Lamb Chops with Spinach and Croutons
Lamb chops are great, but admittedly they’re not my favourite cut of lamb. Each lamb chop consists of a cutlet from the loin attached to its corresponding rib bone, usually with a gorgeous thick slab of back fat along the bone. It’s bovine equivalent is the celebrated and iconic beef rib roast. The loin, regardless of which animal it’s from, is one of the tenderest and most prized cuts of meat around and I think it’s a bit of a shame to prepare a loin of lamb as chops because they’re hard to cook; you have to roast them with enough ferocity to get the fat nice and crisp without overcooking the meat. Because there’s usually a large amount of fat this is virtually impossible. In my opinion, you’d be better to ask your butcher for a full rack of chops (cutlets) to roast whole or even take the loin completely off the bone before roasting like a steak. Both of these methods allow you to keep the meat nice and pink, which is how it is supposed to be.
To avoid this difficult situation I deboned the chops and left the meat as medallion-sized chunks. The fat, which is full of flavour and a key part of this dish, I diced into 1cm chunks. I seasoned everything with crunchy sea salt and a little sprinkling of white pepper before searing in a very hot pan. The rest of the dish comprised some chunky croutons, made from my numerous leftover sourdough loaves, sauteed spinach and some anchovy fillets. Seasoned generously with cracked black pepper, sea salt and a splash of tarragon vinegar, it was very, very good.
- 2 large lamb chops
- 1/2 onion, finely sliced
- a handful of chunky croutons (preferably homemade)
- 2 handfuls of baby spinach
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
- 1 small clove garlic
- a small amount of ground white pepper
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- vegetable oil, for cooking
Finely chop the parsley and garlic separately and then mix together to make some persillade. Set aside for later.
Prepare the lamb chops: separate the large chunk of fat from along the bone and cut it into approximately 1cm chunks. Leave the medallions of meat (from the eye of the chop) whole. Get a large, heavy-based pan and place over a high heat. When the pan is searing hot, season just the fat with sea salt and a little ground white pepper. Pour about 1 tablespoon of oil into the pan, wait abuot 10 seconds for the oil to heat up and add the lamb fat. Turn the heat to medium and continue to cook until it is brown and crisp.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a separate pan and place over a medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt and fry until golden and caramelised. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Set aside.
When the fat is nice and crisp, remove it from the pan and place in a bowl along with the spinach and caramelised onion. Discard most of the residual fat from the pan, then place back over the heat. Season the medallions of lamb cutlet with sea salt and a little white pepper, and sear in the pan. Cook briefly to keep the meat nice and pink (probably about 3 minutes), then add the persillade and toss everything for about 20 seconds. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.
To finish the dish, add the anchovy fillets and croutons to the bowl with the other ingredients, add about 1 teaspoon of vinegar and a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Cut the medallions into 2cm chunks and mix in. Divide into plates and eat immediately.
Super Spicy Kimchi
Kimchi is a Korean cuisine classic and, along with its German cousin saukraut, is one of the world’s most well-known fermented foods. It’s no coincidence that they’re both made from cabbage; there’s something about this humble vegetable that makes it particularly delicious when lacto-fermented - it’s really, really savory.
Kimchi comprises a number of things that I have a great fondness for: garlic, ginger, chillies and salt. The combination of these powerful ingredients, along with the fermentation process, results in a very potent flavour. Obviously I wanted to try making my own kimchi and put my own slant on this classic, and after doing some research I ended up constructing a hybrid of a few different recipes. My variation was to add a bit more garlic and ginger and a lot more chillies. Most recipes for classic kimchi call for gochugaru chilli flakes, which are a vibrant red colour. I opted for ancho, which are a dark, almost black colour and more sweet than spicy, and arbol, which are a brighter red colour and are fairly spicy. The result was a darker, earthier colour which I think is much nicer and more appetising than the classic bright red version. My version is also considerably spicier than your average shop-bought kimchi, which is what makes it better in my opinion. But I’m a chilli addict, so maybe I’m biased.
For this recipe you’ll need 3-4 large jam jars or Kilner jars. You should get a lovely earthy color if you use the same chilli flakes (although the colour will fade a bit compared to the photo, as it was taken at the start of the fermentation process), but if you can’t source the ancho and arbol chilli flakes, just use whatever you can find.
- 1 napa cabbage
- 3 tablespoons good quality sea salt
- 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 3 tablespoons finely grated root ginger
- 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons arbol chilli flakes
- 1.5 tablespoons ancho chilli flakes
- 1\2 bunch spring onions
- 6 green finger chillies
Firsty, salt the cabbage: remove the bottom 1cm of the cabbage and discard, then chop the rest into approx. 1 inch pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt over. Spend 5 minutes massaging the salt into the cabbage using your fingertips, then add enough cold water to just cover. Put a plate or a heavy weight on top to ensure the cabbage is completely submerged then leave at room temperature for 1.5 hours.
Rinse and drain the cabbage in a colander, reserving around 5 or 6 tablespoons of the salty water for later. Gently squeeze the cabbage with your hands to remove the excess water, then leave to drain.
Make the spice paste: Finely grate the garlic and place in a bowl along with the ginger, sugar, fish sauce and chilli flakes. Mix until you have a smooth paste. Mix the cabbage with the spice paste and massage with your fingertips again (use gloves if you’re bothered about your hands getting stained and smelly!).
Sterilise the jars: you can do this by washing them in hot soapy water, then rinse, and, without drying, put straight into an oven at 180C for 20 minutes. Alternatively, just put them through the dishwasher.
Pack the kimchi into jars and press down until some liquid rises to the top to cover the kimchi, and leave 2cm of space at the top of the jar. If it’s too dry, transfer the kimchi back to the bowl, mix in some of the salty water and put back into the jar.
Leave at room temperature for 2 - 5 days, depending on how much fermentation you want. The warmer it is, the faster the fermentation will be. I’d advise 5 days for a really strong savoury flavour. You should place the jars on a tray as some liquid will likely seep out. Open up the jars every 24 hours to allow the gases to escape. Once you have achieved your desired level of fermentation, put the jars into the fridge. The kimchi will continue to mature and will be best after a week or two but you can eat it immediately if you’re too impatient!
Wood Blewits, Purple Potatoes and Steamed Hake
As a lifelong lover of mushrooms, I was disappointed with myself that I only recently became acquainted with wood blewits. They have a distinctive purple hue to them that is quite eye-catching and if you didn’t know they were edible you’d probably leave them well alone for fear of being poisoned! They’re not poisonous though of course, they’re definitely edible and have a distinctive, unique flavour that’s hard to describe. I think they have a slightly floral character a little bit like lavender; my dad describes the flavour as ‘purple’. That sounds nonsensical but, honestly I have to agree with him, ‘purple’ is probably the best way to describe this flavour and I don’t think you have to be a synesthesiac to appreciate that!
Deciding what best to pair the wood blewits with was not particularly straightforward. Unlike most of the other more well known varieties of mushrooms, the blewits lack that typical earthiness that makes a mushroom go so well with strong savoury or meaty flavours. The floral notes made me think fish might be a good pairing instead of meat. If the fish was gently steamed and then finished with a drizzle of fine quality olive oil then I reckoned that would be a perfect compliment to the delicacy of the mushroom’s flavour. I then capitalised on the purpleness by adding purple potatoes to make a strikingly attractive ragout. It turned out to be excellent and I will most definitely be making this next year when the blewits come into season again.
You will need a steamer for this recipe. You can probably get a nice quality bamboo one from your local Chinese supermarket, or order one online. Make sure you get one that’s big enough to fit all of your portions of fish in a single layer, with enough space for some gaps between them.
- 2 fillets of hake (about 150g each), skin removed
- 200g wood blewit mushrooms
- 200g small purple potatoes, peeled
- 2 medium leaves of cavolo nero (or 2 handfuls of spinach), torn into large pieces
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- fine quality extra virgin olive oil
- 30g of unsalted butter
Firstly, set up the steamer: bring a large pot of water to boil, place the steamer on top and cover with the lid. Place the purple potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.. Season with a generous pinch of salt and place over a medium-high heat. Bring to boil then turn down the heat and simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until they’re tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the water.
Before you begin cooking the mushrooms, wait for the potatoes to finish cooking because you’re going to need the purple starchy water for the ragout. Cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters so you have pieces approximately the same size. Leave the smallest ones whole. Heat a saute pan over a medium heat and add about a teaspoon of the butter. Heat until the butter is foaming then add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt. Toss or stir-and-fry over the heat for about a minute then add a couple of ladlefuls of the potato water, until the mushrooms are half-submerged. Partially cover with either a lid or a piece of foil, and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked; probably around 4-5 minutes. Drain in a colander when they’re done, being sure to reserve the liquid.
Place the cavolo nero into the same saute pan with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and saute gently for 30 seconds. Add about 200ml of water and bring to the boil. Partially cover with a lid or a piece of foil and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters to make bite-sized pieces. To finish, add the mushrooms, cavolo nero and potatoes to the same saute pan and add a ladleful of the potato cooking water. Bring to the boil then add the butter, a little at a time, until the sauce starts to thicken and becomes glossy. If it’s too thick then add a little more of the starchy cooking water. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Take two pieces of baking parchment that are approximately the same size as the fillets of hake. Season the fillets of hake on both sides with sea salt and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place on the parchment, skin-side (the smoother side which had the skin on it before it was removed) up. Place in the steamer and cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on size, until just cooked through. The easiest way to check if the fish is cooked is to insert a small skewer or needle into the flesh: it’s cooked if it passes through with virtually no resistance. Serve the mushroom ragout in bowls and place the steamed fish on top, finishing with a glug of extra virgin olive oil.
Runner Bean Vindaloo
Last month I made the annual end-of-summer visit to my parents’ farm. This is a particularly opportune time of year to visit as there is a huge glut of produce coming from the garden (and mushrooms from the woods, but that is a story for another time). I left with an overflowing box full of tomatoes, sweetcorn, apples, peas, broad beans, a massive quantity of courgettes, cucumbers, runner beans and fresh herbs. I took as much as I could carry.
In previous years I would hesitate before taking the runner beans. I have to admit, until recently I was always a bit unenthusiastic when it came to runner beans. I think it was their slightly furry texture that put me off. However, my mum used to make this unusual but very delicious green bean chutney which I loved; rich with mustard seeds and onions and turmeric, it had a curry-like aspect to it which, as a long-time curry lover, obviously appealed to me. Last year I had about half a kilo of runner beans and, wondering what to do with them, I remembered this chutney, and so got mum to send me the recipe. It is, as you’d expect of any good chutney, quite vinegary, which is another thing that particularly gets my taste-buds going! The chutney was great, and just as tasty as in my memories.
This recipe is not for a chutney, but it was the seed of an idea. I had a moment of inspiration and realised that I could make a hot version of the runner bean chutney which, with generous quantities of vinegar and garlic, would be kinda like a vindaloo. It turned out to be really good, I’ll definitely be making it again and I’ll be pre-ordering the runner beans from the garden next year!
- 500g runner beans
- 3 tbsps of high quality rapeseed oil
- 50ml white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
- 15 fresh curry leaves
- 3 medium onions, finely sliced along the grain
- 2 tbsps fresh ginger, finely grated
- 10 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
- 1 handful of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Finely slice 2 or 3 of the runner beans length-ways and set aside to use for garnish later. Roughly chop the rest of the beans into about 2 inch pieces. Put a large, heavy based casserole pot or deep frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to heat up. Fry the beans in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, until they are lightly browned. Set aside on a tray or in a bowl.
While the beans are frying, measure out the turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and garam masala and set aside in a bowl.
Ideally, your pan will be big enough to cook the rest of the curry in it; if not, transfer all the fat from the pan into a larger one. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the onions turn a light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir until fully mixed. Now add the spice mixture. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for around 5 minutes.
Add the beans to the pan along with the salt, sugar, and about 150ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, until the beans are soft.
Taste the curry and add more salt if necessary. Finally, add the baby spinach and stir until gently wilted. Serve with white rice, and garnish with the raw sliced beans.