Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mushrooms stuffed with figs and Gorgonzola

Serves 4

Now we're into the second half of Summer, we should start seeing the surplus of the Italian fig season coming our way. Normally they should be beautifully plump with a dark purple skin and, when ripe, as sweet as honey, a far cry from the green varieties available. You need really ripe figs for this recipe so it’s a good way to use any you may have left in your fruit bowl.

4 large flat or portobello mushrooms
1 tblsp olive oil
125g mascarpone
125g Gorgonzola, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe purple figs
Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar or Marsala
1 tblsp thyme leaves
Sourdough bread, to serve

Wipe the mushrooms with a piece of damp kitchen paper or use a soft brush to remove any dirt or grit. Cut out the stalks. Brush a large sheet of foil with the olive oil and place the mushrooms, stalk-side up, in the middle.

Mix the mascarpone with the Gorgonzola and season with plenty of black pepper. Fill the mushrooms with the cheese mixture. Quarter the figs and press on top of the cheese mixture, skin-side facing down. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or Marsala and scatter the thyme leaves over the figs.

Bring the ends of the foil together to meet in the middle and scrunch together to seal. Place on the edge of the barbecue and cook for 15 minutes (or in the oven at 180c/gas mark 4) until the mushrooms have cooked and the figs are soft. Serve with sourdough bread to mop up the juices.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Seared tuna with sweet and sour onion relish

Serves 4

Something a little special for the weekend here, and although we're often daunted by getting tuna just right, this is a relatively simple combination of flavours and technique to put together. Tamarind is the seed pod from a tree in South East Asia and India with a sour yet refreshing taste, perfectly suited to a piece of fatty and quite rare tuna.

salt and freshly ground pepper
4 x 180g pieces tuna loin, about 2 1/2 cm thick
80ml olive oil
4 medium red onions, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
4 limes, zest and juice
2 tblsp palm sugar or caster sugar
3 tblsp tamarind paste
2 tsp Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup coriander leaves
8 large basil leaves

Lightly season the fish and brush with a little oil. Leave to rest at room temperature while you make the relish.

Heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the onions on a medium heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once they begin to colour, add garlic and turn heat to high. Stir continuously for a minute, and then add lime zest and juice, sugar, tamarind paste and Thai fish sauce. Cook a further minute, and then add coriander and basil leaves. Remove from heat.

Heat a heavy frying pan until really hot and smoking. Place tuna on and cook for only 45 seconds each side.

The fish will be rare and moist inside. Remove to a plate and top with hot relish. Serve with crunchy steamed greens or a green salad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Salt and chilli squid

Serves 6

Deep frying for me is a flash back home when I was younger. If it wasn't deep fried, then it was cooked to within an inch of its life in a pot, and that's where it all began. If squid isn't your thing, and I'm constantly surprised by how many say it isn't due to one previous average experience, then try this with strips of white fish instead. It's equally delicious.
You could eat this on a bed of rocket, with lime to squeeze over definitely not a throwback to the fish suppers of my childhood) Nowadays I like the squid best eaten really piping hot from the pan, as an informal stand up first course for a kitchen supper with friends while the rest of the meal is being assembled.

1kg squid, cleaned and cut into rings, tentacles left whole
2 tblsp fish sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
2 tblsp salt flakes, crushed
1 tblsp crushed white peppercorns
250g cornflour
Vegetable oil, for frying

Place the squid, fish sauce and lemon juice in a bowl and marinate for up to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Place the chilli, coriander, salt, peppercorns and cornflour in a large freezer bag, add the squid and shake well to coat.

Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan to the depth of about only 2cm. The pan should be no more than half full. Fry the squid a few pieces at a time, for about a minute, until crisp and light gold. Drain on kitchen paper and eat straight away

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lamb grilled with mustard and lemon

Serves 2

A mild enough seasoning that does not overpower the flavour of the lamb. Steaks cut from the leg usually come nearly 2.5cm thick - for anything thinner or thicker alter the cooking time accordingly. For ribs, pop them through a hot oven for a few minutes once you've got a bit of colour on them from the grill.

2 plump cloves of garlic, peeled
a good pinch of sea salt
1 tblsp fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried thyme
2 tblsp grain mustard
2 tblsp lemon juice
4 tblsp olive oil
4 lamb steaks, ribs or chops, weighing about 100g each

Crush the garlic with the salt in a pestle and mortar or in a small bowl with the end of the rolling pin. Add the herbs, mustard and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil with a fork, or small whisk, until the mixture has slightly thickened.

Pour one-third over the lamb, turn over the meat and baste that side too with another third.

Heat the grill to very hot. Grill the lamb for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on how thick the meat is.

Brush with the remaining mixture as you turn the meat. The lamb should be a little singed outside, and rare within.

Chilli chanterelle tagliatelle

Serves 2

This recipe will happily adapt this recipe to other mushrooms, such as button or, when in season and you’re feeling extravagant, fresh ceps.

150g chanterelle or girolle mushrooms
140g dried tagliatelle
3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp (or to taste) dried chilli flakes
1 tblsp lemon juice
A handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
30g unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Wash and pat dry the mushrooms on kitchen paper. Trim and, if large, halve or quarter them. Set aside. Drop the pasta into a saucepan of boiling salted water. Cook until it is al dente – the time will vary according to the make, but it’s normally about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the oil, chopped garlic and chilli flakes. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, but not colour, stir in the mushrooms. Lightly season and cook briskly, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms are tender. If they release a lot of juice, just continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated.

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, parsley and half the butter. Quickly swirl the butter around the pan so that it forms a sauce.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain into a colander, shake briefly and return to the saucepan. Add the remaining butter, season with black pepper and stir until the butter has melted. Immediately mix in the mushrooms. Divide between two plates and serve with the parmesan