Friday, June 28

Gooseberry & Elderflower Meringue Tart

More usually made with lemon, this variant is inspired by Mark Hix but uses my mums recipe and gooseberries from my garden. You want the fruit filling to be sharp to offset the sweet meringue. I was surprised by how sweet my gooseberries were which upset the balance of the tart a little - make sure you add the sugar to taste after adding the cordial

Gooseberries - 500g, twigs and stalks removed
Caster sugar
Elderflower cordial - 2 tbsp
Egg whites - 4 (save the yolk)
Plain Flour - 300g
Butter - 150g

To make the pastry, pulse the flour and butter with 1 tbsp of caster sugar until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.  Add two reserved egg yolks and blitz until the pastry comes together.  If the mixture is too dry and not coming together, add a tbsp of milk - one 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 180°C. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and line an 8 inch, loose bottomed sponge tin with the pastry. Cover the pastry with baking parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans or dried beans (coins also work well). Blind bake for 20 mins then remove the paper and beans, lightly prick the base with a fork then bake for 10 to 15 mins more. The pastry case should look ‘dry’ and be golden – if not cook a bit longer. Trim the top of the pastry case with a serrated knife to get a nice even edge.

Next make the compote - on a medium heat with the cordial and a splash of water bring the berries to the simmer. Cook until they have burst but have not lost all of their texture. Taste and add a little sugar if the mix is too sharp for your taste.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage. I used an electric hand whisk. With the whisk still running add 25% of the sugar, beating in as you go. Repeat until all the sugar is incorporated. The result should be a glossy thick meringue that shows the path of the whisk as you beat. 

Assemble the tart: compote into pastry case, meringue on top. To get the impressive peaks and swirls, use a spatula to "pat" the top of the meringue all over. Bake at 180c for 25 to 30 minutes until crisp and golden - if you are unsure....better to cook a little bit longer than not enough. Serve with pouring cream.

Wednesday, June 19

Grilled Lamb Leg Steak, Peas, Broad Beans, Mint, Dill & Feta

This is another massive seller from our current menu. It fits the brief of 'seasonal, big flavours, rough edges' - I don't feel that people want fine dining in the summer, just light tasty and interesting plates of food. For 2

Lamb leg steaks - approx 160g to 180g each, bone in or out.
Dried oregano - 1 tsp
Dried thyme - 1 tsp
Dried mint - 1 tsp
Garlic - 3 fat cloves, peeled
Olive oil - a good slug
Peas - fresh or frozen - a good handful per person
Broad beans - 1kg on the pod
Jersey royal potatoes - 200g
Butter - 125g at room temperature
Mint - 1 bunch, leaves seperated from stems
Dill - 1 bunch
Feta - 75g
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Grind two cloves of garlic to a paste on a chopping board with the flat of your knife and a little salt. Add this to a bowl with the dried herbs, some black pepper and the slug of olive oil. Mix well, then slather all over the lamb steaks and leave to marinade for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

To make the butter, chuck the garlic, and fresh herbs (not the mint stalks - these are for the bin) into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz, then add the butter and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Blitz into a green buttery mush and set aside.

Boil your spuds until tender, drain and keep warm. Pod and blanch the broad beans then the peas plunging each into iced water after a brief simmer to set the green colour. I like to remove the skin from the broad beans leaving only the bright green interior, but this is your choice. 

Get a frying pan on the stove and heat until just smoking. Cook your lamb steaks to your liking - I prefer medium. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for a minute while you warm the peas, beans and potatoes in a pan with the herb butter. You won't need all the butter so use as much as you feel your arteries can cope with - the rest can be used for another dish (grilled fish?). Remember the green veg is cooked, so you only want to warm it up. Check the seasoning and plate up the veg, crumble over the feta and top with a lamb steak. A wedge of lemon would be a welcome additional garnish.

Sunday, June 16

Crispy Pork Escalope with a Warm Salad of Haricot, Green Beans, Shaved Fennel & Mustard

Hot weather at the pub brings the crowds and we are always looking for simple, interesting dishes that you want to eat when the mercury goes north. The combination of warm beans, crunchy raw shaved fennel and a mustardy vinaigrette to compliment the pork work extremely well together. You will have to excuse the poor photography, I took this on my IPhone in the middle of service! For two

Dried haricot beans - 100g
Banana shallot - 1 large one, peeled
Garlic - 1 fat clove
Olive Oil - 50ml
Red wine vinegar - 2 tbsp
Dijon Mustard - 1 heaped tsp
Woody herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay - a few sprigs of each
Vegetable bouillion powder - 2 tsp
Wholegrain mustard - 2 heaped tsp
Fennel - 1 bulb
Green beans - a handful
Boneless pork loin chops - 2x180 gram after trimming
Plain Flour
2 eggs - beaten
Oil for frying

Soak the haricot beans overnight. The next day and in fresh water bring the beans to the simmer. Add the herbs and vegetable bouillion but not salt as this hardens the beans skin. Cook until tender but not turning to mush (maybe 30 mins). 

While the haricot are cooking, crack on with the rest of the prep. Trim the pork chops of most of the fat, then slice through the middle to result in two thinner chops. Dip each pork chop into flour, egg then breadcrumbs and set aside.

Trim the fennel base and remove any outer layers that are not pristine. Shave the fennel on a mandoline as thin as you can get it. Drop the fennel into iced cold water with the juice of a lemon added to stop the fennel discolouring. 

To make the vinaigrette, blitz the garlic, shallot, vinegar and mustards with some salt and pepper. With the blades of the food processor running, drizzle in the oil until you have a thick emulsified dressing. Taste and add more seasoning, mustard or vinegar if you think it needs it - it is difficult to tell how potent your mustards or vinegar will be.

When the beans are cooked, drain and remove the herb stalks. Gently mix the beans with the vinaigrette while still hot - they will then soak up all that flavour. Blanch your green beans. Pan fry the pork fillets in 1cm of oil until golden and crispy - drain and season. Toss the green beans and drained raw fennel into the mustardy haricot. Check for seasoning and serve.

Tuesday, June 4

Broa De Milho - Portugese Corn Bread

I've just got back from a great holiday in Madeira and among other interesting foodie finds was this really simple corn bread. It looks stunning and needs little in the way of kneading and only a single prove, therefore is relatively quick to make compared to other breads. Dense and satisfying, this is one to go with hearty cured meats and rustic red wines. The crust is thick and crunchy and the crumb is soft and close textured like a standard rye.

The restaurant owner of the O'Ginjinhas Restaurant in Madeira Old Town (www.bas-fond.comwas a real foodie and introduced me to this recipe. I didn't take your name my friend, but many thanks for your hospitality and here is my humble attempt to recreate your artisan bread.

Maize flour - 500g
Rye Flour - 150g
Strong Bread Flour - 250g
Salt - 20g
Fresh yeast - 20g or 10g dried yeast
Tepid water - 700g

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Mix all the ingredients and tip onto a work surface. Knead for a few minutes to bring together into a nice smooth dough. Unlike other breads there is not a lot of gluten to develop due to the lack of wheat flour, so don't go crazy. Shape into a smooth ball, transfer to a well oiled baking sheet and generously coat the top with flour. Cover with a tea-towel and allow to prove.  When the bread has increased in size by two thirds, heat your over to 240c. The top will look all cracked and cool - this is intentional and authentic. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when you tap the base.