Oxtail Ragu

About a month ago, I went to a butcher and found some oxtail. I had never had it before but had seen this recipe and was keeping my eye out for it. I made a ragu and used my pasta machine for the first time to make the pasta for it. It was pretty amazing but since I then went to Greece for a few weeks, I forgot to blog about it. Now I’m back and it’s cold so I started craving the rich, thick, meaty sauce on eggy pasta. No doubt I’ll be making it again soon.

The recipe is fairly similar to a standard ragu recipe with an extra step to remove the meat from the bone. I’ve changed the original recipe slightly to use spices I am obsessed about had in hand.

Oxtail Ragu (recipe adapted from Hollow Legs)

Ingredients (serves 4)

1.2 kg oxtail (bone included), cut into pieces
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Half a bottle of red wine
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tsp Marmite
a sprinkle of dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 all spice berries
2 aubergines, chopped in finger-sized pieces
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, brown off the meat. Take it out of the pan, add some olive oil and the onions and fry until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the meat back in the pan together with the wine and let it boil so that the the alcohol evaporates. Add the tomatoes, some water, the Marmite and the herbs and spices and simmer for at least 2 hours (but the longer the better).

When the meat feels soft, take the pieces out and remove it from the bone. Add the meat piecesback into the pan, together with the aubergine and a little more water. Let it simmer for an hour. Serve with pasta.

Heston’s Chicken Tikka Masala (almost) (Indian #4)

I don’t know how I decided to make this for my Indian “month”. In a way, I’m not quite sure that Chicken Tikka Masala qualifies as Indian, as there different stories about where it was first created; most of them agree it was in the UK. Recently though, chefs in India have starting endorsing it and making their own versions; its appeal to the rest of the world hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Having lived in the UK for 7 years now, it’s a bit strange that I had never had a Chicken Tikka Masala before I made this version. I think I have made up for it though, since this isn’t any version: it is Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from his In Search of Perfection series. In the book, which is quite a good read even if you never cook from it, he describes how he built his own Tandoori oven and came to Cambridge to use an MRI scanner on some chicken breasts.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t follow all of the instructions.

Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted* from Heston’s In Search of Perfection)

For the rub:

4 bulbs of garlic
50 gr olive oil
50 gr ginger
5 gr salt
8 chicken thighs/legs, bones and skins removed and meat sliced into bite-sized pieces

Pop the garlic and ginger in the food processor and add the olive oil and salt to make a paste. Rub the chicken with it and place in the fridge for 3-5 hours.

For the yoghurt marinade

20 gr ghee
20 gr chickpea flour (or normal flour, or a mix with cornflour)
40 gr olive oil
8 gr chilli powder
350 gr Greek-style yoghurt
10 gr garam masala

First, make a roux by melting the ghee in a pan, adding the flour and frying for a bit until the flour is cooked. Put in a plate and let cool.
Then, fry the olive oil with the chilli powder for 2-3 minutes. Move to a bowl and mix together with the roux, the yoghurt and the garam masala (basically everything together!).

Brush most of the rub off the chicken and cover it in the marinade. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, up to 10 if possible.

Remove any extra yoghurt, place on a grill or baking tray and grill under a medium heat until cooked through with a few charred spots on the outside. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce:

For the Masala sauce

5 gr coriander seeds
5 gr cumin seeds
1 kg fresh tomatoes (or good quality canned)
40 gr tomato puree
100 gr water
50 gr ghee
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 onions, sliced
25 gr ginger, chopped finely
salt to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds, add the tomatoes and water and cook until reduced. Strain everything through a sieve.

In a frying pan, melt the ghee, add the chilli powder and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the onions, ginger and salt and cook until soft. Add the tomato puree, the sieved tomatoes and the turmeric and garam masala and simmer until the sauce thickens.

To assemble

the cooked chicken
the masala sauce
50 gr yoghurt
50 gr coconut milk
diced chilli (optional)
fresh coriander (optional)

Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the yoghurt and coconut milk. Sprinkle with the chopped chilli and some fresh coriander.

The meat was moist and soft, with caramelised spots all over. Before I added it to the sauce I was thinking that you could easily serve it dry, with some cucumber raitha and naan bread. As it is normal with stews, the sauce was even better when we had the leftovers the next day.

I served it with this Aubergine in Yoghurt side dish, some rice and homemade pita bread.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits 
Aubergine in Yoghurt
Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: More curry. Actually, the best curry I’ve ever had.

*I normally avoid publishing recipes taken from books, but a search online reveals that different versions of Heston’s CTM exist on other websites. This isn’t the original recipe (as it appears in the book) as I have simplified it to make it more home-cook friendly, so hopefully no one will get angry with me for putting it up here!  

Rabbit Stifado (Greek #9)

When I blog about Greek food I try to avoid using Greek names to describe dishes as I find it a little bit pretentious and possibly quite confusing for non-Greeks. I will definitely be found guilty of doing the exact thing I’m pretending to dislike around this blog, but I do at least make an effort. Sometimes, it’s just a bit silly to say Courgettes, Aubergines and Potatoes baked with Tomato and Olive Oil rather than just Briam.

I was thinking about an English name for this dish the other day while watching Masterchef when Gregg spoke the words “She’s making a Beef Stifado. Will it be enough to get her through to the next round?”. Well, if the word is good enough for Gregg, then it’s good enough for me. Because Gregg isn’t pretentious at all. Fact. So there you go: we’re almost at the end of the Greek month (the word month used in the most general way possible) and we are having Rabbit Stifado.

Rabbit is a controversial meat I suppose, but I feel that we should eat most things and eat them in moderation. And if you think about it, rabbits have probably enjoyed a much better life than those battery chickens that haven’t got the space or the energy to move.

Having said that, I managed to persuade Alex to do the dirty job of cutting it in pieces. It didn’t look like a great job. It was a bit messy but the idea is to try and cut it in half following the spine and then remove the 4 legs and any other meat pieces from around the main bone. We threw that away. If you want some proper advice on preparing the rabbit, there are quite a few useful videos on YouTube that we only thought of looking up after we had finished.

The sauce is simple, but very aromatic and I love the sweet onions. As it’s normally the case with stews, the longer you leave it to simmer, the better it becomes.


Rabbit Stifado

Ingredients (serves 4)


1 rabbit, cut into pieces
10 small onions or shallots, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 glass of red wine
1 cup creamed tomatoes and/or some fresh tomatoes, pureed
1 cinnamon stick
a few allspice berries
olive oil
salt and pepper

Fry the rabbit in a bit of olive oil. If you like, you can first roll the rabbit pieces in some flour and then fry them. Slightly healthier if you don’t. When it’s nicely browned, add the onions, the garlic and the wine and boil until the alcohol evaporates. If you have fried bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan you can use a wooden spoon to scrape them off. Then, add the tomatoes, enough water to almost cover the meat and the cinnamon, allspice and pepper and cover. Let it simmer for a couple of hours or longer if possible. The meat will just get more and more tender. When it’s done, season with the salt.

Serve with pasta or some good bread. I actually fancied some mash when I made it so I had it with that and it was really good with the lovely, thick sauce. The next day we had the leftovers on spaghetti, with some grated pecorino on the top. Very nice too.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie
Pork Souvlaki
Homemade Pita

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Finishing off with a childhood sweet!

Beef with Aubergines (Greek #4)

Note to self: next time I’m ill, I should make soup. Not spend a couple of hours preparing something yummy and then not be able to taste it because my nose is blocked and my tastebuds have died.

I think it was nice. People that tasted it said it was nice. And you can’t really go wrong with beef and aubergines. And if there is one thing that can improve pasta, it’s cooking it in meat juice. Maybe I should start cooking all pasta in meat juice, or even better, roast it in butter and then simmer it in veal stock.

This dish falls under the kokkinisto category of Greek cooking, which translates as “made red” and is a general term for tomato stews. When meat is involved, I love using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and the brilliant all-spice. It’s not a kokkinisto without them. My general rule is to go easy on them with beef, since it’s quite strong, but use them liberally with chicken. Chicken kokkinisto is definitely in my top 10 favourite dishes, in a similar way that the French (and not only!) love their coq au vin. It’s aromatic and saucy and rich, perfect winter food.

Hang on, I’m still talking about chicken? I’m making beef here. Concentrate.

Beef with Aubergines

Ingredients (serves 4 very hungry people)

1 kg beef, diced
4 large aubergines
500gr orzo pasta (or other small sized pasta)
3 large onions
1-2 glasses of red wine
1 can good quality chopped tomatoes (they really do make a difference)
1 carton creamed tomatoes (or enough to make the sauce red and tomatoey)
5-6 all-spice berries
half a teaspoon cinnamon
half a teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of oregano
olive oil
salt, pepper

First, chop the onions and fry them in the olive oil. When they start getting soft, add the meat and let it brown. Add the wine, wait for a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate and add the chopped and creamed tomatoes. Cook for as long as you like – the longer the better as it will make the meat tender. Add the spices and pepper, but not the salt. Someone told me that it makes the meat tough if you add it early on. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Especially with Sainsbury’s beef, you need all the help you can get.

Slice the aubergines, brush them with olive oil and grill them. Arrange on kitchen roll to get rid of any extra fat. Then slice them in quarters.

When your stew has stewed enough, add the aubergines, the salt, some boiled water and your pack of pasta. It is a bit tricky here: make sure you stir enough so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom but don’t add too much water or you will end up with a soup and don’t stir too much or your aubergines will disintegrate.

When the pasta is done, you’re done. Grate some cheese (preferably something salty and strong, like pecorino) and enjoy. It’s perfect for winter so if you try it, let me know how it went!

 

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: This is scary.