Saturday, June 13, 2009

Herb and lemon scotch eggs

Makes 8

Scotch eggs are picnics for me. Made in the morning, wrapped in foil and eaten while they still retain a bit of their heat replaces anything else I can imagine I'd be happier to lay out my tartan rug for. These can easily be made a couple of days ahead and then stored in the fridge, although they are clearly at their best fresh, not long cooked and eaten while they still have their crunch. Should they be cooked in advance, bring them back to room temperature an hour before serving, and eat with brown sauce or chutney preferably outdoors - on rug of your choice of course, doen't have to be tartan, although can't imagine a picnic without.

8 large eggs
450g sausagemeat or 8-10 good-quality sausages, split from their skins
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
4 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp English mustard powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150g fine breadcrumbs
Oil, for frying

Begin by boiling the eggs in a pan of simmering water for 8 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and cool straight away under a cold tap. The trick here is to have an egg that hasn't totally cooked through to give a rock hard yolk - you need some give. Peel away the shells, then set aside.

Put the sausagemeat in a bowl, then add the parsley, sage, mustard powder, lemon zest, some seasoning and mix thoroughly together. Wet your hands, then envelope each egg with a layer of sausagemeat, about 5mm thick.

Now roll each egg in the flour then dip into the beaten egg, followed by the breadcrumbs. Dip them into the egg then the breadcrumbs once again to coat fully.

Heat a 5cm depth of oil in a saucepan until hot – to test it is ready for frying, a piece of bread should sizzle vigorously when dropped into the oil and turn golden and crisp in just less than 20 seconds.

Drop 2 scotch eggs into the oil at a time and fry for 6-8 minutes, turning them throughout to ensure they brown evenly. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Leave to cool while you fry the rest.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Breast of duck with peach compote and chorizo

Serves 4

I love the depth and complexity of flavour in this dish with really only 3 principal ingredients. Rich and almost gamey Barbary duck is preferred with aromatic early summer peaches (white if you can get them) offset by some smoky spicy chorizo. By scoring the fat and cooking the duck breasts skin-side down, the fat is released into the pan and the skin will become crisp and have a beautiful colour. By throwing the chorizo into this fat to crisp up is the perfect way to get the best out of the sausage. Keep the duck fat which will be spiced and reddened by the chorizo - add a splash to your vinaigrette and save the rest to cook your roast potatoes in for sunday lunch.

50g butter
6 shallots, sliced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp sherry vinegar
200ml port
100ml Madeira
2 large white peaches, stoned and sliced
4 Barbary duck breasts
100g chorizo, diced
150g pea shoots or watercress dressed with a splash of vinaigrette
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a small heavy pan and cook the shallots until soft. Add the honey, five-spice and vinegar. Let the vinegar evaporate, and then add the port and Madeira. Boil until the mixture is thick and syrupy, and then add the peaches. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7. Score the skin of the duck breast 3-4 times on each breast. Heat a large cast-iron pan without any oil, place the breast skin-side down in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Use a spatula to press the breasts down in the pan to ensure that the skin is cooked evenly all over.

Add the chorizo and transfer the pan to the preheated oven and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 4 minutes. Then remove from the oven, season well and allow to rest for 10 minutes, drain the chorizo of excess fat on some kitchen paper.

Carve each duck breast into eight slices. toss the chorizo through the pea shoots or watercress with the vinaigrette, and arrange on the centre of four warm plates. Place the duck on top and pop a spoonful of the peach compote on the side, serve immediately.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Artichoke, asparagus, tomato and onion tart

Serves 6

A little fiddly and complex, but should you be in the mood for it, this has got to be a blow you away starter for entertaining at home this weekend. Take the time to make everything way in advance, leaving only the quail eggs to cook and the finishing assembly part to do at the last minute.

Onion purée
6 onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 tblsp single cream

500g puff pastry
150g asparagus tips
12 quail eggs
150g ready-cooked artichoke hearts, cut into wedges
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
½ small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
Small handful of chives, chopped
3-4 tblsp vinaigrette
Few rocket leaves, to garnish
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200°c/gas mark 6.

To make the onion purée, heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the onions and season well. Cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the onions are very soft.

Roll out the pastry thinly and cut out six discs, using a saucer as a guide. Place the pastry rounds on a large baking sheet and prick all over with a skewer. Place another heavy baking sheet on top of the pastry discs to weigh them down. Bake for 15 minutes until brown and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Add the cream to the onions and bring to a simmer. Tip the mixture into a blender or food processor and whiz to a fine paste and leave to cool.

Blanch the asparagus tips in a pan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes until tender and refresh in a bowl of iced water, drain and tip into a large bowl. Carefully fry the quail eggs in some hot oil - the white should be set but the yolk should still be runny. Rest on kitchen paper once they’re cooked to absorb any excess fat.

Add the artichokes, tomatoes, red onion and chives to the asparagus, drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to mix.

Spoon a little onion purée over the centre of the pastry discs and pile the vegetables on top, arrange the quail eggs over the vegetables. Scatter a few rocket leaves on top, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve with much pride

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sautéed mushrooms with toasted polenta

Serves 4

Polenta purists will baulk at the notion I'm happy to present here, but really, for toasting or pan frying the stuff to give it a crisp edge, the instant fast cook type is more than adequate. Start to finish this is an hour to make, and 40 minutes of that is allowing the polenta to cool enough to slice and grill. if that's way too long to wait, toast some baguette, do the mushroom thing and shave over some Parmesan at the end, almost as satisfying, and a perfect midweek snack/supper/lunch with a bit of salad on the side.

1 litre water
300g instant polenta
350g assorted mushrooms
70g butter
4 shallots finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed
6 juniper berries
a good handful of parsley
half a lemon

Put the water on to boil in a thick bottomed saucepan. As soon as it boils, remove from the heat, pour in the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, then put it back on the heat and stir until thick enough for the spoon to stand up.

Lightly oil a bowl, scoop the polenta into it, and leave to cool. It will solidify on cooling. Wipe the mushrooms and slice or quarter them if they are large. Remember they will shrink on cooking, so don't cut them too small.
Get the butter frothing in a shallow pan, crush the juniper berries and add them, then add the challots and after half a minute the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes allowing the mushrooms to colour appetisingly.

Chop the parsley and stir it in, remove the garlic cloves. Season with salt, coarsely ground black pepper and a little lemon juice to taste. Heat the grill or a cast-iron griddle pan. Turn the polenta out and cut it into thick slices.

Brush with a little oil and grill till crisp on the outside. Place the toasted polenta on plates and pile the mushrooms on top.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aniseed bread

Mid week baking, if you can be bothered that is, can make all the difference to both mind and body - a real cleanser. This recipe makes wonderful moist and sweet bread with the rich warming overtones of aniseed, and really is as simplistic a 2 part bread recipe as you'll find.

500g flour
1g salt
10g butter (room temp)
10g soft brown sugar
3g ground aniseed
10g raisins

500g flour
75g water
3g yeast

100g sugar
50g water

Set the "ferment" by mixing warm (40ºC) water, yeast and flour in a basin. Leave to stand for 15mins.

Put sugar, salt, butter and aniseed into a bowl, add warm water and bring together slightly then add the "ferment".

Mix a little more and finally add sponge and continue to mix to a fully developed dough (it will be slacker than bread dough but will tighten as it ferments). Add raisins tearing into dough. Put to one side in a warm draft free place to double up in bulk for 1 hour.

Divide into 300g doughs, push out the gas by knocking it up a bit and leave to stand for a 15 minute intermediate prove. Final mould then put in a warm moist atmosphere for 35-40 mins.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for 25mins. Boil syrup for 10 mins and then brush over bread as soon as it comes out of the oven

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chicken with pickled lemons and olives

Serves 4

Right now I'm in love with the taste of lemons which have been pickled in salt. As they lose their bitter edge and sharpness they acquire a special, almost mystical rounded flavour. In all markets and souks in North Africa there are stalls laden with huge piles of soft aromatic lemons, bursting with juice, next to several varieties of olives. The two work so well together with a natural affinity. You can easily find pickled lemons and countless varieties of olives in local delis and supermarkets. For this dish, which is as close to a tagine as anything can be I guess, I prefer to add the lemon towards the end of the recipe but there's no harm in throwing in a little chopped lemon to flavour the sauce during the cooking as well. The flexibility of this recipe is endless, a few extra ingredients such as some mushrooms, chunks of courgette and aubergine or even cherry tomatoes can be thrown in for the last few minutes to give added dimensions to the finished article.

1 large chicken, cut into quarters
3 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, grated or very finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp crushed saffron strands or saffron powder
½ tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ large or 3 small pickled lemons, rinsed and cut into thin strips
12-16 fat green or violet olives
a little salt and plenty pepper

Put the chicken pieces in a large, wide saucepan with all the ingredients except the preserved lemons and the olives. Half cover with water and bring just to the boil.

Reduce the heat, then cover the pan and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is so tender that the flesh can be pulled off the bone easily and the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.

Turn the chicken pieces over a few times during cooking; adding a little more water if necessary.

Stir the lemon peel and olives into the sauce for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Some people like to add the lemon right at the very end

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jungle tiger salad

Serves 4

The Thai version of the prawn cocktail, a gorgeous tumbling of flavours, textures and aromas. The beauty of this salad being in the benefit in doing the majority of the preparation ahead of time, then simply doing the final construction at the last minute.

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tblsp fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
1 stick lemongrass finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh ginger shredded
1 mild red chilli shredded
2 hot red chillies chopped
24 cooked shelled tiger prawns
6 small shallots, finely sliced
Small handful of garlic chives finely chopped
1 tblsp finely shredded lime leaves
4 big handfuls Thai basil and coriander leaves

Tumble together everything but the prawns, shallots, green shoots and herbs and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Then toss through everything else and serve straight away.