Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

Before she became a TV celebrity Mary Berry was known as an Aga cook who ran courses on how to get the most out of your Aga as well as for writing The Aga Book which I believe is still given to every new Aga owner when their new oven is installed. My mother-in-law, who has owned a few Agas in her time, learned how to make this stew on one of Mary Berry’s courses and wrote it out for me many years ago because she thought it was so simple yet so delicious. I never got round to making it then but when I found a jar of sun-dried tomatoes which needed using up in my fridge recently, the recipe sprang to mind and I dug it out.

You can make this the day before, refrigerate it overnight and reheat it gently in the simmering oven the next day. I have never worked out why but casseroles are often better when made a day ahead.

The quantities of wine and stock given here are approximate because, as we Aga cooks know, you tend to need less liquid in an Aga. I start with the wine and stop pouring when the meat is almost but not completely covered. You can always add stock later on if you think it needs it.

Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

(Serves 4 generously)

Ingredients

  • 800g braising beef, cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Approx. 250ml red wine
  • (Approx. 250ml beef stock: see above)
  • 10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
  • 10g dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée

Method

  • First you need to brown the meat. To avoid splashing oil everywhere you can do this in the roasting oven, as I did when I made boeuf bourgignon
  • Spread the beef out on your large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide if you like, drizzle it with olive oil and season
  • Slide the tray onto the first runner and leave it there for 5 minutes before moving it to the floor of the oven for a further 5 minutes, by which time your beef should be browned
  • (You can of course brown your meat the conventional way, in batches in olive oil on the boiling plate)
  • Meanwhile in a large casserole gently fry your onion and pepper slices in a tablespoon or two of olive oil (if your sun-dried tomatoes come from a jar you can use some of the oil from that), starting it off on the simmering plate before covering it and putting it in the simmering oven
  • Pour 100ml of hot water onto the mushrooms and put them to one side for 15 minutes
  • When the onions and peppers are soft place the casserole on the boiling plate, add the beef and stir the flour into it
  • Add the red wine and, if required, the stock and bring to the boil
  • Stir in the tomato purée, mushrooms with their soaking water and apricot jam
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven for a minimum of three hours until the beef is tender. Add seasoning to taste

This is delicious with mashed potato but I think I prefer it with rice. Serve with a green vegetable too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

I could be wrong but I get the impression fewer people are doing a roast on Sundays these days. Some of my emptynester friends say they only bother when their offspring return home or if they have guests. Even after my youngest went off to university last year I continued to cook a Sunday roast, partly because it’s the one occasion each week when we haul my frail and elderly mother-in-law upstairs from her flat below to join us and partly because, well, it’s delicious. My children tell me they’ve always enjoyed the weekly ritual and this pleases me because it means it’s worth the (not necessarily huge) effort. When I was pottering about in my kitchen, one recent Sunday morning, it struck me that one doesn’t have to spend very long preparing the roast and that simple does not have to mean dull. And of course if you are too busy during the day pursuing the leisure activity of your choice, you and your family can have this meal in the evening rather than try to fit it in at lunchtime.

So this post is about proving that it needn’t be hugely time-consuming or arduous and outlining how I made roast chicken and apple crumble in two hours flat. It is also to show you that not all Aga cooking is long and slow, which is not to say that slow roasting isn’t an excellent way of making the most of an Aga: you can put your joint of meat in the simmering oven before bed on Saturday night or bright and early on Sunday morning and have meltingly tender meat for lunch or supper on Sunday. I did this recently with a pork belly and it was one of the best roasts we’ve ever had.

On this particular Sunday I took the bird out of the fridge about an hour before I wanted to cook it, to let it come up to room temperature, and then, having popped out to buy the Sunday papers, I started on the lunch preparation. I roasted the potatoes around the chicken. They absorbed the buttery garlicky juices and the flavour and texture were superb. I love them done this way (and it saves time and washing-up) but they were not crisp. If you want crisp, you’ll have to par-boil them for 5 minutes and then roast them in very hot duck or goose fat in a tin on the floor of the roasting oven for about thirty minutes.

Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole free-range chicken weighing about 1.5kg
  • Unsalted butter
  • Several (quantity up to you but a minimum of 8) garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • About 8 bay leaves
  • A sprinkling, ie to taste, of Lakeland Herb Sea Salt
  • Potatoes: one or two per person, peeled and chopped into large chunks. I used these red potatoes on this occasion but any variety will do. In the summer I use new potatoes: just halve the larger ones and there’s no need to peel them

Method

  • Place your chicken in a roasting tin with enough room around it for the potatoes
  • Spread butter generously all over the bird and sprinkle with the herb sea salt or if you don’t have any, just salt and pepper
  • Place one garlic clove and one bay leaf in the cavity
  • Slide the tin onto the second rung of the roasting oven and leave it there for 20 minutes before removing it, basting it with the buttery juices and placing the potatoes and remaining garlic cloves and bay leaves around it, turning them to coat them in the butter too
  • Return the tin to the roasting oven, this time on the fourth rung, for about an hour. Half way through, turn the potatoes and give the chicken another baste
  • The chicken is done when a thigh is pierced with a sharp knife and the juices run clear
  • Remove the bird to a large plate or board, keeping it near the Aga and maybe covering it with a clean tea-towel. Discard the garlic and bay leaves and place the potatoes in a serving dish in the simmering oven to keep warm while you make some gravy
  • All I do for this is deglaze the roasting tin with some white wine on the simmering plate and then pour all of this through a sieve into a small pan to bubble away for a few minutes, adding more wine or some stock and whatever else you fancy: for example, you could whisk in a little crème fraîche. Decant this into a small jug and keep it warm on the back of the Aga while you get everyone to the table and find someone to carve your bird
  • I will leave the choice of accompanying vegetables to you but the other day I served ours with steamed Savoy cabbage tossed with a little butter and lots of black pepper added

Apple Crumble

(Serves 4-6)

You can be making this while the chicken is roasting. This is the basic recipe; feel free to add cinnamon and/or some raisins to the apples; or reduce the amount of apple by 25 per cent and replace with blackberries when in season.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cooking apples
  • 110g/4oz unsalted butter
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 110g/4oz ground almonds
  • 110g/4oz golden caster sugar plus an extra heaped tablespoon
  • A heaped dessert spoon of demerara

Method

  • First make the crumble by placing the butter, flour, almonds and sugar in a large bowl and using your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You can of course do this in a food processor
  • Peel and slice the apples, putting the slices straight into the dish you want to bake the crumble in. Add some lemon juice to stop the apples from turning brown
  • Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top, smooth it over and then press it down with the back of a spoon
  • To finish, run a fork lightly over the surface and sprinkle over the demerara
  • Bake in the baking oven, with the rack on the fourth rung, for about half an hour until golden brown on top and the apples feel soft when a knife is inserted into them

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Baked pasta is comfort food and this particular baked pasta dish is more comforting than most. It is no less delicious and perfectly flavoured than I would expect from Simon Hopkinson. I found the recipe on the BBC website. I seem to remember watching him make it in his TV series, “The Good Cook”, a few years ago. I never got around to buying the accompanying book of the same name but am seriously considering doing so now.

This is so simple to make; simple recipes often are the best. I never thought I’d be regularly cooking recipes for only two people but the truth is it’s often just my husband and I at the kitchen table these days, and if my elderly mother-in-law isn’t up to cooking, there’s always enough to take a small portion of whatever we’re having downstairs to her. Don’t look at the quantity of pasta and worry that it’s not enough; I promise you it is. This is a filling dish. It’s also good for you: I recently read that mushrooms, especially porcini, are the best food source of two anti-ageing antioxidants. So that’s a bonus.

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 500ml milk
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 40g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g pappardelle
  • 50g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsps grated parmesan cheese

Method

  • Bring the milk up to simmering point in a pan on the simmering plate
  • Add the porcini mushrooms and remove from the heat
  • After 10 minutes or so drain the milk through a sieve into a bowl, pressing out as much liquid from the mushrooms as you can
  • Melt the butter in a clean saucepan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and stir for a couple of minutes with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth roux
  • Pour in the porcini flavoured milk in one go and whisk vigorously until smooth and starting to thicken. Season, cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 10 minutes (can be longer: as ever where the simmering oven is concerned, it will come to no harm) while you cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions until it’s al dente. (I bring a large pan of water to a boil on the boiling plate and add salt before adding the pasta.)
  • Drain the pasta and then in a large bowl mix it with the porcini, pancetta and sauce. Tip this into a lightly buttered oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the parmesan
  • Place in the middle of the Aga roasting oven for about 25 minutes until it’s bubbling and golden brown
  • Serve with a green salad and you might want some extra cheese too

 

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Smoked Salmon Quiche

Smoked Salmon Quiche

As we Aga cooks all know, cooking a quiche in an Aga couldn’t be easier because there is no blind baking required. You just have to add the filling to your pastry-lined tin and place the whole thing on the floor of the roasting oven to bake for 30 minutes or less. The pastry will cook from underneath avoiding a “soggy bottom”, as Mary Berry would tell you. The top will be golden brown.

The classic quiche is Quiche Lorraine made with bacon and Gruyère cheese, but there are so many variations you could try. For example, Diana Henry’s delicious salmon and crab tart with Thai flavours which I wrote about here.

Yesterday I made a simple smoked salmon quiche based on a Delia Smith recipe from her Complete Cookery Course. It was for a picnic for my husband and two friends who have been spending today salmon and trout fishing on the Usk. They also took with them roast asparagus dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, some mini pork pies (not homemade, I’m afraid), strawberries, rock cakes (my own), cinnamon buns (our favourite ones from Hart’s Bakery) and flasks of tea and coffee. They will not starve. I think I spotted a bottle of wine in the picnic basket too.

Smoked Salmon Quiche

Quantities here are for a 20cm fluted quiche tin, ideally with a loose bottom. Yesterday I doubled the quantities and used a 28cm tin. 

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 110g plain flour
  • 25g lard
  • 25g butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • cold water, to mix

For the filling:

  • 175 smoked salmon, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 275ml double cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

  • Lightly grease your tin
  • Make up the pastry by rubbing the fats into the flour and salt with your fingertips and adding a little cold water to combine. Rest it in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm for at least half an hour. Alternatively, use shop-bought pastry; I don’t mind one bit
  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line your tin with it
  • Arrange the smoked salmon over the pastry base in the tin
  • Beat the eggs with the cream and add salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • Pour the filling into the tin and sprinkle over a little cayenne pepper
  • Carefully slide the tin onto the floor of the roasting oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check it at 20 minutes and turn it round. When the pastry is golden and the filling is firm and golden brown, it is ready

 

Vegetable Pilau

Vegetable Pilau

Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.

A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.

A couple more points: first, I don’t always have fresh ginger in my fridge, but I do make sure I keep a bag of Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients chopped ginger in my freezer, also useful when I’m in a hurry; secondly, when a recipe requires vegetable stock I almost always make it with Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder, which I thoroughly recommend.

Ingredients

For two servings

  • 110g/4oz white basmati rice
  • 175ml/6 floz vegetable stock (see above)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 green chilli, sliced (deseeded if you want less heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Lump of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or some of  the frozen stuff: see above)
  • 100g broad beans, cooked and then slipped out of their skins
  • 200g courgettes, roughly chopped
  • 100g asparagus
  • 100g green beans
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh herbs: dill, coriander, parsley, mint…whatever you have to hand

 

Method

  • First, cook the rice the Aga way in the simmering oven, except using the vegetable stock instead of water. It will wait happily in the simmering oven until you’re ready to add it to the vegetables
  • Meanwhile heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cinnamon stick and cumin seeds
  • After a minute add the onion and stir to coat the slices in the oil
  • Put a lid on and transfer to the simmering oven until the onion is soft and translucent
  • Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and return to the simmering oven
  • Cook the green beans in boiling water and drain them, pouring over lots of cold water so they retain their greenness
  • Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and discard. Slice the spears, reserving the tips
  • After 5-10 minutes add the courgettes to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and add a little water
  • Replace the lid and return to the simmering oven. 10 minutes or so later, do the same with the sliced asparagus and add the tips about 5 minutes after that
  • Finally add the broad beans, green beans and some seasoning. When these are hot and the other vegetables are tender, fold in the rice
  • Sprinkle over the herbs and serve with lemon wedges

 

 

Navarin of Lamb

Navarin of Lamb

The Country Wives were kind enough to publish this recipe on their website recently.

When cooler temperatures and rain put paid to our barbecue plans on Sunday, I decided to make Navarin of Lamb, a delicious braise which uses a variety of spring vegetables. I didn’t have in my kitchen any of the baby turnips or carrots which are traditional but knew I could make the dish with what I did have, and the recipe below is the result. Use any good veg you can find, with this recipe as a guide.

Navarin of Lamb

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 600g lamb neck fillet cut into large dice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • I clove garlic, bruised
  • Sprig or two of thyme
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100ml white wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 225g baby new potatoes
  • 100g carrots (baby carrots left whole or “old” carrots peeled and cut into thick batons)
  • 150g frozen baby broad beans
  • 150g frozen petits pois

Method

  • Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed casserole on the boiling plate and add the onions, celery and pieces of lamb
  • Stir for a few minutes to brown the lamb before moving the casserole to the simmering plate and adding some seasoning, the tomato purée and white wine. Let this bubble for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic, bay leaf, herbs and stock
  • Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and place in the simmering oven for 1½ hours but longer would be fine: in an Aga nothing dries out
  • About half an hour before you want to eat, place the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan with a little salt, a teaspoon of caster sugar, a knob of butter and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and transfer to the simmering oven
  • Cook the peas, drain and rinse in cold water so they retain their colour
  • Cook the broad beans, drain and rinse in cold water and slip off the skins
  • Remove the lamb from the casserole to a plate, discard the garlic, herbs and bay leaf and bring the broth to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little
  • Return the lamb to the casserole and, having checked they’re tender, add the potatoes and carrots and finally the peas and broad beans
  • Taste for seasoning, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

My sons gave me two cookery books for my birthday. My daugher-in-law looked a bit sceptical and asked if I was sure they were what I wanted (I do have quite a few already), but I assured her it was. I had dropped a few (many) hints in the run-up to my birthday. One of the books was Diana Henry’s new one, How to Eat a Peach, which is a beautiful 71ztiybGwmLcollection of menus rather than recipes; it’s also a sort of memoir, an account of the places she’s travelled to since she was a teenager, and where she discovered all the dishes she loves to cook and eat. I have already cooked a few of the recipes from the book, although I haven’t yet put together a whole menu. The first thing I made was this braised pork, which I pounced on because I knew it would be perfect for the AGA simmering oven. I adjusted the quantities because there were only four of us eating and off I went.

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the pork

  • About 1tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 1kg pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 200g shallots, sliced
  • 20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
  • 5 tbsps kecap manis
  • 3 tbsps light soy sauce
  • 11/2 tbsps tamarind paste
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 medium-hot chillies, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 birds’ eye chillies, left whole

For the crispy fried shallots

  • Groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 100g shallots, finely sliced
  • Sea salt flakes

Method

  • Spread the pork out on a large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and drizzle with the oil
  • Place on the top rung or on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 minutes, then remove it, turn the meat over and return the tray to the roasting oven for about 5 minutes. Your aim is to have golden brown pieces of pork; you’re not trying to turn it dark brown
  • Meanwhile  get on with your shallots. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the casserole you want to braise your pork in. Do this on the simmering plate. Add the shallots, turn them over in the oil, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the simmering oven for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden
  • Stir the garlic and ginger in and return the pork to the pan along with the kecap manis, soy sauce, tamarind and stock
  • Bring to the boil on the boiling or simmering plate, add the star anise and all the chillies and place your casserole, uncovered, in the simmering oven for about 3 hours but, as I’m sure you know, when slow cooking in the Aga simmering oven the timing is not crucial as long as you end up with meltingly tender meat
  • Remove the star anise and the whole chillies
  • Meanwhile make the crispy fried shallots by heating about 2cm of oil in a small pan on the simmering plate. Add the shallots and fry, moving them around, until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a sheet of kitchen towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt
  • If the liquid around the pork is not thick and glossy and seems a bit thin, remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a dish and keep it warm in the simmering oven. Boil the liquid for a while on the boiling or simmering plate until it’s reduced and then return the pork to the pan to heat through
  • Serve the pork with the crispy fried shallots sprinkled over. We ate ours with rice and stir-fried pak choi