Saturday, 31 July 2010

This is why you shouldn't bother getting a takeaway

Whenever I get a Chinese I always get the same thing - sweet and sour pork or chicken.

The thing is... it's crap really. It's not that hard to make it yourself and it will taste so much better - taste that sauce and you'll say "lolzorz this sauce totally pwnz that takeaway". I haven't deep fried anything here as I don't think it's necessary.

If you're stir-frying anything, make sure you've got all your tins open and all your ingredients chopped and ready to go as you won't have time to do this during the cooking process without everything burning. Don't be afraid of a hot wok and if you're not confident at tossing the ingredients around then use a spoon instead of spraying your dinner all over the kitchen.

  • 4 x pork steaks
  • Fresh ginger - an amount about the size of a man's thumb
  • 4 x garlic cloves
  • 1 x star anise
  • 2 x red bell peppers
  • 300g Thai jasmine rice or basmati
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 4 x tbsps tomato puree or passata
  • Small splash of rice vinegar
  • 4 x tbsps dark soy sauce
  • Handful of roasted peanuts
  • 6 x tbsps soft brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tsps English mustard
  • 1 x tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
  • Juice from a 400ml can of tinned pineapple chunks - add the pineapple if you like
  1. Trim the pork steak of excess fat and cut it into thin strips. Put it in a bowl with the soy sauce, the mustard, the sugar and some grated garlic. Grate the ginger over a plate, then squeeze it over the pork so that the juices leak out. Chuck it all in, mix it together and marinade it in the fridge overnight, or at least for 30 minutes.
  2. When you want to cook it, get it out of the fridge to let it adjust to room temperature, heat a wok on a high heat and put your rice in to soak. Strain the pork over a bowl but reserve the marinade.
  3. Add the oil to the wok, and when it's smoking add the pork. Stir fry it until brown, tossing for all you're worth. When the pork is brown on all sides, add the peppers and star anise to the wok and splash a little bit of rice vinegar on the bottom of the wok to deglaze it (don't use too much as it can be overpowering). It should reduce pretty quickly.
  4. Add the tomato puree, pineapple juice and chicken stock. Bring it to the boil and then simmer it until the sauce has thickened and the pork is cooked through, which should take about twenty minutes. Add the peanuts when you feel like it.
  5. In the meantime, bring your rice to the boil, stir it and then reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting (if you're using an electric cooker it might be worth turning it off completely for a couple of minutes) and cover the pan to let the rice steam nicely. When it's done, let it rest for about 15-20 minutes and rough it up with a fork to make it sticky.
  6. Serve with separate bowls, a pair of chopsticks, and a spoon for that point in the meal when you realise that Western cutlery is actually better.

Continuing with the theme of blurry pics

I know, I know, I need to get a new camera...

Not a lot to say about this recipe really. Basically, you chop up some sausages and make a pasta sauce with them. Simple, easy, tasty, win. I got into this recipe when I was in Nottingham, as my butcher had a variety of excellent sausages.

  • 12 x good quality garlic sausages, such as Italian or Toulouse
  • 2 x small red onions
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 300g spaghetti
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce (I never measure this, just so you know)
  • Half a bottle of red wine
  • 2 x 400g tins of Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan. Cut the sausages into small chunks and brown them on all sides, then remove them to a plate.
  2. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and sweat the onions until they've started to colour. Add a little seasoning but not too much as the sausages should be fairly well seasoned already. Add the thyme sprigs and when they're fragrant chuck the sausages back in and cover the lot with red wine.
  3. Bring the red wine to the boil and simmer until reduce by half, then add the tomatoes. Bring it to the boil again, then simmer gently for about an hour and a half until the sauce is nice and thick. This takes a while, but it's worth it. Stir it occasionally. Skim off any crap that forms on the surface. Correct the seasoning if necessary.
  4. Cook the spaghetti in some boiling water until it's al dente - this should take about 6 minutes but check by tasting it.
  5. Discard the thyme sprigs and serve the spaghetti with the sausage sauce.

Valleys of Death

The picture you can't see to your right is of bara brith, a Welsh tea cake/bread for eating with tea.

Bara brith literally means "speckled bread" in reference to the little speckles of dried fruit in the dough. I actually couldn't find many recipes for this online - it seems to be an old traditional thing that's gone out of fashion in recent years. Still, I made it and everyone approved. It's one of those British recipes that utilises our imperial heritage, with all the fruit and mild spices used.

There are, apparently, two types of bara brith. The first, which I suspect to have been the original, is basically normal bread with fruit in it, whereas this type here is more like a cake. The key element is soaking the fruit in the tea the night before. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit you like though, this is just what I made with what I had to hand. This is one of the few recipes in which I will tolerate the presence of raisins.


  • 100g cherries
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g currants
  • 100g raisins
  • 2-3 tbsps orange marmalade (don't be a wimp, use the stuff with the shred in)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 450g self-raising flour, sieved
  • 2 tbsps ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsps soft brown sugar
  • A bit of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Honey to drizzle
  • 500ml black tea

  1. The night before you want to make the bara brith, brew the tea - you'll need two teabags and 500ml water. Soak the dried fruit in it. When it's cooled down, cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, turn the oven on at 170 degrees and strain the dried fruit into a jug and reserve the leftover tea. Mix the fruit in with the spices.
  3. Mix the other dry ingredients together, then fold in the beaten egg, the marmalade and the fruit. If the mixture is too gloopy, add more flour, but if it's too dry and it's not sticking together properly use a little bit of the tea.
  4. Put the dough mixture into a lined bread tin - this isn't essential but it gives you a nice loaf shape. Then stick it in the oven for an hour and three quarters (it takes a fair old while but it's worth it - go and watch porn in the meantime or something).
  5. You can check that it's done using a sharp knife or skewer. Stab it in the centre - if your knife/skewer is clean when you take it out, it's ready. Drizzle it with honey, leave it to rest in the tin for five minutes, then let it cool on a rack.
  6. Serve buttered slices with a cup of tea. It's best eaten warm but it will keep and it's nice cold as well.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tuna Minutes to Midnight (served on a bed)

(Yes, that is served on an actual bed....)

Hello! I'm Adam, fellow guitarist of JHD! Tim has kindly invited me onto his blog to post some recipes of my own. I'm going to start here with a lovely fancy but quick fish and chips, but not as you'd know if from the chippy. I used Tuna steak from Waitrose, but feel free to use better quality meat from your local fishmongers if you wish (
I'd say Waitrose tuna is probably perfectly decent - Tim).

I shaln't list quantities, because it depends how much you want, and the seasoning is always to taste
  • Good Tuna Steak
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Kale
  • Herbs of your choice
  • Chilli flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

For the chips:

1. Cut the potatoes into any shape you wish; wedges, chips, or amorphus chunks like me (I couldn't work out how to do chip shapes. Fail.)

2. Parboil for a few minutes until they start to go soft. Once you've done this, stop the cooking by running some cold water over them. Bash them about in your saucepan to make the edges all fluffy.

3. In a bowl, combine the chips with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice (I used Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme) and some chilli flakes.

4. Oven bake for about 20 minutes at 220 Degrees.

For the Tuna.

1. Just fry it in olive oil for a minute or so each side, depending on how well cooked you want it.

Then serve both on a plate with a side of steamed asparagus and kale. Drizzle over one last splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt to taste.


Monday, 26 July 2010

Pastries of Death Part 2: Necrotarine Tart

I think this might be the first pudding I've done for the blog!

The pastry from Pastries of Death Part 1 can be used for a variety of different pie and tart recipes. This is a very simple but delicious pudding that I made using some nectarines my mum bought. You could also use other fruit - experiment. The obvious choice would be peaches but apples would also be awesome. I used three nectarines for this recipe but ideally you want four so that it's generously filled.

  • 225g Shortcrust Pastry of Death (see below)
  • 4 x nectarines
  • 2-3 x tbsps brown sugar
  • 1 x tbsp semolina (optional)
  1. Stick the oven on at 180 degrees.
  2. Roll your pastry out quite thinly on a clean, well floured surface - if there's a hole, plug it (that's what she said - wahey!) with some more pastry ripped from the outside and roll it flat again. The end goal is to make a nice thin, crispy pastry to complement the soft fruit.
  3. Grease a sandwich tin (if you're not English, I mean a round cake tin) with vegetable oil and line it with baking parchment. Carefully lower the pastry into the tin, making sure it goes all the way up to the corners. Cut off the excess dangling over to make a nice neat, even crust - I didn't do this because I misjudged the amount of pastry I needed, if you're wondering about the photo. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a knife. Add another layer of baking parchment on top and fill it with pearl barley or rice, then stick it in the oven for about half an hour - the idea is that the pearl barley/rice weighs the pastry down and stops it from rising. When it's done, the pastry should be firm throughout - if not, put it back in the oven for a bit longer. Discard the top layer of baking parchment and the pearl barley/rice when it's done. This is called "baking blind".
  4. Meanwhile, get to work on the filling. Start by coring the nectarines. To do this, take a nectarine, slice around the outside using a sharp knife, then twist it to separate the halves. Scoop out the stone with your fingers, or a teaspoon. Next, cut the peach halves in half and then in half again so that you've got little wedges.
  5. Sprinkle the semolina on the bottom of the pastry and arrange your nectarine halves in a manly pattern on top. Sprinkle them with brown sugar and put the tart in the oven for about 25 minutes until the nectarines have caramelised.
  6. Serve with a nice blob of ice cream.


Many of us have had beetroot in tins. You may be surprised to hear that it is an actual vegetable that grows in the ground. Unlike us, the Russians actually have a nice traditional recipe to make use of it. Well, I say it's Russian, but it's originally Ukrainian. However, Ukrainians apparently like to put cabbage in as well as beetroot, so I've gone for the Russian version here. Some people like to make it with beef stock or even with bits of beef in it, and while I'm sure that's great, my only guinea pig for these recipes at the moment is my mum, who's vegetarian. So vegetable borsch it is!

Make sure you use the best stock you can for this as it will make all the difference to this nice simple soup. As an aside, I recommend keeping hold of vegetable trimmings and peelings and putting them in a bag in the freezer - that way you can make a nice vegetable stock for free. Using organic vegetables will really help here too as the flavour is just awesome.

  • 5 x beetroot
  • 1 x large onion or an equivalent amount of spring onions
  • About 600ml (I guess?) vegetable stock
  • 1 x thyme sprig
  • 1 x large potato
  • 5 x organic carrots
  • 2 x tbsps olive oil
  • 2 x tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 x Kirov airships
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream, to serve
  1. Heat the olive oil to a medium heat.
  2. Peel the beetroot and slice it thinly - be warned, your hands will turn purple. Peel the potatoes and carrots and cut them into chunks. Peel and dice the onion.
  3. Gently soften the onion in the pan for a few minutes with the thyme sprig and add salt and pepper, then add your veg. Fry them gently for about 15 minutes, then add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Bring it to the boil, then simmer it gently (this is a very gentle recipe) for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the soup of purply goodness tastes right to you. Correct the seasoning if necessary and discard the thyme sprig. Use the Kirovs to take out the allied construction yard.
  4. You can liquidise the soup if you like but I like tasting and identifying the actual vegetables, particularly when I'm using nice organic veg. Serve it with a drizzle of sour cream, Russian stylee, and a slice of crusty bread on the side.
Finally, just a quick thanks to Sarah Green, who kindly gave me the carrots and beetroot for this recipe at a discounted rate at the Burnham-on-Crouch farmer's market. Sarah grows all kinds of seasonal organic vegetables on her farm in Tillingham, Essex. You can buy her stuff at farmer's markets, and at Lathcoat's Farm Shop in Chelmsford. If you live in the local area you can even order a box of fruit and veg online and it will be delivered to your door. See for more details!

Pastries of Death Part 1: making basic shortcrust pastry

Welcome to part 1 of Pastries of Death. It's like Delia Smith with double bass pedalling.

There's nothing wrong with pre-made pastry, but it's very cheap and easy to make fresh stuff yourself and I find it quite satisfying to make my own pies or tarts.

For your basic shortcrust pastry you want a ratio of half fat to flour. If you're making a tart with an average sized sandwich tin, I'd recommend using 150g plain flour and 75g butter, as this will give you slightly more than enough, thus enabling a nice even case.

Now, you can make pastry in a food processor, but the method I'm going to describe here is for making it by hand, i.e. the rubbing in method. If, after reading this, you really need me to explain how to do this in a food processor, you're probably an idiot.

First, get your butter out of the fridge so that it can soften. When you've done this, sieve the flour into a mixing bowl, sprinkle a little salt in and add the butter in small lumps and rub it together using your fingertips, like I'm doing in this sexy pic; raise your hands up as you do it as this will help to create a nice light, airy pastry. You can stop when the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add JUST enough cold water, a little sprinkle at a time, to allow you to turn the mixture into a dough that sticks together - it should still feel fairly dry to the touch. If it gets a bit gooey add flour. Then wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Alternatively, you can freeze it.