Monday, 29 June 2015

Chilli and Coffee Short Ribs

One of the things I'm particularly enjoying about my job at Mr Pickles' Yorkshire Food Emporium is the meat counter. It's stocked with pork, chicken, beef and lamb which means I'm getting to learn about different cuts and how to cook them - along with a few basic butchery skills. And, because I now understand the different cuts a bit more, and have easy access to them, I'm able to try and cook more at home.

And I was particularly pleased to come home with a couple of short ribs the other day. Located in the forequarter, the meat is very similar to the hindquarter flank, but with ribs in it! They're rather large and very meaty too - each of my two ribs weighed over 800g!

Wanting to do something a bit different than a British style stew, I turned to Smoke & Spice by Valerie Aikman-Smith. It's a book I'd swapped with someone a while back, but hadn't really used - mostly because I didn't really know where I could get some of the different cuts of meat from.

Anyway, a quick flick through the book and I fell for the coffee and chilli short ribs recipe. Mostly because I had a lot of the ingredients, but also coz it looked (and sounded) amazing...

The recipe kicked off with a rub of ground coffee, chilli powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and a bit of time to marinade in the fridge. 

Six hours later, I browned the ribs off in a large casserole dish, removed them and set about making the sauce. This is made up with onion, jalapenos, garlic, brewed coffee (I used some cold brew coffee for this - look out for a coffee blog post coming soon..!), tinned tomatoes & balsamic vinegar. Once the sauce was prepared and simmering away, I returned the ribs to the pot and stuck the dish (covered) in the oven (gas mark 4) for around three and half hours.

Chilli and Coffee Short Ribs

After half an hour resting time I served the meat (which was falling off the bone) with a rice salad of coriander, tomatoes and peppers.

As I tucked in I got a little chilli kick, but only a little. This dish seems to be all about the deep smokiness of the paprika and the earthiness of the coffee. And it was very good - so good that Gav and I ate in total silence...

I'm sure I'll be cooking this, or variants of it in the future. It'd work perfectly in the slow cooker and I might try adding some red and green peppers next time - to boost my five a day and for a little sweetness.

Care to share any short rib recipe ideas?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Albanian Liver

I first tried Albanian Liver at Lokanta restaurant in Sheffield. It was a few years ago, but it was so nice that I haven't forgotten it! And, so when I came home with some Firs Farm lambs' liver* the other week, I immediately knew what I was going to do with it.

As it happens, Gav cooked the liver for us - using this recipe for reference. Sadly we had to skip the red onion and parsley salad - I was meant to pick the ingredients up on the way home from work, but a later than usual finish left me in a fluster, and I forgot!

So we just had it with some salad leaves and homemade chips. And, it was lovely (although I have to admit that the onion and parsley salad would have improved it).

Albanian Lambs' Liver

Lokanta tell me that people who don't like offal generally like Albanian Liver and I can see why. Lambs' liver doesn't have a strong offal flavour anyway, but the spicing deals with any that does linger. What's more, it was cheap and quick to cook, so I'm sure it's one we'll be having again. Might make sure I get some red onions and parsley in though...

*From Mr Pickles

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Stuffed Jalapeños

Remember when eating in the local Italian/Mexican restaurant was the highlight of your social life? I do. In my early twenties team nights out were spent at a certain restaurant on West Street (now gone) and that other one at Gleadless. And I'd have the stuffed jalapeños EVERY GODDAMN TIME.

So when we got some fresh jalapeños in at Mr Pickles', I got a little giddy. Especially as a few of them were just the right size for a good stuffing...

A brief Google told me all I needed to know and I went home with a few of the feisty peppers, a tub of Longley Farm cream cheese, a chunk of Vintage Cheddar and dreams of a tasty lunch...

So the next day, I chopped the jalapeños in half, scooped out the seeds and membrane and stuffed with a mixture of the cream cheese and grated cheddar. I then set them out on a sheet and baked in the oven (let's say at around gas mark 6) for 10-15 minutes.

stuffed jalapeños

Oooof... these were so good. The peppers were HOT - my fingers were tingling for a few days after preparing them - but they'd calmed down a little once cooked and the cheese mixture was deliciously creamy (it was the first time I'd tried Longley Farm cream cheese - it won't be the last). 

Quick, easy and super delicious... I just need me some more jalapeños!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Steak and Chips... but not as you know it...

Steak and chips is probably my favourite treat meal. That and a bottle of red makes any Friday night in feel special. Especially as it's incredibly easy to cook - who wants to spend their Friday night slaving over a hot stove? The trickiest bit is the chips*!!

Given this love of steak, you might be surprised to learn that I only started eating it in my early twenties. See, the BSE scare meant that all beef was banned from our family home from the mid 80s. Which meant that I didn't really start eating it again until I'd left home and learnt how to cook it for myself.

To begin with I was nervous about eating it rare, but I soon got fed up of using steak knives. I think my first really enjoyable steak was at Harvey Nichols in Leeds - Gav and I used to go quite regularly- back when we had money for shopping trips and fancy lunches...

Of all the cuts available, I prefer the rib-eye. Ok, it's not as tender as the fillet, but I find it more flavoursome, thanks to the fat running through it. Having said that, I ain't gonna turn my nose up at a bit of rump or sirloin!


Sheffield Food Blog - Hanger Steak

But recently I've been experimenting with different cuts (which is mostly thanks to my new food related job) and I've been lucky enough to get my hands on some hanger steak. Otherwise known as onglet, the hanger is rumoured to be the butcher's favourite cut - probably because each cow only yields around 4/5 steaks and because it's from the diaphragm, so often lumped in the offal category.

Although some suggest you cook hanger to medium, I was only ever going to cook it rare. So I just sliced it into thick steaks, let it come to room temperature and cooked it for about a minute on each side in a hot frying pan.

Sheffield Food Blog - Hanger Steak

So, how was it? Pretty bloody good actually. The meat was delicious - with a slight offal tang to it. And although it was tougher than a lot of other cuts, it just had a bit of bite, so was perfectly acceptable in my book. It's certainly one I'll try again - especially as it's significantly cheaper than my trusty rib-eye... which means I can spend more on the wine!


Lambs' heart is hardly considered to be an alternative to a good steak (yes I know that this is lamb rather than beef, but do bear with me...) and most recipes call for a long and low braise. But I remember a butcher once recommending that I try it with beef heart, so figured it must work with lamb heart too.

Sheffield Food Blog - Lambs' Heart

We only have high welfare meat at Mr Pickles' and I can genuinely say that I've been really impressed with the lambs' hearts we get in. They're really lean, at least they're the leanest I've ever cooked, and a lean heart has got to be a good sign, aye?

Unlike beef hearts (which are enormous) lambs' hearts are pretty manageable, so I decided we would have one each. I just trimmed them of the valves and the little fat there was on the outside and cut into slices that were around one centimetre thick. I cooked them just as I'd cooked the hanger - brought them up to room temperature and cooked for a minute on each side in a hot frying pan.

Sheffield Food Blog - Lambs' Heart

And it was a winner! Honestly, I love lambs' heart anyway - the only way I can describe the taste is that of an intense lamb flavour, but cooking it this way was a bit of a revelation! Although the heart is generally braised, I thought it really benefited from the fast cooking. It was as tasty as ever, incredibly tender and ready in a matter of minutes (rather than hours)!** Perfect for a Friday night in.

*Peel potatoes, slice into wedges, parboil, coat in oil with spices/herbs/whatever you fancy and blast in a hot oven for 30/40 minutes.

** One of the major downsides of cheap cuts can be their intense and long cooking times - which can sometimes negate the savings made on buying the meat. So it's good to learn quick cook methods for this type of meat too.

Monday, 15 June 2015

My Food Happy

Today I promised myself, and Twitter, that I would publish a post. See, a ridiculous amount of time has passed since my last post and I need to get back in the swing of things. Because I do enjoy writing and I do enjoy this blog... and I am on a mission to have a #Happy2015.

So, I thought it would be quite fitting to write a post about happiness - something quite vague,  a bit waffly and easy going - something to ease me gently back into this 'ere blogging lark. And, a couple of days ago, I got an idea for the perfect post. @EatSocialShef had tweeted a few Sheffield foodies asking us what our food happy was. I must admit that I really struggled to answer the question - so many things make me food happy and I cannot condense them all down into a 140 character reply. But it did strike me that it would be an interesting topic for a blogpost... even if it's one that will continue to evolve... and I will be adding to the list over the next few weeks.

The fact that this still an issue is beyond me. Sure, they may have been cool in 2003, but now slates are just chuffing annoying (and some would say they weren't that cool in 2003 either). Nobody can deny that they're horrible and impractical to eat from (surely???) and the sooner we stop seeing them in restaurants, the better. The same goes for wooden chopping boards (hygiene is more important than presentation in my book...), shopping trolleys (yes seriously) and jam jars (you think I want to drink my £9 cocktail out of an f-ing jam jar?). Controversially I don't mind enamel... 

Not because I want to fill it to the top and guzzle it down my neck, but because I really like smart glassware and I like long stems. I also like to swirl my wine and shove my nose into it (I'm generally playing rather than doing any serious wine tasting mind..) - both of which are impossible with one of those tiny wine glasses that always make me think of British Italian restaurants...

British Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants make me want to lock myself away and cry for an eternity. It's crap and there's no need to fob us off with the fake stuff any more - just because we eat a lot of meat and potatoes doesn't mean we can't handle your cuisine too.

Because life is way too short (and my stomach is way too small) for doughy pizza. And pasta should be cooked to the point that it still has a few white flecks of raw pasta in it on biting. In my opinion anyway...

If we are going to raise animals, slaughter them and eat them, the least we can do is ensure they've had a half decent life. Non free range chicken makes me particularly angry. Most of us demand free range eggs, but when it comes to the chick itself, we baulk at paying a few extra quid. A fine example of this is the bog standard supermarket chicken and salad sandwich which boasts that it has mayonnaise made with free range egg, but mentions nothing about the welfare of the poor dead chicken that's in there. Our lack of concern for the chicken in our sandwiches means that cafes and restaurants don't seem to bother to care either...

But it isn't just chicken that I have issues with - a lot of the pork sold in supermarkets isn't British. This means that the pigs have been raised in conditions that could be found illegal in the UK. And I'm not saying that British regulations demand high welfare, but conditions are better here than they are in the majority of Europe. Not that we seem to be particularly bothered when it comes to buying bacon... I went to one supermarket the other week and of the four wide shelves of bacon, only four products were actually British. The rest was Danish. Oh and watch out for the ham, sausages and pork pies that are made in the UK using EU pork - I bet half of them have British flags on the label too.

With stupidly confusing labels it can be incredibly difficult to eat high welfare all the time, and I ain't no angel, but I do try! And why do I try? Because I feel physically sick at the thought of eating a non-free range chicken or an EU pig.

So to keep me food happy, I generally don't eat chicken* when I go out and I only eat pork, lamb and beef that bears the red tractor stamp with the British flag on it**. Better still I buy the local and high welfare meat I work with at Mr Pickles'. 

* Having said that the Milestone group (which includes Craft & Dough, Fancie, Wig & Pen as well as Milestone), Losehill House Hotel and Urban Quarter have all confirmed that they only serve free range chicken. There will be others - please let me know if you know of any!

** I think the majority of places I eat at use British pork, beef and lamb in their kitchen.

Now then, what makes you food happy?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Roast Rib of Beef and Proper Gravy

I don't think I know anyone who doesn't appreciate a good Sunday dinner. 

They're not hard to cook (once you've got the timings sussed), but there's something rather lovely about sitting down to a selection of veg, potatoes and a great big chunk of meat - especially when someone else has slaved over the hot oven for it. 

I quite like to serve up a variety of stuff too - so people can have as much or as little of what they fancy. Generally broccoli, cabbage (cooked in butter) and roast potatoes (cooked with garlic and rosemary) will make appearances. But if I'm cooking for a crowd I'll probably add a gratin or a cauliflower cheese, some home-made stuffing and some mash.

Meat wise, I tend to stick to chicken or lamb... although I am cooking more and more pork at the moment. But I rarely cook beef - I don't know why - maybe I just feel that I don't know enough about the different cuts and cooking methods... which is actually a rather fine excuse to start cooking more of it...

Anyhoo, I recently got my hands on a rib of beef from Mr Pickles. It's a cut I'd wanted to cook for a while (the ribeye is my favourite steak) but I just kept on putting it off on the basis that I might somehow mess it up. Which was a bit silly really...

It was a fantastic looking piece of meat - even raw I think I'd have been quite happy burying my face into it... And, although I only had one rib, it was still a sizeable portion at around 1.8 kg.

Rib of Beef
Wanting to cook it somewhere between rare and medium rare, I turned to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's MEAT book for reference and stuck the meat (stood upright and uncovered) in a hot oven (210C) for 20 minutes. I then turned the oven down to 160C for a further 40 minuets (on the basis that each 500g needed 10 minutes to be served rare). I then wrapped it up in foil and rested it for a good half hour whilst I did the gravy.

Proper Gravy
I poured off some of the fat from the roasting dish, then sat it on the hob, on a low heat. I added chopped onion and carrot (I was out of celery) and a couple of bay leaves and let it all cook in the juices (stirring and scrapping up the meaty bits along the way) until soft. Then I added a dessert-spoon of flour and stirred it to form a thick paste. Next in was a decent glug of red wine, then around a pint of stock (which I added slowly, whisking all the while to prevent lumps). I then let everything simmer until it was the right consistency for my liking (around 20 minutes) and strained the liquid into a gravy jug.

Because I was feeling lazy, I just served the beef with mash and a bit of veg, and it was absolutely gorgeous. The meat was stunning - I can't believe I hadn't cooked it before - especially as it was incredibly easy to do AND it only took an hour and a half (including resting). I swear... I've seen more complicated and time consuming recipes for salads...