Friday, December 27

Montgomery Cheddar & Tewkesbury Mustard Scones

I'm so over Christmas now. I'm all feasted out; liver destroyed; bloated; corpulent; lethargic. There are however the last few festive season leftovers to deal with. 

There will be no fooling you that these are just cheese scones despite the poncey title. But what is wrong with a simple scone done well? If you have some seriously mature cheddar and some artisan mustard, your scones are elevated to something rather special. Especially when eaten warm with an obscene amount of good butter. Tewkesbury mustard (@tewkesmustardco) has the interesting addition of horseradish and a little cider - all of which work extremely well to enhance the flavour of the cheddar. The quantities here result in quite a mustardy scone, add more or less to your taste.

Self Raising Flour - 225g
Salted butter - 50g
Ful fat milk - 150ml
Salt - a pinch
Tewkesbury Mustard - 1 level tbsp
Grated cheddar - 100g (50g to go in the scone, 50g to go on the top)

Put half the cheese and all the remaining ingredients except the milk in the food processor - blitz to breadcrumb stage. Add the milk and pulse to make a dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and form into a nice round disc a fraction less than an inch thick. Heat the oven to 210c an transfer the dough disc onto a buttered baking sheet. Brush the dough with a little more milk and using a knife or pastry scraper cut the dough into 6 or 8 segments. Scatter over the rest of the cheese and bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden and cooked through. You can tell if the scones are cooked by pusing a metal skewer into the centre of the dough and leaving for a few seconds. If the skewer is very hot when placed to the lips, the scones should be cooked. If in doubt, drop the oven temperature to 160c and cook for a few minutes more. Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before devouring.

These do make a great foil for soft blue cheese and chutney but that would just be extravagant so soon after Christmas.....

Sunday, December 15

Scallop Roasted on the Half-Shell, Sweet Herb Butter

It is always a challenge to get punters at the pub to order a starter, especially with something as intrinsically expensive as a plate of scallops. So we have started to do little 'shooter' starters where you can order a single scallop for a couple of quid - almost like an amuse-bouche. 

I pinched the idea for this recipe from the Lido restaurant in Bristol where they roast scallops and many other things in their beautiful wood fired oven. I have no such luxury and the end result is only marginally superior to a searingly hot domestic oven or grill. This is quite a forgiving way to cook spanking fresh scallops - as long as they are warmed through they will taste fantastic. Remember that fresh scallops can be eaten raw so don't let stress overcome you - the enemy is overcooking.

Tarragon - 20g
Dill - 10g
Parsley - 20g
Chervil - 20g
Garlic - 2 fat cloves
Butter - 100g, room temperature
Scallops - as many as you like, on the half shell
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

Heat your oven or grill to maximum. Separate the herbs from any woody or thick stems and finely chop along with the peeled garlic. Mix well into the butter with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon of the butter to each shell and lightly season the scallops. Roast in a hot oven or under the grill until just starting to firm up. If using a grill then you will need to turn the scallops halfway through the cooking process. 

You can tell if the scallops are cooked by touch (if you have the skills), or by inserting a thin knife into the centre of the scallop and leaving for a few seconds - if the knife tip is 'bath' temperature when touched to the lips, then they are cooked.

Melt a little extra butter and spoon over the scallops, add a wedge of lemon and a small piece of good bread to mop up the juices.

Sunday, December 8

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

There was an elderly chap across the road from the pub who had a quince tree in his front garden groaning with ripe yellow fruit. I wasn't sure he knew what he had growing, or if he did, what to do with the bounty. A hand written note was posted through the front door and a few days later the chap popped into the pub. Rather surprisingly given the sheer quantity of fruit, he said he could spare none as he was planning to make quince jelly.  Now there must have been 100kg of fruit on this tree, enough to make thousands of!  Well, it was his tree...his call. Sure enough, the next week he popped by with a wheelbarrow full......properly sick of jelly making he was!

Quince is an old English fruit that has fallen out of favour as it cannot be eaten raw and needs long slow cooking. The flavour is great but it is the grainy, pear like texture that makes it unique. Good with more than cheese, this would work well with pork or in a sweet dessert. You won't be able to pick quince from the tree at this time of year, the last had fallen in the high winds last week, but your greengrocer will be able to get you some. There are no quantities here, just proportions. Make a few kilos worth as it keeps for ages in Kilner jars.

Caster sugar
Star Anise
Fennel seeds
Lemon juice

Peel, core and chop up the quince into large pieces. Weigh the fruit. Toss the fruit into ayour largest stainless pan with a good solid bottom. Add half the weight of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon per kilo of fruit. Now these spice quantities are for approx 2 kilos of fruit so multiply up as necessary. Make a little muslin 'tea bag' of 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 star anise, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 6 cloves. Tie up with string and add to the pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, skim any scum and turn the heat as low as it will go. Gently blip away until the quince is very soft. Remove the spice bag and blitz the fruit with a hand blender - it doesn't need to be super smooth. Return the spice bag and gently blip away further stirring every now and then. 

The puree will reduce and start to go a deep red - when you get to 'blood colour', you are close to where you need to be - remove the spice bag. There are no hard and fast rules, only that the more you reduce the puree, the firmer the 'set' will be. I like to be able to slice the finished product so reduce as far as you dare without letting it catch and burn.

Tip into a suitably sized, and scrupulously clean container lined with cling-film, or a sterilised jar. Allow to cool then chill in the fridge until set. will keep for months properly wrapped or jarred.

Saturday, November 30

Fried Pimentón Potatoes, Jamon & Morcilla

Unless your missus is a 'prop' in the local rugby team, this is probably not the dish to impress your better half on a Sunday morning. That said, if you have a steaming hangover and your mates stayed over, then I highly recommend this Spanish inspired version of a greasy spoon. It takes a while to cook, but there is not much more effort involved than chucking some spuds in a pan and flopping on the sofa for a while. For two

2 large floury potatoes, try Maris Piper - peeled
Olive oil - a good glug
1 medium onion - peeled and roughly sliced
Smoked paprika - a good pinch or two
Quality morcilla or black pudding - 100g
Serrano Ham - 75g

Cut the spuds into chunks and toss into a roomy non-stick pan with the onion, oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Place over a low heat and leave to gently fry for 10 mins. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and give it a little stir. Leave for another ten mins. Basically you want to gently fry the spuds until they are cooked through and crisp edged - do this slowly and the onions will render to a soft sweet golden hue at the same time.

Warm the morcilla the in the oven until hot through. Toss the ham into the potatoes and warm through. Crumble the morcilla over the spuds and serve with toasted rustic bread. Chipotle ketchup is a great sauce to go with this....

Tuesday, November 26

Wild Mushroom Risotto, Shaved Pear, Gorgonzola & Hazlenuts

Sometimes a store cupboard rummage can yield a real treat. Some dried mushrooms from god knows when, a handful of rice, leftover chicken stock from a roast, the last pear robbed from the neighbours tree, a bit of 'past it's best' cheese……

Arborio risotto rice - 100g
Chicken stock - 1 litre
1 small glass of reasonable white wine
Dried wild mushrooms - 50g
Hazelnuts - a small handful, toasted
Gorgonzola - 75g
Butter 50g
Garlic - 1 clove
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1 ripe pear

Bring the chicken stock to the boil and add the mushrooms. Gently fry the garlic and onion until translucent in half the butter. Toss in the rice and coat with the butter. Add the wine and bubble to nothing. Add the stock and mushrooms - ladle by ladle - stirring all the time……add the next ladle when the last one has been absorbed. When the rice is al dente (you may not need all the stock but make sure all the mushrooms are in) remove from the heat, season well and stir in the last of the butter. Plate, top with shaved pear, hazelnuts and dot with cheese.

Wednesday, November 13

Savoury Chelsea Buns - Walnut Pesto, Roasted Butternut, Gorgonzola & Chestnut Honey

I ate a savoury chelsea bun years ago, liked it, made a note of it in my journal then forgot about it. These make a cracking alternative to a sandwich as they are simply a basic bread dough rolled up 'swiss roll' style around the filling of your choice. This combo is my nod to the season. 

Chestnut honey is not common but if you see it, I highly recommend. Not as sweet as standard honey it is dark in colour with a heavy; rich; nutty; almost malty taste. It works extremely well with savoury dishes (especially cheese) where a hint of sweetness would lift the dish, but too much would be cloying. Makes 5 or 6:

Dough Ingredients:
Bread flour - 500g plus more for rolling
10g fresh yeast or half a 7g packet of dried
Pinch of salt
365g tepid water

Pesto Ingredients:
A bunch of basil
2 cloves of garlic - peeled
100g walnuts
Juice of half a small lemon
25ml to 50ml olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

The rest:
1 small butternut, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1cm rounds
Gorgonzola - 200g
1 egg, beaten

Lightly oil, season and roast the butternut at 140c until very soft but not coloured. Set aside to cool.

Put all the pesto ingredients in a blender with the exception of the walnuts and blitz to a smooth paste. Add a little more oil if necessary to help the blades turn. Add the walnuts and pulse until roughly chopped and incorporated - set aside.

To make the dough, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until combined. Turn onto the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Flour the work surface and roll the dough out into a rough rectangle a little bit bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. Whilst we are using paper as an analogy, ensure the dough is 'portrait' in orientation. Spread the pesto thinly all over the bread dough leaving 1 inch clear on the edge furthest from you. 

Sprinkle the dough evenly with little nuggets of gorgonzola. Chop the butternut into 1cm cubes and sprinkle these over as well. Egg wash the clear edge, then begin rolling up the dough from the edge nearest you. The egg washed edge should seal up the dough as you finish rolling. Trim off the ends then cut into 5 or 6 equal sized pieces. Arrange on a roomy oiled baking tray leaving plenty of room between the buns. Cover with a tea towel and allow to double in size. Egg wash the sides and bake at 180c for 25 to 35 mins until golden. Drizzle with honey and serve warm.

Friday, November 1

Baked Duck Egg 'Florentine', Focaccia Soldiers

I've done baked eggs before on this blog but they are worth mentioning again in a different guise. So easy to make, relatively frugal and a practical starter for larger dinner parties - they can be made up in advance and only take ten minutes to cook.  Other variants include tarragon mushrooms, salami, gorgonzola and walnut.......

The key technique to take away is the infusing of the cream with aromatics. This elevates the dish from eggs baked in cream to something with a greater depth of flavour.  For four

Double Cream - 200ml
Rosemary - 1 large sprig
Thyme - 1 large sprig
1 small onion - peeled and sliced
Garlic - 1 clove, peeled and bashed
4 large quality duck eggs
1 small bag of baby spinach
Parmesan - 75g - grated
Nutmeg for grating
Salt and Pepper

First infuse the cream by gently warming with the herbs, garlic and onion. You don't want to boil the cream, just bring it up until it is steaming then take it off the heat and leave for half an hour to infuse. Strain making sure you squeeze all the cream from the aromatics. Wash and wilt the spinach in a dry pan, refresh in cold water then squeeze dry.

Heat your oven to 210c. In four ramekins (I used terracotta tapas dishes) divide the spinach making a little well in the centre to hold the egg. Season the spinach now with a little pepper, salt and nutmeg. Crack an egg into each ramekin. Pour over the cream, sprinkle with parmesan and grate a little more nutmeg. Season gently then bake until the cream is bubbling, the egg white is set but the yolk is still runny. You will need to keep checking from the 8 minute mark - 1 minutes over cooking will mean the difference between a gloriously runny yolk and depressing solidity. Serve immediately with focaccia toasts drizzled with good olive oil and cut into soldiers.

Sunday, October 27

Bacon, Sage & Onion Suet Pudding

I went to visit my mum this weekend and she surprised me by serving this suet pudding for supper. She has been cooking this the whole of my life and yet it had completely fallen out of memory. It gots me thinking that I had never before cooked this dish, nor had I seen this pudding anywhere except on my mum's dining table. Does this make it a family heirloom?  Can suet based food become an heirloom? Tough questions indeed, but to ensure this dish is preserved for the nation (quite literally tens of people will read this post!) I'm going to immortalise it on my humble blog.

Cheap to make, slow to will feed three to four. Be warned, it's a rib sticker and laden with fat. It is however bloody tasty and a real blast of proper English cold weather cooking. You will need a big pan to cook this dish - we used a fish kettle but if you have a roasting tin 4 inches deep, you could probably improvise.....oh and you will also need a large muslin cloth and some string.

250g plain flour plus more for rolling
125g beef suet
1/2 tsp salt
250g quality dry cure streaky bacon
1 large spanish onion - peeled and finely chopped
A knob of butter
A good handful of fresh sage, leaves only

Roughly chop the bacon and gently fry until starting to crisp and colour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan with the knob of butter, fry the onion until soft and golden. Mix the onion, bacon and sage together and add a good grind of black pepper. 

Fill your cooking vessel with water and bring to the boil.

Mix the suet, flour and salt together in a large bowl and add just enough water to make a soft dough. Roll into a rough rectangle on a floured board until 0.5cm thick. Spread the bacon and onion mix evenly over the pastry leaving a 1 inch margin all around. Wet the edges of the pastry with water and roll up the pudding like a swiss roll taking care to seal the long edge and the ends. You should end up with a giant anaemic looking sausage roll fully containing the bacon filling. Holes will let in water so make sure the pastry is really well sealed.

Carefully roll the pudding in the muslin, twist the ends and tie with string. Carefully drop into the boiling water, cover with a lid or foil and simmer gently for 2 hours making sure the pudding is fully and constantly submerged. Top up the water periodically if needed. 

After the cooking, gently remove the pudding by holding the ends of the muslin and allow to rest on a baking rack for 5 mins - this allows excess water to steam/drain away. Unwrap, slice and serve with onion gravy, proper mushy peas made with dried split peas and buttery mash.

Friday, September 27

A Casserole of Guinea Fowl, Beer & Violet Garlic

There is a fantastic greengrocers in Clifton Village (, they always seem to stock the most inspiring seasonal produce when other shops veer towards the mundane - why aren't all greengrocers like this? 

Unusually I shopped for the vegetables first before deciding on what protein to cook, and this is the result. Cracking baby English parsnips and bunched rainbow carrots, dew dropped cavalo nero and massive cloves of purple tinged French garlic - it had to be an autumnal casserole. I was sort of inspired by that old-school recipe for chicken with forty cloves of garlic. The long slow cooking renders the garlic to a mellow background flavour and the same is true here - don't be put off by the quantity.

Most guinea fowl is farmed these days so not really classed as game. It does however have a great flavour - my wife will only eat breast meat and as she succinctly put it: "It has the flavour of chicken thigh meat, but without having to eat the legs". Strange girl - for two:

A guinea fowl
A bottle of good dark beer - I used Bath Ales 'Barnsey'
10 baby carrots - washed, top and tailed
8 baby parsnips - washed, top and tailed
a handful of baby potatoes
1 small leek - cleaned and cut into 1 inch chunks
8 massive cloves of violet garlic - peeled
Chicken stock - 500ml
Double cream - 200ml
Dijon - 1 tbsp
Chives - a small bunch, chopped

Joint the bird into two breasts, thighs and drumsticks - or get your butcher to do this. In a dry pan, fry the guinea fowl pieces skin side down until golden then transfer to a casserole dish. Chuck the garlic into the pan and gently fry until golden taking care not to burn. Add this to the casserole along with the vegetables, beer and chicken stock. Season well then lid on and into the oven at 160c for 2 to 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bone.

Gently remove the meat and vegetables from the sauce and arrange on a serving dish, cover and keep warm.  Strain the sauce into a wide pan and pick out the garlic cloves. Chuck any remaining bits from the sieve in the bit then push the garlic through the sieve into the sauce. Add the cream, mustard and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Check the seasoning and add the chives. Pour the sauce over the guinea fowl and vegetables and serve with crusty bread and blanched buttered greens.

Farinata with Rosemary & Maldon Salt

I watched a tv programme the other day about 'What the Italians have done for food' or some such title. It was basically a homage to Rose Grey and Ruth Rodgers of River Cafe fame and it motivated me to scour ebay for their books which were missing from my now extensive (obsessive) library. The seminal blue and yellow books are fantastic but it was the green 'veggie' tome that led me to this simple but beautiful recipe. Falling somewhere between a pancake and a crisp edged unleavened flatbread, the potential pairings for this dish are seemingly unlimited. I made an aubergine puree topped with roasted red peppers and pine nuts and used the farinata to scoop up the resulting gooey mess - lush as they would say in Bristol.

Chickpea (gram) flour - 150g
Tepid water - 500ml
Ground black pepper - 1/2 tsp
Maldon salt
Extra virgin - 50ml plus more for drizzling
Fresh rosemary - a few sprigs

Whisk the flour, water, a little salt and pepper to make a smooth batter. Leave to rest for a few hours. Add the oil to the batter and beat again. Heat a wide shallow ovenproof pan on the stove over a medium heat. Any pan roughly 24cm wide will do - I used a paella pan - the aim is to fill the pan with batter to no more than 1cm deep.

Set the oven to 220c. Swirl a little more olive oil around the now hot pan and pour in the batter. Shake the batter about a bit to get an even covering, sprinkle with rosemary and maldon salt then bake for 10 to 15 mins until the batter is set, the top is golden and the edges are crispy. Remove from the oven, drizzle with more oil and slice into wedges to serve. This needs to be eaten straight away. I ate some leftovers the next day but really it was not half the dish it was when hot from the oven.

Thursday, September 19

Gratinated Pancake stuffed with Rainbow Chard, Iron Bark Squash & Dorset Blue Vinney

I almost forgot to post this - the photo lay languishing on my Iphone until now. Chard is a great vegetable, although granted, it may be a little hard to find this late in the season. Don't get too hung up on what to stuff the pancakes with, use your imagination. With chard, you pretty much get two vegetables in one as the leaf can be treated like spinach and the stems are more celery like in texture and need slow cooking. A cracking little veggie dish to keep the non-meat eaters happy. Makes four

Pancake Ingredients:
Plain Flour - 110g
Salt - pinch
2 eggs
Milk - 200ml
Water - 75ml
Butter for frying

Bechamel Ingredients:
Milk - 500ml
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove
1 good pinch of nutmeg
A good grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
50g butter
50g flour

1 small onion - peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
500g of Ironbark or another squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
500g Chard - washed, leaves separated from stems and shredded
200g Dorset Blue Vinney
Grated cheddar
Olive oil

Make your pancake batter by beating all the ingredients until smooth. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat. Add a knob of butter and swirl around the pan. Add 1/4 of the batter and swirl around the pan to get a nice even layer and a circular shape. Cook until the underside is golden then flip and cook to the same degree on the flipped side. Remove from the pan to a plate, allow to cool and repeat until the batter is used up.

Toss the squash in a little oil and season well. Roast in a medium oven until soft. Infuse your milk in a large pan by gently warming to just below boiling with the onion, clove, nutmeg salt and pepper. 

Gently fry the onion, chard stems and garlic until soft and starting to colour. Add the squash, crumbled blue cheese and season well. 

Make a roux with the butter and flour then add the hot milk straining out the infusion ingredients beforehand. Bring to the simmer and allow to bubble gently for a minute or two stirring all the time. 

Add the chard leaf to the squash mix and allow to wilt. Assemble the dish by placing 1/4 of the squash mix in the centre of each pancake, fold over the edges to make a square. Flip over so the edges are underneath in an over proof bowl. Top with béchamel and grated cheese. Flash under a hot grill until bubbling and golden.

Wednesday, August 28

Frying Pan Flatbreads with Za'atar & Olive Oil

You don't need a flash wood burning stove or a tandoor oven to make authentic tasting flat breads. I did these in a crap frying pan on a crap stove so they should be repeatable almost anywhere using any available equipment. 

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix containing amongst other things sesame seeds, herbs, salt and maybe sumac. I bought mine ready made...make sure you get a fresh one, old tins that have been kicking about for years will taste only of dust.

Strong white bread flour - 500g
Dried yeast - 7g packet
Tepid Water - 365g
Fine Salt - 10g
Maldon salt flakes - to sprinkle
Za'atar spice mix - a good sprinkle
Extra virgin olive oil (a basic one) - a good glug

In a roomy bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and water until combined. Tip onto the worktop and knead until smooth and elastic. Divide into four equal balls and on a well floured surface, roll out into flat breads of a size that will fit your frying pan - I used a 24cm non-stick pan. Ensure the flat breads are well floured to prevent sticking and allow to prove for 30 mins on the work surface. 

Heat your pan on a medium-high heat and when almost smoking hot, lightly oil the pan with a bit of kitchen roll, toss in the flat bread and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the bread to bubble and go golden in places - the odd burn mark is acceptable and vaguely authentic. Flip the bread and cook on the other side until the bread is cooked through (tear a bit off if you are not sure). Remove from the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar and Maldon salt. Wipe the pan with kitchen roll and repeat to cook the remaining breads. 

Saturday, August 24

Carpaccio of Welsh Black Beef, Rocket Salmoriglio, Old Winchester

A salmoriglio is an Italian sauce where the flavour of the herb - or in this case rocket - is brought out by pounding with sea salt. It differs from a pesto in that pine nuts and parmesan are omitted. If you can manage to find Old Winchester cheese, be sure to buy a block as it it amazing, my best cheese find this year. It has a taste somewhere between Comte and Parmesan but is made in Blighty by Lyburn Cheesemakers in Salisbury ( Big Up the British Cheese Industry!

Beef fillet - 200g (A fillet 'tail' is perfect)
Old Winchester or Parmesan Cheese - 50g
Rocket - 100g
Extra Virgin - 50ml
Garlic - 1 clove
Maldon sea salt - 1 tsp plus more to season the beef
Black pepper, coarsely crushed - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - a good squeeze

Light your bbq and get the coals glowing. Place the grill as close to the coals as possible and work out where the hottest spot is. Lightly oil the beef fillet then roll in pepper and lightly season with salt - remember the salmorglio carries quite a lot of salt. Quickly char grill the steak all over developing a good crust but leaving the centre of the steak rare. Allow the steak to rest somewhere warm - you want the core of the steak to be room temperature, not fridge cold.

In a pestle and mortar crush the clove of garlic with the Maldon salt. When ground to a paste, toss in the rocket and grind to a rough paste. Add the olive oil and the lemon juice to taste. Finely slice the steak and place in a single layer over a serving dish. Drizzle with the salmoriglio and crumbled Winchester or shaved Parmesan cheese.

Fried Scallop Corals on Toast with Capers & Shallots

My missus loves scallops, but not the corals. It seems such a waste not to use them, but I understand that they are much richer than the scallop meats and not to everyones taste. They need something astringent to balance the flavour and the capers and shallot work really well. I'm rather happy with how these turned out - perfect as a little snack or a light lunch with some salad.

6 scallop corals
A large but thin slice of good quality sough dough
Butter - for frying and for the toast
1 tsp capers - the small lilliput ones are best here
1/2 a banana shallot, finely diced
A squeeze of lemon
Salt and black pepper

Remove any sinew from the corals and roughly chop until they resemble coursely minced meat. Heat a pan over a high heat and quickly stir fry the corals with a little butter, salt and pepper. They only need to be warmed through so don't over cook them. Toss in the capers, shallots and a squeeze of lemon. Serve on hot buttered toast.

Hand Dived Scallops, Potted Shrimp Butter, Samphire

Pretty much what it says on the tin. Expensive...but the cost is negated by the ease of cookery and assembly. This dish eats beautifully and would seriously impress as a starter.

Scallops - 6 large ones, corals removed
A little butter
A little veg oil
Samphire - 1 handful
Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps - 1x 50g pot

Quickly wash the scallops to remove any grit then pat dry using kitchen paper. Leave out of the fridge for 30 mins to allow them to come to room temperature. This is important as you want the scallops to be golden on the outside and just warm and cooked at the centre - this is not easy if the scallops are cooked straight from the fridge. Season the scallops well with salt and white pepper. Get a small pan of boiling water on to blanch the samphire.

Heat a non-stick pan over a medium high heat. Lightly oil the pan and test the heat with a scallop - it should sizzle angrily. If your pan is not hot remove the scallop and try again a little later. Place all the scallops in the pan and allow to colour well before flipping over. Reduce the heat in the pan and allow to cook through. If your scallops are enormous, you may need to run them through a warm oven to cook through but don't over cook them - they should still have a nice 'bounce' in the centre when prodded.

While the scallops are cooking warm the potted shrimp in a small pan to melt the butter but don't boil. Drop the samphire into the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds then drain. Lay a little samphire on warmed serving plates, top with scallops and drizzle with the butter and shrimps. Serve with a little lemon.

Rack of Welsh Lamb, Anchovy & Rosemary Dauphinoise

The missus and I have been working so hard recently that a break was in order. Having an eighteen month old put a far flung tropical location out of practical reach, so a rural retreat in central Wales was chosen. Now I sit dreaming of palm trees, staring out of the large picture windows of my cottage, the rain lashing at the window as ominous steel grey clouds race across the sky propelled by sub hurricane winds - comfort food it is then!

Fish and lamb may sound weird but this is a classical pairing in Mediterranean climes (ah - sky...). The trick to a good dauphinoise is to allow the aromatics to infuse the cream before decanting onto your potatoes. The amount of anchovy I have used here is subtle, feel free to add more or less to taste.

6 bone rack of lamb, French trimmed
Potatoes - 500g, peeled
Double cream - 150ml
Full fat milk - 250ml
Brown anchovy fillets - 2 or 3 if small
Rosemary - 1 large sprig, crushed up
Bay leaf - 2, crushed up
Garlic - 2 cloves, smashed
Medium onion - 1, sliced
Cracked black pepper - 1 heaped tsp

Marinade your lamb for a few hours in what ever flavourings you have to hand. I used a little garlic, white wine, bruised rosemary and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.

Slice your potatoes as finely as possible - in the pub we would use a mandoline but at home a more rustic approach is acceptable. In a deep ceramic baking dish add the potato, layer by layer making sure you push potato into the corners. Select some nice even slices for the final presentation layer and neatly arrange the top layer like scales on a fish.

Gently warm the milk and cream with the anchovy, garlic, herbs, and onion. Many recipes advise you season between the layers of potato in a dauphinoise but I prefer to season the milk mixture and allow the liquid to carry the seasoning to the potato. To these ends you must generously season the milk. Keep adding salt and tasting until you think it tastes just right, then add a little more as the potato will absorb some. 

When the milk is just below the boil, take off the heat and leave for 30 mins to infuse. Heat the oven to 160c and pour your milk through a sieve onto the potatoes. You may not need all the liquid, it should come just below the top layer of potato. Push the top layer down into the milk and bake for 45  mins to 1 hour until the potato is completely soft when pieced with a knife. If the top is not golden, turn the oven up for the last 10 mins or place under a hot grill to colour.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and brush off any herbs and garlic. Heat your oven to 180c and a frying pan over a medium high heat.  In a little oil, take your time frying the lamb - fat side down - to get some really good colour. Flip the lamb over onto the flesh and run through the oven for 8 to 12 mins - this should give you a medium rare cooking degree but this will depend on the weight of the lamb. Use a thermometer to check the core temperature - about 55c is perfect. Take it to 60c or 65c if you like your meat cooked towards well done.

Allow the lamb to rest before carving between the bones - 3 chops per person. Serve with the dauphinoise and greens - allow your guests to dig into the dauphinoise themselves - such a pleasure.

Monday, August 12

Feta & Mediterranean Vegetables Baked 'En Papillote'

A great way to impress your guests with nothing more that paper and twine. This is a remarkably simple way to get the 'wow' factor and the smells when you open the bag are sure to get an 'oooo' from even the most stoney hearted. You can make up the parcels in advance and just run through the oven to heat through on the day of service.  For two:

Aubergine - 1, sliced
Red & yellow peppers, 1 of each, seeded and cut into 4
Courgette - 1, sliced
Waxy potato - 1 large one, sliced
Feta - 1x 200g block
Lemon - 2 slices
Fresh thyme - 3 sprigs, leaves separated from woody stems
Fresh rosemary - a sprig, leaves separated from woody stems
Dried mint - a sprinkle
Garlic - 2 cloves, crushed
Extra virgin - 50ml

Gently simmer the potato slices until just tender - you don't want them falling apart. Heat a griddle pan on the stove until smoking. Crush the garlic and bruise the herbs. Mix with the olive oil and toss all the vegetables in the flavoured oil with lots of seasoning and the dried mint. Chargrill your vegetables until you get nice griddle marks and the vegetables are almost cooked through (potatoes included). 

Cut four squares of baking parchment approx 30cm by 30 cm. Lay one on top of the other so you get a double layer. Pour any excess oil in the centre of each paper square and lay out a layer of potato. Top with the remainder of the vegetables in any order you like and finish with a big chunk of feta on top. Top this with a slice of lemon. Gather the paper up from the edges to make a parcel with the opening uppermost. Tie with string and bake in a moderate oven (180c) for 30 minutes or so on a thick baking sheet. The idea is to try to gently crisp the potato base adding a nice contrast when you eat the dish. To serve just put on a plate and give you eating partner some scissors and a hunk of good bread (cutlery may also be welcome).

Thursday, August 1

Warm Chocolate Brownie, Port Poached English Cherries

English cherries have been in season a few weeks now and what better combinations than to pair with chocolate. 

250g unsalted butter
200g 70% coco chocolate plus 50g broken into chips
80g coco powder
65g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
275g caster sugar plus 50g extra for the cherries
4 large eggs, beaten
400g cherries
100ml port

Over a bain marie, melt 200g of the chocolate with the butter and a pinch of salt. Cream the butter with the sugar in a mixer or by hand then add the flour, coco powder, eggs, chocolate chips and baking powder and mix well. Pour in the chocolate and butter mixture and combine well.

Tip into an 8 inch square baking tin lined with baking parchment and bake at 180c for 20 minutes until a good crust has formed but there is still a wobble in the middle of the cake. Chill well before portioning.

Stone the cherries using a cherry stoner (they are cheap and reasonably essential for this task). Poach the cherries in the port and remaining sugar until they have softened. Drain the cherries reserving the liquid and reduce by half to make a syrup. Add the syrup back to the cherries and allow to cool to room temperature. Portion the brownie and warm briefly in the microwave - maybe 15 seconds. Serve with the cherries, syrup and a good quality vanilla ice-cream or clotted cream.

Monday, July 22

Grilled South Coast Mackerel, Caponata, Rosemary Polenta Chips

Caponata is a Sicilian fried vegetable salad that works brilliantly with oily fish as the vinegar cuts the richness of the mackerel. Great for bbqs as the salad works best if not put in the fridge and should be served at room temperature.

Mackerel Fillets - 6, ask your fishmonger to 'V pin bone them'
Mild olive oil - 500ml
1 medium red onion 
1 bulb of fennel
1 small aubergine
2 sticks of celery
1 courgette
4 ripe plum tomatoes - seeds removed, roughly chopped
Good extra virgin - a glug
25g toasted pine nuts
4 tbsp passata
1 small buch of basil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
50g sultanas
Fine Polenta (dry) - 100g
Rosemary - 1 sprig
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

Prep the onion, fennel, aubergine, celery and courgette then cut into 1 cm dice keeping each vegetable separate. Heat the mild olive oil in a pan of sufficient size that the oil fills the pan to a depth of 2cm. Gently fry each vegetable in turn until it has softened and takes on a little colour. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen roll. Repeat until you have cooked all the vegetables.

In a large bowl mix the red wine vinegar and sugar until it has dissolved. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, plum tomatoes, passata and most of the basil torn into small pieces. Mix in the still warm vegetables and season well. Allow to rest at room temperature for an hour or so. 

To make the polenta, boil 200ml of water with the vegetable bouillon powder. Throw in the polenta, turn down the heat and stir well until the mix gets really thick. Stir in the finely chopped rosemary and check for seasoning. Spread the mix out onto an oiled baking tray and allow to cool - it should set to a pastry like consistency. Tip onto a board and chop up into rough pieces about the size of a large grape. Dust with flour and deep fry in the oil in which you fried the vegetables. You want the polenta to be crispy and golden - when it is ready, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. 

Season the mackerel and grill skin side up until cooked. Taste your caponata and add more sugar, vinegar or seasoning if you think it needs it - it should be mildly sweet and sharp.

Serve the caponata at room temperature with the hot crispy polenta chips and the mackerel on top. Sprinkle with more basil and a drizzle of good olive oil.