Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Double Ska Jamaican Chicken burgers with pineapple salsa

While looking for ideas for recipes to try, I chanced upon one for Reggae Reggae burgers. The Reggae Reggae brand originated on Dragon's Den in the UK when Levi Roots strummed a guitar in his pitch and got some rich fucker to buy his sauce (ooer, sounds a bit rude). The brand is now a corporate behemoth incorporating not just the original sauce, but various other table sauces, spice mixes and other products up to and including pasties and even soft drinks. I'm sure Levi Roots did start off with family recipes, but sold out faster than a Tory MP with a... Actually, no need to qualify that, he sold out faster than a Tory MP because that's what they fucking do. Then again, Dragon's Den is, by its very nature, all about selling out, so good on him.

He used the unique selling point, or USP, of his Jamaican culinary heritage and home-cooked, family recipes to create his brand. It's not as if he's an American who's voice is the auditory equivalent of having your head pushed into a bucket of wallpaper paste, nor is he some wanky, angry TV chef who's face is plastered across a range ready-made sauces which they wouldn't actually touch with a bargepole topped with a Michelin star. Of course, not all USPs are created equal. Take mine for example. I'd probably go on Dragon's Den, force-feed the dragons a bowlful of chilli that would have them shitting napalm for the next week and I'd probably end up going home empty handed having subsequently called them a bunch of twats.

I've done a recipe for burgers previously, of the beef variety, which is the origin of the hamburger. You can get chicken burgers at your local corporate fastfood joint, but they do tend to be breadcrumbed and deep-fried so, in my humble but profane fucking opinion, aren't actually "burgers". Burgers, for me, should be made of minced or ground meat. Flavour them how you like, but they need to be, for all intents and purposes, a reconstituted steak 

So, I wanted to do something that had a Caribbean feel, I love burgers (as I've made clear before) and thought chicken burgers just don't get enough coverage. Now, chicken is basically pretty bland on its own so you need to give it lots of flavour. A bit of ginger, lime juice and chilli add just enough tropical character to justify me ripping off Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae brand to call mine Double Ska. And because of that, why not have a bit of ska before we start (like you need a reason to play a great bit of Prince Buster)?

One step beyond.
RIP Prince Buster
TIMING
Preparation: 60 minutes (including roasting the pepper and leaving it to cool)
Cooking time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS
Pineapple salsa
1 small yellow pepper
Half a small, fresh pineapple, cored, peeled and the flesh diced
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed, cleaned and finely sliced
Juice of  ½ a lime
1 tbsp rum
½ tsp ground allspice

Burgers
Half a medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium to large garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g skinless chicken thighs, boned (or bought boneless)
half a thumb's size of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
Juice of ½ a lime
pinch of dried thyme
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Basic green salad or a few washed lettuce leaves, shredded.
Bread buns

RECIPE
For the salsa
Wash the pepper and place in an oven at 200°C for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place in a plastic bag and seal until cool.

Remove the pepper and peel off the skin.

Core and dice the pepper.

Mix the chopped pepper with the pineapple and spring onion in a bowl.

Add the allspice, rum, and lime juice.

Mix well and chill until you need it.

Pineapple salsa

For the burgers
Heat the oil in a pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is soft and near-transparent.

Add the ginger and carry on gently frying for another 5 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Trim any stringy, white bits from the chicken and cut it into smallish chunks.

Throw the chicken, the cooled onion, garlic and ginger, plus the other ingredients into a food processor and blend for a minute or so, occasionally stopping to scrape any larger pieces of the mixture back into the bowl.

Form the chicken mix into patties. This amount of mixture will make around 4 and (as I stated in my post for hamburgers earlier) I use a burger press to make evenly sized patties, but I'm one of those people.

Cook in a little oil in a frying pan of griddle pan. They take around 5-7 minutes per side. Ensure they are cooked through.


 Urban griller
Chicken burgers. They are difficult to keep in shape

Serve in a toasted bun with salad and a dollop of the salsa and a side order of chips/wedges (sweet potato wedges work especially well).

NOTES
I do call these Double Ska burgers and I realise that I've only posted one ska track, so here's the second one, a little more recent. Listen to this as you read the rest of this post.

Skank while you cookPrince Buster and Suggs on Jools Holland doing Madness and Enjoy Yourself

The burgers can be quite soft and break up easily so it's worth putting them between sheets of clingfilm or grease-proof paper and leaving them in the fridge for an hour or more to help them keep their shape when cooking.

I de-seeded the chilli in the burgers because you want the burgers to have only a mild kick. On the other hand, you could leave the chilli out if you're effetely inclined.

I didn't put chilli in the salsa, but you could if you wanted a bit more heat. I appreciate that this salsa is similar to the pineapple sambal I posted previously, but the flavours are very different in flavour and definitely characteristic of the respective cuisines they come from.

Like in a lot of Caribbean food, the best chillies to use are Scotch bonnets which have a fantastic and distinctive fruity flavour.


Scotch bonnet
No, I don't see the resemblance either


Finally, given the ska theme, it would be remiss of me not to give a plug to a band called Skaface, a 10 piece ska band from the coastal English town of Blackpool. My pal Colin is their drummer and they are ace, so, if you get a chance, go and see them.


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Leftover symphonies 3: Turkey jalfrezi

I've already stated how much I despise cold leftover roast meat. The way in which the delicately tender slices have turned into sheets of greasy polythene really gets on my tits, so any recipe that makes it more palatable is a great thing. If this is a proper hearty, dinner-sized meal, all the better (as opposed to a soup, for example).

In the UK, the granddaddy of roast meat is the pteranodon-sized Christmas offering, the roast turkey. Tradition dictates that you need to buy the biggest fuck-off turkey you can find or the biggest turkey that will actually fit into your oven, whichever is smallest. How this tradition arose I have no idea. I mean, it's not as if it's biblical, is it? The domestic turkey is native to North America and wouldn't be seen east of the Atlantic for 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Besides which, the gifts mentioned were gold, frankincense and myrrh, not gold, frankincense and a fucking ginormous turkey.


Just your average family turkey for Christmas
You'll get a cracking curry from this


However the tradition started, it means there is enough leftover meat for at least a full week of meals for the average sized family. The cold leftovers themselves become part of the Christmas holiday tradition. There's using it as a sandwich filling for the Boxing Day buffet. Then there are other options that work as recipes. Cold turkey makes a pretty good Chinese-style hot and sour soup (recipe to follow, at some point) or turkey and sweetcorn soup for example. The turkey curry, however, is another part of post-Christmas rituals and I have had some truly fucking diabolical versions in my youth. The sort of curry I have nightmares about, where the turkey is thrown in with fried onions and a random selection of spices, or worse, generic "curry powder", and fuck all else.

The thing is, reheated roast meat really needs to be prepared properly. Turkey, especially, tends to be pretty dry, so that's something to consider, and then there's the awful, vaguely wet dog aroma that dry, poorly stored cold roast meat develops. It doesn't matter how much garam masala you use if it's still got the all the culinary qualities of licking the arse of a Lhasa Apso (it's a Dougal dog from Magic Roundabout, see picture below) that's just been fetching a stick from Lake Windermere. However, this version of turkey curry does work and does the meat justice, mainly due to the acidic lemon that cuts through the moist canine character of reheated roast meat.

Dougal, the only Lhasa Apso worth mentioning
The scent of Christmas past.

One last thing, this curry should have a decent chilli kick to it. Picture the scene: you've been cooped up in the house for a few days; plied with too much rich food, chocolate and booze; bored to death by the shit programming on TV. You've still got a mountain of cooked turkey to get through and you need something to really give your guts, your tastebuds, indeed your very soul, a defibrillating shock to get you back to something like a normal routine again. A pallet-cleansing, tangy, hot curry is just that shock. Just don't forget to shout "CLEAR!" as you use the toilet next day.

TIMING
Preparation: 5-10 minutes (not counting the time to roast the turkey first time around, obviously)
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

INGREDIENTS
300g leftover roast turkey meat, shredded
3 small onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red or orange pepper, cut into 2 cm squares
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 whole bay leaf
4 red or green chillies, finely chopped
4 med/ 6-8 small tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp tomato puree
juice of 1 lemon
50 ml water
2 tsp garam masala

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices to gently fry for a minute or so.

Add the onions and garlic and fry until soft, around 5-10 minutes. Add the pepper and and fry for a further few minutes.

Pour in the water along with the rest of the ingredients, except the turkey. Mix well and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the turkey to heat through.

A panful of leftover joy

Finally, pep up the flavour with the garam masala and serve.

Like many curries, this works with plain rice, or something a little more fancy like a pilau like my lemon flavoured version  or this Indian egg fried rice, with or without a South Asian bread, like naan.

NOTES
One of the other beauties of this recipe is how fucking quick this is to cook. I'll probably go into this a bit further in a subsequent recipe entry, but my worst habit in cooking is how slow I am, mainly as a result of being really anal about how I chop vegetables. I can't help it, I cook like I'm making love (no, not anal): with care and attention to detail. However, even I could bang this out in about half an hour.

This recipe would work pretty well with leftover roast chicken.

It's not the most appealing looking dish as you can see, but what can you expect from leftovers? It tastes fucking great, and that's all that matters.

Jalfrezi is one of my favourite curries in UK curry houses. The local curry house version bears almost no resemblance to this recipe. On the other hand, research tells me this is a more authentic version of jalfrezi since it is supposed to be a really dry curry.

I have a recipe waiting to be written up for roast turkey with various trimmings, but I reckon that may be better posted in the run up to Christmas.

I made it through this whole blog without once taking the piss out of a famous TV chef. I really am slipping.




Saturday, 4 June 2016

Kylie Minogue Burritos

In a previous blog I mused how some dishes from countries outside the English-speaking world (ie largely the very best food on the planet) sound so much more exotic and exciting in their native language. One fantastic example, spaghetti puttanesca, the wonderful, rich Italian pasta dish of tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers, literally means "prostitutes' spaghetti". It's so called because it's made with tinned ingredients from the pantry rather than fresh produce which a wholesome and dutiful housewife would supposedly use. Not having to work into the night, she couldn't go the market of a morning and get all the ingredients needed for more fancy recipes. Personally, I find this all very misogynistic and judgemental. If you can turn out a fantastic pasta sauce like puttanesca from what you find in your pantry, no matter what you do for a living,  you're not a whore, you're a goddess.

Another great example of a dish in its native language that sounds better than it would do in English is that wonderful, oven-baked tortilla packed with rice and other stuff, the burrito. The name is Spanish for "small donkey" (apparently because it looks like the packs worn by donkeys) or, as I prefer, "little ass" and since I've always been a fan of Kylie Minogue, well, sometimes these things just write themselves.

It would be rude not to.
The picture is from the Mail online but I'll link directly to the website of that shitty rag over my dead body or perhaps the threat of legal action

See? You wouldn't get this on the Great British Menu. On there they serve up fish, chips and mushy peas in a fucking chamber pot accompanied by croutons skewered on the bristles of a toilet brush and it's described as "playful". Playful my hairy, ginger balls. I'll tell you what would be playful. If you coated your collective Michelin stars with Tabasco sauce and stuck them up your arses lengthwise, you bunch of pretentious bellends.

I wouldn't mind, but the programme is all about producing a menu for some function attended by the Queen. She's 90, for fuck's sake. Most 90 year-olds are just happy to be alive  and actually physically eating without having food given through a tube. She's probably not bothered if the dinner you made is supposed to be ironic as long as it's not got any bones in (or isn't getting delivered by speeding Mercedes through a French road tunnel). More to the point, for the purposes of this blog, nobody on that show has actually done anything in honour of Kylie Minogue's bum.

Anyway (as most of the final paragraphs of my preambles tend to begin), this is yet another Tex-Mex creation (see also chilli con carne and fajitas), and as such, essentially a bastardised version of peasant food, emasculated for the palettes of people of white European heritage. While it is a bit of a pain in the arse to make, with several different components to prepare, as well as producing shitloads of washing up, it is actually worth the effort.

TIMING
Preparation:
Rice - 15 minutes
Refried beans - 10 minutes
Salsa - 10 minutes
Chicken - 5 minutes plus at least one hour marination

Cooking:
Rice - 20 minutes
Refried beans - 10 minutes
Chicken - 20 minutes
Burrito - 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS
Rice
100g fresh tomatoes (about 5 cherry tomatoes), peeled and chopped
½ an onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 red chilli, finely chopped
½ vegetable stock cube
1 small mug rice
½ tsp cumin seeds
Handful of sliced pickled jalapeños, chopped
1 mug water

Salsa roja (see this post for recipe)

Refritos frijoles (refried beans)
50g borlotti beans, mashed
½ a medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
Dash Tabasco sauce
2 tbsp oil

Chicken
4-6 boneless chicken thighs or breast fillet, cut into 2cm strips
½ a medium onion, sliced
100g mushrooms, sliced
½ sweet pepper (red, orange or yellow), cut into strips
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Cholula pepper sauce
1 tsp chipotle paste
Dash Tabasco sauce
100 ml dry white wine

Grated cheese
2 large flour tortillas


RECIPE
For the chicken, add the wine and chipotle paste to a bowl.

Drop in the chicken pieces, stir well and leave to marinate for an hour or so, enough time to prepare the other components of the burrito.

Prepare the rice by frying up the onion and garlic until soft.

Add the lime zest, chilli, jalapeños and cumin and carry on frying for another couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes and crumble in the stock cube before stirring well.

Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains.

Pour in the water, stir gently and heat to boiling.

Turn the heat right down, cover, and leave for 10 minutes before turning the heat completely off.


Leave to stand on the hob until needed in making up the burrito.

Prepare the salsa roja according to the recipe here. (It's basically chopped tomatoes, onions, chillies, cumin seeds, oregano, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar)


La Salsa


Prepare the beans by adding the oil to a pan and frying the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft.

Add salt, pepper and the dash of tabasco.

Stir in the mashed beans and allow to warm through.

For the chicken, add 1tbsp oil to the pan and fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and pepper for 5 more minutes.

Add the dry spices (cumin and coriander) for another couple of minutes.

Finally throw in the chicken and the marinade to allow the chicken to braise for 10-15 minutes until cooked.

Make sure any liquid from the marinade is reduced down to a syrupy consistency.

Chicken

Lay out a tortilla on a good sized sheet of foil on a flat surface.

Add a layer of rice, a handful of cheese, a few spoons of salsa roja and of beans and finally the chicken on top.


Pre-oven loading

Place the second tortilla on top of the first and tuck it round the package.

Wrap the foil around the burrito to cover, place in am oven-proof dish and put in a pre-heated oven at 180º for 20 minutes, then open the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Makes one huge burrito which is enough for two or one greedy bastard

Get your laughing gear round that, Pedro

NOTES
This recipe is actually a bit of a pain in the arse to put together as it has so many things to make. It's worth it, though. as it tastes great when complete. Besides, each batch of salsa, refried beans and rice  make a great part of dinner the next day (eg with something like fajitas) or to make a reasonable lunch in their own right. The rice will probably freeze quite nicely if you are so inclined but don't bother trying to freeze the salsa or it would turn into some reddish-coloured slurry

I've made this with a variety of chilli sauces because they all add their own bit to the dish or perhaps it's just because I'm THAT kind of foodie wanker (and if you're read many of these entries you know that this is true), but you could get away with just one on its own. Given a choice, the one I'd opt for iwould be one Tabasco because, when it comes to simple chilli sauces, it is the dog's bollocks with its fruity habanero kick as well as being easier to come by in the UK.

I realise that in using Kylie Minogue's bum to justify a pun on the word  "ass" I'm objectifying her and putting my feminist credentials on the line, but a gag's a gag

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Southeast Asian Chicken Curry

Fussy eaters, what can you do about them? They make the chef's life difficult and the sweary chef's fucking difficult. I mean, we all have things that we're not keen on, sure. Personally, as I've told you previously, dear readers, I can't stand dried fruit as, to me they are the tagnuts from the devil's own pet rabbits. However, that's OK. They aren't in an awful lot of recipes, besides which, I do the cooking so you want raisins in, get your fucking own. The problems arise when someone doesn't like something that's a common ingredient in a lot of other things. Mrs Sweary has an aversion to butter, cheese in dishes (she'll eat "raw" cheese, go figure) and creamy sauces. This immediately wipes out half the cuisine of Western Europe as an option for dinner when I'm cooking for us. She's also ambivalent to curries containing a lot of coconut which also renders a lot of the fabulous curries from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia less than ideal. Sometimes a curry just needs a creamy texture to make it all the better, be it cream in something like a korma or the coconut in Thai red or green curries. Fortunately, Mrs S does like cashew nuts and they make a good alternative to coconut if they are blended into a paste. This curry has a smooth, creamy texture like you would find in a curry with coconut, but the nuttiness also lends it a flavour slightly reminiscent of satay.

While it's understandable that some people are a little bit fussy, the thing that really boils my piss is people that decide they can't eat a major food group as a fashion statement. Of course there are genuine clinical food intolerances and allergies (for example those with coeliac disease or lactose intolerance, which are real and often debilitating illnesses and my heart sincerely goes out to people who suffer with these afflictions), but there's always those people that say they can't eat bread or pasta because they are intolerant to wheat, or that milk makes them blow up like a balloon. The way they talk you might be forgiven for thinking that it was gluten and not polonium that had poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. Most of the time this aversion to a foodstuff is bullshit. Stop pathologising the fact that you're just a fucking fashionably fussy eater!

Anyway, back onto this recipe. This curry has a fresh, aromatic style like those from the various countries from SE Asia, though I think it's probably closest to a Sri Lankan dish. It serves 2 easily, with some left over for a lunch the next day if served with rice.

INGREDIENTS
Spice paste
1 thumb-sized piece of galangal, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
half a stalk of lemon grass, sliced
2 red chillies, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree

Dry spices
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon (around 6 cm in length)
5 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 tsp ground tumeric
½ tsp ground black pepper
Salt

Spices on a plate again
From the top: ground tumeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, salt, cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom, cloves

2 tbsp oil
100g unsalted cashew nuts
20 (or so) curry leaves
I medium onion, sliced
1 medium-large aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
4-6 chicken thighs, skinned
1 tsp garam masala

TIMING
Preparation: 10 to 20 minutes (depending on if you use a blender or a pestle and mortar)
Cooking: 90 to 120 minutes

RECIPE
Place all the paste ingredients into a mini food processor and whizz up until smooth. Alternatively, if you're a foodie wanker like me, put them into a pestle and mortar and pound crap out of them until they are a smooth paste.

 PASTE:
How low can you go?

Heat half the oil in a heavy pan and fry the cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove them with a slotted spoon.

To the  hot oil add the dry spice ingredients for a minute, stirring.

Add the spice paste and stir for a couple of minutes.

Put the spice mix into a blender with the cashews and 500ml water.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the sliced onion until it's soft.

Add the blended sauce to the pan as well as the curry leaves and heat until bubbling.

Add the aubergine and the chicken, pushing the chicken into the pan so it's submerged in the sauce.

Leave to simmer for an hour to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the chicken is cooked through.

Add teaspoon of garam masala just before serving to pep up the flavour a little.

Serve with rice, like the golden pilau in the pic below, and/or an Indian bread like a naan or paratha.


NOTES
This curry also works with lamb instead of chicken and, as I've alluded to, you could replace the cashew nuts with creamed coconut.

Galangal is a bit like a more fragrant version of ginger. If you can get it, fine, otherwise the curry doesn't lose much by using fresh ginger.


Galangal
Curry leaves are another wanky foodie ingredient that aren't that easy to come by. You can find them in Asian grocers. Add a bay leaf instead if you can't get any.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Chilli chicken drumsticks with basil

Something that really pisses me off is when you get a recipe and try it out, following it to the letter, then it doesn't work or, worse, turns out to be crap. Often it's a recipe from a book from a really trendy chef, some currently hot restaurant or some newspaper column. You think "that sounds good, I'll give it a go" then you try it and you find the dough has the consistency of mayonnaise or the potatoes have the qualities of marbles or the chicken is still raw in the middle. It's the equivalent of really looking forward to a film and it turning out to be Batman and Robin. It's essentially epicurean premature ejaculation

I don't understand how this can be the case. The recipes must have been tested a few times before writing them up. Is it because the flour wasn't bought in the right pissing souk in Marrakech? Perhaps the aubergines weren't twatting organic enough? Maybe the cow was a fucking Capricorn and needed to be a Gemini. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it gets on my tits not being able to rely on a recipe from a respected and/or trendy source.

This recipe is a good example of this. The original version of this involved stir-frying the chicken drumsticks until cooked. It took ages and you can't tell exactly when the fucking things are cooked. On the plus side, it's a great way to start slimming, since salmonella will make the weight drop off you.

So I added the idea of having the drumsticks in the oven to part-cook them before adding them to the pan. It's a really easy recipe and tastes fantastic, despite having no really fancy ingredients, with the sauce being ready-made dipping chilli sauce.

INGREDIENTS
6-8 chicken drumsticks (depends on the size, enough for two people), skinned,
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
Black pepper
1 tbsp cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 or 5 spring onion diagonally cut into 5cm lengths
2 assorted peppers of any colour (though at least one should be a sweeter re/orange or yellow one), cut into thin strips
1carrot cut into matchsticks
3 tbsp sweet chilli dipping sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
pinch dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves (20 or so)

RECIPE
Make deep slashes diagonal to the bone in the drumsticks

Put them in a bowl and add the light soy and black pepper

Using a basting brush, coat the drumsticks well with the soy and pepper working it into the cuts

Cover, place in the fridge and allow to marinate a couple of hours or so

 To marinate

Heat the oven to 200 and cook the drumsticks for 10minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the part-cooked drumsticks and gently cook them over 20 minutes, constantly keeping them moving.

Cut into one of the drumsticks to ensure it's cooked through.

Add the garlic, spring onions, peppers, chilli flakes and carrot and keep stirring for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the chilli sauce and sherry and allow to heat until bubbling while coating the ingredients.

Stir in the basil leaves just before serving

Serve with rice, preferably egg-fried.


NOTES
I don't know what nationality this is supposed to be. Thai? Chinese? Whatever, the basil adds a really different twist to your usual stir fries.

Another deviation I do in this from the original is that demands you deep fry the basil leaves before adding them to the dish at the end. I'm too mean to waste the oil this requires, and it tastes just as good

The marination of chicken in soy sauce and pepper really adds some flavour to what would otherwise be fairly bland chicken. I do this any time I do a Chinese chicken dish, as was the case on my chicken chow mein. It's great for any old bog-standard stir fry.

Chilli sauce in the recipe is something like this:


Monday, 4 April 2016

Butternut squash and ginger soup

Beans are not the only musical fruit
Man Ray will be turning in her grave at this, but at least in this entry I'm not comparing it to a butt plug
Original squash image adapted from http://runitlikeamom.com/2015/10/30/squash-city/

Soup is fucking great. Take any old crap you've got left over in the fridge or larder, chuck it in a pan with some water, blend it up, and there's lunch for the best part of the working week. This wasn't always the case in my life. When I grew up, making soup meant opening a tin. Not that there's anything wrong with tinned soup, generations have been raised on it. It's weening food that graduates to essentially baby food for adults. One day you're suckling at your Mum's breast, the next it's Baxter's Scotch broth complete with lumps of vegetables and no nipple (though it has lamb in it, so I suppose it may have teat, which is almost the same).

Soup is the ultimate in comfort food, so much so that Heinz use this idea to promote their tinned product when the clocks go back every autumn and even Cup-A-Soup promoted themselves as "a hug in a mug" (no it's not a hug in a cup, you marketing twat, it's a sachet of dried of fucking soup). Then there is the legendary recuperative powers of chicken soup. You have the Jewish idea of Mama's chicken soup as a cure all or even bah kut teh, a pork soup from Singapore laced with pick-me-up herbs from traditional Chinese medicine. Now, I know I've nailed my particular colours to that particular mast with a rant on TCM in this blog entry, but if it makes you feel better, especially as a hangover cure, it's not a bad thing. After all we're not talking about claiming it can cure cancer.

Anyway, as good as tinned soup is, homemade soup is in a different league. You know what's in it, you can put as much or as little salt in it as you like and tweak the flavour any way you want. Best of all it just tastes so much more fucking fresh.

Butternut squash, as I've waxed lyrically about previously, lends itself to lots of dishes, working especially well with the spices of curry. Pairing it with ginger seemed an ideal combination and, as I found out, it was spot on.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
½ bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
A large chunk ginger (about the size of 1-2 thumbs), finely chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced
Half a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
2 chillies, finely chopped
½ tin tomatoes
½ bunch spring onions, chopped
1 litre water
1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a big, heavy pan and gently fry the red onion, garlic, ginger and celery for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and carry on sauteing for another 5 minutes.

Add the squash, chillies, and spring onions for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the water, tomato puree, soy and lemon juice.

Season well with black pepper and bring to the boil.


Cover well and gently simmer for 1-2 hours

Blend the soup until it's smooth

Serve with bread

NOTES
What I said about blending the soup in my recipe for broccoli and Stilton soup still stands. If you aren't careful you could end up spraying the kitchen and your face with napalm-hot liquid.

I prefer this blended until it's pretty smooth, though if you want lumps in it, be less vigorous with the blender,

You could leave the chillies out if you want. The combined flavour of the butternut squash and ginger is the highlight of the dish but, if you have been a sweary follower, you will know that I think if it don't have chilli, it don't taste of shit. Well, none of the recipes should actually taste of shit. No, they taste nice. That's just me talking street for my younger readers. While this might seem a pitiable thing for a middle-aged man to do, it's still better than most of the shite that Torode and Wallace come out with on Masterchef.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Rice and peas

Rice and peas is up there along with delicacies such as Bombay duck (see my thoughts on this from an earlier blog recipe here), water biscuits and crab sticks as actually not being composed of what their name actually suggests. And don't even get me started on the whole fucking omnishambolic multiple personality defect that is the "pudding" (steak and kidney? Christmas? Black? Bread and butter? Sweet, savoury? Make your fucking mind up!)

The "peas" in rice and peas are actually beans, kidney beans in this case. It's a Caribbean classic and goes very well with my Jamaican lamb curry or something like jerk chicken.

As in most Jamaican cuisine, the chilli ought really to be a scotch bonnet and put into the rice whole to impart a bit of flavour, rather than making it spicy hot. In this instance I used a bird's eye chilli which doesn't have the same fruity flavour as a scotch bonnet, but it still worked.

INGREDIENTS
1 large spring onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 whole chilli
½ tsp allspice powder
200ml coconut milk
400g rice
300ml water
½ a vegetable stock cube
½ tin of kidney beans

RECIPE
Rinse the rice in a couple of changes of water to get rid of excess free starch.

Add the oil to a pan and fry the garlic and spring onion.

Add the allspice and chilli.

Stir in the rinsed rice.

Add the water and stock cube, stir, then add the coconut milk.

Stir well, bring to the boil, cover, and turn the heat right down.

Leave for 15-20 minutes to let all the liquid get absorbed by the rice leaving (hopefully) a pan full of light, fluffy, delicately flavoured grains.

Serve with any Jamaican main course such as my Jamaican lamb curry or jerk chicken.


OK, it's not much to look at
It's rice and it's got beans in it. What do you expect?

NOTES
The mild coconut flavour works well to temper the heat of something really spicy like jerk chicken.

Unlike a lot of rice dishes, which can be a bit bland, this has enough taste to make a light lunch in its own right with the leftovers next day. Make sure the leftovers are kept in the fridge. Also, if you do have it the next day, make sure you seriously fucking nuke it in the microwave to kill off any bugs and avoid food poisoning from good old bacillus cereus which is actually quite fond of rice and doesn't like to share.

Other beans can be used in this, like black turtle beans. Some recipes recommend using dried beans and using some of the cooking liquid from preparing these. I didn't. Some versions of rice and peas  call for bacon in as well. If you do use dried kidney beans, bear in mind that if you don't prepare them properly you're arse might end up resembling a garden sprinkler the next day, thanks to the fact that the beans are poisonous if they aren't soaked and cooked according to instructions.

I used Thai jasmine rice for this. It tastes great for any savoury rice dish. As I've said in several previous entries, but a huge fuck-off bag of it from an Asian supermarket and you will have great rice on tap for months and it's cheaper and better than most of the crap you buy at the local Western grocer.





Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Leftover symphonies 2: Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Who first thought the idea of eating some rotten milk that had putrefied so far as to be actually mouldy was actually a good idea? I mean, eggs are a pretty dodgy concept when you think it just came out of a hen's arse, but at least they are in a shell you get the edible part out of. But, blue cheese, it's just there, all veiny and smelling like a tramp's underpants in the middle of a heatwave. Whoever it was, he or she was definitely onto something as it tastes fantastic. And probably the best of all blue cheeses is Stilton

I know Stilton has its haters, but there are worse forms of cheese. Take Casu Marzu, for example. This cheese from Sardinia has actual live maggots in it. Thinking that you might try the cheese with the blue mould on it is one thing, but to actually have an internal monologue saying "You know what this cheese needs? Maggots who've been pre-eating the cheese" really is overstepping the mark. The taste of this monstrosity apparently lingers with you for hours. I've not actually eaten Casu Marzu, but I hazard to guess that even this aberration of putrid milk, complete with maggots, still tastes better than Cheese Strings. Young Master Sweary would probably eat shit if you sprinkled it with chocolate, but even he won't touch Cheese Strings and, having tasted them myself, I can understand why. They are truly fucking diabolical.

Though it's in the shops all year round, Stilton in the UK is really only promoted to sell at Christmas. Indeed, most people who eat it only have it in the festive period when it accompanies crackers after a stomach-rupturing Christmas dinner as the Queen delivers her message to the Commonwealth. The nature of the extravagant feast of Christmas means that there is invariably a mountain of food left over, most of it perishable. This includes a pyramid's worth of cheese which presents the dilemma of what to do with what's left before it goes completely off. Stilton probably doesn't lend itself to using up in sandwiches, besides which there is usually the remains of a large turkey to consume which is best in sandwiches (as well as the obligatory turkey curry, which is another recipe in the pipeline to post at a later date). This soup is ideal to dispose of, not only the large block of blue cheese that needs to be consumed, but also the remains of the broccoli that is likely to be festering in the salad bowl of the fridges. This pleases me greatly since, when it comes to food, I really fucking hate throwing good stuff out. Better still if it makes something like this classy soup that gave me three or four good lunches at work the following week.

This soup, despite being made from leftovers, really is fantastic.The subtle blue cheese and broccoli go together so well and it beats anything you can buy in a tin.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery
1 potato, diced
1.2 litres water
2 vegetable stock cubes
100g Stilton, crumbled
300g broccoli, cut into chunks, including stalk
Black pepper

"SMELL MY CHEESE, YOU MOTHER!"


RECIPE
Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion to gently sauté for 10 minutes or so.

Add the potato, carrot and celery and carry on cooking for another 15 minutes.

Add the water and stock cubes and throw in the stalk pieces of the broccoli.

Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 15-20 minutes then add the broccoli florets.

Simmer for another 10 minutes then scatter in the Stilton and add black pepper to taste.

Allow the stilton to melt into the soup then liquidise until smooth, or leave it a little chunky if you prefer.


I took this to work to have as lunch. You could serve it as a starter, maybe. Serve it however you want to, I'm not your Mum. It is great with some crusty bread, though.

NOTES
You could add to the richness of this soup by adding a slug of cream (again, a common thing to use up after the Christmas binge). A good nip of sherry would also be a good idea.

To liquidise, use a hand blender or put the soup in an upright blender. However, if it is an upright the soup might have to be cooled if the jug is plastic and also it might spray all over the kitchen and could give you a broccoli and Stilton face peel if you don't close the lid properly. I don't know, as I said above, I'm not your Mum. Figure out how to use your own kitchen equipment for yourself.

This recipe is a rare event for this blog in that it includes cheese in it, and blue cheese at that. The recipes I usually post are things I make for my family and Mrs Sweary doesn't eat anything containing cheese or with a creamy sauce (yeah, yeah, go on with that line of thought and its eventual outcome yourself). I knocked this up for my own benefit to bring to work for lunch from Christmas leftovers before they needed to be chucked out.

I appreciate the irony of this is a way to use up Stilton before it goes off since it is, by pretty much any definition you care to look at, already off.



I couldn't mention cheese in a humourous cooking blog without referencing the famous sketch.So here is the reference, courtesy of the Young Ones

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Rhubarb Triangle 2: Baked chicken thighs in sherry and rhubarb

Despite my profane critique of the 1970s in an earlier blog recipe, there was actually quite a lot to enjoy about that decade. I had a great time growing up then, though hindsight suggests that's as much to do with the fact that I didn't manage to get onto Jim'll Fix It to meet R2D2 and C3P0 as I asked for in a letter. Talk about a lucky escape.

One of the best things I remember was that five minute slot that was the bookend of the children's programmes on BBC1, just before the news on schooldays. That had some truly wonderful animated shorts like The Magic Roundabout, Ivor the Engine, or my particular favourite: Roobarb and Custard. Whereas the Magic Roundabout was suggested to have been influenced by psychedelia and LSD, you could had to suspect a hint of amphetamine, crack cocaine or possibly methamphetamine use in Roobarb and Custard, with it's wobbly, seizure-inducing animation and bright colours. It's got fuck all to do the rhubarb the vegetable, beyond the name.

So here's side 2 of my Rhubarb Triangle (side 1 here). This is based on a dish that Mrs Sweary does with chicken thighs, lemon and white wine that's then roasted in the oven so the chicken skin gets nice and crispy, while the meat is braised in the wine and stays really moist. It's the most easy recipe I think I've made. Apart from toast. Or Pot Noodles.

INGREDIENTS
1tsp runny honey
150ml fino sherry
Juice of half a lemon and the husk sliced into 1cm strips
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
 ½ a red onion, sliced
2 sticks rhubarb, leaves trimmed off and finely sliced
4-6 chicken thighs with skin on
Salt and pepper

TIMING
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours

RECIPE
Combine the sherry, lemon juice, olive oil, honey and pour into a shallow oven-proof dish or baking tin (it needs to be big enough so the liquid is deep enough for the thighs to wallow in)

Add the garlic, red onion, rhubarb, lemon rind and garlic

Mix so that there is an even distribution of ingredients

Place the thighs in, skin side up into the liquid


Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on the skin of each thigh (the chicken's, not your own you fuckwit) and a little salt and pepper

Cover the dish with foil and place in a heated oven at 150°C for 1½ hours


Remove the foil and turn up the heat in the oven to 200°C for15-20 minutes to crisp the skin.

Serve the chicken thighs with the braising sauce along with baked, sauteed or Hasselback potatoes (recipe to follow). Alternatively, it makes a good meat addition if you're doing a range of tapas.




With Hasselback spuds and asparagus

NOTES

Roobarb and Custard was one of the animations made by Bob Godfrey in his very long career. He made various other films for kids like Noah and Nelly and Henry's Cat which all had the same simple artwork, multi-layered humour and great voicework (Roobarb and Custard was voiced by the late Richard Briers). Besides this, he also made animations for the more mature audience like Kama Sutra Rides Again, a humourous take on kinky sex; and Great, an animation about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which won an Oscar.

Mrs Sweary's original version of this is pretty good too. The major difference is use a full lemon (juice and segments) and throw in a handful of whole garlic cloves in their skins, replace the sherry for a nice dry white wine and leave out the honey and red onion. Mrs S would probably also use less oil (but that's just her way, so I wouldn't). Cook it exactly the same way. Serve with bread so you can spread the cooked garlic cloves on it.

The sherry needs to be decent stuff. Dry and pale. It also makes a good aperitif while you wait for the chicken to cook.

If you have any left over cooked thighs, they are great cold for lunch the next day.


As great as the cartoon Roobarb and Custard was, it was no excuse for this piece of shite rave tune from 1992 which sampled the theme tune



There's another rhubarb triangle recipe in the pipeline and will be posted soon.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Jamaican lamb curry

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s there was a big influx of migrants from the British Commonwealth to the UK who were a vital part of rebuilding the country following WWII. A large contingent came from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica. In the late 60s, eminent scholar, Conservative politician, and, as it subsequently became apparent, massive racist cockwomble, Enoch Powell, foretold there would be rivers of blood as a result of this influx. Anyone who bought a pair of gum boots to spare their socks from getting stained in the gore must look pretty fucking stupid now as this hasn't happened.

It's nothing new, of course. There were doubtless a few resident Neanderthals probably grunting the same about the Cro-Magnons (ugg ug-uggg ug'g ugg or "fucking neo-hominids. They come over here with their complex language abilities and their way of crafting superior arrowheads and hand-axes from flint") when they arrived; and no doubt there would have been a subsequently vocal minority of the residents who said similar things about the Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, the Jutes, the Saxons, the Normans, the Hugenots, the Jews, the Indians, the Pakistanis, as there is saying the same thing about the Poles and the Syrians now. The worst of the bunch were the fucking Angles. Those bastards came over to Albion, next thing you know we have to change the name of our entire fucking country to Angle-land, or England, to suit them. It's just Germanic feudal correctness gone mad.

Anyway, despite the naysayers, the little Englanders, and the out and out fucking racists, we have a fucking proud history of welcoming immigrants, and them becoming part of the fabric of British life with their culture enriching ours. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the British national dish these days is now accepted to be chicken tikka masala, and Melas and Eid have become massive community events for everyone living in towns with a big Asian population.

This is equally true of the Caribbean immigrants from the late 20th century. One of the most vibrant events in the national calendar is the Notting Hill Carnival, arguably the largest street festival in the world, is a huge celebration of West Indian culture. The musical landscape was changed drastically by reggae and ska in the 70s and 80s; and restaurants specialising in Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines are often a gem of the culinary life of any town.


The most well known dishes of Jamaican cuisine include jerk chicken, rice & peas and goat curry. Being a bit of an aficionado of curries from across the globe, I had to try this, but goat tends to be a bit in short supply in these parts so substituted lamb.

TIMING
Preparation: 10 minutes (plus marination)
Cooking: 3 hours

INGREDIENTS
500g diced lamb
2tbsp Jamaican curry powder (see notes)
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 thumbs-worth of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
200ml coconut milk
200ml water
1 chicken stock cube
1tbsp tomato pure
2 regular red chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2 regular green chillies, finely chopped (see notes)
2tsp Encona chilli sauce (see notes)
Half a butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed

RECIPE
Trim off any excess fat from the lamb and put it in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the curry powder to leave and marinate for at least an hour, overnight if possible.

In a flame-proof casserole dish, heat the oil on the hob and brown the lamb for 5-10 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon

Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the dish and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the curry powder

Return the lamb and add the rest of the ingredients.

Stir well, cover and place in an oven at 150°C for three hours.

Check the stew every hour or so and add more water if it's getting dry.

 
 How it is cooking

Makes enough for two people. Serve it with rice and peas (recipe to follow)

With rice and peas

NOTES
There are loads of commercially available available blends of Jamaican curry powder. Now, some cookery columns, celebrity chefs etc would insist you must make your own. As a rule I'd say fuck that for a game of soldiers. Why reinvent the wheel? However, I actually did make my own, but mainly because I couldn't find any in my local supermarket. This is how I made it:
  • 2½ tbsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole fenugreek
  • ½ tbsp star anise
  • ½ tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 large stick of cinnamon (10 cm)
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp whole black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
Put the spices in a dry frying pan and heat for a couple of minutes on the hob to toast. Let them cool then grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container

As mentioned above, this is based on a goat curry. Fortunately it works very well with the lamb I used which is readily available. Goat would probably need more cooking, but who knows? Not me, I've never fucking cooked it.

I'd intended to use sweet potato in this recipe but couldn't find any so substituted squash. Squash or pumpkin is great in any curry, but this would also work with regular potato.

Coconut milk in tins is great for this

I used the chillies I could find in my local supermarket, which were some not-too-hot non-descript variety. However, the chillies used in this ought to be scotch bonnet chillies which are hotter than Satan's urinary tract when he was having a severe case of urethritis during Hell's great cranberry shortage of 1986. As well as being stupid hot they also have a fantastic fruity taste that is as much a part of Jamaican cuisine as the other spices. Again, I couldn't find any scotch bonnets locally so used the bog standard chillies in the ingredients. On the other hand, Encona Hot Pepper Sauce is made from Scotch Bonnet chillies, hence why I add some to this dish.

Scotch bonnet chillies and Encona Hot Pepper Sauce which is made from them(You can get an extra hot version of the sauce)
(Chillies pic from http://huntergathercook.typepad.com/huntergathering_wild_fres/2011/01/homemade-scotch-bonnet-hot-sauce-thrifty-central-heating.html Sauce picture from Tescos website)


Sweary jocularity aside, I'm conscious of the fact that the as well as enriching British culture, the influx of immigrants from former British colonies in the West Indies betrays a dark history of the slave trade that saw huge numbers of African natives captured and shipped across the Atlantic to provide a cheap workforce for plantations in these selfsame former colonies.

Many immigrants live in some of the most deprived parts of the country complete with the social problems that afflict such areas, as well as often being vibrant centres for diverse cultures. The vibrancy then leads to more affluent people moving to the area, gentrification and next thing you know, the area is no longer vibrant and is the setting to some Richard Curtis (yes, him) bland, middle-class Rom-com as was the case for Notting Hill

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Leftover symphonies 1: Lamb in garlic, tomatoes and white wine

I've slated my parents' cooking skills while I was growing up in several previous posts and I've also had a significant go at the British contribution to world cuisine. However there is one thing that puts we Brits on the throne of cooking, at least once a week: The Sunday roast.

I was raised on a Sunday roast every week, be it chicken, beef, pork, lamb. It was the diamond in the dust of otherwise domestic culinary mediocrity. It's very much a British thing which really can't be beaten and it's simplicity means you have to try quite hard to fuck this up. If not the absolute pinnacle of cuisine, it's certainly one of its munroes. Tender, melt-in-the-mouth slivers of meat, roast potatoes, a couple of gently cooked vegies, all caressed in rich gravy and a whisper of the right condiment (mint sauce, horseradish, apple etc), maybe with Yorkshire pudding and or a nice stuffing (and everyone knows nothing's better than a good old fashioned stuffing. Well, unless you fancy a good, hard shag). More than any other facet of weekend life it lessens the impending blow of the working week that you know is heading your way, like the proverbial shit towards the fan, to scatters the last of your weekend comfort into the air when the alarm clock goes off 15 hours later.

As utterly wonderous as the Sunday roast is, I truly fucking hate the leftovers. The cold, roast meat that was a common meal in my household for dinner on Monday, accompanied by chips (fucking chips) and something like baked beans. That once delicate, silken-textured meat has, in the fridge overnight, become some sort of tough, greasy, stringy-textured secondhand chewing gum, akin to freshly lubed shoe leather. It's such a crime to do this with a lovely cut of meat, because those wonderful leftovers could still be used for something nice. It cost enough, why not get yet another decent additional meal out of it? I have tried a few recipes for leftover roast meat in the past and most of them have been, quite frankly, a bit shit. Then we came across this wonderful way to make your leftover lamb almost as nice as the first time out. It's a Spanish dish and I've raved about my love of Spain and its food in the past, and the flavours in this recipe are as Spanish as you can get with all that garlic, the tomatoes and olives.

TIMING
Preparation: 15 minutes (not including the roasting of the original lamb, obviously)
Cooking: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS
Cooked, leftover roast lamb, trimmed of any excess fat cut into bite-sized chunks (ideally about 400g for two people)
Plain flour for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 good-sized cloves of garlic, crushed
3 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (around 400g, or use tinned if out of season)
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
salt and pepper to taste
50g pitted green olives (about 25 actual olives in total), drained

RECIPE

Dust the lamb with the flour to lightly coat.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the lamb until it gets a nice golden brown.

Remove it with a slotted spoon to leave the oil behind.

Add the onion and garlic, adding more oil if the pan is too dry.

Fry for 5-10 minutes, so the onions are transparent.

Add the tomatoes and allow them to break down over a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the white wine and tomato puree.

Bring to a low simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

Return the lamb to the pan and stir in to allow it to heat through.

Before serving throw in the olives and mix.

Serve with sauteed or oven-baked potatoes and bread to mop up the sauce.

NOTES
A decent cut of roast lamb would usually be leg or shoulder. Leg is better as a roast with shoulder usually fattier, though this does add flavour. Either one is good in this dish, but the fattier shoulder probably works better.

The wine cuts through the greasiness as well as tasting great.

Don't skimp on the oil for the first part of frying the lamb as a lot of the rehabilitation of previously roasted meat in this recipe is in the frying part. This also goes for the garlic, you can't use too much garlic. Ever.


Plain olives work in this though I like pimento stuffed ones. These are not to be confused with Olive from On the Buses.
Olives 
Olives Go for the ones on the right for this dish

In my haste to eat this I forgot to take my usual crappy pictures. What can I say? It's tomatoey, there's lumps of delicately browned meat and it's studded with striking green olives so you get an idea what it looks like. I'll add pics next time I make it.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Rhubarb Triangle 1: Hot and Sour Soup With Chicken and Rhubarb


50 Shades of Rhubarb

I live in West Yorkshire, in the heart (actually, it's really more of an apex) of The Rhubarb Triangle, so called because they grow arguably the world's best forced rhubarb here which comes into season in February, around the time I'm writing this blog entry. We are so proud of it in these parts that weeven have an entire festival dedicated to it. You see, although we might not have much to be proud of, what we are proud of will fuck up your kidneys and kill you if you eat the wrong bit (how fucking Northern is that?). OK, so rhubarb's not got the risk of fugu, but it's still fucking great to eat: long, deep pink stems with a unique tartness.

It's a traditional British thing to have your rhubarb in sweet dishes, like rhubarb crumble for example, but if you've read much of this blog you'll know that's not my style. Where's the spice, the chilli, the fucking profanity in that? No, I decided to get some rhubarb at the Festival and do my own sweary rhubarb triangle of three recipes, starting with this hot and sour soup. It's an Asian-based dish that I'm adding a bit of northern grit to*. Stick this one up your arse, Jamie! Fusion recipes? I shit 'em!

Hot and sour is one of the common soups you get from your average local Chinese takeaway in the UK, though usually in the UK the version we get is about as authentically Chinese as the late, great Christopher Lee yellowing up to play Fu Manchu (yes, this actually happened, for five films in the 60s). It's a great dish all the same, and you can put just about anything in it. So much so, in fact, that you do wonder if, sometimes, the less ethical establishments might gather the ingredients from the sweepings of the floor round where they prepare their food. Anyway, the point is that the throw-together nature of hot and sour soup, along with the sourness that gives it its name and the touch of sweetness it has, means that it really does suit the tart flavour of rhubarb really well.

TIMING
Preparation: 10-15 minutes chopping plus1 hour to prepare the stock base
Cooking: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS
Stock base
2 litres water
3 or 4 chicken thighs with bone in
1 thumb-sized lump of root ginger,
1 stick of celery
half an onion, quartered
4 cloves of garlic (whole)
1 tsp whole black pepper corns

Soup
1 tbsp vegetable oil 
1 carrot cut into julienne strips
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
100g mushrooms, sliced
3 or 4 spring onions, sliced
2 stalks of rhubarb, leaves removed and thinly sliced
2 red chillies, finely chopped (including seeds)
4 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp dry sherry
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Vegies chopped
(clockwise from top left: ginger, mushrooms, spring onions, red chilli, rhubarb, carrot.
Oh, and that's my favourite knife at the top of the chopping board)

RECIPE
Put the water in a big pan and start heating it on the hob.

Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken thighs and throw this and the thighs they came from into the pan, along with the other stock ingredients.

Heat to a rolling boil, cover and simmer for 60 minutes.

Remove the skinless thighs and shred the meat off the bones and set it aside.

Strain the stock and return it to the big pan.

In a small pan heat the vegetable oil then add the garlic, ginger and carrot to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the mushroom and cooking gently for a further 2.

Add the sauteed ginger, carrot, garlic and mushrooms, as well as the spring onions, rhubarb and chillies to the stock and allow to mix for a couple of minutes.

If only pictures had smells

Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the cornflour and egg, to the pan and allow it to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.

Add a little water to the cornflour in a cup and mix into a thin paste. Pour into the soup, stirring constantly.

Stir the soup so it swirls and dribble the beaten egg into the pan to make thin strands of cooked egg as it meets the boiling broth.

Serve up and enjoy. This made enough to make at least 5 hearty lunches or is a good starter for 6 people.

NOTES
*Despite being regarded as Northern as cloth caps and whippets, rhubarb actually originates in China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for literally thousands of year so, technically, this isn't actually a fusion recipe at all. It took the West a further couple of millenia to get to the stage of civilisation where we had developed custard in order that we could claim rhubarb as our own.

Where I mention "julienne strips" for the carrots, it's another wanky foody word for "matchstick sized pieces".

The vinegar used in this recipe would traditionally be rice vinegar if it was an authentic Chinese soup. I've never bought any rice vinegar in my life and wouldn't know what it looked or tasted like even if someone rectally assaulted me with a bottle of it. I'd usually use white wine or maybe cider vinegar instead. However, in the instance I wrote up for this blog I discovered, after buying the rest of the ingredients for the soup that I needed, that I'd ran out of wine vinegar and had to make do with some white pickling vinegar I had in the store cupboard. The soup still tasted fucking great so it's not that critical what form your acetic acid comes in. I'd probably draw the line at malt vinegar, mind and balsamic vinegar probably wouldn't work nor be worth the expense. The same thing goes for the sherry. In an authentic version it would be rice wine. As my local supermarket is in Yorkshire and not Canton, a dry sherry is (apparently, according to the cookbooks) a suitable alternative.

The word rhubarb is apparently spoken repeatedly by background actors on TV as a non-descript word to show them talking without actually saying anything, much the same way that politicians do when they're evading questions, the vacuous twats.

I couldn't do a recipe about rhubarb without mentioning the fantastic silent comedy short by Eric Sykes from 1980 called "Rhubarb Rhubarb" which I've embedded below. It's hilarious and (assuming you appreciate the ethos of this blog) you won't regret watching it, though it has got nothing to do with food.


Look out for further rhubarb-related japery in the next two recipes of my Rhubarb Triangle

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Beef and Orange Tagine

I mentioned when I did a previous tagine recipe that I really have a problem with sweet fruit in savoury recipes. I then completely had an arse-about-face moment and subsequently wrote up recipes for pineapple sambal and pineapple fried rice. However, that doesn't count because the sambal is a relish and the rice is an accompaniment. My blog, my rules. And that same rule is getting bent just a little bit more now with this with its actual orange content. Well, at least it's not apricots, prunes or raisins that not only don't deserve a place in any dish, savoury or sweet, but actually ought to be projected into the heart of the fucking sun because they are the very stones from the devil's own infernal gall bladder.

Regular guest star of this blog, Rick Stein, usually twats on endlessly about how he's made such-and-such a dish for years, after being taught how to cook it when he was staying at a chateau in France or something. Another famous chef, Nigel Slater, also seems to only cook things that he ate as a child just how his Mum made it. Recipes all done and dusted, all ingredients bought and prepared. However, in sweary cooking, you sometimes have to busk it a little, or, in the words of Blackadder, "Needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle". I'd planned on cooking up a nice lamb tagine but, could I find any lamb in my local shops? Could I bollocks! I bought some beef and decided to improvise this and it turned out quite well.

TIMING
Preparation 15-20 minutes
Cooking 3 hours

INGREDIENTS
2tbsp olive oil
400g cubed stewing beef
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of one orange
1 courgette, sliced
2 large tsp ras-el-hanout
1 carrot, sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
pinch saffron
250 ml water
1 chicken stock cube

RECIPE
 Heat the oil in a flame proof casserole dish or tagine on the hob.

Add the beef and brown before removing with a slotted spoon

Turn down the heat, add the onion and garlic to the pot and allow to sweat for 10 minutes.

Throw in the carrot and carry on frying gently for another 5 minutes

Add the courgette and ras-al-hanout for a minute return the meat to the dish then add the rest of the ingredients.

Mix well, replace the pot lid and put in an oven at 150 for three hours, checking every hour or so.

Add a little more water if the dish starts to get a bit dry.

Serve it up with something like couscous, with or without a nice Moroccan flat bread


NOTES
As I said in my preamble, I had planned to make a lamb tagine but I couldn't get any lamb. I got beef and then figured orange would go well with beef and worked from there. This recipe may actually work OK with lamb but I've not tried it.

Ras-el-hanout is one of those wanky-sounding spice mixes that are listed in ingredients of recipes like this when they appear in the Grauniad. I'm reliably informed that this means "top of the shop" in Arabic because it contains the best ingredients they sell in the local spice shop. In actuality it's essentially a variation on a mild curry powder, with an emphasis on aromatic rather than hot spices It's not that different to garam masala (yes, I realise that is another wanky-sounding spice mix, but it's a little less obscure), though if you do use garam masala, this dish will taste a lot like your regular curries.

You could blend your own R-e-H and there are lots of suggestions of which spices to use online, though I bought some from my fave Asian supermarket Mullaco which I swear by. Actually, given the nature of my cooking style, I swear by pretty much fucking everything

Whilst I actually enjoyed this dish, Mrs Sweary thought it was perhaps had a little too much orange, so you might consider halving the amount of orange zest. On the other hand I suspect Mrs Sweary is actually one of the crows from the Kia-Ora advert below. It's actually quite difficult to believe something like this was not only acceptable on UK TV in the 80s, and yet seems to be remembered with some fondness today. It's actually more racist that a UKIP member's wet dream. Whatever, the point is my beef tagine with orange is too orangey for Mrs Sweary. It's just for me and my dog.


I'll be your dog
More offensive black stereotypes than you can shake a burning cross at. But, hey, it's just to sell juice

Admit it, this the first cooking blog that has used the word "vomits" that you have read.