Monday, August 27

Vince's Cotechino Sausage with Mustard Choucroute

A bit of a fusion of Frano/Italian flavours here. Vince Castellano ( is Bristol's award winning Godfather of charcuterie and all things pig.  He will probably kill me for calling him a godfather as he is not much older than me!!  I picked up one of his Italian cotechino boiling sausages from his market stall at a knock down price as it had split......splitters are bad for business Vince (said in mock Italian Maffioso accent).

I had been scratching my head for a nice way to cook it and I remembered the classic French dish Choucroute Garni. A dish of boiled sausage, salted pork and semi-pickled cabbage. The German sauerkraut is pretty much the same thing and as with many classic dishes, ownership is hotly contested. I made a recipe up from several I read, but on tasting the finished dish I couldn't help feeling it needed some mustard. So here you have it folks - a World first.....Mustard Choucroute.....with Italian Sausage.....made in Bristol. For two:

Cotechino sausage - a whole one weighing approx 400g
White cabbage - 1/2
Black peppercorns - 6
Dijon mustard - 1 tbsp
Bay leaf - 1
Thyme - 3 sprigs
Garlic - 1 peeled clove
Onion - 1 medium onion, peeled
Butter - 25g
White wine vinegar - 50ml
White wine - a glass full
Chicken stock - 250ml
Pancetta - 1 small piece, maybe 50g
Sugar - to taste

Shred the onion and cabbage as finely as possible. Gently fry the onion in the butter until softened and starting to brown. Add the wine and turn up the heat to bubble away the alcohol. When the wine has all but gone, add the vinegar, stock, herbs, peppercorns, pancetta, 2 tsp sugar and cabbage. Season lightly as the pancetta, sausage and mustard will also carry seasoning. Transfer the lot to a slow cooker or ovenproof dish. Tuck the sausage in with the cabbage and set the slow cooker to low, or cover and cook in the oven set to 140c for 2 hours. 

Remove the sausage and drain the cabbage. Remove and discard the black peppercorns, herbs and garlic clove. Reduce the liquor on the stove with the dijon until just a few tablespoons worth remains. Have a quick taste of the sauce and add a little more sugar if it tastes too sharp. The sauce is quite powerful - how powerful depends on the ingredients used - so add half the sauce to the cabbage and taste......add more sauce if you think it needs it.   Slice the sausage and serve with the warm cabbage & buttery mash.

Sunday, August 26

Old Spot Pork Chop Saltimbocca, Smoked Keen's Cheddar, Chive & Garlic Butter Crumb

Ok, this isn't the most authentic Saltimbocca....I got a bit carried away adding extras.  Saltimbocca means 'jump in the mouth' in Italian as the flavours of sage and Parma ham are really punchy. Traditionally made with veal escalope, I have used a couple of really good rare breed pork chops and added some Somerset smoked cheese, a breadcrumb crust and a garlic and mildly onion flavoured butter.  In my opinion these additions to the original can only be a good thing. For two:

Quality pork chops - 2 large ones about an inch thick, chine bone removed, rib bone left in (ask your butcher)
Keen's smoked cheddar - 100g
Parma Ham - 4 slices
Sage Leaves - 8
Rough breadcrumbs from a stale but good quality loaf e.g. sourdough - 1 large handful
Unsalted butter - 50g
A fat clove of garlic - peeled
Chives - 1 small pack, finely chopped
Olive oil - 1 tbsp

Depending on your preference for fat, trim the skin and some of the fat from the edge of the chops. On the worktop, bash out the 'eye' of the meat until it is half as thick as it was. Insert a knife into the bottom of the chop and cut a pocket in the meat into which the stuffing will go.

Slice the cheese into two wedges, top with sage and wrap in the Parma ham. Stuff this into the pocket in the meat, you want to push it in as deep as possible to minimise cheese leakage during cooking.

Grind the garlic to a puree on the chopping board with a good pinch of salt and the flat of your knife. Add this with half the chives to the butter and mash together with a pinch of pepper. Season the chops well with salt and pepper then top each chop with 25% of the butter. Mix the breadcrumbs with the other half of the chives then top the pork with a good coating, pushing the crumb topping into the butter. 

Heat your oven to 210c and get a metal handled, non stick pan on a medium/high heat. Add a little olive oil to the frying pan and carefully place the chops in the pan (breadcrumbed side up). When the chops begin to fry, transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the chops are cooked through and the cheese is starting to bubble out. Flash under the grill to crisp and brown the breadcrumbs, then spoon the last of the butter onto of the chops so that it melts into the topping and serve. This is a pretty full-on dish, rich and powerfully flavoured so serve with some simply boiled new pots and some greens.

Tuesday, August 21

Warm Cinnamon Granola

There are about a billion ready made granola/muesli mixes out there, but once you have custom made a mix to your own tastes, you can never go back to shop bought. Feel free to experiment with the nut and fruit combos - just try and stick approximately to the overall proportions given here. Try it warm from the oven with real Greek yoghurt and won't replace a bacon sandwich though!

Jumbo oats - 300g
Soft brown sugar - 80g
Ground cinnamon - 1.5 tsp
Ground ginger - 0.5 tsp
Salt - 0.5 tsp
Honey - 3 tbsp
Vegetable oil - 3 tbsp
Mixed dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, sultanas, apricots, mango etc - 1 large handful 
Blanched mixed nuts such as brazils, peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts - 300g

Heat the oven to 150c. Mix all the dry ingredients (not the fruit) well in a large bowl and the transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 mins stirring every 10 mins or so until uniformly light golden. Allow to cool and add the fruit. 

Sunday, August 12

A Salad of Peach, Mozzarella, Parma Ham & Honey

Hope you have all been enjoying that burst of hot weather while I've been sweating it out in the kitchen. The sun is a double edged sword for a chef as it not only makes life very hot in a commercial kitchen, but if there is a garden it gets super busy as well! 

I decided to cook an easy, Italian inspired lunch for the in-laws, and this was one of three dishes I prepared. Really easy to make, more an assembly of ingredients than a recipe. 

Parma Ham - 80g
Peaches - 2, stoned and torn into bits
Basil - a few leaves torn
Buffalo Mozarella - 1 large ball, torn into bits
Honey - 2 or 3 tsps
Extra Virgin olive oil - to drizzle
Chilli flakes - a pinch or two

Lightly season the peaches and mozzarella with salt and pepper, then just artfully arrange everything on a nice plate. Drizzle with the honey and olive oil just before you serve and sprinkle with the chilli flakes. Job done.

Insalata di Fregola, Roasted Peppers & Pea Shoots

Fregola is a small 'match-head' shaped pasta from Sardinia and a great alternative to the more usual penne and conchiglie (shell) shapes. Served room temperature this would make a great little picnic dish.

Fregola - 200g
Red & yellow peppers - 2 of each
Green pepper - 1
Medium onion - 1, peeled and finely chopped
Garlic - 6 fat cloves
Sun-dried tomatoes - 150g
Parmesan - 50g grated
Basil - 1 small bunch
Red wine vinegar - 2 tbsp
Dried chilli flakes - 1 tsp
Extra virgin olive oil - 100ml
Pea Shoots - a handful
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grill your peppers until charred, allow to cool a bit then peel off the skins, de-seed and tear into strips. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes until al-dente. Gently fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft and starting to go golden. Blitz the fried onion mix in a food processor with the sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, basil, chilli, vinegar and the rest of the olive oil to make a 'sort of' pesto. Season to taste.

Drain the pasta and then mix in the pesto and half the peppers while still warm. Check the seasoning again and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the pea shoots and serve.

My Rosemary & Maldon Focaccia

What meal is complete without bread and good company? I love the fact that the word 'company' is derived from the Latin 'cum panis' meaning 'with bread'.  So there you have it......

I am pretty proud of this focaccia recipe as it is an amalgam of many recipes from many chefs and I think the best you will taste.

500g good quality bread flour
10g salt
7g packet of dried yeast
50ml of extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling at the end
50ml white wine
265g tepid water
Maldon salt
A sprig of rosemary, stem removed, leaves chopped

Tip the flour, 10g salt and yeast into a large bowl. Add the white wine, olive oil and water. Mix until all the flour had been incorporated and then tip onto the work surface. Knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, chuck it back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to double in size somewhere warm.

Knock back the dough by kneading again, shape into a rough disk and then transfer to a suitable baking dish. I used a 26cm non-stick frying pan which worked well. Cling again and allow to prove a second time. Heat the oven to 250c. The dough should now have expanded to fill the baking tin or pan. Using three fingers, prod the dough all over to leave lots of dimples in the dough - this will also help to spread the dough evenly in the tin. Sprinkle with more oil, the rosemary and maldon salt. Bake for 25 to 30 mins until golden - turn the oven down a bit if the bread is darkening too quickly.

Drizzle generously with more oil and allow to cool - out of the tin - on a wire rack. I like to eat mine with balsamic reduction and yet more olive oil!