Sunday, May 19, 2013 7:22:56 AM
This is a classic, but I think it is still delicious. And it is so easy – SO easy – that everyone should be able to make it. It’s a bit messy, hand-wise, but that’s part of the fun!
In Australia beef is the meat of choice for sausages, not pork, so pork sausage meat isn’t available in the supermarket. Really I should be telling you to go to the butcher for your meat, but I’m not going to get all preachy, and I go to the supermarket. I picked up some “English style” pork sausages, took off the skins (or as my friend Bill affectionately calls them, “the condoms”) and squished the meat up. Beef doesn’t have the right flavour and isn’t, in any case, fatty enough.
250 g pork sausage meat
1 onion, very finely chopped
50 g breadcrumbs
This is so easy, it’s going to sound like I’m making it up, but all you do is put all the ingredients (except the chicken) into a bowl with a good grinding of salt and pepper, and mix it all up with your hands. Stuff about a quarter of it between the chicken’s skin and the breast (don’t pack it too tightly or it will burst), and then shove the rest into the cavity. Put the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up, and then whack it in the oven (180C) for 20 minutes per 500g.
LET IT REST FOR AT LEAST TEN MINUTES before you carve and eat it. That allows all the juices that have been released during the cooking process to be absorbed back into the meat. If you don’t let it rest it will be dry.
Serve it with what you like. I like carrots and potatoes, but it’s up to you.
For more about Australia, read my other blog, Six Months in Sydney.
Thursday, May 9, 2013 4:03:09 AM
A quick one: this chocolate mousse is incredibly easy to make, and is rich and delicious. Very chocolate. It serves 4 people. You won’t need large portions because of the richness.
200 g good quality dark chocolate (I recommend Green & Black’s)
4 eggs, separated
Start by melting the chocolate gently in a double boiler or in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Once the chocolate has completely melted and is glossy stir in the egg yolks completely. Keep the chocolate mixture moving so it doesn’t stiffen up.
Set the chocolate mixture aside for a few minutes, and in the meantime whisk the egg whites until they reach the soft peaks stage, but take care not to over-beat them.
Now, with a metal spoon fold in about a tablespoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to slacken it, then transfer all of this back into the egg whites and fold until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the mixture into four martini glasses, and refrigerate for at least two hours,
For added indulgence, top with a spoonful of whipped cream just before serving.
Monday, February 11, 2013 2:17:28 AM
There are several cookery game shows that fall into a range of different
categories. There's Masterchef, where cooks are pitted against each other
and celebrity chef judges pass verdict on the culinary outcome. There's
Ready Steady Cook, where teams cook against the clock. There's the daytime
favourite, Come Dine With Me, where contestants compete to host the best
dinner party and, in secret, score their competitor's efforts. And now we
have the spectacular bastard love-child of all three that is My Kitchen
Having recently moved to Australia I can tell you that the telly here is
shit. There's no other way of putting it. And it's not the wonderful
so-bad-it's-good car crash shit TV of Channel 4 daytime. It's just crap.
But Channel 7's My Kitchen Rules (MKR) has changed all that for me. As my
Twitter followers may realise, I am something of a fan of the cookery game
show, with my particular preference being Come Dine With Me. (We do get
that over here, the Aussie version, but it's on pay TV, which we don't
have.) MKR has brought all my favourite elements (and by favourite, I mean
infuriating, shout-at-the-screen, jab angrily at the keyboard into
First, there's the set up. Like CDWM, producers go to every effort to
select contestants whose personalities will clash in spectacular fashion.
We started this season with Jessie & Biswa, the team from New South Wales,
who were bitchy, picky and self-centred, and who acted like they were
still in high school. Put them in the mix with down-to-earth Mick & Matt
from Tasmania and overly-confident privileged pricks from Queensland, Jake
& Elle and there's a recipe for fireworks at the table.
They cook for each other, and it's against the clock. Judges Pete and Manu
are guests at each dinner party (which takes place in each team's “instant
restaurant”, an infuriating term for their decorated dining room) and pass
judgement on each dish that is served. There's little chat around the
table as teams whisper between themselves how much they are enjoying (or,
more commonly, disliking) the food. And in cut-away interviews (in which
the producers give the impression that they are taking place
simultaneously and not (as is reality) much later) the contestants provide
a running commentary of the evening.
MKR lacks the authentic feel I love in CDWM and brings in the things I
hate about Masterchef: dramatic music, and camera shots capturing
reactions on contestants' faces that were not taking place at the time of
the thing they are portrayed as reacting to. Dishes are left to go cold
and each course of the three-course meal takes place hours after the last
for the benefit of filming. It's so staged, so fake. But I love it.
In honesty, I'm missing CDWM, and MKR is no real substitute. But as an
Englishman living in Australia, this is the best I'm going to get.
My Kitchen Rules is on Channel 7, Mondays – Wednesdays, sometimes
Thursdays and maybe Fridays, usually at 7.30 pm.
Monday, January 21, 2013 8:17:00 AM
Meal Planning Monday
Well, I'm in Australia now. And it's summer again. It's (not really) amazing how a blog dries up when one's internet access is almost exclusively via a mobile phone, but there you go.
I'm jumping onto the Meal Planning Monday bandwagon. I suppose it's not really a bandwagon; rather a perfectly sensible thing to do.
Now, the background: I get a meal allowance at work, but I have to spend it at work on the food that they sell at work. It's all perfectly delicious, but after three months I'm craving something a little different. So now I'm planning my work meals on a Monday. The food we eat at home isn't included in this. I also don't expect that I'll stick to this to the letter because I often have leftovers to take to work. But we'll see. It's a plan.
Monday and Tuesday I am off, so it really is leftovers.
Wednesday - soup
I'm a lover of making soup. It's so easy and there's so much scope for variety. I am now, once again, in possesion of my copy of Gillian McKieth's 'You are What You Eat' Cook Book*, and although I'm not necessarily a follower of her plan, I do find that her recipes are delicious. I love food - but GOOD food - and her recipes taste good and are insanely nutritious. I'm going to make her Tuscan Bean Soup (p. 107).
Thursday - bean burgers
I had a go at making bean burgers last week. I had no recipe; I just kind of threw them together. They were okay, but lacked flavour a little and they were a little soft and didn't really stay together. This week I'm going to try again. Again, I'm not using a recipe; just making it up as I go along, but with a few (hopefully!) improvements. I'll report back on the outcome.
Friday - soup
Making soup in small batches doesn't often produce the best results, so I'll be having the remainder of the Tuscan Bean Soup
Saturday - Salad
I'm going to throw together a salad for Saturday night - some leaves, perhaps some poached chicken and maybe some slices of avocado and some nuts. We;ll see how it goes.
Sunday - cheat
I'll probably use my meal card on Sunday night to get the Chicken Wedges from work. Essentially they're chicken nuggets. Decidedly unhealthy, but sometimes that's what one needs
*You Are What You Eat Cookbook, Dr Gillian McKieth, Penguin 2005
Monday, September 3, 2012 1:30:39 PM
My friend Rachel (who, incidentally, writes what is by far my favourite blog, Come Dine With Rach) reviewed Frankie & Benny's in York a couple of months ago and, if I remember, she wasn't overly impressed with either the food or the service. I also remember that she was sent a £50 voucher in anticipation of the review: although I didn't get a voucher, we decided to visit Frankie & Benny's for lunch this Sunday afternoon (and not for the purpose of a review, I should add).
I was with my parents, my sister and her partner, together with their seven-month old son. It was a particularly warm September Sunday, so we were not expecting the restaurant to be particularly busy; we were quite pleased that it was quiet as a table was available for us right away despite us not having booked. Staff levels were, however, quite low, meaning that we were standing by the door for a few minutes waiting to be seated.
We requested a booth and a high chair, and were escorted to the back corner of the restaurant, by the fire exit. The table was very high and set in a round booth with a couple of tall chairs, so it wasn't exactly what we had in mind. The high chair was, unfortunately, not high enough for the table, so it felt very much that we had put the baby under the table. Needless to say, he didn't stay in the high chair for long, and soon joined us, being passed around for most of the meal. I felt very much that we had been shoved into the corner, detached from the main body of the restaurant. It was unnecessary given that the place was not at all busy.
Our order was taken by a particularly unenthusiastic waiter, who at first took a drinks order from only half of our party and later panicked when asked what the soup of the day was (he did know though). I ordered the barbecue chicken and ribs, Samantha ordered the chicken parmagiana, we also ordered two full racks of ribs and a pepperoni pizza. The food arrived in good time, and was well-presented. My chicken was tasty and moist with deliciously crisp skin. The ribs, however, were something of a disappointment: not overly meaty, and complete with sinew and membrane. Samantha described the chicken parmagiana as bland, but enjoyable. We all agreed that the accompaniments of fries and herbed potatoes were tasty, and that the barbecue sauce was particularly good.
During our meal we observed staff eating their own lunches at the bar adding a distinct flavour of unprofessionalism which, combined with the thoroughly uninspiring lack of enthusiasm from our own waiter left us feeling a little dejected.
I wouldn't be inclined to return to Frankie & Benny's in Hull: despite the food meeting our expectations of a mid-level chain restaurant, the staff left us frustrated.
Friday, August 17, 2012 2:02:19 PM
Steak au poivre, peppered steak, steak with peppercorn sauce: call it what you will; it's pretty much a culinary classic. I'm inclined to believe it is French because of its name, the use of flaming brandy and the French love of pouring rich, creamy sauces over anything that is put on a plate.
First a note about steak. Well a few notes actually. Rump, sirloin, rib-eye and T-bone are delicious cuts, full of flavour and so totally inappropriate to be cooked in a rich sauce like this one. Fillet is perfect: it is beautiful to cut, but needs a lot of help in the flavour department, and is an ideal cut to serve with rich, creamy sauces. It's expensive, but one often deserves a treat! If you can afford fillet, buy good quality meat, and the steaks must be thick!
Secondly (and I mean this), I am very opinionated about how steaks should be cooked. My first opinion is that it is a shame to cook a steak at all. That said, for this dish cooking is necessary. The recipe below gives instructions on how to cook your steak if you like it rare. If you don't like it rare, I wouldn't bother to cook it at all: you will destroy the delicate texture of the fillet and will have wasted a lot of money on what is an expensive piece of meat.
The sauce is very rich and creamy, but hopefully the finished dish will not resemble what is so often served up in third-rate Italian restaurants; a glib bit of meat swimming in cream and brandy. Delia Smith's version of this recipe includes no cream or brandy and is, although delicious, not nearly as indulgent as my version!
Steak au Poivre
4 fillet steaks
3 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tsp black peppercorns
75 ml brandy
200 ml red wine
400 ml good beef stock
90 ml double cream
2 tbsp butter
Begin by flash frying the steaks. I prefer to fry steak on a heavy cast iron griddle, but a large heavy-based frying pan is perfectly suitable. Get your griddle as hot as possible – heat it over a high heat for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. There will be smoke, but do not be afraid: an extremely high temperature is necessary. Spread a layer of butter over each steak (not the pan!) and lay butter-side down on the hot griddle and fry for one minute on each side. Remove the steaks to a warmed plate.
Next, over a medium heat, melt the rest of the butter in a large, thick-based frying pan (if you fried the steaks in a pan, use the same one). Add the shallots, garlic and peppercorns to the pan, and soften gently for about five minutes.
Now comes the tricky (and potentially dangerous) bit. Heat the brandy in either a large metal ladle or a very small saucepan. Once the brandy is hot, return the steaks to the frying pan, light the brandy with a match and (standing as far back as you can) pour the flaming brandy over the steaks. Swirl it around gently to keep the flame going as long as possible, but as soon as the flame dies, remove the steaks back to the plate.
Now add the red wine to the pan, turn the heat up to high and reduce the wine by about one half; this should take around five minutes. Next add the beef stock and let it boil for around ten minutes or until the stock has reduced by about two-thirds.
Now turn the heat back down to medium and stir in the cream. Allow the sauce to thicken a little and return the steaks to the pan to warm through. Spoon the sauce over the steaks. Once warmed through, serve immediately with grilled corn cobs and stir-fried savoy cabbage.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012 6:14:26 PM
A lot of people think that risotto is terribly difficult to make. But like most things that are commonly viewed as difficult, risotto is surprisingly easy. It does require patience and a lot of attention: turn your back for a moment and it could be ruined. But risotto is one of those dishes that is as comforting to cook as it is to eat. Rich, creamy and sensual, and you can definitely taste how much care has been put into the preparation.
The most important ingredient in any risotto is the stock, and here you can't get away with using a stock cube as you so often can. The rice is cooked entirely in the stock and it will soak up the flavour, and stock cubes are notoriously lacking in real, wholesome flavour. That said, there are some options available if you haven't made your own stock, and these include the concentrated jellies that you can buy, as well as ready-made stocks.
A note on stock: it is surprisingly easy to make. I use a lot of chicken stock, and I keep a bag of chicken bones in the freezer and keep adding to it. With planning, you can make your stock in advance (say, the night before) and keep it in the fridge, ready to use.
You can add anything you like to your risotto. It's simply a base of arborio rice and onion cooked in stock, with whatever you fancy added at the end. In my mind, peas are mandatory, but it really is up to you!
Pea Risotto with Chicken, Pancetta and Cep Mushrooms
300 g arborio rice
700 ml home-made chicken stock, heated
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 chicken thigh fillets, skin off
200 g cubetti de pancetta
1 small packet dried cep mushrooms
A handful of frozen peas
2 glasses white wine
A few sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp groundnut oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan over a high heat and quickly seal the chicken thigh fillets on each side. You don't want to brown them, just seal them so they don't fall apart. Add one glass of the wine and enough stock to cover the chicken, together with the bay leaf and the rosemary. Lightly season with a little salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and turn the heat right down, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
While the chicken is cooking, soak the mushrooms. Put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water and leave to stand for ten minutes. Once the chicken thigh fillets are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon, but retain the liquor, and reduce it to about 100 ml. Cut the chicken into small pieces.
In another large frying pan or saucepan, cook the pancetta over a high heat. There is enough fat in the pancetta, so you will not need to use any oil. transfer the pancetta to a plate and add 1 tbsp of the butter and 1 tbsp of the oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium. Fry the soaked mushrooms for a few minutes until they are cooked, and transfer them to the plate to join the pancetta and the cooked chicken.
Melt the rest of the butter in the same pan and turn the heat down to low. Add the onion and soften for about five minutes. Turn the heat back up to high and add the arborio rice, turning it over in the buttery juices. Toast it for two minutes or so, but don't let it brown, then pour in the other glass of wine, and start stirring.
The trick now is to make sure the liquid is fully absorbed before adding any more. Rush, and you'll end with soup. Once the wine has been absorbed, add the reduced liquor that the chicken was cooked in and turn down the heat a little. Keep stirring constantly. Again, allow the liquid to absorb fully, and you can start adding the hot stock. Add the stock a ladle-by-ladle and make sure to keep stirring. You don't need to wait for the liquid to be absorbed completely, but you should wait until your spoon leaves a clear wake behind it before adding the next ladleful. It should take about 20 minutes to add all the stock.
By this time the risotto should be of a creamy consistency, and you can stir in the cooked chicken, pancetta and mushrooms. Season well and dot a few knobs of butter over the top before covering with a lid, or kitchen foil. Leave it to stand for five minutes to allow the flavours to intensify. Stir in the frozen peas (no need to cook them first) and allow to stand for another minute or so to allow the peas to warm through.
Serve immediately with a grating of parmesan cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 5:45:28 PM
Slaving over a hot stove is my idea of heaven when it's dark outside, but in the summer months, I prefer to throw something together quickly, let it cook, and enjoy the pleasure of eating. Salads, cold potatoes and meat are great, but sometimes I want something hot.
For me, summer means tomatoes. I like to cook with tomatoes as much as I can in summer; they can turn a warming winter stew into an exciting summery sauce, and they brighten up even the most mundane of salads.
Tomatoes must be very fresh. Smell them when you buy them: they should have a distinct smell. If they don't, they will have no flavour. In winter, or to save time, tinned tomatoes are just as good (and preferable, in fact, in winter), and I recommend buying the best you can afford. For this recipe, I used a tin of chopped tomatoes because, as I said, a summer weekday demands speed.
Tomatoes and basil are a marriage made in heaven, but today I had no basil, but rosemary and thyme go well together (and with chicken), and we have them growing in the garden, so they made a delightful alternative.
Serves 3 – 4
6 chicken thighs (skin on), or chicken pieces of your choice
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
400 g tin of chickpeas
350 ml chicken stock
A good handful of rosemary, freshly cut from your garden
A few sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 ½ tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil over a high heat and brown the chicken pieces in a large, thick-based frying pan. I find I get better results to brown the chicken pieces in two batches. Make sure the chicken, especially the skin, gets a good colour. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate.
Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, shallot and garlic to the pan. Cook for about five minutes, or until they are soft.
Take the pan off the heat, and you can start to build! First lay the rosemary over the onion and shallot to form a base for the chicken. Next add all of the chicken pieces, skin up. Scatter the chickpeas over and around the chicken and then pour the tomatoes, straight from the tin, over the chicken, making sure each piece gets a good covering.
Mix the tomato purée with the hot chicken stock and pour into the pan. Bring the whole lot to the boil and then turn the heat right down. Put a lid on and simmer for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, take the lid off, and turn the heat up slightly. Stir in the sun-dried tomato paste and continue to cook, uncovered for 15 – 20 minutes. By this time the sauce should have reduced and thickened.
Serve with noodles or Spanish rice.
© John Clark 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:36:23 PM
I've been inspired by the blog of a friend, Come Dine With Rach
. She writes about food - some recipes, some restaurant reviews and some wine reviews. It's a delight to read, and I wanted to get in on the action.
Good food is something that makes me happy. Not because I particularly enjoy eating, but because good food brings joy, and attracts limited negative attention. Everybody eats, and discussion about food (aside from arguments about vegetarianism, Halal/Kosher etc) tends to be positive: people sharing stories about food that brings them joy.
So that's what I intend to write about: food that brings me joy. Not food that simply fixes my hunger, but food that makes me truly content. It may be that I enjoyed cooking it. It may be someone else's that was sublime. It may be a restaurant experience. Or it may be just a recollection of food from past times. I may well include recipes.
So there it is. I love reading about food, and I hope I'll love writing about food! But in any case, I shall keep reading Come Dine with Rach.