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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Oxtail Terrine

Oxtail terrine served with a poached quail egg - delicious!  As I have said before I like to use as much of an animal as possible and not just the classy, expensive cuts.  There is a surprising amount of meat on an oxtail and it is also full of flavour.

If you can, buy your oxtail ready cut into pieces.  If you buy a full tail it is pretty easy to cut into manageable pieces by cutting through the "knuckle" pieces along the tail.

To make a terrine for 4 people;
1 oxtail
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots chopped
1 head celery chopped
2-3 bay leaves
1 glass dry white wine
 Start by browning the oxtail pieces in a heavy bottomed pan over a high heat.
Remove the oxtail from the pan and start cooking the vegetable (mirepoix) scraping as much of the meat residue from the bottom of the pan.  Add the oxtail back in to the pan with the wine.  Let the wine reduce until almost nothing remains, then add enough cold water to cover the oxtail.
Bring the water to the boil then reduce the heat to only a simmer and leave simmering for approximately 4 hours, or until the meat starts to fall off the bone.  Check that the water level does not boil dry and, if necessary, top up with cold water only.
Once the meat has cooked and is tender remove the oxtail pieces from the pan and strip the meat from the bones.  Season the meat with salt and pepper and stir through a spoonful of dijon mustard.
Line your terrine mould with cling film and fill with the shredded meat.  Cover and press down the meat evenly to form the terrine.  Refrigerate, preferably with a light weight pressing evenly, until cool.
Once the terrine has set remove the weight and when you are ready slice the terrine and serve with salad garnish and poached quail eggs and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Chicken and Sweetcorn Chowder

A hearty chicken and sweetcorn chowder to satisfy the biggest of appetites on the coldest of days! Tasty chunks of chicken and sweetcorn in a rich, thick soup.  Get some crusty bread in this and it will keep you going all day.
You may imagine this chowder is packed full of cream, there is some of course, but the secret to this really great tasting soup is in the chicken stock.  In this chowder there is no substitute for a great chicken stock - a stock cube just won't hack it. 

Follow this link for a chicken stock recipe Click Here for Recipe

Here's what you need to make about 2 litres of chowder;
75 g butter
75 g flour
250 g chicken meat chopped small
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
100 g sweetcorn
2 litres chicken stock
300 ml double cream
For the chicken I tend to use the leg and thigh meat from the 2 chickens that I use in the stock and keep the breast meat for other dishes.
In a large pan put the butter, onion, garlic and chicken over a high heat to start cooking the chicken.  Stir everything in the pan - do not burn the onion, garlic or butter.  

Once the butter has melted and the chicken is taking on some colour remove from the heat and stir in the flour coating everything and absorbing the butter.  This is basically making a standard roux but including the onion, garlic and chicken.

Put the pan back over a medium heat and start adding the stock.  You can use hot or cold stock.  If using hot stock watch for the soup cooking and thickening extremely quickly.  There is a chance of lumps forming if you do not handle the hot stock correctly.  When using cold stock stir it thoroughly in to the soup and allow the temperature to come up.
Once you have a fairly thick soup add the cream and season generously with salt and pepper.  Taste to check the seasoning.
Lastly stir in the sweetcorn.
You can store this chowder in a fridge for  3 days, you will find that it sets firmly but will quickly liquefy again on heating.  The flavours tend to improve and mature if eaten the day after making.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Night of Indian Food

Great curry and Indian food is an art form, which is why I don't usually make it for my customers.  The subtle blending of spices and flavours to create a unique dish takes many years to master and requires an understanding of the ingredients that really only comes with having been brought up with them.  In the UK Indian food is the most popular restaurant take away food, but here in Spain the Spanish have yet to catch on, although with a growing expat community, there are now some great Indian restaurants.

As I said I don't make curry for my customers but I love spending a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing some Indian dishes for my wife and me.  I grew up near Birmingham, UK which is pretty much the balti and curry capital of England so I try to get the spicing as accurate as possible from taste memory after all those great baltis of my youth!

To start we had a couple of poppadums with a yoghurt, mint & turmeric dip and an onion, coconut & coriander dip.

As a starter course we had poori with prawn chat -  a fried pancake with a sauce of prawns, chickpeas, tomato and some spicing with cumin and garam massala.  The pancakes are made using flour, oil, warm water and flavoured with cardamon seeds.  
Roll them thin and circular then deep fry them for 45 seconds.
For the sauce sweat down some onion and garlic, add tomatoes, reduce and add some prawns and chickpeas.  Season with cumin, garam massala and paprika.

For the main course - chicken balti, basmati rice and garlic & coriander naan. Balti actually refers to the dish that it is served in but in recent times has come to represent the flavour and spicing.  A balti tends to be full of flavour without being blow your head off hot.  A blend of spices including fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin and garam massala then finished with yoghurt and fresh coriander.  I normally make a paste using fresh spices and onion and also use quite a lot of tomato and fresh chillies in the sauce to add some heat.  As with all Indian cookery there is a large amount of onion and garlic involved.

To make naan bread combine flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, egg, yoghurt and clarified butter (ghee).  Knead it like you would bread and set aside for a couple of hours.  Roll it out thin and then pan fry it in some ghee.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Parsnip and Apple Soup with a Hint of Curry

Parsnips are a great winter vegetable, wonderfully versatile with a great flavour and sweetness.  Early season parsnips can be a little "woody" but that is easy enough to cut out.  The old tale goes that parsnips, like brussels sprouts, are better after the first frost of the year!

This recipe for parsnip soup with apple brings out the natural sweetness of the parsnip complimented by a sharp apple (Bramley / Granny Smith) and then add some winter warmth with a teaspoon of curry powder.

3- 4 large parsnips peeled
1 apple peeled and chopped eg, bramley or granny smith
1 onion diced
1 clove garlic diced
50 g margarine
50 g flour
2 stock cubes ( I use chicken but veg is fine)
2 litres water
Teaspoon curry powder

In a large heavy bottomed pan put the margarine, onion, garlic and parsnip.  Cook on a high heat for 3-4 minutes coating all the ingredients with the melted margarine.
Turn down the heat and stir in the flour.
Add half the water bring back to a boil, stir and add the remaining water.  Add the apple and stock cubes and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the curry powder, taste to check the seasoning and add salt, pepper or more curry depending on your personal taste.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup using a hand held blender.  The soup should be beautifully smooth, if it is a little "grainy", possibly because the parsnips are woody, strain the soup through a conical strainer.

Serve with crusty bread and a swirl of cream.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Whole Plaice Stuffed with Salmon Mousse Served with Pommes Anna

November is a quiet time in the catering industry - summer is over and Christmas is not yet here.  It's at these times that chefs can become a little bored which can be great if you live with one because it is a time for experimenting with new and different dishes.  Whilst shopping the other day I had no idea what to buy for dinner until I saw these lovely fresh plaice on the fish counter.  They are only small plaice, 400 g each, so I bought one for each of us.  Dinner sorted! Nearly.

I also bought a salmon tail and some fresh asparagus on special offer and here's what we had for dinner.
Whole Plaice Stuffed with Salmon Mousse Served with Buttered Asparagus and Pommes Anna

Start by making the salmon mousse.  Remove the skin and any bones from the salmon and chop into smaller pieces.  Put the salmon into a food processor with some fresh dill, salt & pepper and a good measure of cream.  Blitz on high until the salmon reaches a mousse-like texture.  The amount of cream you add will determine how light the mousse is but be careful not to drown it!
To prepare the plaice.  Using some kitchen scissors cut round the edge of the fish removing the "skirt" bones.  With a sharp knife cut down the length of the top of the fish and then by angling the knife run it over the bones to lift the fillet.  Do this on both sides of the back bone on the top of the fish.  Once the fillets have been lifted (but not removed) you can stuff in the salmon mousse.

They are now ready for the oven.  Grease a flat baking sheet with butter and add a little butter to each plaice. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 200C.
To serve chop off the head and remove the skin and the line of bones round the edge that have been revealed after the skin is off.

I served them with some Pommes Anna - recipe here for pommes anna and some asparagus cooked in seasoned butter.  The fish were so fresh plus the butter that is in the Pommes Anna and the asparagus that I did not serve a sauce.

Pommes Anna

So I was lying on the sofa reading a book with my mind wandering toward food.  I had bought some lovely fresh plaice for dinner after spotting them on the fish counter.  It's sometimes great to go shopping for dinner with absolutely no idea of what you fancy or what you're going to buy.  So I had seen these lovely fresh plaice and bought 3 of them and then a piece of salmon tail to do something with to accompany the plaice.

Anyway back to the wandering mind!  I wanted a potato dish to compliment those plaice and was thinking about some kind of potato cake but knew that wasn't right.  And then it dawned - Pommes Anna.  Anna's potatoes (I think the French sounds so much better) and before you ask I have absolutely no idea who Anna is or was!  But it is a classic potato dish and here's how.

Basically pommes Anna are thinly sliced potatoes layered with butter and seasoning and cooked in the oven. I added some sweet potato into my version, only because I had one and I like the flavour and texture.

Peel your potatoes and slice them thinly, ideally on a mandolin, and rinse them with cold water to remove some starch.  If you have a skillet pan or other pan that can go in the oven this is perfect for layering the potatoes.

Melt about 50 - 60 g of butter and brush some over the base of your pan.  Start layering the potatoes, buttering each layer and adding some seasoning.

Either put a lid over the pan or a sheet of greaseproof to keep the moisture in and place in a pre-heated oven at 200C.  Cook for 35 - 45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.

Turn the potatoes out onto a plate or chopping board.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Turkey and Leek Pie

Possibly a British classic - maybe not quite there with a steak and kidney pudding, but close.  A good turkey and leek pie with a home made pastry case is going to settle those comfort food cravings on a cold November night.
To Make 4 Individual Pies;
750 g fresh turkey - breast, leg or a mixture
1 leek
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
50 g butter
50 g flour
100 ml chicken stock (made from a cube)
splash cream
1 quantity short crust pastry -Pastry recipe here

Chop the turkey meat into chunks approx 1 cm square.  Use the white of the leek, cut it in half lengthways and half again then slice across.
Place the butter, onion, garlic, leek and turkey in a heavy bottomed pan and cook on a high heat, stirring until the turkey has changed colour.
Turn down the heat and stir in the flour coating everything in the pan.
Start adding the stock, stirring it into the pie mix over a medium heat.  The idea is to achieve a thick sauce but not drown the pie mix.  Stir in a splash of cream and check the seasoning.  Often stock cubes can contain a lot of salt so taste the mix before adding more salt.

Allow about 100 g of pastry per portion.  Roll out the pastry and line the mould, trim the edge and keep enough pastry to make a lid.
 Fill each lined mould with the pie mix.  Egg wash around the top edge to help seal the lid.  I normally put 3 small holes in the lid to allow steam to escape.  Egg wash the lid to give a nice shine to the cooked pie and put the pie in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 10 - 12 minutes until the pastry is cooked.  Serve with a healthy portion of chips for the ultimate comfort experience!

Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillets, Mushroom Ravioli, Celeriac Puree and Dill Butter Sauce

I know the heading reads like a random list of ingredients but, trust me here, when they are put together you have the most wonderful sea bass dish.

As I have often said before I always like to buy whole fish but I know that you can easily buy ready filleted sea bass. If you are buying whole fish and filleting them yourself ask your fishmonger to gut and scale them for you.  For first timers stick the point of a sharp knife into the back of the fish by the dorsal fin and feel for the back bone.  Using the back bone as a guide run the knife over the top and out the other side.  In other words you will see the point of your knife appear through the belly of the fish.  Once again using the bone as a guide run the knife horizontally toward the tail.  Now run the knife back toward the head.  You can either slice straight through the rib bones or use them as a guide and cut round them.  I tend to cut round them.
Remove the fillet from the bone, flip the fish over and repeat for the other side.
Remember, as we say in kitchens, meat on the fillet - the customer pays but meat on the bones and chef pays!!
Keep the head and bones for stock -  fish stock recipe here

For the Raviloi;
1 quantity pasta - pasta recipe here
1 onion diced
150 g mushrooms (button, oyster, bolets etc) chopped
1 clove garlic
olive oil for frying
Cook off all the ingredients together, add some seasoning and allow to cool.
Roll out half your pasta as thin as possible then using a teaspoon place a little of the mushroom filling along your pasta sheet at spaces of about 3 cm.
Roll out the rest of your pasta and place over the top of your first sheet.
Seal each raviolo, pushing out any air, by brushing a little water to make the join.
Cut them out with either a cutter or manually
I usually freeze ravioli until I need them.  Cook for approx 6 minutes in boiling salted water.

For the Celeriac Puree;
Peel and chop a celeriac into bite size chunks
Boil them until soft
Drain off the water and transfer to a blender / liquidiser
Blitz the celeriac until smooth, add a splash of cream and some salt and pepper.
The idea is to get a beautifully smooth puree with no excess liquid.

For the Dill Sauce;
Put 100 ml dry white wine in a pan over a medium heat.
Allow the wine to reduce and then start adding cold butter piece by piece until the sauce starts to thicken.
Add some chopped fresh dill just before serving.

To Cook the Sea Bass;
I normally put 3 slashes in the skin of each fillet.
Cook the sea bass fillets skin side down in butter in a flat pan over a medium heat.  Cook for approx 2 minutes then flip the sea bass fillets over and take the pan off the heat.  Let the residual heat of the pan finish cooking the bass for 90 seconds.
Serve with fondant potatoes, top with the ravioli and sauce.  Garnish with a nice quenelle of the puree (I'm not really into smears of puree across a plate!) and a piece of fresh dill.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Pumpkin and Orange Soup with a Hint of Chilli

The weather has just started to cool down here and winter is definitely on its way - it's time for some warming soup! Pumpkins are very much in season, most people cutting them out for Halloween but throwing away the beautiful flesh.  Pumpkin has a very mild but distinctive flavour and, of course, that flavour is intensfied  by making into a soup. The chilli should only appear as a finishing warmth in the throat.  If the overriding flavour is chilli or your lips start to tingle its possible you've added too much and killed the pumpkin!
I think the Americans may well use a pumpkin or two for Thanksgiving so, with that in mind, here is my recipe for a pumpkin soup with orange and a hint of warming chilli.

1 small pumpkin
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
75 g margarine
75 g flour
2 stock cubes (I use chicken stock but you can use vegetable just as well)
100 ml orange juice or juice and zest of a fresh orange
2 litres water
couple small hot chillis.  I use little Spanish guindillas which I grow.

Peel and de-seed the pumpkin and chop up the flesh.
Dice the onions, chop the garlic.
In a large pan  put the margarine, pumpkin, garlic, onion and chillis.  The idea of the chilli is only to add some warmth and not overpower the soup.
On a high heat cook for 5 minutes stirring, turn down the heat and stir in the flour.
Make sure the flour is fully mixed in.
Add half the water and turn the heat up again. As the temperature of the water increases it will thicken so add the rest of the water and the orange juice.
Crumble in the stock cubes.  Taste the soup and add seasoning to suit yourself
Boil the soup until the pumpkin is soft - normally 10 - 12 minutes
Preferably using a hand held stick blender thoroughly blend the soup to a smooth rich texture
Serve with a dash of cream and plenty of crusty bread