Gourmet Gorman on location with special guest John Themis: Greek Kleftico

Gourmet Gorman goes on location to the kitchen of Greek chef/musician extraordinaire John Themis

You Can’t Fake The Hake: A Sri Lankan Style Fish Curry…

Sri Lankan style Hake curry

Hake has to be my favourite fish of all. I think this has something to do with having been on tour so much in Spain, and eating various Catalan Hake dishes outdoors with the heat of the sun offset by an enormous flower pot size jug of ice cold beer, while mopping up the savoury fish juices with the garlicky tomato bread that they serve in that part of the world.
The fish, to me, always has the perfect balance between subtlety of  flavour and firmness of texture, which places it just outside the “delicate white fish” category in my estimation.

So when I saw some nice, firm, fresh looking hake steaks in my local supermarket (a rare event, let me assure you) I snapped it up. As I’d already decided on cooking some sort of Sri Lankan curry that evening, the Hake fitted perfectly into my plans.

Here’s the lowdown:

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 Hake steaks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 inch pce of ginger
  • 1 stick of lemon grass
  • 2 greeen chillies
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tblsp fish sauce
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
  • 3 -4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 fresh lemon

Method:

Assemble the onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, lemon grass, mustard seeds and spices. Chop as required:

Assemble the ingredients

Heat some oil in a wok. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds. They should spit and splutter.

Toss in the mustard seeds

Next add the curry leaves and lemon grass (which has been bashed and cut in 2 to help release the juices)

Add the curry leaves and lemon grass

Next, add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and stir fry vigorously for a couple of minutes.

Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies

When the onions etc are softened, throw in the powdered spices, fry for 30 secs approx, then add the fish sauce:

Add the spices and fish sauce

When the fish sauce has sizzled for a few seconds, add the coconut milk and bring to a gently simmer:

Add the coconut milk

At this stage it would be good to put the rice on:

Put the rice on

Also at this stage, chop the fresh coriander, tomatoes and ready the lemon. Have your fish prepared as well:

Chop tomatoes, coriander, lemon

Fish at the ready

Place the fish gently into the sauce:

Place the fish into the sauce

Simmer gently for about 10-15 mins until fish is cooked:

Simmer until fish is cooked

At this point add the garnish: Tomatoes, fresh coriander and squeeze in the lemon:

Add the garnish

Now the curry should be ready to serve, with the fish cooked, but still firm:

Fish should be cooked but still firm

Serve with the previously prepared steamed rice:

Serve

Hainanese Rabbit Rice

Recently I discovered half a rabbit in my freezer that I’d forgotten about. (This happens quite frequently with me, as I tend not to label things in an involuntary display of textbook un-organization). The other half had been used for a curry – which is another great thing to do with rabbit – with apples in as I found out while making a video about such a thing (different rabbit though).

For some time I had been wanting to try the classic Singaporean dish Hainanese Chicken Rice.

The basic premise of this dish is to make a flavoursome stock using the chicken on the bone, then  remove (and debone) the meat and utilize the stock to prepare a tasty rice and an aromatic soup. The dish is then served with a bowl of the soup, a dipping sauce and a salad garnish (usually cucumber and lettuce).

As usual, my adherence to strict epicurean traditions was dictated by what I could find in my store cupboard at the time of cooking. In this case it wasn’t possible to prepare a completely authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice (the use of rabbit obviously representing a major obstacle, to begin with), but being used to improvising (considering what I do for a living), the dish turned out to be a tasty, flavourful and, I’m pretty sure, healthy meal.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

For the Stock:

  • 1/2 a rabbit – jointed
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 4 spring onions (scallions)
  • a piece of ginger (about 1 inch)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tblsp sesame oil
  • Salt

For the Rice:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 spring onions
  • small piece of ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Stock
  • Chopped coriander

For the Salad Garnish:

  • Orange pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
  • 1 tblsp Soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small piece of ginger grated
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • finely chopped coriander
  • some sesame oil

For the Soup:

  • The stock
  • Chopped coriander

Method:

The first thing I did was to prepare the stock. As the stock vegetables were also going to be used for the soup, I thought it necessary to julienne them rather than just roughly chopping them as I would for a normal stock.

Then the rabbit went in the pan. Obviously it’s sensible to choose a sizable vessel here, as you want a fair quantity of stock.

Added the vegetables:

Then added water, salt and brought to a simmer. At this point I added the sesame oil quite liberally (although I specify a tablespoon, I tend to enjoy free-styling these things.)

While the rabbit stock was simmering, prepared the ingredients for the rice:

And the salad garnish:

I also prepared the dipping sauce at this point.

The plan was to let the stock simmer for about 1 hour, so after 50 mins I sauteed the spring onion, garlic and ginger for the rice in a little oil (I used sunflower, but you could use olive oil, vegetable oil or groundnut oil – it’s not a deal breaker),  and then sauteed the raw rice (which I’d soaked in water for 1/2 hour then drained incidentally) in with the ingredients. The purpose of this (as with risotto or paella) is that the heat of the pan cracks the outer surface of the rice, thereby enabling the flavoursome stock to better penetrate the grain.

I then ladled some stock (about twice the quantity to the rice) into the rice pan, covered, and let simmer till the rice was cooked – adding chopped coriander at the end.

After I added the stock to the rice, it was time to remove and debone the rabbit – roughly chopping the meat and placing on a warmed plate:

All was then ready (when the rice was cooked) for the 2nd most fun bit – assembling the dish (no prizes for guessing the most fun bit).

To do this, I used the old rice-bowl-bowl-rice trick. Place the rice into a bowl and pat down until firmly filled. Then place your serving plate over the bowl, hold both with a firm grip and upend and…. Hey Presto! you should have a neat dome of rice on your serving plate (hopefully).
The rabbit was then placed on and garnished with chopped coriander, with a bowl of the delicious soup (stock). On a separate plate I served the salad and the dipping sauce.

All in all, was a very tasty way to serve rabbit and fun to eat: a forkful of rice  and crispy salad, followed by a slice of rabbit dipped in the spicy sauce, followed by a spoonful of smooth, warming broth followed by a large glug of red wine (optional).

 

Empty trolley+empty head+empty stomach=Moroccan Style Lamb Meatballs

 Moroccan style meatballs served with cous cous stir fried with courgette, apple and sweetcorn

This dish was the result of one of those strolls around a supermarket with an empty trolley, an empty head and an empty stomach.
Didn’t really know what I fancied to eat at all. Maybe wanted something a bit spicy, but not Indian (yes, I know that’s very unlike me. I did consider taking my temperature to ascertain whether or not I was coming down with something).
Also, I’d been eating rather a lot of rice, so something similar to rice, but not…. if you know what I mean, was required. Which led me to think of cous cous, which led me to think of lamb and tomatoes, which led me to think of something sweetish for the cous cous, which then decided my entire movement pattern through the supermarket.
It’s funny how one negative thought (ie. I don’t really feel like Indian again) in this instance led to a kind of chain reaction domino effect, which meant within seconds I knew exactly what I wanted to cook and what I wanted to put in it.
Hmmmmmmm…… If only I could transplant that process to writing music….

Anyway, enough twaddle, on with the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 small bunch coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 egg (beaten)

For the sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tblsp tomato puree
  • 2 red chillies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

For the cous cous:

  • enough cous cous for 2 people
  • 1 small tin sweetcorn
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 bramley apple
  • 1 small glass of red wine

Method:

First job is to make the meatballs.

Chop the onion, garlic and coriander as fine as you can possibly get them, then put them in a bowl with the mince and the rest of the meatballs ingredients. Get stuck in with your hands and mix well, then roll the meaballs in a circular motion between the palms of your hands.
You should eventually end up with something resembling this:

Meatballs rolled - as you can see, I could have done a better job chopping the onion

The next step is to make the sauce.
Chop the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and soften in a little olive oil, add the spices and chillies, fry briefly, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, plus a little hot water, and the bay leaves and salt.
Bring to a gentle simmer then squeeze in the lemon:

Add the lemon to the simmering sauce

Now that the sauce is simmering away gently, it’s time to brown the meatballs.
Heat a little olive oil in a frypan and gently place the meatballs in, taking care not to overcrowd:

Fry the meatballs

When the meatballs are suitably browned, you can start adding them to the sauce.
Take extra care not to break them up or handle them to roughly:

Add the meatballs to the sauce. Be gentle

Eventually all the meatballs should fit neatly into the sauce pan. Leave to simmer gently with the lid on, while you cook the cous cous:

Meatballs in sauce

To make the cous cous, first prepare the cous cous with the appropriate amount of hot water as per the instructions on the packet.
Meanwhile chop the courgette and apple (cored and peeled) into small cubes.
Place the lamb frypan over the heat and deglaze with a glass of red wine (you can drink some as well if you wish).
Then add the courgette, apple and sweetcorn to the pan, fry round for a minute or two, and add the cous cous, which should now be ready (fork it into the pan though to fluff up).
Add some chopped coriander on top:

Cous cous

While you’ve been doing that, the meatballs should have been simmering away in the sauce, it’s flavour permeating them and itself being infused by their meaty sapidity.

The meatballs, having been simmered in the sauce and garnished with coriander

Everything is now ready to serve.

Not bad for a flash of inspiration in the cheese/yoghurts aisle I’d say.

If only everything was so simple…..

Served out

Cooking With Gourmet Gorman – Halloween Special…..!

Gourmet Gorman cooks a delicious roasted pumpkin, stuffed with lamb mince and chick pea curry on a terrifying Halloween evening….

A Controversial Kleftico (and it’s illegitimate offspring)

Controversial Kleftico, cooked with Oxtail...

It was a cold and stormy Winter’s night..… OK, it wasn’t. It was actually  an annoyingly rainy and depressingly premature Autumn morning. I was going out to a gig for pretty much the whole day. Luckily though, I’d cunningly foreseen the situation of getting home hungry, wet and weary that evening, so I’d taken the Oxtail that I had in the freezer out to thaw, the night before. My initial intent was to make a curry in the slow cooker, leaving it to cook all day while I was out. However, while flicking through some food photos from my Facebook food group “Foodbook Photos” I came across the Kleftico I made a while ago from a very simple authentic family recipe given to me by a Greek friend. Since it involved rather less preparation than the curry, I settled on the idea of trying to make the Kleftico with the oxtail.

Now I’m aware that proper Kleftico is a lamb dish, and also that there are many variation’s on the recipe, so maybe what I was about to make couldn’t really be called Kleftico (indeed, I had a couple of people on Twitter saying as much), and also that it is made in a conventional oven rather than a slow cooker.
So what I should really call my dish maybe is Greek style oxtail casserole…..? Whatever…!! But it was very nice.

Here’s what I did:

Firstly I set out my oxtail in preparation. It was already chopped into handy chunks:

 

The Oxtail

 

I then sliced up a couple of large onions:

 

Slice the onions

 

And halved some sweet vine ripened tomatoes:

 

Tomatoes

 

I then browned the oxtail off in a frying pan, since it would be going into the slow cooker instead of an oven:

 

Brown the oxtail

 

Next I selected a handful of choice bay leaves:

 

Bay leaves

 

I then layered the onions and the oxtail in the slowcooker:

 

Layer the onions in the pot, and put the oxtail on top

 

To make the cooking liquid I dissolved a tablespoon of tomato puree and some salt in some hot water:

 

Cooking liquid

 

Then arranged the bayleaves and tomatoes in with the oxtail, and poured the liquid into the pot:

 

Arrange everything in the pot

 

Lid went on and I went out for the day:

 

Lid on, me out

 

When I came back, approximately 8 hours later everything seemed to have cooked down nicely:

 

After 8 hours

 

I then gently stirred it, being careful not to break up the oxtail, but making sure to mix the onions up from the bottom:

 

Stirring gently

 

Lid then went back on for another hour or so, then it would be ready for serving.
Before serving it however, I carefully spooned some of the loose fat away that had settled on the top, so it wouldn’t be so rich:

 

Skim off some fat

 

I then squeezed in plenty of lemon juice:

 

Squeeze in plenty of lemon

 

..and served out simply with some mash potato:

 

Serve with mash

 

The flavour was rich, beefy and warming, with that very particular piquancy that you get when mixing tomatoes with lemon (which I also think you get in Madras curries).

Now for the offspring: I had a lot of the stocky cooking liquid left and also quite a lot of meat. So the next day I separated the meat from the bones, and made an oxtail and beetroot curry, simmered in a little of the stock, and served it with with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.
The leftover meat was rich and gelatinous and was fairly fantastic with the beetroot:

 

Beef and beetroot curry, with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.

 

…and finally, the next day, I still had quite a lot of stock leftover, so I used it to make a Chilli Con Carne made with smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and Tabasco and served it with corn tortillas. It was quite spectacular, and was easily the best Chilli I’ve ever made…. all down to the rich stock I’m convinced.

 

Chilli made with the last of the oxtail stock, smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and tobasco. Served with corn tortillas.

 

…and the moral of this story is, always buy oxtail, and never listen to pedants :)

Have sausages, will casserole (Pork and pigeon with root veg)

Pork and pidgeon sausage and root veg casserole served with rice cooked with borlotti beans

I’ve been quite busy recently…. which is not something I can complain about, but being a musician, being busy means being out at night (or out on tour), either of which seriously curtails your activities in the kitchen.

Even though eating in nice (and sometimes not so nice) restaurants can be a very agreeable way of life, after a while, I do start to feel a deep seated craving to make a homecooked meal, prepared at leisure, with a glass of wine at my side, listening to something good on the radio (apart from when I turn on the extractor fan, which tends to put paid to my being able to hear anything else going on…), and enjoying the anticipation of what’s to come.

So last Friday, I was unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised to hear that the gig I was supposed to be doing that evening had been cancelled at short notice, but with full pay, which effectively awarded me a paid day off (always a cause for a minor celebration).

My thoughts, of course, immediately turned to what I would cook with my newly acquired evening of leisure.
Seeing as summer seems to be well and truly over here (not that we had much of one anyway) I thought I’d prepare a rustic and comforting casserole using some pork and pigeon sausages I had stashed in the freezer for just such an occasion, and a variety of root vegetables from the local market.

Here’s what I did:

First I gathered all my veg ready for preparation:
Onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip, small turnips,  and beetroot.

Root vegetables at the ready

When all had been suitably peeled and chopped, I sweated them down in a little butter and oil:

Sweating down the veg

Fresh beetroot turns everything red, including my hands and the chopping board:

Red stains

As you can see above, I also added some bayleaves.
While the veg was sweating down, I browned off the sausages:

Browning the sausages

Then added the sausaged into the pan with the veg:

Add the sausages to the veg when suitably browned

Added a glass of red wine (a robust Italian Merlot in this case):

Add the wine

Added some beef stock (sadly not fresh stock this time, but from a cube, albeit an organic one with no MSG):

…and added a good few glugs of Worcestershire Sauce:

Add a few glugs of Worcestershire Sauce

Then stir gently, cover and leave to simmer for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours

Stir this then cover this and leave to simmer

About 15 mins before serving, I added a bunch of fresh sage:

Fresh sage

Chopped it finely and added it to the casserole. It was quite a lot of sage. Too much could make a dish bitter, but in this case there was so much sweetness from the root veg that it balanced out very nicely:

Add the sage to the casserole...

I made a simple rice dish with borlotti beans and herbs to serve this with. The sausages were extremely good. I always think pidgeon has a similar texture to lambs liver and I could detect this in the sausages. I always feel slightly cheated if I don’t find at least one piece of lead shot in my food while eating game. Luckily I found a bit (but didn’t bit on it…phew..).
The root veg, as said before, lent a delicious sweetness to the sauce. Beetroot is always a treat, and the small turnips were a revelation. They had a smell when raw that was ever so slightly horseradishy, and they kept their texture in the final casserole.

All in all a successful start to the autumn I think….

Served out with rice cooked with borlotti beans...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers