Monday, 30 July 2012

Restaurant review: Homa, Stoke Newington

Church Street in Stoke Newington is home to every kind of food you could want to eat; whether you want a greasy spoon or a Mexican where the cocktails have you numb before the starters even arrive. In the year that I have lived here I have enjoyed many breakfasts, lunches and dinners along this road, but in reality I have barely scratched the surface. Homa resides in a striking, grand building half way along, sitting back from the pavement and the daily buggy rally that takes place. While the rest of the street has a mostly humble, family-run appearance, Homa has a polished, architecturally designed front, which initially I took for arrogance over quality, and avoided paying a visit. It was only last sunday that I finally got round to walking up the steps and through the door. 

The architects did a grand job; the inside is airy and light from large windows and beautiful hanging lights. Tables were spaced fairly to give a sense of privacy, but also gave the place a real bustle when filled. We were quickly allocated a place to sit and felt welcomed, and in my case, surprised that my initial assumptions might well have been wrong. 
The menu was both unique and enticing, and immediately noticeable was the promise of good food, and the price that would create a massive disappointment if it failed to live up. Booze with breakfast seemed apt for the setting, so we both opted for champagne with our juice and flat white, with Katie going for the muffins and eggs royale whilst I opted for the bacon and poached eggs with pea and mint cake. 

Once we ordered the drinks arrived quickly, and we enjoyed the ambience of sitting in a lovely space with the sun shining through the window, and the eager expectation of what was to come. The champagne was good, as was the coffee, but both were well exhausted and there was still no sign of the food. We couldn’t quite work it out, it wasn’t full and there were seemingly plenty of staff around, none of whom came to explain a delay. This wait proved to be the only slight downside of the morning, but having worked in these kinds of environments, I fully understand that these things happen. And like I said, it was a lovely place to sit, and so a ten or so extra minutes didn’t cause an upset.

Then the food arrived and everything was forgotten. I’m a huge fan of an over the top breakfast, one that sprawls onto two or even three plates and leaves you groaning. If it includes chips all the better. But this was a totally different class of breakfast; clean, elegant and dainty, leaving us simultaneously ‘wow’ing. The taste matched; my strong cured bacon balanced with the mellow, herby croquette and the rich, runny yolk. Despite mine being lovely, I also had food envy of Katie’s choice. A forked stack of her royale was a joy, perfectly brought together by a smooth and zingy hollandaise. 

We scraped every last bit off our plates, and had a touch of disappointment that it was over. But a stacked pile would have been out of place, and they have it bang on. The bustle had thinned by the time we finished, and with this the service was a breeze. I left eating my words, and wishing that I hadn’t left it this long before giving it a try. I will still crave a full english, but for a special occasion I will be straight back. I will also be back for dinner, which offers a casual pizza oven or more refined selection. Judging by breakfast, I’m sure it’ll be incredible.  

Mackerel stuffed with salsa verde served with pea puree, samphire, clams and chargrilled cucumber

This was one of the first proper things that I ever learned to cook, and the first time that I really appreciated how nice mackerel is. It is based on an old Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe that appeared in the Guardian Weekend supplement for mackerel stuffed with salsa verde, but over the years I have tweaked the ingredients and turned it into a complete plate of food. Once practiced it is really easy to cook, and is great if cooking for a large amount of people as the main elements can be prepared well in advance.

Salsa verde is such a great accompaniment to so many things. It’s a sharp, strong sauce that is amazing with steak, lamb, fish (particularly oily fish), or with potatoes or steamed greens. I personally could just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon! You can tailor it to just how you like it by changing the herbs around, adding more lemons or mustard etc. until it’s just right. With this dish it balances so well with the oily mackerel and the sweetness of the pea puree. 
Everyone that I’ve told about the grilled cucumber looks at me with a confused and bizarre expression, and until a few weeks ago I would have agreed. I used to only use cucumbers cold as a salad item or in a tzatziki, but I recently watched Ashley Palmer-Watts on the TV grilling a cucumber and I was intrigued. In this recipe, the chargrilled cucumber adds a refreshing touch to all of the other strong flavours, and helps balance everything out. I will definitely be trying it out with other recipes in the future.
As with all dishes involving fish, try and search out a local fishmonger that will provide you with really fresh fish. They will normally be cheaper and have a far wider selection than the supermarkets, and their survival keeps high streets looking independent and unique. 
Serves 2
2 mackerel, filleted and pin boned
For the salsa verde:
1 large handful of parsley
3 sprigs basil leaves
3 sprigs mint
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 pickled gherkin
2 anchovy fillets
1 tsp english mustard
1 lemon, juice only
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil,
Salt and pepper
For the pea puree:
300g frozen petit pois
1/2 bunch of mint leaves
1 lemon, juice only
1 knob butter
Salt and pepper
For the rest of the dish:
1/2 cucumber, skin cut off to create 2 3” rectangles
200g samphire, rinsed under cold water
1 lemon
1 knob of butter
Olive oil
15-20 clams
Small glass of white wine
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and put a saucepan of salted water on to boil.
First make the salsa verde. Finely chop the herbs together, then add the anchovy, chopped garlic, capers and gherkin and chop everything again, mixing it all together with the knife. When everything is finely chopped and combined, transfer to a bowl and add the mustard, white wine vinegar, lemon juice and seasoning and mix. Finally add enough extra virgin olive oil to create a loose paste. Taste and adjust the vinegar, seasoning and lemon and set aside. 

When the water has boiled add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes until just tender. Be careful not to overcook and lose the colour and flavour! Once cooked, transfer to a food processor with the mint, butter, lemon juice and seasoning. Blend to a smooth puree before tasting and setting aside somewhere warm. You could pass it through a sieve to make it extra fine if you like. 

Lay out the pin-boned mackerel fillets on a chopping board skin-side down, and smear a good amount of the salsa verde down one of the two fillets of each fish. Lay the other fillet on top of the stuffed fillet and tie together with a couple of pieces of butchers twine. Put the mackerel packages aside until ready to cook. 

When you are ready to go, heat up a heavy griddle pan on a medium-high heat, a small saucepan on a medium-high heat and a frying pan on a medium heat. 
Season the mackerel and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, drizzle with a little olive oil and put in the oven for 8 minutes. 
While the fish is cooking, cook the samphire, the clams and the cucumber at the same time:
Add the butter to the frying pan and saute the samphire for a couple of minutes before adding the lemon juice and seasoning. Keep warm until the fish is ready.
When the saucepan is hot, add the white wine. When it starts to boil add the clams and put the top on the pan, shaking everything a couple of times. After a few minutes check the clams - they should be opening up. If not, replace lid and allow another minute or two. Once cooked take off the heat and keep warm. 
Rub the cucumber rectangles with seasoning and olive oil and place on the hot griddle, turning every minute or so once nicely charred on each side.
To plate up, spoon a good dollop of pea puree on each plate and place the cucumber on top. Position the cooked fish on the cucumber and spoon a bit more salsa verde on top. Surround the fish with the samphire and the clams and serve with a glass of white wine.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Slow-cooked beef shin cannelloni with girolles, anchovies and broad beans

For the love of slow cooking!
I don’t often get long periods of time to cook big meals, but when I do I really enjoy it. I’m all for quick and easy meals - they form a large part of what I eat - but there’s something great about spending the whole day or afternoon cooking something really special. This time consuming style of cooking will sound really mad to some people, but I love it when you are cooked for by someone else and they go to town on it. With this style of cooking you can achieve things that you could never do in a short space of time - cooking things for 5 or even 10 hours can have the most incredible results that are definitely worth the wait. On the plus side, most of these processes are fairly low maintenance, and once on can be left alone for a long time.

This style of cooking also lends itself to cheap, alternative cuts of meat. In this case I have used beef shin, which is unbelievably underused. As in most cases, the cheaper cuts of meat hold way more flavour than the more expensive ones, all they need is to be cooked with a little care and time until mouthwateringly tender. The shin that I bought for this recipe cost me five pounds for a kilo - that’s less than one fillet steak would be! Slow cooking meat like shown in this recipe is also a method that is excellent for loads of different things - stews, ragu sauces, ravioli fillings etc. You can even make amazing chilli or shepherds pie using flaked slow cooked meat. When cooking meat in this way, I often make more than I need and have a lovely intense stew for dinner the next night.
The cannelloni in this recipe is not typical to how it is usually made, with a creamy cheese sauce and baked in the oven. Making it this way makes it much lighter and more of a summer dish, and the combination of the beef with the mushrooms, anchovies and beans really works. 
Serves 2
For the slow cooked beef:
500g beef shin, cut into a few large pieces
1 litre good beef or veal stock
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
Small handful of thyme sprigs
3 carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 onions, finely chopped
Large glass red wine
2 anchovy fillets
For the fresh pasta:
200g Italian 00 flour
2 medium eggs
For the cannelloni filling:
10g dried girolle mushrooms
2 tbsp parley leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp pecorino cheese
For the sauce:
10g dried girolle mushrooms
300g broad beans, podded and shelled
2 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
2 knobs of butter
To finish:
Grated pecorino 
Baby rocket
First of all get the beef going. Put the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Heat up a little olive oil in a separate large saucepan on a medium to high heat. Season the meat well and brown well on all sides until well coloured, before removing and setting aside. Turn down the heat a little and add a little more olive oil if needed before adding the onion, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Cook until softened before adding the carrots, parsnips, anchovies and bay leaf. After a couple more minutes, turn the heat up slightly and add the wine, letting it bubble and reduce slightly. Now add the meat back to the saucepan and cover with the hot stock. Season well and bring to a simmer before turn right down and cooking with the lid on for about 5 hours, or until the meat falls to pieces. 
Meanwhile make the pasta. Put the flour, eggs and a good pinch of salt in a food processor, and blitz until the mix looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip everything out onto a floured surface and knead together until the dough has an elastic texture but is not sticky. Knead in a little flour if necessary. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour to rest.

After half an hour, remove the pasta dough from the fridge. Using your pasta machine, roll the dough until it goes through the thinnest setting. Cut the thin sheet of pasta into 4 inch pieces (allowing 2 per person), flour each side well and put in the fridge until needed later. Spare dough can be saved for another occasion.
Now prepare the rest of the filling for the cannelloni. Put the dried mushrooms (for the sauce and filling) in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for half an hour before removing the mushrooms from the water, and finely chopping the half being used for the filling. Leave the other half whole and set aside for the sauce. Keep the soaking liquid to use in risottos, soups etc. Combine the chopped mushrooms with the grated pecorino and chopped parsley in a medium bowl and put aside. 

Use any more time while to meat is cooking to prepare the other ingredients for the sauce.
When the meat is really tender, gently remove it from the broth and shred finely. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add to the bowl of other filling ingredients. Combine well, adding a couple of tablespoons of the broth liquid and seasoning to taste. 
Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. When the water is bubbling, add the pasta sheets and cook for 1 minute. Once cooked, remove the pasta and lay each piece on an individual piece of greaseproof paper that is a little bit bigger than the pasta. Carefully add a line of the cannelloni filling to one end of the pasta, leaving a lip of about 2cm. Using the greaseproof paper, ease the pasta around the filling to create a filled tube. Try and get it so that the seal is on the bottom of each tube. Gently move all of the tubes onto one piece of greaseproof paper (small enough to sit in a steamer) and set aside until ready to cook. 

For the sauce, strain 4-5 ladles of the broth liquid into a small saucepan and heat on a medium heat until boiling. Add the anchovies and mix well, then reduce the liquid by half until the flavours have intensified. 
Meanwhile, pour a little water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. When the water is boiling, put the rolled cannelloni into a steamer and place on top of the boiling water for 2 minutes. At the same time, add the broad beans, girolles and butter to the saucepan with the sauce in it before mixing well, tasting and seasoning. 
When the cannelloni has cooked, arrange two on each plate and carefully spoon some of the finished sauce around them. Finish by scattering some baby rocket and a pinch of pecorino on top. A very time consuming process, but well worth the wait!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie!

Retro Desserts
I grew up eating desserts like apple crumble, lemon meringue pie or occasionally a vienetta from the shop. Now that’s a blast from the past!. My mum is the apple crumble queen, and I always look forward to going home and tucking into a big bowl. These kind of puddings have almost disappeared recently (perhaps rightly so for the vienetta!), and especially on restaurant menus have been substituted for more technical and ‘pretty’ alternatives. Now I love these refined desserts and the scientific techniques that create them, but I also think that there’s room for the hearty classics. 
A well made lemon meringue pie with a crispy coated soft meringue, tangy filling and thin, short pastry is a beautiful thing. It can also be the real centerpiece of a table, looking magnificent with tall rippling peaks... Do you get the impression that I really like them yet!?

This recipe will make one whole pie in a flan dish (one with a flip out bottom is very helpful), or as I have done here, will make a number of individual pies using a muffin tray. When making these and testing the recipe at home, I had one real problem. I only greased each hole in the muffin tray with butter before putting the pastry in, and once they were filled and had set, I struggled to get them out. I ended up popping them into the freezer before very gently easing them out with two knives, but to get around this I would recommend lining each hole with greaseproof paper that comes 1cm over the lip. Then all you have to do is carefully pull on the greaseproof paper to ease out the pies. It will save a lot of stressful moments trust me! 

As with the above, this recipe often calls for a lot of care to be taken; making sure the pastry is nice and thin, that the filling doesn’t curdle, the sugar is the right temperature etc. but it is well worth the effort. Once practiced a bit it’s as easy as making anything. As with most things, once you have got your head around the basics, you can change the filling from lemon to blueberry, raspberry or anything else that takes your fancy.  
Makes 9 individual pies in a muffin tray
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
125g salted butter
100g icing sugar
255g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt
For the lemon filling:
3 tbsp cornflour
150g caster sugar
3 lemons zest
220ml fresh lemon juice
1 orange - juice only, mixed with water to make 200ml
130g butter, cut into 1cm pieces
4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs 
For the Italian meringue:
(If making one large pie, double the ingredients for the meringue topping)
200g caster sugar
4 egg whites
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan oven)
First make the pastry:
In a food processor, cream together the butter, salt and icing sugar until light in colour and very soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, milk and flour and pulse until the mixture starts to look like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and carefully pat together until just combined. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for an hour.
In the meantime, grease and line 9 holes in a muffin tray, making sure that the greaseproof paper comes at least a centimeter over the top. You will need this to help ease the delicate pastry out later. 
When the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and using a sharp knife, cut it into thin slices. Line the base and sides of the muffin holes with these slices and push together with your fingers until the pastry is all joined up and completely lined. Prick the bases of each pie with a small fork. Cover the base and sides of each pie with a disc of greaseproof paper and spread baking beans evenly over the top, then put the tray into the oven for 4-5 minutes. When the time is up, take the pastry out of the oven and carefully remove the baking beans and greaseproof from the top, and put the uncovered pastry back in the oven for another couple of minutes or until the base is a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and put aside to cool completely. Note: If your pastry has cracked or has any small holes, you can patch these up carefully with some leftover pastry before returning to the oven for another couple of minutes.

My pastry cases - remember to line with greaseproof unlike shown here!
While the cases are cooling down, make the lemon filling. In a bowl, mix the cornflour, sugar and lemon zest before slowly adding the orange/water mix and lemon juice. Tip the mixture into a saucepan and cook on a medium heat until it is brought to the boil, in which time it should have thickened a little. As soon as it is at boiling point, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then the eggs. Once incorporated, return to the heat and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Be careful not to take it too far as you will scramble the eggs. Pour the mixture into a jug, then fill up each cool pastry case to a millimeter or two under the lip, then put in the fridge for 4 hours to cool and set. 
Once the lemon filling has set, take the tray out of the fridge for five minutes before very carefully easing each tart out of the holes. Return the loose tarts to the fridge while you make the Italian meringue topping.
To make the Italian meringue, put the sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Add a cooking thermometer and put on a medium heat. While the sugar is heating up, using an electric whisk on a slow speed, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until light and frothy. When the sugar reaches 115ºC, take it off the heat and, whilst beating on a high speed, slowly pour it into the egg whites. Beat for around 5 minutes, or until the eggs are thick and glossy. 
Take the filled pastry shells out of the fridge and spoon on the meringue, creating swirls and peaks if you wish. To finish, very carefully brown the edges of the meringue with a blowtorch. Alternatively, put the pies into a preheated oven at 140ºC until golden on the outside. 

Serve whilst warm for best results, although the pies will keep in the fridge overnight.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thai curry with roasted duck, baby aubergines and bamboo shoots

Good old leftovers

As anyone who has read this blog previously will know, I try and make food go as far as possible and really make the most of leftovers. I hate wasting food, and there is nothing worse than letting good quality, expensive ingredients go off in the bottom of the fridge. To avoid this, I try and shop every day for exactly what I need that evening, and also having handy recipes that can make the most of anything that I have going spare. I think that the word leftover doesn’t help things either, making ingredients sound unappealing and past their best when they often aren’t.
Curries are a really great way of making leftovers into meals of their own. This meal came about because I bought a whole duck for a confit leg dish, and had the breasts left over. Duck breasts are very expensive in their own right, so there was no way that I was going to leave these to waste, and I really wanted to make something nice. I already had a lot of the dry ingredients required for this recipe in my cupboards, so it really wasn’t much effort to put together quickly. Although this recipe uses baby aubergines, french beans and bamboo shoots, you can easily swap these for what you’ve got lying around. 

I love Thailand and Thai cooking. But I find it so difficult to replicate the amazing dishes that you eat when there on holiday. It is only recently and after many attempts that I have finally managed to come up with something anywhere near that quality. Many of the european recipes for Thai curries lack the real intense flavour combinations - the right amount of sweetness, saltiness, spiciness and creaminess. I think that the main problem is sourcing the ingredients; things like galangal, thai basil and fresh lime leaves are still quite tricky to get hold of. The dried alternatives really aren’t suitable substitutes, and don’t have anywhere near the flavour. Luckily there are a couple of good greengrocers near me in Stoke Newington that occasionally have galangal and lime leaves, and you can now buy Thai basil in Waitrose. Try as much as possible to source these tricky ingredients as they make all the difference to the finished dish. 
Don’t be afraid of the chillies too! You can counter this heat with the coconut milk later.
Serves 2
For the paste (makes enough for two batches):
1/2 a large shallot
4 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves discarded
1 lime, juice only
2 large pieces of galangal 
10 fresh lime leaves
10-12 bird eye chillis, seeds left in
Small handful fresh coriander root (save the leaves to finish)
5 garlic cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds, finely crushed
1 tbsp shrimp paste
50ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the curry:
2 duck breasts
Large handful french beans, trimmed and halved
6 baby aubergines, quartered at the last minute
225g bamboo shoots
1/2 a large shallot
250ml coconut cream
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
400ml coconut milk
6 fresh lime leaves, stalk removed and quartered
large handful Thai basil leaves
To finish:
Sprinkle of Thai basil leaves and coriander leaves
1 red chilli, finely sliced
To serve:
1 cup of rice, cooked as instructed on the packet
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and take the duck breasts out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Put a baking tray lined with baking paper in the oven.
First make the paste by putting all of the paste ingredients into a food processor and blitz everything together until they form a smooth paste. You want it to be as fine as possible so keep scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets chopped. You only need half of the paste for this recipe, the other half will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Set aside to infuse together while you prepare the other ingredients. 

Now cook the duck. Using kitchen roll, dry the skin of the duck and season each side. Put the breasts skin side down on a cold, non stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium-high heat, keeping the skin side down at all times. Fry the duck for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy and a lovely golden brown colour. As soon as the skin is cooked, turn the duck over and seal the flesh side quickly before placing them on the heated oven tray skin side down. Roast the duck for 5-6 minutes before removing and putting aside to rest for about ten minutes. Once rested, slice thinly - it should still be pink and succulent.
Start cooking the rice as instructed on the packet. Once cooked, keep covered and warm while you cook the curry.
Heat a large frying pan or skillet onto a medium heat. Add the coconut cream and bring to the boil.  Spoon in the curry paste mixture, fish sauce and sugar and bring back to a simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the aubergine, shallots, bamboo shoots, beans, lime leaves and most of the coconut milk. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more coconut milk or paste to get the heat/creaminess right to your taste. After 5 minutes, add the roasted duck slices and cook for another 2 minutes to heat through. To finish, sprinkle in the Thai basil leaves, stir together and turn the heat off. 

To serve, ladle a good mixture of curry and sauce into each bowl and top with sprinkled Thai basil leaves, coriander and sliced red chilli. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Pappardelle with broad beans, peas and prosciutto

Often when I finish work in the week, all I want to do is get home, eat something quickly and put my feet up. I also cook for my girlfriend Katie a lot, and I know that the last thing that she needs is to wait around for hours while I cook something up. This recipe is perfect for such occasions, it’s quick to make, seasonal, relatively cheap and involves a lot of ingredients that I have sitting in my fridge or cupboard. It also involves pasta, something that I could eat every day of the week and never tire of. Although you can use shop bought pasta, I really think that making fresh pasta is a joy. It adds the the theatrics of cooking, tastes amazing and you can make it in big batches and dry it out so it’s available quickly. 

As well as pasta, this recipe also used another ingredient that I have a slightly unhealthy liking for - peas. I’ve always loved peas, and even when growing up would often have a large bowl to accompany my meals. I then went to university and got mocked for this constantly! I always have a bag of peas in the freezer, and this year I have been growing them on my balcony. I had high hopes for these fresh peas but encountered a few problems - a) I keep on eating the damn things when out on the balcony, and b) the yield from three plants really isn’t that much. So I often revert to using the good old frozen peas, which work absolutely fine with most things. Peas and ham/bacon are a classic combination and give this dish a lovely salty and sweet taste. 
Serves 2 
For the pasta:
300g ‘00’ flour
3 eggs
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
To add to it:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
4 slices prosciutto, cut into small pieces
2 anchovy fillets, roughly torn
1 large handful broad beans, podded and shelled
1 large handful peas
1 glass dry white wine
A few sprigs fresh oregano and parsley, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juice
1 large pinch of finely grated pecorino
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
First make your pasta. Put the flour, eggs, a good pinch of salt and olive oil in a food processor, and blitz until the mix looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip everything out onto a floured surface and knead together until the dough has an elastic texture but is not sticky. Knead in a little flour if necessary. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour to rest.
After half an hour, remove the pasta dough from the fridge. Using your pasta machine, roll the dough through each setting until it’s nice and thin, finishing on the setting before the thinnest - you want it to be thicker than ravioli. If you don’t have a pasta machine - you can use a rolling pin but it needs to be really thin. You will now be left with a sheet of pasta, cut this into a couple of pieces with each piece the length of how long you want the pasta. Fix the papparedelle cutter to the machine and put each piece through. Sprinkle a little flour over the freshly cut pasta and twirl into little nests. These can now be left to dry out if needed. 
To make the finished dish, fill a large saucepan with water, add lots of salt and bring to the boil. Also put a little olive oil into a large frying pan and turn onto a medium heat.
When the frying pan has heated up add the shallot, garlic and chilli, and fry for a minute or two until they start to soften. Now add the proscuitto and anchovies, stirring well so the anchovies start to dissolve into the other ingredients. After another couple of minutes turn the heat up a little and add the dry white wine and bring to the boil. Once the wine has bubbled away for a minute and reduced a little, adjust the heat back to medium and add the peas and broad beans. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the beans and peas are nearly cooked. 
At the same time as the beans and peas go into the pan, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until al dente. Note that if the pasta has been allowed to dry out this could take a couple of minutes longer. 
When the pasta is cooked, drain well and add to the frying pan, with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, the pecorino, oregano, parsley, lemon juice and seasoning. Stir everything together so that the pasta and beans are combined and cook together for 1 minute. 

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then everything is ready to plate up. Serve with a large glass of crisp white wine.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Roasted rib of beef with crispy roast potatoes

As you will know from reading previous posts on this blog, I really think that Sunday roasts are great. There’s nothing better than having a nice relaxing Sunday with my family, culminating with everyone sitting around the table and piling their plates high with all of the various elements. When preparing everything, each member is normally given a job to do, so someone will be peeling the veg, dad is in charge of the meat and mum will be making a lovely crumble for afterwards. Doing it this way makes the whole process much simpler and it’s really sociable, everyone has a bit of a natter and catches up. 

The only problem about the roast dinners that my family make is that they’re so hard to replicate when it’s just for Katie and I. For one, the workload goes way up, and so the whole process is more intensive, but also, it’s much more stressful trying to juggle everything around in a tiny kitchen with a small oven! 
We also really enjoy skipping this whole process and going out the to pub for a roast dinner instead. It’s always nice to go out and be cooked for, as it is to sit in a bustling pub with a pint. But more often than not, we find that roast dinners cooked in pubs are far inferior to those cooked at home. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic value of sitting around with the family, but it’s also difficult to mass produce roast dinners whilst still making everything amazing. It’s not just about the meat, but the veg (especially the potatoes) need a lot of thought as well. And there certainly needs to be enough gravy... We will keep searching! I keep on hearing that the roast dinner at Hawksmoor is incredible, so that’s definitely on my to try list.
Recently Katie and I got back from our holidays on a Sunday evening and really fancied a big roast dinner, but had to miss out because it was so late. As we both had the next day off before returning to work, our answer to this terrible problem was to have a Monday roast. So it was off to the butchers to get a nice piece of meat and this is what we made. 
When buying beef for a roast there are a number of different cuts to choose from. Cooking big joints of beef at home is not something I do very often, and it is always a massive treat, so when I do I try and get as good quality as I can. For rare meat, a piece of rib is amazing, tender and flavoursome. It is expensive but worth it. Another option is to slow cook. For this I like to use a nice piece of brisket, cooked gently for as long as I can. The meat will just fall apart when it’s on the plate. In this case, there was a lovely rib joint available so I snapped it up. The joint I bought was 1.3kg, which was perfect for just the two of us as we had loads of leftovers, but buy as big as you can as it will roast much better.
This recipe shows how to cook the beef and potatoes, to be serves with side vegetables of your choice. If you are lucky enough to have a double oven then you can cook the potatoes at the same time as the beef, which will save lots of time!
Serves 4
For the beef:
1 x 1.3kg rib joint of beef, preferably on the bone
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 carrots, halved lengthways
2 sticks celery, left whole
2 x onions, cut into quarters
a few sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
For the potatoes:
8 - 12 large maris piper potatoes
6 cloves garlic, left whole
4 large shallots, paper peeled, trimmed but left whole
a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
3-4 large tbsp of duck fat, or olive oil for vegetarians. 
salt and pepper
For the gravy:
1 large glass red wine
1 litre good quality beef stock
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC.
While the oven is heating up, peel the potatoes, cut them in half and place in a large saucepan of cold water. You want to leave them fairly large as you always loose a bit when you fluff them up later. Put aside. 
Get a medium sized roasting tin that you will use to roast the beef, and line with all of the vegetables that are listed under the beef. You want it to form one even layer in the bottom. Coat with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
When the oven is hot, season the meat well and rub it all over with olive oil. Place on top of the vegetable trivet and put into the oven. To roast the meat you will need to weigh it and calculate the timings, there are loads of different methods around but I use the following:
For the first 20 minutes: 220ºC
Then turn the oven down to 170ºC and cook for 30 minutes per 1kg of meat for rare. 
So for a 1.3kg piece of meat I put it in for 55-60 minutes. Take it out slightly earlier for rarer meat.
While the meat is roasting, change the water that the potatoes were sitting in, add lots of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer gently until the potatoes are almost falling apart, then carefully drain. Using a sieve, shake the potatoes to fluff up the outside - this will turn amazingly crisp when roasted. Cover and pop aside until the meat comes out. 
When the meat is cooked, place the meat on a plate and cover with tin foil. Allow to rest while you cook the potatoes, it will still keep warm. Do not discard the vegetables that were underneath these will be used to make the gravy later on. 
Turn the oven down the 200ºC and put a large roasting tray into the oven with the duck fat for a couple of minutes. When the fat has heated up, put the tray on the hobs and turn to a high heat. Carefully tip in the boiled potatoes, along with the shallots, garlic cloves and herbs. Turn everything in the hot fat and make sure it gets coated, before putting the tray in the oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. 
When the potatoes are cooking, make the gravy. Heat the beef stock up in a saucepan, and put the oven tray that held the beef on the hob and heat to a medium - high heat. Using a spoon, scrape the bottom and sides of the tray and mash up the vegetables, and when the tray is hot, add the wine. Let it reduce by half, keeping stirring and scraping. Add the beef stock and again bring to the boil and reduce until the sauce is dark and slightly thicker. Season the gravy, strain into a jug and keep warm until everything is ready.
When the potatoes are crisp on the outside and nice and golden take them out of the oven. Carefully remove the tough outer skin from the shallots. Try and time this to fit in with all of your additional side dishes. When everything is cooked, unwrap the beef and cut into thin slices. Serve with horseradish sauce and a nice glass of red wine. 

And if you have any leftovers, apart from making mega sandwiches, you can use them to great effect in the next recipe.
Spicy beef noodle soup
Over the last few years I have really got into making soup, and I often eat it 2-3 times a week for dinner. They’re just so easy to make, can taste great and use up all the leftovers in the fridge. They also keep well, and when having a busy week at work it is lovely to think that dinner just needs heating up when I get home. 

This soup is a great base for using up any meat, particularly chicken and beef, but it will also work well with shellfish. You can also tailor it to your own tastes, adding a bit of sugar, more chilli, lime etc. If you are making a larger batch to last a couple of days, reserve some of the vegetables to add when reheating as you only need to cook these at the last minute. 
Serves 6 very well
For the paste:
1 large shallot
2 red chillies
150g ginger, peeled
5 cloves garlic
5 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves discarded
roots from a large bunch of coriander, washed, leaves kept for finishing the soup
1 lime, juice
salt and pepper
olive oil
For the soup:
3 litres chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 pak choi, peeled
100g mange tout
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 bunches spring onions, sliced into large strips
Meat of your choice, leftover beef, boned and sliced chicken thighs, prawns etc
Noodles to serve 6
To finish:
1 large bunch coriander, torn roughly
1 red chilli, sliced thinly
2 limes
2 or 3 spring onions, sliced thinly
To start, heat the stock up in a large saucepan until boiling then keep warm until needed.
To make the paste, put all ingredients except the oil into a food processor and blitz until fine. Add the olive oil until the mixture forms a thick paste. 
In a separate large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and cook the sliced shallots on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the paste and continue to heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
Add the chicken stock, fish sauce and soy sauce to the paste and mix everything together. Bring the soup back to a simmer for about 20 minutes, while you prepare the rest of your ingredients. If using raw chicken thighs, you can add them at this point to cook through. 
Heat up a saucepan of salty water and cook the noodles as directed on the packet.
While the noodles are cooking, add the mushrooms, mange tout, spring onions and cooked meat if using. You just need to heat these through and don’t want to overcook the vegetables. Squeeze over the juice of one lime, taste and season the soup if necessary. 
To finish, add the noodles to the bottom of each bowl and top with a few ladles of soup. Sprinkle over the torn coriander leaves, sliced chilli and sliced spring onions, and squeeze over the remaining lime and you’re ready to serve.