Friday, October 26

Mackerel, Potato & Caramelised Onion Pasties

I found some mackerel fillets in the back of my freezer the other day, a little too freezer burned to be useful as the focal point of a dish. Loathed to throw them away I decided to cook them off and make some pasties for lunch. The addition of caramelised onion sweetens the pasties just enough to make a delicious, if rather unconventional filling. Oh, and for me the pastry must be shortcrust but feel free to use puff pastry if you are of the Ginster's persuasion. Makes three or four:

Pastry Ingredients:
Plain flour - 500g
Butter - 200g
Eggs - 2
A little milk and salt
1 extra egg for glazing, beaten

Pasty Filling:
Mackerel fillets - 6, skinned and boned
Potato - 1 large potato, peeled and chopped into 1cm dice
Onion - 1 large, peeled and very finely sliced
Butter - 25g
Veg Oil - a good splash

First make the pastry in a food processor by blitzing the butter into the flour with a pinch of salt until fully incorporated. Add the eggs and continue to process until the pastry starts to come together. Tip into a bowl and finish the mixing by hand adding a little milk if too dry. Cling and chill for 30 mins.

In a roomy pan, gently fry the onion for 30 mins in the butter and oil until deeply golden. Add the potato and on the lowest heat - covered - cook the potato until just soft but still holding its shape. Add the mackerel fillets and continue to cook stirring gently until the mackerel flakes - this should only take a few minutes. Season well and allow to cool in a colander so that excess liquid drains away. 

Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut out circles using an 8 inch plate. Place sufficient cooled filling on one half of the circles leaving a 2cm edge. You will need to use your discretion here as too much filling will make the pasties split open during cooking, too little and you will end up with joyless pasties. 

Egg wash the edge then fold the unfilled side of the pastry over to make a half moon. Roll the pasty 90 degrees so that the unsealed edge is facing upwards and crimp along the edge to seal well, shaping the pastry and distributing the filling to the edges as you go. Repeat and place the pasties on a well oiled baking sheet. Egg wash and bake at 200c for 30 mins until golden and fully cooked. I like to glaze my pasties again after 15 mins cooking so that the pastry is deeply golden and shiny.

Monday, October 22

Ginger Pot Roast Chicken, Root Vegetable Masala

Our little son was ill this weekend and me and the Mrs needed something substantial, nourishing and life affirming in order that we might cope with serious sleep deprivation, fraying nerves and malnutrition. Time to break out the slow cooker. Got one? I bet you have never done a pot roast, let a lone an Indian inspired version.

The 'pot roast' method sounds vaguely American for some reason, but it is just a casserole with little or no sauce. All the juices and flavours from the bird and marinade are kept in the pot and the long and slow cooking results in a very tender, juicy, flavour packed meat. Will feed four with bread and chutneys:

A whole free range chicken - 1.6kg to 1.8kg, skinned (ask your butcher to do this)
Fresh ginger - 2 inches, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic - peeled
Ground cumin - 1/2 tbsp
Ground coriander seed - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Turmeric - a pinch
Chilli powder - a pinch
100g each of squash, parsnip, onion, carrot, turnip - diced all the same size
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tbsp mild curry powder or paste from a jar
A bunch of fresh coriander - stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped

In a food processor blitz the ginger, garlic, cumin, ground coriander, lemon juice, salt and oil to a rough paste. Slash the thighs and breasts of the chicken to the bone and really rub all the paste over the bird. Place in the slow cooker, lid on and cook on low for 4 hours. 

30 mins before the chicken is cooked, make the curry. Gently fry the onion until soft in a little more veg oil. Add the curry powder or paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the vegetables, coconut milk, seasoning and then bring to the simmer. Add the chicken juice that will have accumulated in the bottom of the slow cooker bowl and continue to simmer until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has a nice consistency.

Serve the curry in a large bowl with the chicken on top. The chicken will be a bit anaemic as it has mostly steamed, so sprinkle with turmeric, chilli and fresh coriander to add colour and drama. Serve with chutneys, yoghurt and naan breads.

Saturday, October 20

Hot Water Crust Game Pie

I was recently at Bath Farmer's market and was sorely tempted to buy a large pork pie for tea, but became sidetracked by an elderly gent, fully clad in shooting attire complete with pheasant feather in his tweed cap. He was selling a small selection of wild game, all locally shot, and he had some packs of mixed game at a stupidly cheap price. There was pheasant, rabbit and guinea fowl in the mix. A deal was struck and I walked away smiling. However the lure of the greasy crispy pastry of a pork pie still nagged, so I decided to combine the two.

The result was a triumph with a crisp pork pie type lid and a softer, suet pudding like base. Game is very lean so I added some fatty pancetta lardons, and only poured the hot stock into the pie after cooking to make sure the pastry didn't get sodden.

Lard - 50g
Butter - 50g plus more for frying
Plain Flour - 275g
Water - 120g
Mixed Game - 300g
Pancetta Lardons - 50g
1 small onion - finely chopped
2 bay leaves
Black pepper
1 beaten egg
Good stock - game preferably or beef - 100ml

Boil together the water, butter and lard with a pinch of salt. Mix into the flour with a spatula until cool enough to handle. Roll into a ball and cut one third off setting aside for the lid. On a floured work surface, roll 2/3 of the pasty into a rough disc (it may split and tear but don't worry). Line a buttered 12cm pudding basin with the pastry moulding the pasty into the basin as you go. Aim for an even layer and plug any holes and cracks as you go.

Gently fry the onion and lardons in a little butter until softened. Mix with the game, the bay leaves and a generous seasoning of pepper (no salt as the lardons carry lots). Fill the pie as full as you dare, then roll the lid and fix to the pie top using egg wash as glue. Trim, crimp, egg wash, and put a large hole in the lid for the steam to escape.  Bake at 180c for a good hour until dark golden and bubbling. If you want to de-mould the pie, allow to cool for a few minutes the tease out - the top edges may stick a little to the rim of the bowl but a small knife should remedy the issue. Then fill with hot stock before serving - magic!

Wednesday, October 17

Roast Heritage Squash & Carrots, Feta Yoghurt, Pine Nuts and Honey

Local seasonal vegetables taken for a ride somewhere warmer, possibly the Middle East. It is the balance of sweet, sharp, earthy & fresh that makes this dish work........and is there any dish that is not made better by the addition of toasted pine nuts? For two:

Heritage squash, try Iron Bark - a slice approx. 200g
A bunch of heritage carrots, top and tailed and well washed
Ground cumin - a good pinch
Ground caraway - a good pinch
Feta - 50g
Thick greek yoghurt - 2 tbsp
Coriander - a handful, chopped
Olive oil
Lemon juice - a squeeze

Peel, seed and cut the squash into slices, oil and dust with the spices and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Roast with the carrots at 180c until nice and soft. Mash the feta with the yoghurt, coriander and a squeeze of lemon to taste. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until a bit golden in places.

Plate the squash and carrots, feta yoghurt on top, drizzle with olive oil and honey and then sprinkle with pine nuts.

Wednesday, October 10

Scallops, Celeriac & Braeburn, Black Pudding & Pepper Viniagrette

Autumn is in full swing, and although leafy salads are on the way out, it doesn't mean you can't make something light using seasonal autumnal fruits & vegetables. Celeriac has a crunchy celery like taste and paired with apple and black pudding, we have some very classical flavour combinations that work especially well with sweet scallops. What makes this dish unusual is the black pepper dressing, it uses a lot of pepper but it is not overpowering, the pepper just lending a warm background heat. For two:

Large sacllops - 6, roes removed
Celeriac - 1/3, peeled and very finely shredded
Braeburn apple - 1, cored and very finely shredded
Chives - 1 small bunch, finely chopped
Good quality black pudding - 2 slices, approx 75g each
Extra virgin olive oil - 1 tbsp
Veg Oil - 1 tbsp plus more for frying
Honey - 1 tbsp
Sherry vinegar - 1 tbsp
1 heaped tsp finely ground black pepper - it must be fresh, grind your own.

Remove your scallops from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature - maybe half an hour. Make your dressing in a jam jar, shaking together the olive and vegetable oils, the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Heat your oven to 180c.

In a good non stick pan, gently fry the black pudding on both sides for a couple of minutes until cooked and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan and get on a medium high heat. Season your scallops with salt only, then pan fry in a little vegetable oil until golden on one side. Flip over and brown the other side. Depending on how fat your scallops are, you may need to flash them through the oven for no more than 2 mins to warm them through. If you are using supermarket scallops, pan frying alone should be sufficient.

Mix the celeriac and apple with the chives and the dressing. Season with a little salt if it needs it, then serve the scallops on the salad with the black pudding.

Monday, October 8

Roast Cod, Curried Mussels, Sauté Potatoes

Up until recently cod was pretty much off the menu due to overfishing. Now the situation is not so clear, with media reports of good fish stocks and plentiful catches sadly thrown back due to restrictive fishing quotas. I'm no expert on this issue so you will have to make up your own mind on whether to eat cod or is however a beautiful fish to cook with.

Paired up here with curried mussels, much of the prep can be done in advance meaning the cooking time itself is short. The curry flavour is very mild allowing the mussels delicate flavour to come through. For two:

Thick cod fillets - 2x 180g (ask your fishmonger to scale and pin bone the fish for you)
1 large jacket potato
Mussels - 500g
Fish stock - 100ml
Frozen Peas - a large handful
Onion - 1 small, peeled and finely chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, peeled and finely chopped
Butter - 50g
Spring onions - 1/2 bunch, chopped
Mild curry powder - 1 tbsp
Double Cream - 50ml
Vegetable oil - for shallow frying
Fresh coriander - a small bunch
A squeeze of lemon

In a large lidded pan, cook the mussels in the fish stock for a couple of minutes until all have opened. Drain in a colander reserving the cooking liquor and allow the mussels to cool. Reduce the cooking liquor by half making sure you discard any grit that may have settled. Pick the meat from the mussels discarding the shells and chill the meats.

Fry the onion and garlic in half the butter until translucent. Add the curry powder and cook out for a minute or so then add the cream, mussel cooking liquor, peas, spring onions and the finely chopped stems of the coriander. Cook for a minute more, then season with salt, pepper and a  squeeze of lemon - turn off the heat.

Heat your oven to 220c. Microwave the jacket potato until cooked then slice into thick rounds. Using the vegetable oil, pan fry in a non-stick, metal handled pan over a medium heat until golden and crispy. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain and season with salt and keep warm in the oven

Give the frying pan a wipe out then put back on a medium high heat. Season the cod with salt only, then fry skin side down in a little vegetable oil. Press the fish flat to the bottom of the pan with a spatula so that the skin crisps evenly. When the skin starts to turn golden, add the remainder of the butter to the pan and transfer to the oven to cook through - maybe 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the cod fillet. You will know when the fish is cooked as you should be able to tease the flakes apart and see to the centre of the fillet - the fish should be white in the middle, not translucent.

Warm the curry sauce with the mussels but don't boil them - remember the mussels are already cooked - then finish with fresh coriander leaves. Plate up with a few sauté potatoes, the sauce and the cod on top.

Monday, October 1

Roasted Figs, Homewood Fresh Ewe's Cheese, Rose Honey

Figs are in plentiful, cheap and at their peak right now. This remarkably simple dish is ultimately versatile as it falls somewhere between sweet and savoury. It would work well as a light lunch, a dessert, a cheese course or as part of a mezze. The fresh Ewe's cheese from Homewood Farm ( is stunning and about as local to me as it gets. If you can't get hold of this one, try a gorgonzola, aged feta, ricotta etc etc.....they would all work well.

Ingredients - measurements are per person
3 ripe figs
Honey - about a tbsp
Rose water - 1 tsp
Homewood Ewes milk cheese - 1 generous spoonful

Heat your oven to 210c. Mix the rose water with the honey. Cut the tough stem off the top of the figs then cut a 'cross' into the top of the fig going about two thirds through the fig. Squeeze the base of the fig to make the cut fan out. Arrange the figs in one layer in a tight fitting and shallow oven proof dish. Drizzle with half the honey and bake for 10 minutes until the figs start to sag. Transfer the figs to a pretty plate, mix the remaining honey with the syrup that will have accumulated at the bottom of the baking dish then drizzle over the figs. Top with the sheep's cheese.