FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD, THIS IS ENTRY NO.10.
One of our returning guests was one of the reasons I have such a strong interest in foreign cookery. The Rhondda during the 1960’s was very limited on exoctic ingredients and spices and exotic to us was edam cheese or pickled walnuts.
Ritchie was a chef and worked on the oil tankers travelling around the world and boy could he cook up a storm! Visiting so many places meant that he had access to loads of ingredients I had never even heard of let alone had something to eat that contained them!
So when he came back I would make sure I was always around to greet him to check out what goodies he had brought home with him even if it was after my curfew. I was a very short kitchen porter, the youngest the hotel had ever had! HMM.
Some of the countries he visited were Spain, Portugal, Argentia, Japan and China and he would always bring me back a gift, not that I was mercenary!
I had a suede outfit from Argentina, various house coats and tops from China, dolls from Japan dressed in geisha outfits and an alpaca wool poncho. The only issue was that as I was so small some of the outfits took years before they fit me but they were gorgeous and I still have most of them – part of my treasures.
However, for me my most prized possession was a transistor radio from Japan complete with an ear piece which meant I could listen to music without being heard – result. So when I was ordered to bed I would have my torch and prop up my pillows so I had some room to be able to turn on my transistor and being the little devil I was, I’d stay awake and listen to radio Luxembourg. This may be before some people’s time and it does date me but the music to me was amazing and it was soooo cool. I would be tired the next day but it was worth it. A bit like people listening to radio Caroline!
Moving back to the food, as you know I was in my fussy eater stage until Ritchie would offer to cook. (Probably so used to eating different meals with spice that even the adventurous 1960s food in the UK would seem very bland) yes there is a god and his name was CHEF!!! As this was done at speed with things being added at various times during the cooking process when I think of Ritchie I always think of the Swedish chef. Not that he made a mess or a hash of this but that he was quite a tall stocky man who was always smiling and made me laugh. So I remember it in a nice way.
When he was in the kitchen I would be like a limpet at his side and in fairness he did let me get involved doing the odd stir of the food if it was required being held on a stool. He was like a magician there were packets of ingredients that smelt amazing that he would be adding in varying amounts.
No measuring here, that wasn’t required and viola. Heaven on a plate.
The smell alone would make his food phobic child salivate and I just couldn’t wait to taste whatever he made.
I have to say, at the time I would definitely not eat any meat especially when my parents presented it to me, but my favourite thing that Richie made was a lamb dish. I still have no idea what it was called but it had tomatoes and almost like a harissa/middle eatern type of spicing and he would serve it with a flavoured rice.
As I said, not very 1960s Rhondda!
I was hooked and after that I’d take any opportunity I could to either help in the kitchen or get him to cook me something. Cheeky really as he was a paying guest!! Secretly I think he loved it and it gave him the opportunity to eat something less bland.
P.S Sorry mam and dad not your fault the UK just didn’t have the ingredients at the time and in some respects I still struggle to get some ingredients I need to cook in downtown Caerphilly but I can always travel!!
In a nod to Ritchies cooking and the fact that we have just had Easter, with some of us possibly having some leftover lamb, this week’s recipe is from Tom Kerridge’s Lamb Ragu, courgette spaghetti with feta and mint.
Instead of the minced lamb I used leftover lamb leg cut into very small cubes.
1 kg good quality lamb mince – I used leftover lamb leg worked well
Oil for cooking
2 Onions finely diced
4 Cloves of garlic grated
2 tbsp Tomato puree
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
75 mls White wine vinegar – I tend to use cider vinegar.
30 grams Demerara sugar
200mls White wine
500mls Lamb or beef stock cube – I usually used a rich beef stock pot.
150 grams Portobello mushrooms – I tend to use whatever mushrooms I have in the fridge.
3 Green chillies diced seeds and all – I have to admit I just use 1 chillie if you like it hot go for it.
4 Medium courgettes (500 grams). [Spiralised].
200 grams Feta cheese
Mint 25 grams. [Stems removed and chopped which is around a packet. ] I tend to use less.
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Tom puts the mince in the oven for 35-40 mins if you are using leftover lamb this isn’t required and when I cook this I tend to cook it in a deep pan on the stove and then drain the meat. It has to look like coffee granules.
Add the oil to the frying pan add the garlic and onions and cook over a low heat stirring occasionally for 10-15 mins. Add the tomato puree and cumin seeds and cook and stir occasionally for 4-5 mins.
Add the cooked lamb vinegar demerara sugar and stir together. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil letting it reduce slightly then add the white wine. Again let the liquid bubble and reduce to a glaze. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms and cook uncovered for around 45 mins or until the sauce has reduced to form a rich ragu.
When ready boil some water in a pan and when ready add the courgette spaghetti and cook for 1-2 mins. You’ll need to make sure they still have a bit of a bite. Remove from the heat and drain. Add then add the crumbled feta and mint to it and fold in.
Place into a large dish, and remove the ragu from the heat and stir in the green chillies. Cover the spaghetti with the lamb ragu and enjoy!