, 3 separated
a pinch of salt
110g ground almonds
220g plain flour
160g natural yogurt
100g pistachio nuts, roughly broken
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 26cm round spring form cake tin and line the bottom with grease proof paper. Place the orange zest in a bowl with the butter and sugar. Using a hand held electric whisk beat until this forms a light and pale mix. Now add the 2 whole eggs and the 3 egg yolks (keeping the remaining 3 egg whites aside.) Beat until smooth again. Add salt and fold in the ground almonds and flour. Now beat the remaining egg whites so that they form stiff peaks, using a hand held electric whisk. Fold these into the cake batter at the same time as the natural yogurt and then fold the batter out into the cake tin. Scatter over the broken pistachio nuts and place in the oven for 45 minutes or until just firm. Make a syrup with the remaining orange juice and a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar. Pour this over the cake and let it infuse in the cake tin for an hour. Remove to a cake plate and serve with a good old brew.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

JANUARY BAKE OFF... starts now

I feel like baking. I feel like eating hunks of meat. And generally, I feel like hibernating. So thank goodness we just had our kitchen done and are the proud owners of a Rangemaster mega-cooker, not just with a grill, or even one oven, but two bloody ovens, ideal for roasting, baking, toasting and generally turning me into a massive pig. Since we re-opened Rosie's Deli Cafe after the Christmas break we've been making these fantastic cookies, daily. They have been satisfying my desire to turn on the oven and warm up the joint. And again today, at home, I find myself making these same cookies to take round to my best friend Helen's house for dinner. Here's the recipe, for which the original blue print came from Olive Endeacott, a friend of mine who lives down the road in Catford and is a budding baker. They are perfect for a healthy January, being packed full of seeds and oats. However, the heftly injection of butter will ruin your diet! Bad luck.


Makes about 14 Cookies.

240g jumbo rolled oats
240g plain flour
240g golden caster sugar
a big handful of...
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
black sesame seeds
a generous pinch of salt
240g unsalted butter
4 tbsp whole milk
3 tbsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 160-180C, depending on how good your oven is. Grease a couple of baking sheets. Measure out the oats, flour, sugar, seeds and salt. Mix these together in a bowl. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan with the milk and honey. Pour this into the dry goods and thoroughly mix together into a thick mix. Roll the cookies out between your palms gently and place on the baking trays, with a little space between them. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are golden at the edges and slightly splayed. Leave the cookies to cool and firm up on the baking trays and them remove to a tin.

Now I just need to get the seeded bloomer out of the oven. I fear it will never get any respite. Next time, I'll be extolling the delights of a PIstachio and Orange upside down cake....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Malaysian Encounters.

2011 was frankly ridiculous. I organised our wedding, our housemove and 2 work trips abroad. So when we finally arrived Kuala Lumpar I was desperate to kick back and enjoy being cut off for a few weeks. The food we encountered was confusing and strange, not always very nice, but nevertheless exciting. Assam Laksa was the first really mental thing we ate - a murky broth full of dried ground fish and fat noodles. Served with a tiny lime and serious chilli kick, this was my least favourite meal. Malaysian food is a strange mixture, being a fusion of many cultures - Indian, Chinese and Nonya (Malay/Indonesian food). The overriding theme which we encountered everywhere was dried fish. This becomes the base seasoning for a lot of Malay cooking.

The best food we ate in Penang was actually the Chinese food. Teksen Restaurant was a treat of place with a really chic interior of matching metal stools and a seriously gorgeous fine boned girl running the show. The food was punchy, with a lot of dishes coming in scorching clay pots. My favourite dish was by far the winged beans which came with chubby prawns and a light sambal (a pickled sauce common in Nonya foods). I'll definitely be testing out a few sambals and if anyone can tell me where to get the winged beans I'll buy them a grateful drink! They have a fantastic firm crunchy texture and delicate flavour which takes chilli really well. Plus with their increased surface area you could really drench them in a good sauce.

The street food which we encountered, piping from every corner of Georgetown's alleys was predominantly chinese in origin. I have a new respect for chicken satay. Popular on the '90's fusion menu in dodgy local restaurants and therefore pretty undesirable, my opinion of chicken satay was always low. But that was until I tasted real satay. We drank beer on the pavement and watched a seriously dexterous woman twiddle and turn her sticks rammed full of either pure chicken meat or liver and gizzard. With each rotisserie turn she dabbed the meaty sticks with a brush. It wasn't until we got really close and started quizzing her that we worked out what was going on: the brush was actually 3 sticks of lemongrass tied together and split at the woody end. And the liquid she was dipping the 'brush' in was actually an infusion of lemonglass water and oil. Served with some slithers of cucumber and a dark satay source (which probably had dried fish in it and also dried chillies) we happily downed our beer and mopped up the atmosphere of these smoggy but fun streets.