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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

Brixton Caldo Verde

I love soup. Warming, nourishing, easy to make and very useful for using up bits and bobs in your fridge, it’s a very useful addition to any cook’s repetoire. Some soups are just a delicious dinner and rarely thought of again, but some are classics that end up defining a nation and becoming famous outside their home. Vichyoisse, gazpacho, tom yum, minestrone, we all know and love them. But one that deserves to be on that roll call is the Portuguese staple caldo verde or ‘green broth’.

Originally published at Brixton Blog…

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Game, ceps and mash…

Partridge 10

We’ve written before about our shared love of game, especially the profusion of locally-sourced goodies from my part of the world in the Pennines. As our first birthday beckoned, and we thought of something to raise a fork and a glass to, I picked up a brace of partridge from Stansfield’s in Todmorden with an eye to our celebratory seasonal feast. As luck would have it, work took me to London for the weekend so we conspired to rustle up a hearty wintery meal which would encapsulate many of the tastes and temptations of the first twelve months of our blog, from both north and south.

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Baked eggs

Egg-tastic!

Miss South is doing some visiting for the next few days and rather than leave her housesitter* with a miserable looking selection of vegetable ends and a half empty egg box in the fridge, I decided to use up the various bits and bobs therein and make baked eggs and kale for dinner the night before departure.

The iron rich goodness of kale accompanies eggs just as well as spinach does in the classic eggs Florentine and this dish is like a more hearty, less tricky version of that classic. A bit of Googling to get the timings and temperature right on the eggs led me to this Jamie Oliver recipe with smoked fish and cream which would succesfully fill an egg and spinach shaped hole in your life if you can’t be bothered to make hollandaise. Being incredibly lazy after a day’s packing and cleaning, I opted to completely omit the creamy portion of the dish completely and stick to the basics of kale, eggs and anchovies to make a simple supper.

I sweated the kale down slightly with some butter and two or three chopped anchovy fillets until it was slightly softened, then added some tomatoes from the garden that needed using up to soften them a bit too. I then cracked the three remaining Burford Brown eggs from the fridge into the pan and popped the open pan into the oven at 180° for about 10 minutes…

I got slightly sidetracked for about an extra four minutes thanks to some high drama on Coronation Street, but when I got to the oven, the contents of the pan looked perfectly happy. The kale underneath the eggs was soft and tender, the tomatoes were just cooked enough to have the juice bursting out, but not enough to collapse. The kale on top was slightly crispy more like the wonder that are kale chips and the eggs were neatly swaddled by these lovely leaves, looking just perfectly set.

I scooped the whole panful out onto a plate, seasoned it well with pepper, but skipped the salt due to the anchovies and tucked in. It was delicious, light crispy kale tinged with salty savoury umami anchovies and soft creamy eggs merging together in sheer loveliness. The eggs were slightly less runny than I would have liked, but it was my own fault that they ended up a tad overdone. I’ll stick to no more than ten minutes in the oven in future.

Even with the slightly overdone eggs, this was a fantastic dinner. Quick, easy, cheap and only one pan of washing up to boot! It would be terrific with a bit of chorizo thrown in or some sausages or the smoked fish in the above recipe. In fact, it is just a fantastically adaptable recipe for any evening when you can’t quite be bothered to cook, but there’s a rather long queue in Sainsbury’s to buy a ready meal…

*the housesitter got left with two bottles of wine instead!

Veally good…

I love veal. I know some people are apprehensive about it due to the dark days of veal crates and the inhumanely reared tasteless wan meat they created. Sadly this meat is still available for purchase, but mainly in Continental Europe. Britain has embraced the much more humane and tastier rose veal in recent years and when I see this at the butcher it’s hard to resist, which is how I came to have to some stunning English veal fillet to cook on St George’s Day.

This sensational piece of meat came from Paul Stansfield at Todmorden Market and like all his meat, is top quality, beautifully prepared and is locally sourced, possibly from the same farm that produces the wonderful Pexommier cheese. I only wish I had a butcher like him handy to me in Brixton. In fact, I wish everyone still had a butcher like this available to them…we’d all be eating better quality, more ethically raised meat and probably enjoying it much more too!

I decided that a top class piece of meat like this needed to cooked simply and without much fuss, so roasting it seemed like the perfect way to go. I expected this piece of fillet to be more like pork fillet than beef due to the size of a calf compared to a cow, and therefore thought it would be good stuffed for flavour and moisture. But as you can see, when unwrapped, stuffing would simply have been unnecessary. Instead, I simply seasoned it, sealed it on all sides in a hot pan and roasted it in the oven at 190˚C for 20 minutes.

The lure of stuffing was too great to abandon completely, especially as I had some beautiful organic rye bread from the farm shop at Tebay just itching to become breadcrumbs. I mixed these up with some kale, sauteed with anchovy, garlic and lemon zest, then finely chopped with a russet apple and bound with lemon juice and an egg. This mix was rolled into stuffing balls and baked in the oven to be served on the side of the veal, along with some roasted beetroot.

The veal came out after 20 minutes and rested for another 10 while I deglazed the pan with a splash of red wine to make a light gravy. The meat was beautifully tender, still very slightly pink and extremely moist and juicy and carved as easily as butter. Served with a salad, the stuffing and beetroot, it made a very handsome plate of food.

Unfortunately despite the 45 minutes in a hot oven it had had, the beetroot was still raw when we tried eating it, but the veal was so good, nothing could have detracted from it. It was incredibly tender, genuinely melt-in-the-mouth and packed with rich, but light beefy flavour. It was massively enhanced by the sharp lemon tang of the stuffing and ably accompanied by a Chilean Carmenere/Syrah blend. It was without doubt some of the finest meat I have ever eaten. (And my stuffing was pretty damn good too!)

So if you happen to see some British rose veal on your next trip to the butcher or have just always wondered what actually happens to all those ickle baby boy calves that the British dairy industry creates each year, I suggest making a purchase and supporting farmers in rearing top quality, ethically sound meat. You won’t regret it!