Friday, August 9, 2013

barbecued flatbreads

If you’ve got a spanking hot oven and an array of just about any food that can be scooped, spread, grabbed or rolled, then you’re going to need a stack of these coming out hot and fresh. The whole notion of fresh bread straight from the oven is the very same the world over, in any language, associated with every food type. Breaking the stuff is as important as eating is, and such a satisfying task to master in the kitchen. These breads are perfect with anything grilled, with or without the spicy glaze

Barbecued flatbreads

Serves 6

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
250g strong white bread flour
5g easy-blend yeast
10g salt
1 tblsp good-quality olive oil (plus extra for glazing; optional)
325ml hot water or an equal mixture of hot water and natural yogurt

For the glaze
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
20g unsalted butter
2 tblsp olive oil
A good pinch of smoked paprika

If you want to make a glaze for your flatbreads, start with that; otherwise, skip this and go straight to the next paragraph. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat, and when hot toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute or so until they release their fragrance. Grind with a pestle and mortar. Melt the butter, whisk in the olive oil, the ground cumin and coriander, and the paprika. Brush the glaze over the breads just before putting them on the grill, or do so just after they come off the grill - both approaches work well.

To make the flatbreads, mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Tip the water (or the yogurt/water mix) into this well, pour in the olive oil, and mix together. Knead the dough until smooth, silky and elastic, then brush it with oil, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Deflate the dough, then leave to rise a second time, again until almost doubled in size.

Tar off pieces of dough the size of small lemons. Using plenty of flour on both your hands and the work surface, shape them into rounds and roll out to 3-4mm thick. Leave each one to rest for five minutes or so.

Brush the flatbreads with the seasoned butter glaze or olive oil (both optional), then cook over a hot barbecue for four to five minutes, turning once, until puffed up and just beginning to char. Serve right away, no delay, no nonsense.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

the romance of a steak tartare, no really

It all sounds terribly romantic, but when I’m stuck and can’t come up with anything to prepare for a meal at home, I often turn to what has now become the reliable steak tartare. Well, that is on the abnormally rare occasion where the charm of instant noodles don't overwhelm me. This is a no cook piece of genius that is both simple and elaborate. It holds a lot of ingredients but can easily impress through the lack of cooking. The only thing to be careful about is the quality of the ingredients, spanking fresh beef and good eggs kind of speak for themselves really.

Steak tartare

Serves 4

1 large onion
5 cornichons
1 tablespoon capers
2 sprigs Italian parsley
1¼ pounds sirloin steak, preferably organic and grass-fed
4 very fresh organic egg yolks
Tabasco sauce to taste (lots)
Ketchup to taste (more than you think)
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper

Finely chop the onion. Separately do the same to the cornichons, capers, and parsley. Place them in small serving bowls and set aside.

Using a very sharp knife, trim the sirloin, removing as much fat as possible. Cut the meat into ¼-inch dice.

Divide the meat among 4 individual serving plates. Shape the meat into a dome, make an indentation in the centre, and nestle the egg yolks in it.

Serve with the onion, capers, cornichons, parsley, Tabasco, ketchup, fleur de sel, and pepper on the side for each guest to season the tartare according to their taste. Serve with a green salad and chips, should the occasion merit a fryer on the go.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

scallops, lentils, broad beans, hug

Quite possibly a wee bit on the earthy side of things for this time of year, but you know what, there's still much comfort to be had even with the sun high in the sky. Even without the luxurious addition of the scallops, the lentils as they are maybe with a bit of crumbled feta for a harsh cut through their meatiness, is a perfectly brilliant midweek hug. Do love me a midweek hug by the way. The lamb's lettuce is important here, and can go above or below the lentils. The broad beans just because it happens to be summer.
Scallops with lentils and fava beans
Serves 4
12 large very fresh scallops
40g puy lentils
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 small knob of ginger, crushed
1 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
2 large plum tomatoes into concassé
200ml chicken stock
40g diced butter
1 tblsp crème fraîche
1/2 lemon, juiced
a small handful of coriander, chopped
A very good handful of lamb’s lettuce
40g fresh cooked broad beans
Par-boil the lentils until tender, drain and fry the onion, garlic and ginger in some of the oil until golden brown.
Add the crushed cardamom and allow to cook off the heat for a few seconds then add the tomatoes and the lentils.
Bring the chicken stock to the boil, add the scallop corals and cook for 10 mins, sieve the stock onto the lentil mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes then whisk in butter, cream and lemon juice. Hold warm while the scallops are cooked.
Cut the scallops horizontally into 3 or 4 slices and brush with the oil. Add the coriander to the lentils.
Cook the lightly oiled scallops in a very hot, dry frying pan for a few seconds on each side, and lay them on the sauce. Toss the broad beans into the scallop pan to warm through and scatter these also.
Top off with the lamb’s lettuce which has been drizzled with a little olive oil and a splash of lemon juice.

Monday, August 5, 2013

bread and tomato salad

Tomatoes, flavour wise are never better than they are right now. This is a great use for them in season, a salad of bright flavours, quite raw and punchy. Don't hold back on anything but the very best olive oil and lively basil, make and eat without delay. 

Bread and tomato salad
Serves 4
250g open textured bread such as ciabatta
600g ripe and juicy tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1 fresh, new clove garlic
1 red or yellow pepper
1 large bunch basil
1 handful olives
8 anchovy fillets
150ml green and peppery olive oil
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
Set the oven at 180 c/gas 4. Slice the bread thickly - the pieces should be about 1 cm thick - and lay them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each piece very lightly with olive oil then bake them for about 15 minutes, till they are lightly crisp.
Slice the tomatoes, but don't be tempted to peel or seed them. Put them in a large serving bowl. Peel and seed the cucumber and cut it into rough chunks, then add to the tomato.
Finely chop the garlic, cut the pepper into small dice and add both to the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves from their stalks then add them to the bowl. Rinse the anchovies, then mix them in with the salad.
Put the oil and vinegar into a small dish, season it with salt, I think you can be quite generous here, and some black pepper. Toss the dressing, bread and salad gently together and then add the pieces of toasted bread. Eat before the bread gets too soggy.