Tag Archives: stock

Ni Dauphinoise, Ni Boulangere

A dish of potatoes gratin. Neither a dauphinoise nor a boulangere, but something in between.

Neither one thing nor the other, but combining something of the best of both.

My love affair with pommes dauphinoise began, romantically enough, with late night assignations in a deserted hotel kitchen. Whilst all around us slept I’d sneak into the darkened larder and by only the light leaking from the fridge door would sate my starchy desires with a mouthful of chef Maggie’s magical combination of potato and cream.

Since the cardiac kerfuffle of a year ago though I’ve done my best to curb my cholesterol and more often opt for a boulangere, where the potatoes and onions cook slowly in stock rather than cream. But then I thought why choose, when you can combine the two without completely clogging your arteries?

  • 2 large potatoes, sliced 1mm thin on a mandolin
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • A glass of wine or vermouth
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • A bruised clove of garlic
  • 2 good tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche

Add the wine, garlic and rosemary to the stock and reduce by about a third. Layer the potatoes and onion in a gratin dish, seasoning well with salt and pepper between each layer. Whisk the creme fraiche into the hot stock, and strain this over the potatoes. Cover with a cartouche of baking paper or foil and bake at 160°C for an hour and a half, then uncover and cook for a further half hour. Allow to rest for five minutes before eating.

You can of course make a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock, in which case you probably won’t want to eat it with lamb ‘lolipop’ cutlets, with which it eats very well!

Pheasant and Raisin Ravioli

Pasta Maker

This was one of those times when the dish in question became the happier accidental cousin of the meal before. The pheasant was cooked as a tribute to the unforgettable River Cafe’s Rose Gray when she died in 2010. But pleasant as the original dish was, I don’t have wood fired oven in my kitchen, and I don’t have Rose’s magic in my finger tips. So having served the breasts according to the original recipe, I made this using the leg meat and carcass pickings from a large bird [a small whole bird will easily yield enough meat for two people]. I’m giving no precise measurements here other than to say that you should use 1 large egg for each 100g type 00 flour for your pasta dough. Beyond that it’s a case of let go and follow your instincts, they’re invariably right, as I’m sure Rose would agree…

Take the meat from the cooked bird and chop finely – the flavour of pheasant is potent and a little goes a long way. Use the carcass to make a stock with some onion, carrot and celery, a bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, bay and marjoram, and few crushed juniper berries. Soak a handful of raisins in a large wine glass of ruby port. Mash a squashy ball of Mozzarella with a fork and add the chopped meat and the raisins. Reduce the stock to a few tablespoons, throw in the port from the raisins and reduce again. Whilst the reduction reduces roll your pasta dough out to the thinnest setting on your machine, and make your ravioli using a
rounded teaspoon of the filling in each. Add enough cream or crème fraiche to your reduced sauce to quadruple its volume along with a teaspoon of good grain mustard and adjust the seasoning. The ravioli are cooked when the water returns to the boil and they float to the surface. Transfer them to warmed plates and drizzle sparingly with olive oil, then liberally with the sauce.

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.

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

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.

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

Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

There is no more heinous waste-crime in my book [and it’s quite a thick book, but this one is written in red, and underlined] than to throw away the remains of a roasted bird before they have visited the stockpot. I once went for Sunday lunch with a large group of friends to a pub which served whole roast chickens to share, and insisted that the resulting five carcasses be wrapped and bagged for me to take home – there was chicken stock in the freezer for weeks! Age of austerity or not, there’s no way you should just bin those bones.

  • The carcass, skin and any juices / jelly / trimmings from your roast bird
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • A glug of white wine / vermouth / brandy / dry sherry
  • Salt
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Any other herbs of your choosing

Firstly place your carcass etc. in the pan and turn up the heat for a while before adding any of the other ingredients. The skin and bones will start to sizzle and spit and release their aroma and flavour. Now throw in your choice of booze and allow this to quickly bubble away. Vermouth and wine [the end of last night’s bottle is fine] work well, brandy gives good depth of flavour to the finished stock, or chose something else if you have a specific job in mind for the stock. For instance when making the chicken, garlic and brie pie posted here I used a fino sherry which on its own partners very well with brie, and I wanted to see if they got along just as well here[*].

Throw in the holy trinity of aromatic veg, the onion, carrot and celery, and give all a good stir. The choice of herbs is also dependant on what you want to do with the finished article but I always add a bay leaf or two and some parsley stalks if I have them lying around, which of course you do if you’re using the leaves elsewhere! Again when making the pie I knew there’d be thyme involved some added some to the stock too. There’s no need to spend time making neat little bouquets garnis with the herbs, you’ll be straining everything through a sieve so just plonk everything in the pot. Pop in the peppercorns and a generous helping of sea salt then add enough boiling water to submerge the contents of the pan and return to the boil. Skim off any scum which floats to the surface and having reduced the heat allow this to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour.

Taste your stock as you go and don’t be scared to up the seasoning until the flavour is as you want it; if you’ve ever been disappointed by the flavour of a homemade stock the most likely cause is excessive caution with the salt. After an hour the solids will have done their work and you can strain off the liquid and discard them, but for additional richness and intensity you can continue to reduce the stock if you wish. And there you have it – the starter for soups, risottos, sauces and so on – for not much more than an hour of your time, the price of a few vegetables, and some leftovers which would otherwise be wasted. And you won’t have me turning on your doorstep and waving that book!


[*] They did!