Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pastries of Death Part 3 - Eipnekcufesin

When I made this pie, the casserole dish I was using for the stewed beef cracked on the heat of the hob and the stew went everywhere.  Fortunately I was able to salvage it and make this pie, which served us well as pre-gig sustenance! \m/

Savoury pies are underrated (and very British) meals that are pretty easy to do and make use of cheap ingredients.  They're not always waistline-friendly but they're hearty, warming and delicious.  Plus there's something so appetising about opening that pastry lid and unleashing the hordes of flesh and gravy.  I made this one with beef and Guinness.  Note the "JHD" I put on the pie - a cunning reference to my legendary former band, Judgment Hammered Down.

Ingredients (to feed four-five English people):
  • 1kg good quality stewing beef
  • 1 x bottle/can of Guinness
  • 1 x 375g pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (nothing wrong with it, but if you really want to make your own, Delia Smith has a good recipe here
  • 1 x large white onion
  • A few thyme sprigs, tied together with an elastic band
  • 1 litre good quality beef stock
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Flour, to dust
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Get your beef out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook it and preheat your oven to 150 degrees.  Get your onion roughly diced into little chunks.
  2. Add some vegetable oil to a hot frying pan.  Cut the beef into bitesize chunks if your butcher hasn't done this already and season it well with salt and pepper (plenty of pepper - beef loves pepper like Dawn French loves doughnuts).  Lightly dust the chunks with flour and lightly brown them in the pan, then put them in a casserole dish - you may have to do this in batches as if you crowd the pan the beef will boil in its own juices and turn crap.  But on the other hand, don't be too overzealous with wanting to sear it - this is a n00b error that will make the meat turn tough.
  3. Turn the heat down a little and soften your onion in the pan for a few minutes with a little bit of sugar to help aid the caramelisation that will complement the bitter Guinness.  When ready, add about half a pint (Imperial measurements FTW) of Guinness to the frying pan and deglaze it by scraping the bottom with your spatula/a wooden spoon.  When it's reduced by about half, pour it (including all the onions) over the beef, then pour in enough stock to almost cover.  Mix it all up, chuck in your thyme sprigs, cover the casserole dish with foil, stab a few air-holes with a knife and put it in the oven to cook slowly for about two hours.
  4. While the beef is cooking, get a pie dish, put it upside down on your pastry and score around it so that you've got a lid that will cover the dish completely.  When the beef is done, raise the temperature of the oven to 220 degrees, discard the thyme and pour the stew into the pie dish.  Use strips of the excess pastry to form a lip around the edge of the pie dish, brush it with milk and carefully lay your lid on top.  Stab a couple of air holes in the middle so that it doesn't explode, brush the lid with milk and stick it in the oven for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
  5. Serve with mashed potato and steamed vegetables.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sausage risotto with red wine and sage

Yep, it's another risotto recipe, this time incorporating a bit of sausage action.

Sausages and risotto are two very versatile ingredients, so why not use them together?  As always, I recommend getting the best quality sausages you can and decent stock.  The basic method for making risottos is always the same, so they're a great way of using up a few bits of whatever you have lying around.

Ingredients (to serve four reasonably hungry people):
  • 500g arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 10-12 good quality sausages - don't feel like you have to use "Italian(TM)" ones, I used nice cumberland sausages and they were great
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • Glass of red wine
  • About 100g butter
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 115g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat a heavy-based pan to a high heat while you dice the onions and chop the garlic and sage.  You want to dice the onion as finely as you can so that the pieces mix in well with the grains of rice.  Chop the sausage into bitesize chunks.  In another saucepan, bring the stock to the boil and reduce to a gentle simmer - you want to keep it hot throughout the cooking process, but that's it.
  2. Pour a bit of oil into the pan and brown the sausage chunks on all sides, then remove to a pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  3. Sweat the onions for a few minutes until they soften.  Stir in the garlic, and when it's fragrant, add the rice and fry for a couple of minutes.  If you need to add more fat, use butter rather than more oil as you want a nice buttery flavour for the risotto - oil just has a higher flashpoint which makes it good for browning things on a high heat.
  4. Pour in the wine, bring it to the boil and reduce it to a simmer, all a while scraping the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon to unlock the flavour from the onions and sausage (this will also make it easier to clean afterwards).  Chuck the sausages back in.
  5. When all the wine has been soaked up, add the sage and a ladle of the hot chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper, but don't go too bad as the sausages may be quite heavily seasoned already and you'll be adding cheese later.  Keep stirring the risotto all the time and only add the stock a little bit at a time, adding the next ladle when the previous one has all been soaked up.  This will give your risotto a nice creamy texture that will make girls want to sleep with you (fact).  Keep doing this for about 15 minutes (the stir/ladle process, I mean - get your mind out of the gutter) until the rice is al-dente.
  6. When the risotto is basically done, chuck in the rest of the butter and the parmesan and beat it in - this is what the Italians call the "mantecare" and it makes your risotto silky smooth.
  7. Enjoy with a glass of red wine and a green side salad!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bacon and Pea Risotto

Risotto purists might want to give this recipe a miss. I break every rule in the Risotto book.

This can be a quick, simple recipe, utilising any leftovers and store cupboard essentials that you have. I have brown rice in my cupboard, so this needs longer to absorb liquid than white or proper risotto rices. But I do cheat. Big time.

For today's creation, I used the following ingredients:

1 medium onion, finely chopped (for finely chopped, read almost rice grain sized; the trick is to use a very sharp knife, and to take great care)
4 rashers of bacon (chopped into small pieces, but larger than rice grain sized)
100g rice (I was ok with slightly less than half of the finished product, but anyone with an appetite might want to use 125g or even 150g to serve 2 people)
Chicken stock (as it's not a veggie recipe, chicken stock will suffice. Veggies looking to adapt this recipe should obviously choose vegetable stock or bouillon)
A splash of milk
Peas (add as few or as many as you like)

Rather than bacon, you could use roast chicken, pork, lamb or beef from your Sunday roast. Chorizo also works quite nicely, and gives the risotto a lovely colour.

Veggies can make the risotto without meat, obviously, and you can always substitute corn for peas, or use both.

As I was using uncooked bacon, I heated a large saucepan (a saute pan would have been just as good, but I don't have one) without any oil. The bacon will release fat and water as it cooks, and I don't feel the need to add extra fat to the dish. I dry-fried until the rind was cooked.

If I was using leftover cooked meat, I would use a small amount of olive oil, and go straight to the softening of the onions stage, adding my meat once the onions were translucent.

Once the onions are translucent, and you have cooked meat (if going for the carnivorous version), add the rice, and "fry" for a few minutes. Doing this with a risotto apparently breaks the grain down to enable the rice to absorb moisture, or something. As with onions, rice looks translucent when it's done.

Add the stock to the pan. Proper risotto is a laborious process that involves you standing over the pan adding the stock in small amounts. I make sure that the rice is covered with fluid, and leave for about 25 minutes to simmer. I also added a splash of milk, to give the risotto a bit of a creamy flavour.

Check to see if your rice is cooked. If it is cooked, then spend the next 5 or so minutes reducing the liquid. It's at this stage the peas (and or corn) can be added, as this means the veg isn't overcooked.

Turn up the heat, and stir until the liquid has evaporated. As the rice hasn't been washed, the starch on it will help to thicken up the risotto. Once it starts to get to the consistency that you want, remove from the heat, as the thickening process will continue whilst the dish is still hot.

Serve, either as a meal in its own right, as a starter (if going for small portions), or to accompany something larger.