Corned beef hash:

Corned beef hash:

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Snack/Lunch

Serves:       As many as…..

Rating:         2:  Easy

Find:

  • Potatoes and other veg leftover from a previous meal
  • Onion
  • Can of corned beef
  • Can of baked beans
  • Oil
  • Table sauces in bottles – as desired
  • Dried herbs – I like thyme with this
  • Frying pan with a lid – or something to cover it with.

Method:

  • Chop the onions and start to slowly soften them in a medium pan with a little oil.
  • Cut up the potatoes and throw them in too. Give this mixture a couple of minutes to cook through whilst stirring to keep it all from sticking.
  • Turn the pan down to the lowest setting available, put in a splash of water and cover the frying pan.
  • Leave to just simmer’n’steam gently for a while; 5-10 mins-ish.
  • Cut the corned beef into half-inch cubes. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and throw in the corned beef, baked beans and the herbs.  The aim now is to combine all ingredients into an amorphous mass – almost like a big burger, except this one would fall apart as soon as you try to lift it out.  There should be sort of a skin form as the food cooks on the hot pan.  You might like to put in some table sauce(s).  Tomato ketchup?  Brown sauce?  Lea & Perrins?  Horseradish?  Add what you like (but not tartar sauce). 
  • Give it a good stir. Try to form burger shapes if you want to.  Personally, I don’t bother.
  • This can be served with other veg, sweetcorn, bread and a salad, a burger bun….

Cottage Skins:

Cottage Skins:

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      40 mins.

Serves:       As many as…..

Course:        Snack/Lunch

Rating:         3:  Moderate

Find:

  • Mince mixture as above for Beef Mince’n’Onion Thingymebob
  • Potatoes for baking
  • Grated cheese for the topping
  • A splash of milk
  • Seasoning
  • Any extra veg as desirable

Method:

  • As baked Spud Skins, but with the mince mixture mixed with the scooped-out spud.

Creamy Pork Normande on a bed of scrummy sautéed potatoes:

Creamy Pork Normande on a bed of scrummy sautéed potatoes:

Prep:           30 mins.

Cooking:      60 mins approx.

Course:        Main

Serves:        4, but easy to stretch further if pork is cubed

Rating:         2:  Easy, just a little long-winded

Whenever you think of the food of Normandy, you think of butter, Calvados, apples, Calvados, pork, closely followed by cream…. And Calvados, of course. 

Oh, and did I mention Calvados?

Well, this rather scrummy and deceptively easy pork recipe uses no Calvados whatsoever (only due to the fact that I had none to hand – though you could have a splash in there somewhere if you should so wish), but that leaves you with the opportunity of drinking it later, should you have any, as a digestif.  So, even with no Calvados and the cream replaced by crème fraiche, be ready for a taste sensation….

 

For four people, you will need:

For the pork:

  • Copious access to the olive oil bottle (yes, I know that you could use all butter, but at least give lip service to matters of cholesterol….. but then the Normans don’t seem to suffer too much…. perhaps it’s the effect of the Calvados!)
  • Butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 4 large eating apples, cored and cut into thick rings
  • 4 thick slices of loin of pork
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic – or correspondingly more thin ones
  • 2 large red onions
  • Half litre dry cider (but get more as it’s a thirsty business…)
  • 2 chicken stock cubes in a couple of mugs of hot water… with the foil removed, of course.
  • 250g pot of crème fraiche
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves (If you have them)
  • Good handful of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (or dried thyme)
  • A bigger good handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley, roughly chopped (It is nice to have this.  Dried parsley is such a let-down)
  • Salt (I prefer coarsely ground sea salt)

For the potato dish:

  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 large red onions, roughly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Half kilo FRESHLY BOILED new spuds (that means that you must have boiled them before you start doing the pork, of course…. don’t forget!),  preferably whole baby ones……. preferably the variety of Charlotte, Exquisa or even Anya if you can get hold of them…..(you might have to grow your own Anya!)
  • 200g lardons (see Those Ingredient Thingies), preferably smoked.  (can easily be replaced by chopped up cooking bacon/streaky)
  • More fresh thyme leaves (just buy a small growing pot to have enough for the two recipes)
  • More flat-leaved parsley (just buy…….)
  • (You will, of course, need to serve some veg with it all – don’t forget to do it.  I used sautéed sugar snap peas, asparagus and fresh baby sweetcorn – lovely!).

What you do:

  • Get your prep work done first, using small dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. Work cleanly and you’ll find that clearing up afterwards is much easier to do.

(Better still, get some other poor sod to do the cleaning up for you afterwards, whilst you enjoy a good well-earned slug of Calvados with y’feet up).

  • Core (but don’t peel) the apples with a corer, or a normal potato peeler inserted and rotated round to remove the core, then cut into thick rings. The top and bottom rings should be roughly diced for use later on.
  • Roughly slice the onions, then chop half of one of them as finely as you can.
  • Peel the garlic (see Tricks’n’Tips for the easy way) and chop it fairly roughly.
  • Splash olive oil into a thick bottomed frying pan, add a large knob of the butter and heat.
  • Mix the two fats together and place the thickly-cut apple rings into the pan (do not drop them in; you must avoid splashing hot fat around… we don’t want hospital visits today, thank you very much). You may need to do this in batches to ensure good browning, by the way.
  • Evenly sprinkle the sugar over all of the apple rings, on each side as they are turned. Keep an eye on the apples as they will easily blacken with the extra sugar – you don’t want ‘black’, just a lovely golden brown.

(You could do worse than to keep my father’s general culinary advice in mind…. “When they’re brown, they’re done”, he’d say to me very seriously, then, with the wink of an eye he’d add……  “When they’re black, they’re buggered!”  It’s good advice, if a little unconventionally put.)

  • Put them aside to keep warm for the plating-up stage.
  • Add more oil to the pan and brown the pork slices on both sides, turning them several times.
  • Put them aside on a plate somewhere – you’ll use them quite soon.
  • Turn the heat down and put the onions and garlic into the pan to gently soften for a few minutes.
  • You may need to use a larger pan, so be ready to use the biggest pan you have…..
  • EITHER return the pork to the pan, then add the diced apple and the cider and the stock, thyme and bay leaves…..
  • OR chuck ‘em all into that big pan you’ve just had to borrow from the rather gorgeous young single mum down the road who you’ve been looking for an excuse to talk to for weeks! RESULT!
  • Either way, cook the pork through for 10-15 minutes, simmering gently.
  • Heat olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan, add the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes.
  • Add the lardons (chopped bacon to you’n’me), potatoes and thyme. Cook until the bacon is nice’n’crispy and the spuds are scrummy.
  • Remove the pork from the gigantic pan that you borrowed, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid (see Tricks’n’Tips, but basically, boil it so it steams [so you’d better open a window or it’ll be like a sauna in there] and loses volume, concentrating the flavours) for a while.
  • Stir in the whole pot of crème fraiche, then the roughly chopped parsley and heat through for a couple of minutes. Taste and season as necessary.  Remember that the bacon will be salty in the spuds.
  • Heat the apple rings through in another pan.
  • Either plate up individually as you wish, or put the spuds onto a big oval platter (warmed, of course) and place the pork, with apple rings on top, on the spuds and spoon the sauce and all its bits over the top of the lot.
  • There’s bound to be some thyme and parsley left somewhere, so sprinkle that on top to make it look posh.
  • Be ready for the praise. Preen appreciably when it comes, but be modest (well, not TOO modest!).

(…..and enjoy that smug feeling because you’ve now got a date with that gorgeous newly-divorced young single mum down the road……..)

Tartiflette:

Tartiflette:

PICTURE 26

Tartiflette is like Carcassonne – it’s not quite what it seems. 

Carcassonne in southern France has become regarded as one of the best maintained medieval walled fortress towns of France, whereas the truth of the matter is that it was substantially rebuilt during our Victorian age to encourage what we, these days, call tourism, and thus improve the economy of the town and the region. 

Picture of carcassonne

Have you seen it?  It’s really worth a look.  But what has that got to do with….    Well, Tartiflette has become regarded as an ancient peasant dish from the Savoie region.  True, it comes from the Savoie region, but it was actually invented as recently as the 1980’s by the Syndicat de Reblochon to sell more Reblochon cheese and keep the workers in employment.  Clever ploy, eh?!

Whatever its origin or history, I don’t care – cos it’s gorgeous.

There is no really definitive recipe for Tartiflette, despite its short existence.  However, this is the one that I prefer, the one that we have developed/experienced in the south of France near to Narbonne, though I’m sure if you visit the Savoie region it will be a little different.     And they’ll probably deny everything I’ve said about its origin! (But they’ll have their fingers crossed behind their backs!)

Prep:           20-ish minutes.

Cooking:      35-ish mins.

Course:        Main

Serves:        4-6

Rating:         2:  Easy

Find:

  • 1 kg nice waxy new potatoes; boiled, peeled and thickly sliced
  • Whole Reblochon cheese
  • 200 g cheap rindless smoked bacon or prepared lardons (for a veggie version, omit the bacon and substitute smoked tofu or one of these veggie bacon rasher type things. You’ll need more than this recipe says for the same amount of spuds.)
  • 1 large red onion (I sometimes put a shredded leek in there as well)
  • 2 cloves garlic (more if you wish to give it more ‘wellie’!)
  • Glass of white wine
  • Small tub Crème Fraiche
  • 50 g butter
  • Frying pan – large
  • Ceramic oven dish – also large
  • Pepper, salt to taste (but be careful with the salt as you have bacon and cheese)

Method:

 

  • Wash the potatoes (don’t peel them) and steam them or cook them à l’anglais – in boiling water. Let them cool a little before starting to handle them.
  • Slice the bacon into small strips (lardons will be ready for use) and fry in a little grapeseed, rapeseed, groundnut or sunflower oil and butter until the edges just start to brown. Remove, drain and put aside.
  • Peel and finely chop the onion. Fry them in the same pan, in the bacon fat until soft.
  • Add the wine, moving it about the pan to get all the sticky, gooey bits off the surface of the pan, and then reduce it down a bit to intensify the flavours.
  • Peel and thickly slice the now cooled potatoes, frying them with the onions and wine. Finely chop the garlic and put that in as well – don’t allow the garlic to start to brown or it might impart a bitter taste.
  • Chuck in the bacon mixture. Ensure that the bacon fat and wine mixture becomes evenly distributed over the entire pan contents. Preheat the oven to 200°C (mk6).
  • Pour the crème fraiche over the mixture, mix gently and then pour the whole lot into an oven dish.   Do not remove the natural crust from the Reblochon cheese (though if it has a label or a plastic coating of any sort, remove all of that, of course) and cut into slices ensuring that the harder ‘crust’ or edges are cut quite small and buried deeply so that it softens easily.
  • Stir the cheese into the mixture a little, then put some of the thinner slices on top of the potatoes and pop it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check that the top does not over-brown (another way of saying ‘don’t let the bugger burn’.)
  • Remove the dish from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes before delving into its steaming contents. Don’t burn your mouth!
  • Savour with a glass or four of nice, crisp, white wine – or whatever wine you like.

You’ve just made a dish full of history – recent history, perhaps, but history all the same.