Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roast duck, lemon and honey

Serves 2

As a Christmas time alternative to the predictable old turkey, why not try and get your hands on a small wild duck which will serve two nicely, but do try to choose a fat one as they are not always the meatiest of birds. Big meat eaters may want one each.
You will need some stock for this, ideally game or poultry, but I used a vegetable stock last time and it did the job well. As a side dish I would be tempted to serve a pile of lightly cooked spinach. It is very good with the sweet, slightly citrus gravy.

1 nice duck, about 500g or so
1 lemon
2 tblsp liquid honey
30g butter, melted
150ml stock



Set the oven at 200°C/gas 6. Squeeze the lemon juice into a mixing bowl, then stir in the honey. Add a pinch of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, then put the duck in a roasting tray and pour over the honey and lemon and stock.

Brush the butter onto the duck, roast for about 10 minutes, baste with the pan juices, then lower the heat to 180°C/gas 4 and continue roasting for 30-35 minutes until the bird is golden. Its flesh will still be slightly pink.

Remove the duck from the roasting tin, pour the juices from inside the bird into the tin, then put it somewhere warm to rest. Place the roasting tin over a moderate heat.

Bring to the boil and reduce over a high heat for three or four minutes. Season carefully with salt and black pepper then pour over the duck and serve

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Partridge with pumpkin and wild mushrooms

Serves 2


I had a terrific little partridge dish last week at Le Cafe Anglais at Whiteleys in Bayswater, really the first good robust bit of properly cooked game I've had this winter, the sacrifice taken for choosing to live in year round sunshine I guess. Our game season is frighteningly short, and all must be explored in this period, in the kitchen it has to be the time of year where bold flavours make their strongest appearances. The great thing about the little partridge is in the hands on picking and sucking of bones that is totally necessary to extract all the meat from its sticky little frame. This recipe suggestion is ideal for small game, the cooking in a parcel method rarely throws out a tough bird as the self basting process should knock that on the head, but if in doubt a couple of rashers of bacon wrapped around the beasts will do no harm at all.

2 oven-ready partridges
1 medium sized onion
60g butter
1 celery stalk
200g pumpkin
a few sprigs of thyme
50g fresh wild mushrooms such as girolles
80g small chestnut mushrooms

a little dry Vermouth and Cognac

You will also need a couple of sheets of greaseproof paper large enough to loosely wrap the birds.

Peel the onion and slice it into thin rings. Melt half the butter in a shallow pan and cook the onion till soft and tender, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile cut the celery into slices, add them with the thyme leaves to the onion and continue to cook till they have softened slightly. Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into small dice, about 1cm in diameter, then cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, stir into the onion and continue to cook gently for another 8-10 minutes or so. The pumpkin wants to be just cooked but not mushy.

Lay the sheets of paper out and divide the mixture between them. Put the empty pan back on the heat, add the remaining butter, then, when it starts sizzling, put the birds in, breast-side down. Let them cook for a couple of minutes till their skin is golden, then turn and colour the other side. Lift the birds out and put them in the middle of the pumpkin mixture.

Pour over a couple of slugs each of dry vermouth and Cognac then pull the paper up around the birds and scrunch the edges together to seal. Lift the parcels onto a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until the parcel is golden brown and puffed up. The partridge should be golden and juicy.

Let the birds rest a little, 10 minutes if you can wait, and simply decant all bag contents onto a plate, juice and all. You will no doubt strt with a knife and fork, but I challenge anyone not to resort to fingers shortly thereafter.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The salt beef sandwich


Now I've played around with salting my brisket for up to 10 days in a variety of seasoning mixtures, but to be perfectly honest with you, doing it this way without the need for a lengthy marinading process yields just as good a result, just so long as you have cracking good rye bread, proper English mustard and a decent bit of pickle, you simply cannot go far wrong. Having just got back from a quick London trip, I must confess to not one, but two salt beef sandwich moments at Selfridges Brass Rail, the very best in a mid afternoon pick me up for the weary pre Christmas shopper. So, as terrific as they are on Oxford Street, at £7.50 a pop, and that's before a pickle and a drink, here's a way of re-creating at home while saving a bit to fill out the Christmas stockings a bit fatter.

1.5kg salted silverside or brisket beef
2 large onions
6 cloves
Small blade mace
¼ whole nutmeg
12 bruised black peppercorns

Place the beef into a pot that will allow room for the onions but still provide a fairly snug fit.

Leave the onions unpeeled, push the cloves evenly into them and tuck them down by the beef.

Put in the spices and peppercorns and cover the beef with warm water to cover by 1cm and bring to the simmer, cooking at a bare tremor for 3 ½ hours, skimming as necessary throughout the cooking time.

If the cooking water tastes really salty after the first 10 minutes, drain it and start again. The water should not boil at any stage, so cover the pot only when you are happy the pot is trembling and not bubbling.

Remove from the simmering liquid onto a warm plate and cover with foil untill the beef has cooled enough to handle and carve without the whole thing collapsing on you.

Slice generously, no need to be dainty here, whack between a couple of slices of rye bread, but for that matter any soft bread of your choice will be fine, and serve with as much English mustard as your nostrils can accept and something pickled on the side. Shopping interlude heaven...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Smoked salmon


Serves 4-6

I hear that Christmas is on the horizon, and with the sight of the rather predictable over priced and sweaty packets of smoked salmon flying off the supermarket shelves already in mind, why not do yourself a favour and give some thought to making your own this year... It is labourious, fiddly and can get messy, but as with many small things in life, personal triumph outweighs almost everything. I miss Christmas at home and will go to all lengths to make the big day as close to the real thing as possible, so indulge me why don't you...

10g fresh dill, chopped
2kg fine sea salt
1kg caster sugar
1 side good quality organic salmon, pin-boned and trimmed
1 litre (or enough to completely cover the salmon) good-quality olive oil (not extra virgin)

Mix the dill, salt and sugar together well. Using either a plastic container that is longer, wider and deeper than the salmon, or a piece of tin foil twice the length and width of the fish, sprinkle the base with a handful of the salt mix in a thin and even layer. Place the salmon on top, and then cover completely and evenly with the rest of the mix to ensure an even cure.

If you’re using a plastic container, cover it well with cling film or tin foil. Otherwise, fold your piece of tin foil around the salmon, covering it neatly, then wrap the whole thing in another sheet of foil. Leave to cure in the fridge for 36 hours.

Rinse the salt mix off the salmon and pat dry with paper towels. Then put the fish into a plastic container or a large, sealable plastic bag. Pour over the olive oil, completely covering the salmon, and carefully seal to prevent oxidisation. Leave for 24 hours.

Take the salmon out of the oil and wipe off any excess. Take 2 saucepans or loaf tins, put 40g of wood chips and 1 tea bag in each, and set alight. Once the wood chips have taken on a good flame, extinguish them by covering with a lid.

Tip the smoking wood chips into a deep metal tray and cover with a perforated tray, followed by a wire rack, upon which you place your salmon. For the smoker to work, all the smoke must be contained. To do this, cover and wrap the whole thing in tin foil. Leave until the smoke has died. Remove the fish from the smoker, have a little feel, check the smell and slice a little off if still unsure - it may need a second smoking, if so repeat the whole process once more. The reason we don't put more chips and smoke heavier in one hit is that we do not want to cook the fish with excessive heat.

Remove the salmon from the smoker and wrap in muslin cloth, and then leave in the fridge for 24 hours to mature.

When you are ready to serve, slice the salmon lengthways and serve it with soda bread and pickled cucumber, drained of juice and sprinkled with a little dill and fleur de sel.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Panzanella


Panzanella is yet another one of those things we're forever on the fringes of, a salad cum meal that you never quite get into for fear of it not working out as authentic as they do in Northern Italy. It's really no more than a very old simple Tuscan tradition - a salad made with leftover bread, which would be unsalted, in the local style. If you want to make it the day before you eat it, it will taste even better. Comfort food in a very similar category as the day after cold pizza straight from the fridge - you got to love those Italians for some bastardised moments of sheer genius don't you?

12 large sardines
5 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
200g stale Tuscan bread or ciabatta, without crusts, torn up
4 tblsp white wine vinegar
3 tomatoes on the vine
1 large red onion, cut into 2cm dice
big bunch of basil
5 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

First, get a griddle pan smoking-hot, otherwise the sardines won't release their fat and will stick to the pan.

To make the panzanella: soak the bread in the vinegar. Take the tomatoes from the vine, dice and add to the bread, together with the chopped onion. Tear the basil and add that too. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir together and set aside.

Scale and fillet the sardine. Season, brush with a little of the olive oil and put on the hot grill, six at a time.

Let them get crusty on one side (about 3 minutes), then turn over and do the same on the other side (about 2 minutes). Spoon some panzanella on each serving plate.

Put the sardines on top, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wild mushroom, garlic and mint pizza

Serves 2-4

Pizza nights at home will never be the same again, last night was quite possibly the most competitive cook off I've seen in a long time, I should have seen it coming really - assemble a vast range of toppings, prepare a couple of dozen bases and invite a crew of chefs round to make their own pizzas, make a total mess of my poor kitchen and drink all my beer... Some of the topping combinations were pretty scary, some of my chefs due their end of year review will be spoken to... this mushroom, garlic and mint combo was all my own work, and as it was my kitchen and my party, of course I think this was the winner. The best thing of all though was the couple of cold slices from the fridge this morning for breakfast - a stunning start to the day!

2 large cloves garlic
6 tbsp extra virgin oil, plus extra to drizzle
200g chopped fresh wild mushrooms
2 tblsp corn meal
1 basic pizza base
100g freshly grated parmesan, plus shavings
3 tblsp chopped fresh mint
1 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210c/gas mark 7.

Place the garlic cloves in a small ovenproof dish, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with black pepper. Cover and bake while oven is preheating, shaking the pan occasionally, until the garlic cloves are soft and golden, for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté over a high heat for 4-5 minutes. Season with pepper, and reserve.

On a well-floured surface, roll the pizza dough out to form a 20cm circle and cover with the grated parmesan, leaving a 2.5cm rim around the edge.

Spoon the cooked mushrooms evenly over the cheese. Arrange the roasted garlic and the parmesan shavings on top. Sprinkle with the mint and parsley. Season well, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lamb shanks with broad beans

Serves 4

If it's not a pie, it's got to be a braised dish, and lamb shanks don't often fail to hit the mark. This was last night's number, cooked the day before and reheated gently to devour - better depth of flavour and maturity on the 2nd day for sure. The juice, as much as the meat, is where this dish really is, rich and heady, mopped up with anything and everything that comes to hand, one of those nights where someone to offer a belly rub at the end of it all perfects the ultimate dining experience, for me anyway...

1 tblsp olive oil
4 lamb shanks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fresh bouquet garni (sprig each of parsley and thyme, and a bay leaf)
400ml white wine
400g new potatoes
400g shelled broad beans, individually skinned (see below)
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
3 tblsp crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Lightly oil a roasting tin, add the lamb shanks and season, then place in the oven to roast for 20 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic and bouquet garni to the roasting tin and roast for a further 20 minutes.

Add the wine and new potatoes to the lamb, mix well with the juices and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes. Add the prepared beans and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

When the lamb is cooked through, remove from the roasting tin and keep warm. Place the tin directly on the stove top and bring the juices to a simmer. Stir in the chopped mint and crème fraîche.

Serve the lamb shanks in wide bowls and ladle in the vegetables and juice.

Note: to skin fresh broad beans, plunge them into a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes, then drain and peel off the skins. If using frozen beans they can be peeled once defrosted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prawn laksa with noodles

Serves 4

Last night was a laksa, beer, sofa and a couple of badly pirated dvd's at home, and should anyone have experienced a better combo than that, I need to know about it as soon as possible please. Laksa is as comforting as it is fragrant, as rich as it is satisfying and way easier than you realise once you get the balance of spice and acid in the soup just right. If you increase the quantity of noodles to 200g in this recipe, it can be served as a main course. Don’t be put off by the length of this, all but the final cooking of the prawns can be done well in advance


20 whole raw prawns (about 675g)

6 tblsp sunflower oil

1 litre good chicken stock

2 onions, halved and finely sliced

3 tblsp toasted sesame oil

4 large shallots, finely diced

2 Thai chillies (or to taste), finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 tblsp peeled ginger, cut into fine shreds

100g creamed coconut

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

2 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce

170g dried vermicelli rice noodles

2 large handfuls of coriander leaves

2 limes, halved


Twist off the prawn heads and peel away their shells. Heat 2 tblsp sunflower oil in a noncorrosive saucepan over a high heat. Add the prawn heads and shells, then stir-fry briskly for 2-3 minutes until they turn pink. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Heat the remaining sunflower oil in a nonstick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and stir-fry for a minute before reducing the heat to medium-low. Sauté for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until they turn slightly crisp and golden brown. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and spread them out on kitchen paper to drain.

Clean the peeled prawns by running a knife down the length of their backs and removing the black digestive thread. Cover and chill.

Pour the sesame oil into a large saucepan and set over a medium heat. Add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, then fry for 6 minutes until golden. Melt the creamed coconut in hot water in the sachets, then mix into the shallots with the prawn stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute before adding the fish sauce, soy sauce and raw prawns. Simmer gently for 3 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked through.

Prepare the noodles in hot water according to packet instructions, then divide between four soup bowls. Add the coriander leaves to the piping-hot soup, pour over the noodles and sprinkle with the fried onions. Serve immediately with the lime halves, or season the soup with lime juice to taste, then serve

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hainan chicken rice

Serves 4

A local specialty from the island of Hainan off the coast of China but revered through all of South East Asia, and my kitchen last night... The chicken should be just cooked, something we in the West can be totally paranoid about, but should the meat be at all dry, it is a complete failure. I could eat this for hours, and often go back, as I did quite late last night, for another couple of chunks of chicken and some cold rice - my garlic breath this morning told me a good evening was had...

Chicken

1 whole chicken, about 2kg

1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 slices fresh ginger, peeled

4 spring onions, trimmed

3 litres water

2 tblsp sesame oil

Sliced tomatoes for garnish

Sliced cucumbers for garnish

Coriander sprigs for garnish


Chicken rice

400g long grain rice

2 tblsp peanut oil

5 shallots, peeled and minced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 litre reserved stock from cooking Hainan chicken

1/2 tsp salt

Wash chicken and remove excess fat. Rub the inside of the cavity with salt. Smash garlic and ginger slightly with the flat of a knife. Tie spring onions into a knot. Place garlic, ginger, and spring onions inside the chicken cavity.
Bring the water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the chicken.

Add the chicken, breast-side down. Simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, turning chicken halfway through the cooking process, until chicken tests done (juices from thigh should just run clear when pricked with a fork).

Carefully remove chicken, draining liquid from body cavity back into the pot. Reserve the stock to make chicken rice. Plunge the chicken into ice water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process and tighten the skin. Drain, rub with sesame oil, and let cool to room temperature.

To serve, chop chicken into bite-size pieces (the Chinese do this bone and all) and arrange on a platter. Garnish with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and coriander sprigs.

To make the chicken rice, wash the rice and drain in a colander. Let stand 1/2 hour to dry.

Heat oil in a wok. Add the shallots and garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant. Add rice grains and stir-fry 3-4 minutes, until glossy and fragrant.

Transfer to a saucepan. Add the chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until the liquid level evaporates to the level of the rice and steam holes appear. Turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for barely 10 minutes.

Serve the chicken with the rice, with chilli and garlic oil, dark soy sauce and chilli sauce, and a bowl of the remaining broth finished with a little chopped coriander.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hot and sour scallop soup

Serves 4

Don’t let the long list of ingredients discourage you from trying out this delicious hot, sweet and sour soup, to which I’ve added fresh scallops as an elegant treat. As with most Chinese cooking, you will need to spend a little more time preparing the ingredients, but the actual cooking time is quite short.

1 litre fish or chicken stock

3 tblsp rice vinegar

3 tblsp light soy sauce

1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce

2 tsp caster sugar

5 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

300g pack firm tofu, cut into small cubes

4 scallops, halved diagonally

225g tin bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained

2 tblsp cornflour, dissolved in 3 tbsp water

1 large free range egg, beaten

2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place the stock, vinegar, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the mushrooms, carrot, ginger and garlic, and adjust the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms and carrots are just tender.

Add the tofu, scallops and bamboo shoots. Stir in the cornflour mixture. Simmer until the soup is lightly thickened and the scallops are just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup, gently stirring in a circular motion to create small ribbons of egg.

Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with the spring onions and serve at once.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tomato curry

Serves 4

If I found myself in a life where meat wasn't readily available, I guess vegetarianism wouldn't be the end of my world just as long as I had easy enough access to some great Indian ingredients and techniques from which some of the finest vegetarian food comes.

40g butter
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
50g fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large hot green chilli, chopped (remove the seeds if you like)
6-7 curry leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
Seeds from 5 cardamom pods
10 tomatoes, cored and split in two widthways
Salt
75g creamed coconut dissolved in 5-6 tblsp boiling water
Squeeze of lime juice, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed shallow pot or frying pan. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, curry leaves (if you have them), cumin and cardamom. Allow the spices to stew gently before laying the tomatoes on top, skin side down. Lightly salt their surfaces and spoon over the coconut cream.

Loosely cover and set over an extremely low heat. Much of the juice from the tomatoes will form a sauce, helped along by the creamed coconut. When this is coming along nicely, baste the tomatoes with the sauce to amalgamate the coconut cream.

When the dish is ready – after about 30 minutes – the tomatoes should still have their shape and the sauce will be slightly separated but creamy in parts (if it seems too dry, add a little water).

Squeeze over the lime juice, grind on the pepper and sprinkle with coriander. It’s best served at room temperature as a first course, or with devilled chicken, perhaps should this vegetarian nonsense prove all to much...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bolani flatbread

Makes 6-8

Bread seems to be the bomb right now, after a myriad of Lebanese treats last week, here's something so easy, but just that little bit different. Bolani is a delicious flaky flatbread, originally from Afghanistan, but is something popping up all over the shop now. Can be cooked and served just as it is, but is also pretty fine stuffed with anything from cooked and choppe spinach to some gorgeous simmered lentils.

500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml olive oil, plus extra for cooking

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add the eggs, olive oil and 250ml water. Bring together to make a ball of dough. Knead on a floured work surface for 10-15 minutes until very soft and elastic. Roll the dough into balls, each roughly the size of a tennis ball.

Cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Oil the work surface and spread out one of the balls of dough, gently pulling the edges to stretch it as thin and wide as possible.

Dust the surface with a little flour, and pleat the pastry over and over like a fan. Roll up this pleated piece of dough to make a curled ball. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. Leave to rest for another 15 minutes.

Heat a heavy frying pan over a medium-high heat. Use your hands to pat a curled ball of dough into a circle 20cm in diameter. Add a little oil to the pan, and cook the flat disc of layered dough so that it is golden brown on each side. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.

Serve the flatbread warm, either as they are with dips such as hoummus or tzatziki, or with pickles and yoghurt. Alternatively, folded and filled with anything that comes to mind.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manakeesh

Having just come back from the most amazing weekend in Beirut, I can now safely say that a properly made manakeesh for breakfast is one of the true culinary finds I've made this year. If you don’t have time to make your own bread, I guess you can use a pita instead, but trust me on this one, if close to perfection is sought, you might as well gloss over this recipe and plan your next holiday in Lebanon, the only way to do this kind of food justice is to go to the source.

250g all purpose flour
20g fresh yeast or 2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
about 125ml warm water
2 tblsp olive oil

In a large non-metal bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Form the mixture into a mound and create a well in the centre. Pour the warm water and sugar into a bowl and when the sugar has dissolved, crumble in the yeast.

When the yeast is frothy, pour it into the well in the flour. Mix it together with your hands or a wooden spoon. You’ll end up with a dry, crumbling mixture that isn’t much like dough. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Now add 2 tblsp olive oil and knead it into the dough. Add a little more warm water and knead it in to create a more dough like consistency. You’re done when the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and turn it over again to make sure the top is greased. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, turn in out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough becomes firm again. Now you’ll need to decide whether you want one big manakeesh or several small ones. Take the amount of dough you want (a small section or the whole thing), and roll it out with a rolling pin until it’s a little less than half an inch (about half a centimeter) thick. Move the dough rounds to a lightly greased baking sheet and pinch all the way around the edges to form a raised edge.

Now add your toppings, place in an oven pre-heated to 200c and bake for barely a few minutes.

Manakeesh toppings should be applied fairly thinly, for an authentic taste, don’t pile them on thick.

Olive oil and za’atar. Spread a thin coating of olive oil over the top of the bread and then spread on a layer of za’atar.

Cheese - jibne and akkawi or ricotta will work fine. Avoid Greek feta, though, as it tends to be too salty. Another option is to spread on some labneh after baking, while the bread is still warm.

Vegetables - a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and olives.

Minced lamb - sauté the lamb in vegetable oil until lightly browned, then add finely chopped tomato, along with pepper and parsley if you like, spread it on the bread, and pop it in the oven.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The TLT

Serves 4

The BLT has become one of the most popular sandwiches on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, for some blasphemers, this actually might be an improvement on the original. The trout offering the same salty smoky role as the bacon, but with more interest in its flavour and texture. As with a regular BLT, the very best bread and tomatoes you can find are a must.

8 broad thick slices from a good sourdough loaf

500g smoked trout

A good few dollops of mayonnaise

12 medium thick slices of perfect deep red tomato

Crisp green lettuce, little gems are ideal

Slather the mayonnaise over the bread; construct the ingredients in no particular order on one slice, and top off with the other.

Weighing down for 10 minutes or so will do no harm whatsoever, and may actually prove slightly easier to eat.

Decent potato crisps, even better chilled white Burgundy, and I think perfection is just around the corner.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seafood falafel with chermoula dip

Makes about 25 canapés, or serves 5 as a main course

Comfortable and satisfying - falafel making sits in the same category as fishcakes and scotch eggs for me. Something you can get all the messy work out the way nice and early, then as and when you're ready to eat it's 10 minutes worth of cooking and you're good to go...

Falafel

125g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight

¼ large onion

1/8 bunch parsley

1 spring onion

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

75g prawns, finely chopped, plus extra, whole and cooked, for canapés

50g scallops, finely chopped, plus extra, whole, for canapés

4-6 tblsp vegetable oil, for frying


Chermoula dip

50ml olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 chilli

¼ bunch coriander

Juice of 1 lemon

First, prepare the falafel. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Roughly chop the onion, parsley and spring onion. Place in a food processor, along with the soaked chickpeas and garlic, and pulse for 30 seconds.

Place the chickpea mixture in a large bowl and add the spices, salt, bicarbonate of soda and chopped prawns and scallops. Mix gently for a minute. Roll the mixture into small balls, each about 3cm in diameter.

Next, make the chermoula dip. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and onion and cook for 10 minutes to soften. Put in the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Then add the chilli, coriander and lemon juice and 250ml water and cook for 35-40 minutes, until the mixture has been reduced by two-thirds. Purée with a hand blender or in a food processor, then, if you want it particularly smooth, pass through a sieve.

Heat 2 tblsp of the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a high heat and cook the falafel in batches (with fresh oil as needed) for about 3 minutes per batch, until browned. Serve the chermoula either warm or cold, with the warm falafel and pitta breads.

If making canapés, cut the extra scallops in half and sear for a minute on each side. Skewer together a scallop, falafel and prawn, arrange on a plate, then serve.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Indian spiced cauliflower

This mildly spiced cauliflower makes an excellent side dish to an Indian meal, and it is ideal served with curry, basmati rice or naan bread. Panch puran is a blend of five spices: equal amounts of brown mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek, cumin and fennel. If you’re mixing the spice blend yourself, it is worth making enough to set aside a small jar for future use

1 small head of cauliflower, about 600-650g, washed

2 tblsp vegetable oil

1 tsp ground turmeric

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

1 tsp ground cumin

Small pinch of dried chilli flakes

2 tsp panch puran

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g butter

100ml water

Remove the leaves around the cauliflower and trim off the base and most of the core. Cut into small florets and set aside.

Heat a large wok or frying pan until hot. Add the vegetable oil, turmeric, cumin, chilli flakes, panch puran and a pinch of sea salt. Stir and gently fry the spices over a low heat for less than a minute, until fragrant but just before they threaten to burn.

Add the butter to the pan and heat until melted, then quickly tip in the cauliflower florets, along with a little more seasoning. Stir-fry over a medium-to-high heat for a couple of minutes until the florets are evenly coated in the buttery spice mixture and are lightly golden.

Pour the water around the pan and cover. Steam the cauliflower for 2 minutes, then remove the lid and stir-fry for another minute until the water has mostly been absorbed. The cauliflower should be just tender when pierced with a knife.

Transfer to a warmed dish and serve while still hot.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spicy pork and chilli pepper goulash

Serves 4-6

The idea of cooking a tough piece of pork in a lovely pepper stew to make it extremely tender and melt-in-your-mouth is something I find quite exciting. This dish, in particular, is one of my favourites and, unless you’ve got a strange aversion to chillies and peppers, you’ll definitely end up making it again and again. It’s also one of those dishes that tastes great when reheated the day after it has been made. You’ve got a whole range of chilli and pepper flavours going on, from smoked paprika to fresh chillies, and fresh peppers to sweet grilled and peeled ones.

2kg pork shoulder, off the bone in one piece, skin off, fat on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 generously heaped tblsp mild smoked paprika, plus extra for serving
2 tsp ground caraway seeds
A small bunch of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
5 peppers (use a mixture of colours), sliced
1 x 280g jar of grilled peppers, drained, peeled and sliced
1 x 400g tin of good-quality plum tomatoes
4 tblsp redwine vinegar
400g basmati or long-grain rice, washed
1 x 142ml pot of sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Get a deep, ovenproof stew pot, with a lid, and heat it on the hob. Score the fat on the pork in a crisscross pattern all the way through to the meat, then season generously with salt and pepper. Pour a good glug of olive oil into the pot and add the pork, fat side down. Cook for about 15 minutes on a medium heat, to render out the fat, then remove the pork from the pot and put it to one side.

Add the onions, chillies, paprika, caraway seeds, marjoram (or oregano) and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Reduce the heat and gently cook the onions for 10 minutes, then add the sliced peppers, grilled peppers and the tinned tomatoes. Put the pork back into the pot, give everything a little shake, then pour in enough water to cover the meat. Add the vinegar – this will give the flavour a nice little twang. Bring to the boil, put the lid on top, then place in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

You will know when the meat is cooked, as it will be tender and sticky, and it will break up easily when pulled apart with two forks. If it’s not quite there yet, put the pot back into the oven and just be patient for a little longer.

When the meat is nearly ready, cook the rice in salted, boiling water for 10 minutes, until it’s just undercooked, then drain in a sieve, reserving some of the cooking water and pouring it back into the pan. Place the sieve over the pan on a low heat and put the lid on the pan. Leave to steam dry for 10 minutes – this makes the rice lovely and fluffy.

Stir the sour cream, lemon zest and most of the parsley together in a little bowl. When the meat is cooked, take the pot out of the oven and taste the goulash.

You’re after a balance of sweetness from the peppers and spiciness from the caraway seeds. Tear or break up the meat, and serve the goulash in a big dish or bowl, with a bowl of the steamed rice and the flavoured sour cream. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley, and tuck in.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Christmas pudding


I know, it's barely the end of Summer and we're still making the most of what sunshine is left... but trust me, if you haven't already made this year's Christmas puddings, now is the time to do so. This delicious recipe has the seedy crunch of figs, a sparkle from hand cut peel and a slight tartness from the apricots and orange zest

350g sultanas
350g raisins, or currants
150g dried figs, chopped
125g candied peel, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
75g dark glacé cherries, halved
150ml brandy, plus some for flaming
2 apples or quince
2 oranges, juice and zest
6 eggs
250g shredded suet
350g soft muscovado sugar
250g fresh breadcrumbs
175g self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice

You will need two 1.5 litre plastic pudding basins and lids, buttered, two old sixpences or two old coins, scrupulously scrubbed, two circles of greaseproof paper, buttered, large enough to cover the top of each pudding, with a single pleat folded down the centre of each. Soak the sultanas, raisins or currants, figs, candied peel, apricots and cherries in the brandy overnight. The liquid won’t cover the fruit but no matter; just give it a good stir now and again.

Mix the grated apples, orange juice and zest, beaten eggs, suet, sugar, crumbs and pour in a very large mixing bowl, then stir in the soaked fruit and the spice. Divide the mixture between the buttered pudding basins, tucking the coins in as you go.

Cover with the greaseproof paper, folded with a pleat in the centre. Pop the lids on and steam for three and a half hours. Allow the puddings to cool, and then remove the greaseproof paper, cover tightly with cling film and the plastic lid and store in a cool, dry place till Christmas.

To reheat: steam the puddings for a further three and a half hours. Turn out and flame with brandy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Caerphilly cheese scones

Makes about 10 to 12 scones

Scones are best eaten straight out of the oven, but you can prepare them in advance, particularly these cheese scones. Bake them a day ahead, then top with more grated cheese and reheat in a hot oven until the cheese melts and oozes down the sides of the scones. Utterly irresistible

225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Generous pinch of sea salt
50g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
85g grated Caerphilly cheese (or sharp cheddar), plus extra for sprinkling
15g parmesan cheese, grated
7-8 tblsp cold milk, plus extra for brushing
1 tblsp finely chopped chives
Crème fraîche, to serve

Heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper and salt into a large bowl. Add the cold butter and rub it in using the tips of your fingers, letting the flour drop from a height to aerate it. After all the flour has been incorporated, the mixture should look like fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the Caerphilly and parmesan cheese, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the milk and stir quickly using a butter knife to reach a soft but not sticky dough. Add another tablespoon of cold milk if the dough is quite dry. To achieve a light and fluffy result, try not to over-mix the dough.

Tip the dough on to a lightly floured board and roll out to a 2.5cm thickness. Using a 5cm pastry cutter, stamp out as many rounds as you can, reshaping the trimmings until the dough is used up. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with milk.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown. If you like, sprinkle the tops of the scones with a little more grated cheese and reheat in the oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Cool on a wire rack and serve while still warm with a little crème fraîche.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another Iftar




Breaking the fast at sunset has never been so much fun! Actually, as I'm joining in with my neighbours this year, the feeling of finally having something to eat after the best part of 18 hours with neither food nor drink has honestly become quite exciting... For someone so used to handling food all day long, feeling, touching, smelling and above all tasting - not being able to have a flavour sensation for such a long time really does heighten the senses to an amazing degree. my taste is sharper, the identity of subtle seasonings clearer and the understanding of carefully blended combinations so much more appreciative.

Since many of the people I'm working with, and the vast majority of our guests, have not eaten at all during the day, they are more often really cranky and quite hungry by the time Iftar comes around, and most of them hasten to end the fast as quickly as possible after sunset.

I've discovered that this is the perfect opportunity to break down a few dishes and look at how we can make them better by really tasting them and understanding what is in them.


This recipe is an example of what I mean, we've taken a traditional Moroccan pastilla and tarted it up a bit for a finer dining occasion...


Duck pastilla with foie gras

Serves 4

1 duck leg confit
4 sheets of pastille/brique (paper thin pancakes, similar to filo pastry)
Oil for deep frying
4 x 100g slices of fresh duck foie gras
Salt and pepper
Ground cinnamon
Icing sugar

Cinnamon sauce
200ml full bodied red wine
1 cinnamon stick
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp unsalted butter
Sherry vinegar

Shred the duck confit and divide between the four pancakes. Fold the pancakes into parcels, sealing the edges with a little water, and then trim the excess pancake to make 5cm x 3cm rectangles. Deep-fry until crisp, then drain on kitchen towels; keep the parcels warm.

Heat a thick-based frying pan over high heat, add the foie gras and cook until brown on both sides, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

For the cinnamon sauce, put the wine in a saucepan with the cinnamon stick and sugar, bring to the boil and reduce until syrupy. Season with salt and pepper, remove the cinnamon stick and whisk in the butter and a drop of sherry vinegar.

To assemble, cut each pastilla in half and dust generously with ground cinnamon and icing sugar. Place at the top of the warmed plates and place the foie gras beneath. Drizzle the sauce around the plate and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A bit more Ramadan


So, last night we get slammed with the healthy sum of 416 hungry guests breaking their fast, when I say hungry I totally mean it - these guys could certainly pack away some volume of food...

The display was quite something, and due to the ferociousness of the onslaught I could only grab a handful of images before mayhem descended upon the team. The food was fantastic, fresh vibrant and full of life, a feast for every sensation.

The soups, cold mezzahs, tajines, kebbeh and fatayer, koshary, sayadia and the ouzi through to the katayef, um ali and the baklavas - all were gorgeously presented one minute, devastated and devoured the very next.

Our charcoal grill was crackling with fire and flavour, the soup pot never seemed to be able to re fill itself no matter how hard we tried, and as we picked the tender meat of the ouzi it was being grabbed off our finger tips before we could blink.





The kebbeh, sambousek and fatayer took the place of finger food for all to get their appetites kick started as they shuffled along the queue to fill their plates to dizzying heights - biryani and white chocolate from the chocolate fountain on the same plate?

Oh yes, it was all kicking off last night...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chicken, leek and morel pie

Serves 6

The kids are back at school, the Summer glow is gently fading and the lid of the Pimms bottle looks like it's starting to crust up for the colder months already. Can only mean one thing, and Autumn is just around the corner - pie season in my book. I'm so looking forward to the sheer comfort in longer cooked meats, braised dishes while still making the most of the gardens and hedgerows as they still offer an abundance of flavour. This pie uses morels, a little early in the season yet, and a bit of a luxury even at their peak of availability, so don't worry about substituting them for something simpler in price.

Pastry
225g strong white flour
170g cold diced butter
Pinch of salt
Cold water to mix

Filling
6 chicken breasts, diced
20g dried morels, soaked and halved (reserve the soaking water)
10 young leeks, washed and sliced
100g tarragon, chopped
300ml double cream
15g flour
15g butter
Salt and black pepper

For the pastry, mix the butter into the flour with the salt till crumbly, add enough water till a clean smooth dough is formed without over mixing, chill in fridge for at least an hour before rolling.

Poach the chicken, leeks and morels gently in the morel water for about 20 to 30 minutes, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.

Strain the liquid and add the butter to this mix and return to the heat. Once the butter is foaming, and coated all ingredients, dust with the flour and continue to cook for 5 minutes further.

At this stage add 100ml of poaching liquid, the cream, tarragon and a touch more seasoning, bring back to the boil and remove from heat.

Fill a suitable pie dish with the filling, and top with the pastry, rolled out to ¼ inch thickness. Brush the top with egg wash, and bake in an oven at 180c for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bulgur wheat with aubergines and mint

Serves 2

Bulgur is one of those mild, warming grains that both soothes and satisfies. I find great value in its nubbly texture and nutty flavour. To me this is supper, but others may like to use it aside something else such as grilled chicken or a gravy rich stew. At this time of year, it's just one of the mesmerising display of cold mezzah we assemble as part of the opening scene of our Iftars.

6 tblsp olive oil
a small onion
a bay leaf
2 small aubergines
2 large cloves garlic
225g bulgur wheat
500ml vegetable stock
4 tomatoes
3 tblsp pine kernels, toasted
15-20 mint leaves

Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, peel and finely slice the onion and let it cook slowly in the oil with the bay leaf. When the onion is soft and pale gold, add the aubergine, cut into 3cm pieces, and the peeled and chopped garlic.

Let the aubergine cook, adding more oil if necessary, until it is golden and soft. Pour in the bulgur wheat and the vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes till the wheat is tender and almost dry. Halfway through cooking roughly chop the tomatoes and add them, then, once the wheat is cooked (it should still be nubbly and have some bite), stir in the toasted pine kernels and chopped mint leaves.

Check the seasoning, for sure it will need both salt and pepper.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crispy duck boregi

Serves 8

The sights, sounds, smells and mayhem that Ramadan brings every evening at Iftar. It is a magical time of year, and the intensity of some of the food can be quite unique. There seem to be the full range of offerings, from a simple lentil soup to whet the appetite from a day of fasting - to full blown spicy stews like the meatball heavy dawood basha with gutsy seasoning and solid content. These spring roll like boregis fall in the middle, and in fact are probably better suited to snacking on late into the night after the main meal has had a chance to digest.

6 duck legs
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
100g dried chick peas, soaked overnight
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 4
180ml extra virgin olive oil
75g currants
4 sheets of filo pastry

Pre-heat oven to 180c, trim duck legs slightly of excess fat, season well on both sides with salt and place in a roasting pan with, sugar and spices. Add enough water to come half way up the duck legs. Cover twice with foil and braise for 1 ½-2 hours until duck meat falls off the bone when grabbed with a fork or a pair of tongs. Strain liquid off the braising liquid and allow duck legs and liquid to cool.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cover chickpeas with 1 litre of water and boil for about 20 minutes until really soft. Remove from the heat and season the water to taste with salt. Let stand for about 5 minutes to absorb the salt. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a separate saucepan, cover potato with water and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain immediately and push through a ricer. Place in a mixing bowl.

Puree chickpeas in a food processor with 100ml extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, until smooth and creamy. Stir into the riced potatoes and re-season with salt and pepper.

Remove the duck meat from the bone and shred. Stir into the potato mixture. Skim the braising liquid. Place currants in a small bowl and add 100ml of warm braising liquid to them. Let them plump and add the liquid and currants to the duck mixture. Check again for seasoning.

Cut each sheet of filo dough in half widthwise. Brush each half with some of the remaining olive oil. Place duck filling in a straight skinny line on the bottom of each filo and fold in ends. Roll up like a cigar and bake or deep fry.

Serve with a tahini sauce and some chopped fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, at sunset of course...

Monday, August 31, 2009

The old colony did us proud (part one)

What a difference a week makes? While there are still a few places on our fine earth where the culinary diversity on offer never fails to amaze, a city where wonder and delight is almost expected, Hong Kong always does it so well.
Having just returned from a 7 day whirlwind trip, where amongst many other things, I dined in a collection of eateries from simple dai pai dongs to Michelin starred joints, and everything in between - revisited two favourite restaurants I'd been to before, and had I think 8 meals in places for the first time. No two the same, all utterly fantastic, so many flavours, so much inspiration....

The week kicked off in a restaurant I had been to before, in fact where I've eaten quite possibly the best crabs in my life (possibly until Tuesday that is) but this time round all I wanted was steamed rice, steamed fish and vegetables. Anyhow, these amazing black bean and chilli clams weren't on the original agenda, but thank heaven they made it in there due to this place doing Chiu Chow style food so so well. It was great to have properly steamed fish, rice that held together in a way that it can be dragged through a little sauce on the end of your chopsticks without losing its way en route to your mouth, and great steamed green vegetables to balance it all off, but the clams stole the show.
Day two went from a great but simple dim sum lunch, to an amazing 10 course Michelin starred Chinese dinner, one of the highlights if I had to choose one was the very first course of thinly shredded chicken leg mushrooms fried with chilli, and devoured with great champagne - awesome, and may have been eclipsed by the curried crabs which were inspired by the sikh cooks the chef used to allow to take over his kitchen once a week back in the good old days. I could write about this meal for way longer, and would love to show photographs but sadly none that night - although here was the 'simple little lunch' from earlier in the day - lovely fresh har gau, pork filled cheong fun, turnip and dried shrimp cake (lo bak go) Chazhou dumplings with peanut, pork and chives, braised squid, more vegetables and a great meaty fried rice, which was as delicious as it was unnecessary...


The third day began with one of the best macaroons I've had in an age, then on to noodles, and it still staggers me how I held off till the 3rd day for noodles... Proper, hot, busy and noisy - at the peak of the lunchtime demand, no better place to be, and queuing outside for a table not only confirms you're in good company, but gets the appetite turning cartwheels in anticipation. These noodles were just perfect, bouncy and resistant with a hand mashed fish ball, some gorgeous tender braised beef and a super fresh prawn wonton - a splash of red vinegar and touch of red chilli oil fire, and I'm in lip smacking heaven.




I'm stuffed just recalling a few bits and pieces... more to follow soon...


Friday, August 21, 2009

Lobster spaghetti

Serves 4

This really is not as extravagant as you might think, since a little lobster goes a long way in this dish. We par cook the lobsters in their shells to ensure that the finished dish is not overcooked. At home, simply toss the lobster in the sauce at the end of the cooking time. Serve immediately with a crisp green salad and a super chilled glass of white Burgundy.

600g cherry tomatoes
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
50g unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
125ml dry white wine
500g fresh spaghetti
1 tblsp olive oil
1 cooked lobster (750g whole cooked weight), meat removed
100ml double cream
3 tblsp freshly chopped basil
Parmesan cheese shavings
Olive oil to drizzle

Place the tomatoes, chilli, onion, garlic and butter in a heavy-based pan and cook over a moderate heat until soft but not coloured. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon as they cook.

Season with pepper, add the wine and cook slowly until the wine has virtually evaporated and the tomatoes have caramelised. The sauce will be quite chunky in texture: if you prefer a smoother sauce, pass the mixture through a sieve and return to the pan.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the spaghetti and oil and cook till al dente.
Take the lobster meat and cut into small medallions or bite-sized pieces. Drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to a warm serving plate.

Add the cream to the tomato sauce and bring to the boil, add the lobster and toss to warm through. Do not overcook at this stage.

Pour over the spaghetti, scatter over the basil and parmesan, drizzle with the oil.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caramelised hazelnut chocolate clusters

Makes 24

These petits fours are simply clumps of hazelnuts set in a buttery caramel and then coated in melted dark chocolate. If the notion takes you, milk or white chocolate can easily be substituted, and the nuts swapped for some dried fruit. Such a simple recipe for the kids to get involved in the kitchen.

200g caster sugar
2 tblsp water
50g butter
100g whole hazelnuts
200g dark chocolate (55–60 per cent cocoa solids)

Line a baking sheet with a silicone cooking liner or baking parchment. Melt the sugar with the water in a heavy-based saucepan over a very gentle heat. Once all the sugar grains have dissolved, stir in the melted butter. Increase the heat and boil to a mid-golden colour. Take off the heat.

Drop in a cluster of three nuts, scoop out at once with a metal spoon and place on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining nuts to make about 24 clusters. Cool until set and firm.
Melt the chocolate. Dunk each nut cluster into the chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set. Store in an airtight tin for up to three days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Courgette cakes

Makes about 6

In the same vein as the current tomato glut, courgettes are abundant in many gardens right now. These little cakes are simply a seasonal attempt to offer variety to what can often be looked upon as a boring vegetable. Unfairly so I feel, and for those who can only think of courgettes as an exotic addition to ratatouille, please read on...

3 large courgettes (about 500g)
4 spring onions
1 clove garlic
3 tblsp plain flour
a large egg
100g feta cheese
a small bunch of dill
olive oil
fine-quality chutney to serve

Coarsely grate the courgette into a colander, sprinkle lightly with salt and leave in the sink for half an hour or so.

Chop the onions finely and warm them gently with a little oil in a shallow pan. They should soften but not colour. Peel and chop the garlic and stir into the onions with the courgettes.

When all is soft and starting to turn pale gold, stir in the flour and continue cooking for a couple of minutes or so, with the occasional stir. Beat the egg lightly, then stir it into the onion mixture, then crumble in the cheese and the chopped dill.

Season with black pepper and a little salt.

Heat three tablespoons of oil in a shallow pan, drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil and let them cook until they are golden on the underside. Turn carefully - they will be fragile - and cook the other side. Lift the cakes out with a spatula and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Serve with the chutney or simply a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Crispy chorizo and new potatoes

Serves 4-6 as part of a selection of tapas
A gorgeous, quick yet satisfying snackette for drinks tonight to get things started...

500g new potatoes, scrubbed
3 (about 300g) cooking chorizo sausages, chopped into 1 cm slices
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves chopped finely
2 tblsp dry Madeira

Boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked but still firm. Remove from the heat and cool them under running cold water, then cut them in half lengthways on the diagonal and set aside.

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan to hot and cook the chorizo for 2-3 minutes, or until the oils are released. Add the potatoes and rosemary and cook, stirring frequently, over a high heat for a further 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

Reduce the heat and add the Madeira. Stir and leave to caramelise and brown for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm with cocktail sticks, or as a salad.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tomato ketchup

With the potential glut of tomatoes now the season is peaking, here’s something that’ll please almost everybody for a while to come. This makes rather a lot, but it will keep for at least a month in a covered container in the fridge.

5kg ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp four spice mix
1½ tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp salt
4 tblsp icing sugar
1 tblsp white wine vinegar

Core the tomatoes and reserve the stems. Place the tomatoes in a pressure cooker and add water to a depth of 1cm. Bring the cooker to full pressure for 20 minutes and then allow to cool. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, slowly cook the tomatoes over a medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Pass the tomatoes and liquid through a sieve, discarding the leftovers.

Add all the other ingredients, except the icing sugar, the vinegar and the stems, to the tomatoes. Place in a pan and simmer slowly over a low heat until it is reduced by half - this will take about 4 hours. Pass the mixture through a sieve again. Add the icing sugar, return to the pan and continue to reduce over a low heat until it reaches a ketchup-like consistency - this will take just over an hour.

Allow to cool, and then add the vinegar. Finally, place the reserved tomato stems into the ketchup mixture for a few hours to infuse it with the fresh vine odour - it’s important to do this after the mixture has cooled, as the vine aroma is destroyed by heat. Discard the stems before serving

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

French onion toast

Serves 4

A great crostini like snack which can be miniaturised into an elegant canape or served a bit more chunky with a crisp green salad as an easy supper dish. Essentially this has all the elements of a French onion soup; sweet onions, melted Gruyère cheese and grilled bread - a terrific combination.

4 large white onions
2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and black pepper
250ml white wine
4 thick slices sourdough bread or 1 baguette split and cut into 15cm lengths
Dijon mustard
100g grated Gruyère cheese

Cut the onions in half lengthwise, peel and slice as finely as you can. Melt the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, add the onions and cook gently for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, until soft and lightly golden.

Add the sugar, salt and pepper and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Raise the heat and add the white wine and allow to bubble for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the onions are soft and the liquid has been absorbed.

Heat the grill. Grill the bread on both sides and spread the top thickly with mustard.

Pile the onions on top and scatter with the cheese. Place under the grill for 1 minute until the cheese melts into a bubbling, golden mess, and serve hot.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mushrooms stuffed with figs and Gorgonzola

Serves 4

Now we're into the second half of Summer, we should start seeing the surplus of the Italian fig season coming our way. Normally they should be beautifully plump with a dark purple skin and, when ripe, as sweet as honey, a far cry from the green varieties available. You need really ripe figs for this recipe so it’s a good way to use any you may have left in your fruit bowl.

4 large flat or portobello mushrooms
1 tblsp olive oil
125g mascarpone
125g Gorgonzola, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe purple figs
Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar or Marsala
1 tblsp thyme leaves
Sourdough bread, to serve

Wipe the mushrooms with a piece of damp kitchen paper or use a soft brush to remove any dirt or grit. Cut out the stalks. Brush a large sheet of foil with the olive oil and place the mushrooms, stalk-side up, in the middle.

Mix the mascarpone with the Gorgonzola and season with plenty of black pepper. Fill the mushrooms with the cheese mixture. Quarter the figs and press on top of the cheese mixture, skin-side facing down. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or Marsala and scatter the thyme leaves over the figs.

Bring the ends of the foil together to meet in the middle and scrunch together to seal. Place on the edge of the barbecue and cook for 15 minutes (or in the oven at 180c/gas mark 4) until the mushrooms have cooked and the figs are soft. Serve with sourdough bread to mop up the juices.