Archive | April, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day

9 Apr

Just so as we are clear, in case you haven’t guessed, I am not very good at writing things up the day I get them. I invariably cook something, take pictures and all of that and then start writing and stop. It is compounded by a continual and wearing loss of phone data cables. This has lessened somewhat since I learnt you could use your kindle cable for that task (if you have an old nokia like me).

With that pre-amble out of the way, make way for the Valentine’s Day Veal Heart …. tah dah!

So I got this heart from Alternative Meats when they were on 2 for 1 – I do like to sniff out a bargain. I looked around for a long time to try and find a recipe that I wanted to do. Stuffed heart and braised heart kept coming up, but I wanted to try something different. Some bloggers mentioned that you could grill veal heart like steak and that it was super delicious. For this check out Alex Cardoza’s blog. Heart steak sounded like a good Valentine’s meal to me! I do really like the synchronicity of eating heart on the day of love too. (I know I missed world kidney day, maybe i’ll find out when world tripe day is?)

Things you have to remember with hearts are that they are very lean. They have chambers. They also have veins and bits of ligaments n ting. Sinews. Heart is sinewous. You could start a Seamus Heaney poem with that line.

So basically, you have to sort your heart out. (I have now segue-wayed into Carrie Bradshaw *sigh*) I’m not an expert of offal butchery. The pigs I used to joint and roll were all free of these accoutrements, so I wasn’t really sure where to begin. I knew that there would be plenty of heart and I just needed enough for two nice steaks. The rest would casserole (more of that later). What I did was basically try and open the heart out, removing sinews as I went.

You do need a sharp knife and to spend some time playing your heart, so you can work out where the central wall is. Cut along that and you should see something like the view above. Clean those sinews out, then cut the other side of the central wall. It will look a bit like this:

She wrote a book called Odd Bits - guess what that's about? And her blog is super interesting

You then want to flatten it out, and then cut the central wall away – this can go to the casserole side. Then find the evenest areas of the heart and cut two steak sized pieces. These you will then grill or griddle or you could I guess fry them too.

There are two things I would do differently next time:

  1. I would make sure the heart was all at room temperature, because it had de-frosted, it was still quite cold in the middle, which meant when I grilled it the heat didn’t permeate all the way through.
  2. Don’t treat it just like it’s a fillet steak. It’s not. It’s denser and meatier and it’s not steak. I like to cook a fillet steak quickly on a high heat both sides so it’s very rare in the middle. I would lower the heat slightly next time so it cooks a bit further through. I think if you cooked it as if you wanted it medium rare, it would still turn out rare. Not the still beating version my beloved and I had.

As you can see in the picture, I also grilled some aubergine. I roasted some potatoes in goose fat (mmmmmmmm … goose fat). We had some purple sprouting broccoli too. This was my finished Valentine’s Day meal:

Accompanied by the beautiful rose that was purchased for me, by the love of life! (He must be that as he didn’t even mention the over-rarity of the heart.) There’ll be another heart recipe on it’s way as these two steak used maybe a third of the heart, so as they say, watch this space!

Also I don’t know how I’ll top this next year, so any ideas are welcome – what did you cook for Valentine’s?

And last but not least, this meal won me a competition from the Lahloo Tea facebook, so you should look at their website and buy some deliciousness. I won the Wild Rose tea. Thank you, Lahloo!


Scallops! (That’s not an offal, you cry!)

4 Apr

I went to see my Mum in Norfolk yesterday and because I am her poor daughter, she gave me half a bag of her supermarket scallops as a treat. What a lovely Mum! On the way home (4 hour journey) I heard ‘Costing the Earth’ on Iplayer. The episode is linked below and looks at how the Southern Ocean around South Georgia has its fish stocks under the tightest supervision and control in the world.

Costing the Earth

As I was cooking tonight, I felt quite uneasy. What if I had through thoughtlessness and excitability, forgotten follow some of the first discoveries I made with this blog (ah, the eel episode)? Where was the packet? Under some DISGUSTING mank in the bin – not going there again. Quickly, I went to get my kindle to check my pdf of the Sustainable Fish Guide. Alas, my kindle broke on Monday and the new one isn’t set up for wireless yet. Now, my scallops are close to being overdone. Oh woe!

Reader, I ate them. With the promise to check about scallops in my engorged post-“Chilli Scallop and Pattypan Squash Pasta” coma. You’ll be glad to know, that the Marine Stewardship Council lists all the fish and seafood products that it lends its label to. The label looks like this.

Keep your eyes peeled for it – if you are at all concerned about whether your fish is sustainably sourced – if you’re not that’s OK too, but I hope you’ll start to notice it more over the coming years. The label means that the fish comes from a Marine Stewardship Council certificated fishery. This means that every fishery that wants the label must be a sustainable one. The guidelines go along the chain of sale, so a producer has to ensure that only MSC sustainable fish ends up, for example, in their fishcakes. I think this is all very interesting. However, one thing to bear in mind is this DOES NOT COVER FARMED FISH. However, I did read somewhere, that a mark of good fish farming practice is being introduced.

I was lucky. My scallops were from a MSC cerificated Tesco packet.


The MSC website is very detailed. There is a page dedicated to scallops under the ‘Fish you can eat’ byline. What I am going to look out for now is that scallops I buy come from the Isle of Man. Food miles isn’t something I think about a huge amount (and I know I ought to), but I saw this new blog today from someone who is dedicating themselves to only eating British food for a year (including spices!). As a result I’m going to try and bear things like that more in mind. Eating, if you think about, is very complex!

There are lessons to be learnt from Alice! We should be more like Mother Oyster than the Walrus …

Greek Chicken Soup

1 Apr

I’ve not eaten this in Greece, nor actually asked any of my Greek friends whether it is at all Greek, but it was taught to me by a Greek Cypriot who was my boss in the chip shop, and since then has been called Greek Chicken Soup.

It cures all ills, whether they are emotional (I was in a mega grump a few days ago) or physical (D Dizzle got a bad flu virus), and is super delicious. It makes a nice summer soup – I’ve never really got my head around cold soups – but some of this kind of warm is very refreshing.

Part soup, part risotto, it does take some time to prepare as the goodness is all in the stock that you make. If you’ve just thought “oh I’ll just use cubes”, then you’ll miss out on a lot of Getting Better Power. Just saying. But the beauty of this is in the holistic power of the chicken meat, skin, cartilage and bone. A whole chicken carcass, post-Sunday lunch works well. I learnt to cook it with chicken wings. Chicken thighs work nicely too, especially if you’re a lover of the dark meat. But my favourite way to make the stock is with these bad boys:

As an aside at this point, I did run a competition on twitter if you could guess correctly what this was. Twitter fail! I don’t think I have enough twitterlings yet, so if you’d like to, feel free to add me – look to the right. If you’re pon the case of twitter, then feel equally free not to, but bear in mind you might be missing out! But Facebook win, and MotherEagle a prize will wing it’s way to you soon!

By the way, that is a chicken neck. Not a penis, or tripe, or tapioca. Neck. From the African butcher in the market. Chicken neck is a dark meat too.

Here is not a recipe, but more a guideline to making your own Greek Chicken Soup. Adjust times and ingredients accordingly. It is a very forgiving dish.

  1. Take 1 lb of chicken – necks, legs, wings, thighs, a carcass – a cocktail of the above. What is important is the bones in it. So breast is no good. Place in a pan and cover with water and bring to the boil. This is going to simmer for a few hours (at least two) until the meat falls off the bone when gently teased with an utensil.If you feel the water is getting low, top it up as it definitely does not want to burn dry.
  2. When you think you’ve got to that stage, place a colander over an empty mixing bowl or pan and strain the chickeny broth through. What you need to do now is separate the meat from the bones. I use my (clean) fingers. With necks, you won’t get every single tiny scrap off, but that’s ok. Reserve only the meat, the boiled skin doesn’t taste that nice in the soup and anyway it’s already given a lot of its fat and nutrient to the stock.
  3. Now you should have a bowl of stock and a bowl of meat.
  4. Take a heavy-bottomed pan and put a slug on oil in the bottom. Finely chop an onion and fry it until it’s translucent. You might want to add a little garlic, you might not.
  5. Add two fistfuls of PUDDING RICE. Yes that’s right, the rice used for the making of the rice pudding from scratch. If you can’t get it or don’t have it, you can use risotto or paella rice. I imagine you could use barley. But nothing long grain nor indeed basmati. They are not appropriate here. If you feel like carb-loading, put three handfuls in. Stir it all together.
  6. Add the meat, stirring.
  7. Now, you need to ask the question, how lemony do I want this? If the answer is pretty lemony, then zest one lemon now (you’ll need the juice of two in total) and add that to the pan.
  8. But what of my delicious stock? Now is its moment of glory. Add it back to the pan. The top it up (if you need to) with water so that it’s all covered.
  9. Add the juice of two lemons.
  10. Simmer and stir for about twenty minutes.
  11. Decide how liquid you would like it – if it’s a bit too risotto-y, add a bit more water.

It should, according to my taste, be melting and have enough stock left for you to have some soupy spoons and some foody spoons, maybe a bit porridgey in consistency?

It tastes even better the next day.