Tag Archives: tonka bean

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!

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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’.

Christmas Pudding Ice-Cream

Serving suggestion – holly garnish optional!

Christmas Pudding Ice-Cream decorated with holly leaves and berries

It turns out, at least according the Barrister down the pub last night, that not everyone has leftover Christmas pudding to hand come February. Who knew? If you are such an unfortunate soul you can now buy them year round, or you could try this with just the soaked and spiced fruits from my pudding recipe. Or even make another pudding – why confine something so good to the depths of December after all?

With this I managed to combine Christmas pudding with Christmas present as I was lucky enough to receive, in a hamper of gourmet treats, a jar of tonka beans. Wrinkly little wonders they are too, with a perfume like vanilla and hay. Sorry US readers but apparently they’re illegal in the States, though it sounds as though the odd speakeasy-style foodie boutique will smuggle you in a few if you know where to ask! Something to do with a supposed toxicity which relies on you eating your own body weight of beans in one sitting. No such worries here in Europe, and so far no-one who’s eaten this has died.

My esteemed friend and colleague the Shropshire Statistician had also just delivered me a dozen spankingly fresh eggs straight from her own hens, which made a gloriously golden custard. If you don’t have a chicken coop handy do lay your hands on the freshest eggs you can find.

To make about a litre of ice-cream

  • 300ml double cream
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 6 medium egg yolks
  • 1 dessertspoonful vanilla paste
  • 1/3 of a tonka bean, finely grated
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • a good glug of brandy
  • 100g clotted cream [optional]
  • 150 – 200g of Christmas pudding, crumbled

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and tonka bean in a pan and heat to just below boiling. Whisk the egg yolks. Add a ladelful of the hot liquid whisking all the while, then tip this back into the pan and cook, stirring ceaselessly, over a very low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, by which time the custard should just coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the brandy.

Allow the custard to cool completely, even overnight. Or, as I did the other day, improvise your own blast chiller by taking a stainless steel bowl of custard out into the garden and packing all around with the snow from the garden table. Cover with clingfilm and a tea towel and, one bottle of wine down the pub with your mates later, it’s totally chilled – and so are you…

Whisk the clotted cream [if using] into the chilled custard and churn in an ice-cream machine for an hour, adding the crumbled pudding [or soaked, spiced fruits] for the last five minutes.  Freeze.