Friday, 25 January 2013

Paprika Beef Casserole

Being a typical Englishman, I watch the weather in the UK, even though I’m in Dubai, but hey that is what we do. I saw that the UK was suffering from a lot of snow and as usual, the country comes to a grinding halt. I don't know if it was jealousy or was it home sickness, but I really wanted to be there. Dubai is nearly always lovely and sunny, but I've been brought up with contrasting seasons, not just sunny with cooler temperatures. There is nothing like sitting in a warm house, with a beautiful white garden eating with friends a tasty slow cooked casserole. I guess I could just be romanticising because I'm not suffering the delayed public transport, the bitter cold winds and the grey nasty slush as the snow melts. So to commiserate with my UK colleagues I made a slow cooked beef casserole and shared it with some UK friends, who are also in Dubai, so that we could reminisce and chat about the weather as only people from the UK can do – for hours :-)

To make this meal as English as possible I was also serving mashed potatoes with lashing of butter, with those vile miniature cabbage like veggies – you know which ones I mean – Brussels sprouts. Why have them if you don't like I can hear you say, I am having friends over and they love them, so it would be unfair if I didn't serve them just because I am not a fan, although I can eat a few of them.

I cooked this the night before as I wanted the flavours of the paprika to really have as much time as possible to enhance the flavour of the beef. Also it would help the beef to break down the tough tissues to make it as tender as possible. I cooked the casserole for over 6 hours in two sittings, but you really don't have to cook it that long. 2 hours is fine, but trust me though it does taste better the longer you cook it, as my friends agreed.

  • 500g stewing beef
  • 2 tbsp paprika (smoked if you have it)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g white beans
  • 500g beef stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4

Take the stewing beef and mix in the paprika until it's covers all the beef

Take a heat resistant casserole dish and add the oil and bring to the high heat

Add a little of the beef at a time to brown. Once browned, remove and add some more beef. Repeat until all the beef has been browned.

Turn down the heat and add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft. Stirring occasionally to stop them from burning.

Add the beef and tinned tomatoes and stir altogether, trying to remove any bits stuck at the bottom of casserole dish.

Then add and stir in the tomato purée, white beans, beef stock, bay leaves. Do not add seasoning yet.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for about an hour. Take the casserole dish out of the oven, turn down the heat to 150c/300f/gas 2

Stir the casserole and taste, then add any salt and pepper you require.

Cook for a minimum of 1 hour, but as I said earlier, the longer the better.

If the casserole looks like it's drying out, add more water.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Zesty Chicken and Root Stew

Just because I'm in Dubai where it's hot and warm, doesn't mean I still can't eat those comfort foods, that are perfect for cold weather. Recipes, like beef and rosemary casserole, beef and ale stew, Spanish chicken and chorizo are all perfect comfort foods for cold climates. But to be honest I don't care what the temperature, you can't beat stews or casseroles and this one is going to be added to my favourite list. This recipe is also perfect if you are run down, got a cold, or in my case, a hangover. As it's packed full of vitamins and minerals, its low in fat with the cleansing effects due to the lemon juice.

I wanted a big stew and so cut the vegetables as big as I can. I also want big pieces of onion so cut them Asian style, cutting against the grain. I actually only added the lemon juice at the last moment and it made a great recipe just a little different and much for the better in my opinion. My friend said that adding lemons to recipes is a very Greek thing, which is not something I was aware of. Apart from the turnip and sweet potato I didn't peel them, I just scrubbed the skin clean.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut Asian style
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, diced into large chunks
  • 1 large parsnip, diced
  • 1 large turnip, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 potato, clean and diced
  • 1 leek, clean and diced
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed and de-boned, cut into large pieces
  • 700ml of chicken stock
  • 2 tsp fresh or dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to season
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • (serves 4)

Place the oil into a large pan and heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic again stirring occasionally to stop it burning.

Add each vegetable to the pan, stirring into the mixture. Once all added cook for about 4-5 minutes again stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken and mix into the vegetables. Add the chicken stock, tarragon and season to taste.

Cook for a minimum of 20 minutes and just before you serve add the lemon juice.

Serve with fresh crusty bread or rice.

Apologies for the picture quality, but my camera is broken and had to use my old iPhone.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

Happy New Year and I hope 2013 brings you, health, wealth and happiness. I also hope you enjoyed Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a great New Year. Now it's back to the normal day to day things, like work, exercising (need to after what I've eaten in the last two weeks) and trying new and exciting recipes. This recipe is a a great little recipe and perfect for cleansing the body after the excess of the festive period.

If you've looked around my blog, especially the recipes section you will see that I have made a lot more chicken dishes than any other. The reason for that is chicken tastes great, it's healthier than most other meats and it is very versatile. You can roast it, poach it, add it to stews, casseroles, barbecue it, the list is endless and I am always on the lookout for more chicken recipes and came across a great one by Angela Harnett. It's from her Taste of Home book, rrp £25, but lets be honest, would you expect a bad recipe from Angela H?

I am a BIG fan of the skin on chicken, especially when the chicken has been roasted and the skin is crispy and lightly covered in salt and pepper. But when it's been cooking in liquid the skin becomes slimy and not as tasty. For this recipe I left the skin on whilst cooking it to help add flavour then removed it when finished cooking, but you can leave it on if you prefer.

This is a really light and fresh recipe but be careful as if you add the lemon too early it can make the sauce very bitter. In fact next time I do this recipe I will not use the whole lemon, but will juice it and take off the rind and add that to the recipe.

The recipe says to just serve on it own in a bowl, but I was hungry and served it with cous cous but you could serve it with rice or with just some warm fresh crusty bread.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 chicken legs cut into two
  • 1 onion, cut Asian style
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon sliced (or the rind and juice of a whole lemon)
  • 4 thyme twigs
  • 50g butter
  • 100mg water (or maybe less)
  • 200g tomatoes, quartered
  • 50g olives (black or green) or 25g of olive and 25g capers
  • salt and pepper to season.
  • (serves 4)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown each side of the chicken. Don't put to much chicken in the pan otherwise you'll end up stewing the chicken rather than browning it.

Once browned, add the chicken to a heat resistant casserole dish and add the sliced onion, crushed garlic, lemon, thyme, butter and 100ml of water and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, olives and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just done.

Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 3-5 minutes. Add seasoning before serving, but personally I didn't need any salt

Serve in a bowl, with cous cous, rice or a fresh crusty bread.