Category Archives: Recipe

Vegan Pizzas

Well, I did say I would be changing my diet, and looking for ideas for low fat versions of favourite foods. To be fair, I have been making vegan pizzas for some time, as my wife is a non-dairy vegetarian, so this is nothing new.

And to be completely honest, because I am having to take things easy following my recent hospital visit, I didn’t make the two pizzas I have shown here – my wife did. And bloody good they were too.

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Both have houmous as the base sauce, rather than tomato. Toasted pine nuts, caramelized onions, peppers, tofu, and on one a mix of spinach, rocket and water cress, the other mango and chilli sauce.

No cheese in sight. But you know what? You don’t need it. not every time, anyway.

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Beef Shin

I was watching BBC Breakfast this morning, and they had an article on about ‘unusual’ cuts of beef, namely marrowbone, shin and skirt. Maybe it’s my age, but shin and skirt didn’t seem unusual to me, but I understand there may be a lot of people younger than me who have only ever shopped in Tesco’s and buy their meat wrapped in film and neatly trimmed.

But that was OK, because we had a chef on to tell us more about the cuts and what to do with them. All good so far.

For those of you who are not familiar with skirt or shin, they are cuts that are full of flavour, but need to be slow cooked, otherwise they’ll be too tough to eat. I have to confess I do not know too much about marrowbone, as to me it’s something you give to the dog. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to try it, it’s just that I never have.

Anyway, the point was made that people are reluctant to cook these cuts because they don’t know what to do with them. Not that we all lead busy lives these days (a comment that would have sent me into full-on rant mode), or we may not have heard of them. No. It’s because we don’t know what to do with them.

Now one thing that the vast majority of people do know how to do these days is look something up on the internet. I have just typed ‘beef skirt’ into Google, and the predictions that have appeared in the drop-down box are as follows:

Beef skirt recipes, beef skirt steak recipes, beef skirt stew, beef skirt slow cooker, beef skirt curry.

Typing in ‘beef shin’ came up with even more interesting predictions, like ragu, chilli and macaroni.

Not knowing what to do with something is no longer an excuse. Aversion, apathy, fear and lack of time are possible reasons to avoid these particular pieces of meat, but lack of knowledge just doesn’t wash.

So, for anyone who is interested, a simple recipe for slow-cooked beef shin is as follows:

3 or 4 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces

2 medium onions

2 medium carrots

1 stick of celery

1kg of beef shin (or skirt)

500g of beef stock (one stock cube in hot water will do)

A few cloves of garlic, if you want.

Plain flour

1 bay leaf (if you have any)

1T tomato purée

salt and pepper

Oil

Frying pan

Slow cooker or oven-proof casserole dish

Heat a little oil in the frying pan, and cook the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to brown.

Whilst this is cooking, peel and slice the onions, carrots and celery.

Remove the bacon from the pan and put it in your cooking pot, but leave as much of the oil behind as you can.

Then cook the onions, carrots, garlic and celery in the frying pan for a few minutes until the onions have started to soften. Transfer them all to the pot.

Now get a bowl and put a couple of tablespoons of plain flour in it, and season it with some salt and pepper. You now need to dredge the meat, which should have been cut into pieces roughly an inch square, in the flour, a few pieces at a time, and those few pieces should be put in the hot frying pan and browned. Add some oil if you need to.

Tip: don’t put too much in the pan at once, as this will steam the meat rather than brown it.

Once you have browned all the meat and put in in the pot, add the beef stock, bay leaf and tomato puree, and put the lid on.

If you have a slow cooker, the best time to do all this is in the morning, and then set it on Low for eight hours. If you are using the oven, then 150 degrees or Mark 2 will be fine, for at least four hours. So for you, this would be something to cook at the weekend, but it can easily keep in the fridge and be reheated the next day.

It’s ready when the meat can be broken with a spoon or fork without any effort.

If you want, and have some available, you can also add half a bottle of red wine at the start. Also, if the gravy is a little thin, then add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed in a little cold water and put back in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve it with mashed potatoes, or some crusty white bread. You’ll probably need some of that to mop up your plate at the end, anyway.

It’s that simple, and nothing to be afraid of. And there are hundreds of more recipes out there, so not knowing what to do with it really isn’t an excuse.

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Cupboard Vegetable Soup

‘What is a cupboard vegetable?’ I hear you ask. Exactly what it says it is: any vegetables you have in the cupboard, that are a little past their best but not quite ready for the compost heap or the green waste recycling bin. I find the best are root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, but if you want to use up some tomatoes or mushrooms, then go ahead. It really doesn’t matter.

Ingredients:

Anything you have in the cupboard, including but not essential, or indeed limited to:

Potatoes (but not New ones)

Carrots

Parsnips

Sweet potato

Celery

Broccoli

Mushrooms

Tomatoes

Essential Ingredients

One medium onion, or more if you want an oniony flavour.

One vegetable stock cube

Water

More Optional Ingredients

One small tin of sweet corn, drained.

Method

If you are using carrots and/or parsnips, peel and roughly chop, and pre-heat the oven to its highest setting. Then coat in your choice of oil (I tend to use sunflower, but it’s up to you) then spread out on a roasting tin. Place on the top shelf for at least 25 minutes, or until browned. Some may have turned a little black, but that’s fine – it all adds to the flavour.

Now, while they are roasting, peel your potatoes and chop into small pieces, about half an inch, or 1.5cm square, and put in a large saucepan. Then peel and chop the onion(s), put in enough water to just cover the veg, and sprinkle the stock cube into the pan.

If you have anything like swede that takes longer to cook than potatoes do, then you need to get that going beforehand.

Bring the pan to the boil, and simmer for around 8 minutes, then take a knife and check whether the potatoes are cooked. The knife should go in without much resistance. If they’re not, then just keep cooking for a couple more minutes and check again.

By the time the potatoes are done, the carrots should have changed colour, and should also be soft. Tip them in with the potatoes (don’t worry if any oil goes in as well).

Then, if you have a blender or food processor, you need to get it out. With a ladle, put some of the veg together with some of the cooking water into the blender, and blitz it until smooth. Or not until smooth, if you like a few lumpy bits in your soup. It really is up to you. Pour what you have done so far into a jug or bowl, then do the same with the rest of the veg and water, until it is all blended, then put it all back in the saucepan.

Now, if you want to make it a little like a chowder, tip in a small can of sweet corn. Or, if you don’t, then don’t.

I don’t tend to season this soup, as I find the stock cube can give it a salty taste, but if you want to then again it’s entirely up to you.

Alternatively, you could add a little grated nutmeg.

Serve in bowls with a chunk of the homemade bread, and you can sit there smugly, knowing that you are eating 100% pure food, with no additives. And you can tell your friends how clever you are.

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Pizza Sauce

OK. A confession here. I haven’t made a pizza sauce for about two years now. I use a pasta sauce, tomato and mascarpone from Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons – I think they all do the same sauce. But I’m sure you can get an equivalent in whatever country you are in right now. I find it to be just the right consistency, and the flavour is not too strong either.

However, if you really want to make your own, then here’s a simple one for you.

Ingredients

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

2 medium onions

A teaspoon of dried herbs – basil, oregano, mixed herbs. Whatever you have.

Salt and pepper.

Method

Put the contents of the tins in a saucepan or frying pan. Either will do, as you don’t need a lid for this.

Chop the onions, and put them in as well.

Sprinkle in the herbs, and season with salt and pepper.

Leave on a low heat for around an hour.

Then you can either use it as it is, or you can blitz it in a blender. It’s up to you, but I find it easier to spread if it’s been blitzed first. If it’s too thick, then add some water until you get the consistency you want.

It’s as simple as that.

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Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

Saturday night is Pizza Night in our house. It has been since 1998, and we’ve only missed a handful of Saturday nights since then.

It all started when we visited my sister-in-law when she was living in Massachusetts, and she gave my wife her recipe for pizza dough. We brought it back, tried it, and kept making it every Saturday night for a few years. When we got bored with that, we moved on to Dominos and Papa John’s, as well as supermarket ready-made pop-them-in-the-oven pizzas, but we always came back to homemade eventually.

Over the last three years or so it has become an obsession of mine, including trying different grades of flour, getting a pizza stone for the oven, having a pizza paddle for getting them in and out, and devising different topping combinations. The pinnacle came when my already vegetarian wife became lactose intolerant, and I had to come up with something that she could eat on a Saturday night. That recipe will be covered in a later post.

So here it is. Please don’t be scared, it really is very simple, once you get the hang of it. This will be enough for four roughly 12” pizzas.

Ingredients

Plain flour, or strong bread flour, or even 00 flour. Personally, I always use white, but if you really feel the need to use wholemeal, then I won’t judge you. Just don’t invite me round for pizza, that’s all.

1 tablespoon instant yeast

¾ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons oil – the choice is yours. I tend to use sunflower, but if you prefer olive oil then that’s fine.

480 ml/2 cups lukewarm/hand-hot water

Method

If you have a food-mixer, or even a bread maker, then use that, but you don’t have to. Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix together.

Then add the oil, and mix that around a little.

Pour in the water, either a little at a time, or all in one go. Either way, it will all mix in together without any problem. Just keep mixing and working it until it all comes together, and then knead for five to ten minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. After a while, you get to know when it is ready.

Put it back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size.

After an hour, lightly flour your work surface, and tip the dough out onto it.

Now, if you want to be accurate, and have four pizzas all the same size, then get your scales out. Although, to be honest, unless they are digital it isn’t going to make that much difference, but anyway, weigh the dough, and then divide it in to four equal parts.

If you have any corn meal, then that works best, but failing that lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Make each piece of dough in to a ball, and place on the sheet.

Leave uncovered until you need them.

When you do, lightly flour your work surface again, and roll out one of the balls to form a pizza base. I don’t think I need to explain what one of those looks like. Place on an oiled baking sheet or pizza tray. Then top with whatever you like on a pizza.

Heat oven to its maximum setting. Cook on the top shelf for 6 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees and cook for two more minutes. If your oven is perfect and doesn’t have any hot or cold spots, then you can forget about rotating it.

Next, I’ll be doing pizza sauce. I’ll try and remember to post it before next Saturday, in case you want to join the Saturday Night is Pizza Night club.

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Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork seems to have become very popular in the UK recently. The first time I had it was in a BBQ restaurant in Ormond Beach, Florida, and I had to ask what it was. Whilst I’m happy to admit that anything pork-based is going to whet my appetite, I was curious to know what this could possibly be.

Now I know, it seems obvious, really.

I have to say that slow-cooked pork, covered in barbeque sauce and piled high in a bread roll, topped with coleslaw, is one of the best things to eat in the whole world.

And it really isn’t hard to make. In fact, it would be difficult to find an easier recipe than this one, with an end result that will have your friends and family in awe of your culinary skills.

Ingredients

A joint of pork. Shoulder is best, because it tends to have more fat, but leg will do. The size of joint is entirely up to you, so long as it will fit in your slow cooker or other pot.

One onion, sliced.

One cup of water.

Salt and pepper.

Two bottles of barbeque sauce.

Method

If you have a slow-cooker, great. If not, then an oven-proof cooking pot with a lid will do.

Peel and slice the onion, and spread around on the bottom of the cooking pot. This is to keep the joint off the bottom, and prevent it sticking. Place the joint(s) in a slow-cooker/crock pot. Add one cup of water, no more as it will cook in its own juices. If you want, you can add a packet of fajita seasoning, but that isn’t essential, just some salt and pepper will do. Cook on low for 23 hours.

If you do not have a slow-cooker, then turn the oven to its lowest setting, and place the pot on the middle shelf.

After 23 hours, take the meat out of the pot, and take all of the fat off. Throw the fat away. Then take two forks, and shred the pork. Discard all but a couple of tablespoons of the juices, and return the shredded meat and the juices to the pot.

Now for the tricky bit. Pour at least two bottles of barbeque sauce (I use Paul Newman’s) over the pork, and mix in. Place back on low for an hour. By the time it has finished, the meat will be melt-in-the-mouth tender.

And that’s it. Serve on buns/rolls with coleslaw. Then wipe your chin with a napkin. It couldn’t be any easier.

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