Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hello from Foodland


It has been a year. I am lazy. I haven't stopped cooking.

I made Savoyarde Potatoes the other day and nearly fainted at how good they were. It ain't my recipe, it belongs to Matt Tebbutt from Cook's Country fame. But damn. Just seriously, damn. You must make it and devour it. You must.

I found this recipe online on the UKTV website so I am copying and pasting it as I see it. I did the dauphinoise the night before and slung it in the fridge. (You must get a decent cookie cutter to cut out the dauphinoise disks). This would serve 4 people 2 each. If you can eat 2 as part of a main meal, you deserve a slap and need to go for a run - and that's coming from a fatty!


For the dauphinoise

100 g butter, plus extra for greasing
250 ml milk
250 ml double cream
1 bulbs garlic, halved horizontally
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
3-4 bay leaves
1 kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or Golden Wonder, peeled

For the savoyarde

200 g Fontina, Gruyere or Emmental cheese, grated - I used Gruyere
8 slices Bayonne ham (I just used nice ham from behind the deli counter at Sainsbury's)
700-800g ready-made puff pastry (all butter is best belieeee dat!)
1 egg plus 1 egg yolks, beaten together, for glazing

1. For the dauphinoise: preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Grease a large ovenproof dish with some butter.

2. Place the milk, cream, butter, halved garlic bulb, thyme and bay leaves in a medium pan. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes.

3. Meanwhile, thinly slice the potatoes using a mandoline or very sharp knife. Arrange in alternate layers in the ovenproof dish. (I used a knife for 2 potatoes and nearly cut my hand off trying to get them so thin. Then I used the Magimix slicer and did the whole kilo in under a minute. Go figure.

4. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve, then pour the mixture over the potatoes.

5. Bake the dauphinoise in the oven for 20-30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 150C/gas mark 2 and continue to cook for 40-50 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

6. For the savoyarde: once the dauphinoise is completely cool, cut out eight potato rounds using a small circular cutter.

7. Top each round with a large spoonful of grated cheese. Wrap a piece of ham around each.

8. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and cut out 8 discs with a small side plate or saucer that is slightly bigger than the dauphinoise rounds. Gently mould the pastry over the top of the rounds and stretch to fit completely around each base. (I used a rolling pin and made the shells look like presents). See pic.

9. Pinch the pastry together and cut away any excess. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

10. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

11. Place the pastry-wrapped rounds on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg and cook for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and puffed up. Insert a skewer into the middle of the potato to check if it is piping hot all the way through. Remove from the oven and set aside in a warm place.

I served this with a roast leg of lamb, some red wine lamb gravy, baked onions in double cream and parmesan. All the guests died of a coronary.

But for a minute they were Henry the VIII, they were, they were - and they were happy.

Seriously. It will take a few hours but it is fun and the results are scarily good.

I'm back in the game!!!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

I am coming back

That I am. I have a few things up my sleeve. Or rather, on my top.


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Dan's Tuna Salad - and it is famous (ish)

I forgot about this one. It is a great spring or summer meal. Lovely to eat for lunch, light, crisp, tasty as, and easy to make.

This is not a mayo dish by the way. Also, there are flavours in here directly from the Mediterranean palate and will make your mouth smelly. Good! If you are a pescinatarnarian or whatever they are called, then this is nice too. If you are on a diet, this is nice. If you like grazing, this is nice. If you want something cheap, this is nice.

Now many years ago, I made this once for Marianne Lumb, esteemed chef and runner-up or winner of Masterchef the Professionals 2009 (depending on which paper you read ;) She loved it so much, that she took it to a restaurant that she was working in on Bondi Beach in Sydney and stuck it on the menu. She called it Dan's Tuna Salad and it even got a review in the paper I am led to believe. I might be making that last bit up as my brain is clouded with cold. But actually this I think is true.

The critical ingredient in this is the Beit Hashita pickled cucumbers.

The reason for this is that I have tried so many different types of sweet pickles and virtually all of them are. But these are in BRINE, they are salted and shrivelled and ugly and delicious. They are widely available in North London Sainsbury's near Stamford Hill. Ahem. However, in Belfast, Sydney, Derbyshire or Atlanta, you might struggle. In which case use what you can.

Ok, so what are the ingredients? I will make it for 2 and you can double up for more.

1 large can of tuna steaks/chunks in water or brine (or two smaller cans) - fresh tuna is nice but doesn't really work as well.
3 medium sized, vine ripened tomatoes, cubed smallish
3 Beit Hashita pickled cucumbers, cubed (you can get them from Sainsbury's in the foreign food section next to Kosher Coca Cola. Fun.
1 red onion chopped finely, finely chopped
1 tin of chick peas drained and rinsed
1 bunch of coriander washed and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, good glug
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper
Sea salt

All you need to do is get a nice big serving bowl and mix the chopped tomatoes with the onions, then add the tuna, then add the chick peas, then the cucumbers and coriander and then the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and gently stir. Taste and add more seasoning, oil if dry and vinegar for sharpness. The flavours marry really well, as the sweet of the tomatoes against the sour of the cucumbers, with the crunch of the onion, and the nutty, mealy texture of the chickpea, plus the meat of the tuna is all yum. And the seasoning and oil balance for the perfect alternative salad to a fecking tuna mayo sandwich. If you line the bowl with nice lettuce leaves, that will add more crunch and be very nice too.

Eat this with toast, toasted pitta, toasted flat breads, toast anything, and it is very tasty spring or summer food. I know I should be more seasonal but I am fed up with stews etc at the mo.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Monday, 31 January 2011

Cock Oh Van

Serves 4.

a large chicken, or 8 or 10 pieces of thigh and leg FREE RANGE OR ORGANIC
150g pancetta or unsmoked bacon chopped
A large knob of butter - 30-50g
2 medium onions (preferably red)
a largish carrot (whole)
2 ribs of celery (sliced longways twice and then chopped small)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 tbsps flour
2 tbsps cognac, or brandy to those of you who aren't sure what cognac is
a bottle of red wine (ballsy eg Rioja, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Shiraz, Grenache, etc)
4 or 5 small sprigs of thyme
some bay leaves
more butter - yes more
12 small onions, peeled (if this is too much of a faff, use 4 medium red ones instead of the 2 above and cut them into 1/8ths
200g small button mushrooms (fresh, not tinned)
Possibly 1/2 litre of chicken stock (at least Knorr)
Mashed potatoes to serve.

Put the chopped pancetta/bacon, in with the butter, into a thick-bottomed casserole - one of enameled cast iron would be perfect like a LE CREUSET (for the 4th or 5th time on this blog) - and cook over a medium heat. Stir the pancetta from time to time - it mustn't burn - then, when it is golden, lift it out into a bowl, leaving behind the fat in the pan. (This bit quoted from Nigel)

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them in the hot fat in the pan. They should fit nicely but with a little space between them. It is the pan + bacon fat + chicken skin that will give the winning flavour.

While the chicken is colouring in the pan, peel and cut the onions into 8 pieces. Also wash the carrot and wash/chop the celery. With the chicken out, add the onions and whole carrot to the pan and cook slowly, stir a bit, until the onion is translucent and deglazed the pan. Add the garlic. Return the chicken and bacon/pancetta to the pot, stir in the flour and let it all get friendly for a minute or two, then pour in the cognac, wine and jam in the herbs. If you are lacking liquid to cover the chicken, use the stock now. Achieve a boil, then quickly turn the heat down so that the sauce slowly putters. Put a lid on but leave a gap so the liquid can reduce and intensify.

Chuck some of the butter in a small pan, add the mushrooms. Cook until golden, then add them to the chicken with a good smattering of salt and pepper. This is another robust meal that can take quite a kicking of salt and pepper. Go for it.

Check the chicken after 1 hour to see how tender it is. Not falling apart but also soft is good. It will probably take about an hour and a half I reckon. I disagree with the chefs who say do it for less time. They feel the chicken will dry out, I feel that chicken on the bone cannot be risked for under-cooking and I'd rather be safe than sorry. Especially if my sister attempts this. If the chicken pieces are big, they will need longer, smaller pieces shorter. Simple enough.

You should have your potatoes peeled, chopped and on the boil NOW. Smaller cubes need 15-20 mins. You want to over cook them.

Now you can do the final bit in two ways. Whack up the heat and bubble it all down with all ingredients still in the pan. This will reduce and thicken and even become more glossy. Add some butter to the sauce to thicken and achieve even glossier status. Either way when done, remove the carrot and thyme if you can find it. Bay leaves too.

The other way is to turn off the heat, and ladle 8 spoonfuls into a small pan and reduce this down. This can thicken much quicker and the butter will melt nicer into it. However, it is more washing up, but who cares really. It is unlikely you will do the washing up if it is a success.

Mash the potatoes with butter, small amount milk or cream, a dollop of mustard and lots of salt and pepper. You want them stodgy as the juice from the chicken will thin them out. So to stop soupy stuff, keep them thick. Harder to mash but worth the trouble.

Eat and be very, very happy. It tastes champion. Word is born.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Something for the kids - Fried chicken. Escalopes the nice way

This is something that I have worked on so many times and the basic recipe is the best. So I will tell you how to do it and then you decide what are your favourite accompaniments.

Firstly, the method for this requires chicken breasts, (hence escalopes). Secondly they should have no skin on. Thirdly, some chefs/cooks/piss artists will tell you to lay clingfilm all over the place and beat the crap out of the breast with a rolling pin. This is fine if you can handle the hassle, mess and prep. If you want to learn some good knife skills, then take the breasts and slice them in half with a sharp horizontal blade working its way through the breast. This can go wrong and if you make them too thin at one point, don't worry. All is not lost. All you need to do is get pieces that are relatively similar in width. It is good practice and you will feel proud of yourself.

Can I just add here that really sharp knives are the most important thing in the kitchen. Better than a good oven, great ingredients and so on. Without the sharp knives, cooking is prone to mistakes at the beginning, cuts or worse and a deflated sense of self confidence which is not your fault. So one can avoid all of this by investing in some sharp knives and a sharpener. Again, by doing this, your confidence and desire to cook will be big.

Back to the chicken.

Firstly, if you making this for 4, use 6 breasts because people will always want seconds.


6 free range or organic chicken breasts - Why? Because they taste better than the super fat, battery farmed nonse. Believe me.
2 eggs, cracked and beaten in a bowl.
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed and added to the egg mix.
2 teaspoons of mixed herbs.
Lots of ground pepper
2 teaspoons of sea salt ground into the mix.
1 1/2 packets of natural breadcrumbs. Not that golden shite. It is shite.
(Optional to pack it out more, 1 plate of plain flour to dip into).

Now this requires more of everything than you would normally do. I have tried as I've said, so many ways to get this right and I have made mistakes so you don't have to.

Firstly, add everything except the chicken, flour and breadcrumbs to the beaten egg and beat it up. Plate the breadcrumbs, spread evenly for dipping the breasts in.

Next, take your thinnish chicken halves and dip them both sides into the flour. If you bypass the flour, then go straight to dipping them in the eggs and then the breadcrumbs. Cover both sides liberally, (keep topping up the breadcrumbs if you feel that you haven't quite got a coating), place on another plate.

Take a large frying pan and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, vegetable oil or sunflower oil. This will look like a lot but you need it.

Whack the heat on high and heat the oil. Then place the first 4 breasts in the pan and turn heat down to medium/high. Fry for 2-3 minutes and keep checking for the deepish golden colour. Turn over and do the other side. 2-3 mins on each side will be plenty to cook them through and leave no pink. Remove from the pan and do next batch. There will be residual breadcrumbs in the pan which will start to burn. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon into kitchen roll and discard. All of this will take 10-12 mins to fry up 3 batches. You can then leave them on a plate in the oven set at 100C. Sorted.

You can cut the chicken pieces up smaller and make nuggets which kids love. You can also add more salt (which I do). These taste great with mustard, mayo and ketchup. I have cockney friends who have to put vinegar on anything fried, so here's another thing for your list.

Now what to have them with.

Chips are great. If you're making ones at home, don't bother. Buy some McCain Home Fry Oven Chip thingies and cook them as they tell you and add 3-5 more mins on. They are excellent.

Mash potato is wonderful and easy. Peel them and boil them before you put your first batch on and then you won't have the chicken too long in the oven before serving.

A sandwich. Niiiiice.

Anyway, you can add shavings of parmesan into the breadcrumbs for a twist which is nice. But I prefer it simple.

Also, a salad. My most favourite is the Israeli/Arabic salad of diced vine tomatoes, cucumber and red onion, with chopped coriander, lashings of extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste. This is heaven for me, especially in the summer when the veg are in season. The sweet juices and added salt from this salad mix so well with the mash and also the mustard from the chicken. Then you have the crunchy coated chicken, the comforting warmth of the mash and the crunchy loveliness of the salad.

A word about this salad. I had an ex girlfriend who was very English and didn't like my 'wet' salads. She, like a rabbit and children, preferred leaves as a salad. If this is your bag, then don't try it as the liquid from the tomatoes dominate and the olive oil and coriander make the flavours deeper than a crunchy leaf salad. But then, she became a nutritionist and would probably enjoy the merits of such a combo now. Plus the flavours and texture are great and she can fuck off.

Sorry. That is not normal for a cookbook. But we should be able to tell people to fuck off if they don't like what is good. Fuck opinion too! This is about fact.

I'm digging a hole here. Try to enjoy it and forget about me.

Monday, 24 January 2011

And now for something completely different...

Risotto with Prawns, Vine Tomatoes and Peas.

Serves 2 (but double the quantities for 4)

Roughly 0.6 litres/1 and a bit pints stock (chicken or fish)
1 knob of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, halved and finely chopped
250g risotto rice
1 wineglass of dry white wine
3 vine tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g frozen peas
220g peeled prawns
A bit more butter

This takes about 35 mins to cook in total. Give yourself 45.

First slice, chop and dice everything that needs it. Have them ready in front of you.

Next, heat some oil and butter in a deep large frying pan or a saucepan. Chuck in the onions and celery and sweat with a pinch of salt for 5-7 mins on a simmer. Then add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and continue to simmer for 2 more mins.

Turn up the heat and then add the rice and make sure it is all coated with the oils and juices. It will start getting stickyish in the pan soon and harder to push about. This is the time to add the wine. Take a big whiff when it goes in and sizzles. This arrangement of scents is magnificent. Seriously. The alcohol cooks off very quickly and the wine will reduce and soak into the rice super fast. So havce your first ladle of stock ready. I tend to keep the stock hot so not to reduce the temperature of the risotto as I cook it.

Each time you add stock, you must continue to stir and stir slowly and gently. With each ladle, add a pinch of salt and twist of pepper. You will be looking to stir each ladle for about 3-4 mins and it will take about 25 minutes to use up all the stock to a point where the rice is perfect. It will have a little bite to it. You don't want rice pudding and you definitely don't want cement.

Put the kettle on and have the peas ready. Just as you are about to turn the heat off, drop the prawns into the risotto and let them heat through. Cook the peas in boiling water for 3-4 mins and then drain and add to the risotto. Turn the heat off instantly, add a good knob of butter. Gently stir the peas and prawns into the mixture and leave for another 3-4 mins on the stove.

Then serve. This should be glistening, creamy, silky, full of body, subtle colour and the flavours will be intense and deep. This is super tasty and there are sooooooo many alternatives following the same process. Some examples:

Substitute the white wine for red.
Instead of prawns add roast chicken, chopped chorizo, flaked haddock (but use fish stock), crispy bacon, mushrooms, asparagus, roasted pepper, etc etc etc. But balance the flavours. Parmesan should always be used if you are not having fish. This adds a lovely extra body to it.

It is a very versatile dish. Rich and filling and always lovely for seconds.

Believe Dat!