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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pork Fillet, Black Pudding and Apple Beignet

Pork has long been associated with apple so this dish of roasted pork fillet with black pudding, apple beignet and a cider cream sauce just marries those combinations in an elegant looking and tasting dish.
When we moved to Spain and opened our first restaurant I used to cook a dish very similar to this.  I used pork fillet, battened flat, with black pudding and a slice of caramelised apple served with a cider cream sauce.  This latest version of the dish I think is the grown-up version.
I now pan roast a piece of pork fillet, one fillet will normally give two portions.  By pan roasting I start cooking the pork in a pan on the stove top to add some colour to the meat before putting the whole lot in the oven.  I take a nice slice of Spanish black pudding (morcilla) and pan fry it.  Then to complete the dish, before the sauce is added, a home made apple beignet.
Beignet - basically French for doughnut.  I hope you understand why I use beignet rather than doughnut! However, the French, or native New Orleans French, would argue that a beignet be made with yeast.  These apple beignets are from a recipe by James Martin for crab beignets that I have adapted and are essentially choux pastry, with grated apple stirred in, deep fried.
For the sauce.  If you want to be fancy, when the pork comes out of the oven put it to one side to rest and de-glaze the pan with a good glug of dry cider allow it to reduce, add the juices from the rested pork and a good measure of double cream.  Season with salt & pepper and allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
Alternatively, while the pork is cooking, in a seperate pan put some cider and a knob of butter, bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly, add some pre-made shop bought veal stock or demi glace and some cream.
To serve, slice the pork fillet and arrange with the black pudding and apple beignet and coat with sauce.  I like to serve either some dauphinoise potatoes or some sliced roasted potatoes and a little veg such as broccoli.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Empanadillas are small, filled Spanish pastries and these are so tasty.  By making the pastry with sherry the flavour is out of this world!!  I like to fill them with tuna, mayo and piquillo pepper.  This is an easy to follow recipe giving you 12 -14 pastries but some of the techniques will require some patience and practice.

Ingredients for the Pastry

125 g plain flour
125 g self raising flour
100 ml olive oil
100 ml dry sherry
Start by sifting the flours together and add a pinch of salt. I start by adding the olive oil and "rubbing" it into the flour (very similar to adding the fat when making regular pastry).  Now add the sherry and make as you would pastry to incorporate all the liquid and the pastry comes together in a ball.  Once you have a ball of pastry wrap it in cling film and rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  The pastry requires delicate handling and does not like to be worked too hard.  You will find that it becomes elastic and tough as the gluten strengthens it.
For the filling I use a little tuna mixed with some mayonnaise, chop in some piquillo pepper (small roasted red peppers) and parsley.  Try using minced chicken or minced pork (both cooked first) with some herbs, spices and seasonings.
Once the pastry has rested we need to roll it out and cut it.  Use half the pastry at a time.
On a floured surface roll it out to about 3 mm thickness. 
I use a 10 cm round cutter to portion it up.  Pull away the excess  pastry.
In the centre of each round put a teaspoon of the filling and then fold the round in half.  Using the prongs of a fork press the sides together where they meet making sure to seal in the filling.
It is possible to use the excess pastry that you have but do not overwork the pastry.  You will notice that as you roll it out it has become elastic and shrinks after you have cut it.
Now that you have a batch of neat sealed pastries it's time to cook them.  The easiest way is in a deep fryer set at 175C.  If, however, you don't have one, put 2 cm of oil in a pan over medium heat and fry them on both sides until the pastry is cooked.  You can eat them straight way, eat them cooled or re-heat them later either in the oven or fryer.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ajo Perejil / Garlic and Parsley

Ajo Perejil is one of the most versatile seasonings in a Spanish kitchen.  The combination of chopped garlic and chopped parsley is used in so many dishes.  For any dish that requires garlic this is ideal - home made alioli, prawns in garlic, mussels, pasta sauces, chicken in garlic and a whole variety of other tapas dishes.
I use a whole bulb of garlic and a good handful of parsley leaves.  Put the whole lot in a food processor with a splash of olive oil and blend using the pulse function on your blender.  The idea is to chop rather than process to a smooth paste.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Basil Pesto

Of course you can buy jars of basil pesto easily in virtually any supermarket but there is something very satisfying about making your own.  You can also adjust the flavour to suit yourself and you have the advantage of knowing exactly what has gone into it.  This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
This recipe is so simple and quick to make.  Use basil pesto stirred through pasta, in pasta sauces or just to add flavour to any dish. Serve it with fish such as sea bass or dorada.  This pesto has an intense flavour, so use sparingly.  Recently I have been using pesto in a tapa dish with aubergine and goat cheese.

Here's what you need;
8-10 large basil leaves
1 clove garlic
spoonful pine nuts
spoonful grated parmesan
25 ml olive oil

Put everything together into a blender fitted with a metal blade and blend on high for approx 30 seconds or until you achieve the consistency you want.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Scallops, Chorizo, Apple Puree and Cider Butter

Scallops and chorizo have long been considered a match made in heaven.  Here I take it a step further by adding in an apple puree and a delicate cider butter sauce.

I have customers who will book every time that scallops are on the menu.  Unfortunately, availability is not always guaranteed and the price can be variable.  
If you can get fresh scallops then go for it, alternatively individually frozen scallops, if defrosted correctly, can be just as good.
One secret to scallops is not to over cook them. Literally a quick sear on each side is sufficient.  Once overcooked they become chewy and hard.

For 4 portions here's what you will need;
16 - 20 scallops (whether or not you remove the coral is up to you)
16 -20 slices of chorizo sausage ( probably 3 sausages) I buy uncooked chorizo sausages, cook them whole and then slice them.  Each slice is roughly the same as a scallop.
2 Apples (Granny Smith or similar)
Small glass dry cider
100 g butter
Splash wine vinegar

To Make the Apple Puree;
Peel, core and slice the apples.  Put in a pan with a little water and heat over a medium heat.  Once the apple has softened drain off the excess liquid and transfer the apple to a liquidizer/blender.  Puree and put aside until needed.

Cook the scallops in a hot skillet pan with just the barest drizzle of oil.

To assemble the dish I usually put the chorizo with the apple on top and the scallop on top of that and finish with the sauce.

For the sauce;
Bring the cider to a gentle simmer and reduce by half.  Add the vinegar.  A piece at a time stir in the butter until the sauce starts to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Chicken Stock

A good stock is an essential!  It may not be glamorous but for great sauces you will notice how much a home made stock will improve the taste and texture.  A simple chicken stock such as this one need not take hours to produce but will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and can be used in a variety of ways.  I use a chicken stock in pasta dishes and in sauces to accompany both meat and fish dishes.  A good chicken stock is also much lighter in a sauce than a beef stock.

2 whole chicken carcasses broken up plus any chicken wing tips if available
1 onion roughly chopped
2 carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 stick celery
2-3 bay leaves
50 g flour
1 1/2 litres cold water

Put everything except the flour and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and fry off with a little oil.  Once the chicken starts to take on a little colour stir in the flour then add the water.  I normally add about a quarter of the water first and de-glaze the bottom of the pan.  Then pour in the rest of the water.  It is important to always use cold water when making stocks - warm water will make the stock go cloudy.

Bring the stock to the boil and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.  During the simmering you can skim some fat off the top.

Strain the stock into a suitable container and refrigerate until ready to use.  You may find once the chicken stock has cooled that there is a layer of  fat on the top - just scrape this off before using.  Ideally your chicken stock should resemble a soft jelly.
Tips; the more you brown the chicken at the start, the browner the stock will be at the end.  Some people like to stir in some tomato paste to strengthen the flavour.  Try adding mushroom stalks to the mix, it will adjust the flavour.  Leave the flour out to make a gluten free stock.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Chicken Pizzaiola

I saw Gino D'Acampo make a very simple version of chicken pizzaiola on his TV programme.  This is not his recipe - this is how I have made it.  The basic premise of pizzaiola is that it is the sauce you would use to make pizza, so I have included olives, anchovies and, of course, fresh basil. (Fresh oregano would be a great addition)

I have butterflied the chicken leaving the wing tip bone in, breaded it and served it on the sauce with a couple of slices of mozzarella and a basil leaf to finish off.  I like to serve this dish with either some nice fondant potatoes or some fresh spaghetti tossed in a little olive oil.

For 4 portions of sauce you will need;
400 g tin chopped tomatoes
Tomato paste or tomato frito
1 onion finely chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic chopped
2 - 3 small chillies chopped (optional)
handful green olives roughly chopped
3 - 4 anchovy fillets roughly chopped
25 g  butter or olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves shredded

Start by sweating the onions, garlic & chillies in a pan with the butter over a medium heat.  After 3 minutes add the tin of tomatoes, olives and anchovies.  Bring the pan to a simmer and then reduce the heat so that the sauce is barely bubbling.  I like to stir in a little tomato paste or about 50 ml of pre-made tomato frito to help concentrate the flavours.  Allow the sauce to cook out for approx 20 minutes or until reduce to a nice sauce consistency and finish by stirring in the fresh basil.  You will notice that I have not seasoned the sauce - the anchovy will provide enough salt.

For 4 people you will need;
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 egg
50 ml milk
oil for frying or deep fat fryer
1 ball mozzarella
Pre-heated oven at 200C

I usually butterfly the chicken but if you are not comfortable with this keep the breasts whole but bear in mind they may take slightly longer to cook.  To breadcrumb the chicken dip them in the flour followed by the egg mixed with the milk and, finally, into the breadcrumbs.  Coat them well at each stage.

If you have a deep fryer place the breaded chicken in and cook for 2 minutes until the breadcrumb has turned a golden colour.  If you do not have a fryer then put up to 1 cm of oil in the bottom of a pan and heat it (but not too hot).  Place the chicken carefully into the pan and cook on each side until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Now put your chicken in the oven and finish cooking for 12 - 15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
Serve on top of the sauce with a couple of nice slices of mozzarella melting over the top - delicious!