Saturday, April 27

Chorizo Shakshouka

Tunisian or Israeli in origin, this makes a great breakfast or lunch dish. Using chorizo is completely in-authentic and bordering on a fusion crime (especially given the religious implications of using pig in a Muslim dish), but what food isn't made better by the addition? I made a huge pot of this yesterday at the pub and sold nearly all of it in a day. Clearly this is something people want to eat despite most never having heard of it before. Give it a go. For two:

Quality chorizo - 200g (try the Brindisa brand if you can find it)
1x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1x red onion, peeled and sliced
2x red peppers - deseeded and cut into chunks
4x cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp harissa paste or a good pinch of red chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
A splash of red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tsp of sugar
Flat leaf parsley, a handful roughly chopped
4x medium free range eggs

Heat your oven to 220c and roast the peppers in a little olive oil until charred at the edges and nice and sweet/soft. Gently fry the onions in a little olive oil until they begin to soften then chuck in the garlic and chorizo and continue to fry until the sausage begins to render it's deep red fat. Add the dry spices to the pot and cook out for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, harissa, vinegar, sugar and a generous seasoning then simmer for 10 to 15 mins until the sauce is nice and thick. Mix the roast peppers into the sauce then ladle into two oven proof bowls - terracotta cazuelas would be perfect. Break two eggs onto the sauce in each bowl and bake until the whites are just set. Sprinkle liberally with parsley and serve with crusty or flat bread to mop up the juices.

Tuesday, April 23

Salt Cod Croquettas, Wild Garlic Aioli

Ever wondered what they do in Spain and Portugal with those big sides of dried leathery salt cod.......probably not! This is a great little tapas or starter using more of that wild garlic growing just about everywhere in the woods right now. I cannot stress enough how salty the cod is - you really must soak it well before use. Oh, and just to ensure journalistic integrity, the inspiration for this came from Harvey Nichols in Bristol where I used to work. Louise McCrimmon.....I bloody love this dish and had to wait a year until the wild garlic was out so I could make it!

Salt cod - 400g reconstituted weight
Mashed potato (leftovers are perfect) - 300g
Milk for poaching
Parsley - a small bunch chopped
Wild garlic - a large handful, stems removed and well washed
Olive oil (not extra virgin as it is too strong) - about 150ml
Juice of half a lemon
Flour for dredging
2 egg yolks - save the whites for bread crumbing
White breadcrumbs

Soak the cod in copious amounts of cold fresh water for 48 hours changing the water several times. Leave the cod in the fridge while soaking. Gently poach the soaked cod in milk until flaking. Drain, discard the skin and really flake the fish into small strands. Mix well with the mash and parsley - check for seasoning, you are unlikely to need salt but black pepper is very welcome.  Shape up into any shape you like e.g. balls, cones, logs etc - each should weight about 50g. Dredge in flour, toss in well beaten egg white then in breadcrumbs. Chill in the fridge until required.

Quickly blanch the wild garlic in boiling water then refresh in iced water to set the colour. Chuck in a blender with the egg yolks and with the blades running drizzle in the oil to make a thick mayonnaise. Season well and add lemon juice to taste - it should be powerfully flavoured so don't be shy.

Deep fry the croquettas in a deep fat fryer set to 160c until golden and crispy. Enjoy with a cold San Miguel.

Sunday, April 14

Flourless Chocolate, Prune & Amaretto Torte, Chantilly Pouring Cream

Like the best gooey chocolate brownie, but less sweet and with more booze. Chantilly cream is usually whipped, I made a pourable version which I have not seen before......I am soooo creative, or perhaps too lazy to whip the cream by hand? 

70% dark chocolate - 150g
Agen prunes - 150g
Amaretto - 50ml
Butter - 100g
Caster sugar - 100g
Ground Almonds - 150g
4 large eggs
Cocoa - a tbsp or so
Double cream - 500ml 
Vanilla pod - 1
Icing Sugar - 1 slightly heaped tbsp 

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pan over a very low heat - stir all the time do not boil or you will split your chocolate. Separate two of the eggs into yolks and whites. Now chuck the melted chocolate, prunes, amaretto, two whole eggs and separated yolks, sugar and almonds into the bowl of a food processor and blend until more or less smooth. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then fold this into the chocolate mixture. 

Butter and line an 8 inch loose bottomed sponge tin then dust with cocoa powder. Pour in your mix and bake in a preheated oven at 160c for 25 mins. Allow the cake to cool in the tin then refrigerate to set (the middle will be very gooey if you eat straight from the oven). 

To make the Chantilly, simply mix the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds. Portion the cake from cold and give each portion a 20 second blast in the microwave to warm slightly  before serving - that way you don't have to plate up a very soft gooey pudding and risk it collapsing on the way to the plate!

Monday, April 8

Wild Garlic Chicken Kiev, Jersey Royals, Wye Valley Asparagus

It is finally here.........Spring that is.......holy f*'s very I a bit of a foodie geek?........probably! Winter is finally over and three of the best early spring seasonal goodies are in the shops or in the woods right now. Wild garlic, local asparagus and Jersey Royal new potatoes. Ok, they are really expensive at the moment but the price will come down in the next few weeks and the wild garlic is abundant and free.

I'm not a big forager, I have a one year old son and barely have the time to eat, let alone forage. However we were on a walk yesterday and the woods were carpeted with this pungent leaf, so I grabbed some. If you are unfamiliar with wild garlic, the flavour is somewhere between spinach, garlic and raw onion. Cut your kiev and allow the butter to flow out onto your spuds and asparagus - stunning, a foodie 'money shot'!

Small free range chicken supremes, skinned - 2x 150g (approx)
Wild garlic - 1 large fistful
Salted butter at room temperature - half a block
2 eggs - beaten.
Some plain flour
Breadcrumbs - a couple of handfuls
Jersey royals - a handful per person
Wye Valley Asparagus - a bunch

Wash and toss the wild garlic into a hot pan and wilt as you would spinach. Refresh in iced water and when cold, squeeze dry in a clean tea towel. Season well and toss into the food processor with the butter and a good season of salt and black pepper. Blitz until you have a really green butter. Roll into a thin sausage in cling film and chill until hard.

Remove the mini fillet from the chicken breast and set aside. Insert a knife into the thick end of the fillet to make a pocket being careful not to pierce the flesh. Repeat with the other breast. Unwrap the butter and cut off a stick about 2 inches long (you may have some butter left over for another use). Stuff into the chicken as deep as you can get it. Plug the open end with the mini fillet - you are trying to stop the melted butter escaping once cooked. Repeat with the other breast and then flour, egg and breadcrumb. I egged and breadcrumbed twice paying special attention to the hole you cut - the breadcrumbs will help hold in the butter. 

Now get your spuds onto simmer, heat a deep fat fryer to 160c and turn your oven onto 180c. Deep fry the chicken until golden and transfer to the oven to finish cooking. When the spuds are almost cooked, toss in your asparagus to blanch. You can check your chicken is cooked by using a thermometer - anything over 83c is cooked. Don't cremate your chicken as the butter will boil out - you will lose a little in the oven but this can be spooned over at the end. Drain your veg, no butter required as there is plenty in the chicken, however a good seasoning wouldn't go amiss. Plate up and enjoy the moment when you cut into the kiev. It maybe old school but it is soooo good.

Monday, April 1

Belizian Lime Pie

In my youth I did a bit of travel in South America and for some bizarre reason, lemon meringue pie was very popular. Sadly the versions I ate never lived up to the one my mum makes. Hers' bakes the meringue to a crisp golden brown, none of this fluffy shaving foam nonsense with a cheffy blow torched top. Here is a lime version taking influence from all the rum cocktails I drank in Belize

For the pastry:
225g plain flour 

25g caster sugar
½ tsp salt

110g ice cold unsalted butter

For the filling and meringue:
4 heaped tbsp cornflour
150ml water
275g caster sugar
5 juicy unwaxed limes
3 large eggs, separated into yolks & whites

To make the pastry, sieve the flour into a bowl and add the sugar and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub lightly into flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add a 2 tbsp of water and work into a soft pastry, if the mixture is too dry and not coming together add a tbsp of water at a time until you have a soft but not sticky ball of pastry. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest in a fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and line a 10 inch, loose bottomed flan dish with the pastry. Cover the pastry with baking parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans or other dried beans (actually coins work just as well).   Blind bake for 20 mins removing the paper and beans for the last 5 mins. The pastry case should look ‘dry’ and be golden – if not cook for a few mins more. Remove the pastry case and reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.

In a bowl, mix the cornflour and water until combined, then add 200g of the sugar and the juice and zest of the limes. Transfer to a pan and on a really gentle heat, stir continuously until really thick. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two before stirring in the egg yolks. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff – you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out. Whisk in the remaining 75g of the sugar – the meringue should now look smooth and shiny.

Pour the lime mixture into the pastry case and spread out using a spatula. Then pile the meringue mix on top and roughly spread making peaks with your spatula as you go. Bake for 20 minutes until the meringue is crisp and golden brown all over.   Serve with double cream or a good quality vanilla ice-cream.