Tuesday, November 4, 2014

the ultimate in stuffed loaves

I don't know why we don't make one of these more often. I guess if there was always one in the fridge, and they can easily last a few days, it would be the perfect go to snack at any time of the day. That said, this really is picknicking taken to another level, if it ever gets to leave the house that is. There are no rules, no ingredients off limits, and certainly no restrictions on combinations. If it works for you say in a salad, or in a regular sandwich, it will work being stuffed and allowed to settle overnight before tucking in.

The stuffed picnic loaf to take down all picnic loaves

Serves about 4

1 decent round sourdough loaf
About 50g pesto
4 soft boiled eggs, quartered
8 good slices prosciutto
16 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves
200g mozzarella, sliced
2 large roast peppers, peeled
2 courgettes, sliced and grilled
1 aubergine, sliced and grilled
Lots of olive oil, salt and pepper

Slice the top off the loaf and reserve as the lid of the stuffed loaf. Hollow out the bottom without breaking the crust. Keep the centre for breadcrumbs.

Thoroughly coat the inside edges and bottom of the lid with pesto, and season liberally.

Add a layer of prosciutto, then a layer of sun-dried tomatoes. Top with basil leaves, then a layer of your mozzarella. The next layer should be the peppers followed by courgette and aubergine. Finish with the eggs and a bit more basil before topping off with a last layer of prosciutto.

You should have doused each layer with a glug of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper as you've built it, pressing well as you go. Finish with a bit more of the same before closing with the lid.

Wrap tightly in aluminium foil and place in the fridge with a chopping board on top weighted down with anything hefty to hand. Because we’re using sourdough, this could easily take an eight pack of beer at least, a softer bread vehicle and you’ll need to downgrade to a couple of tins of soup for example.

Leave in the fridge to chill and press for at least a few hours, overnight will yield much better results.

Don’t try to cut in advance, bring the whole beast to your end destination, unwrap, slice, serve and accept admiring nods from the masses.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

posh and fast


Got to say, the brunch isn't a thing for me. The whole overdone and languid way we've allowed a once in a while treat to become a must do twice a week got to have eggs with Hollandaise fanfare has found this particular meal period into the why don't you just eat when you're hungry box. That aside, I bet mushrooms on toast come close behind the Benedict in the late breakfast (which we'll use as a reference now) popularity stakes.

I know when it's close to my birthday that the gathering of wild ceps are in full swing, so now's the time to take advantage of the fungi daddy of them all and elevate anything mushroom related. My birthday treat used to be gathering conkers with my Grandpa, but we're all a bit more grown up these days. This is dead fast to knock up, a bit posh and real fast food. Best eaten with a mug of hot tea, you keep your unnecessary Mimosas to yourselves. 

Ceps and shallots on toasted brioche


Serves 4

Far from everyday beans on toast, this makes for a very posh and fast weekend brunch late breakfast.

2 tblsp olive oil
400g fresh ceps, thickly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g unsalted butter
2 banana shallots (or 4 regular shallots), finely sliced
1 garlic clove, skin-on
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked
Small handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 thick slices of brioche, toasted

Heat a sauté pan until hot and add the oil and ceps. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Season well with salt and pepper. 

Add the butter, shallots, garlic and thyme. Cook for a few more minutes until the shallots have softened, then stir through the chopped parsley. 

Pile the mushrooms and shallots on to the toasted brioche slices and serve immediately.

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
Gherkins
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.