Tag Archives: olive oil

Last Days of Summer

As readers of My St Margarets Magazine will already know I’m about to welcome my first guest – Damon Hunt – who cooked the finest barbecue I have ever eaten earlier this summer. The man is a grilling hero. My barbecue is a feeble foldable affair like the one below, whilst Damon’s would require an extension to my garden. If you want to capture the last days of summer, get out in the garden and fire up your coals for his wonderful recipes…

Barbecue

Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto 

This all-time favourite can be pre-prepared and only takes minutes to cook.  It is a great starter whilst the steaks are cooking! Cooking time, just 3 to 4 minutes. Serves  4 to 6.

  • 16 fresh asparagus spears
  • 16 slices of prosciutto
  • 1 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Black pepper

Preheat the BBQ to medium-high heat. Trim the ends off of the asparagus. Take two asparagus spears and wrap them tightly in one slice of prosciutto around the middle. Brush lightly with the oil, minced garlic and black pepper mixture.  Place them onto the grill and cook them until the prosciutto goes crunchy.  Don’t overcook them or the asparagus will go limp!  Serve straight away. 

Grilled quail on a rocket salad 

Cooking quail on a BBQ can provide stunning results. They don’t take long to cook and only need a little extra bit of preparation to make sure the birds remain succulent. Serves 6.

  • 6 fresh, oven-ready quails
  • 1 litre of fresh chicken stock
  • Handful of thyme and rosemary sprigs
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 minced garlic cloves 

Truss the quails through their legs with a small bamboo skewer. Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large saucepan and add the thyme.  Place 3 of the quails into the boiling stock and then reduce to a simmer.  Carefully remove the quails after 3 minutes. Bring the stock back to the boil and add the remaining quails.

Drain the quails in a colander and then pat dry with kitchen paper. Brush lightly with olive oil, salt, black pepper and garlic mix.  Insert the rosemary sprigs. Cook the quails on a hot BBQ for about 7-10 minutes.  Continue to baste and turn the quails whilst cooking until they are golden brown. Serve them on a rocket salad.

Advertisements

Two Soups

both mushroom, but there’s a gag in there somewhere for fellow Julie Walters fans…

A halved mushroom

My favourite mushroom soup began life as a stuffed cabbage which, as opening gambits go, is going to require more explanation than most.

I’d intended to make Valentine Warner’s spectacular savoy cabbage stuffed with mushrooms, leeks, walnuts and stilton. It’s a vegetarian friendly dish so splendid that you might want to invite your non carnivorous friends over just for an excuse to make the blighter, assuming of course that you eat meat in the first place. As one of my guests on the night in question eschews red meat I was glad of the opportunity. Seriously, even if you don’t try these soups you must try Val’s cabbage.

But it was one of those days. Time had completely run away with me in the kitchen and, even though I’d prepared the mushroom and leek component of the stuffing [PS – you’ll need to do the same], when it came to preparing the cabbage the leaves all split on me. And you can’t make stuffed cabbage with a pile of shredded, tatty leaves.

What was a boy to do? The close [though geographically distant] relatives were starving to death in the other room after a long drive, and were being ‘entertained’ by the Shopkeeper. Food was needed, and fast.

As luck would have it there was double cream in the fridge and some decent vegetable bouillon powder in the cupboard. A good splash of dry sherry went into the mushroom pan and once almost evaporated was joined by half a litre of vegetable stock, 300ml of cream, and a bunch of thyme tied with string. After a few minutes of simmering, a very good dose of seasoning [as I think I’ve said before, cream dishes need plenty of seasoning], and a blitz with a stick blender – hey presto, soup!

NB – if you also need to do this quickly then don’t repeat my mistake and remember to remove the bunch of thyme tied with string before blending. Stick blenders, it turns out, don’t get on well with string [who knew?], and the time spent disentangling it and then passing the soup through a sieve causes further and entirely avoidable delay!

Whilst the above is not really time consuming [especially if you’re not in a flap at the time] what follows is even quicker and easier. I made it one day when working in the shop and with half an hour off to come up with some lunchtime sustenance for three hungry cheesemongers. This will make three decent sized mug-fulls.

  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, diced to your preferred size [mine is chunky, and they will shrink with cooking]
  • Garlic, crushed
  • Rosemary, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 500ml rich chicken stock
  • 3 tbsps double cream
  • Chilli sherry to finish [optional, but highly recommended]

Fry the mushrooms in the oil over a relatively high heat and season with salt and black pepper. Once well coloured add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the chicken stock and cream, bring back to the simmer and cook for five minutes. There is less cream here but you will still need to check and adjust the seasoning. Ladle into mugs and top with a splash of chilli sherry*, another marvel from Mr Warner.

*Sorry but I can’t find a recipe for Valentine’s chilli sherry online, and I wouldn’t reproduce it without permission, so if you don’t already have it you’ll need to buy his book.

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.

Sufficient Temptation

Sorry – couldn’t wait!

I have always known this as a recipe for Jansonn’s Temptation, a dish so delicious as to have allegedly made the eponymous Mr Jansonn renounce his vow to give up earthly pleasures, hence the name. But it would seem not. My research tells me that the Swedish original is not made with anchovies [as here] but with pickled sprats, and apparently the genuine article has a crunchy breadcrumb topping, which this doesn’t.

No matter. Whatever this is it is certainly tempting enough for me – as you can see I couldn’t even wait for my camera to recharge before digging in. It eats beautifully with lamb, but this one partnered first some pan fried rainbow trout fillets and then some braised duck legs the next day. And in the absence of any of the above I’d happily eat it on its own, on my own, with the lights off.

A simple recipe like this is just the sort of thing to tempt me to tinker and tweak – some garlic perhaps, or maybe a bit of grated gruyere? Take it from me, I have tried, and there is no need. There’s a beauty in the simplicity which does not need to compete with extraneous embellishments.

And in the unlikely event that you find me on the verge of renouncing earthly pleasures, do me a favour and rustle up a batch will you?

Whilst this could probably feed two to four as a side dish you may well begrudge sharing it with anyone else

  • 500g waxy potatoes cut into fine juliennes [see below]
  • A 50g tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 150ml double cream

First peel the potatoes and cut into fine matchsticks about 2 or 3mm square. A mandolin with the right attachments will help but do be careful with your fingers and use a guard – you will have noticed that chef’s blood is not listed in the ingredients above and in almost all cases it is an unwelcome addition to a dish. Leave your matchstick juliennes to soak in cold water.

Drain the oil from the anchovies into a pan, place on a medium heat and soften the onions in the oil. Chop / mince the anchovies and add to the onions – they will disappear into mix as they cook. Drain the potatoes and add to the pan, giving them a stir for  a couple minutes to warm, soften slightly and absorb the flavours going on around them. Pour in the cream and do the same.

Tip all into a gratin dish, season with black pepper and pop into a 180˚C oven for half an hour. Check from time to time and if burning on top cover with foil. If after thirty minutes the potatoes don’t yield to a sharp knife give it a few minutes extra. The top should be browned and slightly crispy, the innards soft, moist and frankly heavenly.

Fondue of Lancashire Bomb, Roasted Garlic and Zinfandel

 Fondue of Lancashire Bomb, Roasted Garlic and Zinfandel which is surprsingly purple!

Do not adjust your sets – this is supposed to be purple. It’s the red wine you see. Anyway it’s three for the price of one today, two fondues and a leftovers tip.

Here’s a game for you to play – try mentioning the word ‘fondue’ in conversation and see how long it is before someone says ‘retro revival’, or something similar. Well I’m sorry, but it’s got to stop. Fondue is no longer in ‘revival’. It is, officially, revived! Delicious but easy to prepare food which is ideal for sharing with friends is not only very contemporary but indeed a timeless concept, so ditch the flares [unless of course they’re the latest ‘revival’!] and dig out your fondue sets.

I’m done lecturing now.

For several  years I have owned a copy of the excellent recipe collection “Fondue – Great Food to Dip, Dunk, Savor and Swirl” by Rick Rodgers, but am so partial to my standard recipe that I have seldom strayed from it. Until now. ‘My’ recipe is not really mine at all but was given to me by my good friend Sophie Scott whose genius as a neuroscientist is equalled only by her genius in the vegetarian kitchen. Sophie, please forgive my meaty intrusions [and people, I will not tell you again about sniggering at the back!]. To make it use 200g each of Emmental, Gruyere and Keen’s Cheddar and 550ml white wine and follow the method below.

One of Rick’s recipes in particular had always intrigued me – a simple but intriguing mixture of fruity red Zinfandel, sweet roasted garlic and sharp cheddar. Then it occurred to me to substitute the cheddar with Andy Shorrock’s glorious Aged Lancashire Bomb [if you haven’t yet met the Lancashire Bomb you clearly haven’t been to yellowwedge cheese lately] and the excitement generated provided the momentum to break free of my customary ways. I have made some other slight changes to Rick’s recipe. If you want to see the original do buy the book [click on the picture below to find it on Amazon] – it’s a worthwhile investment.

Fondue, a book by Rick Rodgers [click to buy on Amazon]

Even the greatest fondue can be elevated further by the choice of dipping ingredients. My top tip?
V A R I E T Y. Yes there must be bread, but it doesn’t all have to be the same. A baguette is almost compulsory but accompany it with one or more others. We had a potato and rosemary sourdough. Cherry tomatoes are good, as are big chunks of mushroom sautéed with garlic, rosemary and a splash of sherry. Raid your local deli or deli counter too. Good chunks of thickly sliced ham, turkey, salami, pieces of smoked duck breast or slices of speck – whatever takes your fancy. What about mini chorizos, or big pieces of grilled Cumberland sausage [or like me, both]? Even pieces of apple and pear can make interesting dips for a cheese fondue. See below for some all vegetable suggestions if you don’t eat meat. Another top tip? Secure slipperier items like tomato or mushroom with a piece of bread on the fork too.

As I mentioned above, this does produce a purple coloured fondue. You might want to warn people about this. If you’re expecting a golden coloured gloop then it can come as something of a surprise. The Shopkeeper never quite got over the shock, and I think enjoyed the meal less because of it. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

Feeds six lactose tolerant adults

  • 1 original Shorrock’s Lancashire Bomb, wax and muslin removed
  • 100g Gruyere
  • 100g Beaufort [or if unavailable just use 200g Gruyere]
  • 40g Parmesan
  • 600ml Zinfandel, or other fruity red wine
  • 3 medium sized bulbs and 1 clove garlic
  • Some sprigs of thyme
  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsps cornflour slaked with Kirsch, Vodka, Cognac or water
  • Kitchen foil
  • A fondue set

First roast your garlic. Take the three bulbs, slice in half across their equators and drizzle with the olive oil, some thyme and salt, and re-assemble. Make a foil parcel for the bulbs, add the rest of the thyme and a splash more olive oil, seal tightly and roast in a 200˚C oven for around fifty minutes to an hour. They are done when the garlic is a deep caramel colour and can be easily squeezed from its skin. Squeeze out this sweet fragrant pulp, mash with a fork and set aside.

Next grate the cheese – for this amount I use a food processor. Cut the single clove of garlic in half and rub the insides of the fondue pot well with the cut surfaces.

Prepare your dipping ingredients other than the bread and arrange on a large platter around the base of the fondue. Tear or cut the bread at the last minute so that it doesn’t become dry. Warm the fondue pot over a low flame or in a low oven.

To make the fondue warm the wine in a pan until you see the tremble just before the simmer. Add one handful of cheese at a time, stirring with a whisk until each has melted before adding the next. Once it is all incorporated add the puree of roast garlic and stir well, then add the cornflour mixture until the fondue thickens to your desired consistency. Transfer to the warmed fondue pot and set this atop it’s burner in the centre of the table.

Asking your guests to stir well with each dip will to help to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can also introduce forfeits for dropped morsels of food, but if you go as far as something like removing an item of clothing you might want to have a few stiff shots of the kirsch before you begin!

However much fondue I start with, and however many people are eating, I always seem to end up with about an inch left in the bottom of the pot. If you have the same then allow it to cool, scrape it out of the pot [removing any mislaid bits of bread], and reserve for the following day along with any stray scraps of your meatier dipping ingredients.

The following day…

Sauté an onion and a clove of garlic. Add your leftover pieces of mushroom, ham etc. and a splash of wine. Tip in a tin of tomatoes or some passata, simmer away for a few minutes then stir in your leftover fondue. Serve with some penne or macaroni, straight away or as a pasta bake.

At the risk of sounding obvious all of the above can serve as a vegetarian feast by omitting meaty dipping ingredients. The list of vegetable alternatives is endless, but why not try some chunks of caramelised fennel, charred wedges of red pepper and sautéed baby onions? With the exception of tomatoes I find that cooked [but still crunchy] veg make happier fondue bed fellows than raw.

Tomato Soup In A Flash

Tomatoes

The other day I watched James Martin make this soup in five minutes, so – stopwatch at the ready –  I’m attempting the same.  I’m doing no pre-prep other than to line the ingredients up on the kitchen counter, possibly in nice little dishes and ramekins just like they do on the telly, and setting up equipment like plugging in the food processor [I’ll just have to manage without the lights and cameras]. In fact I’m sure James had his pan warming before he set off so I’m giving myself the same advantage. Other than that it’ll be a tomato soup time trial from a standing start.

I have made a couple of tiny tweaks to James’ recipe. My tomato to stock ratio is a little more tomato heavy, and there’s the addition of my secret ingredient for any tomato soup – gin! I’m not sure my mother would approve of this as a tin of Heinz tomato soup was always her restorative food of choice for an ailing infant, but tomato and gin soup has long been a favourite, and was my first course at the ‘everything must contain booze’ dinner I cooked for friends in Singapore some thirteen years ago. The same dinner, incidentally, where I flambéed eight fillet steaks all at once for the first time, producing a tremendous fireball which briefly engulfed my head, taking with it my fringe, eyebrows and lashes. I was told by the waiting guests who could see into the kitchen through a large hatch from the dining room that the pyrotechnics  rivalled the harbour fireworks display at the Singapore National Day celebrations, but it’s not a trick I’ve been keen to repeat since, and I most certainly would not recommend that you try it at home!

Anyhow I digress. For four dainty or two hefty portions of the soup you will need:

  • 1.2kg tomatoes
  • 4 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • 500ml hot vegetable  or chicken stock [vegetarians and vegans will clearly want the former]
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tsp caster sugar [or to taste]
  • 60ml double cream, plus extra to serve [this can be omitted for a vegan version]
  • 50ml gin, plus a dash to serve [optional]

So then, we’re under starters orders – and we’re off!

Pan’s on the heat, in with the oil and start to quarter the tomatoes. Tomatoes into the hot oil and as they fizz and spit chop the garlic. Garlic in, and tear the basil. Add tomato puree, stir, and gin. Salt, pepper, sugar. Basil in. Back to the simmer then pour in the hot stock, and back to simmering point again. Now into the blender or food processor. Whizz, adding the cream as you go. Ready a sieve over a waiting pan [I used the one where the stock had been warming], and pass through the blended soup. Return to a simmer for the final time, taste and adjust seasoning and sugar, and add a splash more gin.

Stop the clock!

My time? A not very respectable 15:00.2. This is not boding well for the three egg omelette challenge, but I’ll post any new personal bests here as and when. Do add comments with your own times. But even at 15 minutes, it’s hardly a huge investment of time for a fresh and tasty soup to beat any can.

Tomato Soup

A Feast For The Eyes

 Salad of purple cauliflower, white fine beans and broad beans.

I firmly believe that we eat with our eyes as well as our senses of taste and smell, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw the occasional visual curve ball and surprise our diners with the odd  unexpected looking combination. I’d been at the farmers’ market again, and met one of my old friends – the purple cauliflower! The presence of white fine beans on the same stall gave me an idea for an unusual looking salad to present to our guests alongside the spicy chicken on that evening’s menu. Punnets of fresh broad beans too? We were all set…

First make a punchy vinaigrette dressing with 1 part red wine vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, salt and pepper, and plenty of Dijon mustard. For every four tablespoons of dressing you should add at least one heavily loaded teaspoon of mustard. Cauliflowers love mustard!

Cook the broad beans until al dente and cool in iced water. I don’t always remove the papery white skin of broad beans but here I wanted to make the most of their greenness, so off came the outer skins. It’s a little time consuming but worth the effort.

Steam the cauliflower and the fine beans, again until cooked but retaining some crunch, but tip these into a bowl with the vinaigrette and allow them to cool in the dressing. The occasional toss as they do so won’t hurt. When ready to serve drain the broad beans and add them to the salad, and give the seasoning a final check. Voila. Time for the oohs and ahs from the table.