April, 2009


30
Apr 09

A quick bite – the open sandwich

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Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten were born out of necessity. Sometimes the most perfect harmony is struck by pure coincidence – the chance leftovers of a number of different meals thrown together with some of the things we always have in the fridge.

For some reason I always have cucumbers and spring onions – probably because they are both quite versatile. Cucumbers are part of one of my weird food loves – Ryvita with cucumber, cottage cheese and Marmite. It’s the sort of thing that makes some people balk but draws a knowing nod from others. You might think itis a bizarre combination but there’s method in my madness – a luscious combination of crunch, cool, salty and creamy. But you’d have to try it to believe me.

The spring onions sit atop many a dish I make – and are particularly good in noodle soups, where the green parts soften and wilt slightly. They add a different type of crunch to salads that an ordinary onion might too. A more ‘green’ flavour.

So – with a little leftover duck and some fancy Poilâne bread (the classic French sourdough loaf) they ended up as quite the luxurious, stylish lunch. You could cook a duck leg off for this recipe – slow roast it in an oven for 2 hours at 130°C before allowing to cool. Alternatively, use duck breast, pan frying for 10-12 minutes.

Open sandwich of duck with cucumber and spring onion

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 duck leg, meat shredded
  • 2 spring onions
  • ½ cucumber
  • 2 pieces good bread about 1 cm thick ( Poilâne is ideal, available in Waitrose)
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise
  • ½ lime
  • 1 tbs Hoisin sauce, optional

Method

Heat a griddle pan on a high flame until hot. Griddle the bread for a minute or so on each side until it has dark lines on it from the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and throw in the shredded duck to warm through.

Finely slice the spring onion on the diagonal. Do the same to the cucumber but then cut each slice into four slivers.

Spread the mayo on to the bread, then top with some of the spring onions and cucumber. Spread the duck on top, then add more of the salad. Squeeze over the lime, season and drizzle over Hoisin sauce if wanted, and serve.


27
Apr 09

The recipe collector – anchovy and mozzarella bread

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I’m a recipe hoarder. I collect books, magazines, cuttings, hand-written notes. I’ve got photographs of all the pages from one of grandmother’s cookbooks and a box of neatly-typed cards from another. I have photocopied pages by the hundreds, stashed away for use on a rainy day. They are a constant source of inspiration, from lost classics to modern treats – and an insight into the evolution of the British diet.

The most recent addition to my ever-expanding collection is this fantastic, mouth-watering recipe from my girlfriend’s father, Tony. It’s a perfect addition to a barbecued lunch – and a great one for converting the non-anchovy lovers amongst you. The salty, savoury edge provides a perfect balance to the creamy milkiness of the chewy, golden mozzarella.

Tony’s anchovy and mozzarella bread

Ingredients (serves 6)

.    1 baguette
.    2 balls of mozzarella
.    1 tin anchovies plus oil
.    30g butter
.    olive oil

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.  Cut the baguette top down two thirds of the way through about eight to ten times. Cut the cheese into quarter inch thick slices and slip into the holes in the bread. Drizzle over some olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven till golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.

Whilst the bread is cooking, warm a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and tip in the anchovies and their oil. The trick here is to let the anchovies essentially dissolve to form an unctuous sauce. Cook slowly until they break down, pushing them around with the back of a wooden spoon then set aside.

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven, pour over the anchovy sauce and serve.


22
Apr 09

Black pudding patties to celebrate St George’s Day

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With St George’s Day upon us it only seems right to celebrate with something delicious and English. We have so much fantastic produce on our fair shores it seems criminal not to shout about it. We have incredible regional and national dishes, spectacular beef, lamb, rare breed pork, farmer’s markets and, judging by the 50 best restaurants, some of the world’s finest fine dining.

Black pudding is about as classically British as you can get. There are versions the world over but it’s fair to say we have mastered the art. There are arguments as to its origins, but little argument as to where to find the best ones.

The best comes from Bury in Lancashire and popular opinion holds it that those from The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company are among the best around.

If you are a little perturbed by the idea of eating a blood sausage, the ones from Bury  are the ones to try – a rich, crumbly, dense black pudding, and in my opinion, a fine example of the art. And added to the very English recipe below, the Lancastrian lovelies are showcased to great effect.

Pork, black pudding and apple patties

Ingredients (Serves 2)

•    200g minced pork, preferably free-range or organic
•    50g cox apple or similar tart variety
•    75g black pudding
•    8 sage leaves
•    25g butter, for frying

Method

Place the pork in a bowl. Crumble in the black pudding, leaving it in quite large chunks, about 1cm across. Grate in the apple without peeling it. Finely slice the sage leaves and add these along with the apple to the pork mixture. Season well and form into four equal sized patties. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry for 4-5 mins on each side until golden brown.


19
Apr 09

A sensational sunset sorbet

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Is it Summer? Winter? Spring? These sporadic bouts of sunshine have got me thinking of ice creams and sorbets. But who am I kidding – I get quite uncomfortable when I don’t have anything cold and smooth in the freezer (besides the vodka) for consuming after dinner.


I’m quite lucky living where I do as we have the most fantastic ice cream shop just down the road – they make theirs with a custom-made ice cream machine imported from Italy and it is truly fabulous. Frozen yoghurts, sorbets, ices, ice cream cakes, even boldly tasty low-cal versions are all on offer and the queue stretches out of the door for the entire summer. The master ice cream maker resides upstairs in secret. A rare glimpse can be caught when he comes down with the latest batch of stracciatella or rocher or something more exotic.

 

That said, nothing quite matches making an ice at home. Sorbet is a great starting point as, rather like panna cotta, incredible results can be achieved by anyone with even a basic cooking knowledge and with just a few ingredients. This recipe is perfect with blood oranges as they lend a stunning bright colour to the sorbet – although it would be equally delicious made with a good old Navel.

 

Blood orange sorbet (serves 3-4)

 

Ingredients

 

  • 350ml blood orange juice (about 6 oranges)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbs liquid glucose (optional, but will make the sorbet smoother)

 

Method

 

Place the sugar in a saucepan and add 100mls of the orange juice. Warm over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

 

Pour the contents of the saucepan into a jug with the remaining 250ml orange juice and chill until cold. Churn in an ice cream machine if you have one. Alternatively, freeze in a Tupperware box for an hour. Remove from the freezer and whisk gently to break up the ice crystals. Return to the freezer. Repeat this process three or four times.

 


13
Apr 09

Snack on a multicultural sarnie

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In these days of multicultural cuisine, tajines, curries and stir-fries grace British tables on a regular basis. Occasionally we stumble upon something a little more unusual, though.
After hearing about the Vietnamese banh mi I started to do some research and discovered there was only one place in town which offered them – and they were pretty disastrous. So I set out to make my own.
Banh mi may well be the ultimate fusion dish; the best of East meets West. The premise is simple – a baguette, halved and toasted, spread with liver sausage or pate, and a few slivers of grilled meat. Add fresh mint, coriander, pickled carrot, the Japanese radish daikon, long shards of cucumber and spring onion, then season with a dash of soy, fish sauce and fiery red chillies, plus a good splodge of mayonnaise.
It sounds like a cultural clash – but in reality it’s a fabulous melange. I shredded left-over duck into the sandwich because I had it to hand, but you can use whatever you fancy – chicken, pork, any cold cuts, even a British banger wouldn’t go amiss!
Banh mi (Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g daikon/Japanese radish
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • A handful of shredded meat – approx half a chicken breast each or equivalent
  • A few slices of liver sausage or around 50-75g liver pate
  • ¼ of a cucumber
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise
  • 4 spring onions
  • A small bunch of mint
  • A small bunch of coriander
  • bird’s eye chilli, according to taste
  • Half a baguette

Method

First make the pickle. Peel and shred or grate the daikon and carrot. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour then squeeze out excess water.

While they are sitting, warm vinegar and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. Once cold, pour mixture over daikon and carrot and set aside. The result will keep in a jar for a few weeks. Leave for at least an hour or so.

Prepare rest of the ingredients. Deseed and slice cucumber into long strips. Cut spring onion into long strips, too. Finely chop mint and coriander. Deseed and finely slice chilli. If you want to soften its hit slightly, leave it in a little of the pickling liquid for the carrot for half an hour or so.

Warm baguette in oven and divide into two, then halve and toast lightly. Spoon on mayonnaise. Add ingredients one at a time – pate, meat, slices of cucumber, spring onion, a few pieces of the pickled vegetables, herbs and chilli.

Finally, season with a dash each of soy and fish sauce, wrap sandwich in greaseproof paper to keep all the goodies in and serve with sweet chilli sauce on the side.


8
Apr 09

Easter eats: indulge in a tranquil taste of spring

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In my house Easter Sunday has an agenda followed for many years. Church for those who choose, a brisk walk on what is usually a fairly chilly day (although this year it may be different as Easter falls so late), and a delicious, leisurely lunch.

Over the years I have switched roles, from witness to the spectacle to creator, edging into the kitchen earlier and earlier each Easter. It’s somewhere I could stay, contentedly pottering about, all day. We cook on an Aga at my mother’s, which is at times great fun and at others, a bit of a pain. When it’s all systems go it tends to slow down a bit, right at the critical veg-boiling, gravy-making moment, but the low, steady heat of the bottom oven makes the most spectacular red cabbage.

And our Easter menu? A good shoulder of lamb, some crunchy, roast potatoes and white sprouting broccoli, the tips of which act as  perfect sponges to soak up a gravy made with a spoonful of quince jelly. It’s a calm affair – as it should be on such a day


5
Apr 09

Getting arty with eggs this Easter

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Egg-painting is a great thing to do with the children over Easter. They make fantastic table decorations for Sunday lunch and will keep the kids occupied for hours.

If you’ve decided to go down the ‘blowing’ route, the fun begins right away. Don’t forget to save the contents to use in a cake or pud!

Wash and dry a needle or pin. Carefully puncture a small hole in the small end of the egg. Make a larger hole at the other end and pop the egg yolk. Placing the egg over a bowl, blow through the small hole until all the egg is gone. Give it a rinse and then leave it to dry.

To make a natural paint combine an egg yolk with half a teaspoon of water then divide the mixture between several pots, adding a different food colouring to each. That’s it, you’re ready to go…

Painting the upper half one colour, then pop the egg into an egg box to dry for a few minutes before painting the bottom half.

For all-over colour use food dye, natural dye or water-based felt pens. Add colouring drop by drop until you reach the desired colour before submerging eggs for a few minutes then removing and drying them.

For extra embellishment try sticking on small pasta shapes, like minestrone, or dried lentils and beans. A little help from mum to glue them on will probably be necessary! Another approach is to cut out stencils or patterns on paper and use this to paint shapes on to the egg. When each ‘masterpiece’ is finished, apply a coating of clear nail varnish to protect it.

If you’re using hard-boiled eggs – which are often easier for children to handle as they are less fragile – they can later be added to a special Sunday salad.

Stick to natural dyes – things like beetroot, carrots or coffee – boiling them with water until you’ve got the desired colour. Once the ‘dye’ is cool immerse your eggs in it, shell on. Remove and polish them with a dry cloth and oil – or decorate with edible paints available from cooking shops.

To dye eggs various colours, cover up sections of the eggs with masking tape. After the first dip, remove some of the tape and repeat to get different coloured strips on your eggs.

If you’re really pushing the boat out, good cook shops sell edible transfers, powders and gold leaf – all of which would make fantastic additions.
The key thing is not to use any marker pens or anything toxic, as this will leach through the shell and make the eggs inedible.


2
Apr 09

Snack on a multicultural sarnie

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In these days of multicultural cuisine, tajines, curries and stir-fries grace British tables on a regular basis. Occasionally we stumble upon something a little more unusual, though.

After hearing about the Vietnamese banh mi I started to do some research and discovered there was only one place in town which offered them – and they were pretty disastrous. So I set out to make my own.

Banh mi may well be the ultimate fusion dish; the best of East meets West. The premise is simple – a baguette, halved and toasted, spread with liver sausage or pate, and a few slivers of grilled meat. Add fresh mint, coriander, pickled carrot, the Japanese radish daikon, long shards of cucumber and spring onion, then season with a dash of soy, fish sauce and fiery red chillies, plus a good splodge of mayonnaise.

It sounds like a cultural clash – but in reality it’s a fabulous melange. I shredded left-over duck into the sandwich because I had it to hand, but you can use whatever you fancy – chicken, pork, any cold cuts, even a British banger wouldn’t go amiss!

Banh mi (Serves 2

Ingredients

·
100g daikon/Japanese radish

·
1 medium carrot

·
100ml rice wine vinegar

·
3 tbs sugar

·
Pinch of salt

·
A handful of shredded meat – approx half a chicken breast each or equivalent

·
a few slices of liver sausage or around 50-75g liver pate

·
¼ of a cucumber

·
2 tbs mayonnaise

·
4 spring onions

·
A small bunch of mint

·
A small bunch of coriander

·
bird’s eye chilli, according to taste

·
Half a baguette

Method

First make the pickle. Peel and shred or grate the daikon and carrot. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour then squeeze out excess water.

 

While they are sitting, warm vinegar and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. Once cold, pour mixture over daikon and carrot and set aside. The result will keep in a jar for a few weeks. Leave for at least an hour or so.

 

Prepare rest of the ingredients. Deseed and slice cucumber into long strips. Cut spring onion into long strips, too. Finely chop mint and coriander. Deseed and finely slice chilli. If you want to soften its hit slightly, leave it in a little of the pickling liquid for the carrot for half an hour or so.

 

Warm baguette in oven and divide into two, then halve and toast lightly. Spoon on mayonnaise. Add ingredients one at a time – pate, meat, slices of cucumber, spring onion, a few pieces of the pickled vegetables, herbs and chilli.

 

Finally, season with a dash each of soy and fish sauce, wrap sandwich in greaseproof paper to keep all the goodies in and serve with sweet chilli sauce on the side.

 

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