Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Venison Steak with Barley, Beetroot and Red Wine Orzotto

 A few months back in a restaurant, I had a lovely meal of a Venison Wellington. I am not sure as to why I ordered it, as it was not a meat I was overly familiar with both eating and preparing it but it just seemed like a great idea at the time. And I am glad I did as it was utterly delicious! I remember it came with this swirl of butternut squash puree and tenderstem broccoli, and whilst initially I thought hmm that looks it a bit small, infact I was perfectly full afterwards. Eyes bigger than my belly perhaps?!

As a result, ever since then I had fancied trying to experiment with cooking venison, and by good fortune I received an email from the pr for Farmer's Choice asking if I wanted to try their products....automatically I thought 'Venison' and shortly after received two lovely packs of Venison haunch steaks. I didn't have the foggiest what to do with it, and whilst the Wellington idea was pretty tempting I am ashamedly a Wellington virgin and also wanted to initially try cooking it fairly simply, to gauge its quality, flavour etc.

After deciding to keep with simple idea for the Venison, I wanted to serve something complimentary alongside, and after a little scheming in my brain VS cupboards/ fridge contents I thought I would go down the earthy route by trying to combine peal barley, and beetroot....

Now I wasn't entirely sure what to call the barley thingy, and tried googling a variety of names and their definitions from Tian's to Ragout's but then I remembered making a risotto of sorts with barley, and after a check it is indeed called an Orzotto. Even now I am not happy, as in my head I conisder both pearl barley and beetroot as fairly English staples and the word Orzotto just sounds a bit flairy Italian style, which its not.. If anyone has a better name, please do let me know!

Serves Two

Meaty bit:
2x Venison Haunch steaks
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
Black pepper grinder

Barley bit:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
100g pearl barley, soaked in water for a couple of hours and rinsed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 knorr rich beef stock pot into 700ml boiling water
50ml red wine
130g cooked beetroot (vac pack is fine) cut into 1/2 cm chunks
1 tsp dried thyme

Finishing Sauce:
Knob of butter
Glug of port
Pan juices

Start by taking out the steaks out of the fridge (ensure they are thawed if frozen!) to come to room temperature

1) In a large saute pan, heat the oil and gently fry the carrot and celery for approx 5 minutes or until softening, stir in the barley and red wine, allow the alcohol to cook off then cover with the stock and add the thyme, cover the pan and simmer gently for about an hour, or until the liquid has absorbed and the barley is almost cooked through, stir in the beetroot.

2) Rub the Venison steaks with a the oil and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Pre-heat a griddle till smoking hot, then carefully place both steaks into the pan. Cooking time will depend on how rare you like your meat - for me about 4 minutes each side came out medium rare, which was perfect. My steaks were very thick so you might need to adjust accordingly!

3) When the steaks are cooked to your liking, keep warm in foil and add the butter to the still hot griddle, stir in the port, allow to reduce slightly, scraping up any juices from the pan, if necessary transfer into a small pan to keep warm if it is reducing too much.

4) Now I decided to be fancy and served the orzotto via my chef rings but feel free to plate up as you desire. Serve the steaks alongside and pour over your finishing sauce.

Lighting conditions in my flat are appalling in winter and this picture doesn't do it any justice but it gives you an idea at least!

Many thanks to Farmer's Choice for the Venison. It was really tasty, the meat had a great texture and flavour, and it was not dry at all like people had warned me! My orzotto was rich and flavoursome and went really well with the Venison, complimenting its meaty flavour but without overpowering.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Spinach and Chickpea Eggah (Frugal and Fabulous)

Whilst I love my good quality meat, and of late had been the lucky recipient of some excellent quality meat I can be rather cheap when its comes to cooking. I still spend a fair amount on monthly shop as I like nice things (and tend to also hoard things on special - I have enough teabags and pasta until Christmas I think!) but I do also like a bargain, and this recipe is definitely one of them. Its nutritious, filling and delicious! Perfect hot for dinner, or cold the next day for lunch.

One of my money saving tips is that the chickpeas I always purchase are from the supermarkets 'world food' aisle - I recently got 4 tins under the brand name of Pride, for £1 in Sainsbury's! This compared to their own brand ones retailing at 69p per can! I am really not sure how that maths makes sense.....they still certainly taste like chickpeas..and both say chickpeas on the ingredients.....hmmm...

Last week my dad was coming around for dinner, and due to my shift patterns I hadn't been able (bothered) to go to the shops and instead did the sensible thing of poking around the kitchen cupboards and perusing cookbooks as to what I could make for dinner...... I love veggie food, infact I make it way more than carnivorous recipes but Dad is Dad. And Dad likes meat. But since he admitted to ordering a veggie pie a few months a few months back in a restaurant I have been working the veggie card and my normal anxieties over not serving him meat got put on hold. And I am rather pleased I did. The 'eggah' was soo tasty! And Dad liked it too!

The recipe was based upon a recipe for a Courgette and Onion Eggah, from a readers digest cookbook called 'Healthy one dish cooking' (that is surprisingly excellent - am working my way through it, thus far without disappointment). However I had no courgettes in, but spotted in the small print you could try a chickpea and spinach version.....I knew I had a tin in the cupboard, and a small amount of the latter in the freezer...and a lot of eggs...and the brain got ticking! Now whilst the book suggests two tins, believe me that one is enough! I also added an extra two eggs to bulk up my mixture (I buy trays of free range mixed weight as cheaper) and the one tin was the perfect ratio. I also did a little tweaking to the original recipe and they were very good tweaks!

Primarily I cook nowadays for one, and whilst I love garlic, I am sure my patients on the receiving end do not, so tend to limit its usage. Fresh doesn't keep forever, and some time back a friend introduced me to frozen little cubes of garlic and I was a overnight convert! In lieu of these, I suggest 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped.

As mentioned earlier on - it was delicious served warm, with our supper consisting of olives, salad, freshly baked chilli cheese bread and equally great the next day cold for lunch too!

Serves 4


1 large white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic dorit (see abocve)
1 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
50g frozen weight of chopped spinach, thawed
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil (or use a little from the tomatoes)
4 sundried tomatoes, diced up
1 heaped tsp dried italian herb mix
6 eggs
4 tbsp milk

1) Heat the oil, fry the onion over a medium hot heat to cook through but add a little colour, adding the garlic at the end. Cool slightly

2) Beat the eggs, sundried tomatoes, milk, herbs, a little s&p and stir in the chickpeas and drained spinach until thoroughly mixed. Add the cooled onions

3) Pre-heat the grill to medium hot

4) In a oven proof frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil, pour in the mixture, allow to sit for a minute, then gently start folding in the sides and folding over - think omelette not scrambled! gently repeat for a couple of minutes until nearly set.

5) Transfer the pan under the grill and cook for a further 5 or so minutes, or until evenly golden brown

6) Cool for a few minutes, then carefully ease onto a serving plate. However, I think my beloved pan is getting old and this didn't happen. If you have the same problem, use a blunt instrument to seperate into slices, then carefully ease out using a spatuala.

I'm also sending my eggah over to this months 'Credit Crunch Munch' held by Helen and Camila, as it such a great dish which is so inexpensive! I roughly costed it at £2.25, so roughly 56p per serving!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Spiced Lamb Chops with Kala Chana, Cheese and Spinach bake

Woohoo I finally have a working laptop again! It has been nearly a month since she decided to give up the ghost on me, she has been pieced back together, complete with a new hard drive and fortunately I had done a back up just in the nick of time so didn't lose everything..... However it also in the process deleted my Office package, and as I don't have the original discs anymore due to a change of personal circumstances. I have managed to get installed a very ancient version but I can't actually open 90% of my documents until I find someone elses pc to convert them all to pre-historic stage. Oh and it has somehow lost its sensor that moved the cursor up and down  , and the zoomy thing. Not sure why?!

Also quite sadly I have lost all my links to recipes I wanted to try, which after a good 2 years of collecting has upset me somewhat! I thought I was being more eco friendly not printing them out but now am gutted to have lost them all :( I just reinstalled chrome and set my theme and I have them all back! Huge relief!!!

Fortunately its not been all bad in February, I was sent a box full of fabulous lamb from Farmison which helped to soften the blow:

When I was  initially approached about trying out Farmison, it was an easy decision of yes - whilst I hadn't been all that familiar with them as a brand, I have become increasingly wary of buying meat at supermarkets with everything that has been in the press and even more importantly for me - the taste.

After a peruse through their website I liked what I saw. The products looked good quality, the website was easy to use, and I really liked the fact that all their meat comes from higher welfare farms and is mostly free range or organic. Going back to the subject of taste, whilst I try to go to the butchers, I don't unfortunately have one very close to me and I have to go out of my way to go to my favoured one, so being able to purchase online, choosing the exact cuts and products I want delivered to my doorstep is far more ideal.

Then came the choice of what to choose.....I never buy lamb at the supermarket as find the taste frequently off putting, it also isn't the cheapest of meats so its something I only buy as a rare treat from my butchers, and so I decided to test out their lamb as for me it would be a good test of the quality, and I was not disappointed at all. I had a small selection of cuts, and they were all quite perfect. My lamb arrived perfectly packaged, when expected and was a very smooth transaction - always admirable! We all have our share of horror deliveries I am sure and fortunately this was not one of them!

Out of the four dishes I made, this recipe was my favourite and wanted to blog about it first but I daresay the other three recipes will follow in due course! This made a really quite wonderful lunch, and for something so simple it really was quite divine.

One of the ingredients I used was a bit of a cheat - I buy from Lidl jars of pre-marinated cheese cubes and olives which come in a herby oil - great for throwing into salads too. If you are unable to source, it would be easy enough to combine something like feta or salad cheese cubes with a few olives and some dried herbs, with a little oil. In fact I could make my own easily enough but as I said above - they are my cheat ingredient!! The jar is 300g, and I used roughly half of it.

Spiced Lamb chops with Chickpea, Cheese and Spinach Bake

Serves two


2 large lamb chops
200g frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tin kala chana (brown chickpeas)
1 red romana pepper, sliced
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
150g jar of cheese cubes & olives in herb oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
S&P to taste

Start by toasting the spices and then grinding them finely, either in a mill or using a pestle and mortar. Please don't be tempted to buy them ready ground! It really doesn't take more than 5 minutes whilst you get on with other things, like making a nice cup of tea and it makes so much difference!

Combine the ground spices with the oil, rub all over the chops thoroughly and leave somewhere cool for a good hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200o

Heat a heavy based frying pan big enough to fit the chops, add the chops when hot and fry for 3 minutes each side. Meanwhile, when the chops start releasing some oil, throw in the peppers and stir well - you want to get a little colour on them.

Toss together the kala chana, spinach, cheese cubes with 2 tbsp of the oil from the cheese jar and spread out into a small roasting tin.

place the chops and peppers on top and transfer to the oven. Roast for ten minutes, allow to stand for 5 minutes and then its time to eat!!
Your kitchen should smell rather lovely and you will be itching to get your photos taken so you can get your knife and fork into it!!

Many thanks to Farmison and and Laura at Riva PR
01 09 10