tripe soup

Slow Cooker Mondongo

tripe soup

I am a person who gets hangovers. Even as a teenager when everyone else around me seemed to be able to drink cheap vodka mixed with battery acid on an empty stomach and bounce right back, I was suffering. Not for me the two aspirin and a can of full fat Coke trick. I need to lie on a bed of gossamer, sipping angels’ tears from a cut glass goblet while eating crisps and waiting for the day to pass to put it all behind me. No amount of practise has ever really helped, although occasionally a ball of mozzarella eaten like an apple before bed can stave the situation off completely.

Therefore I am constantly on the hunt for hangover cure stories. I think that I’m one old wives’ tale or anecdote away from the hangover Holy Grail. I’ve tried the whole vitamin B before going out rumour, the milk thistle phase of the late 90s, the Gatorade by the bed trick, even the suggestion of mixing the liquid from a jar of gherkins with some soda water and downing it (spoiler alert: this is not the answer to any question, unless this question is ‘how I could feel immediately worse right now?’)

I think I know now nothing will ever be my ultimate answer, but that I can simply use this quest as a way to try new things along the way, which is how I came to know about sopa de mondongo or tripe soup. A Mexican-American friend online mentioned it once for its hangover curing qualities but still feeling scarred from the pickle juice, I screwed my face up and refused to even think about eating tripe even when I wasn’t feeling delicate.

However during the summer I met up with The Skint Foodie for lunch one day in Brixton and we went to El Rancho De Lalo in Brixton Village for one of their vast platters of Colombian food and the soup of the day was tripe. Because you get chicken, plantain, rice, avocado, salad and beans as well, I knew this was the time to try tripe because if it was horrible, I wouldn’t go hungry and I’d have something lovely to take the taste away. I needn’t have worried, one mouthful in and I was in love.

The tripe was tender and not at all rubbery or tough. Cut into small chunks, it had soaked up the flavour of the stock and the chilli and vegetables and was nourishing and fortifying. I finished the whole bowl and have eaten it several times since, thinking it would make an excellent hangover cure with its mix of calm soothing flavours and textures. However, converted as I am to cow’s stomach, I still didn’t want to start boiling panfuls of it at home and then I realised it would be perfect in the slow cooker for achieving the right yielding texture with very little work and I was sold on making my own sopa de mondongo at home.

Sopa de Mondongo or South American Tripe Soup (serves 4)

  • 500g cleaned plain tripe
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 2 eddoes or medium potatoes, cubed
  • 50g hominy corn or add 150g sweetcorn at the end
  • 1 bunch coriander stalks, chopped (leaves reserved)
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 scotch bonnet chillies, whole
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 limes, halved

Tripe comes in four styles. The two most common in the UK are plain which is from the first stomach and is the one I’ve used here. I find it the least terrifying and least tripey looking but your mileage may vary. You’ll also get the honeycomb version which is what sounds like with its geometric markings and slightly more gelatinous texture when cooked. Both of these are often cooked in the UK in milk which helps to tenderise them, but frankly gives me the heebie jeebies at the same time. I prefer the Nigerian style of tomatoey stews or the South American soups myself.

Buy your plain tripe from the butcher already bleached and cleaned. Uncleaned or green tripe is not something I ever ever want to see or smell. Tripe isn’t quite as cheap as I expected, coming in at around £6 per kilo at Las Americas butchers in Brixton Village, but there’s no wastage on it so it’s still very economical. Give it a rinse under the tap and then put it in a large pan and pour boiling water over it. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes before draining. Allow to cool slightly and then cut into small cubes.

As well as introducing you to tripe, I’m also bringing two other ingredients to your life. Eddoes are a small root vegetable also known as taro. They have hairy brown skins with little tiger stripes and when you peel them, they exude a sticky sap. Wear gloves to peel them and keep them in water until needed as they turn black easily. They have a texture a bit like a potato but with a nuttier flavour and a fluffier finish. The soup also features hominy corn which is corn kernels that have been treated with an akaline to dry them to a texture more like you associate with pulses than corn. You simply cook it from dry and end up with soft but chewy texture unlike anything else. I fear I might worry you when I say it’s like adding popcorn to soup but the texture here works beautifully with the soft tripe.

Place these into the slow cooker crock along with the onion, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, eddoes, coriander stalks, spring onions and hominy corn. Season well with salt and pepper and lob the whole scotch bonnets in there. Pour the chicken stock in. This is a time to use a good homemade stock rather than a cube. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook it all on low for 8 hours.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls with some chopped chilli if you like, a good squirt of fresh lime juice and the chopped coriander leaves and just feel your hangover subside. And if it isn’t going fast enough, a beer on the side works very well here. If you really can’t face the tripe in a slow cooker mondongo when you feel delicate, then at least you have a marvellous anecdote from the recipe….

slow cooker mulled wine

Slow Cooker Mulled Wine

slow cooker mulled wine

Few things are more Christmassy than mulled wine but often it doesn’t live up to expectations and tastes slightly bitter despite the sweetness of the drink. This happens when you turn the heat off to stop the wine boiling away and then heat it up again. The slow cooker is perfect from preventing this as you can keep the wine ticking over at just the right temperature without bitterness. Nor do you lose the lovely booziness of the wine…

Serves 4-6

  • 2 bottles of decent red wine
  • 400ml cold water
  • 400g sugar
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • 1 orange, sliced

I do two things that make my mulled wine particularly good. Firstly, I use half decent red wine instead of really cheap plonk and secondly, I make a syrup to add to the wine so I don’t need to risk boiling the wine to melt the sugar.

Start by mixing the sugar and the cold water together in a saucepan along with the zest of one orange, 1 cinnamon stick, the cloves, allspice and nutmeg and gently bring to the boil. Stir it all as the sugar dissolves and heat it for about 5-6 minutes until it all becomes a lovely thick syrup. Allow to cool with the spices infusing in it.

When you are ready to make the mulled wine, pour the red wine into the crock of the slow cooker. Strain the syrup through a sieve into the wine and add the remaining cinnamon stick and half the orange slices. You can stud these with a few more cloves if you like the look and taste.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and heat the wine on high for 1-2 hours minimum before serving. Pour the ginger wine into the now mulled wine. Serve in heatproof glasses or mugs with a fresh slice of orange.

The beauty of this slow cooker mulled wine though is that you can just serve as much as you need, put the lid back on and keep it at the right temperature in between. But be aware, the booze does not evaporate so it’s stronger than you expect!

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Brixton Spiced Beef

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Having been reintroduced to the Irish tradition of spiced beef by Niamh Shields’ fantastic recipe in Comfort and Spice, it’s become a North/South food festive favourite again. This year I’ve gone a little bit Brixton with the cure and the cooking liquor and am hoping to make pastelles with my leftovers.

This version was for the Brixton Blog to show the wealth of Christmas ideas in the area. Help make it an extra tasty treat by donating anything you can to our crowdfunder for a news editor to help us keep local journalism alive and supporting independent traders in a unique community. It closes on December 6th and will make a massive difference. You can even get signed copies of Recipes From Brixton Village this way for Christmas so click as you read!

This cured slow cooked beef is a traditional festive dish in my home country of Ireland. It’s an excellent Christmas Eve meal and creates fantastic leftovers in the best breakfast hash you’ll ever eat. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients and prep time. There’s not much activity, just time in the fridge before low slow cooking. The flavour is so good, it’s well worth it.

Originally published at the Brixton Blog…

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coconut jam

Slow Cooker Caramel Coconut Jam

coconut jam 

Theoretically I have the most fantastic simple slow cooker idea for a Christmas gift for you today. However when you taste it, you’ll fall so in love with it that you might want to hoard all the jars to yourself and sit in eating it off the spoon while you wrap something from the pound shop instead.

I hadn’t heard of coconut jam until very recently. My local branch of Marks and Spencer has gone a bit upmarket with lots of the posh gourmet food products you buy for people at Christmas and while I was circling the aisles going green with envy at all the stuff I could never justify buying, I saw a jar of coconut jam. Interest piqued, I lifted it and saw that it was coconut cream cooked down til soft and jammy and highly popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. I took a snap of the jar and went home to research it.

I have a pretty unerring knack of being able to adapt things to the slow cooker these days and the more I read about coconut jam or its Singaporean name of kaya, the more I suspected I could make something really good here. As is my wont with anything from Singapore, I checked out Shu Han’s fab blog Mummy I Can Cook to see what she had to say on the subject. Two paragraphs in and I knew I had to make this.

Practically the national obsession out there, it’s usually served as kaya toast on white toast with butter and some hard boiled eggs with it. I eat eggs for breakfast every morning, but some reason, the idea of eggs and coconut together doesn’t appeal to me. (I’m very fussy about eggs for breakfast. I don’t like the whites and yolks mixed together, fried eggs must not be crispy and chilli can only accompany them when I feel like it. French toast cannot be the savoury eggy bread. This is the law in my house.)

Instead my eye was drawn to the variations on kaya. I couldn’t really be authentic as kaya relies on pandan or screwpine leaf for a distinctive flavour to cut through the richness of the coconut and I have no idea where you’d find it in the UK. I read on. The Hainanese variety caramelises the sugar first for a darker stickier version and I decided to tweak this into a very multicultural cross between kaya and dulce de leche as few things I’ve done have pleased people more from the slow cooker (see page 199 of Slow Cooked) . The result was even better than that sounds and is spectacular on toast, even if might technically be better described as a curd than a jam.

Slow Cooker Caramel Coconut Jam (makes 5 x 250ml jars)

  • 250g sugar
  • 2 x 200g block creamed coconut
  • 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks

As with any dish involving the heating of sugar, get everything ready first. Speed is imperative to prevent things burning. Grate your blocks of creamed coconut using a box grater onto a plate and set aside. Open the coconut milk as well.

Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and allow it to melt over a medium heat. Don’t stir too much. When it starts to colour very slightly, put the creamed coconut in and stir well. The sugar will continue to colour as will the creamed coconut. Keep stirring like crazy. Don’t let the coconut catch on the bottom of the pan. Once it starts to melt, add the coconut milk and stir it all well with a balloon whisk. It will continue to darken in colour, so keep stirring until everything is melted together and a lovely golden caramel colour.

Take off the heat immediately and stir the vanilla in. Leave to cool slightly for about 15 minutes in the pan. Then beat the eggs in and pour into a lidded plastic pudding basin. Put the lid on and place the basin in the slow cooker. Pour boiling water half way up the basin. Cook on low for 3 hours without disturbing it.

At the end of three hours, the coconut cream and milk will have reduced to a caramel and the eggs will have caused it to set like a custard. You could in future halve the amounts and pour it into ramekins before cooking for 2 hours and serving as a gorgeous dessert. Just allow it to cool for about 20 minutes first to enhance the flavour. However to turn it into a gorgeous jam, simply beat it with an electric whisk for 2 minutes until light and creamy.

Put the jam into glass jars you’ve sterilised in the oven at 160℃ for 15 minutes and seal immediately. Allow to cool and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. If you’d like Christmas to come early, make some French toast and spread this on it to serve. You’ll hear angels sing as you eat.

Don’t forget that if you’re enjoying Slow Cooked, you can leave your 5 star review on Amazon even if you didn’t buy it there. It’s a great way to introduce people to the book as they browse before Christmas and since I’m on this bland low fat diet again, the only thing I can have fed at the moment is my ego so I’d really appreciate it!

dressing on spoon

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Dressing

dressing on spoon There are many examples of Britain and America being divided by their common language. Some seem exotic like a short stack of pancakes. some seem amusing such as the confusion between suspenders and braces and some are just baffling. Why did Americans always talk about eating dressing at the Thanksgiving meal when there was no salad on the plate?

It turns out in this context dressing is another word for stuffing. Momentarily clearer until you realise most dressing is made from cornbread. I’ve tried repurposing cornbread crumbs by combining with them with liquid and the memory still haunts me. There is no word can do that level of stodge justice. I remained confused as to why anyone would eat it willingly even if they genuinely like green bean casserole.

Everything became much clearer last year when I went to my first ever Thanksgiving lunch, hosted by my co editor at the Brixton Blog, Lindsay. An ex pat American living in south London, she’s a food writer and fantastic cook. As well as turkey so moist and juicy we all had thirds, she served stuffing and I discovered that Americans make it totally differently to the British and Irish version.

Big squares of pillowy soft bread are mixed with flavourings such as sausagemeat, herbs and dried fruit and combined with beaten egg and stock before being baked. It has similar flavours to our traditional stuffing, but it’s much lighter yet crispier round the edges and I loved it so much I asked for the recipe when I emailed to thank Lindsay for her hospitality.

Sadly this year I haven’t found any Thanksgiving dinners to gatecrash so instead I’m just going to use the date as an excuse to eat stuffing til I’m, well, stuffed. I’ve made the Thanksgiving stuffing with pumpkin, kale and cranberries from Slow Cooked again (see page 127) and this time am trying a dressing style stuffing in the slow cooker as well with sausage, apple and sage. Any excuse…

Slow Cooked Dressing (serves 4-6 as a side dish)

  • 150g caramelised onions
  • 450g sausages, preferably something with sage
  • 100g bacon or pancetta
  • 600g stale white bread or 300g cornbread and 300g white bread, cubed
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 50g dried of fresh cranberries
  • 25g fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 25g melted butter
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, beaten

The onions are important. You’ve either already turned to page 122 of Slow Cooked and followed the recipe there (or at the linky above) and have some gorgeous caramelised onions about your person or you need to roughly dice one large onion and sweat it in butter until golden for about 40 minutes. Set aside until needed.

Slice your bread into decent doorstops and from there into 1 inch cubes. Mine were a bit too big and some pieces remained slightly soft rather than crisping up enough, giving a slight hint of savoury French Toast to it all. I used a white batch loaf from the supermarket which was going a bit stale and then left the cubes of bread to sit for a while to dry out further. As long as it isn’t soft and squidgy, it’ll work well here. Put the bread into a large bowl.

Put the bacon or pancetta into a hot pan and without moving it about too much, allow it to get a lovely sticky caramelised feel to it on one side. Mine took about 4 minutes but watch to make sure it doesn’t burn. Tip the bacon and any lovely bacon fat into the bowl of bread.

Skin the sausages and break the meat up into big lumps. Using the same the pan, cook the sausagemeat for 3-4 minutes on one side without moving it too much. Again you want caramelisation before it all goes in the slow cooker, but you don’t need to cook the sausages the whole way through.

Take them off the heat and mash the sausagemeat with a potato masher to get the right texture. You don’t need to do this if you are using sausagemeat rather than skinned bangers, but for some odd reason I can only get this in England around Christmas time. Add the sausagemeat to the bread and bacon.

Peel and chop the apple and add along with the cranberries, onions, sage, mustard and cayenne pepper. Mix it well so everything is evenly dispersed. Fresh cranberries are especially good here but I couldn’t get any. Melt the butter and pour it into the mix. Add the chicken stock and the beaten eggs. Stir well to coat the bread well. Leave to sit for 5 minutes to allow it to settle.

Grease your slow cooker crock well with more melted butter or a flavourless oil. Don’t use olive oil. I also don’t like the spray oils people seem to favour for the slow cooker. You need to use so much to grease the crock properly I can always taste it afterwards. I’ve never bought cake release spray because frankly I see no reason not to use butter but some people swear by it.

Check the bread. If any of it seems dry, add a splash or two more of chicken stock and then tip it all into the greased crock. Don’t press it down, but just leave it as it is. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 3.5 – 4 hours on high. The very edges of mine were burnt at 4 hours but everyone’s slow cooker cooks slightly differently so best to check after 3.5 hours.

raw dressing

Serve straight from the crock as part of a Thanksgiving meal or roast dinner or heap a bowl full of it with some gravy on the side for the ultimate comfort food. It reheats brilliantly and I had some of the leftovers next morning with a poached duck egg on top. This is one where the Americans are ahead of us. I’ll be trying it with leftover cornbread next time and hoping that this is the dish that takes from pulled pork as the UK’s Americana of choice!

Extra treat for you all today: you can win a spare copy of Slow Cooked and an utterly gorgeous cast iron slow cooker from Netherton Foundry here at The Happy Foodie (closing date 23/11/14.) I don’t mind telling you I am green with envy whoever gets this stunning slow cooker. I might just invite myself round for dinner in fact…

I’m entering this into this month’s Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Camilla and Helen and via My Little Italian Kitchen this month.

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