Sunday, 7 June 2015

Chargrilled octopus with squid ink, winkles, Jersey Royals, wild garlic and samphire

Now that we’re into June the produce is really coming along. The first broad beans are threatening, and I know it won’t be long until my favourite peas start to make an appearance. Expect many a pea love in anytime soon. We’re still clinging on to asparagus, and lovely Jersey Royal potatoes and samphire are back on the menu. Sadly though this time of year spells the end of the wild garlic season, but I think I’ve rinsed it quite enough; using it wherever possible to flavour stuffings, oils and salads. I’ve just about managed to sneak it into this recipe, but from now on I’ll have to slowly build up my anticipation for next spring. 

One ingredient that I haven’t rinsed is octopus. I probably on average cook one octopus a year, but that definitely needs to change. A more moreish, delicious thing I struggle to imagine. At work we sell a fair few of these lovable beasts every week, but mostly to Spanish or Italian customers who don’t blink at leaving the shop lugging a 3kg cephalopod behind them. The majority of others squirm, or pull a funny face at a glance! I guess they are slightly intimidating if you’ve never had a go at cooking one before, but you quickly learn how easy and satisfying the results are. Nevertheless, and slightly devastatingly, Katie really isn’t a fan, so I always have to try and steal an evening or afternoon when she is elsewhere before I can quench my octopus cravings. A sunny day last week provided the ideal opportunity…
Freezing food rarely improves it, but with octopus (octopi? octopuses? octopus?...) the process performs miracles. Traditionally to tenderise the firm, elastic flesh you would have to bash the living daylights out of it with a mallet, or flail it against the nearest rock. But after a quick stay in the freezer, all of this is done for you. All that is then required is a gentle simmer for just under an hour and it’ll be wonderfully soft. At this point it is ready to eat, and can be tossed through a salad, drenched in marinades or merely sliced and nibbled on at will, but I think that a quick exposure to a fierce heat really gets the best out of it. The deep, savoury, smoky flavour and crispy/soft combination is so addictive. I polished off the lot.
This is less of a hot dish, more along the lines of a warm salad; and as I discovered with the leftovers, is equally delicious cold. The longer that the lemon marinade gets to slosh around and permeate into the potatoes, samphire and octopus the better. And it’s a fact that a bit of mayonnaise will always make things better.  

Serves 4
For the octopus:
1 Mediterranean octopus, the double sucker variety, about 1 kg, cleaned 
2 shallots, sliced 
1 fennel bulb, sliced 
2 garlic cloves 
1 bay leaf 
½ a lemon 
1 large glass of white wine
For the squid ink mayonnaise:
2 sachets of squid or cuttlefish ink 
2 egg yolks 
1 clove of garlic, grated 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
250ml olive oil 
1 lemon, zest and juice 
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
For the jersey royal potatoes:
4-6 medium-sized jersey royal potatoes, washed 
2 lemons, juice only 
1 large clove of smoked garlic, thinly sliced 
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the winkles and samphire:
2 handfuls of live winkles, purged in salted water for at least 20 minutes 
2 handfuls of samphire 
1 lemon, juice only
To finish:
12 wild garlic leaves, washed

Start by braising the octopus. Put the octopus in a large saucepan along with the shallots, fennel, garlic, bay and lemon. Pour in the wine and top up with an equal amount of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer very gently for 45 minutes, or until the octopus is very tender. Remove from the pan to a side plate and allow to cool, then remove the head and chop the tentacles into individual pieces.
While the octopus is cooking, boil the potatoes. Put the washed jersey royals into a saucepan and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain well, then cut into thin slices and arrange in a bowl. Make the dressing by squeezing the lemon juice into a small bowl and adding the smoked garlic. Slowly but thoroughly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified, then season well with salt and pepper. Pour two-thirds of the dressing over the potatoes while they are still warm, then set aside. 

Put the egg yolks for the mayonnaise into a small food processor along with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic and lemon zest, then blitz together well. With the motor still running, drizzle in the olive oil very slowly, until it is all poured in and the mixture has emulsified into a thick mayonnaise. Squeeze in the squid ink and the lemon juice and combine well again so that the dark colour permeates the whole mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and loosen the texture with a splash of water if needed. Spoon into a plastic squeezy bottle and set aside.
Bring a small saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. When hot, add the winkles and boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain well, then use a fork to pick the meat out of the shells. Remove the dark stomach sacks and hard feet from each winkle. Heat a generous amount of olive oil up in a large frying pan until it reaches a low-medium temperature. Add a good splash of water, then add the winkle meat and the samphire. Warm through for a couple of minutes. 

Heat a griddle pan up until smoking hot. Coat the octopus tentacles with olive oil, then cook for 2-3 minutes in total, turning once or twice, until lightly charred.
To plate up, arrange two of the octopus tentacles onto each plate, along with a few slices of the marinated potatoes. Dot on a good amount of the squid ink mayonnaise, and spoon some of the samphire and winkles on top of the potatoes. Finish with some of the wild garlic leaves and a drizzle of the reserved lemon and garlic dressing.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Smoked shoulder of kid with chickpeas, samphire and purple sprouting broccoli

A bit of dried oregano, a pinch of chilli flakes, a heap of garlic, a scrape of lemon zest and a sprig or two of rosemary. I find myself almost automatically adding these to pretty much everything at the moment. The base of a soup, over potatoes, stirred into some soft, oily pasta; it does the job every time. I guess it just shows the importance of the store cupboard. As much as I preach on about fresh, seasonal ingredients, I am still able to whip up something mega tasty by opening a trusty jar or two. And here they form the core of the recipe.  

When you buy kid goat, it is compulsory to make the obvious dad joke. As an avid dad-joke aficionado, I’ve also stored it up for many a future use. The texts to the long-suffering other half about coming home with a kid in the bag didn’t get a response. When I walked through the door and exclaimed that the very next day I was going to slowly roast a kid all I got was an “uh huh”. She didn’t even look up. It’s fair enough I suppose. Such terrible humour doesn’t require acknowledgement.

But aside from such cringeworthy antics, I was genuinely really excited to be cooking a goat dish. I’ve always enjoyed eating goat, but I’ve been surprised at why such a presumably prime and abundant source of protein isn’t used more. Demand I guess? It’s only relatively recently that I’ve started seeing it on the odd menu, so good on those restaurants for doing something a little different.

This is one of those recipes that’s dead simple in principle and technique, it just requires a little bit of time and patience. But the results were totally worth it. The meat, cooked for so long, was falling off the bone and moreishly tender. The new season samphire added a lovely, salty kick, whilst the soft chickpeas rounded the dish off with an element of comfort. I shall definitely be returning to goat in the future, especially once it gets properly warm and the barbeque gets dragged out…

Serves 4


For the kid:

1 shoulder of kid, about 1.8-2kg in weight, on the bone 
4 sprigs of rosemary 
3 onions, sliced 
3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
1 tsp dried chilli flakes 
1 tsp dried oregano 
2 bay leaves 
½ a bottle white wine 
1.5 ltrs good chicken stock 
Straw for smoking

For the sauce:

The braising stock from the kid 
2 good knobs of butter

For the chickpeas:

2 tins of chickpeas, drained 
1 shallot, finely sliced 
4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped 
3 garlic cloves, grated 
1 tsp dried chilli flakes 
2 tsp dried oregano 
1 lemon, zest and juice 
4 tbsp of good olive oil

For the greens:

A handful of purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed and leaves kept 
A good handful of samphire 
A squeeze of lemon juice

To finish:

A few rosemary flowers


Get the kid on to start with. Preheat the oven to 120⁰C. Heat a large, heavy casserole dish (one with a lid and big enough to fit the joint into) to a high temperature. Season the shoulder all over with salt and pepper, add a generous amount of oil to the dish and brown well on all sides. Transfer the browned joint to a plate and set aside. Tip in the sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, chilli, oregano and bay and fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly caramelised and softened. With the heat still high, pour in the white wine and bring to the boil, then allow to reduce by half. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Top up with the stock and bring to a simmer. Pop the kid shoulder back in the dish, add the lid on top and slide into the oven for 4 hours, or until the meat is very soft. 


When the meat has had its first cook, use some tongs to carefully transfer it in one piece to your smoking device (I use a bbq with a lid). Fill the bottom with straw and set alight, then close the lid and allow to smoke for about 20 minutes. Finally transfer the kid to a dish and allow to rest for at least 45 minutes.

To make the sauce, strain the kid cooking stock through a sieve into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce right down until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, and stir the butter in really well, until fully dissolved. Set aside and keep warm.

For the chickpeas, add a little oil to a medium saucepan, and gently soften the shallot and garlic with the rosemary, chilli, oregano and lemon zest. Add the chickpeas and top up with the rest of the olive oil. Turn the heat right down and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are very soft. Season really well with salt and pepper. Transfer 4 tablespoons of the chickpeas to a separate bowl and set aside until later, and transfer the rest into a food processor. Add the lemon juice and blend really well, until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning and acidity if needed. If the mixture is too firm, let it down with a few drops of water. Pour the puree back into a saucepan and set aside for reheating when needed. 


To cook the greens, set a large frying pan onto a medium heat and add a good glug of oil. Add the purple broccoli first, and lightly colour on all sides. Pour in a good splash of water and continue to cook until al-dente. Add the samphire and broccoli leaves with about a minute to go. Finish with the lemon juice and a little seasoning.

Carve the kid shoulder into large chunks. Reheat the chickpeas and sauce if needed.

To serve, spoon large dollops of the chickpea puree onto each plate. Arrange a few chunks of the goat to the side and surround with the greens. Scatter over some of the whole chickpeas and some rosemary flowers if you have any. Finish with a generous amount of the sauce.