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Egging it on!

Hash up!

I do a big shop every month or six weeks online with Sainsbury’s. As a non-driver, it’s actually cheaper and easier than getting a taxi with my bulky essentials and I find it easier to stick to a budget and avoid impulse purchases this way. Occasionally though I discover I haven’t been paying full attention when filling my basket and get the odd surprise. This time it happened to be a random tin of corned beef…

I contemplated keeping it in the cupboard until needed in a post-apocalyptic scenario, but not wanting to encourage 2012 to be the end of the world, I decided to use it up. None of my cookbooks offered any advice (Can you imagine Nigel Slater telling you what to do with anything tinned?) so I turned to Google. Even allowing for the fact that corned beef is different in the US, there seemed to be only one recipe on the agenda. Corned beef hash it was then!

I diced some potatoes and put them on to par-boil while I fulfilled a rather dubious childhood ambition to open a can of corned beef with the key provided. This moment of giddy joy was immediately quashed upon realising I had basically unleashed a can of premium catfood. I hoped that the judicious addition of mustard and Lea & Perrins would break the association.

The potatoes and onions went into a hot pan to crisp up round the edges and looked pretty darned tasty. I added in the diced beef and turned my attention to frying an egg. The beef began to melt and coat the vegetables evenly even if it did remain an odd pinkish colour. I reminded myself that anything involving fried spuds is a good thing and plated up.

This was surprisingly palatable. The rich egg yolk bound it together nicely and the mustard gave it a tasty kick that disguised just how mind blowingly salty corned beef really is. (Yes, I know that the corns of the name relate to salt not grains, but it still surprises me). I enjoyed this as a hearty Saturday brunch far more than I expected, but think it would be better if the beef was less prevalent and more like a dressing on the crispy potatoes. This would make it an excellent dish to feed about 6 people heartily without costing more than pennies. I’m not sure I’d bother cooking it again unless this scenario arose. Sadly I still have half a can of corned beef to use up though. Maybe I’ll feed it to the squirrels…

boiled-onions

A little taste of Lancashire

Boiled Onions with Lancashire Cheese and Poached Egg

I bought Simon Hopkinson’s new book, ‘The Vegetarian Option‘ at the start of the year, in an attempt to broaden my culinary outlook and provide new dishes to keep my veggie friends happy. Well, that was part of the reason: Hopkinson’s one of my very favourite food writers, and the next best thing to sitting down with a warming meal in the winter is curling up with a great cookbook. Happily this is as good I as expected; chock-full of wonderfully simple recipes, evoking tastes and memories of warmer, more verdant seasons. That’s not to say he neglects winter staples in favour of summery salads: there are some rib-stickingly good sounding suggestions to tantalise the reader’s imagination.

One recipe in particular caught my eye: Boiled Onions with Cheese and Poached Egg. Aye, you read that right… it sounds like the kind of food you might feed an Edwardian invalid, but Hopkinson absolutely raves about it, and the photo next to the listing beckoned invitingly. He’d come by it via the Three Fishes in Mitton, a Lancashire pub with a fine reputation which has been on my ‘to-visit’ list for years. I’ve still not made it there, but tonight I made the dish, and it was everything I could’ve hoped for, and more. Rich, savory, silky and oh-so-comforting. You’ve got to try this.

  • 250g onion
  • 25g butter
  • 175ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good portion of cheese (preferably tasty or crumbly Lancashire)
  • generous pinch of sea salt
  • light pinch of pepper
  • curly parsley to garnish

Chop the onion into small, regular-sized pieces, then add it to the water, butter, seasoning and bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring this to the boil, then down to a gentle simmer, covering for 20-30 mins. When the onions are soft and silken, transfer them to a small dish, sprinkle the grated cheese on top and melt under a grill. Don’t let the cheese brown, just let it become molten and coalescent in the broth before garnishing with chopped parsley and a freshly poached egg. Eat while hot.

One last thing: the recipe calls for white-skinned onions and white pepper to keep a traditional appearance and texture. I had neither to hand, but it still tasted and looked great.