Tuesday, January 31

Pan Fried Wild Salmon Fillet, Patatas Bravas

This dish nearly didn't happen. I was going to cook the salmon with a posh braised fennel and new potato salad but I fell asleep while slow braising the fennel and burnt it. Don't be fooled by these 'oh so perfect' TV chefs, real chefs burn stuff all the time...!  So, out of the store cupboard a new dish was born and it is pretty bloody tasty. The slightly sweet/sour tomato sauce cuts the fatty salmon nicely. Take your time when frying the potatoes, the slower you fry, the more crunchy they will be. For two:

Wild salmon fillets - 2x 150g
Tinned plum tomatoes - 1x 400g tin
Red, yellow and green peppers - 1/2 of each, deseeded and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
Garlic - 2 fat cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
Smoked paprika - 1 level tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Chilli powder or flakes, 1/2 tsp
Sherry or red wine vinegar - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Parsley - 1 small bunch roughly chopped
Floury potatoes - 2 medium, peeled and halved
Olive oil - 25ml
Veg oil for shallow frying

Gently fry the peppers, onions, cumin seeds and garlic in the olive oil for 10 mins until softened. Toss in the chilli and paprika and a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper and fry for a minute to take the rawness off the spices. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and mash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Simmer over a medium heat until the sauce is thick - check seasoning and set aside.

Par-boil the potatoes until they are softened but still have some bite in the centre. Drain, cool and cut into bite sized chunks. Heat a roomy non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add 1cm of vegetable oil. Fry the potatoes gently for 15 mins turning regularly to achieve a nice dark golden colour (see picture above for reference). Drain the potatoes and season well dusting with a little extra smoked paprika.

Season and pan fry the fish fillets in a little vegetable oil. Make sure you heat the pan first, cook the fish mostly on the skin side and hold the fillets flat to the bottom of the pan for a few seconds to stop the skin curling up. When the fillets are cooked half through (you should be able to see the 'cooked' line rising up the sides of the fish fillets), turn off the heat and flip the fish over onto the flesh side. The fish will cook through in the residual heat of the pan.

Warm the tomato sauce and put a generous spoonful on the bottom of a plate, top with crispy potatoes then the fish fillet. Sprinkle generously with parsley.

Wednesday, January 25

Hot fried dough balls with tomato salsa

An unbelievably moreish beer accompaniment and much more interesting than olives. This recipe makes a lot of dough and hence more dough balls than you think you will need, but don’t be fooled, they will all magically disappear.   

For the dough balls:
250g strong white flour
1x 7g sachet dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
180ml warm water
large pinch of salt
olive oil (not extra virgin) for frying
maldon salt

For the salsa:
2-3 large very ripe tomatoes, seeded & roughly chopped
1 handful fresh coriander, leaves & stalks, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds in or out, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 juicy limes
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Mix the yeast, sugar, salt and flour in a large bowl. Add the water and mix with a knife until it gets thick and lumpy. Start mixing with your hands until you have smooth dough. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5 to 10 mins until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover it with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

In a clean bowl, mix the tomatoes, coriander, garlic, onion, chilli and sugar and squeeze in the juice of the 2 limes. Add salt to taste and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.

Heat 2cm olive oil in a frying pan. Pinch off small lumps of dough and shape in your hands to make small thin dough discs approx the size of a £2 coin and ½ cm thick.  

Fry the dough balls in batches until golden turning once. The dough balls tend to puff up a little, flatten in the pan with a spatula as you fry so they stay flat. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with the Maldon salt and serve immediately with the salsa.

Sunday, January 22

Mutton Kleftiko, Orzo Pasta, Feta & Parsley Salad

I'm pretty happy with how this dish turned out. It sounds exotic but soothes and satisfies like the best sort of comfort food. Don't be scared to seek out and use mutton, slow braising results in butter soft meat but with double the flavour of lamb (and cheaper to boot).  If you don't have a slow cooker then bring the stew to the boil, cover and then transfer to a low oven (140c) for the same cooking time. You may not have seen orzo pasta before (risoni in Italian cookery)? It is made of the same stuff as the more common pastas but is a tiny rice shaped grain. You can get it in Waitrose and specialist delis. For 2 hefty portions:

Mutton shoulder - 700g piece, boned, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 inch chunks
A few lamb bones scrounged from your butcher (optional)
Veg Oil - 2 tbsp
Orzo pasta - 2 large handfuls
Beef or chicken stock - 300ml
Red wine - 200ml
1 onion - peeled and finely chopped
Pitted Kalamata olives - 100g
Chopped tomatoes - 400g tin
Rosemary & Thyme - 1 large sprig of each
Dried oregano - 1 tsp
Whole clove - 1
Cinnamon stick - half
Bay leaves - 2
Garlic - 2 large cloves, roughly chopped
Sugar - a generous pinch
Worcestershire sauce - a good shake
Red wine vinegar - 2 tsp
Parsley - a small handful of leaves picked from the stems
Feta - 100g, cubed or crumbled
Red onion - 1/2 peeled and finely sliced

Season and hard fry the mutton in a roomy pan to get a good golden crust on the chunks. Fry in batches if necessary. Drain and transfer the meat and the bones to your slow cooking vessel. In the same pan now devoid of most of the oil, gently fry the white onion and garlic until translucent. Turn up the heat and deglaze the pan with the wine. When most has evaporated, add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Tip the pan juices into with the meat. Toss in the woody and dry herbs (not the parsley), spices, and the tomatoes. Set your slow cooker to 'low' and leave to cook for 5 hours. 

After the allotted cooking time, the meat should be falling apart. Remove the bones, the herb stalks, the cinnamon and the clove (if you can find it). Skim any excess oil off the top of the stew - sheep are fatty beasts. Taste and season heavily with salt, pepper, a little red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a shake of Worcestershire sauce. Toss in the olives and the orzo and continue to cook, lid on, for another 20 mins until the orzo is soft. The pasta will suck up a lot of the juices from the stew - you want a thick saucy end result - so add more water or stock if necessary.

Toss together the red onion, feta and parsley (with a little olive oil and lemon if you wish). Tip the stew into a nice big bowl, top with the salad and allow people to help themselves. A crisp green salad and some crusty bread is a nice accompaniment - as is the remainder of the red wine.

Friday, January 20

Coconut Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit & Lime Syrup

I have finally got around to blogging the dessert course for my Boxing day Thai feast. Beautifully simple and refreshing in the extreme.  A perfect end to a spicy prelude. Be sure to buy very ripe passionfruit - the more wrinkly the better. Makes 6x125ml panna cotta but you could go for one big one or any other size combo.

Coconut milk (full fat!) - 500ml
Double Cream - 250ml
Caster sugar - 150g
Gelatine - 1 sachet (12g) of Dr Oetker's powdered gelatine
Juice of 2 limes
4 ripe passionfruit

Warm the cream, coconut milk, 100g of the sugar and gelatine in a pan until everything has dissolved - don't boil or you will taint the taste and destroy the gelatine.  Pour into moulds and set up in the fridge. The best moulds here are aluminium dariol moulds but plastic would also work. If you use ceramic it will be harder to turn out the panna cotta as the moulds need to be warmed in hot water to release the puddings - maybe serve in the moulds?

Boil the remaining sugar with the lime juice, 4 tbsp of water and the scooped out pulp from the passion fruit. When the mixture comes to the boil and the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

De--mould your set panna cotta by dipping in hot water quickly making sure you don't swamp your puds. Hold the mould on its side and using your finger try to break the vacumn by teasing an edge of the panna cotta away from the mould. Once the seal is broken, you can turn the panna cotta out into your hand then plate in the middle of nice white pudding plates. Spoon round the passion fruit syrup. 

Saturday, January 14

Mustard Crumbed Liver, Celeriac Remoulade, Crispy Streaky

A cracking little starter - on at the pub right now - and inspired by Toby Gritten from the Pump House Restaurant in Bristol. The liver was on a tasting menu Toby and I did on New Years eve and I have put my own spin on it here. If you are wondering what to do with the other half of the celeriac, boil up with potatoes to make a great mash to go with bangers and onion gravy. Serves four.

English mustard - 1 heaped tbsp
1 medium egg
Lamb or calves Liver - 4x80g portions, about 1/2 inch thick
Dry breadcrumbs - a few large handfuls
Plain flour - for dusting
Streaky bacon - 4 rashers
Celeriac - 1/2, peeled
Capers - 2 tsp
Dijon Mustard - 2 tsp
Wholegrain mustard - 2 tsp
Quality mayonnaise - 3 tbsp
Parsley - a small handful, finely chopped
Banana shallot - 1, peeled & very finely chopped
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Remove the liver from the fridge 30 mins before you cook to allow it to come to room temperature. The liver may have a shiny thin membrane over its surface, you need to peel this off or it will go tough when cooked. Also remove any white sinew or large blood vessels - if you are squeamish, ask your nice butcher to do this for you!

Mix the mayonnaise with the capers, parsley, shallot, the Dijon and wholegrain mustards - season well. Finely shred the celeriac on a mandolin or take your time and do by hand, cutting first into thin strips, then into fine spaghetti. Mix with the mayonnaise and check the seasoning. 

Lay a piece of parchment on a baking sheet then lay on the bacon rashers. Cover with more parchment then lay a second baking sheet on top so the bacon is sandwiched - this keeps the bacon flat when cooking and gives a pretty end result.. Bake at 200c for 10 to 15 mins until the bacon is crisp and golden.

Beat the egg with the English Mustard then dip the liver into flour, the mustardy egg mix, then breadcrumbs to completely coat. Heat your oil to 170c (you will need a thermometer here or set the deep fat fryer to the right setting). Fry the liver until golden - approx. 2 mins. Remove from the fat and allow to rest in a warm place on kitchen roll. You must let the liver rest for 5 mins. This allows the juices to redistribute in the liver and prevents blood lee king onto the plate when you cut it open. Plate as per the picture above....simples.

Saturday, January 7

Crispy Pigs Cheeks

Now don't get all queasy on me here. Just think of pigs cheeks as a delicious forgotten cut of meat that is incredibly tasty and very, very economical. Waitrose were selling some free range beauties just before Christmas at £2.99 a kilo. Pigs cheeks are not fatty or gristly, in fact they are quite the opposite but like all non-prime cuts, they do take a bit more effort to cook - namely long slow braising.

These would make an excellent bar snack (in fact I might put these on at the pub next week) and being nugget like, I can see these going down quite well with kids.....as long as you lie about what they actually are! I served mine with some home made piccalilli but they would go very well with chilli jam, tomato chutney or at a push, HP sauce.

Pigs cheeks - as many as you fancy
Plain flour
Beaten eggs - 2 or 3
Chicken stock - 1 litre
Some woody herbs such as thyme, bay and rosemary - a few sprigs of each
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep frying

Cover the pigs cheeks with chicken stock in a tight fitting pan with a lid. Poke in the herbs and season well. Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours until very tender. You should be able to pull bits off a cheek with little effort - if not braise for another 30 mins. Allow the cheeks to cool in the stock then drain. Remove any membranes or obviously fat.

Toss in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Deep fry in batches at a medium heat - approx 170c until crispy, golden and reheated to the core. Open can of lager, put on an action movie and munch manly offally snack.

Sunday, January 1

Lemon Grass Pork & Prawn Wontons

This was the starter from my alternative Boxing day Thai feast. I don’t know if these are authentically thai or some sort of chinese import but they are moreish and go great with a cold one, either as a canapĂ© or as a starter. You can prepare these in advance, try doubling or tripling the recipe and freeze the extras for another day. You will be able to get the wanton wrappers from any Asian supermarkets.

- 2 sticks lemon grass
- 100g small raw prawns
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 fresh lime leaves
- Small wanton wrappers
- 1 egg, beaten
- oil for deep frying
- sweet chilli sauce for dipping

Remove the tough outer stalks of the lemon grass and very finely slice it. In a pestle and mortar pound the lemon grass into a paste, don’t skimp on the pounding, it really does need to be as pulpy or the finished wontons won't eat well. Dry the prawns on kitchen paper and then add to the mortar along with the salt and pound the shrimps to a lumpy paste mixing in with the lemongrass paste at the same time. Remove the central ribs from the lime leaves and very finely chop. Stir in the finely chopped lime leaves and set aside.

Take a wanton wrapper and place a teaspoon of the shrimp mixture in the centre. Brush beaten egg down two adjoining sides and fold over the wrapper to make a triangle. Try and push the air out of the wanton and ensure the sides are well sealed so oil does not leak in during frying. Repeat until all the wantons are made.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep pan and fry the wantons in batches of 4 or 5 until golden brown.   The oil should be hot enough so that the wantons take only a minute or so to cook. Drain the wantons on kitchen towel and keep warm until all are cooked. Serve with sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Barkham Blue, Parsnip & Swede Pasties

I am concerned about my after work diet. By the time I get in from the pub kitchen and have taken a shower, it is usually close to 11pm. Scotch eggs, hula hoops and a can of lager are my weapons of choice to slay my hunger, but I am pretty sure these don't go toward your 'five a day'.  I had some odds and ends of veg left in the fridge from Christmas including some blue cheese and knocked up a batch of these pasties to munch on the way to bed. Ok....a pasty is not much healthier that a scotch egg but it is home made and that has got to stand for something....right?

I have used shortcrust pastry on these pasties and the 'half fat to flour' rule applies. This makes really short pastry meaning it is very crumbly and crisp once cooked, but also a little tricky to work with. If you make a hole in your pastry just patch it up with a little egg wash and a blob of left over pastry - they don't have to be perfect.

Plain Flour - 300g
Lard or Beef Dripping - 75g
Butter - 100g
2 eggs
1/2 a large onion, finely sliced
1/2 a small swede, peeled and finely diced
1 small parsnip - peeled and finely diced
Barkham Blue or another cheese of your choice - 100g, crumbled
Salt and Pepper

In a food processor mix the lard and 75g of the butter into the flour with a generous pinch of salt until fully incorporated. Then add one egg with the blades still running until the pastry starts to come together - this should take no more that 20 seconds. Stop the machine and squeeze some of the dough in your hand, if it feels a little dry and is not coming together, add a tablespoon or two of milk and blitz for another 20 seconds.  Make the pastry into a ball, cling and refrigerate.

With the remaining butter sweat the onions, parsnip and swede very gently with a few tbsp of water until very soft - cover with baking parchment or a tight fitting lid to generate some steam and speed up the process. Once the veg is soft boil off any excess water, season and allow to cool. While still warm, crumble in the cheese then allow the mix to go completely cold.

Divide your pastry into four equal balls and on a floured surface, roll out to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut round a suitable round side plate to make a circle and place a quarter of the filling on one half of the pastry leaving a 2cm boarder clear. Beat the other egg and egg wash half the pastry edge, fold over the pasty to make a half moon and seal. You can crimp the edges with a fork or fingers to seal and make a pretty edge if you wish. Egg wash to top of the pasties to make them go glossy and golden in the oven.

Repeat for the other 3 then transfer to a non stick back in tray and bake at 200c for 30 to 40 mins until golden. I like to egg wash my pasties again half way through cooking to give a really golden end result.