‘Nduja

‘nduja

‘Nuduja (pronounced ‘nduya) is an Italian pork salumi (cured sausage), made with pig’s head (but not cheeks – they are use for guanciale), shoulder and belly, plus salt, roasted red chilli peppers and spices. The mixture is squeezed into a pig’s intestine, which is tied up and smoked then left to cure for up to 2 years. ‘Nduja comes from Calabria in the south of Italy and takes it’s name from French Andouille and the Angevins who ruled the region in the 13th Century. Add the letter “A” to ‘nduja and swap the “J” for two “L”s and the names become more alike, but that’s where the similarity ends. Later, probably when Calabria was ruled by the Crown of Aragon (sponsors of Columbus’ voyage to the New World) chilli peppers were brought back to Europe, and the Calabrians added them to their ‘nduja, which became a unique salumi in it’s own right.

‘Nduja is a soft, spreadable salumi and looks a lot like sobrasada from the Balearic Islands (also part of the Aragonese empire, back in the day), however, the taste is completely different. Sobrasada has a very strong salty pimentón flavour to it, whereas ‘nduja has a hot chilli taste that’s more fiery, less smokey and will put hair on your chest!

I came across ‘nduja a couple of years ago in my local pizzeria, Saponara, where they use it in their picante pizza – I like it so much I’ve never gotten round to trying another topping, so when I came across the salumi whole, at my butcher’s, I had to have one!

spread on toast

So what does one do with a 1lb salumi? Firstly cut a bit off and spread it on crusty bread or toast, like paté – it will burn your tongue and palate and then you’ll crave more! Next, take a tip from the Italians and add some ‘nduja to pasta sauce.

‘Nduja Ragu recipe (serves 4):

1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 red or green pepper (chopped)
1 courgette (chopped)
5 medium tomatoes (grated) or a tin
6 mushrooms (chopped)
a handful of aceitunas (green olives stuffed with anchovies)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
a 1 inch slice of nduja
1 teaspoon of rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), coarse sea salt and black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
2 bay leaves
a dessertspoonful of tomato purée
a large squirt of anchovy paste
a splash red wine vinegar
a slug of extra virgin olive oil for frying

sliced ‘nduja

Start by frying the onion in olive oil until it goes translucent. Add the chopped streaky bacon and let it change colour. Meanwhile, slice off about an inch (2.5cm) of ‘nduja and remove the outer casing. Note the visible pieces of red pepper in the slice above.

bacon, onion and ‘nduja

Break off little chunks of the salumi into the bacon and onion.

stirred in

The ‘nduja will melt in the pan and mix in with the other ingredients. Next add garlic, courgette and the red or green pepper, followed by mushrooms and grated tomato. Sprinkle on the ground herbs, two bay leaves, squeeze in the tomato purée and anchovy paste along with a splash of red wine vinegar.

aceitunas

Give the mixture a good stir before adding a handful of aceitunas verdes rellenas de anchoa (olives stuffed with anchovies).

‘nduja ragù

Cook on a low heat for 20 – 30 minutes and serve with pasta and grated parmesan.

‘Nuduja Pizza recipe:

marinara

Having a good supply of ‘nduja gave me lots of opportunity to experiment, so I used some for home made pizza. Above, I made a marinara type sauce with 6 large tomatoes (blanched and peeled), chopped garlic, basil leaves, red wine vinegar a squirt of tomato purée and anchovy paste, plus an inch of ‘nduja broken up and stirred in.

‘nduja pizza

Bake the base blind (5 minutes at the bottom of a very hot oven), for a more crispy artesanal style pizza. Brush the hot dough with marinara and a topping of your choice. I used chorizo slices, mozzarella and kalamata olives. Bake the pizza on the bare bars of the oven, towards the bottom, for 30 – 40 minutes or until it has browned nicely.

rabbit and ‘nduja

…and I also cooked an ‘nduja and rabbit stew with dried broad beans, using this recipe. I broke yet another inch of ‘nduja in with the translucent onions, instead of chorizo, then skipped the pimentón and swapped the broad beans (pre soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker) for chickpeas.

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Rabbit with Chorizo and Chickpeas

rabbit and chorizo

Rabbit is not an indigenous British species, it’s thought that they were brought here from mainland Europe by the Romans or Normans, to farm for meat and fur.

raw rabbit

Wild rabbit meat is low in fat and cholesterol and it will have been gorging on the very best vegetables. Spring is an ideal time to take advantage of the farmer’s revenge, when rabbit is cheap at the market.

Rabbit with Chorizo and Chickpeas recipe (serves 3 hungry people):

1 rabbit (jointed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1/2 chorizo picante ring (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
250g dried chickpeas
1 pint game stock (chicken would make a good substitute)
a glass of red wine
a splash sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon pimentón de la vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera picante
a dessertspoon of tomato purée
a large squeeze anchovy paste
a pinch of crushed chilli
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for frying

chopped rabbit

Joint the rabbit, so that you have about 8 pieces. Season with a little salt and pepper, a couple of hours before cooking and take the meat out of the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature.

rabbit browning

Lightly dredge the rabbit pieces in seasoned flour and brown in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Don’t crowd the cooking vessel – do the frying in several batches if necessary. When the meat has taken some colour, remove to a plate until later.

bacon, chorizo and onion

Fry the onion in the rabbit olive oil and when it goes translucent stir in the chorizo and bacon, with a pinch of crushed chilli.

pimiento rojo

When the onions start to go orange from the pimentón in the chorizo, add the garlic and carrot, followed by the red pepper.

grated tomato

Next slice 4 tomatoes in half and grate the cut side into the pan. You should be left with eight disks of tomato skin, which can be disposed of. Stir in the pimentón dulce and picante, followed by the tomato purée and anchovy paste.

pimentón in stock

Mix in the leftover flour to make a roux before pouring on half the stock, red wine and sherry vinegar. The bay leaves go in now too!

rabbit in stock

Return the rabbit pieces to the pan and pour on a bit more stock to cover.

chickpeas

Stir the chickpeas in next – I pre-soaked and cooked mine in a pressure cooker, but you could use tinned. If necessary top up the liquid with a little more stock and add a few sprigs of thyme.

rabbit and chickpeas

Cover and simmer gently on the hob or in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the rabbit is tender to the fork. Check the seasoning and uncover for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

conejo y garbanzos

Serve with crusty sourdough bread or toast spread with some roasted garlic. A robust red wine, such as Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva Valdepeñas, makes a great accompaniment to the rabbit and chorizo.

…and do raise your glass to Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018).

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Piebury Corner

piebury corner

My friend Oli is in London this week, so on Wednesday we met up at the King Charles I and went on a group outing to an award winning pie shop.

Piebury Corner came about in 2011, when Paul and Nicky started selling home made pies to Arsenal supporters (en route to the football ground) from their front garden. I remember bumping into Paul (with Oli) at the Owl at the Pussycat, back then and he was talking about opening a shop. The first full time Piebury Corner opened on Holloway Road (in what had once been an old fashioned pie and mash shop) in 2012. This proved to be so successful that they opened a second Piebury Corner (pictured above) in King’s Cross last summer (June 2017).

piebury bar

Piebury Corner isn’t just a modern pie and mash shop, a considerable effort has been made to stock the bar with local craft beers, fine wines …and even cocktails.

piebury window

The decor is impressive too! The floor is black and white check and Paul has set cast iron coal hole covers into the tiles, which he copied (with moulds) from local streets. I love the tables too – hand covered with zinc – Paul is a joiner by trade.

piebury menu

Piebury Corner does an excellent, lunchtime, set menu for £8.50. There’s a choice of pie, plus potato/minty peas and gravy or scotch egg, salad/potatoes and spicy coleslaw. There were five of us, so we did get a bit carried away, with pies and side orders. The full Piebury Corner menu is here.

classic scotch egg

First to arrive were the scotch eggs, which we cut up and shared. Above is the excellent classic pork version

black pudding scotch egg

and my favourite, made with black pudding, had a fantastic crunch to the breadcrumb surround. Oddly, the scotch egg was created by Fortnum and Mason of Piccadilly in 1738 and not somebody in Scotland. Apparently these scotch eggs are made by the same supplier as those going to Buckingham Palace – Paul says, “If they’re good enough for the Queen they’re good enough for us, and you!”

merlot

We’d drunk a few ales at the pub beforehand, so I was pleased when Peter ordered a bottle of French Merlot – more room for pies! That didn’t stop Dave and Oli though, they were only too happy to try the craft beers.

scotch pie

Next up came the Scotch pie – unlike the scotch egg, these pies do come from Scotland and they are often sold at football matches.

scotch pie cut open

The pie filling is generally mutton or lamb with black pepper and the pastry has a hot water crust. This pie had a lovely rich lamb flavour.

chicken, ham and leek

By this time our main courses started to arrive. Oli’s, above was a chicken, ham and leak with creamy mash, minty peas and red wine gravy. He was quite impressed with the pie and the lightness of the potato – no lumps!

minty peas

The minty peas are almost a mushy pea, but they are not mashed and contain a little bit of mint for extra flavour.

steak and ale pie

I had a the steak and ale pie, again with minty peas and red wine gravy. All the pies were unctuous and quite delicious!

morello cherry

We were all sated by our pie and mash, but when the waitress suggested morello cherry pie and 5 spoons (Mr. Creosote be damned), we said, “Yes!” The pie was perfectly sweet and tart – Agent Cooper would be happy here.

Who ate all the pies? I think we did today!

Piebury Corner is at: 3 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London, N1 9DX.

Afterwards, we took a little walk down the the road and somehow ended up back at the King Charles I. I can’t for the life of me work out where the pies went, but by 9 O’Clock we were hungry enough to visit Roti King

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Piel de Bacalao (cod skin)

piel de bacalao

Some time ago, while preparing a massive barbecue with Oli in Barcelona, I noticed an interesting crisp packet on the table and asked about the contents. Oli mentioned they were unusual and that I should take them home – he said, “They are really good if you break them up and sprinkle them on a fish soup, or similar.”

fishsnack’s

So I took the FishSnack’s Sabor Original home and put them in the cupboard.
A couple of weeks later, I decided to eat the FishSnack’s, before they disappeared into a black hole and six months passed their sell by date.

cod skin

I was somewhat surprised by the contents of the bag. Straightaway, I was hit by a smell of bacalaocod cured and dried with salt. The texture was pleasantly light and crispy and the taste was strongly salt and fishy – quite umami.

ingredients

I had been expecting a fish flavoured potato snack, but when I looked carefully at the ingredients, I discovered, cod skin fried in sunflower oil – nothing more! These won’t be to everyone’s taste, but they are probably the most unusual crispy snack I’ve had to date (other than spicy crickets) and no gluten, no artificial colours or cholesterol. OK, so there’s a fair bit of salt, but crispy snacks have to have something bad exciting going for them. These definitely go well with a drink!

piel

Bacalao, AKA salt cod will literally keep for years, perhaps even decades without spoiling. The technique of curing by air drying cod dates back to the Vikings, who it is said, gave the procedure to the Basques, along with directions to the Grand Banks off North America, where the sea was literally full of cod (one could practically dip a hand in the ocean and pull out a fish). Unlike Norsemen, the Basques had salt and perfected the art of salting, so perhaps there was some trade off. According to Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (by Mark Kurlansky), Basque fishermen were sailing across the Atlantic for 500 years before Columbus discovered America. It is said that the Basques kept their fishing grounds a secret and others who tried to follow them foundered on the way. Regardless, salt cod became an essential cheap staple (along with cured meat and sausage), in the centuries before refrigeration – all long journeys and voyages depended on food that would keep for the duration.

I’ve looked up FishSnack’s online and did come across some negative comments – they do smell strong and the flavour is intense, but I liked them – I will go and buy more the next time I’m in Spain and I definitely prefer them to Marmite!

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Gammon with Navy Beans

gammon with white beans

Gammon is the name for pork which has been cured by salting or brining – it can also be smoked. Meat was traditionally salted and smoked  to make it last longer, but with the advent of refrigeration, this is no longer necessary. However, since salt and smoke impart additional flavour, the curing process has continued. Essentially, the difference between gammon and ham, is that ham is cured and ready to eat, whereas gammon is cured, but requires cooking before eating. Gammon, like the word ham, comes from the French jambon, which in turn comes from the Late Latin word gamba, meaning leg (note the shape of Spanish gambas, the next time you eat tapas).

gammon soaking

Gammon is often more expensive than uncooked pork, but gammon knuckles are relatively unpopular and can be had cheap from a good butcher. Mine sells them for about £3.60, regardless of size. I’d intended to buy a smoked knuckle, but the unsmoked were double the size (about 2Kg), so I changed my mind. It’s customary to soak gammon overnight before cooking to remove some of the salt. When cooking gammon, it’s highly unlikely that you will require any additional salt.

Gammon with Navy Beans recipe (serves 4):

1 gammon knuckle (soaked overnight)
1 pig trotter (cut in two)
250g dried navy beans (soaked overnight) or a tin of the same
2 large onions (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (peeled and bruised)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
a few sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoonful smoked pimentón picante de la vera
1 teaspoonful smoked pimentón dulce de la vera
3 bay leaves
red wine vinegar
2 pints water
Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

navy beans

Soak the gammon and the beans overnight before cooking.

vegetables

In a large cast iron casserole, fry one of the onions (save the other for later) until it goes translucent, then stir in the celery, carrot and bruised garlic (the chopped garlic goes in later too).

ham trotter

Add the gammon and a pig’s trotter.

pig trotter

I got the butcher to chop my trotter in half.

ham and beans

The beans go in now too, along with the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. If using canned beans, it might be best to add them later – at the cooked gammon chopping up stage.

gammon cooking

Pour on two pints of water, bring to a simmer, put the lid on and cook gently for three hours, or until the gammon is quite tender and falling off the bone.

cooked ham

Remove the gammon and trotter, allow them to cool a little and skim off any fat and scum from the cooking liquid.

chopped gammon

When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the knuckle and trotter, chop it up and return it to the pot. You can use the gammon bone, skin and trotter for making stock – it’s surprising how much gelatine it will still contain. I put mine into a pressure cooker with stock vegetables, herbs, seasoning and water and got 3 pints of solid jelly stock (when cooled).

onion and pimentón

Meanwhile, fry the remaining chopped onion, until translucent, stir in the chopped garlic and both types of pimentón de la vera. Mix this into the gammon and beans with a splash of red wine vinegar.

bubbling

Let the ham and beans bubble away gently for another hour. Check the seasoning before serving with fresh sourdough bread or toast rubbed with raw garlic.

I recommend a robust red wine, such as Hereford Tempranillo from Argentina, to go with the dish.

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Cazuela de Conejo

cazuela de conejo

This is a typical Spanish Rabbit Casserole recipe, of which there are many – probably one for each autonomous region, if not each pueblo.

conejo

Rabbit itself is very much considered meat in Spain, unlike the UK where most people (these days) see it as a pet. It is said that the Carthaginians, arriving in Spain (around 300 BC), named the region Ispania (from Sphan meaning rabbit), land of rabbits, which later became Hispania under the Romans and España today.

cortado

Cazuela de Conejo recipe (feeds 3 – 4 people):

1 rabbit (jointed)
4 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 large carrots (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 large tomato (grated)
25 button mushrooms
1 pint of game stock (chicken is a good substitute)
a glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
a dessertspoon of tomato purée
a squeeze of anchovy paste
a pinch of crushed chilli
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), juniper berries, coarse sea salt and black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for frying

browning

Joint the rabbit and dust it in plain four and a teaspoonful of ground mixed herbs. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large cast iron casserole or Spanish terracotta cazuela (mine is sadly too big to fit in the oven) and brown the meat. Don’t overcrowd the pan, you can do this in a couple of batches. When the rabbit has taken a little colour, remove it to a plate.

bacon and onion

Using the same casserole, fry the onion until it goes translucent, then stir in the bacon and a pinch of crushed chilli. In Spain jamón is more often used then bacon, but they sell the offcuts cheap as tacos (small pieces or crumbs) in all the charcuterías (which they don’t do here).

zanahoria

When the bacon has browned a little, add the chopped carrots

pimiento rojo

and then the red pepper and garlic.

tomato

Cut the tomato in half and grate the flesh into the casserole – you should be left with two round pieces of skin, which you can discard.

setas

Stir in the button mushrooms, followed by the anchovy paste and the tomato purée along with any leftover seasoned four, to make a roux.

stock

Keep stirring while you mix in the red wine, red wine vinegar and game stock (chicken stock will do nicely as a substitute). Add a few sprigs of thyme and a couple of bay leaves to the liquid.

rabbit in stock

Return the bunny to the casserole, put the lid on and remove to a warm oven at about 150ºC for 90 minutes. Turn the rabbit pieces about half way through and taste the casserole after an hour and a half. Poke the rabbit with a fork to ensure it is tender, adjust the seasoning and return the dish to the oven, without a lid, for a final 30 minutes. Rabbit is less predictable than farmed meat, but I find that 2 hours of gentle cooking will normally soften it up nicely. Do look for smaller, younger rabbits to be on the safe side.

rabbit casserole

Serve the Cazuela de Conejo with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. A robust Spanish red, like Carta Roja Grand Reservada, will make a perfect accompaniment.

 

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Germans Gracia

germans gracia

I’d been asked to buy some Jamón for a friend in London, so on my last day, I went to Germans Gracia, a Xarcuteria located near to the friends I’ve been staying with in Barcelona – they buy all their charcuterie here.

window

Germans Gracia is a family run business, established in 1960, which has become so successful that they’ve opened several shops in and around Barcelona.

sausages

As you can see, the shop is full of embutidos (sausages) and cured meats from all over Spain).

cheese

There’s an extensive range of quesos (cheeses), note the tetilla (from Galicia on the Atlantic coast)

jamón pieces

and jamón – legs, shoulders, portions and slices.

interior left

Inside, every inch is crammed full

interior right

of the finest produce Cataluña and Spain have to offer.

jamón

Here’s the jamón I was after. Prices start at about €44 per kilo for jamón serrano, air dried mountain ham, made from white landrace pigs. The price goes up considerably for jamón ibérico, air died ham made from Iberian black pigs. Iberian ham is arguably, the finest in the world – the very best being jamón de bellota, from Iberian pigs which have been allowed to graze freely on a diet of acorns, wild herbs and grasses.

bellota window

Jamón de bellota contains a high concentration of oleic acid (55% plus), a major constituent in olive oil. The very best jamón de bellota can cost in excess of €250 per kilo!

Germans Gracia is at: C/ Torres i Amat 1, 08001 Barcelona.

Further info: I was interested by an article I saw recently, about an American pig farmer who has imported Iberian black pigs to Georgia and is feeding them local peanuts, as there are only a limited quantity of acorns to be had. Having tested the peanuts in Spain they have been found to contain a perfect match of fats and carbohydrates in comparison to the Spanish acorn.

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