Category: Stews

Peckham Goat Tagine

January 2nd, 2013 — 2:54pm

Tagines have always been something I’ve viewed as having great potential to be really tasty, but I’ve never eaten a good one. What I imagined in my head to be a thick, rich, aromatic stew with complex flavours always arrived as a thin, watery bowlful bearing way too much dried fruit.

Because I am a spoiled and lucky girl, I received a magnificent tagine for chrimbo; a chance to turn things around and make the tadge I’ve always wanted, Pecknam stylee.

The tagine is heated on a little metal thing that looks like a ping pong bat with dimples in it, which helps to distribute the heat evenly across the base. It’s important that the tagine is heated slowly, otherwise it will crack and spoil all your fun before you’ve started.

The base was thickly covered with a bed of onions, the idea being that they would cook down, becoming silken and lush and absorbent of everything above. This being Peckham (bruv), the meat had to be goat, which is very easy to come by here. Its ballsy mutton like flavor is perfect (you could obviously substitute mutton if you can find goat) and it loves long cooking to become properly tender. For veg, some of those little white baby aubergines, which also need a good simmering into submission (they remain stubbornly bitter otherwise) and some small turnips, diced.

For the fruit, which for me is potentially the making but most commonly the breaking of a good tagine, I bought dried fruits from Persepolis, ending up with a kind of Moroccan/Persian hybrid recipe. There are many similarities between the cuisines. In went a dried lime, which the Iranians add mostly to stews where they bob about, gradually releasing a flavor which is like a lime essential oil, emerging at the end shriveled and spent. Apricots went in too, but not those horrible overly sweet and sulphurous supermarket ones but fragrant perfumed Persian fruits. A few scarlet barberries flecked the top, adding sourness, like tart cranberries.

For heat, I couldn’t help whacking a scotch bonnet in. I’m sorry. If I didn’t I’d be betraying Peckham. It was left whole though and just pierced, to contain heat but leach flavour. Having impulse bought a bag of African hot peppers, a couple of those went into a spice paste with loads of garlic, two types of paprika and a shed load of ras el hanout. It could have blown our heads off but didn’t; a bit on the hot side for a tagine, but with an enjoyable slow build.

After three hours of simmering and steaming what emerged was the tadge I’d always wanted; deep and complex, sweet then spicy then sour, lips were sticky from slow cooked onions and goat fat. A scattering of mint and spring onion freshened things up at the end.

This is, as you would imagine, even better the next day and again the day after that. I served it with flat bread and Sally Butcher’s Borani-ye Esfanaj (spinach with yoghurt – from Persia in Peckham), which is one of my favourite yoghurty arrangements of all time.

Peckham Goat Tagine (serves 6)

500g diced goat meat (or mutton)
4 small turnips, peeled and cut to the same size as the aubergines
6 small white aubergines, halved
3 onions, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole but pierced
250ml water
1 dried lime
5 dried apricots
1 scant tablespoon barberries
Mint leaves, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the paste

5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 African hot pepper dried chillies (optional)
2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (smoky paps)
1 tablespoon water

Ideally I would have marinated the goat overnight in the paste then added it straight to the tagine without browning. I didn’t because I wasn’t organised enough so I’ve set out the method below as I cooked it.

Start by heating the tagine slowly. Add some olive oil, the onions and scotch bonnet chilli. Let the onions cook down gently while you brown the meat.

Cover a plate with flour and season it with salt and pepper. Dust each cube of the goat meat in it. Heat a frying pan and add some oil. Brown the meat on all sides. This will need to be done in several batches. Add this to the tagine, followed by all the other ingredients, including the paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a lowish heat for three hours, stirring every now and then after the first hour or so. After two hours, I’d advise you pick out the scotch bonnet chilli, because it’s only a matter of time before it bursts and you get a lot more heat than you bargained for.

Scatter over the mint and spring onion and serve with plenty of flat bread for dipping.

30 comments » | Food From The Rye, Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Stews, Tagines

Caribbean Brown Stew Chicken

February 1st, 2012 — 9:08pm

Brown stew chicken is a common Caribbean dish, yet I don’t see it too often on restaurant menus in Peckham. Well, not compared to jerk anyway. The stew takes its name from the colour of the sauce, which is made by caramelising the marinated chicken in brown sugar before adding the reserved marinade. This caramel flavour is essential to make a good brown stew and it’s important to spend time ensuring the chicken is properly sticky and golden before moving on. The sauce is then cooked down to an intense gravy; it’s sweet and damn spicy, depending of course on how liberal your hand is with the fierce yet fruity scotch bonnet pepper.

It’s a proper carnival of Caribbean flavours, with depth from the caramelised sugar and soy, plus fragrance from the thyme, ginger, spring onions and  lime. The smell carries like nothing else and will make your neighbours insane with jealousy. This is proper winter comfort food, Peckham style.

Brown Stew Chicken (serves 2-3, depending on how many chicken thighs you fancy)

1kg bone-in chicken thighs (about 6), skin removed
Juice of 1  lime
4 spring onions, finely shredded, plus one extra to garnish
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 regular onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Half a tin chopped tomatoes (I used the cherry ones)
Water to just cover the chicken pieces

Place the chicken pieces in a dish and add all the ingredients except the sugar, chopped tomatoes and water. Mix well and leave to marinate for an hour or overnight if possible.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, remove them from the marinade, reserving the marinade to add to the stew. Pat the chicken dry with kitchen paper. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a high-sided pan and add the sugar. When it begins to turn dark brown and caramelised, add the chicken pieces, taking care because it will splatter a lot. Fry them until you have nice caramelised bits on both sides, then remove from the pan and set to one side.

Add the reserved marinade to the pot and fry for a few minutes to soften. Add the chicken pieces back plus the tinned tomatoes and just enough water to cover the meat. Season, then simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the chicken cooked through. Serve with rice and peas, or plain rice, garnished with the a little chopped spring onion.

83 comments » | Caribbean Food, Main Dishes, Meat, Stews

Beef Brisket Goulash (AoL Lifestyle)

January 10th, 2012 — 8:01am

I’ve been playing around with Hungarian goulash recipes and come up with a version using melty beef brisket, which I have to say turned out to be quite sexy. Point your cursor at this little linky for the recipe.

[EDIT: AoL is no longer online so please find the recipe below]

Beef Brisket Goulash (serves 4-6)

1 x 1kg beef brisket, in one piece
2 onions, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 tablespoons un-smoked paprika
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 bell peppers (not green ones), sliced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Beef stock (about 450-500ml)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
A good splash of red wine
Sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
Oil, for cooking

Bread, to serve

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan which is large enough to hold the brisket. When hot, sear the brisket until it is brown all over, then set aside on a plate. Add the onions to the pan along with the chopped fresh chilli and let cook over a low-medium heat until the onions are starting to colour – about 10 minutes.
Add the paprika and caraway seeds and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine and let it bubble up and cook down for a few minutes more, then add the peppers and tomatoes.

Add the brisket back to the pan, along with the vinegar and just enough of the beef stock to almost cover the meat. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to the boil, put a lid on and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the brisket is falling apart. Shred the meat into the sauce.

Serve in bowls with finely chopped chives, grated lemon zest and sour cream on top.

42 comments » | AoL Lifestyle, Main Dishes, Meat, Stews, Writing Elsewhere

Squid, pork and clam stew

October 25th, 2010 — 9:12pm

When on holiday in Spain, my mates and I bought a packet of jamon off-cuts; the stubby pieces from the end of a leg of ham which are no good for carving but better (we presumed) for slow cooked dishes, like stews. We didn’t have time to use them while there due to the sheer, greedy quantity of other food we’d bought but as they would keep well, I brought them back and made a promise to cook something at a later date. Inspiration came from a squid dish we’d eaten in a local restaurant in L’Escala – tender rings in a rich, reduced tomato sauce. I wanted to re-create it and, as ever, considered what would happen if I added some pig.

I fried the off-cuts until the fat melted then used that as a base for a tomato, red pepper and smoked paprika sauce, cooked down very slowly for 3 hours or more. It’s a weekend job, so I made a big batch and shoved some in the freezer. After that, it’s just a case of simmering the squid until tender. I also added some clams last minute because I love the combination of shellfish and pork. To finish, a picada, Catalan-style: crushed garlic, breadcrumbs and toasted ground almonds which thicken the sauce and add punch. A sprinkle of parsley, a wedge of lemon and serve. We mopped it up with torn chunks of a crusty white loaf, washed it down with Brew Dog beers and re-acquainted ourselves with the level of smugness we’d felt while on holiday.

Squid, pork and clam stew

For the base tomato sauce

1 packet of jamon off-cuts (sorry, I can’t remember the quantity but I reckon about 200g. Chorizo would make a good substitute)
5 tomatoes
2 red peppers
1 large stick of celery
2 large onions
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 heaped teaspoon sugar

Begin by skinning the tomatoes. Cover them with boiling water then wait for about 5 minutes until their skins start to split. You can then take them out and peel the skins off.

Finely chop the peppers, celery and onions (it’s worth making the effort to chop them very finely). When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, roughly chop them. Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil to a heavy based pan then add the pork bits until the fat has melted, stirring often over a medium-low heat.

When the fat has melted, add the vegetables, smoked paprika and sugar, bring to a simmer then reduce to the lowest heat. Put the lid on and let cook very gently for 3 hours if possible.

For the rest of the stew

2 medium squid
2 handfuls clams
A couple of tablespoons chopped parsley
500ml vegetable or fish stock
Lemons, to serve
Bread, to serve

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 slice dry white bread, made into crumbs
50g almonds, lightly toasted

Make the picada by toasting the almonds in a dry pan: move them around often over a medium heat until lightly golden. Grind them to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Mix them very well with the garlic and breadcrumbs.

When the tomato sauce is ready, heat your stock and add it to the tomato sauce. Add the squid, then simmer until the squid is tender, about 40 minutes. While the squid is cooking, clean your clams by submerging them in salted water for half an hour; this is so they spit out all the grit and other stuff you don’t want to eat. Drain them and add to the sauce for a few minutes, until their shells pop open. Add a tablespoon of picada, stir it in then taste and decide if you want any more. I found a tablespoon to be enough.

Ladle the stew into bowls, then scatter the parsley over and serve with lemon wedges, and the bread.

9 comments » | Main Dishes, Meat, Seafood, Shellfish, Soups, Stews

Catalan-style fish stew

October 13th, 2010 — 7:01pm

A holiday always leaves a cook feeling inspired and a  rich squid stew in a restaurant in L’Escala set my mind racing about making my own version, with added pork. Before that experiment though, it was time to get some practice in the ways of a traditional Catalan stew.

The beginning  is a sofrito – tomato sauce cooked long and slow to develop character and sweetness. I cheated on this and used a jar I had from Brindisa because, well, I had it. In this I simmered some squid pieces until tender. For my white fish, I scored a bargain on some monkfish cheeks at Moxon’s in East Dulwich. I asked for the cheapest firm white fish in the shop and that’s what he produced – big meaty chunks at a fraction of the price of the tail (I got 300g for a few quid). On the shellfish front, I dropped in a giant prawn per person and then clack, clack, clack as I stirred in some fiercely barnacled mussels.

At the end the stew is thickened with a picada – a mixture of breadcrumbs, garlic and toasted ground almonds. Such a magical combination. The garlic remains punchy yet not raw and the ground nuts enrich the broth, the breadcrumbs swell and thicken. A final squeeze of lemon at the table and a torn hunk of bread for scooping and it’s time to slurp, shell and mop. One of the most complex and delicious dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Catalan style fish stew

300g firm white fish (I used monkfish cheeks), cut into bite size chunks
200g mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 giant prawn per person
250g squid, slices into rings and tentacles roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 large onion, sliced
A handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
1 315g jar of sofrito or you can make your own
1 litre fish or vegetable stock

Lemon wedges, to serve
Bread, to serve

For the picada

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 slice dry white bread, made into crumbs
50g almonds, lightly toasted

Begin by sweating your onion in some groundnut or vegetable oil in a heavy based large pan. Cook it on a low heat for 20 minutes at least until the onions are very soft. Add your jar of sofrito plus the stock, paprika and squid and bring to a gentle simmer. Put a lid on and let cook gently for about an hour.

For the picada, pound all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar until as smooth as possible.

Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the picada just before you add the remaining fish for the final few minutes of cooking. My prawns were very large so I added those for 2 minutes, plus the white fish and mussels for another 3 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

7 comments » | Fish, Seafood, Soups, Stews, Travel

Mutton Paomo

August 26th, 2010 — 8:31pm

I came across this dish when I was looking for new ways to eat pickled garlic, which is something I’ve been doing a lot. What a condiment. Spiky yet sweet, it’s an unusual and addictive flavour. My friend Sally Butcher who owns the Iranian shop and deli, Persepolis tells me that in the Middle East, “they eat it with everything.” This makes sense to me.

On my internet travels I came across an apparently famous Chinese dish called the mutton or yangrou paomo; it’s from Xi’an, the result of cuisines converging via the Silk Road. Small pieces of unleavened ‘Muslim flat bread’ are an Arabian influence; the diner tears the bread into peanut-sized pieces and returns the bowl to the cook who tops it with mutton slices, spiced broth and often, glass noodles.* The dough pieces swell to form springy nuggets as they soak up the liquid. Common accompaniments are chilli paste, coriander leaves and most importantly, the pickled garlic. I was having me some of that.

The bread was a bit of a ball-ache. An e-mail exchange with Sunflower revealed that it’s usually a “heavy, griddled bun similar to an English muffin” but attempts to find a recipe failed. I considered substituting a muffin but it seemed the wrong way to approach a challenge. In the end I used the ingredients found scrawled on a piece of paper, apparently the results of a frantic searching session; I have no recollection. Cooked in a dry pan, it was dense enough to form the desired sticky dumplings rather than gummy mush.

Mostly you just need to chuck everything in a pot, but it will take a good three hours to cook, so one for the weekend. Other recipes cook broth and meat separately but I didn’t have time for that so I asked the butcher to cut up a leg of mutton and simmered the meat and bones together. Mighty black cardamom pods swelled like giant raisins on the broth, releasing their smoky, underground flavour. A lean over the pot made my nostrils buzz with chilli and star anise.

I’m pretty sure that this dish only partly resembles the real thing. I needed more broth in the bowl that’s for sure and usually the meat would be added separately before the hot stock is poured over. At least, that’s what I managed to glean from some rather dodgy translation. I do know however, that the dish is the most famous contribution of Xi’an to Chinese cuisine and apparently, served nearly everywhere in the city and also as part of the state banquet. I think it’s fair to say they are proud of it. If I’ve made it wrong or done it a disservice then I apologise but in my defence, it tasted great.

Mutton Paomo (Yangrou Paomo)

1kg of mutton (mostly chunks of meat and a few large pieces of bone)
2 onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 x 2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
1 mild red chilli, slit lengthways or chopped (I slit mine as I wanted to add chilli paste as a garnish)
200g glass noodles*
2.5 teaspoons of salt
8 peppercorns
2 star anise
A few pieces of cassia bark
3 black cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife
2 tablespoons cooking wine

Pickled garlic (available from Persepolis and Khan’s if you live in Peckham), plus chilli paste and coriander leaves to garnish

Trim your meat of any large pieces of fat. Put your meat, bones and everything else apart from the noodles and garnish into a large stock pot. If you want to get fancy, you could bundle your spices into a piece of muslin to make them easier to remove later on. Cover with water (mine took about 3 litres) and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to cook, uncovered for about 3 hours. After this time, remove the bones, whole spices and any remaining pieces of visible fat. I now allowed the broth to cool and skimmed the excess fat from the top. There is already enough fat in the broth to give a good flavour.

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.

To serve, re-heat and spoon over peanut sized pieces of the bread (recipe below). Add a serving of noodles to the bowl and garnish as desired with the chilli, coriander and pickled garlic.

For the bread

300g plain (all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon salt
200ml boiling water
1 tablespoon lard, softened (by softened I mean leave it out until completely soft)

Mix all the ingredients together until you have a smooth dough. Let it rest for a little while before rolling it out into 8 pieces, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Wipe a heavy skillet or tava with oil and cook each bread for 5 minutes or so on each side until lightly golden. To serve, tear into small pieces and spoon the broth and condiments on top.

* As you can see, I only had wheat noodles.

10 comments » | Bread, Main Dishes, Meat, Noodles, Pickles, Soups, Stews, Street Food

Food From The Rye: Callaloo

December 20th, 2009 — 5:45pm

I was worried that me and callaloo were doomed from the start. The soup always seems to contain a healthy amount of okra and I had a problem with this for two reasons: firstly, those hairy little fingers irritate the hell out of my (thankfully not so hairy) little fingers, bringing me out in a rash, and secondly, most callaloo recipes called for them to simmer in the liquid for at least half an hour. This to me says one thing and one thing only: slime. Eating overcooked okra is like eating a fat slimy bogey; a big glutinous bowl of snot soup. Yum. Can’t wait.

After a bit of mental wrestling I came to the conclusion that omitting them entirely was not acceptable and so I fried the sappy slices until they were sappy no more, sealed instead by a crispy outer crust. They were added back at the last minute. Other than these (literally) irritating beasties, the soup contains pork, prawns, scotch bonnet chilli, thyme, two types of onion and of course, the callaloo. I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot going on.

The flavour of the callaloo, which I bought tinned, is described somewhere on the great interwebz as, ‘a cross between spinach and cabbage’. That is exactly what it tastes like. Perhaps there’s a bit of asparagus in there as well. You get the idea. This predominantly ‘green’ flavour, makes for a very vegetal soup. At first. Then comes pork and then, even-better-joy-of-joys, pork fat; melty pieces cling to each pink nugget with a seductive wobble. There is the odd surprise of shrimp but it’s not unpleasant.

At first I find the soup musty but as the spoonfuls pass this transforms into an intriguing peppery complexity. The coconut milk is not really discernible as its usual overwhelming self but instead sort of lingers around keeping things in order. The okra keep themselves to themselves.

There’s no getting away from it – this is some seriously hearty fare and I’m amazed that it is usually served as a side dish, to act as a sort of gravy for other foods. Most of my Rye Lane dishes have been similar in weight and intensity. They are the kind of dishes that stick to your ribs; fortify, bolster and sustain.

That said, this soup also has an aromatic quality from the little love triangle going on between chilli, coconut and thyme; a surprising delicacy underneath it all really. But then that was the problem right there: so much in the mix, so many flavours and contrasts that all got a little bit muddy and confused. I really should have started with a simple version (no meat or fish) like the family recipe sent to me by a friend and blogger yesterday.

Although I enjoyed the taste of the callaloo vegetable itself, I’m not sure I’ll be cooking with it that often. A green leafy vegetable from a tin is not really any contender for fresh spinach, kale or chard for example. Well, my version isn’t anyway. I basically made a fundamental schoolgirl error by choosing to make the nitrous oxide, big-bore, super-charged version when I should have started off with the understated yet reliable runner. You live and learn.


325g callaloo (drained weight)
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
3 spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
125g thick bacon cubes
225g small prawns
150ml coconut milk
200g okra, sliced
1 small scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and chopped
Stock – about 1 litre (I used vegetable)

Begin by frying the okra in a little oil until soft but crispy on the outside. Set aside on kitchen paper to soak up any oil. In a large pan, soften the onions and chilli gently for a few minutes before adding the callaloo, bacon, thyme and stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes before adding the prawns, okra and coconut milk for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve.

16 comments » | Caribbean Food, Fish, Food From The Rye, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Side Dishes, Soups, Stews, Vegetables

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