Jasmine Braised Chinese Beef Ribs

Bank holiday Monday morning and I found myself rummaging through the freezer for some meat to cook. It’s always at this point that I get annoyed with myself for hardly ever writing on the brown paper packages at least some form of hint as to their contents. There’s mostly guess work involved trying to figure out if that roundish looking parcel is ox liver or cheek just by feeling the frozen bumps and texture through the paper. I really should use up some more of that beef tallow that I’ve got stored in there as it’s just annoying the hell out of me now, new rule: nothing goes in the freezer that I can’t eat or drink.

Anyway, I pulled out a bag of beef ribs that I had actually remembered to write on with a Sharpie. I have no potatoes or pasta in the house today so rice was going to be my carbs, therefore a Chinese inspired dish for this grey, windy holiday was in order.

If I took all the jars out of my fridge at the moment there would just be milk and a bit of Grana Padano cheese left staring back at me. Many of these jars are Chinese preserved and fermented vegetables that can turn what looks like a few sad vegetables lying in the salad drawer into a quick and tasty dinner in under 15 minutes.

I defrosted the ribs and set about making my marinade for them. I would need a bit of braising sauce for their long cook in the oven and as I had no sherry I decided to use jasmine tea as a base. It turned out that it really worked well with the dense beef, it was subtle but you could definitely tell it was there (although I did sex it up with a bit of lapsang souchong for a touch of smokiness).

                  Defrosting, marinading and after 4 1/2 hrs slow braise under foil

Ingredients:

  • Beef ribs
  • lime (to serve)
  • rice

For the marinade:

  • 1 heaped teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
  • 3 balls preserved stem ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried garlic slivers
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 heaped teaspoon hot fermented black bean paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Hong You Dou Ban (hot broadbean paste)
  • 3 tablespoons syrupy blackberry vinegar

For the braising liquid:

  • 3 Jasmine teabags
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon good lapsang souchong tea strands
  • 1 teaspoon Essential Cuisine powdered beef stock

Method:

Combine the marinade ingredients then cover the ribs and leave for about an hour. Put a bit of oil in a roasting pan and heat it on the hob, add your ribs and turn every now and again until all the sides are caramelised then add your braising liquid, cover tightly with foil and put in an oven preheated to 170C. Cook for about 4 hours, basting every now and again. Serve with steamed rice and spoon over the incredible pan juices. A squeeze of lime over the top will cut through the richness perfectly (unless you have calamansi then use that).

 

 

 

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Marmite Lamb, Blackberry Beetroot, Lamb and Mint Yorkies and Green sauce

Sundays round my cottage mean one thing: a blissful afternoon in the kitchen – the red wine is open and The West Wing is playing on my laptop. Today was no exception and somewhat more excitingly I had a hunk of salt marsh lamb.

As I was getting a quick olive oil and rosemary marinade together for the lamb, it suddenly occured to me that Marmite would actually be a wonderful addition too, it’s salty umami flavour bringing out the meaty sweetness of the lamb, so in that went too. I can happily report that it was indeed a total triumph and will forever more be included.

I also had a few beetroot to roast too, and as I was washing the dark purple earthy little things, I glanced at my big bottle Bridget’s blackberry vinegar, and just like the marmite, it just made total sense to add bung that in too.

Now when it comes to yorkshire puddings I never just make plain ones, why miss an opportunity to add more flavour? I am a massive fan of Essential Cuisine‘s powdered stocks. Their flavour just can’t be beaten when it comes to bought stock (okay, they are actually better than my homemade ones too, sshhh) and because they are in powdered form they are absolutely brilliant for adding to sauces, batters and just sprinkling over meat and roast potatoes.  When I roast a chicken I use their chicken stock and some chopped sage to boost my yorkies to super sexiness, roast beef gets the veal stock and horseradish sauce treatment and today’s lamb was graced with lamb stock, mint and rosemary.

And what sauce for my meal? Well a quick forage around the herb garden produced a beautiful, vibrant kickass green sauce that made everything just that little bit more awesome, just as a good sauce should.

For the Marmite Lamb:

  • hunk of lamb (mine was a bit of shoulder and it was achingly tender)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon marmite.
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped dried rosemary

Mix the marinade ingredients and cover the lamb, leave for at least an hour then roast in the top of the oven on its highest setting until the fat crisps and browns then move to the shelf below. Roast until the centre of the lamb reaches about 60C then take it out and rest for 15 minutes under foil that’s covered by a tea towel.

For the Blackberry Beetroot:

  • Small beetroot, washed but not peeled
  • big glug of Bridget’s thick blackberry vinegar (if you don’t have a thick syrupy vinegar then use your thin blackberry vinegar plus a big drizzle of balsamic glaze)
  • black pepper
  • sea salt flakes

Put your beetroot in a pot and pour over your vinegar then add your salt and pepper and mix well, leave to marinate for an hour then put them in a roasting tin, cover with foil and put in the top of your oven at its highest setting for an hour. Check them, if they are soft then remove the foil, give them a bit of a mix then roast uncovered to caramelise slightly.

For the Lamb Yorkies: (makes about 16, you can never have too many yorkies)

  • 300ml eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml flour
  • 1 tablespoon Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
  • chopped fresh mint
  • chopped dried rosemary
  • few grinds black pepper

Just whisk it all together in a big bowl, leave for 30 minutes then whisk again, leave then whisk (thats just how I do it, works for me every time, electric or rotary whisks are perfect). Put a bit of dripping or oil in the bottom of your muffin tin hollows, heat in the oven (at highest setting still) until smoking then quickly pour your mixture in so that it about half fills each muffin hollow then put in the oven until well risen (about 20 minutes).

For the Green Sauce:

  • couple handfuls mixed fresh herbs (fennel fronds, chives, parsley, tarragon, mint)
  • dried chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it, I like a big pinch)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • big glug extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • Filipino spiced vinegar (distilled white vinegar that has garlic and chillies steeped in it)
  • few grinds black pepper

Just bash it all together using a mortar and pestle and leave to infuse for about an hour.

Oh there was also peas involved but you know what peas look like 🙂

Borage flowers at Sysonby Knoll

The borage field

I found myself on the other side of town at the Sysonby Knoll Hotel recently. I’ve been meaning to go for a while but it was a tweet from them that mentioned a borage field next to the hotel that clinched it. I’m a huge fan of edible flowers so the thought of a whole field was too much to resist, so off I went.

I could hear the borage field before I saw it, the gentle hum of thousands and thousands of honey bees drinking nectar guided me past 2 wooden hives to the most beautiful sight…

As I wandered through the humming field of blue and purple flowers I passed another of my favourite edible wild plants. For as long as I can remember we used to pull the stems of what we called Applesaps and suck the sour appley juice from the stems like straws. They taste just like wood sorrel and I’ve only just found out that their proper name is Himalayan Balsam and its thought of as a highly invasive weed! Their beautiful pink flowers are just stunning and look like orchids but more excitingly their pods explode when you touch them releasing their seeds! There was plenty of Meadowsweet growing along the riverbank too not to mention all the apple trees, sloes and a huge fig tree with a few plump figs hiding amongst the foliage.

I drifted around the beautiful grounds for about an hour and picked a few borage flowers to crystallise later.

Crystallising the borage flowers

The flowers are now carefully stored away for a rainy day that needs brightening up. It really was a lovely way to spend an hour, and when I look at my own precious solitary borage plant in my herb garden, it always reminds me of that sunny afternoon in the blue humming field of bees.

Rose and Meadowsweet Syrup

I always feel quite sad at the end of the Elderflower season as for several weeks my kitchen is filled with their heady scent as they are steeped, dried, fried and crystallised. The beauty of seasons though is that as one ends another is just getting underway and just as the last Elderflowers disappear from our hedgerows the creamy sprays of Meadowsweet appear and last all the way through to September.

As the name suggests it’s flavour is naturally sweet, it has hints of vanilla and almond about it and makes the most beautiful syrup. The addition of rose makes for a warming exotic tasting drink when combined with soda water, and a wonderful cocktail addition.

The creamy flowers of Meadowsweet

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag meadowsweet flowers, stalks removed (about 800g)
  • 3 kg sugar
  • 2L water
  • rosewater (to taste, I added about 150ml)

Method:

  1. Combine your sugar and water in a big pot and heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add your meadowsweet flowers, stir then leave to steep for 2-3 days.
  3. Line a colander with muslin then strain your syrup.
  4. Taste the syrup, you can reduce it over a gentle heat to concentrate the flavour if you like otherwise if you are happy then add your rosewater bit by bit until you are happy with the flavour then decant into sterilised bottles. I buy cheap 500ml water bottles and fill them 3/4 full before putting them in the freezer, that way my syrup lasts all through the year until the next season comes around.

** From WikipediaAbout one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad,[3] in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

French Bean and Yellow Courgette Salad

Finally my courgettes and french beans are ready to be picked! This quick salad really shows them off in all their glory. The lovely Bridget has just made a fresh batch of her incredible raspberry vinegar and it is absolutely perfect in for this dish. If you don’t have a lovely Bridget who makes awesome raspberry vinegar then you should definitely try Womersley’s Raspberry Vinegar which you can buy online.

Ingredients:

  • French beans topped and tailed
  • yellow courgettes thinly sliced to the same shape and size as the beans
  • mint leaves
  • fennel fronds
  • white poppy seeds
  • onion flowers

For the dressing:

  • Halen Môn salt flakes
  • heaped tablespoon English mustard
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds black pepper

Method:

Pop your french beans into a pan of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes then blanch in cold water and dry. Combine with your courgettes, herbs and poppy seeds. Put all your dressing ingredients into a jam jar and shake to mix then pour over your veg and mix well, sprinkle your onion flowers over the top.

Cream Tea at Stapleford Park

I can’t believe its taken me nearly 3 years to finally get round to visiting Stapleford Park! It’s only about a five minute drive away from my cottage and since we visited on Tuesday I’ve been kicking myself for not going sooner.

My sister and her two children came to stay with me for a couple of days and asked what there was to do around Melton Mowbray. Aha! My sister loves big country houses so we piled into my car and headed out into the beautiful Leicestershire countryside in search of a cream tea.

On arrival we instantly knew it was somewhere really rather special. Beautiful landscaped gardens lead up to the most stunning hotel which just screams indulgence and pampering. My favourite room was the taxidermy room though, I’m a huge fan of dead animals hanging off walls!

The heady scent of lavender and freshly cut grass instantly had us ready to sit down, relax and soak up our surroundings (there are loads of really rather handsome chaps about  which was also rather nice!).

My niece Nyla took an instant shine to the giant chess set and was happily amused in her own little world whilst we got on with checking out the menu, confident that she will one day become a chess master as a result. Sarah and I both opted for the cream tea whilst my nephew Daniel opted for the rare roast beef sandwich which must have been good as it disappeared too quickly for me to try a taste!

The scones were lighter than light, the homemade strawberry compote was heavenly and the Cornish clotted cream was absolutely heavenly although I was a little disappointed to find it wasn’t local cream, Lubcloud dairy make the most wonderful thick cream that would have been just perfect. I could have also done with an extra scone too, 2 of those little beauties just wasn’t enough to scoop up all that lovely compote and cream! I went for a pot of lapsang souchong tea which was served in a beautiful heavy silver plated pot and the friendly (and immaculately dressed) staff happily provided lots of milk for my niece. At £9.50 per person the cream tea is not cheap but everything was beautifully made, the setting was perfect and to be able to wander the stunning grounds in the sunshine made it absolutely worth it.

We had the most wonderful afternoon at Stapleford Park, in fact once we got back to my cottage we vowed that next time we will stay the night (despite me only living 5 minutes away!) and take advantage of their amazing spa and swimming pool. I’m definitely bringing my Dad for a round of golf on their course next time he visits me, mostly because I want to drive around in their golf buggies but it’s been ages since I played golf and what a place to get back into the swing of things (sorry!).

So if you find yourself in the Melton Mowbray area and want to treat yourself then definitely get yourself over to Stapleford Park, in fact just treat yourself and stay there wherever you may be and take me with you!

My beautiful family:

Lets look at that divine cream tea again….

Pudding Club and Chocolate Sex Pots

Booze, caramel, cream, chocolate, yeah it doesn’t get much better than that

Have you heard about Pudding Club yet? You haven’t? Well then where the hell have you been? Pudding Club ROCKS. Pudding Club was created by the awesome Domestic Sluts because quite frankly, there is a big pudding club shaped hole in our lives that needed to be filled (with mountains of pudding obviously). Can you tell I’m feeling the love for pudding right now?

You look like you need more pudding in your life too so I highly advise you get involved. Its dead simple too! Here are their guidelines for Pudding Club: (from DomesticSluttery.com)

  • Each month, we’ll announce a different pudding theme and we’ll share an awesome pudding recipe with you.
  • If you want to get involved, you make your pudding and blog the recipe and photos, linking back to us  and mentioning the pudding club.
  • You can either email us to tell us about your recipe, leave us a link in the comments on this post or use the Twitter hashtag #SlutteryPuddingClub so we can find it (we may miss them on Facebook). We’ll try any retweet any mentions throughout the month so people can see what you’re up to.
  • On the first Monday of every month, we’ll do a round up of all of your amazing recipes and link to them all so readers and other pudding club members can try them out for themselves

See it’s dead easy!

Now when it comes to dessert I can’t be arsed faffing about, I want something that can be thrown together in under 10 minutes that looks and tastes amazing and basically makes me want to bathe in it. I’ve gone one further here and made one that not only ticks all those boxes but you can carry around in your handbag too for all those pesky pudding emergencies, or just throw a few in your bag and take them round your mate’s house for a Pudding Party (I need more of those in my life).

This little dessert kicks serious ass, it’s really indulgent and contains all my favourite things. I’ve used Amaretto in this one  and Golden Syrup sponge but I often make it with golden rum and ginger sponge which is divine.

Get in my face

Ingredients: (makes about 6 generous servings)

  • Lyle’s Golden syrup cake
  • Amaretto
  • 100g dark chocolate (plus a little but extra to grate for garnish)
  • 500g pot fresh custard, must be nice and cold.
  • 1 x 397g tin Carnation Caramel (or Dulche du Leche)
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup (optional)
  • cherries to garnish

Method:

  1. Slice some of your cake and put it in the bottom of your clean jam jar then pour over your Amaretto (about 25ml for each jar is about right but add more if you want it more boozy)
  2. Break your chocolate into pieces and put it into a glass bowl set above a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the glass bowl. When fully melted remove from the heat and whisk in half of your cold custard.
  3. Spoon a layer of caramel over your booze soaked sponge then top that with a layer of plain custard. Follow this with a layer of your chocolate custard.
  4. Whip your cream. If adding the stem ginger syrup or some more booze then do this before you start whipping. You want it to be quite firmly whipped. Spoon it over the chocolate custard.
  5. Top with a cherry and some more grated chocolate. It can be eaten straight away or pop a lid on it and it will keep happily in your fridge for another day, although I recommend taking them round to your favourite friend’s house and having a Pudding Club party and basically totally making their day.

So thats my chocolate Pudding Club recipe, whats yours?

Fragrant Rose & Spiced Apricots with Sheep’s Curd & Pomegranate Molasses

Pretty and dead easy to make

I headed over to the Farmer’s Market this morning to check out the new arts and crafts section and picked up 6 plump, ripe apricots for £1. I’m much more of a savoury kinda gal and will always choose cheese over pudding so I put together this savoury apricot concoction. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and combines sweet roasted apricots with floral rose, warming spices, creamy sheep’s curd and fresh zingy herbs. I’d run out of my Super Dukkah so cobbled together a new blend from whatever I had in the pantry, and you know what, its bloody good too! The Meadowsweet pollen is currently drying in my kitchen, I had a few bunches leftover from making my Rose and Meadowsweet syrup last week and the pollen is absolutely wonderful sprinkled over soft cheese so figured it would make a welcome addition.

fresh, sliced and doused in rose water then part way through roasting

For my Cobbled Dukkah:

  • coriander seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • cardamon seeds
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds (blue and white)
  • Halen Môn spiced salt
  • chili flakes
  • sumac

I just ground everything together and just kept adding ingredients until I was happy with the taste then popped them in a jar.

For the rest:

  • 6 ripe apricots
  • few tablespoons rose water
  • saffron
  • wild flower honey
  • pomegranate molasses
  • dill fronds (vital)
  • baby salad leaves from the garden: sorrel, rocket, beetroot, chard
  • mint leaves (I used ginger mint)
  • violas
  • meadowsweet pollen (picked from a field and dried in the kitchen)

Ready to roast

Just slice the apricots in half, remove stone and lay in a roasting tin. Sprinkle over your rosewater, dukkah, a few saffron strands and a drizzle of honey then cover with tin foil and roast in a hot oven for about 25 minutes or until they are lovely and soft. Once soft and lovely remove the foil and roast for another 10 minutes to caramelise the top and reduce the syrup in the tray.

To serve just drizzle pomegranate molasses (it’s lovely and sour) on a plate, crumble over some soft creamy sheep’s curd, sit your sweet roasted apricots on top, drizzle with the syrup from the roasting tray, sprinkle with more dukkah and the meadowsweet pollen then just scatter your mint and herbs over the top. The dill is amazing and you really do need it. I would have really liked some flatbreads with this but alas I was feeling far too lazy to make any. After I took the photo I sprinkled some coconut powder over the entire dish, this totally rocked.