The Musette: sticky ribs

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 150˚C(300˚F)/130˚C fan/gas mark 2.

2. While the oven is warming, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves.

3. Place a frying pan over a medium heat until it is hot, then add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion has softened but not coloured.

4. Add the chilli (if using), fennel seeds and brown sugar and cook, stirring, for a further 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has melted.

5. Add the tomato ketchup and soy sauce and stir everything together. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens up.

6. Put the ribs into a deep-sided dish and pour over the sauce.

7. Cover the dish with foil and put it into the oven for at least 2 hours, then increase the oven temperature to 180˚C/(350˚F)/160˚C fan/gas mark 4, remove the foil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes more.

8. Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let the ribs cool down so they are not too hot to handle before serving.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can substitute honey, maple syrup or coconut blossom for the dark brown sugar.

2. If I’m using a bottled rather than home-made ketchup, I’ll also add a tbsp of tomato paste.

3. Feel free to up the garlic and chilli if you enjoy more heat.

4. Depending upon the size of the ribs, you may need to cook them for longer, so that most of the fat has melted.

5. If you want to prepare in advance. Allow the sauce to cool, cover the ribs with the sauce and cover the dish with cling film (plastic wrap) before leaving in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge before cooking to allow meat to reach room temperature.

6. The sauce also works well on pork chops and chicken wings.

The Musette: indulgent fish pie

We don’t get many visitors who stay overnight largely because we work from home. My brother-in-law and his wife recently spent a long week-end with us and I much enjoyed catering for them. My sister-in-law is a very skilled practionner of arts & crafts but not a particularly keen cook. I’m the opposite, barely capable of sewing a button back on but right at home in the kitchen. So it was a real treat to cook for them for a few days.

The fish pie is a British classic but all too often the fish ends up completely over cooked, lacking its identity, texture and flavour. In this recipe, I cool the sauce and then add the fish to the cold sauce before baking in a hot oven. This ensures that the fish is not over-cooked. This versatile recipe can be made with whatever fish you prefer. You can be creative with flavouring it, adding your favourite herbs and even some vegetables. You can make and chill the sauce ahead of time, or assemble the pie, minus the topping, and freeze.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 large shallots or 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 40g (3 tbs) butter
  • 1 large thyme sprig, leaves only
  • 4 tbsp Noilly Prat, dry vermouth or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp Pernod (optional)
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml (1 cup) fish, chicken or vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
  • 200ml (3/4 cup) milk
  • 4 tbsp double (heavy) cream
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 250g (1/2 lb) skinless salmon or cod fillets
  • 180g (6 oz) smoked haddock fillets
  • 200g (7 oz) scallops
  • 150g (5 oz) large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tbsp fresh organic lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Creamed Potato Topping

  • 750g (1 1/2lbs) potatoes, peeled
  • 75g (5 tbsp) butter, cubed
  • 50ml (1/4 cup) hot milk or single cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 75g (2/3 cup) medium Emmental (or similar) cheese, finely grated

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F). Grease a shallow (about 2 litre /8 cups capacity) pie dish.

2. Start by making the mashed potato for the topping. Chop the potatoes into chunks and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and push through a potato ricer, or mash until smooth. Add the butter and hot milk or cream and mix until well incorporated. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks. Season well and put to one side.

3. Sauté the shallots or onion and celery in the oil and butter with the thyme leaves for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the Noilly Prat and Pernod (if using), then cook for 4–5 minutes until reduced right down.

4. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so. Heat the stock in a small pan or a jug in the microwave. Gradually stir it into the vegetable mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth, and boil for about 5 minutes until reduced by a third. Mix in the milk, lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Season well, then add the cream and parsley and leave to cool.

5. Meanwhile, cut the fish into bite-sized chunks and scatter in the pie dish with the scallops and prawns. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and seasoning. Put the dish on a baking sheet.

6. Pour over the cool sauce and mix well but gently with a fork. Pipe the mashed potato on top or spread and fluff it up with a fork. Scatter with the grated cheese and put the pie immediately in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F), and bake for another 20 minutes, turning the dish if it starts to brown unevenly. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving and receiving plaudits!

7. Serve the fish pie with fresh steamed greens (peas, asparagus, spinach or broccoli are perfect) and a nice glass or two of your favourite white wine.

The Musette: vegan cauliflower korma

This is a creamy, comforting take on the curry-house staple from a Meera Sodha recipe which I’ve adapted – as I’m wont  to do – to my own taste and dietary requirements. Like Meera I had always thought of korma as the curry for people who didn’t like heat or spice but this is a quite different take: less sweet, with warm subtle backnotes.

I made this for supper for some French friends because, even though they might claim to like spicy food, the French don’t do hot and spicy. My friends, like me, don’t eat dairy so this was the ideal recipe for a quick Friday evening supper.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 200g cashew nuts
  • 1kg (2lbs) approx. whole cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • thumb sized pieces fresh ginger and fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
  • 6 cardamom pods, seeds extracted
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 250ml (1 cup) filtered water
  • 1 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 handful each toasted flaked almonds and freshly chopped coriander, to serve

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Put the cashews in a heatproof bowl, add freshly boiled water to cover and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, add 250ml (1 cup) filtered water and blend until smooth.

2. Steam the cauliflower whole until you can easily pierce the stem with a sharp knife though it should still be firm, not mushy.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame, then fry the onions for 12-15 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the garlic, turmeric and ginger, fry for three to four minutes, then stir in the cardamom seeds, 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, garam masala and rose water.

4. Next add the brown rice syrup, a tsp sea salt and the cashew cream, then cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce turns a rich golden colour. It should be the same thickness as a cheese sauce, if it’s not, add a little more filtered water. Season to taste and turn off the heat.

5. Put the steamed cauliflower into an oven proof dish and pour over the sauce which should easily cover the head of cauliflower. Pop into the oven until it’s golden and bubbling, 30-40 minutes should suffice. To serve, portion into quarters.

6. Toast the almonds for 5 minutes in the oven, finely chop the coriander and scatter over each serving.

7. Serve with a spicy chutney on the side and naan or, if you’re feeling really hungry, basmati rice.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. I made this firstly faithfully following the recipe but didn’t really enjoy the taste of the oven roasted cauliflower and I wanted it to be more like a mildly spiced cauliflower cheese and also use less fat in the cooking process.

2. I added the rose water and rice syrup because I had them in my pantry but I suspect that while they lend sweet backnotes to the sauce, they’re really optional extras.

3. I thinned the cashew cream with a bit more filtered water rather than non-dairy milk – fewer calories and no loss of flavour.

4. I skipped the toasted raisins in my version because I didn’t like them.

5. The dish isn’t a looker but it’s really tasty. Try it and see for yourself or indeed revert to the original recipe, link above.