Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Goulash with Caraway Dumplings

Whilst this may not be authentic, it is no less delicious. The perfect warming dish on a cold winter's day. Rather than including stewing beef, I have used lamb escalopes instead – this means that it can be cooked quicker rather than the usual hour or so, because the cuts of meat are tender to start with. I also prefer the robust taste of lamb which works so well with the rich sweet earthy tasting sauce.
I use smetana (an eastern european soured cream) to spoon over the top. If you can't find it in your shop, just use normal soured cream, or even natural yogurt which is a perfect substitute.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
325g lamb escalopes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
60ml (half a glass) red wine
500g carton sieved tomatoes
1 tablespoon paprika
salt and black pepper to season
Smetana (soured cream) to serve

For the dumplings:
100g plain flour
50g vegetarian suet
half teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
pinch salt
black pepper
cold water to mix

Put the olive oil in a large heavy lidded saucepan over a moderate heat, when the oil is hot, place the lamb escalopes in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches) and fry for about a minute on each side until brown. Remove the meat and set aside.
Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic, sauté gently until translucent and the raw smell disappears.
Be careful not to let them burn.

Now add the wine and allow to boil while you stir, scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until almost all the liquid has gone and the alcohol has burned off.

Pour in the sieved tomatoes, add the red pepper and paprika and give it a good stir, when it comes to a simmer return the meat and any of its juices and stir in. Put on the lid and cook gently, after about 10 minutes, remove the lid while you continue to cook for another 10 minutes uncovered to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir again, making sure that your goulash isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is, just reduce the heat slightly.

Whilst it's bubbling away, make the dumplings.
In a bowl, add the flour, suet, baking powder, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and stir to combine, then add the cold water little by little as you mix with a fork. You want the dough to come together without being too wet. On a floured surface, squeeze the dough together with your hands and divide into eight pieces.
Roll each of the pieces into a ball.

Now you can add your dumplings to the goulash. Drop them in and gently push them down with a spoon, so that they're completely covered by the sauce.
Replace the lid on the pan and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
The dumplings are done when they increase in size rise to the surface.

Serve in bowls with cool smetana or soured cream spooned
over the top.

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Taste of North Norfolk

Big skies, salt marshes and pure nature make the North Norfolk coast a truly beautiful place to be, and I think we have been blessed with one of the finest weeks of the summer* that's going to make our holiday all the more enjoyable.

The whole point of our break in Blakeney is to relax. There's no itinerary and no over inflated expectations of what we'll experience while we're here either.
Our cottage is tucked away next to the old Friary Farm house and just a short stroll along a country footpath to the quayside.

Crabbers line the harbour, legs dangling over the
quayside at Blakeney

Looking at Blakeney today, it is hard to imagine that it used to be a bustling and thriving port. This was hundreds of years ago, of course, and time and tide have gradually silted up the harbour, meaning that the town is now set back from the coast by a good mile or so.
This, however, hasn’t affected Blakeney’s appeal as it’s quite a popular getaway location. Despite the number of visitors it doesn’t fill up so much that it becomes detracting, and that’s just the way I like it.

Ever popular with children who fill their days with crabbing off the quay, water-filled buckets at the ready as the eager crabbers dangle twine baited with bacon into the muddy channel, Blakeney has a certain charm that gives you the feeling that it is still very much set in a pleasant time in the past.

The tide's out and the mud is perfect for samphire

Sailing boats line the edge of the channel or cut as it’s known, their hulls stranded in the mud waiting for the return of the tide.
I’m amazed at what is able to grow in such a salty environment. There’s sea lavender, sea blight and of course the ubiquitous and very edible marsh samphire.

Although food hunting is not the primary purpose of our trip, we can’t avoid it, as Norfolk is bountiful with fine produce. Seafood is plentiful and it is common to see a crab shed selling not only crab, but local lobsters and mussels too.

Outside the deli in Blakeney

Picnic Fayre delicatessen at Cley-next-the-Sea

Both Blakeney and it’s neighbouring village, Cley-next-the-sea have delicatessens.
We pay a visit to Picnic Fayre in Cley and it doesn’t disappoint. Taking heed of the chalkboard outside we pick up some local homemade lavender bread, a focaccia style loaf fragrant with rosemary as well as the lavender and the added spike from some chilli flakes.

The inviting chalk board

Soft, spicy and scented lavender bread

We also need a bottle of wine.The deli has a good selection of wines from around the world and at a resonable price too, but the one bottle turns into two when a Norfolk sloe wine beckons from the shelf. This turns out to be rather good, not at all ‘home brew’ in nature, but well refined in flavour.

A good country wine – sloe-ly does it!

The place has become quite busy by now, so we stand in a small queue waiting to pay. I’m sure our wait has been engineered so that we don’t miss the pork pies nestling in the counter. They do look very tempting, so we add a couple of handmade, rare breed pork and caramelised red onion pies to our shopping.
I’m so glad we did, as they turn out to be the best we have ever tasted. The pastry is light and and crisp and not at all lardy and the meat is succulent and full of flavour with just the right amount of herbs and seasoning. Perfect

Could these be the best pork pies in the world?

Cley's famous smokehouse

Still on the food trail we cross the road to Cley’s famous smokehouse. Through the small bright pink door we enter the shop and are presented with cabinets full of smoked delights. There's so much to choose from, kippers, buckling, mussels, haddock, red herring… but we decide on the smoked mackerel, naturally cured and smoked using an age old family recipe, they are plump, juicy and full of flavour, making an ideal breakfast.

Just up the road from Blakeney, Wiveton Hall

Slightly dubious spelling but delicious all the same

North Norfolk has so much to offer and when it was time to leave I was feeling hungry for more, but I guess that'll have to be another visit some time in the future…

*Holiday taken in the middle of August

Here are some links for the places I've mentioned:

Holkham Beach is probably the best beach I've ever been too.

For more photos from my trip visit Flickr

Note: This article is now published on the Norfolk Holiday Guide website

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Eating Out: Madsen

Reviewing restaurants isn't normally my thing, but this time I thought I'd give it a go as I was pleased with my experience.
I had been intending to try out Madsen's for quite sometime and as I was enjoying a day out in London's South Kensington, visiting the Natural History Museum, what a perfect opportunity to do so.
Sitting on the Old Brompton Road, just around the corner from the tube station, it is ideally located to make a date for lunch after trekking around the museums.
Our heads were now full of dinosaurs and other natural wonders, but our stomachs were very empty and need of sustenance as well as enjoyment. Madsen's Danish menu didn't fail to fulfill both.

We hadn't booked, but that was no problem and a table for two in the window was given to us.
The interior is typically scandinavian – clean lines, wooden floors and white walls giving a feeling of airiness and space.
The lunch menu has a varied selection of 'smushi' – small open sandwiches with toppings including marinated herring, prawns, or roast beef and other Danish specialities such as “Fiskefrikadeller” – pan-fried haddock fishcakes.
We opted for the weekly special of Frikadeller (pork meatballs) with braised red cabbage and gravy. This was accompanied with new potatoes dressed in butter and thyme, which were delightfully presented, all wrapped up in a parchment bag tied with string.
The meatballs were light and nicely seasoned with a crispy outside and the cabbage was perfectly cooked, not too soft nor too crunchy with a delicate sweetness.

Madsen's food doesn't try to pretend to be high-end and 'restauranty' and that in my opinion is what makes it appealing to me. Good honest food prepared and presented well is something I feel comfortable with.
Speaking of comfort, the service was friendly and attentive without being intrusive and we left feeling refreshed and relaxed.

I shall be keeping an eye on their weekly changing specials as I would definitely return when I'm in the area again.

Photo source: Madsen website
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