Saturday, May 9, 2009

Coconut milk ice with chocolate

Serves 4

As well as being a delicious pudding, this is also a dairy free ice cream. Note that 'milk' means the creamy extract of blended coconut flesh that is used heavily in Thai cooking, rather than the water from the inside of a coconut. If you don't want to serve chocolate with this ice cream, consider a scattering of raspberries. Coconut and raspberries as a combination is awesome.

125g granulated sugar
50ml water
2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
1 fresh coconut or 110g shaved coconut
1 bar of dark, bitter chocolate
a few fresh raspberries

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer until all the sugar has dissolved.

Allow it to cool, and then stir it into the coconut milk. Transfer it to an ice cream maker or pop into a freezer bag and into the freezer until half set.

Then remove from the freezer, squash the bag gently until any set parts are broken up and allow the ice cream to finish, repeating this process a couple more times.

There are two sets of shavings you could serve with the ice cream. Run a potato peeler down the side of very cold chocolate for small, curly shards to serve over the scoops.

Roast coconut shavings are also easy. If using fresh coconut, shell the meat, peel off the brown skin and shave the flesh from the broken edges using a potato peeler.

Do this to the whole coconut and freeze any left over. It keeps very well that way. Set the oven to 150c/gas mark 2 and spread the required shavings over a baking tray. Cook for 20 minutes or until the coconut starts turning gold, then allow it to cool thoroughly to crisp up.

Serve the ice cream with a few raspberries and preferably both the coconut and the chocolate shavings.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fish ball noodles

Serves around 6 generously

A cornerstone of Hong Kong lunchtime activity, and one of the sensations I crave the most right now. So cheap and in plentiful supply, my favourite being tucked behind Times Square in Causeway Bay, but if you don't have one of these great little neighbourhood eateries round the corner, the dish isn't exactly all that difficult to do at home.

750g skinned and boned white fish fillet or skinned prepared squid
4cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
1 tsp salt
3 tsp fish sauce
4 tsp cornflour
3 big handfuls beansprouts, softened in boiling water for 1 minute
400g rice vermicelli noodles, prepared according to the packet, rinsed and drained
1.5 litres Asian chicken stock
12 trimmed bok choi stalks
6 string onions, shredded
Handful of chopped coriander and some chopped chilli, to serve

Pulse the fish in a processor to a paste. Grate the ginger.

Squeeze the juice from the ginger gratings over the fish (discarding the spent gratings), then add the salt, fish sauce and cornflour and knead into the fish mixture.

Mould the paste into small balls about the size of a walnut, cover, and then slip into the fridge to firm up.

Cook them in boiling water with the bok choi for 3 minutes, then drain. Divide the beansprouts, noodles, choi and fish balls between four generous bowls. Heat the stock with the spring onion until piping hot and then ladle over – this will reheat everything. Scatter with coriander and chilli.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

Serves 4 -6

I know we've gone heavy on the lamb recently, but this dish is two-fold. Firstly, it's a request, and I can't deny a request, and secondly we had a few lamb items on the barbecue last night (big hit) and there were always going to be leftovers. You can of course do this with what's left of a cooked joint, just add in your chopped up cooked meat after softening the onions. I also don’t know any children who don’t like shepherd’s pie, so it makes a great party dish just as much as it gets some proper food into your little darlings.

2 tblsp olive oil
900g lean minced lamb
Freshly ground black pepper
450g onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, picked and chopped
2 cloves garlic
25g butter
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 tblsp flour
200ml red wine
75ml Worcestershire sauce
1 litre chicken stock
1kg boiled floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper
50g butter
150ml milk
2 egg yolks
Freshly ground white pepper and salt

In a large frying pan, heat the oil until hot, add half the mince, season with pepper and fry until well browned. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pan and place in a metal colander to allow the excess fat to drain. Repeat with the second batch of mince and place in the colander.

Add the onion to the pan with the thyme and garlic and a knob of butter, and cook until soft and translucent. Add the meat and tomato purée, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour.

Add the red wine and Worcestershire sauce and cook until the liquid has reduced to half the original volume. Add the chicken stock, bring back to the simmer and leave till the liquid has reduced and you have a casserole type consistency to your pie base.

Mash the potato until creamy and smooth, through a potato ricer if you have one. Put into a medium sized mixing bowl. Place the milk and butter into a small pan and heat until the butter is melted and the milk is about to boil. Pour over the potatoes and beat well, adding the egg yolks and seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Put the mince into a large baking dish, then top with the creamed potato. Use a fork to rough up the top. Place in a preheated oven at 200c/Gas 6 for 30 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown in colour.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lamb filled flatbreads

Serves 4

Like I said a couple of days ago, it's barbecue night tonight, and the old adage of meat in bread will never die in my book - you just need to jazz it up now and then. Loud flavours here, with spice crusted lamb, garlic scented yoghurt and the hot smokiness of ground paprika, a cute sandwich to eat outdoors

1 whole fillet of lamb
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
3 tblsp olive oil

For the yoghurt
1 small bunch coriander leaves
a few sprigs mint leaves
200g thick yoghurt
2 cloves garlic

To serve
4 handfuls rocket or watercress
a few whole mint leaves
1 lemon
4 warmed flatbreads
a little hot smoked paprika

Grind the coriander, cumin seed and black peppercorns to a rough powder with a pestle and mortar. Peel the garlic and mash it into the spices with the olive oil. Rub the paste all over the lamb fillet and set aside for an hour or two.

Make the yoghurt dressing by pulling the leaves from the herbs and finely chopping them. Stir them into the yoghurt. Peel and finely chop the garlic and add. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated till the kebabs are ready.

Heat the grill, barbecue or a ridged cast-iron grill pan. Season the lamb with salt and lay it on the grill and leave to brown nicely, a matter of five or six minutes then turn and cook till that side too is crusty and the inside a rosy pink.

Set aside for a full five minutes to rest. Toss the rocket or watercress and whole mint leaves with lemon juice.

Slice the lamb thickly then place two or three slices on a piece of warm flatbread together with a handful of salad and a large spoonful of yoghurt. Dust with a shake of paprika and roll up.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Slow braised Bolognese

Serves 4 to 6

This is the real stuff, cooked slowly, properly and lovingly. This ragu has numerous uses, and if chilled then reheated properly just seems to get better over a few days. A mixture of beef, pork and chicken livers is braised slowly in lots of red wine and a herby tomato sauce to intensify the meaty flavours until there is very little liquid left. A little goes a long way because of its richness. Of course the meat can be interchangeable (if anything, try hard not to omit the chicken livers though, they really do make the difference) - I did a terrific version while in Hong Kong without the pork items which I turned into a pretty damn good lasagne which won me a bottle of port, but cost me a bottle of champagne....

Olive oil, for frying
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
500ml passata
100g pancetta, chopped
250g beef mince
250g pork mince
250g chicken livers
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 star anise
1 tblsp each chopped sage and rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle of red wine, such as Chianti or Valpolicella

Preheat the oven to 140c/Gas 1. Heat 2 tblsp of olive oil in a sauté pan and sweat the onion and garlic for 8-10 minutes until really soft but not coloured. Stir in the carrot and celery and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes over a medium heat. Tip the contents of the sauté pan into a food processor or liquidiser and pulse a few times. Pour in the passata and blend again until smooth.

Add the pancetta to the sauté pan and fry for a few minutes to render the fat down and until lightly golden but not crisp. Tip into a medium flameproof casserole and return the pan to the hob.

Increase the heat to high, then brown the beef mince for about 5 minutes until it starts to take on some colour, adding a little oil as necessary. Transfer to the casserole, then repeat with the pork mince.

De-vein the chicken livers with a small sharp knife, then rinse them under a cold, running tap. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat 1 tblsp of olive oil in the pan over a medium to high heat and brown the livers quickly on all sides for about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan, chop as finely as you can, then add to the casserole.

Place the casserole over the heat and stir the tomato purée into the ingredients, followed by the passata mix. Add the star anise, sage and rosemary, season with salt and black pepper and pour in the wine. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

Remove the lid, give it a good stir, then continue to cook uncovered for 1 hour, giving it a stir every 15 minutes or so. You should be left with a rich, thick sauce, and very little liquid remaining. Serve with freshly cooked pasta, fold into a lasagne or baked in the oven again with some gnocchi.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Steak panini with mustard mayonnaise

Serves 2

I'm doing a big barbecue at the weekend, and rather than the standard fare of hunks of charred meat stabbed into doughy buns, I'm going to do things more along the lines of beautifully perfect little steak sandwiches perked up with a piquant mustard mayonnaise. I've got some great green peppercorn mustard for this one, but a good smooth Dijon would do just the trick. All cooked, assembled and served off the grill, no need for squashing into a sandwich maker here.

Splash of olive oil
2 x 150g pieces cut thin rump steak
Crystal salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small ciabatta or small French sticks
2-3 tblsp green peppercorn Dijon mustard
2 tblsp good quality mayonnaise
a small bunch rocket or watercress

Lightly oil and season the steak with salt and black pepper then cook on a hot barbecue grill or ridged grill pan. It will only need a few minutes to colour on the outside. Take it off while it's still pink in the middle and leave it to rest on a warm plate.

Cut the bread in half lengthways and toast the cut halves on one side. Mix the mustard with the mayonnaise.

Spread the bottom piece of toasted bread with the mustard mayonnaise then pile with trimmed watercress and rocket leaves.

Place the steak on top, pour over any juices that have collected on the plate then top with the second half of bread.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Artichoke soup with ginger and walnuts

Serves 4-6

The beauty of blending any members of the artichoke family into a soup like this is the way you instantly get a creamy and rich texture, with only the smallest amount of butter. Globe artichokes can of course be used, but if you can get the Jerusalem variety, their own natural nuttiness blends wonderully with the spice mix topping

2 large leeks
40g butter
4 medium sticks of celery
400g Jerusalem artichokes
1 litre light stock or water
a small bunch of parsley

For the spice mix
1 tsp coriander seeds
30g shelled walnuts
30g fresh ginger
4 tsp groundnut oil

Discard the outer leaves from the leeks then cut into thin rounds. Rinse under running water, and then add them with the butter to a heavy saucepan. Let the leeks cook in the butter over a low heat for a good 15 minutes or so till they break down with the pressure from the back of a spoon.

Finely slice and add the celery, then peel and chop the artichokes and stir them in, too. Cover the pot with a lid so the vegetables sweat and soften without colouring, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, partially covered with a lid, this will take about 25 minutes for the artichokes to become tender.

Grind the coriander seeds to a fine powder and then add the walnuts, mashing them briefly to a pulp. Peel the ginger and slice thinly, then cut into thin matchsticks. Heat the oil in a shallow pan and fry the ginger for about 30 seconds till it's golden and crisp. Toss in the crushed walnuts and coriander; let them sizzle briefly then tip onto kitchen paper.

Liquidise the soup in a blender, stir in the parsley and check the seasoning. The soup should be mild and slightly nutty tasting. Ladle into bowls and top with ginger and spice mix.