Saturday, April 18, 2009

Duck leg confit with flageolet beans

Serves 4

Although this recipe seems lengthy, the beauty is in the fact you can make an abundance of it at once, and it will keep for weeks as long as the legs are airtight under a seal of solidified fat. Confit itself is a classic dish from southwest France. The duck legs are marinated in coarse salt, which completely changes their texture and flavour, then cooked very slowly in its own fat. If the fat boils, the wonderful texture of the meat will be spoilt. For the beans, of course pre-cooked tinned beans can be used - which will speed up the process, but cooking from dry has to be tried at least once - the difference is astonishing.

For the duck legs
4 large organic or free range duck legs
30g rock salt
1 tblsp black pepper corns, crushed
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 fresh bay leaves, sliced
4 fresh sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
800g duck fat, melted

For the flageolet beans
250 g dried flageolet beans, soaked in cold water overnight
½ onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved, and 1 garlic clove, crushed to a purée
100g smoked streaky bacon, rind removed, diced
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cloves
about 900 ml water
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
A small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lay the duck legs on a baking tray, flesh-side upwards, and distribute the rock salt, crushed peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves and thyme evenly over. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. The next day, rinse the marinade off the duck legs and pat them dry with a cloth.

Pre-heat the oven to 140ºC and put the duck legs in a large flameproof casserole, cover with the melted fat and, on a gentle heat, bring the fat to just below simmering point. Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 2¼ hours, until the duck legs are very tender. Leave to cool (you can easily leave the legs in their cooking fat in the fridge for between 2 days and 2 weeks, which will further improve their flavour)

Drain and rinse the soaked flageolet beans, then put them in a large saucepan with the onion, halved garlic cloves, bacon, herbs, cloves, water and 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, skim away the impurities from the surface and them simmer on the lowest possible heat for about 50 mins, until the beans are tender. Taste to see if they are perfectly cooked; they should be soft and melting, not powdery. Season with salt at this stage, and add any extra pepper you feel they may need, finally stir in the olive oil, parsley and crushed garlic.

Take the duck legs out of their cooking fat. Over a medium heat, in a dry frying pan, crisp and colour the duck legs on the skin side for 5-7 minutes, regularly pouring away excess fat. To serve, divide the beans and some of their cooking liquid between 4 soup plates, top with the crispy duck legs and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rice pudding with fig jam

Serves 4

I prefer my rice puddings warm, but if you want to serve this chilled, you may want to stir in a splash of cream to loosen up the rice. This fig jam doen't contain nearly as much sugar as the shop-bought versions so it will not keep indefinitely. Chill any leftovers in the fridge and use within 3-4 days.

200g pudding rice
600ml whole milk
Pinch of fine sea salt
100g caster sugar
200ml single cream, plus optional extra to serve

For the fig jam
450g ripe figs
75g caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
Juice of ½ lemon
100ml water

Put the rice, milk, salt and sugar into a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring once or twice, then turn the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and slowly simmer for about 40-50 minutes until the rice is tender.

Remove the pan from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream. Meanwhile, prepare the fig jam. Trim off the woody tops from the figs and chop into small pieces.

Place into another heavy-based saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients and stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cook gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and jammy. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Serve the warm rice pudding in individual bowls and spoon over a dollop of fig jam.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Braised pork belly

With a desperate yearning for the recently departed far east, this should satisfy any pork cravings of anyone insane enough to swap Hong Kong for Abu Dhabi...

Serves 4

Ask your butcher to remove the rind from the belly pork, but leave some of the fat as it keeps the meat moist during the long cooking time. This may look like a lot of meat but as the fat breaks down in the cooking process the belly shrinks dramatically. This works well if braised a day in advance and then pan-fried at the last minute. Serve with pommes purées flavoured with mustard.

1 x 2kg piece pork belly, rind removed and boned
Freshly ground pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tblsp olive oil
1 leek sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
2 star anises
2 bay leaves
50ml soy sauce
500ml chicken stock
125ml Madeira

Place the pork fat-side down on a chopping board, season well with pepper and sprinkle over the thyme and lemon zest. Roll up the pork like a Swiss roll and secure with string.
Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a metal casserole and sear the meat all over. Add the leek, celery, onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the star anises, bay leaves, soy sauce, stock and Madeira.

Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the meat from the casserole and place on a plate. Cover and chill in the fridge until required.

Strain the cooking juices through a sieve and discard the vegetables. Skim away all the fat from the stock. Place the stock in a medium-sized saucepan and boil until the stock has reduced by half and has a sauce-like consistency.

Remove the meat from the fridge. Cut away the string and cut into medallions 4cm thick.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and pan-fry the meat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Take a little of the sauce and spoon over the medallions, then cook for a few minutes to glaze the meat. Transfer to four warmed plates of pommes purées. Spoon the glaze over the meat and serve the remaining sauce in a jug.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mushroom and taleggio pizza

Serves 4

Puff pastry provides an instant base to the pizza, and the crust stays crisp slightly longer than regular pizza dough. A nice salad of wild rocket leaves with parmesan shavings would be great with it.

25g unsalted butter
3 tblsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
450g mixed mushrooms (such as girolles, portobello, shiitakes and chestnut mushrooms), roughly sliced into a similar size
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
375g puff pastry
1 medium egg, beaten
4-5 tblsp grated parmesan
100g taleggio cheese, torn into small pieces
Handful of oregano, leaves picked and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Heat a pan with the butter and olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until golden brown. (You may need to do this in two batches if your pan is not wide enough.) Season well with salt and pepper. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.

Roll out the pastry on to a lightly floured board to a large rectangle about the thickness of a pound coin. Slide this on to a baking tray. Using a long sharp knife, lightly score a 1cm border around the edge of the rectangle, taking care not to cut through the pastry. Brush all over the pastry with the beaten egg. Layer the sautéed mushrooms around the inner rectangle of the pastry. Sprinkle the parmesan and taleggio over the mushrooms. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has puffed and browned.

Scatter the chopped oregano leaves over the pizza and drizzle with a little olive oil before slicing into four.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chocolate and cardamom tart

Serves 8-10

Now I'm re-visiting some amazing middle eastern combinations, coffee and cardomom as a great example, I'm looking to take this a little further with this subtle, yet impressive dark, bittersweet chocolate tart. This tart is best made in the afternoon, allowed to sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving for dinner. Serve with some crème fraîche or even a really good simple vanilla ice cream to cut the richness of the chocolate.

300g sweet pastry
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
400g dark bitter chocolate
2 shots of espresso
3 cardamom pods
200ml full cream milk
Pinch of salt
200ml double cream
2 tblsp runny honey
2 tblsp caster sugar
Crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, to serve

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to about 1/4 cm thickness, and line a lighty greased 20cm tart tin with a removable base, pushing well into the sides so there are no air pockets between the pastry and the tin. Leave a little excess pastry overhanging the sides to allow for shrinkage and trimming. Pop this into the freezer for an hour to allow the pastry to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Line the pastry case with foil and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes until the sides of the pastry are lightly golden. Remove the foil and beans, brush the surface with a tiny amount of the beaten egg and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the pastry base is cooked through and the egg glaze has set to a sheer finish. Remove and leave to cool while you prepare the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/Gas 2.

Chop the chocolate and put into a large heatproof bowl. Lightly crush the cardamom pods and shake the seeds into a mortar. Add a tiny pinch of salt and grind the seeds to a fine powder. Add to the bowl of chopped chocolate.

Put the milk, cream, honey and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. When it comes to the boil, add the espresso and immediately pour the hot liquid onto the chocolate, whisking well until all the chocolate has melted and the combined mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly before stirring in the remaining beaten eggs, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug.

Put the pastry case on a baking sheet, then pull the middle shelf of the oven out halfway and put the baking sheet on to it. Make sure the shelf is level, and then pour the chocolate mixture into the case until it comes to just below the rim.

Carefully slide the oven shelf back and bake the tart for about 25-35 minutes until the filling begins to set around the sides. It should still be wobbly in the middle. Turn off the oven and leave the tart to cool inside. The filling will continue to set as it cools. When the tart is pretty much at room temperature, remove it from the tin and slice when your ready to eat.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Arabian spiced rack of lamb with couscous

Serves 2

This gorgeous lamb recipe contains harissa, a versatile hot paste from North Africa that can be added to dishes or served in a separate bowl on the table. It is widely available, but try making your own for a delicious fresh flavour. It will keep in the fridge in a covered jar for a few weeks. If you are concerned about the heat of the paste, use less, or milder chillies.

For the harissa paste (makes about 150ml)
25g large dried red chillies
2 tblsp coriander seeds
1 generous tblsp cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground paprika
60ml olive oil

For the lamb and couscous
1 prepared rack of lamb (3-4 cutlets per person, depending on their size and your appetite)
100g couscous
2 tblsp olive oil
150ml light chicken or vegetable stock
1 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tblsp fresh mint, chopped
½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
50g toasted flaked almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 heaped tblsp greek yoghurt (optional)

To make the harissa paste, split the chillies in half lengthways, remove and discard the seeds, then soften the chillies in boiling water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a frying pan on a medium to high heat for about 1 minute, tossing regularly, until the spices just begin to smoke and toast. Grind in a spice-grinder or with a pestle and mortar.

Place the garlic, salt, paprika, ground spices and drained red chillies in a food processor and whizz to a paste, slowly adding the olive oil until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7, then prepare the rack of lamb. Lightly score the fat in a crisscross pattern, without cutting through to the meat.
Place in a roasting tray and spread a generous tbsp of harissa over the fat, pressing it down with your hands or a spoon. Roast for 20 minutes (rare to medium) or 25 minutes (well done) for a small rack, 30-32 minutes for a larger one. After 10 minutes, cover with tinfoil so the harissa doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, pour the couscous into a bowl, rub in the olive oil, to coat the grains, then pour over the hot stock. Stir, then cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes until the couscous has absorbed all the stock. Add the parsley, mint, onion and most of the toasted flaked almonds. Stir well and season.

Once the lamb is cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve by cutting between the bones; each person should have 3-4 cutlets. Spoon the couscous onto warmed plates and arrange the cutlets on top. Scatter with the remaining flaked almonds and serve with a spoonful of greek yoghurt, if using

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caramelised onion, rocket and goat’s cheese tartlets

Serves 4

Onions are one of the few things that improve in flavour the more you cook them. When caramelising, use very low heat and stir frequently to draw out their natural sugars. If cooked properly, you won’t need to add any sugar to help with the process

300g shortcrust pastry
Flour, for dusting
25g unsalted butter
6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tblsp sherry vinegar
150g goat’s cheese, preferably a thin log
100g rocket
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the pastry into four even pieces and roll each one out on a lightly floured board as thinly as possible, without tearing. Use to line four 10cm tartlet tins and leave the excess pastry overhanging the sides. Place the tartlets on a baking sheet and line them with foil and baking beans. Chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Bake the pastry cases for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and foil and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the pastry is crisp. While still hot, trim the pastry to the rim of the tins with a sharp knife. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan and add the sliced onions. Cook over a very low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and caramelised. Drain off any excess liquid from the onions and add the sherry vinegar. Put the pan back on the heat for 10 more minutes until the vinegar has cooked off. Season well and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Place the tartlet cases on a baking sheet and spoon in the caramelised onions. Cut the goat’s cheese into 8 thick slices and place two on each tartlet. Bake for 5-10 minutes until the cheese is golden and the tart has warmed through.

Dress the rocket with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper and serve with the warm tartlets.