Archive for January 2011


Pork cheek tacos with blood orange and chipotle

January 27th, 2011 — 4:24pm

A slow-cooked meat dish always wants something to offset the richness (beef ragu with gremolata for another example), which is why I thought these pork cheeks would work well in tacos. They need leisurely cooking to melt the fat and render the meat fork-tender. I was thinking along the lines of saucy carnitas.

The blood oranges have hit the shops and so I used some juice to braise the cheeks, combined with Mexican spices and smoky chipotle flakes (you could also add some chipotles en adobo). After 3 hours of bubbling, the meat was coming apart in shreds and the sauce intensely flavoured; it’s probably one of the most delicious slow cooked dishes I’ve ever made. We piled it onto pan-scorched tacos and topped with lime-heavy guacamole, green chilli and Thomasina Miers’ pink onions pickled in citrus juice and herbs.

The leftovers made the largest and most kick ass burrito I’ve ever eaten in my life. I would’ve been embarrassed had anyone actually seen me eating it; meat all over my hands and face. I burnt my cheek with chilli. The sauce left its indelible mark in no less than 3 places on my t-shirt. Totally worth it though, especially considering I bought 10 cheeks for £2.50. Result.

Pork cheeks braised with blood orange and chipotle

10 pork cheeks
Juice of 1 large blood orange
4 cloves
6 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon crushed chipotle chillies (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 carrots, very finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 litre vegetable stock (or enough to comfortably cover the cheeks; the sauce will be reduced at the end)
1 teaspoon sugar

Flour and oil for searing the cheeks

Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Dust some flour onto a plate and use it to coat the pork cheeks by turning them over on the plate. Once the oil is hot, sear the cheeks a few at a time until brown on all sides then set aside on a plate.

Add the onions and carrots to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so until softened. Add the spices (in a little bit of muslin if you want to be fancy and make it easy to fish them out later on), orange juice, bay leaves, oregano, tomato purée, sugar and stock, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Add the pig cheeks back to the pan, put a lid on and cook on the lowest heat possible for 3 hours.

After this time, check the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove the meat from the sauce; it should be extremely tender and falling apart at the touch. Shred it and set aside. Fish the whole spices from the sauce then reduce it over a high heat by about two thirds. Basically you want enough to coat the meat in a rich sauce. Add the meat back to the sauce and warm through.

Serve on tacos with guacamole and onions lightly pickled in orange and lime juice with herbs. To cut tacos, use a large glass, teacup or knife to make circles from a large fajita wrap and toast lightly in a dry pan.

39 comments » | Main Dishes, Meat, Mexican Food

Egg yolk ravioli

January 24th, 2011 — 8:35am

Yeah, quite chuffed with these. I thought it sounded near impossible to slip an egg yolk into the centre of a ravioli and cook it without it either busting out into the water or completely over-cooking and to be honest the latter worried me more; the idea of hard-boiled yolk encased in pasta is just really, really grim.

Anyway they are actually quite easy. You have to make your own pasta of course, so it depends how you feel about that and you really will need a machine because the pasta needs to be as thin as you can possibly get it. That would be a long hard slog with a rolling pin and I ain’t no Nonna. It’s easy when you make pasta at home to be fooled into thinking you have it thin enough when you don’t, which is exactly what happened to me the first time I made these. They cooked perfectly, but the pasta was just too fat and gluey.

The next time I pushed right through to the heady heights of setting number 9 on the machine and was rewarded with papery pasta sheets. I made a spinach and ricotta mixture which doubled up as a stand to keep the yolk in place (an idea I tea-leafed from Nicky who used a ricotta and herb mix and took some incredibly good pictures). It’s important to have a large pan so you don’t overcrowd it with ravioli and to have the water at an enthusiastic simmer rather than a boil (to avoid eggy bursts). A mere 2-3 minutes will cook the pasta through (remember it’s very thin, and fresh) and the yolk will remain gooey and ooze out onto the plate creating a rich sauce.

I bathed them simply with melted butter, crushed pink peppercorns, lemon zest and some of the purple basil that my mum grew and I have somehow managed to keep alive. I love how they look all pretty and delicate but are actually packing the punches with pasta, egg and butter. They’re deceptively light in the eating too, dangerously so in fact. You’ll only want one or two per person but there’s no need to worry about not being full; it would be a crime not to mop up all those golden buttery juices with a slice or two of good bread.

Egg yolk ravioli (serves 4)

200g 00 flour (strong white flour)
2 eggs
A pinch of salt

For the filling

8 small eggs
200g spinach leaves
100g ricotta
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Black pepper

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Add the salt. Bring the pasta mix together until you have a rough dough. Knead it on a lightly floured surface until smooth and silky. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for half an hour.

Meanwhile, wash the spinach and without drying it put it straight into a small saucepan on a low heat and put a lid on. Steam until wilted down. Drain, then when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water from it as possible and chop finely. Add to a bowl with the ricotta and Parmesan. Add some black pepper. Taste and add some salt if you like.

Roll out the pasta to the thinnest setting using a pasta machine. Cut into 16 large squares on a well floured surface (you want to leave enough room to cut around the ravioli easily without the stuffing coming out of the sides). In the middle of every other square, put a blob of ricotta mixture, then make a dimple in the centre large enough to hold an egg yolk. Make sure the sides are high enough so that the yolk won’t spill over. Crack an egg over a bowl into your hands so that you are left holding the yolk and the white drains into the bowl through your fingers. Carefully slip each yolk into the middle of the ricotta mixture.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Brush some of the leftover egg whites around the edges of each ravioli and place another pasta square on top. Seal the ravioli carefully easing out any air bubbles towards the edges. Use a glass or teacup to cut each ravioli into a circular shape.

Use a fish slice to pick up each ravioli and place gently into the water. Cook for 2 minutes until the pasta is just cooked and the yolk still runny. Serve with melted butter mixed with crushed pink peppercorns and chopped lemon zest. Garnish with basil.

33 comments » | Cheese, Eggs, Main Dishes, Pasta, Vegetables

Soused rainbow trout with pink peppercorns and lemon zest

January 18th, 2011 — 9:02am

Meat-free January has been well and truly scuppered by the opening of the #MEATEASY. I’m still trying to plug the gaps though, what few of them there are, with fish and vegetables. In the absence of mackerel in the fishmonger on Saturday, I was looking around for something else to souse; the monger advised me to try these pretty rainbow trout – a good price at £7 for three, yielding 6 healthy-sized fillets.

Although by sousing you are effectively cooking the fish by pickling it, I’d heard that different types of fish can carry parasites, which are usually killed by heat. Tales of tapeworms started to freak me out. I called the fishmonger. He told me that with wild trout it would be a concern but as these were farmed and fairly small, they wouldn’t have had a chance to catch any parasites; I didn’t have to worry about breaking my meat-fast too early. If you’re still worried or you’re using wild trout though, freezing the fish first will kill off any unwanted extra protein.

For the sousing liquid: pink peppercorns, coriander seed, lemon zest and spring onion. I used to think pink peppercorns were just wanky show-boating, until I bought a bag and realised that the flavour is really unique; perfumed, almost rosy. Less heat than their black relatives but way more aromatic.

The trout ends up with a delicious sweet and sour flavour, like a posh roll mop and the flesh firms during sousing yet keeps that wonderful silken feel of raw fish. We ate it with a sweet cucumber salad and I’d love to try it with some roasted cherry tomatoes. I can see myself doing a lot of sousing actually, it ticks all the January boxes: healthy (tick!); cheap (tick!); easy (tick!). Win.

Soused rainbow trout

3 small rainbow trout, scaled and filleted (you can use another fish, but make sure to use an oily one)
350ml good quality white wine vinegar
50g sugar
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible; I had to use dried since my tree died in the snow)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 good hefty pinches pink peppercorns
2 spring onions, cut into short lengths
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Put all the marinade ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil. Leave to cool and check for tartness, you may want more sugar in which case add some and heat again.

Wash the fish fillets, pat them dry then arrange them in a shallow dish in one layer. Once the sousing liquid is completely cool, pour it over the fish making sure they are completely submerged. Cover and leave for 24 hours in the fridge.

21 comments » | Fish, Pickles

#MEATEASY: Interview with Yianni Papoutsis from The Meatwagon and Scott Collins from Capital Pubs

January 13th, 2011 — 10:27am

If you live in London, like burgers and you haven’t heard of The Meatwagon then you must have been living under a rock. Yianni Papoutsis serves burgers (and other American classics) that blow any competition so far out of the water they practically cease to exist. He started out serving from his Meatwagon van on an industrial estate in Peckham and now regularly rocks up at one of Scott Collins’ pubs in South East London which include (amongst others) The Florence in Herne Hill, The Victoria in Peckham and now The Goldsmiths Tavern (soon to revert to its original name, The New Cross House). This time, there is no van; you could describe it as a pop up restaurant, but it’s going to be so much more down and dirty. The restaurant/dive bar is billed as the #MEATEASY and it’s a greedy carnivore’s boozy playground. I gave Yianni and Scott a good grilling to find out more about the project and their future plans.

Yianni, before we get onto the ‘chop-up’ that is the #MEATEASY, tell us a little about The Meatwagon – what inspired you to start up?

Possibly some kind of mild stroke.

For those who don’t know (fools!), tell us about the kind of food you serve from The Wagon. Do you have a favourite recipe? Any new recipes you’re currently working on?

We serve my slightly bastardised version of classic American diner food: Burgers, Philly Cheesesteaks, chilli dogs etc. Everything is made with the best available ingredients, cooked to order every time.

One of the reasons your burgers taste so great is that you take great care in sourcing your ingredients. Can you reveal any of your suppliers (meat, buns, cheese etc.) or do you prefer to keep that info under wraps?

I love chatting with our customers about the minutiae of crafting truly great burgers and a lot of our basic techniques are out there for anyone to use. You yourself did a great article on recreating one of our Chilli Cheeseburgers a few months ago and Mark Hix recently published a version of our cheeseburger recipe in the Independent Magazine. Those techniques are one part of the formula for a great burger and I consider them public domain. My suppliers, however, I’d prefer to keep to myself. A gentleman has to have some secrets, after all.

Besides, finding your own favourite local suppliers is half the fun in my opinion.

So, tell us about the #MEATEASY…

#MEATEASY is The Meatwagon wearing its winter coat.

As I’m sure some of your readers will have heard, The Meatwagon (v.2.0) and its entire contents was stolen from its home in Peckham just before Christmas. Three weeks later, just after New Year’s, Scott and I were sitting in the Bishop having a few ales, trying to come up with a temporary solution to the theft of the Wagon. We came up with #MEATEASY.

Long story short: Scott will be taking over the Goldsmiths Tavern for Capital Pubs next month and reopening it as The New Cross House (its original name). He’s arranged for us to take over the upstairs room until the renovations start and we’ve had total free reign to do whatever we want with it. My good friend Lisa (@Roxanne­_Roll) came up with some amazing design ideas and I hope we’ve created a space where people will feel comfortable drinking and hanging out as well as grabbing a bite to eat.

Cocktail gurus Soul Shakers have put together a truly unique bar – if you haven’t heard of them, google them. You’ll get the idea.

We stepped into the room last Saturday, 8th January. We got busy. We opened to the public four days later.

How long will the restaurant be open?

Until mid March.

Will you be offering the same menu as The Meatwagon?

The menu will include absolutely everything we’ve ever done at the Meatwagon – all the burgers, the dogs, the Buffalo Wings, plus a few other things we’ve been wanting to try out for ages – Mac & Cheese, onion rings, and my own version of a classic kebab-shop chicken burger.

And fries! One of the reasons we’ve never done fries is that the logistics and time involved in triple cooking fries from scratch in the wagon made it both unfeasible and financial suicide. I’m employing one chef who will just do fries. All day. Every day. They will loathe the sight of both me and potatoes by the end of this, I can guarantee you.


Will pricing stay the same?

I’ve had to put a quid on the burgers I’m afraid (first ever Meatwagon price rise) but a cheeseburger’s still only six quid: That’s for a third of a pound of meat which is still pretty good bang for your buck, I reckon. It costs as much to set up a restaurant for two months as it does for two years so we’ve had to adjust our prices a touch to cover the extra costs. I think at the moment the prices max out at 8 quid or so for some of the bigger dishes.

Serving in a restaurant is obviously going to be different to serving from the van, are you confident you can serve people fast enough/cope with the level of orders?

I really don’t see this as a restaurant; if it’s anything, it’s a dive bar. We’ve never tried to be slick-as-shit full-service restaurant. Far from it: we are what we are.

Our food is always cooked to order and as such it takes as long as it takes. That’s just how it has to be to maintain a consistently high standard. Having said that, we’ve now got a crew of three working in the kitchen (as opposed to two in the Wagon) plus front of house & bar staff. Right from when The Meatwagon started, I’ve always tried to make the wait for food as bearable as possible with music, good drinks and an interesting environment. We’re continuing the tradition with #MEATEASY.

Are you worried that people will expect a different level of service from a restaurant than a van?

As I said, #MEATEASY isn’t really a restaurant.

I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the local bars & taverns I’ve visited all over the States where I’ve eaten some of the best food of my life.

Giles (from Soulshakers) really has done wonders with the bar so hopefully people will take advantage of that while they wait.

Oh, and we don’t take bookings. There is one exception to that rule, however: There’s one table that can be reserved and that is kept for the sole use of the people who’ve helped out with putting #MEATEASY together. It really wouldn’t have been possible without their support and I think it’s fair that they’re rewarded.

How will you judge the success of #MEATEASY?

One: Are people enjoying the food?

Two: Are people having fun?

Three: Can I put aside a bit money towards buying a new Meatwagon for the summer.

Once #MEATEASY is packed up and tidied away and a happy, happy memory for all of us, will the Wagon be back?

Fuck yes.

If so, do you have any plans to take the new Meatwagon outside the UK?

Well, I have been doing ‘Burgers for Burners’ at Burning Man for a few years now (for free, of course, according to the Burning Man ethos) out of the back of an RV, but really, spending a week suffering from altitude sickness, dehydration and culture shock out in the middle of the Nevada desert seems like a lot of effort to go to for a burger.

I’d love to do some cooking in the States, as opposed to just binge-eating, but no firm plans yet, so if any of our American cousins are reading this and they’ve got a griddle and a good butcher, feel free to get in touch.

You often tweet about your next location. How important has Twitter been in drawing in custom for The Meatwagon?

It’s been invaluable.

We’ve never advertised anywhere other than Twitter, Facebook and our website. We still don’t even have a logo, after a year-and-a-half. Twitter lets me communicate directly with people who’ve made an active decision to take an interest what we do.

I do make a point of trying to use @themeatwagonuk responsibly. In general I’ll only put out the bare minimum information rather than spam our followers with trivia. People following @themeatwagonuk don’t want to hear about my hangover or my thoughts on Nick Clegg – they just want to know where to get some red meat and a stiff drink.

You’re a member of eat.st, the street food collective aimed at ‘driving British street food forward’. Do you think there’s a great future for street food in this country?

I still find it amazing that London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, has such a poor street food scene when we have such a huge wealth of different cultures’ cuisines to draw from.

eat st. is a really exciting organisation and I’m very proud to be a part of it. It represents the crème-de-la-crème of British street food. There’s some amazingly talented chefs involved, and some great personalities. The Florence recently hosted the ‘Tweetmass Gathering’ with eat st. and where the Meatwagon did the meat, Petra from Chocstar (my partner in crime in wagon-based misadventures) served up dessert, Angus (Kolkata Street Food) handled the vegetarian option and the Meantime Brewery got everyone drunk on London Lager. Perfect symbiosis.

One thing I’ve always been very aware of when it comes to street food in the UK is that we are at the mercy of the weather, and to a certain extent #MEATEASY is a practical solution to that problem; we did a couple of gigs before Christmas where we were outside cooking in the snow (literally ankle-deep in the stuff on one occasion at The Florence after the wagon was stolen). People came in their droves, and a rum old time was had by all. But, let’s be honest, standing around in the snow around a fire and eating meat is fine every now and then, but I do find that the novelty of snow wears off pretty quickly.

I think that with some essential changes in legislation and a bit of creative thinking with regards to the weather issue, we could have one of the most vibrant street food scenes in the world.

And finally, I can’t resist: you’re a fellow Peckham resident – any good local food tips?

Manzie’s for pie, mash & liquor.

Scott, you and Yianni are quite the team now; how did you come to learn about The Meatwagon and what made you decide to get together and park up that wagon in your pubs?

I heard about the wagon through Twitter, visited and was obviously bowled over. He needed somewhere a little more accessible to park it. I took a punt on the car park at The Florence. It was a huge success and worked well for us because we have never used a PR or Marketing co. and have always believed in the old fashioned way of word of mouth. Twitter is just a modern day, faster version of this. The wagon brought a couple of hundred food fans to the pub, some of which had never visited. A lot remain customers to date.

Yianni and I have become firm friends and I believe quite a pool of talent. A street version of Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson, maybe…

Twitter really pulls in the customers for Meatwagon events and you use Twitter quite actively too – do you think it has boosted your business in any way?

The wagon and Twitter have boosted sales and as above, raised our profile. Twitter is amazing for getting immediate feedback, positive and negative which can be dealt with very, very quickly.

Are you nervous about hosting a pop-up restaurant in one of your pubs, particularly one that is just getting started?

We don’t own the pub yet, the current owner has agreed to let us do this. When we take possession on the 7th Feb we will be closing the downstairs and starting a full refurb early March. Yianni will carry on operating until we start the refurb. His presence will help people from outside of New Cross visit and see the before and after effect of one of our refurbs.

Will The New Cross House be serving food after #MEATEASY has closed?

The New Cross house will offer a similar menu to The Actress: gourmet pizza and rustic pub grub.

Depending on the #MEATEASY’s popularity over the next couple of months, it may not close after the refurb downstairs…

All your pubs are in South East London (ish). What’s so great about the area and do you plan to open any more?

South East and South West (this side of the river) has welcomed everything I’ve opened. I live here (East Dulwich) and wouldn’t dream of opening anywhere that I couldn’t visit daily and easily. I like the people and the mentality. Come Easter I will have opened three new pubs and completed a refurb on an existing one (The Clarence, Balham) within one calendar year. So no immediate plans. Still have a children’s room to add to the Victoria and hotel rooms to put above The Actress. Then I’m going to have a breather…

A big thanks to Scott and Yianni for taking the time to answer my questions what with being two of the busiest people I know. I visited the #MEATEASY on Tuesday night and wowee! Yeah it’s pretty special. The buffalo wings get busy with hot sauce and butter. I mean, come on. Get down there, that’s all I can say. Do it, do it tonight.

Goldsmiths Tavern,
316 New Cross Road,
New Cross,
London,
SE14 6AF

Follow Yianni on Twitter
Follow Scott on Twitter
The Meatwagon website and facebook page
The Capital Pub Company
Other posts on The #MEATEASY: Hollow Legs, Cheese and Biscuits, A Rather Unusual Chinaman.

Thank you very much to A Rather Unusual Chinaman and Hollow Legs for letting me use their photos. Mine were rubbish.

#Meateasy on Urbanspoon

19 comments » | Burgers, Interviews, Meat, Underground Restaurants

Hot and numbing dried beef for a Sichuan feast

January 10th, 2011 — 8:09am

My friend and I cooked this Sichuan feast for our other friend’s birthday present. The power of Microsoft Word was harnessed to create a voucher entitling him to “1 Sichuan Feast cooked in your own home”, which he chose to redeem on Saturday.

When the three of us get together, you could say that we enjoy a little drinky. Now this meal took a few hours to prepare so by the time we finished we were a little under the influence. Most of the feast was delicious although there were a few misses: the spicy cucumber salad from Fuschia Dunlop’s ‘Sichuan Cookery’ was strangely bland even though I’ve cooked it 5 times before and it’s always amazing; the tripe (we weren’t sure what to do with it really) and an attempt at getting creative with a bitter melon and black fungus. We blame the booze.

There were plenty of hits though – my mate and I make a damn good team in the kitchen and we’ve got some fine feasts under our belt like this and this. Here’s some of the good stuff…

Fish fragrant aubergines was more like fish fragrant pork really…

Fish and tofu hotpot wasn’t really cooked in a hotpot but was white fish and tofu simmered in a broth bobbing with dried red chillies…

Twice cooked pork: pork belly is simmered first, sliced thinly and then fried so the fat crisps up…

And the hot and numbing ‘dried’ beef. The meat is not actually dried but goes through a four stage cooking process: first it’s simmered in one piece then thinly sliced; next it’s marinated in a mixture of spring onion, ginger, shaoxing wine and salt before being deep fried, rendering it like strips of  jerky, with a bit more juiciness. Those slices are addictive, as you would expect bits of deep fried meat to be and you need to resist eating them all before the final stage of simmering with soy, ginger, spring onion and sugar until the liquid has reduced to the merest lick of syrup. It’s then dressed with the hot and numbing part – ground Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies before being sprinkled with coriander and sesame seeds. The pieces of meat have a very satisfying chew and leave a tantalising tingle on the lips.

A few hours, two bottles of champagne and a bottle of Albarino later and we went at that feast like hungry wolves. Noodles flew; hot pot broth splashed; peppercorns bounced across the floor. It must have been quite a sight. Between us we’d prepared nine dishes, had as much fun during the cooking as during the eating and made our friend happy. I call that a success.

You can see more photos from the feast on my Flickr.

Hot and numbing dried beef (from Sichuan Cookery by Fuschia Dunlop)

500g lean beef in 1 piece
Oil for deep frying, such as groundnut or vegetable oil

For simmering the beef
Small piece of cassia bark or cinnamon
1 star anise

For the marinade:
2tsp shaoxing wine
4 spring onions, white parts only
25g piece of ginger, unpeeled
1/2tsp salt

For the braising:
1 tablespoon sugar
1tablespoon dark soy
25g piece of ginger, unpeeled
3 spring onions, white parts only
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:
1 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons ground chillies/chilli flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Very small bunch of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Put the beef in a large pan with the cassia bark and star anise, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the beef is cooked then remove and set aside. Reserve the cooking water. Slice the beef into 1cm slices along the grain, then slice across the grain into 1cm wide strips. Halve any long pieces so that all the strips are roughly the same size.

Crush the ginger and spring onions a bit with the side of a knife or heavy object then chop each into 3-4 pieces. Place in a bowl with the shaoxing wine and salt, add the beef and mix really well. leave for half an hour or more in the marinade.

Heat the oil for deep frying in a deep pan. Add the beef in small batches for about 4 minutes, until the pieces are reddish broan and crisp. Set each batch aside to drain on kitchen paper. Don’t worry if they stick together during frying, they should pull apart easily.

Heat 2tablespoons of oil in a wok, until smoking. Stir fry the ginger and spring onions for 30 seconds or until the oil smells fragrant. Add 500ml of the reserved beef cooking water plus the soy, sugar and salt. Add the beef and bring it to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the beef has absorbed almost all the liquid leaving a syrupy glaze coating the beef.

Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing. Arrange the beef on a serving plate and pour over the dressing then garnish with the coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

12 comments » | Main Dishes, Meat, Sichuan

Slow roast shoulder of lamb with pomegranate molasses

January 7th, 2011 — 3:42pm

Yes I did say I was going to eat less meat in January but I had this on New Year’s Eve so ha! It’s allowed. We decided to stay in this year; basically I’ve had it with NYE, we’re through. Done. Kaput. What I mean to say is that I’m done with going out on NYE – there’s literally no worse way to start a fresh year than waking up in The World of Pain. I still managed to consume a fair amount of cava, but at least I didn’t pay silly money for each glass, or wake up on someone else’s floor after a house party with a crick in my neck and a stranger breathing stale boozy morning breath in my face.

This year my boyfriend and I got steadily sozzled in our own home while this lamb shoulder roasted slowly until the meat was falling away from the bone. I found the recipe on Becky’s blog. Pom molasses has to be the perfect marinade for lamb, all sweet and sour; the edge bits get sticky and the onions and garlic break down into the gravy. It’s almost obscene, it’s so tasty.

We stuffed it into pitta breads with some very finely shredded cabbage and a salsa I made with tomatoes, onion and my mum’s incredible pickled chillies which are packed with coriander seeds. It was basically a really posh kebab and way better than anything I could have picked up around these parts as I staggered my way home after midnight.

Slow roast shoulder of lamb with pomegranate molasses (from Girl Interrupted Eating)

100ml pomegranate molasses
100ml water
3 large onions, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Leave the lamb to marinade for a few hours in the pomegranate molasses. I made a few slits in the meat to allow the molasses to penetrate the meat and shoved a few slices of garlic into each slit.

Allow the meat to come up to room temperature before cooking. Preheat the oven to 150C.

Place the onions and garlic in the bottom of a large, oven proof lidded dish (or just cover your dish with foil, as I did). Place the lamb on top and pour over the pomegranate molasses, rubbing it into the lamb. Add the water, cover and place in the oven 3 hours for a 1kg joint (adding 20 minutes extra per 500g).

After this time, remove the lamb joint from the juices, pour the juices into a bowl and leave for half an hour to allow the fat to move to the top. Skim off the fat and discard it. Turn the oven up to 190C. Return the lamb and skimmed juice to the oven in a roasting tray. You can drizzle over some extra pomegranate molasses at this point. Cook for 30 minutes until the juices are bubbling and lamb is browned.

When cooked, pull the lamb apart and stuff into pitta breads, or whatever else you fancy. Make sure to get a good helping of that sticky sauce, too.

26 comments » | Barbecue, Main Dishes, Meat, Sandwiches

Ottolenghi’s stuffed onions

January 5th, 2011 — 5:47pm

The second Ottolenghi book (Plenty), is just as beautiful as the first. All the recipes are veggie, which fits perfectly with my wishy washy intentions to eat hardly any meat in January. Apart from when I eat out, which is quite a lot. I ate chicken just last night for example and very delicious it was too.

Anyway, these stuffed onions are pretty amazing. Poached onion layers are filled with feta, herbs, spring onions and breadcrumbs. The latter provide substance and are gooey and swollen with flavour from the cooking stock. We ate some of them on their own with a salad then immediately ate the rest from the baking dish with our hands. The most unexpectedly rich and comforting dish I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Ottolenghi’s Stuffed Onions (in theory, they could serve 4 but there’s no chance to be honest. Serves 2). I’ve also made his black pepper tofu from the same book.

500ml veg stock
350ml white wine
4 large onions
3 small tomatoes
120g white breadcrumbs
90g feta, crumbled
80g parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 spring onions, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

Butter, for greasing the dish

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a baking dish with butter.

Combine the wine and stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. While this is happening, trim the top and bottom from the onions, cut them lengthways in half and remove the skin. Carefully remove most of the insides to leave 3 or 4 outer layers of onion. Carefully separate these. Turn the stock to a simmer and put the onion layers in it, a few at a time. Cook them for 3-4 minutes or until just tender then set aside. Keep the stock.

To make the stuffing, grate the tomatoes into a bowl using a coarse cheese grater. Most of the skin will be left behind in your hands and you can discard it. Add the feta, breadcrumbs, parsley, olive oil, spring onions, salt and some pepper. Mix well.

Fill each onion layer generously and roll into a ‘fat cigar shape’. Place fold side down in the dish. Pour over about 75ml of the stock. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until they are brown and charred in places and bubbling underneath. You can add more stock if they look like they’re drying up during cooking. Serve warm.

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