Monday, 28 February 2011

Braised Brisket for Supper

The beef brisket is both a flavoursome and a frugal cut. However, it's a fairly tough piece of meat that requires slow cooking to extract the maximum flavour.

But this means that you can you can braise the beef over a prolonged period of time, as well as adding your vegetables to the dish. You can even turn the braising liquid into a sauce to accompany the meat.

This recipe is based on the following one for: beef brisket braised in beer, but with a few twists of my own.

Braised Brisket of Beef with Vegetables

1.5kg (about) rolled brisket of beef
2 bayleves
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns
6 allspice berries
500ml dark beer
150ml red wine
beef stock
1 tbsp English mustard
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp chilli paste
10 baby onions, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
6 carrots, cut into 6cm lengths
4 potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour

Add the beef to a deep casserole dish. Surround with the garlic, bayleaves, baby onions, thyme sprigs, black peppercorns and allspice berries. Whisk the tomato puree, mustard and chilli paste into the beer then pour over the beef. Add the red wine then pour in enough of the beef stock so that the level of liquid comes half way up the beef.

Cover with a sheet of kitchen foil then add the lid. Place the casserole in an oven pre-heated to 160°C and cook for 2 hours. At this point, add the turnips, carrots and potatoes to the pan, along with the soy sauce. Return to the oven and cook for a further 60 minutes.

At this point, remove the meat from the casserole. Cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid from the casserole in to a jug and place the vegetables back in the oven to keep warm. Melt the butter in a pan, scatter over the flour and stir to make a smooth roux. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, then whisk in the strained casserole juices.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, or until thickened.

Slice the beef and accompany with the vegetables and the gravy. Serve hot.

For more beef recipes see the following Celtnet Recipes page for beef-based recipes where you will find over 1000 recipes utilizing beef as a main ingredient.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Recipe Ideas for Valentine's Day

Valentine's day is one of the most romantic days in the calendar. But it can be stressful if you are preparing a meal for that 'someone special'. Below you will find a number of ideas for things you can make and serve throughout the day, as well as links to a range of other recipes and information about Valentine's day itself.

In English-speaking countries Valentine's day is the traditional day, celebrated on February 14th on which lovers display their affection for one another by sending cards, gifting chocolates and flowers or preparing romantic meals.

It must be admitted, however, that the origins of Valentine's day is something of a mystery. It seems to have grown in popularity in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished and is probably named after two amongst the many early Christian martyrs bearing the name 'Valentine' who were buried along the Via Flaminia road connecting Rome with Rimini.

Often, foods considered to be aphrodisiac are included in many Valentine's day recipes. Below is a list of aphrodisiac foods that you might wish to base a Valentine's day meal upon: Asparagus; Almonds, Avocados; Bananas (particularly the sap of the red banana); Basil; Rocket (Arugula); Truffles; Coffee; Dark Chocolate; Coriander (Cilantro); Honey; Vanilla; Liquorice; Raspberries; Carrots; Ginger; Ginseng; Garlic; Figs; Wine (Particularly Champagne); Strawberries; Celery; Ginkgo; Lettuce; Oysters; Saffron; Artichokes; Tomatoes (from the French term pomme d'amour); Passion Fruit.

For breakfast, you might try:

Ginseng Banana Muffins

2 tbsp ginseng powder
2 very soft medium bananas
2 medium eggs
100g sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
210g plain flour
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp salt


Add 3 tbsp hot water to a bowl and stir in the ginseng then set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. After this time combine the bananas, eggs, sugar, oil, ginseng (and its soaking water) in a large bowl and mash until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the dry ingredients into a separate bowl then add the banana mixture and mix thoroughly. Grease or line 12 muffin wells and spoon in the muffin mix, filling the wells no more than 2/3 full. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170°C and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen, cooked through and golden brown.

Allow to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes then turn out onto wire racks. Serve warm.

For a starter:

Angels on Horseback

24 oysters
12 rashers of streaky bacon
12 small slices of toast
butter for toast
small bunch of watercress


Stretch the bacon with the back of a knife then cut each rasher in half. Use these to wrap around the oysters (one half bacon rasher for each oyster). Place the bacon covered oysters on a baking tray (pack them tightly against one another so the bacon doesn't unravel — or pierce with a cocktail stick). Place in an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for 8 minutes.

Butter the toast, place two of the Angels on Horseback on each and garnish with the watercress.

As a main course:

Double Heart Pizza

1 large, pre-baked, pizza base
80ml pizza sauce
50g Mozzarella cheese, grated
12 large prawns, cooked
1 medium red bell pepper
extra-virgin olive oil


Trim the pizza base into a heart shape then pace on a pizza pan (or baking sheet). Spread the pizza sauce over the base (leave a small clear rim) then sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Place the prawns, in pair,s with their tails touching to make heart shapes. Repeat with the slices of pepper (halve these and arrange in heart shapes) then drizzle with a little olive oil. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the pizza is piping hot.

(you can find a whole range of classic pizza recipes here.

Of course, if you want to be more adventurous, then I would suggest:

Veal Chops Valentino

2 veal chops, trimmed
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 celery stick, diced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, cut into strips
60ml dry white wine
225g passata (tomato sauce)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

For the Seasoned Flour:
1 tbsp plain flour (heaped)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Prepare the seasoned flour on a plate by mixing all the ingredients together. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy pan until bubbling then dip the chops lightly on both sides in the seasoned flour then place in the pan and fry on both sides for about 5 minutes, or until well browned. Remove the chops from the pan and set aside to keep warm.

In the same pan, add the chopped vegetables and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the white wine and bring to a boil then allow the mixture to reduce for 2 minutes before adding the tomato sauce. Stir to combine then return the chops to the pan, ensuring the meat is covered with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Adjust the seasoning, to taste then serve the chops coated with the sauce and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Accompany with pasta or rice.

And not forgetting dessert:

Chocolat Pots de Crème

360ml double cream
240ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp strong coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain chocolate, finely chopped
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Combine the cream, milk, coffee and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Heat to just under the boiling point then place the chocolate in a glass mixing bowl. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk the resultant mixture until smooth and the chocolate is well incorporated.

Divide the mixture between 8 ramekins (about 150ml) then cover tightly with foil before placing in a baking dish. Pour water around the ramekins so the level comes half way up their sides. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 175°C an bake for about 35 minutes, or until set.

When done, uncover the ramekins and set aside to cool. Once cold transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 5 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream and strawberries.

Of course, for many, a Valentine's day meal would not be complete without a decadent cocktail:

Raspberry Romance Cocktail

30ml Coffee liqueur (eg Tia Maria)
22ml Chambord
37.5ml Irish cream liqueur (eg Baileys)
club soda


Fill a glass with ice then pour over the coffee liqueur, Chambord and Irish cream liqueur. Fill the remainder of the glass with club soda then serve.

(you can find a whole range of traditional and modern cocktail recipes here.

And finally, there are the treats:

Ungodly Chocolate Truffles

240ml double cream
300g dark (at least 70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
500g dark (at least 70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped (for coating)


In a heavy pan, bring the cream to a simmer (a microwave and a glass bowl is just as good for this). Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter. (The smaller they are cut up, the easier this will be.) Once the chocolate has been incorporated, allow to cool and refrigerate until firmly set, stirring now and then. In the refrigerator compartment (this will take about 4 hours). Use the freezer and you can cut that down to under an hour, but with much more frequent stirring.

Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out a tablespoon or so of chocolate and use your hands to form balls about 2 to 3 cm in diameter. Spread them on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour. While the balls are freezing, chop and carefully heat, in a bain-marie (double boiler) or heavy pot, the chocolate for the coating. Stir until melted. Allow to slowly cool until it feels just warm to your skin. The object is to have it just above the melting point so that when the frozen chocolate balls are dipped in it, they gather and congeal a thickish coating around them.

When the centres of the chocolate balls are frozen and the molten chocolate is ready, take each ball and drop it into the coating, roll it quickly about, then remove it with the tines of two forks and drop it onto a sheet of wax paper. If the coating thickens too much, reheat it a little, perhaps using a microwave.

When all the truffles are dipped, you can serve them right away. If they will be stored or transported, refrigerate them a while longer first.

The Last Word

If these recipes have whetted your appetite, then you can find more information about St Valentine's day as well as seeing hundreds of St Valentine's day recipes by following the link on the left.

Whatever you do for St Valentine's day, be sure to share it with the one you love.
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