Tag Archives: shallot

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…

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce – the 2014 edit

I’ve updated the original with my latest tweaks, and there’s still time to make this for Christmas.

A jar of Worcestershire Sauce steeping prior to being bottled.

I was quite surprised when I first found a recipe in one of Gary Rhodes’ books for Worcestershire Sauce, given that this is supposed to be one of world’s best kept secrets, the recipe only discussed by ‘those who know’ in the middle of a field. Anyway I made it as per Gary’s instructions for several years and it always went down very well with people who received it as a Christmas present – very good for cheese on toast apparently, as any Worcestershire Sauce worthy of the name should be. And then the there was the bombshell in 2009 of a Lee and Perrins employee apparently finding the original recipe in a skip! So much for the field, but frankly little we couldn’t have already deduced from the label, which brings me back to Mr Rhodes. Why, in his recipe, did he ignore so much of what the bottle already tells us about its contents? He includes no molasses or tamarind. I have added them back in, along with one or two touches of my own.

So whilst I don’t think Lea and Perrins should shut up shop just yet, if you fancy spicing up Christmas for your nearest and dearest you’ve still got time.

Should make a little over 1 litre

  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 50g salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 birds-eye chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 2 tsps tamarind paste
  • 10 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised with the back of a knife
  • 1 quarter tsp cinnamon and a piece of cinnamon or cassia bark
  • 1 third of a nutmeg [grated] and few blades of mace
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp good quality fish sauce [such as ‘Three Crabs’ brand]*

Place the vinegar, shallots and garlic into a pan and slowly bring to a simmer. Dribble in the treacle and stir well to dissolve, then allow to tremble gently for twenty minutes or so. Add all the other ingredients and stir well then cook for a couple of minutes more. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly as you warm a large glass jar in a low oven. Pour the warm mixture into the warmed jar and seal. This now needs to sit for a week, ten days, or even a fortnight, and should be shaken each time you pass the jar. Mine sits on the washing machine so that the spin cycle can shake it for me when I’m out.

When ready strain through a fine sieve, heat until just below simmering for two minutes, and when still warm decant into heated sterilised bottles. Never pour hot liquids into cold glass bottles, or cold liquids into hot ones – they should both be quite warm. Then seal and keep somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight until needed. There will be some sediment and you’ll need to shake the bottle before each use. I’d also keep the bottle in the fridge once opened.

Now then, who’s for cheese on toast and a Bloody Mary?

* If you saw my piece on Uyen Luu’s cooking class you’ll know about my conversion to proper, good quality fish sauce, and I wouldn’t dream of using cheap nam pla here.

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.

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…

Pot Thai

Chicken in a pot with a selection of Thai spices

Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we’ve been enjoying of late, or maybe it’s got something to do with my having done two whole weeks of full-time work [I know, poor me!], but I’m yearning to get on a plane and head for distant shores. And with my own planned odyssey to explore the food of Indochina currently on indefinite hold it doesn’t help that you can’t turn on the TV at the moment without seeing a certain bum-chinned, potty-mouthed chef trampling all over South East Asia and its peoples and cuisines. Ah well, if departure lounges must remain a distant dream for now there’s nothing to stop me rustling up a mini-break from the comfort of my own kitchen.

Last July I wrote about the versatility of a simple chicken pot roast and this is yet another variation on the theme, though this time conceived with thoughts of a cold Tiger beer on a Thai beach at the forefront of my mind.

Follow the same basic method as before [you can substitute water for the wine if you think it feels more ‘authentic’, but I didn’t] but this time add the following:

  • A couple of bruised lemon grass stalks and the stems of a handful of basil [reserve the leaves for later] these to be inserted into the cavity, the rest strewn about the chicken in the liquor…
  • Two small shallots, finely chopped
  • A thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Two or three red chillies, chopped
  • Strips of the peel of half a lime
  • Three or four crushed cloves of garlic
  • Half a teaspoon of ground turmeric

Season well and cook as before. Once the chicken is done allow it to rest and strain the juices into another pan. Reduce by a third. Add a tin of coconut milk, simmer for a few minutes more, and check the seasoning. Add some previously steamed and refreshed green veg to the sauce and warm through. I used new season asparagus and some pak choi, but green beans, peas, spinach, pea aubergines, etc. would all be fine.

Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lime, a splash of fish sauce, the reserved basil leaves, and a few further strips of freshly sliced chilli if you fancy. Serve chunks of the chicken in bowls on a bed of warm noodles and with plenty of the sauce.

Now then, where did I put my postcards…?

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.

Coq au Vin Pie

Puff pastry pie crust decorated with pastry leaves

Half a leftover chicken in the fridge. Half a leftover bottle of red wine in the kitchen [no idea how that happened, must have been a guest]. There are also mushrooms, shallots and bacon lardons in the house. The stage seems set for a Coq au Vin, but I’m in the mood for a pie, so it’s time for the best of both worlds. Anyway, what is a pie if not a casserole in a pastry coat? Or a casserole if not an exhibitionist pie?

More than enough for two

  • 8 shallots
  • 120g button mushrooms
  • 70g pancetta or bacon lardons
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 300ml red wine
  • 50ml brandy
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 150g leftover chicken, torn and / or diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry

Slowly fry the lardons over a low heat until browned.  Turn the heat up a notch and colour the shallots and mushrooms in the fat from the lardons. Add the garlic towards the end and soften without colouring. Pour in the brandy and reduce until almost gone, then do the same with 50ml of the wine. Tip in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Introduce the rest of the wine, the chicken stock, and the Worcestershire sauce, stir well and simmer for around 10 minutes. Then in with the lardons and chicken and give them a couple of minutes to warm through. Check and adjust seasoning.

You can now leave this until needed or go straight to the pie stage, for which…

Top with the puff pastry using any trimmings to make decorations of your choice – whatever I try usually ends up looking like leaves, so I usually go straight for leaves. Brush with beaten egg or milk and pop into a 220 degree oven for 25 minutes. This should give you lovely risen golden pastry but the innards will be piping hot so give it a minute or two to calm down before serving.