Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baked mussels with brioche and gruyère crust

Serves 4

In lieue of fresh locally harvested mussels, you can easily find large, flavoursome green lipped numbers, which are generally imported from New Zealand, at fishmongers. Because they've been pre-cooked and frozen, the preferred approach is to cover them in seasoned breadcrumbs, which act as insulation and prevent them being cooked too much further when they go under the grill.

100g brioche
100g grated Gruyère
1 tsp dry English mustard
100g unsalted butter
1 tblsp freshly chopped parsley
24 green-lip mussels
Freshly ground pepper
4 lemon wedges

Place the brioche in a food processor and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the cheese and mustard and process for 10 seconds.
Melt the butter in a small pan and add with the parsley to the processor. Process for a further 10 seconds to mix.

Heat the grill to the highest setting. Arrange the mussels on a baking tray and, with a teaspoon, divide the brioche mixture between the mussels, pressing down gently with the back of the spoon. Season with pepper.

Place the mussels under the grill and cook until the breadcrumbs begin to turn golden-brown. Serve immediately with a wedge of lemon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sparkling elderflower and grape jelly

Serves 6

This impactful dessert is simply a jelly set in layers to disperse the grapes from top to bottom for a dramatic professional looking finish. You can apply this method to set all types of fruit and berries in jelly, once you master the timing and consistency of gelatine it really is easy to produce.
4 sheets of leaf gelatine
150ml elderflower cordial
650ml chilled sparkling mineral water or sparkling white wine
150g small seedless red grapes
150g small seedless white grapes

Soak the gelatine in cold water for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the elderflower cordial into a small saucepan with 3 tbsp of water. Heat to just below boiling point.

Squeeze the excess water from the softened gelatine, then add to the hot elderflower syrup. Stir until dissolved, then pour into a bowl or jug. Stir in a third of the mineral water or wine and leave to cool.

Divide a third of the red and white grapes between 6 glasses or jelly moulds, about 200ml in capacity. Stir the rest of the mineral water or wine into the elderflower mixture. Fill each glass or mould to about a third with the elderflower mixture, then chill.

Once the jelly has almost set, remove from the fridge. Divide another third of the grapes on top of the jelly layer and pour in more of the elderflower mixture as before. Chill once again.

Repeat with a final layer of grapes and the remaining elderflower mixture and chill to set completely. Serve the jellies in their glasses, or turn them out on to plates

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aromatic lamb kebabs

Serves 4 to 6

Bengal gram, also known as chana dal, is a staple in Indian cooking and commonly used in vegetable stews. Here I've roasted and then ground to a powder to add a sweet, nutty flavour to the lamb mixture, but should you only be able to find yellow split peas, they'll do fine. Kind of goes without saying that this is merely the meat for yet another sandwich - wrap up with some lettuce and tomato and either some mint yoghurt as mentioned below or a roof of your mouth cleaning garlicky mayonnaise...

4 tblsp Bengal gram or yellow split peas
6 cardamom pods, seeds only
6 cloves
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp pink peppercorns
1 medium sweet or red onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
500g lamb mince
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lime
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium egg, beaten
Mint yoghurt dip, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve

Put the Bengal gram or yellow split peas, cardamom seeds, cloves, fennel seeds and pink peppercorns in a sauté pan and roast over a moderate heat, tossing them about, until lightly toasted and aromatic. Grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.

Next, fry the onion in half of the oil until soft and lightly golden. Put the lamb mince in a mixing bowl and add the spice powder, onion, chillies, lime zest, the remaining oil and some salt and pepper. Mix everything together, adding just enough of the egg to bind.

Wrap the mixture around skewers, wetting your hands as you mould the meat to avoid a sticky mess, until you have used up all of the mixture. Carefully grill for about 10 minutes on a hot barbecue or griddle, turning occasionally.

Serve either straight on a platter with a mint yoghurt dip and lime wedges on the side, or wrapped up in a soft pita bread with some salad.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Almond lemon tart

Serves 6

This simple, but intensely rich and lemony recipe uses an unsweetened shortcrust pastry, no need for any extra sugar in the crust. It needs something slightly sour and berry like to cut into it too, crushed raspberries, poached cherries or some pureed redcurrants for example.

225g shortcrust pastry
2 lemons, juiced and the zest finely grated
65g ground almonds
85g caster sugar
3½ tblsp double cream
4 egg yolks
100g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Roll out the pastry and place in a 23cm tart dish. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with greasproof paper weighed down with baking beans and chill for 30 minutes.

Bake the tart base in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 130c/gas mark ½.

Beat together the remaining ingredients and, once the oven has cooled, pour the lemon mixture into the pastry case and bake for 45 minutes or until golden and just set. Serve while still warm with the berries and a scoop of clotted cream.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Butternut squash with Lebanese lamb and garlic yoghurt

Serves 4

Ideal midweek supper genius - plan a couple of days ahead for this...

2 butternut squash, approx 600g each
2 tblsp olive oil
15g bunch thyme
1 medium onion
500g organic minced lamb
2 tsp ground cumin
50g pine kernels
25g flat-leaf parsley
350g natural yoghurt
1 fat garlic clove
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp best olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7. Using a strong, sharp knife, halve the butternut lengthways. Scrape out and discard the seeds. Extend the cavity by cutting out chunks of squash. Don’t be too fussy about this because you want plenty of butternut to remain. Cut a lattice, about 1cm wide and deep, all over the flesh to speed up cooking. Use 2 tblsp olive oil to smear the surface lavishly. Season with salt and pepper and scatter a few thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35 minutes or until the flesh is meltingly tender.

Meanwhile, peel, halve and chop the onion. Heat the remaining oil in a spacious frying pan and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until limp but uncoloured. Finely chop the excavated butternut. Add the mince, increase the heat slightly and cook, stirring and breaking up clumps of meat, for about 8 minutes until browned all over.

Stir in the cumin and pine kernels, season with salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped butternut. Add a cup of water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and cook briskly until juicy but not the least bit wet or greasy, crushing the chopped butternut into the meat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Chop the parsley leaves and any remaining thyme. Stir both into the mixture. Spoon it into the cavity and over the squash.

To make the yoghurt, peel, chop and crush the garlic with a generous pinch of salt (discard the green central shoot). Beat into the yoghurt with the lemon juice and 2 tblsp best olive oil. Spoon the yoghurt over the butternut and serve.

This needs something slightly acidic on the side, a sharp tomato salad would be ideal.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Leg of lamb stuffed with garlic, feta and herbs

Serves 6-8

The Sunday roast... love it, can never tire of it, always has been a treat to look forward to in my house. The only thing to do now and again is to dress up this winning formula to keep it interesting. Lamb has so many natural flavour partners, and the contents of this stuffing also marry together wonderfully. The salty sourness of the feta blended with some peppery spinach and sweet tomatoes all complement the succulent fatty lamb. It is worth asking your butcher fully bone out your leg of lamb. By having it 'tunnel boned' the cavity naturally becomes the perfect shape to hold the stuffing.

2-2.5kg boned leg of lamb
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g feta cheese, chopped into cubes
Zest of 1 lemon
4 semi-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
50g pitted Kalamata olives
Large handful of spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 large handful mint, chopped
4 slices of pancetta
Olive oil, to drizzle
Generous splash of red wine

Preheat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7. Place the lamb on a chopping board and lightly score the fat in a criss-cross pattern. Rub salt and pepper all over and inside the cavity.

Mix together the feta, lemon zest, tomatoes, olives, spinach, garlic and herbs. Spoon the mixture into the cavity of the lamb and press with the back of the spoon to pack in as much as possible.
Wrap both ends of the lamb with the pancetta to secure the filling, then tie with kitchen string at intervals. Place the lamb on a lightly oiled tray and drizzle over with some olive oil. Season the fat again with a little more salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190c/gas mark 5 and roast for 20 minutes per 500g for medium-cooked meat. Half an hour before the lamb is done, pour a generous splash of wine into the pan and continue roasting. Check the lamb 15 minutes before it is ready by piercing the centre with a metal skewer. It should feel warm against your hand.

Remove the lamb from the oven and rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices.