Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Balls to the lot of you (lamb soutzoukakia)

I would like to begin this post by expressing my sincere apologies for the absence of music from my blog. I can appreciate the deep sense of loss you must feel at not being able to listen to Slayer whilst reading my recipes. However, the gadget I used no longer seems to be working! To make it up to you, here's a nice Greek recipe for the summer.

This was actually the first Greek thing I attempted to cook, back in the day. They're basically elongated lamb meatballs. It's quite an easy recipe which won't take longer than about 40 minutes, prep included. As you can see, I made quite a big portion for myself, so the ingredients to follow are designed to feed 4 people with relatively normal appetites.

  • 600g minced shoulder of lamb
  • 3 good sized garlic cloves
  • 1.5 - 2 onions, depending on the size
  • Large glass of red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 400g tins of chopped italian tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Plain flour, to sprinkle
  • 2 tbsps olive oil


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan at a medium-hot heat (about 4 on an electric hob).
    Thinly dice the onions, peel and finely chop the garlic and chop the parsley roughly (try to only do it once as you don't want to lose too much of the juices). Mix it all together in a bowl with the lamb, oregano, egg yolks and seasoning, using your hands. Make 12 roughly egg-sized soutzoukakia. It's important that you really get stuck in with your hands here as the warmth will help them to stick together.
  2. Put your soutzoukakia on a plate and sprinkle them with flour. Make sure they're covered on all sides and gently put them into the pan. They should sizzle on contact - if they don't, remove them and wait for the pan to heat up a bit. Brown them well on all sides for a couple of minutes. NOTE: this is not exactly a complicated recipe, but there are a couple of things you want to be a bit careful of at this stage. Don't turn the soutzoukakia too often because (A) they won't brown as nicely, (B) they will take longer to brown and (C) you increase the risk of allowing them to break up and turn into Sloppy Joe's. When you do turn them, do so VERY carefully using a spatula and your other hand, or (better still) a pair of tongs.
  3. Once this is done, remove them to a plate. Drain off the excess fat from the pan (there may be a fair bit from the mince) then return it to the heat and add the bay leaves. When it's fragrant, add the wine, bring it to the boil and let it reduce by half, then add the tinned tomatoes. Mash them up in the pan, add the soutzoukakia (again, carefully!) and bring it all to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, turning the soutzoukakia once halfway through.
  4. Serve with pureed or sauteed potatoes, boiled rice or pitta bread. Kali oreksi!

This recipe is dedicated to my old mate Hermes from Essex Uni and his mum who made some awesome soutzoukakia when I came to visit them in Greece!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Honey and mustard pork chops with gratin dauphinoise and braised red cabbage

Pigs are apparently very intelligent animals. I like to think of this as brain food. In fact, pigs have outperformed young children on some tests. Hmm...

Don't be put off by the lengthy marinade involved in this recipe; it takes about a minute to put the ingredients together, and then you just leave it in the fridge overnight while you get on with something else. For example, you could spend some quality time with your family, who were getting worried about the amount of time you were spending in the kitchen or locked in your bedroom looking at my blog.

Marinade ingredients:
  • 4 good quality pork chops
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tsbps wholegrain mustard
  • 6 tbsps clear runny honey
  • 2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gratin ingredients:

  • 1kg Desiree potatoes
  • 250ml milk (guessing here!)
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 100g mature cheddar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cabbage ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 tbsps runny honey
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 tbsps muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce


  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a reasonably sized bowl. Put the pork chops in and turn them well to coat them all over. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  2. Get the pork chops out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to cook them, as per usual. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Peel and wash the potatoes, then slice them thinly (using a mandolin if you have one).
  4. Put the milk and cream into a bowl, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer it until it's mixed together and has a reasonably thick consistency. Grate the nutmeg into the mixture and mix it well.
  5. Arrange a layer of the potatoes on the bottom of a roasting tin. Season them well, then pour a little of the creamy sauce over them. Add another layer, season, add sauce and repeat until all of the potatoes are used up. Don't completely smother the potatoes in the sauce or they won't go crispy on top. Grate the cheddar cheese over them and then put them in the oven for about an hour and a half, then turn the heat up to 210 and cook for another half hour.
  6. Wash the cabbage, core it and slide it thinly. Put it in a baking tray and mix in the remaining ingredients. Cover the tray with tin foil and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes.
  7. To cook the pork chops, heat some olive oil in a couple of large pans on a medium-hot heat. Add the pork chops, making sure they sizzle vigorously on contact, and cook them for about 5 minutes on each side until they're cooked through, basting them with the marinade occasionally.

Baked salmon fillet with crushed new potatoes and green beans

I've been getting more into fish lately. But not in a dodgy "Jerry Springer - Too Hot for TV!" kind of way.

Salmon is very versatile and awesome in general. This recipe is fairly healthy, particularly if you omit the butter on the potatoes.

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good handful of fresh dill
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 slices of lemon
  • 4 small handfuls of crushed new potatoes
  • A couple of handfuls of green beans
  • Olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil (yes they are different!)
  • A couple of knobs of butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Thoroughly wash the new potatoes and boil them for about 15 minutes. Add the green beans in for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, put each salmon fillet on enough tin foil to wrap around them. Using a sharp knife, cut about three slits into the skin of the salmon. This will allow the seasoning to enter the flesh and let the fillet cook more evenly. Season them with the salt, pepper and a scattering of dill. Peel and smash the garlic cloves and put each one, along with a lemon slice, on top of each salmon fillet. Drizzle them with the normal olive oil and put them in the oven for about 12 minutes.
  4. When the potatoes and beans are tender, drain them well and lightly crush the potatoes with a fork. Add a knob of butter or two to each portion and serve a salmon fillet on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Peppered lamb steak with mustard-glazed carrots and new potatoes

My flatmate is a Green Party councillor. Unsurprisingly, he's a vegetarian. He insists on referring to meat as "carcass" as if it's going to gross me out and put me off eating it. This doesn't really work, and as I tucked into my nice medium rare lamb steak, I told him that I could almost hear it screaming.

This steak of new spring lamb was absolutely beautiful. I don't say that to big myself up; rather, the quality of the meat took care of itself. I also used new potatoes as they're particularly good at this time of year, and I glazed them in the way that my mate Andy showed me. I can't be bothered to estimate all the quantities here so this is just how I did it for myself.

  • 1 lamb steak
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground sea salt
  • About 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3-4 new potatoes (depending on the size), unpeeled but thoroughly washed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A knob or two of butter
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Get your lamb steak out about 15 minutes before you want to cook it so that it can adjust to room temperature and cook evenly without shocking. In the meantime, put your washed new potatoes into a saucepan full of cold salted water, cutting them in half if necessary for size reasons, and peel and slice the carrots.
  2. Rub the mint all over both sides of the lamb steak. Using a pestle and mortar, crack the black peppercorns up; if you don't have one to hand, use a chopping board and a wooden spatula and smash them with your hand. Season the steak well on both sides with salt and black pepper. Smash and peel the garlic clove with a knife.
  3. Boil the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes, checking that they're tender with a knife. Add the carrots in for the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a fairly high heat. Add the smashed garlic clove and the bay leaf. When the oil is obviously hot, add the lamb steak. Note: steaks aren't all that difficult to cook; the main thing is to avoid the temptation to keep turning them over. You also want them to sizzle vigorously - if this doesn't happen the second they hit the pan, take them out and wait for the oil to heat up a but more. Fry the steak on one side for about 4 minutes, then turn it over and fry it on the other side. After 2 minutes, add the butter to the pan, baste it over with a teaspoon when it starts frothing, and fry it for another two minutes.
  5. Remove the steak to a plate for 1-2 minutes, just to let it rest and relax while you finish the potatoes and carrots. They should be done by this point, so put them in the pan where the steak was. Add a splash of red wine vinegar to deglaze it, then add the mustard. Cook for a minute or two until the vegetables are all nicely covered in the mustard and pan juices, then serve with the lamb steak.