Tag Archives: onion

Thyme and Tonka Bean Chicken

Tonka Beans, in a square white bowl, with shadow.

Did I mention already that I think the combination of thyme and tonka bean tastes like tarragon? Not exactly like tarragon – if that were the case it would be easier just to use tarragon! – but a grassier, less aniseedy version. They’re beautifully versatile little buggers these tonka beans, with a vanilla-like freshness that works just as well in sweet dishes [like my Christmas Pudding Ice Cream] as it does with chicken and fish. I swear I detected some yesterday too in the Pork Pibil which I had at Wahaca’s Southbank porta-cabin pop-up, though the recipes I’ve found online make no mention.

I’ve used the pairing here to update a recipe which I first shared in My St Margarets Magazine a couple of years ago. And I’ve changed the method too to produce an easy, prepare-ahead dish for summer entertaining, not least because I know the Lakeland Taxi Driver has a lunch party for twelve this Sunday! This version comfortably serves six, I’m sure you can do the maths. A recent road test played to rave reviews in a packed garden, hopefully your guests will feel the same.

For the chicken

  • A 1.5-1.7kg bird, and a lidded pot into which it fits snugly
  • A large bunch of thyme
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • 300ml white wine
  • 1/3 of a tonka bean, grated with a micro-plane or nutmeg grater
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the mayonnaise*

  • 1 large egg yolk, and 1 large whole egg
  • 350ml groundnut oil
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsps white wine vinegar

Prepare and cook the chicken as per my recipe for Pot Roast Chicken Veronique [ignore the bit about the Verjuice syrup for this recipe]. Don’t forget to season the bird well, inside and out. Grate the tonka bean over the chicken before you pour over the wine. When the chicken is cooked set it aside to cool. Strain the cooking juices and reduce to one third of their original volume. Let this cool too.

To make the mayonnaise blitz the egg, yolk, salt and mustard in a food processor. Then with the motor running start to add the oil – drop by drop to begin with, then in a thin stream, and then as the sauce emulsifies and begins to bulk up you can increase your rate of pouring. Add the vinegar to the finished mayonnaise with the motor still running. I’ve only just started making mayonnaise and now I can’t stop! It’s proper magical kitchen alchemy, and nowhere near as scary as everyone makes it out to be.

*If you don’t plan to make your own mayonnaise please use a decent ready made one – this really is no time for bog standard factory nonsense!

Roughly tear the flesh from the legs, breasts and back of the bird and scatter into a dish. Take a couple of small ladles of the reduced juices [about 60 ml] and mix into the mayonnaise, and taste. If you feel it needs more, add some. And perhaps add another small shaving of tonka bean, but do it with a light hand, if at all. The flavour could easily dominate, and will build as the dish rests.

Coat your chicken with the enriched mayonnaise, stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve give it half an hour or so out of the fridge, and decorate with some chopped parsley, a grind or two of black pepper, and some lemon slices – or some watercress, or perhaps pea shoots. It will need a little garnish as although it’s delicious it can look a tad monotone without. This deserves to take centre stage, so make sure it’s dressed to impress!

Advertisements

Curried Crab and Hot Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

AKA “Spaghedgeree” if you’re feeling all Spike Milligan, or are four years old.

Curried crab and hot smoked salmon spaghetti

So, there I am mooching around the farmers market in the sunshine, the asparagus and strawberries are in the bag, and I’ve already got my eye on some lovely looking crabs at the fishmongers stall, and I’m thinking that dinner’s a done deal. Spaghetti with crab and chilli (about which I’ll post another day). When all of a sudden I come across a fascinating little stall selling dishes from India to the Philippines and stopping at a few fun sounding places along the way. I’d have happily scoffed several there and then if I hadn’t already stuffed my face with a lamb bourek from the nice couple on the Algerian stall. One of their offerings was a kedgeree fish cake, and now I’m craving warm curry spices with the crab. I need to pimp my pasta, kedgeree style, and luckily there a couple of hot smoked salmon fillets in the fridge to provide the required smoky notes. Raj era bureaucrat’s breakfast it may not be, but we’re having it for tea…

For two

  • I medium brown crab [brown and white meat, and claws too if you have them]
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 150g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • 180 ml double cream
  • 220g spaghetti
  • 20g parmesan
  • A splash of vermouth
  • Some chopped fresh coriander
  • A mild green chilli, deseeded and chopped

Cook the spaghetti as directed until al dente. Sauté the onion in the oil until softened then add the spices and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the vermouth and quickly bubble away to almost nothing. Add the cream and once bubbling toss in the crab, the salmon and the parmesan [fish and cheese? yes, but it’s really more of a seasoning here], taste and season with salt and pepper. Throw the spaghetti into the sauce with a ladle of its cooking water, strew the coriander and chopped chilli over the top, stir, and you’re done.

I had some halved boiled quails eggs with mine for the full kedgeree effect, but left them out for the Shopkeeper whose egg aversion seems to be growing ever deeper roots.

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.

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour Sauce in a Yin and Yang bowl

Happy New Year to everyone celebrating the Spring Festival – may the year of the rabbit bring you prosperity, happiness and good health.

Learning a language as an adult is far more difficult than doing so as a child when the relevant bits of our brains are more plastic, malleable and hungry for linguistic stimuli. And as it is with language, so with tableware. I could read English by the time I went to nursery school, but I didn’t meet my first pair of chopsticks until I was in my twenties. By then I could speak knife and fork with ease, and could happily conjugate the correct cutlery course combinations for soup, fish, cheese etc. But my adult mind has never mastered more than a rudimentary grasp of chopsticks. My fingers lack fluency, and even when I do successfully manage to convey a morsel of food to my mouth I’m sure it’s done with a thick English accent, clearly audible to anyone within spitting distance whose mother tongue is chopsticks.

I learnt years ago that to leave one’s chopsticks in a bowl of food shows disrespect for one’s ancestors [that’s what the rests are for people, do not dis the dead], but I’m usually more worried about the disrespect for my dining companions shown by showering them with flicks of my food.

However having recently received some smart new pairs emblazoned with the animals of our birth years I decided we needed to inaugurate them at the dawn of the year of the rabbit. And that’s where a sticky sauce like this comes in very handy for a chopsticks dunce like me. It’s effectively food glue, and I’ll be less likely to starve if I can use it to entrap some errant grains of egg fried rice. There’ll be forks involved before we’ve finished for sure, but like learning just a few words of a new language, at least I’ll feel like I’ve made an effort.

“Gung Hay Fat Choy!”

Very many recipes suggest this same basic technique and combination of ingredients though the proportions vary slightly. I’m not sure how traditional an ingredient tomato ketchup is but it’s certainly popular! Take 100ml of Chinese rice vinegar, 3.5 tbsps brown or cane sugar, 2 tbsps tomato ketchup and 1 tsp of soy sauce. Boil all together in a small pan for a couple of minutes and then thicken with a rounded tsp of cornflour mixed with water. This gives you quite a thick, dark sauce which is probably best for dipping.

I wanted something looser and less intense, so added 200ml of passata, 100ml of water and another good glug of rice vinegar. If you’re doing the same taste the sauce and adjust with more vinegar or sugar to balance the sweet and sour. Quickly stir fry an onion and a pepper [roughly chopped], add cooked chicken [unsurprisingly leftovers in my case], then the sauce and chunks of tinned pineapple. After a quick bubble and stir it’s time to check and adjust again.

I had another wok on the go to fry cooked rice, spring onion, small strips of chilli, some finely shredded smoked duck, peas, a beaten egg and a generous splash of soy sauce. Fried rice is another good place to use up scraps of this and that – the duck was leftover from our recent fondue. If only I’d had a bit of rabbit.

The sauce itself is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. If you prefer not to have it with meat then some fried tofu would eat very well.

Risotto of Peas, Mint and Paski Sir [with or without leftover lamb!]

Another risotto, but a traditionally made one this time – albeit with a less than traditional ingredient in the form of Paški Sir, of which more later. For a vegetarian version omit the lamb and use vegetable stock.

 Paski Sir, a Croatian ewe's milk cheese

Since my old friend Geoff first taught me to make a proper risotto in his tiny Battersea kitchen some twenty odd years ago I’ve always found it a really gratifying way to spend twenty odd minutes of my time. It does demand your 100% attention for a while but your efforts are repaid many-fold, and the constant, controlled stirring and the slow addition of stock have a meditative rhythm all of their own.

Paški Sir is a hard ewe’s milk cheese from Croatian island of Pag, and we think it’s quite a discovery. The cheese has the sweetness of sheep’s milk, hints of the herby meadows where the sheep graze, and gains further complexity by being rubbed with olive and ash before maturing. Last time I checked yellowwedge cheese was one of only two UK stockists but after its recent success at the World Cheese Awards [winning the Barber’s Trophy for Best New Cheese] I’m pretty sure that there will soon be plenty of others.

Use a good flavourful stock for this dish, perhaps reduce one you already have until further intensified. I had a bulb of roasted garlic to hand and added this to my stock for its sweetness and depth of flavour.

The leftover lamb is not essential, and if making a vegetarian version clearly you’ll want to leave it out, but I had some leftover shank from an earlier braise and the other ingredients – peas, garlic, mint for heaven’s sake – seemed to be crying out for it. And as I had hoped it worked well with the Paški Sir, but then ewe’s milk cheeses do have an almost incestuous affinity with lamb. If you don’t believe me trying following your next roast lamb dinner with a cheese board of Wigmore, Beenleigh Blue and Paški Sir [or Manchego if you can’t get hold of any]. If you are using it tear and / or chop the lamb into small slivers and nuggets. Be sure to do this and all the other prep before you start.

The shopkeeper has a deep seated aversion to re-heated lamb [I have not been able to cook proper shepherd’s pie at home for over 15 years!] and there was much grumbling and muttering about potential take-aways during the preparation, but in the end the entire bowlful disappeared without complaint. It may even have been enjoyed.

Easily feeds two, especially when one of them doesn’t want any in the first place

  • 175g risotto rice
  • 60g butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, or a couple of skinny ones, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1.5 tsps mint sauce
  • 200g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 750ml of good chicken or vegetable stock [see above]
  • 75ml vermouth or white wine
  • 120g leftover lamb [optional]
  • 120g Paški Sir, two thirds finely grated and one third coarsely grated or shaved into ribbons

Melt the butter and add the onions, some salt and about a teaspoonful of the mint, the rest of which will be added towards the end. Sauté over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes until softened, adding the garlic for the last two minutes. Meanwhile heat the stock in another pan and hold at a barely trembling simmer. Add the rice to the softened onions, stir well to coat with the buttery juices and give it minute or two more.

Turn up the heat under the risotto pan and add the vermouth. Stir constantly, around and in a figure of eight, exposing the hot base of the pan where the returning liquids will turn to steam and cook the rice. Once the liquid has all but disappeared add a ladleful of hot stock and repeat. Continue in this manner for around 15 minutes.

Test a grain or two of rice between your teeth, it should be almost cooked with a bit of crunch still at the core. If not continue as above, testing after each ladleful of stock has been absorbed. Now add the lamb, and a ladle or two more of stock. With the last addition of stock add the mint, parsley, peas, mint sauce and finely grated Paški Sir.

The risotto is ready when the rice is just al dente and the consistency is creamy and moist, usually after around twenty minutes. If necessary add a final dose of stock, turn off the heat and allow to rest, covered with a clean tea towel. Check the seasoning, you’ll want plenty of black pepper, top with the rest of the Paški Sir, and serve.

Peas and Mint

Dandelion and Burdock Ham

A holding picture of a Christmas ham until I can take my own.

I recently published a version of this recipe in My St Margarets Magazine and as the online version is not yet available am more than happy to share it here. PS – the picture above is not my own ham as the tester versions were wolfed down before I could I lay hands on my camera. Once the next ham is out of the oven I will fend off the ravening hordes for long enough to take a couple of quick snaps. Promise.

By now your Christmas menu is undoubtedly decided, but what about Boxing Day, the very feast of Stephen? Well one of my own traditions for 26th December is to pre-prepare a ham to provide ample grazing opportunities whilst leaving me with plenty of time to try on my new slippers [hint?] and gaze out at the snow – all deep and crisp and even.

Nigella famously does it with cola, so why not try this version with an even more aromatically herbal fizzy pop? This can be made up to a week in advance and will happily simmer away to itself whilst you get on with something else like, oh, wrapping my new slippers [enough hints already?].

Take a 2.75kg boneless mild cure piece of gammon and place in a pan along with 250ml red wine, 1 litre dandelion and burdock, 1 large onion roughly chopped, 1 halved head of fennel, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, 6 cloves, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and 1 of black peppercorns. Top up with water if necessary to cover the ham and simmer for 3 hours.

When the ham has cooked and cooled carefully remove the skin, make a diamond pattern of crossed lines in the fat and stud with cloves at the centre of each diamond. In a pan melt 50g membrillo and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly with 3 tablespoons dry cider, 1 teaspoon wine vinegar and a pinch of smoked paprika. Pour over the ham and glaze in a 230˚C oven for around 15 minutes, brushing and basting from time to time with the glaze. Allow to cool, wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

After watching a television programme last night which made a picture perfect Christmas look sickeningly easy I think I might even spear halved glacé cherries with the cloves before I impale the ham – watch this space to see how that turns out…

Old Peculier Casserole

 Old Peculier Casserole

It’s almost twenty five years since I first set foot in the John Peel Inn in Bowness on Windermere. It was only supposed to be for a week’s work, but it would be more than three years before I was to finally leave. I’d say my plans have a habit of turning out this way, but that would be to imply that I’ve ever actually had a plan in the first place. On that first day I’d never even heard of Theakston’s Old Peculier (no, not ‘Peculiar’ but ‘Peculier’), a dark strong ale, let alone drunk a pint of it, or ever dreamed of turning it into a casserole. And there was no way I could have known how much water was to flow under those particular bridges in the years that were to come.

My employers were Michael and Vivian, and I owe them both a debt of gratitude for what they taught and gave to me during those three years. From Michael I learned how to cellar fine traditional ales, and how to approach the bar of any four star hotel with insouciance no matter how many unruly golden retrievers I was wrangling at the time. Whilst Vivian taught me not only how to cook, but how to care about my cooking, and that doing so was no bad thing. I have had reason to be grateful for all of these in varying degrees over the years, and if you’re reading this Michael or Vivian, I thank you.

In the pub kitchen we’d make great batches of Old Peculier Casserole with forty pounds of diced beef and chopped onions measured by the bucketful. A cauldron large enough to accommodate a skinny teenager [‘Mark! Get out of that pan!’] would quietly tremble away all afternoon and anyone passing through the kitchen would know to take the huge wooden spoon and give it a good stir. As I’m working from memory and scaling this down considerably for the benefit of those who are feeding less than 100 I have had to extemporise here and there, but when I made this recently it really didn’t seem a million miles away from the original.

With the catering quantities method there was no opportunity for browning the meat, softening the veg, deglazing the pan, and all the things we’ve become conditioned to think are essential when making a casserole. We simply tossed everything into the pot and allowed the ingredients and the alchemy of long, slow cooking to do their work. So that is what I have tried to recreate here. This would probably work very well in a slow cooker too if you have one. NB this needs to be made at least the day before it is to be eaten.

Feeds two, plus one for lunch the following day

  • 400g chuck steak or other casseroling beef, cut into 1.5cm dice
  • 500ml Theakston’s Old Peculier
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 150ml water
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bouquet garni [preferably thyme, parsley, bay and marjoram]
  • 1 additional bay leaf
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced very thinly
  • around 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with water to thicken

Tip the beef, onion, liquids and herbs into a casserole and slowly bring to a simmer over a low to medium heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in a 150˚C oven for four hours. Ignore. After the four hours cooking time remove the casserole from the oven and, back on the hob over a low heat, add the cornflour to thicken whilst stirring gently. Remove from the heat, add the mushrooms, and stir well to combine – they will cook as the dish cools. Cool and refrigerate for at least a day, two would be even better, three if you can bear the wait. Serve with a buttered baked potato, and maybe a glass of Old Peculier. Or two.