Cottage Pie with Seared Fillet in a Madeira Sauce, Parsnip Puree Croquettes and Horseradish Cream’. Or ‘Beef, Two Ways’

I was watching ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ the other day. MasterChef is bad enough in terms of the sheer terror those poor contestants go through, but being on the show and being a professional chef as well is even worse.

Having the likes of Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg ‘that’s a lovely plate of food’ Wallace tell the head chef of a gastropub in Hampstead Heath that his ‘Pan-fried Duck with Distressed Carrot Salad on a Bed of Infused Cherry Curds with Cognac Reduction’ looks like road kill could do more than dent a bit of pride.

One of the meals prepared was ‘Lamb three ways’. The chef did Shepard’s Pie (in a mini saucepan), a kind of lamb meatball thing (can’t remember exactly what it was) and lamb leg loin. It looked good to me but the judges were harsh and said it didn’t taste of anything much. Of course us viewers wouldn’t know, we just stare at the food whilst munching on nuts and sipping a glass of wine thinking ‘I wish I was eating that rather than these crappy nuts’.

So I decided to do something like what I’d seen. You know ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’. I opted for ‘Cottage Pie with Seared Fillet in a Madeira Sauce, Parsnip Puree Croquettes and Horseradish Cream’. Or ‘Beef, Two Ways’.

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Wild Pig, Black Pudding and Breakfasts that ‘set in’

Previously on Happiness Stan…

I went to the butchers and they were slightly annoying.

So a month or so ago we set off shopping, but decided to explore the more rural parts, south of where we live, looking for somewhere different to acquire some bacon and eggs.

We ended up in deepest darkest Surrey (about 5 miles from home).

Here the locals speak in strange dialects, and wild pigs forage for truffles (this may or may not be true, the shop staff we spoke to didn’t have strange dialects, although that might have been because they weren’t local – they could have been bused in from Northern France – and I didn’t spot any pigs, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there, hiding their truffles).

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Deepest, darkest Surrey…

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Braised Short Ribs

Just about the only cut of meat I haven’t cooked was short ribs. (That’s a complete untruth, there are many, many cuts of meat I haven’t cooked yet but slow-cooked ribs is the one that I fancied most).

As we got our first frost of the winter today I thought I would celebrate by writing up this bad boy from a week or so ago.

One moment please, I’m just going outside to shoot the annoying person setting off some fireworks…

…okay he isn’t going to be doing that anymore. Back to the frost scenario. This year Autumn (or ‘fall’ as some say) has been the warmest ever (some bright spark could probably bore us to death with meteorological statistics saying it was warmer in 1934, but I don’t care, it was warm, like 25 centigrade in October warm).

And you know, things go a bit weird when the weather does funny things in Britain. Wearing t-shirts and shorts in the last week of October just looks strange. Its not right.

So when it got a bit chilly a week or so ago I headed off to the local butchers (local as in 20 minutes drive) to get me some ribs. Now the butchers are usually a jovial pair, all ‘Sir’ and ‘Lovely cut that’ and all that crap. But that day they were not in a good mood.

‘Have you got any short ribs?’

‘Well we have ribs, pork or beef?’

‘Beef’ (How was I to know to make them short they just cut them down the middle)

Can you cut them down the middle?’

‘I can cut them anyway you want (slight pause) sir’.

‘Fine, do that’.  I turned round, annoyed, and stared at some pickles, almost wanting to walk out but wanting those ribs more.

Anyway the old guy cheered up and started recommending all sorts of methods of preparation. But I wasn’t listening. I had spotted a small but very dark 42 day aged fillet steak. I chose that too, for another day…

Back home I put my plan into action. I intended marinading the ribs and then slow cooking them in wine. Lots of wine.

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Of Psychotic Jack o’lanterns and Brownie melt-downs

I don’t think I know, or even care, what Halloween is about anymore. It’s like something to do with something about some pagan ritual. Or is it something to do with saving our souls from pagan rituals. Or is it about warding off the second coming of the son of St Pumpkin.

Actually isn’t it a nod to the founding fathers staving off the attack of some indigenous peoples who were encroaching on a field of butternut squash? No, fool; Halloween is recognition of Jack Nicholson dealing with Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfiefer. At the same time. Period.

Whatever, Halloween is a good excuse to do stupid things to vegetables. It isn’t really a good excuse to make a mess with chocolate, but I propose introducing the latter as a new traditional activity.

So this Halloween we proceeded to make Chocolate Mallow Brownies. And also get busy on a couple of pumpkins. At the same time.

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Forget American Horror Story, this is where the terror begins…

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Gnocchi stuffed with butternut squash (shouldn’t be this painful)

The Mrs tore out this recipe from The Sunday Times Magazine and left it hanging around where I would obviously find it. My previous attempt at gnocchi was ‘challenging’, but I seemed to suffer a bout of forgetfulness (as in I couldn’t remember why I didn’t like making gnocchi) and went ahead and did it again.

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