Lamb Kebabs

DSC_0359Here’s another fantastic excuse for a bowl of saffron Basmati rice. 

I use lamb leg slices for the kebabs; one thick slice will be enough for two portions. Remove skin, bone and excess fat, dice the meat.

Finely dice two stalks of lemon grass and two gloves of garlic, add salt and pepper to taste, then mix with the meat.

Prepare the skewers with a piece of onion between each piece of meat, then grill gently on a griddle at moderate heat. Take your time, turn over occasionally and brush with chilly oil of necessary.

Serve with fragrant saffron Basmati rice, a piece of seared feta cheese and minted yogurt with cucumber or Tzatziki.

Oriental Occidental Lamb Ragout

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Here’s a lamb ragout, rich in the flavours of the Orient and Occident, and dead easy to make.

It is impossible to make this the right amount for one or two portions, so let’s make three portions. Left-overs reheat nicely for lunch on the following day.

Two lamb leg slices with skin, fat, meat and bone (~600 g).

3 medium-sized carrots, a bulb of garlic, two small red onions, 3 fresh tomatoes (or half a can of chopped ones). Star anise, Kassia bark (alt. cinnamon), red chillies, thyme. Salt, pepper, fresh herbs.

Preheat a frying pan to medium heat, melt some ghee or good cooking oil, then sear the leg slices until they begin to caramelise on both sides.

Meanwhile, clean and dice all the veg, crush the garlic. Leave the meat where it is, surround it with the onion and garlic, then add the remaining vegetables. Add five star anise, a good amount of Kassia bark (at least 20 cm worth), red chillies to taste. Add thyme, freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

Add 250 ml water, reduce the heat to a very low simmer, put the lid on and let it do its job for 3 hours.

When finished, remove skin, bones and excess fat, cutting the meat when necessary. Remove the chillies, anise and Kassia, then run the sauce through a blender.

Add some freshly chopped parsley, basil and perhaps a tough of mint.

Return the meat to the sauce, check the seasoning and you’re done.

I served it with grilled aubergines for a carb-free meal, but good quality egg fettuccine is certainly an option.

My Lazy Chicken

DSC_0370I am not sure if this is a concept or a recipe since it has seen so many variants over time, but it always comes out as a finger-lickin’ and lip-smackin’ success.

This dish was originally inspired by Nigel Slater. Allow me to step into his footsteps and try inspire you:

Lazy Chicken is a dish of chicken thighs roasted with rosemary, garlic and olive oil, then served with lemon juice and basil along a good helping of sage butter fettuccine. And, as the name of the dish suggests, it’s dead easy to make even for the lazy cook.

Find a roasting tin or an earthenware dish.

Measurements per portion:

Take 2 or 3 free-range organic chicken thighs, skin on. Trim where necessary but leave most skin, fat and bones with the meat. Put into the roasting dish.

Crush two cloves of garlic, with skin if you need to be rustic, otherwise without. Add to the dish. Add one small dried red chilly and a star anise.

Sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt, then add a good helping of olive oil and juice from half a lime. Toss it all about to ensure an even mix and good coating, then re-adjust the thigh peaces to be skin-up with the skin exposed. Sprinkle some more salt onto the skin.

Put the dish into the oven at 210 C for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 C for another 25 minutes.

Sprinkle a generous helping of Marsala across the dish and freshen up the flavour with another sprinkle of lime juice. (Marsala is an Italian fortified wine. Substitute with dry port wine if necessary.)

Give it another five minutes in the oven, then take out and add a handful of finely chopped fresh Basil.

Meanwhile, cook some good quality egg-rich Fettuccine. When these are ready, melt 50 g butter per diner in a saucepan until foamy, then fry a handful of finely diced fresh sage leaves.

Toss the pasta with the sage butter, serve with the chicken and a crisp white wine.

It won’t look like fine dining, but neither will the finger-licking diners. It’ll make for a fine dinner though.

Slow Wonders

This is another one of those concept dishes rather than an actual recipe.

The concept here is to go over the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning or stumble into the local butcher’s shop, then prepare a meal for slow cooking based on whatever was available or discovered in the fridge or larder.

Preparation takes about an hour, followed by an afternoon free for frolicking. Return hours later to a satisfying stew, on the table and ready to eat within minutes if you plan it right.

You’ll need a slow cooker or an oven with a low temperature cooking programme, or simply an oven which can hold 65 to 75 C for a couple of hours. You could even dig a traditional cooking pit! The trick is to stay below 80 C and leave the dish in peace for a couple of hours.

I like a piece of meat. Lamb shanks or leg slices, goat, mutton, high rib of beef or venison leg are my preferred choices. Clean the meat from sinew and remove skin, perhaps remove some of the fat.

Then clean a curiosity shop of vegetables. You will need onions and lots of garlic no matter what, also peeled waxy potatoes unless you wish to serve the meal with bread or other carbs, or no carbs at all!

Pretty much all vegetables that are in season are fine by me. Fennel, parsnips, savoy cabbage. Tomotoes, beans, peas. I’d stay away from courgettes or aubergines on this occasion but even cauliflower works thanks to the low temperatures.

Clean, peal, dice.

I caramelise the meat by searing in clarified butter on the cooker, using the same casserole dish that I plan to use for the whole process.

Remove the meat, then lightly caramelise the vegetables in the same pot with the help of olive oil or clarified butter.

Season to taste with salt, black pepper, red chillies, thyme, rosemary, lovage, star anise and cinnamon. Bring the meat back, add 75 ml of wine and 75 ml of water. Close the lid, put into the oven and forget about it for a couple of hours, four hours at least, five or six won’t give you trouble.

Allow for even longer if you are using tough meat such as ox tail, but for the types of meat listed earlier, four to six hours are just fine.

Smoked Haddock with Lentils Ragout

DSC_0354Pretty quick and easy to prepare and very satisfying on a cold day: Poached smoked Haddock with a poached egg, served on a bed of green lentil ragout.

For the lentil ragout, finely dice a medium-sized onion, half a fennel bulb, 2 cloves of garlic and one medium sized carrot. Melt a walnut-sized piece of butter and an equivalent amount of olive oil in a pan, then fry the diced vegetables until they begin to caramelise. Add one cup of green (“french”) lentils, two cups of cold water and one chicken stock cube.

(Really, a stock cube. It helps cook the lentils much faster than you’d think.)

Add a twig of thyme or lovage, cover and let simmer very gently. This takes about 30 minutes from now.

Meanwhile, clean the undied smoked haddock but leave the skin on, cutting portions of about 220 g per person. Heat a pint of milk in a pan, add three bay leaves and half a dozen of crushed juniper berries. Check the temperature; you want the milk hot but well below the boiling point. Gently add the fish, skin side down, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. When it is boiling, add a generous splash of vinegar and let the temperature drop to just below the boiling point. Crack one egg per portion into a cup, then gently drop the egg into the hot water. Let them float for 5 minutes.

Sample the lentils ragout. Season to taste with salt, mustard, and balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze.

Plate a good portion of the lentils ragout, topped with the fish, skin now removed, and a poached egg on top. Chilly oil, pumpkin oil or more balsamic vinegar make for a decorative splash.

Serve with fresh bread and everybody will love you.

Winter Warmer

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A lovely little winter warmer dish, quick and easy to make with winter vegetables:

Parsnip and potato mash with seared Duck breast, served with mixed cabbage stir-fry and sage butter.

Begin by getting the mash under way: peal and clean the potatoes, peal one to 1 1/2 parsnip per diner. Remember to remove the fibrous parsnip core. Dice and put into a pot, add one finger’s width of water and a pinch of salt. Close the lid and steam for approximately 25 minutes until tender. The exact time depends on the size of your dice and potato variety, so check with a spoon or kitchen knife.

Meanwhile, prepare the duck breasts. I use smaller fillets, one per diner: trim the skin by cutting away excess, leaving a nice rectangular piece, which I cut crosswise every 5 mm. Trim remaining fat, sinew or blood vessels.

Clean and cut the cabbage into large pieces. I find a mixture of Savoy Cabbage and Red Cabbage works well, but some Chinese Cabbage left-overs or Cavolo Negro also fit in well enough.

Peel and crush two large gloves of garlic, cut one small bulb of fennel into shavings.

Pre-heat the oven to 160 C.

Meanwhile, finish the mash: drain the excess water, then add a cup of hot milk and a two-walnut sized piece of butter. Whisk with an electric mixer or mash it in the good old way using a masher, then set aside.

Heat a frying pan (one with a fire-proof handle) with a small amount of clarified butter (ghee). Salt the duck skin and sear the breast, skin-side down at moderate heat until the fat is rendered out well and the skin has a nice honey colour. Take your time for this. Now turn the breasts skin side up, transfer the pan into the oven and set your timer for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven after 5 minutes, place the breasts on a board to rest for another 5 minutes at least. Meanwhile…

Heat another frying pan to medium-to-high heat. Melt a spoon full of clarified butter, then add the garlic, fennel shavings and cabbage. Stir occasionally to achieve light caramelization throughout. Add salt to taste when your’ done frying, and never add water.

Finely chop a handful of fresh Sage leaves. Melt a generous amount of butter (say, 50 g per diner), heat it up until it is foaming but not yet browning. Quickly fry the sage leaves and remove from the heat.

Assemble with the mash in the centre of the plate, the sliced breast on top, surrounded with cabbage stir-fry. Drizzle the sage butter generously over the cabbage. Done!

Sexy Soups

DSC_1199Following on with the theme and tone set by the Sexy Salads article, this is about Sexy Soups. Soups which surprise, which take you on a journey of discovery through different colours, textures and tastes, soups for more than just to stain your shirtfront.

They can be vegetarian, but I confess that pork belly with crisp skin, or a juicy chicken breast, a pink seared duck breast, some prawns or at least a poached egg or a poached egg yolk are normally my very personal star of the show.

I usually begin with chicken stock, nice and easy to make and less overpowering when compared to a beef stock. I get a whole chicken, fill it with plenty of grated fresh ginger and garlic, then add enough cold water for the soup I need. This will gently simmer for 90 minutes, after which I remove the pot from the heat but leave everything to cool down as is.

One idea is to remove the breast before the cooking. They don’t really add to the soup but can be seared with rosemary butter, then served with the soup. It all depends on your plans for the soup and tomorrow’s meal.

When the soup has cooled down, remove the meat and discard the bones. The meat should make for a fabulous Chicken Fricassee on the next day, or perhaps a quick Coq au Moutarde or a sexy chicken salad with the remaining fennel, apples, oranges and bitter chicory.

A little extra effort pays dividends: whisk up one or two egg whites until they are just  foamy, then add to the cold soup. Gently bring it back to the boil, occasionally lifting the egg white very gently off the pot’s bottom in the beginning to prevent it from sticking. Once the soup is at the boiling point and all the egg whites are floating on the surface, drain through a mousseline sheet or at least a very, very fine sieve to complete the clarification.

The rest is up to you, your imagination and whatever you’ll find in the back of the fridge or kitchen larder: croutons from garlic bread are always nice with a broth, and so are mustard greens, skinned cherry tomatoes or charred little Gem lettuce. Mushrooms and egg noodles perhaps, or fresh garden peas and a poached duck egg yolk?

It always pays to heat some clarified butter and crisp fresh Sage leaves to top the soup, but young pea shoots, cress, radish or mustard shoots are also nice for visual appeal, a bit of a spicy bite and a fresh taste.

 

Fish Soup

DSC_0804This is a lovely meal, but as most good soups go, it is not quite a one pot wonder. It pleased the good wife last night though, what more can I ask?

Then she took photos almost more delicious than the meal itself, don’t you agree?

I prepared each element separately to do it justice: a slightly creamy soup made from crayfish bisque, Monkfish gently seared in Rosemary butter, king prawn tails seared in chilly oil and garlic, mussels steamed with shallots and white wine.

There are no carbohydrates to spoil it, so you should probably start with a bread dough to have fresh, crispy and piping hot bread to go with it. I usually make a simple plain Fougasse from 120 g flour per diner, which is great for texture and for mopping up the remaining bisque.

While the dough is proving, cut a bulb of fennel, a red onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and set aside. Dice a large handful of tomatoes and set aside.

Now prepare two large handfuls of king prawns, tiger prawns or similar variety. It is tempting to purchase the readily cleaned frozen stuff, but here it is essential to use whole prawns, defrosted if previously frozen.

Trim the head off and set aside. Skin the tail, optionally leaving the last element of skin at the very tail on. This makes eating messy but more engaged and more fun. Keep the skin with the heads, slice the top of the tail lengthwise and remove the intestines.

Heat a large pan, melt a walnut-sized piece of butter and an equal amount of olive oil. Sear the fennel, onions and garlic until they begin to caramelise, then add the prawn offcuts, heads, skin and all. Keep going at a fairly high heat, stirring occasionally, until the prawns also caramelise. Add a dried red chilly and a star anise, a pinch of salt.

(Now is the perfect time for putting the bread in the oven.)

Add the tomatoes, a glass of white wine, a glass of cold water. Turn down the heat, cover and slowly bring to a gentle simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, clean the Monkfish. Your fishmonger probably skinned it for you, but you must go over it again and very thoroughly remove the thin layers of skin. These skins turn hard when cooking and are the first reliable sign of quality cooking, or the absence thereof, when ordering a Monkfish-based dish in a restaurant. Discard the skins and set the fish aside.

Clean the mussels: discard the dead ones (those which are open and aren’t closing when knocked gently). Remove all dirt from the living ones by scraping off smaller barnacles, remove the bast, brush the outside under clean water.

Now drain the soup through a sieve, squeezing it thoroughly to get all the lovely juices out. Use the same pot to melt two tablespoons of butter until is beginning to turn brown, whisk in one tablespoon of white wheat flour, then slowly whisk in the strained soup. Turn the heat down to avoid it boiling again, add a generous splash of double cream and season to taste with salt. Set aside on very low heat.

Rub some stale white bread with garlic and tomato and gently fry into croutons, adding olive oil as late as possible, as little as possible.

Heat a tablespoon of butter, add a splash of olive oil, and gently sear the Monkfish. Add fresh rosemary or thyme if you can. Keep on moderate heat, turn over once in a while and spoon some of the herb-infused butter over it all the time.

Dice a small onion, perhaps a clove of garlic. Melt in some oil quickly, add the mussels and half a glass of white wine. Put the lid on, steam for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add a dried red chilly or a teaspoon of chilly flakes and gently stir-fry the prawn tails while beginning to plate up:

The croutons form the centrepiece because they also make a little podium for the Monkfish, which I will cut into thick slices for serving. Add the soup, add the prawns and mussels.

Dress with spring onions, chopped parsley, cress, pea or mustard shoots.

Add a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar glaze, pumpkin oil or chilly oil for that extra professional look, although I don’t think this adds appeal on this occasion.

Serve with the fresh bread and a dry white wine.

Sexy Salads

DSC_0781_v1We love sexy salads, by which I mean complex salads with layers and multitudes of flavours, colours and textures. The in-house joke is to quickly make a salad but these are of course anything but quickly made. They’re much better when you take your time for preparation and execution. Just like sex, really.

This is not so much a recipe but a concept, and an invitation to become creative even if it is only about an assortment of leftovers.

The must recent sexy salad was based on Lambs Lettuce with a Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing, supported by charred little Gem lettuce, red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Raddish and spring onions in a soured cream dressing, beetroot dressed in Balsamic Vinegar, cress and slices of fresh pear and avocado complete the support team to feature slices of our recently made Game Terrine, crisped Black Pudding, soft-boiled quail eggs dressed with fennel seeds and baked goats cheese. Oh, and a gorgeous drizzle made from reducing pear poaching liquor with Japanese rice vinegar.

That, and a glass of wine, and a fresh bread, and Bob’s your uncle.

Other variations of this theme featured chicken livers, Feta or goats cheese, chicken breast. Poached eggs or poached egg yolks, Raspberries when in season, scallops, prawns and just about anything else you can imagine: sauteed or pickled mushrooms, caramelised onions, pickled onions and vegetables, fennel shavings, grilled summer vegetables or green asparagus, fresh mango, fresh broad beans all worked well on many prior occasions. Croutons can provide extra crunch.

 

Game Terrine

DSCN4129This is not so much a precise recipe than a concept, a base for improvisation. I expect that no two of these game terrine will ever be the same, but they will all be rather nice as a starter, or as a light lunch with fresh bread and a light salad.

I use 200 g each of venison leg, duck breast and fatty minced pork, and 100 g butter. The pork is already minced, so I chop the venison into coarse mince and cut the duck breast into strips after taking the skin off just so that I get a variety in texture rather than a smooth blend throughout.

Put into a mixing bowl, and add on beaten egg, one tablespoon of breadcrumbs, optionally two tablespoons Brandy. A handful of chopped dried Apricots, a handful of toasted pistachio nuts, Macadamia nuts or pumpkin seeds.

I season this with a tablespoon each of fennel seeds, allspice and sea salt, all finely ground.

Mix thoroughly and let rest for a while.

Meanwhile, I crisp rashers of bacon enough to line the terrine tray. Baking parchment comes first, then the crisped Bacon, then the meat mix. Pack this firmly to minimise trapped air, cover with the folded over baking parchment and bake at 160 C for 60 minutes.

Let cool down completely before opening the terrine.