Vietnamese Pho (almost)

vietnamese beef tendon pho

After the massive success of my braised beef tendons I was left with the wonderful braising liquor that was flavoured with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel and garlic and thickened with the deeply flavoured tendons. The Vietnamese noodle dish Pho instantly sprang to mind so I threw together this very quick supper the following night. It’s not a totally authentic version but it was absolutely delicious.

Ingredients: (made 2 big bowls)

  • 300ml Beef tendon stock (approx)
  • 100ml chicken stock (to top up the beef stock but if you have lots of tendon stock left you won’t need it)
  • glug of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 3cm piece thinly sliced fresh ginger cut into matchsticks
  • leftover beef tendon cut into small pieces
  • flat rice noodles
  • thinly sliced raw sirloin

To garnish:

  • thinly sliced red chilli
  • bean sprouts
  • mint
  • coriander
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • wedge of lime

Method:

  1. Combine the stocks in a saucepan and simmer, add the ginger, fish sauce, palm sugar and continue to simmer for a few minutes.
  2. Place noodles in a big bowl and top with sliced sirloin and beef tendon, add a handful of bean sprouts then pour over the stock then sprinkle over your garnishes and dive in.

 

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Lamb Sweetbreads with Smoked Butter Samphire and Elderflower Gooseberries

This morning I looked out of the window and the pouring rain and screwed my face up, I had to go out in that. I had to go to the Farmer’s Market and pick up some rainbow chard for the veg patch, arse. I headed out in the rain only to return 10 minutes later, not with any rainbow chard seedlings (Ash wasn’t able to make the market today) but with a punnet of plump gooseberries and a bag of bright green samphire, aces. Despite having loads of writing work I needed to get done these purchases were screaming to be turned into something wonderful.  I’ve mentioned before about my synesthesia, I tasted the sharp gooseberry followed by a bit of the salty samphire, the shapes could work together with a bit of help. I could feel the shape that the dish needed to be and so I turned to my larder to set about finding the components to make that form happen. I should add that Glen was really skeptical about my decision to marry samphire and gooseberry before he tasted this dish, and was eyeing up the tin of beaked beans in the cupboard for lunch, but he went on to eat  3 bowls of it, yeah it rocked.

The only flower that is purely for decoration is the violet on the top of the dish. Parsley, chive and onion flowers are incredibly concentrated and without these the dish will suffer. The 2 tarragon leaves add a lovely burst of aniseed to the dish and in just the right amount. I don’t think you should put stuff on a plate that doesn’t contribute to the dish, the violet is there because it looks pretty and is edible, it’s value is sensory, and a dish should make you happy in a holistic fashion (my god that sounds really wanky but its absolutely true in this instance!).


Ingredients:

 For the sweetbreads:

  • lamb sweetbreads
  • cornmeal
  • type 00  flour
  • Spiced salt (Halen Môn)
  • beaten egg
  • oil for frying

Elderflower gooseberries:

  • 1 punnet gooseberries
  • 2 tablespoons homemade elderflower syrup (otherwise use Belvoir cordial)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Samphire

  • 1 bag samphire (washed)
  • 1 knob smoked butter (mine is from Derimon Smokery on Anglesey who sell online)
  • freshly ground pepper

To serve:

  •  Parsley flower heads
  •  chive flowers
  •  onion flowers
  •  tarragon leaves
  •  violet
  •  marigold flower
  •  homemade Harvest Ketchup.

The homemade Harvest Ketchup recipe you will have to wait for until the harvest issue of Great Food Magazine is out because it is one of my “Recipes from Wyldelight Kitchen”. An alternative would be a really good sweet brown sauce like Tiptree (or your own obviously!). Method:

  1. Simply dust your prepared lamb sweetbreads in the flour seasoned with the spiced salt, then into the beaten egg then roll in the cornflour before deep frying for a minute or so depending on how big they are.
  2. Put your gooseberries in a saucepan with the syrup, rosemary and water and cook really gently for a few minutes until soft but still holding their shape.
  3. Blanch the samphire in boiling water for about a minute (I like mine to still “pop” when I bite into it. Drain then add your smoked butter and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
  4. To assemble simply put some of your smoked butter samphire on a dish, top with sweetbreads, surround with your elderflower poached gooseberries (and a bit of syrup), dot splurges of your sweet ketchup and scatter your herbs and flowers evenly about the plate. Dead easy, really tasty.

Lamb Sweetbreads and Early Summer Veg with Sheep’s Curd

Despite telling her many times, Glen’s mum still insists that sweetbreads are lamb’s bollocks, they’re not. Sweetbreads are the thymus or pancreatic glands from lambs and calves. This recipe uses the thymus glands from the neck of Spring lambs, their season is short so as soon as they start to arrive in my butchers I stock up the freezer.

They take a little bit of preparation but they really are worth it. Sweetbreads have a wonderfully creamy texture and delicate lamb flavour. Being quite fatty I tend to serve them with a squeeze of lemon if cooking them on the BBQ or like this dish, I make a zesty green sauce. The sheep’s curd is from Homewood Cheeses and it’s light creamy saltiness really makes the dish.

Ingredients:

  • lamb sweetbreads
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots
  • good stock, I use veg or a very light chicken stock (Essential Cuisine is perfect as its powdered so you can control exactly how concentrated it is)
  • young veg such as baby new potatoes, chanternay carrots, asparagus, peas, lettuce, broad beans
  • dried sliced garlic (or fresh)
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh sheep’s curd, fennel fronds and pea shoots to serve

For the green sauce:

  • parsley
  • mint
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 finely chopped red chilli
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To prepare the sweetbreads soak them for a few hours in cold water, changing it a couple of times to remove any blood. Then peel away the membrane surrounding the sweetbread and discard.
  2. Finely chop your shallots and gently sweat off on the butter. Add your stock, garlic slivers and the sturdier veg such as the new potatoes followed by the carrots etc. You want all your veg to be just cooked and still with a bit of bite to your carrots and pop to your peas. Depending on the size of your sweetbreads they should take about 7 minutes to poach so pop them in too. Check for seasoning.
  3. Whilst your sweetbreads are poaching prepare your sauce. Finely chop everything and combine.
  4. Serve the poached sweetbreads and veg in their own broth, scatter with fennel fronds, pea shoots and dollops of green sauce.

I also made a liquorice foam to place on the sweetbreads which you can just about make out in the photo but I preferred it with the mint foam that I made for the second time I made this, not essential but just added another layer of delicate flavour.

Pig’s head terrine with edible flowers and crispy pig’s ear scratchings

Whilst the process of making pig’s head terrine (also known as brawn or head cheese) may not be for the squeamish, sometimes in order to make something beautiful you have to get your hands dirty.

The idea of combining pig face with flowers is not simply a visual one. Although using the violets does make it look very pretty I wanted to use the flowers of herbs such as sage, thyme, chives and parsley to create little bursts of intense herbal notes through the dish.

I had a look online for various recipes, but none of them really worked for me in terms of flavour so I turned to Fergus Henderson‘s Nose To Tail Eating as a rough guide and decided to make it up as I went along using whatever I had to hand in the veg rack and garden.  £3.30 worth of meat from the butcher made 2 big terrines. Bargain.

Washed thoroughly and in the pot ready to go

My butcher provided me with 1 split pig’s head (£3) and 2 trotters (30p).

Ingredients:  Makes 2 terrines

Stock pot:

  • 1 pig head
  • 2 trotters
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 leek, cut in thirds
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 2 onions, quatered
  • 2 bulbs garlic, halved
  • handful of fennel seeds
  • tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 sage leaves
  • stems from a bunch of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • handful dried sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lapsang souchong strands

Then:

  • bunch of chopped chives
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped fennel fronds
  • saffron strands
  • chive flowers
  • sage flowers
  • thyme flowers
  • parsley flowers
  • violets
  • Halen Môn salt flakes
  • freshly ground pepper

Method:

1: Rinse the head and trotters thoroughly and remove the ears (if you are making the crispy pigs ear scratchings) and clean the wax out (I have a little brush that’s only reason for existing in my kitchen is to clean the wax out of severed pigs’  ears) then put in a massive pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil, lots of scum will rise to the surface. Drain of water, refill pot with fresh water, add the rest of the stock pot ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Head, ears and trotters at the bottom then veg and spices added

2: After about 2 hours remove the 2 ears and set aside to dry thoroughly.  Continue to simmer the head and trotters for about another 2-3 hours or until the flesh is starting to fall away from the skull.

3: Remove the head and trotters and set aside. Strain the stock through a sieve ( I usually do it a few times) to remove all bits and return to the pot and reduce by about two thirds. Taste and add salt and saffron.

4:  Remove meat from the head.  How much of the head you use is entirely up to you.  I only had 2 terrines to fill so used the meat and skinned the tongue and used this too but some use the snout and fat also.Chop your meat and combine with chopped herbs and black pepper.

5: Line your terrines with cling film and place a few violets and chives on the bottom.  This will of course become the top, it makes it look pretty. Add your meat then fill with reduced stock. Bang the filled dish against the worktop a couple of times to get rid of any bubbles and make sure your stock gets to the bottom. Cover with cling film and chill overnight to set.

6: The following day just gently turn it out, admire your amazingness then make some toast, slather it in butter and top with your terrine.

Pig Face and Flowers version 1 with less flowers

Crispy Pig’s Ear Scratchings:

These are seriously good! Once the ears were cooked in the stock I just treated them as I would when making regular pork scratchings.  Just whack the oven on full, make sure the ears are completely dry (they will be really sticky though) then using sharp kitchen scissors cut them into strips and put on a grill tray over a roasting tin, sprinkle with Halen Môn salt, cook until crispy and serve with a kickass dip.

Next time I make them I will probably braise the ears in a chinese broth first if I’m not making a terrine at the same time.

Dip:

  • Chopped coriander
  • chopped mint
  • chopped chilli
  • 1 red onion, microplaned
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • Thai fish sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Filipino spiced vinegar
  • lime juice
  • Tony’s Ginger and chilli sauce

Hot Smoked Chicken Gizzards

Compared to the rest of the world the UK tends to be a lot more squeamish about nose to tail eating.  I was brought up in Hong Kong where everything from the animal is eaten and chickens are sold with heads and feet still attached.  I happen to love chicken feet but outside of a Chinese supermarket they are pretty hard to find here, so where do they all go? Likewise poultry gizzards are popular throughout the rest of the world and yet when was the last time you saw some for sale?

Here in Melton we have two fantastic Eastern European food shops.  One has the most fantastic deli selling cooked meats and cheeses (their smoked garlic brawn is amazing) and the other focusses more on preserved goods and has a brilliant selection of vodkas of all descriptions (also amazing!).  Today I popped in for some Pierogi and found they had some hot smoked chicken gizzards for sale, well, not to turn down a chance for some kitchen experimenting I immediately bought some and headed back to the cottage.

I bought about 40 gizzards which were pretty heavily smoked and faintly garlicky.  My first thought was to flash fry them – they were like amazing chicken smoked bacon! Because they had been hot smoked they were already cooked so a really quick fry made them lovely and crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, however if left slightly too long they toughen (like bacon) so if you miss the perfect moment you then have to carry on until they are thoroughly crispy like scratchings!

A quick forage in the garden and fridge provided some baby carrot tops, beetroot and chard leaves, some baby broad beans (frozen last year), a quick feta sauce and some nutty rapeseed oil to accompany. The feta sauce I whizzed up ended up being drizzled all over the dish as it was so good!

Feta sauce was simply feta cheese, lemon juice, a bit of freshly ground pepper and a splash of double cream (normally I would use yoghurt but I didn’t have any plain so used the cream instead) simply mixed until smooth.  If you grow your own carrots then you will know how amazing the young tops are, they are one of those things like courgette flowers or nasturtiums that have to be eaten straight away to get the best out of them.

So that was today’s quick starter of hot smoked chicken gizzards, definitely something I will be buying again and more experiments to come!