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Sicilian lamb and mushroom ragù: with a twist

Sicilian lamb and mushroom ragù: with a twist

The more we look at some of the worlds great foods the more we are finding that so many have been born out of poverty, food shortage and simply the need to survive the perils of winter, looking forward to a new spring.  So we have the Andouillettes of France, the tripes and the offal dishes of Rome and the glories of cured pork culminating in perhaps the best known prosciutto di Parma – but there are so many more!!

We are living in a very uncertain world.  Global warming, a pandemic, and now a superpower leader waging a brutal war in Europe.  All this has made us reflect, step back, and take a breath.  It is easy to feel powerless in these circumstances and in some ways we are.  Equally though we can all do something!  Doing something positive is good for each of us.  We have been looking harder at reducing food waste and also looking to be inspired by some of these ‘less sought after’ food elements.  On reflection I think we should be exploring these foods so much more!

We recently published a great recipe for Italian Lamb Kidney with Anchovy and Lemon .   In this same vein this recipe is based on a Sicilian lamb ragù which we had first from those rather nice people at ‘Pasta Evangelists’ based in London.  They are a generous company and shared the recipe for the ragù in their excellent cook book.  We have taken a slight sideways step from this recipe in that we used lamb heart rather than lamb shoulder for the dish.  We felt this was very much in the spirit of using items from what is referred to in Roman cuisine as the “quint quarto” or the “fifth quarter”.  The “quint quarto” comprise the ‘less noble’ parts of the animal often referred to as the offal.

Before we go any further – this dish is fabulous made using lamb shoulder.  If you are open to some new ideas – it is every bit as good, though slightly different using lamb’s heart as in this recipe.  If you are not happy with the idea of using heart (at a fraction of the price) then use shoulder!
You will be pleased that you have – it is a great dish – but with lamb’s heart it is also fabulous!

This recipe used 2 lamb hearts which cost just over £1.50 in the UK 2022.  The major vessels were chopped off, the top and the heart muscle sliced lengthways to reveal the heart valves which were also removed. The meat is incredibly lean as you can see from the picture on the right .  The muscle was then chopped into 1cm cubes and browned in a hot frying  pan over direct heat with a little olive oil.  The chopped mushrooms were added to the pan and fried off for a couple of minutes more.  These were then put to one side.

In the same pan the onion was added and cooked till it started to become translucent.  Stir in the garlic and continue cooking. After one minute the carrot and celery was then added and the sofrito cooked until it took on a little colour.  If the mixture becomes a little dry add a splash of the stock.

Add the red wine and deglaze the pan.  Allow the alcohol to boil off then add the stock and the tomatoes and simmer over medium direct heat for 10 minutes or so.   At this point we transferred this mix to a small casserole dish and added back the meat and the mushrooms. The final addition was the sugar, mint, rosemary bay and thyme. The Big Green Egg was then set up for indirect cooking and the casserole was left without a lid to cook for around 2-2.5 hrs at 120-30C.  Initially the sauce will look very wet and a little incipid but over the period of the slow cooking it will become thicker, darker and richer.  Ultimately finishing with a super rich sauce which sticks beautifully to the pasta.  As this is not truly a regional dish we played with some different pasta types.  It went well with pappardelle, our usual Tuscan standby as you can see above.  It would work well with rigatoni reflecting the dishes Sicilian origin – but we finally settled on casarecce – again Sicilian in origin and a perfect pairing for the lovely dish.

Which ever way you chose to serve it, a little pangrattato adds a lovely additional texture……………….

………………………do give it a go soon!!

 

 

Sicilian lamb and mushroom ragù: with a twist

July 14, 2022
: 4-6
: 20 min
: Straight forward

A hearty lamb ragù in every sense of the word

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 lamb hearts
  • 100g chopped mushrooms
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 finally chopped/minced garlic clove
  • 1 large carrot finely diced
  • 1 stick celery finely diced
  • 50ml red wine
  • 250-500 ml lamb stock
  • 800g good quality tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of chopped mint leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pasta
  • Parmesan/pangrattato
Directions
  • Step 1 Remove the major vessels from the hearts, slice open the hearts and cut into 1cm cubes – discard valves. Brown in a hot frying-an over direct heat with a little olive oil.  Chop the mushrooms roughly and add to the pan and fry off for a couple of minutes more.  Put both to one side.
  • Step 2 In the same pan add the onions and cook till it started to become translucent.  Stir in the garlic and continue cooking. After one minute add the carrot and the celery cook until it takes on a little colour.  If the mixture becomes dry add a splash of the stock.
  • Step 3 Add the red wine and deglaze the pan.  Allow the alcohol to boil off then add the stock and the tomatoes and simmer over medium direct heat for 10 minutes or so.   Transfer to a small casserole dish and add back the meat and the mushrooms. Add the sugar, mint, rosemary bay and thyme.
  • Step 4 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and cook the casserole without a lid to cook for around 2-2.5 hrs at 120-30C.  Initially the sauce will look wet and insipid but over the period of the slow cooking it will become thicker, darker and richer.  Ultimately finishing with a super rich sauce which sticks beautifully to the pasta.  
  • Step 5 Serve with pasta of your choice – I would suggest one of the short pastas and a little parmesan or pangrattato

New Award 2022 – Best Outdoor Cooking Advisory Resource

New Award 2022 – Best Outdoor Cooking Advisory Resource

 

We are absolutely delighted to discover that we have just received the “Best Outdoor Cooking Advisory Resource 2022″ award from LuxLifeMagazine in their 2022 Restaurant and Bar Awards.  This comes ‘hot on the back’ of our award last year for the “Cooking Blog of the Year – UK  2021” award by LuxLife Magazine in their 2021 Restaurant and Bar Awards.

It is wonderful to think that “Smoked Fine Food” has been nominated for these awards, especially as it has been our readers who have done this………. being nominated 2 years on the run is very special – winning 2 years on the run feels quite exceptional!

Our website has gone from strength to strength especially as more and more  people have changed how they operate in the last 2 years!  The site started simply as a place for us to keep some working notes on recipes in development and two record recipes once we were happy with them.  It seems that this approach has proved to be extremely popular perhaps as it is a different approach from other sites.  We are delighted to have found that so many people seem to find it valuable.  We are getting thousands and thousands of visitors – and whilst we expected this to fall as the world slowly seems to be coming out of a pandemic, as yet we seem too be getting as many visitors  and requests for advice.

Hopefully, at least in richer nations, we have passed the worse of the pandemic.  Time will tell, but we do hope so.  The last 2 years has involved us all changing our lifestyles to protect others.  One of the unexpected bonuses that has come out of this is that so many people have found a fresh joy in preparing and trying new foods. Outdoor cooking has been such a big part of this and if we have done a little to help in that area we are delighted.  We continue to cook outside all year round – embracing the British weather!! Plant-based cooking is also figuring more in our diet, and as we get our head round things that work well, will appear more on the website too.

We hope you enjoy your own cooking journeys in the rest of 2022.  Great food does not have to be complicated so share those cooking pleasures whenever you can.  Please do feel free to get in touch through the website or directly by email or social media if we can be of any help with advice or simply sharing our own experiences.

All that is left to do then is to thank you, our readers, for the nomination for this 2022 award and also to thank you for all the support we have received that has got us to  this point!

……………… enjoy your cooking and do share your successes!!

Best wishes

Mark and Jackie

Link to the 2021 Award on the LuxLife Website here

Link to the 2022 Award on the LuxLife Website here

Stop Press: New Award! ……..2 years on the Run!

Stop Press: New Award! ……..2 years on the Run!

And for the second year running ………………!  We have just learned that we have been recognised by LUXlife in their “Restaurant and Bar Awards 2022” – the award is for the support we offer to others and particularly the excellence of our on-line contribution in terms of recipes and cooking techniques on this “Smoked Fine Food” website ……… more details to follow!!

 

Chicken/Turkey, chestnut, leek and pasta ‘al forno’

Chicken/Turkey, chestnut, leek and pasta ‘al forno’

We have had fantastic fun this year cooking new dishes with some great products.  We have also spent a lot of time trying to reduce our food waste by making sure that we have some plans (at least some idea) what we might do with any left overs from a cook.  Taking this one stage further we have used one of the food ideas that the Italians are famed for.  They often simply cook some extra food to make sure they have leftovers to use for another dish.  They call these ‘Avanzi’ – which although it translates as ‘leftover’ sounds so much more affirmative!!

Here is the perfect example of a dish which you can really only make with ‘Avanzi’ – in this case cooked turkey breast (though chicken or other white meats would work just as well) with chestnuts.  They just require the planning to make sure plenty is cooking in advance to make sure there is enough ready for this second dish!

This particular recipe is a reworking of a Jamie Oliver recipe for leftover leek and turkey pie.  We have kept the leek and turkey elements but substituted pasta and a sumptuous crispy cheesy topping for the pastry.  This therefore gives you a silky rich leek sauce with generous chunks of turkey and chestnuts with go to form the basis of a ‘pasta bake’.  Rather than doing the pasta in layers as in a lasagna, it is just stirred through the sauce before topping the dish off with cheese and breadcrumbs.  Other than cooking the pasta (which is best done on a conventional hob) this dish can be cooked in the BGE or a domestic oven.  I favour the BGE for the hint of smoke it offers the dish.  The BGE also retains the moisture so much more than a domestic oven which I think works well for this dish.

The first thing to do was to cook and chill around 130g of pasta, the recipe works well with penne or fusilli, but any short pasta will work.  The pasta is cooked ‘al dente’ then chilled as the final part of the cooking will occur in the sauce.

Traditionally the leek sauce would be started off by frying some pancetta/lardons in a pan and then adding the leeks.  In the spirit of ‘Avanzi’ we used some sausage meat we had in the fridge after making stuffing balls to have with the turkey the day before – but equally some of those stuffing balls broken up would have done just as well.  The first stage was cooked over direct heat.  Once in the pan and coloured, 500g of chopped leeks were added with some thyme leaves (fresh or dried will work) and some olive oil. These were sautéed at a medium heat for a few minutes.  The heat was then turned down by adding the platesetter and converting to indirect cooking.  The leek mix was seasoned and covered to cook for around 30 minutes.  We checked and stirred the dish every  5-10 mins to make sure nothing was sticking or taking on too much colour.

This whole process reduces the bulk of the leeks by about two thirds.  At this point we added the turkey torn into chunks, and some cooked chestnuts left over from the roast turkey dish the night before (fresh vac-pac chestnuts would be fine too if you have no left overs).  As the turkey and chestnuts were warmed through in the sauté pan, a tablespoon of cornflour was stirred into some cold turkey stock. (This was made from the bones of the turkey on this occasion but a stock cube or a ‘stock pot’ would work).  The stock/cornflour mix was then stirred into the pan and was kept gently moving until it began to thicken at which point the nearly cooked chilled pasta was added to the mix.
It is important to make sure it is all well covered in the sauce.  You may need to add a little more stock if there is not enough sauce to go round all the pasta.  Everything should be coated coated with the sauce, but it is just as important that everything it is not immersed by the sauce!

And now the work is nearly done!  The temperature of the BGE was brought up to around 170C.  The mix was put into an ovenproof roasting dish. Some breadcrumbs were added, followed immediately by the torn or sliced mozzarella.  Then for a crispy top, more breadcrumbs and the parmesan.
Finishing took around 30mins until the core temp came to around 85-90C and the top was nicely coloured.  Sometimes getting a nicely coloured top in the EGG  is a little difficult.  If this is the case don’t despair!  Two minutes under a domestic grill (or in a pizza oven if you have one to hand) will sort that out very easily!!

Allow to cool for 10 mins ……………..

……………perfect with a fresh salad!!

 

Chicken, chestnut, leek, and pasta 'al forno'

April 6, 2022
: 2

By:

Ingredients
  • 130g pasta eg penne or fusilli
  • Pancetta or sausage meat - around 50-150g
  • 500g of chopped leeks
  • Thyme leaves (fresh or dried will work)
  • Olive oil
  • Cooked chestnuts 100-150g (or what ever you have to hand
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • Chicken/turkey stock 150-300ml
  • Some chopped cooked chicken or turkey meat (a couple of handfuls 150-175g)
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 100-125g torn or sliced mozzarella
  • Parmesan for top
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  • Step 1 Cook then immediatly chill in cold water around 130g of pasta.  The pasta should be cooked ‘al dente’. The final part of the cooking will occur in the sauce.
  • Step 2 Fry off the panceta/lardons or sausage meat in a pan.  This should be done over direct heat – a shallow casserole or the Tefal Ingenio sauté pans work really well as you can keep the lid closed except when stiring.  Once in the pan and coloured, add 500g of chopped leeks with some thyme leaves and some olive oil. Sauté at a medium heat for a few minutes.  Add the platesetter to convert to indirect heat and drop the temperature (to around 120C). Season and cook for around 30 minutes.  We checked and stirred the dish every  5-10 mins to make sure nothing was sticking or taking on too much colour. If colouring reduce the temp a little more and cover with aluminium foil.
  • Step 3 Once the bulk of the leeks is reduced to around 2/3rds add the
  • Step 4 chicken/turkey, torn into chunks and the cooked chestnuts and warm through in the sauté pan.
  • Step 5 Add a tablespoon of cornflour to some of the cold stock. then stir into the pan until it begins to thicken
  • Step 6 At this point add the chilled pasta and stir  into the mix. Make sure the pasta is well covered in the sauce.  If necessary add a little more stock.  It is important that everything is coated with the sauce, but not immersed by it.
  • Step 7 Bring the BGE up to around 170C.  Add the mix to an ovenproof roasting dish. Sprinkle the surface with some breadcrumbs, followed immediately by the mozzarella.  For a crispy top, add more breadcrumbs and the parmesan.
  • Step 8 Finish by baking in the EGG for around 30mins until the core temp is in the region of 85-90C and the top nicely coloured.  Sometimes getting a nicely coloured top in the EGG  is a little difficult.  If this is the case finish under a domestic grill (or in a pizza oven) – don’t let the top burn!
  • Step 9 Allow to cool for 10 mins and serve
Slow cooked crispy crackling belly pork & other friends!

Slow cooked crispy crackling belly pork & other friends!

The first thing we bought from our local butcher after the first batch of pandemic ‘lockdowns’ was a good piece of belly pork.  This is something we have never really managed to find in our supermarket deliveries as they are just too thin and lean!  True ‘low and slow’ recipes render out so much of that wonderful pork fat out of the pork.  It does leave enough thought to give fantastic taste and texture that only fat layers can provide.

For this cook we went to our ‘go to’ pork belly recipe here.  If going to cook and eat on the same day then just follow the recipe on the link.  For this cook though the cook was going to be in two phases.  The first a standard slow cook on the EGG.  Before the second phase, the finishing and production of a lovely crispy crackling we planned to portion up the pork, vacuum pack, and freeze until needed.  Finishing was done portion by portion when needed.  The steps are exactly the same but with a pause between the first and second part of the cook.  We were cooking a 1.6Kg piece which should yield 8 portions of deliciously rich pork.

Rather than give all the cooking details that are there in the link – here is a brief summary.  Our recipe has grown out of Nic William’s recipe for belly pork.  The dry skin was scored and rubbed with Maldon salt.  It was then massaged with olive oil and more salt added.  The Big Green Egg was set up for indirect cooking at 120-30C with the platesetter in the feet up position.   We used the expander system so the pork could sit on the top layer and drip quietly into a roasting pan on the second layer away from the hot platesetter. For the first hour the meat was placed with the skin up and then the pork was turned over with the skin down for the rest of the slow cook.  It would take around 6-8 hours for the pork to reach an internal temperature of  90+C.  We took the belly pork off at this stage.

Once removed from the BGE the piece was allowed to cool in the fridge overnight and was portioned and vacuums packed in the morning.  At this stage the fat in the skin has been rendered but is anything but crispy!!

To finish off the pork – defrost the number of portions required and place on a roasting tray in a domestic fan oven at around 200C.   Once the meat is back up to a suitable core temp (above 70C) add some top grill heat to your oven.  This crisps the skin very quickly – so don’t let it burn (yes we have learnt the hard way!).

There are so many ways to serve this delicious piece of meat.  On this occasion we served with baked potatoes cooked on the Big Green Egg using Nic Williams excellent recipe.   The other star in this dish was our spiced red cabbage.  The spicing and the residual balsamic recipe off sets the richness of the pork perfectly.  It works with so many other dishes too – and the recipe can be found here.

Do give these dishes a go at some point …………….

………….. they are worth coming back to!!

Below is a copy of the linked recipe for crispy pork belly

Crispy Succulent Belly Pork

March 25, 2022
: 6-8
: Straightforward

Slow cooked belly pork with crispy crackling

By:

Ingredients
  • A good slab of belly pork - if the bones are still in, leave till after the cook
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
Directions
  • Step 1 Leave the pork uncovered in a fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
  • Step 2 Score the skin well and rub in salt. Wipe the whole piece of meat with olive oil and if necessary add some more salt
  • Step 3 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at 130C with the platesetter in the feet up position.   If using the expander system put the pork on the top grid and a roasting dish too catch the fat on the second grid – separated from the platesetter.  If you have a standard set up add some crumpled aluminium on the platesetter and put a drip tray onto this to collect the released fat. Put the grill into position over the drip pan.
  • Step 4 Place the pork skin side up for the first hour and then turn it skin side down for the rest of the cook. Once the core temperature reached 90+C remove from the EGG (and turn up the EGG to around 220C if serving immediately.
  • Step 5 Portion the pork (removing the bones which will simply slide out) and put back in the Egg to crisp the skin.
  • Step 6 If you are finishing the pork later (as here) hen crisp the skin on the pork in a domestic oven at 200C and when back up to temperature add some top heat from a grill until the skin takes on that lovely crackling appearance. This crisps the skin very quickly – so don’t let it burn
  • Step 7 rest for at least 10 mins to allow the skin to fully crisp and serve with your favourite accompaniment
Italian lambs’ kidneys with anchovy and lemon

Italian lambs’ kidneys with anchovy and lemon

The is definitely a dish that is not for everyone – but if you like lambs’ kidneys it is definitely one you should try!  There is very little to it in terms of effort and in all honesty it cooks just as well in a domestic kitchen as it would on a Big Green Egg.

Rome is the home of most of the Italian kidney recipes.  This one however is based on a recipe from Anna del Conte from the Emilia region of Italy

It is a really simple dish that will cook equally well on the BGE or on a domestic hob.  On the BGE we use one of the handleless sauté pans from Tefal.  This was brought up to temperature and some olive oil added.  The cleaned and dried kidneys were sautéed in the olive oil until they just changed colour.  This is a good time to close the vents on the BGE as this stage just takes a minute or so and care is needed so as not to over cook and make them tough!

A paste of butter, anchovy and flour was then added to the pan and this was stirred through the mix for around a minute.  The pan was removed from the heat, seasoning adjusted and some lemon juice and chopped parsley was added.

Once stirred through the dish is ready to serve!             ………………………….. Delicious!

Lambs' Kidneys with anchovy and lemon

February 14, 2022
: 2
: 10 min
: 5 min
: 15 min
: Easy

Quickly sautéed lambs' kidneys with butter, anchovy and lemon sauce

By:

Ingredients
  • 4 lamb kidneys
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 20g unsalted buttter
  • 2-4 bottled/canned anchovy fillets
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 chopped clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Directions
  • Step 1 Split the kidneys in half lengthways. Discard the cores and then cut each half kidney into 2 pieces (this step can be omitted if you prefer your kidneys larger).  Wash and add to a bowl of cold water with 1 tbsp of wine vinegar – leave for 30 mins.
  • Step 2 If cooking on the BGE set for direct cooking on a medium heat (around 160C)
  • Step 3 Whilst the kidneys are soaking, finely chop the anchovies and cream into the butter, softened if necessary. Add and mix in 1 tsp of flour. Set to one side.
  • Step 4 Heat some olive oil in a suitable sauté pan on the BGE (you need to be able to close the lid or it will all get too hot). Close down the vents and add the kidneys and sauté for a minute or so until they begin to change colour. Do not over cook.
  • Step 5 Stir in the butter and anchovy mixture and stir for a minute or so – if necessary (if BGE is too hot) remove from the heat to do this.
  • Step 6 Once off the heat, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Add the chopped parsley and lemon juice and stir through the mix. You are ready to serve!
  • Step 7 Serve on some toasted or fried bread – perhaps with a small salad
Aubergine and gnocchi puttanesca bake

Aubergine and gnocchi puttanesca bake

Having played with our Aubergine/Gnocchi and Parmigiana bake we have also played with a number of variations over the last year or so.  One of the best has moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives, and for us at least, only a little chilli!

The preparation of the dish is exactly the same as for the Aubergine/Gnocchi Parmigiana bake.  Firstly the aubergine was cut into decent size chunks.  We were short of aubergine and so added a little courgette which works well too.  These were then sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour.  (We often choose to include the peppers in this dish and if so add them at this point.  The dish does work well without then too).  Set these to one side.

We added some finely chopped onion to the pan to soften in a little olive oil.  Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added and cooked a little more.  If you are using fresh or dried chilli, then add it at this stage and stir through the mix.

A can of chopped tomatoes was added and warmed through and then the pan was taken off the heat and the anchovies stirred in.  As it is stirred through the anchovies completely break up and thickens the sauce. The pan was put back on the heat and some black olives and capers were tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes.  This is a good time to test and adjust the sauce base as necessary.

Now to build the dish.  The roasted aubergines, (the peppers if including them) and the gnocchi were added to the sauce and left to bubble for 10-15 mins.  The sauce was stirred occasionally in the first 5 mins to make sure everything was thoroughly mixed.  Normally, at this stage, this would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish.  As we were already cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.

Once the gnocchi were starting to soften and the sauce had thickened we stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  We usually add a little grated parmesan cheese on top of the mozzarella.  It adds a contrasting texture and colour as well as a little more crunch to the topping.

We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well.  This was being cooked on the Egg and so the vents were closed and the cheese allowed to melt for a minute or two.

Whether cooking in a domestic kitchen or on the Big Green Egg the dish often needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well unless the EGG diameter is a lot greater than that of your pan.

The dish can be put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – but more recently we have been finishing these off in our Gozney Pizza oven.  Either way just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!

This is a dish that always tastes better if you let it cool for at least 15 minutes after cooking.  So ………

Just take a drink ……. make a green salad………….

………………… give it a go!

Aubergine and gnocchi puttanesca bake

February 2, 2022
: 2
: 15 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr
: Easy

A combination of roasted Aubergines, puttanesca sauce and gnocchi - a perfect and simple bake

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 Aubergine cut into decent size chunks.
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 Red pepper, deseeded and chopped - optional
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove chopped
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 250g gnocchi
  • Handfull of pitted black olives
  • Capers 2Tbs
  • Salted Anchovy fillets 5-6
  • A little finely chopped fresh chilli or a few chilli flakes
  • Fresh or dried oregano and thyme
  • 125g mozzarella
  • Grated parmesan (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the aubergine into chunks, around 3 cm in most directions. Sauté in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour. Add the chopped peppers if using them and cook for a few minutes more.  Set both the peppers and aubergine to one side.
  • Step 2 Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and soften in a little olive oil.  Once it takes on some colour add the chopped garlic, the chilli,  and cook for a few minutes more.  
  • Step 3 Add the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the anchovy fillets until they break up and thicken the sauce
  • Step 4 Put the pan back on the heat and add the capers and black olives. Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Step 5 Add the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi and leave the sauce to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. The gnocchi will soften and the the sauce thicken.  
  • Step 6 Transfer to an ovenproof dish, stir through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scatter  torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  At this point you can also add a little grated parmesan cheese.
  • Step 7 Allow to continue cooking till the cheese melts and starts to colour. If needed transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
  • Step 8 Let the dish cool for at least 15 minutes after cooking. Serve with a green salad
Meat-less – altering the meat vegetable ratio!

Meat-less – altering the meat vegetable ratio!

In our last post we said we were trying to support regenerative food production where ever possible.  So we are not going without meat for January – no ‘Veganuary” for us! Our plan is to continue to eat less (but better) meat but all year round!   We have been playing with the idea of just using a little meat to provide more complex flavour and texture profiles than we can find we can get when cooking purely vegetarian food.


We have used the term ‘plants-centric’ to describe this idea.  It has worked well for us, and describes dishes that are probably 90-95% vegetable based.  Our ‘Meat-less” idea has come a little later and describes dishes that are probably 80-85% vegetable based.

The dish in the pictures on this page is a perfect example of this sort of cooking. This is a classic pork based cassoulet but with only around 450g of meat for a dish that would feed 12.  Even including the meat based stock (from the ham we cooked earlier) we are probably only talking of around 40g of meat per portion.  This is a very small portion of meat, perhaps too much to describe out as ‘plant-centric’ but I think fulfils the idea of ‘less-meat’ ………..

…………………..or as we have cheekily described it – ‘Meat-less’!!!

 

The plan is too add more of these dishes, interspersed with more traditional cooks throughout the year!

Not a meat free – but a ‘meat-less’ January

Not a meat free – but a ‘meat-less’ January

Many people are trying meat free January – but not for us!!  We are reducing the volume of meat we are eating, year round, not just for a month!  We are also trying to buy this smaller volume of meat from producers supporting regenerative farming; at least when we can.

This dish is a simple example. Mostly slow sautéed leeks with pasta, and for 4 portions, less than 200g of meat.  With some chestnuts, this is enough to provide some great flavours, some texture and a really effortless cook.

So we are not going ‘meat free’ but what we might cheekily ‘meat-less’ or more accurately ‘meat-light’!!  Hopefully there will be a reasonable number of recipes supporting this approach this year……………

……………..fingers crossed!!

Wagyu Ragù:- crazy title – great dish!

Wagyu Ragù:- crazy title – great dish!

We have cooked so much ragù on the Big Green Egg but written very little about it.  This is just because I have been overwhelmed by the diversity and breadth of the history of ragù in Italy.  So where do you start?  Well we are starting here – with a master of Italian food, Theo Randall.  Jackie and I have recently been doing some online courses from Banquist, a company based in the UK.  Their pasta course was led by Theo Randall – if you have not come across Theo – check him out here.

This was the second dish we cooked on the course.  It was a beef ragù, with more Neapolitan rather than Bolognese origins in that tomatoes are very well represented in the sauce.  This is not the case with Bolognese cooking (you can feel the complication of Italian cooking history already).  However you chose to classify it though, it is a really great ragù.  This recipe follows Theo’s almost exactly.  It was, however, cooked for longer at a lower temperature and was cooked over charcoal on the Big Green Egg.

The meat used for this first ‘run out’ of this recipe was wagyu shoulder. Beef shoulder is often referred to as Chuck and I would suspect that any chuck would work well in this recipe!  Using substantial chunks of meat when making a ragù has the enormous advantage that they are easy to manage at this stage when trying to get colour onto the meat.  It is that Maillard reaction that brings so much extra flavour to dishes. The chunks of beef were dried and then seasoned generously with salt.  The beef was then fried at a high heat in a pan with a little olive oil, making sure that all sides of the meat were browned.  This could be done on the BGE but on this occasion these first stages were done on a domestic hob in the kitchen.  Whilst the meat was browning a large onion was halved and diced reasonably finely.  The meat was then removed from the pan and set to one side.

The diced onion was then added to the pan with the remaining meat juices, together with a further kiss of olive oil. As the onions started to sauté 2 sticks of celery were finely chopped and added to the pan with a little more olive oil and fried on a medium heat for around 4 minutes.

This is where we came across the first surprise.  A sofrito normally has diced carrot, which would be added at this stage, but the advice was to miss out the carrot (as much for visual reasons as anything else).  A little reluctantly we went along with this (Chef Randall has had a Michelin Star after all!!). So a slightly different looking sofrito in this one!!

As the sofrito was cooking the San Marzano tomatoes were chunked and then very finely blended with a stick blender.  Normally a passata is sieved to remove the seeds and skin.  When it is blitzed in this way though it is not really necessary and there is far less waste.  The blitzed tomato was going to be used with some conventional passata to add some sweet freshness.

The beef was added back to the sofrito and the chopped rosemary.  The red wine was added and stirred through the mix. This was left to simmer for a few minutes to drive off the alcohol before adding the tomato pulp and the passata.  The pan was then brought to a gentle simmer.  If we were going to finish the cooking in a conventional oven this would be the time to add a close fitting lid before putting it in the oven at around 180C for around 90 minutes.  We were, however, going to cook the ragù on the BGE set up for indirect cooking at between 150-160C.

Because we were cooking on the BGE the pan was not lidded for some of the cook as the EGG doesn’t dry out a casserole in the same way a domestic oven does.  As we were cooking at a lower temperature we cooked for around 2.5 hours rather than the 90mins in the original recipe.  If necessary just add a little more liquid if needed.  The great thing is that as long as you don’t let the dish dry out it is difficult to overcook it!

Once the meat is meltingly tender the casserole can be removed from the Big Green Egg for the next stage in the process.  As we started off with large chunks of meat we then needed to break up the  meat into the sauce.  The easiest way to do this is with a whisk.  The whisk is simply used to bash the meat until it breaks down to the required consistency as in the picture.  The ragù can be used straight away or left to mature overnight.  If anything it is a little better on the second day!

We were serving the ragù with home made egg pasta.  Hopefully we will publish this later.  We were going to use a very traditional Tuscan Pappardelle pasta which is usually around 2cm wide and around 25cm long.

The secret of a great pasta ragù is to slightly undercook the pasta so that it is al dente and then to add the pasta and a little of the salted pasta water to the ragù.  The final cooking of the pasta is finished in the ragu.  The pappardelle is gently stirred through the ragù and as that is done it releases some of its starch, adding a silkiness.  Just before it is ready to serve, a handful of chopped herbs can be added and stirred through; on this occasion parsley.

All that is left to do is pop open a good bottle of Italian red, and serve the pasta on the plate or bowl of your choice.  ideally the serving dish for this sort of pasta should have a flat base.  This traditional way of serving the dish has the practical advantage that the pasta can be spread out.

……….so some freshly grated parmesan……..

……………… and away we go!!

 

Footnote: The dish was delicious and my concern about missing the carrots out of the sofrito on this occasion were unfounded – however as a rule I am still using very finely diced carrots in my sofrito for other dishes!!

Wagyu Ragu - with pappardelle

December 22, 2021
: 4
: 1 hr
: moderate

A sumptuous beef ragù to serve with a pasta of your choice (Though ideally pappardelle!!)

By:

Ingredients
  • 400g Wagyu Chuck
  • Maldon salt
  • Olive oil
  • Half a large onion (or a small onion)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 300-400g San Marzano tomatoes
  • 150-200 ml passata
  • One sprig of rosemary
  • 175ml red wine
  • Pasta of your choice
  • Parmesan cheese
Directions
  • Step 1 Pat the beef chunks to dry them and season generously with salt. Fry in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Brown all sides. Set aside
  • Step 2 Chop the onion reasonably finely. Add to the pan with a further dash of olive oil and cook till translucent. Chop the celery and  sauté on medium with the onions with a further drop of olive oil for around 4 minutes.
  • Step 3 reintroduce the beef back to the sofrito pan and add the chopped rosemary.  Stir the red wine through the mix and simmer for a few minutes to drive off the alcohol. Chunk the tomatoes and blitz with a stick blender. Add the tomato pulp and the passata to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Step 4 Set up the BGE for indirect cooking at around 150-160C. Cook for around 2.5 hours until the meat is very tender. Remove from the BGE and break up the meat with a whisk. The ragù is ready to use now but will be even better after 24 hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollo alla Cacciatora, Chicken Cacciatora or Hunter’s chicken

Pollo alla Cacciatora, Chicken Cacciatora or Hunter’s chicken

What is in a name? I often think it funny how we accept both the name of dishes and their presentation as though they are ‘original dishes’. I mean original in the sense of – always made this way.  In reality the dishes we have today represent the journey the dish has taken both through history, and from its geographical origin.  “Pollo alla Cacciatora”, “Chicken Cacciatora” or “Hunter’s Chicken” is just one of those examples.  Clearly from the name its origins are Italian.  There are, however, also versions from France where it is called chasseur, and Spain where it is called cazadores.  These dishes are stalwarts of restaurants from each of these countries but if we go back in time would any self respecting hunter ever gone out hunting and come back with a chicken …………. I think not!

Jamie Oliver in his recipe on which this particular cook is based suggested that it would be the type of food a hunter’s wife would cook for her hunter husband when he returned from a day of hunting.  Even if we put the stereotype to oneside here I suspect that the notion is fanciful.  More likely that this is a dish cooked using the products of a day’s hunting.  I suspect it will have been originally made with rabbit or what we now think of as game birds.  The gentle cooking that these recipes have in common would be perfectly suited to these tasty, but potentially dry and often stringy sources of meat

Having said all that, this particular recipe uses chicken as we are yet to try other options ……….. but hopefully we will, and will report back!  Cooking with chicken would mean that the time for cooking could easily be reduced as the chicken will cook quickly – often too quickly!  But to reduce the time I feel is to miss the point.  This is a slow cook dish that develops its taste through slow cooking.  Because of this though, rather than use the whole chicken, I would reserve the breasts for other dishes.  The drum, thigh and even the wings respond well to slower, longer cooks.  For this particular cook we used just thighs and drumsticks!

We had decided to take the leisurely approach to this dish which therefore started out with an overnight marinade (though a couple of hours would probably be fine too!). The chicken pieces were kept with the skin on and were seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  They were put into a container and bay leaves, rosemary and a crushed clove of garlic were added.  The container was topped up with the red wine and it was popped into the fridge to work its magic overnight.

Taking it out of the fridge in the morning the chicken had taken on that rather dusky colour that you get when marinating in red wine. That brought into contrast the deeper yellow colour you get with slower grown corn fed birds.  This is a dish that I firmly believe should be cooked with the skin on the chicken.  Like most people though I hate ‘floppy’, ‘soggy’ chicken skin!

The answer is to brown off the chicken really well, and render down the fat in the skin which adds enormously to the taste of the dish.  And then to cook at least some of the chicken ‘breaking the surface’ of the casserole – so that it is exposed to the heat of the cooking directly.  This is a perfect opportunity therefore to cook in the Big Green Egg.  Cook at a low temperature, for a longer time.  No lid is needed on the casserole, the surface of the skin exposed to heat but in an oven which will not dry out the meat.

The BGE was set up for direct cooking at around 180C.  The chicken was drained and the marinade reserved.  After removing the chicken it was dried and  very lightly dusted with seasoned flour, the excess shaken off.  The pans were heated on the BGE and a little oil was added.  The chicken was then browned off making sure the fat was well rendered from the skin. This can be done in a shallow casserole or a handleless frying pan such as the Tefal Ingenio pans.  We were using the MiniMax which easily accommodates the pans we were using.  Once beautifully coloured, the meat can be set aside.

We could have finished this off in the shallow casserole but opted for a slightly deeper one as we were cooking 12 chicken pieces.  This was put onto the heat and the sliced garlic was gently coloured.  The anchovies, olives, tomatoes (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the chicken pieces with their reserved marinade were then added. The pot was brought to a very gentle boil then the platesetter was put into place to move from direct to indirect cooking. The temperature of the EGG was dropped to around 130C and the casserole left to very gently bubble.  As we were cooking in the BGE there was no need to put the lid on the Dutch oven allowing a gentle smokiness to add to the flavour of the dish.

We left it all to cook for more than the 1½ hours suggested in the original recipe We checked a couple of times that more water was not needed and gave it the occasional gentle stir, but nothing else.

Once the chicken was obviously ‘butter tender’ and the sauce had formed a lovely ‘jammy’ finish on the chicken all the vents were closed.  All that was left to do was to skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Bay leaves and rosemary sprigs were removed and we were ready to serve (and portion some for later too).

We served one drum and one thigh per person.  It works well with a salad. as the sauce is not wet and runny.  It also works really well with cannellini beans or chickpeas.  Try rice or gnocchi or as here, with spiced red cabbage and root vegetables …………………

………..oh yes …………….and plenty of Italian red!!

Pollo alla Cacciatora

November 11, 2021
: 6
: 1 hr
: 2 hr
: 3 hr
: Straightforward

Pan roasted chicken pieces in a rich tomato, olive and anchovy sauce

By:

Ingredients
  • 6 Chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
  • ½ bottle Chianti or similar red wine
  • A little flour, for dusting
  • Olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets (more if small)
  • 1 handful green or black olives, stoned
  • 2 x 400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
Directions
  • Step 1 Add the chicken pieces (skin on) to a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Add the Bay leaves, rosemary and the crushed clove of garlic.  Top up the bowl with the red wine and leave in the fridge – ideally overnight.
  • Step 2 Set up the BGE for direct cooking at around 180C. Remove the chicken from the fridge, and the chicken from the marinade (reserve). Dry the chicken then lightly dust with seasoned flour
  • Step 3 Heat a handleless pan on the BGE and add a little oil.  Brown the chicken making sure the fat is well rendered. Once coloured set aside.
  • Step 4 Heat a casserole of a suitable size for the 12 chicken pieces on the BGE. Quickly colour the sliced garlic, then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the chicken pieces with their reserved marinade. Bring the casserole to a very gentle boil then introduce the platesetter and cook indirectly at a lower temperature of around 130C so that there is just a very gentle bubble.  Cook without the lid to allow a gentle smokiness
  • Step 5 Cook for around 1½ hours checking occasionally to see if a little more water is needed. Once the chicken is ‘butter tender’ and the the sauce has a ‘jammy’ finish close all the vents and allow to finish cooking.
  • Step 6 Skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, season to taste and remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs.
  • Step 7 Serve one drum and thigh per person perhaps with cannellini beans or chickpeas, rice or gnocchi or as here with spiced red cabbage and root vegetables
Porcini mushroom sauce

Porcini mushroom sauce

This is such a good sauce and a perfect foil for so many pasta dishes.  Not only that but it is very simple to make.  We first came across it on a pasta making course led by Theo Randall.  The course was organised by Banquest and was great fun and I would highly recommend it if you love pasta!  We have now used this basic sauce in a number of ways.  Cooked indoors on the hob and outside on the BGE.  With the smallest amount of creme fraiche it makes a lovely mushroom sauce to go with chicken or pork.  But it really comes into its own in its native form with pasta.  More than anything else we have used it with filled pasta, particularly tortelli, tortellini or cappelletti.

The basic sauce is based on dried porcini mushrooms.  We just love porcini!  With the dried ones you just need to remember that 10g of dried porcini will transform into the equivalent of 100g of fresh porcini once rehydrated.  10g is fine for 2 people.  Perhaps the hardest thing about making the sauce is remembering to rehydrate the dried porcini at least 2 hours before you  need it.  This is much longer than we ever used to leave them and it makes such a difference.  Simply pour over enough boiled water to cover the porcini and leave well alone and get on with the rest of your day!

So after 2 hours or more, remove the porcini from the water and check for any woody or ‘muddy’ bits and remove them.  Finely chop the mushrooms to the size you can see in the picture of them in the pan.  If you want or you are a little short of porcini, you can add a few fresh mushrooms at this stage, shiitake or chestnut mushrooms work well with the porcini.

Add a little olive oil to the pan and then the chopped porcini mushrooms.  Mince a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt to form a paste and add to the mushrooms.  And gently sauté for a couple of minutes then carefully pour the porcini liquor that is left after rehydrating the mushrooms.  Be careful to pour slowly so any grit can be left in the last few spoonfuls of the liquid which should be discarded.  Add just a little more water, turn down the heat and cook for around 10 minutes.

When you are ready to use the sauce, add a large knob of butter and some chopped flat parsley and season with a little salt.

If you are using the sauce for pasta, add the pasta to some salted water on a rolling boil. We were using Tortelli in this example.  Cook (in the case of fresh Tortelli around 3-4 mins) until the pasta is about three quarters cooked through.

Add the pasta to the porcini sauce and continue to cook the pasta in the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Keep agitating the pasta in the sauce so that the pasta gives off some starch which then thickens the sauce.  Add a little more pasta water as you are doing this as the sauce thickens, and repeat to control the final viscosity of the sauce.  Make sure the sauce clings to all the surfaces of the pasta during this final phase of the pasta cook……………. and serve!

For the Tortelli, we served with shards of parmesan and some black summer truffle…………………….. perfect!!

 

Footnote: if using this sauce without pasta say with pork or chicken a little cream or creme fraiche stirred in after the butter has been incorporated produces a lovely rich sauce.  If doing that, perhaps consider adding a little less butter, or omit it all together.

Porcini mushroom sauce

September 9, 2021
: 2
: 15 min
: 25 min
: Easy

Reconstituted dried porcini finely chopped with garlic salt and butter

By:

Ingredients
  • 10g of dried porcini
  • Boiled water to rehydrate porcini
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • large knob of butter
  • chopped flat parsley
Directions
  • Step 1 To 10g dried porcini pour over enough boiled water to cover – leave for at least 2 hrs
  • Step 2 Remove the porcini from the water and remove any woody or ‘muddy’ bits.  Finely chop the mushrooms (If you want or you are a little short of porcini, you can add a few fresh mushrooms at this stage)
  • Step 3 Heat olive oil in a pan and add the chopped porcini. Mince a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt to form a paste and add to the porcini.  Gently sauté for a couple of minutes. Carefully pour the porcini liquor that is left after rehydrating the mushrooms into the pan.  Be careful to pour slowly so any grit can be left in the last few spoonful of the liquid which should be discarded.  Add a little more water, turn down the heat and cook for around 10 minutes.
  • Step 4 When ready to use the sauce, add a large knob of butter and some chopped flat parsley and season with a little more salt if necessary
  • Step 5 If you are using the sauce for pasta, we were using Tortelli in this example, add the pasta to some salted water on a rolling boil.  Cook (in the case of fresh Tortelli around 3-4 mins) until the pasta is about three quarters cooked through. Add the pasta to the porcini sauce and continue to cook the pasta in the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Keep agitating the pasta in the sauce so that the pasta gives off some starch which then thickens the sauce.  Add a little more pasta water as you are doing this as the sauce thickens, and repeat to control the final viscosity of the sauce.  

 

 

Aubergine, ricotta and lemon involtini

Aubergine, ricotta and lemon involtini

Over the last couple of years we have been eating more and more aubergine based dishes.  Usually Italian in style, they always seems to be made with tomatoes too.  When we came across this recipe in our local supermarket’s food magazine it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. A quick glance on the internet reveals a host of versions of this recipe.  So many of them though included lots of different and additional ingredients: raisins, pine nuts, cream, mozzarella, feta, bread crumbs, mint ……….. the list goes on! As with so much Italian cooking, at its best, simplicity is the key.  This is basically a simple dish, with a minimal number of ingredients and it has Italy written all over it!

We have made this a number of times both indoor and out and it always works well!  The first time we tried it we didn’t have any ricotta cheese and substituted a soft spreadable goats cheese we had in the fridge.  That was great – but I have to say on balance my favourite version is this one with ricotta.  We have tried different tinned tomatoes too.  Whilst it works well with any good tinned tomato, it is just in a different league when made with tinned San Marzano tomatoes.
These are the classic Italian tomato; one of the only 2 types allowed on an authentic Neapolitan Pizza.  (The other is the Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio which must be grown in one of the 18 ‘comuni’ lying just about within the Vesuvius National Park).  They bring a special flavour and sweetness to the sauce without having to resort to the addition of sugar.  They are more expensive, but as the sauce simply comprises only tomatoes, garlic, sage leaves and butter, this is a perfect time to use them!

Preparation is simplicity itself; the BGE was set up for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place.  Once the temperature stabilised at around 180-200C we needed a solid metal surface to add some colour to the aubergine slices.  A plancha, skillet or in our case a stainless steel searing plate was perfect.  We usually just oil it and pop the aubergines on flipping them as they take on colour.    In batches, these were cooked for 10-15 minutes turning once during the cooking. They were then put to one side to cool.

We swapped out the searing plate for our Tefal Ingenio frying pan. This could have been used to brown the aubergine slices which would have made this a true one pan cook.  Once the pan was hot we added the butter, garlic slices and the sage leaves and cooked for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. To this was added one can of San Marzano tomatoes and as they usually come as whole tomatoes they were gently crushed and mixed with the infused butter and seasoned.  If cooking on a hob or stove top I would add around one third of a can of water to the tomatoes and leave them to bubble gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and the flavour deepens.  Cooking on the EGG is the same except that you only add  a touch of water, just enough to rinse out the can.  This is because the cooking in the EGG retains so much moisture.  To cook the sauce it is worth just closing down the vents a little and dropping the temperature to around 180C.

Whilst the sauce was cooking we put the ricotta into a bowl, grated in the zest and added the juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan.  It was seasoned to taste with just a little salt and pepper.  One heaped teaspoon of the mix was placed at one end of the aubergine and this was then rolled up into a cylinder containing the mix.  Once the sauce was cooked the rolled aubergines were pushed into the sauce with the seam at the bottom.

A drizzle of olive oil was poured over the involutini and some sage and torn basil leaves scattered over the top.  This was followed by the remains of the lemon infused ricotta and the rest of the parmesan.  The dish was then returned to the Big Green Egg for the final part of the cook.   It takes around 25-30 minutes to cook this through.  If the top doesn’t brown as you would like, it can be popped under a grill for a minute or so (or under the flame of a pizza oven for 30 seconds!).

Possibly the most important step however, and one easily forgotten – let it stand!  The dish should be allowed to cool before serving.  This is true for so many baked dishes with a tomato sauce base and very true here.  Let it stand for at least 5 minutes.  Use the time to make a fresh leaf salad which is the perfect accompaniment.  Pour yourself a glass of something you fancy (A medium bodied red wine is perfect) – and take a sip in anticipation!

Serve at the table with the simple salad …………………..

………….buon appetito!

Aubergine, Ricotta and lemon involtini

July 25, 2021
: 2
: 30 min
: 30 min
: 1 hr
: Reasonably straightforward

Grilled aubergines wrapped around a lemon ricotta and parmesan cheese in a rich tomato sauce

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 large Aubergine or 2 medium sized in 0.7cm slices length ways
  • At least 2 tbs Olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • 12 or more sage leaves
  • 1 large clove of garlic finely sliced
  • 1 Tin (ideally San Marzano) tomatoes crushed
  • 125g ricotta
  • Half an unwaxed lemon (juice and zest)
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • Basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • A little water
Directions
  • Step 1 Set the BGE for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place stabilised at 180-200C.
  • Step 2 Oil a flat cooking surface such as a plancha or skillet and put the aubergine slices on.  Add extra oil and cook for 10-15 minutes turning at least once. Set aside to cool
  • Step 3 Add the butter, garlic slices and half the sage leaves to a handless frying pan and cook for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. Add one can of tomatoes and gently crush.  Season and mix with the infused butter. Add a little extra water. Drop the temperature to around 180C. Leave to cook gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens.  
  • Step 4 Whilst the sauce cooks add the ricotta to a bowl with the grated lemon zest and juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan.  Season to taste. Place I heaped teaspoon of the mix at one end of the aubergine slice and roll up into a cylinder containing the cheese.  Once the sauce is cooked the rolled aubergines should be pushed into the sauce with their seam at the bottom.
  • Step 5 Drizzle some olive oil over the involutini.  Add some more sage and some torn basil leaves over the top.  Add any remaining ricotta and the rest of the parmesan.  
  • Step 6 Return to the Big Green Egg (or conventional oven) and cook for around 25-30 minutes. If the top doesn’t brown enough, place under a grill for a minute or so.
  • Step 7 The dish should be allowed to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving – serve with a simple leaf salad
Shallot, Mushroom & Butterbean Casserole

Shallot, Mushroom & Butterbean Casserole

This is dish is so simple it is almost ridiculous!  It works well cooked in a domestic kitchen and even better when cooked over charcoal. The original recipe comes from our regular vegetable supplier Boxxfresh.  We have just added the odd tweak to this already excellent recipe.  The first of these was the addition of 4 large mushrooms that had been quartered.  The only other differences were the addition of some mixed Italian herbs and the use of a little smoked paprika instead of black pepper.

This dish works especially well with the long banana shallots peeled and divided into separate bulbs (if they will) or cut lengthways into relatively wide slices.  These go together beautifully with the roughly chopped garlic cloves.  You will need 8 good sized shallots and 3 garlic cloves.  We were cooking on the Big Green Egg set up for a direct cook initially at around 160C.  The pan was put over the heat and the oil warmed in the casserole.  Once the oil was warm the mushrooms were added for a couple of minutes.  They were then joined by the  garlic and shallots and sautéed for 4-5 minutes until they started to take on just a little colour.  They needed an occasional stir to make sure they didn’t stick.  

At this point we added a small oak chunk to the charcoal, just to push the smoky edge of the dish. The platesetter was introduced and the rest of the cook completed indirectly.  The tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water together with the butterbeans, herbs and tomato puree were added, seasoned and stirred through. The casserole was brought to a slow simmer and left to cook for around 45-60 minutes.  And that is it!!

Simply serve with some crusty bread or as we did here some finely chopped Pak Choi dressed with olive oil and a little wine vinegar

Any unused casserole will keep in the fridge for a couple of days – and could probably be frozen but we had not tried that yet.  It is a great dish as it is – but also works wonderfully with fish!  

– so watch this space!!

Shallot, Mushroom and Butterbean Casserole

July 9, 2021
: 4
: 10 min
: 50 min
: 1 hr
: Very Easy

A perfect combination of shallots, tomatoes and Butterbeans !

By:

Ingredients
  • 4 large mushrooms, quartered.
  • 8 banana shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 0.5 tin of water
  • 2 tins of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • Sea salt
  • Some mixed Italian herbs
  • Smoked paprika
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the BGE for direct cooking at around 160C.
  • Step 2 Quarter the large mushrooms and peel the shallots. Divide into separate bulbs (if they will) or cut lengthways into relatively wide slices.  Roughly chop the garlic cloves.  
  • Step 3 Put the casserole dish in the EGG and warm the oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add the garlic and shallots and sauté for a further 4-5 minutes until they started to take on just a little colour.  Make sure they don’t stick.  
  • Step 4 Add a small wood chunk to the fire and put the the platesetter in place for indirect cooking. Add the tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water together with the butterbeans and tomato puree. Season with the salt and smoked paprika and add the herbs.
  • Step 5 Bring up to a slow simmering, and leave to cook for around 45-60 minutes.  
  • Step 6 Simply serve with some crusty bread or as we did here some finely chopped Pak Choi dressed with olive oil and a little wine vinegar
Coq au Riesling – Rick Stein style

Coq au Riesling – Rick Stein style

During the 2020-21 pandemic lockdown we had a number of meals from the Rick Stein restaurant as part of their “Stein at Home” series.  One of these dishes was their Coq au Riesling based on the Alsace take on Coq au Vin using a local Riesling rather than a hearty red wine.  It is a very rich but subtle dish, traditionally cooked as a one pot dish.  The Stein version was clever though in that there was a very rich pre-made sauce, to which you added some quickly sautéd chicken for a main course in 20 minutes from a standing start.   At some point I look forward to playing with that traditional version which is outlined beautifully in Stein’s recipe (see here).  In the short term though I wanted to ‘pre-make’ the sauce and see how well it would freeze and then construct the meal ‘at the last moment’ as with the Stein at Home dish.
We bought 3 small chickens and butchered these and set the prime pieces to oneside. The 3 carcasses and the wing tips were used to make the sauce (rather than the prime pieces as in the original recipe).
The shallots, garlic and lardon were sautéed until they began to take on a little colour.  At this point the mushrooms were added and fried for a few minutes longer. Everything was then transferred to a separate bowl.The chicken carcasses were cut into smaller pieces and dusted with seasoned flour.  The remaining oil was transferred to the pan and the chicken was browned.
The wine, stock, herbs and the cooked shallots, lardons and mushrooms were added back to the pan and seasoned with salt and black pepper.   The pan was brought to a simmer and cooked for around 20 minutes without a lid. The liquid was separated off by passing through a colander set over a bowl.  The chicken carcasses were discarded and the lardon and vegetables were kept warm. The strained liquid was returned to the pan and reduced a little. The pan was then removed from the heat.  The cream, egg yolk and a ladle of the reduced cooking liquid was mixed together and then poured back into the pan with the stock. The pan was then gently heated without boiling and stirred constantly until the sauce thickened.  This may take 15 minutes, don’t rush it!  The sauce needs to thicken to the point, so that when hot it just coats the back of a spoon.  All the other ingredients (except the chicken) were added back into the sauce. The sauce was then portioned into 3 double portions and vac-packed for later.

When re assembling the dishes we have vacilated on how much chicken to use.  The original Rick Stein dish included a whole chicken.  Nice though it was this was too much meat!  So on the 2 occasions we have done it, we have done it in 2 ways based on this recipe.  Firstly we have shared a single breast between us and had a thigh each with a little extra vegetables.  On the second occasion we had a breast and a thigh each (which was rather generous!!).  But which ever way, the 3 chickens gave  the carcasses to make the stock and then 6 breasts (as supremes), 6 thighs and 6 drum sticks.  At the very least this would leave 3 thighs and 6 drum sticks – very economical which ever way you look at it!!

So to the assembly. If cooking the chicken inside I would suggest tossing the chicken pieces in seasoned flour first when cooking in a butter and oil mix, until the pieces take on some colour then pop in a hot oven for around 10 minutes to reach a core temperature of around 70C. At this point they should be added to the warmed sauce (temperature around 85C) and left to hold the temperature for 2-3 mins or so.  My favourite way however is to sauté the chicken pieces in a cast iron or heavy pan/plancha on the Big Green Egg (using this basic technique).
And when they are approaching 70C add them to the sauce to let them finish in the same way

All that is left to do is to plate.  This dish works so well with simple boiled potatoes and perhaps one vegetable.  Here it is also served with Piperade you can fine the recipe for that here.
Add the potatoes to the plate.  Remove the chicken from the sauce then spoon the sauce around the potatoes.  Place the chicken pieces back into the pool of sauce.

Garnish and serve!

Footnote:  the one precautionary issue is the reheating of the sauce.  Take time over this and heat it slowly and keep it well stirred.  I suspect that if you heat it too much or too quickly the sauce may split – so proceed with a little caution!!

Coq au Riesling - Rick Stein Style

July 2, 2021
: 6
: 45 min
: 1 hr 15 min
: 2 hr
: Moderate

A classic creamy Riesling sauce - which can be frozen and used when needed with sautéed chicken

By:

Ingredients
  • Carcasses of 3 chickens (or some chicken wings etc)
  • 3 chicken breasts and 6 chicken thighs
  • 12 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 160g smoked lardon
  • 250g mushrooms, halved if large
  • seasoned flour
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 70g butter
  • 500ml medium-dry Riesling
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • salt and black pepper
  • 100ml single cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • butter and oil
  • Parsley to garnish
Directions
  • Step 1 If using whole chickens butcher these and put the prime pieces to one side (or get your butcher to do it) – reserve the carcass.
  • Step 2 Sauté the shallots, garlic and lardon in half the oil and butter until they begin to take on a little colour.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the mix to a separate bowl.
  • Step 3 Cut the chicken carcasses into smaller pieces and dust with seasoned flour.  Brown in the pan with a little more oil and butter. Add the wine, stock, herbs and the cooked shallots, lardons and mushrooms back to the pan and season with salt and black pepper.   Simmer for around 20 minutes without a lid.
  • Step 4 Separate off the liquid through a colander set over a bowl. Discard the chicken carcasses. Keep the lardon and vegetables warm. Return the strained liquid to the pan and reduced a little.
  • Step 5 Remove the pan from the heat.  Add a ladle of the reduced cooking liquid to the cream and egg yolk, mix together and then pour back into the pan with the stock. Gently heat without boiling and stir constantly until the sauce thickened.  This may take 15 minutes!  The sauce needs to thicken to the point, so that when hot it just coats the back of a spoon.  
  • Step 6 Add all the other ingredients (except the chicken) back into the sauce. If making portions for 2 divide into 3 double portions and vac-pack for later.
  • Step 7 When reassembling the dish we now use half a chicken breast and a chicken thigh per person. If cooking the chicken inside toss the chicken pieces in seasoned flour first when cooking in a butter and oil mix, until the pieces take on some colour Put into a hot oven for around 10 minutes to reach a core temperature of around 70C. At this point they should be added to the warmed sauce (temperature around 85C) and left to hold the temperature for 2-3 mins or so. If cooking on the BGE sauté the chicken pieces in a cast iron or heavy pan/plancha. When they are approaching 70C add them to the sauce to let them finish in the same way
  • Step 8 All that is left to do is to plate.  This dish works well with simple boiled potatoes.  Add the potatoes to the plate. Remove the chicken from the sauce then spoon the sauce around the potatoes.  Place the chicken pieces back into the pool of sauce. Garnish and serve

Slow cooked venison ragù and fresh tagliatelle

Slow cooked venison ragù and fresh tagliatelle

Well I have to say, having been given a full day tutorial by our next door neighbour in Italy on making tagliatelle I always feel guilty when I don’t make my own!  For once though I don’t feel guilty but rather pleased I have bought it ready made – but more of that later.  Longer wider pastas are really fabulous with rich meaty sauces in that they carry the sauce so well. More than that though they don’t just carry the sauce – they contribute to it!

There is such a big difference between a pasta dish in the UK (with notable exceptions) and ostensibly the same dish in Italy. In Italy the pasta and the ragù become one by the way it is tossed through the sauce.  It carries the salted pasta water and gives a little of its self to thicken the ragù and develop a silky emulsion. This in turn coats the pasta and brings the two components together.   Far too often in the UK the pasta may only get a cursory toss through the ragù!  It may be for this reason that the proportion of sauce served in the UK tends to be greater than in Italy.  But in the home of pasta, alchemy is performed, and the pasta and the ragù become a single entity.  Indeed they become more than the sum of their two parts and become something quite magical………..

Enough of this  romanticism for the moment and back to this dish!  We made the ragù some time ago and this was the last portion from the freezer – recipe here.
This is a lovely recipe which has repeatedly worked well for us. This ragù is something we normally serve with pappardelle – Tuscan style and very good it is that way too.  On this occasion though we had it with a fresh tagliatelle pasta from ‘La Tua Pasta’.  In so doing the cuisine moved from Tuscany north west to Emillia-Romana.

Bologna is the capital, of Emillia-Romana-Romana and is the origin of ragù Bolognese.  Our ragù here is similar to this ragù Bolognese though it has subtle differences.  LIke the traditional ragù Bolognese it works so well with perhaps the best known pasta of the region – Tagliatelle.  Under no circumstances should either of these ragù ever be served with spaghetti – unless of course you simply want to insult your Italian friends!!

Our sauce here picks up on many of the themes of that traditional ragù Bolognese, built on a basic soffritto, it contains just a little tomato and is seasoned simply with salt and pepper, occasionally nutmeg, or as here, cinnamon.  So a dish that could sit comfortably in either Tuscany or Emillia-Romana – but when served with tagliatelle it most definitely speaks of its Bolognese origins!

The tagliatelle for this dish came from the UK company La Tua Pasta.
We have used their pasta a lot during the Covid Pandemic especially enjoying their beautiful filled pastas which I still find difficult to make!!  But I would give a special ‘shout out’ for their tagliatelle.  It is a beautiful egg pasta which although will keep for a week or so tastes just like a fresh pasta you have made yourself.  It does have the advantage over my own tagliatelle that it holds together better as you toss it though the ragù to create that lovely authentic Italian union between ragù and pasta.  And so without any apology I give you our ‘Slow Cooked Venison ragù with fresh Tagliatelle’

………….. I hope you enjoy it!

Full recipe here.

Spectacular Spiced Red Cabbage

Spectacular Spiced Red Cabbage

I suppose I have never really given red cabbage much of a thought! If it has ever crossed my mind it would be as a vegetable to go with a Christmas meal.  Have we been missing a trick?!  This is a fabulous, flexible and delicious dish that you need to cook as soon as you find a red cabbage!

This recipe comes from our vegetable supplier Boxxfresh in the UK. They have a series of great recipes on their website (see here) – and this is one we use (largely) without any modification. That is other than cooking it on the Big Green Egg and cooking it without the lid on!

We have used this dish with so many of our cooks because it is so versatile. The thing that has surprised us more than anything though is how well it works cold.  As (what is almost) a slaw, it is fabulous. Try it with burgers you will be staggered !! So much so that we have found ourselves making it in June on the rare occasion you see a red cabbage in the warmer months.

Although we have made this in our kitchen – it is so much more fun doing it on the Big Green Egg certainly if it is a lovely sunny day!  The preparation is straightforward.  The core was removed from the red cabbage and it was finely sliced as were the 3 red onions.  The apples were cored and cut into matchsticks.  (We have also done without coring the apples and detected no difference in the final dish.)

We sometimes use the Tefal Ingenio saucepans on the EGG as you can simply remove the handles for cooking.  Alternatively, as on this occasion we used a large casserole pan – just select a pan large enough to accommodate the size of red cabbage you are cooking.

I started the cook off direct over a medium heat (Dome temp around 160-80C).  We added the olive oil to the pan and started off sautéing the onions until translucent.
Then the cinnamon stick, the apple and red cabbage were added and tumbled together. A quick seasoning with sea salt and black pepper before pouring in the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and the work is almost complete.  Simply give everything a mix, pop the plate setter into place to move to indirect cooking and allow to cook for around 90 minutes without the lid (if cooking indoors cook for the first hour with the lid and the last 30 minutes without). All that was left to do was to moderate the temperature, give it the occasional stir and marvel at the transformation. The cabbage will reduce in size and change colour to a lovely deep purple.

The spiced cabbage is lovely cold, keeps well in the fridge because of the vinegar in it – when we have cooked a large cabbage we have certainly kept some of it for more than a week successfully. The only difficult thing is deciding what not to serve it with – it is so versatile!  Here we have served it with our Vegetarian Bourguignon where the spiciness of the cabbage is a perfect foil for the richness of the Bourguignon.

Do give it a try – it is a quite astounding dish. When you find some other novel combinations that it works well with …….

…….do let us know!!

 

Spectacular Spiced Red Cabbage

June 25, 2021
: 8 or more
: 20 min
: 2 hr
: Easy

Red cabbaged cooked slowly with apple and onions set off with a combination of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 3 red onions, finely sliced
  • 2 apples, cored and finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 150ml Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Remove the core from the red cabbage and it finely slice. Finely slice 3 red onions.  Core the apples and cut into matchsticks
  • Step 2 Start the cook off direct over a medium heat (Dome temp around 160-80C).  Add olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cinnamon stick, the apple and red cabbage and mix together. Season with sea salt and black pepper then add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Mix well.
  • Step 3 Put the plate setter into place to move to indirect cooking and allow to cook for around 90 minutes without the lid (if cooking indoors cook for the first hour with the lid and the last 30 minutes without). Give it the occasional stir. The cabbage will reduce in size and change colour to a lovely deep purple.
  • Step 4 Serve hot or cold

 

Pumpkin and ricotta tortelloni with nutmeg butter

Pumpkin and ricotta tortelloni with nutmeg butter

I love pasta, I love making pasta but I really struggle making good looking tortelloni! We were fortunate that La Tua Pasta make great tortelloni!! We were trying their pumpkin and ricotta tortelloni with nutmeg butter tonight. The tortelloni are large and very generously filled with a great mix of pumpkin and ricotta. As simple supper dish, it lends itself so well little embellishment!

We simply roasted some tomato halves on the Big Green Egg set up for indirect cooking at 160C.  They were salted and sprinkled with oregano and simply roasted for around 15-20 minutes until they dried just a little.  At the same time we roasted some artichoke hearts, cut into thin slices and cooked on the same plancha as the tomatoes.
We served the tortelloni on some freshly picked rocket, with the oven roasted cherry tomatoes, seared artichoke heart slices and mini mozzarella – finished off with some freshly grated parmesan!!
This was a really lovely supper and so easy.  The thing that set it all off was the nutmeg butter.. I have not used this with pasta before.  It is heady stuff and what a great combination!! The whole dish worked so well with the warm oven roasted tomatoes and the cool mozzarella.
………………………..definitely one to do again!!
Radiatori pasta with a creamy mushroom, pea and parmesan sauce

Radiatori pasta with a creamy mushroom, pea and parmesan sauce

We recently cooked pheasant breast in a creamy parmesan sauce (see here) and commented in the last blog that the sauce would work well as a pasta sauce.  So here we are!

The recipe for the sauce is largely the same as when cooked with pheasant breast although we added some finely chopped kale stems simply as we had some in the garden that needed to be used.  This is the sort of recipe which will happily accommodate what you have to hand.  The sauce was made exactly as we had done previously and so we will only cover it briefly here.

The EGG was set up for direct cooking.   The lardon/pancetta pieces were sautéed until they took on some colour then the chopped onion was added and cooked till translucent. Mushrooms followed and they were cooked for another 5 minutes before the garlic was then added and cooked through for another minute or so.

Time to deglaze the pan, adding the wine, then cooking off the alcohol and reducing the volume a little.  200ml of concentrated chicken stock was then added followed by a handful of peas (and on this occasion some finely chopped kale).  This was cooked for 2-3 minutes before taking the pan off the heat.

Once off the heat we stired in the creme fraiche and the parmesan and kept the pan warm whilst cooking the pasta. When the pasta was almost ready we put the sauce back on a gentle heat and added the pasta to the sauce with a little of the pasta water and completed the last minute of the pasta cooking as we tossed it in the sauce.

We were using Radiatori, a pasta developed in the period between the two World Wars and named as they look a little like a vintage car radiator.  They work really well with this sort of thick creamy sauce which clings beautifully.  Served with more fresh parmesan, this a very opulent pasta dish!

…………… definitely one to return to!!

 

 

Radiatori pasta with a creamy mushroom pea and parmesan sauce

June 18, 2021
: 2
: 10 min
: 20 min
: 30 min
: Easy

A lovely robust pasta with a great rich creamy rustic sauce!

By:

Ingredients
  • Small onion finely diced
  • 1 large garlic clove finely chopped
  • 150g mushrooms, stalks removed, sliced
  • 100g of lardon/pancetta/bacon
  • 50g of grated Parmesan
  • A handful of peas and a couple of finely chopped kale leaves/stems
  • 50g butter
  • A glug of olive oil
  • Glass of white wine
  • 200ml strong chicken stock (1 stockpot in 200ml water)
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking at around 180C (can also be done on the hob in a kitchen.) Heat the sauté pan and cook the lardon/pancetta pieces until they take on some colour.  Add the chopped onion and cook till translucent.
  • Step 2 Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until softening.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or so then add the wine to the pan to deglaze.  Cook for a few minutes to drive off the alcohol and to reduce the volume a little.  Add the stock and the peas and kale – cook for a further 3 minutes then remove from the heat
  • Step 3 add the creme fraiche and parmesan after putting the pan back on the heat and bringing the temperature up a little when you are ready to stir in the pasta.
  • Step 4 In a separate pan cook the pasta. With one minute of pasta cooking time left, transfer and stir it into the sauce with a little pasta water.  Serve with more parmesan

Pheasant Breast in a creamy parmesan sauce

Pheasant Breast in a creamy parmesan sauce

We have been slowly trying to clear things from the freezer and came across some frozen pheasant breasts.  A little out of season for the UK, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the produce or its free range pedigree!  Hunting round for a different way to prepare pheasant breasts we came across a recipe from “Wild and Game” in the UK.  The was for pheasant breast served with pasta – not something I wanted to do, but I did like the look of the sauce.

As a sauce (without the pheasant) I could imaging it would work tossed through pasta.  Here it serves as a vegetable, a sauce and also as a poaching liquid for the pheasant.  The other nice thing is that you can partially pre-make the sauce and bring it together with the pheasant at the last moment.

This was all cooked on the EGG set up for direct cooking.   It would also work well in a domestic kitchen on the hob too.  We used our Tefal Ingenio pans as they work so well on the EGG.  Once the temperature had stabilised out at around 180C the sauté pan was heated and the lardon/pancetta pieces were added and cooked until they took on some colour.  At this point the chopped onion was added and cooked till translucent. This was followed by the mushrooms which were cooked for another 5 minutes or so until softening.  The chopped garlic was then added and cooked through for a further minute or so.  That is the majority of the work completed.

The wine is then added to the pan.  This adds its own character to the sauce and also deglazes the pan.  This was cooked through for a few minutes to cook off all the alcohol and to reduce the volume a little.  At this point the 200ml of chicken stock was added (This was a concentrated mix made from one whole commercial stock pot added to  200 ml of water). Finally, a large handful of frozen peas were tossed in and cooked for 2-3 minutes before taking the pan off the heat.   If you are going on to cook the Pheasant straight away,once off the heat stir in  the creme fraiche and the parmesan and keep the pan warm.  If you are delaying cooking the Pheasant breasts then add the creme fraiche and parmesan after putting the pan back on the heat  and bringing the temperature up a little.

The Pheasant breasts were cooked in a separate pan in a mixture of butter and olive oil and a stalk of rosemary until they took on a good colour.  Their core temperature at this point was around 56-58C. The air vents were closed on the EGG and the remaining cooking was done with the residual heat. Pheasant breasts have a tendency to be a little dry even when cooked on the BGE if cooked at too high a temperature. Because of this we always aim to serve them a little pink.  The breasts were sat on the finished cream sauce and the 2 were cooked together in the BGE for 5 minutes or so till their core temperature approached 63-64C (American sites tend to suggest a finished temperature for any fowl as 74C but these have been at or above 60C for more than 12 minutes and so we are very comfortable with them being lower – see here for the explanation)

They were served simply with tray roasted root vegetables – these were also cooked on the MiniMax.  It may have been easier to cook this on the large BGE but we cooked all this on the  MiniMax simply to see if we could!  The vegetables were sautéed in a separate Tefal pan.  They were started off first in a separate pan and taken to the point when nearly cooked.  The pan was set to one side and kept warm.  The sauce was then made, up to the point of adding the Creme Fraiche and the parmesan.  This was also put to one side and kept warm whilst the pheasant breasts were sautéed in a 3rd pan.  The cream and the parmesan was stirred through the sauce which was gently warmed and the  pheasant breasts were put on top of the sauce.  The combination was cooked on the MiniMax for a few minutes.  This was set to one side, letting the pheasant rest whilst the vegetables were put back on the heat to finish off.

If you cook this on a larger Egg, then you can do it without all the pan swapping – but where is the fun in that!!?

All that was left to do was to plate up ……………….

…………… do give it a go!!

Footnote:

  • If you don’t fancy or can’t get hold of pheasant breasts – this works really well with chicken!
  • No pheasant or chicken breast?  The sauce works as a great pasta sauce by itself, just stir though some cooked pasta! – see here

 

Pheasant breast in creamy parmesan sauce

June 11, 2021
: 2
: 30 min
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: Moderate

Delightfully cooked pheasant breast in a wonderfully opulent rustic sauce!

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Pheasant breasts
  • Small onion finely diced
  • 1 large garlic clove finely chopped
  • 150g mushrooms, stalks removed, sliced
  • 100g for lardon/pancetta/bacon
  • 50g of grated Parmesan
  • A handful of peas
  • 50g butter
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • 2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
  • Glass of white wine
  • 200ml strong chicken stock (1 stockpot in 200ml water)
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking at around 180C (can also be done on the hob in a kitchen. Heat the sauté pan and cook the lardon/pancetta pieces until they take on some colour.  Add the chopped onion and cook till translucent.
  • Step 2 Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until softening.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for a further minute or so then add the wine to the pan to deglaze.  Cook for a few minutes to drive off the alcohol and to reduce the volume a little.  Add the stock and the peas – cook for a further 3 minutes then remove from the heat
  • Step 3 If you are going on to cook the Pheasant straight away then once off the heat stir in the creme fraiche and the parmesan and keep the pan warm.  If you are delaying cooking the pheasant breasts then add the creme fraiche and parmesan after putting the pan back on the heat  and bringing the temperature up a little when you are ready to finish off.
  • Step 4 In a separate pan sauté the Pheasant breasts in a butter and oil mix with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Once they have taken on a good colour and their core temperature is around 56-58C close the air vents on the EGG and do the remaining cooking with the residual heat. Sit the breasts into the finished cream sauce and cook the whole ensemble together in the BGE for 5 minutes or so till their core temperature approaches 63-64C
  • Step 5 Serve simply with tray roasted root vegetables

Nigel Slater’s Roasted Root Vegetables with Feta

Nigel Slater’s Roasted Root Vegetables with Feta

I can’t believe that we haven’t published this recipe before! This dish became one of our staple dishes during the 2020-21 UK lockdown period. It works well cooked in  a conventional oven as you would expect with a dish from Nigel Slater.  It is however so much better when cooked over charcoal on the Big Green Egg! The recipe follows the original Slater recipe quite closely. We do usually add some celeriac to it in place of some of the swede though. The other change we make is in the way we prepare the vegetables. Normally in a dish like this we would attempt to get the pieces of vegetable to be a similar size so they cook in a similar time. Here though we do the opposite, and look for both large and small pieces. This is to broaden the range of textures of the final dish. It is so often the range of textures I miss in a plant based dish, rather than the taste of anything meaty. Our third ‘tweak’ is to cook it at a slightly lower temperature but for slightly longer.  This seems to just give a favourable edge to the caramelisation we get on the vegetables.

The first thing to do is to set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C. We have also cooked the dish at around 160C without the platesetter in place. Cooking like this gives really good colour on the vegetables. It does, however, require more attention and more regular tossing of the vegetables.

The recipe works best with red onions. These were peeled, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Around 300-400g of swede and a similar about of celeriac was peeled and cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’. These mimic the size of the carrots, some thin and some thicker around 5-8cm long. The parsnips were peeled and cut into similar size pieces. The 4 carrots were also peeled and cut into similar pieces. All the vegetables were tossed in some olive oil and put into a roasting tin. For this we use the large Tefal Ingenio Sauté pan which makes a great roasting tin.  It also has the advantage that you can attach the handle and toss the vegetable when you need to.

We have used both smoked and fresh garlic, and as we are cooking over charcoal we have not found any great advantage of using the smoked garlic that Nigel Slater suggests.  The top of the garlic head was cut off and the head was tucked into the bed of vegetables.   We tucked in sprigs of fresh thyme around the dish and poured a little more oil over the vegetables.  The dish was roasted for 25-30 minutes before tossing the vegetables over and roasting for a further 20-25 minutes.

After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour.  At this point we removed the garlic, tossed the vegetables again and then mixed in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds.  The EGG was closed again and the vents opened a little to do the final 20 minutes of the roast at a slightly higher temperature.

The garlic that had been removed was squeezed out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and broken up with the back of a spoon.  The feta cheese was crumbled into the bowl and mixed with the garlic ready to dress the final dish just before serving.


Remove the roasted vegetables from the Big Green Egg and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix.  Simply plate up and then sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic and serve.

So why is it better on the EGG than in a conventional oven.  I think it is simply that even with the platesetter in place there is more ‘bottom heat’ in the EGG and so the base of the heavy pan has more opportunity to develop those characteristic ‘bottom of the roasting tin’ flavours

………………. give it a try and see what you think!

 

Variations: don’t feel constrained by the mix and proportion of vegetables used here.  feel free to alter the amounts and try others too

Baked root vegetables with feta cheese

June 4, 2021
: 2
: 15 min
: 1 hr 20 min
: 1 hr 35 min
: Easy

Beautifully caramelised root vegetables offset with the tang of Feta cheese

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Red Onions
  • 300-600g swede
  • 100-300g celeriac
  • 2 parsnips
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 head of garlic (possibly smoked)
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs mustard seeds
  • 6 bushy sprigs of thyme
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil.
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C.  
  • Step 2 Peel the red onions, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Peel the swede and the celeriac – (around 600g in total). Cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’.  Peel the parsnips and cut into similar size pieces and similarly with the 4 carrots. Toss all the vegetables in some olive oil in the roasting tin. Cut the top off the garlic and tuck into the bed of vegetables.   Tuck in the thyme in a similar way. Pour a little oil over the vegetables.  
  • Step 3 Roast in the BGE for 25-30 minutes then toss and roast for a further 20 minutes. It may be worth tossing the veg occasionally in addition
  • Step 4 After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour.  Remove the garlic, toss the vegetables again and mix in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds.  Close theEGG, open the vents a little and roast for final 20 minutes at a slightly higher temperature.
  • Step 5 In this last 20 minute period squeeze the softened garlic out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and break up with the back of a spoon.  Crumble the Feta cheese into the bowl and mixed with the garlic.
  • Step 6 Remove the roasted vegetables and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix.  Plate up and sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic to serve.

Italian rabbit with peppers

Italian rabbit with peppers

Over the last few years when travelling in Tuscany I have been tempted on a few occasions to buy and cook a rabbit, Italian style.  Only having the Mini BGE with us I have been reluctant, as casseroling on a 10 inch Kamado never seemed quite possible  (I have not found a casserole dish small enough to fit – yet!!)!  As we can’t travel to Tuscany at the moment, it does mean we have access to a greater range of BGEs at home.  All we needed therefore was the rabbit and a recipe or 2 to play with!!  Today we had both – so here we go!

The recipe is based on one of Anna Del Conte’s recipes from her classic book The Gastronomy of Italy (a birthday present for my last ‘significant’ birthday). Del Conte’s recipe was itself based on a classic from La Cucina d’Ora – a ‘tome and a half’ with more than 1500 classic regional recipes, published in corporation with the Accademia Italiana della Cucina.  A variation of the recipe also appears in ‘La Cuchina – The regional cooking of Italy’ in the section from Piedmont in the Northwest of Italy (but without the anchovies!).

The BGE was set up for direct cooking and allowed to stabilise at around 180C.  Whilst waiting we portioned the rabbit into the 4 limbs – the loin was also portioned into 4 pieces (there are lots of You Tube videos demonstrating this, or you can ask your butcher).

In many ways it would be easier to cook this dish in the large BGE as you could have 2 pans on the heat at the same time.  Despite this we elected to cook on the MiniMax just to see how it would go.  If you can cook it on a small BGE, you can always cook it in a larger one!

Half the butter and a similar volume of olive oil was added with the rosemary.  The hot oil quickly absorbs the essential oils from the rosemary.
The Bay leaf and the rabbit pieces were added and the rabbit browned on all sides.  When all were nicely brown add the stock and cook for around 20 minutes.  The casserole was moved from the BGE,  the cooking continuing with the stored heat from the pan.

A second pan was put in the MiniMax to heat up.  The remaining butter and a similar volume of olive oil was added to the pan with the anchovy fillets.  The anchovies quickly become a mush which thickens the oil. This is just the time to add the garlic and the pepper strips.  The original recipe uses yellow peppers – but we had red ones, and I think they look great!  They were seasoned with pepper, but not salt as the anchovies were already salty.  The peppers were cooked for around 5 minutes then the vinegar was added and stirred through.  They were then cooked for a further 10 minutes until they softened a little, stirring regularly.

The pepper mixture was added to the casserole with the rabbit and the casserole was returned to the BGE.  The air vents were shut back to allow the temperature to fall a little.  The dish was cooked for another 30 minutes turning the pieces 2 or three times in this period.  (You could probably reduce this to around 20 minutes with a farmed rabbit).

All that was left to do was to plate up. We sat the rabbit on a small piece of sourdough to absorb the rich sauce and served with steamed broccoli.  We served one large hind leg and a piece of loin each and saved the rest for a second rabbit dish which we will publish soon.

…………………………………. do give it a go!

Footnote: Most of today’s chicken recipes started their lives as rabbit recipes – so in a ‘turn about’ this recipe would work well with chicken instead of rabbit!!

A whole rabbit is enough for 4 people – but as there are just 2 of us we used the second part of this casseroles the basis of another simple dish – link here

 

Italian rabbit with red peppers

May 28, 2021
: 2-4
: 30 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: 2 hr
: Moderate

A great roasted and casseroled rabbit dish from the heart of Italy cooked with red peppers and enriched with anchovies - an Italian classic

By:

Ingredients
  • One rabbit (about 1Kg)
  • 5 tbs olive oil
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbs rosemary leaves
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 100 ml of stock
  • 6-8 canned anchovies fillets
  • 2 garlic clove - chopped
  • 3 red peppers deseeded and cut into strips
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking and allowed to stabilise at around 180C. Whilst waiting portion the rabbit into the 4 limbs and portion the loin into 2 or 4 pieces – or get your butcher to do this
  • Step 2 Add half the butter and a similar volume of oil to a casserole dish and add the rosemary. Cook for a minute to allow the oils to absorb the rosemary essential oils. Add the Bayleaf and the rabbit pieces. Brown the rabbit well on all sides then add the stock and cook for around 20 minutes before removing the pan from the EGG.
  • Step 3 Add a second pan to the BGE and heat. Add the remaining butter and oil along with the anchovy fillets. The anchovies quickly become a mush which thickens the oil. Add the garlic and the pepper strips.  Season with pepper, but not salt as the anchovies were already salty.  Cook for around 5 minutes then add the vinegar and stir.  Cook for a further 10 minutes until they soften a little, stirring regularly.
  • Step 4 Add the pepper mixture to the casserole with the rabbit and return the casserole to the BGE.  Close the air vents to a small opening to allow the temperature to fall a little.  Cook for a further 30 minutes turning the pieces 2 or three times in this period.  (You could probably reduce this to around 20 minutes with a farmed rabbit). Check the seasoning and see if any salt in particular is required
  • Step 5 Plate up the dish – it is worth sitting the rabbit on a small piece of bread to absorb the rich sauce

Rabbit, peppers and gnocchi

Rabbit, peppers and gnocchi

If cooking during the pandemic has taught me anything it has to be about simple innovation using ingredients you have to hand. Similarly, it is about using one dish/recipe as the basis for another similar, but distinctively different dish.

This dish is a good example of that.  The primary recipe (here) used the 2 rear legs and a little of the rabbit loin for the main dish for 2 people. This left some fantastic sauce, and some great cooked peppers, and a smaller portion of the rabbit.  Obviously we could have just eaten it again as a slightly less opulent dish.  Instead we gave it a little (frugal) twist.  This made it go further, but more importantly gave it a different character and the feeling of a ‘new dish’!  The idea was very simple; bring the meat and the sauce up to serving temperature, loosen the sauce slightly with a little stock, and then cook some gnocchi in the sauce.

And really it was as simple as that. It had been a lovely afternoon and we had been making stock from the rabbit carcass on the Big Green Egg.  The rabbit and sauce still in its original casserole from 2 days earlier was put on the EGG and allowed to thoroughly warm through.  A good ladleful of the rabbit stock was added and stirred through the sauce.  The pan had been warming for a good 20 minutes and we had tested that the meat was above the minimal safe core temperature for reheated food (The minimum legally accepted temperature for reheating of food is 75C in England and Wales and 82C in Scotland).   The gnocchi was added and stirred into the sauce and allowed to cook.  Our gnocchi on this occasion were not home made. They normally require around 3 minutes cooking in boiling water – but when cooked in a sauce like this I tend to leave them a little longer.  They certainly come to no harm and contribute a little to the thickening of the sauce.

All that was then left to do was to plate up with our chosen accompaniments.

…………….. on this occasion we served the dish with spiced cabbage and purple and green sprouting broccoli.  The gnocchi gave a lovely rich oppulence to an already fantastic tasting sauce and complimented the rest of the dish perfectly!

……………….. do give it a go!

Rabbit, peppers and gnocchi

May 24, 2021
: 2
: 30 min
: Very easy

A simple way of taking the leftovers of a previous casserole, making it go just a little farther with a different 'taste twist'

By:

Ingredients
  • The remains of a rabbit and pepper casserole cooked earlier (would work with many other casseroles too)
  • Ladle of good stock
  • 150g gnocchi
Directions
  • Step 1 Bring the remains of the old casserole up to temperature till the meat reaches a safe core temperature.
  • Step 2 Add a generous ladle of good stock
  • Step 3 Add the gnocchi and cook for 5-6 minutes
  • Step 4 Serve with your choice of vegetables

Cooking Blog of the Year – UK 2021

Cooking Blog of the Year – UK 2021

                 

We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded the Award for “Cooking Blog of the Year – UK  2021” by LuxLife Magazine in their 2021 Restaurant and Bar Awards.

It is great to be nominated for such an award and when you are told that you have won – it is difficult to put into words.

This website, which started simply as a place for us to store our recipes and to keep some working notes on those in development, has proved to be very popular and we are delighted that so many people seem to find it valuable.  We have gone from just a few visits to our blog in the first year to thousands and thousands. This year is no exception and it looks like we will get as many visits by June as we got in the whole of last year – and that was a bumper year too.

We are in the middle of a pandemic which has involved us all changing our lifestyles to protect others.  Many people have found a ‘new joy’ in preparing and trying new foods.  If we have done a little to help in that regard we are delighted.  We have certainly cooked more outside this year – despite the British weather.  We have also changed the types of food we cook and are including more plant-based cooking where we can.  Like so many people we are trying to remain that little bit healthier too.

So onward into 2021 – enjoy your own cooking journeys and share those pleasures whenever you can

Thanks so much for the nomination for the award and for all the support we have had to get to this point.

……………… now lets go and cook something!!

Best wishes

Mark and Jackie

Link to the Award on the LuxLife Website here
Chilli Mole – A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli

Chilli Mole – A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli

This cook is based on a recipe from Boxxfresh, a UK company supplying really great fresh fruit and vegetables. They described Mole (pronounced ‘mo-lay’) as the ‘quintessential chilli sauce native to Mexico’. It apparently literally means ’everyday sauce’!   As such it is ladled over nachos, tacos, enchiladas, burritos or served on rice.  The recipe takes care to mimic what so many of us think of a “Chilli” meaning Chilli con Carne.  But this is a plant based dish or one of the plant-centric dishes we are cooking more and more.  So whilst mimicking this classic meat based dish it uses chopped mushrooms to recreate some of the texture of minced beef and does so very well.  It returns to its origins in South America with tomatoes, black beans, dark chocolate, chillies and cinnamon spices to create what they describe as ‘deep soulful flavours that will have you reaching for seconds!’

We have used Boxxfresh (no links) to supply most of the plant based food we have eaten during the first 12 months of the covid pandemic.  Together with supplying fantastic products they are actively helping and encouraging people to make more of, and more with fruit and vegetables. This recipe started out as one of the many on their site (see here) with just a few little adjustments for cooking it on the Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg was lit and allowed to heat up to around 180C.  Whilst the temperature settled we blitzed the mushrooms in the food processor, being carful not to process it too far.  The whole thing could be cooked directly in a Dutch Oven but I prefer to use a wide shallow handle free pan to start things off.  The  mushrooms were gently fried off in olive oil in this pan until softened.  These were then set aside.

As the food processor had already been used we also blitzed the onions and then cooked in the same pan as we had the mushrooms.  After a minute or so the chopped garlic was added. We have also come to add the red pepper (which we use instead of the chilli in the original recipe) at this stage.  This was softened with the onions. (We have also done them separately and added them back in when the mushrooms were added back – but this is just easier).

The onions were cooked until translucent at which point the spice mix was then stirred through and cooked for another minute or so.

The platesetter was put in place to move the BGE to indirect cooking.  A small chunk of oak was added to the charcoal to add to the smoky flavours developed in the second part of the cook.

The onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix was transferred to a Dutch oven together with the 2 tins of beans.  This was then put into the EGG and allowed to warm through.  Once warmed, the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine were all added to the pot and gently mixed together.  The whole dish was brought to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
Finally, the mushrooms, (the sautéed peppers if you choose to cook them separately), chocolate and maple syrup were added and stirred through the dish.  As you will see from the picture we had slightly misjudged the volume of the ingredients.  The pan was very full to say the least.  Normally we would have cooked this for around 90 minutes or so at around 150-160C.  Because the pan was so full we cooked at around 110C instead.  This proved to be a great decision!

At 110C we ended up with a very slow cook taking around 5hrs.  During this time the volume reduced, though only a little, and the colour deepened.  More importantly the taste took on a really complex richness, more than we have had before.  It will be ‘low and slow’ for this dish from now on!

Served with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips – you really can’t go wrong!!

…………. do give it a go!!

 

Chilli sin Carne - a plant-centric version of a classic

April 9, 2021
: 6
: 40 min
: 4 hr
: Easy

A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli con carne!

By:

Ingredients
  • Main Iingredents
  • 250g of mushrooms
  • 2 red onions or 3 shallots
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 Red pepper (could substitute with 1/2 or 1 whole chilli)
  • 2 tins of black beans of kidney beans or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp Tamari
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 large glass red wine
  • 10g of dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A little water if required
  • --
  • For the spicing
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika ( smoked of you have it )
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to season
Directions
  • Step 1 This can be cooked inside on the hob and oven – or on the BGE – or a combination of both. When the weather isn’t great we sometimes do the first part in the kitchen on the hob
  • Step 2 Light the Big Green Egg and allow it to heat up to around 180C.  
  • Step 3 Blitz the mushrooms in the food processor Leave them coarse)
  • Step 4 Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until coloured and softened, either directly in a dutch oven or in a handless pan (if working on the BGE).  Set aside.
  • Step 5 Blitz the onions and cook in the same pan as the mushrooms. After a minute or so add the chopped garlic after a couple of minutes more add the red pepper and softened with the onions. When the onions are translucent add the spice mix and stir through for another minute or so.  
  • Step 6 Add the platesetter to the BGE and add some smoking wood to the charcoal
  • Step 7 Transfer the onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix to a Dutch oven (if not already using the Dutch oven)together with the 2 tins of beans.  Place on the EGG and allow to warm through.  Then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine to the pot and stir through. Bring to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
  • Step 8 Finally, add the mushrooms, chocolate and maple syrup and stir through the dish.  Cook at around 110C for at least 3hrs (or at 180C for 90m
  • Step 9 Serve with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips

 

Vegetable Bourguignon – sounds ridiculous but it is great!!

Vegetable Bourguignon – sounds ridiculous but it is great!!

Our youngest daughter has been a French citizen for more than 20 years and when I said I was going to cook a vegetable Bourguignon her reply showed the initial contempt one might expect from a French woman!  The term for the brilliant (more…)

Le Croque Monsieur – Mr Crunch!

Le Croque Monsieur – Mr Crunch!

Great food does not need to be complicated.  This is a simple twist on the classic ‘Croque Monsieur’. Croque Monsieur literally means ‘Mr Crunch’ – and that is what we are going to build.  The classic dish is made with smoked ham, Gruyère and a mustered infused Béchamel on country sourdough and baked in the oven.  This is a ‘shortcut’ dish – but no worse for that!

Take 2 slices of sourdough bread, and then place a couple of thin slices of a smoked ham on one of those (see here for smoked ham recipe).  Then add a couple of slices of brie which works really well on top of that.  Top off with the second slice of sourdough.   Heat some oil in a sauté pan or on a plancha and sit the bread on top. Once the base has become golden and coloured nicely flip the sandwich over and toast/sauté the other side.

Serve on a green salad………………………. it is as simple as that!!

Cooked on the hob or the BGE this is a great dish!

…………………………………………. enjoy!!

 

Piperade – a Basque dish that has so many uses!!

Piperade – a Basque dish that has so many uses!!

We have probably done a greater variety of cooking this year as we have largely been confined to home during the Covid pandemic in 2020.   I have intended to use the time to do more writing for the site – but in the end we have cooked more and written less!!

One thing we have been doing is (more…)

Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

We have been playing with meat free dishes for a while and although it is taking us out of our comfort zone we are having fun with the step by step exploration.   We have really enjoyed refining our Aubergine Parmigiana but one day we didn’t have enough aubergine, but we did have a little gnocchi.  And so we came to this dish.  On the first trial run we went with a simple parmigiana sauce.  This worked really well, especially with the addition of some red peppers.  This is the dish we will describe here.  We have also tweaked the recipe further and moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives but without the chilli.  We will look at that recipe later!

The dish is simplicity itself.  The aubergine was cut into decent size chunks.  I like them to be odd shapes rather than cubes, but what ever way they should be around 3 cm in most directions.  These were sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly.

We then added the chopped pepper and cooked for a few minutes more. Then set both the peppers and aubergine mix to one side.  The onion was finely chopped and added to the pan to soften in a little olive oil.  Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added too and cooked for a few minutes more.

The can of chopped tomatoes was tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  At this point we added the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi.  The sauce was left to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the gnocchi was soft and the sauce had thickened.   This would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish, but as we were cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.

We stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  You could also add a little grated parmesan cheese to add more crunch to the top if you fancy the idea. We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well.

The vents were closed on the Egg and the cheese allowed to melt for a minute or two.  Whether cooking in a domestic kitchen or on the Big Green Egg the dish really needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well (unless you are using a very small pan in a much larger EGG).   The dish was put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!

Serve with a green salad ………………… give it a go!

Variation

Add anchovies, capers and black olives rather than the finely chopped red pepper – but we will link to this later!!

 

Gnocchi, Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake

October 29, 2020
: 2
: 15 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr
: Easy

A combination of roasted Aubergines, tomato sauce and gnocchi - a perfect and simple bake

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 Aubergine cut into decent size chunks.
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 Red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove chopped
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 250g gnocchi
  • Fresh or dried oregano and thyme
  • 125g mozzarella
  • Grated parmesan (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the aubergine into chunks, around 3 cm in most directions. Sauté in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a few minutes more.  Set both the peppers and aubergine to one side.
  • Step 2 Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and soften in a little olive oil.  Once it takes on some colour add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes more.  
  • Step 3 Toss in the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Step 4 Add the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi and leave the sauce to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. The gnocchi will soften and the sauce thicken.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish, stir through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scatter torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  At this point you can also add a little grated parmesan cheese
  • Step 5 To get a crunchy top transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
  • Step 6 Serve with a green salad

Simple Rump Steak

Simple Rump Steak

It is so easy to get carried away with ‘clever recipes’.  At times we should get back to how simple first rate cooking can be.  That goes for the BBQ too!  This is a perfect example of that – a wonderfully cooked rump steak!  What could be simpler?  A good piece of rump and something hot to cook it on.   We found these 2 small rump steaks in the freezer.  They weighed just 360g (together) and had been hung for 28 days before VacPacking.

There are so many ways of cooking steak but in principal, they are all the same.  Apply lots of heat to the outside of the steak so it colours and undergoes the Maillard reaction but keep the inside relatively cool so it doesn’t overcook.

The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reduced sugars that gives seared food its distinctive flavour.  It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard. He first described the reaction in 1912.  It occurs most  rapidly  between 140 to 165C. At higher temperatures caramelisation occurs (a browning of sugars). When cooking steak it is likely that both processes are present.  When the meat touches a surface the surface temperature drops.  If it starts at 250C it may quickly fall (at the surface) to between 140-165C.

So we need a hot surface and one that will contact as much of the meat as possible – we have (largely) moved from using the cast iron grill (which is good) to using a solid cast iron surface (which is better).  And perhaps one of the easiest to use is the flat side of the cast-iron plancha made for the BGE MiniMax.

(This is a really good product in it’s own right and also makes a great lid for the matching skillet).   Simply light the EGG and allow the temperature to get up to around 180C.  Then add the stainless steel grid and place the plancha on top and allow the temperature to increase to around 250C.

The steak was around 2cm thick and had been allowed to come to room temperature for an hour or so.  It was dried before seasoning with salt.  You can wipe with a little oil before seasoning with salt – or simply get straight to it and season with salt.  The steak was dropped onto the plancha and the lid of the EGG closed.  The steak was cooked for probably 90 seconds, then flipped over  for a further 90 seconds.  At this point, we used an instant read thermometer to measure the core temperature of the steak.

We were looking to remove these steaks from the heat when the core temperature reached 51C so that when resting the core temperature would drift towards around 56C and a nice medium finish.
Depending on the temperature at this point, then the rest of the cooking time was estimated.  The remaining cooking time was  divide between the 2 surfaces – on this occasion ours needed a further 60 seconds on each side.  Just before the core temperature reached 50C we stood the steaks on their fatty edge to render the fat and to make it beautifully brown “crozzley”!! – The Maillard reaction on full throttle!

The steaks were removed and wrapped in a double layer of foil and covered with a towel to keep warm whilst they rest for around 10 minutes. We use this time to cook or finish off whatever vegetables we are intending to serve with the steak.

 

Plating was simple: slice some or all of the steak across the grain and serve on your chosen vegetables.  Add a little olive oil and fresh pepper

……………….. serve and enjoy the fruits of your labours!

 

Simple Rump Steak

October 2, 2020
: 2 - scalable
: 5 min
: 5 min
: Easy

Rump steak cooked simply on very hot cast-iron - possibly the perfect way to do a steak

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 or 2 good rump steaks - these were 180g each
  • Salt
Directions
  • Step 1 With a steak around 2cm thick bring to room temperature for around 1 hour, dry and season with salt (if you wish pre-wipe with olive oil.
  • Step 2 Light the BGE and when it reaches around 180C add the stainless steel grid and place a cast-iron plancha on top and allow the temperature to increase to around 250C
  • Step 3 Drop the steak onto the plancha and closet the lid of the EGG.  Sear for around 90 seconds then flip over for a further 90 seconds.  At this point, use an instant read thermometer to measure the core temperature of the steak.
  • Step 4 Calculate the rest of the cooking time depending on the temperature with perhaps up to 60 seconds more on each side.  When the core temperature reached 50C stand the steaks on their fatty edge to render the fat and make it crispy
  • Step 5 Remove the steaks and wrap in a double layer of foil and cover with a towel to keep warm whilst it rests for around 10 minutes. Use this time to finish off whatever vegetables you are intending to serve with the steak.
  • Step 6 Plate and serve