Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pigs Heart Ragu

The question is not "why would you want to eat pig's heart?" but rather "why would you NOT want to eat pig's heart?"

I know a lot of people turn their nose up at offal dishes.  But think about this, when you eat a nice bit of topside of beef, you're eating a cow's butt cheeks.  If you're going to eat meat, you really should ALL the animal.  In these days when we are tightening our belts, offal dishes make a brilliant, tasty and above all cheap alternative to more traditional cuts of meat.  Consider that this dish, when served with polenta, probably cost somewhere in the region of £2.00 per serving, for a dish which I think was easily tasty and unusual enough to be the equal of many more expensive dishes.

Plus there's a badge of honour to be won by eating offal (and I suspect that this plays no small part in my love for heart, liver, kidneys, tongue and tripe) by watching more squeamish people's faces either squirm at the thought of eating it, or be impressed by your culinary daring.  Even if it's the same thing their grandparents ate without even considering it.

And if all this still hasn't made you at least consider eating more offal - it's cheap and easy to find in every butchers and supermarket - then you really are missing out on a world of tasty excitement!  Feel free, by the way, to tell me your non-offal-eating excuses in the comments...

Also, I served the ragu with polenta, mostly because my potatoes were of a rather elderly vintage and starting to sprout, but also because I've only had it once before, and we bought a 2kg bag, which goes a looooooong way.  It was rather a revelation, quick to make and tasty - possibly because I put a weekend amount* of butter in it, so it was creamy and rich.

*i.e. the amount you put in when you are treating yourself, as opposed to a weekday amount when you are still kidding yourself you are sticking to your diet plans...

500g Pigs Heart
1 Large Onion
4 Carrots
3 Stalks Celery
1 Tin Tomatoes
75ml Red Wine
2 Bay Leaves
1tsp Fresh Thyme
Plain Flour
Salt and Pepper

1. Remove any excess fat from the hearts and cut into 2cm wide strips.  Wash under cold water and then pat dry with a kitchen towel.

2. Put some seasoned flour into a bowl and toss the meat in it until its all covered.

3.  Heat some oil in a large, heavy pan.  Put the floured meat in and fry until the heart starts to brown.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Add the finely chopped vegetables to the oil (adding a little more if needed) and gently fry until softened and starting to colour.

5.  Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme, bay and the heart to the pan and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

6.  Let the ragu cook for 2-3 hours, stirring regularly, and topping up with a little water if the pan looks like its too dry.

7.  Adjust seasoning to taste and serve with polenta or pasta.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Patatas Bravas Soup

I love a good roast dinner.  It's the best meal of the week,  even if it doesn't contain dumplings.  It does, however, contain two of the greatest foodstuffs known to man (if you're doing it right, anyway) which are : Gravy and Roast Potatoes.  It's always been on my mind to try and create a Sunday Roast soup, but whilst beavering away in the soup lab (do beavers eat soup? I imagine they have little flasks of tree bark soup that they eat after a long day's dam making and gnawing) I came across this little beauty of a recipe.

Tapas seemed to be one of those culinary phases that came and went in the 90's as far as I remember, apart from if you live in Spain possibly, and it always seemed way too expensive for my pocket, lined as it usually is with lint rather than gold, so I never really got into it (3 quid for a little plat of olives and some squid?!? my northern tight-wad genes would make me exclaim)

So this is a soup-ified version of a tapas dish, which is basically a roast potato soup.  Carnivores could (and probably should) add some chroizo* to the soup to make it extra tasty, but this recipe was made during meat-free May, so we kept it strictly veggie.

*Also, use vegetable stock.  (What do you mean, I don't seem to have grasped the fundemental tennets of vegtarianism?)

500g Potatoes
900ml Chicken Stock
1 Can Tomatoes
1 Large Onion
75ml Sherry
3 Cloves of garlic
2tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1tbsp Paprika
1tsp Cayenne Pepper
1tsp Fresh Thyme
1tsp Fresh Rosemary

1. Heat the oven to 200ºc. Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes.

2.  Fill a pan with water and add some salt, then bring to the boil.  Put the potatoes in and cook until they are starting to go soft.  This should only take about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on the pan as you don't want them to cook too much.

3.  Put a large baking tray in the oven with some cooking oil in it and let it heat.

4.  Once the potatoes are cooked, let them drain thoroughly.  Then place them in the oil and put the tray back in the oven to let the potatoes roast.  This should take about 30 minutes, until the edges of the potatoes are nice and brown.  Again, keep checking the oven to make sure they aren't over cooking.

5. In your soup pan, heat some more oil.  Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion, then add them to the pan, cooking until they are soft and start to colour.

6.  Add the balsamic vinegar and sherry then allow to reduce until the liquid has halved.  next add the paprika, cayenne, thyme and rosemary and allow to cook for another minute or two.

7.  Take the roast potatoes out of the oven and drain on some kitchen towel, then add these to the soup, along with the tomatoes and the chicken stock.

8. Allow the soup to come to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

9.  Garnish with a scattering of fresh thyme.  Serve and enjoy!