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kale aloo

Three Leaf Saag Aloo

kale alooThis is a saag aloo in the proper sense as it isn’t just spinach but slow cooked spiced potatoes with kohlrabi leaves, beetroot tops and kale. Or basically ‘the perfect dish for this time of year’. Fresh from all those greens, but warming with the spices and just the right side of stodge with the spuds, it’s early autumn in a dish.

I am not very good with what we think of as Indian food in this country (although I know we combine Bangladeshi and Pakistani food under that umbrella term as well.) We rarely ate much Indian food as when we were growing up and I’ve always found the taste of the generic curry powder or paste rather cloying. I also don’t like cumin, fenugreek or turmeric. And to top it all off, the only time I’ve ever been to a curry house was when I’d just started at university and it was a crash course in chilli oneupmanship, 19 year old boys drinking beer and girls worrying about calories. We only left to go to the Bonfire Night parade in Lewes and the naked anti Catholic sentiment there really didn’t make my korma sit well. Read more

Headline image, inside North Star Deli at the JoinUs4Supper event

Northern Stars supper club. Pt.1: the meal

Northern stars main 1

For someone with an overly healthy interest in food, there could be few things more exciting than being set loose in a professional kitchen. Last Thursday saw my debut in the kitchen, at the latest JoinUs4Supper evening at North Star Deli. If, however, you’d seen me on Wednesday night, I’d probably have looked more than a tad pensive, mildly nervous, and concentrating deeply. A little part of me was starting to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew by accepting the challenge to collaborate with Deanna, Ben and the North Star Deli team. That and the fact I was helping stuff a pig’s intestine with blood, desperately trying to ensure it didn’t drop and burst in an ignominious end to our efforts to make fresh black pudding. All this from a throwaway comment about having a go on a TV food quiz to a couple of fellow foodies

Northern stars final 1

After weeks of thoughts, discussions and debate, we were clear in what we wanted to do. At the heart of the meal was the intention to place Porcus pork in the limelight, with local cheese and veg as superb supporting actors. We wanted to find a flavour and feel which properly encompassed the character of our TV team.

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raw pork heart

I heart pork!

Pork heart new

It may have come to your attention that Valentine’s Day is upon us again. My reaction to the sea of helium balloons, fluffy teddy bears, reduced priced fizz, enormous boxes of chocolates and red roses in the shops is to say ‘stuff it’…

Not just because I’m a grumpy 30-something woman who happens to be single, but because I found some suckling pig hearts from wild boar at the farmers’ market last week and felt my customary urge to make and use stuffing coming on again, especially since it would be somewhat apt this week.

The cold weather at the moment makes it the perfect opportunity to make long slow cooked meals rich with flavour and red wine and served with roasted seasonal veg and after a trip to The Fruit Garden in Herne Hill where I came across some excellent beetroot and the new-to-me salsify, I had the makings of an excellent meal for one.

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All Boar, No Bore…

Up bright and early and filled with the joys of summer on Sunday I headed into Brixton to take advantage of the season’s finest. Already chuffed to bits about getting some very reasonably priced donut peaches and baby plum tomatoes at the fruit and veg stall opposite the back of Brixton Village on Coldharbour Lane by the bridge, my day was made when I discovered a stall at the Farmers’ Market selling, (amongst other things) wild boar and duck eggs. Almost before I knew it, my money had found its way out of my purse and a bag with a rolled wild boar loin and two double yolked duck eggs was nestled in my hand. Suddenly dinner seemed a long way away…

Back home, I tucked into a delicious cooked breakfast with the eggs and the tomatoes and set to reading the Sunday papers. Seeing Jay Rayner compare Red Dog Saloon and Pitt Cue Co in the Observer got me thinking that I just can’t have enough pig and pulses in my life and that slow roasting the boar loin over beans would be the perfect twist on that American classic this Independence Day weekend.

Being all organised when I made the root beer beans a few weeks ago, I soaked and cooked more haricots than I needed at the time and then froze them. So while the oven heated to the maximum temperature to blast the boar skin into crackling, the beans defrosted and I prepared a rub of salt, butter, oilve oil and home grown fennel seeds for the skin. Once the meat was at room temperature I slathered the skin with the rub, working on the premise that the only thing better than pork fat, is pork fat with butter on it!

The loin went into a very hot oven for 20 minutes to crisp up. I also chopped up fennel, red onion and some of those baby plum tomatoes and some cloves of garlic to mix with the beans as a bed for the meat to slow roast on.
I then took the meat out, set it aside, deglazed the pan with some water and then tossed the beans and veg well in the juices, put the meat on top and popped in the oven at 160℃ for about two hours. Or until I remembered about it again…

It smelled amazing when I opened the oven, but I was worried that the fennel was the wrong side of caramlised and would just taste burnt. But the meat looked so mouthwatering moist and tender I didn’t really care. Slow roasting on the bone had turned this into something really special. I left it to rest to make sure I didn’t miss those precious juices and chopped up a quick slaw of white cabbage, fennel, carrot and golden beetroot to go on the side.

If you aren’t just as fennel obsessed as I am, feel free to leave it out of the beans. But do keep it in the slaw where the anise cuts through the sweetness of the beets and carrot and tempers the mustardiness of the cabbage. The fresh crunch of the slaw is its selling point, so don’t be tempted to chop too finely or drown it in dressing like a shop bought version. I used a tablespoon of yoghurt, a dessertspoon of mayonnaise, cider vinegar, fish sauce and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard to make a light yet flavoursome dressing that coats the vegetables well without being overwhelming.

Then after all the chopping, shredding and roasting, I dug in. It was so good. The meat was so juicy and tender even compared to the equivalent piece of pork, falling off the bone beautifully. The crackling wasn’t just as shatteringly crisp as pork can be, but the slight chewiness and caramelly finish from the butter made up for that in abundance. The beans were deliciously meaty whil even the slightly burnt fennel was very enjoyable. Everything just burst with flavour, especially the boar itself.

And best of all, it didn’t feel like a heavy dish thanks to the refreshing crunch of the slaw and the fresh flavours of the beans so you could eat a hefty portion of the meat with feeling defeated. It’s dishes like this that remind me why seasonal food is so worth the wait…

Beetroot Risotto

Back in the days of yore when I was at home revising for my A Levels, I saught distraction from the TV. There were only four channels in those days and Freeview was merely a twinkle in someone’s eye, but there was a delightful little midday show that afforded me a break called Light Lunch with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Combining a spot of cookery, chat and comedy accompanied with a studio audience eating their sarnies at the same time, it was much easier to digest than than the Westerns on the other channels. One of the reasons that this programme has stuck in my memory is the fact that it introduced me to one of my favourite dishes of all time, a perfectly pink beetroot risotto.
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