Monday, June 29, 2009

Mixed leaves and soft cheese

I can find a salad of mixed leaves, no matter how varied they are and no matter how flavoursome the dressing, rather drab to eat. There is a monotonous, leafy chewiness to it. Mixing in a soft or softish cheese, though, transforms it into something much more beguiling. Goats cheeses work particularly well. Cream cheese works fine too.

The salad above would have been even nicer with some toasted pine nuts. As it was, it contained an organic salad bag, one dstsp of white wine vinegar, a little salt, two dstsps of olive oil (you don't need more, because of the creaminess of the cheese), and about 150g of Philadelphia. As you toss the salad, the cheese breaks up and coats the leaves.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chicken, potatoes, garlic, rosemary and lemon

This has been the best year for Jersey Royals I can remember in a long time. The potatoes are earthily flavoursome, and have a pleasing, waxy consistency. Buy them while you can. In a few weeks, many greengrocers will no longer have them, as the supermarkets hog the supplies.

Last night, we had chicken pieces roasted on a bed of sliced Jerseys, with rosemary, a whole head of garlic, and a quartered lemon. I sliced the Jerseys lengthways, about 50mm thick, and put them into a bowl of water. I rubbed them gently, to try to get rid of as much surface starch as possible. Even then, they can stick to the roasting tin; but it would be a shame to boil them first, losing more flavour.

I tossed the potatoes with olive oil, layered them in the tin, and scattered the rosemary, a whole head of garlic cloves, and the quartered lemon on top. (I did not squeeze the lemon - the acidity would have hindered the softening of the potatoes.) I rubbed a little oil over the chicken pieces, salted them, and placed them on top. I placed the tin in the oven for an hour and a quarter, turning the potatoes half way through.

We ate it with a garlic mayonnaise. Rather than use pungent, raw garlic, I removed one of the roasted cloves from the oven, and mashed that with my egg yolk and mustard.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pot-roasted lamb shoulder

I once believed that the way to preserve tenderness in meat was not, as many people believed, to surround it in water or steam, but to roast it at a low temperature. I have since discovered that the temperature of my oven, at its lowest setting, is higher than the temperature inside a heavy casserole placed in the oven. This lamb fell off the bone. Serves 4.

1 half-shoulder of lamb
1tbsp sunflower oil
2tbsp white wine (or red wine) vinegar
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

In a heavy casserole, warm the oil over a medium heat. Put in the lamb, salted, browning it on all the sides it will rest on. The pan will get very hot; the trick is to turn down the heat if the oil threatens to burn, while still getting the meat to brown.

Pour in the vinegar, which may splutter and evaporate almost immediately. Tip in the garlic, onion, carrot, and herbs. Cover, and place in a gas mark S/130C oven, for three and a half to four hours.

Check on the progress from time to time. You want a very gentle simmer, and you may find that this low heat does not achieve it, at least at first. My smaller Le Creuset pan will respond to gas mark S; my larger one takes ages to warm up, and may require a gas mark 2/150C setting to achieve the same effect. You have to learn how your oven and equipment behave through trial and error.

Remove the lamb from the casserole on to a chopping board. Tip the vegetables and sauce, of which there may be a fair amount, through a sieve into a saucepan. Return the lamb to the casserole, cover it again, and return it to the oven. Squeeze the garlic from the husks into the sauce; discard the other vegetables. Simmer the sauce until you have a consistency and concentration of flavour you like. Check the seasoning.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spaghetti and tuna

I noticed a recipe for linguine and crab in the Guardian a few weeks ago. Fancying something similar, but having neither crab nor lemon in the house, I tried the following instead. Tinned tuna does not respond well to heating: allow it simply to warm through with the hot spring onions and garlic in a covered pan. Serves 2.

250g spaghetti, spaghettini, or linguine
2tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 or more dried red chilli (to taste), whizzed
1 tin tuna flakes (in spring water, preferably)
A few splashes of soy sauce
Grated zest of 1 orange
Handful parsley, chopped

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Salt it, and add the spaghetti, allowing it to fold in to the water as it softens. Keep it cooking at a lively simmer.

In a heavy pan and over a gentle flame, soften the spring onions, garlic, and chilli in the oil, for about three minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the tuna, soy, orange zest, and parsley. Cover the pan until the pasta is ready.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, and tip it into the tuna mixture. Stir it through.