Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Roasted monkfish with cauliflower, chicken skin, Jerusalem artichoke crisps and cider vinegar dressing

After posting a lot of simple, quick recipes recently, it’s been nice to finally get around to cooking something with a few more processes. I really love having an occasion to cook for and devoting a proper chunk of time to come up with something a little more special. 

Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time down in Brighton with my family. Although I love the bustle of London, a few days by the sea does the world of good, and I certainly appreciate it so much more than I did when I lived there. Dad is usually in full command of the cooking and we all get spoilt rotten by the amazing hearty dishes that he effortlessly rustles up for every meal. We also benefit from all of the fresh produce that my parents bring back from their allotment. Chard risottos and squash soups have been a plenty, and I think that they are secretly relieved that they have finally worked their way through the glut of tomatoes that have been piled high in their kitchen over the past few months. I am so lucky that my family have always been interested in food, and sharing it with everyone around. 

With dad strictly territorial over his kitchen I don’t get to cook at home very often. Having all of the family about also makes it very dangerous to leave any bowls of prep lying around. But it was really nice to give something back over the weekend and make lunch for everyone. It also gave me the chance to make the most of the amazing produce that Brighton has to offer. In London you can buy absolutely any ingredients and the city is awash with farmers markets and specialist producers. You can come across multi-coloured carrots, purple cauliflowers, micro leaves, anything. But this comes at a hefty price. By the coast there simply isn’t the choice, however more reasonable rents and direct sourcing mean that prices can be staggeringly less. A walk up to the fishmongers at Shoreham harbour was a revelation. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Huge wild bass, stacks of amazing brill and turbot and massive tanks of crabs and lobster. Everything was near enough half the price of the capital too. But what I was there for was the monkfish. I left with hefty bag of fish and a paranoid stance; there was no way I was going to let one of those thieving seagulls fly away with my loot.

Monkfish is a strictly special occasion fish for me. Its price and conservation status mean that it should be eaten sparingly, despite the fact that it is damn tasty. I first had it years ago, served up crisply battered and hot enough to steam up my glasses on that freezing Cornish afternoon. Every time I have eaten it since I have treasured it. That meaty yet succulent texture and robust taste really sets it apart from other fish. And on this rare occasion that I found myself in possession of a whole tail I was determined not to mess it up. 

Roasting fish whole seems so underrated these days. I am a big fan of pan frying individual fillets, but for flavour and moisture retention baking fish on the bone wins hands down. The minimal bone structure of monkfish makes it perfect for cooking in this way; they are easier to carve than a chicken when ready. The combination of fish, cauliflower and something salty and tangy is a classic. The cider vinegar dressing contains many of the flavours of tartar sauce, but lightened using just oil instead of a mayonnaise to carry it. The artichoke crisps, roasted vegetables and chicken skin add a much needed crunch to the dish. 

Serves 4 


For the monkfish:

1 x monkish tail, approx. 1kg, skinned but kept on the bone 
70g butter 
Olive oil 
Salt and pepper 
½ lemon, juice only

For the roasted cauliflower:

12 large cauliflower florets 
Olive oil 
Salt and pepper

For the cauliflower puree:

½ a small cauliflower, cut into even sized chunks 
30g butter 
A splash of milk 
¼ lemon, juice only 
Salt and pepper

For the Jerusalem artichoke crisps:

2 jerusalem artichokes 
Vegetable oil for frying, approx 500ml

For the crispy chicken skin:

The skin from 2 chicken thighs 

For the cider vinegar dressing:

½ a shallot, very finely chopped 
½ a clove of garlic, very finely chopped 
½ tsp Dijon mustard 
½ tsp capers, very finely chopped 
¼ lemon, juice only 
1 large pinch of chives, finely chopped 
1 large pinch of parsley, finely chopped 
Splash of cider vinegar 
Approx. 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To finish:

A few rocket leaves 
A twist of cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.

To make the crispy chicken skin, line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and spread on the chicken skin in a thin, even layer. Place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and then another baking sheet. Put into the hot oven for about 10 minutes, until brown and crispy. Transfer to a piece of kitchen paper to drain. Once cool, shred up into small pieces and set aside. 

Heat the frying oil in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan until it reaches about 170⁰C. Using a vegetable peeler, create long, thin strips of the Jerusalem artichoke, then fry in batches in the hot oil. When they turn a light golden colour, transfer carefully to some kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool.

To make the puree, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the cauliflower florets and a good pinch of salt and boil for about 5 minutes, or until very tender. Drain well and tip the cauliflower into a food processor along with the butter, milk, lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Blitz well, adding a little more milk if necessary to achieve a smooth, light texture. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a small saucepan then cover and set aside to be gently reheated later.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Remove the monkfish from the fridge about half an hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Put the cauliflower florets onto a baking tray and coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the hot oven for about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.

For the monkfish, line a large roasting dish with greaseproof paper and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over a good amount of seasoning. Roll the monkfish in the tray so that all sides are covered. Dot over knobs of the butter and roast in the hot oven for approx. 15 minutes, basting frequently. 

While the fish and cauliflower are roasting make the dressing. Add the garlic, shallot, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, capers and herbs to a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil whilst still whisking until the oil has been emulsified. Taste and season if needed, you want the dressing to be quite sharp.

When the monkfish is cooked remove from the oven, squeeze over the lemon and allow to rest for 5 minutes. While it does, gently reheat the cauliflower puree.

To plate up, carve the monkfish into two fillets then cut into chunky medallions. Spoon three blobs of the puree onto each plate. Top with a piece of the fish and a little of the dressing. Arrange three of the cauliflower florets around the plate, then scatter the artichoke crisps, chicken skin, rocket and pepper on top.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Restaurant review: A La Japonaise “Aki” Autumn Supper Club, Clapton

“Shit. There’s no one here yet. Lets walk around the block.”

This was our first supper club experience. It was 7pm and we had accidentally arrived bang on time. We were the dreaded first guests. The bright, and more crucially, empty space was suddenly intimidating, as was the prospect of an intimate dinner with complete strangers. Why weren’t we headed to one of the trendy restaurants nearby? We could get a table at any time and have a meal all by ourselves. None of this awkward tension would be flying through our heads.

But none of that was really the point. The tickets for the evening were a gift, and it was exciting to be doing something different and out of our comfort zones. We had researched the event and read the menus; surely a six course Japanese and French inspired menu would have people queuing through the door rather than taking the slow walk. Supper clubs are something that I’ve wanted to attend for some time, having read about those hosted by the likes of Kerstin Rodgers and Selina Periampillai. They look amazing, both in terms of food and the crowd of likeminded foodies they seem to attract. They are the perfect opportunity to try something new, their very nature being that you have little choice in what you are served. I’m normally a stickler for what I like and looked forward to sampling a menu where I recognised only about half of the ingredients. But none of this was close while we were touring the backstreets of Clapton. 


 Some fifteen minutes passed and we were still the first there, but this time we pushed the door and stepped into the light. The term supper club often brings images of sitting in a random person’s grubby flat like unacquainted sardines. The come dine with me experience. Not in this case. This was more like an exclusive pop-up at first glance, multiple tables and a scurry of ‘staff’ behind the counter. There was a homeliness behind the professional exterior though; the warm French lady who greeted us was the mother of one of the cooks, and peering round you could see a minimal set up of a couple of portable hobs and the odd soup heater. Even in such surroundings the DIY element was still there.

We were ushered to a table set for four and offered a sugar-rimmed cocktail to start. This is where the internal panic began. There were two empty spaces on this table. They must have made a simple mathematical mistake and doubled our number. Slowly the nervous energy of sharing a compact table with two unknown others loomed. Perhaps it was the perfect time to be supping a beautiful, and dangerously drinkable, rhubarb and vodka aperitif. We joyed at the details. Each place had spindly, minutely crafted chopsticks balanced delicately on what appeared to be tiny ceramic éclairs. You could not ask for a more apt summary of the fusion of the evening. Large water jugs sparkled with citrus and mint. Most impressive was the silent synchronisation happening on the counter, where our hosts intricately positioned minute ingredients onto a raft of black slate. 


People – real normal looking people – filtered in and our nerves started to dumb. Starters were delivered. A sense of triumph and disappointment washed over. We had got away with it. The ominous places beside us would stay vacant and it would just be another dinner date. Just Katie and I. But the failure and guilt was almost worse. The whole point of supper clubs is to bring new people together. A social experiment. A networking opportunity. However you want to describe it. And we had fallen at the first hurdle. Five minutes later and the door opened and the chair beside me was whipped back. 

After some rushed introductions they discussed their wine options to themselves. “Yes. Fuck! What do we do now?” all sprung into my head at once. A few minutes in and the awkwardness hit hard. The table had split. In this situation though, food provided the link. We cautiously joked about how to eat larger-than-bitesize objects with chopsticks and quizzed ingredients. We spent 20 minutes discussing the labyrinth of ways that they could have travelled through central London. God that must have been boring. If bleating about weather is the most popular piece of meaningless small talk we do, then whining about transport must run a close second. But it did the job and soon we knew my neighbour’s obsession with Freecycle, and that his food vice was a packet of chocolate biscuits and a large glass of milk. The girls sneered. Man after my own heart.

The food came and came, and as a table we intrigued and marveled. Each course drew breath; the crackers that were too beautiful to break, the ingenious pipette of juice that changed the colour of the ceviche. I smiled as I pulled shot from a triumphant plump pigeon breast. Again the details shone. You hoped they had help transporting the mountain of assorted crockery that changed with every offering. Some things our taste buds weren’t quite prepared for. The delicate fishy custard that accompanied the dumplings, and the rice broth that ended the savoury courses were both challenging. But it is good to be challenged by new food sometimes, and each thing was unique to anything I have eaten before. 


It’s also hard to pick holes in any event where the hosting is so fantastic. The small team took pride in what they did and were friendly and welcoming throughout. They did a great job of settling us nervous first-timers, and were always on hand to give just the right amount of information on the food in front of us. Their experience showed; it was a smooth operation and everyone looked controlled and happy for the duration.

We left with a sense of relief and contentment. We had survived. Not only had we survived but we had had a genuinely fun and memorable time. In somewhere like London where even talking on public transport is frowned upon, it was refreshing to share an evening with complete strangers. There was no number swapping or such, but it made me believe in supper clubs as a dynamic and I would definitely be up for more. And that I wouldn’t have believed at 7pm whilst walking up the Lower Clapton Road.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Courgette, lemon and cinnamon mini muffins

Sometimes amongst all of the serious day-to-day cooking, it’s refreshing to make something a bit more fun and lighthearted. I don’t bake nearly as much as I should. As it’s just Katie and I living in our flat, it always seems a bit silly to make a big cake or a batch of muffins that will take us days and days to get through. But every time I do I really enjoy it. There’s nothing like the smell of a cake baking in the oven, and the joy when you pull it out and see the results (most of the time anyway…). Cake also brings unlimited happiness. People are connected when giving it as a gift, and many can recall fond, vivid memories of cakes that relatives made them when they were young. 

Baking is also partly responsible for my passion for food being the way it is today. Years ago I was an intern for a food charity in Brighton, and every Wednesday, a different member of staff had to bring in a cake. This started as something lighthearted and simple, but as the weeks went by the standard of the cakes rose staggeringly. Simple scones and sponges turned to juice soaked almond cakes and multi-layered tarts. This stoked a fire inside of me, and for the first time I strived to find recipes and use techniques that I would never have dreamed of before. Gradually this enthusiasm transferred to the rest of my cooking, and before long I was making my parents dinner on a regular basis and gaining confidence in what I was doing. I certainly wouldn’t be the cook I am now without that progression, and I am still striving to learn more all of the time.

These cakes are easy. Really easy. There is no painstaking creaming of butter and multitude of stages. It’s simply a case of mixing the wet ingredients with sugar and then adding the dry bits. I made these the other day for Katie and they were the perfect afternoon pick me up with a nice cup of tea. 


Courgette cake has been around for a few years now, but it still raises eyebrows whenever I make it. But it is just as good a vegetable for baking with as the more traditional carrots or beetroot. I used them in this recipe to celebrate the closing of the courgette season for this year. I really love courgettes. They are such a versatile vegetable; amazing stirred through pasta with brown shrimps, roasted with honey or eaten raw in thin ribbons. I was the happy recipient of many bags of courgettes from my parent’s allotment this summer, and I will be sad to have to wait until next year to have them again. They add moisture and texture when added to sponges, and contrary to old wives tales, will not make it heavy. The important thing to remember is the draining process. Courgettes contain loads of water, and you don’t want that leaking into the sponges as they cook!

Makes approx 16 mini muffins.


For the sponge:

200g courgettes

1 tbsp salt

200g caster sugar

200ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 lemon, zest only
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g plain flour
1 pinch of salt

For the frosting:

400g icing sugar

200g cream cheese
1 tsp lemon curd
75g butter

For the spiced sugar topping:

1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice 
A little grated nutmeg
1 tsp caster sugar

Butter for greasing

Preheat the oven to 170ºC (fan).

Grease the mini muffin tray with butter. Cut 16 approx 3” x 3” squares out of greaseproof paper, and use these instead of muffin cases to line each slot. 

Grate the courgette coarsely, then mix with the tablespoon of salt and transfer to a sieve. Allow to drain over the sink for about half an hour, then tip onto a clean tea towel and squeeze out any remaining moisture. Set aside.

To make the sponge put the caster sugar, eggs, oil and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl and whisk well together.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, raising agents and salt. Whisk this into the sugar, egg and oil mixture until well combined. Finally stir through the dried courgettes. Spoon the mixture into the lined mini muffin tray holes, filling each to about three quarters full. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the sponge is just cooked. 


When baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

Make the icing by beating the cream cheese in a large bowl until softened. Thoroughly mix in the icing sugar, then add the butter and beat well until combined. To finish, stir through the lemon curd. Add a little more icing sugar at this point if the frosting is still a little sloppy.

Ice the cooled cakes in the style of your choice. I like to spoon on the icing and roughly shape with a palette knife. You could also pipe it or simply use a spoon.

Mix the sugar and spices for the topping together in a small bowl and lightly sprinkle over the top of the cakes.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Fresh penne with rainbow chard, smoked bacon, Tunworth Soft Cheese and chilli and saffron oil

That meal at Trullo a couple of weeks ago was really inspiring. It was exactly the type of food that I love eating and making. It got me thinking about my own cooking, and as soon as I got home I scribbled down a long list of new things that I wanted to make. Panna cottas and roasted fish will be made in the future, but for now I really wanted to make some pasta. This isn’t anything new, making pasta is a bit of an obsession of mine, but it got me thinking about new varieties and ingredients to serve it with. 

I didn’t have to think too hard about what was going to be bedfellows with my fresh pasta. Autumn is such a visual month for seasonal produce, and my local greengrocer is an explosion of colour. Multi-coloured pumpkins and beetroots line the shelves, but for this recipe I went straight for the chard. A more beautiful leafy vegetable is hard to imagine, with vibrant pink and orange running in thick veins into dark green. Chard offers a way more interesting taste and texture to something more often used like spinach, and it is just perfect for this recipe. I like to cut the stalks away from the leaves and cook these for longer, as the leaves only take a minute or two. Bacon is the perfect partner, and make sure you get good smoked bacon from your butchers to bounce off the tangy greens. 

I found the variety of pasta to make a bit more challenging. I really like spaghetti and pappardelle, but I realised that I have flogged these to death in this blog and wanted to do something a little different. I recently saw something that looked like homemade penne on a tv programme and thought that this would be just the opportunity to give it a go. It’s actually really easy, and once you get used to it is fairly quick; just like making lots of tiny cannellonis. The shape works really well with this recipe, as the flavoured oil, cheese and bits of bacon get stuck in the middles. 

The final bit of inspiration gained this week was from reading the new Pit Cue Co cookbook. Although there isn’t even a hint of a pasta strand amongst all the amazing looking barbecue food, there are still techniques in there that can be transferred to other cooking. One recipe in the book is for courgettes with grated Tunworth Soft Cheese. Tunworth is a really incredible English camembert-style cheese, truly pungent yet mellow and flavoursome. I had never thought of grating a soft cheese, but in the book it is frozen to make it hard enough. The tangy cheese works brilliantly with the rest of the ingredients in this recipe, but use it sparingly. It is a case of finding the balance of flavours and not overpowering the chard, which is really the star of the show.

Serves 2


For the pasta:

200g ‘00’ grade flour

2 medium eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
A large pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

For the saffron and chilli oil:

200ml olive oil
A large pinch of saffron 
½ a lemon, zest only
2-5 small dried chillies (to taste), finely chopped
A little salt

For the chard:

3 large stalks of rainbow chard, leaves ripped into pieces and stalks cut into thin sticks
2 slices smoked streaky bacon, thinly sliced 
1 shallot, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 glass of dry white wine
½ a lemon, juice only
Salt and pepper

To finish:

30g Tunworth Soft Cheese, frozen

Black pepper

Make the pasta dough by adding the flour, 2 eggs, salt and oil to a food processor, and mixing until the contents resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead the mixture into a dough, continuing for 5-10 minutes until smooth and very elastic in texture. Wrap with cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour. 


To make the flavoured oil, add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and heat up until just too hot to touch. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan with clingfilm and allow to cool.

When the pasta dough has rested, roll it through the widest setting of a pasta machine a number of times, until the dough is smooth, firm and shiny on every pass. Dust with flour, then roll down through each setting until it passes through the second thinnest; number 5 on an Imperia machine. Cut the long sheet into rectangles approx 3” x 1.5” in size. Brush a little of the beaten egg along one of the long edges, then carefully roll each piece into a tube, with just a millimetre of two overlapping. Gently seal the joint from the inside with a skewer, then put on a greaseproof sheet and allow to dry for about an hour. 


Put a large saucepan of well-salted water on to boil.

When the water has nearly boiled, heat a large frying pan to a medium temperature and add a little olive oil. Fry the bacon until it starts to crisp, then add the shallot, garlic and a little seasoning. When the shallot is tender add the chard stalks and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat up slightly then pour in the white wine and allow to boil and bubble.

At this point, add the penne tubes to the boiling water and cook for two minutes.

As soon as the pasta goes in, add the chard leaves to the frying pan. Cook for two minutes, by which time the pasta should be just cooked. Transfer the pasta to the frying pan using a slotted spoon, squeeze the lemon juice and sprinkle over some seasoning. Grate over half of the Tunworth and combine the frying pan mixture well.

To serve, spoon the pasta and chard into shallow bowls and drizzle over some of the chilli and saffron oil. Grate over move of the cheese and sprinkle some cracked black pepper.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Restaurant review: Trullo, Highbury Corner

I seem to have been pigeonholed for birthday presents. After a wonderful lunch at The Corner Room a few weeks ago, I found myself on the receiving end of another birthday meal. I’m certainly not complaining though, and excitingly this time, the choice was ours. 

Scrolling through Twitter every day I read about swathes of exciting restaurants, and this combined with being generally indecisive, caused a problem. I have a long list of places that I have been dearly wanting to visit for ages. I had a lot to think about. Was it going to be a poshy yet scrimpy lunch at a famous restaurant in town or something a little more relaxing? The St. John, The Empress in Victoria Park and even a return to the excellent Hawksmoor were all flying through my head. But in the end it turned out to be a much more local affair.

Trullo was always an excellent choice. I love going out to Italian restaurants. The small, bustley and intimate nature of the ones close to my home are always full of family atmosphere and have housed many memorable nights. I get to sit down and eat a pizza as big as my head and sup on limoncello. What more could you want? This is all well and good, but I yearned for an Italian experience a step up. A feast of small antipasti, a taste of pasta followed by a chunk of meat or fish; food made famous by the much lauded yet back-breakingly expensive River Café. I’ll get there one day, but for this occasion, the menu at Trullo fitted the same mould. 


I often walk past on my way home from work and am always impressed. A small space, decorated minimally yet tastefully. Always packed. So it was exciting to finally be walking through the doors with intent. The ground floor was crammed with tables full of laughter, chat and clinking of glasses. I really wanted a piece of that action, so I felt slightly deflated when we lead down the stairs. Basement dining areas are often an afterthought; damp, gloomy and hastily converted to accommodate a few extra tables at the expense of the diner’s experience. But I was pleasantly surprised as we were ushered into a little alcove in a room full of the good kind of character. In the same vicinity a lady was eating pasta at ease, with just a book for company. Cannonbury ladies gossiped on another table, whilst a young couple were discovering that one another had hands. Staff were shirted, mustached and casual, and contrary to some online reports, friendly and attentive throughout. Up for a joke yet only present just when needed. Perfect.

I have to admit that I was slightly daunted by the wine list, sorry, wine book. I was also too stubborn and silly to ask for a recommendation. So good old reliable prosecco it was, which was bone dry and refreshing. But it would have been good to explore this further, and how they work with the food. The menu itself was short and confident, with just a couple of choices for each section. Absolutely everything looked amazing. 


First was a brace of figs, roasted to melting and oozing gorgonzola. Rocket salads have become a cliché, but the sweet fruit, tangy cheese and peppery leaves were the perfect start. Two small plates then signaled the primi course, and what I had been most excited about; the pasta. I often make it fresh at home, and it’s just about my favourite thing to eat. My beautifully al-dente pappardelle came with fall apart beef shin ragu that tasted like the best Bolognese sauce you can imagine. I was a happy bunny. Katie went for the pumpkin and sage ravioli, which again tasted glorious. 


In normal circumstance that would be it; a heavy bowl of pasta, then home carrying a groaning and content stomach straight to bed. But we were just halfway through. As per usual, my eyes went straight for the fish, in this instance a roasted piece of hake bathing amongst clams, mussels and chickpeas. Like the pasta it could so easily have been stodgy, but again it combined bold flavour and lightness. I’m a sucker for a fish stew and this one was bang on. Lightness is something that could not be said for Katie’s pork chop. There were a few sharp apples and buttery potatoes on the plate, but really it was all about the impressive chargrilled piece of pig. I haven’t eaten much recently that has brought back vivid childhood memories, but I may as well have been sitting on a checkered rug eating a fragrantly marinated piece of meat that my dad had just plucked from the barbeque. Fancy food step aside, this was big, rustic and delicious food. 


As the figs were the perfect start, the little panna cotta that sat wobbling between us was a dreamy end. The distinction between it and a French crème caramel may have been slight, but with slightly bitter caramel and vanilla-packed, unctuous cream I couldn’t give a damn.

You know when you’ve had one of those special dining experiences when you leave with that contented silence. There was no rushed over-analysis of every minute detail. There were no minute details. Everything we ate was delicious. Seriously delicious. A shrewd critic might have judged the slightly limp ravioli, the simplicity or rough presentation of the pork. But what Trullo achieved was so much better. The food and setting harmonised and flooded nostalgia, even to a Midlander without an Italian bone in his body. You can have your trendy-yet-bare hotel restaurants with micro herbs and puree smears. This is food that I will always want to eat.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Beetroot gnocchi with feta, basil and brown butter

Is it me or has it suddenly gone very autumnal over the past week? I’ve had to dig out the jumpers again and the nights seem to be drawing in so quickly. I expect the heating will even go on before long! I’m not complaining though, my pasty skin isn’t a massive fan of all that summer sun and there’s so much to love about the autumn. To me, this time of year is all about crisp walks through burnished parks and bustling markets and returning home with rosy cheeks to steaming hot bowls of food. 

The best thing about the autumn is the sheer amount of seasonal British food that becomes available. Squashes, beetroot, sweetcorn and apples to name just a few. It is even the proper time to eat lamb. Ever wondered how all of those tiny lambs running around in March and April seem to instantly produce these big, yielding legs; they’ve often had to travel a bit further to get onto our shelves… For a foodie, the next couple of months are heaven. Despite this glut of amazing food, I am often left with just that; a glut. The use of beetroot in this recipe is a great way of taking care of any that are hanging round. You can also use butternut squash instead, which goes brilliantly well with rosemary, garlic and dried chilli.

Gnocchi is one of those things that rarely gets made at home despite being ridiculously easy. Although it is usually made solely with potatoes, the addition of beetroot makes the little dumplings a touch more interesting and gives the dish that lovely sweet, earthy flavour. Beetroot and strong cheese is a classic combination, whilst the pumpkin seeds add a much needed crunch and the butter sauce brings it all together.

There are a couple of things to look out for when making gnocchi. Firstly, make sure the beetroot and potatoes are sufficiently roasted before trying to mash them. You want everything to be smooth as gnocchi with hard bits is not fun. Once you add the flour to the mashed vegetables, try to work the mixture as little as possible. The dough should be very soft, and only just not stocking to your fingers. Finally, when the gnocchi have poached, make sure that the pan that you are cooking the butter in is non-stick. I’ve had a couple of nightmare occasions where they have stuck to the bottom of the pan and broken up. But apart from those couple of things they are a doddle and well worth the effort.

Serves 2


For the gnocchi:

2 beetroot, halved with the skin left on
2 floury potatoes
1 egg, beaten
100-150g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme

For the brown butter:

2 tbsp butter
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1/2 a lemon, juice only
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper

To finish:

50g feta cheese
A few basil leaves
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

Put the beetroot halves into an oven dish along with the whole potatoes and a few sprigs of thyme. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and drizzle over a little oil. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for about an hour, or until the vegetables are nice and tender. 

Fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil.

Scoop out the soft middle of the cooked vegetables into a large mixing bowl and mash well together. Mix in the egg and a good pinch of seasoning, then finally fold in the flour, adding a little more if needed to make the dough just workable. Roll the dough into a thin sausage and cut into 3/4” pieces. Tip into the boiling water. 

While the gnocchi are cooking melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. When the butter bubbles away and turns brown in colour add the garlic, pumpkin seeds and a pinch of thyme leaves. As soon as the gnocchi floats to the surface of the water they are cooked. Transfer them straight to the butter pan using a slotted spoon. Squeeze over a little lemon and fry for a minute, tossing the dumplings so that they are well coated.

Spoon the gnocchi into two bowls and pour over some of the pan juices. Sprinkle over the feta and torn basil leaves.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Slow-cooked chuck steak ragu with pappardelle, girolles and sage leaves

The relationship between food and family and friends is extremely close and important to me. Growing up as part of a large family, my parents would often be busy cooking two or three different meals per evening for fussy children of different ages, and then finally themselves. Despite this, they always made sure that we all sat down and had dinner together at least 4-5 times a week, and this is something that I will be very keen to pass down when I am a father. Most of my memories involve food. Big family Sunday roasts with steaming joints of chicken. The day my dad called me to the kitchen to make me try a mussel he was cooking for a dinner party (I hated it!). Gazing through old cookbooks with my mum, and really wanting to make the cake that was a house in the shape of a boot, complete with a shredded wheat roof. Thinking about these times fills me with a warmth and happiness. Food is so much more than a fuel to keep us alive, it binds us socially, creates atmosphere and inspires. The wafting smell of bread baking in the oven does so much more than just produce a loaf for toast. 

As I have grown older this bond between food and my social life has become stronger. Nowadays I love nothing more than having friends over for a good meal and a glass or two of wine. I enjoy going out to nice restaurants and eating fancy food where every ingredient intrigues, but my fondest meals are ones where the food is a background constant to bustling conversation. For this kind of occasion, cooking should not dominate; I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen away from my friends. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be good, it just needs to be approached in a different way.

On this occasion a few weeks ago, a couple of old friends were coming over for dinner. At first I was just going to knock together a simple but tasty one pot supper, something casual to plonk on the table for everyone to help themselves. This was thrown out the window the day before however, when they told me that they had seen this blog, and they had high expectations of what they would be served. This presented me with a challenge, as I had to try and create something impressive that was practical socially. All those memories of dad making his dinner party staple of salmon en croute came flooding back!

Salmon was not on the menu for me however. I love making pasta, and the thought of a slow-cooked, meaty ragu sauce was too much to resist. This ticked all of my worry boxes; the homemade pasta and flavoursome sauce would please my guests, and I would be able to make the whole thing in advance.

I know that in the last month I have cooked beef a lot, with a tartare, a Wellington and now a ragu, but for this meal it worked perfectly. My only dilemma was the cut to use. Ideally I would have used something with bags of flavour like cheek, shin or oxtail. But as it was a Sunday and I had limited time on my hands, I left the butchers with a whopping piece of chuck. This is the joy of local, independent butchers; you can really talk to them about what you want to cook, and they have the wealth of knowledge to advise. So although they didn’t have the cuts I was looking for (but would have been able to order with a few days notice), I left with something that was still bang up for the job.

Britain has some wonderful mushrooms, and a quick gaze at this blog will tell you that I am obsessed with them. I am lucky that my local greengrocer has a wide range, and I really recommend searching in local food markets. But if you can’t get hold of girolles, then meaty, strong mushrooms such as chestnut or portabella will also work well.

Lots of this preparation can be done days before it is needed, and aside from the pasta, requires very little time. The sauce itself gets better over time, and any leftovers are great with potatoes or as a pie filling.

Serves 6-8


For the pasta:

600g strong ‘00’ grade flour

6 eggs
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

For the ragu:

1.5kg chuck steak, cut into 2-3” chunks

200g plain flour
2 onions, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, chopped in half
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
200g button mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
½ bottle of red wine
1.5ltr good beef stock
Salt and pepper 

6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped

50g butter, cubed
40g pecorino, finely grated

For the sage leaves:

About 30 sage leaves

3-4 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

For the girolles:

About 30 girolle mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed

30g butter
½ clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

To finish:

Grated pecorino

Extra virgin olive oil

Get the ragu going to start with. Tip the plain flour onto a plate and season well, then use this mixture to lightly dust the chuck steak. Heat up a large, heavy bottomed saucepan to a high temperature and add 2 tbsp of oil. Cook the meat in batches, searing quickly until well browned on all sides before removing to a plate. When all of the meat is cooked, add the onions and celery. Sautee for a couple of minutes until coloured, then add the carrots, garlic, mushrooms and herbs. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly, then put the meat back into the pan. Cover with the stock, topping up with water if needed. Season well and bring back to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 hours, until the meat is falling apart. 


While the ragu is cooking, make the pasta. Add the flour, eggs, salt and oil to a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Tip out onto a clean surface and pat together, then knead well for 10-15 minutes. The dough should be soft in texture but not sticky. Wrap well in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour, preferably longer.

When the dough has rested, remove it from the fridge and cut it into four pieces. Dust with a little flour, then pass one piece through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Repeat 7-8 times, or until the dough has a really elastic texture. Rub with a little more flour if it starts to turn sticky at this point. Now roll the pasta down through each setting on the machine you get to the second thinnest; number 5 on an Imperia machine. Sprinkle the outside of the sheet with flour, cover with a clean tea towel and repeat with the other pieces of pasta dough. Cut the sheets to the length that you want the pappardelle to be, then pass through the pasta cutter. Dust a cooling rack with flour and lay the individual strands down to dry. Keep the pasta separate and in one layer to avoid sticking. 


To prepare the sage leaves, pour the oil in a small frying pan and put on a medium-high heat. When hot, add the sage in batches and cook for 20-30 seconds, or until crispy, then remove to a plate lined with kitchen roll. Set aside until needed later.

After 5 hours, carefully remove the meat and a little of the liquid to a bowl and allow to cool. Once cold, finely shred the meat and set aside. Strain the remaining stock from the saucepan through a sieve into a large bowl and discard the cooked vegetables. Set a large, high-sided frying pan or skillet onto a medium-high heat and add a little oil. Add the bacon and cook for a couple of minutes until starting to colour, then add the shallot and fry for another 2 minutes. Now pour in the strained stock. Turn the heat up and allow to reduce by at least half, until just enough is left to hold the shredded meat. Turn down to a simmer and add the meat, combining well so that the sauce and meat come together as one. Taste and season if necessary, then turn the heat right down until needed. 


Fill a large saucepan with well-salted water and bring to the boil.

While the water is boiling, raise the heat of the ragu sauce pan to a simmer.

When the water boils add the pasta. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until just al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, add the cubed butter and grated pecorino to ragu sauce and stir well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. As soon as the pasta is cooked, use tongs to transfer the pappardelle to the pan with the ragu and toss to combine well, so that every strand is coated. Remove from the heat.

Heat up a medium sized frying pan to a moderate temperature and add the butter for the mushrooms. Fry the garlic for 30 seconds then add the prepared girolles, cooking for another couple of minutes until crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

To plate, spoon a generous amount of the pasta into bowl and top with some of the girolles and sage leaves. Grate over some more pecorino, grind some black pepper and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Steak tartare with crispy egg yolk, mustard mayonnaise, nasturtiums, tarragon dressing and fennel pollen

Firstly apologies for the lack of blog posts recently. Holidays, birthdays and general business have all got in the way and I just haven’t had the chance to sit down at a computer. Hopefully I’m on track again now and can get back to the weekly updates…

The real inspiration for this dish was a lovely trip to Brighton to see my mum and dad’s allotment. They have had it for a good few years now, and the work they have done really shows. Neat rows of perfect looking vegetables everywhere! I was lucky enough to get to pick a bit of everything, and came back to London armed with bags of courgette flowers, new potatoes, French beans and herbs. Heaven! And because they were so fresh the taste was just sensational. 


Included in my bag of goodies were nasturtium leaves and flowers. I had never tried them before, but once I had my first one I couldn’t stop. They have a wonderful peppery taste that yields to a final sweetness, and I knew they would be perfect as a salad element in this dish. The other unusual thing that I bought home was fennel pollen. This was something that my mum gave me to try as we walked round. It is way more intense and aniseedy than other types of fennel, and used sparingly here adds another flavour dimension. Obviously these are quite difficult to get hold of unless growing your own, so rocket or watercress can be used instead of nasturtiums and toasted fennel seeds for the pollen.

Steak tartare is a simple thing that can be made quickly and reasonably easily. The most important thing is the quality of the meat and the balance of ingredients. As you are eating the meat raw, you really want to be using the best beef possible from a trustworthy butcher. Fillet steak is the most expensive cut, but for this the tails will be perfectly suitable and a lot cheaper. A small piece goes a long way too. Instead of mixing all of the ingredients together, in this dish I have decided to present the mustard, dressing and egg yolk as separate items. I feel that this stops the beef flavour being diluted, and that you can taste each part individually. Texture is also important, and the nasturtiums and breadcrumb coating on the egg add much-needed crunch to the soft meat and mayo. It’s all about tasting for seasoning at every stage.

Serves 2


For the tartare:

150g good quality fillet tail, trimmed of all sinew

3 cornichons, very finely chopped
2 tsp shallots, very finely chopped
¼ garlic clove, very finely chopped
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the crispy egg yolk:

2 egg yolks

1 handful panko breadcrumbs
50g flour
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
1ltr vegetable oil for deep frying

For the tarragon dressing:

1 bunch tarragon

¼ bunch marjoram
½ lemon, juice only
1 tsp caster sugar
200ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the mustard mayo:

2 egg yolks

1 garlic clove
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp English mustard
400ml vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

To finish:

1 handful nasturtium leaves and flowers

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of fennel pollen

Take the steak out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

First make the mustard mayo. Put the garlic, egg yolks, mustard, white wine vinegar and a good amount of seasoning in a small food processor and blend well. Slowly add the vegetable oil, starting with just a few drops, then slowly trickling until fully emulsified. Taste and add more mustard or seasoning if necessary; you want it to be creamy with a good mustard kick. Remove to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. 


Next make the tarragon dressing. Put the tarragon, marjoram, lemon juice, sugar and salt and pepper into a food processor and mix until very finely chopped. Add the oil slowly until well combined. Taste and season if needed then set aside.

Chop up all of the ingredients that accompany the steak; the cornichon, garlic, shallot and thyme should be really fine. Set aside until needed.

Heat the oil up to 180ºC.

While it is heating, prepare the crispy egg yolks. Very carefully separate the whites from the yolks. Lightly roll them in the seasoned flour until fully coated. Beat the other egg into a small bowl and dip the coated yolks into it before covering in the panko breadcrumbs. Set aside until the oil reaches temperature. 


Cut the fillet steak across the grain into 1cm slices, then into thin strips. Slice these strips into pieces slightly chunkier than mince. Transfer to a bowl and combine well with the flavourings, a good amount of seasoning and a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil. I like the tartare to be quite loose with oil, which also adds a good peppery taste.

When the oil is the right temperature, spoon in the egg yolks and cook for 45 seconds then remove. While the egg is cooking dress the nasturtium leaves and flowers in a little extra virgin oil, salt and pepper.

To plate up, spoon two neat piles of the tartare mixture onto each plate. Add the hot egg yolk and a small quenelle of the mustard mayo. Arrange the nasturtium leaves and flowers around the edge and add a few drops of the dressing. Sprinkle the fennel pollen over the top and serve.

Restaurant review: The Corner Room, Bethnal Green

Last week saw my birthday come and go, sweeping away any remaining hopes that I was still in my mid-twenties. Next stop the big thirty, grey temples and dodgy knees… Aside from this clear psychological trauma, and probably to ease it, I was lucky enough to receive some lovely presents. Usually my birthday presents are pretty one-dimensional, and my food obsession brings in swathes of cookbooks and random gadgets destined for the back of the drawer. Not this time however, as I was treated to a shiny new ice-cream machine from my gal, and from her mother a secretive lunch had been booked. I was also the recipient of some much needed, and very beautiful new shoes, but this is a food blog and frankly I should stay constant. 

And so the day came for my birthday lunch, and it was revealed as The Corner Room, in the newly renovated Bethnal Green town hall. This was very exciting news, as I had heard rave reviews of what they had done to the building and had been wanting to go look for a while. But I knew little of the restaurant. The town hall is largely renowned as the home of Viajante, the Michelin-starred restaurant of former El-Bulli chef Nuno Mendes. A little research showed that The Corner Room is the less formal sister restaurant, also overlooked by Mendes. The menu was short, the sort that requires a trust and a hope when ordering, but that leaves you in hot anticipation of what is to come. 

A Saturday full of damp misty rain and gloom is not always the best time to be hanging around Bethnal Green. As standard we were umbrellaless. It screams of a short trip to Broadway Market or Brick Lane and a cosy coffee or beer and newspaper. But tucked down a random sideroad was a grand old entrance that opened into warm yellow light and a step into another time. For a casual lunch, it didn’t half make you feel like you were somewhere special. The old utility wooden panels fused with the shiny marble and the quirky ornamental hipster touches. It is just beautiful. 

The restaurant is difficult to find, mostly because every centimetre of the décor draws the eye and removes you to state of wide-eyes glaring. Again they had got the balance just right. A small corner room, as implied in the name, sparsely laid out with simple tables and flooded with natural light. And old man with wonky glasses entertained his family in one corner and a couple drank coffee with a farty looking baby. Beautiful modern lights lifted the space, and straight away we were relaxed.

Some incredibly strong negronis and margaritas eased us further before the food arrived. First to arrive was the interesting sounding crispy rice and chicken mayo, which in the flesh were delicate rice cakes and a rich mayonnaise, scattered with what I assume was crispy chicken skin. Like everything else we were to eat, it was subtle, with your mouth popping to new little bits of spice and flavour, and was quickly polished off. The mackerel with ponzu and smoked tomato split us; Katie isn’t much a fan of cold, fish broths whereas again I enjoyed the odd-sounding but harmonious combination. 

I was left speechless at the arrangement of ingredients sitting on my main course plate. It is probably the most beautiful thing I have ever eaten, and tasted every bit as good. I had opted for the Berkshire venison with tarragon and mustard, which was both tangy and soothing at once and packed an extreme amount of flavour. Katie’s Iberico pork was the tenderest piece of pork I have ever eaten, and accompanied by classic tart red cabbage and sweet berries. Although this wasn’t as complex and original in taste, it was just a wonderful piece of cooking.

It was really a silly question being asked if we wanted to view the pudding menu, and despite my love of cheese I wanted to see a dessert at this level. My rhubarb with roasted lactose and ginger was a lovely clean way to finish the meal. The almost chalky milk fizzed and dissolved on the tongue. There wasn’t much of it though, and I would have liked a bit more of the roasted rhubarb alongside the compote and ice cream. Katie’s frozen panna cotta with apple and hazelnuts was again full of interesting textures. Neither of us however could really see much difference or point in freezing a jellified cream when you could just have ice cream.  

I haven’t eaten anything nearly as interesting for a very long time. Although the overall concept of some of the dishes, especially the desserts, seemed to overtake the substance, everything tasted really, really good. That clichéd description of taste buds being taken on journey was made for this meal, and the sort of thing that is difficult to achieve without an awful lot of thought. The value for the level of food is also fantastic, and to eat it in such a setting was a joy.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Beef wellington with braised shin fondant potato, bone marrow, anchovy kale and mushrooms

Every August sees the birthday of Katie’s sister, Lois, and the chance for me to cook up a storm. For the past three years all she has wanted as a present is a home cooked meal, which is absolutely fine by me. The four of us all get on really well, and it’s lovely to be able to play host, open a few bottles of wine and create a proper celebration meal. 


Normally on these kind of occasions I would spend weeks thinking up the right thing to cook, but this time I was told straight way what was to be expected; a beef wellington. I made this for Lois on the first year that we celebrated her birthday, and it has kept popping up in food conversations ever since. Despite being a bit of a retro classic and not served in restaurants much these days, a well-cooked wellington is perfect for a special occasion. Surely there’s nothing better than a luxuriously tender piece of meat surrounded by mushrooms and a case of melt in the mouth pastry!

Although I hadn’t made it for a couple of years, I was confident in pulling it off. Once you get the hang of constructing and cooking a wellington it’s pretty easy. For this occasion I wanted to make tweaks to the dish to elevate it to a higher level. To achieve this I made my own rough puff pastry for the wellington itself, and really made an effort with all of the items that would accompany it on the plate. This made the making process very time consuming, but seeing it all together on the plate really made it worthwhile. 


Instead of just serving the fillet of beef as the meat element, I wanted to incorporate a few less used cuts into the dish. I really enjoy doing this with my cooking, be it serving a braised leg of poultry with a pan-fried breast to a smoked pate with a grilled piece of fish. It makes the meal as a whole more interesting and introduces a wider range of flavour. For this recipe I slowly cooked the shin cut to stuff into the buttery fondant potatoes, and also the bone marrow, which I quickly fried as a garnish and also melted into the sauce. Ok I admit, I really wasn’t keen on bone marrow when I first tried it at Hawksmoor earlier in the year. But I have since persevered and eaten it a few more times and developed a taste for it. The melting texture and rich beefy taste is a wonderful thing, and I cannot wait to try cooking with it again. It is also a very cheap cut, appearing more and more commonly in good butchers.

For this meal I didn’t have a chance to visit said good local butcher, so once again ordered from the East London Steak Co. I normally like to see my meat before I buy it, but I was dead impressed with the service and quality of my delivery. The price was also a fair bit less, and I saved over a tenner on my piece of fillet steak alone. What I also like about the ELSC is the little card that comes with your order, informing you of the breed, farm, slaughter date and who was handled it along the way. Little details like this are the way forward, and I would thoroughly recommend their service. 

A lot of the items in this recipe can be substituted to make the whole process much quicker. Once you have mastered the wellington it can be served with so many different things, from creamy mash to dauphanoise potatoes. But this was certainly a celebration and the time spent making everything was a pleasure.

Serves 4


For the rough puff pastry:

500g plain flour
250g butter, cold, cut into cubes
200g lard, cold, cut into cubes
1 tbsp English mustard powder
1 tsp baking powder
300ml milk
1 egg, beaten

For the mushrooms duxelle:

8 large portobello mushrooms, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 shallot, very finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley leaves, very finely chopped
¼ lemon, juice only
Olive oil
50g butter
Salt and pepper

For the rest of the wellington:

800g centre-cut piece of beef fillet, trimmed of any sinew
2 tbsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
10 slices Parma ham
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the braised shin fondant potato:

2 bone-in shin steaks
6 pieces of marrowbone, cut into 1 ½” rounds
½ bottle red wine
2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, roughly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
2 litres good beef stock
10 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
Olive oil

4 large maris piper potatoes
1 tbsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, left whole
50g butter
200g goose fat
500ml good beef stock
3 garlic cloves, crushed

For the sauce:

The strained leftover stock from the braised shins
30g butter
Salt and pepper

For the pan fried bone marrow:

4 1 ½” bone marrow cylinders, soaked and pushed out of the bone
50g flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
20g butter
Olive oil

For the kale:

6 large kale leaves, tough stalks removed and roughly cut
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
30g butter
Salt and pepper

For the mushrooms:

16 pied bleu mushrooms, trimmed and brushed
16 girolle mushrooms, trimmed and brushed
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
¼ lemon, juice only
30g butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

First braise the beef shins. Bring a large heavy saucepan to a high heat. Season the shin steaks well and rub with a little olive oil. Sear well on all sides until well browned then remove to a side plate. Add a little more oil to the pan then the onions, celery, garlic and carrots, stirring well and colouring. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the marrow bones, seared shin steaks, thyme, bay and star anise, then top up with the stock. Heat back up to the boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 4-5 hours, until the meat falls apart. Allow to cool. 

Remove the shin steaks from the stock and shred really well. Season and mix with the chopped thyme leaves. Set aside until needed later. Strain the stock and reserve for making the sauce later.

Next make the rough puff pastry. Put the flour, butter, lard, baking powder, mustard powder and milk into a mixing bowl and combine lightly: the chunks of fat should be running through the mixture whole. Tip out onto a well floured surface and roll out into a rectangle of about 1cm thickness. This will be tricky the first time, and the mixture will look all wrong but it will get better each roll. Fold the pastry into thirds to form a long rectangle, then into half. Wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat this process twice more, then the pastry will be ready for the final roll later. Chill until needed. 

To make the mushroom duxelle, set a large frying pan or skillet to a medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil and the butter. When hot cook the shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes until tender. Add the mushrooms and seasoning, and cook for about 15 minutes, until all moisture has been evaporated. Remove from the heat, stir through the parsley and taste for seasoning. Allow to cool fully.

Take the fillet of beef out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes and allow to come to room temperature. Heat a large heavy frying pan until smoking hot. Season the outside of the meat really well with salt, pepper and the thyme leaves, and rub all over with a little olive oil. Sear the fillet in the hot pan for about a minute each side to seal the meat and caramelise a little. Remove and allow to cool.

Lay down 2 large strips of cling film side by side on a chopping board and arrange the Parma ham into an overlapping rectangle that is 2 strips deep and 5 wide. Spread a thin layer of the mushroom duxelle on top, leaving a lip of about 2cm around the edges. Position the cooled fillet in the middle, then very carefully wrap the Parma ham around, using the cling film to make it as tight as possible. Wrap tightly with more cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. 


Roll your finished pastry into a rectangle that is 2-3 inches longer than the fillet at each end, and wide enough to fold right around. It should be about 1cm thick. Beat an egg in a small bowl and brush a little all over the surface. Place the wrapped fillet on top and very carefully fold the pastry around, sealing tightly at the side and ends. Trim away any excess pastry, and roll the wellington so that the join is on the bottom. Place on a lined baking tray and chill until needed.

Pour the strained stock into a large, shallow saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep reducing until only about 300-400ml is left, and the sauce has thickened and intensified in flavour. Transfer to a smaller saucepan and set aside for finishing later.

Next make the stuffed fondant potatoes. Cut the top and bottom off the potatoes and use a cutter to create a neat cylinder shape about 2” in height. Cut a 1cm lid off the top, then use a mellon baller to scoop out the centres. Stuff with a good amount of the braised, shredded shin mixture. Heat a frying pan to a high heat with a little olive oil and quickly fry the top of the lids for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Remove and place on top of the stuffed fondants. Place in a deep, lined baking dish with the whole thyme sprigs, the butter and the garlic. 


Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Put the goose fat and beef stock into a small saucepan and heat up until just boiling. Pour the fat around the potatoes until half way up then put in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the potato is cooked through.

Brush the outside of the beef wellington with more beaten egg and put in the oven at this point too, cooking for 30 minutes for rare (as in photo). Cook for 5 or so minutes longer for better done. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

When the wellington comes out of the oven, finish off all of the accompaniments. Try and cook them all at the same time so that they are all hot when serving.

For the kale, heat up a large frying pan to a medium temperature and melt the butter with the chopped anchovy and garlic. Sweat for a minute then add the kale and 100ml of water and cook for another couple of minutes until wilted. Keep warm until ready to serve. 


To cook the mushrooms, heat a frying pan to medium/hot and add 1 tbsp of oil and the butter. When melted add the pied bleu mushrooms, then the girolles a minute later. Season well and fry for another couple of minutes until just cooked.

Heat up the sauce and stir through the butter until melted and emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Lastly cook the bone marrow. Heat up a small frying pan to medium/hot. Tip the flour onto a plate and mix in some seasoning. Roll the marrow pieces in the flour to coat, shake off the excess and fry for a couple of minutes until crispy on the outside. Be careful not to cook them for too long or they will melt!

To plate up, cut thick pieces of the Wellington and arrange one carefully on each plate. Add the cooked fondant potatoes and a serving of kale. Place a piece of the bone marrow on top of the kale and scatter around the mushrooms. Finally spoon over some of the sauce and serve.