Sunday, 27 February 2011

Rabbit braised in cider and English mustard, with tarragon dumplings

It's a great feeling when you unexpectedly find something you forgot you had. Like the proverbial tenner in the pocket of a coat you'd not worn for a while, or something you'd lost down the back of the sofa without realising it was gone.

I got exactly the same feeling the other day whilst rooting around in the freezer for some ice for my pink vino (heathen that I am) when I discovered a packet of diced rabbit purchased from The Wild Meat Company. 

Perfect Sunday blog-fodder I thought, but what to make with it?

The lovely ladies at Salad Club pointed me to their blog and a tasty looking crispy rabbit dish, but being without goose fat and as my pieces are boneless this will have to be a dish for another occasion.

Opening the condiment cupboard for the beginnings of an idea I spied the Colemans English mustard, perfect I thought to give me a bit of warmth without the use of chili (which I'm trying to avoid at the moment), and that's where the idea for this little dish started. 

I guess the recipe has a real olde-English vibe about it, makes me think I should be eating it in some quaint pub in deepest darkest Cornwall, accompanied by a pint of cider. This setting is of course, not essential.

Anyway, enough of all that and on to the dish.

Dinner for two:
400g diced, boneless rabbit
500mls traditional cider - I used a Westons vintage cider which is nice and sweet (and highly alcoholic, not that it matters with cooking)
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon or smoked pancetta
4 heaped teaspoons English mustard
Sea salt and pepper
Unsalted butter
Groundnut oil
A cup of plain flour
A little cornflour, made up and ready to use
A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
A handful fresh tarragon, finely chopped
50g suet (I find the reduced fat suet just as good as the full fat)
100g self raising flour

- In a saucepan or casserole pot with a dish, snip the pancetta into some foaming unsalted butter and a dash of groundnut oil for about 5 minutes until it starts to brown, then add the onion and carrot and cook for a further 10
- Toss the diced rabbit in seasoned plain flour so it's lightly dusted all over, then add it to the pot and cook until it begins to brown also 
- Add the mustard to the pot and mix through until it's combined with all the ingredients, then pour in the cider and mix again
- Put onto a low heat and cook for about 2 hours stirring throughout to make sure it doesn't catch. When you can gently press the back of a spoon against the meat and it breaks a little it's ready
- Half an hour before the cooking time ends add a little made up cornflour to the pot to make sure its the thickness you want
- Combine the herbs, suet, self raisin flour and a generous dose of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and add a little water at a time until you have a firm dough, then break the dough into small dumplings (I got 8 out of this mix) and 20 minutes before the end pop it onto the top of the blipping rabbit and clamp the lid on.
- 20 minutes later you're ready to eat, simply serve it at the table and help yourselves. Cider unsurprisingly goes very well with it.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Roasted garlic and cauliflower soup with crispy smoked pancetta and basil oil

The poor old cauliflower, a much maligned and misunderstood vegetable but one with so much to offer.

Its chameleon-like characteristics see it work well with robust, spicy flavours as well as more delicate and refined ones - and getting it right (when it can be got so very wrong) doesn't really need much skill, just a bit of imagination.

I got the idea for this dish from Tastespotting just at the right time, I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that really needed eating but wasn't sure what to do with it.

It reminded me that it works very well as a soup - the cauliflower is magic in that when it's pureed it thickens beautifully so you barely need anything to enrich it, plus it seems to help link all the different flavours together, a carrier if you like.

It's the first time I've roasted a cauliflower on it's own for a dish, and it was great to discover how fantastic it tastes when its edges are browned and crisp, it's opened up more possibilities and ideas for how to use it so I'll definitely be roasting it again soon.

Soup for 2:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 bulb of garlic, kept whole but with the root end just sliced off, lightly oiled all over with groundnut oil
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon or smoked pancetta
750mls light vegetable stock
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
100g grated Parmesan
2 handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
A couple of ends of flat leaf parsley

- Preheat the oven to 150degrees and when at temperature, place the oiled garlic bulb in for an hour
- Turn the oven up to 200degrees
- Put the florets into a roasting tin and drizzle all over with olive oil, generously grind black pepper and sea salt over them, shake the tin so all the florets are covered, then put them into the oven
- Cook for 30 minutes then remove the garlic and leave to cool, shake the cauliflower as you want it to brown on all sides, then put it back in for about another 20 minutes
- Lay the pancetta/streaky bacon onto a roasting tin and place in the oven, cook until crisp - this should be around 8-10 minutes, then remove
- Put the florets into a saucepan with the Parmesan and stock, and squeeze the cooled garlic cloves (which should be soft and pulp like now) into the pan also, then add 4 of the rashers of pancetta/streaky bacon
- Bring them to a simmer with the lid on, then turn the heat off and stir the creme fraiche and a glug of extra virgin through the ingredients, and either transfer them to a food processor or use a hand blender to puree the pan contents
- Blend the contents for a few minutes until really smooth, and then put back into the pan and reheat through on a low heat
- In a food processor place the basil, a couple of shots of extra virgin olive oil and scrunch of salt - then blitz until smooth
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with shards of the remaining pancetta/streaky bacon, the parsley and drizzle the basil oil over it, then eat

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Black and white sesame seared tuna with homemade teriyaki and vegetables

Mathew and I went to a great raclette dinner party last night with two lovely friends of ours. All that delicious steak and cheese went down a treat (helped along the way by some vino of course) but all the indulgence left me feeling a wee bit guilty today, so something 'good' was called for at lunch to help assuage that guilt.

I like that this dish is fresh and zingy tasting and also that it's so colourful. The trick is to blitz the broad bean and rice dressing just before you need it so it retains its colour on the plate, and to barely sear the tuna so it's still pink and jewel like inside when you cut into it.

For two:
2 fresh tuna steaks
3 heaped tablespoons each of black and white sesame seeds
2 dried chillies, crumbled
A couple of scrunches of salt
10 asparagus spears (or however many you want really)
2 vines of cherry tomatoes, still attached to the vine
150g broad beans, shelled (I use frozen ones that you boil for a few minutes, then blanch and pod)
Basmati rice, measured in a jug to 100mls
A handful each of fresh mint, basil and coriander
A thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
Juice of 2 limes
Several glugs rapeseed oil
A teaspoon toasted sesame oil
A couple of tablespoons palm sugar
75mls light soy sauce
75mls mirin
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Rapeseed oil and unsalted butter for frying

- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
- Put a kettle on to boil
- Rice first, and this method is foolproof, guaranteed fluffy separate grains of rice every single time you cook it. Add a tablespoon rapeseed oil to a frying pan and heat on a high heat for a couple of minutes. Add a scrunch of salt to the rice in your measuring jug, then add it to the pan and stir coating all the grains in the oil. Cook on the high heat for 5 minutes continually stirring. Turn the heat down the the lowest it will go and pour twice the volume of freshly boiled water into the measuring jug the rice came from - so in this case you want 200mls water (you always use double the water to the rice), carefully add it to the pan and stir - it will sizzle and steam massively so don't burn yourself. Stir the rice in the pan and clamp the pan lid on it for 15 minutes.
- Add a drizzle of rapeseed oil and bit of butter to a roasting tin and place in the oven
- In a food processor add a few gluts of rapeseed oil, the sesame oil, sugar, fresh herbs, ginger and lime juice, don't blitz it yet, you just need to have it ready
- In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, mirin and soy sauce and leave to cook on a low heat, you're looking for the mixture to reduce and thicken becoming very shiny, this can be sat reducing gently until the dish is ready - stir it from time to time though
- Boil your asparagus spears for 3 minutes then drain and cool in cold water, before removing and draining until dry on kitchen paper
- Take the roasting tin out of the oven and put your cherry tomatoes on it, then drizzle a bit more oil on to them and pop back into the oven
- On a plate combine the sesame seeds, dried chili and salt, mix together ready for the tuna
- Once the rice is ready remove the lid and stir it with a fork, leave it to cool slightly with the lid off
- Heat a frying pan on a high heat with some butter and rapeseed oil and when the butter begins to foam add the asparagus, cook for a couple of minutes, turning in the butter, before removing and placing in a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to keep hot
- Take each tuna steak in turn and lay in the sesame seed mixture on both sides until they're covered, then place in the sizzling frying pan with another knob of butter
- Cook for around 1 minute before turning over - tuna really doesnt take long
- While the second side is cooking blitz the contents of the food processor until smooth, place the rice into a bowl with the shelled broad beans, then pour the aromatic dressing over them both and combine
- Remove the tuna from the pan and set aside on a chopping board
- Remove the tomatoes and asparagus from the oven and turn off the teryaki sauce
- Time to plate, the rice mixture first with the asparagus to the side along with the cherry tomatoes, slice the tuna into slender pieces and place on the top, and drizzle your teryaki over the spears and tomatoes. Eat