I am fuming about one of my rear molars which decided to split itself in two and escape down my throat while I was snacking on some pretzels the other day. That means more work done on my teeth and another huge bill after only visiting the dentist last week, I'm considering falsies.
So I'm busy looking into the price of Dentugrip while Katie is rubbing breadcrumbs (no breadcrumbs isn't our cat) she is making dumplings to go in our stew for tonight's dinner. We're using an amalgamation of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall/ Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain recipies using;
115g Homemade white bread breadcrumbs (bread was a little stale, mum says this is better for crumb)
115g SR flour
115g Shredded suet
Some parsley & thyme (small bunches) chopped finely
Salt & pepper
Shin of beef
Depending on what cuts you prefer mix the meat up how you like. I'm using 2 fist size pieces of shin and about 500g of braising
1 celery stick
1 bouquet garni
250ml Stout or ale
I've just chopped the meat into large chunks and places in the pot with the carrot, onion, celery, juniper berries x3, peppercorns x5, a bay leaf, a star anise all topped with water (interestingly star anise is used in the production of Tamiflu and according to Wikipedia there was a shortage of Star anise in 2005 due to increased Tamiflu production. 2005 you say?? Didn't swine flu come about in 2008/9. Makes you wonder.)
Anyway back to food and off the subject of sickness. Star anise is used a lot in Chinese cooking to tenderize the meat without imparting much of it's strong taste and also helps digestion which is something the Chinese and Indians participate in but us westerners tend to neglect (apart from the obligitory cuppa after pudding)
So the stew goes into the oven (150 C) for about 2.5hrs and I can get on to the next experiment...curing a pork belly.
I've made a wet cure of 3.5pints of water, 12 juniper berries, 12 peppercorns, 12 cloves, 3 bay leaves, about 150g sea salt and 150g mixture of golden castor and muscavado sugar. The smell is wonderful as the mixture gets to the boil. Gas off and it's left to cool before immersing the belly in the liquid (in a non metallic bowl remember!) weighed down.
With Katie origianlly being from Hong Kong, I've had my fair share of pork belly but when we went on a trip to Padstow, Cornwall earlier this year I had the most fantastic, tender and tasty pork belly I have ever had. it came served on a bed of puy lentils and roasted parsnips.
Getting the recipe from the chef was a difficult task and he wasn't too keen to let it all go. I did manage to get that he had soaked it in a secret brine for a while, washed it and soaked it in a second brine, the contents of which stay safely locked in his recipe book but I'm giving my version a go so we'll see how it works out.
So with the stew in the oven, the belly immersed, weighted, wrapped and refrigerated it was time to make some soup! There were some big, fat baking potatoes needing to be used up and some leeks in the fridge looking like they would soon be past their best so what else is a man to do but make some gorgeous leek & potato soup. There are plenty of recipes, from your basic leeks, potatoes and water to the more flamboyant Jamie Oliver versions. I opted for a middle of the road version where I used some leeks, shallot, potato parsley and thyme. Boiled it up then liquidised with about 150ml of creme fraiche.
I then put it back on the heat for a while to reduce slightly and couldn't help a wee bowl with a couple of chunks of Isle of Bute Cheddar in there.
I think a cheese like Keens Farmhouse Cheddar would have been better as it's got a slightly more farmyard flavour but the soup was ideal on a day like today. It was thick and creamy with enough pepper in there to give it a warmth but not burning.
Like my granny used to say on the subject of her own Scotch Broth... "it'll ging roon yer heirt like a hairy wurum" (translated from Doric means 'it will go round your heart like a hairy worm') it doesn't put the best image in your head when you're eating but you get an idea of the feeling
Our unctous beef, veg and stout stew with Katie's herby dumplings