Thursday, 28 April 2011

A summertime stew and a week in Almeria.'s not half been warm! All over Britain last week, women donned their bikinis and men turned their legs pink. There are rumours that we've already had the hottest day of 2011. All of the idiots that went abroad for their Easter holidays ended up with less sunny memories than those that stayed behind.

Well, my mother and I were among the idiots the jetted off: we spent Easter week hiking in Almeria, on the south coast of Spain. We had an incredible time, walking through desert mountains, breathing the thyme scented air that surrounded us, and falling in love with that beautiful part of the world.

I don't regret missing the sunshine here in the UK.

So having filled you in, oh imaginary reader, on why I haven't posted for over a week, I am free to tell you about today's recipe.

Anyone who has ever been skint knows that beans are the best friend of the frugal cook. They're filling, full of protein and cheap. Not only that, but sometimes I get a real and significant craving for them. Frequently, these days, I seem to lust after the creamy, earthy texture of pulses.

Following the lead of my Father, who seems to do nought these days but cook pork and bean stews, I satisfied my craving for beans with a rich and tomatoey dish, full of flavour and texture.

I helped to make this stew a little cheaper by buying a pack of pork shoulder steaks for just over £2.50 and chopping them up myself. The marbling in this cut of pork is perfect for a stew, (all the fat melts away and leaves the meat tender and juicy), and it's always cheaper to buy and chop, as we know.

Pork and bean casserole.

1 onion
4 pork shoulder steaks - chopped
1tbsp flour
1 tin mixed pulses
A glug of red wine
1 tin tomatoes
A squirt of tomato puree
A handful of spinach

Chop the onion into wedges and chuck them with a glug of oil into a reasonably deep pan with a lid. While that's happily sizzling and softening, start cutting up your pork steaks into sizeable chunks. Throw them in with the onions and let them brown.

Once that's done, add the flour to the pan and stir, to coat all of the meat. Drain the pulses and add them to the pan, along with a glug of wine, if you can. Allow the wine to cook off a little and add the tin of tomatoes, a squirt of tomato puree and about a mug of water. Mix well and bring to a simmer. The flour should cause the liquid to thicken but everything will still look a little thin. That's fine, just pop the lid onto your pan and leave the whole thing on a fairly low heat for about 45 minutes.

Because the lid's been on, the sauce should look quite thin still, so take it off and turn the heat up to a simmer again. Let the liquid reduce, once it's looking the sort of consistency you want, chuck your spinach in, allow it to wilt and season. Your rich and meaty stew is ready! I served mine with pasta, which was delicious.

This dish is comforting and warming, but not too heavy, which makes it a great summer dish. The amount served Mr Meat and I for two dinnertimes and one lunchtime, with generous portions all round. I calculate that it costs around £5 to make this whole thing, which works out at £1 per portion: get in.

Friday, 15 April 2011

An apology, and a special treat.

I've not been posting lately, and for that, I'm sorry, oh imaginary reader. My only excuse is that April is a terrible time of year. For students I mean.

Since I'm studying full time, but also working in a University, I'm acutely aware of the academic calendar. Easter-time is always manic, with late nights in the library, huge piles of exam timetables and mountains of essays to get through. This week I've written three, and I've not got a big workload.

But I'm sorry, reader, to have let you down. It's been beautiful and sunny in Britain, spring is finally here. We seem to have all spent the last couple of weeks in parks and green places, desperately trying to soak up as much sun as is humanly possible. We're such stereotypes aren't we?

So I expect everyone's been cooking beautiful spring-y dishes and I've not been here to jump in with a recipe or two. I'm sorry, but I will be updating you on my kitchen antics in the next few weeks, I promise.

So just a quick one for today, and it's a fish recipe. Fish is a bit of a treat for Mr Meat and myself, it's terribly expensive lately, and there are rarely leftovers, which I don't love. It's a very important part of our diets though, and it would be stupid to turn down all of the brain-assisting properties offered by our fishy friends at this terribly academic time of year. So if you've splashed out on a lovely bit of fish, here's a way of really showcasing it's freshness and it's fishiness.


Simply cooked fish

A beautiful bit of white fish, (I used one 400g bit of cod, which I cut into two bits for me and Mr Meat)
A lemon
A bit of butter
Root ginger

Although it's not an ingredient, you need some tinfoil or greaseproof paper for this.

Pop your bit of fish onto a square of tin foil or greaseproof, about a foot across. Grate over some salt and pepper, squeeze over the juice of a quarter of a lemon and top with a couple of slices of lemon, the chopped up ginger and garlic and a slice of butter, (I used olive oil in this picture because I'm on a health kick, but butter is tastier).

You know that dinner will be brilliant when it looks that beautiful and the process is so simple.

Crunch up the sides of the wrapping, whether it's tin foil or greaseproof. Screw up the edges nice and tight; you don't want any of the steam to escape when your dinner is cooking.

Give it 20 minutes in the hot oven, the fish should be crumbling and flaky. Delicious. Serve with salad and new potatoes. If you've paid around £4 for the piece of fish, like I did, then I think it's important to cook it in a way that shows off the flavour and freshness of it.