A long time ago I bought a pack of venison casserole meat from our butcher with the grand idea that I would produce a spectacular meal for my family. It was put straight into the freezer when I got home and plans were made.
12 months later, the pack has been scratched, dented and generally abused in the freezer so had got a case of freezer burn. It no longer looked good enough to make any of my grand ideas so I made a basic stew from it. My family absolutely adored it and want it made again. I will say, do not go out of your way to buy venison with this dish. It will taste just as good with stewing beef, but, that is my personal opinion.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion (rough dice)
1 garlic clove (grated)
2 rashers smoked bacon (cut into small chunks)
750g venison casserole meat (diced)
250ml red wine
1 beef stock cube
1 heaped tbsp redcurrant jelly
2 tbsp cornflour
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade or equivalent.
Melt ½ the butter with a tsp of oil in a large frying pan, over a low heat. Gently sweat off the onions and bacon until the onions a translucent and the bacon becoming crisp. Add the garlic, redcurrant jelly and mushrooms. If the mushrooms are large you can quarter them otherwise they are fine left whole. Stir and warm the contents through for a couple of minutes.
Pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish.
Heat the remaining butter and oil in the pan.
Coat the meat in the cornflour and brown it in the pan in batches; putting the meat and all of the juices straight into the casserole dish.
Put the pan back on the heat and pour in the red wine to deglass the pan; scraping off as much flavour as you can from the bottom. Then pour the wine into the casserole dish.
Pour the water straight into the casserole, crumble the stock cube on top, stir then put on the lid.
Put the casserole into the oven for 2 ½ hours. Stirring every half hour and topping up with water if it starts to look dry.
If the sauce looks too runny for your taste you can either mix in a tsp or 2 of cornflour with 2 tbsp water and stir through or add 1 tbsp of instant gravy granules. Then put back in the oven for 15 mins, without the lid.
I am a huge fan of steamed dumplings but none of my family are. On a whim, I thought that I would make my favourite recipe but make them into potstickers i.e. slightly crispy on one side. They turned out brilliantly but I still can’t sell my family on them. If I had deep fried them it would have been a different story but I am desperately trying to cut down the amount of fat that I use for cooking. One day I will convince them.
I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I did.
10 dumpling wrappers
125g minced pork
125g raw prawns
1 spring onion
1 tbsp finely grated ginger (I use the pre minced jars of ginger)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp groundnut oil
Make the filling a couple of hours in advance so that all the flavours have chance to come together. Simply put all of the ingredients minus the dumpling wrappers into a food processor and blend till you get a sticky paste. Empty the paste into a bowl and put it into the fridge until needed.
To fill the wrappers:
Hold a wrapper, floured side up in the palm of your hand.
Place a tsp of the pork and prawn mixture in the centre.
Dip a finger into a small mug of water and run it around the edge of the wrapper to help it stick.
Lift up the bottom half and close it over the filling to make a half moon shape.
Gently pinch the edges to create a good seal.
Put 2 tbsp groundnut oil into a high sided frying pan that has a lid.
Using a medium flame heat the oil.
Once hot, put the dumplings in the pan being careful that they only brown and not burn. This should take up to 5 minutes dependent on how high you have the flame.
Pour the water into the pan and immediately place on the lid. Leave them to steam for 5 mins.
They should now be fully cooked through and ready to enjoy.
At Christmas I was given 3, brand new cookbooks (thank goodness for Amazon wishlists!) and I am slowly going through them with sticky notes and bookmarks.
One of the recipes that I found was for a mushroom risotto. Not very remarkable as things go, but it was the method that intrigued me so I gave it a go on a saffron risotto with seafood.
Ingredients – serves 2
½ medium white onion finely diced
1 small pinch saffron
1 knob butter
Splash (about 2 tbsp) white wine
180g risotto rice of your choosing
30g finely grated parmesan
600ml vegetable stock (kept warm in a pan on the hob)
1 knob butter
6 large raw prawns
3 large scallops (slice each scallop into 2)
I know that I have listed butter in 3 different places but I have no idea how much butter is in the small slice that I put in a pan to sauté onions or cook seafood. I just put in what feels right to me.
Gently heat the butter with the onion until it is translucent. This should take about 10 minutes on a very low heat.
Pour in the white wine and continue to heat until you can hardly tell that you added any fluid at all.
Add the rice and coat in the buttery mixture. Heat this mixture for another couple of minutes before adding 1 ladle of stock.
Continually stir this mixture until there is almost no liquid remaining in the pan.
Chop the saffron up into small pieces and add this to the stock. Pour all of the rest of the stock into the risotto pan and stir.
Simmer the mixture for the next 14-16 minutes, stirring every so often.
Once the rice is almost cooked (there is still a little chalkiness on the bite) turn off the heat. Quickly stir in the butter and parmesan and put the lid on and leave it to rest for 3 minutes.
While you are waiting for the risotto to rest, put a small frying pan on a very high heat.
Add the butter and quickly fry off the prawns and scallops.
Arrange the seafood on top of the risotto for the best effect.
The overall result was perfect. I will no longer be worried about burning, over/undercooking or generally ruining a risotto again.
I defrosted a bag of meat from the freezer thinking that is was duck breasts, I was wrong. Determined that I wasn’t going to waste 3 lamb steaks I decided to substitute them for my duck in a ragu, with a few tweaks.
3 lamb steaks cut into small cubes.
1 medium red onion
1 large carrot
2 celery stalks
1 garlic clove
250ml white wine
1 large jar of passata (mine was 680ml)
½ tsp dried thyme (put through a blender or pestle and mortar until it becomes a fine powder)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp cranberry sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tin cannelini beans
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot and blitz with a large glug of olive oil. The vegetables should not be a paste but should have a little texture left to them.
Tip the mixture into a large high sided frying pan or a casserole dish that can be put onto your hob and sweat the mixture on a low heat for 10 mins.
Pour in the white wine and reduce to 1/3 its original volume.
Push the mixture to one side of the pan and turn the heat to high. Throw in the lamb and sear on all sides.
Turn down the heat and mix the lamb with the vegetables. Stir in the passatta, thyme, cranberry sauce, sugar and the bay leaf.
Put on a lid and put it on a very low heat for two and a half hours stirring once every half hour or whenever you remember. If you are using a casserole, you can put it in the oven on 150 degrees centigrade for 2 and a half hours instead.
15 mins before the end of the cooking time use a potato masher to break up the larger cubes of lamb. Add the cannelini beans then put the cover back on and simmer again for the rest of the cooking time.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with pasta and parmesan.
Note: I found it a little bitter when I had finished but 30ml double cream mellowed it out.
If you are going to all the trouble to make a pizza base then it is a shame to use a sauce out of a jar. This is a recipe that I seem to make on a monthly basis and freeze in potions.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper (small twist of each)
For this recipe you need a smallish pan with a lid.
Put the oil and finely chopped or grated garlic in the pan on the lowest heat possible for a few moments, until you can just start to smell the garlic. The oil should not be bubbling and the garlic should still be white, not tanning in any way.
Pour the rest of the ingredients into the pan and stir thoroughly.
Place the lid on the top of the pan at an angle so that the steam can escape. There is method to my madness here. The tomato sauce will bubble during the cooking time and if you are not careful it will try its best to decorate your hob. I have found that just resting the lid on the top stops all of the cleaning up afterwards.
Now leave for about an hour, stirring regularly until you have a nice thick sauce.
Just remember to leave to cool before putting on your pizza bases.
If I was going to have to name this dish then it would have to be called Mike… for all of you new to my naming system I name things alphabetically after people as I am bored of naming things after cooking methods.
1 pack pre rolled puff pastry
1/2 – 1 jar caramelised onions (or make your own from 750g red onions)
400g mixed mushrooms – roughly chopped up
8 slices of smoked streaky bacon – roughly chopped
1 hour in advance
1 – over a high heat, melt the butter and then fry off the bacon until starting to colour.
2 – throw in the mushrooms
3 – cook until the mushrooms, stirring regularly until they have reduced in size by ½.
4 – leave to cool
½ an hour before dinner
1 – Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the puff pastry packet. This is normally 180-200 degrees Centigrade.
2 – Take the puff pastry out of its packet and cut into whatever size portions you want. You can even leave it whole if you want to.
3 – Place each portion on a baking tray and cut a border about 1-2cm from the edge (pressing down to half way through the pastry with your knife). The edge is the bit that is going to puff up in the oven so the amount of border is up to you.
4 – Spread the caramelised onions into the centre section, then pile on the cooled mushroom mixeture.
5 – Crumble blue cheese all over the top.
6 – Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 mins until golden brown.
This isn’t exactly a recipe as there are only 2 ingredients and all you do is heat and stir, but, the result is so tasty that I had to share it.
750g red onions
1 tbsp olive oil
Peel and finely slice the onions and put in a large non stick frying pan with the oil. Put the pan on the lowest possible heat. Now, patience. Leave the pan there for around an hour and a half, stirring them every so often so they don’t catch and burn.
The end point really depends on what you want to do with them. I like them really dark and sticky for burgers or slightly lighter when I am making red onion tarts with goats cheese.
The choice is yours.
Below is a picture of my last batch. I used a 1kg mixture of red and white onions and very slowly cooked them over 3 hours. The resultant mixture was put into my open mushroom, bacon and cheese tarts. That recipe will be put on at a later date.
My recipe is similar to others that I have found on the internet but I have played with the cooking times and I have yet to create a bad batch.
750g – 1kg Maris Piper Potatoes
4 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Pre heat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.
Generously butter a shallow baking dish making sure you get right into the corners as this will make washing up a lot easier.
Peel and finely slice your potatoes. By all means use a mandolin if you have one but I can never be bothered digging it out of the cupboard and setting it up so I use a standard, if a little blunt these days, kitchen knife.
Place one layer of your potatoes into the bottom of the baking dish. You can be as artistic or lazy as you like but try and make sure the layer is level and packed in.
Peel and finely chop all of your garlic and sprinkle about a quarter of it over your first layer along with a grinding of salt and pepper. Normally I would advocate white pepper with potatoes but with the amount of cream that I am adding you don’t seem to be able to taste the white pepper so I use coarsely cracked black peppercorns and sprinkle those instead.
Repeat the layer of potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper until you are either out of potatoes or the dish is about 0.5cm from being filled.
Pour on the cream, it should just start to cover the potatoes but no more. The top layer should not be floating. You may need a little more or less cream, use your own judgement.
Put the dish on a non stick baking tray and put in the oven uncovered for 2 hours. It is done when a knife inserted into the centre has next to no resistance.
Please, leave it out of the oven for around 10 minutes before eating as I have burnt the roof of my mouth more times than I care to mention.
I seem to have spent the past month making foods with a monumentally high calorific content, very tasty but very fattening. So now I get a whole new challenge, to cook tasty low calorie and preferably low fat foods to help everyone lose the excess pounds. This is not as easy as it seems; I live with my parents, my father is not on a diet, does not like salads, or any fatty meats, my mother, has 3 stones to lose, likes salads but does not like pasta, rice, peppers or spicy foods…. This means that every evening I have to cook 2 or 3 different meals, all at different times.
The most simple and filling lunch I have found so far is the simple soup with homemade bread. The bread roll recipe that is the current favourite is the Hairy Bikers simple bread roll recipe that is on their website except that I make double the quantity at one time using 800g strong white flour and 200g of Strong wholemeal flour. It makes a very light and very tasty bread roll, worth giving a try to if you feel the urge to make some bread.
Today’s recipe is Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup, not as low in fat as I really need, but, too tasty not to make once during the week. Everything in moderation )
Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup – serves 4
1 kg bag of frozen broccoli
1 large potato
1 medium onion
1 chicken stock cube
1.2 litres of water
150ml double cream
120g strong blue cheese
I use a large deep sided, non stick, frying pan for this as I am completely paranoid about things sticking to the sides of saucepans and burning. Melt the butter on a low heat while you peel and roughly chop the onion. Add the onion to the pan, keeping it on a low heat so that the onion does not colour.
Peel the potato and cut it into small cubes then add it to the softened onion. I say small dice here so that they cook quicker but you can cut them larger, it is entirely up to you.
Throw in the frozen broccoli, crumbled stock cube and water, and then stir. Turn up the heat till the contents boil then immediately turn it down to a simmer and leave it like that for about 30 minutes. Check at this point to make sure that all the vegetables are soft, if they are not or you want them softer leave them on a simmer and check every 5 mins.
Turn off the heat at this point.
Using a hand held blender, blitz the contents of the saucepan until completely smooth, then add the cream and stir.
The final part involves crumbling in the blue cheese. Don’t be worried that the cheese doesn’t instantly melt, persevere and keep on stirring, it will get there.
Taste the soup, it may need salt, pepper or even more blue cheese. I use a really strong blue cheese like stilton which means that I do not need a lot of it, cutting down both the calorie content of the soup and the cost.
This soup can be made the day before, kept in the fridge in a sealed tub and reheated on the hob before serving.
When I am in the mood for comfort food and haven’t got the time or inclination to go out shopping I make a sausage stew. I always have a pack of sausages in the freezer and tins of chopped tomatoes in the cupboard but the rest of the ingredients depend on what else I have lurking in the fridge. Today’s stew is me being really lazy, not only have I made it 6 hours in advance but I also cooked the rice into it so I don’t even have to do that tonight.
Sausage Stew I
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pack chorizo (uncooked) sausages
2 medium onions (diced)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp sun dried tomato paste
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tin mixed beans
250ml basmati rice
• Chop the sausages into chunks and fry them over a gentle heat in the olive oil.
• When they are cooked, take them out of the pan and leave them on a plate for later
• Continuing on a low heat, fry the onions until translucent.
• Add the tomatoes, paste, paprika, sugar and a twist of salt and pepper, bring it up to a simmer and leave for an hour on the heat, stirring regularly. I leave the lid on at an angle as it has a tendency to spit, even at the lowest temperatures.
• Add the rice and the water and stir until combined and bring back to the simmer.
• Put the lid fully on, turn the temperature down and leave without touching it for 15 mins.
• Turn the heat off and leave alone for 5 mins.
• Add the beans and cooked sausages and mix through, the heat from the tomatoes should be enough to warm the sausages and beans through but check to make sure.
• Serve now or it is just as good, if not better if left for a few hours and reheated.
After following my own instructions it turned out a little dry, if you find it too dry add about 100ml water at the end and gently warm through.