Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Warm salmon, new potato and green bean salad with herby mayonnaise

Salmons give me?

It has not really been salad weather recently. Despite being mid-June, the sky has been grey and the rain, frequent. So, I believe me when I say that I understand if the current climate has dampened your appetite for salad (pun definitely intended).
But hey, y’know what? This is a really tasty salad. It really is. Even if the sunshine has abandoned us, that doesn’t detract from its tastiness. I don’t care if the weather has been suggesting stews, mashed potato and pies - this is what I felt like eating.
Warm salmon, new potato and green bean salad with herby mayonnaise
Serves 2 for a lovely summer lunch (sunshine optional)
For the salad:
2 x salmon fillets
½ a lemon
Large handful of baby new potatoes
Large handful of fine green beans
A little red onion
¼ cucumber
½ bag of watercress, spinach and rocket salad leaves

For the herby mayonnaise:
Bunch of fresh parsley
Bunch of fresh basil
Large dollop of mayonnaise
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
Splash of white wine vinegar

Boil the new potatoes and the green beans until done. Drain and stick in iced water to cool.

Finely slice your red onion. Peel, deseed and finely chop your cucumber.

Stick your salad leaves in a bowl with the onion and cucumber. Add the potatoes and green beans once cooled.

Make your herby mayonnaise by sticking the mayonnaise, basil, parsley, olive oil, vinegar and seasoning in a blender and blending. Mix your herby mayonnaise into the salad.

Ready to mix

Add some oil to a frying pan and get it really hot, then stick the salmon in skin side down. After a few minutes squeeze over the lemon juice and cook for a few minutes more. Flip the fish and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. Once the salmon is done, plonk it on top of your salad and serve.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Fig, parma ham and goats cheese pizza

Perfect Friday food
Surely there's nothing better than a homemade pizza on a Friday night? Get home after a long week at work, off with the suit, on with the jeans, couple of beers, pizza...perfection. Save the partying for Saturday night, these days Friday night is for maxing and relaxing: i.e. nothing too taxing.

This particular pizza is loosely based on a recipe by Lorraine Pascale. Except with a different  recipe for the dough (HFW....again. Yes, I am aware I have a problem.). And my own recipe for the sauce. And Ms Pascale's pizza uses mozzarella instead of goats cheese. Look, I did say it was loosely based.

Being an absolute grammar fascist, the term goats cheese is absolute torture for me. Goats cheese? Goats' cheese? Goat's cheese? Or just Goat cheese?! None of these seem satisfactory.

Oh great, I've now said 'goats cheese' to the point where the words no longer sound right. I wonder if this is why Lorraine Pascale decided to use mozzarella? Wise woman.

Fig, parma and goats cheese pizza

Makes 2 large pizzas - enough for 3 people, or 2 bears.

For the dough:
500g strong plain flour
10g salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sachet dried instant yeast
330ml warm water

For the sauce:
(N.B. This makes about 4 times the amount you will need. I freeze the leftover sauce in individually-portioned sizes for future pizzas. Clever, no?)
2 x tins of chopped tomatoes
a large onion
4 cloves of garlic
large pinch of dried chilli
large pinch of dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the topping:
4 figs
150g goats cheese (I used Coeur de lion 'la buche')
6 slices of parma ham
Handful of fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
S + P

Start by making your dough. Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a bowl. Next, mix the olive oil and water together in a separate vessel, then add to the flour mixture. Use you hands to work everything together, and knead for about 10mins. Cover the bowl with a (clean!) teatowel and put in a warm place for 1.5 hours to rise.

While you wait for your dough to do its thing, make your sauce. Chop the onion and saute with the salt for 5 mins. Add the chopped garlic, chilli, oregano and black pepper and continue to fry for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the vinegar and leave to simmer for about 20 mins or so, then blend to your preferred sauce consistency. I like mine a little bit chunky, so I only pulse it in the blender a few times.

Check out my chunky sauce

Preheat your oven AS HOT AS IT CAN GO. This bit is important, see? You need to wait until your oven is completely heated up to absolute maximum capacity before sticking the pizza in. In the meantime, chop all your toppings so you're ready to rock and roll as soon as the dough's rolled.

These toppings are READY for action
Get your dough, and push the air out of it. Roll out as thin as humanly possible, add the sauce (not too much mind, no-one likes a soggy pizza) then the parma ham, then the figs, and finally the goats cheese. Stick it in the oven to cook for about 7 minutes.

The Bear gettin' his roll on. Yes, that is a bottle of squash he is rolling with. We don't have a rolling pin at the moment. Don't judge us.

Once cooked, tear over some fresh basil, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, scatter some salt and pepper and cut into slices. Ahhh...gotta love that Friday feeling.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hawksmoor Spitalfields, East London.

Ribeye steak, trotter baked beans and jersey royals.

Gather round children, and I will tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a cow. A very tasty cow, with beautiful creamy marbled fat running through all its dark, succulent muscles.
Every night the cow dreamed his beefy dreams. “When I grow up, I want to be a steak. Well, not just one steak I suppose, but many steaks: ribeyes, and rumps, and sirloins and fillets...huge porterhouses, prime ribs and chateaubriands...oh how I wish to be a myriad of steaks!
When I grow up, I would like to be eaten in a place where cocktails and red wine flowed freely. Where potatoes were embraced whatever their size: the small, new potatoes being drowned in butter and herbs, and the large being sliced into chips to be sizzled in dripping, or else thrice-fried. Where beans come baked with a pigs trotter to become pools of porky unctuousness. Oh how I wish!
When I grow up, I would like the people who eat me to be amazed at my delicious beefiness. Where all steaks taste so umami that if they were an umami equation, they would be 'marmite x worcestershire sauce x parmesan x anchovies x soy sauce = the steaks'.
I wish for my flesh to be sauced with a gravy of my own bone marrow. And perhaps, just perhaps, to be followed by an ice cream sundae containing breakfast cereal. I don’t even know why on earth I wish that last bit, but Oh! How I wish!”
And you know what kids? Well that little cow, well...his wish came true.
Welcome to Hawksmoor.

Fillet steak, lettuce and herb salad and bone marrow gravy.

Last week I visited Hawksmoor’s Spitalfields branch with my friend Julia from work. This was the first time I had been to the Spitalfields branch, but I had been to the Seven Dials branch once before with the Bear, on our 3 year anniversary. It was the best anniversary ever. They let us share a burger instead of starters, we drank numerous cocktails and lots of very good pinot noir, we had a porterhouse steak BIGGER THAN MY HEAD, chips which had been cooked in beef dripping (causing outbursts which went a little something like “Oh. My. God. WHYAREN’TALLCHIPSLIKETHISNOMNOMNOMSOGOOOOODNOMNOMNEEDMOOORRREE....”) and our waiter even gave us a couple of glasses of champagne on the house when he heard it was our anniversary. In short, it was perfect.
On this visit, things were a tad more restrained, but still resulted in us both clutching at our bellies moaning “so full...so full of steak...need to sleep.” Having had the forsight to remember how full I was on my last visit, I eschewed carbs to make more room for beef in my belly (The aforementioned beef dripping chips are only offered at the Seven Dials branch so I was not missing out. If these had been on the menu I no doubt would have ordered them). This plan worked well and I finished my 400g ribeye. Julia, who had ordered some buttery new potatoes, had to leave some of her fillet, despite it being a mere 300g.

My dinner - note the lack of potatoes.

The menu is pretty much the same in both branches, except:
1)       No beef dripping chips in Spitalfields (boo!)
2)      BUT the bonus of trotter baked beans in Spitalfields (yay!)
Quite frankly I think the two just about cancel each other out.

You pay us now, yes?
Go. For the love of all that is good and beefalicious, go now.
157 Commercial Street,
City of London,
E1 6BJ

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunday cookery extravaganza part two: chocolate éclairs

We made it...eventually

I’d never made choux pastry before; it was another one of those things I had assumed was too tricky to be worth the effort. However, I found a recipe for chocolate éclairs in HFW’s River Cottage Family Cookbook, and as the book is designed for culinary-inclined children rather than adults, I figured I might just be able to get my head around it.
I thought it would be so easy. I was wrong.
How not to make eclairs

The first batch Laurie and I whipped up were...how can I put this?  COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURES. They came out of the oven looking distinctly un-éclair-like. In fact, they resembled burnt biscuits more than anything. And pretty horrible burnt biscuits at that. We followed the recipe so faithfully too...oh Hugh, it pains me that you would do this to me. You have never failed me before!
In hindsight, we decided that the mixture was simply too runny, and this was what was causing our éclairs to go awry. Determined not to be beaten (and especially not by a recipe meant for a child) we mixed in a bit more flour and tried again.
Thank goodness we did.
The resulting éclairs, whilst not the most photogenic of pastries, tasted bloody gorgeous. And filling them with cream and spooning over the chocolate sauce is great fun. I would definitely recommend having a go at these as a Sunday afternoon project. Just make sure your mixture is stiff enough before piping onto the baking tray!
Chocolate éclairs
From River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (don’t worry Hugh, I still love you)
Makes 24
For the choux pastry and cream filling:
75g butter
200ml water
100g strong plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 medium eggs
250ml double cream

For the chocolate sauce:
100g caster sugar
100ml water
50g dark chocolate
25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200º / gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray. Make the choux pastry by melting the butter in a saucepan with the water, then tipping in the flour and mixing like crazy. Take off the heat, let cool for 5 minutes, then add the eggs, mixing well between each one.

Melting butter in the water...
....add some flour and eggs and you got YOU some CHOUX!

Now, this bit is very important: make sure the mixture is stiff enough, so that when you pipe it it stays in little sausage shapes and does not collapse. If you think it is too runny – beat in a bit more flour.

Put the mixture in a sandwich bag, snip off about 1cm of one corner, and voila – instant piping bag. Pipe your mixture into éclair-y looking shapes on the baking tray, then stick in the oven for half an hour.

Yeah...these ones look a lot better

To make the chocolate sauce, dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan, then add the butter and chocolate and stir over a low heat until melted together.


Once the éclairs are cooked, cut a slit along them (straight away – if you don’t do this as soon as they’re out the oven they go soggy, the little blighters!) and leave to cool.

See the stiff peaks there? Yeah. That's what you want.

Laurie doing some good work there.

Whip your cream until it forms stiff peaks. Use a knife to fill the slits in the pastry with cream, then drizzle on the chocolate sauce. DONE!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Sunday cookery extravaganza part one: scotch eggs

Scotch eggs, fresh from the fryer

On Sunday, my friend Laurie came round to help me cook up a storm. A scotch-egg-and-chocolate-éclair flavoured storm. This post I’m going to talk about the scotch egg-y part.
Scotch eggs are actually pretty easy to make, they just require a bit of patience. But it is SO worth it – if you’ve never had a home-made scotch egg you are seriously missing out. They really are a million miles away from those sorry looking things you can pick up from the supermarket. The sausage part actually tastes of sausage, for a start. This is the third time I’ve made a batch of these beauties, and the third time that I’ve scoffed the majority of them in less time than it took to make them.
We used Cumberland sausages from our local butcher (A.R. Tym’s on Smithdown Road, Liverpool – if you reside in Scouseland you should get down there pronto, it’s boss, lar*), but you can use whatever sausages / sausagemeat you fancy, as long as it’s good quality.
*Translation for non-scousers: it’s really very good, my friend.
Scotch eggs
Makes 12
900g Cumberland sausages
About 1/3 of a loaf of white bread, frozen (sounds weird, but trust me, this will make sense in a minute)
13 eggs
Some plain flour
Bottle of sunflower oil (unless you have a deep-fat fryer. I don’t.)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper
1 red chilli, finely chopped and seeds removed
2 tsp dried sage
1 clove of garlic, grated

Hard boil 12 of the eggs (about 8 minutes), stick in cold water to cool and set aside. Grate the frozen bread to make breadcrumbs (told you it would make sense). 

Grating the bread to make breadcrumbs
In another bowl, squeeze the sausagemeat out of the sausages and add the Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, finely chopped red chilli, dried sage and grated garlic and mix it all together with your hands. If you are concerned about getting your hands messy, well...this is probably the wrong recipe for you. Just get into it! Roughly divide the sausage mixture into 12 similarly-sized blobs.

Squeezed -out sausages n stuff
Crack the remaining egg into a separate bowl and beat. Add the flour to yet another bowl. Remove the shells from the eggs, rinse and put in another bowl. You should now have 5 bowls, one with hard boiled eggs, one with sausage, one with flour, one with beaten egg and one with breadcrumbs. You are now ready to assemble.

The procedure to assemble each scotch egg is simple. Roll a hardboiled egg in flour, then wrap in sausagemeat, dip in beaten egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the eggs are done. All you have to do now is fry them!

Sausage-y balls of GLORY
Fill a deep but relatively narrow pan with the sunflower oil and heat. You need to get the oil really hot before you drop your scotch eggs in. A good way to test is to put a spare crumb of bread in – if the oil bubbles and fizzes straight away it’s ready. If it doesn’t, heat up the oil some more. Once the oil is hot enough, carefully add your scotch eggs. You will have to fry them in batches. Once the eggs have turned deep golden brown they are done – remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel.

Fry my beauties....fry
I cannot be held responsible for the extra pounds you are likely to gain after scoffing 5 of these in one go. And make no mistake, you will scoff about 5 of these in one go. At least my last post was about a salad...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Super summery salad with watermelon and feta

Tastes like SUNSHINE

This salad is amazing.
It is quite possibly the most summery summer salad that ever existed.
When I asked the Bear what he thought of the salad...he replied that the salad was ‘boom-ting.’
This salad makes me very happy indeed.
That is all.
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Serves 4
For the salad:
1/2 watermelon
200g feta cheese
½ red onion
A couple of handfuls of black olives
½ cucumber
1 bag mixed salad leaves*
A handful of pumpkin seeds
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint

For the dressing:
Extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar
Black pepper

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan and leave to cool. Deseed your watermelon and chop into bite-sized chunks. Finely slice the red onion. Peel and deseed the cucumber, before slicing into thin semi-crescents. Tear the mint leaves. Crumble the feta cheese. Combine everything together with the mixed leaves and the black olives. Mix up the olive oil, vinegar and black pepper to make a dressing, pour over, and toss to make sure everything is coated. Munch.

*Yes, that’s right, a bag of mixed salad leaves from the supermarket. No, I didn’t grow my own leaves – I don’t have the space in my flat. No, I didn’t buy them at the farmer’s market – I don’t fancy paying £100,000,000 for a bit of lettuce. It’s a salad for Pete’s sake, not a bloody lifestyle choice! I bought a bag of bog-standard mixed leaves from tesco and I am unrepentant, so there!**

**This may, quite possibly, be a slight overreaction. Soz.

Crispy-skinned mackerel with asian dressing

Tasty mackerel dinners

The other night I decided I wanted to do something with mackerel, and after a brief peruse online I found this little gem of a recipe from Jamie Oliver. It is nice and speedy to make – the dressing comes together in the time it takes the fish and rice to cook – which made it perfect for me to throw together on Friday night having just come back from London (and so not in the mood for faffing about with anything too complicated). I expected this to be tasty, but not quite as tasty as it was in reality, which is to say REALLY DAMN TASTY.
Funnily enough, I never used to like mackerel when I was younger. Then again, I didn’t like the taste of coffee either, so it is clear that I was a foolish child. Nowadays it’s a rare morning that I don’t have a cup of coffee, and I’m pleased to report that mackerel is firmly back on the menu too.
Mackerel is a fish which really does tick all the boxes...it’s very good for you, it’s pretty cheap, it’s sustainable (very important to the Bear) and most importantly it’s absolutely delicious. In fact, the only downside is that hours later, if you happen to burp - it will taste like mackerel. Accept this fate, and you’re onto a winner.
Crispy-skinned mackerel with asian dressing
Serves 2
For the fish:
2 x mackerel fillets
½ lemon
Olive oil
S + P

For the dressing:
1 red chilli
1 spring onion
A thumb-sized bit of fresh ginger
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime

To serve:
Basmati rice
1 spring onion
1 red chilli
A few sprigs of mint

Put your rice in a pan, add boiling water and leave to cook for 10 mins. In the meantime, add some olive oil to your frying pan and heat up until it is nice and hot, then add the mackerel, skin side down. Season the fish with the salt and pepper. Grate your garlic, ginger, spring onion, lime zest and chilli into a bowl, then mix in the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and lime juice. After about 7 minutes, flip the fish over, squeeze over the lemon juice, and leave to cook for a further couple of minutes.

Finely chop the remaining spring onion, chilli and mint. Drain the rice and divide between 2 plates. Serve the fish on top of the rice, drizzled with the dressing and sprinkled with the spring onion, chilli and mint. Oh yum.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Galvin La Chappelle, Central London

Well, I played a blinder last night. Five course meal, matched wine with each course, plus a couple of glasses of champagne to start...and no hangover. None. Zero. Zilch. I feel positively fresh. It is a minor miracle.

Last night I had a work dinner at La Chappelle, which is about a 5 minute walk from Liverpool Street Tube Station. I must admit I hadn’t heard of the restaurant before, but have to say I was pretty impressed.

Here’s what we ate:

Broad bean soup with smoked duck
2009 Saumur Blanc, “Les Bessières”, Les Vignerons de Saumur


Grilled fillets of mackerel, Spring vegetable Barigoule
2008 Peyroli, Mas la Chevaliere, Domaine Laroche

Roast breast of corn-fed Goosnargh duck,caramelised endive tatin, apple & frisee salad
2009 Brouilly, Château de Pierreux 

Selection of French farmhouse Cheeses
Apple Tart Tatin, Crème fraîche
NV    Ambré Rivesaltes, “Solera”, Domaine des Demoiselles 75cl    

Very nice it was too. My favourite course had to be the duck, which was served deliciously pink, and went perfectly with the apple and frisee salad. The only bit I was a tad unsure of was the dessert wine, which tasted like a super-sweet brandy (bizarre). That being said, I’ve never been too keen on dessert wines – give me something crisp and dry any day – so maybe this is just a reflection of my uneducated palate more than anything!

Galvin La Chappelle
35 Spital Square,
E1 6DY

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Oat and Fennel Seed Bread

That's some good bread right there.

I used to have a strange aversion to baking anything involving yeast, based on the (completely unfounded) assumption that it would be difficult. It’s not. Thankfully I decided to give it a go one day – spurred on by the lure of a home-baked pizza – and haven’t looked back since. Bread, rolls, buns...they are all pretty simple to make, as long as you have the time to let them rise. I stick my dough in a cupboard by our boiler in a lidded pan, which seems to do the trick, but anywhere fairly warm will do. I have also successfully let my dough rise overnight in the fridge.
This makes a gorgeous little loaf...great for sandwiches, great for toast, although perhaps not if you don’t like the aniseedy taste of fennel seeds. I do, however, and so think this is fantastic.
Oat and Fennel Seed Bread
For the dough:
250g white strong bread flour
250g wholemeal strong bread flour
2 handfuls or so of porridge oats
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 x packet of instant dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp runny honey
330ml warm water

To finish:
1 tbsp white flour
1 tsp fennel seeds

Mix the flours, salt, oats, fennel seeds and dried yeast.  In a separate bowl mix together the honey, olive oil and warm water, then add to the flour mixture and combine to form a wet dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes – by the end you should be able to feel that the dough has changed texture, from something quite sticky to a cohesive ball of dough. Put the dough in a lidded container, or cover with a teatowel, and leave in a warm place for 1 and a half hours to rise.

When you get your dough it should have risen to about twice the size. Use your hands to press the air out of the dough (this feels AWESOME) and knead for about a minute. Shape your dough into a ball, or whatever shape you want your loaf to be, and place on a greased baking tray. Lightly rub a little water onto the dough’s surface and sprinkle first with fennel seeds, and then with flour (using a sieve). Cut some slashes into your loaf, and cover with a teatowel, and return to your warm place to rise again, this time for 30 mins.

Whilst the dough is rising for a second time, preheat your oven to 220ºC. When the dough is ready, stick your loaf in the oven. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180ºC and bake for a further 10 minutes. When your loaf comes out the oven, place it on a wire rack to cool.