Simple Seasonal Delights

Tomato Soup is quick and easy to make, tasty and satisfying, especially now when we have quite a few sweet and ripe every day. But you can also use tomatoes bought in the shops or on your local farmers’ market from a wide range of quality and prices.

Wash and quarter the fruit, removing large stalks. Add an onion and one or two cloves of garlic, crushed, a teaspoon of salt. Put to a gentle simmer on low heat until it is melted, then blizz the whole thing.

Finely dice a small onion, then gently fry in a knob of butter and an equal amount of olive oil until golden. Add the soup, bring back to heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with soured cream. Basil pesto, Balsamic vinegar, toasted pumpkin seed or chilli oil also make tasty and visually appealing additions, so does wilted spinach or caramelised feta cheese.

As I said. Quick and easy, tasty and satisfying.


Fleischkäse is a German meat loaf made from cured sausage meat. Hard to describe but delicious and, thanks to these guys, I managed to make it myself to great success:

You need a mincer, a kitchen machine with a rotating blade, and you need to find a suitable emulsifier. Best to read the whole story first:

Following is the commented and ever so slightly modified recipe based on their Fleischwurst recipe. I’ll come back to the difference later.

Prior to anything else, start freezing approximately 150 ml of clean water per kilo of meat into ice cubes.

Buy 1 kg pork meat and fat, not counting skin or bones. A fatty pork belly is perfect, but it may need boosting with a less fatty piece of shoulder joint if it has very much fat. (See note on the meat composition at the end of the article.)

Trim the meat: remove skin, bones, sinew, but keep all the fat. Then cut into stripes suitable for your mincer and place them in the deep freezer for half an hour. The meat needs to be cold and firmed up for ease of processing.

Meanwhile, prepare the spice mix:

18 g curing salt (see note on salt below)
3 g hot smoked paprika powder
2.5 g finely ground pepper mixed from 75% black pepper and 25% allspice
1 g caster sugar
1 g ground mace
1 g ground coriander
1 g ground ginger
0.5 g ground cardamon seeds

1 glove of fresh garlic puree or 2..3 g of dried garlic powder

3..5 g emulsifier (“Kutterhilfsmittel” – see note below)

Now put it all together. It’s important to work quickly now so that the sausage meat stays cold through the process:

Mince the meat using your mincer’s finest setting. That might require two round trips starting with a larger disk, depending on your mincer. Set aside, away from heat sources.

Turn your ice cubes into ice snow using a blender, ice crusher or place them in a zip-lock bag and bash to smithereens using a rolling pin.

Mix the minced meat with the spices and emulsifier quickly and thoroughly, then put it into your kitchen machine’s rotating cutter device. Mine takes about 500 g in one session, so I split the meat into two portions for this.

Run it at full whack. The idea is to chop the mince even finer. While chopping, add the ice snow. After a short while, the mix turns into a not very appealing light brown and glossy mush. Perfect! Out with it before it turns warm.

To make Fleischwurst, you’d now use your sausage filling facility to fill pork intestines. Once filled and closed off, you’d simmer these very gently at 70 C for 45 minutes, then let cure for 24 hours.

To make Fleischkäse, you’d form a loaf within a baking tray and bake at 75 C until the loaf’s core reaches 70 C, then allow for 5 extra minutes. Remove from the tray and try a slice immediately. It won’t get any better than now, fresh from the oven, warm and juicy. Never ever.

Any leftovers can cool down, mature for 24 hours in the fridge. You can eat it cold, gently fry a slice with a knob of butter and serve with a fried egg or gently heat with steam, such as the steam of a portion of Sauerkraut.


Note on Salt and Spices:

They specify 20 g curing salt for a kilo of meat. I find it good but on the salty end of the scale, hence my suggestion for a slightly lower salt content. On the other hand I have increased some of the spice amounts: firstly because I like a robust savoury flavour and secondly because I struggle to weigh 0.5 g even with my finest scale.

I use curing salt because it helps preserve the produce and retains an appealing pink colour. I suppose you can also use regular cooking salt if you eat it right away and accept a less appealing slightly grey colour.

Note on Meat Selection:

They specify 60% pork belly, 30% bacon joint and 10% beef. I am sure that’s perfect but honestly, a nice meaty and fatty chunk of pork belly works for me. In the UK simply ask your local Polish butcher! You need a fair amount of fat so depending on the belly joint you might need to add some white pork fat or a chunk of meat (back leg or shoulder joints will be fine).

Note on Emulsifier:

You need something to help amalgamate and stabilise your emulsion of fat, water and meat. That’s the emulsifier for you. It’s Kutterhilfsmittel in German (preferably “mit Umrötung” for a nicer colouring) and can be found online.

If you ever wondered why German menus always show Bratwurst with a footnote informing you that the Wurst contains phosphate, now you know. Kutterhilfsmittel, that’s why.

Poached Chicken Breast with Beurre Blanc Sauce

There’s a reason for the great classic recipes to be among the great classics, and this is one of them: a poached chicken breast, served with a Beurre Blanc sauce alongside anything suitable: freshly baked bread or some egg tagliatelle are popular, potato or potato-and-parsnip mash also works. The photo shows a potato gratin with toasted Brussel Sprouts, also nice.

Following is the wholesome from-scratch method that takes a little preparation time. I can’t vouch for the express method that uses breast fillets and instant poaching liquor.

Here’s the full Monty, which rewards with quality results and a second meal.

For the poaching liqor:

Buy a whole free range chicken, preferably a corn fed one. Take off the breasts and chill. Meanwhile chop one medium-sized onion, 3 gloves of garlic, two thumbs worth or fresh ginger, and any other suitable vegetables you find: leaks, cabbage greens, carrots, and so on.

Put the bird with the vegetables into a pot. Add 4 or 5 star anise, a heaped teaspoon of salt and pepper each, a couple of chillies. Then add cold water to just cover the lot, typically 1 to 1.5 litres, bring to the boil then let simmer very gently for 2 hours. Let cool down in the pot.

Eventually, take all meat off the bone and put it in the fridge. This makes a great chicken salad or a Fricassee on the next day, almost an instant meal! Or combine it with the poaching liquor and a splash of double cream for a delicious creamy chicken soup lunch!

Take the breasts from the fridge when you start cleaning the chicken. It helps to start at room temperature.

Poaching the breasts:

Key to poaching anything is to remember that poaching is not to cook. So, bring the liquor up to 85 C, remove the skin from the breasts and let them rest in the hot liqor for 15 minutes, a few minutes more if the meat was still cold or if you bought one of those 2 kg monster birds with breasts to match.

For the Beurre Blanc:

Dice a shallot finely and cook with a ladle of the poaching liquor and a ladle of dry white wine until the volume is reduced to half. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, optionally add a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and, or, a tablespoon of small capers.

Take the pan off the heat and never return. It must not boil from here on!

Then take 125 g of cold butter. Dice it to little cubes, maybe 10 mm each side. Keep 5 or 6 of these behind and melt the others in the sauce, whisking fairly vigorously. Then add the remaining butter and stir in very gently, thus dissolving any foam that might have developed.

Dish out your chosen side dish, slice the breast, add the sauce and serve with a dry white wine.

Nothing wrong with that!

Baked Cod with Tartar Sauce

Simple, quick, classic and everybody loves it: baked cod with tartar sauce, served with steamed potatoes or fresh white bread.

First, take the fish out of the fridge and leave to get closer to room temperature.

Start with the tartar sauce: make a mayonnaise from one fresh free range egg yolk per portion. Olive oil is pretty acidic and not ideal; I prefer groundnut (peanut) or grape seed oil but a good vegetable oil will also work.

Finish the mayonnaise with a pinch of salt, two drops of lime juice per yolk and a spoon of wholegrain mustard. Mix and chill.

Meanwhile, hard-boil one fresh free range medium sized egg per person.

Chop a handful of flat leaf parsley, a coupe of spring onions. Drain and chop some capers, peel and chop the hard boiled eggs.

Mix with the mayonnaise and leave in the refrigerator.

Clean the cod but leave the skin on. Cut into portions of 150 to 180 g each. Place on a baking tray using balking parchment, skin side down. Put a half-walnut sized piece of butter or the equivalent amount of chilli oil on each piece of fish.

Put the fish into the preheated oven at 150 C, circulated heat. Give it 12..15 Minutes, more if the pieces are very chunky, more if they are still cold from the fridge, but no more than 20 Minutes.

Add freshly ground black pepper, serve with the tartar sauce, steamed potato or fresh white bread and a glass of a crisp dry white wine.

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.

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.