Does a recipe need much more introduction than that video…? Probably not, but I’ll give you one anyway. Back in June I mentioned that I was going to France for a couple of weeks, and that I would be attempting to eat and drink all the cheese and wine that the country had to offer. Well, we put in a good effort and ate like kings (or queens) for two weeks. We had delicious homemade meals expertly cooked by my Grandpa, dined on fresh local seafood on the island of Houat, tried regional specialties like gallettes and cidre royal in Normandy and had the most simple lunch picnics by the side of the road that were turned gourmet due to the amazing quality of the ingredients – fresh baguette, perfectly ripe tomatoes and soft, melty cheese (thanks to the heat!).
By far the best meal we had out was in a small town in Normandy called Sainte-Mère-Église. Although it’s small, Sainte-Mère-Église is well-known and gets a lot of day visitors. This is partly because it was the first village to be liberated on D-Day, but also thanks to the incident involving the American paratrooper John Steele. In the very early hours of the morning on D-Day about 13,000 paratroopers of the Airborne Division of the US Army dropped into Normandy. The parachute of one particular paratrooper, 31-year-old John Steele, became tangled in one of the church spires, leaving him dangling on the side of the church. Despite playing dead, he was cut down and take prisoner by German soldiers, but he managed to escape a few days later and re-join his division to continue fighting through France. John survived the war and regularly went back to visit Sainte-Mère-Église during his life. He was made an honorary citizen of the town and had a statue erected in his honour – a model of a man, parachute attached, hanging from the church steeple. On our last night in Sainte-Mère-Église we ate at the Auberge John Steele, which is named after the soldier and was recommended to us by my parents. And so this is all a very long way round of saying that I had the best dauphinoise potatoes of my life at this restaurant! They were just the side to my main dish of steak and mushrooms, but I decided right then that I had to recreate them when I got home. So here we are: my version of the most indulgent, rich, creamy side dish you could ever ask for…
One year ago:
– Hot redcurrant and raspberry mousse
Ingredients (serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!) Butter for greasing 400g (about 2 large) floury potatoes e.g. Maris Piper, Red Rooster or King Edward 150ml double cream 100ml milk 1 garlic clove Fresh nutmeg Salt and pepper
15g parmesan, grated
Method 1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease an ovenproof dish well with a little butter.
I have a tragic story to share with you. Truly, it’s a heartrending tale. In the world of home cooking at least….
During the summer we were due to have friends round for Friday dinner, and as per my parents’ usual Friday routine they had been to the fishmongers that morning. This time they had come home with a particularly great haul of seafood: squid, prawns and, best of all, crabs. I really fancied some homemade garlic mayonnaise in which to dip the simply cooked fish, and after a great success whipping up a batch in a basic student kitchen I felt pretty confident. I grabbed the electric whisk (on which I am going to (unfairly) blame this entire story and conclude that I will forever more use a hand whisk for mayonnaise even if my arm drops off) and began separating eggs. I was making a pretty big batch of mayonnaise – about 3 egg yolks worth – and dripping the oil in at a painstakingly slow pace. A few hundred millilitres in and suddenly the mixture split. But never fear! Google and Delia Smith were on hand to reassure me that this was not the disaster it seemed. Simply separate another egg, lightly beat the yolk and then drip in the “ruined” mixture. The mayonnaise will begin to take form again and you can return to incorporating the rest of the oil as planned. So I persevered and eventually turned off the whisk with a huge bowl of the best looking mayonnaise you have ever seen. Ever. I lifted the bowl slightly and tapped the balloons of the whisk off the side of the bowl…..CRASH. As I tapped the whisk on the side, the bottom of the glass bowl had hit the counter top and suddenly the bowl was in dozens of shards, small and large, the beautiful mayonnaise in amongst it. A lot of expletives were uttered as I stood frozen in shock. Mum was switching between laughing at me and feeling sorry for me. To be honest, I was all for risking glass cuts in order to eat the mayonnaise, but she didn’t think that was a great idea….so in the bin it went.
Basically, this is a convoluted way to tell you of a newfound fear of making mayonnaise I developed and how a few weekends ago I overcame this to make mayonnaise once again, this time without a glass fragment topping. And if I can do it, SO CAN YOU. I have just a few tips for you: first of all, some people use half, or even all, olive oil but I find this gives far too rich a flavour so I go for 100% sunflower or vegetable oil. Secondly, I would always use a hand whisk and add the oil as slow as humanly possible to begin with – an extra pair of hands can help at this point. And finally, never ever ever bang the balloon of the whisk off the side of the bowl unless it is flat on the work surface. You have been warned.
Ingredients 2 egg yolks 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar Salt and pepper
300ml sunflower oil
Method 1. Put the egg yolks, garlic, mustard and vinegar into a large bowl. Whisk together well, with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
2. Begin to add the oil. This needs to be done very slowly, while you continually whisk the yolks. If you have a helper, get them to drizzle in the oil at an almost painfully slow pace as you whisk. If you’re by yourself, just add a drop at a time to begin with. After about 100ml of oil the mayonnaise will begin to thicken slightly.
3. Continue to pour in the oil. You will suddenly notice that the mayonnaise becomes very thick and at this point you can add the oil a little quicker. Once all the oil has been incorporated you should have an indulgently thick, wobbly mayonnaise.
Serve straight away, or spoon the mayonnaise into a jar or a bowl covered with cling film and store in the fridge. It will keep for a couple of days…although I would be surprised if it lasts that long! It is delicious with steamed or grilled seafood, as a dip for homemade chips, in a burger or with fried chicken, or even just in sandwiches for a real treat. And, believe me, it is worth the effort.
Pasta carbonara is one of our staple weekday meals. It’s quick (it will be ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta), easy (the main techniques here are boiling, frying and mixing) and uses mostly store cupboard ingredients (dried pasta, dried chilli flakes, frozen peas). It’s also a handy meal to make after the weekend when you might have some extra bacon or eggs lying around that need using up.
We were taught this recipe by close family friends and have stuck incredibly faithfully to it ever since. This is a no-cream carbonara, which I gather is a more traditional Italian method (though please do correct me if I’m wrong). The sauce is made purely from beaten eggs, which do not require heating over the stove, but simply cook enough from the residual heat of the bacon and pasta. The only alteration we’ve made to the recipe is to add peas to the pasta water near the end of cooking – a suggestion by Jamie Oliver in one of his books (I forget which one!). The sweet peas are a lovely addition to the salty, creamy pasta and a good excuse to get some extra veggies in.
Ingredients (serves 2) 200g dried spaghetti or linguine 4-6 slices of streaky bacon 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped Chilli flakes Small handful of frozen peas A large handful of grated parmesan 2 eggs, well beaten Salt and pepper
Method 1. Put a pan of water on to boil and season generously with salt. Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions (if you’re using fresh pasta then leave this until the last five minutes). 2. Chop the bacon into small pieces. You can use a sharp knife, but kitchen scissors make the job much quicker and easier.
3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and a pinch of chilli. Mix in the hot oil for a few seconds.
4. Add the bacon and continue to cook until crisp. Turn the heat to low, or even off, once the bacon is cooked to your liking, to avoid burning while the pasta finishes boiling.
5. Add the peas to the pasta water for the final 3 minutes of cooking. 6. Drain the pasta and return to the pan, adding the bacon and a handful of grated parmesan. Mix well.
7. Slowly add the egg, mixing as you go – a helper in the kitchen is useful at this point! Season to taste with a little salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with a green salad or some steamed vegetables, or if you’re having one of those days when only double-carbs will do then some garlic bread might be required. A little extra grated parmesan for sprinkling on top is nice too.
Once you’ve got to grips with this recipe, which I guarantee won’t take long, you can adjust the taste to suit your preferences. Use smoky bacon instead of regular, add extra chilli or garlic, or throw in some sliced mushrooms that are lurking in the fridge. A perfect weeknight dinner.
There is something utterly intoxicating about the smell of fresh pesto: the fragrant scents of basil and pine nut oil, mixing with the heady smell of garlic and the pungency of parmesan is enough to drive me c-razy. I really think I could eat an entire batch with a spoon, straight from the blender container. Spread it on some toasted sourdough and top with cherry tomatoes: divine. Stir it through fresh pasta and sprinkle with extra parmesan: I’m in food heaven. Obviously you can use whatever pasta you like – fresh egg pasta from the shop or just dried store-cupboard pasta. But if you’re feeling like a real treat then you can follow my recipe for homemade pasta dough. I cut the pasta on the thinnest setting, because it reminds me of the fresh pasta that my parents would always buy from a local Italian deli when we had fresh pesto for dinner, and that makes me happy.
To call this a recipe is really a gross exaggeration. We’re basically grabbing a pile of ingredients and letting the blender do all the work. I’ve given you the rough quantities that I used in our pesto on Sunday, but there’s no right answer here and it can change from batch to batch. This is my mum’s recipe and her classic answer to a question about quantities is “some”, which tells you all you need to know about making pesto. You can make your pesto personal to your own taste by adjusting the amounts of all the different flavours after the first blend. You can even go fancy and toast the pine nuts or add other green leaves like rocket, but in my opinion this is the best version of pesto. Ever. Keep it simple folks.
The only secret here is good quality ingredients: use the best olive oil and parmesan that you have or can afford and it will lift the flavour of the pesto by an unimaginable amount. You will need a surprising amount of basil leaves, and so it’s probably most economical to buy a couple of plants from the supermarket, cut most of the leaves off to use in the first batch, but keep enough on the plant so that you can water it and bring it back to life: hey presto, pesto all summer!
Ingredients (makes a generous serving for 4) Basil leaves from 2 – 2½ plants (or 2-3 small bunches of basil) 3 small handfuls of pine nuts 2 small handfuls of grated parmesan 3 crushed garlic cloves 4-6 tbsp good quality olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Method 1. Cut the leaves from the basil plant, or from the stalks if you are using bunches of picked basil. Squash the leaves inside the blender container and top with the pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil and a generous amount of seasoning.
2. Blend until smooth. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as you like.
Use on the day of making, or you can put it in a jar or tupperware container, drizzle the surface with olive oil and store in the fridge for at least a week.
We had the pesto with my homemade tagliolini, and a simple green salad. With a bottle of wine and some lovely company, it was the perfect Sunday dinner.
Do you have your own pesto recipe? What do you do differently?
As my dad used to say (in a funny voice): “Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies is.” Weird, I know. But it’s true and we’re making the most of it with adventures into the outdoors and seasonal cooking. Nothing says spring to me more than lamb with mint sauce, and our little kitchen window-sill mint plant was getting dangerously out of control, so last Sunday lamb and mint was what we had to have.
Usually we would always choose a leg of lamb to cook with, but with only two of us eating we decided that lamb shanks were much more economical and manageable. If you’re cooking for more, then the recipe will easily double, triple, or more. Of course if you’re treating yourself then you can also halve the quantities. The same goes for the mint sauce: make as much as you need. The measures below are a generous amount for two, as I like to drown my lamb and potatoes in the stuff.
We decided to use our new tagine again (last time we did BBQ pulled pork) and were once more amazed with the results. There is something magical about a tagine that transforms meat into the most delicate, moist dish after just a few hours in the oven. We have also discovered that sliced onions cooked in a tagine soak up all the surrounding juices and end up sweet, caramelised and melt in the mouth. Our new rule of thumb? Onions in every tagine dish. However, don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine to cook in. This recipe will work well in any heavy-based pot that has a lid and can go in the oven, or you could simply use a roasting tin well-covered in tin foil.
Ingredients (serves 2)
4 sprigs rosemary 2 small onions 4-5 garlic cloves 1 chicken stock cube 1 tbsp olive oil Salt and pepper
2 lamb shanks
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 150C fan/ 170C/Gas Mark 3. 2. Remove the thin rosemary leaves from the woody stalks and roughly chop. Thinly slice the onions and crush the garlic cloves. Place in the tagine and sprinkle with the stock cube.
3. Generously season the lamb shanks and heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Quickly brown the lamb on all sides over a high heat.
4. Nestle the shanks amongst the onion layer and fill the tagine to roughly ¼ of the way up with boiling water. Pop the tagine’s hat on and cook for 3 hours.
Ingredients Bunch of mint (about 10 sprigs) 2 tbsp white wine vinegar 1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp hot water (e.g. from a recently boiled kettle)
Method 1. Remove the mint leaves from the stalks and finely chop.
2. Put the chopped leaves in a small jug or bowl and mix with the vinegar, sugar and water. Adjust the balance of vinegar, sugar and water to suit your own taste.
After three hours in the oven, the lamb shanks will be ridiculously tender and the meat will fall effortlessly from the bone.
Serve with the soft onions, the mint sauce, steamed new potatoes and spring vegetables. We had a stunning vegetable side dish which I will give you the recipe for next time – it was a real treat! I don’t think this dish needs an additional gravy: the meat is so moist, the onions come swathed in a thick gravy-like liquid and the mint sauce is an added bonus.
Eating this meal, with the windows thrown open and the evening sun sinking over the neighbouring buildings, made me so happy and excited for the months ahead. Spring really has sprung.
Bread can be a little scary. The combination of yeast, kneading, proving and shaping can seem daunting, but for some reason I have always been able to handle naan bread. Maybe it’s the fact that it only needs one prove, the ease in shaping at the end, or just the delicious results that encourage me.
I spent yet another day waiting in for new-flat-related visits (this time for the washing machine engineer) and so instead of serving up rice with our curry that night, I made the effort to do naan breads. And actually, such little effort it was. I haven’t made naans for a while and had forgotten just how easy they are. I used this recipe from BBC Food, but decided to take it that extra mile with some flavoured butter on top. Ross’ dad, the king of naans, always grills his with butter and they end up looking amazing, so I thought I’d give it a go myself. Naughty, I know, but worth it. Ross and I eat enormous amounts of garlic, so maybe just use ½-1 clove if you’re not as obsessed as we are. It does keep the vampires away though.
Ingredients (makes 2 small naans) ½ tsp dried active yeast ½ tsp sugar ½ tbsp warm water 100g plain flour ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp baking powder ½ tbsp sunflower oil 1 tbsp natural yogurt
1 tbsp milk
30g butter, softened 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped Small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Method 1. Mix the yeast with the sugar and warm water and leave somewhere warm for 5 minutes.
2. Measure out the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.
3. Add the yogurt, milk and oil and mix with a wooden spoon.
4. Add the yeast mixture and mix well. Tip the “dough” out onto your work surface – just now it will be a very crumbly texture.
5. Bring the dough together into a ball. This may take a while, but stick at it, I promise it will work. Keep kneading for 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
6. Place the ball of dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with cling film and a dish cloth or towel. Leave in a nice warm place for 1-2 hours to allow the dough to rise. 7. Meanwhile mash the soft butter with the garlic and coriander and season to taste.
8. Once your dough has risen, cut in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface. I don’t yet have a rolling pin so used a full soda water bottle, but a wine bottle does the trick just as well!
9. Grill the naans on high (about 180C) for a few minutes on one side, then turn and spread with the flavoured butter. Pop them back under the grill for a couple of minutes until the butter is bubbling.
Serve with your curry of choice – we had chicken and mushroom.
A word of warning: this makes two small naans. Definitely enough as a side to a weekday meal, but if you’re feeding more than 2, or have a big appetite then make sure you increase the quantities. Ross’ one comment on the dish (“feedback for next time”, apparently) was “bigger”. So I guess we’re on to a winner…
Last Friday I gave you a sneak peak of what I was about to cook, and I’ve finally recovered from the weekend enough to write up the recipe for the main event of my birthday dinner: Puerco en Naranja (or Pork cooked in Orange Juice). This is a stunning recipe and perfect for a really special occasion. It takes a bit of time, but it is so worth it.
Mum ordered the pork from the butchers (it’s an unusual cut, so you will probably need to order from your local butcher, or at least visit the meat counter at the supermarket. However, if you fancy the flavour of this dish without the cost, you could try the same marinade with a cheap cut of pork like shoulder or even chops and just adjust the cooking times and technique). I gave the butcher the name for the order. He returned with the biggest cut of pork loin I’ve ever seen, chuckled and commented “Spears: never a small order”. Well he’s not wrong. But to be fair, every last morsel of meat was devoured.
Ingredients (serves 10 to 12) 9 lbs rib-end pork loin, with the bones chined and the skin scored (ask your butcher to do this for you) 10 cloves of garlic 2 tbsp salt 4 tsp oregano 24 peppercorns
Method 1. Pierce any exposed meat with a sharp knife and place skin side up in a large roasting tin.
2. Crush the garlic, salt, oregano and peppercorns using a mortar and pestle. Add the juice of 2 of the oranges and mix.
3. Slather the marinade all over the pork and give it a good massage, rubbing it into any cracks or cuts. Cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least one hour, but ideally overnight. We had particularly tasty results with the meat this time, which we are sure was at least in part due to the overnight (12 hours plus) marinade. 4. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Remove the pork from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Pour the juice of 2 more of the oranges over the pork and pop the orange skins in the roasting tin. Cover with tin foil and roast for 2 hours.
5. Drain off most of the juices and keep aside for later. Turn the pork and bake for a further hour uncovered. Baste every 20 minutes or so.
6. Turn the oven up to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Turn the pork skin side up again and cook until the meat has browned and the skin has caramelised (this will take approximately 30 minutes).
7. Skim off any fat from the reserved juices, add the juice of the final two oranges and bubble over a high heat until reduced to a thick sauce.
8. Slice the meat – it should fall off the bones beautifully – and pour over the orange cooking liquid.
Serve with wraps, rice and whichever extras you like – we went to town and had beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, cheese and lettuce. I’m not sure how many of these are authentically Mexican sides but darn they taste good!
This recipe is in Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It was originally passed on to my parents more than 25 years ago by Professor David Weisblat, my dad’s boss while he was a postdoc in California. I’m told that David was a genius at cooking Mexican cuisine, and one night he scrawled this recipe on a scrap of paper for mum and dad. Now we have Diana’s recipe book, but I just love the jumble of words and instructions that David wrote so I thought I’d share it with you:
I (roughly) doubled the original recipe but you can easily scale it back if you’re not feeding such a crowd! So go on, treat yourself.
Recipes for some of the sides are to come later in the week….