Spiced Butternut Squash Salad

This is a combination of three recipes, which was going to be either absolutely fabulous or a complete overload of flavours and ingredients. It turned out to the first option and so I am recording it for future reference.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

800g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 medium bunch of spring onions, trimmed and halved
a few splashes of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic with skin on
2 cm chunk of fresh ginger
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
100g rocket
cooking chorizo

Soy balsamic dressing:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp soy sauce, I used dark one
1 fresh red chilli seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp clear honey

Heath the over to 220C/fan 200C/gas 6. Place the squash, spring onions and garlic in a large roasting tin. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with seeds and season. Roast for 30 minutes, shaking the tray a couple of times to keep it from sticking.

Whilst roasting slice the chorizo and dry fry until crispy. Set aside.

Pop the garlic cloves from the skins, mash and stir into the dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Put the rocket in a salad serving bowl and arrange the squash on top. Pour the dressing over, sprinkle with the crispy chorizo and serve.

Oxtail stew with Cinnamon and Star Anise

I wasn’t a big fan of oxtail, though I have discovered the pleasures of ox cheeks thanks to Heston Blumenthal. However, oxtail can be succulent and tender, especially when slowly braised with lots of onions and red wine. Cinnamon and star anise give it an extra flavour dimension that cuts the richness a little. This recipe works well with lamb shanks, and shanks or shoulder of veal and venison too, though with these you’ll probably want to leave out the chocolate. The stew improves with keeping so, if you can, make it a day or two in advance. I made it on Friday night and served it on Sunday.



IMG_7850, originally uploaded by alecmuffett.

The full set of photos is here.

Serves 6–8

Ingredients
2kg oxtail (about 2 tails), cut into slices 4–5cm thick
2 tablespoons sunflower or groundnut oil
3 onions, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
2–3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
Thinly pared zest of 1 orange
750ml–1 litre beef stock
25g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa solids), optional
1–2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavybased flameproof casserole and fry the meat over a medium-high heat in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides. Remove the browned oxtail with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce the heat to low and gently cook the onions in the casserole for 15–20 minutes, until soft and translucent. Return the meat, raise the heat, then pour in the wine and let it bubble until slightly reduced. Add the cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, peppercorns, orange zest and enough stock just to cover the meat.

Bring to a slow simmer and cook very gently, partially covered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as necessary to keep the oxtail moist. When it is ready, the meat should be falling off the bone. (You can also cook it in a low oven at 120°C/Gas Mark ½ with a lid on, if it’s more convenient.)

Drain the meat in a colander set over a bowl, to catch the liquid, then pass the liquid through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Boil until slightly thickened and glossy, then skim off most of the fat. If you’d like to take the meat off the bones, do so once it’s cooled a bit. Discard the cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves, return the meat to the pan, then stir in the chocolate, if using. The chocolate added rich and spicy flavour to the dish, definitely a winner.

If serving straight away, warm through; otherwise, leave to cool and keep in the fridge for a day or two, then reheat slowly and simmer for a minute or two. Check the seasoning before serving, with creamy mash or noodles and a scattering of chopped parsley if you like.

I found this in the Sunday Telegraph (main paper not their magazine) but can’t see it in their online edition. It is a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day by (Bloomsbury £25).

Duck legs in red wine & cranberries

This is my all time favourite dish, which I made more times I can count. It’s a reliable and delicious meal, which goes best with sweet potato mustard mash.

Cooking duck joints with liquid can result in a fatty dish, but here the skin of the duck stays just above the surface of the liquid where it browns, while a reduced souce is created around the meat. Dried sour cherries or prunes are good in this too.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 duck legs
1l (1 3/4 pints) red wine
500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock
2 bay leaves
5cm (2in) cinnamon stick
2 medium onions each cut into 8 wedges
1 head garlic, cloves separated but skin on
4 sprigs thyme
125g (4 1/2oz) dried cranberries (original recipe calls for dried sour cherries but I have never been able to find them or looked hard enough)

Reduce the wine and stock, separately, until each comes to 250ml (9fl oz) of liquid. This can take up to 20 mins so add that time to the actual cooking time. I also use a large saucepan for the wine and smaller for the stock – that way they end up reducing approximately at the same time.
Trim the duck of any raggedy bits of skin and season with salt and pepper. Set a frying-pan on the heat (I always use a non-stick square deep frying pan) and, when it’s so hot that the duck will sizzle when it hits the surface, add the duck, skin-side down. Immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for about five minutes until the skin is golden brown. The fat from under the skin will melt. Turn the duck over and cook until plae gold on the other side.
Remove the duck, pour the fat off and then deglaze the pan with the reduced wine.

Put the legs in a roomy oven dish, skin-side up, add the wine from the frying-pan, the stock, thyme, bay and cinnamon and tuck in the wedges of onion and the garlic. I use a Japanese earthen casserole pot but a large Le Creuset would work too.

Cover and put in an oven preheated to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Cook for an hour, then add the dried cranberries, making sure they are underneath the liquid. Cover, return to the oven and cook for a further 40 minutes, then remove the lid and turn the heat up to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for a further 15 minutes. The duck should be tender, with dark golden skin, and the liquid reduced. If you find you are slightly short of liquid add a little water and gently heat. Serve with mashed (sweet) potatoes as mentioned above or potatoes fried in duck fat (render the skin that you trimmed from the duck to get the fat for the potatoes).

And now for a ‘trick’ that I discovered by accident. My oven’s thermostat is shot and I made this dish a few times before I discovered that it overheats by 50-60C. I then made the dish again, adjusting for the difference and monitoring the temperaturely carefully. Strangely enough, the duck was preferred cooked at the higher temperature. So for those who trust my taste and that of my dinner companions, the ‘adjusted’ temperature is 200-220C for 40 minutes, then 10-15 minutes without the lid. The duck is browner, crispier and always find that there is enough sauce in the pot.

Great wine to accompany the meal is any medium to full-bodied red wine, French in particular. Especially nice is one of my favourites, Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône. Bon appetit!

Braised topside with anchovy and onion

This is one of my favourite slow cooked dishes, another example of French regional cooking, adapted from Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine via Sunday Telegraph’s magazine.

Ingredients:

250g (9oz) unsalted butter (I NEVER use this much. OK, the dish does need a lot of butter so I use about half the amount as required by the recipe, then let the dish cool down, fridge it for a while and then scoop out the butter that becomes very visible. In my experience this hasn’t affected the flavour but considerably reduced the fat content)
6 onions, peeled and cut into thick half moons
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) beff topside cut into portion-sized steaks
2 bay leaves (I always add more)
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed (again my hand slips and I add more :P)
1 tbs red-wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil (I include in this amount the oil from anchovies)
5 anchovy fillets chopped
2 dried red chillies ideally bird’s-eye
1 very large handful fresh flat leaf parsley

Take a heavy casserole with a lid, and rub the inside all over with three quarters of the butter. It isn’t just a greasing agent – it’s really a part of the dish. Scatter in some of the onion. Season the beef and layer some of it over the onions. Continue to layer the beef and the onion. Throw in the bay leaves. Smear a sheet of greaseproof paper with the remaining butter and place, butter-side down, on top of the meat and onion.

Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Place the lid on the pot and heat over a flame until it starts to sizzle. Transfer to the oven and leave for two hours or so, until the meat is very tender.
Place the other ingredients in a food processor and blitz to make a paste. As I don’t have one, I use mortar & pestle and get a very satisfying amount of gooey paste that smells absolutely delicious. Stir the paste into the meat and juices. Replace the lid and leave to infuse for 30 minutes off the heat. Gently reheat for about 25 minutes over a low flame and serve with mash potatoes and something green.