Szechuan Green Beans with Spicy Mince

A Great Asian Side Dish - Szechuan Green Beans with Spicy Mince
This is a great side dish to pair with an Asian meal – I recently served it alongside Chinese Red Cooked Chicken . The fact that it includes protein in the way of minced meat means it’s quite a substantial side dish and can take care of both the vegetable element of the meal as well as  doubleing up as another main, which is handy if you’re feeding a hungry crowd. Traditionally the mince meat used is pork, which I love, but my family don’t so I often substitute minced lamb or beef which also work well. It’s also traditional to keep the meat to a minimum but I tend to veer away from that too and add much more as it’s so darn delicious. You can really make this as spicy or as mild as you like. I personally like it to have quite a kick but when I make it for the family I drop the heat level right down with no ill effect. The main key to this dish is to have your wok or pan screaming hot. You want the beans to shrivel and get some dark spots on them and the mince too should be well caramelised. As with most stir fries make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.

 Ingredients – Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine – you can substitute with dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon corn flour
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 heaped tablespoon chilli bean paste – available from Asian grocers or substitute with any other Asian style chilli sauce. You can add less or leave it out if you prefer
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
350g minced pork, you can use lamb or beef if you prefer
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Method

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, corn flour, white pepper, chilli sauce, mustard and water until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and when it’s very hot add the oil, swirl the oil around and add the beans. Cook stirring frequently until crisp tender. The skins will shrivel a little and be blackened in spots – reduce heat to medium high if beans darken too quickly. Transfer beans to a plate.

      Szechuan Green Beans  Favourite Asian Side Dish

Reduce heat to medium high and add the mince. Cook breaking it into small pieces, until no pink remains. Add garlic and ginger and cook stirring frequently until fragrant and the meat has been well browned. Stir sauce to recombine and return the beans to the pan along with the sauce. Toss and cook until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt if it needs it – this will depend largely on the chilli sauce used and  the  intensity of the soy sauce. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Best Asian Side Dish

Cooking with Le Creuset Series – Perfect Caramelised Onions for Pissaladière

Perfect Caramelised Onions for PissaladiereI don’t know about you but the most used piece of kit in my kitchen is my non-stick fry pan. I use it at least once a day, whether it’s for eggs on the weekend, searing meat, sautéing just about anything you can think of or, as in this case, caramelising onions. Due to it’s high usage, it’s also the piece of equipment I need to replace most frequently, and let me tell you not all non-stick pans are created equal. The things I look for are thickness and weight, metal handles so it can be transferred from the stove to the oven, the ability to be used on all cooking surfaces (e.g.  induction – you would be amazed how many pans are still out there that aren’t induction friendly), and possibly the most important is for it to be PFOA free.  The new range of Le Creuset non-stick pans tick all those boxes. They are reassuringly weighty and you can tell that the non-stick coating is reinforced onto the pan extremely well which means that with careful usage it’s going to last a very long time, so long that Le Creuset even offer a Life Time Guarantee! I also love the fact that their non-stick range is labelled as being dish washer safe but quite frankly the Le Creuset fry pan cleaned so easily I wouldn’t bother wasting space in my dishwasher.

Best Non-Stick Fry Pan

There are just some things that scream to be made in a non-stick pan and caramelised onions is one of them. I’ve tried doing them in a normal stainless steel pan but I can never achieve the same depth of colour. It’s very handy to have a batch of caramelised onions sitting in the freezer for when I want to make burgers, sandwiches, pasta or this tart, pissaladière, which hales from Southern France and is utterly delicious. Some people refer to pissaladière as French pizza, the similarity being that the toppings of caramelised onions (lots of them), anchovies and olives sit on a pastry base. Yes, I said anchovies but stay with me, even if you’re one of those people who think you don’t like them, this tart will convince you otherwise. The savoury saltiness of the anchovies is the perfect counterpart for the sweetness of the onions so there’s a fantastic harmony of flavours in every mouthful. Believe me you won’t taste anything fishy at all. But the star of the show in this tart is the onions and whilst caramelised onions can take a while to cook they aren’t difficult – all they need is a little time and a good pan. So cook them nice and slow and enjoy the amazing aromas that fill your kitchen.

French Caramelised Onion, Anchovy & Olive Tart

Ingredients

¼ cup oilve oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 large brown onions, peeled and finely sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons sugar
A small jar of best quality anchovies, about 100g
Small black olives, pitted
1- 1½ sheets of ready rolled puff pastry – I used one sheet but the onions can be spread thinner if you want a slightly larger tart, just seal the two sheets of puff pastry together
2 tablespoons milk

Equipment Used
Le Creuset 30cm non-stick skillet

Method

Place a large heavy based fry pan or skillet, preferably non-stick, over a medium-low flame. Add the oil and butter and when the butter has melted add the onions along with a pinch of salt. Stir the onions to coat them with the oil. Reduce heat to low – I have my heat on just a little above the lowest setting, and cook stirring often for about an hour. You don’t need to stand over them but don’t go too far away, as you need to give them a stir every five minutes or so. Over the course of the hour the onions will slowly caramelise and become meltingly tender. The pictures below show the onions at 15 minute intervals with the thyme and garlic being added in the last fifteen minutes.

            Perfect Caramelised Onions Perfect Caramelised Onions

When the hour is up and when you’re happy with the depth of colour of your onions, season them with a little salt and pepper and add the vinegar, stock an sugar and stir scraping any residue on the bottom and sides of the pan until the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and set the onions aside to cool. At this stage you can freeze or refrigerate the onions if you wish. They last for about a week in the fridge and for at least a month in the freezer.

     Best Ever Pissaladiere Best Ever Pissaladiere Best Ever Pissaladiere

To make the tart, preheat the oven to 190C. Take the pastry out of the fridge, you want it to be nice and cold,  and place it on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Lightly score a thin border around the edge of the pastry with a sharp knife. Evenly spread the cooled onions over the base making sure you stay within the scored border. Make a lattice pattern with the anchovies. If you find that your anchovies are quite wide just cut them in half lengthwise. Place an olive in the centre of each lattice. Brush a little milk over the exposed pastry and bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. You can serve it hot or at room temperature.

French Caramelised Onion, Anchovy & Olive Tart

Coming Soon – Cooking with Le Creuset!

Le Creuset Store Sydney I’m really excited to announce that over the coming weeks I’ll be publishing a series of posts in which I’ll be road testing some Le Creuset pots and pans and pairing them with some classic French inspired recipes. I was recently in their Sydney flagship store on King Street in the CBD and the variety of cooking equipment and the amazing array of coloured pans in every size and shape imaginable would make anyone want to head straight for the kitchen.

Most of you would be familiar with Le Creuset’s signature enamel cast iron pans that were launched in 1925 but you may be surprised to learn that their range of products has expanded considerably and they have some of the finest quality stainless steel and non stick saucepans on the market – all designed with the same flair that Le Creuset are famous for. So stay tuned for the first post in the series – Perfect Caramelised Onions for Pissaladière, a savoury tart from Southern France made with Le Creuset’s new line of non-stick cookware.

www.lecreuset.com.au
Le Creuset Sydney – 106 King Street, SYDNEY, NSW, 2000;
Le Creuset Melbourne – Emporium Melbourne, Shop 309 Level 3, 287 Lonsdale Street, MELBOURNE, VIC, 3000

Le Creuset Store Sydney

Roast Pork Belly with Amazing Crackling & Braised Red Cabbage

Annabel Langbein Roast Pork Belly

Pork belly for me is a magical cut of meat. It’s one of the few cuts that can be roasted or braised with equally excellent results. My favourite way of cooking pork belly is to roast it, and of course roast pork just wouldn’t be the same without crispy crunchy crackling. Pork belly is a fatty cut of meat but as chefs have been saying for decades – fat equals flavour. The good thing about roasting pork belly is that the long cooking time means a lot of the fat is rendered away and as it’s rendering it bastes the meat keeping it super moist. In this recipe, adapted from Annabel Langbein, the pork flesh sits in a bath of milk while it roasts which results in even more tender meat. The combination of moist unctuous meat and crispy golden crackling is very hard to beat.

Annabel Langbein Roast Pork Belly

Now for the crackling – there’s a lot of debate and a lot of techniques out there for reaching crackling nirvana and it  can make roasting pork a little intimidating. My usual method is to score the meat (this is one area where everyone’s in agreement) and leave it in the fridge uncovered for a few hours to overnight. I then bring the pork to room temperature and dry it really thoroughly (a blow torch is great for this). I salt the skin generously and put it into a blasting hot oven for 25 minutes until the skin is starting to bubble and crackle. After that time the heat can be turned down and the meat left to cook slowly for another 1½ hours or so. But what I’ve usually found at the end of the cooking time is that the crackling isn’t quite as crisp as it should be so I need to crank the oven up again and cook it for another 20 minutes for the crackling to harden and become crisp. This time I tried something different. I oiled the skin just before putting it in the oven. I know some chefs do this but it went against the whole leave-the-skin-dry school of thought I’ve always  fervently followed. I was nervous and pretty convinced that the final result would be flabby soft crackling but to my surprise I achieved the best crackling ever. So I’m a convert and the skin of all future roast porks will be lovingly oiled up. I’ll still do the hot oven then slow oven thing but what I found different this time was that I didn’t need to blast up the heat again at the end – my crackling was perfectly crisp and golden after the slow cook. I served the pork with a lovely slow braised Austrian style red cabbage that is slightly sweet and slightly sour and works a treat with the pork.

Ingredients – Serves 4 generously

Pork Belly  Adapted from Annabel Langbein
1 to 1.2 kg pork belly with skin scored
A drizzle of vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
Small bunch fresh sage leaves
2 to 2½ cups of fresh milk

Austrian Style Braised Red Cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red apple, unpeeled and diced into small thin pieces
1 small red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ vinegar – I like to use half balsamic and half cider

For the Pork Belly: Preheat oven to 240C or 250C if your oven allows. Bring the pork to room temperature (I like to have it sitting in the fridge uncovered as this helps to dry out the pork skin). Thoroughly pat the skin of the pork dry and season the flesh side with pepper and half the salt. Place the sage leaves on the bottom of a baking dish (just large enough to hold the pork) and put the pork on top, skin side up.   Drizzle a small amount of oil on to the skin and rub it in. Season the top with the remaining salt.

Roast for about 25 minutes or until the skin is starting to blister and crackle.  Remove the baking dish from the oven and slowly pour the milk around the meat to come about half to two thirds of the way up the sides of pork.  Do not let the milk touch the skin otherwise it will loose its crackle.

   Amazing Roast Pork Belly with Crackling How to Get Perfect Crackling Every Time

Reduce the oven to 160C and roast for a further 1½- 2 hours or until pork is meltingly tender. Check the level of liquid during cooking and if it has evaporated add a little more to the pan.  At the end of the cooking time the crackling should be very crisp and golden. As I mentioned in the notes above I found that by oiling the skin I didn’t need to re-crispen the crackling. But if you do need to, then turn the oven back to a very high heat and cook for a further 15 minutes or so. Alternatively turn on the grill element and cook for a few minutes, but be careful as the crackling can burn quite easily under the grill.  Remove the pork from the oven, lift out from pan and allow it to rest uncovered for about 10 minutes before carving. Discard the liquids.

For the Red Cabbage: Place the butter in a medium size heavy based saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until slightly softened. Add the apple and brown sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar has melted and the apples have softened a little. Add the red cabbage, the remaining salt and the vinegar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

         Austrian Style Braised Red Cabbage Austrian Style Braised Red Cabbage

Lower the heat and cook covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 45 minutes the cabbage will have wilted quite a lot. Remove the lid and cook uncovered, over very low heat, for a further 30-40 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is meltingly soft and tender. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, sugar or vinegar if needed to achieve a good sweet and sour balance.

Annabel Langbein Roast Pork Belly

Delicious Spinach Gratin the Easy Way

Best Ever Spinach GratinAs much as I love eating spinach I don’t like all the tedious washing involved to ensure it’s grit and sand free. My normal method for washing spinach is to fill the sink with plenty of cold water, take all the spinach leaves off the stem, place them in the water and give them a good swirl around for a few minutes. Then I turn on the tap and rinse them through the running water as I take them out, squeezing as much excess water from the leaves as I can. I’m tired just writing about it! I maybe the last person on earth to discover this, but frozen spinach is an amazing product! Right up there with frozen peas in my opinion, and sure there are some applications where frozen chopped spinach is not going to be able to replace fresh leaves but in something like this gratin, frozen spinach is perfect and dare I say it even better than fresh. The amount of fresh spinach you would need to make a gratin like this would be ludicrous and you can never really chop the spinach in quite the same way. So finally a spinach dish that can feed a crowd, goes perfectly with a any grilled or roasted meat/poultry, especially steaks, and won’t have you washing, blanching and chopping for hours on end! I can see myself making this very regularly and it would be especially good for holiday meals when you need numerous side dishes that can feed a lot of people.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Ina Garten

2 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 heaped tablespoon flour
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
1 cup milk
750g frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (3 x 250g packages)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes – you want the onions to be very soft. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Best Ever Spinach Gratin

Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add it to the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve hot.

Ultimate Spinach Gratin

Chinese Red Cooked Chicken with Shiitake Mushrooms

Chinese Red Cooked ChickenRed Cooking in Chinese cuisine, Hong Shao, refers to food  (normally pork, chicken or duck) that has been braised in a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and whole spices. The soy sauce and long braising imparting the meat with a lovely mahogany hue. It’s a wonderful warming and comforting dish that’s great for colder weather. I like to use thigh fillets for this recipe but you can also use whole chicken thighs or thigh cutlets with the bone in. You can leave the skin on or off, my preference is for the chicken to be skinless – if you can’t have crisp skin I don’t see the point and braising in liquid means the skin goes limp so might as well save the calories. One important ingredient in this dish is the rock sugar which is available at most Asian grocers. You could replace it with normal sugar which will give you the necessary sweetness but it won’t impart the same glossy finish to the sauce. If you’re doing an Asian themed dinner and want to serve a few main courses this would be an ideal dish to include on the menu as it can be prepared in advance and re-heated just before serving. I accompanied the  chicken with Szechuan green beans with spicy mince and lots of steamed rice to mop up the delicious braising liquid.

Ingredients – Serves 4 generously or 6 as part of a shared meal

1 kg chicken thigh fillets cut in half or thirds depending on size – you can also use whole chicken thighs/cutlets or any mixture of chicken pieces. You can leave the skin on or off – I prefer the chicken skinless
1 cup shoaxing Chinese rice wine – you can substitute with dry sherry
½ teaspoon salt
4 spring onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces- plus extra, finely sliced, for garnishing
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices (not chopped)
3 tablespoons peanut oil or any other vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
3 whole star anise
2 long red chillies, cut in half – you can leave this out if your cooking for children but cutting the chilli in this way doesn’t impart any heat to the dish
1 x 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 piece dried tangerine peel, optional  – available in Asian grocers
⅓ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons roughly chopped Chinese rock sugar or substitute with plain sugar
8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms cut into thirds
2 teaspoons corn flour

Method

In a bowl, combine chicken, rice wine, salt, spring onions, and ginger. Leave to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving chicken, spring onions, and ginger.

Heat a wok or a deep sided fry pan over high heat. Swirl in the oil and add garlic, star anise, chillies, cinnamon, and tangerine peel and cook for 1 minute. Add reserved chicken, spring onions, and ginger and cook until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add soy sauces and cook for another couple of minutes. Add 1½ cups water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add sugar and shiitake mushrooms, stir well and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes, by which time the chicken will be cooked through and tender.

Stir together the corn flour with 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl. Raise heat to high and pour in the corn flour mixture while stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes, if you still feel there is too much liquid just cook uncovered at a high simmer for a little longer. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with finely chopped spring onions and serve with steamed rice.

Chinese Red Cooked Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms

 

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

These little sausage stuffed mushrooms make a great canapé to serve with drinks. The best thing about them, apart from being delicious, is that they can be prepared well in advance and baked just before serving. There are so many variations you can make with these. Sometimes I leave out the sausage and just make them with bread crumbs, peppers, herbs and cheese and sometimes I use crumbled chorizo to replace the Italian style sausage which is also delicious. To serve as a canapé I like to find mushrooms that are on the small side – not button mushrooms as they’re too hard to fill, but cup mushrooms that are about an inch and half in diameter are perfect, keep in mind they do shrink down a little when they cook. I normally aim to make at least 3-4 per person as they’re very moreish and disappear fast!

Ingredients – Makes about 20 – 24 mushrooms depending on size

Olive oil
20 mushrooms, about 1½ inches in diameter, I always buy a few extra just in case I have filling left over
1 large shallot, finely diced
½ red capsicum, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1-2 Italian sausages (depending on their size), you can substitute with any of your favourite sausage – a spicy one works well
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 cup fresh bread crumbs – you can also do half fresh and half panko
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock

Method

Preheat oven to 200C. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frypan or skillet. Add the onion, pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until they are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Take the sausages out of their casing and crumble them into the pan. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a spoon until it’s cooked through and starting to brown.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Place the breadcrumbs, parsley and parmesan cheese into a bowl. Add the cooled sausage mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Take your mushrooms and remove the stem from the cup. I sometimes peel back some of the skin on the mushrooms if they are thick, this also makes more room for filling as it removes some of the flesh from the sides of the mushroom. Place some baking paper on a baking sheet. Pour the white wine, stock and 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the paper – there should be enough liquid to thinly cover the base, if your baking tray is large just add a little more stock. Take a mushroom and add enough filling in the exposed cup to fill it generously, I like to fill them quite high as they do shrink down a little. Place the mushroom on top of the stock and wine mixture and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Drizzle the tops of the mushrooms with a little olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is golden brown and crispy. The mushrooms can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated until you’re ready to bake them, just take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before so as they come to room temperature.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Traditional Osso Buco with Tomatoes Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Sometimes you just feel like pasta and nothing else will do. My plan was to cook osso buco one night last week, which I love with a passion, and I had all the ingredients ready to go but when the time came I just felt like pasta. I didn’t want to team up the osso buco with the traditional risotto, polenta or mashed potatoes – I wanted nice thick slippery strands of pasta. So I decided to turn the osso buco into a ragu and it was a decision that really paid off. Some people would protest that the time and effort of cooking an osso buco and then tearing the meat into shreds would be a waste, but they would be wrong. This was one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever made. I used to think the ultimate ragu was one made using slow braised beef short ribs or ox tail but they pale in comparison to this osso buco ragu. Traditionally veal shanks are used to make osso buco, and I do always use them if I’m making a white osso buco (osso buco bianca) where the veal really gets to shine through in the more subtle sauce of white wine, herbs and stock. But I find this osso buco, which is the hearty tomato based cousin of the white version, is best made with beef shanks which can stand up better to the gutsy flavours. This is the sort of slow cooking that I love when I’m in the mood to be in the kitchen for a few hours and the long braising means not only succulent, fork tender meat but a wonderfully reduced and complex tomato sauce that fills the house with the most amazing aromas. If you don’t want to serve this as a ragu then just skip the shredding of the meat and serve a shank per person alongside some risotto or mashed potato. Whichever way you decide to serve this it would be wonderful topped off with gremolata (finely minced garlic, lemon rind and parsley) which is the traditional finishing touch for osso buco.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6 and freezes well

4 large beef osso buco (beef shanks) about 1.2kg
4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, finely diced
1 stalk celery, very finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and very finely diced
3 strips lemon peel
2 bay leaves
1 piece parmesan rind, optional
Generous pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 400g tin diced tomatoes
½ cup white wine
Beef stock, about 1 – 1½ cups
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 150C. Season beef well on both sides and lightly dredge in flour. Heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large heavy bottom pan (use one that is shallow sided, can fit the beef in a single layer, has a lid and is oven proof). Add the beef and cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium, add onions along with a pinch of salt to the same pan and cook until soft. Add celery, carrot, garlic and another pinch of salt and cook until lightly golden. Add white wine and cook, stirring to release any sediment on the bottom of the pan, until reduced and almost all evaporated. Add lemon peel, bay leaves, saffron, and tomato paste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring the tomato paste into the vegetables and letting it caramelise slightly. Add the diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Place beef back into the pan in a single layer along with the parmesan rind. Add enough beef stock to come almost to the top of the beef and bring it back to a simmer. Place in the preheated oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. Half way through the cooking time turn the pieces of beef over. If you think the liquid in the pan is reducing too much, cover the meat with a sheet of crumpled baking paper before covering with the lid.

      Meat for Osso Buco Osso Buco Vegetables

       Osso Buco Osso Buco Ragu

When the meat is cooked and very tender remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly. Remove the parmesan rind, bay leaves and lemon rind. Then take each shank out of the sauce and tear the meat from the bone, shredding it into bite size pieces. This is best done with your hands and wearing food safe disposable gloves makes it much easier. As you remove the meat, add it back to the pan making sure that you dislodge any of the marrow in the shank back into the sauce. When all the meat has been taken off the bone, stir your sauce and place it over medium heat to warm through. At this stage you may want to add a little more beef stock or water to the pan if you feel your sauce is too concentrated or dry. When the ragu has heated through serve it with pappardelle or fettucini topped with gremolata (see note above) or freshly grated parmesan.

Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

Lidia's Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich an Italian American chef who owns several restaurants in the States, has written countless cook books and made a number of television shows – she’s sort of the Barefoot Contessa of Italian food. I find her recipes to be very approachable and totally authentic, despite her many years living in the States Lidia’s recipes have stayed true to their Italian roots. I’ve made this dish on numerous occasions and I’m always blown away by it’s amazing flavour. Every mouthful packs a punch, from the tender veal to the cheesy goodness of the taleggio stuffing which seeps into the tomato sauce making it rich and creamy. This dish is deceptive in appearance, it may look like a simple veal chop braised in tomato sauce but once you start eating it you realise you’ve been duped and that this is veal chops and tomato sauce like you’ve never had before. I teamed the veal with soft polenta but you could also serve it with mashed potatoes or even pasta. If you can’t find good sized veal chops you can substitute with free range pork chops instead which are sometimes easier to find than veal chops.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen

1 cup broccoli florets, cut into small in pieces, no larger than ½ inch
Salt
1 cup best quality Italian tomato passata
150g taleggio cheese, cut into small thin pieces
4 slices Italian Prosciutto, sliced thin
4 bone-in veal chops, each about 280g and 1-inch thick
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Plain flour
⅔ cup dry white wine
8 fresh sage leaves
freshly ground pepper
1⅓ cups chicken stock

Method

Cook the broccoli florets in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain the broccoli and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly. Place the broccoli and the cheese into a small bowl and mix to combine. Taleggio cheese is quite soft so it will become sightly mashed up with the broccoli which is fine.

Lay a veal chop flat on a cutting board. Make a horizontal cut through the meat all the way to the bone. With the smooth side of a meat mallet gently pound each side until the veal is about half a centimetre thick. Place a slice of prosciutto over the butterflied veal chop, then place a quarter of the cheese and broccoli mixture over the prosciutto, smoothing it down to cover the veal. Fold the other side of the chop over the filling, press down the edges to seal slightly and fasten with a couple of toothpicks. Don’t worry too much about getting a perfect seal – some of the cheese will ooze out into the sauce regardless and this is what makes the tomato sauce so tasty. Press the stuffed chops gently to flatten them slightly. Repeat with the remaining chops. Season the stuffed chops with salt and pepper, then dredge them in flour to coat all sides lightly.

 
Stuffed Veal Chop

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter is light brown. Add the chops to the pan and cook until the underside is golden, about 4 minutes. Turn the chops, scatter the sage leaves around them and cook until the second side is golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato passata, bring to a boil, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat so the sauce is simmering and cook, covered, until no trace of pink remains near the bone and the sauce is syrupy, about 12 minutes. Turn the chops and baste them with the sauce several times as they simmer.

Stuffed Veal Chops Braised Stuffed Veal Chops

The chops can also be cooked in the oven: Preheat oven to 180C. After adding stock to the pan, set the uncovered pan in a hot oven and bake, basting periodically for 15 minutes.

Transfer the chops to warm plates and spoon some of the sauce over each.

Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

Khoresht Bogoli – Persian Lamb & Broad Bean Stew

Khoresht Bogoli - Persian Braised Lamb and Fava Bean StewThis is another one of my favourite khoresht. I adore broad beans and Persian food uses them in a number of different applications. In this slow braised stew the broad beans have been teamed with dill which is just one of those natural pairings and a match made in heaven. As far as Khoresht go this one is pretty easy to make in that there’s no tedious frying of vegetables, although the dill is gently sautéed for a few minutes before being added to the stew. My mother always sautés  her herbs when making khoresht which ensures the sauce has a lovely vibrant colour. The other tip for khoresht bogoli is to not cover the pot after the herbs and broad beans have been added. Covering the pan at that stage will give a murky colouring to the khoresht with the broad beans losing a lot of their vivid green colour. As with all khoresht, gentle, slow and long cooking is the key but your preparation time will be significantly reduced if you use frozen broad beans. If you’re lucky you may even be able to find podded frozen broad beans – some Middle Eastern stores carry them but frozen broad beans from the supermarket will need defrosting and de-podding, but it’s still much less time consuming than using fresh broad beans. If broad beans are in season and you wish to use them buy enough to give you 600g after they have been taken out of their main shell. You’ll then need to blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes and then de-pod them from their second skin. As with all khoresht the only accompaniment required is plain basmati rice.

Ingredients – Serves 6 generously and freezes well

4 medium sized onions, finely diced
Neutral tasting vegetable oil or ghee
½ teaspoon tumeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
700g diced lean leg of lamb – pieces should be roughly 2cm in size
1 cup finely chopped dill
600g frozen broad beans, defrosted and podded – see note above if you wish to use fresh broad beans
Juice of half a large lemon

Method

Heat a generous amount of oil or ghee in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat (make sure you use enough as there are a lot of onions and you don’t want the onions to stick to the pan or burn). Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and sauté until the onions are golden brown. Take your time with this stage and moderate your heat so as the onions cook slowly and achieve a nice caramelisation. Add the turmeric and cook for another couple of minutes. Increase the heat, add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat has changed colour. Add a heaped teaspoon of salt and a good few grinds of black pepper. Stir again and add enough boiling water to just cover the meat, with only the tips of the meat poking through the water. Bring to a simmer then cover the pan, lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for about 1- 1½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Broad Beans/Fava Beans for Khoresht Meat & Onions for Khoresht Bogoli

Whilst the meat is cooking, place a few tablespoons of oil or ghee in a small skillet or fry pan and place over low heat. When the oil has heated add the dill and sauté gently for a few minutes until the dill has softened and the oil in the pan has turned a light green colour. Set aside. When the meat is tender add the broad beans, the dill – along with the oil in the pan, and the lemon juice. Stir gently to incorporate the dill and broad beans. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. I always find that at this stage I do need to add a little more salt. Bring the pan to a simmer and cook uncovered for about a further hour until the meat is fork tender.

Khoresht Bogoli Khoresht Bogoli

By the time the meat has reached this stage the sauce should have reduced sufficiently and the broad beans cooked through – nice and soft but not mushy. You want the  khoresht to be quite thick with not too much liquid so if you need to reduce your sauce more just cook it for a little longer. Make sure that during this time your heat is nice and low and that the khoresht is only just lightly simmering and stir it occasionally (very gently) to make sure it’s not sticking. If your stove is quite fierce use a simmer pad and conversely if during the cooking time you find that your sauce is too thick just add a little bit of boiling water. Serve hot over basmati rice.

Khoresht Bogoli - Persian Lamb & Fava Bean Stew