After a rather long hiatus, I’m back, back, back. Over the next few weeks, as I try and settle myself back into UK living, I’ll be staying with various obliging friends around London. And, in return, I’ll be doing my best to cook some delicious meals for them. So, I’m kickstarting the blog again, by giving you a sample of my cooking using ingredients that are available in other people’s cupboards.

So, here I am at my friend Claire’s lovely house in Peckham. And oh boy, does she have a kitchen after my own heart. Huge five-burner cooker, double oven, well-stocked with Le Creuset and Sabatier, and, best of all, a great big dining table in the middle of the room. My dream set-up – you can cook for friends while they’re in close enough proximity to chat and drink with.

However, right now, I’ve got the place to myself, while Claire and her kids are on holiday, so my soft return to blogging is a dish for one. And, surprise surprise, it involves pork. (Yeah, something tells me it was never going to work, me living in Muslim country.)

Being a party of one on a Sunday is no reason, in my eyes, not to have a roast. And the small piece of pork tenderloin I found myself with is perfect for that. Because it’s small, it cooks very quickly, and a decent piece gives you a wee bit of leftovers for lunch the next day.

In the fridge were a few bags of herbs (remainders of a lamb shank dish I’d cooked the week before, but had too much red wine by the time I took photos of it, and they turned out to be far from bloggable quality…). I chopped up a big handful of rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel seeds, chilli and garlic, and rubbed it all over the tenderloin, along with a good glug of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

One of the vegetables I missed most in Istanbul was fennel – you get the dried seeds very easily, but no one seemed to have heard of the fresh vegetable part of it. It’s something that seems to go with everything, but it tastes particularly good with pork. So, I quartered a bulb and chucked it into the roasting pan.

Into an oven of about 190ºC (gas mark 5) it went, for about 35 minutes (the two pieces pictured were about 150g each). It’s long been the belief that you have to blast the hell out of pork – not a hint of pinky-ness allowed. But after eating very rare pork in a Spanish tapas restaurant a few years ago, I have well and truly disabused myself of that notion. And, in fact, a report came out recently in the UK that said it was perfectly fine to cook pork to à point.

So that’s what I did with my tenderloin. A couple of boiled tatties and some peas on the side, and this was a very tasty return to a traditional(ish) Sunday lunch.

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Okay, as promised last week, here is part 3 of Adventures With An Onion Squash… Last night, my little sister was staying with me again, so I thought I’d introduce her to the delights of this new discovery of mine.

I’d spotted a Nigel Slater recipe in a recent Observer Food Monthly for roast partridge with pumpkin, and thought my chicken legs and onion squash were close enough replacements.

I took two chicken legs, jointed them (so they would cook a little bit quicker), and browned them in a little olive oil. I also chucked in about five whole cloves of garlic, with the skin still on.

Once browned. I placed the chicken pieces on top of the deseeded and sliced squashes in a large ceramic baking dish. A few sage leaves were added, plus a good amount of seasoning, then I poured in enough water to almost cover the squash slices.

Into an oven heated to gas mark 5 it went, for about 35 minutes, and out came a beautifully coloured, garlic-scented, sweet pile of chickeny-squashy yumminess. With it, we had some boiled pink fir apple potatoes, and the last of the cabbage, simply braised. And it was absolutely delicious – even if I do say so myself.

Onion squash is definitely my new favourite vegetable. I used it for the first time last week, when I braised it with a pork chop.

This time, I’ve cooked it with more or less the same combination of ingredients – squash, some onion and garlic, peas, sage – except I’ve made it into a quinoa risotto instead of having it as a side to meat.

(Can you call a dish a risotto if it doesn’t have rice in it? I doubt it, but you get the general idea…)

The method was pretty much the same as that for a risotto. Fry some onion and garlic, add the quinoa and some stock, then throw in the vegetables and herbs at the end to cook through. And, although I didn’t have any in my fridge tonight, I reckon a good spoonful or two of Parmesan would taste great with this.

Tune in again next week for part 3 of 101 Uses For An Onion Squash!

Chop chop…

February 3, 2010

Last night’s supper was so quick and so tasty, I surprised even myself. I was just in the mood for the pork chop I’d bought at The Ginger Pig, and the dinky little onion squash I picked up at one of the vegetable stalls struck me as the perfect accompaniment.

Squash, it seems to me, has become quite a trendy vegetable. There’s certainly a much wider variety available now – and, to be honest, they were something I only ever used to associate with naff Harvest Festival displays in remote village halls.

But they are so cheap, and, I have pleasantly discovered, so sweetly delicious, that I have decided to give them a second chance.

Never having cooked onion squash before, I did some reading up on it, and got the impression it would be soft enough to cook and eat with the skin on.

So, I quickly browned the pork chop in a frying pan, removed it to a plate, then sliced the squash and added it to the pan. After about 5 minutes, I put the chop back in, seasoned with salt and pepper, added a few chopped sage leaves and a little water to stop it all sticking, and left it to simmer.

As predicted, the squash was nice and tender after another 5 minutes or so, which was how long it took for the pork to cook, too. Being a bit of a pea fiend, I added a handful of frozen ones to pad out the meal, and as soon as they were cooked through, I served up.

All in all, it took about 20 minutes to put this dish together. And about 2 minutes to eat it!

A very British stir-fry

December 17, 2009

This is one of my favourite kinds of meals, because it’s infinitely adaptable in the ingredients you can use, and really simple to cook. Last night, I used up some pork mince, a leek and some fast-fading brussel tops to make what is essentially a stir-fry. I sautéed the sliced leek and chopped brussel tops in a little olive oil, added some garlic, sage, and salt and pepper, then once the vegetables were soft, chucked in the pork mince, raised the heat a little and stirred to break up the meat. Add a little water at this stage, if you don’t like it too dry. The mince takes barely five minutes to cook, so it really is as quick as any Chinese stir-fry. I had some boiled potatoes with it, but you can have pretty much any form of carb – rice, pasta, or some crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.

It’s one of those convenient meals where you can use anything that’s in your fridge. Simply adjust the herbs and seasoning to go with the vegetables and meat you’re using, and it’ll be really tasty every time.