Bresaola, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

In a ‘gotta try something new’ state of mind I was browsing the virtual shelves of our online supermarket when I stumbled across something called bresaola. What a find!

If you haven’t done so yet, you should try it (make this recipe). ¬†If you have…damn you for keeping it a secret from me! ūüėČ

BresaolaHow would I describe it? ¬†Well, it’s air dried, salt beef, served sliced very, veeerry thinly and usually quite simply dressed. ¬†At the risk of bringing the wrath of real foodies upon my head for my failure to note all the subtleties, I’d say it’s kinda like a delicious beef version of Parma ham.

Isn’t that colour something special?

PearsThese beautifully ripe, russet skinned Taylor’s Gold pears seemed like a perfect partner for the cured beef.

GorgonzolaAnd to top things off, runny, ripe Gorgonzola providing a delicious, tangy contrast to the sweet pears and the salty beef.

Bresaola, gorgonzola and pear saladPour over a honey mustard & lemon dressing and it all comes together beautifully ūüôā


Ingredients
10-12 slices bresaola
2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced (skin on)
100-150g gorgonzola (or other blue cheese), cut into chunks/crumbled
1 lemon, juice only
A glug of olive oil
A small knob of butter
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Watercress or other edible greenery
A handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
Music

Toss pear slices in a tablespoon or so of the lemon juice.

Cooked pearsHeat oil and butter in a frying pan and cook pear over a medium to high heat, until edges are turning brown.  Remove from pan and set to one side.

Dressing ingredientsMake dressing by mixing together remaining lemon juice, mustard and honey until well combined.  Season to taste.

Bresaola, pear and gorgonzola saladArrange watercress, tomatoes and bresaola on plate, scatter over cheese, top with pears and drizzle over dressing.

Feast!
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Cucumber & Dill Salad

D’you know what? ¬†I’ve absolutely nothing to say! ¬†How astoundingly rare.

So, I’ll just cut to the chase and get on with the recipe…

No quantities in the ingredients list as it all depends on how many you’re serving and how much you like the¬†salad…judge by eye and taste and you shouldn’t go wrong ūüôā

Ingredients
Cucumber, cut into slices
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Soured cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

The first thing you need to do is find your sieve and balance it over a bowl. ¬†Don’t use a metal one!

We’re going to disgorge the cucumbers – this is just a posh way of saying we’re going to get some of the water out of them. ¬†It will give a salty flavour and softer texture to the cucumber.

Cucumber and saltPlace a layer of cucumber slices into the sieve and sprinkle with salt.

Salted cucumberKeep layering cucumber and salt until you have enough, or you’ve filled your sieve, whichever comes first.

Now place a small plate over the top and put something heavy-ish on top to weight it down.  Set to one side for 2-3 hours.

Disgorged cucumberAfter a few hours, when plenty of water has drained from the cucumber, remove slices from sieve and lay out on kitchen towel – gently pat dry.

Some people rinse the slices before drying in order to remove some of the salt – I think this is unnecessary but you may wish to do so.

Soured cream and dillIn a bowl that will be large enough to accommodate your cucumber slices, mix together soured cream and chopped dill.

Add cucumber slices and a good dose of black pepper and gently mix.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use – ideally give it 30 minutes to an hour to allow flavours to blend.

People tend to come by and ‘just try a bit’ so consider setting a guard dog on duty beside the fridge to ensure there’s still enough salad left when you come to serve it.

with salmon en crouteYou may find a little water continues to seep from the cucumbers after mixing with the soured cream – don’t worry, just before serving give everything one last stir. ¬†Taste again to check seasoning is still good and serve with dish of your choice.

Cucumber and dill salad shown here served with mini salmon en croute.  It also makes an excellent, cooling, side dish to go with spicy foods.

Enjoy!
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Steak ‘n’ salad

The last few days have been utter madness.

Firstly, someone drove into the back of the car Barn was travelling to work in.  Fortunately no-one was seriously injured, and for that I am truly grateful.

However, Barn and one of his colleagues sustained some damage to neck, shoulder and back. ¬†Barn has been a little vexed and cranky about this; not because of the discomfort per se, more because it’s impeding his usual gym routine – challenging times for this born again fitness enthusiast (and his long suffering wife ūüėČ )

Additionally, things have been particularly ¬†demanding at the day job – it’s one of our busy periods, so long and late shifts are currently fairly standard. On top of that it seems that anything that could go wrong, has been going wrong, particularly anything computerised; we barely get one thing sorted when another implodes. Pile on top of that a couple of ‘problem’ employees, impending deadlines for important paperwork, and a sudden procedural change that requires my whole team to be retrained. ¬†A tad stressful.

Crazy EmpressNow, just for good measure, let’s add in the Crazy Empress, who has suddenly decided to spend 90% of her waking time sitting at closed doors crying to be let in/out. ¬†It’s not that she wants to actually¬†be somewhere…she just wants to be on the other side of any closed door. ¬†As soon as you let her through, she wants to come back again. ¬†So essentially, all internal house doors must be open, or she will cry. ¬†That’s such fun!

MoochFinally, we have Mooch who, never wanting to be left out of anything, has decided to cry every time the cat does. ¬†Not¬†for¬†anything, just because the cat’s doing it. ¬†It’s like having a pair of toddlers in the house.

Perhaps then, you will understand why on Day 5 of the Cupboard Challenge, I was seeking the easiest of easy food?  Comfort food with a vitamin punch was needed, sought and found in the form of steak, baked potato, salad and blue cheese dressing.

And some music to go with it…

I’m absolutely positive¬†you don’t need me to tell you how to cook a steak, so I’m not going to.

Steak, baked potato and saladI used up¬†a lovely¬†little piece of fillet steak that had been loitering in a corner of the freezer just waiting for me to want it; ¬†Barn had half a chicken but I forgot to photograph that. ¬†I’m sure you can imagine what half a roast chicken looks like.

Salad stuffI’m pretty sure you can bake a potato and make a salad too. ¬†This is what went into my salad.

Blue cheese dressingI made a blue cheese dressing by mashing some Danish Blue together with mayonnaise; in the absence of soured cream I loosened it with a little balsamic dressing.  The consistency was more like a dip and visually it was a bit like cement, but my word, it tasted divine!

Steak, salad and baked potatoAnd there you have it – a simple, comforting, nutritious dinner to fortify the flagging Renegades.

I hope you’re all having a smoother week than we are?

If not, hang in there, the weekend’s coming! ūüôā

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Blue cheese, pear and pancetta salad

With only one to cater for, the focus for Day 4 of the Cupboard Challenge was to use up some of the really small portions of stuff. ¬†In the end it was a quick and simple affair. ¬†Just like this post ūüėČ

Quantities are for one serving.

Ingredients
1 ripe pear
A hunk of Stilton or other blue cheese, similar size to the pear
A handful of cubed pancetta
Baby spinach or other green salad leaves
A handful of walnut pieces (optional)

Dressing ingredientsFor the dressing
2 dessert spoons mayonnaise
1 dessert spoon natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon mustard
A splash of balsamic dressing (or just balsamic vinegar)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

This won’t take long, so press play and let’s get movin’…DressingPut all the dressing ingredients into a small jar, tighten lid and shake vigorously. ¬†Or put them into a small bowl and stir energetically.

Adjust seasoning according to taste – bear in mind the saltiness provided by the cheese and pancetta to the end dish.

That’s your dressing done.Cubed pancettaHeat a frying pan and cook¬†the pancetta cubes over a medium to high heat until brown and crispy. ¬†Set to one side on kitchen roll.

Toasted walnuts would have been the ideal finishing touch for this salad, so even though¬†we had none in, and thus I didn’t use any, I’ve included them in the ingredient list. ¬†In hindsight, I should have used the toasted sunflower seeds that we do¬†have in to provide that glorious contrasting crunch.

If you have some nuts or seeds in the house and you want to use them to top the salad, now is the time to toast them…a quick shake ‘n’ stir¬†over a high heat in a dry frying pan will do the job.
Pear and StiltonQuarter and core (but don’t peel) the pear. ¬†Cube both pear and blue cheese and place in a bowl.

This picture shows sun dried tomatoes strewn over the dish.  I advise against this - the texture was all wrong and their flavour jarred with the rest.  
This picture shows sun dried tomatoes strewn over the dish. I advise against this – the texture was all wrong and their flavour jarred with the rest.

Pour dressing over the cheese and pears; stir gently to combine.

Make a little bed on your plate with the salad leaves, pile the dressed cheese and pears onto it, and scatter the pancetta (and nuts, if using) over the top.

That’s it, you’re done!

Grab a fork and eat.

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The food week that was – 02/03/15

I’m sure you know the story of King Alfred the Great – the guy¬†who allegedly let the cakes burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his beleaguered kingdom? ¬†Well, I bet you’ve never heard the story of Barn, the guy¬†who let the pies burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his¬†kingdom?

Alfred had fair justification for his absent minded approach to baked goods; the fellow’s very life was in danger and he was on the run – sleeping in ditches and begging for food – whilst also trying to save his lands from actual marauding Vikings. ¬†There was every reason for culinary timing to be low on his list of priorities. ¬†For Barn? ¬†Not so much.

He¬†was sitting comfortably, on a sofa in his living room, tasked with nothing more than listening out for the oven timer then informing me of said occurrence. ¬†The only kingdom he had any concerns about was the virtual one in Kingdom of Camelot (oh yeh, I’ll name it and shame ya! ūüėė ), and the only ‘life’ in danger was that of a pixelated soldier. ¬†Apparently he didn’t hear or smell a thing as the oven alarm shrieked for its fully allowed time slot, and our dinner gave itself to the funeral pyre, clutching its last vestiges of flavour, mourning its uncelebrated heyday.

Naturally he was referred to as Burning Barn for the rest of the evening. ¬†No opportunity, no matter how small or tenuous, was passed over when it came to teasing and tormenting him. ¬†Petit Man is a great ‘bouncing’ partner for this particular form of verbal entertainment (Mum and Medieval are also superb co-jousters, but sadly they weren’t around for this one); we amused ourselves mightily,¬†stumbling upon forcing¬†references to Barn¬†the Great Pie Torturer from¬†every TV advert, programme and innocuous conversation :twisted:.

Chicken chorizo pot piesMonday:¬†So…what we had Monday was potentially-awesome-but-kinda-burned chicken and chorizo pot pies, served with hideously burned roast cauliflower and some steamed veg.

The chicken was poached in cider, then the cider stock reduced and used with cream to make a sauce for the chicken, fried chorizo and leeks. ¬†A happy little layer survived the torrid oven affair and was sufficiently good to put the recipe¬†on the ‘definitely try it again’ list.

Fridge bottom soupTuesday:¬†Fridge bottom soup. ¬†Sounds vile doesn’t it? ¬†I know I should call it ‘leek and courgette’, or ‘cream of veg’ or somesuch, but it was what it says…soup made with stuff that needed using up from the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.

Sautéed soffrito (finely diced onion, carrot and celery in the ratio 2:1:1 Рan excellent starting point for many sauces, stews etc. Рmake huge batches with a food processor and keep portions in the freezer); chopped leeks and courgettes added & browned.  Two crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme and parsley, dried oregano chucked in and swished around for a while.  Chicken stock added (enough to cover veg plus a bit more) and simmered for about 15 minutes.  Blitzed in the food processor, added soured cream, a little double cream, and chives.  Reheated, adjusted seasoning, added an extra swirl of cream and more fresh herbs to finish.  Served with warm g/f cheesy puffs made with extra mature cheddar and English mustard.  It tasted insanely good.

Chicken pear and stilton saladWednesday dinner: Warm salad of grilled chicken breast and sweet ripe pears, with creamy blue Stilton and crunchy caramelised walnuts; served with baked tomatoes on a bed of crisp, fresh watercress and baby spinach leaves, dressed with wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinaigrette.

Barn made the leftovers into a sandwich for his lunch at work the next day.  I believe he was hoping for a reaction something akin to one of these:

What he got was this:

K: What’ve you got there?

Barn: Olive ciabatta, with watercress, pears and…

K: Pears?!

Barn: Yeh, and blue cheese…

K: Mouldy cheese?!

Barn:¬†¬†…and chicken.

Pause, while each chews their chosen lunch and K contemplates Barn’s sandwich

K, dubiously: Well, I suppose the chicken would be ok.

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