Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Liver and Bacon

Why am I posting such a basic meal you may ask? Well, the answer is because this British classic is full of texture, taste and it's incredibly cheap. As I'm sure some of my overseas viewers will concur, some dishes only need a few ingredients to be good and this is one of them. You can add onions, sage, cabbage etc, but this is the dish in its naked form. It also gives me another excuse to use my griddle pan which gives food that wonderful chargrilled look and flavour. You have the rich earthy taste of the liver, the crispy salty bacon and the smooth mash with a touch of piquancy in it.

You can really use any liver, pork or lamb are fine although if you want to push the boat out there's calves liver but that will blow the budget. I used pork. Then you need some bacon and potatoes to make some nice mash with. I add dijon mustard to mine and always use a ricer to ensure no lumps.

So, peel and cut the potatoes and boil in salted water for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, place the liver in a colander and rinse. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Toss the liver in a little olive oil and some seasoning. Just before the potatoes are cooked, heat the griddle until hot. Cook the liver for 3 minutes on either side and the bacon. Drain the potatoes, put through a ricer or mash and add 20g butter, a good splash of milk and a tablespoon of dijon. Mix thoroughly until smooth and keep warm. Whilst the liver is resting, add gravy to the griddle pan to pick up all those caramelized pieces of meat. To serve, place a pile of mash in the centre of a plate and scatter the liver and bacon on top. Pour over the gravy and tuck in.

For 2 people, this costs about £1.50 each!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Chargrilled Asparagus and Courgette Salad

This is quite a hearty salad and is plenty on its own. However, being a glutton for Ottolenghi's cuisine I incorporated this as a mere side dish to accompany the previously posted roast chicken offering. This isn't a Jamie Oliver throw it all together in 5 minutes salad, although it does make as much mess. Needless to say, there are an abundance of tastes and textures, all of which sing together in harmony. The recipe will feed around four for lunch or six as a vegetable dish for a dinner party. Cost is approx £1.50-£2.00 per head.

Ingredients : 350g cherry tomatoes halved, 140ml olive oil, 24 asparagus spears, 2 courgettes, 200g manouri / halloumi cheese cut into 2cm slices, 25g rocket, seasoning. For the Basil oil : 75ml olive oil, 1 chopped garlic glove, 25g basil, seasoning.

1. Pre-heat oven to 170 / gm 3. Mix the tomatoes with 3tbsp of the olive oil and season. Spread over a baking tray skin side down and slow roast for approx 50 minutes. The tomatoes just need to be semi-dried not cooked through so that they retain their shape. Leave to cool
2. In the meantime, you can prep the rest of the ingredients. Trim the bases off of the asparagus and blanch for 4 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water until cool. Drain again and add to mixing bowl. Toss with 2tbsp of olive oil and season.
3. Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise. I use a mandolin (so you can trim your fingernails at the same time!). Again, toss with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and season.
4. Now it's time for some griddling. Heat the pan until hot and chargrill all of the veg, ensuring that they get nice char marks on either side. If the courgettes are too thin, they may stick. Once cooked, leave to cool. You may also need to wash down the griddle pan if things do become stuck. Cook the cheese off too, I actually grilled mine just to save time. Set aside.
5. To make the basil oil, whizz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
6. To serve, carefully arrange the vegetables in a pile on a large plate. Scatter some rocket randomly and drizzle with the basil oil.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

As a straight bloke (unusual intro to a recipe I know), I occasionally think, if I was gay, who would I like my partner to be. George Michael to sing to me? Graham Norton to make me laugh or Stephen Fry for intellectual conversation? Well I've decided that if I ever cross over, Yotam Ottolenghi is my man, he's not bad looking actually but the way to my heart is through my stomach and once again his excellent book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ottolenghi-Cookbook-Sami-Tamimi/dp/0091922348/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1329492031&sr=8-2 has delivered.

This dish is dead easy and is lovely served with couscous and a char grilled courgette and asparagus salad which I'll post later. There are great textures and contrasts in flavour, however I did omit the chopped spring onion garnish at the end which I deemed superfluous and I also used thighs. The sauce is quite sweet but not overpowering as the honey and rosewater work so well with the spices. For 4 people, the cost equates to approx £2.25 per head.

Ingredients : 8 chicken thighs, 2 onions roughly chopped, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1tsp ground cinnamon, large pinch of saffron, juice of a lemon, 4 tbsp cold water, seasoning, 100g unskinned hazelnuts, 70g honey, 2 tbsp rosewater

1. In a large bowl mix the chicken with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, seasoning and water. Marinade in the fridge for at least an hour or even overnight.
2. Pre-heat oven to 190 / GM 5. Spread the hazelnuts on a tray and roast for 10 minutes. Once cooled, rub off outer skin and roughly chop. Set aside.
3. Transfer chicken mix to a roasting tray leaving the meat skin side up. Cook for 35 minutes.
4. Mix the honey with the nuts and the rosewater. Spoon over the chicken and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. By now the chicken should be fully cooked and the nuts golden brown.
5. Transfer to a large service dish as I feel this looks nicer than serving individual portion.

And before you say I burnt my nuts, they're caramelized ok!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Salmon Ceviche

I love all of the trendy buzz words that filter in and out of the world of gastronomy. We've has coulis, jus, pave, daube, carpaccio etc. The list frankly is endless but I've no problem as long as the sexy descriptions of the food is backed up by what's on the plate. If you had asked me what a Ceviche was a few years ago, I'd had guessed at an Indian robe or something provided by a posh lady of the night with a lisp. Actually it refers to fish marinated in citrus juices!

This dish makes a lovely starter to share as a platter. The most important ingredient is actually a razor sharp knife as the fish has to be cut quite thinly. The salmon is quite rich but the dressing breaks it down nicely and it's a really pretty dish to bring to the table. For 2 people, the cost is approx £2.50 per head

Ingredients : 250g skinless salmon fillet, 1/2 lime, 1/2 lemon, 2 spring onions finely sliced, 20ml sesame oil, 40ml olive oil, 15ml soy sauce, 1 tsp caster sugar, coriander, micro leaves i.e pea shoots, 1/2 red chilli finely chopped.

1. In a bowl grate the lime and lemon and then add the juice. Add the spring onions, chilli, sesame oil, olive oil and soy sauce. Mix thoroughly.
2. Finely chop a small handful of coriander leaves and add to dressing. Add sugar and season to taste. The sauce should have a slightly more sour than sweet taste to it. This can now be set aside.
3. Get a wide bowl and cover with a couple of sheets of taut cling film. Place salmon in freezer for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier to carve.
4. With a sharp knife, carve the salmon into very thin slices. Place on the clingfilm which is easier to remove the fish from than a plate by the way
5. Just before serving, dip the fish in the dressing and lay decoratively on a serving plate. Arrange the leaves around the plate to give a natural rustic look. Drizzle some more dressing over the dish and serve immediately.

A lot of people mistake the look of the dish for smoked salmon or claim that they hate sushi. Then they taste it and the look of surprise and pleasure on their faces is a picture.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Steamed Syrup Sponge Pudding

With sub-zero temperatures blast chilling the UK, it's time to roll out an old British classic to warm the cockles. Sponge puddings go back to the Victorians, but as they are so simple and so tasty, it's no wonder that this traditional dessert has stood the test of time. Forget about healthy alternatives, use real butter, have lashings of syrup and don't forget oodles of custard to serve with. The pudding is incredibly light actually, not at all stodgy. This recipe serves between 6 and 8 and costs around £4 to make, which is 50p a head. Of course for 50p you could buy a yoghurt.......Just a thought !

Ingredients : 175g self-raising flour, 175g softened butter, 175g soft brown sugar, 3tbsp golden syrup, 1tsp baking powder, 3 large eggs,.

1. Butter a litre size pudding basin and add the syrup to the bottom.
2. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
3. Add the eggs, butter and sugar and with a whisk cream well until everything is mixed together and the batter is thick and smooth.
4. Pour onto the syrup, level off and cover with tin foil with a pleat in the middle. With some string, tighten the top of the foil around the rim.
5. Place in a large saucepan of boiling water, cover and steam on a medium to low heat for a good 2 hours. Check the water level after an hour.
6. To serve, run a palette knife round the outside of the basin and place a plate on top. Flip over and the pudding should be golden on top. Add more syrup as per taste and serve with custard.

If there are any leftover, the pudding can be returned to the basin, covered and gently re-heated.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Open Mushroom Lasagne

One of the benefits of writing a blog like this is that you get to know other foodies and share recipes and ideas. It's a really nice feeling when someone gives positive feedback on a dish you have created, which they have then gone on to make themselves. Tonight, I 'borrowed' a recipe from a fellow blogger so all the credit goes to her. I've attached a link to her blog and the photo is from her creation too as the battery on my camera went (Mine did look better though!)


The philosophy behind such a dish is to take a recipe for carnivores and adapt it for vegetarians. I admit that there is a little work involved and you will make a mess but the end result is well worth it. To use a cauliflower puree as a sauce thickener is inspired and also a great alternative for coeliacs. As the dish is so tasty and filling, even the most hardened meat eaters will surely enjoy it too. In order to avoid copyright and being sued, I actually strayed from the said recipe and used fresh thyme and finished my dish with some truffle oil!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Lamb Tagine

There are all sorts of tagine recipes out there, however I think that lamb is best suited to the array of spices and textures involved. Here I use neck fillet which is quite a cheap cut and although needs a bit of trimming, produces a tender and flavoursome result. I like to serve this with the obligatory cous cous, some char grilled veg i.e. Red / Yellow Peppers, Courgettes, Aubergine, Red Onions and a little raita which complements the meat and also cuts through the richness of the tagine. I cook the whole thing in my Le Creuset casserole dish which is one of my all time favourite kitchen toys.

Ingredients : 500g of neck fillet of lamb cut into bite size pieces, 2 onions chopped, 4 garlic cloves crushed, 100g dried apricots chopped, 1tsp ground ginger, 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1tbsp sweet paprika, 1tsp dried chilli flakes, pinch of saffron infused in 3tbsp hot water, 2tbsp honey, tin of chickpeas, 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, chopped flat leaf parsley, seasoning, 1tbsp sunflower oil, handful of almond flakes.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140c/GM3
2. Brown off the mean in a little sunflower oil in dish and set aside.
3. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook until soft.
4. Add the apricots, spices, saffron water, honey and tomatoes and stir thoroughly. Then add the lamb. Season, cover and then place in oven for approximately 2 hours, stirring halfway through.
5. About 15 minutes before serving, stir in chickpeas to tagine.
6. Lightly dry fry the almonds and set aside.
7. To serve, sprinkle the chopped parsley and almonds over the top.

In a similar way to curries, this dish improves by making it in advance, even up to a day. The consistency should be of a thick sauce, almost sticky like a ragu. As the tagine is quite rich, it needs a gutsy wine and I find that a Chilean Carmenere does the job. For four people, the cost per head equates to approx £3.00 plus any side dishes. The saffron probably isn't essential but if you're like me and have been to Thailand where it's as cheap as chips, you had might as well throw it in.