Friday, July 17, 2009


Serves 4-6

Dishes of sliced waxy potatoes baked with cheese are popular all across Europe, and region to region shows off the best of their local produce in recreations of one similar dish. Reblochon and Tomme are two such cheeses perfect for this from the Haute Savoie area of France, and, despite their slightly musty aroma, the taste once melted into a hot potato dish makes for a delicious comfort dish for a cooler evening at home. Serve with a perfectly dressed green salad, gherkins or pickles and cold sliced charcuterie.

1kg waxy potatoes, Desiree are perfect, peeled
500ml milk
1 large white onion, sliced
200g chopped smoked streaky bacon
a good knob of butter
1 whole reblochon or Tomme de Savoie, about 500g
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the potatoes to 1cm thick then boil gently in the milk with some seasoning until just tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion with the bacon in the butter until the onions are softened and the bacon is crisp.

Slice the cheese as thinly as possible. You can cut off the rind if you want or at least trim the sides, but it is not really that necessary.

Drain the potatoes, saving the milk, and layer in a shallow ovenproof dish with the sliced reblochon and sautéed onion and bacon, trickling the saved milk in between and adding seasoning to taste.

Heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4, and bake the dish until bubbling and golden brown. Leave to stand for 10 minutes to cool down a little.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bourride of chicken thickened with garlic mayonnaise

Serves 4

Country cooking as it should be, a proper chicken, cooked properly. But this one is finished slightly unusually with mayonnaise as the thickener. Timing is key here and patience being the ultimate virtue - don't try to finish the sauce when the broth is too hot. Chicken just adores both garlic and saffron, and I struggle to do many chicken dishes at the moment without one or the other.

1 x 2kg chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 shallots, peeled
1 leek, trimmed
150 ml white wine
1 pinch saffron

Garlic mayonnaise
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
130 ml olive oil

Crush the garlic. The best way to do this is to sprinkle a little salt on each clove, then press it with the flat of the blade of a heavy knife, which turns it quickly to pulp.

Whisk the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, vinegar and a little salt and pepper together. Gradually whisk in both of the oils.

Use a heavy ovenproof casserole or pot, preferably cast-iron, which will hold the whole chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and put it in the chosen pot.

Add the shallots and leek to the pot. Pour on the white wine, the pinch of saffron and add a pint (600 ml) of cold water.

Bring to the boil. Cover tightly, put the pot into a moderately hot oven 190ºc/gas mark5 and cook for about 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the liquor and carve it into eight pieces – two thighs, two drumsticks and four half breasts.

Whisk the garlic mayonnaise into the cooking liquor. You cannot re-boil the sauce after this or it will separate.

Put the chicken pieces on to a serving dish and strain the thickened cooking liquor over them. It is best eaten from large soup bowls with wild rice pilaff.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Five spice quail

Serves 2

Quail, one of the most underrated birds we can roast, which needs to be eaten with your fingers to be honest as there's no way a knife and fork can scrape off the meat from those little bones the same way our teeth can. It is difficult to know exactly what to serve on the side with something you eat in this manner; baked rice, cous cous or lentils all work here

4 oven ready quail
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp hot ground chilli powder
2 heaped tsp Chinese five spice powder
juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp groundnut oil

Set the oven at 200°c/gas mark 6. Peel and mash the garlic. Put it in a bowl then stir in the ground chilli, the five spice powder, lemon juice and the oil.

Season generously with sea salt - a good half teaspoon. Dip the quail in and toss them gently round. You can leave it like this for several hours if it suits you, though just one will do.

Put the birds and any marinating juices into a small roasting tin. They should be close, but not actually touching. Roast them for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size, turning once.

The little birds will look quite dark after the full cooking time, but this is fine. Serve them piping hot with orange or lemon wedges to squeeze and some crusty bread.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Light summer fruit crumble

Serves 4

The crumble clearly isn't a dessert designed for the summer months, but if you are facing a plethora of berries from your garden or just got carried away at the pick your own, you should have a back up idea for your surplus. The secret of every good fruit crumble is in the lightness of the topping, whatever you do, do not press the mixture down on the base or it will absorb all the juice and become stodgy and heavy.

125g plain flour
25g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g fresh strawberries, finely sliced
1 large peach
4 tblsp caster sugar
40ml Cointreau or Triple Sec
250g fresh raspberries
25g toasted flaked almonds

First make the crumble. Place the flour and butter in the food processor and process for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and process for 30 seconds. Grate in the fresh nutmeg. The mixture will appear to be very fine and light in texture.

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Take four ramekins, layering the bottom of each with the strawberries. Follow with the peaches. Dust each with one dessertspoon of sugar and then pour over the Cointreau. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and put in the oven for 5 minutes. This will create a superb light caramel sauce. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes.

With the back of a dessertspoon, gently press the fruit down into the ramekin. Cover with a generous portion of raspberries. Sprinkle with the crumble mixture, but do not press it down as this will take away the lightness of the dish.

Return the ramekins to the oven for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Serve immediately with clotted cream or ice-cream.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Seared Japanese beef

Serves 4

Having had some of the very best beef cooked by insanely talented chefs earlier this year in Tokyo, this is an easy reminder of a couple of those distinctive flavours to recreate at home. The Japanese seasoning nanami togarashi, a mixture of ground chilli, orange peel and several other spices including sesame seeds is the key to this ever so simple dish. The meat element is to simply roll the beef in the seasoning and sear it quickly in a heavy bottomed frying pan. The beef is barely cooked and is eaten thinly sliced like carpaccio. Hopefully there will be some beef left over for tomorrow's sandwiches

A little olive oil
3 tsp nanami togarashi seasoning
500g fillet of beef

For the tomato salad
6 of the very best large, ripe tomatoes you can afford
75ml olive oil
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
a pinch of sugar
a handful of coriander leaves

Roll the fillet of beef in a little olive oil then dust with the Japanese seasoning. Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow pan, then, once it starts to sizzle brown the beef on all sides. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate for two hours.

Slice the tomatoes thinly. Lay them on a serving plate. Make the dressing by mixing the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a good pinch of sugar. Stir in the coriander.

Spoon the dressing over the tomatoes. Remove the beef from the fridge and slice very, very thinly. It should be as thin as you can get it. Lay the beef on plates and serve with the tomato salad.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lentil and feta salad

Serves 2

I long for the rough, earthlike properties that good lentils offer, and have always had a thing about autumnal flavours even at this time of the year. Lentils will sit happily with almost all game dishes, good firm fleshed sea fish and all members of the mushroom family, but I can think of fewer better partners than the sharpness of a good quality feta. If you find you've overdone the quantity of lentils here, then with what you have left loosened with a few splashes of stock and blend with a knob of butter for one of the most underrated soups known to man...

150g small dark green lentils, puy if you can get them
A couple of bay leaves and a big sprig of thyme
A stalk of celery and a carrot
2 medium red onions
Olive oil
400g feta cheese kept whole in 2 pieces
Good handful of fresh mint leaves
Warm pita bread to serve

Set the oven at 200c/gas mark 6. Rinse the lentils under running water, checking for little stones, and bring them to the boil in fresh water with the bay, celery and carrot, peel the vegetables but leave whole to fish out at the end. Turn down to a rolling simmer and cook for around 25-30 minutes until tender but still retaining a bite.

Peel the onions and slice them as thin as you possibly can. Break the slices into rings and put them into a mixing bowl with the leaves from the thyme sprigs and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Toss and season with plenty black pepper.

Put a piece of kitchen foil or greaseproof paper on a baking sheet or ovenproof dish and scatter half the seasoned onion rings on it. Lay the blocks of feta on top and scatter over the remaining onion.

Gather up the foil loosely over the top to seal then bake for 20-25 minutes, by which time the onions should have softened and the feta just beginning to crumble.

Drain the lentils, remove the flavouring vegetables, chop the mint leaves and mix them with two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the drained lentils in with the oil and mint then grind over both black pepper and a little salt.

Divide them between two warm plates then lay a piece of feta and some of the onions on top. The hot, soft cheese will crumble a bit more for sure, but this is all the better. Serve with any hot soft bread, pita is perfect, to scoop up the combination as you devour...