Sunday, 13 May 2012

Homemade pesto and ideas for eating it

Sunshine in a pot that's good for more than just partnering pasta.

Dollop it onto crostinis topped with roasted vegetables, spoon it over chicken mayonnaise on toasted onion bagels, run it through cold cooked rice studded with black olives, sweetcorn and prawns, or use it in place of ketchup on BBQ charred lamb burgers.

This is pretty far removed from a traditional Sunday lunch, but when the sun is trying to come out it's nice to usher it on with a bright dish, and the heritage tomatoes and buffalo mozarella suit a pesto dressing perfectly. 

Lets eat...

Heritage tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad 
with lemon pesto dressing

Makes 1 jar of pesto
160g fresh basil leaves - this took three full supermarket bought plants to reach this weight 
90g grated pecorino cheese
75g pine nuts dry toasted in a frying pan until lightly golden (keep your eye on them as they burn really quickly) 
1 clove of garlic
125mls extra virgin olive oil

For the salad
5-6 different heritage tomato varieties, sliced into half cm thins
2 buffalo mozzarella balls, torn gently by hand - but only just before serving
Juice of half a lemon
15ms / around 1/2 shot extra virgin olive oilSea salt and black pepper

- Place the pesto ingredients into a food processor but reserve 25mls / 1 shot of the oil, and blitz until smooth. Decant into a jar and then pour over the remaining 25mls / 1 shot of oil to just cover the pesto - this will protect it and mean it keeps longer in the fridge
- Make the pesto dressing by spooning a few tablespoons of the pesto into a squeezy bottle used for putting dressings onto plates in restaurants - these are basically squeezy sauce bottles and are easy to find - then to the pesto in the bottle add the lemon juice and 15mls of olive oil, shake until combined (holding your finger over the end of the nozzle)
- Take a large serving plate or flat dish and arrange the tomatoes on the plate, then top that with the freshly torn mozzarella, a few scrunches of salt and a grind of black pepper, followed by the pesto dressing, which I like to add to the dish in lines across the plate, but splodges would taste equally delicious 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Ham hock and minted broad bean crostini with wholegrain mustard dressing

If you follow me on Twitter you'll probably know that I recently moved house. I didn't get very far (just five minutes down the road from the last place) but with this new location comes a totally new high street to explore, that of West Didsbury.

Amidst the leafy tree lined roads, polished period housing and shabbier properties full of promise, cheek by jowl sit an eclectic collection of independent bars, restaurants, clothing and interiors boutiques.

As an area it feels quirky, lively and full of fun and games and all this played a large part in bringing us to this side of Dids. Food for all moods is catered for and as you might imagine, we're currently exploring the offerings of the area in some detail. It's a hard job but it simply must be done.

During Saturdays trip down Burton Road on the way to Folk (great rose vino was calling) we stopped in at Moth. It's an interiors store that's very reminiscent of the cool homeware shops in Amsterdam's 9 Streets - and it's nice to have access to quirky and affordable home design right on the doorstep.

I'd planned an economical and easy dinner and on setting foot in Moth decided that I simply couldn't blog it unless I was in possession of some of their bits. It just wouldn't do. I scooped up several small textured bowls that look hand thrown and as if they have fabric set under the glaze, a small industrial antique looking tray, a rubber-wood spoon and textured glass jar. With this (somewhat random) collection of kitchen paraphernalia our dinner would look splendid. I was sold.

Ham hock, mint, broad beans and wholegrain mustard are a fantastic marriage of flavours and in this combination on top of crispy crostinis they taste vibrant, healthy and of springtime. If you fancied the combination hot, you could easily bind them with some fluffy mashed potato, form them into small cakes and fry gently until crispy and golden in unsalted butter. Woof. 

For around 12-15 crostinis 

The ham - buy a cooked one if you don't have time to poach your own, but if you do have the time doing your own is very satisfying, ingredients needed listed below:
One ham hock (or as the local butcher told me, in MCR it's a ham shank) uncooked 3 carrots, roughly chopped 
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
One large golden onion, peeled and quartered
A bay leaf
A teaspoon of peppercorns

The minted broadbeans and crostini - 
350g shelled broadbeans - Easiest way to pod them is to plunge the frozen beans into boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water and then shell by pinching a hole in one end with your fingers, and then squeezing the pod out 
A handful of fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons natural yogurt, you could also use ricotta 
A large pinch of grated Parmesan
Black pepper
A glug of extra virgin olive oil 
French baguette, cut into slender rounds

The vinaigrette - 
A heaped teaspoon wholgrain mustard
One shot rice vinegar, you could also use cider vinegar if you prefer 
Juice of half a lemon
One shot extra virgin olive oil 
2 spring onions, finely chopped
A small pinch fresh chopped parsley
A couple of pinches sugar

- Place the ham ingredients into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 3 hours
- After 3 hours if you have time, let the meat go totally cold in the pot. This will make sure the meat is as tender as can be (truly butter-like) but it takes a good few hours extra, so if you don't have time, take the ham out after 3 hours cooking time and let it go cold separately so it's quicker to use
- Once cool simply shred the meat from the bone with your fingers, discarding as much of the fat as possible, leaving you with just the soft pink meat, then set aside
- Into a food processor place the broadbeans (but leave out a handful of them), mint, olive oil, yogurt and a generous grind of black pepper, pulse until coarsely combined, then decant into a bowl and stir in the last of the broad beans, and the grated Parmesan, set aside
- Into a cup or jar place all the vinaigrette ingredients - you won't need salt as the ham is saltyish and the Parmesan also provides body and seasoning - and stir or shake until totally combined
- When you're ready to eat, heat a frying pan on a high heat and dry fry the crostinis on both sides until they're golden, then remove, top with the broad beans, followed by the shredded ham, and then spoon the vinaigrette over the top before each is eaten - this ensures the crostinis stay crisp

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Cajun spiced rosé veal fajitas with salsa and avocado sauce

A break with tradition. Veal fillets may spring to mind the Austrian classic, wiener schnitzel, but tonight they got the Cajun treatment. 

Not only does the meat lend itself perfectly to the crispy spiced panko breadcrumbs, the zingy salsa and the creamy avocado and coriander sauce, flattening out the plump little breasts with a rolling pin is a great way to relieve any frustrations you may have. 

For 4 fajitas
2 rosé veal - ours are from the mighty Heaves Farm Veal and you can buy them online. 
3 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt flakes
Plain flour for dusting
2 eggs and a dash of milk, whisked in a large bowl
10 juicy tomatoes, medium to large sized, diced
Half a small red onion, finely diced
2 shots rice vinegar
2 shots extra virgin olive oil 
2 ripe avocados 
3 heaped tablespoons natural yogurt
A handful fresh coriander
Juice of one juicy lime
3 spring onions, top and tailed and quartered
Sea salt and black pepper
Oil for frying - vegetable or sunflower
4 wraps
Kitchen paper

- Place each fillet between a few sheets of cling film (on top and underneath) and hammer it out until it's around 4-5mm thick - a firm hand is required, but too firm a hand will tear the flesh so be careful 
- Into a food processor place the avocado flesh, spring onions, yogurt, lime juice, coriander and a scrunch of salt, then blend until smooth. You may need to stop the blending part way through to push the edges back into the processor so the whole lot is blitzed and smooth. Decant into a bowl and set aside
- Into another bowl place the diced tomatoes and their juice that may have escaped onto the chopping board, the red onion, a couple of scrunches of salt, grind of black pepper then the extra virgin olive oil and rice vinegar shots, combine with a spoon and set aside - not in the fridge, the flavours come out of this salsa best when it's at room temperature
- Into a large mixing bowl combine the panko and all the spices and 2 teaspoons of salt, mix through with a fork
- Into another large bowl place the plain flour with a scrunch of salt and grind of pepper, run your fork through this in the same way
- Pour around an inch of the frying oil into a deep bottomed saucepan and bring to temperature on a medium high heat for around 10 minutes, you'll know the oil is hot enough when you drop a little panko in and it sizzles and fries 
- Take your flattened veal steaks and in turn dust them in the seasoned flour, followed by the egg and milk mix and finally into the Cajun seasoned panko
- One at a time fry the breaded veal in the oil, turning once and cooking on each side for around 3-4 minutes - once golden brown they are done, remove them and drain on kitchen paper
- Whilst they're cooking heat a frying pan on the hob with no oil, and lightly toast the wraps in the pan until warm, then put them onto a plate ready for assembly
- Take the veal from the kitchen paper and cut it into strips, you'll get two fajitas out of each fillet
- Spread a couple of heaped tablespoons of the green sauce over the centre of the base of the flatbreads almost in a line running up the centre, then top with half the crispy veal, followed by a few spoonfuls of the salsa. Wrap the base up first and then bring the sides in - for extra security (but don't pierce yourself when you're eating in eagerness) push a cocktail stick through the top to keep the whole thing together. Try to eat it and not imagine yourself on some kind of Man V Food challenge that involves you covered in food and licking your fingers. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Rosé veal osso bucco with Milanese risotto and gremolata

A big dish for a big weekend. Moving house is a royal ball ache, and to reward the scraped arms and legs, rough hands, fatigue, splinters (and to mark our arrival at our new abode) I wanted to cook something special. Well, that and we no longer have a freezer and I simply couldn't let the cross cut veal shanks go to waste.

Osso bucco is a classic Italian dish that's traditionally eaten just like this with Milanese risotto (a risotto made with saffron and Parmesan) and gremolata (a sauce with a pesto like consistency made from garlic, parsley, lemon rind and olive oil). 

I fell in love with it in a restaurant and searched out a recipe online so I could get some of this classic Italian comfort food at home. After looking through a few sites including BBC Good Food and UKTV food to get an idea of the basics, I then tweaked them to create what I'd be more than happy to serve to guests as a posh Sunday lunch.

I cook my version of osso bucco down very gently for a couple of hours in a mixture of white wine, pasatta and porcini liqour until the meat is soft, tender and tasty, and the marrow from the centre of the bone has created a shiny gloss to the overall dish. It's perfect along side the fragrant and simple saffron risotto (love that distinctive, honey-like taste it brings to the fat grains) and to cut through all that fragrant richness finally comes the gremolata, herby and bright and clean. 

For four:
For the veal stew - 
4 quarter cut rosé veal shanks - ours are from the mighty Heaves Farm Veal and you can buy them online 
250mls dry white wine
250mls pasatta
250mls warm water with 10g dried porcini soaked in them for 15 minutes. Porcini needs removing after 15 minutes and finely chopping up
20g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and diced 
2 golden onions, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled, quartered and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
Unsalted butter
Olive oil 
sea salt and black pepper

Plain flour

For the risotto - 
1800mls light chicken/pork stock, hot (you may want more or less depending on how much your rice needs)
300g risotto rice
250mls dry white wine
3 big pinches saffron
70g butter
One golden onion finely diced
80g grated Parmesan
A glug of olive oil 
Black pepper 

For the gremolata - 
A large handful fresh parsley
The grated rind of one unwaxed lemon
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled
100mls extra virgin olive oil 
A scrunch of sea salt and grind of black pepper

- In a large saucepan or casserole dish with a lid, heat a large glug of olive oil and knob of unsalted butter, and on a lowish heat cook the celery, onion and carrot until they've really reduced and the onions and celery have become translucent, this will take around 15 minutes
- Whilst this is happening, season the shanks and dust lightly with flour, then fry in a separate frying pan that you have on a high heat, foaming with unsalted butter. Cook them for a few minutes each side until they're nice and brown, and remove from the pan and set aside
- To the casserole pot add the diced tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, porcini stock, pasatta, wine and veal shanks and turn the heat up, once it's bubbling turn the pan onto a really low heat, put the lid on and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes
- After this time turn the shanks over in the pot and cook for another 1 hour 15 minutes with the lid off so that the liqor can reduce a little
- Whilst this is cooking down place the gremolata ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a pesto like consistency, decant into a small bowl and set aside in the fridge 
- 25 minutes before the shanks are done begin the risotto. Sauté in a large pan the onion in the butter and a glug of olive oil until it's turned translucent on a medium heat, then add the rice and toast on this medium heat for a couple of minutes, now add the wine and continually stir the rice until the wine has cooked in, then ladle by ladle add the hot chicken  stock and stir continually until the liquid has cooked in. Do this until the grains are plump and al dente. Then finish with the grated Parmesan 
- Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the veal shanks and their sauce, finish with a generous dollop of gremolata, and scoff with a big glass of your favourite vino

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ramen with oriental style seared pork fillet

Being a purist is a bit overrated. I really can't help myself when it comes to mixing up Oriental flavours, they just go so darn well together.

In this brothy noodly concoction you'll find ginger, sake, lemongrass, soy, miso and star anise, ingredients found in dishes all over the far east - they come together in this one aromatically and harmoniously, in fact, the flavours here are so delicious you'd think they were made for each other. Slurp.

Let's eat...

Asian style seared pork fillet over ramen noodles in lightly 
spiced pork and miso broth with crispy fried ginger

For two:
For the pork -
1 pork fillet - a lean and super economical cut, this little beauty that weighs 500g only cost me £3.20
1 really large knob of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 heaped tablespoon ground star anise (grind it yourself in a pestle and mortar or you can buy it powedered in Asian supermarkets)
1 heaped teaspoon five spice 
2 shots Japanese soy sauce, I use Kikkoman - if you haven't got that just use a regular light soy sauce
2 shots sake
2 shots dark brown sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves discarded then cut into rings
Frying oil

For the broth -
Ready to cook ramen (as in the pic) as many as your greed demands (we do 3 packs between 2) 2 large tablespoons white miso
1l light pork stock
500mls water
A sprinkling of shichimi or Japanese seven spice pepper
2 large handfuls fresh bean sprouts
2 spring onions, finely sliced 
A big knob of unsalted butter
A few strands of coriander 
A knob of ginger peeled and cut into matchsticks 

- In a bowl big enough to accomodate the tenderloin  combine all its marinade ingredients (apart from the frying oil) and stir until thoroughly mixed. Take your tenderloin and pierce it several times all over, then lay it in the sauce and baste the top with the marinade. Place into the fridge for at least 24 hours, turning several times during the marinade process so that every side is covered
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, put a bit of oil into a frying pan and heat it on a high heat for a few minutes, then add the fillet (taken out of its marinade) and sear on all sides until browned, this should only take around 7-8 minutes
- Place the seared fillet into a roasting tin (again without its marinade) and pop it into the oven for 20 minutes
- Whilst that's happening, strain the marinade through a fine sieve into a saucepan and bring it to the boil, once it's boiling knock the heat back to really low for it to heat through and keep warm
- Now place the miso and pork stock into a deep saucepan and bring to the simmer, keep the lid on it and turn it low
- When the pork has been in for 20 minutes remove it from the oven and place the fillet onto a chopping board, let it rest for 10-12 minutes
- 5 minutes before it's finished resting pop the noodles into the broth and bring it back to the boil, at the same time heat the unsalted butter in a frying pan until foaming then add the ginger strands, tossing until they turn golden brown at the edges
- Turn the broth and noodles and the ginger off
- Carve the tenderloin and pour any meat juices back into the pan of hot marinade 
- Ladle the noodles and broth into two bowls, top each with a handful of beansprouts and lay the pork over the top. Drizzle the reduced marinade over the pork and finish off with some coriander, spring onion, shichimiand the fried ginger. Slurptastic

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Globe courgettes stuffed with giant cous cous, feta and sundried tomatoes

A simple and rustic dish, good as a side or lunchtime main. The last time I posted a recipe using the spherical courgette they weren't readily available (I snuck mine in from France) but this time I acquired them far more easily, at good old Sainsburys. 

They take various fillings, but we're soon to move house and are trying to use up as many dry ingredients as possible, and today it was the turn of the giant cous cous.

The super fat grain sits nicely inside the roasted flesh, bound with sundried tomatoes and crumbled feta, and they're just as nice hot as they are cold. 

5 courgettes - 1 each as a side or for 2 as a main
5 globe courgettes, their lids cut off
1 red onion, finely diced
150g giant cous cous
80g sundried tomatoes
Half a block of feta, crumbled
Juice of one lemon 
A large glass of white wine
400mls vegetable or chicken stock 
A handful crushed pistachos 
Unsalted butter and olive oil for cooking, and extra virgin for drizzling

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Either using a melon baller or a teaspoon, spoon out the flesh from inside the courgettes, and roughly chop it up
- Lightly oil the outsides of the courgettes and their lids with a little oil, place into a non stick or oiled roasting tin, cover and bake for 40 minutes
- Whilst that is happening, fry the onion in a knob of butter and oil until soft on a medium heat, add the chopped courgette centres and cook for around 15 minutes, keeping turning them until they turn dark - this may take a little while as they are mainly water, but keep going because it will evaporate eventually
- Once this has happened, add the cous cous and continue to cook for a few minutes, then add the wine, stock and tomatoes, cook on a medium heat until all the water has evaporated and the cous cous has cooked through - if you try it and it's still not ready just add a little more water at a time until it is (like with cooking a risotto - little and often)
-  When the grains are ready remove them from the heat, add the lemon juice and pistachios and a glug of the extra virgin olive oil, and leave to cool a little
- When the courgettes have been in 45 minutes, remove their cover and cook for another 15 minutes to get them to dry out a little bit more and start to gently brown
- By the time they come out, the grains should almost be cooled, now it's time to add the feta and stir through
- Now spoon the cous cous into the hollowed courgettes, pop the lids back on them and bake them for 20 minutes to warm through, or 30 if you want them super hot
- Eat with a little salad and glass of white

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Japanese buckwheat soba noodle salad with ginger miso poached chicken

I love noodles. And I need very little in the way of an excuse to whip up a dish using them. So when the carrot of disco-by-post was dropped in front of me by Wrighty in exchange for a summery Japanese dish, I had no choice but to deliver.

It probably makes me a hostage to disco and soulful house, but you know what, I'm very happy with that. It's music that's good for the soul and it acts as the soundtrack to much of my life, so having some mixed especially for me feels fab.

And lets face it, when the weather is as glorious as it is today, a zingy, fresh and filling noodle salad is the perfect supper - along with a chilled bottle of Asahi. Bliss. 

The flavours in this are really fresh, fragrant and bold, but the textures are great too. The soft slinky noodles are especially good when you get one of the crispy pickled cucumber noodles mixed through them, and the chicken is juicy and tender, a lovely contrast to the al dente broccoli and firm broad beans. 

On to the dish...

Ginger marinated chicken breasts poached gently in white miso, with buckwheat soba noodles, tenderstem broccoli, broad beans and pickled cucumber noodles, all wrapped in a Japansese dressing

For two:
Two skinless chicken breasts
Buckwheat soba noodles, I use 3 bundles between 2 of us but use however many you like. Cook as per the pack instructions, rinse under cold water until cooled and then set aside in a bowl of cold water until needed
3 heaped tablespoons white miso paste
1 pint water
One very large piece of ginger, peeled and grated - we want juice and pulp
A couple of handfuls shelled broadbeans (take frozen ones and boil for 1 minutes, drain, rinse and cool and then shell them - easiest way)
2 strips pickled cucumber ribbons, cut into fine noodle-like strands (pickled cucumber recipe below - it'll take you about 15 minutes to do)
6 tenderstem broccoli florets, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water before being rinsed under cool water and drained
A large handful fresh mint leaves
A small handful fresh coriander leaves

For the dressing:
2 shots mirin
1 shot light soy sauce - Japanese preferably but don't worry if you can't get any
2 shots rice vinegar
1 tsp black sesame seeds and 1tsp white sesame seeds, lightly toasted for a few minutes in a dry frying pan 
1 large thumb of ginger sliced finely into matchsticks 
3 tablespoons of the poaching liquor from the chicken, once the chicken is done
2 spring onions finely sliced

For the pickled cucumber:
This tasty and simple recipe is taken from
1 cucumber,
8 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tsp salt to sprinkle
4 tbsp white sugar
.5 tsp salt
A few black peppercorns
You'll want two strands of the pickled cucumber cut finely into noodle like ribbons as in the picture 

Pickled cucumber - 
- On a mandolin, finely slice the cucumber into ribbons, discard the ones that have the central core in
- Place them into a bowl and scatter with the salt, leave for 15 minutes
- Whilst that's happening combine all the other ingredients into a jug, stir thoroughly and for a little while as the sugar takes a while to totally dissolve 
- After 15 minutes rinse the cucumbers, roll each around your finger so like a tube, and pack them into a jar or tupperware box, once all in there pour the liquor over them, cover and put in the fridge. You can eat them straight away but they're better after a day, and they'll keep for up to about 5 days

Salad -
- Take the chicken breasts and slice into slender strips, then take the ginger juice and pulp and cover the chicken with it. Cover and refrigerate, 24 hours is best but you could use it sooner - it just won't be tasting that much of ginger 
- Put the miso and water into a pan and bring to the simmer, add the chicken and poach gently until it's just done - this will take around 7 minutes. Remove from the pan, reserve the liquid you need for the dressing and then strain the chicken, sitting it to one side to cool 
- Into a jug or container combine all the dressing ingredients and give a good stir
- Drain the noodles and place into a large bowl with the chicken, broad beans, broccoli, cucumber noodles and herbs, then pour the dressing over the lot and mix together with your hands
- Place it into a serving bowl or individual dishes and serve