We just had venison loin steaks about the size of a deck of cards (but thicker) and that was more than enough rich, flavourful meat. Venison is often paired with sweet sauces – often far too sweet. This one is sticky and rich, but not so horribly sweet. Just right. We ate this tonight with roast potatoes and vegetables and washed it down with an Austrian Blaufränkisch red, which because of its sprightly, mouthwatering acidity went with it surprisingly well.
Venison steaks (one per person – if you are only making two steaks, cut the marinade recipe in half)
1 Cup soy sauce (for the earthy intensity I used half light soy and half mushroom dark soy sauce)
1/2 Cup oil (sunflower recommended)
3 T molasses (I used dark, but use anything from light to blackstrap depending on your tastes)
1 T ground ginger
2 T Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix the marinade in a bowl large enough to hold all your steaks. Add the steaks and coat them in the marinade. Allow them to marinate for 1/2 hour to an hour. Then either barbecue them or broil them for 3-5 minutes per side (roughly) for rare to medium rare. Don’t cook beyond medium, as venison becomes very dry when overcooked.
I look forward to Brussels sprouts in autumn very nearly as much as I hungrily anticipate the arrival of asparagus in the spring. This recipe has been a stalwart for many years and never fails to win over sprout-skeptics. It’s all baritone saxophone – big, brassy brassica tones and low, smoky bacon. Sweet, velvety shallots linger like a half-forgotten melody, tipsy with a splash of wine.
500 g Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
250 smoked bacon lardons (or pancetta, oh my)
3 large shallots, diced
Cracked black pepper
Dry white wine
In a very heavy, preferably cast iron skillet, fry the bacon or pancetta over medium heat, till it begins to render its fat. Add the diced shallots, then the Brussels sprouts shortly thereafter. Let the shallots caramelize on the bottom of the pan slightly before stirring the sprouts through. Again, allow to rest on the heat till the sprouts brown on one side, then cover the pan with a lid. Turn again a couple of times so that the sprouts are sticky and browned. If things start to stick, deglaze the pan with a splash of wine. Serve forth when the Brussels sprouts are just cooked through and slightly soft.
This dish beautifully accompanies all manner of meats, and is a star vegetable at a Thanksgiving feast.
Take 1 litre of chicken stock, heat it to a simmer and add two handfuls of leftover roast chicken, one finely chopped shallot, a bit of oregano, and three handfuls of macaroni pasta. Just before serving, toss in the roughly chopped greens from a bunch of beets. Crank a little black pepper over the top when serving.
We ate this tonight just with cheese bread and a full-bodied red wine from Cariñena. It’s warming and therapeutic and serves two generously.
This time of year mussels aren’t at their best – but how can one do without them? This recipe allows a couple of other big ingredients to have their say alongside the mussels in a really meaningful way, so the very best mussels aren’t necessary. If you’ve got fantastic mussels Moules Mariniere is the appropriate treatment. When are mussels at their best? In autumn and winter when they are fat and sweet.
1kg mussels, washed and debearded
250g bacon lardons
400g cavolo nero, very roughly chopped
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
a glass of white wine
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
Fry the bacon until crisp in a large, deep stockpot. When the bacon is nearly finished, scatter in the garlic and allow it to brown and crisp just a bit. Remove promptly to a bowl and introduce the shallots, celery and wine. Once these come to the boil, throw in alternating handfuls of mussels, kale, and parsley, cover, and steam until the mussels have opened. At the last, add the garlic and bacon back to the pot and stir through.
Serve with plenty of good bread.
In Portugal it seems as though every meal begins with caldo verde – green soup. My friend Ilda’s family in the far northeast of Portugal, where caldo verde originates, eat it everyday without fail. chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage and couve galega kale crowd into a potato and onion broth in a soup possessed of enough savour and solidity to form the centre of a light supper flanked by a romaine salad dressed with lemon and salt and a good crusty bread. It’s also just the right touch served before a main of grilled fish.
You can adjust the water content of this soup to thin it or thicken it as you desire, or fry the sausage before adding to the soup, but to get this absolutely right you must use the Brassica known as Couve Galega (in English it is called Collard Greens, Tree Cabbage, Walking Stick Cabbage, or Jersey Cabbage), and in order to obtain it in the UK it is generally necessary to grow it yourself. couve galega has large, flat, paddle-like leaves that somewhat ridiculously crown a tough, gangly stem that will rise to head-height. Its strong flavour is at its best in winter, but the leaves can be harvested year-round. Its heads of flower buds can also be steamed and eaten like broccoli. For this soup the leaves are tightly rolled and then very finely julienned – again, this texture is absolutely necessary to get the soup just right. There is hope, though, for those without the right Brassica. Curly kale will work, and I would imagine that it might also be possible to use cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or spring greens as well. I found one caldo verde recipe calling for simple cabbage, but this Irish-Portuguese bastard child will never find employment in my kitchen. Would this be Cald O’Verde?
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
750g potatoes (about 6), peeled and thinly sliced
1.5 to 2 L cold water
1 roughly 200g Chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
400 to 500g Couve Galega, very finely julienned
In a saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil briefly (don’t allow them to colour). Tip in the potatoes and keep stirring them until they’re warmed. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes begin to fall apart.
Purée the mixture in a blender or with a hand-held food processor. Stir in the sausage and simmer for about five minutes.
Finally, add the salt and pepper and kale and cook for a further five minutes until the kale is cooked but still with some bite to it. Dish up into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.
The sausage may also be fried before adding to the soup, which adds a different dimension to the flavour. Drain the fat off the sausage before adding to the soup or, if your conscience or cholesterol levels allow, pour that in too. It will only add to the flavour.
Here is some music to listen to while you cook:
As the cold, clear weather continues the lust for soups and stews rages on insatiably. Tonight it’s another canonical dish, Boeuf Bourguignon. This is loosely based on Julia Child’s time-honoured recipe, but is simplified for ease and clarity. It still turns out awfully good. We’ll be having it with some of the last of the season’s Brussels sprouts and a Patrick Lesec Costières-de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007. This recipe serves six, and is usually better the second day if you have leftovers. I usually make a large batch and freeze it for lunches.
Preheat the oven to 140C
1.5-2 kilos stew beef, cut in 2 inch cubes
175-200g bacon lardons
Mirepoix: 4 carrots, 1 large onion, 3 stalks of celery, all coarsely diced.
500g dark-gilled mushrooms
1 bottle burgundy or other full-flavoured red wine
450ml beef stock
50g beurre manié (25g flour, 25g unsalted butter)
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
18 small white onions or very small shallots
salt and pepper
Sauté chunks of bacon in a glug of olive oil at moderate heat for two or three minutes. Remove the bacon to a large mixing bowl.
Sauté beef, a little bit at a time, in the bacon fat until browned. Remove the beef to the bowl with the bacon.
Add the mirepoix to the pan and sauté two or three minutes. Add salt and pepper.
While the mirepoix is cooking, quickly make the beurre manie and coat the beef and bacon with it. Then add the meat back to the pan.
Pour in the wine and stock to cover the ingredients. Add small onions or shallots, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil.
Cover and bake for three hours at 140C
At the last, sauté the mushrooms in butter and stir into the stew.
Serve with boiled new potatoes.
If simplicity and elegance in the most satisfying dishes is beginning to appear as a theme in this blog, then this is no accident. The Greeks are as devoted to Avgolemono as the Provencal are to Bouillabaisse and the Portuguese are to Caldo Verde, and for all the same reasons; that a few virtuosic ingredients are allowed to play keening music together in one forthrightly orchestrated bowl.
Avgolemono is a simple soup of chicken stock, orzo pasta or rice, egg, and lemon. Smooth and piquant and charismatically persuasive, it rouses the appetite in an assertive, even bellicose way. And what does one do with a lemon-scented stock from a Greek roast chicken but put it to most urgent use as the basis for this most necessary soup.
This takes an hour or two because a fresh stock is made, so this is a good weekend dish. The preparation is straightforward, though, so it will allow plenty of time to put together hummus, souvlaki, and whatever other Hellenic stalwarts might follow this coup de main. This recipe serves six as a first course, but will make a marvelous light supper for four if served with a salad and crusty bread.
1 chicken carcass from a 2kg roasted chicken (with some meat left on it)
2 L water
2 carrots halved lengthwise
2 celery stalks
1 onion, halved (this can be the onion used to moisten a roast chicken during roasting)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 C orzo pasta or rice
3 eggs, room temperature
Juice of two lemons, strained
Pick any useful meat from the chicken carcass and set it aside.
Combine the first seven ingredients in a stockpot. Simmer covered for an hour.While this is cooking, mince the meat reserved from the chicken quite finely and set aside.
Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set the chicken aside to glean any meat from the carcass. Strain the broth through a sieve into a large bowl, return it to the stockpot and return to the boil.
Add the orzo and cook for ten minutes until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, whisk the eggs until frothy and then whisk in the lemon juice in a drizzle. Slowly add two or three ladles of stock from the pot, continually whisking, in order to temper the eggs.
When the pasta has cooked, turn the heat down to its lowest setting, add the reserved minced chicken meat, and once it has come back up to temperature, slowly stir in the egg and lemon mixture. Heat the whole for 5 minutes until it begins to thicken ever so slightly.
Serve it forth with a grating of fresh black pepper.
Traditionally this soup is served without the chicken meat added, but the minced chicken, in combination with the orzo, adds a toothsomeness to the dish that is irresistible.
The savoury odour of roast chicken and oregano is wafting around, and there is little else than can stir the appetite so effectively, and few things satisfy hunger better than a well-browned bird fresh from the oven. This simple recipe that I lifted from The Guardian has become a monthly staple – in fact it has entirely replaced the stodgy old stuffed chickens I used to serve. Not only is this an easy dish, but its satisfactions are equal to or greater than the charms of a stuffed chicken served with mash and gravy. I’m now getting used to the lemony chicken stocks that result from cooking the carcass.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F
A 1.5-2kg chicken
Salt, pepper, oregano
1 small onion, peeled
1 kilo waxy potatoes (Desiree are good)
Juice of a lemon
A glass of white wine
Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges. Juice a lemon and save the spent portions. Place the chicken in a roasting pan (I use an oval porcelain dish that holds the potatoes nicely against the fowl) and surround it with the potatoes. Pour the lemon juice and a liberal coating of olive oil over the chicken and potatoes. Peel the onion and place it inside the chicken with the spent lemon halves.
Sprinkle liberally with salt, fresh ground pepper and oregano, then pour a glass of wine into the pan – but taking care not to wash all the seasoning off the bird. Put the pan in the hot oven for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 190C/375F for a further hour. The potatoes will be delightfully soggy under the chicken and browned where exposed. Serve with marouli – a salad of julienned cos or romaine lettuce dressed with salt, vinegar and oil, in that order.
The sweetness of leeks, earthiness of potatoes, smoky, spicy chorizo, and nutty manchego combine perfectly in this simple dish. If you’re cooking this in the US, make sure you use Spanish Manchego – the Mexican stuff, (especially the processed product made by Kraft), is just not the same. Spanish Manchego may be the best cheese for browning there is.
1.5 pounds potatoes
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 large leeks
1/2 lb young Manchego
1 chorizo sausage
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C
Peel and slice potatoes thickly, and cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes, until barely tender.
While this is cooking, slice leeks into slender rounds and then saute them slowly in the butter until soft. Spread the leeks on the bottom of a shallow baking pan. Arrange the chorizo on top.
Drain the potatoes and arrange them over the chorizo. Slice the Manchego thinly and cover the top of the dish thoroughly with it (I usually discard some or all of the rind, as too much of it imparts too much of its own flavour).
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.
Serve immediately. Serves 6.