Shall I state the obvious? I think I will. If you don’t like beef and/or anchovies just don’t bother. Mmm…don’t like the sound of that so let me rephrase. If you like beef but you or anyone you’re feeding is not so keen on anchovies, to put it mildly, try this recipe. Adding them does make a difference. You will not be able to taste them, but they give a depth of flavour that you won’t get with anything else.
For my lovely Maltese readers who have been asking me about Beefburgergate (I’m calling it so) you can find all the details in this article by Ben Quinn on the Guardian. Perhaps, from now on we can finally decide on whether it’s a good idea to make our own. Pass it on.
My idea of a lovely evening would be inviting some friends over for a simple supper, which I can prepare in less than 30 minutes – in less than 10 preferably! I love my kitchen and spend days and days cooking and baking but I do get tired sometimes. So anything that can help me prepare an informal party in no time for and with the people I love spending time the most is always welcome in my book. It takes away the stress and panic, and I think that the simplest meals can be the best meals. These fajitas also take away the assemblage, which in this case is done by others! All you have to do is some prepping – cooking the meat in minutes in a pan and chopping the veggies. Easy stuff.
You can make these fajitas with chicken or beef, or any mixture of veggies you like. If you’re using any kind of meat, the trick is to marinate it well ahead of time to make it moist and tender. Who would want a dry fajita anyway? I had one once and it was stringy and chewy. Not nice. I made this some weeks ago after a very full day when I really didn’t want to spend more time in the kitchen than I had to. There was a little planning beforehand, nothing big – I knew I wanted to cook something quick, simple, and without too much work.
So I bought some rump, cut it into thick strips when I got home and marinated all of it for a couple of hours in the fridge. I then shallow-fried it and left it in the pan till it cooked to medium/rare, keeping an eye on it, as always. You don’t even need any oil if that’s what you prefer, especially if you use a non-stick pan – the marinade has plenty of moisture anyway. But I don’t like burnt meat, so this time I played it safe. All you have to do then is to chop a red pepper, throw in a yellow pepper for luck, dice one or two fresh tomatoes. Place these in individual serving bowls, together with a packet of ready washed rockets leaves and you’re done. Place everything on a corn tortilla, wrap it up and eat. For something extra you can serve it with cornbread for a meze style meal. Perfect for summer. The following is what you need for the marinade:
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 small cubes or crystallized ginger (or ¼ teaspoon ginger powder)
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cold water
Place the meat in a bowl and pour the marinade over it. Mix it well, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour or two or until needed. Cook and serve on corn tortillas with greens and other vegetables. Easy!
I love to read old recipe books. In fact, the older they are the more I enjoy them. I don’t know what makes them so appealing, but it’s just how it is. My mum didn’t have lots of recipe books, and she didn’t inherit any from her mum either. She does have one though, in her head, but you have to be a Vulcan and go through a mind-meld to get hold of that! (My mum is always amused when I ask for advice on a recipe; before I got married I didn’t have any idea how to cook or bake. Could she have thought that I would never learn?! mm…) She’s this type of cook: when you ask her for a recipe she says: “oh so, do you have a pen & paper?…yes?…OK…you need…a bit of mixed spice, a bit of curry, some onions…” and on and on. Sounds familiar? And I fume! But hey, since I love her very much, I just say “awww thanks ma – you’re so sweet”, and I then try to get as close as possible to the recipe later on in the kitchen. The same goes for J’s lovely granny. “That’s delicious Na. What did you use?” “A little bit of this & a little bit of that”…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! I also think though, that there’s something really endearing about that. But I digress…
My first memory of the following recipe is my mother’s kitchen. I was very little and she baked her socks off every time she threw me some sort of party. She catered for every one, and to this day I don’t know how she did it. What I clearly remember are the kitchen and dining tables full of pigs in blankets (or sausage rolls to you and me) and all sorts of little savoury pies, all filed up on baking trays, ready for the oven, like rows and rows of toy soldiers ready for battle!
Now what I prefer to bake are the bigger versions, because I’m older I guess! Unfortunately I don’t like the fiddly and never-ending process of assembling small portions of the same thing. Though I have to admit that managing smaller quantities of shortcrust is easier than rolling out a whole pie lid. So this is what I do: I call in the troupes…well my husband…to give us a hand. J tells me that these are good for the weekend; he finds it therapeutic. I really can’t get this, one: because of all the sticky cleaning up afterwards, and two: because flour has a tendency to get under a kitchen’s skin, like icing sugar. (No, I don’t have a dishwasher in case you’re asking.) But a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen so it’s OK!
In case you have no note of my shortcrust pastry recipe, you can find it here. With 16 oz of pastry you will roughly get 8 decent sized pies. As a cutter I use my soup bowls which measure 17.5cm across. If you have a cookie cutter that big then by all means use it. There will be less risk of breakage. For the filling I used the following:
- 600g minced beef or beef cut into small chunks
- 6 small potatoes, cut into smallish dice
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- around 2 tablespoons or so of milk for brushing the tops (or a beaten egg)
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7.
- Place the minced beef, potatoes and onions in a bowl. If you have a mortar and pestle use that to grind the salt, peppercorns, fenugreek and thyme. Use ground salt and pepper if you prefer. Add these to the beef mixture, together with the ground spices. If you’re not squeemish mix everything by hand. If you are, you could ask someone else to help you!
- Cut 8 rounds of pastry with your cutter. Loosen them from the surface with a spatula and divide the mixture on one side of each pie as equally as you can between them. Place a thin layer of milk or water on the other side of the pastry, fold and press the edges together, sealing everything well. You can fold the edges on themselves too. Brush the pies with milk or a beaten egg.
- Bake at 220ºC (see equivalent above) for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and bake for another 40 minutes or so, till the pies turn golden brown.
These pies are ideal for picnics or to eat on the go. You can also prepare them before you need them and store them uncooked in the fridge. Tell me what you think if you do try them. Apologies for not posting a picture of the cooked pies. I have some on my Facebook page just in case you want to take a quick look. Thanks. Enjoy!
J tells me that I tend to panic whenever I have friends over for lunch or dinner no matter how easy the meal was to prepare. This is perfectly true. (Yes..I am aware of it and I am really working on it.) So I never cook anything complicated to begin with. This is even more true when I have people over mainly because my Surrey flat is very small and the kitchen is tiny. I am not complaining because I’ve seen tinier kitchens than this! But I think I might have just picked up on something that my mother did. She too has a little kitchen but she makes these fantastic dishes and can whip up a meal in a jiffy with a small number of ingredients. (I really have a lovely mum!) She’s really keen on one pot suppers and I can understand why. They are easy to prepare, comforting, especially on a cold winter’s day and you can potter about the house doing your thing while they do their thing and cook.
So the following is my take on my mum’s recipe. It comes in handy when I want that comfy warm feeling of her cooking. This will easily serve 6.
Just a note before going ahead with the recipe. Sometimes I serve this with mashed potatoes but other times I don’t bother too much and add diced ones in the pot. J prefers the mash so I usually do what I’m told..*ehem*. I know that the list of ingredients is long but please bear with me. For this Beef Casserole you need:
- 750g diced beef (in bite-sized chunks)
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- Pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons regular olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 1 leek, chopped
- 1 large onion, or 2 small ones, chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- 8 large mushrooms, quartered
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 litre beef stock (or enough to cover ingredients)
- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste or tomato concentrate
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I prefer the dark brown kind but it’s really up to you)
- 2-3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat your oven to 180°C. Toss the beef in flour and season with some pepper. Then brown the beef well on all sides in an oven proof pan. Remove the meat from the pan to a separate container until needed later.
- Gently fry the chopped leek, onion, garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms in the same pan you seared the beef for around 5 mins, adding the wine slowly to scrape the meat juices from the bottom of the pan. Place the beef in the pot again.
- Add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, stock and sugar and stir. Finally add the Worcestershire sauce and give everything a good mix. Cover and put the pan into the preheated oven for around 1 and a half hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!