Sunday, 29 April 2012

Do you think we bought enough veg??

the contents of our fridge, sunday, 29 april 2012.

Friday, 27 April 2012

beef and butternut squash stew

not the most exciting of dinners but 'salright when you want a proper stew. i never think of buying braising steak - i guess i am not that excited by that kind of food, stuff you can eat with a spoon.

which is funny, because things you eat with a spoon have a long and noble history where i come from, and is in fact one reason (the other being the ubiquity of meat) that i think my husband would fit in well pretty much anywere from about dubrovnik to belgrade.

my mum was always worried about us - and everyone else - not eating enough stuff with a spoon. ii can hear her saying it now: 'you can't eat dry food every day!', when describing someone particularly inept at cooking, usually in the context of how badly they feed their children. 'dry food' was a loose term, encompassing foodstuffs like sandwiches, crisps, even shopbought 'pita' or filo pastry pie, or meat kebabs in soft naan-like bread, a bosnian speciality. (i'm not sure what was wrong with any of these - i can only guess that it's the lack of vegetables as adding veg does tend to give you a more sloppy or juicy end product.) as far as she was concerned, none of this was proper food and she attributed all manner of evils to it, chiefly and predominantly constipation.

even when she didn't make proper lunch, which wasn't very often, we'd rarely make do with sandwiches or bread. dad would make omelettes with feta cheese, or polenta with creme fraiche. or there'd be pita in the freezer, made with greens and cheese, but in that case it was obligatory to have soup before it (to up the wet quotient, presumably).

it's making me smile as i write this though obviously i now totally agree with my mum, and balk at people who don't do spoons. and, since we were kids, the category of 'dry food' has expanded, as has the number of people who eat it instead of a proper meal. which is ironic, considering that the horror of eating just bread and nothing else must have come from post-war poverty in yugoslavia.

anyway, the opposite of dry food wasn't necessarily a stew but anything that's cooked on the stove, often slowly, often involving a vegetable of some sort stuffed with minced veal or pork. but stews too - kapama or bosanski lonac both involve chucking loads of meat and veg into an eathenware pot and cooking it slowly.

which is kind of what this is, except for the browing of meat. i made loads of this - practically double the quantity below - thinking i could freeze half and we'd have enough for two dinners. fat chance, with two greedy buggers like us. there was just about enough of it left over for rich to have some on monday night when i was out with julie (having a massive steak).


600g beef braising steak, cut into big chunks, around 3cmx3cm

1 butternut squash, cut into chunks about the same size as beef

2 small red onions, cut in half

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3-4 thyme sprigs

2 tbs tomato pure

400 ml chicken stock

splash of worcestershire sauce

2 tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper

olive oil

first, dry the meat with some kitchen towel and season with salt and pepper. heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid until smoking. brown the meat in batches - don't overcrowd the pan or the meat will boil. when done, remove and set aside.

next, brown the butternut squash in the same way and set aside.

add the onions, garlic and thyme to the pan and cook on gentle heat for about ten minutes. make sure the pan is not very hot from cooking the beef and the squash or you will burn the garlic and it will taste acrid and ruin your stew. i'm speaking from personal experience here. add the tomato pure and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

add the meat and the stock, cover and cook for a couple of hours on very low heat. after that, add the squash and continue to cook until the meat and the squash are tender. i probably cooked mine for another 2 hours - which seems excessive but it was only then the meat got tender.

before serving, add a splash of worcestershire sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley. check the seasoning too, always a good idea.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

chicken with chorizo, peppers and sage

this is an angela hartnett recipe from her book called 'a taste of home'. i don't think 'home' is anywhere in particular, so don't go thinking italy, which is what she is usually known for. it's more about homely food, in the best sense of the word: not fussy, no strange ingredients by and large, and not very difficult to prepare.

my first encounter with angela hartnett was on the day i got my citizenship. we went to her restaurant at the conaught for a posh lunch, and ended up drinking and eating some three hundred quid's worth of stuff, which at the time (and for a lunchtime service) was a lot of money. still is, in fact. R and G paid for me, which i will never forget. the food was pretty amazing - i had lamb, which included both the slow cooked neck and a best end - and it's hard to go wrong with that. we had pedro ximenez with desserts, and i have been trying to buy a bottle ever since.

going to islington town hall to become british was a weird occasion, not altogether devoid of poignancy and meaning as i'd fully expected it to be. citizenship ceremonies - any kind of ceremony, to be more accurate - and cynicism tend not to go together particularly well. being a fully paid up cynic, i expected to feel nothing, partly justifying my lack of any kind of...i don't know... moment by the fact that it took nine long years to get there, and several refusals that i still think were unjustified and unforgivable. (the story of the appeal hearing in birmingham is worthy of a post alone).

before i went, my parents told me to at least honour the occasion by wearing a suit, rather than going casual as i'd planned to do. i reckon my mum had one eye on the photographs - as i should have done too but what the hell do you know about that sort of thing when you're young(ish). nothing in my life so far had exactly been permanent, so the idea of worrying about what i might look like in photos 20 years later never really crossed my mind. anyway, i wore a suit, to keep them happy.

on the day, i suddenly somehow realised that this is all actually quite a big deal, and that - although you think which passport you carry is irrelevant - in reality, it matters. to you and everyone else. so i thought about what being british means, about a set of values i think brits live their lives by, and about whether i was happy to be a part of it.

i also thought at least as much about what i was no longer going to be, which is not an easy one to untangle. i left the country with an old yugoslav passport, at a time when the country itself officially no longer existed. (it made for an interesting conversation at budapest airport.) if someone gave me one of those passports now, i'd gladly accept it but the chances of that happening are zero. we were and are an accident of history. i then took out a bosnian passport, issued by a woman whose daughter was one of my best friends but who had a dim view of all serbs after her boyfriend and her dad - both of whom i knew, of course - died in the war. her dad - this woman's husband - was an MP who got shot at point blank by a serb during the siege. (i read it in the times while in liverpool, and thought my heart might break.) by the time i was applying for the british passport, we'd sold the flat in sarajevo and i no longer had an address there. my parents were in serbia, with serbian passports. stateless, i actually felt pretty free - a citizen of the world.

of course, i took the passport but i did so so knowingly and willingly. now think everyone should attend a ceremony, even if the thought of singing 'god save the queen' with loads of eastern europeans and west africans makes you cringe slightly. it focuses the mind a lot more than signing a bit of paper would.

but back to angela. i'd made this recipe once already but i cheated by not frying up the chicken first and not using any herbs (i didn't have any). oh, and i forgot the lemon zest. my advice would be - don't skip the herbs and the lemon. for a dish with not many ingredients, the flavour from those is pretty crucial. otherwise you just have some roast chicken.

not sure about the browning bit though. it takes time, your kitchen ends up covered in a film of oil and for what? the skin is no crispier than i get in the oven, at a slightly higher temperature of 200C. so, not sure i'd bother next time.


1 chicken, jointed into 4 or 6
olive oil
3 red peppers, chopped roughly
100g chorizo, chopped roughly - i used cooking chorizo but normal stuff will do. just don't try and use already sliced stuff as it will come to nothing when cooked. you need chunks of the stuff. 100g was around 2 sausages
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs chopped sage
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 lemon
salt and pepper

season the chicken pieces and fry in hot oil until brown - 4-5 minutes for both sides, or thereabouts. remove them from the pan and set aside. next, add a bit more olive oil and cook the chorizo for 2-3 minutes, then add the peppers, garlic, sage and thyme, and cook for another two minutes. preheat the oven to 180C.

put the chorizo mixture in the bottom of a roasting dish and place the chicken pieces on top. zest the lemon and sprinkle all over chicken, then squeeze the juice of one half over it. bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning the chicken half way through cooking.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

swiss chard omelette

i wrote a whole post about this - before deleting it by mistake. although i know what it was about, the thought of repeating it makes me feel nauseaus.

of course, now it's gone, it seems like the wittiest, the most amazing blog post i've ever done. in reality, it was just a rant against yolam ottolenghi, whose bastardised recipe this is.


for four, with salad, as a light lunch

a bunch of swiss chard, leaves and stalks - maybe 300g or thereabouts, washed and cut into ribbons

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

4 eggs

herbs - whatever you can find of the soft variety - parsley and chives work well but basil, coriander, etc would too - finely chopped


a knob of butter

2 heaped tbs creme fraiche - don't go for the very posh variety which is almost like clotted cream. it needs to be runny. rachel's organic does the job perfectly.

first, make the omelettes. whisk the eggs with the finely chopped herbs and season. now melt the butter in a large(ish) frying pan and when foaming, pout in half of the egg mixture so it's almost like a thin pancake. cook until set. try not to overcook it or it ends up too dry. repeat with the other half of the egg.

next, do the chard - heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan with a lid, then gently fry the garlic until soft, add the chard leaves and stalks, cover and cook on gentle heat until it's done and no longer watery.

now do the assembly. preheat the oven to 180C. lay out both omelettes on a baking sheet, spread half of each with the swiss chard mixture, and put a big dollop of creme fraiche on top. fold over and bake in the oven for only about ten minutes, until it's all heated through.