Tag Archives: meat

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

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Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Imagine juicy and tender, I mean melting in your mouth tender pork wrapped in a soft corn tortilla. Then top it with some pico de gallo and velvety smooth avocado, maybe a dollop of creme fraiche. Go ahead throw in some cheese too if you like – I won’t judge you! You end up with one of the loveliest mouthfuls you’ll ever taste. How would you like if I told you cooking this pulled pork takes no effort AT ALL and a very short ingredient list?

Ingredients: (For Pulled Pork)

  • Boneless Pork Roast- 5 lbs (any cut will work)
  • Onion- 1
  • Tomato paste- 1 tbsp.
  • Cumin- 1 tsp.
  • Red Chilli Flakes- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dr. Pepper- 2.5 cups or 2 cans ( I know things just got weird but I promise you it’s worth it!)

Ingredients: (For Tacos)

  • Pico de Gallo (see the recipe  in the hyperlink below) or Salsa- 1 cup
  • Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche- 1/2 cup
  • Avocado- 1
  • Cheese (optional)- 1 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 300F/150C.

Slice your onion and put it on the bottom of a deep heavy pot, preferably a cast iron one or use your slow cooker, then place your pork right on top of the sliced onion.  Spread the tomato paste over the top of the pork and sprinkle with cumin and red chilli flakes.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Then pour in your Dr.Pepper.  The first time I made this recipe it was an act of faith. Dr. Pepper…really? I stumbled upon it on the Pioneer Woman website and was so intrigued by it I just had to give it a go. I slightly modified the recipe only because for the life of me I can’t find chipotle peppers in London and it’s a real tragedy.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Put it in the oven and cook for 6-7 hours. Flip it a couple of times. This is what it looks like closer to the end.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
When your meat is very tender take two forks and simply pull it apart.
Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
DE-LI-CIOUS!

Serve your pulled pork piled up on soft tacos with this pico de gallo or this chunky pico de gallo a couple of slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

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Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

It’s British Pie Week and I thought it would be only fitting to indulge ourselves in yet another pastry filled with a wonderful fusion of flavours. When people talk about “pies” here in England you never need to wonder if they mean “meat pies”, it’s assumed. The Brits eat fruit pies as well but the meat variety holds a special place in the nation’s hearts and stomachs. Works for me as I come from Russia, another pie loving nation. I didn’t need further convincing to embark on a pie making campaign. Earlier this week I blogged about Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette and today I am sharing with you this completely unusual and utterly delicious Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

When I was growing up my mum used to make Rabbit and Sour Cream Stew. If you think of happy childhood memories it wasn’t one of them. My brother and I had very strong opinions about that dish and talks about the dislike for it provided for some quality bonding time between the siblings. I often wondered since then if I would think differently now that I am in possession of a very grown up taste. There are not too many foods I dislike provided they are cooked well. Alas, I had a few opportunities to test my theories. After all, where does one go to purchase a rabbit or a pheasant in North America? Now, England is a different story. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foodie heaven-so many things that I love are easily accessable and completely affordable! This was the case with rabbit and pheasant casserole mix I stumbled upon in one of the local shops. Although I had no idea what I was going to cook I knew I had to buy it.  Rabbit excited me but pheasant sent me over the top. If you are a book worm like me you’d probably also wondered what pheasants taste like after reading the descriptions of feasts in various books of old. How pleased was I when I spotted the design on one of my plates- the latest flea market find-  Asiatic Pheasants. Serendipity, indeed.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
The recipe for this pie is a mixture of things-the memories of my mum’s stew, my usual meat pie recipe and also a bit of research. Without further ado let me introduce the final result.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Ingredients:

  • Rabbit meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Pheasant meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-300 gr
  • Onion-1 large
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Rosemary-2 sprigs
  • Flour- 1tbsp. heaped
  • White wine, vermouth or cider (optional)- a good splash
  • Chicken stock- 2 cups
  • Carrot- 1
  • Peas-1/2 cup
  • Potato- 1 medium
  • Pre-made pie crust – 500gr
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Egg (beaten)-1Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, dice the onion and gently cook it in a pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes without colouring it. Dice your rabbit, pheasant and chicken into 1” dice and add to the pan, brown the meat over medium heat, add rosemary and cook for 2 more minutes, then pour in the wine, let the alcohol burn off and then add your stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Gently simmer the mixture for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if a bit dry. At the end of the cooking time your meat should be very soft and the whole filling look like it’s swimming in gravy but not too soupy.

Adding vegetables is entirely your choice. I like a little bit of crunch in my pies provided by the veggies not the gristle :-). Slice the carrot and potato and add to the mixture, cook for 5-7 minutes, then add frozen peas. When I added my peas I realised it was the pea and corn mix, so that’s what the yellow flecks in the pictures are. Stir in your creme fraiche for the creamy consistency and cool your mixture so it doesn’t melt the pie crust when you pour it in. I am very impatient and often pay for it! Now is the time to preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Roll out your pie crust to fit your pie plate making sure the bottom crust goes up the sides and hangs over the edges. Fill your pie with the meat mixture and cover it with the top crust. If you feel especially creative you can cut out rounds with a pastry/cookie cutter and assemble a pie topper out of them, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual circles stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. If you opt out for the traditional top crust don’t forget to make slits so the steam can escape. Bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Note: I would love to point out that this recipe will work brilliantly with just chicken. I realise that rabbit and pheasant are not too common but don’t discard a great pie recipe if you don’t feel adventurous enough to try them. Substitute and enjoy!

Venison Steak Diane with a Facelift – Dedicated to Hunters and Gatherers

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venison steak diane
Those of you who follow my blog know that I recently acquired a rather unusual selection of meats with some of the items being entirely new to me.  Although I’ve never cooked venison before I am not a complete wild game virgin. Brad and I spent our honeymoon in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario that was  graciously offered to us by my parents -in-law’s friends. When we arrived there we discovered another present inside the cabin- a freezer stocked full of meat, venison and moose, perfectly suited to the surroundings. I had no idea all kinds of delicacies like steaks, pepperoni and sausages could be made out venison. I grew up in Russia and in a very urban setting, the wildest thing I’d eaten up to that point was a stewed rabbit!

I loved the taste of venison but didn’t have a slightest idea of how to cook it, so I approached this challenge with a lot of research. I poured over hundreds of recipes on the internet to find the perfect one and get inspired until I stumbled upon Venison Steak Diane on Honest Food website. I am not going to lie to you that the main draw for the recipe was the picture! I really hope you will feel the same about mine:-).

What was keeping me from starting immediately was the name. Steak Diane had a firmly planted association in my head with an old and tired recipe from the 50s that no one would get passionate about. However, that opinion quickly changed when I learned that the name for Steak Diane didn’t come from some old lady named Diane who invented the recipe in her 1950s kitchen but Roman mythology and one of their goddesses Diana, who was a huntress. The sauce itself originated in the turn of the 20th century France and was invented for venison, not beef. It’a classic for a reason! That convinced me to give it a try. That, and the short and simple ingredient list.

Ingredients:

steak ingredients

Venison steaks-400gr/1 lbs

Onion-1 small

Garlic-2 cloves

Worcestershire Sauce-1 tbsp.

Whole Grain Mustard with chilies (chilies optional)-1tbsp.

Tomato paste-1tbsp.

Butter-2 tbsp.

Double cream/heavy cream- 1/4 c.

Beef stock-2/3 c.

Brandy (or any white wine or whiskey you have on hand)-1/4 c.

Basil for garnish- 2-3 leaves sliced

Method:

Take your venison out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for about 20-30 min. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the frying pan on medium heat and fry your steak until they develop a brown crust on both sides. It took me about 6-7 min. on one side and 3-4 on the other. They will be pleasantly browned on the outside but won’t cook all the way through provided your steaks are 1.25- 1.5 inches thick. Remove the steaks from pan and allow to rest on a plate, cover to keep warm.

steaks browned

While your steaks are frying, dice the onion quite finely and saute in the same pan for 2-3 min, then add minced garlic to it and continue sauteing while stirring constantly as garlic burns quickly and turns bitter for another 30 sec.

Add your brandy or whatever alcohol you are using and let it cook for 4-5 min so it’s reduced and the spoon leaves a trail on the pan when you stir. Brandy is not essential to this recipe but adds complexity to otherwise a very simple sauce. I usually never have brandy on hand but as you can see from my previous post I bought a bottle for my homemade eggnog which was another proof the recipe was meant to be!

Now add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, beef stock, a pinch of salt and pepper to the sauce and cook it until thickened and looks like this…

sauce1

Take your sauce off the heat and wait a bit until the bubbles calm down. Now add cream to the sauce until it looks pretty. Yes, that’s exactly how I decide on the amounts of cream in everything-from my coffee to apparently sauces. I like this colour…

sauce2

Stir everything together to blend but don’t put in back on the heat or it might separate and although it will still taste just as great it won’t look nearly as beautiful as this…

steak diane whole

Are you hungry enough yet? You can serve your steaks whole or your can slice them in medallions.

steak sliced
I was quite pleased with the way it turned out but I was also a bit under the weather and too busy taking pictures capitalizing on a brief moment of sunshine streaming through my kitchen window that it didn’t even occur to me to taste the meat. It’s steak, right? I’ve had steak before. The reason I went for a small mouthful is to bring variety to my shots and OH MY GOODNESS. All of a sudden, I forgot that I was sick and not hungry! The meat was so tender and flavourfulI had to immediately call for Brad, the main taste tester. Big mistake. It was gone in seconds.

steak diane 2
steak diane 3
Venison Steak Diane
One last word about the garnish. Traditionally parsley is used to adorn Steak Diane. I didn’t have any. I have a basil plant growing on my window sill, so used basil. It was outstanding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I love intentional substitutions and unintentional mistakes! Did you know that Worcestershire sauce was one of them? I love bold and creative people!

P.S. This recipe was adapted from the one here.

P.P.S. If you buy anything similar at a restaurant it would cost your at least £20!  It cost me £2 per person!!

Christmas Dinner- Roasted Pork Leg with Port Gravy {Part 1}

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Believe it or not but this entire post in 3 parts was inspired by my most recent acquisition from the Greenwich market- this antique meat carving set. The vendor kept warning us about the sharpness of the blade so I had very little choice but to buy a chunk of meat and test it for myself!

Also, I am becoming very keenly aware that Christmas is very fast approaching and I would love to offer you some wonderful options from the Vikalinka’s kitchen for your festive dinner. This post is all about the meat and gravy but in the subsequent parts I will be telling all about your sides like potato and stuffing. So stay with me for the whole run!

I don’t know how you feel about roasts but I’ve always been a fan. Nothing is easier and more satisfying than throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven waiting for a couple of hours and then feasting on it for days and making your house smell heavenly in the process! My love for them only grew deeper when we moved to England where a Sunday Roast is a century-old tradition. When it comes to roasting meat I trust my favourite chef (who also happens to be a Brit), Jamie Oliver, more than anybody else in the world, even my own mother. I’ve looked through at least 6 of his recipes for different cuts and this is what I came up with- a hybrid of sorts but delicious and tender nonetheless.

Ingredients:

Pork leg- 6-7 lbs

Carrot-2 medium

Celery-2 stalks

Onion-1 medium

Sage and Rosemary- 2-3 sprigs of each

garlic-3 cloves

salt and pepper

For Port Gravy:

Flour-1 tbsp.

Port-1/4 c.

Stock- 2 c.

Method:

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature.Take your pork leg out of the fridge, rinse it with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay it on the cutting board skin side up and make slits on the skin with a sharp knife. Rub the meat with salt and paper. Take your herbs and vegetables and roughly chop them up while leaving garlic whole but smashed. Put them in the middle of your roasting pan and place the pork leg directly on top of them like that.

Place the pork in the oven and cook at 475F/250C for about 10-15 min allowing the skin to blister up, then turn the temperature down to 350F/180C and cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 145F/60C basting it with the pork drippings half-way through. If you don’t have a meat thermometer I highly recommend buying one. They are inexpensive and a great way to make sure you don’t overcook your meat and end up with something that tastes like a shoe.They are quite important as oven temperatures vary so much that going by the internal temperature of your roast is much better than the cooking time in the recipe. I suspect that the reason many people stay away from roasts is because of the memories of dry and overcooked meat from their childhood.

When your roast is done. It should look similar to this one.

Remove the roast from the pan and set it aside. Cover it with foil if you plan on eating later. On the side note, once you take the roast out of the oven and cover it, the temperature will rise a bit more as the the internal cooking is still happening. That is why it’s important to watch the temperature and take it out of the oven sooner rather than later.

Next on the list is gravy. I cook mine in the same pan where I cooked the roast. This way you can use all the drippings and the burnt bits. That’s where the flavour is going to come from…well that and port, of course!

Sprinkle your flour over the pan and blend it in the fat. (I drain most of the fat but leave about a tablespoon.) Remember all the herbs and vegetables that were hidden under the roast? They should be nice and very soft right now. Mash them with the potato masher and blend everything together. The mixture will be very chunky but we won’t worry about it right now. Add port and let it cook for a couple of minutes, let the flavour seep into the gravy and then add the stock. Turn the heat up and allow the gravy to thicken, just watch it bubble away and enjoy the aroma that rises from it. When the gravy reached the right consistency take it off the heat and strain into a gravy dish leaving all the vegetable bits behind.I can’t begin to tell you how much the roasted veggies and port in this recipe improve and add depth to the overall taste of the gravy. The sweetness that port offers works particularly well with the pork. Please, please, please give it a try! I promise you won’t regret it! And when you do try it let me know your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to come back for Part 2 and 3 of this fabulous meal.

It was such a hit with the whole family that the last words of my 6-year old before bed were: “Mummy, can I please have more of that pig tomorrow?”

 

 

 

Beef Wellington ( the humble version)

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Ground Beef WellingtonToday is American Thanksgiving and I am quite sure their bellies are going to be full of all kinds of amazing food. I am also sure this post is going to be absolutely irrelevant to the nation quietly snoring on their couches by 5pm. As for the rest of the world…well, we still gotta eat something. What I am bringing to you today is a humble, speedy but no less delicious version of grand Beef Wellington.  Traditionally Beef Wellington is prepared with a good cut of beef but our recipe calls for ground beef which is much cheaper and less intimidating to work with. While I’ve always wanted to make the “real” version I never seemed to be able to justify spending the money on the high priced chunk of beef. When Jamie Oliver came up with this recipe I knew it would become a regular week night dinner option. On a side note, I would like to express my love and devotion to Jamie Oliver. Isn’t that guy amazing?!! I simply adore his food. I follow him on Twitter, I follow him on Instagram, I subscribe to his daily recipe, I watch him on TV and I have at least 5 of his books! Wow, I think I just scared myself with my passion for the man! No intervention needed I think I got it under control.

Right, back to food.This tasty dish is a winner with everyone, from young to old. It’s beautiful and will make you look like you possess chef-like skills in the kitchen while it’s a breeze to make. Ready?

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 potato
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 portobello mushrooms or 5 regular button mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary or thyme (your choice)
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 egg
  • 1lbs of ground beef/mince meat( I used  a half and half mix of extra lean beef and pork)
  • 1 package of store-bought puff pastry -500gr
  • flour for dusting and rolling
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and take your pastry out of the fridge to soften a bit. Peel onion, carrot and potato. Dice all the vegetables (except the peas!) into similar size pieces, put your frying pan on a medium heat with 2 tbls. of olive oil, chop up your herbs and squeeze the garlic through a garlic press or chop it up with a knife and throw them in the pan as well. Gently saute everything stirring occasionally until your vegetables are tender and onions are translucent. It will take about 5-8 minutes. Then transfer your mixture into a bowl and cool completely.

Ground Beef Wellingon

Once it’s cooled enough to touch add your beef and peas to it. Here is your chance to play with your food-get into the bowl with your hands and start mixing everything together adding salt and pepper and a half of your beaten egg, reserve the rest for the pastry. If you are one of those people who really doesn’t like to touch meat I recommend buying kitchen gloves for instances like that because it’s really important to get into the mixture with your hands to ensure even distribution of all the nice bits plus it’s just fun!

Ground Beef Wellington

Dust your clean work surface with a handful of flour and roll out your pastry to a 1/4 inch thickness or use an already rolled one!

Shape your beef mixture into a log and place it on your rolled out pastry sheet, brush the edges with the reserved egg. Roll it up tucking the ends inside like a giant burrito, brush with the egg all over and place it on a baking sheet seam down.

Ground Beef Wellington

Bake Beef Wellington in the preheated oven for 45 min to an hour depending on your oven until golden.

That’s what mine looked like…

Ground Beef Wellington

Serve your Wellington with a simple green salad or roasted potatoes if you wanted it to be a heftier meal.

Ground Beef Wellington
Enjoy and come back for more!
Ground Beef Wellington