Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Reggie's Personal Favourite Dish: 30 Year Old Chilli con Carne


Chilli con carne is a weird dish. It doesn't matter whether two different cooks use identical ingredients, the dish never tastes the same. I think that maybe the method of cooking makes basic ingredients taste completely differently, or maybe it's the bit of your soul that goes into cooking your favourite dishes which does the trick.

Anyway, I have been making chilli con carne since I was about ten years old, when Mrs Ribeye Sr. taught me her her version and allowed me to start making the family dinner. Since then, I have made this dish, on average, every month - which means that, because I will be 40 in May (eek!), this recipe has evolved over 350 times of making it. It tastes nothing like my mum's now. So, unless another 350 times passes, and no unforeseen new developments arise, I will say that this dish is absolutely perfect, and will remain so forever.

The funny thing is, I now use less ingredients than I ever did, but now the taste is far more complex. I used to put in chopped sweet peppers and, at one point, mushrooms. Sweetcorn has come and gone. Goodbye paprika. Adieu to stock. So long, red wine. See ya, cinnamon, cumin and coriander. Now, it's all about beef and beans, cooked low and slow, with my ultimate simple, authentic blend of flavouring ingredients. I know that the purists will say that beans have no place in a chilli at all, but I don't care. Chilli is a very personal thing and I would not make it any other way.

Please follow my method TO THE LETTER - I promise that you won't want to make it any other way in future, either. I normally serve my chilli with pitta breads or rice, but I occasionally make my Friday Night Chilli Burrito instead, if I'm in a Man v Food pig-out mood. The chilli recipe in my burrito dish is very basic (but still delicious, of course), and can take the other burrito fillings well. This recipe, right here, is my gourmet version.

Whether you consider this a gourmet version or not (my wife, Mrs Ribeye Jr, does, by the way), this dish will only set you back £2.50 per portion, with rice or pitta breads on the side. I make my own flatbreads using my No Fuss Bread Recipe.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 kg ground beef (12-15% fat is best for this recipe)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon each of dried red chilli flakes and dried oregano
1 litre of passata (sieved tomatoes)
2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans in water
500ml water
4 fresh large red chillies, cut into fine rings, for sprinkling

8 toasted pitta breads, or 500g cooked basmati rice, to serve

In a large saucepan or casserole dish, place the beef and oil, and put the lid on. Cook, covered, on a high heat and without moving the beef around the pan, until the beef  is well browned and crusty on the bottom (20 minutes approx). Turn the beef over in one lump and sprinkle with the onions, garlic and salt and pepper. Replace the lid and cook until the onion is soft and translucent (5 minutes approx). Add the chilli flakes, oregano, passata, beans and water, and turn the heat to low, stirring with a metal spoon to deglaze the crusty bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook, covered, until the chilli is thick and unctuous (3-4 hours approx), stirring occasionally to break up the meat. Sprinkle with the fresh chillies immediately before serving. Serve with the pitta breads or rice.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Brunch, with Bloody Mary and Croque Madame

No, not the name of a weekend transvestite cookery show. This combination is the perfect hangover cure.

About six years ago, before embarking on my current career as a professional know-it-all, I owned a couple of busy cocktail bars in central London; and on a Sunday morning we would do a brunch special with a Bloody Mary.

If you take any international flight, this famous cocktail consists merely of a shot of vodka with a can of pre-mixed tomato and lemon juice, served in a plastic cup, along with a bag of sour cream and onion mini pretzels (I'm not complaining - they're delicious!) on the side. However, in my bars, it was a running competition between the bar staff to see how many ingredients you could conceivably add to a Bloody Mary and yet avoid accusations of inauthenticity.

As far as I am concerned, the recipe here is the perfect combination of ingredients, whatever my old regulars (one of which who is still my excellent friend, Phil) have to say on the matter.

To serve with my ultimate Bloody Mary, I have chosen a Croque Madame. In France (my all-time favourite road trip holiday destination), this delicious toasted ham, cheese, bechamel sauce and egg sandwich has been elevated to the status of national treasure. And why not? If you serve it with my Bloody Mary, you have the perfect 'chevaux du chien' ('hair of the dog,' for you Peter Sellers fans), due to the combination of carbs, protein, fat, vegetables, sugar and alcohol. It's practically medicinal.

Mrs Ribeye and I are contemplating a trip to Nice, on France's Cote d'Azur at the end of June - depending on whether our planned purchase of a soft-top BMW Z3 to get us down there, comes to fruition (our current Smart car doesn't really promise the same fun factor). If we do manage to end up in Nice, I guarantee you that this is the first thing we order at a pavement cafe near the Rue de Rivoli on our first Sunday morning in France; whilst reading the Sunday Times (the British version of course - I can barely speak French, let alone read it). I cannot wait.

A single shot of vodka in your cocktail keeps this whole dish (including the sandwich) down to £3 per serving. Another shot (or two, or three) will take you over the Potless budget. But on a Sunday morning, after a heavy Saturday night, will you REALLY care?

Serves 4

The Ultimate Bloody Mary

INGREDIENTS: (per serving)

A shot (25ml) of vodka
100ml tomato juice
10ml lemon juice
10ml sherry
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon of horseradish sauce
Pinches of celery salt and pepper
Celery stick
Lemon wedge, to serve

In a tall glass, filled with ice, mix the ingredients with the celery stick. Serve with a straw pushed down the length of the celery stick, and a lemon wedge.

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Croque Madame

INGREDIENTS:

250ml milk
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of plain flour
Pinches of salt and pepper
100g grated gruyere or cheddar cheese, plus another 100g for sprinkling
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
8 thick slices of white bread
4 thick slices of ham
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of butter

In a pan, on a moderate heat, cook the olive oil and flour together to form a paste. Add the milk bit by bit, until the sauce is lump-free, and then cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened (15 minutes approx). Take the sauce off the heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted. Season to taste. On a slice of bread, spread half a tablespoon of mustard and top with a slice of ham. On another slice of bread, spread a spoonful of the cheese sauce, plus a quarter of the reserved grated cheese. Place the two halves together to form a sandwich. In a lightly oiled pan, place the sandwich and cook until golden and crunchy on each side. Meanwhile, fry an egg in another pan and then place on top of the sandwich, followed by another spoonful of the cheese sauce. Repeat, to make three further sandwiches.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Potato, Bacon and Mushroom Dauphinoise with a Parmesan Crust

So, I got to thinking: Why not make a macaroni cheese, with potatoes instead of pasta? Not such a stupid idea; potato gratins have a similar principle to a mac 'n' cheese - since we are only talking about starch bound up in a creamy sauce (although it doesn't sound very appealing when you consider it in those terms.)

But even if the recipe is viable, why do it? Well, despite what some people say, macaroni cheese is not a side dish. I don't care how well it goes with southern fried chicken and gravy, it is NOT a side dish. This recipe, however, is. Not only can I justify (on grounds of good taste, if not outright health) serving my Dauphinoise with steak or chicken (whether southern fried or not), I think it would be great on its own, or with fish or vegetables. In fact, it's going to be a new Potless Towers staple!

Use waxy potatoes to ensure you don't end up with a big pan of sludge - you are not making cheesy bacony mash (mmm, not that cheesy bacony mash on the side of your plate would be a tragedy).

However, if you're looking for an accompaniment to chicken and waffles, and feel that my mac and cheese argument has no legs  - you can make my Gourmet Macaroni Cheese recipe instead. Enjoy!

Cost-wise, this dish is a winner. £1.50 per serving is all.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, cut into fine half moons
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g smoked bacon lardons
500g mushrooms, cut into 5mm thick slices
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1kg waxy potatoes, such as Desiree, peeled and cut into 1cm thick slices
Pinches of salt and pepper
100g cold butter, cut into 1cm dice
500ml milk
100g parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 180c. In a large pan, on a low to moderate heat, fry the onion, garlic, bacon and mushrooms in the oil until soft and translucent (15 minutes approx). In a roasting dish, layer potato slices, then an evenly sprinkled spoonful of the bacon mix and then top with a few knobs of butter and some seasoning. Repeat this process 2-3 more times until you have filled the dish. Ensure the top layer of potatoes are attractively arranged in an overlapping pattern. Carefully pour the milk into one corner of the dish until you have half filled it (check the level by slightly tipping the dish up at one end). Sprinkle the parmesan in a thick layer on top and bake the Dauphinoise in the oven until the potatoes are soft, and the crust is golden and crunchy (1 hour approx).



Sunday, 26 February 2012

Easy Thai Green Chicken Curry with Rice


The title of this recipe is really a bit of a scam - Thai green curries are really easy to make, whatever combination of ingredients you use.

I call mine 'easy' mainly because you don't need to buy any specialist ingredients; like pea aubergines (courgettes work just fine) or galangal (ginger is perfect too) or palm sugar (good old caster is an ideal substitute) or kaffir lime leaves (lime zest is excellent) or fish sauce (use soy instead) or lemon grass (lemon zest will suffice). In fact, apart from tinned coconut milk, which can be found in any large supermarket, you should find the rest of the green curry paste ingredients in your local convenience store.

If you want to make a prawn, pork or beef curry instead, substitute the chicken thighs - but cook the beef or pork a little longer and the prawns a little less.

Free-range chicken thighs are £5 per kilo in any supermarket, so this is a very cost-friendly dish. In fact, because of my non-exotic ingredients, this comes in at £2 per generous serving. If you use more specialist curry paste stuff, or prawns instead of chicken, this dish is still in Potless-territory, cost wise.

Serves 4

Thai Green Curry Paste

INGREDIENTS:

Handful of fresh coriander leaves and stalks
2 stalks of lemon grass or zest of a lemon
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (nam pla) or dark soy sauce.
2 green chillies
Thumb of ginger or galangal, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
Half an onion, or 1 shallot
1 teaspoon each of ground coriander seed and cumin
1 teaspoon of demerara or caster sugar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Pulse-blend all ingredients until fairly smooth. Set aside until needed.



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To Make the Curry

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil
1kg free-range chicken thighs, skin on
2 large courgettes, cut into 2cm dice
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
500g cooked basmati or Thai rice

In a large wok, fry the curry paste in the oil, on a moderate heat, until the fragrances have released (10 minutes approx). Add the chicken and lightly brown the skin. Add the coconut milk, and cook until the chicken is cooked-through and the sauce has thickened (20 minutes approx). Add the courgettes and simmer until soft (5 further minutes approx). Serve with the rice.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Quick Vegetable Curry with Rainbow Raita


My old friend, Jerome, popped in for a flying visit and demanded dinner. Literally demanded. So, since he had brought a fabulous bottle of wine with him, and had a pathetic, needy look on his face, I had to think fast. With a couple of bags of Marks and Spencer prepared vegetables in the fridge, I thought: I know! Microwaved vegetables! Errmm, no. I needed a plan B. So, curry it was.

Curry is a favourite meal round at Potless Towers. All you need is a cupboard full of spices and a few staple ingredients, and a tasty meal can be made in super quick time. You can also make this dish with chicken, meat or fish - or do as I do here: simply use a variety of vegetables, whether fresh or tinned. Either way, the curry base is versatile and can be made in advance, and refrigerated or frozen, with the addition of the main ingredient coming at the last possible minute.

Although any curry will always put a smile on your friends' faces, it is the rainbow raita which pushes this dish up a few notches into Wow-land. You must add as many colourful salad vegetables and herbs to the yoghurt base as you can find, and then top the whole thing off with garish stripes of dried spices, to make a creative and delicious table centrepiece. Plus, the fresh, slightly acidic taste will set off the rich curry beautifully.

The Marks and Sparks 500g bags of prepared carrots, cauliflower and broccoli florets are currently on offer at 2 for £3, so this recipe happened to cost me only £1.75 per serving, including the raita and rice. You could also serve some pitta or flatbreads to make a more carb-laden, substantial feast - or use meatier ingredients, instead of the vegetables alone, and still be well under your Potless budget.

Serves 4

Quick Vegetable Curry

INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon each of ground coriander seed, ground cumin, turmeric powder, chilli powder, paprika
2 cardamom pods
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of green lentils or chickpeas in water
200ml water
2 x 500g bags of prepared vegetables
2 red chillies, cut into 5mm rings, for sprinkling
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, for sprinkling

500g steamed rice, to serve
Pitta or flatbreads, to serve

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil, on a moderate heat, until soft and translucent (10 minutes approx). Add the dry spices and salt and pepper and cook until their fragrances have released (5 minutes approx). Add the tomatoes, lentils and water and cook until the sauce is thick and unctuous (45minutes-1 hour approx). Add the vegetables and cook until soft (5 minutes approx). Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chillis and coriander leaves immediately before serving. Serve with the rainbow raita and steamed rice, and maybe some pitta or flatbreads.

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Rainbow Raita

INGREDIENTS:

400ml natural Greek yoghurt
1 sweet yellow pepper, cut into 1cm dice
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into 2mm rings
Half a cucumber, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon each of paprika, ground coriander seed and turmeric powder, for sprinkling

In a bowl mix all ingredients, except for the dry spices. Season to taste. Once the ingredients have been mixed, sprinkle the dry spices on top, in attractive patterns (I favour two long intersecting parallel lines of each spice). Serve immediately.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Baba Ganoush

I'm a massive fan of the eggplant, whether I'm making my Grilled 'n' Chilled Japanese-style Aubergines, or this dish - the hummus of the vegetable world.

Normal recipes tell you to add tahini to your baba - sesame seed paste; but this version foregoes any specialist exotic purchases in favour of actual sesame seeds and pine nuts, which can be found in any supermarket or grocers.

Serve this Middle Eastern dip with pitta breads, or as a side dish with roast lamb - either way, it is a delicious, nutritious treat which you can make in minutes. If you have friends surprise you with a visit, you can quickly whip this up in the kitchen while the wine is chilling in the fridge.

Alternatively, serve them my 15 Minute Emergency Pate if you're feeling a bit more 'meaty', and you fancy serving something more interesting than crisps and peanuts with the old pinot grigio.

Baba ganoush is also as cheap as (but far more delicious than) chips. 75 pence per serving is all it will set you back.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

2 large aubergines
3 large cloves of garlic, in their skins
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
Half teaspoon of ground cumin seeds
Juice of 2 lemons
50ml olive oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
Fresh coriander leaves for sprinkling

Toasted warm pitta bread strips, to serve

Preheat oven to 220c. On a baking tray, roast the aubergines and garlic until soft (20 minutes approx). Scrape the aubergine flesh and garlic pulp into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (not the coriander leaves or pitta bread). Blend until smooth. Sprinkle with the coriander leaves just before serving. Serve immediately with the warm pitta bread strips.


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wild Rocket, Smoked Bacon, Sweet Roasted Pepper and Camembert Salad with Sourdough Garlic Croutons

When I'm not in the mood for carbs, I often take my favourite sandwich fillings and convert them into salads. This dish is a sandwich that I normally make with a sourdough baguette. However, trading the bread for sourdough garlic croutons is a reminder that no-one loves a health fanatic.

You could easily make a club sandwich-converted salad the same way, with chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cucumber - hardly a particularly healthy alternative, but any gesture in the right direction will do for me (I may even try a Whopper or Zinger Tower salad one day, if the mood strikes).

Anyway, get busy with the salads and that winter spare tyre will simply melt away. Today is actually the first warm day since October last year. Gotta do something about that spare tyre, before the spring really springs...

While your bodyweight plummets, your wallet-weight will stay nice and plumptious with this budget recipe. £2.50 per large serving for this dish, is all it'll cost you.

Serves 4

Rocket, Bacon, Roasted Pepper and Camembert Salad

INGREDIENTS:

200g wild rocket
200g smoked bacon lardons
4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 sweet red peppers, sliced into 2cm wide strips
200g camembert, cut into 2cm dice
100ml olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
Pinches of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200c. Dress a large serving platter with the rocket. In a frying pan, fry the lardons in half of the sunflower oil until crisp, and allow to cool. In the meantime, roast the peppers, with the other half of the sunflower oil, in the oven until slightly charred in places and the flesh is soft and translucent (30 minutes approx). Arrange  the cooled lardons, peppers and the camembert chunks over the rocket. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and salt an pepper in a bowl and dress the salad. Sprinkle with the warm sourdough garlic croutons immediately before serving.

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Sourdough Garlic Croutons

INGREDIENTS:

Half of a sourdough baguette, cut into 1cm thick slices
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
Pinches of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200c. In a bowl, gently toss the bread in the oil, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper until evenly coated. Place the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet, turning once until golden and crunchy (15 minutes total, approx). Serve warm.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Roast Pork Belly with Spiced Apple and Sultana Sauce


Pork belly in the 2010's is what lamb shanks were in the 2000's and sundried tomatoes were in the 1990's (do you remember lamb shanks a decade ago, before they became almost as expensive as prime leg cuts? Or a restaurant dish in the 90's which DIDN'T contain sundried tomatoes?). It's cheap to buy, versatile and completely delicious, but needs to be cooked low and slow to allow as much fat as possible to render away, leaving you with crispy skin, firm white flesh and soft, cartilaginous layers of scumptiousness.

In the centre of Chinatown in Gerrard St, Soho, there is a supermarket called Loon Fung, with a butchery section right at the back of the store (not a particularly good shop for other stuff, but the butcher is a rare find), which sells all of the most terrifying parts of the pig - flank, ears, intestines, snout etc. In fact, pork belly is by far the most 'normal' cut of meat they sell,  and it is very cheap - £3.75 per kilo in fact.

So, before the belly goes the way of the lamb shank and becomes as expensive as pork loin, you had better start enjoying it now. Otherwise you'll have to start making roast pork intestines instead - and I'm not so sure your friends will be saying 'Wow' for the right reasons.

The spiced apple and sultana sauce is really my Apple Strudel filling recipe, but goes so well to cut the richness of this dish. The cost (currently) of this whole dish comes in at a ridiculously cheap £1.50 per serving. You could also serve some steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes with it and still come in way under budget. Oink Oink!

Delicious served with my Roasted, Spiced Butternut Squash.

Serves 4

Roast Pork Belly

INGREDIENTS:

1.5kg pork belly
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
6 bay leaves
Pinches of salt and pepper

Make 1cm wide long slashes in the skin of the belly and cut the belly into individual servings. Cook the belly pieces in boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove the belly pieces from the water and allow to cool and get bone dry - wipe with paper towels to get rid of any excess surface water. Preheat oven to 240c. Rub garlic powder, rosemary and thyme onto the meat only, not the skin. Lay bay leaves on the bottom of a roasting pan and place the belly pieces on top. Carefully pour oil into the skin cuts and wipe any residue off the surface of the skin. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook in the hot oven for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until the skin is crispy and golden. Serve with the spiced apple and sultana sauce.

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Spiced Apple and Sultana Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
50g sultanas
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Place the ingredients in a bowl and microwave for 4 minutes on high power. Mix together until you have a smooth sauce and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Viennese Bratwurst with Sweet and Sour Braised Red Cabbage


When Mrs Ribeye and I travelled to Vienna in Austria last Easter, we stayed at the Adagio Zentrum Aparthotel, which was a brand new block of studio-style hotel rooms with small kitchenettes, right in Vienna city centre. Utterly brilliant, because it meant I could cook some Potless specialities while we were there, and save our money for other pursuits, rather than paying for the world's dearest meal (Zum Schwarzen Kameel ['The Black Camel'] springs to mind - £180 per head. Thank heavens I wasn't paying THAT night!)

Anyway, Vienna is where I discovered Austrian Potato Salad, and where we invited our friends, Bea, Danielle and Renee over to our hotel to sample some home-cooked local delights.

I decided to cook this dish, because  the local deli stocked the most incredible array of sausages I had ever seen. Large, small, long, fat and thin chicken, veal, beef and, of course, pork frankfurters lined the shelves of the display cases, and I bought a large selection, with a jar of the hot local mustard to eat with them.

But what to serve with them? Potatoes are too boring, and I wanted to cook something a bit more authentic and complimentary to the richness, smokiness and saltiness of the sausages. So, sweet and sour braised red cabbage it was. And what a decision that turned out to be.

This dish is now a local London favourite of mine. Just buy the best bratwurst you can find, and the cheap cost of the other ingredients of this peasant-style dish will still keep the recipe under budget at £2.50 per serving. Dijon or English mustard works just as well as Austrian mustard, if you can't find any near where you live.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 large red cabbage, shredded
1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm dice
100g sultanas
Juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
Pinches of salt and pepper

1kg bratwurst
Hot Austrian (or Dijon, or English) mustard, to serve

To make the red cabbage: In a large pan combine all ingredients (except the bratwurst and mustard) in a pan and cook with the lid on, on a low to moderate heat, until soft and translucent and any liquid has evaporated (1.5 hours approx). Serve with the bratwurst and mustard on the side.

In the meantime, in a large pan of water, simmer the bratwurst on a low heat, to prevent bursting, until cooked (30 minutes approx).



Monday, 20 February 2012

Chinese-Style Baked River Cobbler with Kai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) in Oyster Sauce

Fish is fashion. River cobbler is really a fish called 'basa' from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. It has a catfish-like, firm meaty texture, which makes it perfect for this dish, because it soaks up flavours and does not taste in any way fishy - it's actually more like a steak. Mrs Ribeye prefers it to any other fish - which is good for me, because it's about the cheapest thing on the fish counter.

I started buying river cobbler years ago, as an impoverished student, horrified at the price of cod and haddock (the last generation's poor man's fish species). But because of its rising popularity, I am seeing the price rising now. It is currently at a very fair £7.50 per kilo - but it'll get dearer than that soon, trust me. I'll soon be making this dish with the (questionably) edible parts of the Indonesian poisonous puffer fish or South African puke-your-guts-up fish, probably. If you can't find river cobbler in your local shop, you can use any other white-fleshed fish.

Anyway, because river cobbler can take a good strongly-flavoured marinade, I decided to Chinese-it-up a bit, with fresh ginger and garlic and then bake it in foil parcels 'en papillotte'. Utterly delicious, and a bit theatrical when you get a puffed-up parcel on your plate.

Kai lan is a Chinese broccoli, but without the western-style flowery florets. In fact, it's just like our stalky bits, but with spinachy leaves - and very tender and scrumlicious they are too, when lightly steamed or boiled. Buy them from your local Asian grocer, or use regular broccoli instead. While you are at the Asian grocer's, buy a bottle of authentic oyster sauce and some crispy dried onions. I use an oyster sauce brand called Woh Hup (99p for 180g) and a crispy onions brand called Top Taste (£1.25 for 150g). Perfect flavours and textures to offset the broccoli stems.

This whole dish is student-priced at £2.25 per serving. You can serve steamed rice with it, and still be under budget.

Serves 4

Chinese-Style Baked River Cobbler

INGREDIENTS:

800g river cobbler (8 fillets)
Thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
100g mushrooms, finely sliced
100g red pepper, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
50ml dark soy sauce
50ml toasted sesame oil

Preheat oven to 200c. On a large sheet of foil, lay a river cobbler fillet. Arrange a layer of mushrooms down the fillet's length, followed by a sprinkling of garlic, ginger, red pepper and chilli. Spoon a little soy sauce and sesame oil over the fillet and lay the second fillet on top. Make a loose, but airtight, parcel with the foil, and place it on a baking tray. Repeat with the remaining three parcels. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the parcels have puffed-up. Serve with the kai lan in oyster sauce.

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 Kai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) in Oyster Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

500g kai lan stems
90g Woh Hup brand (or other) oyster sauce
50g Top Taste brand (or other) dried crispy onions

Boil or steam the kai lan until tender, but not overcooked (8-10 minutes approx). Arrange on a plate and spoon a dollop of oyster sauce in the centre of the dish. Sprinkle with crispy onions immediately before serving.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Qrazy Qrooked Quesadillas Part 2


So, here are the other 2 quesadillas I promised you yesterday. I hope you like them as much as my Qrazy Qrooked Quesadillas Part 1.

If you make my duck confit recipe, keep 100g back for the first quesadilla recipe below, and the costs for this dish will come down even lower than the £2 per serving that it currently stands at.

Last night's entertainments, with Mrs Ribeye and friends, involved a fair amount of vodka with Red Bull. So, please forgive me for not writing too much pre-recipe banter - I simply do not have the head for it (it seemed like a good idea at the time, though). Normal service will resume tomorrow. Reggie x

Serves 4 (2 of each flavour, to share)

Duck Confit, Cranberry Sauce and Brie Quesadilla, with a Sweet Red Onion Marmalade Dip

Duck Confit, Cranberry Sauce and Brie Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS:

100g duck confit, shredded
100g brie, cut into 1cm dice
50g cranberry sauce
4 large tortilla wraps

Lay half the duck confit, followed by a sprinkling of half the cranberry sauce, followed by a scattering of half the brie, over one tortilla wrap, leaving a 5cm border. Lay another tortilla over the top and cook in a moderately hot dry frying pan, turning once, until both sides are golden and toasted and the filling is oozing. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Cut them into four quarters and serve with the sweet red onion marmalade dip.

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Sweet Red Onion Marmalade Dip

INGREDIENTS:

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

Fry the onion and oil on a low heat until soft and translucent (20 minutes approx). While still hot, stir in the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and allow to cool to room temperature. Set aside until needed

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Salami, Red Pepper, Spring Onion and Cheddar Quesadilla, with a Tomato Salsa Dip

Salami, Red Pepper, Spring Onion and Cheddar Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS:

100g Napoli or Milano salami, thinly sliced and cut into 1cm pieces
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
100g cheddar cheese, grated
4 large tortilla wraps

Combine the salami, onions, pepper and cheese in a bowl. Spread half of the filling over one tortilla, leaving a 5cm border. Lay another tortilla over the top and cook in a moderately hot dry frying pan, turning once, until both sides are golden and toasted and the filling is oozing. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Cut them into four quarters and serve with the tomato salsa dip.

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Tomato Salsa Dip

INGREDIENTS:

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Juice of a lime
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients in a bowl and refigerate to let the flavours develop (2 hours minimum) until needed. 


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Qrazy Qrooked Quesadillas Part 1


Toasted cheese sandwiches are an amazing comfort food when you're either ill, cold, sad, staying at your parents' house or just need a quick lunch. But a 'Wow your friends' recipe? I think not.

However, exchange the bread for a tortilla wrap and call it a quesadilla, and now you're in Wow territory. The only thing is, you can't just leave it there. You need to do some other cool stuff to it to make it into a Potless creation.

A few months ago, I watched a Nigella re-run, where the Domestic Goddess made a quesadilla with a piece of cheese and a strip of ham. And no other ingredients. Quite frankly, it was watching that episode that made me think I may have something to offer the world, with some of my 'special' creations.

I mean, I LOVE Nigella, but I would rather send out for McDonalds than offer my friends a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. I accept that maybe the point of that particular episode was 'comfort food' or something, but not even a spring onion? Come on!

As long as you have tortilla wraps and some cheese (if the recipe doesn't call for cheese, the peanut butter in the recipe below acts just as well - even if you can't strictly call it a 'quesa'dilla) to glue them together, you can make these Mexican-inspired treats with almost any flavours you fancy, and any sauces you like to dip them into. The four fillings and sauces here are really easy to make and are great party food, or supper with drinks when the guys come round to watch movies.

Depending on your ingredients, this dish is a fairly low cost affair (you could use smoked salmon off-cuts to make one of the recipes below even cheaper) at £2 per serving, but even if you use slightly more expensive ingredients, you should still be on budget.

Two recipes are below, with the other two to come tomorrow.

Serves 4 (2 of each flavour, to share)

Smoked Salmon, Crumbled Feta, Ricotta and Chive Quesadilla, with a Horseradish Creme Fraiche Dip

Smoked Salmon, Crumbled Feta, Ricotta and Chive Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS:

100g smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
100g feta cheese, crumbled
100g ricotta cheese
Bunch of chives, finely chopped
4 large tortilla wraps

Combine the salmon, cheeses and the chives to form a stiff paste. Spread half of the paste over one tortilla, leaving a 5cm border. Lay another tortilla over the top and cook in a moderately hot dry frying pan, turning once, until both sides are golden and toasted and the filling is oozing. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Cut them into four quarters and serve with the horseradish creme fraiche dip.

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Horseradish Creme Fraiche Dip

INGREDIENTS

100g creme fraiche
1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish sauce
Juice of a lemon
Pinches of salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside for flavours to amalgamate, until needed. 

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Snickers Bar and Banana Quesadilla, with a Peanut Butter and Jam Dip

Snickers Bar and Banana Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS:

2 Snickers bars, cut into 1cm dice
2 bananas, cut into 1cm dice
4 large tortilla wraps

Cover one tortilla wrap with half of the Snickers bar and banana chunks, leaving a 5cm border. Lay another tortilla over the top and cook in a moderately hot dry frying pan, turning once, until both sides are golden and toasted and the filling is oozing. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Cut them into four quarters and serve with the peanut butter and jam dip.

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Peanut Butter and Jam Dip

INGREDIENTS:

100g apricot jam
100g peanut butter
3 tablespoons of apple juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Heat in a microwave until the ingredients have amalgamated (1-2 minutes approx). Serve warm.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Spicy Falafel Wraps with Yoghurt, Garlic and Mint Sauce and Chilli Salsa

Middle Eastern food is so brilliant - fresh flavours, spicy and colourful ingredients, and all within a stone's throw of our flat. Edgware Road is so full of fantastic delis and food emporia (plural of 'emporium' hopefully - or have I just invented a new word?), that I'm never far from inspiration.

This weekend, I'm going to have a Middle Eastern-themed party. Alongside these delicious falafel wraps, I think I'll also serve my Lamb Shwarma Wraps and my Lamb Kofte Quarterpounders.

I love a party - Saturday's get-together is starting at 5pm to allow for some early celebrating. One of my oldest friends, Jasmine, is travelling to far off lands to live, and we are all sending her and her boyfriend Guy off in style. In fairness, this is not the first time Jasmine has buggered off to live abroad. This is (by my reckoning) her third leaving do, but I don't care - any excuse for a party.

This dish comes in at £2 per large wrap - but as it's a party I would suggest that you make mini versions of all these three dishes and have a finger buffet. You could easily convert the kofte quarterpounders into little 'slider' burgers. Also, Morrisons Supermarkets do a packet of six 15cm diameter mini tortilla wraps, which are perfect for party food, if you don't fancy cutting these large warps into quarters.

Serves 4

Falafel

INGREDIENTS:

400g tin of chickpeas
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of fresh coriander leaves
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
Pinches of salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Pulse the ingredients together in a blender until you have a coarse paste. Form into sixteen golf-ball sized falafels and refrigerate until firm (1 hour approx). Deep fry until golden and crunchy (5 minutes approx).

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Yoghurt, Garlic and Mint Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

300ml Greek natural yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried mint
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together and set aside until needed.

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Chilli Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 red chillis, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
Juice of a lime
A few drops of Tabasco
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together and set aside until needed.

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To Assemble the Wraps

INGREDIENTS:

4 large tortilla wraps
1 cucmber, cut into 1cm dice
Half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
150g green olives, coarsely chopped

Heat the tortilla wraps on one side in a dry frying pan until slightly toasted. On the toasted side, spread a large spoonful of the yoghurt sauce and place 4 falafel balls in a straight line over the sauce. Dress with the vegetables and top with a large spoonful of the salsa. Roll the wrap into a fat cigar shape and then roll into a piece of foil to secure, twisting the ends. Cut the wraps in half to serve.


Frozen Mint Julep (or Mojito, or Daiquiri, or Caipirinha, or Caipiroska...)

Last September, I went on a trip to visit friends at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. On one occasion, I was taken to a local restaurant called Crooks Corner, where a  frozen mint julep was served as a dessert. A dish of mint sorbet, liberally doused in bourbon. Incredible.

I got to thinking, as long as you make a sorbet of any kind and keep it in the freezer; any time you fancy a frozen cocktail (or dessert, as the North Carolinans do), then just cleave off a big chunk and pour over any booze you like.

If you use white rum with your mint sorbet, you have a mojito. If you use cachaca, and omit the mint from the sorbet recipe, you have a caiparinha. If you use vodka instead, you have a caipiroska. If you use a fruit-flavoured sorbet with white rum, you have a frozen fruit daiquiri. You get the idea - experiment!

All you need to do, is make a stock syrup with a 1:1 sugar to water ratio, and flavour it, to make your sorbet. It's so easy and cheap to make - only the booze will cause a signifcant dent in your wallet. If you make the frozen mint julep with Wild Turkey whiskey, as I have here, the cost is around £1 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

200g caster sugar
200ml water
Juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes or 1 lemon
Large handful of mint leaves
4 double (or treble!) shots of Wild Turkey whiskey, to serve

In a pan, over a moderate heat, dissolve the sugar in the water and lime or lemon juice and zest. Add the mint leaves and allow mixture to cool. Once cool, take out the mint leaves and place the mixture in a freezer-proof container. Freeze until there is a 1cm layer of ice on the surface. Mix the surface ice vigorously into the rest of the liquid. Replace back into the freezer and repeat one or two more times until you have a smooth sorbet. Serve with a dousing of the whiskey.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Home-made Kentucky Fried Chicken

My dad, Mr Ribeye Sr., and I play squash on a Friday night at our club in Maida Vale, west London. It is a tradition that has gone on for many more years than I care to remember, and we meet the usual crowd of 'guys' (in reality, a bunch of clapped-out, middle-aged men, like us) for a few poorly-contested games.

After an hour or so, I leave the club and embark on the second of my age-old Friday night traditions: Buying junk food for Mrs Ribeye and myself, before settling down to the night's entertainment (in summer, that may mean meeting friends in the patio garden of a central London bar, but in winter that means TV and ice cream).

I just cannot bring myself to eat KFC. It's not the fat content (everything in moderation, cherie, even moderation - as the French say); it's the crappy quality chicken. I try as hard as I can not to subject myself, or the missus, to battery chickens. It's too repulsive.

So, with my KFC cravings getting the better of me (man cannot live by pizza and burgers alone), I have decided to start making my own version. AND IT IS FABULOUS. Dare I say, better than the original? Yes I do.It's better than the Colonel. Plus, it's way cheaper.

A kilo of free range chicken thighs are £5 at my local butcher, so this dish comes in at £2.50 per serving of 3-4 thighs each. Even if you factor in fries and coleslaw, it's still finger-lickin' cheaper.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

300g plain flour
2 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons of pepper
4 tablespoons of paprika
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of mustard powder
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1.5kg free range chicken thighs, skin-on
500ml milk
Sunflower, vegetable or corn oil for frying.

Heat the oil to a moderate temperature in a large wok or pan. Mix the flour and spices together in a large bowl. Pour the milk into a separate bowl. Submerge the chicken in the milk and then dip the chicken in the flour mix until well coated. Fry the chicken, in batches, until crispy on the outside and cooked-through (25-30 minutes approx).


Salad Nicoise

As salads go, this one is substantial enough to eat on a dreary winter's day in February. If you order this dish at Pizza Express, or any other Italian chain restaurant, you get a tinned tuna salad with olives. This could not be further from its Provencal origins (as in 'Nice' in France, so why you only find this salad in Italian restaurants is beyond me).

Buy fresh tuna and only lightly sear it - I actually prefer tuna raw, but it's not authentic Nicoise if I don't cook it a bit.

Although salads aren't really cooking - and are really an assembly job, this dish looks so spectacular that your friends will truly be wowed by the colours and flavours not to notice that you have hardly slaved over their lunch (but have been dancing around the kitchen, listening to Daft Punk, drinking beer and creating kitchen art instead).

Serve this salad on a huge serving platter and be as creative as you dare with the final presentation. I favour neat, symmetrical combinations of ingredients myself, but a salad-y 'organised chaos' is great too.

Tuna loin is not cheap at £15 per kilo at my local supermarket, but this dish still comes in at £3 per serving.

Serves 4

Salad Nicoise

INGREDIENTS:

400g tuna loin, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Pinches of salt and pepper
200g baby new potatoes
200g fine green beans
4 eggs
1 round lettuce
4 tomatoes, cut into 2cm dice
1 cucumber, cut into 2cm dice
1 yellow pepper, cut into 2cm dice
100g green olives
1 red onion, cut into fine half moons

In a hot pan, sear the tuna loin pieces in the olive oil until cooked to a depth of 2mm and still raw in the middle. Sprinkle with the oregano and salt and pepper and allow to cool. In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes for 10 minutes, then add the eggs for 3 minutes, then add the beans for a further 3 minutes (16 minutes total). Remove the potatoes, eggs and beans from the pan and allow to cool. Arrange the salad vegetables on the serving platter with the cooled potatoes and beans. Quarter the eggs and arrange on the platter. Top with the tuna loin pieces. Sprinkle with Nicoise dressing just before serving.

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Nicoise Dressing

INGREDIENTS:

100ml olive oil
50ml red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of dried basil
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients and set aside until needed.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Chocolate Cornflake Banoffi Pie Cake

Waitrose are doing a Valentine's Day meal-for-two offer of a starter, main course, two side dishes and a bottle of wine for £20. In the name of research, I wandered down to the Edgware Road branch to see what you get for your money, and I was more than a little disappointed. Apart from the wine (which was admittedly a lovely bottle of Spanish rose cava), the food was uninspiring and nowhere near worth the extortionate price tag.

I could have chosen from some meat pie thing, two bits of salmon with a herby butter or two wafer thin sirloin steaks; together with dull prepared vegetables, and a liver pate to start (there was no other starter choice - poor old vegetarians). Dessert was either a stodgy-looking chocolate fudge cake or a passion (haha, very topical) fruit dessert. To be honest, the price tag was immaterial - the food was just SO dull.

Having left Waitrose not feeling like I'm missing out on anything, I have decided to make Mrs Ribeye and I a feast to get the motors revving.

As Mrs Ribeye's favourite meal in the whole wide world is lasagna (she has simple tastes, bless her), I'm making my Easy Lasagna Pasta Bake as a main course, but I'm making this Chocolate Cornflake Banoffi Pie Cake for dessert. That should do the trick.

This delicious dessert comes in at £1 per serving. Enough left over to buy that Spanish rose cava - I hope Waitrose is still open.

Serves 4 (with leftovers for tomorrow)

INGREDIENTS:

100g golden syrup
100g dark chocolate
100g cornflakes
1 x 400g can of sweetened condensed milk
2 large bananas, sliced into 1cm rounds
200ml whipped cream
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Heat the golden syrup and chocolate in a microwave until amalgamated (1 minute approx). Allow to cool and mix in the cornflakes. Submerge the tin of condensed milk in a water-filled saucepan and boil for three hours, ensuring the tin is always covered with water to avoid exploding. In the meantime, spread the cornflake mixture into a loose-bottomed 20cm flan tin. Lay slices of banana evenly over the cornflake base. Allow the condensed milk toffee to cool and spread over the bananas. Top with whipped cream and dust with the cocoa. Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Chicken Milanese with Spaghetti in Tomato and Mushroom Sauce


This dinner is a favourite of Mrs Ribeye's and very easy to make. We love Italian food and used to frequent La Porchetta in Muswell Hill in north London, before the 4'11" waiter started getting too big for his size 3 boots and favoured barking angrily at his customers as a form of communication. What an idiota.

Anyway, since we don't live in north London any more, the situation has resolved itself, and we are now on the look out for a local pizza/pasteria - but in the meantime we sate our pasta cravings with this dish.

Veal is generally the correct meat for this recipe, but chicken is a very handy and much cheaper substitute. All-in, this comes to £2.50 per serving. If I make this dish with veal instead, the cost doubles - but on occasion I don't mind. Valentine's day is Tuesday - maybe Mrs Ribeye and I will take a walk around Marylebone and find a new place to eat out, or (more likely) maybe I'll spend a little extra at my local butcher and go a bit over my Potless budget.

Serves 4

Chicken Milanese

INGREDIENTS:

4 chicken breasts
4 tablespoons of flour
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
100g breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of clingfilm and gently flatten them out with a rolling pin, ensuring that they each stay in one piece. Mix the flour and the salt and pepper together and coat the chicken breasts. Shake off the excess. Dip the chicken in the egg, followed by the breadcrumbs. In a frying pan, on a moderate heat, fry the chicken breasts until golden and crunchy on the outsides and cooked through the middle (15 minutes approx), turning once. Serve with the spaghetti in tomato and mushroom sauce.

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Spaghetti in Tomato and Mushroom Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

250g mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
400g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
300ml water

500g cooked spaghetti, to serve

In a saucepan with the lid on, fry the mushrooms, onion, garlic, oil, salt and pepper and oregano together until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is soft and translucent (20 minutes approx). Add the tomatoes and water and cook on a low heat, uncovered now, until the water has evaporated and the sauce is thick and unctuous (1 hour approx). Mix the sauce into the cooked spaghetti, and serve.


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Courgette Soup with Zuchini Fritti Croutons


Minus 12c in London? Has the world gone mad? There's only one thing for it: Soup.

Courgette soup is pretty much as easy as it gets - just fry up a few big 'uns with an onion, add stock, blend it all together and BOOM: dinner.

If you're not a zuchini fan, substitute them for any vegetable you fancy; but this one is so delicious and easy to make, that you'll be hard-pressed to do better. Also, because courgettes are so substantial, you won't need potatoes or any other thickener to bulk the soup out.

The zuchini fritti croutons are what really turns this soup into a 'Wow' recipe. If you are not making courgette soup, just make regular bread croutons, or make fritti out of whichever vegetable your soup ingredient is. Or just use the zuchini fritti anyway - they go really well with almost any soup.

Three courgettes are £1 in my local supermarket at the moment, so this dish comes in at 75 pence per serving. You could serve this soup with The Easiest Bread in the World, and still come in way under budget.

Serves 4

Courgette Soup

INGREDIENTS:

3 large courgettes, chopped into 1cm rounds
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1.5 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
Pinches of salt and pepper

Fry the courgettes and onions in the olive oil in a large pan, on a moderate heat, until soft and translucent (20 minutes approx). Add the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Allow to slightly cool and then blend to a smooth consistency. Season to taste, and serve immediately with a few zuchini fritti croutons.

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Zuchini Fritti Croutons

INGREDIENTS:

1 large courgette, cut into 1cm dice
1 egg, beaten
50g breadcrumbs
Pinches of salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying

Dip the courgette chunks into the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden and crunchy (2-3 minutes approx). Season with the salt and pepper.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Italian Beef Stew with Giardiniera

Giardiniera is my latest discovery. I love pickles. I love celery. I love Italian food. I love giardiniera. Serve giardiniera with this rich Italian beef stew to create a cacophany of flavours and textures. I've made enough of this delicious relish to eat it with every meal I make this week. Giardiniera with Lemon Drizzle Fairy Cakes? Why not?

Beef shin is £3.75 per kilo at my local Chinese cash and carry, in north west London. A completely delicious cut of beef, but needs long slow cooking. Don't worry about getting rid of all the fat and sinew - it melts into the sauce to create a fantastic flavour.

This whole dish tastes like a million dollars, but comes in at £2 per serving. Truly 'Wow'.

Serves 4

Italian Beef Stew

INGREDIENTS:

1kg beef shin, cut into 3cm dice
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 2cm dice
2 sticks of celery, cut into 2cm dice
1 large carrot, cut into 2cm dice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250ml red wine
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil
1 x 400g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
400ml water
Pinches of salt and pepper

Fry the beef and olive oil in a large casserole pan, on a moderate heat, until the beef has browned and any liquid has evaporated. Add the vegetables and herbs and allow to soften. Add the red wine, tomatoes, water and salt and pepper. Turn the heat to very low, and cook until the sauce has thickened (3-4 hours approx). Serve with the giardiniera.

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Giardiniera

INGREDIENTS:

3 sticks of celery, very finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of dried chilli flakes and dried oregano
50ml olive oil
25ml cider vinegar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate to let the flavours develop (at least 2 days).


Friday, 10 February 2012

Lemon Drizzle Fairy Cakes

6,6,6,3 is not my debit card PIN number, nor my squash club locker combination - it's my (not so) secret cake formula. You may have noticed from my Apple, Cinnamon and Sultana Cake recipe that my cake batter of choice is 6 ounces of the dry ingredients, plus three eggs. Well, in new money, 6oz is 175g; but more importantly, it is the magic measurement to create almost any flavour of cake you fancy.

Today, I fancy making fairy cakes to brighten up a dismal weekend of drizzly weather (hence, 'drizzle' cakes). You may think that fairy cakes are not a particularly 'manly' pursuit, but Mrs Ribeye will be delighted - and that's what counts.

These lemony treats could very well be made with any fruit of your choosing - just substitute the lemon zest in the batter for another fruit zest, chocolate chips, caramel chunks, fruit compote, nuts or marshmallows. The topping can be sugar frosted, melted chocolate, or a candied fruit - whatever you like really.

Cakes are always cheap to make. These little darlings come in at about 20 pence each. That's why bakers are all as rich as Croesus.

Makes 20 cakes

INGREDIENTS:

Lemon Cake Batter

175g self raising flour
175g caster sugar
175g margerine
3 eggs
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Drizzle Topping

100g icing sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 180c. Beat the cake batter ingredients together until light and fluffy. Transfer spoonfuls of batter to individual paper cases on a baking tray, or a muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cakes have risen and are golden on top. While the cakes are cooking, mix the drizzle topping ingredients in a bowl. Remove the cakes from the oven, and while still warm, pierce the top of the cakes with a sharp knife and pour the drizzle topping over the surface of the cakes. Allow to cool before serving.



Duck Confit with Pommes Boulangere


Every year or so, my mum, Mrs Ribeye Sr., and I, take her huge 4x4 over to Calais and stock up on French hypermarket treats. On our 'must not miss' list are normally whole jambon crus (air-dried hams), single forerib beef steaks (very hard to buy in UK supermarkets, for some reason), huge jars of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and tins of duck confit.

Had I known that duck confit was easy to make at home (and probably cheaper, after factoring in petrol and Eurotunnel expenses etc), I would have taken up more boot space with wine and beer, rather than the unwieldy 2kg tins.

Then one day, I made a pork rillettes recipe (to come to Potless on a later date - watch this space) and it occurred to me that the confit process I was subjecting my pork bellies to, could be adapted for duck legs. So I tried it, and lo and behold - not only easy to make, but those French duck confit tins I used to buy now remind me of dog food in comparison. Sorry Carrefour, but it's true.

Those French tins were setting me back about £8 for five duck legs. This recipe comes in at £2.50 per serving INCLUDING the pommes boulangere side dish. You may also want to serve this dish with a sharp salad vinaigrette, to cut the richness of the dish.

Serves 4

Duck Confit

INGREDIENTS:

4 large duck legs
4 tablespoons of salt
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of black pepper
8 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
500g melted duck fat


Start by rubbing the salt, garlic, bayleaves, thyme and pepper into the duck legs and leave them, uncovered, in a container in the fridge overnight. The next day, transfer the contents of the container to an oven dish, cover with the duck fat and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 100c and leave the duck legs to cook for 4 hours. There must be barely a bubble breaking the surface of the fat. After 4 hours, remove the duck from the pan and dry the skin on kitchen paper. Allow to cool. Fry the duck confit, skin side down, in a moderately hot frying pan until crispy. Serve with the pommes boulangere.

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Pommes Boulangere

INGREDIENTS:

1kg waxy potatoes, such as Desiree, or Charlotte
1 large onion, finely sliced into half moons
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 tablespoon of dried thyme leaves
Pinches of salt and pepper
500ml chicken stock
4-5 knobs of butter

Preheat oven to 200c. Peel and cut the potatoes into 5mm thick slices. Layer the potatoes, onion and garlic in a roasting dish, sprinkling the thyme and salt and pepper between each layer. Ensure that the top layer is even and attractively arranged, with overlapping potato slices. Carefully pour the chicken stock over the potatoes and dot the butter over the dish. Place the dish in the oven and cook until the top is golden and crunchy (1 hour approx).


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Honey Cake with Maple Cheesecake Frosting

I love honey (strictly speaking, golden syrup) cake. I love cheesecake. I love maple syrup. Put them together, and BAAM! The best cake in the whole wide world ever.

This honey cake is really just a carrot cake recipe without the carrot, so I decided that I would add the normal cheescake frosting to see whether the slightly acidic flavour would cut the richness of the cake. But did I leave it there? No! I had to take it one step further. By adding maple syrup I think I may have defeated the whole 'acidic' purpose thing. I don't care though, because this cake is the reason why gloomy February days are now full of sunshine.

This cake is so rich, that it will feed 16 people. I use a roasting tin, instead of a cake tin because it's so big. That means that this recipe comes in at about 30 pence per serving. It will, of course, come in at about £5 per serving if you decide to eat the whole thing yourself (which I might).

Serves 16-20

INGREDIENTS:

For the honey cake

450g tin of golden syrup
1 golden syrup tin volume of water
3/4 golden syrup tin volume of sunflower oil
450g self raising flour
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
200g tub of low fat cream cheese

For the frosting

3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat oven to 160c. Heat the syrup, water and oil in a bowl in the microwave until everything has amalgamated together (1 minute approx). Allow mixture to slightly cool, and then beat in the rest of the cake ingredients to form a smotth batter. Transfer to a greaseproof paper-lined roasting pan and cook in the oven for 1 hour. While the cake is cooking, beat the cream cheese with the maple syrup and refrigerate until needed. When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting in an even layer over the top surface. Dust with the cinnamon.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

London Nachos

The whole point of nachos is to create something greater than the sum of its parts. There is nothing particularly special about tortilla chips and cheese that cannot be found in a billion combinations on a thousand other Mexican dishes. But with nachos, I don't play by the rules.

I cannot muster much of a 'Wow' from my friends, if I heave onto my table a platter of bog standard Mexicana. My friends are a tough crowd, and expect a whole lot more. So, under the 'nachos' banner, I always seek to outdo my previous incarnations, by combining gourmet flavours, colours and cuisines in pushing some tired old boundaries. Today's recipe takes Asian, Italian, Texan and Greek influences, and makes something... London style!

The only rule is to be aware that you are not aiming to create a mountain of sloppy gunge. Be creative - not revolting.

Tortilla chips are cheap (79p for a large bag, from my local supermarket at Marble Arch) and the other ingredients can be as thrifty or as deluxe as you like - but you'll be hard pressed to spend more than £3 per serving, whatever you add. This recipe comes in at a very friendly £2.50 per serving. Fabulous with a cold beer.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Half of a small white cabbage, finely shredded
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of celery seeds
Pinches of salt and pepper
100g breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon garam masala
200g pork belly, cut into 2cm dice
1 egg, beaten
vegetable oil for frying
2 x 200g bags of lightly salted tortilla chips
4 red chillis, deseeded and sliced into thin rings
3 balls of mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm dice
150g shop-bought small Swedish meatballs (like the ones from Ikea)
3 tablespoons of barbecue sauce
100g natural greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon of dried mint
1 clove of garlic, minced
200g block of feta cheese, cut into 5mm dice
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
Juice of a lime
Handful of capers

Start by making the coleslaw: Mix the cabbage, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, celery seeds and salt and pepper together. Set aside.

Mix the breadcrumbs and garam masala together. Dip the pork belly chunks into the egg, followed by the breadcrumbs and then deep fry, on a moderate heat, until golden (10 minutes approx). Set aside.

Preheat oven to 200c. On a large, oven-proof platter, spread the tortilla chips, followed by the chillis and then the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese has melted.

Microwave the meatballs in a bowl with the barbecue sauce, until piping hot. Arrange the meatballs and the pork belly over the platter.

Heap the coleslaw in a mound in the centre of the platter.

Mix the yoghurt, feta cheese, mint and garlic together. Dot the sauce evenly around the edges of the platter.

Mix the tomatoes, spring onions, lime juice and capers together. Dot the salsa evenly on any un-sauced parts of the platter. Serve immediately.



Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Beef Wellington

This morning, Marks and Spencer at Paddington Green had packs of two small fillet steaks for the reduced price of £4, which means that... Beef Wellington makes it into Potless!

Just because the 'use by' date is today, doesn't mean that the steaks will be any less delicious. In fact, I was watching an old episode of River Cottage, where Hugh F-W and Ray the Butcher were moaning that beef isn't hung for long enough before being placed on supermarket shelves. So, in fact, the beef I bought this morning is even BETTER than the fresher stuff (theoretically). Shhh - don't tell M&S.

Serve these beauties with boiled potatoes and steamed veg. You won't need gravy - the mushroom stuffing in the Wellingtons adds enough moisture. £3 per serving (for today only, perhaps) Hooray!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

250g plain flour
250g cold butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
1 teaspoon of salt
150ml cold water
4 fillet steaks
1 tablespoon of olive oil
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of brandy, port or sherry
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Steamed vegetables, to serve

To make the puff pastry: Lightly mix the flour, butter, salt and water in a bowl, until you have a butter-flecked ball of pastry. Refrigerate the pastry for 1 hour. Roll out the pastry ball, in one direction only,  into one long strip and fold the ends into the middle. Turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat this process for a third and final time. Cut the pastry into 4 equal portions and refrigerate until needed.

Fry the steaks in a blisteringly hot pan, in the olive oil, until seared on all surfaces, but not cooked-through (3 minutes approx). Remove the steaks from the pan and add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, brandy, and salt and pepper. Cook on a moderate heat until all liquid has evaporated and the stuffing is soft and translucent (30 minutes approx). Take one portion of pastry and roll it to a 5mm thickness. Place a quarter of the stuffing in an even layer on the pastry, leaving a 1cm margin around the edges. Place a steak on the stuffing and close the pastry parcel, using water to seal the edges. Brush with the beaten egg. Repeat for the other three Wellingtons and then refrigerate them for an hour. Bake in a preheated 220c oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how rare you like your steak. Serve with the steamed vegetables.


Tuna, Salmon and Mackerel Temaki Sushi (Hand Rolls)


I don't buy sushi-grade fish. I have eaten regular raw fish from supermarkets for years and never had a health problem. I do have common sense rules that I live by though: 1) When shopping for raw fish, I only use supermarkets with the best reputation for quality and freshness; 2) I ask the supermarket for the date their next fish consignment comes into the store - and then buy it that morning; 3) I check that the fish is firm, close-textured and smells fresh (not 'fishy').

I have scoured the web for advice on whether I can safely eat raw supermarket fish (I don't have a deathwish, thank you very much - or a particularly tough stomach lining, come to that), and the answer is 50% for and 50% against. Good enough for me.

(The way I look at it, most supermarkets recommend eating their non sushi-grade tuna only lightly seared - which is still raw in the middle. Plus, they also sell oysters, which aren't meant to be cooked at all.)

Or, buy sushi-grade fish for yourself - please don't feel compelled to take my advice. If you do take my advice, it is at your own risk, but then this dish comes in under-budget, at £3 per serving of 3-4 huge tamaki. If you do decide to buy sushi-grade instead, then this recipe would not be on this website, since the cost of the fish would put the recipe insanely over budget - but feel free to make it anyway.

Arrange the ingredients on a huge serving platter and encourage your friends to make their own temaki. It's dead easy and a whole lot of fun.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

250g sushi or risotto rice
50ml rice vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon salt
200g fresh salmon fillet, skinned and pin-boned or fresh tuna loin
4 mackerel fillets, pin-boned, but with the skin left on
12-16 sheets of nori (roasted seaweed)
1 tube of wasabi paste
4 avocados, peeled and de-stoned, and/or yellow and red sweet peppers
8 spring (salad) onions or chives
1 cucumber
25g sesame seeds
25g poppy seeds
Pickled ginger, to serve

To make the sushi rice: Add the rice to a pan with twice the volume of water. Cook the rice on a moderate heat until the water has fully absorbed (15 minutes approx). While the rice is still warm, add the vinegar, salt and sugar and fold in gently to ensure you don't break up the rice grains. Set aside until needed.

Slice all fish fillets across the grain, until you have long, narrow strips of 2cm thickness. Slice the avocados and/or peppers into similar size strips. Slice the cucumber into similar size strips. Chop the spring onions finely.

In separate ramekins, place the wasabi, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and spring onions or chives (I sometimes sprinkle the sesame seeds on the salmon and the poppy seeds on the mackerel instead, as I have done in the picture). On a large serving platter, arrange the fish, cucumber, avocado and/or peppers and pickled ginger in a colourful attractive pattern. Place the nori sheets on a separate plate, to ensure they stay dry. Serve the rice in a large separate bowl. Place a blob of wasabi and some soy sauce in a ramekin.

To make the sushi: Take a sheet of nori. Place a handful of rice on the sheet and press it into an even layer with your fingers. Lay any combination of fish and vegetables onto the rice. Dress with wasabi, soy sauce and the seeds. Roll the nori into a cone-shaped temaki. Eat before the nori becomes soggy (ie immediately!)


Monday, 6 February 2012

Middle Eastern Lamb Kofte Quarterpounder with French Fries

Mrs Ribeye and I live about 5 minutes walk from Marble Arch in central London. Along the Edgware Road are dozens of Middle Eastern food shops and supermarkets, selling the most incredible range of exotic products.

On my last shopping trip, I gathered a whole bunch of authentic ingredients, and set about recreating a High Street favourite - the Quarterpounder with French Fries. Why did I do this? I think it's because I quite enjoy fusing cultures together and seeing whether I can make something which uses the best bits of both.

Here, a typical flatbread is traded for a ciabatta roll, to make the meal more substantial and easier to hold in your hands; and the regular hamburger condiments are traded for Middle Eastern-style dips. The 'burger' is a typical lamb kofte recipe, which can be bought from any Edgware Road butcher or deli, or can be easily made yourself (as I have here).

Try it - You'll never walk into a fast-food place again (until you're drunk and it's midnight and nothing else is open).

This is not fast food, and therefore not as cheap as buying a greasy burger from a chain outlet. But this recipe is still on budget at £3 per serving.

Serves 4

Lamb Kofte Quarterpounder

INGREDIENTS:

400g minced lamb
1 onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, dried mint, dried chilli flakes, paprika, cumin powder, coriander seed powder, powdered cinnamon, salt and pepper
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

Mix the ingredients together and form in to four patties. Fry in a dry pan, on a moderate heat, until cooked through and slightly charred on the outside (10-15 minutes approx). Do not move the burgers around the pan while cooking.

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Garlic, Mint and Yoghurt Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

200ml natural Greek yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried mint
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until needed.

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Tomato and Chilli Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

2 large tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 large red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
2 or 3 drops of Tabasco sauce
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until needed.

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To Assemble the Burger

INGREDIENTS

4 ciabatta rolls
Half an iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
8 slices of cucumber
1 large sweet onion, finely sliced into rings
8 large potatoes
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Toast the ciabatta rolls lightly on both sides under a grill. Spread the top half of the roll with the yoghurt dip, and then cover with the lettuce and cucumber. On the bottom roll, place the burger, followed by the salsa, then 2-3 onion rings. Place the two halves of the roll together and serve the Quarterpounder with the French fries.

To make the French fries: Peel and slice the potatoes into long narrow strips. In a very hot pan, deep fry the potatoes with the oil until golden and crunchy (30 minutes approx).



Sunday, 5 February 2012

Apple, Cinnamon and Sultana Cake


This is such a great 'Wow Your Friends' recipe. A simple 6,6,6,3 fairy cake batter with a spicy apple filling, which means minimum preparation for you, and maximum delight for your friends when they come round for tea on Sunday afternoon. The weather in London today may be snow, but my kitchen today is definitely warm with a delicious outlook.

Cakes always offer amazing value for money - and this one, particularly, is no exception. The whole 8-10 serving cake comes in at £3, which means less than 40 pence per serving. Put the kettle on...

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

175g self raising flour
175g margerine, softened
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
75g sultanas
1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar
1 tablespoon of icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180c. Beat the flour, margerine, caster sugar and vanilla together until the batter is light and creamy (10 minutes approx with an electric mixer). In a springform (loose-bottomed) 20cm tin, lined with baking parchment, place 5/6 (five-sixths) of the batter. In a bowl, mix the apples, sultanas, cinnamon and demerara sugar. Spread the apple mix, in an even layer, over the cake batter in the tin. Take the remaining batter and spoon it unevenly over the apple mix, leaving gaps. Bake the cake until risen and golden (1 hour approx). Wait for the cake to cool before removing from the tin. Dust with the icing sugar.




Saturday, 4 February 2012

Roasted Tomato, Sweet Onion and Goat's Cheese Tart


This is basically a very easy-to-make pizza. Just buy the pastry in a ready-made sheet (life is too short to make your own) and add whichever toppings take your fancy. I could not be bothered to make a tomato sauce from scratch, just to make this tart, so I used fresh tomatoes here. If I make my own Italian tomato sauce for a pasta dish, I usually steal a bit from it and keep it in my freezer just for this recipe.

If you don't like goat's cheese or onions, use mozzarella and asparagus, or a billion other creations. Salami and ricotta is insanely good - Mrs Ribeye's favourite, actually.

Puff pastry sheets are on offer this week at my local supermarket at just £1 for 2 sheets, so today this recipe comes in at £1.50 per serving, including a green salad. Even when the price goes back up to £1.79, this still comes in at a fantastic £2 per serving for a light lunch or winter starter. Or make smaller individual tarts for a fab snack with drinks.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

2 large onions, finely sliced into half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 puff pastry sheets (425g total)
2 large tomatoes, finely sliced
200g goat's cheese, cut into 1cm dice
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 egg, beaten

Green salad, to serve

Preheat oven to 200c. Fry, on a low heat, the onions with the olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper until soft and golden (30 minutes approx). Lay out the pastry sheets and top with the onion mix, leaving a 2cm margin around the edges. Scatter slices of one tomato per pastry sheet over the onions. Dot cubes of goat's cheese over the tomatoes and sprinkle with the oregano. Brush the exposed pastry edge margins with the beaten egg. Bake in the oven until the pastry is golden and the cheese has melted (25 minutes approx). Serve one tart, with the green salad, between 2 people.