Outflanked

Today I cooked one of my favourite pieces of steak: flank. Sometimes known as bavette, eaten more widely on the continent than here at home in the UK. Often referred to as ‘butcher’s cut’ as in the past it was often reserved by the butcher for him/herself, flank steak is growing in popularity as it’s a cheaper cut of meat than most and, in my opinion, far superior in flavour (if it’s been treated well, aged and prepared properly).

There isn’t a local butcher where I live but there is a great butcher close to where I work so as I’m home alone for the next week, I thought I’d treat myself. Flam doesn’t really need marinating, but it does need cooking the right way to ensure it’s both enjoyable to eat and easy to digest. I made a marinade and did a lot of the prep on Friday, cooking the steak on Sunday,

For the marinade:

  • 2 whole Ancho chilies
  • 1tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3tbsp Henderson’s relish (Worcestershire sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2cm fresh ginger (finely chopped)
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • Water to make up to 200ml of marinade

Combine all of the above in a jug and allow the chilis to soften. Ancho are the dried Poblano chilis and have a mild but deep smoky flavour. After 24hrs, pour the marinade into a reliable bag and add the steak. Squish about a bit and place in the fridge for 24hrs or so.

The cooking bit

Remove the marinating meat from the fridge about ten minutes prior to cooking to allow it to come up to room temperature. Pour the liquid into a small saucepan to make a sauce.  remove all the bits of pepper, garlic and ginger adhering to the steak and pop them into the saucepan with the liquid. Pat the steak dry and put to one side.

Heat up a griddle pan or a heavy frying pan until it is smoking. DO NOT oil either the meat or the pan. The heat should be sufficient to seal and cook the meat without the need for oil (which only creates a lot of unwanted smoke). Place the steak in the pan and leave it alone. Don’t move it around, press it down or anything. After three minutes, turn the steak over. Continue cooking the steak for a further three minutes. This should result in a rare to med/rare steak. Remove the steak from the pan and slice, with the grain, into strips. Place sliced steak in a warm place for 20 mins or so whilst you prepare your accompaniments.

 

The sauce

I don’t feel it’s necessary to make a sauce to go with the steak but it seems such a waste to just throw the marinade away. Bring the liquid to the boil and strain out the bits, returning the liquid to the pan. Add a dozen or so whole black peppercorns. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the liquid to reduce to about 50ml. Just before you serve up, add about 100ml of double/heavy cream. Stir well and bring to a boil but do not boil! Pour into a jug and serve alongside.

I fried a few mushrooms (shiitake, enokitake and oyster) in butter and garlic, sautéed some potatoes and softened a few cherry tomatoes and green beans in butter and oregano to eat alongside the steak.

Porky Al Forno

A slight variation on the caulifornication recipe making the al forno dish more of a side-dish.

  • 1x leek
  • 1x carrot
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1x clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2x new potatoes
  • breadcrumb and parmesan mix

This first stage can be done in advance. The carrot and potato were left over but basically cook both until just on the soft side of al dente. Slice and boil the leek for three minutes then strain and cool with cold water. Once cold, pat dry. Slice the potato. Melt a knob of butter and a splash of oil in a frying pan. Chop the garlic and fry gently until soft. Do not allow to brown. Add the leeks, potato and carrot and fry for about five minutes. Add the cream and the mustard and stir well. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish, allow to cool if preparing in advance, and cover tightly with foil.

The veg was put in the fridge until needed the next day. I also prepared the pork chop as follows:

  • 1x pork chop (approx. 200g/ 1in thick, bone in)
  • 1x clove garlic
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4tbsp light soy sauce
  • black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a re-sealable freezer bag. Score the pork chop in a diamond pattern and place in the bag with the marinade. Massage gently and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

When it’s tea time, preheat the oven to 200C and put the veg into the oven for 25 mins.

After 25 mins, heat up some butter and oil in a pan and seal the pork chop on all sides. Transfer to an oven tray and place in the oven for 10 mins. Take the veg out and uncover. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese and put back into the oven for about 5 mins until the top is browned and the cheese has melted.

Check the chop is cooked through and serve

Caulifornication

Please excuse the pun. I’m tired and I can’t think of anything else right now.

I was looking for an accompaniment to some plain old roast chicken and had a cauliflower and a leek in the cupboard so I adapted a potato and leek al forno recipe. The resulting dish, however would probably serve as a main dish on it’s own (vegetarian if you omit the lardons)

  • Half a cauliflower, broken up into florets
  • 1x leek
  • 2tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 rashers of thick cut smoky bacon (optional if vegetarian)
  • 500ml double cream
  • 2 slices stale bread
  • grated parmesan

I blanched the cauliflower florets in boiling water and turmeric for about 5 mins then cooled them rapidly under the cold tap. When cooled, slice thickly.  The leek was sliced, blanched for 3 mins and drained.

Meanwhile the anchovy fillets and the garlic were chopped and heated in the pan until the garlic had softened. Then add the bacon chopped into small pieces if using. Cook until the lardons are starting to get a bit crispy then add the leeks and sliced cauliflower florets. Cook covered for a further 5 mins on a medium heat. Add the creams, stir, and cover tightly with foil. Place in a hot oven (200C) for 30 mins.

After half an hour, remove from the oven, uncover and sprinkle the parmesan and the bread (crumbed in the food processor) over the top. Return to the oven for 10 mins or until the top is browned.

I served it up with roast chicken and pickled carrots. The carrots were dead easy and took about 5 mins to prepare: Add 1 cup of white or apple cider vinegar, one cup of water, 1 tsp salt and 3 tsps. sugar to a pan. Bring to boil so salt and sugar are dissolved. Using a peeler, cut a couple of carrots into ribbons and place in a bowl with dill and garlic. Pour the vinegar over the carrots and allow to cool. When cold, discard the liquor, dill and garlic and serve.

Shoots of Spring

This time of year sees the homegrown crop of asparagus hit the shelves.

Usually asparagus just gets a quick steam or boil, a knob of butter and served as an accompanimaent. Leftovers tend to end up in an omelete or salad.

However of late, I’ve been cooking and eating asparagus as a dish in it’s own right as a quick and tasty snack

  • 1x bunch of asparagus (12 spears)
  • Parmesan
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Couple grinds of salt & pepper

Trim the bottom 2cm or so off each spear as it tends to be a bit woody. Peel the bottom third of each stalk to remove any tough skin.

Blanch the spears in boiling water for no more than 1 minute then cool rapidly in cold water, iced water is good.

Pat dry and preheat the oven to 200C.

Arrange the spears in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Shave strips of parmesan and lay on top of the asparagus.

sparrowgrass

Pop into the oven for 5-10 mins until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.

Pork’n’Beans

 

Usually pork’n’beans is a throw-together, last minute sort of a meal. Due to some sort of a mix up with the shopping we had a surfeit of baby plum tomatoes so I looked in the cupboard to see what was lurking in there that could be used with the tomatoes as I was getting a bit bored of salad. And salsa.

In the back of the cupboard was a tin of cannellini beans so, along with a few other bits and pieces, I had a go at baked beans.

For the beans

  • 1x 250g punnet of baby plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3x cloves garlic
  • bunch of spring onions
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1x 400g cannellini beans

Chop the onion and quarter all the tomatoes. Finely chop the garlic and soften the onion and garlic in a knob of butter and a splash of oil in a saucepan. Add the paprika after 5 mins and continue to cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes (skin, pips and all) and the tomato puree. Bring to the boil, cover and cook on a low heat for about an hour. Rinse the beans well and add them to the sauce and set aside.

Pork’n’beans

The beans were allowed to cool overnight. Two rashers of belly pork were put in an earthenware dish, seasoned and covered. They were slow cooked at 160C for three hours or until most of the fat has rendered down and the skin has crisped up (you may wish to uncover the chops for the last half hour and cook at 200C). The pork was drained and patted dry. In another dish, the cold beans were spread over the bottom and the pork placed on top. This was then put into the oven at 200C for as long as it takes to make a rich buttery mashed potato. About 25 mins.

I didn’t bother (I was too hungry to wait any longer) but you could serve with cabbage, or broccoli. I just served the pork’n’beans with mash. There were no leftovers.

Spiced Caulistilton soup

Some weeks ago I bought what I thought was a bargain. 500g of Stilton for a pound. There was a reason it was a pound: it was almost runny. I didn’t discover this until I opened the cheese one evening. It was also a bit too mature, even for me.

Nevertheless I didn’t bin it I just did the usual and put it back in the fridge. Yesterday I noticed there was a cauliflower lurking in the veg drawer so today I’ve made a sort of cream of cauliflower and Stilton soup which we’ll have for tea tonight.

Ingredients

1 medium cauliflower

500g Stilton (or other blue cheese)

3 shallots

bunch of spring onions

1tsp each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and turmeric

1/2tsp black peppercorns

1 litre chicken stock (or veg stock)

knob of butter

300ml double cream

Finely chop one shallot and the spring onions. Sweat them off in the butter. Meanwhile toast the coriander, cumin and peppercorns and grind. Add the turmeric and add to the shallot/spring onions.. Stir well to combine then add the cauliflower florets and the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the cauliflower is soft. Meanwhile slice the two remaining shallots and shallow fry until crispy. Set aside, pat dry and allow to cool.

Add the cheese and the cream and bring up to the ‘almost boil’. Use either a stick blender or food processor to blitz the soup until it’s, er, soupy.

Serve with warm crusty bread and crispy fried shallots.

Cardaplums

A few weeks ago I went a bit mad and bought loads of plums. Now those that remain uneaten are going a bit soft so it’s time to get busy. 

Take a dozen ripe plums and quarter them into a casserole. The ones I had were a bit tart despite being ripe so I took about 15g of sugar and a dozen cardamom pods. I deseeded the pods and added the seeds to the sugar and ground the mix to dust in the mortar and pestle.


I mixed the three ingredients together and put them in a hot oven (180C) for about 30mins. When they had cooked down I cooled them and put them in the freezer until later. 


Perfect hot with ice cream or in a sweet pastry tart. With ice cream

Strawberry Clotted Cream Ice Cream

A seasonal glut of strawberries led to my local supermarket offering loads of fruit for very little money. After having them with granola for breakfast and floating in various cocktails what remained started to look a bit squishy. 

A bit of caster sugar and about two tablespoons of lime juice were added to a pan of about 500g of quartered strawberries. After about 20mins on a medium heat with the lid on they were seived and the liquid put back on the heat and condensed down to about 200ml. 

Meanwhile four egg yolks and 100g of caster sugar where beaten together until light and fluffy. 300ml of double cream and two pots of clotted cream were mixed with a splash of milk and a tsp of vanilla bean paste (not as nice as vanilla pods) and heated to 70C. Some of the hot cream was added to the eggs and sugar and thoroughly mixed. This was poured back into the remaining hot cream and stirred continuously over a medium heat until it thickened. 

This custard was allowed to cool and about 100ml of the strawberry syrup stirred into it. This mixture was then churned in an ice cream machine until it was gorgeous. 

Chicken Espagnolish

Home alone this weekend so after chores and shopping I set about getting dinner ready. 

Three skin-on, bone in chicken thighs were dusted with Ras El Hanout and roasted at 190C for 25 mins and allowed to drain and cool. 

I quartered a out 10s of chorizo and sliced it up along with two onions, a clove of garlic and four plum tomatoes. 

When the chicken had cooled I boned and chopped it up. Then set about the rest of the chores. 

When it was time to cook I heated a frying pan and heated the chorizo to release the oil. The chorizo was removed and the onions and garlic softened in the oil for about 20mins. I then added the tomatoes and the chorizo to the pan and cooked them gently until the tomatoes disintegrated. Finally the chicken was stirred in and heated through (about 10mins).

Served with plain brown rice and a good rioja!


Needed chopped parsley

Camping it up

Not about food at all. Well maybe a bit. As a family we spent a couple of weeks in France this summer but all too soon we were back home and back into the routine of work. 

This week however, I took a leave of absence and Mathew and I have come to Catgill in the Yorkshire Dales for a couple of nights under canvas. 

The weather is glorious, the barbecue is giving off the heat signature of a small sun and we’re just sitting in the sun relaxing. A guy could get used to this.