As winter is now firmly upon us, I thought I'd share three recipes. All three are warming and comforting, ideal for when it's pissing it down with rain outside and it's pitch black outside at five o'clock.
And, having just written all three down, I notice that the three together happily represent my ethnic heritage...
As few of you probably remember, I'm 1/4 Scottish. And, about the only time I ever get in touch with my northern roots is in the kitchen, either making tablet or the following dish. It was taught to me initially by my father and was pretty much his entire culinary repertoire. This version is my own, modified significantly since I learnt how to cook properly and stopped seeing burnt bits as a feature rather than a bug.
You will need:
two fat cloves of garlic
one small onion
half a kilo of minced beef
about the same of potatoes
a litre of meat stock (suit yourself on this, I use chicken.)
a teaspoon of bouillon powder
a pinch each of dried thyme, salt and coarsely ground black pepper
a small glass of dry vermouth
First, peel the potatoes and chop into bite-sized chunks, then chop the garlic and onion up very small, and grate the carrot. In a large, heavy-based saucepan, heat some oil and fry the onion, carrot and garlic over a low heat for about five or so minutes, until the mix has softened and the onion has gone a golden colour. Add the beef and fry until browned. Pour in the vermouth and turn the heat up high. Allow the alcohol to boil off and the liquid to reduce by about half. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the heat down very low. Allow to simmer covered for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and turn the heat up to medium and leave reduce for about fifteen minutes or so. You should end up with a thick sauce and potatoes that are soft and crumbly. Serve with a couple of slices of white bread, for dunking/bowl-wiping purposes.
If you have any left over, leave it overnight and have it the next day. It's even better after it's been left to fester for a while.
Faggots. Mmm. These are traditionally served with stwns (a mix of mashed potatoes, turnips, cabbage and leeks) but I like them with sglodion- chips (fries). Normally, you'd make these with offal, but since good offal is tricky to come by these days (and, I've heard, near-impossible in the US), I tend to use plain old minced pork instead.
You will need:
half a kilo of minced pork
pork liver, if you can get it
two slices of brown bread
a little milk
one small onion
a dessertspoon full of plain flour
a dessertspoons full each of butter and cornflour
a litre of meat stock
a pinch each of thyme, rosemary, sage, black pepper and salt
Chop the onion up very small. Cut the crusts off the bread and soak in the milk briefly, then squeeze out the liquid. Mix both with the minced pork, combining well with the herbs and black pepper. Form into balls about an inch accross. Season the plain flour and place in a saucer. Coat the balls with the flour and fry in batches in a little oil over a high heat until browned. Once you've browned your balls, place them in a large saucepan and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and allow to simmer over a gentle heat for twenty minutes or so.
Mix together the cornflour and butter in a cup or similar. Turn the mixture out into the saucepan with the faggots in and allow the sauce to thicken, stirring gently. Once the sauce is good and thick, serve with either stwns or chips. Peas also work well with this.
Soupe à l'oignon
(OK, I grant you, presenting onion soup as representative of my Breton ancestry is tenuous at best, but meh.)
My partner can't stand this, as onions give him indigestion in large quantities, but I think it's a wonderful winter dish. Great for colds.
You will need:
two large onions
two cloves of garlic
half a cup of plain flour
two litres of beef stock
two glasses of dry white wine
a dessertspoon full of butter
a bay leaf
a pinch each of thyme, salt and black pepper
as many slices of baguette as there are people eating
enough gruyère to cover said slices
First, slice the onions finely. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions and leave to fry over a low heat for about twenty minutes or so. The onions should be dark brown and soft, not black and crispy. Chop the garlic finely and add to the onions with the flour, stirring well. Gradually add the stock, stirring as you do so. Drink one of the glasses of wine and add the other to the soup in the same way as the stock. Bring to the boil, add the thyme, salt and pepper and the bay leaf. Cover and leave to simmer gently for about twenty minutes again.
To serve, place a baguette slice in each bowl and ladle the soup over the top. Sprinkle with the cheese and grill until the cheese melts and goes bubbly. Then eat. Be warned, this makes a crapload of soup, so freeze what's left over.