Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Pan for All Seasons

A Pan for All Seasons


Without apology to Robert Bolt for a silly pun on his "Man for all seasons", pans eh’, you’ve got to have ‘em. When I had to fend for myself in marital discord, I found that the pans had been wanted on voyage by my travelling ex-wife. My venture into the culinary arts required some equipment; I bought Le Creuset, a full set, including a large and small casserole and a marmetout. While everyone else says they are good, I found the actual pans to be an awkward shape, squat and all too small. I laboured with them for getting on for 20 years cos they was a lot ‘o dosh. Recently I replaced them with a traditional shaped pan after the style of the old copper pans, except these are stainless steel with a copper bottom, not even too expensive. In town there’s a posh cook shop that sells French pans, solid copper, tinned inside with black wrought iron handles. Bloody marvellous, thought I, my food heroine Julia Child recommends these, one 2 litre pan £400, the full set would require a mortgage!

30 years ago, I bought my first wife a sauté pan, 29cm diameter very heavy with a thick base and a domed lid, it is a Fissler, a German Company still in existence, a similar pan without a lid now costs £100, and I paid at the time about £50. It was a present, but she thought it extravagant, and to boot she didn’t like it because foods sticks. Naturally that item was not wanted on voyage. That pan is my greatest asset (in the kitchen! I wasn’t forgetting my natural good looks), yes when you throw in a steak it sticks, but after the second turn it sticks no more. The main advantage of such a pan is all the meat juices during frying stick in the pan and coats the base. Lift out the meat onto a warm plate, splash in wine and deglaze and reduce and you have a jus, add cream you have a sauce. Such a basic manoeuvre, but how can this be done with a non-stick pan? I have non-stick pans yes, but they fry eggs. The large sauté pan with a lid is so versatile, pan fry a whole fish, steaks etc., a risotto, any number of one off meals that can be braised on the stove top. (Braise = sautéed, then gently stewed in liquid) Most definitely “A Pan for All Seasons”

I mentioned non-stick pans, any starting out wannabe cook probably wouldn’t understand how life could exist on the planet without Teflon. I was about 15 yrs. old when this came on the market, and it was as soft as butter, I reckon that, with all the pans I’ve seen come and go I must have eaten quite a lot of Teflon. Assuming one doesn’t digest Teflon, then, since it’s non-stick I assume it merely passes through with alacrity. My mam had a couple of frying pans, black as the ace of spades, I’m guessing they were bright when new, I suppose they were probably wrought iron, and probably only cost a shilling from Woollies. These had to be conditioned, then, never washed, and they were non-stick, why did NASA bother to invent Teflon for re-entry tiles, they could have just stuck my mams frying pan onto the re-entry module.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Not Italian

Not  Italian? Do We Look Like We Care?

Bolognese sauce not Italian, it’s an English interpretation so what! Where would we be without it, it’s our dish and we should celebrate it, and be proud. I’ll bet the Italians wish it was theirs, but it’s not, so hands off. They have a dish in Bologna that they say is the inspiration, I’ve looked at the recipe and I think it would turn out bland, also I’ve seen them dish it up in Bologna on TV, a wee dollop of spaghetti and a little spoonful of ragout on top, no cheese!!! The diner has mix it up! This is unusual just about every other pasta dish is tossed in sauce. Bolognese is a main meal, you poor old Latinos, loadsa pasta, loadsa sauce, loadsa fresh grated parmiggiano, a glass of red wine and fresh baked ciabatta to mop up the sauce. Somebody should show these Eye Ties how to eat LOL

Bolognese Sauce
In a big pot, fry off, in olive oil, 6 diced onions, in a sauté pan fry off in small batches, 3kg of minced beef, adding them to the big pot. Take a head of garlic, skin and crush the cloves with salt to a paste and add to pot. Stir in a level dsp of plain flour. Deglaze the sauté pan, with a splash of good red wine, I use a Barolo around the £10 mark; add the deglassage and the rest of the red wine to the pot. Then add a goodly amount of dried Italian herb, don’t be afraid, I’ve never used too much LOL, Now add a whole tube of tomato purée, and about 6 cans of chopped tomatoes, I say about, cos I’m never sure, it’s about getting the consistency right, it need to be fairly stiff, too stiff there’s always tomato juice. At this point, use your black pepper grinder till you get wanker’s cramp. It needs bacon, I’ve tried Italian bacon and speck which is similar and it’s good but not that obtainable and expensive. English smoked bacon is chemically cured and full of watery crap, I buy it in catering packs, so I peel off a pile of rashers about 2” thick, slice into strips, place in a big pan of hot water, get my mitts in to separate the strips then bring to the boil, dump into a colander and wash under the tap. Worthy of note is all bacon should be blanched prior to cooking, I eat bacon every day and that would be pain in the arse, fortunately If you use a George Formby Grill (a bit like a George Foreman Grill but it sings “When I’m Cleanin Winders” while it cooks) put the bacon on while the grill is cold and it sheds its own weight in watery crap before it actually starts to cook. So the bacon goes in the pot, plus a big box of sliced open cap mushroom. Bang in the oven at least 3 hours, bish bosh. Probably about 16 portions to freeze

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A Winter Warmer

A Winter Warmer

I’ve been cooking on a daily basis for 20 years or so, like a lot of men, when I first had to fend for myself, I ate out a lot. I ate a lot of takeaways and ready meals, but you can only live on crap for so long before you yearn for proper food. In the beginning I relied upon recipes, as you do. The problem here is, the people who write cook books don’t use recipes, and rarely cook anything in small quantities, let alone weigh or measure stuff, therefore the recipes are guesstimates, and do they actually test each one?

Recipes are for people who don’t know how to cook, experience gives you the confidence to proportion stuff and cook by eye and taste and texture. So, here’s a dish we like.

Sausage Casserole

Cook off 36 good sausages (life’s too short for poor sausages) a good variety of your choice; I do ‘em in the oven.

Using  a ratio of sausage to chorizo of about 5/1 slice and fry off chorizo dulce, use picante if you like your head blown off. Chorizo oozes red fat, this is colour and flavour, don’t throw, put the fried chorizo to one side and pour the fat into a large pot. Into the large pot goes a diced medium swede, a couple of fat diced parsnips, a bunch of diced carrots and a large diced onion. Fry off and stir in a dsp of plain flour, then add 4 cans off chopped tomato, then add 2 litres of tomato juice, add the chorizo then throw the pot in the oven for 2-3 hrs. till the veg is soft. The cooked sausages are then added, allow to cool and portion up, at 3 sausages a portion 12 portions to freeze. We like this one with a jacket potato and a bit of green veg.