Tag Archives: cayenne pepper

Lobster Macaroni Cheese

Lobster Macaroni Cheese

I wasn’t planning to share this, as I just used Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his new Comfort Food collection, with none of my own tweaks or touches. But for three reasons I decided to say something about it…

  1. It’s delicious! It damn well should be, being easily the most expensive mac and cheese dish I have ever made, or ever will, but still – it’s delicious! And I think more people should know about it and treat themselves.
  2. My diners agreed about the deliciousness thing – one came back for seconds, four times! – and asked me to write about it.
  3. I photographed the dish against a black and white gingham tablecloth which rendered extracting the foreground image several miles beyond the farthest limits of my photoshop skills. Enter Vern, my genius photographer friend from Singapore. He worked his magic, but claims it nearly sent him blind, so I wanted to share to thank him for his help and the sacrifice of his dear departed eyesight.

Jamie hasn’t made the recipe available online yet, he clearly wants you to buy the book. If that changes I’ll post an update. So for now no recipe, just a description. Essentially it’s about pimping your cheese sauce – make this with equal parts gruyere, cheddar and parmesan, sauteing an onion in butter at the start of your roux, and enrich with a couple of anchovies, some white burgundy, mustard, cayenne pepper, and of course the meat of the lobster. Mix the sauce with cooked pasta, top with breadcrumbs, garnish with the head and tail shells, and finish in the oven.

You won’t want this every day, and unless you’re an oligarch with a couple of football clubs and a a few hundred metres of yacht, the housekeeping probably wouldn’t stretch to that, but once in a while we all deserve a little indulgence. And it doesn’t get much more indulgent than this.

#ComfortFood

Smoked Mackerel Pate x 2

Smoked mackerel pate, topped with melted butter, parsley, capers and cayenne pepper

By slavishly following post heart attack dietary advice for over twenty years my late father ate so much smoked mackerel that he came to loath it with a passion. But then my parents always treated even the most casual advice from someone with a white coat and stethoscope as something not to be simply heeded, but rather carved in tablets of stone and set upon an altar. Ironic then that when the family recently gathered at the home the of my eldest brother, for the sole purpose of relocating our dear departed parents’ mortal remains to a dedicated area of woodland in the Lancashire hills, that I should be treated to a lunch of smoked mackerel pate.

The fraternal recipe, borrowed from a farmer neighbour, consisted of just smoked mackerel and cream cheese [with I suspect a fish to cheese ratio of c.2:1] simply blended together. And quite delicious it was too. If you want a more straightforward approach than what follows then I can highly recommend it.

For this version though I wanted to exploit the indulgent richness of the triple cream Delice de Bourgogne, and I couldn’t resist a bit more phaffing about too [as my dad would have called it!]. So the choice is yours, farmhouse or fancy. Either way it’s a piscine treat, just don’t eat it every day for decades if you don’t want to get bored…

Six to eight people will have more than enough

  • 280g smoked mackerel fillets, boned, skinned and roughly flaked
  • 140g Delice de Bourgogne [or similar such as Jean Grogne or Vignotte]
  • 2 tbsps creamed horseradish [as heaped as you like]
  • 3 tbsps soured cream
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • A good grind of black pepper

To finish [optional]

  • Melted butter
  • Flat leaf parsley, some chopped and a few whole leaves
  • A few capers or a few preserved green or pink peppercorns
  • A pinch more cayenne

Remove the delicate bloomy rind from the cheese carefully with a sharp knife so as to minimise any cheese loss. I’d never bother to do this if just eating the cheese but the flavour of the outer layer isn’t what you want here. Then just tip all the pate ingredients into a food processor and give it three or four good blitz pulses. The texture is up to you – for a coarser pate blitz less, for smoother blitz more. Check the seasoning and spoon into one big dish or a number of small ramekins. Chill.

You don’t need to top this but it does look pretty and takes no time at all. Mix the chopped parsley into the melted butter and gently pour or spoon a thin layer over the pate. Add the capers or peppercorns, and press a few whole leaves of parsley artfully into the butter. Once the butter has begun to set [after just a minute or two in the fridge] sprinkle over a little more cayenne pepper. If you do this when the butter is too liquid the little red jewels will all disperse instead of sitting prettily on the top.

Serve with bread or toast, and few more capers or some cornichons or gherkins on the side.

#smokedmackerelpate   #WFTTD

Wal-Slaw and PFC

 A coleslaw salad including celery and apple

Whilst to some of my younger readers this will clearly mark me out as some sort of antediluvian anachronism, I can actually remember a Britain before McDonalds. The golden arches didn’t make it to our sceptred isle until 1974, fully 6 years after I first landed, and it would be many years more before Ronald showed his face in the provincial backwater that was my childhood home.

Colonel Sanders on the other hand was quicker off the mark and KFC opened its first UK outlet in Preston in 1965. I don’t think the one I remember, a roadhouse style takeaway on Preston New Road, was the ground-breaker but it seemed always to have been there. We didn’t use it often – it was enough of a drive for the food to get cold before we got home, and being ‘foreign’ was clearly not intended for everyday consumption – but it was my first real introduction to the then exotic world of the fast food takeaway.

Perhaps because of this childhood association fried chicken still holds a special place in my arteries, and is one of the few fast food staples that I might still crave before 2:00 a.m. and whilst stone cold sober. The colonel’s spice mix is of course as secret as the recipe for Coca Cola [apparently not even the factories who make it know the exact proportions, which I would have thought could prove to be a tad awkward, manufacturing-wise?] but it’s not actually that difficult to cook up a reasonable facsimile at home. Many of the myriad American recipes available online use frankly frightening amounts of MSG but even if this did figure in the Colonel’s own mysterious mix you don’t need it. Plenty of good old fashioned salt and pepper does the trick.

Of course you can’t have fried chicken without some sort of slaw. When making this I had crunchy celery and apple to hand [as in a Waldorf Salad] and hey presto, Wal-Slaw was born! The sweet-corn is another classic fried chicken accompaniment so into the salad it went. A buttered baked potato finished off the finger lickin’ feast.

Wal-Slaw

  • Half a small red cabbage, finely shredded
  • Half an apple, diced
  • A shallot, finely diced
  • One carrot, grated
  • A small tin of sweet-corn kernels (not Colonels!)
  • Two sticks of celery, finely sliced
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A splash of malt vinegar
  • Sufficient mayonnaise to bind

First dice the apple and toss in the lemon juice and vinegar. Then just throw everything else in and stir in the mayonnaise to your liking. Season and chill.

Philip’s Fried Chicken [PFC]

  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 4 tbsps plain flour
  • 1 soupspoon cornflour [optional]
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 tsps ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick of celery broken into four [optional]
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Soak the chicken thighs in the beaten egg and allow them to wallow for a while. Place the flour [and cornflour if using], seasoning and spices into a zip-lock plastic bag and shake well to combine. Throw the chicken pieces into the spiced flour, zip up the bag and shake well to coat them evenly. Rest the whole lot in the fridge for a few minutes whilst you heat up the oil and shake again.

In a heavy, lidded skillet or frying pan heat about half an inch of vegetable oil. The depth needs to be such that once the chicken is in the oil will not reach higher than half way up the side of the pan. To see when the oil is hot enough for frying insert the handle of a wooden spoon – when the oil forms lively bubbles around the handle you’re ready to go [NB very vigorous bubbling means the oil is too hot, allow it to cool a little and try again]. Using tongs gently place the chicken pieces into the oil, skin side down, and add the celery pieces if using – it may be an old wives’ tale but this is supposed to help to crisp the chicken.

Cover and cook for nine to ten minutes, checking from time to time that the underside isn’t browning too quickly – if it is, lower the heat. Again using tongs turn the pieces and cook for another nine to ten minutes but this time without the lid. When all the chicken pieces are beautifully golden brown all over remove from the oil and drain. Some say this is best done on brown paper such as a grocer’s bag but kitchen roll will do too. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes before you dig in to avoid southern fried lips, a less appealing dish by far.

Savoury Pear and Stinking Bishop Pudding

 Pears and Stinking Bishop cheese

I have just published a version of the following recipe in the September issue of My St Margarets Magazine, but the online version is not yet available so I’m sharing it here too…

So – September’s here. The Indian summer begins to wane and as we roll into autumn I can’t entirely agree with Keats. The mists are here on Marble Hill Park, and yes the shelves of the grocers are groaning with the orchards’ fruitfulness, but this change of season is never a mellow time in my kitchen. At home the Shopkeeper will be turning the last of the tomato harvest [red and green] into Putney – not quite a pickle, not quite a chutney! There are preserves and fruit vinegars to be made with the final fruits of summer. Game returned to the table with a vengeance at the start of September. And as you read this farmers in the Swiss Alps are bringing their herds down from the high summer pastures so within a month the first of this season’s Vacherin will be on the shelves.

But it’s back to orchard for one of my early autumn favourites, ripe and juicy British pears. My neighbour’s pear tree should be bursting with fruit around now, and I’ll happily help myself to the piles of windfalls she leaves out on the gatepost. Pears also partner perfectly with many cheeses. The great champion of seasonal cuisine Valentine Warner makes a splendid savoury tart using pears and Stinking Bishop, a marriage which works so well because Charles Martell’s delightfully smelly cheese gains it’s aroma from being washed in pear perry. I’ve used this partnership to create a savoury bread and butter pudding which makes a tempting lunch or supper dish, or which can be made in individual ramekins for a dinner party starter – or indeed a cheesy dessert, or for that matter a fruity cheese course…!

Feeds two generously:

  • 3 medium to thick slices of English Farmhouse white bread, preferably a day or two old, buttered
  • 2 ripe but firm large pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1.5 cm chunks
  • 180g Stinking Bishop cut into the same sized pieces as the pears
  • 2 large eggs and 1 yolk
  • 300ml single cream
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • A knob of butter

Preheat your oven to 180˚C and set the kettle boiling. Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan roomy enough to accommodate the pears in a single layer, and when it’s bubbling add them to the pan. Sauté the pears on a highish heat until they start to take on some colour and then set them aside to cool. Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and season with generous pinches of sea salt and black pepper. Cut the buttered bread slices into quarters and arrange them, points uppermost, in overlapping layers in a gratin dish, tucking about three quarters of the pear and cheese between them as you go. Scatter the remaining pear and cheese across the top. Pour over the savoury custard and let everything sit and soak for a few minutes. Place the dish into a roasting tray and pour in boiling water to two thirds the way up the sides of the dish. Pop everything into the middle of the oven and give it 35 minutes. The top should be golden brown and crunchy. Dust with a little more cayenne if you like a spicy kick. Give it a few minutes to rest and serve warm, with a salad of your choice.

This is a versatile base from which to experiment – If you want a sweeter dish try using brioche or a hazelnut and raisin sourdough. If you want to turn the savoury dial up a notch then try potato and rosemary bread, or replace one of the pears with a sliced leek sautéed with a little thyme. For the individual ramekin versions slice the bread thinly, and cut the pear and cheese into slightly smaller dice. Cut out three circles of bread the same size as the ramekin for each. Start with a disc of buttered bread in the base, buttered side up, and add a layer of pear and cheese, then bread, another pear and cheese layer, and top with a final slice of bread. Pour in the custard in stages, allowing each addition to seep and soak through before the next. These will only need about 25 minutes cooking time.

[recipe entered in the ‘Simple and In Season’ event over at Fablicious Food!]