Friday, February 28, 2014

Honey Mustard Pork - a lesson in leftovers

I had that moment the other day when I decided to make dinner, only to realise that I hadn't really thought about what I was going to make and had no desire to go to the shops, so I took a look in my fridge and cupboard to work out what I had to work with.  The result: honey mustard pork.

Honey mustard pork and Camenère wine
Honey mustard pork
Because of my schnitzel-making escapades I had a couple of pork escalopes left,  the other ingredients I used in this recipe are just things I tend to have lying around.  As this was an experiment I'm not going to recommend making it exactly like I did, I've tweaked and improved it slightly, but that's the great thing about cooking,  you can make you can improve the recipe each time you make it!

For two people you will need:
2 pork escalopes (or pork chops if you prefer)
25g butter
25g plain flour
400ml milk
3tsps whole grain mustard
2tsps honey (clear)
Your choice of green veg (broccoli/green beans/cabbage would all work)

If you have more than one hob then you can simultaneously cook the pasta, fry the pork and make the sauce, but as I only have one I had to do these steps separately  Nevertheless this recipe was still really quick to make.

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet (I used tagliatelle but I think farfalle or penne would be far better).  If you want to boil your vegetables then cook them with the pasta, if not you can steam them in a microwave later.
  2. Make the sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat then add the flour and stir vigorously to make a paste (roux).  Keeping the heat low add the milk little by little (start off with a tablespoon at a time) mixing/whisking constantly until all the liquid is combined each time before adding more.  It's really important that you do this stage slowly to make sure your sauce doesn't go lumpy.  Once you have added all the milk add the mustard and honey.  Keep stirring over a medium heat to allow the sauce to reduce.  I did this for about 5 minutes but you can do it for longer if you want a thicker sauce.  Just make sure you keep stirring regularly.
  3. Fry the pork.  I cut mine into strips and fried them for a few minutes but I would actually recommend leaving the escalopes/chops whole.  If you have a grill then that would also work.
  4. If you have a microwave you can steam your veg while frying the pork.  You can either buy packs of mixed veg which you microwave in the bag, or you can prepare your own veg and put it into a sandwich bag (I have microwave ones which seal with a sticky flap) then microwave for a few minutes (or according to the instructions on the packet.
  5. Serve by putting the pork, veg and pasta on a plate and pour over the sauce
I love rustling something up like this as it's a great way to use up leftovers and waste less.

The wine you can see in the background is a Chilean Carménère - the grape is originally from the Médoc region of Bordeaux and its name comes from the French word for crimson - carmin - which was used to describe the wine's colour.  It's not a grape that's really found in Europe any more but it is becoming increasingly popular in Chilean wines.  I enjoyed the wine which was very plumy in taste with a little bit of spice - definitely something to try if you haven't already.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spicy sausage and bean one-pot

This has to be one of the easiest dinners to prepare, it's done in less than 30 minutes.  Make sure you buy the beans in chilli sauce as this means you won't have to make your own.

Spicy sausage and ban one-pot
Spicy sausage and ban one-pot

All you need for 2 people is:
Vegetable oil (for frying)
1/2 onion (thickly sliced)
4 Cumberland sausages
1 small garlic clove (crushed)
1 x 400g can kidney beans in chilli sauce
(a couple of sprigs of parsley, chopped)

Thickly chop half an onion before heating the oil in a large frying pan.  Cook the sausages for about 10 minutes over a fairly high heat, turning them often so that they brown all over.  Add the garlic to the pan with the beans and sauce along with a quarter of a can of water.  Stir everything together and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes (or until the sausages have cooked through and the sauce reduced).  Season, serve and sprinkle with the parsley.

This tasted great, the chilli gave the dish a nice kick and it was cheap to make too!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Schnitzel and 'Slaw

I've been back in England for over 6 months now (where has the time gone?) and I really am missing Germany.  The good news is I've booked to go back to Bamberg for a few days next month, the bad news is that I'm not there now.  So to try and help me miss Germany a little bit less I decided to cook some German food.  As I don't have an oven I was unable to make my favourite German food Haxe (pork knuckle in English but the German makes it sound so much more appealing).  So instead I decided to cook Schnitzel and instead of Sauerkraut (much tastier than you think) I decided to try a couple of different recipes for coleslaw, one with red and one with white cabbage.

Schnitzel with two types of coleslaw and a pretzel
Schnitzel with two types of coleslaw and a soft pretzel
First thing's first, prepare the 'slaw.  I made rather too much but it didn't matter as it kept for a couple of days in the fridge and I ate it with a couple of other meals.

The pattern on the inside of a red cabbage

I started with the beetroot and red cabbage slaw, the recipe for which I found in my Fabulous Baker Brothers cookbook.  For those of you who haven't heard of them Tom Herbert is a baker and Henry Herbert is a butcher (you can read more about them on their website, they had a series on Channel 4 a couple of years ago and this is the recipe book from that series.  I haven't made much of it before (mainly owing to the lack of an oven) but this recipe looked delicious and required no actual cooking whatsoever.

I used half a red cabbage (finely chopped), one and a half beetroots (don't use ones preserved in vinegar - either raw or in their natural juice - grated), 1/2 red onion (diced), juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper to season.  All you need to do is chop up those ingredients, mix them together in a large bowl and leave them to stand for about 30 minutes (the lemon will help to soften the cabbage).  Before serving stir in 25ml olive oil and some herbs - I used tarragon but the recipe also recommends parsley - fresh herbs are good but dried work just as well.

Beetroot and red cabbage 'slaw

My second slaw recipe comes from a new recipe book which I bought just a couple of days ago.  It's called Food DIY and is written by Tim Hayward, the owner of Fitzbillies - one of my favourite bakeries/cafes in Cambridge.  I popped by the shop on Valentine's day to pick up some shortbread hearts and saw that they were selling signed copies of the book.  I've had my eye on it for a while now so I decided to go for it and I'm really glad I did.  It's an interesting book all about how to 'do it yourself' from curing and pickling to drying and smoking.  A lot of the recipes require a lot more time and effort than I can afford right now but this coleslaw recipe looked simple and different.

I used a quarter of a medium white cabbage (which even so was a little too much - thinly sliced), 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced), some fennel (don't put too much in otherwise - as I found out - the flavour can be a little overpowering, add a little to begin with then add more later if it's not enough) and 1 carrot (grated).  He also suggests using kohlrabi, a vegetable that is really easy to get hold of in Germany but not so common in England, it would make a good addition if you can get your hands on some.  Mix everything together in a large bowl, add some salt to season (he also suggests celery seed but as I couldn't find any I left this out) and the juice of half a lemon.  Just before serving add equal measures of plain yoghurt and mayonnaise (I used about a quarter of a cup of each but a little less would have been better).  Stir in the yoghurt and mayo and serve.


Now for the best bit, the Schnitzel!  Although I had never made Schnitzel before I have certainly eaten my share so I knew how it was meant to turn out.  You will need 1 pork escalope per person.  Before you start you will need to bash these a bit to thin them.  I keep an empty wine bottle in the kitchen which I use as a rolling pin so I simply used the base of that to bash out the pork.  The reason you need to thin the pork is to make sure it cooks all the way through before the outside burns, if the pork is too thick it will take too long to cook.  I then got out 2 plates and a bowl.  On one plate I sprinkled a couple of tablespoons of flour, on another some breadcrumbs (I made my own out of some left over sourdough bread from Valentine's day but shop bought will work just as well).  In the bowl I beat an egg.

First coat your pork in flour, then cover it with egg then place it into the breadcrumbs - make sure they coat the pork but don't press them into the meat as it won't fry as nicely if you do.  Now get a frying pan that's big enough to hold your pork.  Pour in some vegetable oil (nothing fancy) - it will need to be about half a centimetre deep.  Heat the oil until it sizzles when you drop a couple of breadcrumbs in.  Carefully place your preprepared pork into the oil and fry it for 3-4 minutes on each side (until the breadcrumbs turn a lovely golden brown).  Serve with the coleslaw.

Fry the Schnitzel until it is golden brown
Fry the Schnitzel until it is golden brown

A bottle of Augustiner Helles beerWhile out shopping I also picked up a couple of soft pretzels from M&S to really add to the German theme.  They're not as good as real German Brezen but they are the closest thing I've found since being back in England - if anyone knows of anywhere that sells better ones please let me know!  I finished off the meal with a German lager (Helles) from my favourite Munich brewery - Augustiner.  I got this beer from Bacchanalia the wine and beer shop on Mill Road (Cambridge) which I've mentioned previously.  I went back last week to stock up and although still lacking in beers from Bamberg they did have a fresh supply of Augustiner.

This meal was the perfect way of dealing with my cravings for German food and culture, but even so, I can't wait to be back there in just over a month!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The perfect meal for two

On Valentine's Day I cooked this pan-fried trout with salad and it really was the perfect meal for two, something simple yet special.

Pan-fried trout with mixed salad, bacon, almonds and beetroot
Pan-fried trout with mixed salad, bacon, almonds and beetroot
For two people:
olive oil (for frying)
butter (for frying)
2 trout fillets (boned)
140g lardons
about 100g sourdough bread (cut into croutons) - you can use ready-made croutons but this dish is definitely better with home-made ones
handful flaked almonds
50g water cress (or mixed salad - we used one with a mixture of watercress, rocket and baby leaf spinach)
about 160g beetroot (not in vinegar, diced)

For the dressing:
3tbsp olive oil
1tbsp red wine vinegar

This dish was made a little tricky by the fact that I only have one hob but I didn't let that put me off trying.  This would be far easier if you have two (as you can start with the fish and while that is cooking prepare the lardons, croutons and the salad.  However, in order to make this work I prepared it in a slightly different order.

First, toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan over a medium heat, until they turn golden, this will take a few minutes but keep an eye on them and toss them gently and regularly so they don't burn.  Once ready set them aside in a bowl for later.

Add about 1tbsp oil to a frying pan,  and fry the bacon lardons and croutons for about 10 mins until they are crisp (you will need a medium to high heat for this).  Once again, set aside.

Now heat 1tsp olive oil with 25g butter in a non-stick frying pan (large enough to hold your two pieces of trout).  Heat the oil and butter until they start to sizzle, then add the two pieces of fish, skin-side down and fry for 10-15 mins, basting often, until the skin is crisp and the fish has cooked through.  Then, turn the fish over for a minute, before serving, skin-side down.  Be careful when turning the fish as it may break.

fry the fish skin-side downturn the fish over for a minute

While the fish is cooking, prepare the salad.  In a small bowl whisk together the oil and vinegar for the dressing with some seasoning.  Toss your salad, beetroot, lardons, croutons, almonds and dressing together in a large bowl.  Once the trout is cooked serve it with the salad on the side.

The laid table, with food and wineAs this was a special meal we set the table and decided to open a bottle of wine.  Last year when I was in Germany I discovered a couple of new grape varieties which I hadn't previously known about; silvaner, bacchus and Müller-Thurgau.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find wines from the Franken region in England as they aren't generally exported.  So I decided to see if I could find a wine made from one of grapes.  Thanks to my wine society membership I was able to find an English Bacchus from the Chapel Down Winery in Kent.  It was a lovely, fresh wine that went very well with the fish with its elderflower scent and tangy, fruity flavours.

Royal Tokaji
Rather than eating dessert we decided to drink it instead!  We'd been meaning to drink my Royal Tokaji, 2008, (a gift from my parents) for a while and this seemed like the perfect occasion.  Tokaji (pronounced 'Tokay' in English) is a region in northeast Hungary which is particularly known for its sweet, dessert wines (Aszú).  Needless to say, I loved the wine (I have a very sweet tooth) and it was the perfect end to a lovely meal.

Recipe adapted from BBC GoodFood Magazine

Friday, February 14, 2014

Udon Noodle Soup

Sometimes you really want something warm and tasty for dinner, but don't have the energy or time to cook something fancy, it is at times like these when you need a soup like this udon noodle soup.  It is really simple, quick to make and tastes delicious.  Although it may not seem like it, this dish is actually quite cheap (and the more people you cook for the cheaper it will be).  I made it for 5 people and it cost about £1 per person (I still have most of a bottle of teriyaki sauce left as well as several stock cubes and a pack of noodles, so I will probably be making this dish again over the weekend).

Udon noodle soup
Udon noodle soup
For 5 people you will need:
1 vegetable stock cube
60ml teriyaki sauce
1tbsp vegetable oil (for frying)
250g chestnut mushrooms (sliced)
3/4 bunch spring onions (sliced)
410g udon noodles (we used fresh egg noodles)
250g bag spinach

Chop the mushrooms then fry them over a high heat for a few minutes until they turn golden brown, add the spring onions and fry for a minute more, then set the pan aside.  While doing this boil 1.25 litres water in a kettle (or a saucepan if you have a second hob) and once boiled add the stock cube and teriyaki sauce.  Bring to the boil again and add the noodles for 2-3 minutes.  Then add the spinach (my pan was a little small so I had to do this gradually) and cook for about a minute until it has just wilted.  Finally stir in the mushrooms, spring onions and some seasoning before serving.

Mushrooms and spring onions being fried

  • If you aren't a fan of vegetarian cooking then this would taste great with some chicken, either cook it beforehand (under a grill or in a frying pan) or before you add the noodles, slice the chicken and cook it in the broth.
  • For a more unusual vegetarian alternative you could substitute some of the chestnut mushrooms for other varieties of mushrooms.

The great thing about this dish is that it is so versatile, you can make as much or as little as you want and substitute ingredients depending on what you fancy.  I personally loved the dish the way it is, especially the spinach but I would be tempted to try the two variations I suggested above to change it up a bit.  This really is a simple yet great-tasting dish!

Adapted from the BBC GoodFood Magazine

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Local treasures

This week I decided to go exploring, so instead of buying my ingredients from the local supermarket I wandered around the market in Cambridge and a couple of the local shops instead.  And here's what I came back with:

A pack of smoked deer sausages (yes you read that correctly!) from Wild Game Meat's market stall (You can find them in Market Square, Cambridge on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I think)
A block of cheese (similar to parmesan) from The Cambridge Cheese Company and a bag of very exciting pasta (also from the Cheese Shop which sells way more than just cheese - I would highly recommend their pork pies).  The Cheese Shop is great not just for the range of cheeses but also for the staff who are friendly and are always happy to talk to you about the different cheeses.

Anyway, back to the pasta, it's actually produced in Italy and made from durum wheat, semolina flour and natural ingredients with no colourings and you get so many different flavours in a bag; paprika, beetroot, curcuma and spinach!  It looks great and tasted really good too.  The pasta was nice and thick so it didn't just fall apart once cooked.

All the different colours of the pasta

As I wasn't feeling particularly inspired I simply cooked the pasta, grated the cheese and melted it over the pasta, then fried the sausages and added them to the pasta.  Although simple it was actually very tasty.  The cheese went well with the smokiness of the sausages and you could still just about detect the subtle differences in flavour of each of the colours of pasta.  All in all it was successful.  I would definitely have deer sausages again (which is lucky as I have some left over) and am keen to try more exoctic meats (on to wild boar next)!  The meal would actually taste great if I were to have used the cheese to make a green pesto and used a small amount of that as a sauce - maybe next time.

The finished dish - pasta, cheese and deer sausages
The finished dish

Tegernseer Hell - beerI finished off my dinner with a bottle of 'Tegernseer Hell' (a light lager from Tegernsee, an area near Munich, Germany).  I bought this beer from another local favourite of mine, Bacchanalia Wine Merchants - you can visit their website here, follow them on Twitter or have a look for yourself, they're at: 90 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 28D (or 79 Victoria Road, Cambridge, CB4 3BS).  I love this shop as it is one of the only places I've found in England so far where you can buy beers from Bamberg, Germany (the town where I lived for a year).  Unfortunately they haven't had my favourite beer in since the start of the year (Zwergla, from the Fässla brewery) but they do have an amazing range of German beers from your more common Augustiner to other lesser-known beers.  They also have a wide variety of wines and beers from all over the place.  It is definitely worth popping along at some point to see what they've got!

Look out for more 'local treasures' posts as I'm hoping to make it to a local farm shop I've heard good things about as well as some of the delis on Mill Road.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cambridge Brew House - Review

I've been to the Cambridge Brew House a couple of times before for dinner and really enjoyed it, the atmosphere is cosy and the food tasty.  However, this visit was a little different as I didn't just go to eat, I also went for a talk from the brewer, James, and to sample their beers.

The Brew House interior - bar and dining area
Looking down the bar towards the dining area
We decided to have dinner first which was quite exciting as they're menu is seasonal and had therefore changed slightly since my last visit.  Previously I've had the sticky beef (which I highly recommend) and also their Sunday roast.  This time I decided to try a selection of the British Tapas which has been tempting me for a while.

Scotch egg with chutney
Scotch egg
Lamb meatballs with gravy and crusty bread
Lamb meatballs
Sweet potato and smoked red pepper falafel with aioli dip
Sweet potato falafel
I had the Scotch egg with smoked tomato chutney, the lamb and mint meatballs with Brew House ale gravy (with crusty bread on the side) and the butternut squash and smoked red pepper falafels.  The Scotch egg was delicious and the yolk still runny, while the chutney added a lovely sweetness.  I was a little disappointed by the meatballs which, although tasty, were also a little dry.  This was sort of made up for by the fact that they were served in a lot of very nice gravy.  The falafel were not what I expected, mainly because they weren't falafel - there were not chickpeas or fava beans involved.  However, they were listed under 'British Tapas' and I guess sweet potatoes are more British than chickpeas!  Despite my initial scepticism they tasted great, especially when dipped in a little aioli.

Others in our group tried:

  • The 'Dirty burger' (a steak burger with melted Red Leicester, caramelised onions and fried egg served with chips and BBQ sauce) which was described as 'delicious and filling', especially the caramelised onions.  I tried a bite and would definitely order this another time.
  • The veggie platter (advertised on the menu under 'Boards' as the 'Elinor Dashwood' - this looked tasty with a mix of goats cheese, the butternut squash falafels I mentioned above, cauliflower cheese, artichokes, olives, hummus and crusty bread.  I will add that although Brew House does have some excellent vegetarian options their menu is definitely more orientated towards meat-eaters.
  • The Sausage Fest (literally a platter of local sausages infused with Brew House ale served with chutney, mustard and crusty bread) looked incredible and must have tasted as good as it looked given the speed with which it was devoured!

Now on to the brewery tour - I say tour the brewery is actually surprisingly small consisting of just a room at the back with glass walls so you can see the equipment.  James the brewer gave an interesting talk about the malt and hops he uses and how he brews the beer.  We also got to taste the different malts to compare the taste while he explained how that affected the beer.  As part of the tour we were given a (quite large) sample of their three beers.  They have a wider range but they can only brew 3 at a time.

The first beer was called 'Ivy League' and is an American Pale Ale.  I have to say that I wasn't that keen on this one as it was too hoppy for me.  However, things improved as I moved onto 'Misty River', this beer is also hoppy but not as much as Ivy League, making it my favourite of the three beers.  The last one I tried was 'King's Parade' - a bitter - which unusually for me I enjoyed but not as much as Misty River.  If you want to find out more about their beers then you can take a look at their website or even better just pop along for a pint one evening!

The beers from left to right Misty River, Ivy League, King's Parade
The three beers

The three home-brewed beers on tap

I would thoroughly recommend the Brew House both for its beer and its food and will definitely be going back soon.

You can visit the Brew House's website here or follow them on Facebook or Twitter
If you want to find out a bit more about their beers and the brewer take a look at the Brewing Company's website or follow them on Twitter
Or just go and see for yourself, you'll find them at: 1King Street, Cambridge CB1 1LH