Thursday, December 29

Ground Pork with Thai Basil and Chilli

For boxing day I had some friends over and decided to do an alternative Christmas feast by whipping up a bit of a Thai banquet. This was the main course and I have posted this out of "course order' as it occurred to me that this dish would work really well with leftover turkey minced up instead of the pork. I'm probably too late and you may well have eaten it all by year maybe!

You really have to go to town here with the quality of the meat. Get the best quality free range pork you can afford, preferably dry aged for a week or two. If necessary buy some good pork steaks and get your butcher to coarsely mince them for you.   Thai basil has a wonderful aniseed flavour but Italian basil works well if you cannot find. I use the big chillies in this as they are not so potent and you need a lot of chilli for the flavour, but feel free to use the thai birds eye ones if you are a chilli fiend. Serves 4:

2 large skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 fat red chillies, seeds in or out, finely chopped
10 green beans, finely chopped
500g course pork mince
1 tbsp thai chilli sauce – the smooth one, not the one with bits in
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 lime
3 very large handfuls thai sweet basil or 1 handful of italian basil, leaves only. 

Blitz the chicken breasts in a food processor until roughly chopped and add to the pork mince – the mix of chicken and pork works really well.  

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot. Stir fry the garlic, beans and chilli until the garlic starts to turn golden at the edges. Throw in the pork and chicken mince and fry until the meat is cooked through - approx 4 to 5 mins. Add the sugar, fish sauce and chilli sauce, and the juice of the lime and mix well.

Throw in the basil leaves and bubble for a further minute until the basil has wilted. Taste and season by adding more fish sauce, lime juice and sugar if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

Tuesday, December 20

Smoked Bread, Bacon & Maple Roast Tomato Sarnie

As a chef Christmas can be a bit of a nightmare. It has been so busy that I have not really had time to blog but trust me...this one is a winner and worth the wait. 

In my local branch of Waitrose I found some organic malted bread flour that had been oak smoked......I had to have it. The resulting bread had a great malty taste and a background twang of smoke. I'm really happy with how the loaf turned out and can imagine it working extremely well on a cheese board, or with some rough pâté de campagne. For 1 loaf and a sandwich for one hungry person:

Smoked bread flour - 1kg
Warm water - 700ml
Salt - 20g
Fresh Yeast 20g (or dried yeast 10g)
Quality unsmoked streaky bacon - 6 rashers
Cherry tomatoes - a handful
Maple syrup - a good drizzle
Rocket - a handful
Quality mayo - 2 tbsp

Richard Bertinet is the master Baker of the South West and I was lucky enough to work with him in his cookery school for a couple of weeks. I now always use his basic recipe for quantities of yeast and water to flour. I also use his method of kneading. Watch this to see how to do it:

Rather than use a loaf tin, I shaped my loaf by hand after the first prove on an oven tray then baked at 250c for approx 30 mins turning occasionally until the base is crispy and sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool on a wire rack until just warm. In the meantime season your tomatoes, drizzle with maple syrup and roast in the hot oven until they colour and split their skins. Roast the bacon at the same time until crispy. 

Rub your bread with the bacon fat then slather with mayo. Fill up the sarnie with rocket, bacon and the lovely tomatoes. 

Sunday, December 11

Goan Pork Vindalho

Historically Goa has a strong Portuguese influence and this dish typifies the resourcefulness of the indian people, taking foreign ingredients and making it into something unique and wonderfully Indian. Vindalho is derived from two Portuguese words, vin (wine) and alho (garlic), the wine bit meaning the wine vinegar introduced by the Portuguese invaders. Don’t get me wrong, this is a spicy dish, but it’s not as hot as you might expect and the vinegar gives a refined sourness rarely found in mainstream curries – come on, be brave….!


1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
8 cloves
2 tsp crushed red chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
8 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
thumb sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
750g chunky cubed pork, preferably outdoor reared
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp oil
1 piece cinnamon bark
1 400g tin of quality chopped tomatoes
1 green pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Roast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, crushed red chilli and cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant taking care not to burn. Place the roasted spice mix in a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.   Mix the paprika and turmeric into the spice mix, then add the garlic and ginger and pound to a thick paste called a ‘masala’. Add half the masala to the pork with 4 tbsp of the vinegar and rub in thoroughly. Allow the pork to marinade overnight in the fridge.

Fry the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the pork and it’s marinade, along with the remaining masala paste and the cinnamon bark. Fry for a further 5 mins until everything is well combined. Add the tomatoes, green pepper, sugar and remaining vinegar along with 100ml of water. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 mins until the pork is tender. You can add a little more water if the sauce gets too thick during cooking.    

At this point you need to taste the sauce and season accordingly. The sauce should be thick and red with a hot and sour taste. You can balance the acidity to your taste by adding a little more sugar or vinegar just before serving. Get a cold Kingfisher beer at the ready....!

Wednesday, November 30

Fennel Sausage, Tomato & Basil Spaghetti

You have been at work all day. You come home to more shit that needs sorting. It's done, but now you're starving, you need some food. It's already 8pm. This dish is the one. It is going to become a repertoire staple you cook forever. It's quick to make and eat, but it also uses only a splash of red wine meaning there is an excuse to open a bottle and finish the rest. If you could graph a difficult day, this dish (and the wine) is the tiny positive incline at the end of the timeline.

Quality Toulouse sausages - 6
Onion - 1/2, finely chopped
Extra virgin - 2tbsp
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Garlic - 2 cloves, roughly chopped
Passata - 350ml
Red wine - a good splash
Red wine vinegar - a splash
Sugar - a couple of pinches
Crushed red chilli - 1/2 tsp
Basil - 1 small bunch, stems chopped finely, leaved roughly torn
Parmesan - 75g, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spaghetti - 120g

Boil the kettle and get a big pot of salted water on to boil. Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and fennel in the oil for 5 mins until the onion is soft. Skin the sausages and pinch the meat into the pan - fry until cooked. Deglaze with the vinegar and wine, then in with the passata and sugar. Get your pasta in to cook - follow the packet instructions. 

Reduce the tomato sauce by 1/3 and taste. Correct the seasoning, sugar and vinegar to your taste. Toss in the basil stalks and cook for a few mins more. Finish with fresh basil, in with the cooked pasta and a little of the pasta water if the sauce is too dry. Mix well, finish with parmesan - lots of it. Eat, drink, sleep. Tomorrow is another day (smiley face).

Monday, November 28

Pork Pie

These are incredibly easy to make, very forgiving and way beyond any shop bought pie in terms of flavour. Pork pies fall into two camps on both the meat and pastry front. Some 'cured' pork pies have pink fillings after cooking due to the addition of saltpetre or other anti-oxidant agents. Mine are more natural and will go greyish - it is what pork does after mincing and cooking, why add chemicals? With regards pastry, many commercial offerings will have soft flabby spongy casings. Not these - the pastry will be firm and crisp and will stay that way for several days uncovered in the fridge. So its a case of pink and flabby vs natural and firm folks......I'll leave you to make your choice. 

Pork pies should have jelly. No matter how full you fill the cases, the meat will shrink during cooking and the jelly is added to fill the resulting void. I'm not a massive fan of meat stock jelly so I went for the option of melting down some crabapple jelly and using this instead. I am sure it would work really well but in a rush to photograph and eat, I didn't let my pies cool and the jelly ran out when I cut them - dumb ass!  It did however get me thinking that any sort of fruit or wine jelly would work well - redcurrant, medlar, dessert wine with added gelatine.... I'll describe what I did here but feel free to experiment. For four individual pies:

Pork belly or shoulder - 400g after trimming rind and gristle 
Spring Onions - 4
Sage - 1 small bunch
Nutmeg - 1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
Salt & black pepper
Lard - 150g
Plain Flour - 300g
Water - 150ml
Crab Apple Jelly - 50g

Set your oven to 200c. Put the pork, spring onions, sage, nutmeg, 1tsp salt and 1tsp pepper into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to a rough mince. Bring the water and lard to the boil, add a good pinch of salt, then add to the flour. Using a spatula bring together to an oily pastry and when cool enough to handle, form into a ball with your hands.

Divide the dough into 6 balls, then push 1 ball into the bottom of a small, individual 125ml dariol mould or cupcake tin, or what ever you have that will make a decent sized pork pie). Squeeze the pastry up the sides of the mould to just above the rim making sure there are no holes and the pastry is roughly an even thickness all over. Repeat three more times resulting in 4 pastry cases. Divide the meat mix into 4 balls and stuff each into the pastry cases pushing down well but taking care not to split the pastry. Divide the remaining two pastry balls in half and use to make lids - squeeze out a rough circle and place on top of the pies. Crimp the lids with your fingers, cut a large steam hole in the top of each lid and bake for 50 mins to 1 hour. To check they are cooked, inset a fine knife through the steam hole into the centre of the pie. Leave for 5 seconds then touch the knife point to your lips. If it is very hot then the pies are cooked, if only warm cook for another 15 mins.

Warm the crabapple jelly in a pan to melt then carefully spoon into the holes in the tops of the pies until they can be filled no more. You may need to re-open the holes after baking as they sometime close up a little. When the pies have cooled, refrigerate to set the jelly then de-mould. If the pies refuse to come out of the tins, this is probably due to the fat setting. Put the whole tray back in the oven for no more that a minute and the fat should melt and the pies release. In the pub we use a blow torch to release all kinds of things like this from chocolate mousse to pannacotta and of course pork pies - top tip mate.

Friday, November 25

Middle Eastern Duck Salad of Purple Potatoes, Radish, Orange & Pomegranate

There are some really exciting ingredients about at the moment, pomegranates for one and I found some purple salad potatoes in my local greengrocer - who knew these existed!  They taste slightly like a chestnut/potato cross, but not a great deal different to the more usual salad potatoes.  They do however look cool and I am a sucker for something pretty. And on that note my pregnant wife demanded duck for racking my brains I came up with this unusual take on a middle eastern, wintery salad. 

If you haven't used sumac before, its is a deep red, sour citrus flavoured spice that works well with fatty meats such as duck and pork. It is widely available so give it a whirl. Serves 2 generously:

Duck Breast - 2
Sumac - 1 tsp
Orange - 1
Pomegranate - 1
Honey - 2 tbsp
Rose Water - 2 tsp
Red wine vinegar - 1 tbsp
Extra virgin - 3 tbsp
Cumin seed - 2 tsp
Spring onions - 3, finely sliced
Radish - 8, finely sliced
Watercress & rocket salad mix - 50g
Fresh coriander - 50g, stems finely chopped, leaves a bit rougher chopped
Purple potatoes or another quality salad potato such as charlotte or pink fir apple - 200g

Gently scrub then boil your pots (in their skins in salted water until a knife is easily inserted with little resistance. Score the duck breast skin, season well with salt, pepper and the sumac. Place skin side down in a cold and dry non-stick frying pan and place on a medium heat. Allow the duck to slowly fry, rendering the fat out of the skin to leave it crispy and golden. This should take about 12 mins so adjust the heat accordingly and drain the pain of fat when necessary.

While the spuds and duck are cooking, zest the orange then segment following the technique shown here: Don't throw away the pithy core, squeeze the last of the juice into a bowl....then chuck it.

Cut the pomegranate in half, turn cut side down in the palm of your hand and with splayed fingers, gently beat the skin of the pomegranate with a heavy spoon to release the seeds into a bowl you have cunningly placed underneath. Discard the empty skin and any membrane that has fallen into the bowl. Add the orange segments, the spring onion and the radish to the bowl.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan, then roughly crush in a pestle and mortar. Mix the cumin with the honey, rose water, the juice from the orange, the vinegar and the oil. Season really well with pepper and salt. Mix the dressing with the vegetables in the bowl and allow to marinade for 5 mins - the viniagrette may split and look thin, don't worry. When the spuds are cooked, drain and cut into quarters and add to the vegetable and viniagrette mix - the warm potatoes will suck up the flavour and excess juice from the bowl so mix well with your hands and leave for 10 mins to infuse.

Back to the duck - when it has had 12 mins on the skin side and is golden and crispy, flip onto the flesh side and turn off the heat. Allow the duck breast to rest in the pan for 10 mins - this should cook it to a blushing pink depending on the size of your breasts (this sexual innuendo was not lost on me by the way).

To plate, use the coriander like a salad leaf with the rocket and watercress. Pile onto a large plate, top with the vegetable mix and then the thinly sliced duck breast. Finish with a sprinkle of sliced spring onion, pomegranate and more chopped coriander.

Wednesday, November 23

Beef Stroganoff

It's very retro, no denying, but its also steak and onions with sour cream and mushrooms! Whats not to like? This dish relies on good quality paprika. A dusty, two year old packet from the back of the store cupboard is only good for the bin. Find a good deli and buy the best quality Hungarian paprika. Also check the packet dates and buy the freshest one.  Being a poor chef, I used rump steak for this dish rather than the more traditional (and pricey) fillet. It worked really well and I think this was down to the fact that the steak had been aged for 35 days. Bear this in mind when you buy your meat - supermarket rump will not be so tender!

If you are supporting Movember ( try not to get paprika sauce in your 'tache. Serves two generously:

250g steak - fillet, sirloin or rump, well trimmed, cut into finger sized pieces
1 large onion - peeled and finely sliced
1 fat clove of garlic - finely minced
1 red pepper - deseeded and finely sliced
150ml sour cream
250g chestnut mushrooms - sliced
Butter - 50g
Veg oil - 1tbsp
1 heaped tbsp quality hungarian paprika
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
Beef stock - 100ml
salt and freshly crushed black pepper
Squeeze of lemon

Fry the mushrooms over a medium high heat in the butter with a little seasoning until they are brown at the edges. Remove from the pan and set aside. Turn down the heat and in the same pan gently fry the onions, garlic and peppers for 15 mins until very soft and only just golden - give them a little stir every so often.  

At this point I put a pan of water on to boil for my rice (its a retro dish, it has to be served with basmati). When the rice was cooked, I ran some more fried mushrooms and some buttered wilted spinach through my rice to give it extra interest and some green on the plate. You can serve it with what you like: buttery mash, jacket potato, fried polenta - it works with most bland starches.

Back to the stroganoff. Heat your now vacated onion pan over a high heat, add a little veg oil and stir fry your steak. You can cook the steak to your liking, but I would suggest you fry the beef to 'rare' and then cook longer in the sauce if you prefer a more well done state. Get the pan very hot and toss in the beef and stir fry for 2 mins shaking and stiring as you go. For the last minute of cooking, toss in the paprikas and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. After the 2 mins deglaze the pan with the beef stock and in with the cream, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Mix well, bubble for 30 secs and taste. Correct the seasoning if necessary, add a squeeze of lemon if you think it needs it and the dish is done. Feel free to cut a bit of beef open to check it is cooked how you like it. If you have followed the recipe it should be 'pink' in the middle.

Saturday, November 19

Jerusalem Artichoke Spätzle, Radicchio, Parmesan and Hazelnuts

Like many chefs I am a devout meat eater, but much of the food I cook at home is ‘meat free’.   An unusual way to describe my vegetarian cookery perhaps, but I believe the secret to fantastic vegetarian food is that it must feel effortless; dishes should feel creative and complete in their own right, but just happen to be vegetarian.  

You may not have come across spätzle before, a German/Swiss pasta that is very quick to make and is immensely versatile depending on the season. Try pea and ricotta in Spring or tomato and courgette flower in Summer, this version will be bang in season right now.  For four:

Plain Flour – 400g
Eggs – 4, beaten
Salt – ½ tsp
Water – 200ml
Jerusalem Artichokes – 500g
Juice of 1 lemon
Milk – enough to cover the artichokes
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Sage Leaves – 20, finely chopped
Butter – 100g
Radicchio – 1 head, shredded
Parmesan – 150g, half grated, half shaved
Parsley – 1tbsp, finely chopped
Blanched Hazelnuts – 100g, toasted and roughly chopped

For the spätzle you will need a large pan of boiling salted water and a colander/steamer with small round holes. It should sit comfortably on top of the pan without touching the water. In a food processor beat together the flour, eggs, salt and water to make a very thick but pourable batter – add a little more water if it looks too thick. Tip half the batter into the colander and using a spatula push the batter slowly through the colander into the simmering water. It should look all misshapen and rough so don’t panic!   The pasta will float when cooked. Strain, refresh in cold water and toss in a little oil to stop it sticking - set aside.   Repeat until you have cooked all the batter.

Peel the artichokes, dice up and drop into the lemon water immediately to stop them going black. Drain and in a clean pan, cover with milk and simmer until very soft, approx. 30 mins. Blitz in a food processor until very smooth adding a little liquid from the pan and seasoning to make a nice smooth puree – keep warm.

To finish the dish, fry the garlic and sage in the butter for 30 seconds. Toss in the spätzle and radicchio and warm through. Add the grated parmesan, parsley, half the hazelnuts and season well.   Put a good spoonful of the artichoke puree in the bottom of each pasta bowl and top with the spätzle. Sprinkle with the remainder of the hazelnuts and the parmesan shavings. 

Tuesday, November 15

Monkfish & Serrano, Spelt Bourguignion, Chicory Gratin

I've been meaning to make Monkfish bourguignion for some time now but have yet to get round to it. Being a very meaty fish, I feel you can expose monkfish to flavour combinations that are not classically used with fish - I tend to treat it like chicken. This dish is a little complicated to make, a bit restauranty. That said, the work is all in the prep - service is if you fancy pushing out the boat, it would be great dinner party fare. Otherwise why not take elements of the dish like the gratin or spelt and use in other ways. For 4:

Monkfish - 2 tails, each weighing 400g, skinned, filleted and membranes removed (ask your fishmonger)
Serrano ham - 8 thin slices
Spelt grain - 200g
Chicken stock - 500ml (a cube is ok)
Beef stock - 1litre, (it has to be home made - sorry!)
Red wine - 250ml
Finely diced leek, carrot, onion and celery - about 100g in total
Baby shallots (peeled) or frozen silver skin onions - 100g
Pancetta lardons - 50g
Button mushrooms - 100g, quartered
Kale - 4 large handfuls once removed from the stalks
Chicory - 2 large heads, outer leaves removed and quartered
Mature cheddar - 150g
Dijon mustard - 1 tbsp
Butter - 50g
Milk - 500ml
Plain Flour - 1 heaped tbsp
Serrano ham ends - 50g, chopped very finely (if you can't get, use 50g sliced serrano chopped)

For the gratin: bring your milk to the boil with the trimmings from finely chopping up your leek, celery, and onion. Set aside and allow the flavours to infuse. In a lidded pan, gently braise the chicory with half the chicken stock until soft. Season well, drain reserving the stock and set aside. Melt the butter in a pan, add the mustard and flour and mix until well combined. Strain the milk then tip half into the flour mix and whisk over the heat until all the lumps are out. Add the rest of the milk and bring to the boil whisking all the time. The sauce should now be smooth. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 mins to cook out the flour. Take off the heat and toss in the cheese and chopped serrano ham. Season well and stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce then set aside. Place the chicory into 4 small, snug fitting oven proof dishes and top liberally with the cheese sauce - use one large dish if you wish.

For the spelt: fry the lardons over a medium heat until they start to go golden and the fat has rendered out. Tip into a sieve to drain, then tip the oil back in the pan and hard fry the onions until they colour and are soft. Tip into the sieve, oil back in the pan again and now fry the mushrooms until coloured. Into the sieve for the last time and discard the oil. Using the last of the chicken stock and the leftover stock from braising the chicory, gently simmer the spelt and the finely chopped onion, leek, carrot and celery until soft and dryish (like risotto). Season lightly. Now you need to make a cheats red wine jus - reduce the beef stock and wine over a high heat skimming any scum until you have a syrupy reduction similar in consistency to  warm honey - set aside.

For the monkfish: place one fillet on top of the other, head to tail. Spread the serrano ham slices out on a chopping board. Season the monkfish and then tightly roll up in the ham. Ok....thats your prep finished....phew!   You can do all this a day in advance by the way.

To cook: Put the gratin in a hot oven - 220c for 20 mins until bubbling and golden. After the gratin has been in the oven for 10 minutes, heat a frying pan over a medium high heat and start to fry the monkfish in a little oil. When one side of the ham starts to crisp, quarter turn and put in the oven. Warm the spelt gently with the red wine jus, simmer until the spelt is glazed and the sauce is thick and coating.  Turn your fish a quarter turn and then again in another 2 mins to ensure the ham is crisp and golden all over. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your fish but 8 to 12 mins should be plenty. You can always cut the fish in half to check, if underdone put back in the oven for a few minutes more. Blanch your kale for 3 mins in salted water and drain.

To plate, pile kale and spelt on each plate. Give each person a small gratin or serve each from a large bowl. Cut the monkish into 8 or 12 slices and divide between plates. Drizzle any remaining pan juices from the spelt over the plate and fish. 

Friday, November 11

Chicken & Cashewnuts

A Chinese takeaway classic it maybe, but my version if far superior and takes literally minutes to prepare and cook. Serve with some egg fried rice and you have an economical healthy midweek supper. You must buy the raw unsalted cashews and cook them yourself. When I was in Thailand you could order freshly fried cashew with chilli to go with your ice-cold Singha beer. If you have not roasted your own nuts before, try frying cashews slowly in a pan with a little butter and salt until golden. Allow to cool before eating so they have a chance to crisp up - I promise it will be a revelation. For two:

Free range skinless chicken breast - 200g, sliced
A small onion - finely sliced
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Spring onion - 1/2 bunch, finely shredded
Oyster mushrooms - 100g, cleaned and torn
Quality oyster sauce - 4 tbsp
Light soy sauce - to taste
Cashews - 100g
Fresh coriander - 1 small pack, roughly chopped
Sugar - to taste
Sesame oil - 1tsp
Veg Oil - 2 tbsp

First gently fry your cashews in a little oil over a medium heat until they start to go golden brown in places. Stir and shake about until they are nicely toasted then drain and set aside. Crank up the heat to high and in the same pan add the rest of the oil and fry the onion, garlic, mushrooms and spring onion until they start to soften. Toss in the chicken and fry until cooked. Add the oyster sauce and sesame oil plus a little water - enough to moisten the dish and make a thick sauce. Now add the sugar and soy sauce to taste. You need to balance the saltiness and sweetness to get that authentic Chinese taste. Add a little at a time until you are happy with the flavour - this is a deeply personal thing so there are no measurements here. Add a little more water if your sauce is too thick, otherwise transfer to a warmed bowl, top with coriander and your cashew nuts. Serve with fried rice. 

If you have not made fried rice before: beat two eggs and fry in a little oil as if you  were going to scramble them. Really cook the eggs until really dry and rubbery, breaking them up as you go. Toss in some blanched frozen peas and a generous bowl full of day old, cold rice. Heat through on a fierce heat adding a little more oil if needed. Finish with a good shake of light soy or Thai fish sauce to season. I cook this all the time, its good...give it a go.

Sunday, November 6

Pan Fried Supreme of Chicken, Sweetcorn Velouté, Giroles & Lardons

Visually this dish looks stunning but it is relatively straight forward to prepare and cook - if you don't believe me just look how short the list of ingredients. We currently have this dish on at the pub and it sells really well. The flavour combinations are classic and well known - the inspiration for this dish came from Chinese chicken and sweetcorn soup! For four:

Skin on chicken supremes or breasts (free range) - 4, ask your butcher to french trim the wing bone
New potatoes - 12 the size of a golf ball
Baby leaf spinach - 1 bag
Sweetcorn - 2 cobs
Milk - to cover the sweetcorn
Butter - 50g
Veg oil
Pancetta or streaky bacon cut into lardons - 100g
Giroles or other wild mushrooms - 100g
Salt and pepper

Peel the sweetcorn cobs and cut the corn from the cobs using a sharp small knife. Put the corn in a shallow pan, just cover with milk, season and add half the butter. Simmer gently for 5 mins then blitz in a liquidizer and pass through a sieve. Discard what is left in the sieve and set the sweetcorn velouté aside. Boil your potatoes until just tender. Drain and cut into slices about 1cm thick.

Heat a frying pan and add a little oil. Season your chicken breasts and fry on a medium heat skin side down until golden and crispy (approx 10 mins). Transfer to an oven tray and finish cooking in the oven (200c should be fine). In the same pan add a little butter and fry the  lardons for a few mins until they start to colour then toss in the mushrooms to cook through - maybe 2 mins more. Drain the lardons and mushrooms and keep warm. 

Heat the frying pan again on a high heat and fry the potatoes in a little oil and butter with some seasoning until golden on both sides - drain and set aside to keep warm. Wipe the pan out and now wilt the spinach in a little butter and seasoning.

By now the chicken should be cooked - cut through on an angle to check, if not put back in the oven for a few mins more. Warm the sweetcorn velouté gently, don't boil. Divide the spinach between 4 warmed pasta bowls, top with the sauté potatoes. Pour the sweetcorn sauce around the islands of spinach and sauté, sprinkle round the mushrooms and lardons then top with the chicken breast. 

Note to food bores: I am aware that the sauce used here is not technically a velouté - sweetcorn sauce sounds grim......bless the french for their beautiful but poncey vocabulary.

Tuesday, November 1

Corned Beef Hash, Spicy Butter Beans

This is comfort food incarnate and made with stuff you should have kicking about in tins and in the veg rack (well I do anyway). I made the hash mix in advance, pushed into rings and chilled before reheating later that evening but you can serve straight from the pan. You may also cheat and use tinned baked beans to speed up the progression of food to stomach. For two:

Quality corned beef - 1x200g tin, cut into 1.5cm dice
Large baking potato - 1, skin on, scrubbed and cut into 1.5cm dice
Onion - 1, peeled and finely sliced
Worcestershire sauce - 1 tbsp
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp
Eggs - 2 
Butter - 50g
Butter beans - 1x 400g tin, drained
Tomatoes - 1x 400g tin
1 small onion - peeled and finely chopped
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Garlic - 2 cloves, finely chopped
Tomato puree - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 2 tsp
Red wine vinegar - 2 tsp
1 red chilli - seeds in or out, finely chopped
Parsley or corriander - 1 tbsp chopped

Fry the small chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened and starting to colour. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, vinegar and red chilli and simmer gently for 10 mins until the tomato starts to break down. Season with salt and pepper then toss in the butter beans and simmer very gently until the whole dish has a pleasing saucy consistency to it - maybe another 15 mins.

While the beans are cooking, heat a frying pan with the butter and fry the large sliced onion and the potatoes. When they start to brown and crisp, turn the heat right down and cover with a lid or a piece of baking parchment and allow to tick over on the stove until the potatoes are completely soft. Toss in the worcestershire sauce, the ketchup and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mix in the corned beef and allow to warm through - the corned beef will begin to break down as it warms - this is fine. 

Fry your eggs, add the herbs to the beans and correct the seasoning. Divide the hash between two warmed plates along with the beans. Top with a fried egg. Now admire - it won't win a Michelin star but by god I bet you want to eat it!!

Note: A few people have been confused by my presentation in the photo above. I cooled the mix and pressed into a burger shapes before chilling in the fridge. This allows you to prepare in advance. To reheat, pan fry in oil until golden and finish in the oven to heat through. You can of course serve straight from the pan as in the recipe above which is equally as tasty, faster but maybe not as pretty.