Monday, October 31

Nasi Goreng - Indonesian Fried Rice with Chicken

I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to make fried rice look beautiful in a photo, you will just have to trust me that the beauty of this dish is within. It may look a bit cheesy with the tomato, cucumber and fried egg garnish, but this is how I remember it being served when I went travelling and it just sorta works. This is pretty much the national dish of Indonesia and I am sure that every Indonesian has a view on what makes the authentic and best version. I learned to make a dryish, oily curry paste and add the rice to this once it has been cooked out with your protein of choice and any number of vegetables. Fried rice does not work as well with freshly cooked rice. What I do is collect leftover rice from other mealtimes (from the pot, not from peoples plates!) and add to a tupperware container in my freezer until I have enough to cook with.  Ample for two:

Lemon grass - 2 stalks, tough outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled
Ginger - thumb sized piece, peeled and roughly chopped
Fresh coriander - 1 small bunch, leaves seperated from stalks
1 red chilli - seeds in or out
2 tsp roasted chilli paste
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
1 large banana shallot - peeled
Sweet Indonesian soy sauce (Kecap Manis) - 1.5 tbsp
Veg Oil - 75ml
Cooked rice - 500g
Chicken breast, 150g finely sliced
Spring Onion - 2 finely sliced
Cucumber slices
Ripe tomato
Lime - 1
Eggs - 2

In a blender add the lemongrass, coriander stalks, garlic & ginger, chilli, chilli paste & chilli sauce, kecap manis, the shallot, turmeric and oil. Blitz to a fine paste adding a little water if too dry to blend. Heat a large frying pan or wok on the stove and add the curry paste. You need to fry this over a medium heat until the paste looks dryish and the oil begins to split from the paste. Basically you are frying the paste for two reasons, one to cook the ingredients and release the full flavour, the other is to evaporate the water ensuring your fried rice does not end up as porridge. Now toss in your chicken and cook through. In with the rice and toss to heat through and coat with the spicy paste. When the rice is piping hot taste and add a little more kecap manis if needed. Fry your eggs.

Serve in large warmed bowls sprinkled with the fresh coriander leaves and spring onion. Put the fried egg on top and add a few bits of cucumber and tomato to finish the dish.

Thursday, October 27

Purple Sprouting & Poached Egg on Toast, Béarnaise

I woke up starving today, ravenous, proper hungry. Breakfast didn't touch the sides and by 11am I was rummaging through the fridge to see what I could rustle up. I had some eggs, some wilted tarragon and a few sprigs of purple sprouting. This unlikely combo turned out to be a bit of a winner for a snack or a light lunch. It's not that healthy due to the amount of butter in the béarnaise but I bet it is not much more calorific than a shop bought sausage roll which is what I really wanted! For 1:

1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
6 purple sprouting broccoli sprigs, trimmed of woody ends and excess leaves
1 piece of quality bread
A small palm full of tarragon, picked and chopped
100g butter
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Get a kettle full of water on the boil and then blanch your purple sprouting in boiling salted water - in this instance you want the stems nice and soft, not crunchy as I would normally recommend. In a small pan, reduce the vinegar to about a tsp worth - this reduces the acidity and harshness in the finished sauce. Melt the butter, toast your bread, get a pan of boiling water on for your poached egg.

In a small bowl and using a whisk, beat the egg yolk with the vinegar reduction and a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the butter, a little at a time, whisking continuously until all the butter has been incorporated. The finished béarnaise should have a thin mayonnaise like consistency. Toss in the tarragon and keep in a warm place - by the stove is fine. Now poach you egg - and while I am at it here are a few tips to getting the perfect result:

1) The eggs must be good quality and very fresh - the older the egg, the more watery the whites. Watery whites float all round the pan whereas firm whites hold around the yolk giving a spherical poached egg.
2) Deep water is a must - use your deepest saucepan, about 5 inches depth of boiling water is perfect. This allows the egg white to 'pull up' into a sack like shape as it makes its way through the hot water to the bottom of the pan.
3) Add a little white wine vinegar - this speeds the setting of the egg proteins
4) The water should be at a gentle boil - just a few bubbles breaking the surface, not seriously boiling.
5) Give the water a swirl before you tip in the egg - make a gentle whirl pool and break the egg into the centre of the spinning water. This motion will twist the white around the egg yolk giving a pleasing shape.
6) To check your egg is cooked, raise just to the surface of the water with a slotted spoon and give it a little squeeze. The white should feel thick and firm but with plenty of squidge from the yolk.

Now back to business - 'butter' your toast with some of the béarnaise, lay on the purple sprouting, top with the egg, spoon over the béarnaise. It is ok to 'oohh' when you break open the egg.

Wednesday, October 19

Linguine of Cavolo Nero, Ricotta, Parmesan and Chilli

A really unusual, vibrant way to use seasonal black cabbage, you are effectively making a pesto from it. This is an effortless vegetarian dish, really easy and fast to make. Surprisingly it is not overtly cabbagey, just deeply 'green' tasting. Again, apologies for the slightly blurry image, I took this in the middle of service under the hot lights. For four:

Cavolo nero - 500g picked weight
Garlic - 3 large cloves
Butter - 125g, room temperature
Parmesan - 300g, grated
Fresh basil - small handful
Extra virgin olive oil - 50ml
Quality linguine - 60 to 80g per person depending on how hungry you are
Quality ricotta - 250g
Red Chilli - 2, seeds in or out, cut into thin strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil a large pan of salted water. Pick the dark green leaves from the fibrous stems, keep the leaves, lose the stems. Roughly chop the greens and blanch for 2 to 3 mins in boiling water. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and refresh under very cold or preferably iced water - this stops the vivid green colour from fading. Drain the cavolo nero and give it a good squeeze dry leaving a little moisture in it. Then in a food processor blend the cavolo nero, the butter, garlic, 250g of the parmesan, olive oil, basil and a good season of salt and pepper until you achieve a pesto like consistency.

Put the pan of water back on the stove and return to the boil. Cook the pasta in the same water following the packet instructions to achieve 'al dente' consistency. Drain the pasta retaining a little pasta water. Warm the cavolo pesto in a large pan on the stove, toss in the pasta and mix well. Taste and season more if required. If the end result is a little dry, add some of the retained pasta water. 

Plate up into 4 large bowls, top with the remainder of the parmesan, a nice dollop of ricotta and the chilli.

Crispy Salt & Pepper Squid, Chilli Soy Caramel

I'm back in a pub kitchen again - a lovely little (tiny!) place called The Bird in Hand in Longashton, Bristol. Only 40 covers so we can really take our time over the food and make it special. I'm going to blog only my own dishes currently on the menu. Fear of plagiarism and professional integrity prevent me from writing about other chefs recipes! If the photos look a little orange or slightly out of focus, please forgive me, they were snatched under the hot lights between checks. Schezuan pepper differs from black pepper in its fragrance, less heat and more floral notes. This method of making a caramel for the sauce is a classic Asian technique and can be varied by adding lemongrass, chill and fish sauce for a Thai version or cucumber, rice vinegar, peanut and herbs for a Vietnamese version. For two generous portions:

Squid - 500g cleaned weight (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
Egg white - 2 well beaten
Corn flour - 50g
Plain flour - 50g
Schezuan Pepper - 1 tbsp
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Caster sugar 100g
Light soy sauce - 2-3 tbsp
Fresh ginger - 1 tbsp grated
Red chilli - 2, seeds in or out, 1 cut into long stops, the other finely diced
Garlic - 1 clove, crushed
Fresh coriander to serve
Lime wedges to serve
Handful of rocket or other peppery salad leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the squid tube into thin rings, less than 1cm and the tentacles in half. Toss into the egg white and set aside. Mix together the flours, the schezuan pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, and 2 tsp of salt and set aside. 

To make the caramel sauce, heat the sugar in a pan over a high heat with 3 tbsp water. Don't stir, just shake the pan gently as the sugar begins to melt, bubble, then slowly take on some colour. Be careful as the caramel is extremely hot and burns like hell if it gets on your skin. Watch the caramel like a hawk and when it reaches a dark golden colour and just starts smelling of burnt (not black and smoking!) take off the heat and throw in the soy sauce and 2 tbsp of water to stop the cooking - have this ready in a cup so you can chuck in in one movement. It will bubble like mad but be brave. Add in the chopped chilli, the garlic and ginger, stir well adding a little more water if too thick - it should look like runny honey. Set aside to infuse for 30 mins then strain out the bits (or leave in if you like).  Heat a deep fat fryer to its hottest setting (190c) or heat a wok or deep pan 1/3 full of oil to a temperature where a piece of fresh bread fries furiously and browns in a  20 seconds or so.

Drain the squid, toss well in the flour to get a thick even coating and then fry for 2 mins until the coating starts to just colour and is very crispy - don't over cook or the squid will be rubbery. You will need to shake the fryer basket or agitate the squid while frying to ensure it doesn't cook in a single mass. Drain on kitchen paper and pile the drained squid onto a handful of salad leaves, top with fresh coriander, chilli and drizzle with the soy caramel. Serve with wedges of fresh lime.

Saturday, October 15

Beef & Horseradish Cobbler

Lighter than a pie but still a 'stick to the ribs' winter warmer. I have done my usual number on this one by adding in as many vegetables as possible. When I'm working hard in the kitchen, my diet is appalling so I need to cram in as many vitamins as possible on my days off. I'm sure it won't do you any harm either! Feeds four:

Chuck steak - 1kg, skin and excess fat removed, cut into large chunks
Plain Flour - 50g
Dripping or veg oil - 50ml
Real ale of some sort - 250ml
Red Onion - 1, roughly chopped
Button Mushrooms - 20, halved
Chantenay carrots - 15, tops removed
Leek - 1, course leaves removed, cleaned and roughly chopped
Parsnip - 2 small, peeled and cut into chunks
Bay leaf - 2
Sprig of thyme - 2
Reduced beef stock (100ml) or a good quality beef stock cube made up to 100ml with water
Worcestershire sauce - 2 tbsp
Self raising flour - 200g
Suet - 100g
Fresh horseradish or from a jar - 3 tbsp grated
1 egg, beaten
Salt and Pepper

Toss the beef in seasoned plain flour then fry hard in the dripping or veg oil until dark golden and crusty. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon then fry the leek, onion and mushrooms in the same pan until they start to colour. Remove the veg from the pan and deglaze with the beer making sure you scrape all those crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Put the meat, cooked veg and beer in a casserole dish and tip in the beef stock, the carrots, Worcestershire sauce and the herbs. Season lightly and cover with a lid of baking parchment. Slow braise at 160c for 2 hours, add the parsnips, stir, and give the casserole another 30 mins in the oven. The meat should be falling apart and the parsnips should be soft, if not cook for another 30 mins. Check the seasoning adding more salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce if necessary.

In a bowl mix together the self raising flour, the suet, a tsp of salt and pepper and the horseradish. Add 80ml of water and mix to a soft sticky dough - add a little more water if necessary. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to approx 1cm thick, cut out into rounds and arrange the circles of dough over the meat in the casserole dish. Brush the dough disks with the beaten egg and bake for approx 30mins at 180c until the meat is bubbling and the cobbler topping is golden brown. I served mine with steamed kale - you can never have enough veg.

Thursday, October 13

Mediterranean Fish Stew

I am back in a commercial kitchen again which is fantastic but I forgot how tiring it is. On my days off I want something that is easy to cook and full of good stuff. This is a great one pan wonder and needs little effort to prepare, just a toss a few things in a pan and give it a nudge every 10 mins or so. Ask your fishmonger to help you pick what fish to add to this dish - small fish/fillets are best and work out cheaper. Also get him to scale and pin bone your fish to save you the trouble. Serves 2 or 3 depending on how hungry you are.

1/2 red and yellow pepper - deseeded and sliced
1/2 red onion - finely sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tin of quality tomatoes
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
A small squirt of tomato puree
A handful of kalamata olives
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice
400g mixed fish fillets such as gurnard, monk fish, red mullet etc - whatever looks good
A handful of raw prawns
A handful of cleaned mussels
Fresh parsley
Salt and Pepper

In a wide shallow pan, fry the onion, garlic and peppers gently in the olive oil until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the tinned tomatoes, olives, potato, paprika, herbs, tomato puree, sugar, lemon juice and a light season with salt and pepper.  Gently simmer for 30 mins or so adding a little water if the sauce gets too thick. You need to cook the sauce until the potatoes are soft. Adjust the seasoning again here adding a little more sugar or lemon as well if you feel the need. 

Push the prawns into the sauce then lay the fish fillets on top along with the mussels. Put a lid on the pan or cover with baking parchment and allow to gently simmer for 5 mins or so until the mussels have opened, the fish is cooked and the prawns are coral pink. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread and aioli (recipe link below)

Sunday, October 9

Custard Tart & Blackberry Compote

I had some friends over for dinner yesterday and one was a pastry chef at the highly acclaimed Castle Combe Manor Michelin starred restaurant. Always one to set myself up for a fall, I decided to make a delicate custard tart which proved to be a little stressful. Actually the end result was a triumph with thin biscuity pastry and a wobbly filling. After a bit of prodding chef Tom gave it the thumbs up. This is a great tart to have in your repertoire as it goes with so many fruits and sauces. I have done toffee bananas, red wine poached pears and honey roast figs before, just use what is in season. Feeds 6 to 8

Salted butter - 125g, ice cold and cubed
Icing sugar - 2 tbsp
2 medium eggs, beaten
Plain flour - 250g
9 egg yolks
500ml double cream
A splash of vanilla extract
1/3 nutmeg, grated
Caster sugar - 175g
Blackberries - 500g
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Roughly rub the butter into the flour and icing sugar - some smallish bits of butter in the mix are ok. Add one beaten egg and working as quickly and lightly as possible, mix and push the dough together, cling and chill in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

Beat the egg yolks together with the cream, vanilla extract, 75g of the caster sugar and nutmeg and set aside. Roll out the pastry as thinly as you can and then line a 12 inch loose bottomed flan dish with the pastry.  Crimp the pastry over the edge of the dish to stop the edges shrinking down during baking - don't trim. Make sure there are no holes in the pastry as the egg mix will leak out. Now cover the pastry base with cling film and fill the tart with baking beans or rice to stop the base puffing up. Bake for 20 mins at 150c then remove the beans and cling film, and bake for another 10 mins until the base is cooked. Brush with the other beaten egg to seal the tart then bake for 5 mins more. Sealing the tart base with cooked egg stops the pastry getting soggy - top tip mate. Now you can gently trim the edges of the tart with a serrated knife to get a perfect edge - use a gentle, single direction sawing motion - outwards only - being careful not to crack the pastry edges.

Turn the oven down to 120c and with the tart case in the oven, pour in the egg mix and bake for 30 to 40 mins until the egg mix has set but there is still a gentle wobble in the middle. It should wobble like a chubby ladies thigh (sorry if you find this crude - but this is the best description I have ever been given for the perfect consistency of a custard tart).

While your tart is baking, gently heat your blackberries with the lemon juice and the remaining 100g of sugar. When the juice starts to leach and the berries soften, remove from the heat. When the tart is cooked, allow to cool to just warm, and serve with the berries poured over at the last minute (obviously remove the outer tart ring beforehand so you can cut it!).

Monday, October 3

Duck Rice Paper 'Summer' Rolls

When the weather is hot, my body demands Asian inspired food. I've never been much of a salad eater but I do crave light, fresh tasting food when the mercury heads north. Food of this ilk just seems to come so easily to the Thai and Vietnamese people. The markets are awash with unidentifiable dew-wet herbs and leaves. Rice paper rolls are very common in Vietnam and you may find them in some Vietnamese restaurants.  Usually served chilled, they are soft, refreshing, tasty and healthy - I am genuinely surprised these have not taken the UK by storm.

I have called these summer rolls as 'spring' feels inappropriate and I am in denial that Autumn is already here - its my dish.....I'll call it what I like! You will need to visit an Asian store to get the dried rice paper and perhaps the rice vermicelli. As for the rest of the ingredients feel free to use what you please. Shrimp, chicken, shredded pork and tofu all work well, as would any number of shredded vegetables. Just don't skimp on the herbs. Oh, and these make fantastic party food - get your guests to make their own summer rolls, it will save you loads of prep time. Makes approx. 10 rolls:

Dried rice papers - 10x20cm (approx)
Rice vermicelli - 2 large nests
Carrot, finely shredded - 1 large
Spring onion, finely shredded - 1 bunch
Coriander, leaves and stems - 1 medium bunch
Fresh Mint, leaves only - 1 large handful
Thai sweet basil, leaves only - 1 large handful
Red chili, deseeded and finely shredded - 3
Duck - 1/2
Hoisin/sweet chilli sauce/fish sauce/soy sauce  - for dipping

Season and slow roast your duck first at 160c for 1.5 hours then for 30 mins at 220c to crisp. Remove from the pan and shred the meat off the bones with two forks. Blanch the vermicelli in boiling water as per the packet instructions then refresh in very cold water, drain and set aside. Prep all your veg and herbs and have in separate bowls in front of you along with the shredded duck and the vermicelli.

Dip a rice paper in warm water for 20 seconds to soften then carefully lay on a chopping board in front of you. Now starting with a small pile of vermicelli just off centre on the rice paper, pile on the veg, herbs and duck - remember you need to roll this up so show a little restraint. Roll up the summer roll as tight as you can without splitting the rice papers tucking in the ends to result in a roll approx 1 inch thick by 3 inches long. The rice paper should stick to itself so no additional 'glue' is required.  Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. 

The summer rolls will keep well in the fridge for a few days or can be eaten immediately. I like to serve this dish with a number of dips such as satay, sweet chilli, plum or hoisin - shop bought is probably the way to go unless you really want to go to town and make your own - if so...respect!