Saturday, 26 January 2013


This is rapidly becoming one of my favourite dishes. On its own, reduced to its bare essentials it's a stew like mix of tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs. That alone would make it epic, especially at the height of tomato season (not long now) where a solitary tomato, fresh off the vine, is an explosion of flavour. It is jam packed full of vegetables (well technically fruit) and served alongside some good bread makes it a very filling and healthy dish to start your day or finish it which ever you prefer.
What I like about this dish though is its adaptability. It is infinitely changeable depending on your mood, whims or contents of your fridge. You could vary the herbs or increase your favourite. Add small chunks of salty feta, which I did today in this version and it was excellent. You could fry in some chorizo or throw in a pinch of smoked paprika, the list is endless.

I am submitting this to two excellent blogger challenges, Herbs on Saturday by Karen at the beautiful Lavender and Lovage which is hosted, this month by Vanesther at banger mash chat  and Breakfast club from Fuss Free Helen, this month hosted by Janice at the lovely Farmersgirl Kitchen with the theme of cooked breakfast.

This version is based on Ottolenghi's recipe in Plenty and the Guardian Website. I had a version of this at his superb Islington deli/restaurant where it was served with grilled foccacia and Labneh which is a soft cheese with a similar flavour to sour cream.

Shakshuka (feeds 3 - 4)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 red and 1 yellow pepper
1 white and 1 red onion
4 - 5 tomatoes
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
pinch of cayenne
Salt and Pepper
1 egg per person
chunks of feta

Dry fry the cumin seeds over a high heat for a minute or so. add a couple of tbsp of oil and ad the onions.
Fry for 5 minutes until soft then add the peppers, herbs and sugar and cook until golden and soft.
Add the tomatoes, cayenne and season well.
Cook gently for 15 minutes until the tomatoes break down and a consistency of a pasta sauce is formed, you may need to add a splash of water.
Now either in one large frying pan, where everybody can dive in, or in separate little frying pans, make a little gap for each egg and crack in enough eggs for the amount of people you are serving.
Dot with chunks of feta and either oven bake for 10 minutes, until the egg is cooked or place on the hob and bubble through until the eggs are cooked.
Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the juices


Monday, 21 January 2013

Red Flannel Hash

After making Salt Beef yesterday, the obvious next question is what to do with it. There is only so many beef and mustard sandwiches one can eat. RCM pointed me in the direction of a recipe for a Red Flannel Hash named after New England's red flannel cloth and is a traditional American way to use up salt or corned beef. The beetroot in the recipe gives it a deep red colour, hence the name.

I do like a good hash, perfect stodgy comfort food for this heatwave we are currently going through. They are nutritious and an easy way to mainline vegetables. The recipe in the book is fairly basic so I decided to adapt it a bit according to what was in my kitchen. In this case; I added a few carrots, a mix of red and white onions and an absolute stroke of genius: half a teaspoon of smoked paprika which added a superb kick and a delicious smokey undertone.

Red Flannel Hash (makes enough for 3ish people)
3 medium spuds or two big spuds, chopped into chunks
2 carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced, mix of colours if you like
a good handful of shredded salt beef
150g cooked beetroot (not pickled), rroughly chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes and carrots until soft and roughly mash them together.
Fry the onions in oil for about 10 minutes until golden and soft. Season well and add the paprika.
Add the beef, beetroot and mash and mix together thoroughly.
Fry on one side until it starts crisping up then start turning sections, crisping as much as possible.
When it sufficiently crispy (to your liking) pile onto plates and serve with some green veg or on its own with a condiment of your choice (HP for me).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Salt Beef

On my last trip to London Town, We, as is becoming customary, went to the fantastic Borough Market for breakfast.

I opted for a delicious sounding Salt Beef sandwich with mustard and pickles. It was superb, soft and juicy, not overly salty beef, crunchy pickles accompanied by the burn of English Mustard all served in between a thick slice of sourdough bread.

Stop imagining it and have a look....

On my return home, I had a browse through River Cottage Meat to see if there was a recipe in there and lo and behold on page 438 there it was.

It's a slow recipe that can take the best part of a fortnight to make depending on the size of beef and the amount of salty flavour you want. I only had a small cut of brisket so I left mine in the brine for 5 days (up to 10 for bigger cuts) before fresh water soaking for 24 hours and then poached for just under two hours.

Ingredients (for a kilo of brisket)

1kg of brisket

2.5 litres of wate
250g brown sugar
750g sea salt
1/2tsp black pepper
1/2tsp juniper berries
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme

Poaching liquid
Water to cover
1 bouquet garni
1 of each chopped: carrot, onion, leek
1/2 garlic bulb, sliced horizontally

Make the brine by adding all the ingredients to  large pan and bring to the boil until the salt/sugar dissolves completely. Leave to cool
Once cool, place the beef into a plastic bowl or similar (not metal), covered with the brine for 5 days, any longer for a cut this size will be too much and completely pickle it. Weigh it down if required with a small plate.
After 5 days, drain the brine and replace with cold fresh water for 24 hours, change the water once during this time.
Add all the vegetables, herbs and beef into a large pan, cover with water and bring to a gently simmer for 2 hours.
Remove from the pan, leave to rest then serve.

The result was a juicy and surprisingly tender piece of beef a bit different from the one in Borough Market but I suspect that had been slow cooked for the best part of a day and used saltpetre which preserves the colour of beef. never the less, it was very good, not my first choice for a Sunday lunch but in between some good bread with fried onions and mustard it was delicious.