Beer Braised Beef with caramelised onions and Sauteed Fine Green Beans

I need better night lighting to do my food justice. Just believe me that it looks and tastes better than my photography would suggest!

Yesterday, I was looking at Nigella’s autumnal recipe for venison and it looked lush. But venison isn’t something to be had easily in Patissia, so I thought I’d improvise on her theme. I really liked the idea of caramelising onions and adding warming spices. Clove, cinnamon and nutmeg are often used in Greece with beef recipes and I thought I’d try and come up with a kind of Greek –British fusion stew. Something warming for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. And I really think  it worked. It’s a very nice stew; aromatic and with a hint of sweetness. I did not overdo the spices too much as I wanted a background hint rather than an upfront kick. I think this works better and makes for a more rounded overall flavour. Feel free to ignore my strictures though.

Some notes on the recipes:

I used Greek selino, so that’s what I give in the recipe. It’s a type of thin stemmed celery with more of a punch than the British kind. We use both its stalks and leaves. Replace it with a stick of celery.

The beer I used was Alfa, a bog standard Greek beer. Use any kind of ale you like or have around. You could use wine instead. Or even cider. The bog standard beer was just lovely though.

I only added the sun dried toms as they were the last few lurking in a packet. I just wanted to use them up. So they are entirely optional.

I used a mandolin to finely slice the onions. It’s a fairly cheap one from lidl and I can’t work out how to get it to slice up everything right to the end without risking an amputation so I just threw the off cut ends I couldn’t slice in the mandolin straight into the pot.

I cooked this in my cast iron casserole pot (30 euros from lidl ) but any good lidded oven casserole pot will do. If you don’t have anything with a lid then tightly cover with foil.

The fine green beans are ambelofassoula in Greek. This is how I normally do asparagus but it works with any veg at all. It’s just an alternative to simply steaming. If you don’t want to brown the veg as I do and don’t have a steamer, all you need is a lidded pan and a bit of water on a low heat for about ten minutes. Bob’s your uncle!

 

Beer Braised Beef

650g beef cut into chunky cubes

1 large onion finely sliced

1 carrot sliced or diced

a handful of porcini mushrooms soaked for 20 mins in a little hot water

3 stems of selino with leaves or a stick of celery chopped

3 or 4 pieces of sundried tomato chopped

1 cup of flour

330ml beer plus a bit extra water if needed

a level teaspoon of brown sugar

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

2 good pinches each of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg

4 or 5 allspice berries

salt and pepper

 

Braised beef

Preheat the oven on low. Add to your casserole pot, the chopped carrot, selino/celery, the mushrooms with their liquid, the chopped sun-dried toms, the allspice berries and salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a lidded saute pan (or use a frying pan and a lid off a big pan) heat a little EVOO on a low heat. Add the onions, stir and put on the lid. After a few minutes stir again. When they begin to go golden, add the sugar. Stir for a minute and add the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg with a tablespoon of water or so. Stir and leave to slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally, til a sticky brown mush. This will take about 20 mins to half an hour or so depending on how low the heat is. Slow is best. Add the onions to the casserole pot with the other ingredients.

Toss the beef cubes in the flour. Add some EVOO to the saute pan and heat over a medium heat. Fry the beef off in batches till golden brown. Add the fried beef to the casserole pot. Deglaze the saute pan with some of the beer by adding beer to the pan and stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon or spatula to get all the meaty bits off the pan. Add to the casserole pot with the rest of the beer and a little water to ensure the meat and veg are just peeping over the top of the liquid. Bung in the oven covered with a lid or foil. Turn the heat up for ten minutes and then turn back down to low. Check after an hour. Give a stir and add more water if necessary. Should be nice and tender after around 2 – 2 ½ hours.

 

Fine Green Beans

300g of fine green beans such as Greek ambelofassoula

Top and tail the beans. Put in a lidded saute pan with a small glug of olive oil and about half a cup of water. Give the pan a good shake, put on the lid and put on a low heat. Shake the pan occasionally. Check after ten minutes. The desired effect is for them to be cooked through but not too soft and to have taken a little golden hue from the oil, which should give them a bit of a nuttier flavour.

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Buttermilk baked chicken and stuffed mushrooms

Easy Sunday food

I saw a really lovely recipe (too lazy to look for it now) in the guardian for marinating chicken in buttermilk and thought I’d try it out. Do look up the recipe on the guardian. It’s a bit different and also has a really wicked sounding sauce with buttermilk and butter to go with it. I baked rather than roasted and the buttermilk marinade made everything nice and juicy and I just had to brown it off at the end to crisp up the skin. The juices from the chicken with the buttermilk are really good. I wish I’d done more potatoes in there. For some ridiculous reason I was being carb frugal. BIG MISTAKE! That marinade is too nice. It’s begging for potatoes. So, although I give the recipe here as I made it. I would recommend putting a bit more  buttermilk and shoving more tats in wedgies or chunks in there too. I’m sure this will work just as well with chicken drumsticks or a crown. Feel free to ramp up the garlic and add any herbs you like.

The mushrooms might look a bit fancy but they’re not. They’re ever so simple. The main thing is not to put too much bread in them and to make sure there’s plenty of cheese. The other thing is not to pack the mushrooms too much. Lightly spoon in the mixture. If you serve the mushrooms with the chicken you only need a green salad and you have a meal. That or my fave fine green beans. Here in Greece they’re called ambelofassoula and they cost a bomb. But worth it.

For pudding, I’m going to recommend doing this clafoutis from Yottam Ottolenghi. Normally, his over-complicated, million ingredient recipes annoy me. But this sounds divine. I’m def making it this weekend as figs are in season. If you can’t get decent figs, I’d go with plums as the replacement.

Buttermilk baked chicken (for 2)

2 chicken thighs

200 ml of buttermilk

2 or more cloves of garlic thinly sliced

salt and black pepper

some potato chunks or wedgies

 

Put the chicken in an oven dish season generously and sprinkle with the garlic. Pour over the butter milk and make sure the chicken is well covered in it. Cover with cling film and leave overnight in the fridge. Preheat the oven to medium hot. Remove and discard the clingfilm and add potato chunks to the dish. Baste with the marinade. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour covered. Then remove the foil, turn the oven to high and brown off the skin till crispy and a deep golden colour. Leave to cool a little before serving

Stuffed mushrooms

7 large mushrooms such as portobello, stalks removed and set aside, peeled or wiped with a damp cloth. Do not wash. They don’t want to be wet.

a handful of breadcrumbs made from whizzing 2 or 3 day old bread (not chorleywood)

a very good big handful or so of grated parmigianna or grana padano

2 cloves of garlic minced

a handful of finely chopped parsley

the zest of half a lemon

a little salt and pepper to taste

Brush the mushroom heads with EVOO or use your hands to make sure they get well coated and place on a greased oven tray or sheet. Fry the stalks in a little butter or EVOO till brown all over. Leave to cool and then chop finely. Mix all the ingredients together lightly and spoon into the mushrooms. Bake for about half an hour in a medium hot oven till the top is brown and crispy and the mushrooms have cooked through.

Potatoes roasted with rosemary and mustard

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Potato fiends will like!

Being of Irish extraction I think I must have a love of potatoes etched into my DNA, as I cook them and use them in many different ways. This is a very simple way but it works and is easily adapted too. Add the juice of a lemon, or a dash of wine if you like, for instance, or maybe some slivers of garlic. I cooked these with fennel sausages from Syros because that’s what I had available. Plus the fact that they are absolutely delicious sausages. Syros does two things well: Fennel sausages and loukoumia – a sort of Turkish delight. If you ever get to the island do try them both.

Anyways, if I hadn’t had the sausages, I think I would have have thrown in either a pork chop or a chicken leg. Or even some nice beefy rissoles! I’ll leave the creativity to you guys. Below is how I made them last night.

One note on the potatoes: I used little french baby potatoes from my green grocer in Ano Patissia. I didn’t peel them. You can use any potatoes cut into thick chunks or wedges, peeled or unpeeled. The baby ones look pretty though.

Rosemary and mustard roast baby potatoes

12 baby potatoes, washed

1 tbs of fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp of dijon mustard

some good glugs of EVOO

1/2 tsp of rock sea salt and black peppercorns crushed together.

Preheat the oven to medium. Parboil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Put the oil, mustard, herbs and seasoning in an oven dish and mix well together. Add the potatoes and, using a spoon, make sure they are all well covered in the mustard herby oil. Roast in the medium hot oven for about an hour or so till nicely browned. Turn once during cooking.

I think these potatoes would go nicely with grilled or baked fish too, especially with some nice fine green beans.

 

Pesto with sundried tomatoes

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Easiest meal ever and you get a lot of bang for minimal effort. 

Living on my own means that in order not to be wasteful I have to figure out ways of using stuff up. I had some sun-dried toms that could do with using up and pine kernels that I got cheap from M&S because their sell-by date was coming up. My basil plant is on its last legs so I thought I could get a bit more out of it before it gives up the ghost… and, there’s always grana padano in my house. Hey? Pesto!

My sun-dried tomatoes come in a packet and I soaked them in hot water for half an hour. Most people usually buy them in oil. so if that’s what you have, use that.

I make no claim for any kind of authenticity as far as this recipe goes, if anyone wishes to call me out on it. Go ahead.

I’m a big fan of Rachel Roddy and her recipes and she recommends that you should put a lot of salt in your pan of water for boiling pasta, so that is what I now do. I use a good tablespoon of coarse rock sea salt in a big pan of water. This means I don’t add any extra salt to the dish, but you may want to. I do have extra cheese on the table though.

Pesto sauce (serves 2)

a good handful of pine kernels

a good handful of fresh basil leaves

5 or 6 sundried tomato halves

a good big handful of grated grana padano

at least half a cup of EVOO and more ready if needed

 

Put all the ingredients in a multi chopper and whizz until it forms a thick sauce. If its too thick, add a little more oil. You don’t want it too runny. Set aside. Bring a large well salted pan of water to the boil and add 250 g of spaghetti. Cook til just tender but not soggy. It should have a tiny bit of bite to it. Drain reserving a couple of ladlefuls of the cooking water. Return the spaghetti to the pan. Add the pesto and stir it in, adding just enough cooking water to loosen the sauce so it easily coats all the spaghetti.

Serve with extra cheese for cheese fiends

Nut Roast

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Crunchy and savoury and lovely served cold

In recent years the poor old stalwart of Vegetarian Christmas, the Nut Roast, has been much maligned. Sneered at, sighed about and generally seen noses turn themselves up at it. That’s kind of understandable give how ubiquitous it once was but it’s also a shame because they really are very nice.

I can’t remember where I first saw a nut roast recipe, perhaps in a Sarah Brown or Rose Elliott cookery book and today’s offering must have come originally from one of them in some form or another.

The other good thing about nut roasts is that they are as easy to make as they are tasty. The prep is really quick as long as you possess some kind of multichopper. Once cooked, I would leave it to stand until just warm if serving as part of a Sunday dinner type meal (it still works as a meat replacement) and then having it with roasties and veg and gravy. But I also thinks its just as nice cold with a salad.

The recipe here is based on what I actually made because of what I actually had in my cupboards. I would normally just use cashews but (unsalted) mixed nuts are fine and hazelnuts are another good nut to use. The recipe is for messing with in your own preferred manner. Happy autumnal cooking!

Nut Roast (4 servings)

2 cups of wholewheat bread crumbs

2 cups of chopped nuts (cashews, walnuts and pine kernels) Don’t whizz them to flour consistency, leave some texture for crunch.

2 cups of well chopped mushrooms

1 finely chopped onion

1 clove of garlic

some fresh thyme or mixed herbs

salt and pepper

1 large egg

 

Mix all the ingredients together and press into a small greased oven dish or loaf tin. Dot the surface with flecks of butter or brush with olive oil. Place in a medium hot preheated oven and bake for 45 mins to one hour til the top is golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for at least 3/4 of an hour before cutting to serve.

You can also use the same mix to make rissoles/burgers. Form into small rissole/burger shapes. Place on a greased baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated medium hot oven til golden.

FaceBook is not in the wrong!

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This is an ethical car built by an unethical person.

In the past couple of days I have been both astounded and horrified by the reporting on facebook’s right to maintain editorial control of its content without 3rd party interference. I’ve been astounded by the hypocrisy of the reporting and horrified that, contrary to popular belief, it is not fb that is attacking media freedoms but aftenposten and the guardian who are using pernicious propaganda techniques purely to gain attention to themselves.

So let’s take a closer look at what has gone on. First off, fb is an easy target for hate. It’s a large, unwieldy corporation with nearly a billion users on the site. Its owner is a nerdy, techie, American geek and richer than Croesus himself. Nobody likes big companies and their rich owners. But as understandable as that is, it doesn’t excuse using him to destroy a core principle of media freedom. The right to editorial control of content.

When you, or I, put content on another site, we have, effectively signed over all control of that content to the site’s owners. I can remove any post on here and ban anyone from contributing to my site. No 3rd party user can change that. The same applies to the guardian. They can remove content and ban users for any reason at all. And being a lot bigger site than mine, they have a moderation policy that is enforced by both human moderators and a program. When a site is as big as fb, with a billion users, it is impossible to have a perfect, flexible moderation policy enforced only by human moderators who read every contribution. That would require tens of thousands of employees, maybe even more. So because a site like fb would be entirely unusable without moderation, users (who are, after all, only guests with no right to control content) just have to suck it up and live with the inevitable blunders and sledgehammer moderation.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. When the guardian and aftenposten, who are well aware of the industry standards on moderation policy and why they are necessary, and, in the case of the guardian, will brook no quarrel whatsoever on moderation, insist on calling fb’s editorial control censorship, I’m inclined to wonder why? WTF? Is it simply cynical attention seeking and getting a nice sharp dig into their biggest competitor? Or is it an attempt to make fb bow to 3rd party control from other media organisations? Do the likes of aftenposten think they should be able to force fb to put up their content?

It wouldn’t surprise me if arrogant editors want to make fb kowtow to them, but its an extremely dangerous precedent to set. If users can control content on a private site, how long will it be before governments call themselves ‘users’ and demand certain materials to be published or removed?

Private media freedom is based on the tenet that the editor/owner has ultimate control of what’s published on their media without 3rd party interference. However much you dislike fb, the principle remains as true for them as it does everyone else. I’m disgusted that the guardian has tried to undermine that principle simply to get a cheap shot at a big ol nasty yank company and has succeeded only in spreading propaganda that could restrict media freedom. Shameful.

Try These Shops Out!

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So, autumn has arrived here in Athens and my holiday travelling head has been packed away with the backpack for now.

One of the things I don’t want Athens to lose now, in this ever deepening crisis, is the last of its Eastern European shops. There used to be loads of Polish shops and, when I lived near Victoria Square, there was even a Polish Greengrocer who imported, to my squeals of delight, parsnips! But most have been killed off by the crisis. In fact, most of the Eastern Europeans have either returned to their home countries or gone to Britain. Do try to appreciate them Britishers. Their shops are fantastic.

I’ve still got two of these fantastic shops near me, close to Koliatsou Square on Patission street. Baltika is a Russian shop and it has all sorts of wonderful products. I buy things like fruit teas, wine, vodka, black bread, kefir, smoked salmon and Russian organic essential oils very cheaply. I admit that these shops also have lots of odd looking products that I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with but they are my main suppliers of vodka and hibiscus tea.

Just a bit further down the road, towards Amerikis Square is a Romanian shop where you can get really nice wines. I particularly like a white Bulgarian called Sophia that’s a pip at 2.20 euros a bottle and a French Merlot for just under a fiver. Other things I buy are tinned beans which cost a fortune in Greek supermarkets and yoghurts. You can get marvelous products at great prices.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of Greek locals either look down on the Eastern European shops because they think the products will be substandard (they bloody well aren’t) or they’re shy of going in because they think they don’t belong there or that they won’t understand what the products are. All I can say is GO IN! They are fabulous shops and you’ll save money on lots of things and find new foods to try too. And the Rose Oil of Bulgaria products are excellent and cheap!

Give them a go Athenians. Save the shops!