Category Archives: Easy

Christmas Chiken Liver Paté

Here’s a little festive something from the vaults that I’ll be making later…

Chicken Liver Pate topped with clarified butter, bay leaves and halved cherries.

We were entertaining the Anthropologist for a birthday lunch and with a guest who takes such care over her own entertaining a degree of effort is essential, such as making a new dish, or sacrificing several days and your sanity to prepare a little something from Heston Blumenthal [or, as on this occasion, both!]. And whilst there’s nothing new about chicken liver paté per se, I’d never done it before, so for me it counted.

I think I’d always imagined it would be a complicated business, but it turned out to be a surprisingly simple affair [unlike what was to follow!]. You can make it with just some sautéed livers, a splash of booze and some melted butter and seasoning – or you can phaff about a bit more, as here.

This will make enough for four, twice over, plus a little extra for a solo lunch or two. 

  • 400g of chicken livers [which when trimmed of sinew and any greenish parts yielded about 300g]
  • 200g of butter, plus more butter clarified to top the paté
  • 300ml of port, brandy, or madeira – or any mixture thereof, plus a splash more
  • 1 large banana shallot or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, plus more for decoration
  • A few blades of mace

Place the chopped shallot or onion, bay leaf and mace in a small pan. Add the booze, bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce until the liquid has all but gone. Discard the bay leaf and mace.

Sautée the livers in a knob of the butter for three or four minutes each side. You want a nicely browned exterior and a pinky middle. You can finish them off with a glug of brandy in the pan and a quick flambé – by no means essential, but why waste an excuse for a bit of flambé drama?! You’ll feel more like Graham Kerr, and who could resist a paté made by the Galloping Gourmet? Melt the remaining butter. Tip the shallot and livers into a food processor, with any liquid and pan scrapings from the livers, and blend, adding the melted butter and a good splash more of your chosen booze as you do.

Season well, and scrape the paté into bowls or ramekins. Top with some clarified butter and decorate with bay leaves, pink peppercorns, cranberries and a grind of black pepper – or whatever takes your fancy. In the absence of anything else I ended up using halved glacé cherries. Chill for a few hours or overnight, but do remove from the fridge a while before serving.

Serve with cornichons, halved cherry tomatoes, and some good bread. You may find that your guests would prefer at least some of this to be toasted – I know I did! Then if you’re looking for something to follow it, and have a few days going spare, you could do worse than Heston’s liquorice poached salmon with vanilla mayonnaise, soy-marinated salmon roe, pink grapefruit cells and reduced balsamic glaze…

Advertisements

Mushroom and Lentil Cottage Pie

Mushroom and lentil cottage pie - half eaten!

We’ve had the Vegan round for tea again.

And it’s autumn. Time for comfort food. And mushrooms.

  • 500g mixed white and chestnut mushrooms
  • 20g dried porcini
  • one onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • a pinch of dried mint
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 250ml rioja
  • 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 400g tin of lentils
  • a small sprig of thyme
  • a bay leaf
  • some brandy
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 100ml almond milk
  • a knob of sunflower spread
  • 2 spring onions
  • fresh nutmeg
  • a few splashes of olive oil for frying

Soak the porcini in a pint of boiling water and leave to soak for at least an hour. Chop the spring onions finely and gently heat in the almond milk, then leave to infuse until needed.

Quarter the mushrooms and sauté briskly on a highish heat with a pinch of salt. You may need to do this is batches. When they’ve taken on some colour and are starting to squeak sprinkle with chopped rosemary, add a splash of brandy and tilt the pan to flambé. Let the mushrooms drain on kitchen paper. Next sauté the onions gently, adding the garlic and dried herbs  once the onions have softened. Add the tomato puree and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan. Add the wine one glug at a time, allowing each to bubble away before adding the next. Sprinkle in the flour and combine well. Cook for a few minutes more then add the porcini soaking liquor. Chop the soaked porcini finely and tip them in. Add the bay leaf, ketchup, and the sprig of thyme tied up with string. Taste and season. Bring to a simmer and bubble gently for half an hour, until reduced and thickened. After 20 minutes add the lentils. If you have time allow this to cool – it’ll become firm and will be easier to top with your mash.

Boil the potatoes then mash, adding the strained, infused almond milk and sunflower spread. Season well with salt, pepper, and a good grating of nutmeg. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprig, and top the pie with the mash. This time I textured the top with the tines of a fork. Sometimes I’ll scallop it with the tip of a palette knife, like the one below. Finish in an oven at 190 degrees C for about half an hour, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

We ate this with Delia Smith’s caramelised fennel, and some peas, and vegan and carnivore diners alike requested seconds!

Cottage pie with scalloped top

PS – you could add some finely diced carrots and celery once you’ve softened the onions. I – mistakenly – thought our guest didn’t care for either. 

Vegan Raita

cucumber

Old Friend: “I’m in town next weekend if you’re free.”

WFTTD: “Great, come to us and I’ll rustle up some supper.”

Old Friend: “OK thanks. By the way I’m vegan now. Bye!”

Er, WHAT…?!

Three decades ago as a student I entered into a shopping / cooking sharing arrangement with a vegan friend in my halls, and memories of my margarine and soy milk bechamel for a veggie lasagne haunt me still. I have not knowingly prepared a full on vegan repast since.

Still, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity, and all that.

And in this case opportunity took the form of a cauliflower curry – more on which later – and all the trimmings. Sharwood’s green label mango chutney [the best mango chutney money can buy IMHO] is mercifully free of any animal ingredients, and I found some poppadoms which were vegan, gluten free, GM free, in fact so free of anything it’s a wonder they existed at all. But cooling, creamy, cucumberful, yoghurty raita? Challenge Opportunity time!

Time, in fact, for tahini. Turns out this sesame seed paste is a vegan staple for producing creamy dressings and so forth when cream itself is considered beyond the pail. I’d say “who knew?”, but lots of you probably already do.

You will need

  • A cucumber
  • Half a red onion
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A small handful of mint, and the same of dill
  • Tahini
  • Water

Finely chop the red onion and leave to sit in the lemon juice for half an hour or so. I spiralised my cucumber, because spiralising is the most zeitgeisty way of reducing a whole vegetable to smaller, more fork-friendly parts, and because I like playing with the spiralising thingy, but do feel free to just chop it into pieces of your desired size. Chop the herbs, add to the cucumber pieces, and tip in the onion and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the tahini a tablespoonful at a time, stirring to mix – I used about four tablespoons. The lemon juice will cause the tahini to thicken slightly, so add a splash of water here and there as you go until you achieve your preferred consistency. Season with salt to taste, and chill.

This worked so well that I’ll do it again, for vegans and omnivores alike. Until I meet a vegan who is sesame intolerant, when we’ll be looking at a whole new  set of opportunities.

With thanks to my good friend RJ for sharing his vegan know-how and advice.

Crab Spag Nam Jim

A crab shell with red chillies and a halved lime

Inspired by a classic salad from Skye Gyngell – not someone I’d automatically associate with Asian food, but what the heck – I turned this into a pasta supper. It might sound odd to include Parmesan here, but it works. Honest! The key to this is to use only the best quality fish sauce* you can find. A traditional Nam Jim dressing would include coriander roots and stems, and if you wish to ruin the dish please feel free to do the same – can you tell I’m not a fan?

Feeds Two

  • 220g Spaghetti
  • 120g Crab [mixed brown and white meat]
  • 1 Banana Shallot
  • 2 Red Chillies
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • A pinch of Palm Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 60g Parmigiano Reggiano [grated]

Whilst the pasta cooks, finely dice the shallot and chilli and soften with the crushed garlic in a little oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and a ladle of the pasta water. Allow the al dente pasta to finish cooking in the sauce.

*Readers of my recent Vietnamese adventure will remember that Uyen recommends the Three Crabs brand.

Mint and Wild Garlic Sauce

Mint sauce with added wild garlic.

So this was a bit of a risk. The Shopkeeper is quite clear about his mint sauce requirements – finely chopped mint [plenty of], a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, vinegar. And some lamb to put it on. And that’s it.

That’s how it is, and how it was, and how it always shall be. [There’s a prize for anyone who can identify the film reference there.]

And then I thought, what about adding some chopped wild garlic to the mix? After all lamb and garlic have always been the best of friends. So the lamb committee was convened in an emergency session, eventually granting permission to proceed, whilst managing to maintain a decidedly dubious air.

But it worked! So give it a try if lamb’s your choice of roast this Easter.

PS – had some trouble getting a circular crop on the above photo as I made the pot too, and it’s not quite, er, circular!

Baked Figs

Figs ready for baking, with ginger wine, honey and rosemary.

It’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting a heart attack. Frankly Monty Python had more of an inkling about the Spanish Inquisition, and we all know how expected that was. Yes, I had the genetic predisposition and lived the lifestyle – but ticking all the boxes doesn’t always win you the main prize. Not always…

This time though I knew I must have hit some kind of jackpot because blue lights started flashing, sirens wailed and the machine wired up to my chest made frequent, frantic beeping noises. Turns out this prize was life-saving, piercing-edge, percutaneous surgery, and the specialist teams at the West Middlesex and Hammersmith Hospitals have earned – in every sense – my undying gratitude.

So now I’m faced with a choice food-wise: renounce totally anything enjoyable but potentially naughty and live out my days in the epicurean equivalent of a hair shirt, or expend some additional effort on finding foods that are both healthy and beautiful [whilst admitting the odd something sinful from time to time]. Actually you make the same choice several times every day, this sort of thing just has a way of turning decisions into DECISIONS.

Well I’ve made mine. And I will not go hungry into that good night.

I served this with a splodge of low fat crème fraîche, which would actually have been my choice before all the cardiac kerfuffle.

Feeds three or four

  • 12 ripe medium-sized figs
  • 100ml ginger wine
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • a good drizzle of honey, about a tablespoon and a half [vegans can replace with a sprinkling of brown sugar]
  • a few small sprigs of rosemary
  • crème fraîche to serve [optional]

Slash the figs with deep, quartering cuts almost all the way through, and arrange snugly in a shallow dish. Whisk the spice and vanilla into the ginger wine and pour over the figs. Drizzle the honey over and into the figs, strew the rosemary sprigs about, and bake in a 190C oven for 25 minutes to half an hour. Baste with the juices once or twice during cooking, and spoon over plenty as you serve.

Chiken Liver Paté

Paté’s proving popular, so let’s have another…

Chicken Liver Pate topped with clarified butter, bay leaves and halved cherries.

We were entertaining the Anthropologist for a birthday lunch and with a guest who takes such care over her own entertaining a degree of effort is essential, such as making a new dish, or sacrificing several days and your sanity to prepare a little something from Heston Blumenthal [or, as on this occasion, both!]. And whilst there’s nothing new about chicken liver paté per se, I’d never done it before, so for me it counted.

I think I’d always imagined it would be a complicated business, but it turned out to be a surprisingly simple affair [unlike what was to follow!]. You can make it with just some sautéed livers, a splash of booze and some melted butter and seasoning – or you can phaff about a bit more, as here.

This will make enough for four, twice over, plus a little extra for a solo lunch or two. 

  • 400g of chicken livers [which when trimmed of sinew and any greenish parts yielded about 300g]
  • 200g of butter, plus more butter clarified to top the paté
  • 300ml of port, brandy, or madeira – or any mixture thereof, plus a splash more
  • 1 large banana shallot or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, plus more for decoration
  • A few blades of mace

Place the chopped shallot or onion, bay leaf and mace in a small pan. Add the booze, bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce until the liquid has all but gone. Discard the bay leaf and mace.

Sautée the livers in a knob of the butter for three or four minutes each side. You want a nicely browned exterior and a pinky middle. You can finish them off with a glug of brandy in the pan and a quick flambé – by no means essential, but why waste an excuse for a bit of flambé drama?! You’ll feel more like Graham Kerr, and who could resist a paté made by the Galloping Gourmet? Melt the remaining butter. Tip the shallot and livers into a food processor, with any liquid and pan scrapings from the livers, and blend, adding the melted butter and a good splash more of your chosen booze as you do.

Season well, and scrape the paté into bowls or ramekins. Top with some clarified butter and decorate with bay leaves, pink peppercorns, cranberries and a grind of black pepper – or whatever takes your fancy. In the absence of anything else I ended up using halved glacé cherries. Chill for a few hours or overnight, but do remove from the fridge a while before serving.

Serve with cornichons, halved cherry tomatoes, and some good bread. You may find that your guests would prefer at least some of this to be toasted – I know I did! Then if you’re looking for something to follow it, and have a few days going spare, you could do worse than Heston’s liquorice poached salmon with vanilla mayonnaise, soy-marinated salmon roe, pink grapefruit cells and reduced balsamic glaze…