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.