Pork Osso Buco

meat and vegetables

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Pork Osso Buco  and was about to link to a previous recipe before realising that it had never been written! I cook this quite often and was quite surprised that I’d never put pen to paper. Osso Buco is traditionally shin of veal, sliced across the bone, so you get a nice round piece of meat with a marrow bone in the centre. Osso buco quite literally means bone with hole. In Italy, where the dish comes from (and in other parts of Europe), veal is relatively cheap and shin of veal is one of the cheapest cuts. In the UK, however, a 1970’s documentary on young veal calves being taken to Holland in crates, caused an uproar and generations of British people have shunned veal (which means it’s quite expensive) ever since. Sadly, what people don’t realise, is that veal is a by product of the dairy industry. Male dairy calves are born 50% of the time and for decades most of these have been shot within a few days of birth because they are not beef cattle. However, all these veal calves could have a reasonable life if the British knew the full story. Rose Veal calves are slaughtered much older than a regular chicken, pig or lamb – which is considerably better than just a few days!

But I digress, Pork Osso Buco is the porcine equivalent of the traditional veal and it’s incredibly cheap! It also comes from the same pig as your Sunday roast, so there are less ethical issues. Yesterday I walked into the butcher at about 4.30pm and noticed that the already economical pork was reduced to £2.85 per kilo and it was free range! I hesitated for a second, it was 30ºC outside and the meat needed to be cooked for supper or frozen. I had no specific dinner plans and having already cycled up to Muswell Hill for work on Monday (in similar heat), I thought “carpe diem” – a couple of hours with the oven on is nothing!

I cook this regularly and adjust the vegetables relative to what is seasonal. In the winter that usually means leaving out the red pepper and courgette. As this contains tomatoes, it’s relative to a modern style Osso Buco, as opposed to the original Osso Buco Bianco recipe.

Pork Osso Buco:

1kg pork osso buco
3 slices smoked streaky bacon
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a stick celery (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 medium courgette (chopped)
1 red romano pepper (chopped) or a red bell pepper
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
a large squirt tomato purée
2 squirts anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 dessertspoons plain flour seasoned with sea salt, cracked black pepper and 1/2 teaspoons English mustard powder
a splash red wine vinegar
a small glass red or white wine
1/2 pint chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

pork osso buco

Season 2 dessertspoons of plain flour with sea salt, cracked black pepper and 1/2 teaspoons English mustard powder. Dust the osso buco with the seasoned flour and brown it in hot olive oil, then remove to a plate.

vegetables and stock

Gently fry the onion in the same pan (ideally a cast iron casserole). You will need to add more olive oil. When the onion becomes translucent, stir in the chopped bacon and as soon as the bacon takes some colour, grate on 4 medium tomatoes (cut in half, grate the wet side then dispose of the skin).

Mix in the remaining vegetables along with the tomato purée, anchovy paste, herbs, pimentón, red wine vinegar, white wine and chicken stock. Taste to see if any additional seasoning is necessary. Stir in a dessertspoonful of the remaining seasoned flour to thicken the sauce. Add more spice with a pinch of chilli if you wish.


Return the osso buco to the pot, sink it into the liquid, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 160º C for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender to a fork.


Serve with rice or potatoes – it’s particularly good with mash! You will notice that I added a few peas and broad beans to my plate. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Cerdo Rojo (Red Pig) from Catalunya, with your pork.

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Braised Breast of Lamb

braised breast of lamb

Lamb breasts are one of the lesser known cuts of meat, most of them are used to make doner kebabs in the UK (know as Gyros in Greece and America). While this meat is a little bit tough, a long slow cook will make it succulent and tender. The most common way of cooking breast of lamb is to stuff it and roll it up. Sausage meat is often used as stuffing and it sometimes comes this way pre-prepared. This is also the cut of meat required for Breast of lamb St Ménéhould, as recorded by Elizabeth David in her book, An Omelette And A Glass Of Wine.

breast of lamb

Lamb breast is normally sold boned and ready rolled, in pieces weighing about 500g. Lamb goes very well with anchovies and garlic – here I’ve added cumin, relative to the way in which the Moors cooked lamb in Spain, which in turn led to the way in which the Spanish cook pork.

Lamb Stuffing:

500g breast of lamb
6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
3 large squirts of anchovy paste or 3 salted anchovies
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon thyme
a pinch of sea salt
10 back peppercorns
a drizzle of olive oil


Heat half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and when you smell them warming, grind up (using a mortar and pestle) with a teaspoon thyme, a pinch of salt and 10 black peppercorns.


Unroll the lamb breast and spread the anchovy paste on the inside. Do use 3 tinned anchovy fillets if you don’t have the paste, the end result will taste the same. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and the cumin mixture. Alternately, use sausage meat, breadcrumbs …and I even considered crab or black pudding!

Roll the lamb back up and retie it. My ties were elasticated, but if not, this is how to tie a simple butcher’s knot.

Braised Breast of Lamb (serves 2 greedy people):

500g breast of lamb (stuffed)
3 slices streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
a handful fresh coriander (chopped)
1/3rd pint chicken stock
a splash sherry vinegar
a splash dry white wine
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

rolled breast of lamb

Brown the rolled lamb in a little olive oil, sprinkling on a little salt and pepper.


Remove to a plate when done.


Gently fry the chopped onion in plenty of extra virgin olive oil.


When the onion goes translucent, add the bacon.


Stir the bacon until it takes a little colour and mix in the other vegetables.


Add the coriander, or substitute parsley if you are not a fan!

lamb and vegetables

After 5 minutes or so, return the lamb to the casserole.

stock and wine

Pour on the stock, wine and sherry vinegar. When the liquid starts to bubble, put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours.


As the oven is on, peel and cube a few potatoes. Bring to the boil in salted water, drain and allow the potatoes to dry in their own steam.

potatoes with pimentón

Sprinkle the potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon of pimentón de la Vera dulce. Heat some olive oil in an oven dish, add the cubed potatoes and agitate every 10 minutes or so. These take about 90 minutes.


Turn the lamb breast occasionally. You will know it is done when the meat yields to the fork.

roast potatoes

Roast the potatoes until golden.

braised and browned

Leave the lid off to brown the meat and thicken the sauce for 20 minutes when the lamb is tender.

Slice the lamb and serve with the potatoes and seasonal vegetables. This will produce meat every bit as tender as the best leg of lamb. I recommend a glass or two of Oveja Tinta Graciano from Bodegas Fontana, with the lamb.

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Pork with Black Beans

pork with black beans

I had some Cajun roasted pork shoulder leftover from Sunday and some dried black beans (with a looming best by date) and decided to cook a Spanish style cocido with a Mexican chilli pepper influence. Just about all the beans we eat on a regular basis (in Europe, aside from broad beans) came from the Americas after 1492. The Spanish in particular, love beans and have incorporated them so much into all their regional cuisines, that one would almost expect the legumes to be native.

The black bean is considered a staple of South American cuisine and is very popular in Frijoles Negros (sometimes with pork) cooked in Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. A simpler vegetable and black bean dish called Moros y Cristianos can be found in just about every restaurant and kitchen in Cuba. Some recipes call for the addition of ham or bacon, though historically, I doubt many Cuban households could afford it. Moros y Cristianos is a dish of black beans and white rice – translated from Spanish it quite literally means Moors and Christians, a reference to Spanish Medieval history.

black beans

Pork with Black Beans (serves 4):

500g leftover roast pork (cubed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1/4 hot chorizo ring (sarta)
250g dried black beans
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 red romano pepper (chopped)
3 medium tomatoes (grated)
2 squirts anchovy paste
1 teaspoon oregano (ideally Mexican)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons pimentón de la Vera dulce
1 dessertspoon chopped cilantro (coriander)
a pinch ground ancho chilli (to taste)
a pinch ground chipotle chilli (to taste)
2 bay leaves
a large glass red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

to serve:

a teaspoon chopped coriander
a squeeze fresh lime
grated cheese

Soak the black beans overnight, rinse and cook gently for a couple of hours until tender. They should double in weight and size.


Poach the onion in plenty of extra virgin olive oil until soft.


Stir in the bacon and cook it until it changes colour.


Grate the tomatoes on top of the onions and bacon.


Cook for 4 or 5 minutes before adding the other vegetables.


Chop the pork into bite sized pieces and mix in. You can use fresh pork if you wish and if that is the case, brown it before frying the onion.

ground cumin

Warm a teaspoon of cumin seed in a frying pan until it smells fragrant. Grind the cumin and a pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle.

cumin and pimentón

Sprinkle on the oregano, ground cumin, pimentón and chilli.

beans and chorizo

Mix in the beans and add a piece of chorizo for flavour (this is common in Spanish cocidos).

bay and coriander

The bay leaves, wine, vinegar, a squirt or two of anchovy paste and the chopped coriander go in next. Season to taste.


Put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 160º C for 1 or 2 hours. The pork and beans have already been cooked, so this would be ready after an hour, but the longer you cook it the more the beans break down, making the sauce thick and creamy.

pork and beans

Sprinkle with a little more chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime fresh juice then serve with rice or corn tortillas and some grated cheese. This goes very well with a glass or two of Cerdo con Gusto (Pork with Taste) a Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain.

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Músclos a la Marinera

músclos a la marinera

I went out to buy sardines but got sidetracked by pork osso bucco and a kilo of mussels with a very silly price tag (£1.75) – they were practically giving them away! I conversed with the fish lady – she said she’d been talking to the mussels and tapping them occasionally to keep their spirits up, but they wouldn’t last another day and needed to go to a good home! Evidently this moral boosting worked because there were very few bivalve casualties!

perry court tomatoes

I had no idea how I was going to cook the mussels, but as I cycled home, remembered the first Perry Court tomatoes of the year – Martin the farmer had presented me with a large bag on Sunday. Catie was coming for supper and my initial idea was a marinara sauce with crusty bread, but it was a bit late in the day to find a decent baguette, so I decided on pasta instead.

Marinara (marinera in Catalan) sauce is said to have originated in Southern Italy around 1600, after tomatoes were introduced by the Spanish, who controlled two thirds of the country for several hundred years. The name marinara means mariners and it’s thought that the dish was created on board ships sailing from the Americas to Naples, or by fishermen who cooked while out at sea. Either way, it’s an incredibly versatile sauce that can be turned into many other dishes, such as puttanesca and arrabbiata or in my case músclos a la marinera.

Recepta de Músclos a la Marinera (serves 4):

1 kg fresh mussels
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 medium to large ripe tomatoes (grated)
a dessertspoon tomato purée
a large squeeze anchovy paste (or a couple of good quality tinned anchovies)
a handful of fresh basil leaves (torn)
a pinch of chipotle chilli flakes (or any chilli you have to hand)
a glass dry white wine
a splash or two of red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

400g spaghetti
a few torn basil leaves for decoration


Gently poach the chopped onion in plenty of olive oil. When the onion becomes soft, add the garlic and grate on 4 medium to large ripe tomatoes (cut the tomatoes in half and grate the wet side – you will be left with a circle of skin, which can be disposed of or used in making stock). Stir in the tomato purée, a large squirt of anchovy paste, a pinch of chilli, black pepper, red wine vinegar and a glass of white wine. Sprinkle on some torn basil and the sauce is done, though simmering for 30 minutes or so will bring all the flavours together. Salt can be added if necessary, but use it sparingly because mussels can be quite salty naturally. This can be made ahead of time and heated up when you are ready for pasta and or mussels.

mussels in marinara

When hungry, make sure the marinara is simmering, have the mussels debearded and rinsed in cold water. Don’t soak them beforehand, it kills them! Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil (for pasta) and when the spaghetti goes in, add the mussels to the sauce – stir or shake them and put the lid on. When the pasta is al dente, drain the water (saving a cupful) and stir it into the músclos a la marinera – pour a splash of the cooking water into the pot with the spaghetti. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few torn basil leaves. Serve with salad and ideally, crusty bread.


Before eating the pasta, we enjoyed some griddled Perry Court asparagus,


with allioli – do try it, it works perfectly! We drank a bottle of citrusy Dabarca Vinho Verde (from Portugal), which is a perfect compliment to shellfish.

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Prawn and Venison Gumbo

prawn and venison gumbo

I had some venison and andouille sausage in the freezer and after making Prawn Étouffé a few weeks ago, I was itching to make a gumbo with prawns.

Gumbo is a type of stew which originated in Louisiana around the early part of the eighteenth century and comes from a mixture of cultures. The name itself comes from the African word for okrangombo or quingombo (used to thicken the stew), but a filé gumbo contains ground sassafras leaves instead, also a thickener and flavouring (originally used by the indigenous Choctaw Indians).

Gumbos can be made with most meats, (especially wild ones) including alligator, chicken, duck, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, veal, or, seafood like crab, crawfish, oysters, shrimp, etc. Meat combinations and seafood combinations are common, but it’s unusual to have meat and seafood mixed together. However, both should contain andouille, originally a French smoked pork sausage, that was adapted and remade by German settlers to Louisiana. If you can’t find an American andouille in the UK, smoked Polish sausage (from most supermarkets) would be the best alternative.

Gumbo should start with a roux – normally fat and or oil cooked with flour to create a thickener in traditional French cuisine, but in Louisiana this is cooked further until it takes a toasted chocolate colour. Okra and filé can be added later – some combine the two but most use either or. There’s also some debate over which oil or fat to use, any of the following are acceptable: butter, lard, chicken fat, goose fat, olive oil, groundnut oil, etc. In New Orleans, one can buy buckets of pre-made roux in shops and supermarkets.

To complicate things, there are two types of cooking in Louisiana – Creole (from the original French and Spanish colonists in New Orleans), containing tomatoes and Cajun (from the Cajun people of South Louisiana who were originally French colonists of Canada, expelled by the British), without tomatoes. Both Cajun and Creole styles of cooking use a trinity of celery, onions and sweet peppers, when garlic is used, it becomes a  holy trinity. It seems to me that a trinity made with sweet peppers comes from Spanish cuisine, because a French mirepoix normally contains carrots instead.

peeled prawns

To make a prawn stock, twist the heads off the bodies, pull out the black vein that runs down the spine (it’s easy, most of the time, to grab when the head comes off) and peel off the shells. Keep the prawns in the fridge after peeling.

prawn stock

Prawn Stock recipe:

the heads and shells from 1lb (500g) prawns (or shrimp)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
juice of a lemon
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs thyme
a squirt anchovy paste
a few black peppercorns
salt (to taste)
1 pint of water

Bring to a simmer, scoop off any foam, put the lid on and cook gently for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, allow to cool and strain into a jug. Don’t add the salt (to taste) until the stock is cooked.

venison rubbed with cajun seasoning

Venison and Prawn Filé Gumbo recipe (serves 4):

600g venison (cut into bite sized pieces)
500g andouille sausage (sliced)
500g raw prawns (or shrimps)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 red hot chilli pepper (deseeded and chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
5 tomatoes (grated)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 lb okra (sliced)
2 heaped teaspoons goose fat
1/2 cup of pork fat (from cooking a shoulder of pork)
extra virgin olive oil (as necessary)
1 cup of plain flour
1 pint of prawn stock
2 dessertspoonfuls Cajun seasoning: 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a pinch of fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (picante) – all mixed together (I make a big jarful of this every year or so)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)
2 dessertspoonfuls of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
2 or 3 teaspoonfuls of Tabasco Sauce
a squirt of anchovy paste (to taste)
a splash or two of red wine vinegar (to taste)

to serve:

1 cup brown basmati rice per person (or your preferred rice)
1/2 teaspoon gumbo filé powder per person
a sprinkle of coriander

First of all, rub the diced venison with Cajun Seasoning and an additional teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Cover the meat and leave in the fridge overnight so the spices permeate.

venison browning

Take the venison out of the fridge 2 hours before cooking, so that it comes to room temperature. Using a large cast iron casserole, brown the meat in some olive oil. Do this in stages rather than crowding the meat. Remove the browned venison to a plate.


Next brown the sliced andouille and reserve.

pig fat

Once the meat is done, add the pork fat and two heaped teaspoons of goose fat to the pan. Most types of fat will do – olive oil and butter are commonly used.


Stir the flour into the hot oil – to make a good Cajun style roux, you will need to keep stirring or it will burn. If it burns you’ll need to throw it away and start again! I do this on a hot flame and stir furiously for about 15 – 20 minutes. Initially, there’s very little change in colour, but when it does go, it can be quite quick – I am inclined to turn the heat down a little when this happens, to slow it down a bit. After a minute or two the flame goes back up again. This stage is hard work and requires a good arm and lots of concentration. A chocolate brown roux tastes biscuity, a bit like well cooked pastry.


Once you have a decent looking roux of the desired colour, turn off the heat for a few minutes before stirring in a holy trinity of onion, celery, pepper and garlic – with the gas back on low, cook for a few minutes.


I went Creole as opposed to Cajun, by grating in 5 tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and grate the wet side until you are left with a disk of tomato skin in your hand. Dispose of the skin or save it for stock.


Sprinkle on the chopped coriander.


Return the venison to the pot with two bay leaves and pour on the prawn stock.


Cook the venison in the gumbo, with the lid on, for 90 minutes at 160ºC (ideally in the oven, but the hob will do).


Chop the okra and add it to the gumbo along with the andouille.

andouille and okra

Adjust the seasoning and cook for a couple of hours more at 120º C.

smother the prawns

Cook the rice and add the raw prawns to the gumbo 5 minutes before serving (while the rice is resting) and smother them with the sauce.


As soon as the prawns turn pink the gumbo is ready.
Ordinarily a gumbo made with okra (which has thickening properties when cooked) doesn’t need the addition of filé powder (which comes from grinding the leaves of the sassafras tree). However, okra is seasonal, so expect to find it used more often during summer and autumn (fall). Ground sassafras leaves also have thickening properties plus a subtle flavour, but should be added at the end of cooking, because over time (with heat), the texture becomes stringy. The French word filé actually means yarn or thready.  So, if you expect to have gumbo leftovers, sprinkle a teaspoon into the bottom of your serving bowls (not the cooking vessel) and let the gumbo stand for a minute or two before eating. This way you achieve flavour and thickness without string. For the uninitiated, filé imparts a subtle sweetness reminiscent of flowers and it does taste very good with okra.

andouille, prawns and venison

The traditional accompaniment to gumbo is rice, which can make the dish go further if unexpected guests arrive, as can more stock. Gumbo can be severed thick like stew or thin like soup. Sprinkle a little chopped coriander (or parsley) on top for presentation. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Marqués de Aldeanueva (a Tempranillo from the Rioja region in Spain), with the gumbo.

The smell of the roux had me salivating and then roux plus prawn stock was …heavenly! It’s the taste and smell of the roux and seasoning that makes a gumbo!

Other gumbos.

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Paloma Rellena al Horno


Wood pigeon is vastly underrated in the UK. In town, the birds eat only the the best food – they particularly likes elder leaves and doze in the tree’s branches after stuffing themselves stupid, unlike their impoverished feral cousins who prefer fast food takeaways! In contrast to pheasant, which are bred and released, wood pigeon is totally free range and likes a natural diet!

Pigeon are classified as vermin, so you should be able to find them all year round. Farmers have a steady supply of them because pigeon love to eat seeds that have just been planted. You can see the late Archie Coates (a professional pigeon shooter employed by farmers) in action here and a discussion by Tom Payne  on why it’s important to control pigeon numbers – “A lot is different since Archie Coats’ heyday, but one thing remains constant – the threat to crops posed by pigeons.”


I found a very tempting Pigeon Andaluza recipe by Clarissa Dickson Wright (in her Game Cookbook), which contrasted and corresponded with a Perdices Rellenas a la Andaluza (Andalusian stuffed partridge) in Culinaria Spain. I’ve amalgamated the two recipes and changed things around considerably. Pigeon is quite popular in Southern Europe and quite rightly so – it’s delicious!

migas de pan

I buy decent brown sourdough bread and save the end pieces in the fridge. Every couple of weeks I chop if up and make croutons – these will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge and a year in the freezer. They also make delicious breadcrumbs when crushes with a mortar and pestle.

Stuffing (per bird):

2 slices jamón serrano (chopped)
2 anchovies (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons parsley (chopped)
a dessertspoon breadcrumbs


Chop up a couple of tinned anchovies (ideally in extra virgin olive oil),

jamón serrano

along with two slices of jamón serrano. In Spain you can buy tacos of very good jamón at a much lower prices than slices. The tacos are little lumps chopped off the ham bone when all the easy to carve meat has been used up.

el relleno

Mix the meat, fish, garlic and parsley, then stuff inside the pigeon. If you have the offal mix that in too! Seal the bird with a couple of toothpicks and rub with the olive oil from the anchovies.

Pigeon Andaluz (sufficient for 2 pigeon):

1 stuffed wood pigeon (per person) or any small game bird, such as quail or partridge
1 small onion (sliced)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
3 tomatoes (grated)
1 cup of chicken stock
a splash of sherry vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of non-pareilles capers (to serve)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley (to serve)

cebolla y pimiento verde

Rub some olive oil into an oven dish and lay sliced onion on the bottom. Put a layer of chopped green peppers on top.

ajo y tomate

Grate 3 tomatoes, mix in the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Spread the tomato on top of the green pepper.


Pour on 1 cup of chicken stock and a splash of sherry vinegar.

paloma rellena

Add the pigeon and roast in a preheated oven at 200º C for 45 minutes. Turn the bird/s every 15 minutes or so.


While the oven is on, poach some sliced potatoes to accompany the pigeon.

paloma rellena al horno

When done, sprinkle with capers and chopped parsley. Serve with the above potatoes and a glass of Palomo Cojo (lame pigeon) Verdejo from Reuda.

This is to die for and packed with umami!

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Fideuà Negra

fideuà negra

Fideuà is a seafood pasta dish which originally comes from Gandia in Valencia. According to legend, Fideuà was created by Gabriel Rodriguez Pastor, a cook on a fishing boat and his assistant Joan Batiste Pascual (known as Zabalo), in 1915. Apparently they often cooked paella for the sailors onboard ship, but the captain loved rice and was greedy – he always ate the lion’s share. In an attempt to share the food out equally, the cooks swapped the rice for pasta (fideos), in the hope that the captain would like the noodles less. Unfortunately, fideuà proved to be a big hit with the skipper – bad news for the crew, but a new dish was born. Like paella, fideuà has become an incredibly popular lunchtime dish on the coast of Valencia and Cataluña (no doubt elsewhere in Spain too), often as a  starter on a menú del dia.

cuttlefish ink

I previously posted my version of the most common type of fideuà dish found in Spain, but there’s also a less well known black version made with squid or cuttlefish ink. This thickens the sauce and adds a hint of the sea. The ink can be extracted from squid or cuttlefish at home, but it can also be found in sachets and jars at good fishmongers and some supermarkets.


Fideos are short pieces of pasta with the thickness of vermicelli or angel hair. The above are the kind of noddles most often found in restaurant fideuà. You can crunch up vermicelli to make 1 inch (2.5cm) fideos and in America, fideos are available in Mexican shops – used in making soup. There are several types of fideuà on sale in Spanish supermarkets, including Fideos No 2 which are like a tiny macaroni with a hollow centre to collect the sauce. Fideuà is the Catalan spelling – in Spanish the accent points the other way (fideuá).


1/2 kg raw mussels
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
a glass of dry white wine
a pinch ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

ajo, cebolla y perejil

This is a very quick and easy way of cooking mussels. Rinse the molluscs under a cold tap, just before cooking – remove their beards and scrape off anything on the outside of the shell. Don’t soak them in water beforehand, it kills them! Tap the mussels and discard any that refuse to close. Using a large saucepan with lid, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and a little black pepper before pouring on a glass of dry white wine. Bring to a simmer, add the mussels, put the lid on, agitate and turn the heat down.


The mussels will steam and open when done (from 2 – 5 minutes). Allow the mussels to cool and remove them from their shells. Reserve the cooking liquid and add it to the fish stock.

caldo de pescados

Do cook your own fish stock if you have access to heads and bones, otherwise a good fishmonger will normally sell it in jars.

Fish Stock:

3 fish heads and bones
1 onion (roughly chopped)
6 cloves garlic
2 carrots (quartered)
2 sticks celery (quartered)
a large tomato (quartered)
2 bay leaves
a teaspoon of fennel seeds
a few sprigs thyme
a handful of fresh parsley
a level teaspoon black peppercorns
sea salt (to taste)
a glass of white wine
2 pints water
extra virgin olive oil

Brown the fish, pour on the wine, add the vegetables, herbs and water. Bring to a simmer skim off any foam and cook gently for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and strain.

Fideuà recipe (serves 4):

400g fideuà
2 pints fish stock
3 medium squid (sliced into rings)
5 large prawns (de-veined)
1/2 kg cooked mussels
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a green pepper (chopped)
3 tomatoes (grated)
a glass of dry white wine
30g squid ink (about 6 sachets)
a dessertspoon fresh parsley (chopped) plus a teaspoon for decoration
extra virgin olive oil
allioli to serve

Fideuà is a fairly simple and straightforward dish to prepare, but requires constant attention, therefore I recommend getting everything ready in advance.

fideos tostado

First, pour plenty of olive oil into a hot pan and add the fideuà. Stir vigorously for 4 or 5 minutes until the pasta has browned all over. It tends to crackle a bit when golden. Remove to plate.

Fideuà is cooked in a paella pan, called a paella. This is a wide but shallow cast iron frying pan with handles on either side, ideal for cooking outdoors over a wood fire which provides a smokey flavour. Ideally, like paella, fideuà should be cooked out of doors, using a wood fire, though many Spanish people have special gas hobs with an inner and outer ring of flames. The inner ring is lit to cook the fish and vegetables and the outer ring is lit to reduce the stock. However, the largest gas ring, on a normal hob will suffice.


Turn the gas ring to the middle setting and cook the prawns in a little olive oil until they go pink. Remove and set aside for later.


Cook the onions in the middle of the pan – keep them moving until they take some colour and add more oil if the pan is dry.

pimento verde

Move the onion outwards and add the green pepper to the centre.


When the pepper has had a few minutes, move the vegetables to the outside of the pan (which is cooler), while you fry the squid  in the middle – until it takes a slight pink colour (4 or 5 minutes).


Again, mix and move everything outwards – grate in 3 medium tomatoes (ideally soft ones) – cut in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin.

ajo y perejil

Cook the tomato for a minute or two before sprinkling on the garlic and parsley.


After 3 or 4 minutes, return the fideuà to the pan and mix well with the other ingredients.


Combine with the precooked mussels.

fish stock

Have the fish stock hot and ready before pouring into the paella, along with the dry white wine – up to the nails (rivets on the handles).

tinta de sepia

Mix in the cuttlefish ink, so that the fideuà looks an oil tanker disaster. Have a quick taste to check the seasoning, then do not stir again!

black noodles

On an open fire or Spanish paella hob, the stock reduction and absorption takes about 5 minutes. With a domestic hob it takes 8 – 10 minutes. When you can see that the liquid has reduced, but there’s still a little below the noodles, reduce the heat to half way. Cook for a further 5 minutes. When it looks like the stock has been absorbed, turn off the gas. Put the wrong end of a spoon into the pan to check if you have any doubts. If you get the faintest whiff of burning it’s definitely done – do not cook further!


Place the cooked prawns on top of the fideuà.


Cover the paella pan with newspaper to allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes. Newspaper absorbs humidity, whereas foil keeps it in and it will drip back down into the food. Don’t leave it longer, or it will get too dry.


While waiting, mix up some allioli, to serve on the side.


Fideuà is a lunchtime dish and should be served at the table with a wooden spoon. Ideally it should stick slightly to the bottom of the pan to form a socarrat. The squid was melt in the mouth tender and had a very pleasant and lasting taste of the sea with a hint of fennel. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Calamar, Vino Blanco, Rueda Verdejo with the fideuà.

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Corzo al Chilindrón

corzo al chilindrón

Chilindrón is a typical stew from Aragón, a mountainous Spanish region with the Pyrenees to the north and Cataluña to the East. Back in 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV (Count of Barcelona) married Petronilla of Aragon, and created a major medieval sea power. The Kingdom of Aragon ruled over Valencia, the Balearic Islands, two thirds of Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia,  for several hundred years. Parts of southern France, Navarre and Athens were also included in this empire at certain times. During the 15th Century, Ferdinand II Aragon married Isabella I of Castile, which was effectively the birth of modern Spain.

A chilindrón is a type of stew containing onions, sweet peppers, pimentón and jamón serrano, which is often cooked using lamb or chicken. The hearty flavour of the ingredients makes chilindrón ideal for game, such as roe deer (corzo) or wild board (jabalí) – both of which are common in the Pyrenees. I read in Culinaria Spain, that chilindrón dates back to the time of the Moors, though if that’s true the flavour would have been completely different because capsicum, pimentón and tomatoes all came back from the Americas with Columbus, who was sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella. It’s worth noting that the neighbouring northern regions of Navarre (at certain points in history, Navarre was ruled by the crown of Aragón) and Pais Vasco also lay claim to chilindrón and it is often cooked with dried choricero peppers.

Receta de Corzo al Chilindrón (serves 4:

650g diced venison
150g jamón serrano
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
3 medium to large juicy tomatoes (grated)
3 sweet red peppers (cut in strips)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
2 bay leaves
1 large glass or red wine
a couple of splashes red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
chopped parsley (to garnish)

Chop the venison into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper – allow to come to room temperature before cooking.


Pat the meat dry and brown slightly in plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Remove to a plate.


Gently poach a large chopped onion in the same oil until soft and sticky – add more olive oil if necessary.


Stir in the garlic and grate on three medium to large, juicy tomatoes (discard the skin).

pimientos rojos

Slice three red peppers lengthways, discarding the stalks and seeds. Mix these into the pot. I saw a recipe which comments on the use of sweet peppers in chilindrón. Some recipes stipulate red or green peppers, while others use both. Mike Randolph states that his Aragonese great grandmother used whichever peppers were available at the time. So early in the year green, progressing to red later on.

jamón serrano

Chop up 150g jamón serrano (air dried mountain ham – prosciutto is similar) and add it to the chilindrón.


The venison can go back in too.

pimentón y vino

Pour in a large glass of red wine (use white for chicken) a splash of red wine vinegar, sprinkle on the pimentón and add two bay leaves.


Cover and cook in the oven at 160º C for two hours, or until the venison is tender. The same applies for lamb, though chicken will only take about 60 minutes. Check the seasoning before dishing up.


Sprinkle with parsley and serve with sliced and gently fried potatoes or rice and a glass of Teta de Vaca (cow’s teat) from the Calatayud DO wine region in Aragón.

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Cocido Montañés

mountain stew

Mountain Stew comes from Cantabria and is said to date back to the 17th Century. Cantabria is a mountainous region on the north Atlantic coast and it may be in Spain, but it can get very cold and wet. Cocido Montañés is quite specifically a stew which acts as, “El mejor remedio para olvidarte del frío que hace” – the best remedy to forget how cold it is! April has been unseasonably cold this year and so far it’s continuing into May, so a Cocido Montañés is absolutely perfect to blow the cobwebs away.


Originally, Cocido Montañés was called cabbage stew, but in 1966 the director of tourism for Santander (the city, not the bank), José Luís Herreros, sought to rename it, as a regional stew, like Cocido Madrileño (from Madrid) or Fabada Asturiana (from Asturias). After this Cocido Montañés could be found on the menus of most Cantabrian and many Spanish restaurants.

carne de cerdo en adobo

A typical Cocido Montañés contains pork ribs and belly (called panceta in Spanish) which has been marinated – en adobo. Meat, commonly pork, was preserved en adobo, with wine vinegar, pimentón, olive oil, garlic and herbs before the advent of refrigeration. I imagine that one would go out to the shed and pull a few pieces out of the adobo barrel and throw them into the cooking pot. See my recipe here for a traditional Spanish adobo, which is easy to put together and the meat can be marinated in it overnight, while the beans are soaking. The meat should be wiped to remove most of the marinade, which doesn’t go into the cooking pot (in this recipe). There is however, no reason why it can’t be used in some other cooking within a few days (mine was added to leftover roast pork to make another warming stew).

Receta de Cocido Montañés (serves 4):

300g pork ribs (adobada)
300g pork belly (adobada)
2 chorizo picante (soft for cooking)
2 morcilla (black puddings)
300g dried alubias blancas (haricot/navy beans)
1 large onion
2 sweet peppers (capsicum)
2 carrots
2 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)
7 large cabbage leaves (cut into ribbons)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Optional ingredients (some might say essential) are a pig’s trotter and/or a pig’s ear.

judías blancas

Soak the beans overnight, for at least 12 hours.

alubias y verduras

Rinse the beans and add to a large cast iron casserole, with water to cover (by about 3 fingers). Peel and cut the onion in half, cut the peppers in half (remove the pips) and add them, along with the carrots to the pot of beans. Bring to the boil and scoop off any white foam from the top of the water. Simmer for 90 minutes.


Peel and cube the potatoes – mix them in.


Put the marinated ribs and pork belly on top.


Cut the cabbage leaves into strips, but throw away the stems (or feed them to the pigs). These go above the meat to steam.

berza al vapor

Simmer with the lid on for a further 30 minutes.

verduras mezcladas

Remove the carrots, onions and sweet peppers along with several cups of cooking liquid. Blitz with a blender – one could also mash up the vegetables with a mortar and pestle.

cocido con verduras

Stir the blended vegetables back into the stew to thicken it.


Add the chorizo and morcilla. Cook gently, with the lid on, for another 30 minutes.


Chop 6 cloves of garlic and fry gently in extra virgin olive oil.

ajo y pimentón

As soon as it starts to look golden brown round the edges, remove to a mortar and pestle with the oil and a heaped teaspoon of pimentón de la Vera dulce (mild). Grind to a lumpy  paste.


Remove the meat and sausages  from the stew. Stir in the garlic paste, cut the meat into bite sized chunks and return to the pot.

cocido montañés

Check the seasoning and serve with a glass of orujo, which will put hairs on your chest and the cold is forgotten!

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Venison and Kidney Pudding

suet pudding

I bought some venison at the farmer’s market on Sunday and mentioned to the game man, that I was thinking of making a venison and kidney pudding. Quick as a flash, he handed me a pair of venison kidneys and said, “Put these in your bag, they’ll be lovely.” After that I had to make a suet pudding!

Suet is a protective hard fat that forms around the kidneys of most large animals. When rendered (purified), suet has a high melting point with a mild smell and taste, which makes it perfect for making a light fluffy pastry or dumplings. Dishes such as steak and kidney pudding, spotted dick, jam roly poly, plum pudding (which has become known as Christmas pudding), etc. were traditionally wrapped and steamed in a cloth, in the days before people had ovens. Steaming took place above the cooking pot, where the daily soup, stew or gruel was being made. All the above dishes were particularly popular in the Victorian era and can be found in the recipe books of Mrs. Beeton and Eliza Acton.

Moving on to slightly more modern times, once cookers became normal in every kitchen, people adapted steamed puddings, so that they could be cooked in a glass or ceramic bowl, in a saucepan of boiling water. Many people in Britain still steam Christmas Pudding this way annually, on 25th December. Some commercial suet puddings are produced in cans – these were an absolute staple of post war Britain. The use of animal fats got a bad reputation for being unhealthy during the latter half of the 20th Century, but this has largely been disproved and over the last 20 years, butter, lard and suet have made a big comeback.

Steak and Kidney has become synonymous with British pies and puddings, but any unctuous stew could be used as a filling – kidneys are not obligatory. A steamed suet pudding is a sight to behold as well as being incredibly delicious – it could be described as the ultimate comfort food! But don’t just take my word for it, Calum Franklin has people queuing up for his delightful puddings and pies at the Holborn Dining Room – I’ve been lucky enough to have eaten three of his meat puddings (not in one sitting) and they are outstanding!

venison kidneys

Venison and Kidney Pudding recipe (serves 3):

350g wild venison (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 or 3 kidneys (venison or lamb) (cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 medium onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 small carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
6 mushrooms (chopped)
1 dessertspoon fresh parsley (chopped)
2 bay leaves
a dessertspoon tomato purée
a large squeeze anchovy paste
1 large glass red wine
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
a splash of sherry (fino)
1/4 pint chicken or game stock
2 dessertspoons plain flour
a level teaspoon English mustard powder
a few turns sea salt cracked black pepper

butterflied kidney

Remove the thin membrane on the outside of the kidneys – it should peel off easily. Slice in half lengthways and remove the white fat and membrane core. Chop the venison and kidneys into bite sized pieces.

seasoned flour

Dredge both meats in 2 dessertspoons plain flour, mixed with a level teaspoon English mustard powder, sea salt and cracked black pepper.

kidneys browning

Lightly brown the kidneys

venison browning

followed by the venison, in some hot extra virgin olive oil. Do this in batches or the meat will poach and go sticky. Remove to a plate when done.

onion and bacon

Fry the onion in the same pan and oil. Any flour stuck to the bottom will eventually come free and add flavour to the dish. When the onions have taken some colour, add the chopped bacon.


After a few minutes stir in the carrot, celery and garlic.


Next the mushrooms go in, along with the anchovy paste and tomato purée.


Return the meat with the parsley, pour on a glass of wine, allowing the alcohol to burn off for a few minutes.


Stir in the stock, 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, taste and add more vinegar or seasoning if necessary. Cover the casserole and braise for 2 hours in a preheated oven at 160º C.

pie filling

On tasting after 2 hours, I thought it needed a little sweetener and added a splash of Fino Sherry, which was perfect! Allow to cool completely before making the pudding.

Suet Pastry:

350g plain four (sifted)
175g fresh suet
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 sprigs thyme (just the leaves)
a pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
100 – 150 ml cold water

Do use fresh suet if you can find it – it’s available from some butchers and definitely online. If not, there is a cheap commercial suet product called Atora (since 1893) which can be found in most UK supermarkets. Atora is remarkably natural, being made up of 85% pre-shredded beef suet and 15% wheat flour. While being a British product, the name Atora is derived from toro, the Spanish word for bull. Suet has a high meting point, so as the pudding steams, the pieces of suet melt  at 45º – 50º C which produces fluffy holes in the pastry.

suet pastry

Sift the flour, baking powder, mustard and salt into a large basin and mix in the thyme and suet. Pour in a little water at a time and work the dough with a table knife. When the dough comes together start to use your hands and knead. Keep working the dough until it is smooth but not sticky – the bowl should be fairly clean.


Pinch off a quarter of the dough and save to make a lid. Push out a circle of dough (on a floured surface) with your fingers and knuckles – about 12 cm in diameter, a bit like a pizza (do use a rolling pin if you wish). Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and fold in half.

pastry in pudding basin

Round the folded edge with your hands, unfold and gently lower into a well buttered 1 litre pudding basin.

fitted pastry

Mould the pastry into the shape of the bowl and trim off the overhang. This is much easier with suet pasty than pastry made with butter, which is brittle.


Fill the pastry with the cold venison and kidney mixture (hot filling melts the fat in pastry), leaving about a 2 cm gap at the top.


Fold down the edges onto the filling and moisten with water.

pastry lid

Use your fingers to make a circle of dough from the remaining pastry, which will form a lid.


Push the lid onto the wet pastry to seal.


Butter a piece of greaseproof paper to go on top (butter side down) and give it a small pleat – the pudding will expand while cooking. Fold a large piece of aluminium foil in two (about 12 cm square) and give that a pleat too! Cover the greaseproof paper with the foil, on top of the pudding basin. Using a 1 metre long piece of string, tie the paper and foil lid around the lip of the basin. A tight butchers knot on two sides is good. Make a handle out of the leftover string, to lift the basin in and out of the steam. Step by step pictures here, at Prue Leith’s Cookery School.


Place the pudding basin into a steamer, or a deep saucepan (ideally stand the bowl on a trivet or a piece of crumpled foil, so it’s not in contact with the saucepan, which can cause it to crack) of boiling water. It is usual to immerse the basin about halfway deep in the boiling water – it will take longer if it sits above. Steam for about 2 hours (it’s not critical) – do check from time to time to see that the saucepan doesn’t boil dry.

steamed pudding

When done, loosen the edge of the pastry with a knife.

cut open

Turn out onto a warm plate. Cut and serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. You may require additional gravy. I recommend drinking a glass of Los Arráez Arcos vino tinto (a crianza from Valencia) with the venison pudding.

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