Last winter, I cooked over and over again dishes from The Hairy Dieters’ How to Love Food and Lose Weight). I was really looking forward for the next volume of the collection. All in all, it has been a bit disappointing. Some of the recipes don’t seem to have been tested; others seem to be the original minus a couple of bacon strips… The fact is that I am slowly putting it away.
The good news are then when a dish works, it is as good as you can expect. For example, this one, which I have done a few times this winter. I remember only too well my mother explaining that liver is good you and I should eat it all, but cooked this way I can even overcome how healthy it is.
Calf’s liver with bacon and caramelized onions (adapted from the recipe found in The Hairy Biker’s website)
- 450g calves’ liver, sliced (thawed, if frozen)
- 4 teaspoons plain flour
- 20g butter
- 1 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, fairly thinly sliced
- about 55g bacon rashers all fat removed and each cut into 2cm wide strips
- 500ml beef stock
- 2 teaspoon tomato ketchup
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the liver in a colander under cold water and drain it well on kitchen paper. Put 2 teaspoons of the flour in a large bowl and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add the liver to the bowl and turn it in the flour until lightly coated.
Melt half the butter with the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Tap the excess flour off each slice of liver and add them to the pan using tongs. Cook for 1½–2 minutes on each side until lightly browned but not completely cooked through, then pop them on to a plate.
Turn down the heat and melt the remaining butter in the same pan. Add the sliced onion and cook for a minute or so, stirring to separate the layers. Next, add the bacon and cook together for another 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and pale golden brown, stirring often.
Sprinkle the remaining flour over the onion and bacon and cook for a few seconds, stirring.
Pour the hot stock slowly into the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stir in the ketchup and cook over a medium heat until the gravy is thickened and glossy.
Put the liver back in the pan and heat it through in the onion gravy for 2–3 minutes until hot, stirring.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the liver and bacon with a small portion of mashed potatoes and lots of freshly cooked greens
After last Easter’s lamb tajine cook off, it seemed right to give it a try to a different kind of meat, now that Winter is on its way. For the same price, Si and Dave, on their Hairy Bikers version, also got an opportunity redeem themselves from the least favourite tajine of the cook off. It is slow food at it very slowest food. But, the result is a pure comfort food, packed with different flavours and textures, with sweet and spice notes. Perfect for a cold Winter day… A word of warning, though: it is a very heavy and filling dish. Most likely, it is also a caloric bomb…
- 750g of braising steak
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 onions, halved and sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp clear honey
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 medium sweet potato (around 400g)
- 2 large apples
- 25g bunch fresh coriander
- 75g no-soak dried prunes, halved
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the garnish
- 1 large red-skinned apple
- 15g butter
- 1 tbsp clear honey
If not using a tajine, preheat the oven to 180oC.
Trim the beef of any hard fat and cut into roughly 3cm chunks. Season all over with salt and pepper.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in the tagine (or in a large non-stick frying pan, you are not using the tajine). Fry the beef in three batches over a high heat until lightly browned on all sides, adding a little more oil to the pan when needed. Reserve or transfer each batch to a large flameproof casserole once browned.
Reduce the heat and add two tablespoons more oil to the tajine (or the frying pan). Fry the onions for five minutes, or until softened and lightly coloured, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and sprinkle with the cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, stirring constantly.
Put the brown meat back to the tajine (or tip the onions and spices into the casserole with the beef). Add about 50ml of cold water to the tagine and mix well to lift the sediment from the bottom. In case you are not using the tajine, add 150mL of water to the frying pan and stir until the sediment is gone. Pour the water into the casserole.
Add about 150mL of water, the tomatoes and chickpeas to the casserole and stir in the honey. Crumble the stock cube over the top, add the cinnamon stick and stir well. Bring to a simmer on the hob, stirring a couple of times. Cover with the tajine and let cook for about 1½ hours. In case you are not using a tajine, you will have to use a bit more water (about 350mL), let it boil. Then cover the dish with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 1½ hours.
Ten minutes before the time is up, peel the sweet potato and cut into roughly 2.5cm chunks. Peel the apples, cut into quarters and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 2cm chunks. Trim the coriander and roughly chop half of the leaves.
If you are not using the tajine, carefully take the casserole out of the oven and remove the lid. Stir in the sweet potato, apples, prunes and chopped coriander. Cover once more and return to the oven. If you are using a tajine, just add the remaining ingredients and give it a good stir. In both cases, cook for a further 45-60 minutes, or until the beef is very tender.
To make the garnish, cut the apple into quarters and remove the core. Slice each apple quarter lengthways into five. Season with ground black pepper. Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the apple slices over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Remove from the heat, drizzle with the honey and toss lightly.
Scatter the fried apples over the tajine in the casserole, scatter with roughly chopped coriander and serve.
I could be writing about lovely Spring dishes, with plenty of asparagus, rhubarb and green stuff all around. But not – cottage pie it is. No Spring, no Spring food. Anyway, it is either this or start a monumental rant about the weather on Facebook… The pie itself, is delicious, warming and comforting.
Cottage pie (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 400g of lean minced beef
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon of tomato purée
- 500mL beefstock, made with 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato topping
- 750g of floury potatoes
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 2 slender leeks, timed and cut into 1cm slices
- 150mL of low fat milk
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non stick sauce pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. No need to add olive oil – it is a non stick pan, after all. Put in the minced meat and cook it together with the onions, celery and carrots for about 10min, until lightly coloured. Use a couple of wooden spoons to break up the meat as it cooks
Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato purée, the beef stock, the Worcestershire sauce and the mixed herbs. Season with a generous pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. Cover loosely and simmer gently for about 40min, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender.
You can start preparing the potato topping. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rough 4cm chunks. Put them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then down the heat slightly and simmer for 18-20min or until the potatoes are very tender. Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and fry the leeks for 5min until softened but not coloured, stirring often. Drain the potatoes, then tip them back into the pan, season to taste and mash with the milk (and a little butter) until smooth. Stir in the sautéed leeks and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220oC. When the beef has been simmering for 40min, mix the cornflour with the cold flour to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the beef and cook for another 1-2min or until the sauce is thickened, stirring often.
Poor the beef mixture into a 2-liter shallow ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, top the beef with the mash potatoes and leeks. Spoon the mixture all around the edge of the dish before heading into the middle, then fluff it up with a fork.
Bake for 30min until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.
The calendar claims Spring will be here in a few days, but the weather man (and the knees) say otherwise. As snow starts falling again, it seems Winter will be here forever. It is definitely time for another comforting stew…. Believe it or not, each portion has less than 500 calories.
Rich beef and ale casserole with mash potato (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 1 kg lean braising beef, trimmed from hard fat and cut in 3cm chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- 500 mL of dark ale or stout
- 250 mL of beef stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato puréee
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 5 carrots (about 275g), peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 parsnips (about 300g) peeled, halved lengthways and sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
Leeky potato mash
- 750g floury potato, peeled and cut in 4cm chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks thinly sliced
- 100 mL low fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oC
Put the flour and dried herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Fold in the beef chunks and toss in until they evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a oven- and flame- proof casserole dish.When the oil is pipping hot, drop in the onions and season then with salt and pepper. Fry them over medium heat until they are lightly browned (about 5min).
Tip in the beef and mix until coated.
Add the bay leaf, ale, stock, tomato purée and sugar. Stir well and bring to boil. Cover with the lid.
Transfer the casserole from to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. At the end of this time, take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the parsnips and carrots. Put the lid again, and return to the over for about 45min until the vegetables are tender.
Leeky potato mash
Put the potato chunks in a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let boil for about 20min, until the potatoes are very tender.
In the meanwhile, put the oil in a frying pan and heat. When is hot, drop in the sliced leeks and sautée until soft and tender, stirring often.
Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper and mash with the milk until smooth.
Stir in the sautéeed leeks. Mix until they are well incorporated.
A curious detail: if you check the English entry of Wikipedia for trivia, you will learn saltimbocca are popular in southern Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Greece; if you check the German entry, you will find out they are a delicacy typical of the Rome area. I haven’t been to Rome yet, but I would not be surprised if the native never heard about it or you were served something totally different when you asked for them.
In any case, M. – a German – was kind enough to drive me through the complexities of the making of saltimbocca. I managed to reproduce it the day after without much effort. In the background, risotto alla milanese, courtesy of M.
- As many veal cutlets or scallops as you need
- As many slices of cured ham as you have slices of veal (if you want to be very precise, it has to be prosciutto. In my case, it had to be jamón)
- As many slices of fresh sages as you have slices of veal.
- Olive oil
- Wooden toothpick
Flatten the cutlets if needed. Lay them a clean surface, then put on top of each a slice of prosciutto and top it with the leaf of sage. Affix the prosciutto to the veal with a toothpick.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the cutlets until done. Don’t put too many of them on the skillet, otherwise they will be boiled. You will need to allow more time on the veal side than the prosciutto side. Season to taste and serve them risotto alla milanese.
A few weeks ago, I posted the
watered down light version of this dish. A dinner party loosely inspired in Spanish cuisine prompted me to do the actual thing, with all its condiments, red wine and olive oil. Mind you, for extra slow-home-made-cooking points, the meatballs were rolled by hand with all love and care by T. and myself. It seemed like a lot of food, but at the end all it was left was the meatballs used for this snapshot. And, I had to hide it in a dark corner of my fridge.
Meatballs in rich tomato sauce (adapted from Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas’ Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations)
For the meatballs
- 650g of minced pork and beef
- 2 pinches of very finely chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, tarragon, coriander and oregano.
- 1large egg
- small yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 red chili, finely chopped (or to taste)
- 300g fresh breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Enough olive oil to coat the baking tray
For the tomato sauce
- Olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 70mL ruby Port
- 250mL red wine
- 3 cans of 400g-chopped plum tomatoes
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 2 bay leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 180 oC.
2. Put all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, and season all the salt and pepper. Combine with your hands until you have a consistent mixture which allows you to form the meatball.
3. Start rolling the meatballs with your hands.
4. Put a generous amount of olive oil in baking tray
5. Drop in the meatball, stirring them to coat them evenly.
6. Put the tray in the oven for 30min, or until the meatballs are all golden brown. Do not forget to stir them occasionally to cook them in all directions.
7.While waiting for the meatball, start the tomato sauce. Place a large, deep sided saucepan on a low heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the sliced vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Fry gently until they are soft and start to color.
8. Poor in both wines, and bring to boil.
9.When the wine is boiling and has reduced to half the volume, drop in the tomatoes. Season again, and bring to boil, stirring at all times.
10. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for about 15min.
11. Once the meatballs are cooked, fold them in the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for 10min more. (in reality, what I did was to do the tomato sauce and the meatballs in advance. On the day of the party, I combined them both while cold. Then, I slowly warm them. It actually tastes better, as the flavors combine and develop).
Comfort food for a bitterly cold day… For the this dish, I pulled recipes from 2 different books. The meatballs are a modified version of Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas‘ take. The tomato sauce is the famous tomatada by David Leite I use ever so often.
Spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce with basil
Ingredients for the meatballs
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 500g ground beef and pork
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried persil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Salt and pepper freshly ground
- Olive oil to taste
- Flour as needed
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
- 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic gloves minced
- 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
- 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
- Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
- Fresh basil
- Boiling water
- A little bit of olive oil
Heat the stove the 190 oC (=375 oF).
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender. When it is done add the minced garlic and let it fry for a 1 minute more. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl combine the meat with the herbs, the eggs and the caramelised onion. Once the mix has aggregated, roll the meatballs with your hands. Roll them in flour so all the surface is coated.
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Gently brown the meatballs, about 5min, adding more olive oil if needed. Reserve the frying pan.
Place the meatballs in a baking tray coated with olive oil and put it in the stove for about 30min or until they feel solid.
In the meanwhile, start the tomato sauce. Use the frying where you browned the meatball. Add more oil if necessary, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.
Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min.
Once the tomato sauce is done and the meatballs are out of the stove, you will need to combine both. Just drop gently the meatball in the frying pan, making sure the surfaces are coated. Let it simmer gently for about 20min.
In the meanwhile, boil spaghetti. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. If cooking dry spaghetti, use a mimimum of 500ml of water for each 100g. of dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling, you will need to add the spaghetti. Reduce the heat so that the water is on a slow boil. Let it cook as said in the package. When ready, drain and add some olive oil to avoid sticking.
On a plate, put the spaghetti and on top the meatballs and the tomato sauce. Add a basil leaf for decoration and extra flavor.
Another recipe with minimal verbiage. I happened to have all these ingredients in the fridge. A few google searches after, I found this baked stuffed zucchini on All Recipes. A few tweaks after, dinner was served.
Baked stuffed zucchini
- 4 large zucchini
- 2 firm tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp dried mint (fresh mint would have been better, but I had none left)
- 450g g minced meet (pork and beef)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 250g tomato sauce (I used tomatada, but passata or a lightly diluted tomato sauce could also work well)
- 1 spring chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 tbsp Grana Padano or Parmesan
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the zucchini in a shallow baking dish or roasting tin, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes or until tender – they should pierce easily with a fork.
Mix the eggs with the chopped plum tomatoes, mint, and pepper to season. Set aside.
Fry the minced meat over a medium heat until browned. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a further 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir in the tomato sauce, reserved zucchini pulp and rosemary. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10–15 minutes. Stir in the egg mixture and mix together.
5. Spoon the stuffing mixture into the zucchini boats and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 15–20 minutes until golden and crispy on top. Serve immediately.
No use to fight Autumn anymore – it is arrived and is here to stay until Winter shows up. It is now time to start cooking food that makes you forget the cold outside and puts a note of color in your day.
Beef stew with sweet carrots, peas and mushrooms
- 450g of beef, cut in cubes
- 50g of flour (or maizena)
- 250g of button mushrooms
- 3 onions, cut in half moons
- 5 carrots, cut in 2cm slices
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 100ml of red wine
- 1 spring of rosemary
- 200ml of stock
- 250g of peas (I used frozen peas)
- olive oil as required
- salt and pepper to taste
In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it shimmer. Toss the mushrooms. Let them fry until soft and fragrant. Reserve.
Place the beef cubes and flour in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Shake off the excess of flour. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat until it shimmer. Add half the floured meat and fry until sealed and meat has begun to brown. Be careful not too put too many pieces in the frying pan. Instead of frying, the meat will boil to death, with rather unpleasant results. Reserve the meat.
To the same frying pan, add the onion and the carrots. Pan fry until the onions are caramelised and the carrots are soft, stirring occasionally (It will take about 15minutes). Add the grounded garlic and let it combine with the vegetables, stirring for about 1 minute. Take all out of the frying pan and reserve. Pour in the pan approximately 100 mL of red wine stir well to combine and deglaze the frying pan. When the sauce starts to thicken, toss in the meat and reserved vegetables. Mix well to combine, and then add the vegetable stock. Add the bay leave and the rosemary spring.
When it comes to boil, toss the peas in and let simmer for about 15min, until the stock reduces to half and the sauce is a bit thick. Take out from the stove and let it rest for a bit.
It all started with a Masterchef Australia Masterclass. One of the chef hosts, George Calombaris, of Greek descent, invited his mother, Mary, to show how to do a proper moussaka. Mrs Calombaris taught George to cook the way that her mother had taught her. Her mother’s mother thought her daughter to cook the way her mother had taught her. And her mother’s mother’s mother… The thing is that Mrs Calombaris is adamant on keeping the dishes faithful to the tradition. Any modification on the original recipe is taken as major offense – and Mrs Calombaris won’t hesitate to scold George for bastardising traditional Greek dishes. Actually, it sounds a lot more like yelling at him, while he just rolls his eyes.
When I started cooking the moussaka, I already had a minor modification in mind: the cheese. Mrs Calombaris’s recipe calls for kefalograviera, which is impossible to source here. It ended up being replaced by less the less greek grana padano – another tasty hard cheese. Then the full cream milk was replaced by less fatty milk. And, the lamb, pork and veal mince give place to beef and pork. Followed by replacing the tomato passata by Portuguese tomatada. Now that we were at it, I pulled a few zucchini I had languishing in the bottom of the fridge. In less time it takes to write it, I had totally bastardized a Greek classic… no way I would call this a moussaka. I was even feeling Mrs Calombaris reprimands on the back of my mind. So, here it is: a seriously good dish, just perfect for a cold Winter nights, inspired by a moussaka. It just warms you until your heart.
Inspired by a moussaka
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 aubergines, peeled vertically like a zebra and sliced 5mm thick
- 3 zucchini sliced 5mm thick
- 500g pork and beef mince
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 250g crushed tomatoes
- 400g tomato sauce (it can be replaced by 400g tomato passata)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups water
- Olive oil, for frying
- 4 large potatoes, sliced 5mm thick
For the bechamel
- 100g butter
- 100g plain flour
- 600ml (full cream milk), warmed
- 100g grana padano, grated
- 1 egg
- Extra grana padano cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 180⁰C.
2. Lay the aubergines over a shallow tray or dish and sprinkle liberally with salt. Cover with muslin or a clean tea towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a large frying pan or saucepan, add the minced meat and cook until browned and meat breaks up. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon quills and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato passata, tomato paste and water, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for ½ hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Pour oil into a frying pan approximately 1cm deep, place over a high heat and shallow fry potatoes for 3-4 minutes on each side or until tender. Drain on paper towel.
6. Pat dry the aubergine and pan fry on each side until golden yet still firm. Drain on paper towel.
7. Pat dry the zucchini and pan fry on each side until is soft. Drain on paper towel.
8. For béchamel, melt butter in a heavy based saucepan. Add flour, stir over a low heat for 2 minutes.
9. Slowly add warm milk, stirring continuously until thick. Add extra milk if sauce is too thick.
10. Whisk in the cheese and the egg, season to taste.
11. To assemble, oil a casserole dish and layer as follows. Meat sauce, potato, sauce, potato, sauce, zucchini, sauce, potato, aubergine and remaining sauce. Cover with béchamel and grate extra cheese over.
12. Bake for 45 minutes until browned and béchamel has set. Serve.