Nettle and Pearl Barley Risotto

So, beyond some blackberries, I’ve never really been foraging before. But in my new house I live by Warley Woods, England’s largest community run park, a beautiful space with a lot of good wildlife and fauna. More importantly, just a nice place for a walk.

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I picked nettles. They are amazing. They’re like an earthy spinach, they’re incredibly abundant, they’re free, and they have precisely zero food miles, because you’ve got them yourself. Maybe 1 or 2 food miles if you live further from your park, to be fair.

Two words of advice for the intrepid food explorer. Firstly, wear thick gloves.  Latex gloves are not thick enough,  and I had a sore thumb all day. Secondly, don’t pick anything lower than a tall dog can cock it’s leg, for obvious reasons!

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A full plastic bag will get you about 150g of nettles, once you’ve stripped the leaves from the stalks, which is about twice what you need!

Ingredients

  • 75g Nettle leaves
  • 200g Pearl Barley
  • 1 small onion or a few shallots
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • Thyme
  • 50ml wine or white wine
  • About 2l chicken stock
  • 30g butter
  • 20g parmesan

Method

Get your prep done. Cut the garlic finely, dice your onions and cut the nettle leaves into rough strips, maybe half a centimetre wide.

In a large, heavy based pan, add a little oil over a low to medium heat, and sweat your garlic and onions for five minutes. When these are translucent, throw the pearl barley in too, and give it a good stir.

Pour in the wine, increasing the heat to a gentle boil, and stir, constantly as this reduces down.

When it’s pretty much boiled out, add enough stock to cover everything and season with the thyme, and some salt and pepper. . Continue stirring, more so as it boils out, and each time you run out, add enough to cover everything again and repeat the process. You’ll need to judge when it’s done by taste alone here. The pearl barley should be soft, but still a little more ‘al dente’ in the middle, and the last of the liquid should look like a creamy mess at the bottom of the pan.

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Remove from the heat, beat in the butter and parmesan, to up the creaminess factor, and then beat in the shredded nettles. If you’re greedy like me, top with some roast chicken breast, and enjoy with the rest of the bottle of wine!

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Now That’s What I Call Music 46

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Released-  24th July 2000

Music History

Metallica try to sue Napster, and much like with their music, try to deny that anything has changed since the 80’s. Eminem and Britney Spears have the two fastest selling albums of all time. Prince decides he wants to be called Prince again.

Me History

I went to Glastonbury. I saw David Bowie. I had a weird spiritual moment watching the Flaming Lips. It was amazing. I SAW DAVID BOWIE, or Jareth the Goblin King to use his real name.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were sent to the Bog of Eternal Stench, that track would be… Reach by S Club 7, but really there’s no mind blowers on here…

Track by Track Breakdown

Britney Spears –    “Oops!… I Did It Again”

Smacks a little of trying to hit the same ground as Baby One More Time less successfully. Thankfully, we know that there are at least two more brilliant pop songs to come from her yet.

S Club 7 – “Reach”

You know what? The purpose of this song is to be uplifting while saying nothing. Hearing it for the first time in at least a decade, my face is plastered with a big, blank grin. Therefore, I believe it’s successful in its aims.

Sonique – “It Feels So Good”

Another one I found very irritating at the time. Now I kind of like it’s faux dramatic, faux break beat feels. No denying she’s a great vocalist either.

Mary Mary –  “Shackles (Praise You)”

Gospel and autotune tinged R&B. Dame catchy. Also- autotune is becoming a thing. It’s going to remain for an irritatingly long time.

Samantha Mumba –  “Gotta Tell You”

Boring, 80s sounding and poorly enunciated. Leave it in 2000.

Gabrielle – “When a Woman”

You can see that she’s aiming for an I Say A Little Prayer feel here. Sadly, this appears to be a bridge too far for her talents.

Kylie Minogue“Spinning Around”

Absolute pop tune. Sadly marks the end of her weird period, working with Nick Cave and the Manic Street Preachers. Still a great song though.

Tom Jones and Mousse T“Sex Bomb”

An amusing novelty. But compare this song’s blatancy to the gloriously euphemistic What’s New Pussycat. It’s not even fit to lick it’s shoes clean.

Bloodhound Gang –   “The Bad Touch”

Sometimes you want cleverly stuctured, joyful pop. But sometimes you just want to remember boobs and bums are funny. A timeless reminder of the latter. With its own dance routine.

Shania Twain –  “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”

Kill it, kill it!

Billie Piper“Day and Night”

A faded photocopy of a Britney Spears song. Derivative and dissapointing.

Louise –  “2 Faced”

Stronger than you’d expect. It has a maudlin undertone which sets it apart from a standard pop filler.

Aaliyah“Try Again”

Another creeping and brilliant Tmbaland production. Will never tire of hearing him impersonate scratching by saying ‘Frikkyfrikkyfrikky’ in the background.

NSYNC – “Bye Bye Bye”

Okay, jittery pop song. Furthering my theory that Justin Timberland is a kind of reverse Samson. Once his hair is removed, he will become brilliant.

Damage“Ghetto Romance”

If it had just a bit more of a direction, a touch of purpose, it’d be a great pop R&B track.

Steps –  “When I Said Goodbye”

Steps 101. Big silly pop songs good. Ballads bad. You can predict every second of this from the title.

Stephen Gately – “New Beginning”

I was all ready with a bad review, but this is actually surprisingly good for a solo single from a boyband member. An 80s style big ballad.

Backstreet Boys –  “The One”

I think they were short a single on this album. All filler.

Moby –  “Porcelain”

Relentlessly pleasant background music.

Coldplay“Yellow”

I didn’t know who this was by. It was only happening past them at lunchtime on the Other Stage at Glastonbury that I thought, ‘Oh it’s Coldplay! They could be a moderately successful mid level indie band. The new Cast maybe.’ Which is possibly why my career in A&R took off.

Richard Ashcroft –  “A Song for the Lovers”

His only proper solo song that comes near his best. A shame. If you’ve ever heard Lonely Soul by UNCLE, you’ll know how much potential there was in a solo record.

Black Legend“You See the Trouble with Me”

70s soul and French house are perfect bedfellows.

Spiller & Sophie Ellis-Bextor – “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”

Overplayed to the point of horror. Trying to remove myself from that, it has I good disco backing, but it’s just so safe it almost doesn’t exist.

Darude –  “Sandstorm”

A dance track so iconic that it almost can’t be played anymore. If you said sing an iconic bit of dance music from the turn of the century, at least 51 out of 100 people would go, ‘d-d-d-d-derr, dada d-d-d-d-derr’ to this very tune. It earned it.

York“O.T.B. (On the Beach)”

You kids these days. You think waiting interminably for the drop is a new thing? It’s older than Facebook and YouTube bruh.

Marc Et Claude“I Need Your Lovin’ (Like the Sunshine)”

This gets covered alarmingly regularly! Go back to the Baby D version. This is such an obvious mix of trance tropes, it makes a gurning Mancunian appear every time you listen to it.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood“The Power of Love” (Rob Searle Club Mix)

Unnecessary remix. But face it, this song is properly bulletproof.

Different Gear vs. The Police – “When the World Is Running Down (You Can’t Go Wrong)”

Surprisingly, the suspended 4th chords of The Police, and Sting’s voice both lend themselves to a bit of minimal house. An unexpected hit!

Southside Spinners“Luvstruck”

Simple but effective house. Nice juddering synths.

Alice DeeJay“Will I Ever”

Time is leaving Alice DeeJay’s mid 90s trance sound behind.

Angelic – “It’s My Turn”

Just all a bit underwhelming. Hits various dance bases, but does nothing with it.

Rank 1“Airwave”

And again. This just meanders on to a finish.

B-15 Project featuring Crissy D and Lady G“Girls Like Us”

Very okay. Like somebody has used an automatic garage tune generator.

Lonyo“Summer of Love”

I hate it when the title accurately predicts the song… but it does have a great chorus! And a self aware video.

MJ Cole“Crazy Love”

I’m much more at the harder MC led end of garage. But this isn’t too bad.

DJ Luck & MC Neat featuring JJ –  “Masterblaster 2000”

If you’re going to mess with Stevie Wonder, you need to get it right. Luck and Neat clearly knew this!

Tru Faith & Dub Conspiracy“Freak like Me”

Almost as good as a Sugababes song which should arrive shortly!

Jamelia“Call Me”

Similar to, but nowhere near as good as her last single.

Vengaboys“Uncle John from Jamaica”

Vengaboys joke has run out of steam. Now they’re just like Boney M minus all their charm.

Fe-m@il – “Flee Fly Flo”

Regular readers know I like an idiotic song. But this is a warning from history of how not to do it.

Scooch – “For Sure”

Glorious good bad pop. No artistic merit, but hits every possible base of silly enjoyment.

Atomic Kitten –  “I Want Your Love”

Does this sample the theme from Black Beauty? If so, all credit to Kerry Katona, clearly barmy long before Heat magazine cottoned on!

Steps –  “Deeper Shade of Blue”

Two swings and two misses. A dance remix cannot save this song from deep mediocrity.

Final Verdict

22 out of 43. Just past the point, on 51%.

This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Coq au Vin

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So, back to basics and ready for the winter. I’ve been having some fun with stranger recipes lately, and yet there are still so many classics I haven’t created. This is one. I haven’t had it for about 2 years, and when I did, I used to make it from a Schwartz ready made packet. I can feel the judgement seeping through my screen…

Anyway, this recipe is from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cuisine. It was between this and Julia Child, and while less authentic, this recipe is achievable in an evening after work.

And let’s not mess around, it’s tasty as all hell.  Almost worth making for the day after, as like most stews, the flavour gets better overnight.

Ingredients

3/4 bottle of reliable red wine. I went with Pinot Noir
150ml chicken stock
A healthy glass of brandy
1-1.5kg chicken thighs or quarters
110g unsmoked bacon, diced
1 red and one white onion, diced
150g mushrooms, chopped
At least 2 cloves garlic
A bouquet garni, or a couple of sprigs thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, and the means to fish them out again!
Butter
Flour

Method

In a large cooking pot, pour in the wine and stock, plus a little thyme, a crushed clove of garlic and a bay leaf, and simmer until reduced by about half, about 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms for the last 5 minutes.

When reduced, pour through a seive into a large bowl or container and set aside, then add the mushrooms to a separate bowl.

Rinse and dry the pan, and set over a medium heat. Add a little butter, a little oil and the bacon until it starts to release it’s fat. Then throw in the onions, reduce the heat, and sweat them until translucent and a little golden.

Add the chicken, skin side down and cook until the skin turns golden brown, then flip them and cook for another few minutes, then flip them again.

Heat the brandy in a smaller pan (or the microwave, it is the 21st century) then pour over the chicken. Elizabeth David says to light it first, and she’s probably right, but I have issues with burning good alcohol.

Add the wine, more garlic to your preference, and the bouquet garni, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, put a lid on it- I go tight on, as the sauce should be plentiful. You now have 40 minutes to spare.

During the 40 minutes, beat together 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp flour to make a sort of dry roux. Roll this into hazelnut sized balls ready for the final stage, rinse your bowls, and preheat your oven to about 100c.

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40 minutes up, add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes uncovered. Using a slotted spoon, remove all the solid food to a large ovenproof bowl, leaving just the wine. Keep the chicken, mushrooms and all warm in the oven. Increase to a slightly fiercer simmer, and throw in the butter and flour balls. Stir these using a fork till they’re fully melted, and the sauce is thick. Put the chicken, mushroom and onion in a bowl, and pour over the delicious rich sauce.

Serve with a few chunks of torn up bread to mop up at the end.

 

 

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First Birthday- Thank you!

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A little notification came up last night saying I’ve been blogging for a year! I didn’t intend to become a blogger, I appear to have fallen into it, but it has been fantastic so far. It’s rekindled a love with writing I hadn’t engaged with since my teens, and I don’t think I would be the cook I am today if it wasn’t for the fact I wanted to get a new dish out to you every Tuesday.

There are so many thanks to other bloggers who have supported me, or just blown me away with the amazing content they put out there, to the people kindly following me, or the 15,000 people who have turned up just to read my idiotic ramblings on food and music (and occasionally politics, Lego, technology and comics). You are all great people, and I will put a good word in the ear of your respective deities that you can have a free pass for your next sin. Doubly so if it involves mistreating a dead chicken.

So thank you all. I’ll keep writing it if you keep reading it.

Mambo Italiano

Back, after a week off because I forgot… here is an absolute classic of a number one from January 1955. It’s big and surprisingly aggressive- everyone sounds like they’re trying to break their instruments they’re playing them so hard.

It’s brill basically. Follow the link and listen!

Talk About Pop Music

I have a playlist that contains every UK number one song since charts began in 1952. Thanks to EveryHit, this is a fairly simple process. Let’s remind ourselves of these songs.

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Three quick ones – Bloody Mary pasta, Hangover Proof Salad and Pulled Pork

I had a job interview today, so haven’t had time to write. So here’s a couple of fast and easy recipes that I can’t really fit into a whole article. One of them takes 9 hours to cook, but maybe 10 minutes prep!

The hangover preventing salad

Unlike a lot of blogs, I’m not going to provide a bunch of pseudoscience to back up this claim. However, the four times I’ve made it on coming home from a night out, I’ve not been hungover the next day.

Ingredients

Base measurements to your appetite

  • Chorizo
  • Smoked haddock
  • Spinach
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Heat a medium sized pan to a medium low heat. Dice your chorizo, and throw it in, till it starts to sweat it’s juices into the pan, about 5 minutes.

While you wait for this, flake the smoked haddock into smallish pieces. Throw them in with the chorizo and stir until they start to pick up some colour from the chorizo.

Throw in some handfuls of spinach, a dash of water and balsamic and cover for a couple of minutes. Season, throw on plate and eat. Salted, tart joy.

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Bloody Mary Pasta

This is a silly idea that started the other night with the idle thought that Worcester sauce is the British balsamic vinegar. My mind ran from there to Bloody Mary’s, and their similarity to a nice arrabiata pasta sauce. And so a monster was born!

Ingredients

  • Any pasta shape you fancy
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • A red onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Garlic
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • A shot of vodka (optional)

Method

Stick the pasta on to cook as per instructions on the packet.

Dice the onion and celery, and mince the garlic, and throw into a saucepan over a medium-low heat, with a little olive oil for 10 minutes or so, until everything has gone a little golden and soft.

Pour in the tomatoes, a healthy dose of Worcester Sauce, and as much Tabasco as you can bear. I actually used a different hot sauce- let’s be honest, Tabasco is okay, but these days there is such a wide variety of great hot sauce, it seems silly to keep going for that same one. Simmer for 10 minutes or until it tastes good to you, adding the vodka about halfway, so as not to lose all of it’s alcoholic punch.

Stir in the cooked pasta, grate over some cheese (while we have them beat with Worcester Sauce, perhaps best to stick with Parmesan… it’s just perfect). Serve and eat God’s own drink in carbalicious food form.

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Simple Pulled Pork

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating- pulled pork is cheap, easy, and please stop paying hipsters £7 a go for it. It takes time. But you barely have to be there for it, so just do it.

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg (ish) pork shoulder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • Barbecue sauce, or whatever you fancy as a sauce- something sticky though

Preheat the oven to 220c. Line a baking tray with foil leaving a large overhang.

Mix the paprika, sugar and salt, and then rub it all over the pork. Place the pork in the baking tray.

Shove in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and turn the oven down to 120c. Wrap the joint in the foil so it’s completely sealed in, then leave in the oven for 6-8 hours, until the temperature in the middle reaches 89c when you stick a food thermometer in (THEY COST £3).

Remove the foil, turn back up to 220c and cook for 10 more minutes. Put in a bowl and cover with the foil for half an hour, then rip it up, either with two forks or your bare hands. Stir in the warmed BBQ sauce.

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Serve in a bun, with some coleslaw on top.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Drunken Beer Arsed Chicken

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I’ve wanted to make this since I first saw one. It’s probably a low point for mankind’s relationship with animals, but it’s also delicious. By shoving a can of beer, in an undignified manner, up the chicken’s back passage, you will steam the meat, keeping it lovely and moist, but also, the metal of the can will heat up too, cooking the chicken from the inside, ensuring an evenly roasted chicken. What seems like a gimmick is actually a really clever way of making a super efficient cookery method.

Anyway, this is probably one of the last barbeque recipes of what’s been a pretty disappointingly grey summer. I found a collection of ten classic cook books in my charity shop, with a couple I already had, but now have a bunch of Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David, Rick Stein and such to carry me through autumn and winter, so will be heading to more seasonal, homely fare.

The rub I’ve put on here is a Jamie Oliver one, but you can use whatever seasoning you want. The anise flavours of the fennel go very nicely with this, but next time I’d probably be a bit more traditional and use a rub of thyme, tarragon, salt and butter under the skin, which I think would better complement the hoppy infused beer flavours.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium chicken. Anything smaller than about a kilo and a half will have balancing issues when stood up!
  • Large can of good beer, or a beer you like. I just used Holsten Pils, a good easy drinker
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c. Open the beer. You need to drink about half the can before it gets…inserted.

In a pestle and mortar (or a small bowl and rolling pin) crush the fennel and cumin seeds roughly. Add the remaining spices and a little salt and pepper.

Stir in enough oil to make a thick paste, about the consistency of thick gravy, or melted ice cream. Rub this all over the chicken, inside and out, till the whole thing is orangey red.

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Get the beer can, now half empty (or half full for the optimists), place it in the middle of a roasting tin, and lower the chicken’s cavity onto it. You are a depraved and awful human being.

Carefully put in the oven, and roast for half an hour. Reduce the temperature to around 160c, and cook for around another hour, until the juices run clear when you poke the bit between the thigh and breasts with a fork.

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Serve with vegetables and another can of beer.

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Now That’s What I Call Music 45

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Released-  17th April 2000

Music History

Sharon Osbourne does the final cool thing of her career when she quits as the Smashing Pumpkins manager, saying she left, “…for health reasons. Billy Corgan makes me fucking sick”.

Me History

I’m 16. Event birthday! It’s also a new millennium. Me and my friends sneak up to London to see the new year in. At the stroke of midnight, a very nice rich guy sees us with our own brand Cava and Hamlets and insists we share his champagne and King Edward cigars. We miss the last train back and end up sleeping in a train station 50 miles from home. And most of us end up grounded. Totally worth it.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were grounded for a Millennium adventure, that track would be…  so stupid it hurts.

Track by Track Breakdown

 

Gabrielle – “Rise”

It’s nice, but that’s about all it is. It also sounds a lot like Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

Melanie C featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes“Never Be the Same Again”

One of the better solo Spice Girls songs. She can actually sing which helps. And yay for the cool one from TLC, though she has but a year or so left on the clock at this point.

Craig David – “Fill Me In”

One of the two Craig David songs on this album is a classic. This isn’t it, being an average paean to young love.

Britney Spears – “Born to Make You Happy”

Not a Britney classic. But more will come in time. A bit of a plodder.

Backstreet Boys –  “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”

Follows the same template as their earlier singles, but sadly their methods are starting to wear thin now.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 45

Pulled Beef Brisket in a Scotch and Coke BBQ Sauce

I had an ambivalent relationship with Tom Kerridge, after a recent attempt to adapt one of his rib recipes turned out an unmitigated disaster.

But I’ve come back to him, as his recipes always look so good on TV, and because he always comes across so nicely, no cheffy arrogance or snobbishness.

I’m glad I did. This is that delicious slow cooked heaven that you’d pay £7.50 for from a hip street food stand, except without having to fund a dreadful bearded hipster who will inevitably pack up 2 years later, and go into merchant banking like Daddy wants him to.

Perfect in a floury roll, accompanied by the equally delicious coleslaw, with a hint of mustardy fire. I have adapted the recipe here and there. The coleslaw has a little red wine vinegar for added zing, and there was no way I was using Jack or Jim in my sauce. The quality of the ingredients is important in these things, so I’d use a blended Scotch or Irish whiskey. Single malt would be going too far, but I’ll not have American swill served at my table!

Yes. It takes 5 hours or so. But very little of it is work. While this cooked, I went for a walk, watched some telly, and played some Playstation. That isn’t work.

Ingredients

Before

2kg beef brisket
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
2 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli powder or cayenne
400ml beef stock

During

1/2 a white cabbage
2 carrots
1 red onion
1/2 a white onion
3 spring onions
60 ml mayonnaise
1 tbsp onion seeds
1 tbsp English mustard
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar

After

200ml red wine vinegar
75 ml Coke
75ml whiskey
250ml ketchup
Dash of Worcester sauce

Method

Preheat your oven to 140c.

In a dry frying pan, over a low heat, gently toast the coriander, cumin, mustard seeds and peppercorns until your kitchen smells good. Put in a pestle and mortar (or a small bowl and rolling pin) and bash them up a bit. Add the remaining spices and sugar for the rub, then mix well.

Remove the string from the brisket (but keep it) and score the inside of the brisket with a sharp knife. Rub the spice mix all over, inside and out and really get into every crevice.

Roll the joint back up, and tie it back up with the string. Get a baking tray, and pour in the 400ml of beef stock. Set a wire rack in this, place the beef brisket on top, then Cover the entire thing tightly with foil. Place in the oven and cook for 4-6 hours, until you can pull it apart with a fork and minimal effort.

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At some time in the next 4 hours, make up the coleslaw. Finely chop the cabbage and onions and put in a large bowl. Grate the two carrots in, and give it a good mix. You could use a food processor for this part, but you have at least 4 hours, so time isn’t really a factor!

Add the mayonnaise, mustard and onion seeds and stir well. Then add the red wine vinegar to taste, till it’s to your tastes. Cover and stick in the fridge.

You have a lot of time, and a bottle of whiskey to hand. Enjoy yourself for a while.

Once the meat is ready, set aside and cover well. Put the vinegar in a large saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer till reduced by about half. Add the whiskey, coke, Worcester sauce and ketchup and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes.

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Break up the meat with a fork, into small chunks, and add to the pot, mixing well with the sauce, then gently simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is a sticky, delicious blend.

Fill a floury bap with the meat, add a generous dollop of coleslaw and enjoy. Maybe keep some kitchen roll handy, as it’s deliciously messy.

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