Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Fusili Afredo

Fusili Alfredo

One of the staples I used to exist on when I was student. And my kids absolutely love it and make it now they are students. Really simple, very rich and creamy, and even though I have been making it for years, I have always just "thrown" everything together up until now. It is only the discipline of writing this blog that has got me to think about the actual proportions needed. In other words, this is another classic Italian dish you can't really go wrong with. So don't get too anal about the measurements below.

Ingredients (serves 2 - takes about 20 minutes to cook):

30g Softened Unsalted Butter
200g of pasta (any pasta really, but long varieties such as spaghetti, fetuccini or linguini are most commonly used. Frankly I had run out when I made this one which is why I went for fusili)
50ml of Single Cream, slightly warmed
A Tablespoon of Mascarpone
30g Grated Mild Cheddar
50g Grated Parmessan
100g Button Mushrooms Quartered
100g of Bacon Lardons (or Pancetta cut into cubes)
30g Garden Peas (or Petit pois)
Small Hand full of Chopped Parsley Leaves
Freshly Ground Black Pepper Corns

The Cooking:

In a pot of boiling water, cook your pasta through in the usual way. In a separate pan, on a medium heat fry your lardons/pancetta in a knob of butter for about 7 minutes (chortle! chortle! I said "knob" Fnar! Fnar!). Once it starts to crisp up, add your mushrooms (which will mop up what ever fat is in the pan). Dry fry and stir for another 2-3 minutes so they brown up. Then add your 30g of softened butter, cream and mascarpone. Blend together thoroughly. Once combined add your grated cheeses a hand full at a time, stirring until thoroughly melted. I generally do this with a whisk to ensure you end up with a very smooth finish. Once all the cheeses are melted and smooth, add your peas and stir in.

You should now be left with a thick, smooth, creamy sauce (with pancetta/lardons, mushroom bits and peas floating in it). Drain off your cooked pasta and add it to the pan with your "Alfredo"sauce. Mix thoroughly and allow the pasta to absorb some of it by cooking on a low heat for a further minute or two. Stirring continuously so it does not stick or burn.

Serve up, sprinkled with some parmesan and seasoned with ground black pepper and chopped parsley.

A nice variation on this theme that also works well - instead of cheddar, use St Agur blue cheese. Mega! 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Port & Cranberry Sauce

Christmas Port & Cranberry Sauce

Come Christmas Day, this makes a perfect accompaniment for your turkey and gravy. Also, if you follow this recipe to the letter you will end up with about 3 litres of the stuff, enough to fill 10 large jars (or 15 small ones) so you can give them out as presents for foody friends ahead of the big day. If you are only making for your self then divide all the quantities by 6 (and only use 2 oranges).

Ingredients:

A Whole 1 litre bottle of Port (I know!!)
10 Oranges (you'll need the zest from 6 and the juice from all of them)
6 Star Anise
210g Golden Castor Sugar
1 and a half 340g jars of Redcurrant Jelly
30ml of Brandy
1.5kg of Fresh Cranberries
300g Dry Sweet Cranberries
Edible gold glitter (for sparkle)
Some pretty jars and labels

The Cooking:

Grate the zest of 6 oranges (quite time consuming unless you have a device". Then in a massive pot throw in the fresh cranberries, orange juice and zest, star anise, port and redcurrant jelly and bring to the boil. Keep it at a simmer, giving it a stir every now and then, until the fruit has all burst and the sauce has started to thicken slightly (about an hour).

Turn the heat down, add the brandy and the dried cranberries. Heat through for another 10 minutes then let it all cool. Using a slotted spoon, trawl through the mixture to retrieve and disgard the star anise.

Once cooled the mixture will thicken a lot. Add it to your jars and to give it a bit Christmas sparkle, sprinkle on the top of each one a little bit of edible gold glitter (the one I used was from Waitrose and is called "Bronze Crunch"). One or two tea spoons will be enough for all your jars as you don't want the crunch to dominate. Its just a little decoration.

Keep them in the fridge. They'll keep for a couple of weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving a dollop on your plate of Christmas dinner.

Look at that colour. Its a warming pot full of Christmas!

Tagliatelle With Salmon and Prawns

Tagliatelle With Salmon & Prawns (serves 3)

Ingredients:

2 Salmon fillets
100g of peeled prawns
2 slices of lemon and juice of half a lemon
25g Unsalted butter
Handful of Fresh Chopped Parsley
4 small chalottes (or 2 big ones) finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 Table spoons of creme fraiche
Grated Parmesan
3 hand fulls of Tagliatelle, linguine or spaghetti
20ml of white wine


The Cooking:

In a pan, add a tea spoonful of vegetable oil and melt half your butter and on a low heat. Add you salmon fillets, spray with freshly squeezed lemon juice and pop your lemon slices into the pan. Gently fry your salmon fillets for about 10 minutes each side (until all the flesh has turned from orange to peach). Remove from the pan and rest on chopping board for a few minutes. Take a fork and break up into flakes. 

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, pour in boiling water and add your pasta. Cook for about 12 minutes or until soft.

While the pasta is cooking, put the remaining butter into the pn you used for the salmon, add your shallots, parsley and garlic and in them gently fry your prawns for a couple of minutes on each side. If they are raw when you start cooking them, they should turn from grey to pink when cooked.Turn the heat up, add the wine and let it reduce down. Then add your flaked salmon back into the pan, drain your pasta and add that, and the creme fraiche. Turn down to a low heat and stir the lot together for about 3-4 minutes. Until the cream has covered everything and the pasta has absorbed the butter from the pan.

Season, dish up and sprinkle with some grated Parmesan.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Slow Roast Pork Belly with Caramelized Red Onion Chutney

Slow Roast Pork Belly With Caramelized Red Onion Chutney

Ingredients:

1kg of Pork Belly
150g Brown Sugar
1 litre of boiling water
170g Sea Salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper corns
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
Sprig of fresh time
A jar of caramelized red onion chutney (I do have a recipe but that's for another time)

The Cooking:

The day before you want to eat this dish, make a brine by combining the sugar, salt, pepper corns, cloves, bay leaf and thyme with the boiling water in a saucepan. Cook on a high heat, stirring until all the sugar and salt has dissolved, then put to one side to cool for about an hour. Once cooled, put your meat into a tray big enough to accommodate it, along with and all the brine, without over flowing. You will notice that the meat has a tendancy to float, so best weight it down with an upturned bowl, then seal in place by covering in cling film. Put it in a fridge for 24 hours.

The salt in the solution will act by rendering down the fat in the pork so you are left with an aptly meaty roast, with beautiful crackling and crispy bits.

After its had 24 hours of sitting in the fridge, pre-heat an oven to 150 degrees. Drain off the brine, give the meat a swill under a cold tap and dab dry with a cloth, then put the meat uncovered into a roasting tin and roast for 4 hours.

Serve up with mash, shredded greens and carrots and a big dolop of caramelized red onion chutney. lovely with a ruby red real ale.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Big Beef and Tomato Casserole (to feed 30)

Big Beef & Tomato Casserole

We volunteered to prepare a dinner for a shelter for the homeless at The High Street Baptist's Church in Merthyr Tydfil (something I recommend every one to do). This is what we put together with a view to feeding up to 30 people. If you don't have a commercial kitchen (as I don't) preparing this much food in one go is something of a challenge. We needed to borrow a very large cooking pot to make it possible. We also had to divvy up the work as you could do with 2 hands to halve how long the preparation takes. Any way,I'll shut up now and get on with the recipe.

Ingredients:

4.5kg of Diced Beef
2kg Onions, peeled and chopped
3kg Carrots, peeled and sliced
2kg Bacon Lardons
4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Whole 500g carton of Pasata
Whole 30g packet of fresh Thyme finely chopped
30g of powdered garlic (or garlic salt)
5 Bay Leaves
2kg Frozen Garden Peas
6 pints of Strong Beef Stock (made with 12 stock cubes)
30g Butter
Plain Flour
Vegetable Oil

The Cooking:

If you are not used to cooking in these quantities, you need a bit of planning to pull it off. If two are sharing the preparation, you can work quick enough not to need to worry about chopped veg going brown or drying out. If working alone you will need to compensate for that by keeping your chopped veg in water (which adds its own problems of draining it off sufficiently to cook it properly). Either way, start by chopping all your onions and carrots and opening the tins you are going to need. Time things so that while you are prepping your other ingredients you can crisp up your bacon lardons - which takes 30 minutes. Turn on your oven to 190 degrees, then put your bacon lardons into two roasting tins and bake for around 30 minutes (or until crunchy). When done, drain off all the surplus fat and put into the pot you will be cooking in (or split it across the two pots if you can't get one big enough). 

Then, with your helper, start to brown your onions about 2 or 3 handfuls at a time in each frying pan or wok. Don't over fill them. And use clean oil and a dollop of butter with every shift. Once they are softened and golden, ad them to you big pot with the crisp lardons. Repeat exactly the same process with your carrots, then brown your meat and add that. Once its all together in the pot, get a good fist full of plain flour and dust that over the top. Now add your garlic, your chopped thyme, your bay leafs a good dash of salt and ground black pepper and give the whole mixture a good stir (I snapped a perfectly good wooden spoon doing this so use something pretty sturdy).

Put the lot onto a medium heat, add your peas, chopped tomatoes, pasata and stock. Turn the heat up high, stirring your mixture so it does not stick. Then when it starts bubbling (which will take a while as there is so much of it), cover it and turn the heat down low and let it simmer for about an hour and a half.

Serve up with boiled potatoes.

I was truly humbled by my evening helping out at "The People's Kitchen" in The High Street Baptist Church in Merthyr Tydfil. It is wonderful work that you do and being a part of it for the short time that I was was a privilege. And appreciation shown by everyone involved for my contribution was over whelming. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Slow Roast Silverside of Pork with Garlic, Lemon and Thyme

Slow Roast Silverside of Pork with Garlic, Lemon and Thyme

Ingredients:
1 - 2kg joint of Pork Silverside, rolled and tied
Grated rind of a lemon
3 cloves of garlic peeled, crushed and finely chopped
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
2 tea spoons of grated ginger

The Cooking
Slash scores into the fat of your joint with a stanley knife (or better still get your butcher to do it when its being rolled and tied). Before cooking, pour a handful of salt over the fat and rub it in. Cover liberally. Then set to one side for half an hour. Pre heat an oven to 220 degrees (or hotter if it can take it). Once the salt has started to render the fat, you will see droplets of moisture on the surface. Rinse off the surplus salt and moisture, place the meat on a wire rack, within a roasting tin (so the meat has a bit of clearance)  then pour a dash of cooking oil into your hand and rub it all over the meat. Sprinkle the meat with the garlic, ginger and lemon rind, and rub it into the fat and the meat on the under side of the joint and place it into the oven for 30 minutes. The intense heat should cause the rendered fat to blister to start the process for making great crackling.

After 30 minutes take the meat out and lay the thyme under and over it. Pour 300mls of warm water into the roasting tin, cover as air tightly as possible with silver foil. Turn the oven down to 150 degrees and roast the joint for a minimum of 4 hours. Baste it every 40 minutes or so to ensure it does not dry out. 30 minutes before you ar ready to eat it, turn the heat back up to 220 dgrees. Drain off the liquid from the bottom of the roasting tin, baste the meat with some of it, keep the rest to one side to roast our potatoes and parsnips in and to make delicious herby gravy. Return the meat for another 30 minutes, uncovered, at this intense heat to finish off the crackling making process.

Take out and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving into steaks rather than slices. Serve with roasted root veg and potatoes, greens and cauliflower cheese.

The ultimate rice pudding

The Ultimate Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

100g of short grain rice
75g of castor sugar
600ml of double cream
600ml of full fat milk
30g of unsalted butter
2 tea spoons of ground nutmeg
The cooking;
Cut a knob of butter and liberally grease a deep oven proof dish. Add the rice, the cream and the milk. Cut your butter into cubes and dot across the surface of the milk. Give all the content of the dish a good stir with a wooden spoon, to mix thoroughly. Finally, sprinkle on the nutmeg and put the pudding into an oven pre-heated to 150 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.

That's it. Honestly. If you want to add some currents and dried berries, or some grated lemon rind, go ahead. At least then you will feel like you've done a bit of work. But there really is no need. When rice pudding tastes this good for this little effort, it makes you wonder why anybody would go to the trouble of opening a tin.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mushroom and Panceta Risotto

Mushroom and Panceta Risotto

This is a bombastically flavoured dish. Staple Italian peasant food. Wonderful.

Ingredients:

20g of porcine mushrooms (soaked and chopped)
A handful of cubed panceta
A handful of finely chopped parsley
A large glass of crisp, white wine (Pinot Grigio is perfect)
3 finely chopped shallots
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
100g of chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped into chunks
130g arborio rice
1 1/2 pints of vegetable or chicken stock
A handful of small garden peas
A table spoon of tomato puree
2 tea spoons of mascarpone
Olive oil
Parmesan to sprinkle

The Cooking:

If your porcine mushrooms are dried (as they usually are in this country), start by soaking them in  a bowl and setting to one side. Get started on the risotto by adding 2 tea spoons of olive oil to a pot and browning your chopped shallots and garlic over a gentle heat. Then add your mushrooms and fry for 3 or 4 minutes until the pot is fairly dry. Now add your rice, drizzle with olive oil and stir it in. Keep stirring until most of the oil has been absorbed, then add your white wine, turn up the heat and reduce down until again, pretty much all the moisture has been absorbed. Now start to add your stock about a ladle full at a time. Every time you add some stock, stir it in thoroughly and keep stirring until the moisture is nearly all absorbed. Repeat this process until your rice is full and fluffy in consistency (approximately 20 minutes). If you run out of stock, just add boiled water from the kettle.

Add the tomato puree and stir in thoroughly for a minute or two. Then add your chopped porcine mushrooms, your peas, the pancetta cubes and your mascarpone and season generously with salt and plenty of ground pepper. Stir until well combined.

Serve up with freshly chopped parsley and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Eat with the rest of the Pinot Grigio.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Fantastic, traditional winter warmer. Filling, wholesome and delicious.

Ingredients:

500g lean steak mince
5 decent sized potatoes
Handful of Thyme sprigs
Bay leaf
1 large carrot halved length ways and finely chopped
1 large onion finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
4 tablespoons full of tomato puree
a handful of garden peas
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
Tablespoon of butter
25 mls of milk
1 pint of rich beef stock (twice the strength of what you would normally use in a gravy).
25g of grated cheddar cheese

The Cooking:

In a deep pan, brown your mince and pour off any surplus liquid. Put to one side. Then in clean oil (only a couple of tea spoons full) start to fry your carrot, onion, garlic and peas. Once golden in colour, add the browned mince back to the pan along with the thyme and bay leaf. Season generously with salt and crushed black pepper, the tomato puree, give it all a good stir, then pour in your stock,  cover and simmer on a medium to low heat for about an hour to an hour and a half (if you have the time). Stir occasionally. If it starts to dry out, add some water.

To make the mash to cover your pie, peel your potatoes and slice into chunks, then put in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Prod with a fork to make sure they are cooked and soft. Then drain off the water, mash to a pulp, add your butter and cream and stir in, with a fork. Then gradually pour in your milk, whisking as you go, until you have a smooth puree. You need it to be quite stiff and malleable like a meringue rather than runny as you don't want it sinking into or worse still, merging with the filling. If you are concerned its  a bit "loose" then thicken it with a some grated cheese and a tea spoon or two of plain flour, on a high heat.

Transfer your pie filling into a heatproof dish. As you do so, pick out the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs. Top it with the mashed potato and spread all over it so it covers the whole surface. Finally, sprinkle with grated cheddar and pop it under a hot grill until the surface is browned and crispy.

Serve with green veg and preferably a pint of a full flavoured nutty ale like an IPA or Hobgoblin.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Beef Brisket With Garlic and Herb Gravy

Beef Brisket With Rich Garlic and Herb Gravy

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I am a big fan of "peasant food". That often means using the cheaper cuts of meat and slow roasting it for superb flavours. This is one of the best.

Ingredients:

1kg Beef Brisket, Tied and Rolled
Handful of Thyme
3 Garlic Cloves Finely Chopped
1 Sweet White Onion finely chopped
100ml Red Wine
1 Pint of Rich, Beef Stock
22g Unsalted Butter cut into thin slices
2 Table Spoons of Corn Flour

The Cooking:

Rinse your brisket under a tap and lay in the centre of your roasting tin, Season with freshly ground salt and black pepper, sprinkle with the chopped garlic and your sprigs of thyme and dot with the slices of butter. Cover tightly with foil to make as air tight a parcel as possible, and place into an oven, pre-heated to 150 degrees C. Roast for 5 hours, basting it in its own juices every 45 minutes to an hour.

For the final 45 minutes of roasting, turn the oven up to 200 degrees C. First, remove half the fat and juices from the roasting tin to roast your potatoes and parsnips in. Add your chopped onion and glass of red wine to the meat and remaining juices. Give it a stir and place back in the hot oven.

Take the meat out to rest for 20 minutes while you make possibly the nicest gravy you will ever encounter.

Strain the juices from the roasting tin, leaving behind all the bits the meat has been roasted in. Stir in 2 table spoons of corn flour over a gentle heat to make a roux. Then little by little add your pint of stock and whisk until it is all blended and has formed a smooth sauce. Keep it simmering until it virtually turns black. 

Really simple, beautifully tender and it tastes gorgeous!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Boulanger Potatoes

Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Boulanger Potatoes

This one is off the scale when it comes to simplicity and deliciousness. Hold out to the end of the recipe to find out why they are called "Boulanger Potatoes".

Ingredients:

1.6 kilo shoulder of Welsh Lamb (on the bone)
Handful of Thyme, strip off the leaves, chop finely
5 sprigs of rosemary, chop finely
4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
500g of small new potatoes, skin on, quartered
Hand full of black, pitted olives
Extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped table spoon of cornflour
1 pint of strong lamb or beef stock

Cooking time: Minimum of 4 hours (best if left to cook all day) 
Serves: 6

The Cooking:

Wash your shoulder of lamb and score the fat in long, straight lines. Sprinkle, liberally with olive oil and rub it into the meat, all over. Sprinkle with the thyme, 4 out of your 5 sprigs of rosemary and garlic and season with coarse ground salt and black pepper. Cover with foil (creating as air tight a seal as possible) then put into an over, preheated to 130 degrees for a minimum of 4 hours (more if you can afford the time). Make sure you check on it every 30 minutes or so, and baste it in its own juices so it does not dry out. You want the edges to get a bit crusty though. That is one of this dishes best features.

40 minutes before you are due to serve up, par-boil your quartered new potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes. Take your lamb out of the oven. Transfer it into a new roasting tin. Pour a table spoon of juices from the old tin over the lamb. Take another 2 table spoons of juices out of the old roasting tin, and set aside in a jug to make the gravy, and then take your par-boiled potatoes, drain them, and put them into the remaining juices and fat in the old roasting tin, with the black olives. Sprinkle with the last sprig of rosemary, finely chopped. Place both roasting tins (the one containing the lamb and the one containing potatoes and olives) uncovered, back into your oven. Turn the heat up to 210 degrees.

After 15 minutes, take out the lamb and put it to rest on your chopping board. Give the potatoes in their roasting tin a good stir so they cook evenly on both sides and don't stick. Leave them to bake for a further 15 minutes.

To make your gravy, pour your slightly cooled juices and fat that you have set aside in a jug into a saucepan and add a heaped table spoon of cornflour. Stir together with a wooden spoon over a gentle heat to create a roux (a paste). Stir for about 3 minutes, until it is both smooth and starting to darken in colour, Then little by little, start to add your stock. Replace your wooden spoon with a whisk. Stir continuously. Keep going until you have added the whole pint, then turn the heat up high, still stirring, until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble. Reduce the heat right down to minimum and let it simmer until you are ready to serve. Stir occasionally to stop a skin forming on the top.

The lamb won't need carving, you will be able to pull the meat away from the bone with a fork. Serve up with your boulanger potatoes and gravy. Best accompanied with baby carrots and petite pois peas. Gorgeous!!

And now the history lesson; why "boulanger potatoes"? At a time in France when domestic ovens were not common place, the only way you could roast meat or vegetables, was to take the food down to the local baker who would have the only oven in the village. So if you sent your potatoes down in a baking tin, covered in fat to be roasted, they became know as boulanger potatoes, as boulanger is french for baker. Feel free to bore the pants off your dinner guests with this bit of trivia every time you make them. I know I will. Cheers!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Steak Bearnaise

Fillet steak with a Bearnaise sauce

This is such a luxurious, indulgent dish. Like all the recipes in this blog; sensational results from embarrassingly little effort. And all the emphasis is on flavour not poncy presentation.This dish was always a favourite of my father's. He used to be a roofer. So Dad, if you're up there.... (I love that Stuart Francis joke).

Ingredients

4 matured, pedigree herd fillet steaks (better still get your butcher to give you a whole fillet and you cut your own steaks to the thickness you want. I love them about 1 1/2 inches thick)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of double cream
1/4 teaspoon of salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 table spoon of white wine vinegar
150g softened butter cut up into tiny cubes
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped chives

The cooking

Start by making a bain marie; find a heat proof bowl that is wide enough to sit on top of a saucepan of water, and deep enough so that when it is there, the base is just below the surface of the water. Keep the bowl cool and clear of the saucepan when you start your sauce, and heat the water in the saucepan so it is gently bubbling. In the cold bowl, mix your egg yolks, cream, salt, cayenne pepper and vinegar and whisk together so all the ingredients are mixed together. Then, place the bowl onto your saucepan of bubbling water and continue to whisk until it starts to thicken. Then, cube by cube, add your butter and continue to whisk as each cube melts. Continue this process until all the butter has been melted and blended and your sauce has become fairly thick. Add you tarragon, parsley and chives and stir in. Turn the heat off under your saucepan and leave your sauce in the bain marie to rest.

Now fry or grill your steak. Turn the heat up as high as it will go. While you are waiting for the pan or the grill to heat up, pour a dribble of vegetable oil onto your hands and massage it into both sides of all your steaks. Then season with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black or green pepper. Wait until the heat in your pan or your grill is absolutely searing before starting to cook your steaks. Then cook for 1 1/2 minutes on each sides for the perfect, pink in the middle rare steak.If you are frying, prod them occasionally to stop them from sticking. Alternatively, if you wish to ruin them, 2 minutes each side for medium steaks or up to 3 minutes on each side if you want it well done and shite.

Serve with sweet veg such as baby carrots or mange tout peas and crispy, sauteed potatoes or chips.Or if you are feeling really luxuriant, gratin dauphinois.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Silverstone Midnight Burger

The Silverstone Midnight Burger

Here is a must for any BBQ. The story of it's inception gives away how simple it is to prepare and it tastes fantastic. My son and I went to Silverstone for the weekend to watch rich people drive cars really fast, round and round in circles (I can highly recommend it). One evening, it occurred to us round about the time that decent people were going to bed that we had not eaten since lunch time and we were hungry. So this is what I rustled up in the pitch black of night for us to snack on (admittedly; somewhat worse for wear!). If you make one of these in the day light, and you see the size of it, you will realise what a handicap eating it in the dark is. It is a pretty cumbersome thing, especially if you cannot see where it starts and finishes. But very gratifying!

Ingredients:

2 decent 1/4 pound steak mince burgers (from your butcher not a supermarket)
4 rashers of thick cut, smoked, back bacon (also from your butcher)
2 squared slices of Emmental cheese (the pre-sliced stuff is perfect)
2 slices of iceberg lettuce
2 thick slices of a beef tomato
2 sesame seeded bread rolls (halved) or 4 thick slices of a soft, rustic style bread (eg bloomer)

Preparation:

Get your barbecue lit and up to temperature and past the point where it is still flaming, and instead your embers are just glowing red (usually takes around 45 minutes). Pop your 2 burgers down and cook for around 13 minutes (or until cooked through), turning over every 2-3 minutes or so, to make sure they are not burning or sticking. For the last 8 minutes, place your bacon rashers beside them, also turning every 2 minutes. Make sure the edges are nice and crispy before concluding they are ready. Finally for the last 2 minutes, toast your bread rolls, flat side down, on the  barbecue and lay a slice of cheese on top of each of your burgers so it starts to melt over the top.
When the time is up, put the whole lot together; lay your 2 bottom halves of each bread roll on a plate or flat, clean surface. Add your lettuce slice as a base to each one, add your cheese smothered burgers as the next layer, then a bacon rasher on each, then your tomato slice, then your personal choice of relish (ketchup, tomato relish, corn relish, mayo or a combination of some or all - its up to you) then crown with the other halves of your bread rolls and serve up. You may want to slice in half with a knife if this meant to be finger food, so your dinners can actually get a mouth around it.
Serve with a nice fresh salad!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Poached Salmon Hollandaise with wilted spinach

Poached Salmon Hollandaise with wilted spinach

I admit, I am pushing it a bit with calling this one "simple". This recipe is incredibly simple in that it only takes a few minutes to prepare and does not use many ingredients. However, as simple as an Hollandaise sauce might be to make in principal, in reality it can be a bit of a bastard as it will curdle if you get it wrong. And once it does, there's no getting it back, so you'll have to start again. This recipe however, makes for a delicious, light supper or lunch and is something I have often chosen in some rather nice Parisian bistros.It's delicious and well worth persevering. Even if you might need more than one attempt with the sauce :)

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets
2 egg yolks
125g unsalted butter
1/2 tea spoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of cold/refrigerated water
A squirt of lemon juice
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Bowl full of spinach leaves

The cooking:

Start with the sauce if I were you, so if you mess it up you have time to start again. Cut 125g of  unsalted butter up into little cubes and melt on a low heat in a pan. When it's all melted turn the heat off. Don't let it start to cook and bubble. Then half fill a saucepan (or "sospan" to use the Welsh!) with boiling water, and on a low flame, keep it at a gentle simmer. Then make a "bain Marie" by placing a heat proof bowl into it. The bowl needs to be wide enough to rest on the sides of the saucepan, whilst the bottom of it deep enough to touch the surface of the water in it.

Pop your egg yolks, vinegar, icy water and some seasoning into the bain marie and whisk until combined and thick. Then, one tablespoon at a time start adding the melted butter, whisking all the while. Continuously taking care that your water in the saucepan is not bubbling too much. Keep it going at the gentle simmer. Repeat until you have added all the golden, liquid butter. Leave behind any white bits.Keep whisking while you then squeeze approximately a teaspoon full of juice from a fresh lemon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and stir in with your whisk. At this point, all the ingredients should be fully combined, and you should be left with a thick creamy sauce. If that is the case then for heavens sake leave it alone as you can over do the whisking and it goes over and starts to separate again. If you have done it right, then leave it and give your self a pat on the back.

The rest is really easy. Put your 2 salmon fillets, skin side down, into a fish kettle or deep pan with a lid. Pour cold water into the pan, enough to just about cover both fillets.Top up the difference with a glass of dry white wine and a dash of salt. Put the lid on, turn on to a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Poach your salmon in the bubbling water for about 10 minutes.

The spinach is also a doddle. Just add a table spoon of water to the bowl, cover it with cellophane, stab with a fork to make holes and cook on full power in a microwave for 3 minutes.

Dish up with some sweet Mange Tous (pronounced "Mange twat" - not really), may be on a bed of rice like I have in the picture or just as nice with some crispy chips. Smother with sauce. If you like your sauce thinner, add a bit more cold water and whisk in. Not too much whisking though!! It's a bastard!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Swordfish with basil, mint and lemon

Swordfish with basil, mint and lemon


This is a very simple and flavour full Italian recipe. You find it a lot on the southern coast. Tastes fantastic. Great for a summer evening meal. Because sword fish is such a meaty fish it can take strong flavours well. This recipe also would work with tuna steaks instead of swordfish. I also like this with a nice potato salad so I've added the recipe for that too.

Ingredients:


2 swordfish steaks
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2-3 mint leaves, finely chopped
A hand full of basil leaves, finely chopped
Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
The best available quality olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper


For the accompanying potato salad, 

6-8 boiled baby new potatoes (they will need time to cool before serving)
15g of butter
2 Table spoons of sour cream
1 finely chopped spring onion
A small hand full of chopped chives

The Cooking:

As it is more time consuming, make your potato salad first. Start by boiling your new potatoes, drain them, and while they are cooling, add 15g of butter, and gently stir it in. Once cooled, cut your potatoes into quarters and put in a bowl, pour any melted butter left in your pan over them as well. Add your chives and spring onion and spoon in the sour cream. Give the whole thing a good stir so all the potatoes are coated. Season with sea salt and pepper. Put to one side. This can be prepared well in advance if you like and refrigerated if need be.

For your fish, simply pop your finely chopped garlic, mint and basil into a bowl, pour enough olive oil into the bowl to cover it all, squirt with lemon juice and give it a good stir. Put to one side for 15 minutes or so to infuse. Spoon 1/2 your mixture onto one side of your swordfish steak, massage in the oil and sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, then cook on a griddle or in a frying pan for approximately 3 minutes (until sealed and golden). While it's cooking, spoon the rest of your oil and leaves and seasoning onto the upper side of your steak. After 3 minutes, turn over and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Serve up with your potato salad and a green salad.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

The perfect roast beef and Yorkshire puddings

How do you cook the perfect roast beef and Yorkshire puddings? 

This recipe is really simple. It will help you create a beef joint that is crispy and caramelized on the outside and pink in the middle, fluffy roast potatoes and puffy Yorkshire puddings. But as always, the key is not to skimp on good ingredients. And also, don't feel compelled to over complicating it with garlic and herbs. Keep it simple for the best flavour. And as this dish is more a British institution than just a meal, then it deserves to be done properly. Once you've tried it cooked this way, you will never want to go out to a pub or restaurant for Sunday lunch again.

Ingredients (dinner for 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 children):

1.5kg beef joint. Go to a good, independent butcher rather than a super market and buy a matured, hung sirloin joint (or a cheaper alternative might be a rib-eye joint). And get your butcher to trim, score, roll and tie it for you. My own preference is for Welsh Black beef, but there are plenty of other types of good, pedigree beef around. 
1 onion, roughly sliced
25g of unsalted butter

200g plain flour
3 eggs
300ml full fat milk
20g of beef dripping (your butcher should have some, if not use cooking oil)
Salt and pepper

6 King Edward Potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
A tub of goose fat (again, your butcher will have it, but if not, you'll have to use olive oil)
1 tea spoon of Mustard powder
A small palm full of rosemary leaves, finely chopped

A table spoon of cornflour
1 litre of strong beef stock (if you are using cubes or stock pots, dissolve 4 in a litre of boiling water)
(A sprig of thyme - optional)

The cooking:

Your first job is to make the batter for your Yorkshire puddings. If you are reading this recipe in time, and you are still aiming for the "perfect" outcome, then ideally this should be done the day before you are eating them and kept in the fridge over night. Don't panic if you haven't planned that far ahead. As long as you give it about an hour it should be fine (albeit, not perfect).

In a mixing bowl, season your plain flour with plenty of salt and pepper (stir it in), then add your eggs 1 at a time making sure each one is absorbed into the flour before adding the next. Then gradually pour in your milk. A few splashes at a time, stirring it in thoroughly as you go. Once all the milk has gone in, whisk the batter smooth to make sure that there are absolutely no lumps. Then cover your bowl with some cling film and leave it in your fridge over night.

Next job, beef preparation; allow your beef to "chambreuse" or acclimatize to room temperature before you roast it, rather than put it in the oven straight from the fridge. Half an hour should be enough. While it is standing, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and dot the top with slices of unsalted butter. That's it. That's all you need.

Lay your onion slices in a heap in the middle of a roasting tin and place your beef on top. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Once at temperature, put the beef in (uncovered). After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature down to 200 degrees and roast for a further hour. It is really important that every 10 minutes or so you baste the beef with its own juices. The added acidity from the onion will also help ensure that the juices you are basting the meat with will make it really tender when cooked. Once the beef is done, you will need to let it rest for 30 minutes before carving it. It will secrete a lot of liquid while resting which I suggest you may want to add to your gravy, so I would normally place the beef on a wire tray over a bowl so as it rests, all the liquid is being captured.

While the beef is still cooking, put your peeled potatoes in a covered pan filled with cold, salted water. Bring the water to the boil with the potatoes in it, and once bubbling, boil your potatoes for 10 minutes (or longer if they are especially big). While they are boiling, spoon the goose fat from your jar into an oven proof dish or roasting tin and put it into the oven with the beef for 2 to 3 minutes to melt thoroughly. Once your potatoes are done, drain all the water from the pan, then holding the lid firmly in place, give the pan a really good shake so the potatoes inside crash into the sides of the pan and each other. This is what will make them fluffy once roasted. Using a slotted spoon, lift each potato out of the pan and into the hot goose fat, rolling them thoroughly so they each get a full coating of the hot fat. Then sprinkle them with mustard powder, salt, pepper and coarsely chopped rosemary leaves. Turn them all over, and sprinkle the other side as well. Put into the same oven as the beef and roast for 45 minutes, (or until golden and crispy all over). Turn them every 12 minutes or so to stop them from sticking.

Now your Yorkshire puddings need to be cooked at 220 degrees (a lot hotter than the beef and potatoes) so if you have 2 ovens, happy days. If not, you will need to plan for this. The good news is, they cook in 30 minutes - the same amount of time you need to leave your beef to rest before carving, so as long as you time your spuds to be ready at the same time it need not be a drama (but you will obviously need to either keep them warm or reheat them for serving). I usually bake my Yorkshires in a baking tin intended for making small tarts and pastries. Before baking your puds, distribute equal sized lumps of beef dripping into each cup in your baking tin and put it in the hot oven until all the dripping has melted down to a hot liquid. Using a ladle, spoon your batter into each cup so it is full and return the tin to the oven. Make sure you have allowed plenty of room for the puddings to rise (because they rise a lot!!) and do not open the oven door until the half hour is up and they are cooked. If you like them crispy, leave them in for an extra 5 minutes or so.

Finally; your gravy. Drain away all bar two table spoons of meat fat from your roasting tin and warm it on a medium heat on your hob. Add a table spoon of cornflour and using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the fat and make a paste. Stir it for a couple of minutes until it starts to darken in colour. Then start to add your stock a few splashes at a time. Be prepared for the fact that it will congeal. Just keeping stirring through it, so it stays smooth, and keep adding more and more stock to thin it out. Once all the stock has been added turn the heat up high, add the juices collected from the resting beef joint, and the onion slices that were roasting under the meat and stir it all together. If you want to make a more "herby gravy", an optional extra would be a couple of sprigs of thyme. It's not necessary but some people prefer it that way. Once you have reached the desired thickness for your gravy, strain it to remove the onion (the thyme if you added any) and any lumps, return it to your roasting tin and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until you are ready to serve it. It should continue to darken through the simmering. Whisk it through to make sure it is thoroughly smooth and de-glazed before serving.

Dish up with carrots, peas and may be some cauliflower with cheese sauce as well if you're feeling flash. It will knock your socks off it's so good and just what you need for a family get together. Enjoy with red wine.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Italian Lamb and Pea Casserole

Italian Lamb and Pea Casserole

I have to confess; I first came across this recipe on an episode of BBC TV's "Saturday Kitchen" and I've changed it very little. It's great if you have many mouths to feed as it will easily feed 6. Last time I prepared it was at my parent's house in southern Spain for a dinner party. I went to the local market on a boiling hot day to get everything I needed. But I could not find chillis any where on any of the stalls. And to make matters worse I didn't know what the Spanish word for chilli was so I asked one stall holder who appeared to have every other type of spice known to man except chillis. "Pimienta" I said (which means pepper) and mimed that I had eaten something hot by fanning my mouth with my hand (just like a twat would!). Any way, it worked. The woman exclaimed "Ah!Chiles!" (so I felt even more like a twat!). She then walked into the house behind the stall, disappeared through a door and brought one from her own kitchen and refused to charge me.Such kindness. Actually, that is all assuming it was her house! This is great peasant food. Rustic, filling, simple but bounteous in flavour.

Ingredients:

1kg of shoulder of lamb, off the bone and cut into 1 inch chunks (your butcher will do that for you. You will usually have to buy the whole shoulder. It does not really matter if it is exactly 1kg or not)
One 50g Tin of anchovy fillets in oil
2 sweet, white onions sliced
1 large carrot thinly sliced
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed under the blade of your knife and chopped
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
250ml of white wine
20ml of white wine vinegar
250g of tiny little petit pois or generally small peas (frozen ones perfect)
400g of Pembrokeshire new potatoes (skin on) cut into quarters
200g cherry tomatoes cut in halves
1 red chilli cut into slices

You'll need olive oil and coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper
And buy a Tiger bloomer loaf (all the super markets do them these days) and cut into thick slices to make toast to eat with it (so it mops up the lovely sauce).

The cooking:

Start by putting your lamb chunks in a bowl. Really liberally season with coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt and leave to one side for about 10-15 minutes. While that is rendering you can crack on with all the slicing ('cos there's quite a lot with this one). Once you've got all your ingredients prepared, heat about 80ml of really good, extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy pan.

First, fry your sliced onions, carrot and celery on a medium heat (not too hot as olive oil tends to burn at high temperatures and takes on an unpleasant smell and taste). After about 4 minutes, when it all golden, add you garlic, anchovies, chilli and thyme and continue to cook, stirring until the anchovies have completely dissolved. Add your lamb and maybe a splash more olive oil and fry it until it is browned on all sides.

Pour in your wine and cook it down until the volume has roughly halved, then add your vinegar, stir the whole lot in and then turn your heat down low to a simmer. Cover the pan and leave it bubbling for 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Once your 20 minutes is up, pour in your potatoes and cover again, and cook for a further half an hour. Then you add your tomatoes and your peas and cook for another half an hour with the lid on. Stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking or catching.

For your last 10 minutes or so, cut your bread into slices and toast under a grill on both sides. 

This is a really good dish for a big family or a night when you have some friends around. I like to serve it by giving everybody a bowl, a glass of full bodied red wine and cutlery each, then plonk the casserole in the middle of the table with a ladle in it, and a plate next to it with a big pile of toast. Then just sit back and let every body get stuck in. Terrific!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Chicken in white wine, mustard and cream

Chicken in white wine, mustard and cream

I have mentioned before, that my inspiration for a lot of the recipes in this blog come from me having spent my summer holidays as a boy, with my mother's family in the Charolais region of Burgundy in France (the gastronomic capital of the world!). This dish is especially typical of the fantastic food my auntie used to cook for us when we stayed with her. And it consists of a lot of the great, local ingredients Burgundy is famous for: Chicken from Bresse to the east, white wine from the Maconnaise to the south, mushrooms from the Auxerrois to the north east, mustard from Dijon in the north and cream from the famous cows of the Charolais itself.

Ingredients:

2 fresh chicken breasts with the skin on
A hand full of small, closed cup button mushrooms
50ml of white wine
25ml of cream
Dessert spoon of Dijon mustard
100ml of boiling water
1 chicken stock pot or cube
2 tea spoons of corn flour
25g of butter

Preparation:

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Prep your chicken breast by giving them a swill under the tap, then lay them on a chopping board skin side up. Pour a drop of sunflower oil into your hand and massage it into your chicken breasts. Then break about 1/4 of your stock pot off from the rest and also rub that into them. Then season with salt and pepper. 

Warm a deep pan on the hob, and once ready, place your chicken breasts into it, skin side down and seal on a medium heat. Occasionally give them a prod with a fork to stop them from sticking. Once the skin side is golden brown and crisp, turn them over and seal the meaty side so it is golden brown as well. Then place your chicken breasts into your pre-heated oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Make sure you test that they are properly cooked before serving up by prodding a skewer or pointy knife into the fattest part of the breasts to be sure that the juices run clear. If it is pink, pop them in for a bit longer, but not so long they dry out. 5 minutes tops should do it.

10 minutes before your chicken is due to come out of the oven, get started on your sauce by mixing what's left of your chicken stock pot with the 100ml of boiling water to make your stock. Then, melt your butter in the pan you sealed the chicken in, on a low heat. Once it is melted scoop in your corn flour and stir to make a roux (the base of your sauce). Turn the heat up, still stirring, so the mixture starts to froth in the heat, then add your wine. This should make the mixture coagulate. Don't panic about it. Just keep stirring until it is smooth. Add your stock and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Turn the heat down and add your mustard and your cream and continue to whisk. The sauce is meant to to be about as thick as a standard gravy. If your mixture is a lot thicker than that then add more wine (a little bit at a time) until you have the desired smoothness. If it's too runny, keep the heat turned up for a bit longer until it thickens. If nothing happens, add more butter. This should still leave you 4 -5 minutes to quickly fry your mushrooms in a knob of butter.

When you take your chicken from the oven, plate it up either on a bed of rice or with chips (as you will want something to mop up this sensational sauce) and I would recommend some french beans and asparagus if its in season. Pour what ever liquid is left in the roasting tin that the chicken came out of, into your sauce and stir it in. place your mushroom on top of your chicken breasts and smother with sauce. It is not a decision you are ever likely to regret!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

French apple tart (Tarte aux pommes)

French Apple Tart (Tarte aux pommes)

When I was growing up, my family and I would stay in a gite somewhere near  Honfleur or Coutance for a week every Spring. One thing I always looked forward to on these holidays was a trip to the boulangerie - patisserie in the nearest village where we would invariably buy a Tarte aux Pommes (the regional speciality, or "specialite de la region" as they say), along with our croissants for the morning. And we'd take it back to the gite, to have as a dessert after dinner. Having grown up with this as the pinnacle of treats, imagine my surprise when I found out that this rather impressive looking, and fantastic tasting tart is so easy to make, although it does need a bit of time, so not something you can throw together in an evening after work I'm afraid. But none the less, it is yet another classic example of how simple "peasant food" can be as good as it gets.

Ingredients:

175g plain flour (and more for dusting, rolling and a couple of spoonfuls for the frangipane)
250g butter (I know!!)
1 egg
2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar (and a bit more for sprinkling)
1 dessert spoon (or a cap full) of calvados (Normandy apple brandy) or brandy
100g ground almonds
3 tablespoons of water
5 table spoons of apricot jam
3 or 4 large cooking apples



The cooking:

Start by mixing together the flour, half your butter, one of your egg yolks and the 3 tablespoons of water and mix to a dough that you can knead with the ball of your hand. If it is really sticky to the touch then you might have added a whole egg rather than just the yolk? Duh! I know because I've done that before! But if you have not made this school boy error but still find it overly sticky, just add a bit more flour. If it is so unsticky, it is not picking up all the dry mixture in your bowl, then add a tea spoon more of water. Once you have a dough ball, wrap it in cling film, and put it in a fridge for about half an hour (or until it firms up).

While that process is under way, make your frangipane. You need to soften up the other half of your butter, by cutting it into small cubes, then popping them in a small, oven proof mixing bowl and in to the micro wave for about a minute. Once soft, pour in the cater sugar and with a wooden spoon and some muscle, stir together into a creamy consistency. Leave that to one side and beat together your remaining egg yolk and an egg in a bowl. Now gradually, bit by bit, add your beaten egg mix to the creamed sugar and butter, stirring furiously after each drop to keep the mixture creamy, otherwise it will curdle and separate. Once your eggs have gone in, add your calvados (or brandy will do if you haven't go any). Once it has all been blended together, pour in your ground almonds and add a couple of tablespoons of flour as well to give the mixture some weight, and stir the whole lot together until it is all perfectly blended.

Now might be a good time to preheat an over to 200 degrees centigrade.

When your 30 minutes on your dough ball in the fridge is up, take it out of the fridge, dust a surface with some flour and roll it out until it will fit into 30cm pie tin. Grease your pie tin with butter, then lay your pastry into it, pushing down into the corners and sides and prick all over with a fork. Then pop it back into the fridge for another 15 minutes or so.

When your base has firmed up in the fridge, take it out, and use a spoon to evenly spread your frangipane into it. Then peel, core and slice you apples, laying the slices in a spiral pattern on top of your frangipane base. Start from the outside and work inward, making sure at least one edge of each apple slice is buried into the frangipane.

Put your pie tin into your preheated oven for 20 minutes then drop the temperature down to 180 degrees. After 10 minutes, take the tart out of the oven and sprinkle liberally with sugar and then return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile scoop your apricot jam into a ramekin (or anything small and oven proof really), add a couple of spoon fulls of water (to help liquidise it) and put it in the oven to warm up as well.

When the 10 minutes is up remove your tart and remove the ramekin with the jam in it.  Give the jam and the water a good stir to mix together so it is a runny liquid, then with a pastry brush, brush the jam solution all over your tart to give it a nice, golden glaze. Then  put it back in the oven for the final 5 - 10 minutes, or until the edges of the apples have just started to catch and the rest of the tart topping is golden all over.

Take it out of the oven and cool it on a wire rack.

When it's at room temperature, serve it cut into slices, with a posset of really thick cream (clotted cream would be ideal) on each plate, and dust with a sprinkle of icing sugar. 
Get you you debutante!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Plaice baked in cream with chives

Plaice baked in cream with chives

This is a traditional dish from the South Coast of England. It is a proper fisherman's supper. If you have ever wondered; how can I make a fantastic fish dish with the least effort? The answer is this. In fact, if there was a Venn diagram showing where tasty dishes and simple dishes over lap, this one would be smack in the middle. You get the message; it's tasty and simple to cook. And the fact that this is being posted on a Monday evening tells you all you need to know. I managed to knock this up this evening while on a conference call.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of plaice (or sole would work just as well)
75ml of single cream
Small hand full of chives, finely chopped
About the same amount of parsley leaves finely chopped
2 knobs of butter
Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
Small sprinkling of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper for seasoning

The Cooking:

Preheat an over to 200 degrees centigrade.
With one of your knobs of butter, grease the base and sides of a small oven proof, shallow dish. Lay your plaice fillets inside then pour your cream over it until it's covered. If the fillets are too large to fit in, don't worry about tucking the edges in. No need to be neat with this. Sprinkle over the top a dash of nutmeg and salt and pepper, then pop it uncovered into your oven for 15 minutes. 

Just before the time is up, melt your second knob of butter in a skillet or small frying pan on a low heat. Once the time actually is up on the fish, plate up the fillets with a slotted fish slice, and pour the liquor from the dish it was baked in, into the melted butter. Squeeze the juice from your lemon segment, toss in the parsley and the chives and give it all a good stir with a wooden spoon, until everything is blended together and smooth. Spoon your sauce over your fillets.

Serve up with chips, creamy mash or rice and some seasonal fresh veg. Don't thank me. I know!!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Steak and Doombar Ale Pie with Creamy Mash

Steak and Doombar Ale Pie with Creamy Mash

The best steak and ale pie I can remember is the one I had in a pub on the banks of the Trent somewhere in  Nottinghamshire. My friends and I had just finished our finals and my then girlfriend had driven up to my uni to see me. Spotting her car (something none of us had) someone had the bright idea that we should all go water skiing in a nearby reservoir. When it was put to her, she said that she didn't feel up to water skiing as she was not feeling well. So I did the decent thing and borrowed her car and took my mates to the reservoir, leaving her on her own in the flat to recover (can't go around letting people down can I). Anyway, we found this pub on the way back and their steak and ale pie was fantastic. You could actually taste what sort of ale it was made out of. And the meat just melted in your mouth. As ever this is my take on it (using a Cornish rather than a Nottinghamshire Ale):

Ingredients:

800g of cubed braising steak
A knuckle of oxtail on the bone
Handful of thyme
plain four
1/2 pint of good nutty ale (Sharp's Doombar is my first choice)
2 beef stock cubes diluted in 300ml of boiling water
100g peas
2 large carrots, finely sliced
1 large onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
100g of mushrooms, diced
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Puff pastry for your lid (I do know a recipe but the stuff you buy in supermarkets is one cheat that does not compromise on taste)
and egg for the wash.
Optional addition: 200g of mature, blue stilton cheese

For the Creamy Mash:

1kg of floury potatoes (maris piper, desiree or Roosters)
25g of butter
4 tablespoons of creme fraiche
250ml full fat milk
Salt and pepper

Method

In a bowl, pour in some flour and infuse it with chopped thyme, salt and pepper. Roll your diced steak in it, to coat the meat. Then, in a pot melt a knob of butter in a tablespoon full of vegetable oil and gently fry the onions, carrots and garlic. When golden, add your beef (including the oxtail on the bone) and stir over a low heat until browned on all sides. Now gradually add all the stock and about 3/4 of the beer, just a bit at a time, and stir in as you do so. Turn the heat up so the mixture starts to bubble. Keep stirring so it does not stick. You should end up with a fairly thick gravy. You do not need it to cover all the mixture as once you start cooking, the fat from the meat will render and make more liquid. Add your peas and mushrooms. Now turn the heat down low, put a lid over the pie filling and leave it to slow cook for about 2 hours. Keep stirring it every 20 minutes or so, so it does not stick.
Now in an ideal world. Once this mixture has had 2 hours slow simmering, you leave it to cool on the hob. Once cool enough, put the whole lot in the fridge over night, then come back to the next stage of this recipe, the next day. If you dont have that luxury of time, you can of course progress straight to the next stage.
For the final stage, roll out a sheet of puff pastry. Enough to cover what ever container you are going to use to cook your pie in (traditionally a pie dish). Pour your filling into the dish, then pour in the ale you have left from your 1/2 pint (important it goes in at the end to bring out the beery taste that otherwise gets cooked away).  Season with salt and what seems like, too much black pepper. Pull the meat off the bone of the oxtail and disguard the bone. Give the whole lot a good stir.Then lay the puff pastry cover over the top, crimping around the edges with your fingers to make a crust. Cut holes or a cross in the top to let steam escape while it is baking, and brush the top with a beaten egg to create a nice, golden glaze when the pie is cooked. Then put your pie into an over pre-heated to 180 degrees centigrade for 40 minutes (or until the pie is golden).

While you pie is baking, time to get onto the mash. Peel and slice your potatoes. cook for 25 minutes or until you can easily push a fork through your potatoes. Drain, mash, stir in your butter, cream and milk. Then whisk until pureed. Serve up your pie and creamy mash with seasonal veg. And drink the rest of the Doombar while you enjoy it.

If you want to add an extra element of "Wallop" to it, while the pie filling is still warming on the stove (ie before you put pastry over it) crumble up 200g of mature, blue stilton cheese and stir it into the filling until it is smooth and dissolved.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Andalusian Salad (a Spanish take on a Nicoise)

Andalusian Salad

When ever you have people over for a barbecue, no doubt you always feel duty bound to provide a salad. But wouldn't it be nice if it actually got eaten rather than got thrown out at the end of the evening? A salad that tastes great? Really? Well try this one. I came across it last summer. My partner and I drove across Spain and ended up at my parents place in the South-East. We opted to go out to the "local" for dinner. It caters exclusively for farm hands and villagers and does not usually do food in the evening at all. When we went down there to ask if they could russel something up for us, there was a small handful of locals shouting at a football match on the tele, who at no time even notice that we had arrived. When we asked if we could eat, we were ferried into a side room (they turned the lights on as we walked in) and no sooner than we had started to chat over a bottle of wine, than this salad (below) was summoned out of thin air and put on our table (without any body needing to ask for it) while we chose what we wanted off the menu. I have to confess, it was the highlight. Yet another example of how some of the simplest things (a salad for heaven's sake!!) can  taste fantastic if they are done well.

Ingredients

Do your self a favour - buy your fresh ingredients the same day you make your salad.

A Crispy, cone shaped lettuce (gem or similar), thinly sliced and washed
1 Chicory (also known as endives) thinly sliced and washed
1 celery stalk thinly sliced and washed
1 red pepper washed and cut into small cubes
1/2 a sweet white onion (or 3 spring onions) peeled and cut into thin slices
4 salad tomatoes washed and sliced
A jar of white artichokes cut into 1/4s
100g of green olives
a tin of tuna chunks
2 eggs
A handful of peanuts
4 sun dried tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber, skin cut off and thinly sliced

For your dressing: 
3 table spoons of vegetable or sunflower oil (not olive oil as it has too strong a flavour)
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 a teaspoon of mustard powder
A pinch of Salt and pepper

Preparation

Start by hard boiling your eggs. Put your pot of boiling water on the hob. Once the water is bubbling, pop your eggs in using a slotted spoon. Boil for exactly 10 minutes, then lift them out and put them in a bowl of iced water to cool them down.

The rest is so simple it hurts. Wash everything thoroughly and drain surplus water off. Put you shredded lettuce, chicory, cucumber, tomatoes, celery plus the olives and the white artichokes into your salad bowl, flake your tuna up and add in, and mix the whole lot up thoroughly. Sprinkle your peanuts over the top (some grated cheese as well if you fancy it). Shell and slice your hard boiled eggs and lay the slices, along with your sun dried tomatoes over the top. Season with salt and papper. Either serve straight away, or refrigerate for up to an hour before hand. But don't leave it hanging around. The freshness is part of what makes it good.

Now make the dressing - put the oil, the vinegar, the mustard powder, the salt and the pepper into a small bowl. Grab a whisk and batter the hell out of it. Until it turns into a viscous, cloudy liquid. Genuinely that simple - it makes you wonder why you ever pay for bottles of the stuff from super market really?

Taxing isn't it? - but don't under estimate how good something so simple can be. And I bet it all gets eaten!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Cornish Fish Pie

Cornish Fish Pie

All these pies, casseroles and stews and other specialities in this blog came about as they were made of what ever ingredients were most abundant and cheap in that particular place. And frequently they were nothing more than a way of using up left overs. This fish pie is based on a modern example of just such an inception. As a youngster, I went to stay with a friend who had a holiday job on a campsite in Cornwall. Turned out; he was not allowed to have guests in his caravan so I ended up sleeping in the back of his car. Woken by sun streaming in through the windows every morning. One day, at the end of his shift, the chef who worked in the fish and chip shop on site knocked up a fish pie from bits that needed using in the kitchen. It was better than anything on the menu, by miles. Here is how I recommend you recreate a proper one.

Preparation and cooking time: 

Feeds 4-5. Takes 30 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook

Ingredients

One or two salmon fillets (approx 300g) - skin off
A whole smoked haddock fillet ( again about 300g) - skin off
100g - 125g of king prawns (shelled - heads and tails removed)
100g of small garden peas
Handful of finely chopped parsley
1/2 a garlic clove
1 chopped shallot
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 kg of potatoes (floury, mashable ones such as maris piper, desiree or rooster)
150g grated, full flavour, mature cheddar
50g unsalted butter (split into quarters)  )
Freshly ground sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Paprika
Chopped chives
1/2 pint of milk for poaching
1/2 pint of milk for your sauce
1/4 pint of milk for your mash
1/4 pint of double cream
Corn flour or plain flour

Preparation

Start by preheating your over to 190o C.
Get the ball rolling by peeling and cutting your potatoes into slices and boiling them in slightly salted water for 20 minutes, or until they are soft enough for you to easily penetrate with a fork. Once boiled, drain off the water and leave in the pan with the lid on. 

You also need to hard boil your 2 eggs. Get the water in your pan bubbling hot first, then lower the eggs in one at a time with a slotted spoon and boil for exactly 10 minutes. On the 10th minute, lift them out of the boiling water and place them in a bowl of iced water to cool them down.

To recreate that desired "left overs" taste (which I appreciate sounds weird), you need to cook your fish in different ways so they come together in the pie as blended, rather than merged flavours. So, make a parcel out of aluminium foil, pop your salmon fillets into it with half of one of your butter portions and a small sprinkling of chopped chives, Bake in your oven for 18 minutes. While it is baking, put your haddock fillet into a pan (cut it in half if you need to) pour in half a pint of milk, which should be enough milk to just cover it (if it isn't, just top it up). Add your chopped shallot and the other half of your first butter portion and heat gently for approximately 8 minutes. Do not allow to boil. When done, lift the poached haddock and put into an oven proof dish. Keep 1 table spoon of the liquor it has cooked in. Discard the rest.You should still have time to lightly fry the prawns in the chopped garlic clove, a small sprig of chopped parsley and the second butter portion, before the salmon is ready. They only need a minute or two on each side until they are properly pink.

Add the salmon to the dish with the haddock (scrape off any chives that have stuck to it), break the fish up into 2 inch chunks, add the cooked prawns and the peas (which can go in raw or still frozen if you like). Take your cooled, hard, boiled eggs, cut into slices and add to the dish, sprinkle over half a teaspoon of paprika and half a tea spoon of cayenne pepper, and cover with plenty of ground black pepper and ground sea salt and give it all a good mix.

Now in a pan (re-use the one you poached the haddock in) melt your penultimate butter portion, over a low heat and add a table spoon of corn flour and mix together quite vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a yellowy paste (a "roux" if you want to be technical about it). Now. put you wooden spoon down and pick up a whisk and start to add half a pint of milk, one splash at a time, whisking furiously as you do so. At first, you will get quite a thick paste, but the more you whisk and the more milk you add the more it should thin out. By the time you add the last drop of milk it should be fairly runny. Add the liquor recovered form the pan you poached the haddock in and then, right at the end, add your egg yolk and whisk smooth. This should thicken your sauce to a "custardy" consistency. If it's any thicker than that, add some more milk and whisk away until it is smooth enough to pour. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour your sauce over your fish and peas. You want enough so every surface of everything is covered with sauce. What you don't want, is a big pool of sauce with fish and peas floating in it. So hold back any surplus sauce. You don't have to use it all. Then sprinkle the whole pie filling with finely chopped parsley.

Mash up your potatoes until they are smooth and lump free add your last portion of butter, all of your cream and stir it together with a fork. Then slowly add your quarter pint of milk while whisking your mash so it's nice and smooth. You may not need to add all the milk as you want quite a thick mash rather than a puree. Then spoon the mash onto your pie filling and spread it across the top so you end up with the whole thing covered. Run a fork over the top to rough up the surface, and pierce a few time to let any steam that builds up while its cooking to escape.

Finally, take your grated cheddar and sprinkle it all over the top of the mash so it makes a beautiful crust once its been cooked. Now pop the whole pie into your pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes (or until the cheese is golden and crusty).

Serve up as it is or with fresh, sweet green veg. Spinach particularly good.
Great dish to plonk down in the middle of a table and let everyone help themselves.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Gratin Dauphinoise

Recipe for Gratin Dauphinoise

Now this is a totally self indulgent accompaniment to any dish. It is one inspired for me by the small village restaurants where my parents and I used to eat when I was little, and we would spend weeks and even months at a time with my Mum's family in Burgundy. I remember one place in particular on a cross roads of two roads that went to nowhere in particular. From the outside, it looked more like someone's house than a restaurant. And when you went in, it still looked like someone's house. Except there was small bar that was being propped up by a farmer with blue over-alls, a ruddy complexion, clutching a glass of red wine. He mumbled something at us through his bushy moustache, drained his glass and then stumbled out to his tractor which he had left with it's engine running outside.

My other over riding memory of this particular place was that there was a TV mounted on the wall in the kitchen (which was in clear view from the restaurant) which was showing an episode of "Starsky & Hutch" dubbed into French. And I will never forget the shock of hearing the bloke who was voicing the dub for Huggy Bear. He had a really deep, sophisticated French accent and from the moment he started speaking I could not focus on anything else as it just seemed so wrong.


Preparation and cooking time:

Allow 20 minutes prep and and hour for cooking.

Ingredients:

500g potatoes (preferably Roosters, Desirees or Rudolphs) peeled
100 ml of double cream
1/4 pint of full fat milk
25g unsalted butter cut into tiny 2mm cubes
A small garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
100g of mild cheddar or Gruyeres cheese grated

Preparation:

Pre-heat your oven to 150o C. Take a deep dish (the one I use is 20cm X 13.5cms square and 13.5cms deep) and rub the two halves of your garlic clove, cut-side-down, all over the base and sides as this will secrete the juice of the garlic, and will infuse the dish as it cooks. Then grease the dish with butter.

Next you will need to cut your peeled potatoes into wafer thin slices. If you've got the knife skills to do that then good for you. If not, a kitchen mandolin is a great tool that achieves what you want quickly and easily. And if you don't have one of those, you've probably got a cheese grater with different cutting edges on different sides. In which case the side with the wide slice cutters does the job just as well. Lay your wafer thin potato slices in over lapping rows along the base of the dish until the whole of the bottom is covered. Then sprinkle your tiny butter cubes, dotting across the rows, sprinkle a bit of your grated cheese sparsely over the rows, drizzle with a bit of cream and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Then repeat and start on the next layer of potato wafers. Once you've finished that layer, before sprinkling your butter, cheese, cream, salt and pepper, just push the whole surface of your new layer flat with your fists. Add your bits, then continue until you either reach the top of your dish, or you run out of potatoes. When you reach your top layer, as well as the butter, cream, salt and pepper, also chop up your what's left of your 2 halves of garlic clove into tiny bits and sprinkle that over the top. Then pour your milk over the layers until it comes to just below the level of the top layer. Then sprinkle all the cheese you have left over the top. If you don't have enough left to make a proper crust, grate a bit more to make sure you do. Put your dish on a baking tray and place it in the middle of your oven and leave it in there for an hour.

And that's pretty much it. Serve with a rare steak and salad.

Dauphinoise can be prepared the day before you are going to actually serve it. Just make sure you let it cools thoroughly before covering it in cling film and popping it in the fridge. You can then just heat it up at 180o for 20 minutes. If anything, it actually tastes better the next day.

Now my family have always described this potato accompaniment as "Gratin Dauphinoise". Something I have continued unquestioningly. But I have heard those arguments from others who say that this is not a "true" gratin. So to those people, let me just say "bollocks! It bloody is! Right!" and let that be an end to the matter.