Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Very Very Chocolaty Brownies

Is there a blog that doesn't have a brownie recipe? OK, so maybe ones that just use foods starting with Z or other specialist blogs, but most mainstream blogs will have a brownie recipe and I've yet to see any two the same. There are so many different recipes, and they are all great, I suppose the one constant that makes a good brownie is that it has to be lovely and gooey and moist in the middle.

For me, a classic plain chocolate brownie is the best type there is. Don't get me wrong, I love all the different types of brownies from the ones with nuts or marshmallows in to the ones with caramel, mint, biscuit bases, smarties, oreos, peanut butter or anything else - but why add anything else when the plain chocolate ones are so good just as they are?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hake, Ratatouille and Jerusalem Artichoke Tortellini

A couple of weeks ago I found myself with a completely free Saturday which has been quite an unusual thing over the past few months. In fact, I really haven't had huge amounts of free time which has meant that the majority of dishes that I've cooked have largely been ones that haven't taken too much time to prepare for or cook. I think this is one of the things that people who don't really like cooking think is just plain odd about people who do - I can think of very few things that I enjoy more than spending pretty much a whole day planning what I'm going to cook, getting the right ingredients, cooking it and let's not forget eating it at the end of the day.

I'm quite lucky that I live quite close to Portobella Road Market so off I trotted with a vague idea of what I wanted to cook, but also wanting to see what struck my fancy at the market. 

I really enjoy looking around all the stalls and putting together a dish in my head and it was the globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes that I first saw and wanted to use. I love the earthy and slightly nutty flavours that each of them have but using them meant that I wanted the main protein of the dish to be quite light as I didn't want to end up with a really heavy dish that made you feel like you needed to sleep it off afterwards. So, on to the fish stall looking for some sort of white fish with enough flavour that it wouldn't be lost in the artichokes. I also had a picture in my head about how I wanted the plate to look at the end of the day, so I went for a couple of nice thick pieces of Hake so I could get some height on the dish.
After a bit more wondering around I got everything I needed and headed back to start cooking. There's nothing too tricky in this recipe but it does take quite a while - the most difficult bit is timing everything so it all comes together at the same time. As you can see, there's a fair bit to do, but like I say, it's not a terribly complicated dish, but from start to finish you probably need to give yourself at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bolognese and Black Garlic

Black garlic is one of those ingredients that I have wanted to cook with for ages. It's made by fermenting regular garlic which turns the cloves black and gives it a great flavour. If you've ever heard anyone go on about Umami, the fifth flavour, the taste that you get from black garlic is what they are talking about. It has a sweet and savoury flavour that almost tastes a bit of balsamic vinegar and goes really well with ingredients such as olives, soy, monkfish, tomatoes, mushrooms and red meats. 

So when I finally got my hands on some, the first thing I tried was using it in a bolognese sauce - it has beef, tomatoes, mushrooms and should work perfectly together. Also, my wife likes adding a bit of balsamic vinegar to her bolognese sauce which always tastes good, so I'm taking a lead out of her book and adding it to this recipe as well.

A lot of bolognese recipes will tell you to simmer your sauce for a couple of hours, I prefer to put it in the oven at a low-ish temperature for a few hours as it cooks it more evenly. I sometimes find that when you simmer the sauce, unless you stir it all every 5 minutes, some bits will cook more than others leaving a few tough bits in the sauce. I know it's traditional to use spaghetti, but i like to use linguini as it has more surface area to soak up the sauce.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Tuna Tartare and Wild Honey (not together)

So, it's been a ridiculously long time since I last posted, but I went out recently and had one of the best meals I've had in a while. I took the wife to the theatre to see Billy Elliot (which was excellent) and went for dinner at Wild Honey restaurant in Mayfair. They do a pre-theatre menu which was very tasty and incredibly good value - you really can't complain about a 3 course michelin star meal for £23.

Wild Honey (and sister restaurant Arbutus) is famed for being very reasonably priced, I think largely because they use fairly standard ingredients, but cook them perfectly. If you're looking for truffles in the bucket load with every dish, this isn't really the place for you but the autumn vegetable soup was silky smooth, the Plaice main course was cooked perfectly and I could have eaten the carrot cake by the bucket load (not that I've ever seen a cake served in a bucket, but when it's that good I'll eat it however it comes).

So, when I saw a deal on tuna at the local fish mongers (£2 for a piece big enough for 2 starter portions) I thought that I would try to take a leaf out of Wild Honey's book and make something that tastes great without costing much at all.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Basil Pesto and Tomato Tart

This is a really really easy way of making an impressive (not to mention yummy) dish. Make sure you use the best quality tomatoes possible. The UK tomato season is from around June to October so even though tomatoes are widely available all year round, I think they are a little bit firmer and a little bit tastier during the summer. You can also get a much wider variety of tomatoes during the summer, I used sugardrop tomatoes for this recipe, which are sweeter than your regular tomatoes and when roasted for the 15 minutes that this recipe needs taste amazing. Some recipes tell you to remove the seeds to stop it getting all soggy, but using small cherry tomatoes means that they don't give off too much liquid.

You can use a jar of pesto but I think a good homemade one is a hundred times better (that's right, 100 times!). If the pesto was for a pasta sauce I would make it a bit chunkier and chop everything by hand or use a pestle and mortar, but for this tart a smooth pesto works better so using a food processor is fine (and much easier!)

Serve the tart with a simple side salad, topped with a few shavings of parmesan and serve as soon as you take it out the oven to keep the pastry nice and crispy. I haven't given exact amounts of each ingredient as it doesn't make too much of a difference whether you have 10 extra basil leaves or an extra pine nut or two, just make sure it has the taste and consistency that you are looking for.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Posh Tea at Fortnum & Mason

After we'd allowed the brunch which formed part 1 of our lazy Sunday to go down we moved on to part 2, high tea at Fortnum & Mason's St James's Restaurant.

First up, the canapes. The gazpacho soup was particularly good!

Next up were the finger sandwiches, with the crusts cut off of course! Can't have posh tea with crusts.

Then we moved on to the yummiest bit of the meal; freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam

And last but by no means least we made our way on to the cakes and petit fours.

All in all we had a particularly yummy afternoon. If you have a special occasion to celebrate that would only be complete with copious amounts of delicious cake and baked goods (or just feel like treating yourself for an afternoon) go to Fortnum's and remember to bring your appetite!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Arm-Ache free Hollandaise Sauce

I really don't believe that making a sauce should leave you feeling like you've just been to the gym which is why I definitely think that this blender method is so much better than having to spend half an hour whisking the eggs and butter together over a bain marie. It still gives the same thick, buttery end result and doesn't need you needing a shower and a lie down to recover.

Sunday Brunch - Eggs Royale with the Easiest Hollandaise Sauce

My wife (Hannah) and I recently found ourselves with a Sunday with absolutely no plans - bring on day of yummy food! Deciding that having breakfast, lunch and dinner felt far too much like any other day we decided that brunch and tea were called for. First off was home made brunch of Eggs Royale (much like eggs Benedict but with smoked salmon instead of the ham or bacon).
There are many disappointing things in the world, but few things ruin experiences as much as tucking into a poached egg only to find the yolk as solid as the plate you're eating it off of. So even if the other elements of the dish aren't perfect, as long as you have a nice oozy yolk all other faults can be forgiven.
This recipe is ideal if you're not very good at timing various elements of the dish to all come together at the same time as the eggs are part cooked and then just finished off before serving. Make sure that the eggs are fresh and have been kept out of the fridge (or at least allowed to come up to room temperature before cooking). 
Serve with tea or orange juice for the perfect start to a lazy Sunday!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Sautéed Cod with Textures of Jerusalem Artichokes from The British Larder

This is one of my favourite recipes from one of my favourite websites. I love getting so many textures from using just one ingredient. But for me, the star of the show is the cod. If you've never cured your cod before you're going to love it. It transforms the fish into the most delicate, moist and flaky fish you can get.

Sautéed Cod with Textures of Jerusalem Artichokes

Crisp, crunchy and soft; cold and warm describes the textures of this dish. Cod is a flaky soft but fairly neutral flavoured fish and goes very well with vegetables with a fairly strong identity such as Jerusalem artichokes.

I love the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes but have never attempted to pickle them before. In theory I thought it would definitely not work as the uncooked chokes oxidises and discolours as soon as it’s peeled and sliced. However once mixed with the pickling liquid it was a perfect. I left if for an hour and the crispy thin and slightly acidic slices of Jerusalem artichokes were delicious, truely unique with the distinctive flavour of these chokes.

Well I was pretty pleased, as my dish all of a sudden started to take shape with a good variation of textures. Serving some of the components warm and some cold gives the dish a extra interesting dimension. This dish makes a perfect starter, cutting the fish into 55 – 60g pieces or if you would like to serve it as a main course I suggest cutting the fish to 100g – 120g size portions.

I also lightly cured the cod, the reason being that cod is very flaky and easily fall’s to pieces when cooking, especially if the fish is super fresh. The fish was so fresh it almost smelt like freshly grated lime zest and the colour of the flesh was almost opaque. If the flesh is milky in colour with a slightly yellow tint and a faint ammonia smell then you know it’s not fresh. The cure of salt and sugar only stays on the fish for 10 minutes, you can do this a day in advance. Cure the fish for 10 minutes then wash the cure off, dry the fish and keep it in a clean airtight container in the fridge for the following day. Perfect for a special dinner party.

You can also prepare the pickled Jerusalem artichokes, the choke puree and crisps a day in advance. Keep the crisps in a airtight container to prevent them from going soggy.


How to Fillet a Small Round Fish

I generally prefer eating small round fish such as mackerel, seabass, herrings and bream in fillets rather than whole. I love the combination of the crispy skin and delecate flaky flesh that is much easier to get when cooking fillets. Small round fish are perfect for this because the skin is so thin that it renders down very quickly from its own natural oils.

I think the best way to show you this technique is to link to a couple of videos that I found very useful when I was learning how to fillet fish. The first method uses mackerel. I particulatly love mackerel and even though it only needs a couple of minutes cooking, the skin is so thin that it still manages to get perfectly crispy in that time.

The second method uses bream and whilst both methods work very well for the smaller fish such as mackerel and herrings, go for this one if you are filleting a larger fish such as bream or a large wild bass.

Sorry for just giving you the link rather than the actual video for the first method, but this is the best video for this method that i have found and it doesn't let me embed it into the website.
Here's the second method: