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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Bistro Burger

A good, home made burger can be a thing of beauty!  There is definitely a place for it on a Bistro restaurant menu as well as being a great meal at home.  I like to garnish a burger with goat cheese, smoked bacon and caramelised onions that have just a hint of balsamic, but the choices are endless.

Whatever you do start by buying quality ingredients and keep walking past the frozen cabinet in the supermarket.

Here's how I make mine.  500g good quality beef / steak mince, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, smoked paprika and dried thyme.

Very roughly chop the onion and put it in a food processor with the peeled garlic and blitz.  Put the mince in a bowl and add the minced onion and garlic to it.  Add a good couple of teaspoons of paprika and the same of thyme and get your hands in and mix the whole lot.  I do not add any salt to the mix as this will only force the moisture out.  Season the burgers when you cook them.

The mix should make 4 burgers of about 150g each.  Either shape them in your hands or using a mould.  They can be round, square or oblong - up to you!

Cook the burgers in a skillet pan, turning so that you get a criss - cross pattern from the skillet.  I like to toast the buns in the same skillet and then add the garnish of your choice.  Serve with home made chips or potato wedges and a fresh salad.............

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Meringues with Raspberries & Butterscotch Sauce

Basic meringue is very easy to make, there are a couple of things to get right, and can always provide the centrepiece to an impressive dessert.

To make 4 individual meringues you will need 2 egg whites and 100g caster sugar (or 50g caster & 50g icing sugar)

Start by whisking the egg whites in a bowl, either by hand or with an electric beater. (Whisking by hand gives a great workout to forearms and "bingo wings"!)

Once the egg white is starting to hold its own shape start adding the sugar - I normally add it in three batches - whilst continuing to whisk the mixture.  After all the sugar is added keep whisking until the mixture is silky in appearance and can hold its own shape if formed into a peak.

Put 4 nice "dollops" of the mixture onto baking parchment / greaseproof on a baking sheet and place in a pre-heated oven set at approx 110 C.  Cook for about 40mins then turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool in the oven for another 15 -30 minutes.

For the butterscotch sauce you will need 50g caster sugar, 25g butter and 50 ml double cream.
In a frying pan heat the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water (helps to prevent the sugar burning) over a medium heat until it starts to melt / caramelise, stir in the butter, remove from the heat and stir in the cream.  Serve  straight away or allow to cool.  Try adding the juice of an orange to the melted sugar - toffee orange mmm.....

I like to serve the dish with some whipped cream and fruit.  Fruits such as raspberries have a sharpness that helps cut through the sweetness of the meringue and sauce.  Try making one large meringue and serving it as a whole pavlova - great centrepiece for a dinner party.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Chicken & Lobster with Hollandaise

Breaded chicken breast, half a lobster and a delicate rich hollandaise sauce with a pinch of cayenne - delicious!  And really quite easy.

For two people you will need 2 skinless chicken breasts, 1 lobster (fresh, frozen, cooked or uncooked, the choice is yours), breadcrumbs, flour, egg, milk, 2 egg yolks, wine vinegar, melted butter, pinch cayenne pepper & salt.

If you are using a fresh live lobster bring to the boil a pan of water large enough to hold the lobster.  I normally kill the lobster with a sharp knife through the back of its head before plunging into the boiling water.  Lobsters do not have vocal chords and even a dead, frozen, uncooked lobster will release air from its shell when cooked, and yes, it does sound like its squealing!

If you are using a frozen lobster defrost and cook, if necessary, according to the instructions on the packaging.

To prepare the chicken breasts firstly slice them horizontally, but not all the way through, and open them up like a butterfly.  Lightly coat with flour then dip in a mix of egg and milk and finally coat with breadcrumbs.  Shallow fry on each side for approx 1 minute before placing them  in a pre-heated oven.

Now the lobster.  In reality we are only interested in the tail meat and the two large pincers, so you can separate the tail from the body and remove the large pincers.  Turn the tail upside down and with a sharp knife carefully slice the tail in half lengthways.  Leave the meat in the shell for presentation on the chicken.  Gently crack the pincers (a quick tap with the back of a knife should do) and pull away the shell, then ease out the meat trying to keep it one piece.

Ok hollandaise - easy method.  Boil a pan of water.  Melt about 125g of butter, put two egg yolks into a non-metallic bowl, a splash (teaspoon) white wine vinegar (I often use a tarragon wine vinegar) and a splash of cold water.  Whisk the yolks, vinegar and water and add a pinch of cayenne.  Now place the bowl over your pan of simmering water and slowly add the melted butter while continually whisking.  The hollandaise will start to thicken.  Do not over thicken or allow the sauce to get too warm - it will split.  A splash of very cold water can help in a lot of situations!

If you want to warm the lobster slightly before serving either place in the oven for a minute or place shell side down in a griddle pan.
Serve the chicken, lobster & hollandaise with some pommes dauphinoise, green beans, green salad or rosti potato - whatever takes your fancy.