Sunday, 10 March 2013

Quick, before I forget... Sticky BBQ ribs with butterbeans and baked spinach rice

I wouldn't normally write a blog post literally 10 minutes after I had finished eating, but George is sitting on my head and won't get off until I do. According to the other half, I am incapable of making exactly the same thing twice, finding the temptation to play around with things irresistible. So I have been told to sit here and write this recipe down, as the giraffe, the other half and my long-suffering sister would rather like to eat the same thing again.

Well, I guess that's a compliment, so thanks chaps. Never mind that they are cooing over the final of Crufts whilst stuffing their faces with icecream, or that the washing up needs doing... However, I have to admit to being a little excited at having achieved a bit of a culinary goal and managing to make a bleedin' good BBQ sauce over meat-falling-off-the-bone ribs. So, here goes!

BBQ ribs with butter beans and baked spinach rice

This recipe was made with ribs that had already been cut, so I'm guessing that for a rack of ribs you'd probably need an extra 1/2 hour cooking time. This recipe served three of us, with two large juicy ribs each and an extra little one for the little ginger animal in the corner. That's the giraffe, not the other half...

For the ribs...
Brush a wire rack with a little oil and suspend over an oven dish with an inch of water in the bottom of it. Rub the ribs with a small amount of harissa paste or similar dry spice mix, pop them on top of the wire rack and cook in the oven on a low heat (around 150 degrees) for 40 minutes. Cooking them to start with over water means that they retain tenderness. In the meantime, get on with the sauce.

For the sauce...
Roast four large tomatoes and two cloves of garlic, whole, with some olive oil and a tablespoon each of ground cumin and smoked paprika, for 20 minutes. When they come out, let them cool for a bit before whizzing up in a food processor with a generous splash of soy sauce (about a tablespoon), a generous splash of worcestershire sauce, lots of black pepper, and 50g brown sugar.

Take the ribs out of the oven and get rid of the water and wire rack. Combine the ribs with the sauce and put back in the oven for an hour and a half, turning and basting half way. When you get them out of the oven at the end the sauce should be sticking to the meat and the meat falling off the bone.

Serve with...
Butter beans - saute a little bit of chopped chorizo with half a chopped onion before adding a can of butter beans (including the water they are in) and cooking on the hob on a low heat for 15 minutes. Season generously.

Baked spinach rice - steam some spinach until just soft, then lay out a square of spinach leaves on a piece of clingfilm. Place a layer of pre-cooked rice (mine was from yesterday and had lots of lovely leeks in it) in a line across the middle of the square, and roll using the clingfilm so that it resembles a big sushi roll wrapped in clingfilm. Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to set the shape before removing the clingfilm and baking for 15 minutes in the oven.

Sit back and enjoy...
Finger-bowl and wet wipe alert!

George wasn't sure how to avoid getting sauce all over his hooves.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A late Valentine's treat: Lamb shanks and next-day risotto

I was at the theatre on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the West End as a romantic treat with the other half, but at my local amateur theatre, stage managing a youth theatre performance. I thoroughly enjoyed it mind you, and it gave me a fab excuse to celebrate Valentine's Day another time.

Therefore, a week or so later I found myself salivating at the fresh meat counter in Sainsburys and picking up some massive lamb shanks. I don't think I've ever cooked lamb shanks before, or at least not for a long time, so I thought I'd better give the brother a call. He's a bit of a cheffy chap himself and is rather good at French-style meaty cooking. He told me how he'd cook it, which is exactly what I did. Thank you, Brother.

They tasted incredible, (even if our Valentine's meal kind of turned into a meal with friends - I'm not very good at just cooking for two...) and there's a recipe for you below. Unfortunately our bank balance looked like it had just suffered from an earthquake, so I decided to try to make something out of the juice I cooked the lamb in the next day. Say hello to the new saviour of risotto - an amazing stock. I know everyone always says the taste of a risotto is in a good stock, but now I've actually tried it... the taste of a risotto is definitely in a good stock. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a cheap meal - it's that tasty, you don't need to buy any extra meat, even for the most dedicated carnivore...

Lamb stock risotto with broccoli and mushrooms - it's all in the juice
(and the organic broccoli from the veg box - yum)

Pot-roasted lamb shanks with duck fat roasted potatoes, greens, buttered carrots and gravy

The fairly simple greens and sweet carrots really compliment the richness of the lamb, potatoes and gravy. Well, George thought so, anyway.

1. In a big casserole pot, sweat down a large roughly chopped onion and a leek with a couple of chunky-chopped carrots, some cumin and a few whole peeled cloves of garlic. Add the lamb and brown on both sides before adding a glass of white wine.

2. Let the wine boil down for a couple of minutes then add enough water to just about cover the lamb.

3. Cover, bring to boil, and then simmer on a low heat for 4 hours.

4. In the meantime, prepare some potatoes for roasting by par-boiling for five minutes. Warm duck fat in a roasting pan and throw in the potatoes with some fresh rosemary and plenty of sea salt. They will need an hour in the oven on a high heat if you've got an electric oven like mine - but if you have something that goes really hot, they'll need less time.

5. After 4 hours, take the lamb shanks out of the stock, cover with foil and put in the bottom of the oven to crisp up for about half an hour. Take the foil off for the last 10 minutes.

6. Take the bay leaf out of the stock and whizz it up in a food processor (alternatively strain the stock through a fine sieve). Make a gravy by heating a big chunk of butter in a pan, cooking in two tablespoons of flour, and then mixing in the stock gradually. It will thicken but you need a good 15 minutes of cooking. Oh, and you'll only need to use about a third of the stock - loads left for tomorrow's risotto!

7. Steam some carrots before tossing in butter - should take around 20-25 minutes.

8. Prepare some greens - I used leeks, broccoli, savoy cabbage and spinach - and pan fry. This should take around 15 minutes if you're using broccoli, with the broccoli and leeks going in first, the cabbage with 7 minutes to go and the spinach at the last minute.

The whole spread. For four people and a giraffe, I hasten to add...

Lamb and potato heaven