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Monday, 10 October 2011

The future of the Appetite...

So you might have noticed that there’s been a change in tone to the blog recently, “what blog” you say “you never post”.

Well, that’s true I suppose, work, kids and general life do get in the way of blogging as frequently as I’d like, and general food adventuring takes time too, but hey ho.

No, what I mean is I’ve decided to move away from reviewing restaurants, I found it invited me to look for negatives and to be frank, that’s not what I’m interested in. I write this because I love food, all aspects of it from the production (keep your eyes open for #ProjectAwesome – coming soon) to cooking, learning new methods and techniques and eating. I want this to be a celebration and didn’t like the person reviewing was making me.

So, onwards and upwards – the future holds some interesting things for the blog and I, there’s going to be a range of Masterclasses with some pretty cool cooks and chefs, a rolling feature on foodie heroes who’re “Living the Dream” and as usual, my itinerant ramblings, rantings and recipes.
Who knows, I might even learn how to post photos and make this thing look pretty.

Veal Marsala

I love veal, it’s a beautiful meat and I think we have a moral obligation to use it – calves are a by-product of the milk industry; cows need to be pregnant once a year to produce milk, the resulting female calves are raised for milk production and the males... well, they don’t have such a good time. I’d much rather they were ethically raised and given a good life before joining the food chain.

You hear that milk-drinking vegetarians? You’re responsible for the deaths of lots of baby cows, the least you could do is eat them.

·         Veal escallopes – 200g/minimum 1cm thick, 1 per person
·         Unsalted butter
·         Rapeseed oil
·         1 large shallot, chopped
·         Sliced mushrooms, about 100g
·         1 large, firm fleshed tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
·         250ml chicken stock
·         150 ml Marsala
·         Double cream/Creme Fraiche (optional)

Season the veal escalopes with salt on both sides. Heat rapeseed oil in a heavy based pan. Quickly sauté the veal on both sides, rest in a 50 degree oven while preparing the sauce.
Drain oil and bring the pan back up to a medium temperature and add the butter and a little splash of oil (to stop the butter burning). Add shallots and mushrooms and sauté for 2- 3 minutes until softened. Add a good glug of Marsala to deglaze the pan and reduce ‘till almost dry, then add the stock and add a splash of Marsala, reduce.

To finish the sauce add the tomato dice and tarragon (and cream or creme fraiche if using), adjust seasoning. Return the veal back to the pan and spoon the sauce over the top to warm.
I’d serve this with sautéed potatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes and steamed green beans.

Baked Pineapple Cream with Mandarin Ice

This is an awesome dessert, adapted from “Dessert” by David Everitt-Matthias – it’s an amazing book, especially for those (like me) who’re not natural pastry chefs..

·         300g  pineapple pulp (trim a pineapple and blitz it in a food processor)
·         1 bunch lemon thyme
·         325g double cream
·         2 whole eggs
·         3 egg yolks
·         300g caster sugar
·         300ml Mandarin (or good orange) juice (with bits)
·         1 red chilli (medium heat)
·         40ml liquid glucose
·         200ml water
·         ½ gelatine leaf
·         1 ripe pineapple
·         Pecan nuts
·         Neutral oil

Pineapple Cream
Put pineapple pulp and lemon thyme in a saucepan and boil ‘till reduced by a third to a half, add 250ml cream and take off the boil, meanwhile mix the egg and sugar ‘till it combines , then pour the cooled pineapple cream mix through the sieve, whisk all the time.

Oil 5cm presentation rings and cover one end with clingfilm then foil and hold with an elastic band, place on a folded j-cloth in the deep pan and fill with the mixture; fill up half way with hot water and bake in a 120 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Chill until needed.
Mandarin Ice

Place the mandarin juice, water, glucose, 75ml double cream, 120g sugar and chopped chilli (to taste) in a pan, boil and remove from the heat.
While waiting for the mixture to boil, bloom the gelatine in cold water, add to the (now boiled) ice mixture and mix.

Place in an ice-cream machine and churn until set.
Pineapple tranche

Cut a tranche of the ripe pineapple, heat the griddle pan and char on both sides, reserve and keep warm.
To Assemble Dish

Unmold the cream, if you want, sprinkle with more caster sugar and brulee with the blowtorch.
Place the tranche of pineapple on a diagonal from 7o’clock to 1 o’clock, place the pineapple cream on the top left and a quenelle of the mandarin/chilli ice in the bottom right.

If you have the time or inclination then add some caster sugar to just a little water and melt to a caramel, chop some pecans and place in the caramel, mix and pour onto a silpat and sprinkle with salt. Break up and serve a piece of candied, salted pecan brittle artfully on the plate somewhere.

Easy Confit Salmon

This is great because it looks (and sounds) impressive but in fact it’s really easy..

  • Salmon steaks
  • Pre-cooked cannellini beans (1 tin per 2 people)
  • Garlic
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Oilve oil (or oil and unsalted butter)
  • Unsalted cutter
Roast the tomatoes in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Start by seasoning the salmon then leave to the side for 10 minutes. Then, in a deep sided pan heat olive oil (or a mix of butter and olive oil), a couple of smashed cloves of garlic (and a sprig of thyme if you have any) gently to 50 degrees (use a digital probe for best results, they're cheap and really usefull), place the salmon in and keep at that temperature for 15 minutes.

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, place in a pan with a little olive oil, a little butter and some sliced garlic, warm through (the beans are already cooked) and puree with a blender (or mash or put through a potato ricer) and adjust for taste and consistency with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

Drain the salmon onto some kitchen paper, place a mound of the cannellini puree on the centre of a warm plate and top with the salmon and place the roasted tomatoes around the plate. Top the salmon with some crispy leeks if you want to posh it up.

Note - normally I'm a big fan of rapeseed oil but for this recipe you really need the fruity nature of the olive oil rather than the brassic note of the rapeseed.

North African Monkfish

This isn’t very authentic but it tastes great – it uses a few spice blends that are easy to track down on the internet and are great because they add so much to fish and other things.

·         Monkfish tail – about 200g per person
·         Easy cook cous-cous
·         Veg of your choice (see method)
·         Sultanas
·         Za’atar spice blend (I like Steenbergs)
·         Ras al Hanout spice blend

Sprinkle the monkfish with salt and za’atar, roll tightly in clingfilm (into a sausage shape) and set aside for half a hour.
Mix the sultanas and Ras al Hanout with the cous-cous and make according to instructions (use a chicken or a veg stock cube instead of just water) , once cooked strain and stir a small knob of butter and the veg through it.
The veg is really up to your own preference but carrot, peas, spring onion, courgette, green beans, corn, pomegranate seeds, preserved lemon all work, cut them into bite-sized pieces and cook as appropriate.
Heat oil in a pan over a medium-high heat and then sear the monkfish on all sides to give a nice golden crust and then put it into a 180 degree oven for 8 minutes before serving with the jewelled cous-cous.

If you want to posh this up for a dinner party, take the sultanas out of the cous-cous and rehydrate them in a little veg stock and puree, add some harissa paste (to taste) and puree again into a nice, spicy sauce.

A fishy diversion..

The best fish is simple fish, all you need to do to make it nice is take some fresh fish, dry the skin and then cook it a little. Ratatouille is an amazing accompaniment to lots of things and kids love it, make it in big batches and keep tubs as a standby in the freezer.

·         8 small (or 4 large) fillets of white fish – Sea Bream, Red Mullet, whatever you want – just make 
        sure it’s fresh, ask the fishmonger to pin bone the fish.
·         1 Aubergine
·         1 Onion
·         2 Courgettes
·         1 tin of chopped tomatoes
·         2 bell peppers
·         Garlic
·         Oregano
·         Chilli (fresh or powdered, optional)

First, make the ratatouille, chop the onion and soften in oil then add chopped courgette and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, add chopped aubergine and sliced peppers and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, some sliced garlic and a pinch of oregano, season with salt and pepper and simmer for half an hour.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Check the fish for bones and remove with tweezers if necessary, score the skin a few times with a diagonal cut (this helps stop the skin from contracting too much in the pan), salt the skin side only liberally and place skin side down on kitchen towel or a clean Jcloth for half an hour – this dries the skin making it crispier and allows the fish to come to room temperature before cooking.
Heat some oil in a non-stick pan over a medium high heat and place the fish in skin side down, cook for about three minutes or until crispy, then turn the fillet over for no more than 40 seconds. A good rule is cook on the skin side for 80% of the time.
Place a mound of the ratatouille on a warm plate and put the fish on top (skin side up or that lovely crispy skin will soften) and serve to some lucky people. If you want to posh this up for a dinner party then drizzle some tapenade* around the plate.
* blitz 100g black olives, some fresh thyme leaves, 150ml olive oil, 1 small garlic clove and 1 anchovy into a loose tapenade dressing.