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28th December 2009
Stovies
It's just past Christmas and time to start using up those leftovers.
Unless you had Christmas dinner at the in-laws, in which case you won't have any leftovers and will have to improvise.
Stovies is one way of using up leftover beef or ham, or the odd tin of corned beef you might have lingering in the back of the cupboard like we did.
And what better way to christen Rachel's fancy new Le Creuset saucepan than with a fine stovie?

The big stock pot seems to work pretty well for stews too...

Georgina said it wasn't horrible! Another one for the list.
Stovies
main meat
Stovies
Serves 1 Eldorado family

Ingredients
2 onions, sliced
dripping or butter and olive oil for frying
4-6 potatoes peeled, sliced ¼" thick
1 Oxo cube
Worcestershire sauce
water
gravy granules
½ apple, peeled, quartered, thinly sliced
12oz tin corned beef, shredded.
Method
Peel and cut the onions in half then slice thinly.

Heat the dripping (preferably) or half and half butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot.
Fry the onions gently until soft and translucent (I added garlic too, but I don't know that it really contributed much).

Peel the potatoes (I used about twice the volume of potatoes as corned beef), cut into ¼" slices and wash them to remove excess starch.
Mix the oxo cube with a pint of hot water.

When the onions are cooked add the potatoes, the oxo water, a good dose of Worcestershire sauce and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pan and leave to simmer gently until the potatoes are ready to fall apart, turning occasionally, and adding the apple slices towards the end.

Shred or finely chop the corned beef, add to the potatoes and throw in a few gravy granules for good measure. Cook uncovered until the potatoes and meat are melting together and the mixture has nicely dried out.
You can fry up some finely chopped bacon and add it to the corned beef if you fancy.
Season (it probably won't need any - not seeing as how the second ingredient listed in Oxo and the third in Bisto is salt) and serve.

A fine traditional Scottish dish!
OK, maybe the apple is a bit novel (though it works very nicely I have to say), but you can't go wrong with Oxo cubes and Bisto Gravy Granules now can you?

Beef In Red Wine with Dumplings
main meat
Beef Stew
Serves 1½ Eldorado families

Ingredients
olive oil
1 lb Stewing Steak in 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 Tablespoons tomato purée
1 potato
3 carrots, in ½ slices
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 leek, minced
4 oz bacon, sliced into lardons
6 oz mushrooms, halved if they're large
2-3 glasses red wine
water/stock

For The Dumplings
125g very chilled butter
125g self-raising flour
fistful parsley leaves, washed, minced
pinch salt
Method
Slice the bacon into lardons and fry in olive oil until they start to crisp up, remove and set aside.

Reheat the bacon fat and olive oil (adding extra if necessary) until smoking and seal the beef. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside

Chop the onions roughly - I halved the onions, then quartered those halves and sliced into ½" pieces.
Mince the leeks.
I forgot to mince the leeks (so as to hide them from the kids) and only sliced them into rings. So I was forced to blend them in a food processor.
I suppose this added to the thickness of the stew - you could just purée the entire onion/garlic/leek combination if you like
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the garlic until it starts to colour, followed by the onions until they start to caramelise, followed by the leeks until they soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Peel the carrots and potatoes and cut into ½" pieces.
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the carrots and potatoes until they begin to colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and return the meat to the pan. Fry until it is on the point of browning again, then sieve a couple of tablespoons of plain flour into the mixture. Mix well and fry a little until the flour has absorbed the oil and is beginning to take on colour then add a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and fry until the oil separates.

Return all the other vegetables to the pan, reheat, then gradually add the red wine, stirring and reducing until the mixture thickens. Add enough water to cover, put on the lid, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour or two.

In a small pot, heat up some olive oil and fry the mushrooms until they brown then add them to the stew.

The Dumplings
Put a stick of butter in the freezer for a half-hour, then grate the well-chilled butter into a food blender, add the sieved self-raising flour and a pinch or two of salt.
Blend until the mixture becomes like fine breadcrumbs, add the parsley and a tablespoon or two of cold water and pulse until the mixture coheres.
Form into palm-sized balls and gently press down into the stew about 30 minutes before serving. Leave the stew covered to cook the dumplings.

I would have used suet rather than butter for the dumplings, but according to Rachel, the whole of Edinburgh had sold out of suet because shops don't sell that kind of shit any more, though she was sweet enough to bring me some lard thinking presumably that one hard white fat is as good as another.
So I tried improvising with butter instead. The resulting dumplings were a bit more loose and a bit less dense than they ought to have been. This might have something to do with using the same weight of butter as flour - I did try twice the weight of flour, but the mixture didn't show any signs of "crumbing" so I added more butter. Perhaps it would have been fine with half the butter?
Anyway, the dumplings weren't too bad.

I served this with mashed butternut squash (which oddly wasn't too popular, although the Eldoradoes do enjoy their butternut squash in chunks. Maybe I didn't mash it thoroughly enough?) - just slice your squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down on a buttered baking tray for 45 minutes or so at Gas 6/200°C

Definitely NOT a Georgina favourite!
Beef And Carrot Stew
main meat
Beef And Carrot Stew
This was quite popular with everyone except Georgina who refused to touch it.
It's not really a stew so much as a meaty soup to be honest - it could probably do with more vegetable chunks and fewer lentils which made the sauce a bit gloopy.

Serves 1 Eldorado family

Ingredients
olive oil
1 lb Stewing Steak in 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 Tablespoons tomato purée
3 carrots, in ½ slices
2 onions, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 tin tomatoes
handful red lentils
4 oz bacon, sliced into lardons
3 cardamoms
dried herbs
water/stock
Method
Fry the roughly chopped leeks until they soften, add the lentils and fry through, add the tinned tomatoes, a little water or stock and simmer until the lentils soften and expand.
Purée this mixture in a blender.

Slice the bacon into lardons and fry in olive oil until they start to crisp up, remove and set aside.

Reheat the bacon fat and olive oil (adding extra if necessary) until smoking and seal the beef.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside

Cut the onions in half, then again quarters or thirds. Slice thinly. Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry cardamoms until they sizzle, the onions until they soften, followed by the the garlic purée, followed by the herbs.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Peel the carrots and cut into ½" pieces. baby carrots would be nice
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the carrots until they begin to colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and return the meat to the pan. Fry until it is on the point of browning again, then sieve a couple of tablespoons of plain flour into the mixture. Mix well and fry a little until the flour has absorbed the oil and is beginning to take on colour then add a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and fry until the oil separates.

Return all the other vegetables with the leek and lentil purée to the pan, reheat, add enough stock or water to thin slightly, cover, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour.

Serve with mashed potato.
Use baked potatoes for your mash - they really are just better.
Plus you get to crisp up the skins in a hot oven for 10 minutes to use as little mashed potato serving dishes!


Yum. Sprouts!
Sprouts with chestnuts and bacon
side meat
Not a bad idea, but needs work.

I tried to keep the chestnuts whole, or halved rather than minced, since Rachel really likes them. But they were a bit hard, and consequently this didn't work as one dish.
Perhaps if the chestnuts were melting into the sprouts it would be better.
Not quite sure how to achieve this...

Ingredients
butter
dozen chestnuts
dozen sprouts
2 slices bacon
Method 1
Cut small crosses in the flat side of each chestnut and put in boiling water to soften. Take them out one at a time and peel thoroughly, making sure to remove all the thin brown papery skin. Cut in half and simmer in milk for 10 minutes, drain and wash.
Not really sure why I used milk here - I suppose I hoped it would keep the nuts sweet, but I don't think they really cooked for long enough. Roasting them might preserve more of their nuttiness, then they could be just simmered with the sprouts to finish off.
Cut the thick stems off the sprouts and strip off their outer leaves. Your mum would cut little crosses into the stems too.
Modern thought on this subject has it that since sprouts are traditionally smaller these days and considerably sweeter-flavoured, there is no longer any need to make the little crosses in their stems. To be honest once you've gone to the trouble of peeling off the wrinkly outer leaves and cutting off any stubs of thick stems anyway it probably doesn't take any extra time. And I can't see it doing any great harm.
Gordon Ramsay is a believer in halving his sprouts and cooking them only briefly:
Next chop them in half, this makes them prettier to serve and quicker to cook. Cook the sprouts for 2 minutes ... it prevents the sprouts becoming too waterlogged and also preserves their colour.
Gordon also boils his sprouts and then thoroughly drains them before cooking them up with the oil/butter/garlic.
Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan, roll the sprouts in the butter until well coated, add the smallest amount of water or white wine, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small dice pieces and fry in a small amount of butter until starting to crisp.

Combine the cooked sprouts, chestnuts and bacon and stir.

Serve.

Method 2
This time around I tried roasting the chestnuts first and cooking them for longer. I'm trying to get the nice toasty flavour, but soften the chestnuts up too. I think the longer cooking helped with the softening, but the trouble with roasting the chestnuts is that it toughens the skins, and makes dark hard spots which don't soften up properly.

Perhaps I could just boil them in their skins for 20 minutes or so?

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220°C.

Cut small crosses in the flat side of each chestnut and roast for 20 minutes or so. Peel thoroughly and cut in halves or quarters

Peel any tough outer leaves off some brussel sprouts and remove any tough stems.

Heat butter in a small saucepan, roll the chestnuts around in it, then throw in the brussels. Toast them for a few minutes without browning, then add a glass of white wine, season and cover for 15 minutes until the wine has reduced and the sprouts are tender.

Or in my case not quite tender enough to prevent Georgina gagging on them and making a dash for the bathroom.
Sigh - If only Rachel had been a bit quicker with the camera...

Method 3
Nicest round of sprouts so far - the chestnuts have a lovely flavour simmered in their skins but they still aren't "melting"!
I first simmered them for half an hour, and the extra time below definitely adds a tiny margin of softness without completely losing all their flavour, but I can't see any way of softening them any further simmering with baking soda?.
I'm wondering about just making chestnut butter, maybe with a touch of vanilla instead of the lemon here?
Mind you I'm also tempted by Raptor's [since disappeared] description of Brussel Sprouts with Garlic, Capers, Lemon and Parsley though she seems to be talking about sprouts that might have been deep-fried, and there isn't a chestnut in sight.

Select between one and two times as many chestnuts as brussel sprouts, depending on how much you like chestnuts. Or sprouts.
I think I'd go for 1 to 1.

Grate the peel of a lemon and juice it.
Cut little crosses in the chestnuts and put them still in their skins into a saucepan with half the lemon juice. Cover them with plenty of water and simmer for one hour (!).
Peel them thoroughly and cut into quarters or slivers.

Dice some bacon slices, press some garlic cloves and prepare your sprouts by peeling off their outer leaves and trimming their stalks. Cut into quarters.

Gently fry the bacon dice in a little butter. When it's on the edge of crisping, add the garlic, then the sprouts, then the chestnut quarters. Throw in a glass of white wine (to almost cover the sprouts), the remaining lemon juice and some salt.

Cover and simmer gently until the sprouts are done and the liquid absorbed: about 15-20 minutes.

Throw on the grated lemon peel, shake generously and serve.

Method 4: Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts and Candied Bacon
Thanks to Felicity Cloake's ideas for brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and candied bacon and my own idea for using bicarbonate of soda to soften the chestnuts, I'm closing in on the ideal sprout/chestnut/bacon combo.
Unfortunately she shreds her brussels which seems a waste to me, but I'm taking her candied bacon and running with it. If there is a criticism, it's that you need to be slightly cautious with the bacon - if you don't allow time for it to soften into the sprouts it can be a bit like eating shards of glass.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Spread soft brown sugar in a shallow bowl and generously coat both sides of 2 or 3 slices of smoked streaky bacon not too thin is best. Cover a baking sheet with parchment and lay on the bacon. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the surface of the bacon bubbles and darkens (don't worry if the excess sugar starts to burn).
Lift out to cool and harden on a wire rack. Stick them back in the oven for a bit longer if they're still too soft.
Snip them up with kitchen scissors and set aside.

Select about as many chestnuts as brussel sprouts, cut little crosses in them and simmer for a few minutes until the skins soften enough to peel easily. The inner membrane should also come away cleanly. Throw away any hard or black ones, or those which put up too much of a fight.
It's a good idea to boil a few extra in anticipation of casualties.

Bring a fresh pot of water to the boil, add the peeled chestnuts and a tablespoon yes a tablespoon or so of bicarbonate of soda. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chestnuts are meltingly soft.
Rinse thoroughly, then cut into quarters or slivers.

Peel and trim the sprouts and cut into halves, or quarters. Gently sweat in a little butter until they are glistening. With a little pressed garlic if you like Add the chestnuts, throw in a glass of white wine or stock, or both, to almost cover the sprouts.
Season.
Partially cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sprouts are done to your satisfaction and the liquid absorbed. Toss thoroughly with the grated lemon peel, lemon juice and the candied bacon bits.
The bicarbonate really melts the chestnuts, but don't overdo it.
It's perhaps a bit cloying with the candied bacon, but still pretty damn good - leave to stand for a minute or two before serving to let the flavours meld and the bacon soften ever-so slightly.

I think my work here is done!

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