Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Spare ribs

Shopping at the weekend, I came across some knobbly, muddy, raw beetroot (rather rarer than one might think, in the Highlands) which I later carried into the living room with all the ceremony of a bevy of Cardinals parading a holy relic. This treasure was showed to Yulya with reverence and a hopeful smile - hopeful that she'd consent to make her superlative red borsch sometime this week.

Last night my hopes were fulfilled, with much fresh bread and smacking of lips. I had, however, on the supermarket run to get dill and sour cream, nudged her ladyship away from pork chops and towards the ribs, on the grounds that they'd make better stock. In a trice we had a shared vision of sticky-sweet pork ribs as another meal, and into the basket they went.
So while Yulya was working miracles with the soup pan, I set about marinating the leftover ribs. A Kikkoman teriyaki marinade got acquainted with the ribs, helped by some light soy, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, five spice, chopped garlic and mirin, before they were all sent to cool their heels in the fridge till needed.

Tonight the whole lot was transferred to a maximum-security casserole for inspection. Finding it all a little lacking, I set about scouring the bottom shelf of the fridge - the one occupied entirely by pickles and salsas and sauces - for supplies. The last few spoonfuls of spicy apple chutney from the Storehouse? In they go! The scrapings from a jar of hoisin sauce? The survivor of duck wraps (another leftover treat), hiding behind the Arran tomato relish, their luck has finally run out. Half a tin of tomatoes, not required for the borsch, soon follows, along with a dollop of brown sauce, a teaspoon of honey and another sprinkling of five spice.

An hour and a half later, 180 degree heat had reduced this to a sticky, slightly carbonised mess, reminiscent of my ox tail braise - this, even with half a cup of water added halfway through. A simple stir fry and some steamed rice (after a slight rizastrophe left me swearing over the first batch) joined the ribs on the plate for a very brief meeting.

Next time, I will start cooking earlier - and make more ;-)

We discovered, after soaking, that this made an unholy mess of the cast iron casserole dish. I'd be tempted to line it with foil next time.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

My Khoresht-e-Gheimeh

I was reading an article yesterday about how Iranian state telly had been told by the Ministry of Culture to stop showing cookery programmes on foreign food; while the whole thing was a bit of a non-story, I did have a scout around to try and find out about some of the Persian recipes mentioned in the piece. One in particular took my fancy: khoresht-e-gheimeh (or khoresh ghaimeh, or any one of a dozen spellings - my Farsi is non-existent and I've lost touch with Sara) is the name, and here - about as traditional as coq au smirnoff - is my take on it.

Serves two, with some left over for tomorrow.

3/4 lb (350g) stewing lamb, cut into large cubes
A large onion, sliced
A 400g tin of tomatoes
A red pepper, thickly sliced *
A handful of dried, split yellow peas
A medium sized potato, cut into big cubes *
A handful of white cabbage, shredded *
Half a lemon (unwaxed) *
Two lime leaves *
Two or three cloves of garlic, chopped *
One teaspoon of turmeric
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
Quarter to half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper *
Two tablespoons of tomato puree
Half a pint of vegetable stock (probably less) * or water
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (for which you have a lid) and fry the lamb and onions together for about five minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, then tip in the spices and fry for another minute.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree, peppers and split peas, throw in the lemon half and the lime leaves, then add the stock/water to cover. Bring it to the boil then turn the heat right down - you want to do this really slowly - cover it with a foil lid and put the pan lid on top of that. Leave it for an hour, then give it a stir, check the seasoning and add the potato and cabbage, with some more water/stock if it's getting too dry (you're aiming for a rich, thick sauce). Seal it back up with the foil and the lid and stew for another half an hour or so. Leave the lid off for a few minutes at the end to reduce if you've overdone the liquid.

Serve with steamed rice, or cous cous or bread or whatever - these days I make slow-fried potatoes. I thought about adding some dates or prunes at the start, and Yulya reckons that would have worked well. She also fancied that rice as taught to her years ago by an Iranian chap would have been good - fry a little onion in butter/ghee then stir in basmati to coat; add some broken spaghetti and raisins, pour in water (about the same amount as the rice used) and seal the pan as best you can to steam the contents, checking the water from time to time.

* The more traditional recipes I looked at didn't call for any cayenne pepper or garlic, and none of them wanted any cabbage or red pepper which I added, respectively, because Yulya likes the green stuff and we'd only half a tin of tomatoes left. Stock is also unheard of - water or nothing, seems to be the cry. The potatoes are supposed to be French-fried and used as garnish, and there should be two or three dried limes instead of the half-a-lemon-and-two-lime-leaves I used, but it was quite zesty enough for us.