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Sunday, 31 July 2011

DON'T FORGET PLYMOUTH FLAVOUR FEST 2011

Plymouth's Flavour fest returns for its eighth year from Friday 19Th August to Sunday 21st August 2011. This years Flavour fest will attract over 100 food stalls with lots on offer from local food producers!

Flavour fest 2011 will kicks off with an opening ceremony taken by the current Lord Mayor from 09.45 Friday morning. Saturday will see live cooking demos from Celebrity TV cook Ching He Huang who published Chinese Food Made easy and presented the accompanying TV series. Ching is scheduled to cook at 12.45pm and again at 3pm.

Plymouth's very own TV chefs and popular restaurateurs The Tanner Brothers will be cooking live on Friday morning at 10.30am, with Peter Gorton taking the stage at 2pm.
Jacques Marchal former proprietor of Chez Nous, Plymouth's only restaurant to ever be awarded a Michelin star will be demonstrating on Sunday at 10am. Joining the well known on stage will be several of Plymouth and Devon's best loved local Restaurateurs and produce sellers.

You can find Flavour Fest situated within Plymouth city centre in and around the big screen, down to Place De Brest at the beginning of Armada Way

Saturday, 30 July 2011

el bulli CLOSES

From mini Golf course to worlds best restaurant with three Michelin stars, El bulli tonight served there last paying guests!
The iconic restaurant is closing for three years to reopen as a culinary think tank in 2014.
Ferran Adria and business partner Juli Soler have remained single minded in changing the face of modern cooking, whilst operating at a loss each year. Some say that el bulli put Spain on the culinary radar, is that true? Well it certainly helped, but Spain has a culinary history as long and proud as those two culinary powerhouse neighbours France and Italy, perhaps even without the pretencions.
What was so special about el bulli, well to be honest i wouldn't know i never managed to secure a reservation. With 2 million requests for 8000 places each six month season (el bulli closes for the remaining six months for new dishes to be developed),a lot of people were never going to eat there. It was reported in the Observer food monthly a few years back that Ferran Adria's own mother couldn't even manage to book a table for dinner. El bulli bought the culinary world to attention with his new textures and cooking methods, he introduced the heavily abused FOAM to every Chef with a siphon. Ferran Adria labelled his cusine de-constructivism others labelled it Molecular Gastronomy a term he does not use alongside others like Thomas Kellar. His cuisine is innovative, inquisitive and forward thinking. Dishes were deconstructed - taken apart and reassembled to look and taste different while still keeping the essence of the dish. Not only did Ferran, Juli and his brother Albert, along with a handful of trusted full time staff change the way modern chefs looked at cooking they also changed Restaurant service with multi course menus taking the place of a la carte. Tapas was reborn into 30-40 small courses that mixed the sweet and savoury worlds leading to Avant Garde creativity, they have also played a hand in training some of the most exciting kitchen talent of the 21st century, think Rene Redzepi(NOMA), Jason Atherton(MAZE) and Andoni Aduriz(MUGARITZ) to name but a few. Most of these chefs worked as stagaires for free for the chance to learn from probably the most creative kitchen team in world. All is not lost as el bulli hotel remains open just outside Seville. Ferran Adria's Two Michelin starred La Alqueria restaurant situated within the hotel, serves dishes from season's past menus. Also in the hotel they reportedly serve the worlds best breakfast!


Interestingly on Yahoo's news page there is an article about the closure, with some rather interesting comments, most from people who spend most of there time writing anonymous half assed comments on subjects they know nothing about! Most commenter's had probably never heard of el bulli before tonight's Yahoo headline. Ferran Adria and el bulli were not to every one's taste, and this was well known, but hardly anyone alive can claim to have started a new cuisine and to have pushed the boundaries to new heights with a lot more to come.

Monday, 25 July 2011

INSTANT COFFEE - MILK BEFORE WATER?

The question remains does instant Coffee taste better if you put the Milk in first or the boiling water?

A good friend recently picked up on my pouring the hot water direct onto the Coffee then adding Milk, his rational being that the boiling water scolds the Coffee therefor adding a burnt note? This is a simple dilemma that had never really crossed my mind before that day. I would be interested on some feedback in the comment section if anyone has the time.

Being British and enjoying the odd cup of rosy lee, i am fully aware of some superstition surrounding which way to stir the tea bag, and of which i hold no faith to this simple old house wives tale, but i am rather taken by the dilemma of Milk first! Now i have asked myself countless times if the Coffee does indeed taste better with Milk? I do believe that the Coffee does in fact taste better. For years i have poured on boiling water and put the scolded taste down to the instant Coffee and not a simple process of order!

Obviously a lot of people drink instant at home or in the workplace and some will only be connoisseur's of filter or ground Coffee, unfortunately i am not at liberty to possess a Coffee machine so instant it has to be!

Milk first or boiling Water?

HEALTHY EATING WENT OUT THE WINDOW

Did i really think that the healthy eating fad would last? To be honest NO! I was hoping to be able to write a post saying hey i lost 40lb, not bloody likely. So it is back to the daily grind of eating whatever is available. This is not really a problem as most leftovers in this household are foods that were cooked from scratch, admittedly the first meal is the more refined with the next day or so, something that is thrown together. Surely a lot of great recipes come from leftovers? Well not all, but a good percentage of meals and new recipes that probably stay only in your own household, end up as family standbys.
So lets forget Diets, save the environment and hopefully start writing this bloody blog again!
Hopefully in the coming weeks i will start writing some good recipes, as money has been a bit tight this last couple of months, expect frugality!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

CURRIED ROASTED PARSNIP AND APPLE SOUP

Soups do not come much simpler than this! As i said in the previous post we are eating healthy at present, so much of our food at present is not refined or finished with little goodies like butter. Apple is added to the soup to balance out the sweetness of the roasted Parsnip.


1.2 litres of stock(chicken or veg)
500g Parsnips
1 apple(cored,skin on)
1 medium onion
1 tbsp of medium curry powder
1 tsp of turmeric
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Thyme(garnish with fresh thyme)

Peel and quarter the parsnip,season with salt and pepper, add a little olive oil and roast in a hot oven till cooked through and crispy. Chop one onion and saute over a low heat in a little oil. When the onions are soft and translucent, season, add the apple and saute for three minutes, then the curry powder and turmeric, saute for a further two minutes(add a little stock if to dry). Add stock and parsnips bring to the boil, blend either with a stick blender or food processor.
Garnish with Thyme, serve.

This will make just under 2 litres of soup. We also make this soup with a little potato added, sometimes substituting 100g of the Parsnip.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

HEALTHY EATING - SOUPS

A collection of recipes that hopefully i will update regularly. These recipes are not refined, but honest tasty soup recipes that we are currently trying out. In reality you can soup a whole host of different ingredients and more often than not achieve a tasty soup. Some soups will have a base of water opposed to stock, as we are trying to keep this Healthy as possible, while maintaining taste. However what soups do use water, appropriate stock can be replaced and no doubt we will also replace with stock from time to time. The use of water instead of stock, will also appeal to those who need to take a thrifty approach to feeding large families and with good fresh ingredients can allow principle flavours to shine. Please do not be put off by the wording of Healthy in the title, as it does not apply to bland. Most people have a different preference for texture of soups. Some soups will be chunky, some will be purees. If you do use any of these recipes, soup to your preference, if you feel they are good enough to serve to friends or at a dinner party take appropriate measures to pass through a sieve a couple of times for a little refinement and add garnishes at your whim.


ROASTED SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH FENNEL AND ALMOND (V)

600g sweet potato - peeled and cut into large chunks
4 garlic cloves - skin on
1 medium onion - skin on
1 apple - skin on and cored (do not use a mac,pad or phone)
25g flaked almonds, plus extra for garnish
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika - if smoked not at hand do not add a Benson and hedges, normal paprika is fine.
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
600ml of water for thick soup/ increase in 100ml increments if thinner soup desired

Spices

1 tsp of fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
5 peppercorns
1/2 tsp of Maldon or similar sea salt


Pre-heat oven to 200c, peel sweet potato,cutting into thick chunks, place on a roasting tray with garlic and onion,season and drizzle with olive oil. Cook till sweet potato is tender.
While waiting for the roast you have two options either twiddle your thumbs or get on with grounding the spices. You should have chosen option two. If you were clever and chose option two, remove roasted veg from oven, skin garlic and onion, add to a blender alongside cored apple,almonds and smoked paprika. Blend adding water to create your soup. Pour out into a pan and adjust seasoning if desired.

To use as a puree on a fat day, this would go superbly with a nice piece of fatty pork. Of course you do not have to be having a fat day to use as a puree, if using as a puree only add 300ml of water.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Thursday, 2 December 2010

FIVE STOPS THREE COUNTRYS AND A COLONY


Two years, two long bloody years with no foreign travel. Somewhere somehow two years salary disappears bills,mortgage and other mundane aspects of the daily grind which unfortunately we have to pay for.
The two year hiatus is over, a trip is planned - Morocco, Gibraltar, Spain and Portugal.
For fiance it's relaxation time, how she purposed to relax is beyond the scope of this entry or any other entry for that matter. It was her idea you see to go overland
from Marrakesh to Faro - Portugal making the travel plan as we go, using trains, buses, taxis and the odd ship!
For myself however relaxation was never on the agenda, knowing full well and with a dearth of travel behind me, a five stop three country and a colony for good measure was going to be anything but relaxation. What do you do in times like this - think of the food of course!
Morocco had to be the biggest let down of the trip by far! Of course plenty of time was spent immersed amongst the labyrinth like souks which fan in all directions from the Djemaa Al-Fna, but still full from a filling but mundane hotel breakfast we somehow managed to miss the fun of local eating on the first full day. Tajine's were consumed on the trip but not anything like i was hoping for! The problem must lie with the massive influx of tourists? Every Tom,Dick and Abdul was offering Tajine or other local speciality's. Whilst I'm fully aware that some Tajine's go to the community Hammans to be cooked slowly in the residual heat, also being made by expert hands, we on the other hand must have consumed the tourist quota!
The one missing link on our behalf was not trying the market stands that appear on the Djemaa Al-Fla as dusk approaches, we were there but Photography was also very high on the agenda. On reflection this probably would have fulfilled the foodie obligation of seeking authentic good food, so sadly, a missed opportunity but in this day and age only a short hop on a cheap flight we will be sure to sample the Djemaa again.
Of course Morocco isn't all about Tagine's, Brochettes and Shawarma were devoured with gutso and fiance's sweet tooth took a bit of abuse with the vast array of sweet delights and pastries, perhaps a legacy of the French but certainly ingrained in society.

Next stop on the Marrakesh express,- Rabat the capital, a charming leafy city with wide boulevards, tree lined streets, a less bustling Medina and the odd pick pocket.
While only a fleeting visit, miles were walked amongst these charming streets. Food wise most Moroccan staples could be found on offer but whether or not it was the moment or the toast was really that good, what we ate in the cafe on Rue Ghazza was truly memorable. Fresh French bread with butter and local orange marmalade, with good strong coffee!
I have as yet managed to place what part was so special, but i imagine it was the combination of the four. (Cafe is opposite Hotel Splendid Rue Ghazza)

For our second journey on Morocco's limited but excellent rail network we travelled straight through to Tangier just in time for the 1400hrs sailing to Tarifa Andalusia, our end destination to be Gibraltar.
Gibraltar was to be our home away from home for four nights, however i wouldn't recommend turning up looking for a hotel as there is only seven. We were lucky to find a room in the Cheapest hotel on the rock - The Cannon.
A good little hotel with friendly staff. Rooms start at £42 a double with shared bathroom rising to 50+ with own bathroom.
Just round the corner on Main street you will find The Horseshoe pub with the ever entertaining Abdul managing the bar - just don't tell him your age, it could end up a rich topic of conversation!
Restaurants are one a penny throughout the rock, as are pubs serving food but most follow the standard pattern of British pub grub with Spanish staples on the menu! Amusingly most pubs appear to have a serious sachet fetish! You name it they have it in a sachet!

With a start in La Linea across the border we headed up to Seville by bus. Four hours later with a good look at the Andalusian countryside and a stop in every village, Seville greeted us with a downpour and a mist you could set a Stephen king horror to!
Weather aside what a delightful city steeped in culture and the most amazing food.
Seville is one of the homes to Spanish Tapas and what a great time was had bar hopping and grazing. Most tapas are simple and with a very basic grasp of Spanish most bar menus are relatively simple to decipher.
Tapas are not the only delight of Seville with several Bodegas dotted around the city where great sherry from Jerez and neighbouring producers that can be drank alongside small plates of hearty food.
But as always ulterior motives play at least some part in most travel plans and all was revealed on the second day - Jamon Iberico bellota!
As some of the best Ham in the world is produced in Andalusia this had to be the place to sample and buy, but i will leave that for another post along with the authentic Tortilla Espanola i have been trying to perfect!

Last stage was a through bus to Faro - Portugal, which was not without incident!
E U borders are not normally that interesting unless Obama and the rest of NATO are in town.
Before we could even say Portugal we were hauled into a makeshift Immigration post complete with concrete barriers strewn across the four lane motorway. Police,Immigration and several mean looking albeit not long out of diapers GNR officers were all over the bus!
With in minutes we were turned back to Spain due too an American backpacking kid not having his passport. The miserable shit of a driver was going to leave him on the side of the Motorway in the middle of nowhere, but sensed an on board mutiny, so agreed to drop him to a local town!
Back over the border and through the same tedious, mundane fiasco yet again. The GNR kindergarten cops going through every millimeter of every bag en route to Lisbon.
Now interestingly there was only four or five passengers disembarking in Faro, and our bags were left alone. Now if you wanted to disrupt a gathering with heightened security would you take a direct route? I certainly would not. While i realise Portuguese Police might not be the best in the land, the whole fiasco was kind of complete Bullshit. Why check all bags but four? To top off the fiasco some clown from Bomb squad boarded the bus, not sure what he was trying to find but i doubt he could even find the Bunsen burner in second year Chemistry!
Eventually arriving after a two hour delay to our last stop Faro. A bed for three nights at the Residential Dandy, strange name, even stranger place but all the same very quaint with a very helpful and cheerful owner.
A nice place to while away a day or two with plenty of restaurants offering the same fish and seafood dishes at not so cheap prices!
We did most of our eating in a French run place two streets back from The Dandy which was homely with a good little crowd of staff!

An interesting little trip that Spain has managed to put a culinary spark back in this mans life!!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK



Childhood memories of Bubble, still fresh in the mind, crispy fried potatoes with leftover veg, gravy from yesterdays roast, maybe a little meat on the side if we were lucky!
Bubble and squeak is a traditional British dish, very similar to Colcannon the Irish favourite. Surprisingly this dish has a little lore to help it along with it own piece of cockney rhyming slang "BUBBLE AND SQUEAK- GREEK". The term bubble applies to the noise that the mashed potato makes when fried, and if cooked the traditional way as a giant Pattie is does indeed bubble as it cooks as for the squeak it is said that the cabbage makes it own noise, squeaking as it cooks!
Traditionally Cabbage is added or in place Brussels sprouts, in reality recipes evolve over time, i like too add some parsley and chives but this is in no way traditional. All manner of leftover veg can be added, but for now we will stick with good old Cabbage.

RECIPE;

500g floury potatoes
50g butter (unsalted)
200-400g Cabbage- shredded centre stalk removed
1 onion - sliced
20g flat parsley
10g chives
Sea salt
Black pepper
oil(olive,veg,sunflower)3-4 tbsp
Hot milk 1-3 tbsp (optional)


THE MASH

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain, mash in the pan with butter,parsley and chives, season to taste with salt and pepper. If the mash is too dense you can add a little hot milk, but you do not want a wall paper paste consistency!

THE SQUEAK

Add half the oil to a heavy based saute pan, fry the onion and cabbage for 3 -4 minutes until softened. Season well with salt and pepper, add the mash.

THE BUBBLE

Press the mash firmly down into the pan and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes. You will find that the mash bubbles, hence the name! You will need at this point, to continue to keep the mash in contact with the base of the pan, a good crisp base is what we are looking for.
After or when satisfied that the base is crispy enough, place a suitable sized plate over the saute pan and invert so that the Pattie is now on the plate. Place the rest of the oil into the saute pan and slide the Pattie back in, uncooked side to the base of the pan, cook for a further 5 minutes or until satisfied with crispness.

Turn out onto a plate and serve immediately!

NOTES

Alternatively form into small Patties and fry until crisp on both sides! Bubble and squeak is great eaten as supper or as a breakfast dish with fried eggs and bacon or even served alone, or with eggs. Traditionally eaten on mondays or the day after a roast.This is a dish of thrift using leftovers, fresh ingredients really shine when paired with mash and fried. Broccoli,kale and sprouts are all good, adjust cooking times accordingly. As kids all manner of veg would appear from cauliflower to carrots.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE

Being truthful i was never a fan of cauliflower as a child. Why oh why would i want to eat something that looks cross between an albino brain and a bonsai tree on steroids?
Well there are several reasons really, Honest! Cauliflowers are nutritious, low in calories, cheap and have super food status - Unfortunately when your a child none of these reasons really amount too much! That is until you pour a good cheese sauce over the florets and bake in an oven.
Thankfully as I've matured so has my palette, so i find myself enjoying just cooked cauliflower with a sprinkle of sea salt and a turn of black pepper, with the cheese sauce as a treat occasionally. Cauliflower cheese although often relegated to veggie frozen food fodder, should be a treat. A good cauliflower cheese can stand alone or be served as a side say with roast meats, particularly roast beef!

RECIPE;
Serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main.

1 lge head of cauliflower(outer foliage removed)
200g mature Cheddar(grated)
1 small onion
400ml of milk(semi or whole)
75g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
5 black peppercorns(whole)
3 cloves(whole)
1 bay leaf(torn)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
5 tsp double cream(optional)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese(optional)
Pinch of chilli powder(optional)
Pinch of ground mace(optional)
Nutmeg to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper(Please remember that pepper has already been used and that you may have sufficient salt from the cheese).

METHOD;
Roughly chop the onion and place in a pan with the milk,cloves,black pepper corns and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil, take off heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil(1 tsp of salt per a litre of water).Trim Cauliflower of foliage, cut into bite sized florets. Cook for 8-10 minutes,drain and reserve.
Just before the end of the milk infusion time, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted gradually sieve plain flour into the butter, stirring to form a roux. This is the basis of the white sauce. Once a smooth paste has formed-free of lumps, strain the infused milk into the roux, whilst stirring at all times. Once incorporated gradually add the cheese. Once smooth add Dijon mustard and double cream-if using.
Adjust seasoning if required and add optional mace and/or chilli if desired.
Placed reserved Cauliflower florets into an ovenproof dish and pour on the cheese sauce, place into a preheated oven 190/375f/gas 5 for 15 minutes, remove, add a grating of nutmeg too taste and the Parmesan cheese. Return too the oven and remove when browned.

NOTES;

While not a standard cheese sauce for cauliflower, and probably not the easiest recipe around the effort is worth it, as they say the proof is in the pudding!
All manner of extra ingredients could be used crispy bacon or pancetta could be added along with breadcrumbs for the final browning. Chopped chives,horseradish sauce or English mustard could be used instead. You could add cooked pasta too the recipe for a hybrid of Macaroni cheese. Really, variations could be endless.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

CHIANG MAI CURRY PASTE - NAM PRIK GAENG HANGLAY

Another great Thai curry paste, a good paste to start learning with as the ingredient list is not exhaustive.

3 long dried chillies seeds removed and reconstituted in water for 8-12 minutes
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tbsp galangal- skinned and chopped
2 tbsp lemongrass lower 1/3 chopped
2 tbsp purple asian shallots chopped
1 tbsp garlic smashed
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric skinned and chopped or pwdered if unavailable

METHOD;

Using a pestle and mortar pound all of the ingredients, starting with the hardest first until you form a smooth paste. Alternatively make the paste in a blender/liquidizer with a touch of water if too dry.

Makes 3-4 tbsp

YELLOW CURRY PASTE - NAM PRIK GAENG GAREE

Another great paste from Thailand, less ingredients than the previous two, but just as delicious!

1/2 tsp salt
12 big red dried chillies - seeds removed, soaked in water for 8 - 12 minutes, then finely chopped
1 tbsp galangal- skinned and chopped
4 tbsp lemongrass- lower 1/3 finely chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste

METHOD;

Pound in a pestle and mortar, until smooth. Alternatively for an easier but not so good result place in a blender/liquidizer to form a smooth paste, a touch of water may be needed!

Will make 4-5 tbsp

THAI GREEN CURRY PASTE - NAM PRIK GAENG KHEO WAN

As in most curry pastes a mix of dried and fresh ingredients are used. This is a good and versatile green paste, that is made in the same way as the previous red paste!

INGREDIENTS;

1 tsp coriander seeds - roasted until fragrant and coloured
1/2 tsp cumin seeds -roasted until fragrant and coloured
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp galangal
3 tbsp lemongrass-white lower 1/3- finely chopped
1 tsp kaffir lime peel- chopped or 2 finely shredded lime leaves
2 tbsp coriander root- chopped(see note)
2 tbsp asian shallots(purple)- chopped
1 tbsp garlic - smashed
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric- skinned and chopped or dried if fresh not available
20 small green chillies
1 good handful of sweet basil leaves

METHOD;

As with the red paste start with the hardest ingredients first, which in this case would naturally be the dried spices. Pound to a powder, then add remaining ingredients, starting with the hardest(lemongrass). Pound until paste is smooth - 10 -15 minutes. Alternatively place in a blender/liquidizer, you may need to moisten with a touch of water.

Makes 4-5 tbsp

NOTES;

If coriander root is unavailable, use the stems from a coriander plant, or nearest to where the root was to be found. Unfortunately most shops and suppliers sell coriander rootless! The logic behind using the roots is that the coriander plant draws its nutrients and flavour through the roots therefor these will provide a superior flavour!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

THAI RED CURRY PASTE - NAM PRIK GAENG PHED

Who doesn't love Thai curry, this recipe was shown to me by a Thai, so is pretty authentic. The paste is made up of dried and fresh ingredients, and is worth the effort to make, shop bought pastes and sauces will not even come close to this paste. In Thailand cooks learn to judge the balance by smell, but that is best left to Thai's, or David Thompson, that practice is far too advanced for myself or novice paste makers. If you do happen to make this paste, i would not worry first time round about tring to judge the balance as you can correct this at the cooking stage. After a couple of attempts you can taste as you go!

RECIPE;

Dried ingredients;
1 tbsp coriander seeds (roasted until fragrant)
2 cardamon pods (roasted until fragrant)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of salt
10 big dried red chillies - seeds removed and pre-soaked in water for 10 minutes, then finely chopped.

5g galangal
5g lemongrass-chopped (white bottom piece)
5g kaffir lime peel - (alternatively use 2 lime leaves center stem removed and finely chopped. Kaffir limes are harder to come by in the west, kaffir lime leaves are easily bought frozen).
10g coriander root - chopped i(f not available use 10g of the stems closest to the roots)
15g shallots -(chopped) small asian shallots with pink skins
15g garlic - crushed
5g shrimp paste
10 small red chillies

METHOD;

Place the dried ingredients into a pestle and mortar,grind to a powder. Add the rest of the ingredients,hardest first and pound to a smooth paste. This can take long time but the result is well worth the effort.
I find that adding an ingredient at a time and pounding is easier to work with, else the mortar is overloaded. Alternatively add all of the ingredients to a blender or spice grinder, and blitz to a smooth paste. You might need to loosen the ingredients with a little water. This method is not as good as the latter but does make a suitable paste.

YIELD;

4-5 TBSP

The paste can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container and can be frozen, but the flavour will diminish.

Monday, 16 November 2009

THAI SWEET CHILLI BURGER WITH CUCUMBER

My fiance has an aversion to chilli and fish sauce yet eats these two wonderful ingredients unknowingly quite often. "why you putting fish sauce in everything?" she said. So i have to go through the monotony yet again of explaining why for one i do not put fish sauce in everything and for two, the use of chilli does not have to mean HEAT! After yet again explaining that the fish sauce has a purpose, and yet again that "no it won't taste fishy", i eventually with some simple explanations manage to make some inkling of sense. You see when i cook food containing Fish sauce or chilli she is normally busying herself elsewhere, so does not see what goes into the dish only the finished meal. Then i go through my usual response and try to remind her that Worcester sauce is in fact made with Anchovies, and this super ingredient she uses quite liberally, in different dishes, with no ill effect.
Anyhow back to the burgers. For a while now i have been wanting to make beef burgers with sweet chilli sauce, and serve them in buns with sliced cucumber! Nothing special, probably bizarre to your average fast food customer, but the result was pleasing and the Fish sauce fiance enjoyed, for me it was just taking ingredients that i enjoy and bringing them together. If you have had the pleasure of eating cucumber in a fish sauce based Thai dipping sauce, then we will more than likely be on the same wavelength!

MAKES 6-8 - DEPENDING ON SIZE

RECIPE;
500g lean mince beef
2 tbsp of Thai sweet chilli sauce(shop bought condiment)
2 tsp of Thai fish sauce
1 small onion (finely chopped)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Sliced and peeled cucumber

METHOD;
Place the finely chopped onion and mince into a food processor and pulse till it forms a ball. Remove and place into a mixing bowl make a well in the middle and add the chilli and fish sauce, and black pepper to taste. Mix using your hands and form into patties of your desired size , season with salt and pepper. Best cooked on a griddle or griddle pan. Cook to your liking, about 6-8 minutes does the trick! Of course you can cook these under the grill or shallow fry.

TO SERVE;
Rest the burgers for a couple of minutes, meanwhile wipe the griddle of excess fat, then toast your buns or alternatively grill the buns and serve with a little melted strong chedder if desired and sliced cucumber.

SUPER SIMPLE OVEN CHIPS VERY FLUFFY INSIDE AND WONDERFULLY CRISP

Please excuse the title, but imagine if your regular frozen oven chip was big, i mean big, not the size of some pathetic overweight matchstick but nice and fat, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, you would be over the moon right? Well I'm going to tell you how......................OK, enough of the sales talk but i got your attention with my cheesy 80's sale's pitch eh! Well since our seldom used deep fat fryer was relegated to the recycling plant or maybe even revitalised by one of the ever numerous totters , we have been without chips! Not fries but Chips, big fat humdingers, maybe not Mr Blumenthal quality but definitely bloody good chips. Do not do frozen, so homemade oven chips it is, again lest i bore you - big fat chips! Now too the point , honestly i feel that the key to great homemade oven chips is the size. Size is everything right girls, well and technique some might say, but size is the key here. You need enough surface area for the crisping process and enough inside to benefit from the full fluffy effect, not enough and your not going to notice the creamy fluffiness that melts on your tongue after biting through the crispy exterior! Now debates rage on about potato varieties that are best suited, but personal choice for me is King Edwards, followed by Maris Pipers, but other varieties of floury spuds will do the trick.

RECIPE;
Choose your potatoes, give them a peel, and slice into big chips. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, whilst waiting, heat the oven to 220C/gas 7/450 F. Find a suitable tray or roasting tin and place a film of sunflower oil or olive oil over the base(3-4 tbsp). Place the tray into the oven. Once the water is boiling place your chips into the water, bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain then place into the hot oil, coat with the oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper, back into the oven for 35- 40 minutes or until golden brown. Turn occasionally.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

PARSNIP AND LENTIL SOUP WITH FENUGREEK AND ALMONDS

I like to eat this as a soup but allowing to thicken will give a wonderful lentil - curry like texture. The parsnips are added to the pan first to ensure thorough cooking to the point of overcooked. This is the beauty of this dish, the contrast in textures between the lentils, parsnips and blanched almonds, giving an incredible crunch against the softness of the parsnip and slight give in the lentils.

Serves 4- 6

RECIPE;
3 tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter (optional)
6 parsnips (cut into bite sized pieces)
300g red split lentils (washed)
1 large onion (finely sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 litre of good chicken stock
1 tsp of red wine vinegar
sea salt
whole blanched almonds
fresh coriander to garnish

SPICES;

2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp of ground coriander seed
1 tsp of ground cumin seed
1 tsp of black peppercorns (finely ground)
1 tsp of fenugreek
1 tsp of turmeric

METHOD;

Saute the parsnips in the olive oil until starting to colour, add onion and garlic, add the butter allow the onion to soften then add all of the spices, stir to combine then add tomato puree. Allow to cook for 1 minute then add stock and lentils. Bring to the boil for ten minutes then turn down to a simmer. Add 1 tsp of red wine vinegar and allow to simmer for 25 - 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked . If a soup consistency is preferred, top up with boiling water. Check for seasoning throughout cooking, be mindful of saltiness if using bought stock.

TO SERVE;
Ladle into bowls or similar receptacles sprinkle fresh chopped coriander and blanched almonds.

Monday, 19 October 2009

SPICED RED LENTIL SOUP WITH CARROT

Is it not funny how some ingredients you eat time and time again but never actually cook. This has always been the case with lentils, but boy can i eat them, but never have i cooked them -that is until now! I am not ashamed to admit that i have nearly purchased on many occasions but shy away, probably through fear of a kitchen disaster. So i found myself with a 500g packet of red split lentils, a handful of ideas - but the last of the weeks shopping. Not a problem as i have always prided myself on the ability to make good use of leftovers and sparse ingredients!

THE RECIPE;

SERVES 6;
250g red split lentils (washed and drained)
6 medium carrots (roughly chopped)
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 large onion (sliced)
1 litre of good chicken stock or veg stock
1 tbsp of tomato puree plus 1 teaspoon
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 cm piece of fresh ginger (finely chopped)
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp of cumin (freshly ground)
1 tsp of coriander (freshly ground)
10 black peppercorns (freshly ground)
1 tsp of turmeric
Sea salt

METHOD;
Heat a large enough pan with the olive oil, once hot add the onions,garlic and ginger and saute for 5 minutes (do not allow to burn). After 5 minutes add the spices and tomato puree - cook for 1 minute, add the carrots cook for a further minute then add the stock and lentils. Bring to the boil and allow to cook for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat and simmer for a further 35 minutes. You will more than likely have to top up with boiling water during simmering, how much depends on how thick you like your soup. Check for seasoning during cooking, but be aware of salt levels if not using homemade stock.

NOTE;
This is a very economical dish to make, and very healthy, you could cut back on the olive oil to 2 tbsp. You do not have to stop at just the soup. Various garnishes could be added on serving or just eat with Naan or flat bread. A small knob of unsalted butter in each dish is a welcome addition and some crisp fried onions could be added great texture.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

LE CHAMPIGNON SAUVAGE

Birthdays, believe it or not this one time of year that most thirty plus people dread need not be such a time for depressive episodes or those sleepless nights staring into space that even sheep counting cannot pacify, tossing and turning whilst worrying about wrinkles and such. Use this magical time in your life as an excuse to visit a top restaurant, this is exactly what we did recently. The restaurant in question Le Champignon Sauvage just happens to be an all time favourite of ours, so much so that it could possibly leave us in danger of not visiting any other establishments for the foreseeable future. I do not feel for this reason that i can give an unbiased account of our meal this time or on the previous visits but what i can do is tell you about the wonderful experience that Le Champignon Sauvage offers, the beautiful cooking, the warm welcome and great ambiance.

First a little background Le Champignon Sauvage is located in Cheltenham - Gloucestershire, nestling on the edge of the delightful Cotswold's. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team with a very small brigade in the kitchen and two extra staff front of house. The couple are probably one of the most respected in the restaurant industry, due to there dedication to there restaurant with David never missing a kitchen service since opening. Helen his wife deserves equal credit for the way she runs the front of house. With two Michelin stars , 8/10 in the good food guide, 4 AA stars, Cateys,chef of the year and a list of awards and achievements too long to list, this is a serious restaurant at the top of it's game but without a hint of attitude. As paying customers you are made more than welcome. The meal will start with elegant little Gougeres, lovingly handmade at the restaurant, then a shot glass of soup with a froth or foam on top. Pea and coconut is just one of the few we have had. These two amuses are as much a part of the restaurant as the two michelin stars. Breads are too die for, normally presented in 3 -4 different variety's, and all hand baked on the premises. There is a choice of two menus one priced at £25 for two courses and £30 for three courses, which allows you to substitute a cheese course for dessert or cheese as a separate course for £9 supplement (cheese comes with handmade biscuits and bread ,made on the premises).The second menu is priced at £45 for two courses, £55 for three courses or £64 for three courses and cheese. The second menu naturally makes use of more expensive ingredients such as scallops. Coffee and petit fours are £3 per a person and really showcase the skill that this establishment operates at. Mini rum baba, chocolates and nougat can be found among the offerings. The style of cooking is French with inspiration coming from across the globe. Although the cooking has it's roots in the Terroir modern methods are embraced but not abused, and clever use of wild and foraged foods abound. This restaurant proves that good ingredients, skills and knowledge can produce exceptional food from sometimes humble ingredients. On my last visit to start, i ordered a Thai vegetable broth with lemongrass oil which actually tasted of Thailand rather than a miss matched grouping of south east Asian ingredients, for main course i had lamb with Moroccan spices and a chick pea puree, which had been elevated to new heights.

David Everitt Matthias is perhaps one of the only truly world class chefs that Britain has produced as not many can claim the level of skill, knowledge and expertise across all departments in the kitchen and not forgetting skills in wild foods and butchery. I like to think of David Everitt Matthias as Britain's answer to Thomas Keller, but as the saying goes behind every great man is a women and this truly is the case. What would Le Champignon Sauvage be with only excellent cooking, the whole experience is not just based on food alone. The service from the start to finish is truly great with everyone made to feel a part of the restaurant experience.

But the one question i have and i do know others often ask, is why do they only have two Michelin stars? Is it because thirty staff are not on hand? The cooking is of three star quality and the service can match. It is about time Michelin gave this restaurant the credit that is so deserved.


24-28 Suffolk Road

Cheltenham

Gloucestershire

GL50 2AQ

  • Tel . 01242 573449

Open for lunch and dinner tuesday to saturday.

Monday, 31 August 2009

CASAMIA - RESTAURANT WESTBURY ON TRYM

Finding westbury to the north of Bristol was not in its self a big problem, finding Casamia proved to be a little harder. Set back from the high street behind a wrought iron gate you find a rather quaint alley leading to the entrance door of the restaurant. Casamia is a family run restaurant with Dad front of house and the two sons in the kitchen, originally a main stream Italian but now following the Molecular gastronomy route with ultra modern cooking. Italian influences are still evident amongst the menu which recently helped the restaurant and cooking to achieve a coveted michelin star in the 2009 guide.

With two different menu's on offer this lunch time, we opted for the lunch menu as time was not to our advantage, this menu was then offered at £20 for three courses. On being seated we were presented with a small loaf of bread cut into five slices, apart from the odd number and ensuing argument as there was two of us and five slices, the bread was exceptional , moist, warm and great textured, a real treat, seeing how two of our Michelin 3 starred restaurants buy there bread in!

Although a little slow to start with, the service gradually improved once the wait staff eventually ceased handing out little glasses and showing off with isi syphons, although not a part of the lunch menu some tables were seated after us and received the gas drinks while we were seated empty handed. For first courses my partner had the pigeon and i opted for the beetroot risotto with pickled fennel, pistachios and iced yogurt. The risotto was flavourful if a little pungent, resulting in a good cough on a couple of occasions. The dish was good but the very small portion size, made it a struggle to eat, with all of the accompaniments a deeper beetroot flavour would have been more welcome. Second courses arrived with my partner opting for slow roast pork and salisfy, myself olive oil poached salmon, chicken wing and Jerusalem artichoke puree the salmon had benefited from the olive oil poaching no doubt sous vide leaving a very agreeable moist piece of fish that deserved recognition, as for the inclusion of the chicken wing was it there to make up the numbers we shall never know. My partner's slow roast pork was succulent and a little try of the salisfy was a first for us both, on too dessert i opted for the chocolate tart with beetroot ice cream, it struck as strange in a restaurant cooking at this level to have principle ingredients repeated, although the ice cream had a wonderful texture and good flavour, sadly you needed a magnifying glass to spot the chocolate tart. The chocolate tart was fair showing good technical
skill, but sadly did not pack a big enough punch to warrant it minuscule size. On the other side of the table an angelica ice cream with mango was duly finished and so i am told was rather good.


Not a bad meal but not exceptional either, while far better than any offering in my home town of Plymouth. Following the route of molecular gastronomy is not an easy path. Judgments become clouded, portions become small and sometimes you just want something to eat! This establishment has great potential, and maybe i have lost my patience with Ultra modern cooking, but flashes of brilliance are most definately in the background with the bread and the salmon, while the presentation could hold it's own in any establishment in this country!

We paid approximately £60 for two with two bottled beers and one glass of house wine. At present the lunch pricing is slightly higher starting at £25 per head. Two menus are offered with vegaterian dishes on request.



CASAMIA

38 HIGH STREET
WESTBURY ON TRYM
BRISTOL
BS9 3DZ
ENGLAND
TEL : 0117 959 2884
http://www.casamiarestaurant.co.uk/

TAHINI SAUCE

A simple sauce made from that staple of the middle east, Tahini. Tahini is made from sesame seeds and is an essential ingredient to various dishes from the middle east including hummous and Baba ganoush. Tahini sauce can be a wonderful accompaniment to grilled or roasted veg, or even crudite, Fish and falafel pair well, but if like me you can throw out the rule book and eat the sauce with what you fancy or use as a salad dressing!

RECIPE;
3 tbsp of tahini paste
2 cloves garlic
1 lime or lemon if preferred
Water(cold)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

METHOD;
Using a pestle and mortar pound the garlic with a small pinch of sea salt, when pounded to a paste add the Tahini and combine. Add the lime juice, taste and adjust to preferred seasoning. To achieve the right consistency thin with a little water adding a tablespoon at a time, the consistency should resemble thick cream.

Monday, 24 August 2009

FIVE SPICE POTATO AND ONION KEBABS

Absolutely delicious and very simple to make these kebabs ooze flavour. You will need kebab skewers preferably metal ones long enough to hold four baby new potatoes each. First make the marinade/basting liquid.


BASTE/MARINADE;
3 TBSP OF VEGATABLE OIL OR GROUNDNUT OIL
2 TSP OF CHINESE FIVE SPICE POWDER
VERY SMALL PINCH OF SALT

KEBABS;
4 METAL SKEWERS
16 BABY NEW POTATOES
ONION CUT INTO WEDGES
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
HALF A LIME


Blanch the new potatoes for 7-8 minutes in boiling water, drain. When cool enough to handle thread an onion wedge then a potato and so on till you end with an onion wedge, you should have four potatoes and five onion wedges. Place on a grill rack or in a roasting tray and baste all over with the marinade, season with salt and pepper, then place into a pre - heated oven (190c/375f/gas 5) for 35 minutes. You should have enough marinade for two more bastes during cooking.

TO SERVE;
Half a lime for four kebabs. Place the skewers onto a plate, and squeeze the juice of half a lime over the kebabs. This is a great side dish to serve with filled pitta breads or eat alone as a tasty snack.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

RESTAURANT GORDON RAMSAY

Amongst many people i know, the mention of Gordon Ramsay fields mixed reviews. A lot of people know him as the celebrity chef with lots of restaurants, and a big mouth, but not many in my circle realise the level that he cooks at, or should i say the level of cooking that his establishments strive for! Gordon Ramsay currently holds the third highest amount of Michelin stars in the world, which puts him in double figures with an empire that stretches from the far east to the US via Europe and South Africa. Gordon Ramsay's flag ship restaurant is where we found ourselves recently, situated in the heart of London's Chelsea amongst the six figurered price tag properties - with a wine list to match the wealth of the area and a well heeled clientele, hence Mr Ramsay's jacket required dress code. Being made to wear a jacket was not a good start for me as i am not and never will be a fan of wearing a jacket to lunch or dinner, so i was praying at the least for something spectacular. Now i must say in top restaurants there will normally be at least one embarrassing incident and not always the other half's fault, but for once this was plain sailing! With the wealth of experience and professionalism front of house, we were put at ease and made to feel more than welcome! The old saying first impressions count certainly rang true, but what is unique is the fact that this restaurant realises you have travelled to be there, realised that you have saved up for this meal and that there is every chance that it is a special occasion! These little touches are what make this establishment worth every little penny that changes hands, not an obnoxious waiter in sight or a snivelling Sommelier trying not too laugh at our poor choice of wine which incidentally was one of the cheapest on the list at £30 a bottle. Menu options were presented by the Maitre D - Jean Claude Breton along with general small talk about our visit and if a special occaison was being celebrated, which it was my birthday! We settled on the lunch menu at £45 per three courses. First we were presented with an amuse of sun dried tomato consomme with summer vegetables and langoustine which had a great depth of flavour, but a clean taste. First courses arrived shortly after with the Diane opting for a gratin of ceps and salad and myself a saffron rissotto with seafood, presented by three waiters and sauced at the table. Main courses of Daurade royale, navet carrots ,radish, baby gem lettuce and artichoke barigoule and slow roast pork belly with apples and Madeira jus followed quickly. The pork wonderfully tender and moist with the jus perfectly complimenting the dish. After declining the invitation of cheese(£8 supplement) we moved on to dessert. Rum baba ,gariguette strawberries ,lemon balm with vanilla ice cream was very good, but deep down i was envious of Diane's Banana parfait, passion fruit and salted caramel ice cream which looked delicious and sublime and of which i was duly informed was in fact excellent. On to coffee and chocolates and an unexpected surprise. White and dark individual chocolates presented on little spikes mimicking a tree of sorts were clever and very well made, these were closely followed by a small container spilling dry ice which contained white chocolate covered strawberry ice cream. Then a birthday surprise from the kitchen a little raspberry sorbet with a candle which was very novel and much appreciated but best of all you could taste the essence of raspberry. This was a nice touch from the restaurant as little thoughts like this do not cost much, but last forever in memories. As for embarrassing incidents we left unscathed apart from the the photo session, and a trip to the kitchen to meet the extremely talented head chef Clare Smyth.

In this day and age of odd flavour combinations that for the most part do not work and chemistry labs replacing kitchens and not forgetting the need for the periodic table on a plate, this was a welcome experience even if i had to wear a bloody jacket. The cooking is outstanding and the service excellent, with well executed and thought out dishes, presented nicely without the need for interference from picasso. Recent articles and reviews in cyberspace nod towards the vibe that Royal Hospital road is dated and not adding the wow factor, while this may be true for some, for others the cooking is excellent, classical and refined with enough modern touches to keep up to date with the avent garde of today.



Set lunch £45 - 3 courses
A la carte £90 - 3 courses
Menu prestige £120 - 7 courses


12.5 % gratuity on top of bill


Opening times: 12-2.30pm
18.30 - 23.00

Address: 68 Royal hospital road
London
SW3 4HP
TEL: 020 7352 4441
FAX: 020 7352 3334

Reservations on above number up to 2 months in advance, or 1 month on new online reservation system (lunch bookings only)


Dress code: Jackets preferred- no jeans

Restaurant website: http://www.gordonramsay.com/

Friday, 14 August 2009

PICKLED BEETROOT

Pickling and preservation have been such a part of our lives in times gone by - that cheap supermarket shopping and year round produce has not only de - skilled us as a nation but has removed the need to preserve what is at it's best when in season! The point of preservation was to preserve what would not be available and is somehow ironic now that the methods that were employed years ago that produced slightly different flavours to the original fresh product have become fashionable accompaniments. Here is our Pickled Beetroots, very easy to make!

TO COOK;

6 Beetroot

Wash the beetroot in cold water, then cut off the top and tail end leaving the skin intact. Place into unsalted boiling water for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs depending on size, if the skin comes away easily they are cooked or alternatively pierce with a sharp knife, if there is no give in the beetroot and the knife glides easily through they are ready.


TO PICKLE;

You will need the following;

1 litre/2 pints of malt vinegar

15g 0f Allspice

15g of Tellicherry black pepper corns or black pepper corns

2 bay leafs

6 cooked Beetroot

1 large jar or two medium (enough to hold the beetroot and vinegar)

Bring the pepper,spices,bay and vinegar to the boil, once boiling turn off the heat and allow to infuse. Allow the vinegar to go cold and strain. Slice the prepared beetroot into 5-6mm slices and place into sterilized jar/s, then pour over the cold vinegar, and if desired place the bay leaf/s into the jar/s or discard. Cover with clingfilm if using metal lids and close with a tight fitting lid. Allow 1 week before eating. Pickled beetroot will last up to 9 months in a sealed jar.

NOTE;

To sterilize the jars before use, place jars in boiling water for 10 minutes and allow to dry upside down on a clean tea towel or place into a dishwasher and allow a full cycle.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

SIMPLE SALAD CROUTONS

Take day old bread, cut into cubes and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Place into a pre-heated oven at 150c/275-300f/gas mark 1-2 for 25-30 minutes, turn croutons after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. These are the absolute basic of croutons and will need seasoning and additions of other flavours such as oil or herbs. Use for salads or soups. Croutons can be frozen or stored for a couple of days in an airtight container.

OLIVE OIL CROUTON SALAD WITH BABY PLUM TOMATO AND BASIL

Wickedly tasty salad that can be eaten as a snack or a starter in summer. Food cannot get any simpler than this, although this salad is dry you have a back ground of olive oil from the croutons and enough moisture from the the baby plum tomatoes to make this salad work!

RECIPE;

PER A PERSON - LET YOUR COMMON SENSE PREVAIL IF SERVING MORE THAN ONE AS A STARTER!!

12 olive oil croutons
2 baby plum tomatoes
5 basil leaves torn
1 tbsp of parmesan cheese
1 tsp of lemon
Pinch of sea sal and one good turn of the pepper mill.

Place the croutons and tomatoes in a serving dish/bowl, season with the salt and pepper. Scatter the basil leaves and grated parmesan then add the lemon. Serve!

NOTE;
Croutons can be frozen or stored for a couple of days in an airtight container.

CHILLI CON CARNE

Simple cooking at it's best! No claims here for authenticity, because like a lot of popular dishes there will always be elements of controversy, over origins and correct ingredients. The purist will go for no beans and some no doubt will claim small dice of meat over mince. But this is Britain and we are more concerned with feeding ourselves in this financial crisis, rather than having a petty spat over right wrong and who created. Talking controversy my recipe calls for instant coffee, preferably a rich coffee such as Gold Blend. Although first reactions from people at the mention of coffee in savoury dishes normally hails disbelief but believe me in the right quantities(very little) it gives a wonderful depth of flavour, reminiscent of beef!
Serves 4
RECIPE;
2 tbsp of Veg oil
700-750g beef mince
100g pancetta or bacon
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1 tin of red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp of tomato puree
150 ml of water or beef stock
1 medium onion (fine dice)
2 cloves of garlic (fine dice)
1 green bell pepper (fine dice)
1 long red chilli (de-seeded and finely chopped)
1 tsp of gold blend or similar coffee
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 tsp of dried oregano
Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper

SPICES;
Half teaspoon each of chilli powder and paprika
1 tbsp of coriander seeds (freshly ground)
1 tsp of cumin (freshly ground)

METHOD;
Fry mince and drain, wipe out the pan and heat the oil, once hot add the onion and peppers, cook for roughly two minutes, then add the de-seeded chilli and garlic. After 1 minute return the mince to the pan (season)and add the tinned tomato, tomato puree, and kidney beans - stir to combine. Add the spices and coffee and Worcester sauce. (season)
Allow to cook for 5 minutes then add 150ml of water or stock if using, cover the pan and simmer for half an hour. Check for seasoning before serving!
TO SERVE;
The serving of chilli con carne is nothing more than a personal choice in my eyes. Baked potato, chips or rice or whatever you fancy! It can be eaten on it's own or with simple accompaniments, left for a day to improve or eaten straight from the pan the choice is all yours. I like a little sour cream, quartered tomato and some strong grated Cheddar with mine, but this is food memories!
For a richer version add a big knob of butter to each serving dish, but whatever you choose enjoy!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

SIMPLE CHOCOLATE SAUCE

100ml double cream
150g dark chocolate 55% cocoa solids (broken into small pieces)
1 tsp of caster sugar

Heat the cream with the sugar, once hot but not boiling, remove from the heat then add the small pieces of chocolate. Stir well, making sure that the chocolate has thoroughly dissolved into the cream. Serve at immediately if hot chocolate sauce is required if not leave to go cold!

Monday, 13 July 2009

TOMATO SAUCE WITH RED WINE ( v )

A very versatile Tomato sauce suitable for vegetarians. Good quality tinned tomatoes can be used or the equivalent weight in fresh ripe tomatoes. Although good for vegetarians this sauce is suitable for most uses requiring a tomato sauce.

RECIPE;
800g tomatoes
(If using fresh make an incision at the vine end, plunge into boiling water for a maximum of 10 seconds then peel. De-seed then finely chop)
125g tomato puree
125ml red wine
2 cloves garlic (crushed with the back of a knife with a little coarse sea salt)
2 shallots
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of fresh oregano or 1 tsp of dried
salt/black pepper

Optional;
handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp sweet paprika

METHOD;
Heat a skillet or large saucepan with the olive oil over a medium heat, add the shallot and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes- season. Add the tomato puree and red wine. Allow the sauce to absorb the wine, then add the oregano and parsley if using. Stir and adjust seasoning. Add the paprika if required stir again and allow to simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS AND TOMATO SAUCE

I have made more meatballs than i care to remember, different styles and different meats, but however much the recipe changes, however many times i vary the sauce, i always end up back with what i enjoy the most - meatballs,tomato sauce and spaghetti. I would like to think that cross cultural boundaries can be put aside, so that i can call these Italian meatballs, with the inclusion of fresh Parmesan, a good fistful of parsley, images of Italy are sure to be evoked, but whichever way you look these are quality meatballs that hit the mark, authentic or not who cares, they are good. Serves 4-6 give or take a bit!





RECIPE - MEATBALLS;


500g beef mince or 250/250 mix of pork and beef mince
75g bread (day old fresh loaf)
50g Parmesan
Good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
Milk (enough to just cover)
Olive oil


METHOD;


Blitz the bread in a food processor, when finely crumbed add a touch of milk, enough so that all of the crumbs are coated. Once the bread has absorbed the milk add the parsley and garlic - blitz. Add the mince and Parmesan blitz again to break down the mince, then season with salt and pepper. The mince is now ready to be formed into meatballs, this recipe will yield 32 meatballs of the size of a golf ball. Reserve.

NOTE;

If you do not have a food processor, use your hands and a mixing bowl. The food processor is used for a finer texture.




Now that the meatballs are made they will need a nice , rich tomato sauce. As you have 32 meatballs you could use all of them or save some for a rainy day! The tomato sauce recipe is adaptable, i will normally only use 1 can of tomatoes, but 2 cans give an excellent result.



RECIPE;

2 x 400g good quality tinned tomatoes
125g tomato puree
125 ml red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced with a little salt)
2 shallots (finely chopped)
1 tbsp of fresh oregano or 1 tsp of dried
Sea salt/ black pepper

METHOD;
Heat a skillet or large saucepan over a medium heat, add the shallot and cook until softened, add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes - season. Cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes before adding the tomato puree and red wine. Allow the sauce to absorb the wine, then add the oregano - season. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 30 - minutes.


BRINGING THE DISH TOGETHER;

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. While waiting for the water to boil heat a large frying pan with enough olive oil to make a film across the base. Fry the required amount of meat balls for 5 minutes to give good colour, transfer to the simmering tomato sauce for a further 15 minutes. 12 minutes from the end of cooking place the desired amount of spaghetti into the boiling water. Garnish with freshly torn Basil.


NOTE;

If only using, say half the meatballs the sauce can be reduced from 2 cans of tomatoes too 1, with excellent results. Remaining meatballs can be frozen.



TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA SALAD


Simplicity is sometimes all it takes to awaken those taste buds. Take five good quality ingredients, some quality sea salt and a touch of black pepper, add the time it takes to slice some tomatoes, tear a little mozzarella, then add the oil and vinegar, and i guarantee nothing short of heaven! I will not give measurements for this but rather a guide as success will depend fully on your appreciation of quality produce and especially your own palate. I prefer more oil than most!




RECIPE;


Tomatoes (assorted varieties if possible).


Mozzarella


Basil


Balsamic vinegar (best you can afford, a little goes along way)


Extra virgin olive oil


Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper




Method;


First slice your tomatoes, arrange as you wish, cut side up. Season to your liking. Tear the amount of mozzarella you desire and place randomly around the plate and over the tomatoes. I like to allow a tablespoon of oil per person, a little less if serving as a starter. Drizzle the oil around the plate, then do the same with Balsamic vinegar allowing a teaspoon per a person. Tear fresh basil leaves to finish the dish. Finish by randomly scattering the leaves around the plate!


Friday, 10 July 2009

FOODIE WEEKEND - EATING THE MICHELIN GUIDE

My birthday has been and gone yet again. Every year seems shorter and shorter, Not only are the years gaining fast, but maturity, although kept at bay for many years has made that appearance. No longer do i drink the bar dry on this day that would in years gone by be eagerly awaited, only to deposit 30 quids worth of booze down the toilet pan or even worse the neighbours garden.
Now as i have come of age, well the last couple of years really, we seek out high end food, experiences that will be remembered, hopefully for years to come. The weekend was planned weeks in advance, phone calls were made- a table for two at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, a table at Casamia in bristol and lunch on the way home in my all time favourite restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage. The idea was to experience a 3 michelin star restaurant for the first time, we have eaten in two starred restaurants and a handful of 1 stars, we have even managed a couple of entries in the worlds 50 best restaurant category. The idea was to take our Champagne tastes on beer money budget through the michelin stars, 1-3 in four days, then disaster struck.
A couple of days prior to leaving we needed to make a reservation for Le champignon sauvage, to find that on the tuesday we had planned they were closed for 3 weeks for summer holidays.
A quick scan of available 2 stars in the area, came up with some nice options, but being a little stubborn it was Le champignon sauvage or nothing, my birthday my choice!
The weekend started with a 3 course meal in bristol at Casamia (Review to follow), a restaurant that is family run with the distinction of winning a michelin star in the 2009 guide, then on too swindon to our base for the weekend and one of my favourite places to eat - my sisters.
Sunday was a day of rest, in prepartion for our first 3 * dining experience, monday came with a short train journey to london and a long walk from Paddington to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (review to follow), then a stroll along the the Chelsea embankment to the houses of parliment.
Not knowing London too well, as Heathrow is normally my first and last stop, we headed for Harrods with only one department on the agenda - you probably guessed right the food hall!
The hunt for a reasonable quality Balsamic vinegar and a small bottle of Truffle oil, finally came to an end at the checkout, before heading back to paddington, via Notting Hill on a reconnaissance mission to find the location of two bookshops Books for Cooks which was closed mondays and the Travel bookshop. A great four days with a couple of small mishaps Le Champignon Sauvage being closed for holidays and Books for Cooks not being open! I am sure next birthday we will try again, but be sure it will be better planned!

LEFTOVER BOLOGNESE

What to do with leftover bolognese? If greed runs through your veins like myself you will probably wait until all is quiet, grab yourself a spoon, and devour all that is left for yourself!
There are ways you can actually spread out what is left, possibly even stretch the leftovers for a lunch time treat. Try warming the bolognese, toast some thinly sliced bread, rub with a little garlic, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil onto the slices, spread a thin layer of bolognese on each slice, a little torn basil and some cheese. Parmesan, Pecorino,Mozzarella or your favourite Cheddar. Pop this under the grill, melt the cheese, you have lunch! It is important that the bread is thinly sliced and the layer of bolognese is spread evenly. Eating will become a chore unless you have a mouth the size of jordan. Of course you could sit and use a knife and fork but where is a the fun in that!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

FAMILY MEALS - SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE

A firm family favourite, more than likely in the repertoire of most people, some will claim to have the family secret, others will be happy to use a branded jar. If you really take a step back and weigh up the pros and cons of say this recipe, how much longer does it actually take to make? what 10 minutes maybe 15 at most. I know of very little people who just empty a jar of sauce onto the beef mince, most will at least add a little extra garlic, perhaps chop an onion, slice a few mushrooms, so the extra time is really only spent at the chopping board! Although this version will push the cost of this meal up a little, the addition of a little red wine gives an added depth of flavour you, just will not find with the shop bought sauces!
The beauty of Spaghetti bolognese - especially for me, is the nostalgia of this hybrid of a dish, with no real version's existing anywhere, the closet being the Italian Ragu (recipe soon), you really could use my own personal recipe as a base to launch all manner of additions.
Serves 4

RECIPE;
100g pancetta (diced or cubed)
700g beef mince ( increase mince to 1000g for a six person serving)
1 400g can of good quality tomatoes
200ml of red wine
1 lge onion (finely chopped)
1 carrot (finely diced)
1 stick of celery (finely diced)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp of tomato puree
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic ( crushed with a garlic press or minced with the back of a knife and a little salt.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional mushrooms 6-8 quartered

METHOD;
Cook off the mince and drain excess fat. Using the same pan(wipe out if desired, i do not wipe out, as i like the flavour from the small amount of beef fat that remains in the pan) add 3 tbsp of olive oil, when at a medium heat, add the onion,carrot and celery, cook for 5 minutes or until softened, now add the diced pancetta. Cook for 2 minutes, add the mushrooms if using, once the mushrooms have softened add the mince and garlic. Give a good stir, then add the wine, when the wine has reduced to a sauce consistency add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and paprika. Add the red wine vinegar and give a good stir before turning down the heat and allowing to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Before serving allow enough time for a large pan of water to boil and cook your spaghetti according to your liking, allowing 80 - 100g per a person.

TO SERVE;
Fresh Basil leaves torn. If preferred roll into a cigar shape and finely slice to produce a chiffonade, a good pinch for a person.

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

NOTES;
Try to season at regular intervals, and do not be afraid of the salt, this is not processed food. If you desire a wetter sauce you can add 100 ml of hot water during cooking or some good quality beef stock. I prefer too use hot water if the sauce is too dry.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Dare i say vegetarian? This robust ,gutsy, meaty dish is a vegetarian delight. So what? Consider that most vegetarians that i know well, will not let much in the way of vegetable matter pass their lips -resulting in a diet consisting of Cheddar, bread and confectionery, while the other end of the spectrum consists of my carnivorous friends who just do not understand that vegetarian can = great taste! On several occasions friends have shown up after work for a cup of chai and a chat, resulting in an extra place happily laid at the table. An hour or so would pass after the unexpected guest had eaten for the subject of say, vegetarian food to be raised.

First reaction from unexpected guest would normally warrant ;

"Not for me, can not stand the stuff"

"What do you class as vegetarian - then mate"

"Well bland comes to mind"

"Did you enjoy your unexpected supper?"

"Yeah- great mate"

"That was vegetarian"

"Yeah right!"

"Honest mate- you see, that dish you just ate unexpectedly, did not contained one meat based product"

"Well i never thought about it like that, it never crossed my mind that we were eating veggie food"

So the story goes that veggie food is bland, unexciting and certainly given a bad name by silly products that veggies buy to avoid the issues of eating you guessed - VEGETABLES. Eventually the conversation arrives at the phrase vegetarian - With a conclusion that the term is used and abused for the wrong reasons, with the term itself misleading people, and not actually guiding people to what vegetarian food can be!
While i will never be a vegetarian, i do eat a lot of vegetarian home cooked food and will actively seek out, if available the vegetarian options in good restaurants. I know how to cook meat, after years of experiments i know what i like, a fish cooked by a top chef will more than likely be great if not fussed over and fresher than most people will be accustomed too, but i want to know what these guys can do with the humble carrot or a basket of beets or a wonderful risotto made without meat based stock, this too me in some ways is the essence of good food and cooking, which in turn brings us too this humble but welcoming mushroom risotto made without anything with a face!

RECIPE;

500g arborio or risotto rice
1.5 Lt's of good vegetable stock or very good quality veg stock cube with a low salt content
500ml mushroom stock(reserved from reconstituted dried mushrooms)

1 large white onion - finely chopped

1 medium clove of garlic- very finely chopped

100 ml dry vermouth

150g open mushrooms(Chestnut or field) - sliced

20g- 40g dried porcini (reconstituted in boiling 500ml boiling water)

80g unsalted butter

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 tsp of fresh thyme

50-60g freshly grated Parmesan + extra for the table

Freshly ground sea salt and fresh black pepper


METHOD;

Have at the ready a pan with your vegetable stock at the boil, drain the reserved mushroom stock into the pan of veg stock, and bring back to the boil. Heat a large enough saute pan with half the butter and the olive oil, once at a medium heat add the porcini mushrooms, saute for a minute before adding the onion and garlic. Allow to soften, but do not colour, once softened add the sliced mushrooms. Saute for two minutes or until the mushrooms lose there raw edge - Season. Add the dry vermouth and allow to bubble before adding the risotto rice. Allow the rice to absorb the vermouth and fats that remain in the pan. This stage is now the crucial act that will determine the end product. The risotto will require your undivided attention and constant stirring for a minimum of 15 minutes but anywhere as high as 20 minutes is not unknown.

Once the vermouth has been absorbed, you will add a ladle full of boiling stock, waiting for the rice to absorb all liquid before adding the next ladle. The rice requires stirring at all times. You will continue to ladle stock until you have achieved a creamy consistency, the rice will need to be soft on the outside with an al dente middle.

A minute before you feel the rice is ready, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, once combined the rice will look glossy and extra creamy, now add the fresh thyme and repeat the stir, adjust seasoning if needed and serve immediately as if you have not eaten for weeks. This part is important!

If feeling flush add truffle, for the rest of us a good drizzle of truffle oil will lift the taste to new heights. While not essential truffle oil will give a luxurious edge to a rich warming robust dish that invokes memories of the land!
NOTES;
DO NOT WASH RISOTTO RICE BEFORE USE!

click on bad photograph, to view close up of finished texture!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

RICE FRIED WITH CHICKEN THIGH AND CURRY POWDER

I have adapted this recipe from Vatcharin Bhumichitr's book a taste of thailand. Having cooked the original recipe many times, it was time for a little adaption. While some of the original elements have stayed i have included fresh ginger, cooked onions,palm sugar and red chilli. A great dish that is not fiery hot but gives a nice balance salty, sour and hot!

Serves 4 as a side dish - or 2 hungry people.

RECIPE;

500g cooked long grain rice
3 tbsp of vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
10g fresh ginger
90g chopped onion
175g finely chopped free range chicken thigh
2 tbsp of mild curry powder
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp of palm sugar

GARNISH;

Fresh coriander
Spring onion
Optional fresh lime wedge for each plate
Optional peeled cucumber slices
A Turn of fresh black pepper for each plate

METHOD;

Heat a large frying pan or wok with the oil - until hot. Once hot add the garlic,chilli and ginger and stir fry till the garlic is golden. Add the curry powder and stir fry for 10 seconds, now add the onion's, cook for a further minute, before adding the chicken. Once the chicken has coloured add the cooked rice and stir fry -3 minutes. Add the soy sauce stirring through, then repeat with the fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir fry all of the ingredients till you are sure that the chicken is cooked through and the rice thoroughly reheated.

Turn out into bowls and garnish with shredded spring onion(scallions), chopped coriander and a turn of freshly ground black pepper. Place a lime wedge if liked for squeezing over rice and add some peeled and sliced cucumber for texture.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

AIDEN BRYNE - MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN

Although purchased before Christmas i have not in all honesty had the time to have a browse, but the book has been staring me in the face for the last five months from one of the numerous overcrowded bookshelves, but what prompted me to eventually pick up this volume is BBC 2's current series of the Great British Menu(see note). Aiden bryne is one of this weeks contestants in the regional heats of this brilliant series, until recently cooking at the Dorchester hotel in London with a Michelin star to his credit, and now with his own gastro pub in Cheshire -northwest of England.

The book with it's clever outer cover conjures up images of denim with a nifty little tag proclaiming the books title, in the style of very famous branded jeans - red tab anyone! A big picture of the man himself plating a dish also adjourns the front cover with two very influential write ups on the back cover from Mr jay Raynor(Observer food critic) and Marcus Wareing(multi Michelin starred chef), the two statements on the back are shouting this is a serious cook book, not to be taken lightly and certainly not for the kitchen novice.

Recipes are inventive with clever use of flavour pairings and great use of micro herbs and salads. With just over 220 pages and some great food photography this book nearly reaches the food porn category, but is clearly aimed at the serious home cook with big ambitions. I would expect to find this on every budding Masterchef contestants book shelve.

Recipes include Halibut with Beetroot and Orange salad, Roasted Scallops with Apple and Ginger puree with Fennel Sauce, Roasted Smoked Fois Gras with Onion Mousse, Beef Fillet with Parsley Risotto, Braised Snails and Red Wine Garlic. Desserts include Apple and Rosemary Mousse with Calvados Ice Cream, Strawberry and Red Pepper and Orange and Olive Oil Cake with Candied Celery. This is just a selection of many recipes with a good section at the back on fundamentals which include sorbets,stocks and purees. My only gripe with this book is,
that you have to consult other pages during a recipe for components of different dishes.

A really great book with wonderful use of seasonal ingredients, a must also for connoisseurs of fine food and cookbook junkies alike!

NOTE;

The Great British menu is a TV series on BBC 2 in the UK. This current series has Chefs from around the UK challenging each other for a place to cook for homecoming troops returning from Afghanistan. The banquet that they will cook for will contain four courses and the winner of each course will cook.All contestants are at the top of there game and most have Michelin stars. Previous series have seen the winners cook for The Queen and French Ambassador.

Monday, 11 May 2009

FIVE SPICE POWDER

Five spice is a Chinese spice blend used sparingly in the cuisine of china. All though i can not claim this recipe as my own, as i do not know the origin, i do feel that it is a shame not to share this with others. Use with caution and as recipe dictates.

THE BLEND;

1 tbsp star anise
1 tbsp sichuan pepper
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp cloves

Grind all of the spices in a pestle and mortar,clean coffee/spice grinder or use the blender attachment on the food processor. Once ground to a fine powder the blend can be stored in an air tight container for 2-3 months after which freshness will be lost leading to inferior five spice, like wise it is essential to use spices that are in date.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

BANGERS AND MASH

Whenever i find myself abroad, and tired of the local fare or maybe a little homesick, you can be sure that the taste from home i crave is good old Bangers and mash with onion gravy! Hits the spot time after time, although not sure if some of the versions i have tasted around the world were actually that good, they tasted like heaven when sampled, a real taste of home to subdue the subconscious - whilst sufficient fodder to keep the homesickness at bay. At home this is a dish that i only eat rarely, with the expanding waste line to think about, and the old arteries that are narrowing of there own accord, i am pretty sure they don't need much help! Health issues aside good Bangers and mash, done right, can not be a healthy dish - nor should it be in my eyes. There are many versions some good, some bad, but the bangers for starters have to have a higher enough fat content to remain moist and succulent while a good mash just cries out for a good dose of the coronary inducing butter. I am partial to a nice olive oil mash, while healthier and still tasty, the depth of flavour is not apparent or the creaminess, that unfortunately butter provides. So for a dish that is only eaten a couple of times a year, surely it will not hurt to go the whole hog, but throw caution to the wind as this version is damn good, and temptation to over indulge could be fatal in the long term!

THE RECIPE;

ONION GRAVY;

500G red onion
500ml beef stock
25 g unsalted butter
20g beef dripping
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2ml red wine vinegar
sea salt and ground black pepper

METHOD;

First slice the onions into rings. Heat a large saute pan over a medium heat and melt the dripping, once hot add the onion and saute for 3 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then turn down the heat a little and allow to cook down for 20 minutes, add the butter and Dijon mustard cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer adjust the seasoning and add vinegar if required. The gravy should now be ready, or simmer for longer for a thicker consistency.
Serves 4-6

MASHED POTATOES;

1.2 kg Maris piper
150 ml of whole milk(warm)
150g unsalted butter
Sea Salt and freshly ground white pepper

METHOD;

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks. Add to the boiling water. Once cooked through but not falling apart(check with a sharp knife- pierce the potato, if the potato slides off the blade easily they are done). Pass through a potato ricer into a bowl or sauce pan, now give the potatoes a good mashing with a potato masher to ensure that it is lump free. Warm the milk to just below boiling and add to the potato, start to fold in from the outside, once incorporated fold the butter into the potato in four stages until all used. Season to taste. ( If the potato cools to much add to a non stick pan and gently heat ensuring that the potato is kept moving at all times. A spatula is a good choice of utensil for moving the mash).

SAUSAGES;

A pork sausage with a good fat content would be my choice, but beef sausages can be used with good results. My preferred method of cooking sausages for this dish would be fried, in a little oil to give good flavour and colour. It is a naughty dish so NO half fat sausages, and the best bangers
you can afford!

NOTES;
A potato ricer although not essential, is a handy piece of kit. If you can imagine a giant garlic press, then you have a ricer. The potatoes are placed into the chamber then pushed through a series of small holes with the aid of the press attached to the handle, thus resembling rice!
In all honesty a good old potato masher is sufficient for the job if no ricer is to hand!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

THE BEST NEW POTATOES

With the season for jersey royals upon us, you have to make the most of the crop when available. Although over 90% of the crop is exported to mainland Briton the season is so short you have to be quick, by the end of may they will all but disappear, until the eagerly awaited season next year. But the question remains what to do to them? It would be a sin to do to much to such a superior product, when produce tastes this good keep it simple!

Boil to just tender, season well with Sea salt and ground black pepper add a couple of pats of unsalted butter(good quality) and a sprinkle of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley. If so desired a hint of lemon can be added, but not to much only a little to help along the butter.

NOTE;
Anya is another superb variety of new potato that is a rather odd shape with a knobbly surface and skin, taste wise Anya has a masculine nutty note and fine texture. Again keep it simple.

CARAMELISED ONIONS

Slow cooked onions caramelised in there own sugars make a wonderful accompaniment to savoury foods. Caramelised onions can lift the mundane to new heights, perfect with sausages or added to onion soup, they are the last word in a simple and inexpensive condiment, that can be used to bring new pleasure to the table.

Cooking time up to 45 minutes for 400g of sliced onions

RECIPE;
White onions - allow 100g per a person
Optional - 1 tsp granulated sugar
A pinch each of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
METHOD;
Coat the bottom of a skillet or suitable sized saute pan with a film of olive oil, place on a high heat, add sliced onions and lower the heat to medium, stirring from time to time to ensure even cooking. After 15 minutes season with sea salt and black pepper, additional sugar if using, then turn down the heat to low. Cooking times will vary but allow up to 45 minutes and a reduction in mass of at least a third. Drain any excess oil before serving.

NOTES;
Please do not be fooled by the amount of sliced onions that you start the recipe with. They will eventually with a little patient on the part of the cook, reduce down to at the minimum a third of there original mass.

Suitable for vegetarians.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

SALAD

What can be better on a summers evening than freshly picked leaves from the garden, soft boiled eggs and croutons with a little fresh dressing made in the present. Well lots really but those things that are better are normally not attainable. What little summer we actually have in the UK, we better make the most of , as like all good things they don't tend to last. With the short season for asparagus and new potatoes nearly over, and fresh broad beans and peas making an appearance it will not be long before autumn will be upon us with the next batch of fresh ingredients. Back to the present do our salads have to be complicated or will simple really do? Simple is best, what do you really need too do, to freshly picked produce? Now freshly picked is a new term being coined in our household having taken the plunge to try and grow some of our own food. With the allotment on the go, some enthusiasm and a very heavy handed fiance who at the beginning of our foray into the garden was more akin to killing off our baby plants while trying to transplant them into larger pots(it should be noted that i have not put as much effort in as the baby plant killer and neither do i possess her new found skills in the world of horticulture, and all references to this homicdal maniac are purely of a light hearted note). After the first mishaps, we reluctantly replanted and lo and behold we have our first crop, and boy is it good too eat fresh leaves that we have actually grown, but what to do? Keep it simple, in all honesty the leaves only need a light dressing of oil and vinegar, a little seasoning then on to the fork into the mouth. I love simple salads, spend some time in Italy and you get a salad of leaves with a dressing nothing complicated just fresh. When we do buy in asparagus we pair with a little butter and lemon, this believe me is heaven. If we feel the need to impress a little hollandaise sauce or a nice buttery sabayon, but why go to all that effort when the ingredients are fresh and so bloody tasty. When the tomatoes come -again a light dressing and some torn basil leaves, salt and pepper, leaves paired with soft boiled egg and croutons are a delight. Try Making your own croutons -it's dead easy, what i do is find some day old bread cut into cubes, rub a baking tray with some garlic for a hint of background flavour, pour a little olive oil on the tray and toss your bread in the oil so that it just coats but not saturates, season then put into a pre - heated oven for 8-10 minutes or until as crispy as required. I have debated about giving recipes for salad, but leaves, oil and acid can not really be described as a recipe more a method. Fresh herbs can be used in your salads and what you have to hand rather than a regimented amount or type. In reality there are well known herb combinations like cucumber and mint, fresh peas with mint will make a great salad with a little ham but dill is just as famous as a pairing for cucumber as well as fresh broad beans, dill is also great with finely sliced fennel. Tomatoes and basil is another well known combination, try chives with tomatoes, and a little shallot or red onion. A little chervil or parsley with your leaves or a hint of thyme in your dressing will all work wonders or use a little thyme with whatever leaves you choose. Parsley and garlic a classic Italian combination, try finding a way to incorporate these into your fresh produce and you will be happy. A little cheese combined with your salad can lift a simple salad to new meaning, and being realistic a little good quality mozzarella with fresh tomatoes and olive oil is tasty as can be, feta is a well known cheese used in salads although not to my taste. Fresh rocket with a little hard cheese such as grana pandano,parmasen or a nice pecorino is a loving match, tart this up with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar a nice hunk of crusty bread, sat in the garden or failing that anywhere you like your front room if need be, you could be forgiven for feeling all Mediterranean.
The health giving benefits of a fresh salad are not to be dismissed, but be aware even the so called fresh leaves in sealed bags harbour chlorine and crap to keep the product fresher for longer. We actually stopped buying salad packed like this two years ago, and will now only buy open lettuce. Back to oil and dressings with all the crap that is found to be circulating about oil being bad for you, the high calorie content, people still go and stock there fridge with store bought processed dressings that harbour all kinds of unsavoury ingredients such has saturated fats and trans fatty acids. A home made dressing is not only better tasting but cheaper, less calorific and actually good for you. Remember you control the sodium not some board room director with huge profits in mind at the expense of your health and waistline. I think even worse are the half fat dressings, although they might contain half the fat they usually contain twice the sodium, and encourage people to use twice as much, which in turn defeats the object as you are back to square one. So the moral of this long winded rant would be buy some cheap pots and a little compost, a packet of salad leaf seeds(cut and come again variety) and plant your own, then reap the benefits! Not only is this healthier and more tasty there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be had from seed to table in the comfort of your own backyard, or failing that a window box or sunny window sill!

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I seem to be a jack of all trades and a master of none!