Monday, August 11, 2014

square, scone, pudding, egg

Nothing much finer, well precious little anyway, than a bite of the homeland. Square sausage, tattie scone, black pudding and a fried egg piled into a well fired morning roll will struggle to be topped for me. 

All rather exotic having driven from the Kingdom of Fife, stocked up in Moffat in the borders, then cooked and devoured in Fulham. That said, at the end of the day, this is as simple and comforting as it gets.

Simple pleasures often evoke the strongest feelings. This is one of those very things I can wait for but can't work out why I've put it off for so long. The ingredients and how they come to be assembled are what helps keep something like this so precious.

Perfect tattie scones

Makes 24 triangles

500g floury potatoes, unpeeled
50g butter
125g plain flour, plus extra to dust

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with water, salt generously and bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked through, then drain well and return to the hot pan for a minute to dry off. Peel off the skins as soon as you can handle them.

Add 40g butter and mash, and then stir in the flour and season to taste. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick, and then cut around a side plate to shape. Dust lightly with flour and prick all over with a fork.

Heat the remaining butter in a griddle or large heavy based frying pan over a medium-high heat and then fry until golden on both sides (about 3-5 minutes).

Cut into triangles and serve immediately, or cool in a tea towel for later.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

insisting on canapés before dinner, dead posh

Canapés before dinner? Why of course, its not dinner without opening the affair with a nibble as things come together. It might just be me or the weather, or there just seems to be an abundance of avocados in perfect condition knocking around right now, but one of these in ripeness excellence on a bit of slightly chewy sourdough to snack on to start the evening is simply the thing to do.

It is hardly the toughest stretch in the kitchen, but why don't we do this more often? I reckon it has to be associated with never getting our avos at the right point where they'll mash to the touch of a fork while still yielding they're freshness and vivid colour. Pepped up with a bit of dried chilli and a few slices of tart tomatoes, and I wonder whether roasting that chicken was worth the extra effort at all.

Avocado on toast

Serves up to 4

2 avocados
2-3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
4 slices of sour dough/rye bread
Salt and pepper
A small dried red chilli, finely chopped
Handful of sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced

Mash the avocado with a fork to a rough puree, adding the olive oil and lime juice as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toast the bread, drizzle a little olive oil over each piece then spread over the avocados. Sprinkle with chilli and the sliced tomatoes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

padron peppers and sherry

There is definitely plenty of well researched reasons why food from somewhere, partnered by a drink from the same place works really well together. Far be it for me to get into the deep science of it all, but there are multiple arguments presented as to why an iced Japanese beer paired with hot and sticky yakitori works so well, as does cold milk and warm cookies for that matter. 

What also adds to the occasion is the where and with who, the layers of combination possible makes this whole eating thing a science much loved by many, truly understood by fewer. 

An utterly brilliant combination of a slightly over-chilled yet delicious glass of fino sherry partnering these incredible little peppers; all sweet and mellow little crumpled green sacks of fun with the added drama of finding the occasional firebag, makes being home where I love and eating the simplest of things just quite the thing. If it tastes, and feels right, it generally is so.

Pan roasted padron peppers

Serves 4 with decent drinks

200g small, sweet Spanish (padron) peppers
really brilliant olive oil
wonderful sea salt

Rinse the peppers and dry them. Warm a shallow pool of olive oil in a frying pan then cook the peppers over a gentle heat till they have softened. They will puff up and the skin will blister slightly.

Drain on kitchen paper and salt really quite generously. I find the slower they cook the better, so I tend to keep the heat quite low.

Alternatively you can roast them quite slowly, in a baking dish with a little oil. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

sichuan pepper roasted duck

Whilst very briefly in Beijing recently, I was sent off to a wonderfully recommended Sichuan inspired restaurant. I have only just stopped glowing and my mouth no longer hums with the aftershock more commonly associated with a pretty severe session with a hardcore dentist. As absolutely delicious as it almost all was; the mouth numbing intensity that the sweet and innocent Sichuan peppercorn offers, in combination with the fried red chilli peppers which were in glorious abundance in the dishes, there is only so much a man can take.

Hoping to take the heat and intensity down a notch here, but try and retain the fragrant element of what this amazing cuisine does offer.

Sichuan pepper roasted duck with plum and star anise

Serves 4

4 duck legs
2 tblsp crushed Sichuan peppercorns

For the plum sauce
150g sugar
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
450g plums, halved and stoned
Juice of 1 lime
A dash of fish sauce, plus a little to taste if necessary
Steamed rice, to serve

Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Pierce the skin of the duck all over with a fork. Combine the peppercorns with a teaspoon of salt and rub all over the duck legs so they are nicely coated. Place on a wire rack (with a tray underneath to catch the fat) in the oven.

Immediately turn the temperature down to 350F/180C/Gas 4 and cook for two hours until the skin is golden and the meat begins to flake away from the bone easily.

Meanwhile, make the plum sauce by combining the sugar in a saucepan with 200ml water, the star anise and the cinnamon. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes until slightly reduced. Add the plums and cook until they are soft and have broken down slightly (how long will depend on the size of your plums).

Take off the heat, squeeze in the lime juice and pour in the fish sauce. Taste and add a dash more fish sauce if you feel it. Spoon over the duck and serve immediately with steamed rice. Smother with a couple of dozen crispy red chillis here at your peril, this is absolutely optional.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the club burger at the lotus cafe

In the sleepy village of Lin Tong Mei Tsuen, there's a buzzing place called the Lotus Cafe. It's properly packed, delicious and outstanding, and there's no more point wasting time in coming up with more superlatives to add to that statement. I had a club burger, everyone else had a bit of everything from BLT pittas through fatty pork belly over rice to deep fried French toast with peanut butter and syrup. After a decent hike in the clouds above Yuen Long, believe me, it was properly outstanding.

In other news, a decent way with a pork burger to do at home if you fancy it.

Pork burgers

Serves 4

200 g minced pork
1 tblsp grain mustard
1 tblsp clear honey
1 tblsp sage, chopped
1 tblsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tblsp breadcrumbs
Grated zest of a lemon
2 shallots, finely chopped
Olive oil

To serve
Bun or bread - anything works
Sliced red onions
Shaved Parmesan
Olive oil
Rocket leaves
Watercress sprigs

In a mixing bowl, mix together the pork, mustard, honey, sage, parsley, yolk, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and shallots.

Shape the pork mixture into 4 even-sized burgers.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add in the burgers and fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Serve the fried burgers between freshly griddled bread or toasted buns. Top the burgers with red onion, gherkins, Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, rocket and watercress.

Sauces and relishes at this stage are totally over to you. I'd throw on a fried egg and a bit of bacon myself, but that's just me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

a trip to the bbq man

A trip up to see the nice man who does great bbq pork and birds up the street is always a great treat, even though something you do more than once a week technically should fall outside the treat category. He's been doing his art forever, and the consistency alone of what is churned out has to be totally respected. Just a handful of fatty slices of char siu atop steamed rice and a
smattering of green onions and minced ginger is a polystyrene takeaway container and throwaway chopsticks of legends. I'll never tire of this.

Barbecuing at home (without any outdoor space I have to add) has its small but not impossible challenges and a set of why bothers when our friend does his so well. But when all that is said, he doesn't have ribs in his collection. This is easy slow long cooking simplicity. Smokey it may slightly fail on to a degree, but taste and texture wise, hard to beat without getting all too fancy.

Great barbecue ribs

Enough for 4

2 racks of small pork loin ribs - 5 or 6 ribs per person
1½ tsp smoked paprika
a good splash of soy sauce
a good splash of Worcestershire sauce
20g tomato ketchup
30g dark brown sugar
20g HP sauce
20g strong mustard

Place the racks curved-side down, and using a small knife to peel the edge of the translucent membrane away from the smaller end of the rack until you can get a grip of it. Pull this towards you, so the membrane comes away from the bones.

Mix together the marinade ingredients and rub about half into the ribs well. Put in a shallow dish, cover and leave for at least a couple of hours, turning once or twice during this time to make sure the entire rack is coated.

Heat the oven to 140°C. Cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for about 2½ hours until tender, basting once or twice during this time, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes. The racks ought to be close to falling apart by now but still remaining intact.

If possible, heat a barbecue or a griddle pan until hot, drizzle the ribs with the rest of the marinade and cook until blackened and charred. Serve immediately.

If it is not possible to barbecue over a fierce flame, crank up the oven to 200°C and conduct this last bit without any cover on the ribs until a crust appears.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

what to do if your nigiri just won't hold together

It's all about the rice you know. White hulled sushi rice, more often just labelled as sushi rice is a high quality short grain that is sticky and slightly sweet, but not to be mistaken for glutinous rice. the higher the quality of rice, the less likely there will be any broken grains. The real stuff has a good balance of starches so that the rice sticks together allowing just enough hold between moulding, plate, chopsticks and mouth.

All so very easy, so what do you do if you don't even get past the point where moulding and sticking together doesn't quite happen. You label that unlabelled tub of white rice at home that you thought was sushi rice 'NOT SUSHI RICE', that's what you do. Oh, and make a bloody Mary to have with your raw salmon atop slightly loose but delicious rice.


Serves about 8

400g Japanese sushi rice
400ml water
5 tblsp rice wine vinegar
3 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
200g piece of salmon at its absolute freshest
A little wasabi paste

To serve
6 tblsp dark soy sauce
30g Japanese pickled ginger

Wash the rice really well until the water rinses clear. Drain the rice in a colander and let it stand for 30 minutes. Place the rice in a pot and add the water (same volume as the rice as it was when it was unwashed). Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until the water evaporates and the rice sounds like it's starting to catch - good sign. Remove the cover and place a damp towel over the rice, and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, mix the vinegar with the sugar and salt until all dissolved.

Pour the sushi vinegar over cooked rice and mix it gently. You can do this in a wooden bowl for making sushi rice or in the pot by taking away from the heat and pouring the vinegar and mixing gently and evenly. Now leave it until it cools down to room temperature, still covered with a damp cloth to fight off the drying out bit that isn't good.

Using slightly wet hands shape the cooked rice into small, mouthful rectangles. Cut the fish across the grain into thin, similar sized slices to drape over the rice. Smear the top of each piece of rice with a little wasabi and cover neatly with a slice of fish.

Serve the sushi with the soy and pickled ginger and extra wasabi for the fiery types at the table. Once devoured, continue relabelling a few more random tubs in the kitchen while its fresh in the mind.