Monday, 22 October 2012

Salad of Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree

Mrs Ribeye loves scallops. She didn't used to love scallops, but now she does.

Last year, I made the wife some delicious seared scallops, to which she replied: 'Why are you serving me eye-balls?' Not a good day. However, at a dinner party given by our friend Axel at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill last weekend, she ordered scallops again and found that she actually loved eye-balls after all. So so fickle.

Ok Ok, maybe last time I hadn't cooked them to her Holy Magisterial Regalness' highest standards, but all of a sudden she started to obsess about them. 'When are you making scallops again?' 'Why aren't we having scallops tonight?' 'It's my birthday next week. Can we have scallops?' 'It's Thursday - scallop day!' etc.

So, because today is my wife's twenty-seventh birthday (27? Eek! What an oldie), her wish is my desire and I managed to convince my local eye-ball merchant to set me aside a few plumptious specimens.

Ok Ok, maybe I learnt from my mistakes and Ok Ok, maybe I have now learnt to get the pan hot enough to allow the scallops to slightly caramelise, but this time there was no eye-ball comment; there was just a look of delight on my crusty old (mmm, still a decade-and-a-half younger than me) bird's face. Happy birthday indeed.

To pair up the scallywags, I decided to make a butternut squash mash - because it's easy; pairs up well with the sweet seafood; and is cheap to make - in line with my Potless budget.

Dare I say it? Yes I dare: My dish is better than Beach Blanket Babylon's. Not to say that BBB's isn't nice, but their scallops are a bit... eye-bally (joke). No, actually, their dish came with truffle oil, which I reckon is a bit musky for such sweet shellfish as scallops, and mine came with a balsamic-dressed salad which has more contrasting rich sourness than their (fairly nice, in all honesty) fried carrot garnish.

Oh, and mine's better because BBB's dish is £25, whereas mine comes in at £3 per serving - because I got my scallops for £15 per kilo. Not that I particularly cared last week, because Axel picked up the bill. But still.

Serves 2


1 small butternut squash, halved and de-seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
Salt and pepper
250g shelled scallops (just the white meats, not corals)
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
2 handfuls of mixed leaves
2 tablespoons of walnut or olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Walnut pieces, to garnish (optional)

Rub the exposed flesh of the squash with the olive oil, five spice and seasoning and roast at 200c for an hour. In the meantime, rub the scallops with sunflower oil and black pepper. In a pan blisteringly hot pan, sear the scallops for 1-2 minutes on each side and then remove from pan to relax. Dress the salad leaves with the walnut oil and vinegar and place a mound on each serving plate. Remove the squash from the oven and mash the flesh, discarding the skin. Dot a small pile of squash in equal spaces around the salad leaves and top each with a scallop. Season to taste and garnish with walnuts, if using.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Fish 'n' Champ

Fish 'n' champ? What am I going on about?

OK, this dinner is a compromise, and I'm not big on compromising. Occasionally, my wife questions my wisdom and asks why we eat healthy. So I tell her: 'It's because I'm old and you're not, and although I worry about such things, you don't, but I know better, and I want to live a long time more, and you don't care because the 'future' is a long time away for you, and a lot further than it is for me.'

So fish 'n' champ - rather than fish 'n' chips - was for dinner tonight. I'm pretty sure that she didn't notice the difference, because 'chips' and 'champ' sound nearly the same, and fish is fish, right (oh, and don't forget my cunning use of the abbreviation 'n'). Err not exactly. But because my wife is a good(ish) person and likes to humour her old fart of a husband, she didn't complain when I served her grilled pouting fillets, instead of fried cod in batter, and didn't pull (much of) a face when I served mashed new potatoes with leeks instead of deep fried crispy chips (which I had promised her earlier).

So, was our dinner a compromise? Well, actually... NO WAY. Look, I love a take-away from The Seashell in Lisson Grove like the next guy, but tonight's dinner was absolutely delightful, so I couldn't say that it was a compromise. As for Mrs Ribeye? well, you'll have to ask her - which will be hard, because she is too busy cramming fish 'n' champ down her throat to be able to give you much of a coherent answer.

Try this recipe. It's easy to make, delicious, healthy and cheap. The leeks were a quid for two of us, and the potatoes were 50p. The pouting fillets were a bargain at £9.99 per kilo, which meant that the whole dish came in at a bargain £2.50 per serving. A quarter of the price of a decent take-away, and chances are, far more conducive to me living a few years longer than I might have done. Not that Mrs Ribeye cares...

OK, if you can't get pouting, try any white flaky fish. River cobbler is great if you're skint, cod if you're flush, or monkfish if you're a millionaire.

Serves 2


500g new potatoes
500g leeks, finely chopped
4 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
300g pouting fillets, skin-on
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, finely chopped, to garnish

Boil the potatoes in a pan until par-cooked and set aside. In the potato pan, add the leeks and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sweat the leeks until tender but not coloured. Add the potatoes back to the pan and break everything up with a fork until you have a coarse-textured mixture and continue cooking until potatoes are fully cooked. In the meantime, get a frying pan blisteringly hot. Fry the fish on the skin side until crispy. Turn the fillets over and remove the pan from the heat. Place a mound of champ on each serving plate and season to taste. Sprinkle lemon juice on each fish fillet and place the fish over the champ on the plate. Season the fish to taste and sprinkle with the parsley immediately before serving. Last thing: Drizzle the plate with the reserved olive oil for a nice cheffy touch.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Crudites with Anchoiade

I'm sitting in my central London flat huddled over my laptop, wistfully looking out at the sunny morning (although in full knowledge that while the day looks deceptively warm and summery, the fact that I am necessarily sitting in copious layers of poly-viscose tells me that it is bloody freezing out there) and wishing I was back on my summer holiday in Nice on the French Riviera.

So, there's only one thing for it: No. Not giving up my life in England to become a street artist in Provence. I'll make some summery grub.

For some reason, anchoiade and crudites seems like something that you should only eat when you're on a patio overlooking the Med, while drinking a long-stemmed glass of local rose and surreptitiously ogling French strumpet. But no! I made I made some this weekend while sitting in my draughty London apartment, drinking a long-stemmed glass of non-local rose and overtly ogling my own strumpet. And it was (almost) as good.

Anchoiade is a fairly punchy dip, made with tinned anchovies, a fair amount of garlic (not too much - I'm not actually French), a dash of vinaigrette ingredients and a handful of fresh parsley from the old window box. Terrific. Just pair it with some vibrantly colourful raw vegetables or even crusty bread, and in no time, you'll be back on your summer hols with nothing to worry about, except for a bit of garlic breath and a slight mid-afternoon hangover. Truly lovely.

No kidding, though; try this dip, it is absolutely my newest favourite thing in the whole wide world. I made it for the first time this week, and I have resolved to make it again at the earliest opportunity.

A 70g tin of excellent quality anchovy fillets are 79p at Waitrose, which means that including the lovely vegetables, this dish comes in at a very reasonable £1.50 per serving, for a super duper starter, snack with drinks, or weekend treat. Ooh-la-la, as some would say (not me).

Serves 4



6 tinned anchovy fillets, oil drained
1 fat clove of garlic, centre stem removed
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
Fresh black pepper

Fresh, raw salad vegetables, cut into two-bite-sized chunks, for dipping

In a pestle and mortar, crush together the anchovy fillets and garlic until you have a smooth paste. Add the red vinegar and olive oil until you have a smooth emulsion. Set aside until needed, to allow the flavours to intermingle and develop. Serve with the crudites.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Cheese Fondue

Mrs Ribeye and I have gone so 70's! It's amazing how fashions change and evolve, but mainly repeat, albeit with a slightly modern twist. A couple of years ago, there was no way that I could visualise buying a fondue set without thinking that I had gone a bit 'Austin Powers', but for some reason, these days, I reckon there is nothing groovier. Baby.

The thing is, I'd never made a fondue before and was a bit concerned about eating quite so much cheese in a meal. I shouldn't have worried. The fondue was quite simply the best thing I have ever eaten IN MY WHOLE LIFE. Where have you been all this time, my cheesy friend?

I word of advice on buying a fondue set: The Le Creuset one (ahhh, Le Creuset...) is about a hundred quid and, of course, is totally fab. But the Ikea one is thirty five quid and ... exactly the same as the Le Creuset one. I mean, exactly. So, the Ikea one it had to be (which gave me a chance to buy a sack of frozen meatballs too. Everyone's a winner).

Since I had never made a fondue before, I had to do a bit of research. The general consensus is that the 'correct' fondue, is a Swiss fondue. So I chose Gruyere and Emmenthal. Apparently I could have chose Vacherin too, if I knew what Vacherin was or where to buy it.

Also, I used brandy and lemon juice instead of the traditional kirsch, because I didn't fancy buying a bottle of kirsch just to make a fondue. My addition of a foil-wrapped triangle of Dairylea was a recommendation from a Swiss food blog, which assured me that this extra touch would help amalgamate all of the other ingredients. I'm not 100% sure how a tiny piece of processed goo is going to make any difference, but who am I to argue?

Fondue is a rich dish and an interesting and totally delicious main course. I served mine with a plate of salami and crudites, alongside the traditional crusty dipping bread. It would also make a cool drinks party snack with cold wine or beer. A quick note on the bread: Make sure that each piece has a piece of crust attached to it for secure spearing - otherwise, after a few goes, the fondue will end up more like a bread sauce.

Cost-wise, this one is great value. £2 per generous serving for a luxurious and trendy dish is a 1970's priced bargain.

My friend Ophelia, who is Swiss, has promised me a 'fondue cook-off'. But to be honest, she's gonna lose.

Serves 4


350ml white wine
50ml brandy
25ml lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, whole
500g mixed cheeses, grated (I used Gruyere and Emmenthal)
2 tablepoons of flour
1 piece of spreadable cheese, like Dairylea or Laughing Cow
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and black pepper
Crusty bread for dipping

In a fondue pot or casserole on the hob turned up to a high heat, cook the wine, brandy lemon juice and the garlic until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn the hob to medium and discard the garlic, then add the cheese and flour gradually, until everything is smoothly incorporated. Mix in the cheese spread, paprika, nutmeg and seasoning. Remove the fondue from the hob and transfer to a low burner. Eat the fondue by dipping the bread into the sauce and periodically stirring it to keep it lump-free and avoid burning.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Spaghetti with King Prawns and Chilli

Mrs Ribeye and I are quite the fans of Gordon Ramsey's US series Hell's Kitchen ('IT'S RAAAW!!! SHUT IT DAHHHNNN YOU DONKEYS!!!').

It's good entertainment, but not exactly a master class in fine dining. Most of the food that the brow-beaten contestants have to produce is pan-fried this and sauteed that - basically anything that you can cook or reheat in five minutes - while the crusty-faced chef bollocks them for not having enough sear on their scallops (ouch).

At some point I will attempt to make Ramsey's lamb wellington as it looks quite delish, but I will have to save that treat for the weekend as the wife and I only consume bird and cat food during the week. Yup, we're still on the weekday veg and fish diet. I'm not sure it's doing us a whole lot of good - especially as on Friday to Sunday we turn into the great white shark from Jaws - but the school night food bill certainly is a whole lot cheaper.

Today's dish looks at first glance like a dear one, but Tesco has raw jumbo king prawns on offer at half price, so I thought I'd try a Hell's Kitchen special - the seafood spaghetti. Of course, I probably haven't got the recipe exactly right, but then I am not constrained to one pan, three ingredients and five minutes like the dopey bozo 'chefs' on TV. Where do Ramsey's scouts get these guys from? Starbucks?

Oh, one thing about this dish: I loved it, but the wife prefers Linguine Mrs Ribeye - a similar pasta dish but with no prawns, and made with mozzarella and basil instead. There's no bloody pleasing some people. She'd get on well with Ramsey (oh, and I would have saved a few quid too).

Oh and one last thing (absolutely the last thing): I use dried chillies in the sauce and fresh chillies to garnish. To set off the dried chillies, I cook the sauce with fresh finely chopped red sweet pepper and so I have three different pepper textures in the dish: Dried chilli, cooked pepper and raw chilli. How very cheffy of me.

Because of today's super bargain shellfish, this dish came in at a wallet-friendly £2 per serving. An absolute bargain, whatever Mrs Ribeye might say.

Serves 2


2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 x 400g tin of Italian tomatoes with a half tin of water
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
250g raw king prawns
300g cooked spaghetti
Fresh chilli rings, to garnish

In a hot pan, fry the garlic and pepper in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, water, oregano and dried chilli and cook until reduced to a thick sauce. Season to taste. Add the prawns to the sauce and clamp down the lid to allow the prawns to poach gently in the residual heat. When cooked (the prawns will have turned coral pink), add the spaghetti to the pan and mix well. Serve. Garnish with the fresh chilli rings.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pasta with Gruyere, Pine Nuts, Basil and Garlic-infused Olive Oil

My wife is quite a complicated creature. At times she is a complete pushover (a description she hates - but who cares? She's a bit of a pushover), and at other times a complete P in the A. It can be a bit of a minefield working out which Mrs Ribeye will be coming through the door, and so the best policy is to tread fairly carefully, then try a bit of a joke at her expense before either apologising profusely or hammering my (frankly hilarious) point home. Gotta love marriage.

One way to convert an on-edge tiger to an affectionate pushover kitten, is to keep them happy with their favourite grub. Mrs Ribeye's catnip of choice is anything pasta-centric, hence Linguine 'Mrs Ribeye'. Today's dish is my newest invention, and quite frankly, it's a bit of a hit - which means I'm off the hook after winding her up just a little too much when she got home, after she spent the day telling her slightly (as in, majorly) diva-ish colleague, Dali, off all day.

Think of this pasta dressing as a kind of un-blitzed pesto, but made with gruyere instead of parmesan. If my friend Kumar had not resisted me making fondue last weekend, I wouldn't have had so much bloody gruyere in the fridge, so probably would have made this dish with whatever other cheese I had lying around - but gruyere is such a deliciously fab melting cheese, that in a way I'm delighted I have a large block (or two) in the fridge ready to use in other things.

I have chosen mushroom tortellini (not home made, of course, who could be bothered?) as my pasta, because Mrs Ribeye is quite the fan of stuffed pasta shapes (I think it's a Russian thing - she loves pelmeni), but this dish would be great with linguine or spaghetti, or even penne. It's dead easy to make and quick too - which means more time listening to the wife's 'interesting' work tales and less time hiding in the kitchen. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Oh, and apart from being easy and delicious, this dish is cheap too: £2.75 per serving.

Serves 2


3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
1 x 300g pack of tortellini, cooked as per the instructions
Handful of fresh basil leaves
100g gruyere cheese, shaved, using a potato peeler
Salt and pepper

Mix the oil and garlic together and set aside to infuse. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden and set aside. Cook the tortellini and transfer to a serving dish. Dress with the garlic-infused oil (taking care not to add the raw garlic to the dish) and garnish with the pine nuts, basil and gruyere shavings. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


So, I had already bought a variety of cheeses for my fondue from Waitrose - Gruyere, Emmenthal and Comte - to be told in a late afternoon phone call by friend Kumar, that 'sorry dude, I'm on a diet - can we please not have a meal based entirely on cheese?'

Grrr, when will I ever get to use my brand new cast iron fondue set? Dejected, I put the set back in its pristine box and looked around the kitchen for inspiration. I certainly could not be bothered to trek out on another shopping trip, so it looked like fish finger sandwiches (no hardship, I must admit) all round, until I started checking my selection of tinned goods at the back of the larder. I happened upon a large tin of duck confit brought back from Carrefour in Calais on our last weekend jaunt to France and a few tins of cannellini beans. The freezer proffered a pack of Toulouse sausages (from same jaunt) and a small pork belly joint, to be saved for a rainy day. It was a rainy day.

I defrosted the sausages and pork, liberated the duck confit from its fatty coffin and set out to the roof terrace to pick a bunch of parsley from my tiny herb garden. An hour later and the fondue-alternative was almost ready.

Er, one thing: How on earth is cassoulet a healthy alternative to fondue? I gingerly offered it to Kumar, who didn't seem to consider that in a calorie fight, the fondue was probably likely to come out on top. Never mind, the dinner was absolutely amazing and made with close to zero effort. A win.

Budget-wise, the dish came in at a surprisingly reasonable £3 per serving. The mixture of meats in this rustic stew tastes positively luxurious, but for four of us, the shopping bill came to twelve quid. Win win.

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large Toulouse (or other high quality pork) sausages
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 x 400g tins of cannellini beans/haricots blanc, drained
1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence, or dried mixed herbs
Pinches of salt and pepper
300g pork belly
1 litre water
4 legs of duck confit (I used tinned, but you could make yours fresh - here is the recipe: Duck Confit)
Fresh parsley, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180c. In an oven-proof casserole, fry the sausages in the oil until lightly browned, and remove from the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and soften. Add the beans, herbs, seasoning, pork belly and water and cover the pan. Cook in the preheated oven for an hour. Remove the pan from the oven, cut the pork belly up into large chunks and return it to the pan with the sausages (cut into two pieces each) and the duck confit, making sure that you bury the meat deeply under the beans. Turn the oven up to 220c and cook the cassoulet, uncovered, for a further hour, until the top forms a golden crust. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.