Friday, 27 November 2009

Covert on the Radio!

Covert is going to be on Phil Mercer's show on BBC Oxford tomorrow at 7.10am!

I'll be talking a bit about the philosophy behind Covert. If you miss it, maybe you can catch news of it during their news bulletins.

listen to BBC Oxford here:

or at 95.2FM

Saturday's Menu - truly yum!

28 November 2009
To Start:
Cream of Carrot and Ginger soup
served with low G.I multigrain and white bloomer breads

To Follow:
Organic Roast Venison
Roast British Pork with Crackling
Both served with Potato Dauphinoise, Cabbage with Bacon and Mashed Butternut Squash
‘Glamorgan’ Vegetarian Sausages
Served with Potato Dauphinoise, Cabbage with Chestnut and Mashed Butternut Squash

Apple Crumble
Served with Crème Anglaise
Eton Mess

To Finish:

Choice from the Cheese Platter
Fine Fette Ewe, Tourne D’abourdance, Brie de Meaux, Oxford Blue

Press Coverage!

Covert's opening has been covered in the Cherwell!

You can see the article here:

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Another invitation...

You are cordially invited to the grand closing of Oxford’s first Pop-Up Restaurant:
Join us in celebrating the the food of the Oxfordshire region
“So, what is this restaurant pop thingy?”
Good question. A pop-up restaurant is a low scale, non-professional venture to feed people’s stomachs and memories. It appears as if from no-where and vanishes just as quickly. Guest numbers are small: pop-up affairs are intimate, but non-exclusive. Anyone is invited. Unlike chain restaurants, pop-ups are aimed at maximising the guests’ enjoyment, while giving them a new experience. The food is not priced – we merely ask that you make an entirely voluntary donation to indicate how much you enjoyed yourself. If you hated it, you eat for free! If you had a good time, you share that love!
Our Grand Opening was a great success, and is being covered in OxStu and Cherwell 7th week. We promise to go beyond the experience offered at our Grand Opening to formally close the restaurant.
If you have a taste for adventure, or even a taste for a taste, please book your place at the Grand Closing of “Covert”, this Saturday evening in the Mure Room, Merton College.
Our final event has only limited space for guests – we have already taken bookings!
If you would like to be among our group of jack-in-the-boxes please waste no time in emailing or calling or texting 07739901801, indicating if you are a vegetarian.
You’ve never seen anything quite like it

Recipes from the Grand Opening

 The following are the recipes guests enjoyed at the 1st Covert event on sunday 22nd November. Happy Cooking!

To Start
Tomato and Basil Soup – to generously serve 4
Tomato and basil soup is one of the easiest and fastest soups out there. It also makes a great base for pasta sauce if you reduce the liquid and add a few olives, mushrooms and onions. All of the quantities here are approximate – it’d hard to go wrong with this soup! Play with it as you wish.

What you need
2 cans Chopped tomato/plum tomato or similar
2 cans water
2 table spoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more if desired, if using this as a base for pasta sauce, slosh a little extra in for richness)
1 tablespoon sugar (any kind will do – fair-trade is best)
To taste Fresh Basil/Pesto depending on seasonal availability
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

How you make it
Honestly this couldn’t be simpler. Put all the ingredients together into a sauce pan. Blend using a hand held blender (if you have a table top blender, do this before you put the ingredients into the saucepan!) If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry! A potato masher gives much the same effect – although the soup will be a little chunkier – so just smoosh all the ingredients as you might do mash potato.
Turn on the heat, and bring the soup up to just below boiling point. Watch for the first couple of bubbles, and then take if off the heat (try not to let the soup boil for any length of time as this can turn the tomato flavour a little acidic).
(promised it was easy!)

Optional garnish – chilli flakes, basil leaf, good quality greek yoghurt, crème fresh, any cheese… there is little it doesn’t go with!)
We served this dish with Nash’s The Baker’s Multigrain Low G.I. bread (unfortunately only available on Friday and Saturday – Large loaf £1.85, usually also available in Small) This bread releases its energy slowly, meaning that it doesn’t play with your blood sugar levels, giving you a crash that some bread and other white flour can do. But mainly we like it because it taste delicious and is a particularly good accompaniment to soups.

If you want to use this as a base for pasta sauce, leave out the water and leave the mixture to simmer for a while after it comes to the boil. While that’s doing its thing, chop up a few bit of whatever else you fancy (olives, mushrooms, pepper, garlic etc). Fry them in a bit of olive oil, and then simply add them into the tomato base.

To Follow
Organic Pheasant Casserole – to generously serve 6
This recipe is slightly more involved than the soup outlined above, but, as we hope you agree, it’s worth it. Again, the recipe (like all the best ones) is flexible around what you have in your store cupboard – the following is just a guideline. The serving size will depend in part upon the size of the birds, but casserole cooking allows you to pick larger birds and so you should find that you have some to spare. If cooking for a smaller party, simply select smaller birds. The quanit

What you Need
Brace of organic pheasant (this is a “pair” and is traditionally one male and one female bird) – we get our from M. Feller, Son and Daughter in the covered market (4.98/brace)
250grammes streaky bacon (also available at M. Feller)
1 bottle cider We like Harry Weston’s Organic
½ bottle sweet white wine
1/3 – ½ bottle dry British Sherry – this is what we used at Covert, but all options work  equally well.
4 reasonably sized white onions, chunkily chopped
150grammes good quality butter
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 stock cube (chicken/vegetable)  - or homemade stock is even better if you have it.
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs (e.g. herbs de provence)
1 butter-flour ball for thickening.
700ml of water (a non exact quantity)
Optional: about 10g or so (which is about half a bag) of any dried mushroom
1 butter-flour ball for thickening.
Your cooking pot should be largeish, oven-safe and have a lid (there is no need to buy an expensive casserole dish if you don’t already have one). If you have lost the lid, or it has a plastic handle, you could try fashioning one out of foil. It works surprisingly well.

How you make it
Put the oven on to preheat to about 130(fan ovens)-150 degrees
If you are using dried mushrooms, before you begin anything else, you will need to re-hydrate them. There should be instructions on the packet as to how to do this, but as a guideline, heat the water, and put it into a large bowl (it should be warm, never boiling!). Then place the mushrooms in the water and leave them there for bout 30 minutes. The water should turn a rich chestnut brown. Don’t throw away the water
Firstly, prepare the brace of pheasant. Before we begin, a word. If you aren’t used to organic meat, you have to trust it. These birds will be hand plucked, and so some feather stubs will remain on the bird. This is normal, and safe. Do not feel that you must remove any. They will melt into the casserole later on.
In order to fit the birds into your pot (unless you have a huge one!) cut them in half using a sharp knife. You’ll need to cut through the bones. It doesn’t matter how you do this, simply make sure that you can get the birds to touch the base of the pan, but there is no need to make the pieces too small. Then rinse the entire bird outside and inside the cavity, and set aside.
Then put the butter into the cooking pot, and heat so that it starts to melt. Add the onion and garlic and then shortly afterwards add the bacon. They should be lightly cooked so that they start to “sweat” – i.e. the fat on the bacon should start to give, and the onions should start to go a little see-through looking. Nothing in the pot should turn brown, or start to look too cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, onions and garlic and set aside in a bowl. Turn up the heat ever so slightly, and add the pheasants into the pot. The skin should start to take on a light brown colour after a minute or so – make sure to turn the pheasant, although the colour is non essential.
Now add the alcohol that you have chosen to use, the water (if you are using dried mushrooms, use the water you used to rehydrate them in). Stir, then add the bacon, onion and garlic back in. If you are using mushrooms, add them now. Then take the stock cube and crumble it in, along with the herbs. Stir everything together and cook with the lid off for about 5-10 minutes or so, so that some of the alcohol has a chance to escape. The liquid should be simmering, rather than boiling.
Place the lid (or fashion a foil lid) on the pot, and place it into the oven. It will need to cook for about 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally. You should check that the birds are fully cooked by pulling of the meat off the breast of one of the birds. It should look white and like a cooked chicken breast. It should come away easily.
Now remove the birds from the casserole with tongs. They will need to cool slightly before you remove the meat carefully from the bones. The easiest way to do this is with your hands, but it is a little messy. You can also use a knife, or kitchen scissors if you prefer, but try to get large strips of meat, rather than little shreds. Remove the skin from the meat. Place the meat back into the casserole.
The sauce will be quite liquid at this point, and will need to be thickened, but how thick is up to you. Put the pot back onto the heat to simmer and reduce the liquid content. Keep stirring! If you prefer thicker gravy, you’ll want to add a thickening agent. By far the easiest way to do this is using a butter-flour ball, about the size of a ping-pong ball. To make one, use as little butter as possible and roll it with flour until the flour will no longer join the ball. Drop the ball into the simmering mixture and keep stirring until it is fully dissolved. Unlike using flour on its own, the ball does not produce lumpy sauce. We recommend that you avoid the use of gravy powder as it does not re-heat well. At this point, the casserole should be ready to go – give it a taste and add some salt and pepper as you wish. Enjoy! Great with potatoes or bread and seasonal vegetables.

Slow Cooked Lamb Breast – to serve 6
It can be quite difficult to get lamb breast. Supermarkets will not stock this cut. We got our meat at Hedges the Butcher. All their meat is out door reared in Britain and sourced as locally as possible. Unlike supermarket butchers, the red meat is all properly “aged”. This means that the meat should have a good, rich colour to it, and the fat should have a pleasing, distinctive smell. It should appear yellow, and a little stiff, rather than flabby and white.  If you’re used to buying your meat at the supermarket, you’ll find that properly aged meat has a far more satisfying taste. If the butcher doesn’t have this cut, any stewing cut will work. Although we’re used to avoiding meat with connective tissue, it actually lends sauces a lovely glossy texture, and is very good for skin and hair, so try a cut with some for this dish.

What you need
1lb stewing cut of British Lamb – e.g. breast (We recommend you try Hedges the butcher, ask them to chop the meat into the size you desire – roughly 2 inches square)
4 reasonably sized onions – chunkily chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable/olive oil
1 Bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried rosemary (more if desired)
1 clove garlic
1 lamb stock cube
1 glass red wine
½ pint water
1 or 2 butter-flour ball for thickening.
To taste salt and pepper
Your cooking pot should be largeish, oven-safe and have a lid (there is no need to buy an expensive casserole dish if you don’t already have one). If you have lost the lid, or it has a plastic handle, you could try fashioning one out of foil. It works surprisingly well.

How you make it
Preheat the oven to 130(fan ovens)-150 degrees.
If using breast of lamb, you’ll need to check the meat for small rib bones. Remove these, but all of the larger bones, and any fat should remain on the meat – the marrow and the fat will melt during the cooking, lending the sauce a wonderful richness.
Slosh the oil into the cooking pot and turn the heat on the hob up. Add the chunks of onions and the clove of garlic into the oil and once they’ve started to cook, add the lamb and brown in – Use tongs to keep the meat turning, but as soon as the lamb has a light brown colour, turn the heat down. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and add the bay leaf and the dried herbs. Now pour in the water and add the stock cube. Keep the pot on a simmer and stir for about ten minutes.
Put the lid on the pot, and put the pot into the oven. You will need to check the lamb, and give it a stir about every 40 minutes or so. Cooking time is about 4 hours, but you may find that your lamb cooks a little quicker than this, so do keep checking it. You’ll know when the lamb is done by tasting it. It should be tender and delicious – sections with bones should have started to separate.
Remove the pot from the oven and put it back on the hob on a slow heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove any bones and any pure connective tissue sections. They are easy to spot as they are wine and shiny. Throw away the bones and connective tissue.
Turn the heat up gradually, keep stirring and simmer off some of the liquid. The sauce will still be quite liquid, so you’ll need to thicken it. By far the easiest way to do this is using a butter-flour ball, about the size of a ping-pong ball. To make one, use as little butter as possible and roll it with flour until the flour will no longer join the ball. Drop the ball into the simmering mixture and keep stirring until it is fully dissolved. If you like a thicker sauce, you may wish to use a second. If you decide the sauce is thick enough before the second ball has fully dissolved, simply fish it out with the slotted spoon. Unlike using flour on its own, the ball does not produce lumpy sauce. We recommend that you avoid the use of gravy powder as it does not re-heat well. At this point, add some salt and pepper to taste. For a deeper flavour, try adding something such as cranberry sauce, or red current jelly. Try “Tracklements” brand condiments – the largest selection in Oxford is available at David John. We used the Chilli Jam, which is also excellent with cheese and sausages.  Simply stir in into the sauce.
The lamb should now be ready to serve. Enjoy! Great with potatoes or bread and seasonal vegetables.

Vegetarian Sausages
The sausages that we served at Covert are a secret recipe, made fresh, by hand and  exclusively at David John’s Covered Market site. We can’t tell you how to make your own, but we can tell you that they have been made by the same women for 20 years, and that David John supply their vegetarian sausages to Oxford’s Big Bang restaurant. The range is quite extensive, with varieties including “Spiced Sweet Potato and Chestnut”, “Glamorgan”, “Mozzarella”, “Tomato, Basil and Sweet Pepper” and the variety we served; “Garlic Mushroom with Madeira and Tarragon”. The largest variety is available on Saturdays.
They are best cooked fried in a pan with some butter or oil, or lightly grilled. They’d be lovely with one of the “Tracklements” sauces that are also available at David John. They can advise you as to the best flavour combinations.
Unlike vegetarian sausages available in Sainsbury’s, for example, David John’s vegetarian sausages contain only natural ingredients, and are never pre-frozen.
They taste great with potatoes and seasonal vegetables, as we served them at Covert, but also as vegetarian hotdogs, for example, or with salad. The staff at David John are incredibly knowledgeable about their product and will be happy to tell you how best to prepare the variety you select.

To End
Unpasteurised Alpine Cheese
This strong cheese is carried exclusively by The Oxford Cheese Company, which specialises in farmhouse cheeses which are usually unpasteurised, and is currently available at £14.95/kg. It is also excellent in cooking. The Oxford Cheese company is also able to advise on ways to cook cheese, and supplies a large number of items to accompany cheese. A safe bet is to serve with fruit such as apple or grape, and something crunchy – celery or crackers are a good choice (a great recipe for crackers will be sent out to guests after the Grand Closing this Saturday evening!).