Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hot pepper rouille

This red pepper sauce comes from Saha: A chef's journey through Lebanon and Syria, . I'm not sure if the original rouille is a French borrowing from the Levant, or a Levantine borrowing from France, but either way it goes well not just with fish stews but with just about anything else.

2 red peppers
250 g potatoes
300 ml water
5 cloves garlic
2 hot red chillies
juice of 1 lemon
150 ml olive oil

  1. If you can get peeled peppers, just remove any seeds and chop them. Otherwise, put the whole peppers in an oven dish and roast gently for at least half an hour at about 160oC. Then pop them into a plastic bag, seal, and leave to cool for 15 minutes or so before peeling them. Remove the seeds, chop the flesh and proceed.
  2. Peel and quarter the potatoes, peel and chop the garlic, seed and chop the chillies. Put in a saucepan with the water, bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to minimum and cook until the potatoes are soft. (About half an hour.) If necessary, add more water, but by the end the pan should be almost dry.
  3. Strain the potatoes, garlic and chillies of any liquid, then put into a liquidiser with the lemon juice and the peppers, and whiz to a puree.
  4. With the liquidiser still running, dribble in the oil until it has all been incorporated.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Roast goose

This is the second time I've made roast goose for Christmas. It's a really easy meat to cook. The fat on the outside stops it from drying out, and the meat is tasty and tender, and quite lean. The recipe I've used both times is from Gordon Ramsey, and involves zesting lemons and limes, rubbing the zest onto the skin, then stuffing the cavity with the fruit and with some fresh herbs. However, I'm beginning to suspect that the purpose of this is just to fool the diners into thinking that the cook bears more responsibility for the end result than he really does. I don't think the fruit and herbs make much difference at all to the flavour, so next time round I will just be seasoning the skin with salt and pepper before roasting the bird.

5 kg goose

  1. Heat the oven to 240oC (220oC fan).
  2. Remove the giblets and any loose pads of fat from the bird, dry the outside and inside, and score the skin lightly in a criss-cross pattern. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the goose on a trivet or wire rack, over a large baking tray.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 190oC (170oC fan), and cook for a further 140 minutes. Baste the bird with some of the fatfrom the baking tray every 30 minutes, and strain the excess fat off into a heatproof bowl. (You will get about 1 litre of fat from your goose. Strain it and keep it for roasting potatoes in.)
  5. After the goose has been in the oven for 90 minutes, cover with tinfoil to stop it from getting too brown.
  6. Once the cooking time is complete, remove the goose from the oven, and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Cooking times
Allow 30 minutes per kg of goose (including the 10 minutes of 'hot oven' time in your total).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Steamed carp with ginger


500g grass carp
4 spring onions
1 inch cube of ginger
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons rice wine
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil

  1. Scale and gut the carp (this may have been done already), wash well in plenty of cold water, cut off the head and tail, and cut the body into steaks. (Or alternatively, fillet the carp. There are excellent step by step instructions on how to do this, including detailed photos, at
  2. Finely chop the ginger, slice the spring onion, and mix with the carp and all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes.
  3. Steam for 12 minutes over a high heat. (The best way to do this is probably in a wok, on a plate supported on a bamboo steaming rack and covered with a lid.)

Pleasure or pain?
Cooking sometimes feels like a complicated form of masochism, and this was certainly the case with our Christmas Eve meal this year. A few weeks before Christmas, when I was still in Italy, I got an excited email from my mum saying they had carp in the Polish shop round the corner, and should she order a couple. Then a week later I got another email saying that she was having second thoughts about the carp, having spoken to my sister, who had told her it was "gelatinous and fleshy and really disgusting" and had put her off it.

I always like the opportunity of cooking and eating something new, but didn't fancy the idea of producing a meal for a house full of carp refuseniks, so we cut the order down to one and I promised to do something Chinese with it and make some other dishes too. I decided to fillet the carp and steam it with ginger and some other light seasonings. Apart from disguising its 'carpiness' from some of my less adventurous diners, this also meant I could remove the fish's "mud vein". On the plus side, it wasn't too difficult - carp is a big fish and it was fairly easy to fillet. On the minus side, after about 15 minutes of amateur fishmongery I was left with around 300g of fillet from a 1.2 kg fish. I don't think I'd wasted too much, just that the fish's head, tail, bones, skin and mud vein make up about 3/4 of its weight.

The end result was fine, but hard for me to judge whether it was a success, heavily flavoured as it was with mutual resentment. If I get carp again, I think I'll just slice it into steaks and let people deal with the skin and mud vein themselves. And anyone who complains can just choke on their fishbones.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Roast venison haunch in bacon

There's a bit of debate about whether marinading venison is necessary or not, but I don't have enough experience of buying or cooking it to add anything to this, other than to say that marinading is the safe option. If the meat is young and tender, the marinade won't do it any harm, and if you don't marinade an older piece of meat it may end up very dry. Anyway, this came out really well - the meat was tender and juicy and slightly pink in the middle.

This recipe is a bit of a hybrid, drawing on Raining Sideways for the marinade, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the roasting, with the usual adjustments which come from road-testing any recipe.

The marinade
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
1 small onion
1 bottle of dry white wine
1 large bunch of parsley
1 teaspoon of juniper berries
1 dash of white wine vinegar
1 splosh of olive oil

The meat
1.5 kg rolled haunch of venison
salt and black pepper
3 large sprigs of rosemary
12 rashers streaky bacon
(butcher's string, if your haunch is not wrapped)

The gravy
½ glass red wine
250ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon of redcurrant jelly

Day 1: marinading
If your venison comes rolled up in a little string sock, then carefully remove the sock (and keep it for later), unroll the haunch, place in a large bowl and cover with the marinade ingredients. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Day 2: roasting
  1. Preheat the oven to 220oC.
  2. Season the haunch, place the rosemary sprigs inside it, roll it up tightly and hold it together with a couple of skewers. If your haunch came with a sock, then slip it a little way over the meat, cover the topside of the roll with streaky bacon, then roll the sock up to cover it, removing the skewers as you go.(If your haunch did not come with a sock, then cover the joint with the bacon, and tie it up with butcher's string to hold it in place.)
  3. Roast the joint in a roasting tray for 20 minutes to brown.
  4. Turn down the oven to 170oC, and roast for a further 12 minutes per 0.5 kg for medium-rare. (So a further 36 minutes for a 1.5 kg joint.)
  5. Remove the meat from the tin, cover with foil and leave in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes. (For roasting times for a larger joint, see Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Guardian article.)
  6. In the meantime, make the gravy. Put the tin with its juices over a low heat, and deglaze with the wine, stirring well and scraping up any bits of caramelised meat stuck to the bottom of the tin. Add the stock, turn up the heat and boil to reduce and concentrate the sauce, stir in the redcurrant jelly, taste and add salt if necessary.

I was trying to think of something pithy and funny to write about the following poster (spotted on Princes St in Edinburgh), but I think it speaks for itself.

RBS, of course, is the Royal Bank of Scotland, which went bust and was then nationalised in all but name. One wonders what "facts of finance" it has been teaching to children. What next? Sex education being taught by convicted rapists?