Saturday, December 29

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo, Pine Nuts and Parsley

I was babysitting today so needed a lunch that was steadying, but with sufficient interest to take my mind off the more mundane trivia associated with looking after a one year old. This soup is all about layers of flavour and texture. Boom.....job done.

Lunch that is......the raising of one's child goes on. For two:

Jerusalem Artichokes - 8 large ones
Juice of 1 lemon
A pinch of vegetable bouillion powder - I use the Marigold brand
Milk - 1/2 a pint or so
Cream - a splash
Pine nuts - 25g
Soft cooking chorizo, spicy or otherwise - 100g
Flat leaf parsley - 1/2 a small supermarket packet. 

Peel and roughly slice the artichokes then drop into a bowl of cold water to which the lemon juice has been added - this stops them going black.  When you have peeled the lot, drain and transfer to a saucepan. Just cover with milk and bring gently to the simmer. Add the bouillion powder and a light seasoning of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the artichokes are very soft adding a little more milk if required. The milk may separate into curds and whey during the cooking process - panic not, it all comes back together once blitzed in the liquidiser. 

Drain the artichokes and place the solids in the blender along with a little of the cooking liquid and a splash of cream. Blitz adding more of the cooking liquid until you have a nice thick soup consistency. Check the seasoning again and keep warm.

Peel the papery skins off the chorizo sausage and pinch off small nuggets. Fry this off gently in a pan (mashing with a spoon as you fry) until the oil begins to render and the sausage is crumbled and cooked through. Chop your parsley and lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Plate up, eat and carry on. 

Thursday, December 27

Pitivier of Turkey, Sprouts, Chestnuts & Bacon

Stuck for what to do with that left-over Christmas bird? Well, there will be no fooling you lot that this is a pie and as such, not a particularly ground breaking use of Turkey. But what a pie it is! The technique to take away here is the use of meat stock thickened with a roux to make the gravy - called a veloute in the trade. The combination of Turkey, sprouts, chestnuts and bacon work surprisingly well, but don't get too hung up on what vegetables to add - use what you have leftover.

500g chopped turkey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml good turkey or chicken stock
50ml double cream
2 large handfuls of chopped vegetables
1 packet of shop bought 'all butter' puff pastry
1 beaten egg

Reduce your stock by half to intensify the flavour. In another pan melt the butter and flour together then beat in the stock using a whisk. Bring to the simmer beating all the time then add the double cream and a good seasoning. Toss in the turkey and vegetables then chill the filling.

Heat your oven to 210c. Cut your pasty into 2 pieces, one 2/5, the other 3/5 (the larger piece is for the top). Roll out into rough circles and using two plates, one approx 2 inches larger than the other, cut two perfect circles of pastry. Grease a baking sheet and place the smaller of the two circles on the tray. Top with the filling leaving an inch round the edge free to allow you to seal the pitivier. Egg wash the edges of the base, then lay the other larger pastry circle on top sealing all the way around. Traditionally a pitivier is crimped and scored in a spiral pattern on the top - I didn't bother but feel free to ad lib. Egg wash the whole thing and bake for 10 minutes. Egg wash again for a deep glossy finish and bake - turning occasionally - until the pastry is crisp and deeply golden.  As good served warm as it is cold as part of a buffet.

Sunday, December 9

Anglicised Osso Bucco, Mustard Mash & Hispi Cabbage

There is a cracking little butchers in central Bristol called "Source" ( If you haven't already found this hidden gem, go seek it out. Their meat counter is a great place to get some inspiration if you are stumped on what to cook. When I visited they had a whole beef shin in the display cabinet and Joe the butcher kindly laboured for a good 5 minutes sawing me off two cracking chops. 

Shin of beef is a rarely used cut of meat but one that is great for stews and casseroles as the high proportion of connective tissue melts away during slow cooking yielding an unctuous gelatinous jus. The bone and the marrow make the resulting sauce richer still - a great winter warmer. It is also cracking value - my two chops weighed in at 650g and cost £4.

A classic Italian dish 'Osso Bucco' translates rather less romantically to 'bone with a hole'. More usually served with a risotto Milanese or wet polenta, I wanted something more recognisably British so I paired mine with mustard mash and cabbage. For two:

Two beef or veal shin chops weighing approx 350g each
1 small leek - well washed. Reserve a couple of the dark green outside leaves.
1 small onion, peeled
2 sticks of celery - well washed
1 medium carrot - peeled
200ml dry white wine
200ml beef stock, or water if you have none
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme - 2 bushy sprigs
Rosemary - 1 medium sprig
Bay - 2 leaves
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled
Olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop the leek, celery, carrot and onion. Season and brown the chops on both sides in a heavy frying pan in a little olive oil. Transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker or a casserole dish. Toss the chopped vegetables into the same frying pan with a little more oil and fry over a medium high heat until they start to soften and brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine, Worcestershire sauce, the beef stock or water and another generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Tip the vegetables and gravy into the same bowl as the meat.

Make a bouquet garni by wrapping the herbs and garlic cloves in the reserved leek leaves and tying up with string - see the inset photo for guidance. Add this to the pot and cook in the slow cooker or in an oven at 140c for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is very tender but still just clinging to the bone. You may find that after an hour of cooking the chops are all bent out of shape. The outside skin of the chop tightens during cooking and distorts the nice flat shape. You can either ignore this and allow the cooking time to breakdown the offending band of skin, or remove the meat and trim off the perimeter - your call. 

At the end of the cooking time remove the bouquet garni and skim as much fat from the surface of the stock as you can. Remove the meat from the cooking vessel and tip the remaining juice  and vegetables into a shallow pan. On the stove, reduce the stock by half to intensify the flavour then check the seasoning. Serve up with a buttery mash enlivened with the mustard of your choice (I used Tewkesbury mustard which is a blend of hot mustard and horseradish), and steamed Hispi cabbage.

A little foot note here: If you have overcooked your beef and it is falling apart - panic not. It is much better to have melting tender beef and poor presentation than tough beef, pretty as a picture. Just try and arrange the lumps of meat around the bone as best you can and have faith that the depth of flavour alone will wow your guests!

Sunday, December 2

Bubble & Squeak - a forgotten classic?

My fridge was full of odds and sods and lacking cash and enthusiasm for something fancy, I decided to make a 'bubble and squeak'. My wife was delighted by the idea: "What....we are just having leftover vegetables for dinner on a Saturday night? Can't we have a take away? You had better make it taste bloody good!!!"

You know what? The end result was pretty much better than every meal the constituent vegetables had formed in their original incarnation. Paired here with a poached duck egg and some black pudding I found in the fridge, it was archetypal comfort food. Now you cannot just dog a load of vegetables in a pan and expect them to turn out well. There are rules and are some thoughts on making the most out of leftovers:

1) The mix of vegetables is unimportant as long as you have approx 1/3 starchy vegetables that will enable the mix to bind together e.g. spuds, squash, parsnips etc. Oh, and you need cabbage as that is the 'squeak' part.

2) Caramelised onions and Worcestershire sauce are essential. Do not leave them out.

3) You cannot skimp on the oil and butter - this is not a healthy dish, don't try and make it one.

4) First chop all the larger veg into small pieces, then run your knife through everything on a chopping board. Toss into bowl and season judiciously with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

5) Al dente vegetables are not a friend of bubble and squeak - make sure you fry out the mix long enough to yield a soft, well cooked vegetable mass.

6) Be aware of the three distinct cooking stages of the bubble and squeak:

a) The initial fry - to drive off excess water
b) The compress - squishing the vegetable matter into a cake so that it can crisp and brown
c) The flip - can't be done to early, you want that coloration and crisping

Now you are armed with all the information you need.....go make bubble.

Ingredients for Two People:
Cooked vegetables - 600g
1 large onion - peeled and very finely sliced
Worcestershire sauce - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt and pepper
Butter - 50g
Vegetable oil - a good slug

With your vegetables follow rules 1 and 4. In a large non-stick pan, gently fry the onions in half the butter and oil for 20 minutes or so until nicely golden and very soft. Mix in with your vegetables. 

Get the pan back on the stove and melt the remaining butter into the oil. Turn the heat up to medium high and toss in the seasoned vegetables. Spread them out evenly over the base of the pan and agitate occasionally. You are trying to drive off the excess water (and cook any al dente veg) so that they will start to brown and crisp. When you notice that some edges are starting to colour and crisp, give the mix a good stir and then compress the mix over the base of the pan using a spatula or fish slice. Now leave it for a few minutes so that you build up a nice golden crust can check progress by lifting an edge - you want to achieve the coloration in the photo. 

When you are there, flip it. Nothing spectacular, no pancake antics as it will fall apart. What you want to do is lift large bits of the bubble and flip over. You won't be able to do it 'in one' and quite frankly it matters not. When you have flipped the whole lot, compress back into a cake and cook for a few minutes longer to colour the other side. In total the cooking process takes about 20 minutes - serve with what you like.