Tuesday, 9 June 2015

GRILLED FILLET OF HAKE WITH BEUR BLANC & HERBY VEG

GRILLED FILLET OF HAKE WITH BEUR BLANC & HERBY VEG

Ingredients (to feed 2):

1 large hake fillet or 2 small ones
1 Courgette cut into thick slices
2 Tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded
1 hand full of chopped thyme
Olive oil

For the sauce
2 small shallots finely chopped
1 Bay leaf
Small hand full of whole black pepper corns
1 Teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1/2  Glass of white wine
2 Tablespoons of double cream
50g unsalted butter cut into small cubes

The Preparation:

Begin by seasoning the courgette slices with salt and ground pepper, and fry in olive oil on a low to medium heat. Do not allow it to get too hot as Olive oil becomes carcinogenic if it stars to smoke. And as that can kill you best not to! Fry until is starts to turn colour then add in the tomatoes. Sprinkle the chopped thyme over the lot and stir it all in. Let that carry, turning them over occasionally until the courgettes and the tomatoes are browned and soft. All told,that should take about 10 minutes tops.

While the courgettes and tomatoes are cooking cut your fillet(s) into 4 roughly equally sized portions, and with a very sharp knife, score the skin with 2 or 3 slits on each and lay the fillet portions skin side up on a grill tray. Drop a teaspoon of olive oil onto each of them and massage it into the skin with your hands.Then season and put under a hot grill (220 degrees C) for 5 minutes or until the flesh of the fish has gone from translucent to white.

As that bit didn't take a lot of effort, while that's grilling, put the chopped shallots, wine, vinegar, bay leaf and pepper corns into a saucepan and put on a high heat so it starts bubbling and reducing down quickly. Once the liquid has reduced by half, turn down the heat and add the cream and stir it all in. Again, you are waiting for it to reduce down, Now turn the heat down lower again and start adding the butter you have prepared, just a couple of cubes at a time. Whisking everything together after each cube, and keep going until the sauce thickens. Then pour it through a sieve so the smooth sauce ends up in a jug without all the lumpy bits and pepper corns.

Now just bring it all together. One top tip, before plating up the fish, run a blow torch over it to make the skin really crispy. Do the same with the courgettes and the tomatoes too. I don't generally go in for burned food but with this dish it really woks. Serve with chips or some light greens such as asparagus or french beans. Great with a cold glass of Muscadet.

CHICKEN, BACON AND AVOCADO SALAD

CHICKEN, BACON AND AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 chicken breasts cut into 1" chunks
50g of bacon lardons
2 ripe avocados, peeled, stone removed and cut into chunks
2 table spoons of Mayonnaise
1 Frisse lettuce cut roughly
2 salad tomatoes de-seeded and cut into quarters
1 chicory (aka endive) cut into chunks
2 Thick slices of bread
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
25g unsalted butter - softened
1 teaspoon of capers
Sprinkling of pine nuts

Preparation:

If you want to make your own mayonnaise I've already posted a good recipe that would go well with this dish. Click on the hyper link to find it.

Start with the hot stuff: put the lardons into a baking tray and into an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. Also fry the chicken chunks in some vegetable oil and butter until brown and crispy. While that is cooking away cut up the lettuce, chicory, tomato and lay it out in a dish and dizzle with olive oil.

After 10 minutes, your chicken and bacon should be done. Set them to one side in a paper kitchen towel to absorb off any surplus oil or greasiness and to cool. Next, take your bread slices (this is a great way of using up old, stale bread), spread them with butter on both sides, cut them into 1" chunks, sprinkle with your chopped garlic and fry until crispy all over to make croutons.

Finally, in a bowl, add the chicken, bacon, avocado, croutons and mayonnaise and mix thoroughly. Spoon it over the salad stuffs already in your dish. Sprinkle with some pine nuts and capers. Season well and serve. Makes a lovely light lunch.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons of french mustard
2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
The juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons of cream
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Good quality vegetable or rape seed oil (not olive oil -  too strong)

Preparation:

This is a whole heap easier to do with a food processor or some kind of a mechanized whisk. It can be done in a bowl by hand but your wrists will be aching by the end of it. And I'm all for physical excersize, but if there's one part of my anatomy that doesn't need a work out its probably my wrists. ANYWAY! Separate the yolks from the whites of two eggs. Put yolks only into your bowl. Add the mustard and mix. Now start to add your oil. The technique for doing this effectively is to add a small stream then whisk it thoroughly in. Then another small stream, then whisk again and so on. I've seen celebrity chef's on the TV add a constant stream while the kitchen processor is left running. It may be the deign of my machine but when I tried to do it that way most of the oil got splashed around the side of the inside of my bowl rather than got added to the mixture it self. Then when I finished I had big oily reservoirs around my lovely mayonnaise when it started to settle.

Once the mixture has started to thicken add your vinegar (which will water it down a bit) then carry on  with the oil. Once it's started to thicken again add your lemon juice. Once that is fully mixed in then add your cream, salt and pepper. Then continue with the gradual oil adding ritual. Its difficult to tell you exactly how much oil to add. It depends how thick and gloopy you want your mayonnaise to be. The general rule is that the more oil you add the thicker it gets. My test to see if it's ready is to spoon out a little bit on a teaspoon. If it keeps its shape and wobbles if you give it a gentle shake then it's ready.

Once you've got the basic method for making mayonnaise you also have the bedrock for making salsa verde which is beautiful with meaty fish, also sauce marie rose and thousand island dressing and a lot of others.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Really Simple Cream & Mustard Sauce

REALLY SIMPLE CREAM & MUSTARD SAUCE

I like a nice piquant pepper and brandy sauce with my steak or a cream and mustard sauce with a pork loin chop. Here is an in between sauce that's a good substitute for both. It goes perfectly with fried or griddled steak, pork loin, pork chops or chicken breast. And it's so simple its probably illegal!

Ingredients (for 2)

50-75ml of water
15-20g unsalted butter cut into small cubes.
2 or 3 heaped table spoons of creme fraiche
100g of Philadelphia cream cheese
1 teaspoon of french mustard

The cooking:

Fry your steak or chop as you like it in a pan. When you remove the meat, deglaze the meat juices and crispy bits from the base of the pan with 50 to 75ml of pre-boiled water over a low heat, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon for about 1 minute or 2. Add the butter and continue stirring until it has melted. Then chuck in the rest of the ingredients and stir until they are all combined and you have a smooth sauce. You might have to break up the cream cheese a bit to achieve this. Finish by grinding in a generous seasoning of black pepper.

That's it! Honsetly, I am not kidding that is all that is needed. Nice touch is to fry up some sliced mushrooms in butter and add them to the sauce before you spoon it generously over your steaks.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LAMB SHANKS IN RED WINE AND SUMMER BERRIES

Lamb Shanks In Red Wine and Summer Berries

Ingredients (to feed 2):

2 Lamb shanks on the bone
2 Banana shallots finely chopped
2 Cloves of garlic finely chopped
150g Mixed summer berries such as raspberries, blackberries, blue berries etc
(Waitrose sell packs of frozen summer berries)
Large glass of red wine
2 Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
50g Small garden peas or petite pois
Handful of parsley (about 6-8 sprigs)
The same sized handful of thyme
1 Sprig of rosemary
1 Bay leaf

The cooking:

This dish is suitable for a slow cooker as well as a conventional oven. Start by seasoning your lamb shanks with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper. Set aside for a few minutes. Then, melt a knob of butter in a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Lay the lamb shanks in and seal on all sides. Keep turning them every 2 minutes until they are golden/brown on all sides and underneath. Set aside in your slow cooked, or in a casserole dish. Next, de-glaze the frying pan by adding a small glass of water to it, and stirring it gently over the heat for a minute, to absorb all the meat juices and and bits from the pan. Pour over the shanks.

Next, add another knob of butter to the pan. Throw in the shallots and lightly fry for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and the berries. Turn the heat up and stir. Then add your wine and cook on the high heat until it has reduced down (about 4 to 5 minutes). Then pour over the shanks. Add your chopped carrots and lace all the herbs on one side (to make them easy to pull out once cooked). Finally top it up with water from the kettle so it nearly covers everything (just islands of meat sticking out of the top).

If you are using a slow cooker, put the lid on and cook on the "low" setting all day (approx 6 to 8 hours). If you are using an oven, put the lid on your casserole dish and place in an oven at 120 degrees c for 5-6 hours. Check it every couple of hours to make sure it does not dry out.

The only problem with slow cookers, is that they tend to produce watery sauces. So if you have opted for this method of cooking, when you are ready to serve up, thicken up your sauce first. I would do this by putting a sieve over a large jug and pouring the contents of the slow cooker through it. All the juices will pass through. All the meat and veg gets left behind. Return the meat and veg to the slow cooker (but turn it off), just to keep it warm. In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add to it 2 table spoons of cornflour and stir into a paste over a medium heat. Then, gradually add the juices from the jug to it. No more than a cup full at a time. Every time you add some sauce, stir it with a whisk until it is all absorbed and then add the next. Keep going until you have used all the sauce then turn up the heat and whisk continuously until you get the consistency you want. Like a gravy.

Serve up with fresh green savoy cabbage, fine beans and some creamy mash potato.

A couple of variations you may want to try. If you find this sauce too quite bitter, then 10 minutes before serving up, stir in a tablespoon of honey to make it a sweet sauce. You can also add mustard to it if you want a bit more bight. its up to you really.



Sunday, 19 April 2015

Braised Neck of Lamb Casserole with Butter Beans

Braised Neck of Lamb Casserole with Butter Beans

A traditional Provencal farm house dish. Still often a favourite on rural cafe set menus in the South of France. Tastes amazing, doddle to cook and uses cheap ingredients. For best results use fresh herbs rather than dried ones. Feeds 4.

Ingredients:

500 - 600g of lamb neck fillets
5 salad tomatoes, chopped roughly into chuncks
500mls boiled water
2 tins of butter beans
200g of smoked bacon lardons
1 large handful of curly leaf parsley (6 or 7 sprigs)
The same quantity of thyme (6 or 7 springs)
2 bay leafs
1 sprig of rosemary
25g unsalted butter
2 table spoons of olive oil
6 whole garlic cloves peeled

The cooking:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees and prep your ingredients. In a frying pan, on a low to medium flame, heat your olive oil and butter until it starts to froth. Fry your lamb fillets in the butter and oil for 8 to 10 minutes, turning frequently and seasoning with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper as you go. You want them to end up browned all over.

Remove from the heat and transfer the neck fillets into a casserole dish. Spoon the excess fat out of your frying pan and then pour in 100ml of your boiled water, return to the heat and stir, to deglaze your pan. In effect what you are doing here is absorbing all the crispy brown bits and all the meat juices from the pan. You should achieve this in less than 2 minutes. Once done, pour this liquid over your lamb neck fillets in your casserole dish.

Now add to the casserole all your other ingredients except the lardons and the butter beans. Specifically, that is your 6 peeled but not chopped garlic cloves, your tomatoes, the parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leafs and as much water as is required to cover your ingredients in the casserole. Cover with a lid and place into your preheated oven and cook for between 1 hour 30 and 2 hours.

An hour before the dish is ready, place your bacon lardons on a baking tin and place them onto a shelf in your oven to crisp up. Once they have browned and reached the desired degree of crispness use a slotted spoon to separate them from the fat that has been rendered from them cooking and place them and your butter beans into your casserole for the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Serve up in a bowl with some rice and a chunk of rustic bread.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Chicken in cream and tarragon

CHICKEN IN CREAM AND TARRAGON

When we used to visit my family in France, this was a great signature dish that my Auntie Sophie used to do. And the great thing is, it is really easy to double up ingredients if you have more mouths to feed.

Ingredients (to feed 4)

4 chicken legs
1 pint of chicken stock
A decent hand full of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
10 baby button mushrooms
50-80g of peas (up to you really)
1 teaspoon of mustard
4 tablespoons of creme fraiche
2 table spoons of finely chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon of corn flour
25g of unsalted butter
Half a glass of white wine
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

The Cooking:

Start by melting the butter over a medium heat in a large, deep frying pan. Once it is foaming, lay your chicken legs in and fry in butter on all sides until the skin is brown and starting to crisp. Approximately 6-7 minutes on each side. Increase the heat and before the butter gets a chance to burn, add your white wine and let the liquid reduce down to about half its original content. Then transfer everything to an oven proof dish. Add in the flour, thyme and bay leaf, pour over the liquid from your frying pan and your chicken stock (just enough to cover the chicken), then cover with a lid and place into an oven, preheated to 180 degrees C. Cook for approximately 2 hours, so that the chicken is virtually falling off the bone. Check it every 20 minutes or so, to make sure that the stock is not drying out (if it is add more wine or stock). Give it all a good stir every time. 30 minutes before the end of your cooking time, take your casserole dish out of the oven. Lift out the chicken legs and place them on a baking tray or roasting tin and return them into the oven.

Gently fry your button mushrooms in butter. Be generous with plenty of ground pepper. While they are browning, add the creme fraiche and the tarragon to the liquid in the casserole dish and with a  wooden spoon, give it all a good stir until all the liquids are combined into one smooth sauce. If you are using a heavy dish like mine (rather than a glass one) best results are achieved if you do this bit over a hob on  a low heat, as it thickens the sauce nicely. Add the mushrooms and the peas into the sauce. Retrieve the chicken legs and put them back in the dish with everything else, season with salt and pepper, pop the lid back on and return to the oven for the final 30 minutes of cooking. Giving you the perfect amount of time to do any accompaniment you may fancy.

Serve up on a bed of rice and may be some vegetables Julienne.