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.
Toad in the hole is one of those inexplicably odd British phrases and no one really knows where the name comes from. A lot of people think that it comes from the idea that the sausages look like frogs peaking up through the batter…..I know, weird. But there is not really any evidence for this, and there is not a consensus on the correct origin. In the end, who really cares about the name when basically it gives us an excuse to combine Yorkshire puddings and meat in one dish. That’s all that toad in the hole is: Yorkshire pudding batter poured over golden sausages (or traditionally just cheap cuts of meat). It’s easy and quick enough for a weekday dinner, but also a nice idea for Sunday dinner since you don’t have to make individual Yorkshire puddings, which can be a bit of a faff.
Use whatever sausages you like in this dish – flavoursome types with lots of herbs or spices will give a lot of extra flavour, but whatever you have in the house will work. Apple is the perfect accompaniment to pork and the chunks of apple in the batter soften during cooking to give bursts of soft, sweet flavour. And, of course, we couldn’t have toad in the hole without a rich onion gravy to smother over the top.
Ingredients (serves 3-4) 1 egg 100g flour 300ml milk 8 sausages 1 apple, cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil Small knob of butter 1 large white onion, thinly sliced 1 tsp soft brown sugar 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar Small glass of red wine 1 tbsp corn flour 600ml beef stock
1 tsp red currant jelly
Method 1. To make the batter, mix the egg into the flour with a little of the milk until you have a thick paste. Slowly pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and leave aside for later – you can make this a couple of hours in advance and just cover with a dish towel.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C/Gas Mark 7. In a roasting tray, toss the sausages and apple chunks with a few tablespoons of oil and roast for about 15 minutes until the sausages start to brown.
Pour the batter into the hot oil and put the tray back in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the batter has risen and is cooked through.
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan and add the sliced onion. Cook on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes until the onions have started to become golden.
4. Add the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes.
5. Pour in the vinegar and wine and turn up the heat a little so the liquid bubbles away for about 3-5 minutes until it’s a syrupy consistency.
6. Mix in the corn flour and cook for 30 seconds. Slowly add the stock and simmer until the gravy has reached the consistency you like. At the end drop in the red currant jelly and mix until it’s all melted into the gravy.
With meat and carbohydrates combined into one dish, toad in the hole is pretty filling so I think that some vegetables are all that’s needed on the side – along with the onion gravy of course. However, I won’t argue with you if you want to serve up some mashed or roasted potatoes too.
Classic comfort food for Sunday dinners or cold winter nights.
It’s officially autumn. October has arrived, bringing with it darker mornings, clock changes, early Halloween decorations and the need for extra layering and a big, cosy scarf. We can complain about the weather and the darker mornings, but in the world of food there’s a lot to celebrate. Apples, figs, plums, pears, pomegranate, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, parsnips and much more are in season and I’m hoping to pack in as many recipes as possible involving seasonal produce over the next few months. I’ve already planned some recipes involving apples, plums and carrots which I’ll post soon, but there will be plenty more to come.
Dreary weather and dark nights are also a perfect excuse for good old-fashioned comfort food. Again, I have a few recipes in mind to share with you, but we’ll kick things off with an absolute classic: meatloaf. I had never made meatloaf before, but after constant (unsubtle) hints from my other half (who never stops talking about his Grandmother’s meatloaf) I caved. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food, adding some extra ingredients for even more flavour like apple, mustard and thyme. Reviews after eating concluded that it was “very nearly as good as Grandma’s”, so I guess I’ll take that as a success…
Ingredients (cuts into 8-10 slices) 2 slices stale white bread 1 onion 1 garlic clove 1 apple Small bunch of parsley 500g pork mince 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp dried thyme 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 4 tbsp grated parmesan 1 egg
8-10 slices of serrano ham or prosciutto
Method 1. Look out a 1.5 litre loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/Gas Mark 5. 2. Cut the stale bread into small chunks and blitz in a blender or food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.
3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley and grate the apple. You can also do this with a food processor if you have one – use the chopping blade for the onion, garlic and parsley, and then the grater attachment for the apple.
4. Mix together the pork mince, chopped ingredients, bread crumbs, parmesan, mustard, dried herbs and egg.
5. Line the loaf tin with the ham, overlapping each slice a little so there are no gaps. Leave about a third of the slice to overhang the edges of the tin.
6. Spoon the meatloaf mixture into the tin and press down firmly.
7. Fold the excess ham over the top of the meatloaf so that it’s entirely encased.
8. Place the loaf tin in a roasting tray and fill with boiling water to about halfway. Cook in the oven for 1 hour until the loaf has shrunk from the sides. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 or 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid and lift the meatloaf out.
Serve either warm or cold. The first night we had it for Sunday dinner hot from the oven, with a homemade tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. After storing in the fridge we ate the remainder of the loaf cold, served with baked potatoes and a salad.
What are your favourite comfort foods for autumn nights? Are there any recipes you’d like to see next…?
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.