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.