Burundi breakfast

December 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

It’s not long since we breakfasted Burkina Faso style. That was an impoverished landlocked West African country whereas Burundi is an impoverished landlocked East African one. Over to the BBC weather website for some basic facts about the country:

“This small country in central Africa is about the size of Wales or Israel and is densely populated. It lies between 2° and 4°S and is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Lake Tanganyika to the southwest, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. It is a hilly and mountainous country, with its highest point rising to over 4,600 m/15,000 ft.”

I was taken aback by the existence of a 4,600m peak in central Africa that I’d never heard of before – sadly this seems to be a factual error – shame on you BBC!- as other more reliable sources show that the highest peak in Burundi is the whimsically named Mount Heha clocking in at just 2,670m.

Over to another BBC site – a world news one this time – for more facts. This was a depressing roll call of colonial oppression (first the Germans then the Belgians who are presumably responsible for Burundi’s official language being French), Hutu and Tutse civil war, genocide, mass refugee emigration and a shattered economy. Amidst the depressing fatcs I did find this striking image (courtesy of Getty Images) there of a Burundi man on a bicycyle transporting a LOT of green bananas:

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Information on Burundian food is hard to come by but the meagre information sources available seem to agree that green bananas or plantains and beans are part of the staple diet. So over to the Celtnet website for a basic red kidney bean and plantain stew which is there described as a main course accompaniment.

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I’ve adapted the Celtnet recipe to make it simpler to concoct in my Western kitchen and I give my recipe below. Served with toast and a poached egg plus a cafetière of aromatic East African coffee (coffee is one of Burundi’s principal exports) this made a pretty decent breakfast, the kind of breakfast to set you up for facing the legendary man-eating crocodile Gustave said to inhabit the waters of Lake Tanganyika just off Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura.

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And we’ve reached the end of countries beginning with the letter B just in time to end the year!

Recipe for Burundian bean and plantain stew

Adapted from a Celtnet.org recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients

14oz can red kidney beans
2 plantains
1 small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
pinch dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
300ml water

First prepare the vegetables. Drain and rinse the kidney beans in a colander. Peel and slice the plantain into chunks about 1cm thick. Peel and thinly slice the onion.

In a medium lidded saucepan heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and add the sliced onions. Fry for 5 or so minutes until soft and translucent. Add the plantain slices and fry for 10 minutes more, turning the chunks occasionally so that they don’t burn. Once the plantain has coloured a little, add the drained kidney beans, seasonings and 300ml water. Bring to the the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, partially cover with the pan lid and cook for about 20 minutes. The stew is ready when the plantain is soft and the liquid has reduced by a half.

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Twelve days of Swiss Christmas

December 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love sent to me:

12 Chocolate Snowmen
11 Christmas Guetzli
10 Grilled Kalbsbratwurst
9 Glasses of Glühwein
8 Rhåtischebahn Engines
7 Rustic Chalets
6 Christmas Trees
5 Singers singing
4 Advent Candles
3 Christmas Stockings
2 Davos Sledges

and an enormous Cinnamon Star!

That’s more or less a summary of our Swiss Christmas,though we didn’t spend any where near 12 days there, and I haven’t even mentioned the skiing.

We have our mince pies and Christmas cake but the Swiss go nuts for their Guetzli – Christmas biscuits which are on offer in every bakery, household and public place throughout Christmas. The good Hausfrau will of course make her own to offer to guests and family. Leafing through my Betty Bossi Christmas baking book I see cosy colour pictures of Orangenschnittli (filled almond orange shortbread), fantastically embossed Tirggel, Orangenschümli (orange mini meringues), Pfeffernüsse (little spiced gingernuts) to name but a few.

Best of all in my opinion are the Zimsternen – cinnamon star biscuits. At their best they’re nutty and spicy, a little bit crunchy, a little bit chewy with a crisp meringue icing. These biscuits aren’t exclusively Swiss but can be found throughout the German-speaking countries.

The biscuit base, a mixture of ground nuts, sugar and egg whites flavoured strongly with cinnamon and lemon zest is half way beween marzipan and a macaroon. I’ve come up with my own version of the classic recipe compiled from 3 sources: (i)the recipe on the back of the special split “profi” star cutter; (ii) Marianne Kaltenbach’s “Aus Schweizer Küchen”; (iii) Thorsten’s recipe on website Food.com. Dry matter per egg white varies from 225g to 275g and the percentage of ground nuts varies from 59% to 77% in the different recipes. This version uses 300g nutsand 200g sugar making 250g dry matter per egg white with 60% of the dry matter made up of nuts.

To make the biscuits using the method shown in my pictures you’ll need to get hold of a special split star cutter which releases the moist iced biscuits without sticking. I found mine in specialist kitchen shop Sibler in Zürich. If you have a standard star cutter then I’d recommend cutting the shapes out, placing them on the baking sheet then brushing with the icing.

Recipe for Cinnamon Stars

Makes about 34 biscuits in two rollings plus 15 small additional shapes with the soft trimmings.

Ingredients

For the biscuit dough

75g whole unblanched almonds
75g halved walnuts
100g golden caster sugar
60g egg white (about 2 medium egg whites)
pinch of salt
approximately 150g ground almonds (more may be needed to make a pliable, workable dough)
further 50g golden caster sugar
50g icing sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the icing

30g egg white (1 medium egg white)
small pinch of salt
175g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Lightly toast the whole nuts. Allow to cool then blitz in a liquidiser with the 100g golden caster sugar until very finely chopped.

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they reach the soft peak stage. Mix in the ground nut and sugar mixture, the ground almonds, caster sugar, icing sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add additional ground almonds if necessary to make a workable dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for about an hour.

When the resting time is nearly up, make the icing. Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt until stiff. Whisk in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoon at a time together with the teaspoon of lemon juice. You may not need to add all the icing sugar; stop when you reach a thick spreading consistency.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan) and line two or three baking trays with parchment.

Dust a pastry board and rolling pin with plenty of sifted icing sugar then roll out the rested dough to about ½ cm thick. You can roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment if you prefer.

If you have a special split star cutter which can be squeezed to release the iced biscuit you can use this method to complete the stars: using a pastry brush, paint the surface of the dough thickly with the meringue icing and cut out the iced stars and carefully place them on a baking sheet a few centimetres apart. This gives a neat and professional finish but the drawback is that the icing is mixed into the dough when the trimmings are combined for rerolling making the dough wetter each time. To counteract this you may need to add more ground almonds each time you reroll. For my third rolling, I simply rolled the soft mixture into a log and cut thick disks. I didn’t ice this third batch but instead topped each with a whole blanched almond for a more macaroon-like biscuit.

If you have an ordinary star cutter, don’t try and pre-ice the biscuits as they will stick and not release from the cutter: simply cut out the star shapes, place them on the baking sheet then brush the biscuits with the meringue icing.

Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes until baked through but still somewhat moist with crisp and uncoloured white icing. The biscuits will swell a little as they bake to end up 1cm thick. Leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes after removing from the oven before transferring to a rack to cool thoroughly.

You might like to bake any un-iced biscuits at a slightly higher temperature to give a more toasty flavour as there’s no icing to brown.

An alternative Christmas dinner

December 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve been teaching some local young people simple cooking skills at our local Parish Centre/Church Hall over the past few months. To celebrate the “end of term” we congregated together for a special pre Christmas meal.

My initial idea for this meal was to showcase the 3 original Christmas gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Having researched their culinary possibilities I decided that whilst it would be straightforward to decorate a dessert with real edible gold leaf, incorporating frankincense and myrrh into savoury dishes might be more challenging and maybe even downright toxic. I sourced high quality frankincense and myrrh resins the origins of which were Oman and the Yemen and decided to incorporate them into the meal by burning them over charcoal.The fragrant smoke is very atmospheric and transports you instantly to the Middle East.

Hence the inspiration for the meal – food inspired by the the Holy Land as reinterpreted by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi in their rather gorgeous new book “Jerusalem” featuring recipes from their respective Jewish and Arabic heritages. The book, hardback and handsomely cloth bound, was an early Christmas present to myself and I couldn’t wait to put it through its paces.

This was the menu for yesterday’s alternative Christmas dinner for 18, largely taken from the pages of “Jerusalem”:

Roasted chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon
Open kibbeh
Root vegetable slaw
Mejadra
Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar
Roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs
Basic hummus and hummus with lemon sauce and pinenuts
Pitta
Labneh

Golden clementine cake
Yoghurt, honey and pomegranates

Pomegranate and rose cordial

And here we are enjoying the rather magnificent feast:

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I did quite a bit of prep beforehand at home helped by Laura who made the rather beautiful roasted sweet potato and fresh figs:

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and stunning root vegetable slaw, vibrant in colour and taste, combining crisp raw roots sliced on the mandolin and cut into matchsticks combined with a sharp lemony dressing and Ottolenghi’s trademark abundance of fresh herbs:

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At the Parish Centre kitchen, Laura and Emma prepared the chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon which baked to a toasty gold and was aromatic and delicious with lots of slow-cooked shallot, sweet garlic cloves and of course the nuggets of Jerusalem artichoke. This would be a fantastic dish for an informal dinner party or a very welcome addition to a buffet for family and friends over the holiday period.

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Perhaps the best fun was preparing our own hummus, just as good as the stuff you can buy at Sainsbury’s! I’ve never had much success with homemade hummus before but I’d always started with canned chickpeas. WRONG! You need to start with dried kind, and some bicarb to help remove the skins. In fact the method is not so different from our own homegrown mushy peas. Oh, and a whole jar of tahini paste per batch, and the magic ingredient – ice cold water which turns the mix, after a whole 5 minutes of processor blasting, magically into an elegantly pale and silky smooth emulsion. Jess and Oli did a fantastic job of mixing up the two different batches of hummus, one plain and one garnished.

My simplified version of Mejadra, a spicy, oniony rice and lentil mix, was a more dramatic and interesting alternative to plain boiled rice:

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The finishing touch to our feast was the chocolate ganache iced and gold leaf decorated Golden Clementine cake, sweet and citrussy. This cake, minus the decadent chocolate icing, clearly derives from the many recipes for Sephardic Jewish cakes featuring citrus and ground almonds that the Jews brought with them from Spain hundreds of years ago. Many cookbook authors give recipes for similar cakes – Claudia Roden, Nigella Lawson and of course Delia to name but three. This version is simple to make, deliciously moist with the addition of syrup and very Christmassy with its sharp citrus notes shining through. It reminds you of clementines stuffed in your Christmas stocking and pays a nod to that old British confectionery favourite, the Terry’s chocolate orange. Clemmie and James were the pastry chefs who ably prepared the chocolate icing and painstakingly applied the gold leaf with tweezers.

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I give below the recipes we prepared together in the kitchen last night – maybe some of the young people will cook the dishes at home for their families over the holidays?

For the rest, you’ll need to buy the book – it would make a great late Christmas present for any keen cook.

Recipe for roasted chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon

Adapted from a recipe in “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Serves 8 as a main course or up to 16 if served as part of a buffet.

Ingredients

900g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 6 lengthways wedges, about 1.5cm thick
3 tablespoons lemon juice
16 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
24 shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
24 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 medium lemons, cut in half lengthways and then into very thin slices
2 teaspoons saffron threads
100ml olive oil
300ml cold water
3 tablespoons pink peppercorns, slightly crushed
8g dried thyme or herbes de Provence mix
40g chopped tarragon leaves
4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 further tablespoons lemon juice
further 40g chopped tarragon

Put the Jerusalem artichokes in a large saucepan, cover with plenty of water and add the 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes until tender but not soft. Drain and leave to cool.s

Place the Jerusalem artichokes and all the remaining ingredients except the final 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 40g chopped tarragon into a large mixing bowl and use your hand to mix everything together well. Cover, refrigerate and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C/220 degrees C fan/Gas mark 9. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up in the centre of a roasting tin and spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. Cover the tin with foil and cook for a further 15 minutes by which point the chicken should be completely cooked.

Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Stir well, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at once.

Recipe for Mejadra

Adapted from a recipe in “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

250g green or brown lentils (we used Puy lentils which were fine)
6-8 medium onions (1.4kg before prep)
6 tablespoons light olive oil
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
400g white basmati rice
4 tablespoons light olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground allspice
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar
700ml water
salt and black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander and pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional)

Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil and cook until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite, then drain.

Peel and slice the onions thinly. Fry in 2 large frying pans each with about 3 tablespoons light olive oil over a medium heat for about 20 minutes until the onions are soft and brown but not burnt. The original recipe requires the onions to be dipped in flour and deep-fried but I have simplified this step and the resulting slow-cooked soft brown onions still taste good mixed with the rice, spices and lentils.

Take a large heavy based lidded saucepan and place over a medium high heat. Once hot, add the cumin and coriander seeds and dry-fry to toast the seeds for a minute or two, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer on a very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.

Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion. If like, garnish with chopped fresh parsley and or coriander leaves and a few pomegranate seeds.

Recipe for basic and garnished hummus

Recipes adapted from those in “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Serves 12 or more if served as part of a buffer

Ingredients

For the basic hummus

500g dried chickpeas
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
540g light tahini paste
8 tablespoons lemon juice
8 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml ice cold water
salt

To garnish half of the batch

4 tablespoons whole cooked chickpeas reserved from the second batch
2 tablespoons pine nuts lightly toasted in the oven or dry frying pan
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley

For the lemon sauce

10g flatleaf parsley finely chopped
1 green chilli finely chopped
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt

Start a day before by washing the chickpeas well and placing them in a large bowl. Cover them with cold water, at least twice their volume, and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a large saucepan on a high heat and add the drained chickpeas and bicarbonate of soda. Coll for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3 litres fresh water and bring to the boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will take between 20 and 40 minutes to cook, maybe even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your finger and thumb, almost, but not quite, mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 1.2kg now. Place half of the the chickpeas in a food processor bowl. Process until you get a stiff paste then, with the machine still running, add the half of the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in half of the iced water and allow it to mix until you get a very smooth creamy paste, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Repeat with the second batch of ingredients (you used only half), but remember to reserve 4 tablespoons cooked chickpeas to garnish.

Shortly before you serve the hummus, combine all the lemon sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Top the second bowl of hummus with the cooked chickpeas, drizzle generously with the lemon sauce, and garnish with chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts.

Recipe for golden clementine cake

Adapted from a recipe in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Serves 8 generously or up to 16 if cut into delicate slices.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g unsalted butter
300g golden caster sugar
grated zest of 4 clementines and and 1 lemon
280g ground almonds
5 medium eggs
100g plain four sifted with a pinch of salt

For the syrup

80g golden caster sugar
120ml lemon and clementine juice

For the chocolate icing (optional)

90g unsalted butter, diced
150g good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces (or Valrhona or similar buttons)
¾ tablespoons honey
½ tablespoons cognac

To decorate

Long strips of zest taken from an orange using a zester
or flakes of real gold leaf (available from specialist cake decorating suppliers)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C fan/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 24cm round cake tin, ideally loose bottomed and line the base and sides with a double layer of parchment.

The cake is best made in a stand mixer such as a Kenwood. Cream together the butter and caster sugar thoroughly. Add approximately half the ground almonds. Beat in the eggs gradually, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time.

Add the remaining ground almonds, flour and salt and work them into the mix until completely smooth.

Spread the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and level with a palette knife (a small crank-handled one does the job well).

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, checking to make sure it’s not browning too much. Test in the usual way by seeing if the sides have shrunk just a little and by inserting a skewer which should come out clean.

Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the syrup by combining the sugar and citrus juices in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then remove the syrup from the heat.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush it with the boiling syrup until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake in its tin to cool completely before removing it from its tin.

Either garnish with the orange strips and serve as is or coat with chocolate icing.

To make the chocolate icing, put the butter, chocolate and honey in a heatproof bowl and set OVER (not in) a pan of simmering water making sure the bowl does not touch the water.

Stir until everything is melted, remove from the heat straightaway and fold in the cognac.

Pour the icing over the cool cake allowing it to dribble naturally over the sides without covering the cake completely.

Let the icing set then decorate either with strips of orange zest of flakes of gold leaf in the centre of the cake.

Comforting casseroles part 3: veal

December 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The weather pre-Christmas is cold and wintry and thoughts turn to warming casseroles once again. I’ve previously shared my favourite pork (part 1) and beef (part 2) casserole recipes and now it’s veal’s turn. Don’t worry this isn’t pale Dutch veal reared in less than humane conditions, but the more robust English pink veal reared to high welfare standards, a tasty by-product of the UK dairy industry that frankly would be a waste NOT to eat.

Today’s dish is classic Milanese dish of braised veal shin on the bone, Osso Buco, served up with its traditional partner, saffron scented risotto milanese, one of the few instances in Italian cooking when risotto is served as an accompaniment rather than as a separate primo piatto course.

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I’ve read about this dish many times over the years but have never been able to try it as a) I had no inkling where I’d get hold of decent veal which hasn’t until recently been widely available in the UK and b) even if I could track down veal I didn’t think I’d find a butcher able to prepare the necessary shin slices complete with intact marrow bone, one of the highlights of the finished dish.

I was delighted to find that Ocado recently began offering slices of veal shin for osso buco alongside its other veal offerings (which include fantastic veal chops, veal rib joints and proper escalopes). They come two or occasionally three to a pack and a pack weighs a tad over 500g so you need two packs for the recipe below which serves four.

You begin by tying your veal into dinky packages with string. This serves to keep the star marrowbone intact during the long braising. You may need to tie around the piece of veal shin as well to keep it in a nice round piece. My pieces of veal looked perfectly well formed and butchered so I omitted this step and just did the package tied up with string thing:

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Once the trussed veal pieces have been coated in seasoned flour, the only other bit of prep required is to finely dice a small onion and stick of celery. Don’t worry if you’re iffy about celery – after 2 hours cooking the vegetables break down to produce a textured sauce and there’s no pronounced celery flavour, just a deep savouriness.

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The next step is to brown the floured veal slices in hot oil. The veal is then removed and set aside whilst the vegetables are sweated in some butter which you add to the pan. Then the vermouth or white wine is added and reduced a little before adding the stock and returning the meat to the pan for a long slow 2 hour braise.

A word about choice of stock. In a quest for meaty perfection I bought some rather expensive chilled beef stock from the supermarket and used this topped up with some stock from a “quality” reduced salt beef stock cube. I did the same thing with my accompanying risotto milanese. The end result, odd as it may sound was just too beefy and intense. The veal marrowbones and collagen-rich shin meat make a most wonderful sauce as the meat braises so I think there is really no need to start with a rich meaty stock. Next time I make this dish I’ll use a light stock made from a good quality reduced salt cube, making it up at a weaker strength than recommended on the packet. The meat and bones will do the rest for me.

This is how the veal looks before the long slow braise:

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And here it is once the cooking is complete, freshened up with its sprinkling of gremolada, a lively mix of chopped flatleaf parsley, grated lemon zest and a smidge of finely chopped garlic:

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Serve the meat with risotto alla milanese and a green vegetable. We chose roast courgette, as Anna del Conte does in the glorious photo accompanying the recipe in her book “Gastronomy of Italy”. I’ve largely drawn on this recipe in my version which I give below. The recipe is an authentic Milanese one and thus, unlike many published versions of the recipe, contains no tomato.

The risotto alla milanese recipe I give below is also adapted from Anna del Conte’s and is made in the usual way. If you’re familiar with making risotto you’ll have no trouble following it. If you haven’t made risotto before I’d suggest buying a good Italian cookbook and reading up in detail on risotto-making technique before attempting to follow my slightly sketchy instructions!

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One last word – be sure to scoop out the unctuous marrow from the centre of the ossi buci and mash it into your risotto – delicious.

Recipe for ossibuci alla milanese

Adapted from Anna del Conte’s recipe in “Gastronomy of Italy”.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 decent sized ossibuci (slices of veal shin on the bone) each weighing about 250g)
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons light olive oil
25g butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small stick of celery, finely diced
175 ml white vermouth (I like Noilly Prat) or white wine
300 ml light stock (beef, chicken, vegetable – a qood quality stock cube is OK) or even water

For the gremolada

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 very finely chopped small garlic clove
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley

Tie each osso buco with string as if you were wrapping a package. This is to retain the marrowbone in place during the long cooking and turning process. If, after looking at your pieces of veal, you think it advisable to tie a piece of string around the circumference of each slice to keep it all together then do this as well.

Coat the veal slices lightly in seasoned flour. I put about 6 tablespoons of flour into a deep bowl, then mix in a teaspoon of fine salt before dipping the veal pieces in the flour. Discard the excess flour afterwards.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of light olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy lidded shallow casserole that is big enough to hold the veal snugly in a single layer. Once the oil is hot, put the veal pieces into the pan and leave untouched for 4 or 5 minutes to brown. Turn the veal over using a pair of tongs and brown the other side. Once the browning is complete, turn the heat to low, remove the veal and set aside in a shallow dish.

Once the pan has cooled a litle, add the butter and once melted, add the diced onions and celery and fry gently without browning until soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes’s cooking. Now add the vermouth or wine to the pan and let bubble for a minute or two to reduce a little. Now add the stock and return the veal slices plus any juices which have accumulated in the dish back to the pan. Turn up the heat to bring the contents to the boil then reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover with the lid and leave to simmer for one and half to two hours until the meat is tender.

Turn the meat over delicately with tongs about every twenty minutes during the 2 hour cooking period to ensure an even braise and tender meat.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the gremolada by combining the chopped parsley, finely chopped garlic and grated lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix well, cover and set aside.

Once you judge that the meat is cooked, check the consistency of the sauce. If it is a little too thin, remove the lid and raise the heat a little and gently boil away some of the liquid until you have a chunky coating sauce consistency. Check the seasoning too. Because the stock you have used is likely to contain salt (especially if you’re using a stock cube) I’ve not specified any additional salt in the recipe other than a little salt in the seasoned flour.

Snip of the string from the meat, scatter over the gremolada and serve with risotto milanese and a green vegetable – roast courgette (still available as I write in December) or steamed broccoli would both work well.

Recipe for Risotto alla Milanese

Adapted from Anna del Conte’s recipe in “Gastronomy of Italy”.

Serves 4

Ingredients

900ml light chicken or beef stock (homemade or good quality stock cube)
1 small onion or medium shallot finely diced
40g unsalted butter
350g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
90ml white vermouth (I like Noilly Prat)
big pinch saffron strands
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
additional 20g unsalted butter
25g freshly grated parmesan

You need two medium heavy-based saucepans for this recipe. Bring the stock to simmering point in the first saucepan and melt 40g butter in the second. Add the chopped onion or shallot to the pan containing the butter and sauté gently until soft and translucent.

Add the rice to the butter and onions and stir over a low heat until the rice is thoroughly coated with the butter. Turn up the heat to medium and add the vermouth and boil for a minute or so, stirring all the time. Now add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed the stock before adding the next ladleful. Once two or three ladles of stock have been added, crumble the saffron strands into the risotto. It should be kept simmering, not too slowly and not too fast either and should be cooked in 15-20 minutes. Test the rice after it has cooked for 15 minutes by biting on a grain. When ready it should be cooked through to the al dente stage and and should no longer have a hard chalky centre but should not be soft and mushy. If it’s not ready, add a little more stock (or boiling water if you’ve used it all) and cook for a minute or so longer before testing again. Conversely, you may not need to add all the stock from the pan.

When the risotto is ready, remove from the heat, stir in seasoning and add the additional 20g butter and 25g grated parmesan, cover the pan and leave for a minute or two for all the elements to merge in a savoury manner.

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