Tag Archives: lemon

A Diamond Jubilee Diadem

This is my Jubilee tribute recipe which appears in the special edition of My St Margarets Magazine, out this week…

A crown of asparagus, surrounding a rich salmon mousse, topped with a 'cucumber caviar'.

My Diamond Jubilee Diadem of Salmon and Asparagus with Cucumber Caviar

Serendipitously a customer called in to ask if I could recommend a cheese for using in a salmon mousse just days after I had created this regal treat. And whilst the other principal players celebrate the best of British at this time of year – as well they ought for such a dish – the cheese which works best here is the French Delice de Bourgogne [or any of its triple cream cousins]. English asparagus is in season now so there is really no excuse for using anything else, and salmon are plentiful whether from the ocean or one’s own private loch. Though right royal purists might even opt for trout instead which was on the Queen’s coronation menu, right before the ‘Poulet Elizabeth’. Admittedly the Tonka bean is not native to the British Isles, but it does give a splendidly summery grassy note to the dish. I make no apologies for the fact that some effort is required for this recipe – it’s a celebration after all, and you’ll only have to make it once every 60 years!

This is a rich dish, again quite apt under the circumstances, so you need only small servings and very little by way of accompaniment – perhaps some melba toast points, or some Fine Cheese Co apricot and pistachio crackers. This quantity will make 6 to 8 servings depending on the size of your moulds, and any leftovers can be spread on toast as an indulgent supper, or used as a rather smart sandwich spread with some thinly sliced cucumber.

  • 240g poached salmon
  • 100g Delice de Bourgogne
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tbsps good French mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • Blade mace
  • Tonka bean
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Paprika – a pinch
  • 1 tbsp single cream
  • Dill – a tbsp chopped
  • Cucumber
  • Chinese rice vinegar
  • Asparagus spears – enough to line your  5cm ring moulds when halved.

Trim your asparagus spears to the desired height – the tips should just stand proud of your ring moulds – and steam until tender, then refresh in iced water, drain, cut in half lengthways, and pat dry.

Melt the butter and add a few blades of mace and some finely shaved Tonka bean [no more than a quarter of a bean], and leave to infuse. Pop the salmon, mayonnaise, cream, cheese, and paprika into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Pour in the melted butter through a strainer to remove the mace and blitz again. Turn out into a bowl and mix in the chopped dill and finely grated lemon zest by hand.

Cover a flat baking sheet with cling-film and place your rings on top. Put the salmon mousse into a piping bag and pipe a half centimetre layer into the bottom of each ring mould. Take your halved asparagus spears and carefully place them cut side outwards all around the edge of each mould, pushing the bottom of each into the layer of mousse. Finally use the piping bag to fill the centre of each ring; a smaller nozzle will help to push the mousse right up to and between the asparagus. Chill well, for a couple a hours or more.

Very finely dice [c.1mm] some cucumber and pat dry. Mix with some more chopped dill and sprinkle with a little rice vinegar. When you have carefully removed the diadems from their moulds top with a teaspoon or two of this ‘cucumber caviar’.

Advertisements

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.

Boiled Royalty

Not a republican call to arms, but time to celebrate the start of this year’s Jersey Royal season!

A bowl of Jersey Royal potatoes with butter and a little parsley.

A few years ago we were lucky enough to be visiting friends in Jersey in early March, and driving round the island on a gloriously sunny Sunday we found the first Jersey Royals of the season for sale in a farmer’s ‘honesty shop’, a shed full of produce with a box for you to leave your payment. I was as excited as a Yukon gold miner and dashing home with them felt like being on the old Beaujolais Nouveau run [does anyone else remember when that actually used to make the 6 o’clock BBC news?]. It being the Shopkeeper’s birthday we were due to meet friends at the local bistro for dinner, and my breathless call on landing at Gatwick was the first, and so far only, time I have phoned ahead to a restaurant to ask if the kitchen would mind if we were to bring our own potatoes! I can only hope that if it happens again our hosts will be as accommodating as Brula were that evening.

Last year was an altogether different story. The drawn out winter chilled the island’s coastal fields for months and had us forlornly scouring the empty shelves well into early May. I remember speaking to a man whose job title was roughly along the lines of ‘The States of Jersey’s Potato Ambassador to the Court of St James’ at last year’s Real Food Festival when he’d managed to bring just one sack of potatoes to Earl’s Court, and had made some mortal enemies by removing even those from their native soil with supplies so short.

2011 though has been far kinder and the Jersey Royals have now landed, with this year’s first consignments arriving on the mainland in the third week of March. The most exciting part of cooking with the seasons is the change of season when the yearly re-appearance of old favourites is like the greeting of old friends you haven’t seen for far too long. And nothing says “Spring’s here!” like a bowl of Jersey Royals. I bought a bag last week and the sun shone for three days in a row, what more empirical evidence could you need?

There are things you can do with Jersey Royals besides boiling them and serving with lashings of butter, but why would you when the simplest treatment produces such majestic results? If you really must then the Atlantic Hotel’s canapé with lemon mayonnaise and caviar sounds suitably regal. But if like me your budget doesn’t run to such things just follow these simple dos and don’ts and enjoy these precious jewels wearing little more than the emperor’s new clothes.

DO…

  • boil or steam until just tender, checking often. The exact time is likely to be between five and ten minutes but this will depend on crop, size, and whether boiling or steaming.
  • anoint their majesties with plenty of melted butter or [and only if you’re allergic to butter] very good olive oil.
  • season thoughtfully.
  • swirl in a little chopped parsley and maybe just a leaf or two of chopped mint [no more] with the butter.
  • only use in salads if you have excellent quality or homemade mayonnaise available.

DO NOT…

  • over-cook!!
  • under any circumstances, add mint to the cooking water!
  • mash, although a little light crushing is OK and can help the potatoes to absorb more butter.

The ‘What, No Cheese?’ Lemon Cheesecake

Lemon

‘Heresy!’ I hear you cry ‘I thought this man was supposed to be a cheesemonger?’. You’re right of course, and I will throw myself upon the mercy of the cheesemongers’ inquisitorial council in due course. But whilst I’m in full possession of my fingernails I should probably dash off the following. Use it wisely, for it may cost me dear.

It’s actually not a cheesecake at all but a lemon posset, set on a biscuit and butter base – something I’ve been dying to try for a while. My first attempt was a spectacular failure due to insufficient setting time – it’s a good job I was standing by the sink when I released it from the loose-bottomed tin – and our guests that night were treated instead to an emergency cheeseboard [inquisitors, please note!]. So be prepared, I would recommend that you give yourself a good twenty four hours for this, which of course means that the hard work is done in advance leaving you more time on the day for whatever else you need to do. And whilst this is not complex – there are only six ingredients – it is fiddly in parts, so do come to it in a patient frame of mind.

I ate my first lemon posset several years ago at The Glasshouse in Kew and it’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to love at first bite. The lovely people there were happy to give me the recipe not only that night but again when I rang them a couple of weeks ago having lost the notebook containing the original. It’s such a simple thing that at first I thought they must be trying to hoodwink me and had left out some magical ingredient or process, but posset really is just cream, lemon and sugar, and a little bit of alchemy.

This would feed six, but if there are just four of you divide it into eight – and watch everyone come back for seconds…

  • 600ml double cream
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g biscuits of your choice, try half digestives and half lemon shortbread
  • 90g butter, melted
  • 20g dark chocolate

Whizz the biscuits to a fine crumb in a food processor and combine with melted butter. Grate in the chocolate, mix well,  and press the mix evenly into the bottom of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to set for a good four hours – you want this to be completely chilled and set firm.

Making the posset couldn’t be easier. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the sugar, zest, and lemon juice and bring to the boil whilst stirring gently with a balloon whisk. Simmer for two minutes and continue to stir, then pass through a fine sieve. And that’s it! You can see why I thought there must be something missing from the recipe. If serving this on its own at this stage I’d pour into individual ramekins and chill to set for at least six hours.

Lemon posset in ramekins

However, we now have a dilemma, hence the fiddly bit. You have a cold set base, and a hot posset which sets as it cools. Pour the posset straight onto the base and the butter will melt, and the base disintegrate. Leave the posset to cool on its own and it will be too set to pour by the time it’s cool enough not to melt the base. What are we to do? Well this seems to work…

Half fill the kitchen sink with cold water. When the posset has had its two minutes of simmering pass it through a sieve and into a stainless steel bowl. Sit the bowl in the cold water, and stir the posset around the bowl with a whisk, bringing in from the edges any which is starting to set. Do not stir so vigorously as to actually whisk the mixture. The stirring stops the posset from setting whilst the metal bowl rapidly conducts heat away. After a minute or two the posset should feel just comfortably warm to an inserted finger, and can now be poured onto the chilled base. Smooth any slight surface bubbles with a spatula or your finger and return the tin to the fridge without delay. Leave this to set at least overnight. When ready to serve release the bottom from the tin [standing close to the sink if you’re worried!], carefully slide a palette knife or cake slice between it and the ‘cheesecake’ base, and transfer to a plate.

I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for the absence of cheese in this ‘cheesecake’ when you taste this. Let’s just hope the inquisition agree!

A Feather In Your Cap

A finished feathered apple

At last, I’m proud to be able to bring you the long awaited pictorial follow up to my original guide to apple feathering! When I produced the original [HOW TO FEATHER AN APPLE] I illustrated it using the basic version of Google SketchUp which doesn’t allow for the necessary manipulation of spheres, hence the strangely cuboid apple. A wise friend suggested that photos might make the guide easier to follow, a not unreasonable suggestion I felt, and so here it is.

I know that Juliet Harbutt would not agree that such fripperies are necessary for the decoration of a cheeseboard, but I have been adorning mine with feathered apples for as long as I can remember and I don’t intend to stop now.  A friend who moved house recently decided to clear out his boxes of old photos and produced one of me carrying a cheeseboard from my old kitchen some fifteen or so years ago. Not only could I remember the names of each of the cheeses and the shops where I’d bought them [this was some time before yellowwedge cheese was born] but there, standing proud in the centre of the board, was a feathered apple. I have even designed a new kitchen implement for carrying out the task, but until it makes it into production, which will undoubtedly make me a millionaire several times over into the bargain, you’ll need to follow these instructions [by the way if anyone has advice on producing prototype kitchen wares do get in touch!].

First, find a handsome, blemish-free apple.

Whole Apple

You will also need a chopping board, a long sharp chef’s knife [you might think a paring knife would be better suited but trust me on this one], and a lemon.

Next cut out a neat quarter – that’s the easy bit!

Apple with first quarter removed

Now cut a slightly smaller quarter from the first quarter.

Apple with second segment removed

From this point on in your knife skills are put to the test as the trick is to cut into the apple deeply enough to create a new segment, without cutting through the walls of the last one. Keep cutting progressively smaller quarters, taking care to keep them of a nice, even size. Remember to keep the new cuts parallel to the old, meeting at a 90˚ angle – the most common mistake for the novice featherer is to be tempted to cut wedge shapes with an ever decreasing corner angle. As you cut dribble a little lemon juice over the cut surfaces to stop discolouration.

Reassemble your apple, and give the pieces a quick slither over each other to evenly coat with lemon juice. Finally push out each wedge by an even amount [either up or down], and voila! A beautiful addition to your cheeseboard.

Finished product pointing upFinished product pointing down

All you have to do now is bask in the guaranteed adulation of your guests and resist the temptation to kill the first of them who picks off a piece and eats it! You might also want to cut a small wedge from the bottom of the apple to angle it artfully on the board and show off your efforts to best effect.

Happy feathering…!

Roast Fractal

Romanesco cauliflower

Fractals [geometric shapes exhibiting self-similarity] are all around us in nature it seems, from the shapes of galaxies and clouds to snowflakes and ferns. But surely the most visually astounding example of complex mathematics in vegetable form is the Romanesco cauliflower [if indeed it is a cauliflower, see http://www.fourmilab.ch/images/Romanesco/].

The term ‘fractal’ was coined by Benoît Mandelbrot in 1975, although the thinking behind them had been developing for several hundred years by this point, but for many of my generation they’re inextricably linked to the ‘magic eye’ images of the late 1980s and early 90s where they concealed patterns which when viewed with eyes crossed to focus somewhere behind the plane of the page revealed 3D images of dinosaurs and skyscrapers. Hours of fun, nausea and  headaches, normally to be found on posters sold in the sort of shops where you could also find tie-dyed scarves, soapstone trinket boxes and jossticks.

It was some time after all this that I met my first Romanesco and so, despite the obvious evolutionary timeline, it appeared to me have been ‘invented’ sometime in the late 20th century, and yet still it managed to look like a visitor from the future. Or perhaps the wild imaginings of a Martian audience on hearing  one of their explorers freshly returned from a visit to Earth, minus his camera, and trying to describe a cauliflower.

The striking appearance of the Romanesco has even landed it a starring role in the sort of debates which concern themselves with whether such naturally occurring complexity provides definitive proof for or against the existence of a creator god – a quick trawl of the internet will turn up numerous arguments on both sides. Quite the perfect side dish then if you happen to be entertaining Pope Benedict and Stephen Hawking at the same table this weekend.  If you are, and you have a spare place, do give me a call because a] I love Romanesco and b] I wouldn’t mind a ringside seat for the debate, though I should tell you now that my money’s on Stephen to win.

As a side dish for two:

  • 1 small to medium Romanesco
  • 3 to 4 tbsps rapeseed oil*
  • Dried chilli flakes or chilli powder to taste
  • A pinch of ground coriander seeds
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 190˚C, and divide your Romanesco into roughly equally sized florets, trying not to fall into an ever decreasing spiral of infinitely smaller measurements [an ever-present danger with fractals!] as you do so. Toss well with the oil – the surface area of fractal vegetables can tend worryingly towards the infinite, but thankfully the coverage will eventually be limited by the size of the molecules  of both oil and vegetable –  the spices and seasoning, and squeeze over the lemon juice. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until there are crunchy brown tinges to many of the green corners. And that’s’ it, a surprisingly simple recipe for such a multifaceted vegetable.

* I cooked my Martian mathematical marvel in rapeseed oil as they both have a certain nuttiness which is mutually complimentary, but olive oil will do just as well.