Friday, 30 March 2012

No Mess, No Fuss, No Worktop, Tiny Kitchen, No Room to Knead, Bread-Making


Mrs Ribeye and I live in a tiny little flat with a miniscule kitchen. The reason we took this place was that it is located in the best part of central London, which means the best part of the world, and it has an enormous roof terrace (which we haven't yet used, naturally).

The only problem with our tiddly little kitchen is the lack of worktops, which means that I sometimes use the hob as workspace. This is OK for any jobs apart from bread-making, where you need a sanitary flat surface to knead dough.

Up to this point I have got around the 'no space to knead bread' problem, by making a Soda Bread instead - which requires no kneading. That is, up to this point. But I really fancied some traditional yeasty bread this weekend, so I decided to rack my brains for a place to knead.

Could I use our oak table? No - it has an antique wax stain, which I'm not sure I want flavouring my bread. Can I use the hob with a plastic chopping board on it? Mmm, a bit too small and slidy. What about the one small work surface we have with the toaster and kettle on it? No, too manky - I'm not sure how well we clean behind the Dualit, and I cannot be bothered to start boiling water and getting the antibacterial wipes out.

Ah, but what about my 28cm diameter Le Creuset casserole pot? Would it be possible to make bread in that? Potless readers know how much my Le Creuset pot means to me, and it is never far from my mind when it comes to kitchen shenanigans, but can it save the day today?

So I got all of the bread dough ingredients together and dumped it all together in the pot. After a quick stir with a spoon to lightly mix the wet and the dry stuff together, I used my hand to knead the dough around the pot. After one minute, the dough was very sticky and I quickly glanced over at the oak table, to see whether it would be possible to clingfilm it - but I carried on kneading regardless. After two minutes the dough was less sticky, but not yet leaving the sides of the pot. Three minutes in, and the dough was starting to leave the sides of the pot. I left the dough and washed my hands. When  I returned with clean hands and fresh resolve, I gave the dough a two minute proper pounding around the sides of the pot.

Bingo, perfect dough made! No mess, no fuss, and with somewhere handy to allow the dough to prove - the pot! I just bunged on the lid and waited for an hour for the dough to double in size before knocking it back and allowing it to prove for a second and final time before baking.


I don't care if our next place is a mansion with a 10,000 sq ft kitchen. I'm making my bread in a casserole pot forever. The most important thing, is that the amount of flour you would expect to be lightly covering all your kitchen surfaces in the normal course of bread-making is not there. Try it, it's brilliant.

Asda has 1.5kg bags of strong white bread flour on offer for 60p at the moment. You only need 1kg for this recipe, so that works out at 40p per loaf. Factoring in the yeast, sugar and salt, and this bread still only comes in at £1 per huge loaf, or 50p for two normal sized ones, or 10p per pizza base or roll.

My old faithful Le Creuset pot saves the day, yet again! Quite frankly, I'm not surprised.

Makes a huge 1kg loaf, or 2 regular 500g loaves, or 10 pizza bases, or 10 rolls

INGREDIENTS:

1kg strong white bread flour
20g (or 3 x 7g sachets) easy bake dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 pint of tepid water

Mix all of the ingredients together, with a spoon, in a bowl or large pot, and then knead the dough in the pot for five minutes until it is springy and elastic. Cover and allow to prove for an hour. After an hour, knock the dough back and knead for three further minutes. Place the dough onto a floured baking sheet, form it into an oval bread shape and allow to prove for a second time. Bake in a 200c oven for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crunchy and the inside sounds hollow when tapped.


Here are some flatbreads I made to accompany my personal all-time favourite Chilli con Carne recipe. Just roll out golf ball-sized pieces of dough until they are 2mm thick, and dry fry them in a hot pan - delicious.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Mint Creme Brulee

The conversation over at Andrea and Darryl's place last night turned to cooking, and I asked why it would be unheard of that fried eggs aren't ever considered a dessert. After all, eggs are neither savoury or sweet, so why not have a fried egg atop a cake as a custardy sort of garnish?

Andrea reckoned that the art of frying something makes it savoury, which I don't think holds water, because crepes and French toast can be sweet. Darryl reckons that it's the association with an English breakfast which precludes the fried egg from ever becoming a pudding. I'm not sure about that one either - I'm going to have to come up with a recipe which includes a sweet version of the fried egg and see whether I can start a new trend.

Today's recipe is an eggy dessert, without a hint of a frying pan. Another friend of ours, Ophelia, made us a mint creme brulee a few weeks ago, when we went to her and her fiance (soon to be husband, on April 18th, eek!) Kumar's place for dinner, and I'm not sure I want to eat this classic dessert any other way now.

Creme brulee should be a light dessert with a very fine layer of a caramel crust. Don't use a traditional deep ramekin to serve them in - use a shallow dish with as much surface area as possible. You don't want to be wading through inches of custard with a tiny spot of caramel having already been greedily scoffed, which then becomes a very pleasant but distant memory, while you still have three-quarters of your brulee to finish.

Creme brulee is very cheap and easy to make. Get them made in good time and chill them way before your guests come over - that way you'll have plenty of time to think up a fried egg dessert recipe which you can serve to your friends as a joke, before the brulees are unveiled. £1 per serving, is all that these will set you back.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
100g caster sugar
6 free range egg yolks
12 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of icing sugar, for glazing

Preheat oven to 160c. In a saucepan, heat the double cream with the vanilla pod to boiling point. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream and discard the pod. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until fluffy and then pour them into the cream, and stir vigorously to avoid lumps. Fold the chopped mint leaves into the mixture. Fill four shallow ovenproof dishes with the mixture and place in a large roasting tin. Fill the tin with water until the water level comes to halfway up the dishes and then place the tin into the oven to bake for 45 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven and allow the brulees to cool to room temperature. Sprinkle icing sugar over the surface of the brulees, and either grill or blow torch the tops until the sugar turns to caramel. Refrigerate until needed.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Smoked Mackerel, Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Caesar Salad


I admit, this salad don't look pretty.

On certain days of the week, I'm busy doing not much - my sister's friend Alex calls these days 'Bedroom Admin' days - and on these days I often forget to eat lunch. Which means a 3pm rummage around the fridge to assemble whatever I find, and either get lucky, or end up eating a Scotch egg with a packet of rice cakes.

Today was the luckiest day. I managed to find almost all the ingredients you would expect to find in a Caesar salad, and some extra ones that you might not. Never mind, everything combined and complimented each other like a dream, and although not the Scarlett Johansson of lunches, looks-wise I would still call this salad a Katie Price - a bit of a mess, but you still would, wouldn't you?

Taste-wise, however, this salad is a Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley - so flawless, that you think it may have been manufactured. But why wouldn't you put smoked mackerel in a Caesar salad? You put in anchovies, and a mackerel is just a huge anchovy. The rest of the ingredients are just store cupboard staples- even the bacon is that cooked sandwich strip stuff, perfect for this recipe. No traditional parmesan in the fridge? No problem, grated cheddar will do.

In five minutes flat, I had made an enormous portion of this conglomeration of ingredients, and since I had a bottle of Caesar salad dressing in the fridge, I'm calling it a 'Caesar salad'. If I only had had oil and vinegar, this dish would have been called a 'Salad' instead.

Cost-wise, this is on budget at £3 per ginormous serving. It would have been cheaper if I had cooked some bacon from raw, used block cheese instead of pre-grated. and omitted the mackerel. But I didn't. Delicious!

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

1 little gem lettuce
1 smoked mackerel fillet, flaked into 2cm pieces
4 strips cooked bacon, broken up into 2cm pieces
75g tin of anchovies
100g grated cheddar cheese
100g croutons
100ml Caesar salad dressing
Black pepper (no need for salt)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and eat with gusto.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Marinated Bavette Steak


Bavette steak sounds all lovely and French and posh, until you find out that it's called 'flank steak' over here in the UK - and then the provincial, suburban, middle class, dull side of you decides to buy sirloin instead.

Ok ok, bavette is a bit of a spoiled, precious little brat, and to get the best out of it, you are going to have to play by the rules:

If you don't marinate it, it'll be tough. If you cook it longer than medium rare, it'll be tough. If you cut it with (rather than across) the grain, it'll be tough. if you don't let it rest, it'll be tough. If you look at it the wrong way, it'll be tough. The little b*****d.

But if you adhere to these rules, bavette is one of the most characterful, cheap, delicious steaks that money can buy. Anyway, sirloin and fillet steaks are for wimps. Your friends will hardly say 'Wow' to you for cooking those cuts properly.

Serve the bavette with my Ratatouille, for a fantastic dinner party dish. At £2 per serving, you can't go wrong (unless you don't stick to those effing rules).

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

800g bavette steak, de-sinewed and cut into four pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Sunflower oil for frying
Pinches of sea salt and pepper

Marinate the steaks in the garlic, oregano, vinegar, oil and black pepper (never salt the steaks before cooking - it draws out the juices and makes them dry) for at least two hours, or preferably overnight. Preheat a grill or frying pan until blisteringly hot and add the sunflower oil. Sear the steaks for two minutes on each side, until well charred on the outside and still rare in the very centre. Place the steaks on a board, and after resting them for five minutes, slice them across the grain into 1cm thick strips, placing the strips into their original position (as if the steak was still uncut) and plate them up. Season generously with sea salt.


Monday, 26 March 2012

The Ultimate Ratatouille


Ratatouille, the Provencal vegetarian concoction, must be the most overrated dish in the world. Animated Parisian mice cook it, restaurants the world over are named after it, and even Nando's (a Portuguese themed - not even French, for crissake - chicken restaurant chain) have it on their menu as a side dish.

Chuck some mushy, watery vegetables into a mushy, watery sauce, and you have a mushy, watery stew. With no meat in it. Big deal.

Ah, but if you take the time to drive the naturally occurring water out of the components of the dish, before you put it all together, you now have something I could be tempted to write a rodent-inspired CGI film script about, or maybe even eat with my piri-piri chicken.

Driving the natural water out of the ingredients is really what cooking this dish is all about. It concentrates the flavours, creates interesting textures and allows other flavours to penetrate. Sometimes, you want water and vitamins (which are killed off by long cooking - if you believe the nutritionists, which I do maybe 50/50) to be retained in your cooked vegetables, but not in ratatouille. If you eat this dish, you may want to take a multivitamin tablet to make up for the lost niacin and riboflavin, but please roast the vegetables until only their essences remain.

Now ratatouille is my favourite vegetable dish in the world. I even occasionally eat it without a side order of meat (that's something I can't say about salad).

You are well under your Potless budget with this one - £1.25 per serving is the cost. Enough left over to buy some chicken.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 aubergine, sliced into 1cm thick dice
2 courgettes, sliced into 1cm thick rounds
1 large onion, cut into eighths
1 large sweet pepper, cut into 1cm wide strips
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
400g chopped plum tomatoes, plus 1 extra can of water
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried basil
Pinches of salt and pepper

Place the aubergine, courgettes, onion and pepper in a bowl with the oregano and half of the olive oil. Mix well and transfer to a baking tray. Ensure that the vegetables are in a single layer, and roast in a 200C oven, turning once, until charred, soft and translucent (approx 1 hour). While the vegetables are roasting, Place the rest of the oil, the tomatoes, water, garlic and salt and pepper into a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the water has evaporated and the sauce has thickened (approx 45 minutes). Take the roasted vegetables out of the oven and transfer them to the sauce. Fold through the sauce until everything has amalgamated. 


Sunday, 25 March 2012

'Trade Secrets from the Cocktail Industry' #3 (in a series): Bombs

Had such a fun night, last night.

My friend, Ophelia, asked me to DJ at her 25th birthday party, and, late on, I managed to slip in my favourite mix of thumping house tunes and classic 80's rock. I say late on, because my favourite part of any  DJ'ing sesh, is the point when everyone is so mullered from drinking too much, and dancing to crappy popular tunes, that I get a chance to take advantage of the 3am happy apathy to play whatever I feel like, without the risk of receiving a request for 'My Humps'.

DJ'ing is such a curious pursuit - you are never sure whether you want to be popular and play commercial floor-packing tunes which are dull, overplayed and offend your own tastes, or whether you want to amuse yourself, retain your integrity and mix tunes which represents your own personal style, regardless of the crowd's reaction.

In my fantasy world, the crowd look at me quizzically as I move away from rubbish urban R&B and I start to play interesting obscure tracks, and then they slowly get into the vibe until the dance floor is heaving - and then I receive accolades for educating them about a fantastic, cutting edge new style of mix. It has never ever happened to me, yet. But I live in (possibly misguided) hope. However, last night, the closest I got to my pipe dream was my self indulgent 3am hour slot, where the hardcore nucleus of party animals stuck around, and things got a bit... spicy. Totally brilliant, and as far as I was concerned, worth the wait.

What separates the hardcore nucleus from the 'Sorry guys, gotta go - Tarquin has marathon training in the morning' sad cases, is, er, alcohol of course.

At an unspoken stage of the proceedings, the drinking patterns shift from the 'slowly-sipped glass of Pinot Grigio' crowd, to the 'wholesale consumption of brightly-coloured industrial ethanol' crowd. This mainly happens at 12.07am. Tarquin and his plain, mousey-haired missus, bugger off, leaving the rest of us to self-harm in the name of fun - and the chosen method of Bacchus-inspired masochism is the 'Bomb'.

Bombs are the best way in the world to drink stuff you hate, quickly. If you gave someone Jagermeister to drink, and convinced them it was cough medicine, they would find it bitter and repulsive, and grimace as it burned its way down their throat. But, sink a shot glass of it into a highball glass of Red Bull (that other objectively foul concoction) and neck it as quickly as you can, and it's called a 'Jager-Bomb', and lauded as nectar of the party gods.

Bombs can be made up of a shot glass of any strong liquor, which is then quickly plunged into a highball of a fizzy drink and drunk before: a) the liquor shot dissipates into the highball glass; and b) the fizzy drink erupts out of the glass all over the floor.

Bombs. Are. The. Best. Drinks. EVER!

Try all sorts of combinations - the weirder, the more colourful, the more spectacular, or the more reminiscent of childhood confectionery the better. Here are a few to get you started.

See my notes on alcohol costings here.

Jager Bomb: Jagermeister and Red Bull

Nuclear Bomb: Black Sambuca and Red Bull

Skittle Bomb: Cointreau and Red Bull

Glitter Bomb: Goldschlager and Red Bull

The Alamo (aka The Mexican Boilermaker): Tequila and Beer

Fire Bomb: Red Aftershock and Red Bull


Saturday, 24 March 2012

Mrs Ribeye Sr.'s Completely Inauthentic, but Totally Delicious, Gazpacho


I'm all for authenticity, unless it makes no sense to me.

Having tried as hard as I can to acquire a taste for Thai shrimp paste (you know the stuff - the stinky blueish grainy condiment in jars, sold in all Asian grocers), I have finally admitted defeat. It is truly disgusting. I happened to watch a Rick Stein travel programme, where he explained that in the old days the Thais were grateful for shrimp paste, as it was likely to be the only protein they would get, along with their predominantly rice-based diet.

It got me thinking - why should I acquire a taste for something which has no relevance in today's world of butter mountains and wine lakes, just so that I can pretentiously say I use an 'authentic' ingredient? Why should I continue eating rubbery old Spam, just because it was a Second World War rationing staple? I turned off the TV, walked over to the fridge and bade goodbye forever to the hellish, fetid, outdated shrimp paste. No more airing out the flat for a week, after cooking a Pad Thai noodle or my Thai Spicy Chicken dish - I'll simply leave the whiffy paste out of the recipe.

My mum has no truck with the poncey world of authentic ingredients. She puts olive oil in recipes which traditionally demand butter, just so she can reduce the cholesterol levels in the dish. She puts mixed herbs in her chopped liver, and her gazpacho bears no resemblance to the Spanish peasant's soup that it always was.

Gazpacho was originally a stale bread soup with store cupboard flavourings and a few vegetables chucked into the mix. My mum's contains no bread at all ('why use bread? -we have passata!') and is all the better for it. I'm sure I'll be villified by the Spanish cold tomato soup cognoscenti for this abomination of a recipe, but I don't mind. I say 'try it and see' - isn't the point of cooking to actually enjoy what you are eating, regardless of the recipe's history? 

I am, of course, a complete hypocrite. In other posts, I'm likely to rave on about sticking to traditions and not letting new fads kill off age-old, tried-and-tested classic recipes, but for today, I'm with Mrs Ribeye Sr.

Stick to this delicious fresh, modern gazpacho recipe, until you've got some stale bread left over from the day before and you fancy the old school version instead (which is, admittedly, fabulous).

But whatever positive thing I have to say about those classic recipes, that shrimp paste is definitely staying in the bin.

Even doing my gazpacho this way, instead of with stale bread, this recipe is still peasant-priced(ish). £1.25 per bowlful, is all it'll set you back.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Gazpacho Base:

1 litre passata
200ml water
1 cucumber, cut into large chunks
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into large chunks
1 red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 clove of garlic
100ml olive oil
50ml red wine vinegar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Garnishes and Dressings:


1 cucumber, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
Toasted bread croutons
Olive oil and red wine vinegar in small pouring bottles

Blend the gazpacho base ingredients until smooth, and refrigerate to let the flavours intermingle and develop. Place the garnishes in separate bowls and allow guests to select their own combination of garnishes and dressings themselves.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Hong Kong Street Cafe-Style Spare Rib Noodle Soup

I reluctantly admit, I occasionally have trouble suppressing my sadistic streak.

On a trip to Hong Kong a few years ago, with a not very well-travelled colleague, I noticed his discomfort at eating food in establishments which did not have an English menu. Because I feel that the biggest benefit of international travel is that you can broaden yourself by sampling a life completely different to the one you are used to at home, I felt the need to experience as much of the authentic domestic lifestyle as I could cram into the short week away that we had, regardless of Norman's feelings on the matter.

Unfortunately for Norman, that meant that when it was my choice of an evening meal venue, I would invariably choose a cafe without a single Caucasian patron, eating food that I could barely recognise, and, naturally, completely away from the tourist trail.

Norman would huff and puff, and as the week went on I started to become irritated at his pained expressions as he would plead with me to choose a western-style venue, or at least a local place with a western menu, or at the very least a local place with a menu with Chinese writing, but at least some photographs of the food selection, or at the very very least a McDonald's with an English menu, colourful photographs and smiling counter staff wearing familiar uniforms.

By the last day, I had completely enough of Norman's wimpish, and in my opinion, mildly xenophobic attitude, and I surreptitiously led us well away from the beaten track and chose the mankiest, most repugnant  looking s**thole I could find for us to eat dinner. The menu was non-existent. There were crates of soft drink cans as seats. There was a pale of dirty water containing barely washed chopsticks, waiting to be used by the next diners. The clientele was entirely local, and the chef in the open kitchenette looked surly and unkempt. I inwardly felt mildly reluctant, but I couldn't back down. The place was perfect.

I asked the only person who was standing up, who I assumed correctly to be the waiter, if we could order 'two specials', and then we sat down at the nearest formica-topped low table to wait for whatever 'two specials' constituted.

Norman, whose eyes were darting everywhere and nowhere, was close to tears as two steaming bowls arrived. The joke was on me. The enormous chipped bowls contained the most attractively scented broth packed full of spare ribs, noodles, Chinese cabbage and spring onions. Norman was elated - I was disappointed. I was hoping for some indeterminate offal or a diced sheep's head, or something indescribably nasty, but it wasn't to be. Never mind, dinner was great and Norman had a story to tell the folks back home.

And today's recipe is the dish we ate. For complete authenticity, I suggest you serve this soup, like they did in 'Rat Alley', with some fiery chilli oil to stir into the broth - oh, and ensure your chopsticks have been left in a dungpile for a few weeks before you lightly rinse them off to use them.

As befits a working man's cafe dish, this recipe is a cheapy. £1.25 per generous serving, is the meagre cost.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

500g pork spare ribs
2 litres of chicken stock
Thumb of ginger, unpeeled
1 whole (unpeeled) onion
2 whole (unpeeled) cloves of garlic
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried chilli
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
300g dried egg noodles
1 head of Chinese cabbage or 2 bok choy, cut into large strips
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped, for sprinkling

In a large pan on a moderate heat, place the stock, ginger, onion, garlic and spices and cook, on a simmer, for 2 hours. Strain the stock to remove the flavouring ingredients and add the ribs. Cook ribs until done (1-1.5 hours approx) and then add the noodles until soft (10 minutes approx). Add the Chinese cabbage until al dente (5 minutes approx). Sprinkle the soup with the spring onions and serve immediately.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Seledka pod Shuboy (Herrings in Fur Coats)


First hand knowledge of the world will beat theory, every time.

From reading books on the subject as a schoolboy, I was aware that the Earth tips on its axis, so that we have seasons. I was also aware that towns near the north and south poles enjoyed long hot summer days and suffered long cold winter nights. But what I was not aware of, was that even though the sun may shine twenty four hours a day in July, it is impossible to get a tan during those Russian 40c summers (it may have something to do with magnetic forces, but I didn't get to that chapter in my geography textbook - I was too busy passing notes to Lindsay, the hottest girl in class).

Forty degree Russian summers! Who would have thought it? Before I met Mrs Ribeye, who is from Syktyvkar near the Ural mountains in northern Russia, my knowledge of Russia was almost entirely confined to Rocky IV. Completely ignoring that it was high summer in 2011, I genuinely believed that I would fly in a twin-propeller plane to a deserted airstrip, and then take a snowchain-wheeled Mercedes to a snowy log cabin in the middle of nowhere, to meet my wife's parents, clad in fur - in the middle of July.

I though everyone would be amazing at chess and that I would be eating potatoes and drinking vodka every morning for breakfast. I thought that all women would be either hard-faced, super-skinny and wearing stilettos, or hefty, mono-browed and carrying a discus.

I thought we would be skiing to the shops and speed skating down the local river. I thought the cars would all be eastern bloc Trabant-like crap heaps. I thought that I would bump into Uzi-wielding groups of Ivan Drago lookalikes at every corner.

All wrong.

Syktyvkar in Russia is actually a bit reminiscent of an American 1950's small town, as portrayed on the big screen in Back to the Future, not Rocky IV. There is a town square. Everyone seems to know each other. Everyone looks middle class. There is one of everything - one cinema, one restaurant, one hospital, a park with swings, a river and a small forest. The girls are neither hefty or super skinny, the guys are neither particularly tall or blond or with a flat top haircut, and there are children everywhere. Everyone owns a Toyota.

I'm very much looking forward to visiting the in-laws in the depth of winter at the end of this year, when some of my Rocky IV fantasies may actually come to fruition.

Today's recipe is, I have been assured, a stereotypical Russian summer dish, and is similar to the famous Spanish tapas dish, which I raved about in one of my earlier posts: Insalata Russa. My mother-in-law made Seledka pod Shuboy when I visited last year, and I absolutely loved it. I'm sure you will too.

Cost-wise, this recipe is a bargain at £1.50 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

275g jar of herrings in sweet dill marinade with chopped onion, finely chopped
4 medium-sized floury potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into 1cm dice
250g tin of carrots, finely chopped
4 large beetroot, peeled, boiled and finely chopped
4 eggs, boiled and finely chopped
250g mayonnaise
Crusty bread, to serve


In a serving dish, mix together the herrings with onion, potato, carrots and beetroot until everything is well amalgamated. Top the mixture with the egg, then a thick layer of mayonnaise. Refrigerate to allow the flavours to combine, and the mayonnaise to re-set. Serve in thick slices.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

'Trade Secrets from the Cocktail Industry' #2 (in a series): Fire

Why do we vow to never become like our parents?

Most of us have been pretty lucky - no terrible crimes perpetuated against us by our own folks - yet we shudder at some of the things they said (and sometimes still do say) to us: 'Stop acting like the world owes you a living' is a personal favourite, as is: 'Stop showing off' and the timeless classic: 'Stop getting carried away' (all uncannily timed to be said  in public and within earshot of whichever girl I most fancied at the time - funny that).

However, on occasion, the old 'uns did get it bang on. 'Don't play with matches' (often ignored, always with near-disastrous consequences) still holds true today. Except for when it comes to making drinks.

I think it was because I watched Coyote Ugly a few too many times that I decided to open a cocktail bar. You remember the scene - the one where one of the 'Bar Stunnas' pours a bottle of whiskey onto the bar top and lights it, then dances provocatively in the flames until the director says cut, and the bloke in the flame retardant suit rushes over with an extinguisher (probably).

Well anyway, I remember in the early days of the bar when I took a match to a shot glass of sambuca and heard the disproportionately large wail of excitement exude from the punters mouths at such a cheap trick, then felt the ker-ching on my tip plate and I thought: 'That's it! Mum and Dad were dead wrong. I MUST play with matches!'

With sambuca, the reason for lighting it is that it releases the fragrances of the botanicals in the liquor, mellows the flavour and makes the floating coffee bean on its surface all toasty and delicious. However, I didn't stop there, I burnt f**king everything! I would have set orange juice alight if it were physically possible.

So, the moral of the story is: Fire = Tips.

Just don't tell my mum.

The Flaming Lamborghini definitely must be tried, as it has to be the most iconic  'Laaahds on the Town' drink of the 1980's, and the forerunner of the fiery drink movement - as probably enjoyed by our very own PM, David 'Cammo' Cameron and his mate, our very own jolly Mayor of London, Boris 'Bozza' Johnson - in some Chelsea wine bar in 1983. You must serve with it with my Chicken Kiev dish, for a real nostalgia-filled, 1980's themed, night of fun.

Here's some fun maths: In a 70cl standard bottle of spirits priced at about £15, there are twenty eight 25ml shots, which means that a shot of alcohol comes in at just over 50 pence each. Cocktails are about two shots per drink, plus mixer etc, so cost-wise, these drinks are, on average, £1.25 per serving (except for the Flaming Lamborghini, which is four shots - don't forget it's a 'Laaahds' drink). Bottoms up!

Flaming Sambuca

INGREDIENTS:

1 or 2 shots sambuca
Coffee bean

In a shot glass, float the coffee bean on the sambuca. Set the sambuca alight with a match and quickly drink in one gulp (don't wait too long, or the rim of the glass will get too hot and you will burn your mouth).

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The Flaming Lamborghini

INGREDIENTS:

1 shot sambuca
1 shot kahlua or Tia Maria
1 shot Baileys
1 shot blue curacao

Line up a shot glass each of the Baileys and curacao. Mix the sambuca and kahlua in a martini glass and set it alight with a match. Start to drink the mixture with a straw. As the mixture comes to an end, swiftly pour in the Baileys and  curacao - all four shots must be consumed in one gulp (in order to win 'Laaahd' status).


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Stir-Fried Chilli Sesame Pork with Noodles


How did 'stir fry sauce' become so popular?

I'm talking about the sachet of indeterminate brown goo sold next to the vegetables in the chiller section of every supermarket in the land. I bought some once and was appalled to discover that it tastes of nothing at all, but covered the entire meal, the wok and the plates in a sort of cornflour-based mahogany furniture stain.

If you order anything stir-fried in a Chinese restaurant, it always comes unadorned by any sauce, save for soy; unless you specifically order something with a definite flavour, like black bean sauce or oyster sauce or curry sauce or sweet and sour sauce - but in all my years of ordering takeaways, I have never ever been offered brown goo sauce. However, the supermarkets' generic sauce still seemingly remains resolutely a bestseller. Yuck.

Today's recipe is the freshest-flavoured stir fry imaginable. I only use a little soy sauce and sesame oil to flavour the dish, and then sprinkle a liberal amount of fresh medium hot red chillies, as a sort of vegetable garnish to fire up the tastebuds, without numbing them to the flavours of the other ingredients.

Stir fries are the epitome of the perfect weekday meal. Minutes to prepare and cook and easy to serve. Last night, Mrs Ribeye and I ate ours in bed!

Cost-wise, because pork belly slices are so cheap, the ingredients for this dish came in at £5 - which means that for four people, you can provide dinner at a ridiculously low £1.25 per serving. Cheaper and far more delicious than a takeaway and not a single drop of brown goo. Enjoy!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS: 

600g rindless pork belly slices, cut into 2cm chunks
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
600g mixed stir fry vegetables (sweet peppers, carrot, beansprouts, cabbage, onion, sweetcorn etc)
500g cooked egg noodles
3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
3 large medium hot red chillies, sliced into 5mm rings
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a wok on a high heat, fry the pork in the sunflower oil until crispy, and set aside. In the meat juices, stir fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add the vegetables and stir fry until soft and translucent. Add the noodles, cooked pork, soy sauce, sesame oil and salt and pepper, and heat through. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle with the red chilli rings and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.


Monday, 19 March 2012

Individual Sunday Roasts

Dining-wise, there is nothing more exciting in life than food which comes in a miniature individual serving size.

From Kellogg's variety pack cereals, to mini Babybel cheeses, to miniature Mr Kipling's battenberg cakes, to tiny hotel minibar bottles of Jack Daniels, there is nothing nicer than a holding a scaled-down version of something which you regularly buy in an annoyingly large SHARING pack.

My hatred of sharing comes from my childhood, when on summer holidays my father would insist on buying large bottles of lemonade to drink with the roadside picnic on our way down to the campsite in Frejus or St Raphael on the French south coast. 'No cans...' my dad would say, '...you never finish them.' In true lion pack style, he would insist on taking the first gulp, followed by mum, and then us kids. By the time it got to my poor little sister, Roxanne, the bottle resembled a stockpot, full of half masticated brie, baguette and jambon, which had got caught up in the backwash. Merde.

Oh, and the other thing about individual serving sizes of things, is that they look so cute. Occasionally I make Mrs Ribeye and myself a stuffed poussin each alongside some baby vegetables and imagine that we are giants with an entire full-size family Sunday roast each to devour. Hilarious.

Jokes aside, the recipe I am presenting to you today actually is a Potless Towers favourite. I own a number of 18cm diameter non-stick cake tins which I use to roast individual portions of food - one per person. Regular Potless readers will have noticed that they first made an appearance in this blog in my Toad-in-the-Hole recipe. I find that with roast chicken, the large free range chicken legs (with the thigh attached) make an ideal one portion serving size.

Whatever else you put in is up to you. I normally serve my individual Sunday roasts with a large bowl of steamed vegetables - but you can stay with the non-sharing theme by placing individual portions of the vegetables into the separate tins before serving. Roxanne would approve.

Large free range chicken legs are £2 for two at my local branch of Waitrose, so this dish comes in at well under your Potless budget, at only £2.50 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

200g breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon of herbes de Provence or dried mixed herbs
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 large free range chicken legs (thigh attached)
4 large potatoes, peeled and halved
1 butternut squash, cut into 5cm chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 5cm chunks

300ml chicken gravy, to serve
Steamed vegetables, to serve

Preheat oven to 200c. In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of herbs, salt and pepper and egg until you have a firm stuffing. Form the stuffing into four large balls and set aside. Place a chicken leg each into four individual non-stick 18cm pans and place a stuffing ball tightly inside the crook between the leg and the thigh. Sprinkle half a tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken and stuffing and coat the chicken with some of the reserved herbs. Place some of the chunks of potato, squash and parsnip around the chicken and lightly coat with the reserved olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken and vegetables. Place all four pans in the oven and roast for 1 hour. Serve with the gravy and steamed vegetables.



Saturday, 17 March 2012

'Victims Of Their Own Success' #2 (in a series): The Prawn Cocktail

Creators of those supermarket tubs of 'deli sandwich fillers' have a lot to answer for - you know the ones; the brightly-coloured prepared spreads sold in the refrigerator aisles, next to the cheeses and cold meats. The range at my local Tesco includes coronation chicken (an exotic invention, nodding to the Raj-era flavours brought back home by our colonising ancestors), tuna and sweetcorn (a New York-originated sandwich bar staple) egg mayonnaise (a take on the age-old Jewish invention of egg salad) and prawn cocktail, perhaps the king of any 'classy' 1970's restaurant's fare.

But what has become of the prawn cocktail, or in fact any of these other classic dishes? Well, I'm sad to say that they are a shadow of their formerly glorious selves, mainly consigned to a mayonnaisy death inside a small vaccuum-packed pot, made with the worst quality ingredients and destined to spend their short post-pot lives in a styrofoam bread sandwich or atop a jacket potato. Very sad indeed.

But I say no! Resurrect these old favourites, make them with the best of ingredients and enjoy them as they used to be enjoyed - when the world was a simpler place, when people had landline telephones, when childhood obesity was something that only happened to that one kid at school with gland problems, when battery chickens were a primitive sort of electronic toy, and when Russia was scary(er).

I'll post my coronation chicken recipe at some point in the future - watch this space - but for now, today is all about the prawn cocktail.

These days, the best quality seafood is very cheap to buy in its raw state, so take advantage of those carbon footprint-unfriendly Honduran or Vietnamese air freighted tiger prawns while you can - £5 for two 200g packs is about the price, whichever supermarket you visit. I would recommend using my home-made Mayonnaise recipe in your cocktail sauce - it's cheaper and tastier than any shop bought mayo.

Serve my prawn cocktail the 1970's way - with brown bread and butter. Simply make my Bread recipe with wholemeal flour and even factoring in the cost of the bread, this classic dish still comes in well under budget at £2 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS: 

100g mayonnaise
40g tomato puree
20ml lemon juice
20ml cognac
Half teaspoon of horseradish sauce
1 teaspoon of paprika, plus a little extra reserved for sprinkling
Pinches of salt and pepper
400g raw deveined tiger prawns
1 litre of water with a tablespoon of salt added
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1ch dice
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 little gem lettuces, cut into 1cm wide strips
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, quartered

Bread and butter, to serve

Mix the mayonnaise, tomato puree, lemon juice, cognac, horseradish sauce, paprika and salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. In the meantime, lightly poach the prawns in the salted water and allow to cool. Mix the prawns with the sauce and add the apple, celery and lettuce strips until everything has a light coating of the sauce. Divide the mixture into four martini glasses or small bowls and sprinkle with the chopped parsley, followed by the reserved paprika. Serve with the lemon quarters on the side, and the brown bread and butter.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Salmon en Croute


All my family know what a hypochondriac I am.

I have been lying in bed all week with a nasty cold, resisting the impulse to list my symptoms on an online medical diagnosis website to discover whether my three day cough is really a sign of something far worse lurking in the darkest recesses of my body (satisfyingly, for the true malingerer, any symptoms you type into 'netdoctor.com' et al WILL eventually lead to ca...).

Last month, my angina fears turned out to be a bruise from resting my laptop on my chest while typing on my bed, and a couple of months ago, a deep vein thrombosis emergency was, in actual fact, a dead leg I had inexplicably and drunkenly contracted while out on the town with my friend Christian.

I blame my mum (don't we all, for most everything?) for keeping a slightly too-close running check on my health status. Even when I'm feeling great, she takes one look at my face and says: 'I don't like your colour.' It's not that she's racist, it's just her way of telling me that my cheeks are not aglow with vitality. Her cure? Food, of course.

Bad leg? An apple. Type 2 diabetes? Roast Chicken. Stomach ulcer? Casserole. But as a catch-all cure, the 'aspirin' of all food is fish. As far as my mum, and most of the rest of the western world also seem to think, fish is the key to lasting health and happiness. 'Look at Japanese people, they eat sushi every day and they all live to be 100.' Yes mum, I'm sure they do.

So, to have a stab at getting rid of my annoying ailments before the weekend partying starts, I shall attempt the tried-and-tested, works-every-time, mother-endorsed, cure-all fish treatment. And the dish I have chosen is salmon en croute.

There is no better way to eat fish than smothering it in buttery Hollandaise sauce and encasing it in buttery puff pastry. I have tried putting spinach in my croutes. Rubbish! I have tried putting carrots in my croutes. Terrible! I have tried putting rocket and watercress in my croutes. Useless! Unless its main ingredient is butter, I do not want it coming near this dish.

Serve rocket, watercress, spinach or carrots alongside your salmon en croute, with my blessing, but resist the temptation to put them anywhere inside the pastry.

I'm sure anyone hoping to live to 100 on a fish-only diet, will understand that eating this butter-laden dish every day will more likely bring about an early death, rather than prolong life. But when I'm feeling a bit under the weather, this dish never fails to bring a smile to my face. It's simple and delicious, and likely to be the most caloriffic fish dish in the world - and I couldn't care less.

As ever, I advocate the use of ready-rolled puff pastry sheets (which are £1.75 per two servings). My local supermarket has salmon fillets on offer at £6.49 per kilo, so this dish comes in at £2 per serving. Enough left over from your Potless budget to buy some of those pesky vegetables - on the side, of course.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 egg yolks
125g melted butter
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 x 375g ready-rolled puff pastry sheets, cut into halves, to make four pieces
600g skinless salmon fillet, cut into four pieces
1-2 egg yolks beaten

To make the Hollandaise sauce: Microwave the lemon juice and vinegar together until hot. While whisking the yolks in a bowl with one hand, carefully pour the liquids into the bowl, bit-by-bit, to avoid curdling. Once the liquid has been absorbed into the yolks, add the butter, also bit-by-bit, until fully amalgamated. Season to taste.

Take a puff pastry sheet and place a salmon fillet in the centre. Spoon a generous amount of Hollandaise sauce over the salmon and quickly close the pastry. Form a tight seal with a little water and crimp the edges with your fingers. Brush with the beaten egg yolk and repeat with the other three croutes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden and crunchy.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

'Trade Secrets from the Cocktail Industry' #1 (in a series): Layering


Forget the boring, age-old chicken/egg debate about whether people either only enjoy doing things they excel at, or that, conversely, they only excel at the things they enjoy doing.

For me, the rule is that I really like doing things that other people would do probably be able to do themselves quite easily if they tried; but either can't be bothered to do, or that the task looks so deceptively complicated that they don't attempt it for fear of failure.

Cocktail layering is a prime example of something which looks impossible to pull off easily, but actually is dead simple, and looks spectacular. When I used to make these drinks as a cocktail barman (many, many moons ago) I would huff and puff around the bar, lining up bottles and shakers, readying the glasswear, ice, fruit garnish and straw, following up with a theatrical piece of bar-orientated showmanship that any five year old with a steady hand could achieve, and then charge a 400% mark-up on the raw ingredients (plus tip).

The three easy rules to successfully layering drinks are these:

1. Place the ice, fruit garnish, straw and/or any other cocktail accoutrement you are using into the glass before you start - you don't want to disturb the drink once it's layered.

2. Place the densest drinks at the bottom, getting lighter the higher up the cocktail you go. Fruit liquors are heavy, spirits mixed with juice are lighter, pure spirits are lightest (you get the idea - just use your senses; cranberry juice is lighter than orange juice etc). N.B. Baileys, which you would imagine to be the heaviest liquor in the world, will float on top of pretty much anything.

3. Do not pour liquid directly onto another liquid - you must deflect the pour of the upper layers onto something solid (this can be ice, a spoon, or down the inside of the glass, depending on the drink), in order to maintain the surface tension of the lower layer.

The two cocktails I have chosen to help you show off your new-found talents, are the 'Traffic Light', which is a tutti frutti flavoured concoction - very popular with the unsophisticated (eg high disposable income, very fun, low inhibitions, short skirt) customer; and the 'Baby Guinness', a classic shooter - befitting the end-of-the-night (eg bit drunk, and in the mood for something non-challenging and easy on the palate) customer.

There are, of course, hundreds of colour and flavour combinations - try a few. Stay within the rules and you'll avoid your drinks all looking and tasting brown, whatever colour they started out at individually.

Shots of booze are about 40 pence each, and I allow between two and three shots per glass. Even with the mixer, ice and garnishes, you'll be hard-pressed to spend more than £1.50 per cocktail.

The Traffic Light:

(In a tall glass or large goblet, filled with ice)

Vodka and cranberry juice, mixed (Top layer)
Malibu coconut rum liquor and orange juice, mixed (Middle layer)
Midori melon liquor, straight (Bottom layer)

Pour a shot (25ml) of Midori into the glass and then carefully fill the glass with ice and add a straw. Mix one shot (25ml) of Malibu and three shots of orange juice in a shaker, pour it gently onto the uppermost ice cube, and watch it gradually sink onto the Midori. Repeat with the vodka and cranberry juice. Serve.

-------------------------------------------------------

Baby Guinness:

(In a double shot glass)

Dash of Baileys (Top layer)
Double shot of Kahlua (Bottom layer)

Pour the Kahlua into the glass, and then carefully tilt the glass to pour the dash of Baileys on top, to create the 'head' of the Baby Guinness. Serve.


Quickest, Easiest, Foolproof, Works Every Time, Never Splits, 100% Guaranteed, Home-Made Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is far too risky a sauce to make - the number of things that can go wrong, makes it an even money bet recipe, at best.

So, why bother making it at all? Well, to be honest, a jar of Hellman's Light normally adorns my fridge door shelf, for every day use. But on certain occasions, when the mayo is a key ingredient in a dish rather than an accompaniment, only home-made mayonnaise will do. For instance, when I'm making my Temaki Sushi, I'm not looking for the taste of a fish salad sandwich with nori seaweed in place of wholemeal sliced bread, I'm looking for something a bit more bistro-y (excellent new word) to waken the tastebuds rather than lull them into a pleasant coma.

In normal recipes, mayonnaise curdles due to either the temperature of the ingredients not being quite right, the bowl was too cold, the early splashes of oil were added too quickly, the egg yolk reacted to the vinegar badly, the bowl had a crack in it, it was a Thursday... blah blah blah. What a nightmare.

So, I discovered that the answer was to shock the mayonnaise into submission by incorporating the oil into the other ingredients as quickly as possible, to not allow them time to reject it. So, without further ado, it's time to bring in the hand blender (I'm not talking about the one with twin beaters on the end, I'm talking about the ones with the small cutting blades on the end of a wand, that you usually use to make soup).

Simply place all of the ingredients in a tall bowl or receptacle not much wider than the head of the blender, press the button, whizz for three seconds, say goodbye to memories of curdly messes, and... hello, mayonnaise! It's completely foolproof, even for me.

You can use this recipe as a base for aioli (garlic mayonnaise - just add minced garlic) tartare sauce (the traditional accompaniment to fish - just add chopped capers, gherkins and parsley) or sauce gribiche (as I did for my Pouting and Pancetta Fishcakes). Get going; it's great fun to see eggs, oil and other unlikely things turn magically into mayonnaise with the touch of a button. Check out Potless later in the week to see how I use my home-made mayonnaise in a forgotten classic, the Prawn Cocktail.

Making your own mayo is cheap too. A 200g bowl of home-made mayonnaise will set you back about 75 pence - about half the price of shop-bought (although, if you're pregnant, I'm pretty sure you shouldn't be eating raw eggs, so stick to Hellman's).

Makes 200g

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of mustard, preferably Dijon
10ml lemon juice
10ml white wine vinegar
Pinches of salt and white pepper
200ml sunflower oil

Place the ingredients in a narrow bowl or receptacle. Hold the head of the hand blender to the bottom of the bowl and press the button. Bring the head of the blender up and down through the mayonnaise to ensure everything has blended together properly. Stores for up to a week in a refrigerator.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Feta Cheese and Roasted Jalapeno Burger


Feta must be, rather unfairly, thought of as the most unversatile of all cheeses. Apart from sitting atop a Greek salad in a Greek restaurant, or possibly in a filo parcel (also in a Greek restaurant), or crumbled over a lamb stew (also in... er, you get the idea) where do you see it featured in dishes from other cultures?

It's a shame really, because this cheese holds its shape well, is salty, lemony, fresh and zingy. Perfect to complement a plethora of meat, chicken or fish dishes, due to its ability to retain its unique character among other robust ingredients.

The reason I decided that a lump of feta should adorn a burger, was that on a trip I took to North Carolina last autumn, I was served a cream cheese and chilli pepper burger in a restaurant, which for the first two minutes was incredible, and a disaster for the duration of the rest of the meal. The problem was that the formerly solid block of cold cream cheese rapidly melted away to create a warm milky mess all over my burger, me, the plate, the table, and a bit of the floor.

I couldn't fault the flavour though. So, on my return home, I vowed to crack the conundrum to create the perfect cream cheese burger. The addition of roasting the jalapenos was all me, though. I felt that the moisture generated from roasting the chillies would be able to counteract any moisture-loss from substituting the cream cheese for the intrinsically drier feta.

So here it is: The perfect solution to a delicious problem. The feta holds its shape well, and is every bit as rich and tasty as the cream cheese - without the need for protective clothing to be able to eat it. Plus, the roasted peppers, make for a less-harsh, more luxurious taste. The key with the cheese is to carefully slice the feta laterally through the middle of the block, to create a 5-6mm layer. Any thicker than that, and you won't notice any other ingredient in the burger.

One last thing: Use a dense bread roll, like ciabatta or sourdough, instead of a regular burger bun. The richness of the fillings need something more substantial to hold it all together.

Oh, and one last, last thing: I found that the burger was best eaten without any condiments. Ketchup and mustard would interfere with the flavours too much, and because of the jalapenos, you don't need really them anyway.

200g feta blocks are around £1.80 (you will get 2 servings from one block), and ciabatta rolls are 50 pence each; which means that cost-wise, this gourmet treat will set you back £2.50 per serving. Enough left over from your Potless budget to buy some fries.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

4 large fresh green jalapeno chilli peppers (not pickled)
300g ground beef
Pinches of salt and pepper
Handful of fresh rocket or watercress
1 x 200g block of feta
2 ciabatta or sourdough rolls

Place the chillies on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven for 25-30 minutes until wilted. Place the chillies in a bowl and cover with clingfilm, to loosen their skins. In the meantime, form the beef into two patties, slightly larger than the area of the bread rolls, to allow for shrinkage. Fry the burgers on each side until cooked (3 minutes on each side approx) and season to taste. Split the rolls through the centre and lightly toast the cut sides. Place some salad leaves on the lower bun and top with a burger patty. Carefully slice the feta block laterally through the centre to create two 5-6mm thick slices, and place a slice on top of the burger. Take the jalapenos from the clingfilmed bowl and remove the skins and stalks. Roughly chop the jalapeno flesh and place a spoonful on top of the feta cheese. Add the top bun and serve immediately.


Monday, 12 March 2012

Apple Pie, with a Touch of Jazz


All of a sudden, from being content to buy Braeburns, Galas and even the occasional Granny Smith, I have become a member of the 'Jazz' apple cult. This new strain of apple hit the supermarket shelves a few months ago, and now they sell out almost as fast as the produce aisle racks are restocked. I've discovered that they're certainly good for eating, but what about cooking?

I wanted to make an apple pie, but after some trial and error cooking experiments, I found that the Jazz is a bit too sharp and holds its shape a bit too well, and desperately needed a softer, mellower apple to help balance it out; like a Bramley, maybe.

Flavour-wise, the Jazz apple is crisp and tangy, with a hint of citrusy sweetness, while the Bramley apple provides a blander, solid foundation that holds the pie together well. Absolutely a perfect match. The key is to microwave the Bramley apples first to redistribute their juices - otherwise you'll end with dry, mealy apple pieces surrounded by soggy pastry from the leaked moisture.

I made this pie as the dessert a couple of days ago as part of our Saturday night dinner, after having eaten a starter of Black Pudding, Bacon, Poached Egg and Avocado Salad, followed by Beef Rendang as a main course.

After eating such an eclectic array of ingredients in the first two courses, I felt that a non-challenging, easy dessert would be an appropriate end to the meal. It's weird how things turn out though, because the apple pie was every bit as complex and interesting as anything else we had already consumed. The combination of these two apple strains created a cacophany of flavours and textures normally befitting far less humble creations than the apple pie.

As you can see from the picture, I dispensed with a pie tin, opting instead to make a puff pastry envelope, which I scored in a diamond pattern, before dredging the top in sugar and cinnamon to create a crunchy caramel glaze. It looked great.

N.B. Use ready-made puff pastry sheets (life is too short to make your own), and this pie still only sets you back £1 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and quartered
50g sultanas
2 tablespoons of demerara or caster sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
10ml lemon juice
2 Jazz apples, peeled, cored and cut into 5mm thick slices
1 x 375g puff pastry sheet
1 egg yolk, beaten
Demerara sugar and cinnamon, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200c. In a bowl, place the Bramleys, sultanas, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and microwave on high power for 4 minutes. Using a fork, beat the Bramley apple mixture to a smooth sauce. Cut the puff pastry into two equal rectangles. On one rectangle, spread the Bramley apple sauce, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Arrange the Jazz apple slices onto the sauce in an even layer. Place the other pastry rectangle on top and pinch the edges together to form a seal. Score the top with a knife, into an attractive diamond pattern, and brush the surface with the egg yolk. Scatter the remaining sugar and cinnamon over the pie and bake until the pastry has risen and is golden and crunchy (25-30 minutes approx).


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Black Pudding, Bacon, Poached Egg and Avocado Salad with Mustard Dressing


Mrs Ribeye and I have not long woken up after an excellent evening. Our good friends Ophelia and Kumar came over last night for dinner and we managed to put the whole world to rights in just five hours of rapidly escalating drunken chattering. My poor neighbours.

I made this salad as a starter, Beef Rendang with Roti as a main course, with Apple Pie for dessert. What a blow out.

Having checked the rubbish bin this morning, I noted that we had also consumed four bottles of wine and a fairly large chunk of a bottle of Scotch. Ouch! Order was restored to my constitution this morning after a hearty breakfast, a black coffee and about four pints of water.

It is now mid-afternoon, and the only regret I now face is the mountain of washing up that Mrs Ribeye and I left, and which has not magically disappeared overnight - despite my wishful nocturnal fantasies to the contrary.

Anyway, this salad was, if I do say so myself, utterly fabulous. The black pudding mixed with the soft poached egg complemented the chewy bacon lardons, smooth avocado, slightly bitter salad leaves and mustardy dressing absolutely perfectly.

Cost-wise, the dish looks and tastes so luxurious, but is, in actual fact, very cheap to produce: £1.50 per serving is all.

Right, now for a half-hearted stab at those bloody kitchen chores.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

4 thick slices of black pudding
200g unsmoked bacon lardons
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of cider vinegar
150g mixed frisee and radicchio leaves
1 avocado, cut into large chunks
50ml olive oil
25ml red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper

In a large frying pan, fry the black pudding and the lardons in the sunflower oil until crisp (5 minutes approx) and set aside in a warm oven. Clean out the frying pan and fill it with water and the teaspoon of cider vinegar. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Crack the eggs into the water in separate areas of the pan and leave for four minutes to gently poach. In the meantime, arrange the salad leaves around the edge of four plates. Place a slice of black pudding in the centre of each plate and top with a poached egg. Scatter the bacon lardons and the avocado chunks around the leaves. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard and seasoning, and then sprinkle the dressing onto the salad leaves. Serve immediately.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Cottage Pie

I love cooking and feel that I'm pretty good at it.

But that wasn't always the case. My sister, Roxanne, loves to remind me of all of my early disasters. One of the earliest was a cottage pie which I made for the family dinner, when I was about 12 years old, which I added whole black peppercorns to in the hope that they would somehow melt into the meat filling, leaving a pleasant spicy flavour. Wrong. My family spent the entire meal crunching down onto randomly-scattered nuclear bombs, and no number of correctly-made future cottage pies could make up for that one disaster.

So, why did I carry on cooking? Well, I think that it was because I like eating, I like being creative and I like electrical kitchen gadgets, and I could see that if I tried to improve at cooking that I could eventually excel at it and be able to provide myself and my loved ones with an inexhaustable supply of delicious things to eat. And that's why I now do it.

Today's recipe is mercifully nuclear bomb-free, and is a (probably futile) attempt to finally put to rest the ribbing from my family about my early difficulties with this dish. No doubt I will serve it to them and still get asked to: 'pass the salt but not the pepper, thanks' etc (hilarious).

My mum puts a tin of baked beans in her meat filling, while pubs and cafes tend to make their cottage pie fillings a dark, vegetable-free affair. I like a veg-heavy, but baked bean-free, meat filling myself. I hope you do too.

Cottage pie is cheap to make, at £1.50 per serving.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

500g ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400ml beef stock
Large dash of Worcestershire sauce
Pinches of salt and pepper
500g floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled and halved
100ml milk
50g salted butter
Olive oil, for sprinkling

In a covered pan on a moderate heat, place the beef, onion, carrot, celery and oil and cook until the beef is browned, the vegetables are soft and translucent, and any liquid has evaporated (30 minutes approx). Add the tomatoes, stock, Worcestireshire sauce and seasoning and cook, uncovered, until the filling is thick and unctuous (1 hour approx). In the meantime, preheat oven to 200c. Boil the potatoes until soft, and then mash with the milk and butter. Transfer the meat filling to a roasting dish and spread the mashed potato on top. Sprinkle olive oil over the mash, to ensure a crunchy crust, and bake in the oven until the filling is bubbling through the crispy mashed potato (30 minutes approx).


Thursday, 8 March 2012

The 'Pageview Millenium Celebration' Recipe: Seafood Platter with French Fries and Shallot Dipping Sauce

1000 pageviews!!! My first milestone.

Thanks to everyone for supporting my new venture. Over my first 7 weeks as a blogger, I have absolutely adored sending out my rambling missives on a one-way ticket into cyberspace, with the hope that someone would notice, and maybe even stick around to hear what I have to say, on such diverse topics as family, charity donations, bus advertising, the crumbling Eurozone, Nigella Lawson, and working from home. Oh yes, and the recipes - you can't forget the recipes.

Today's recipe is very dear to my heart, as befitting the celebratory atmosphere which only a pageview millenium can provide. For one day only, the Potless budget shall be cast to the winds and I shall spend, spend, spend, like a 20 year old foreign currency trader at a crappy Liverpool nightclub (did you read that story? £200,000 in one night. What a legend fool).

I had the most memorable plateau de fruit de mer in the world a few (dear God, was it really ten?) years ago on a patio in front of a restaurant in the centre of Troyes in France, on a sunny July day. Troyes is the forgottenest of the three towns in the Champagne area of northern central France - the other two being the much better-known Reims and Epernay (although I'm certain you didn't need me to remind you of that wildly interesting fact).

Anyway, Troyes is great, and all the better for being off the tourist trail. I'm planning to take Mrs Ribeye there for lunch on our road trip down to the Cote d'Azur on our summer hols, at the end of June. All being well, we should be eating this dish at the same restaurant I first enjoyed it at a decade (eek!) ago - as long as the faltering French economy hasn't forced the restaurant owner to succumb to the offer from Starbucks/McDonalds/Costa to purchase his lease.

The cost of this decadent dish? Well, let's say that it's a metre or trois over the Potless budget - but a kilometre below what the baby-faced currency trader paid for a Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne at Playground Bar in Liverpool. So that's alright then.

Roll on, 10,000 pageviews!!!

Serves 2

Seafood Platter:

INGREDIENTS:

1 x 750g brown crab, in shell, legs separated, and gills removed from the head meat
1 x 750g lobster, in shell, halved lengthwise
4 langoustine (Dublin Bay prawns), in shells
8 tiger prawns, shelled and deveined, but tail fins still attached
4 large clams, on the half shells
4 large mussels, on the half shells
100g whelks, in shells
100g winkles, in shells
4 rock oysters, on the half shells

N.B. All  of the shellfish to be cooked in salted boiling water, from longest to shortest length of time, in the order as shown above (except the oysters, which are served raw).

8 lemon quarters, to serve
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped, to serve
250g French fries, to serve

Using a three-tiered platter, fill the three plates with crushed ice. Place the lobster halves and the crab legs around the periphery of the top tier, with the head of the crab as a centrepiece.

On the second tier, arrange the langoustine, the tiger prawns and the oysters.

On the lower tier, arrange the clams, mussels, the whelks and the winkles.

Dot the lemon halves around the three tiers, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve the plateau with a side dish of the French fries, and a ramekin of the mignonette.

N.B. If you are using a large single platter, arrange the shellfish in attractive concentric circles, with the head of the crab as a centrepiece.

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Shallot Dipping Sauce:

INGREDIENTS:

50ml red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar
Dash of Tabasco
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a ramekin, to let the shallots macerate and the flavours develop (for 1 hour, at least).


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Non-Greasy, Non-Stodgy, Onion Bhajis with Spring Onion and Mint Raita

Onion bhajis have got to be the most bipolar of all foods.

On some days, they are sprightly, fresh, crispy and vibrant; on other days they are heavy, dull, bland and stodgy. Made properly, they can be a joy to eat, otherwise they are a nightmare - a greasy throwback to the days of the 'three-pot' tandoori restaurants of the late seventies/early eighties.

Today, I'm feeling rather sprightly myself, so it feels like an opportune time to share my own take on the ubiquitous Indian snack.

Ideally, you would use a bit of plain flour in the batter, alongside the usual heavier gram (chickpea) flour, but what you gain in lightness, you lose in authenticity. I simply opt to use a low-volume-of-batter-to-high-volume-of-onion ratio, and that seems to solve the 'cement-bhaji' problem quite nicely.

Gram flour can be bought in most supermarkets now, but feel free to use plain flour instead, if you can't get hold of it, or if you prefer your onion bhajis to taste like a spicy English breakfast muffin instead of the Indian street food that they were intended to be.

When frying these bhajis, make sure the oil is at a moderate temperature - 180c is best. You want to tread a fine line between overcooking the outsides before the insides have a chance to cook, leaving them raw within (oil too hot), and allowing the oil to penetrate the inner-workings of the bhaji, leaving them greasy and heavy (oil too cool).

The accompanying spring onion and mint raita accentuates the oniony theme very nicely, but a word of warning: This is not a first date recipe. (However, if you serve my Rainbow Raita instead, your end-of-the-date kiss may taste just a little bit sweeter...)

All-in, this dish is a cheap one. £1.50 per serving is all it will set you back.

Serves 4 (makes 12 bhajis)

Onion Bhajis

INGREDIENTS:

2 large onions, sliced paper-thin into half moons
100g gram flour
75ml water
1 teaspoon of black onion (nigella) seeds
1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander and ground cumin
Pinches of salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Mix the flour, water, onion seeds and spices together in a bowl and season generously. Add the onions to the batter, which should just coat them, with very little surplus. Heat a 10cm depth of oil, in a large pan or wok, to a moderate heat (180c). Using a tablespoon, plop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry in batches until all are cooked (8-10 minutes per batch approx). Serve with the spring onion and mint raita.

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Spring Onion and Mint Raita

INGREDIENTS:

300ml natural Greek yoghurt
2 spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until needed, to allow the flavours to develop.



Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Foccacia with Mozzarella, Sweet Red Onion, Rosemary and Garlic


Charity begins at home.

Go into a branch of Waitrose supermarkets, and you may find three, metre-high, clear plastic cases near the exit door containing differing amounts of bright green, 2cm circular counters - just as I did at the Edgware Road branch. On closer inspection, the three cases have a small placard above a slot, which tells you something about a charity which is being represented. The idea is that after you have done your shopping, the cashier gives you a counter to place into the case of your choice. Each counter is worth £1, which will be donated, on your behalf, by the store.

A fantastic idea, until you notice that one of the cases is almost full, one is half-full and one is nearly empty. So, which was the almost empty one? Well, it was a homeless shelter for Bangladeshi women. And the full one? Cancer Research.

It may be that most people think that if they are being forced into making a decision to invest into something, that it would be better to be something they might (although, hopefully not, obviously) benefit from, rather than something they definitely won't.

If so, that's all well and good, but why the hell are the cases transparent? Instead of three charity boxes, which under normal circumstances should be a heart-warming sight, all I could see was yet another display of typically uncharitable human behaviour. But before you say that it may well be that people actually think that cancer sufferers are a worthier cause than homeless people, I say: OK, but why publicise it?

Oh, and what was the charity represented by the middle case? I can't remember - I was too busy putting my counter in the Cancer Research container to notice. You can't be too careful, you know.

Today's dish really is a heart-warmer, even if my little pre-recipe rant ain't. I first had this foccacia in a restaurant in north London about ten years ago. I haven't made it myself until now, and I'm so glad I did. It is, by far, the best foccacia I have ever had.

A quick tip: Make sure that when you push the pieces of mozzarella into the dough, that they stay at least partially there after the proving process, and before you put the bread in the oven. You don't want then sitting on top of the bread, otherwise they'll just burn and the crust won't get crunchy and golden. Just before the bread goes into the oven, very gently push your finger onto the mozzarella pieces to submerge them, but without knocking the air out of the rest of the bread.

Bread-making is so rewarding. It is therapeutic and the results almost always turn out far better than you would imagine. There are a few stages to this recipe, but they are all very easy and quick. £1 per serving is all it costs.

Serves 8 (makes 2 foccacias) 

Focaccia Dough

INGREDIENTS:

500g strong, white bread flour
500g semolina flour
20g dried yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
50ml olive oil 
450-500ml water, as needed

In a large bowl, mix the two flours with the yeast, sugar and salt, and make a well in the centre. Add the olive oil and most of the water and stir, until the liquids and dry ingredients have become a sticky, lumpy dough. If it's too wet, add a little more water. Turn the dough onto a floured board, and knead vigorously until the glutens in the flour have developed, and the dough is a flexible, smooth, single ball (20 minutes approx). Set aside until needed.

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Sweet Red Onion Topping

INGREDIENTS:

1 large, or 2 small red onions, sliced into fine half moons
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar

Mix the ingredients in a small pan, and cook on a low heat until the onion is soft and translucent (1 hour approx). Set aside until needed.

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Rosemary and Garlic Oil

INGREDIENTS:

Handful of fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
75ml olive oil

Mix the olive oil, garlic and rosemary in a bowl and set aside until needed.

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To Make the Foccacia

INGREDIENTS:

2 balls of mozzarella, cut into 1cm dice
2 tablespoons of rock or sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 200c.Cut the dough into two equal pieces and set one aside. Roll out one of the balls of dough to a 1cm thickness and place on a floured baking tray, stretching it so that it fits perfectly. Make deep holes in the dough with your fingers and place a piece of mozzarella into each. Strew the dough with half of the sweet red onion topping and then evenly sprinkle half of the rosemary and garlic oil over the entire surface of the bread. Repeat with the other ball of dough, or freeze/refrigerate it for later use, along with the unused toppings. Leave the breads to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until the mozzarella pieces are half submerged in the dough. Carefully, so as not to lose the air in the risen dough, place the breads in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crunchy and the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with rock salt, cut into 4cm wide lengths and serve warm.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Roasted, Spiced Butternut Squash


Working from home, as I do, can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes a very bad thing.

On a good day, I get up, my work gets done to a standard I'm proud of, I have time to do a bit of food shopping, I write a blog post, I prepare a hearty healthy lunch, I catch up with my email, I have a shower and I cook dinner. On a bad day, I get up, potter around, and then BAM! It's 5pm; my work looks like it has been written by Borat, lunch was a packet of crisps, I'm still in my pyjamas and slippers, I smell a bit questionable, and no dinner prepared.

Today was one of those days.

So, to avoid seeing my wife's sad little face when she comes home, to discover a distinct lack of enticing wafts of cooking aroma permeating the flat, I threw on a tracksuit, bombed down to the supermarkets on Edgware Road and tried to make amends.

After a frantic five minute trolley-dash, I had bought the ingredients for dinner and was on my way home. I opened the door to the flat and set about preparing the feast and, at the same time, had a three minute shower and a quick tidy-up of the flat while getting dressed.

Six o'clock hit and the key in the lock could clearly be heard. I slipped the last piece of cutlery onto the table and took a step back to announce: 'Welcome home babe! Dinner's ready!'

Mrs Ribeye seemed happy to be home and happier to be greeted by such a freshly-washed husband. Even better, was the smell of warm, exotic spices hanging in the air.

The smell was this recipe. But, not only that, this dish, prepared in mere seconds turned out to be a revelation. The flesh of the squash had turned a beautiful autumn gold colour, the texture was sublimely rich and smooth, and it tasted like vegetable fudge. Incredible.

Of course, I didn't just make butternut squash for dinner. It was an accompaniment to the other things I had purchased. However, I told my wife that I had freshly cooked all of the elements of our evening meal - and that's the story I'm sticking to. If I told you what else I made, I would just be exacerbating the lie. So I won't.

The squash cost me £1, so this dish comes in at a very honest (unlike me) 70 pence per serving. Delicious served with my Roast Pork Belly (true).


Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar
1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
Pinch of black pepper
Large pinch of sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200c. Cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and stringy pulp. Cut the two halves of the squash in half lengthwise again, until you have four spears, and again until you have eight. In a bowl, mix the oil, sugar, five spice and pepper and add the squash, turning it until it is well coated. Place the squash spears on a baking tray, skin sides on the bottom, and roast until slightly charred on the edges and soft within (45 minutes approx). Sprinkle with the sea salt before serving.


The Definitive Matzo Brei


We all think we're right. In every decision we make and every action we take, we always think we're right (sounds a bit like the opening lyrics to a song by Sting - a man with more than a slight whiff of self-righteousness hovering around him and his yoga mat).

My wife Mrs Ribeye has, in her opinion, never lost an argument between us (even in the event that it turns out that I may be 'technically' right on a point, I either expressed it wrongly, or 'was rude', and therefore wrong). My sister, Roxanne, is a regular know-it-all. My father, Mr Ribeye Sr has turned being right into an art form. My mum, Mrs Ribeye Sr thinks knows her recipes were delivered by God, straight to the dining table, with her hands simply acting as a conduit.

As for me? I cannot eat matzo brei unless I make it. Or at the very outside, if my mum did. But only if I am desperate and I cannot use my hands for some reason.

Matzo brei is essentially scrambled eggs with mixed-in cracker pieces. If you go to a Jewish diner in New York or Miami (probably the only places you'll find matzo brei in a restaurant in the entire world), you may find this dish on the menu. You may even find people ordering it, and you may see people eating it. But if you carefully listen in, what you won't miss is the moaning about how wrong the recipe was. The recipient may have secretly loved eating it, but there will always be something about his matzo brei that wasn't quite right: 'It was too hard/sloppy/mashed-up/crispy/eggy/dry/salty/sweet/why were there f***ing onions in it???'

So, here is the definitive recipe. Simple, savoury (you want sweet? Go order French toast!) and definitely no onions. Follow my method to the letter, to achieve the perfect consistency. With matzo brei, it's all about the texture.

Passover is coming up, so boxes of matzos are 2 for £1.50 at my local supermarket - which means that because I got crazy and bought four boxes, matzo brei will be on the breakfast/lunch menu a fair amount over the coming weeks. 75 pence per serving for this poor man's feast, until the matzo sale is over - then the cost will rise a little bit.

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

4-5 matzos
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of milk
Large knob of butter
Pinches of salt and pepper

Run a matzo under the tap, on both sides, until wet. Put it on a plate and repeat with the other three matzos until you have a stack of four. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pick up the matzo stack and break it in half, then half again, and again, until you have 2cm square pieces. Place the matzo pieces in the bowl with the egg and milk, and mix together until well coated. Leave to stand for 10 minutes. In the meantime, on a moderate heat, melt the butter in a frying pan. Empty the entire bowl of the eggy-matzo mixture into the pan, and level it out. Keep turning the mixture in the pan until the egg has set, but is in no way crispy or fried like an omelette - you are looking for a translucent texture. Season to taste and serve immediately.


Sunday, 4 March 2012

'Victims Of Their Own Success' #1 (in a series): Chicken Kiev with Rice Pilaf

Yesterday afternoon, while driving along the A41 towards the Finchley Road, I saw a bus emblazoned with an enormous poster of Lana Del Rey staring imperiously downwards, together with a command to: 'Buy Born to Die, her Number 1 album.'

Now, call me a cynic (I've been called worse, believe me) but my feeling is, because the album is already number one, that instead of this advert metaphysically suggesting that: 'Everyone's at the party why don't you join too?' it actually says: 'The cool kids, who don't make decisions based on bus billboards, have been to the party and left, so now we're looking for the out-of-touch sheep who do not have their finger on life's pulse, to sweep up their crumbs.'

This scenario made me think about zeitgeist in general - that maybe being popular is, paradoxically, actually bad for business?

Look at Burberry. The moment they started selling ten times their usual turnover, and then also found their counterfeited signature check design on baseball caps and rucksacks, they spent all the money they could on marketing to try to become exclusive again. The same goes for Cristal champagne and Hummer, the Army-tank-turned-school-run-child-conveyer vehicle.

I reckon that at soon as Lana Del Rey's management team okayed the bus advert; that was the moment Lana started work on her on her experimental studio album, possibly entitled "1734"; probably under a pseudonym.

The same is true for food. Smoked salmon is as delicious as it was in the 1980's, as is duck liver parfait and black forest gateau. But there isn't a chance you'd see any of these things on a modern restaurant menu - because all of these items can be bought in Lidl.

Today's recipe is as much a victim of its own success as any of the aforementioned examples- but I won't let it be remembered forever as a substandard supermarket ready-meal. Properly made, it is a delicious throwback to a simpler time, and I make it regularly, to the delight of my friends and family. I suggest you do too.

In terms of cost per serving, believe it or not, this dish is probably cheaper to make now than it was when Madonna was at number one on Top of the Pops with 'Holiday' (remember those days when Madonna was hotter than a Flaming Lamborghini? - now there's another 80's reference. Somebody stop me!). £3 per person is all, including the rice pilaf. Crack open the Mateus and let me know some of your old favourites.

Serves 4

Chicken Kiev

INGREDIENTS:

250g cold, salted butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
4 large chicken breasts, skinned, but with the mini-fillets still attached
2 tablespoons of flour
2 eggs, beaten
100g of panko crumbs, breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying

In a bowl, mix the butter, garlic and parsley together until fully amalgamated. Form the butter mixture into a long sausage and cut into four equal pieces. Refrigerate until needed. Remove the mini-fillet from the main chicken fillet. In the indentation where the mini-fillet used to be, insert a sharp knife into the main fillet and create a pocket 3cm deep and with a 3cm margin from each end. Place a butter portion into the cavity, secure tightly with the mini fillet and coat the whole fillet in flour. Dip the chicken in the beaten egg, followed by the panko. Repeat the egg and panko process one further time, and refrigerate the chicken again. In the meantime, heat up the oil, to a moderate temperature, in a large pan or wok. Fry the chicken until crispy and cooked-through (15 minutes approx). Repeat with the further three fillets and serve immediately with the rice pilaf.

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Rice Pilaf

INGREDIENTS:

300g easy cook rice
600ml chicken stock
200g sweetcorn kernels
200g peas, frozen is fine, but not tinned
Fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped, for sprinkling

Add all ingredients to a pan and cook, on a low to moderate heat, until the stock has fully absorbed (25-30 minutes approx).Sprinkle with the chopped parsley immediately before serving.