Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Chocolate Cherry Marzipan Bonbons


Mrs Ribeye and I absolutely adore Xmas and manage to go over-the-top at even the merest sight of a Coca Cola advert, a shop window covered in spray snow, or an opportunity to do a seasonal excursion.

This year, we went to the Harry Potter Christmas tour of the Warner Bros studios in Leavesden; we visited the German market on the Southbank to eat bratwurst and drink mulled things; we just got back from a one-and-a-day Xmas shopping trip weekend to France; our 6 foot cloth Santa advent calendar has been almost bled dry of its innards; there is eggnog in our fridge; and today I am making marzipan sweets - sickly sweet (just like us).

Marzipan is one of those love it/hate it things. Mrs Ribeye can take it or leave it , but then she just loves to be different to everyone else. I, myself, love it with a passion. I bought a huge block of it six months ago and it has sat in my cupboard (it keeps well) ready to use for days like TODAY! Christmas Eve! Yessss!

Very simple to do, homemade sweets of any description are fun to make, but these ones are particularly rewarding. Just tear off chunks of marzipan in clean, wetted hands and roll them to make perfect spheres - then stuff them with whatever you like before dipping them in melted chocolate. I chose glace cherries, but you could use jam or nothing at all. In fact, if I could be bothered I would have made them all different. But I couldn't.

Have a wonderful Xmas and New Year! The Ribeyes are off to visit relatives scattered far and wide throughout the hemisphere and will be back in 2014. Wow that sounds futuristic! Potless is two years old now and I have loved every minute of sharing my recipes, thoughts and love with you all. Here's to more Potless over the coming years!

Makes 32 large bonbons

INGREDIENTS:

400g block of marzipan
16 glace cherries, halved
200g dark chocolate (70% coca solids)
100g milk chocolate (at least 30% coca solids)

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Cut the block of marzipan into 32 pieces by making 3 vertical slices and 7 horizontal slices through the block. Take each piece in wetted hands and roll to make spheres. Take a glace cherry half and poke into the centre of each sphere before closing up the hole and re-rolling. Midway through the rolling process, break your chocolate up into a bowl and leave in the oven for 15 minutes until melted. Take each marzipan sphere in thumb and forefinger and dip in the melted chocolate. Drain on a rack and repeat for all sweets. Allow to dry at room temperature for a couple of hours before wrapping in greaseproof paper.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

'Victims Of Their Own Success' #4 (in a series): Crepes Suzette


No self-respecting restaurant in 1970's London would dare send out the dessert trolley without a Bunsen burner. Atop the flickering blue/yellow flame would be a pan with a mustachioed waiter in black suit and a white apron tending to the contents.

In most cases those contents would comprise of a couple of folded pancakes nestled in a sickly sweet lemon and sugar syrup, which would then be flambeed with a healthy dose of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. With a hearty 'Voila!', the dish would be presented to the diner, suitably impressed and silently grateful that he still possesses eyebrows.

What has become of tableside culinary theatre, at one time a staple of fine dining establishments, and now consigned to the waste bin of bourgeois restaurant life, along with finger bowls and After Eight mints?

I blame Benihana, and carvery-style pubs, and the 'Mongolian barbecue' - all of them a triumph of staff pissing-about with your food, when all you really want is to be served in a non-interactive, silent and efficient manner. But with the Crepes Suzette, there really is no other way to serve it than in full view of the customer. How else are you going to insist that the dish is anything more than warm pancakes in marmalade?

I'm only joking, this 1970's classic is nothing less than delicious. I made it this weekend at Mrs Ribeye Sr.'s house (me old mum, of course) and the results were spectacular. Soft pancakes in a sharp yet sweet syrup, with backnotes of liqueur and the added bonus of a light show as it is prepared. Who can resist its not-so-subtle charms?

I say 'Bring back the Suzette!'. Of course, this will mean bringing back dessert trollies and immaculate waiters (no bad thing), but it also may mean the return of the waiters' fake French accent and Freddie Mercury moustache (a very bad thing).

Cost wise, these pancakes would probably have set you back a shilling or two in the old days. Or even 'a farthing and sixpence, two guineas and a crown', or something like that. Today, £1 per serving in new money is all.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

100g caster sugar
50ml lemon juice
4 pre-made crepe-style pancakes (you can make your own, but for this dish it makes no difference, so why bother?)
50ml Grand Marnier or Cointreau

In a medium-hot pan, melt the sugar and lemon juice until you have a smooth syrup. Fold the pancakes into quarters and turn the packages in the syrup until well-coated. Add the liqueur and flambee either with a match or by dropping the edge of the pan so that the contents are exposed to the hob flame. Let the flames subside, and serve the dish straight away, by spooning the syrup over the pancakes.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Vegetable Tikka Masala


It is so hard to make authentic Indian dishes at home if you use shop-bought spice pastes/rubs/cook-in-sauces/marinades, tinctures, unctions or spells. The best thing to do is make your own paste from easy-to-find- ingredients, and then make the sauce with coconut milk or tomato passata, or a combination of the two.

Today's dish is about as authentic-tasting an Indian dish as you will find outside of India. Of course, everyone knows that Indian cuisine in the UK is a poor, brightly coloured, overly sweet and bland pastiche of its native cousin, but compared with a Patak, Sharwoods or supermarket brand paste? No contest.

It's so easy to make the paste - just use garlic, onion, fresh ginger and fresh chilli blitzed in a processor, then add some easily-found dry spices. Once these have been fried in oil to release their essences into the world, you just add a couple of cans of wet ingredients - I used coconut milk and tomatoes, but you could use pulses (lentils or beans) in their cans with their own juices, or even water.

As far as the bulk ingredient is concerned; I fancied a veggie version, so went for a charred (and therefore 'tikka', in my view) aubergine and crunchy green bean version. The combination of flavours textures and colours was too good to pass up, but you could add any fish, poultry or meat you like. Lamb is the obvious prime contender, but I think shellfish, like mussels, would be a good dinner party dish. Just think of your guests faces when you serve them a mussel curry!

I serve my curries with bread and raita, but you could have rice, or forego the carbs entirely and have a crunchy raw vegetable side dish instead.

Cost-wise, this dish is not only nicer than shop-bought or take away curries, it's cheaper too. £1.50 per large serving is all.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 thumb of ginger, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
3 flat red chillies, deseeded and halved
1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander seed, and turmeric
4 tbsps olive oil
1 x 400g tin of tomato passata
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
2 aubergines, cut into 3cm cubes
150g fine green beans, trimmed and cut into 6cm lengths
Salt and black pepper

Blitz the ginger, garlic, onion, chillies and dry spices in a food processor, and transfer to a saucepan with half of the oil. Fry the mixture on a low heat until the moisture has evaporated (you should be able to hear a gentle oily frying sound). In the meantime, roast the aubergines in a hot oven with the remaining oil until charred. Add the passata and the coconut milk to the onion mixture and reduce by half. Transfer the aubergines to the thickened sauce and add the beans. Cook on a medium heat until the beans are cooked through (5 minutes approx). Serve with rice or flatbreads and a chutney of your choice.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Autumn Soup


As I mentioned in past posts. we seem to have dived straight from summer to winter. The leaves fell from the trees over a single weekend in one great whoosh, the weather went from balmy to miserable almost overnight, and the evenings went from 'light at 8pm' to 'pitch black at 5pm' almost as soon as the clocks went back.

So to convince myself that all is well with the world, I have created an autumn soup as a nostalgic look back to those years when the third season of the year meant leaves were red, evenings were dusky but warm, and people's outerwear was interesting.

Why 'autumn soup'?, Well, the ingredients say something about about summer - the fresh green peas, the spring onions and broccoli - and some say something about winter - the smoked cured sausage and the barley. As anyone knows; summer + winter = autumn. It's simple maths really.

Just down the road from where we live, the Marylebone farmers' market have fantastic fruit, veg, bread artisan foods and meat stalls every Sunday morning. That's where I bought most of the ingredients for this soup. As Xmas looms, I will be there buying even more wintery veg for my winter soups - Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac spring to mind. Delish. Can't wait.

Cost-wise, this soup comes in at a very reasonable £1.50 per huge serving. Not that you need a particularly huge reason at this time of year to stay in and cook.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 head of broccoli, cut into very small florets
150g smoked cured sausage, cut into thin slices
50g pearl barley
1 litre chicken stock
100g peas
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

In a large saucepan/crock pot over a medium heat, sweat the onion until soft, and add the broccoli, the sausage and barley - then turn everything in the oil until well coated. Add the stock and simmer for an hour until the barley has swelled up. Add the peas and cook for a minute. Serve with the spring onion as a last minute garnish. Season to taste.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Cote de Boeuf for 2 greedy people, or 3-4 normal ones



Yes, with the weather turning towards winter (whatever happened to autumn?), it is time for another bank-breaking, Potless-defying, non-budget recipe!!!

Once in a while, I say to my wife: 'Let's stay in this weekend and save some socialising/restaurant/pub/cinema money and spend that money on some really decadent ingredients to make a stunning dinner at home'. Not only does Mrs Ribeye prefer my cooking to going out (or so she says), but it means that we can source the ingredients ourselves and ensure that we have bought the very best.

Take today's dish for instance: In a normal steak restaurant, you ask for a 'big steak', and it normally comes to about 300g, along with side orders to bulk out the dish. No thanks. I want a steak, with a side order of meat, with a beef garnish - not a small lump of god-knows-what sitting next to a jacket potato, a salad and a grilled tomato, topped with fried onions and mushrooms.

So today, me and the missus splashed out on a 1.5kg (yes, you heard right) single forerib of beef with a nice cap of creamy fat. And nothing else. Oh ok, we also ate a green salad, but it was very small and insignificant.

Now, today's recipe is not really a recipe - it is really a few tips on how to handle a nice big piece of beef without messing it up, so here goes:

1. For two people, buy a single-bone 2 inch thick piece of forerib, weighing between 1-2kg. The French call it a 'cote de boeuf'. Don't know why. Don't care. I like the name.

2. Cover the steak in olive oil and season well with coarse rock salt, pepper, dried thyme, rosemary and anything else you fancy. Don't worry about the salt drying out the beef - it won't on a piece this big (if anything, it is good to dry it out a bit on the edges to ensure a crispy crust).

3. Leave the oily marinade on for a whole day in the fridge and then remove the steak from the fridge two hours before cooking to bring it back to room temperature (otherwise the cooked steak will be cold in the middle).

4, Take a cast iron skillet (like mine in the pic) or a non-stick ovenproof frying pan, and heat it on the hob for twenty (yes, twenty) minutes until it is at risk of melting into a metal goo. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200c.

5. Cook your steak on all sides for about five minutes each side, using tongs to hold the fat cap upright onto the pan. You are looking for deep dark caramelisation all over - don't worry that you are burning it; in five minutes per side you won't be.

6. Place the pan on the bottom shelf of your preheated oven and cook the steak for 15 minutes.

7. Remove the steak from the oven and allow to rest with a light foil covering for 15 further minutes - this allows the meat to relax and the juices to re-distribute.

8. Carve the meat thickly, season again with coarse rock salt and black pepper and serve with horseradish sauce and a (light) green salad, if you really have to. I like wild rocket because it's peppery and meaty, dressed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

NB. All cooking times above will give you a deep blushing inner part with a charred outer crust. There is no other way to eat steak. If you like it any other way, you are a fool.

You can aim for the same effect on a bbq - and I heartily recommend it - but you do need to use the bbq for only step 5, and them remove it to the oven for step 6. There is no way of cooking this meat entirely on a bbq which will give you the inside you want.

Cost-wise, this piece of beef came to £20 at Costco - the best supermarket-style meat counter in the UK by my reckoning - which means that for four normal people, this steak is a fiver a portion. Order it at a restaurant and you're paying four times the amount - oh and you'll fill up on carbs. And they won't cook the steak exactly how you like...

A confession: Mrs Ribeye and I didn't finish the whole thing in one sitting - we ate it cold the next day too, which means that it didn't come to a whole tenner a portion for the two of us. More like £7.50 a portion - a bargain.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Seared Pork Fillet with Creamy Mustard, Rose wine, and Mushroom Sauce


I wonder how many spectacular dishes are still out there waiting to be discovered? Back in the golden era of cooking, when Anna Pavlova wandered into a bistro and ordered dessert, or when Arnold Bennett asked whether he could 'just have an omelette', did the chefs of the day just whip something up and create iconic dishes which would last a century without getting tired - or was it something more than that?

Having spent years of my life studying recipes, menus and ingredients, I have come up with a truth - some dishes were always meant to be. Take today's recipe for instance: By taking a piece of fairly bland meat and then livening it up with mustard and wine, then letting it down with mushrooms, cream and parsley, could you ever say that these ingredients would ever be better without each other?

The answer is no. Pork fillet IS bland, but it is also sweet and tender. By juxtaposing the mustard with the cream, and the wine with the mushrooms, you can create FIREWORKS. The parsley is not just a garnish - it is a palate livener. And pretty too.

The great thing is,  not only is this dish amazing, it is amazingly easy to cook too. One pan, a brief assembly job, and a little technique and voila! Dinner on the table in  twenty minutes flat, and a round of applause from your grateful audience.

If you're not a fan of pork, you could use any meat, poultry or fish with the sauce. But why not use the pork? The Germans swear by it. ISN'T THAT REASON ENOUGH?

Don't get fooled by the luxurious look of this dish; pork fillet is as cheap a piece of meat as you'll find. This dish set me back £2.50 per serving. Utter perfection.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 pork fillet, about 400g, cut into 2cm thick rounds
2 tbsps plain flour
2 tbsps sunflower oil
250g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of wholegrain or Dijon mustard
150ml rose wine
150ml double cream
Salt and black pepper
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Dust the pork in the flour, and in a hot pan, sear it in the sunflower oil on all sides until crusty (don't move it about in the pan too much). Remove the pork and add the mushrooms and garlic. Stew until soft. Add the mustard, wine and cream. Cook to reduce by half. Add the pork back to the pan and warm through. Season to taste. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately with a green salad and a decent bread to mop up the sauce.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sausage and Cabbage Pie


This recipe is so easy and delicious and quick that you will want to make it again and again... if only the name 'Sausage and Cabbage Pie' wasn't quite so unsexy.

Get over yourself! Call it a 'Farci Vegetable Dumpling' or a 'Stuffed Savoy Turnover' if you have to, but you MUST make this recipe - it's perfect for these chilly autumnal nights, and looks great. I'm not sure I would go so far as to make it for a dinner party, but it's certainly good enough for a night in with family or friends in front of Breaking Bad (my all-time favourite TV show ever).

Mrs Ribeye loves this dish. If I was feeling cruel, I would say that it's because she's Russian and like the rest of her countryfolk loves anything with cabbage in it. But I can't even say that now because since yesterday she got her British nationality! - which means theoretically that she is no fonder of cabbage than me. In fact, she will probably forgo most cabbage products in favour of English tea and scones (mmm I don't think so).

Having spoken to my mum, Mrs Ribeye Sr, about this recipe, she tells me she would prefer to use a beef meatloaf recipe instead of the sausage meat, and I think this is a great idea. I might even try making her version this weekend. Oh, and don't tell me what is happening in the final season of Breaking Bad - we're only up to season 3.


Check out this delicious-looking cross section of my pie - very easy to do and very easy to prepare. I reckon the whole recipe took me 45 minutes from beginning to end. Oh, and in true Potless fashion, came in at a bargain £1 per serving - as long as you are serving four people.

Serves 2 (if pigs like us) - 4 (for normal people)

INGREDIENTS:

1 large Savoy cabbage
500g premium sausage meat
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and black pepper

Carefully remove the six largest leaves from the cabbage and blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from the water and allow to cool. Place the largest leaf at the bottom of an ovenproof dish, so that when it turns out you have a beautiful tree sitting on the top of your pie (see top pic above). Then overlap the five leaves around this leaf, leaving as much overhang as possible. Quarter the remaining cabbage and blanch it in the water for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and finely chop. Take half of the sausage meat and press it into a thin layer over the large leaves in the dish. Top with the finely chopped cabbage and then evenly sprinkle with the nutmeg and seasoning. Add the remaining sausage meat in another even layer over the chopped cabbage and then fold over the overhanging leaves into a neat parcel. Take a plate and press everything down, then refrigerate for a few minutes to firm up while you are preheating your oven to 200c. Bake the parcel in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Remove the oven and turn out, Serve with mashed potato or rice We ate our with no accompaniment, cut into quarters. In our hands.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pickled Sushi Ginger


Having just bought a mandolin slicer after many years of suffering inconsistent thicknesses of my sliced ingredients (I know, a tragedy), I thought I'd put it to some use within a minute of getting it out of the box.

But what to slice? I didn't fancy coleslaw or home-made potato crisps for lunch.

After contemplating using my new purchase to shred some documents, I had a brainwave. Pickled ginger! I love sushi, and my own stocks of shop-bought pickled ginger are running low, so without needing any further excuses I ran down the road, leapt at my local greengrocery stall holder, bought a 'paaaaaahnd-a-bowl' worth of ginger and hot-footed it home.

After ten minutes of working out how to shred the ginger REALLY thinly, yet manage to avoid adding some fingertip into the mix, I set about the pickling liquor. White wine vinegar is too harsh and lemon juice too weak. So, with a quick rummage I came up with a bottle of rice wine vinegar - a perfect level of acidity and a bit Asian, to help keep some authenticity in the recipe. Perfect. I guessed that I would need an even ratio of sugar and vinegar.

Only one other thing: How to get the ginger to lose some of its own juice before pickling can commence. With all home pickling, you need to extract as much of the main ingredient's own moisture, in order that you retain maximum crispness and reduce bitterness. This principle hold true for all veggies - cucumbers, onions, courgettes, peppers etc.

So, with only a few ingredients and a sterilized jar, I set about doin' some picklin'. And what a fun half-hour it was. Truth be told, I haven 't yet tried eating the ginger. It needs about a month in the fridge to let the vinegar mellow out and the ginger to lose its raw taste. I'll let you know how it turns out. Oh, and don't bother trying to turn it pink like the shop-bought stuff. 99% of the time they use food colouring, unless the ginger is super young - which 99% of the time it isn't.

Cost wise, this comes in at £1.50 per kilo. The shop-bought stiff is a fiver for 250g. Cool.

Makes 1 kilo

INGREDIENTS:

1 kilo whole root ginger, peeled and very finely sliced
2 tablespoons of salt
150g sugar
150ml rice wine vinegar

Mix the ginger with the salt in a bowl and leave to stand for an hour. Drain and pat dry. In a microwave bowl, mix the sugar and vinegar and heat for a couple of minutes unto the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the hot liquid to a sterilized jar and add the ginger. Close and refrigerate fro a month to allow the flavours to develop. Serve with sushi, or cold meats and cheeses.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Mexican Scrambled Eggs


I'm such a fan of fancy egg dishes. How can something so banal and work-a-day be so delicious? Oh and they're really easy to cook and really cheap. This one is zippily jazzed-up with fresh spices and veggies - and I kid you not, would be as good as a fancy dinner party starter as a breakfast in bed.

The key is to cook some of the ingredients a lot, some a bit and some not at all. I fry chorizo first to leach out its paprika and garlicky oils, then I stew onions for the longest time to bring out their natural sweetness, then add sweet peppers, tomatoes and courgettes for a short time to retain their crunch and colour; then add fresh chillies and coriander leaves at the very end for their incandescent freshness and zing.

You can really go to town with a recipe like this one - maybe fiddle with the ingredients to come up with a dish from other regions. I reckon tiny lamb koftes...

[KOFTE RECIPE: 200g minced lamb, half an onion, minced, 1 clove of garlic minced, 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, dried mint, dried chilli flakes, paprika, cumin powder, coriander seed powder, powdered cinnamon, salt and pepper, handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped. Mix all ingredients together and form into 2cm diameter kofta balls]

...instead of chorizo would make an unbelievable Middle Eastern style egg dish. Fab. Or seafood - change the chorizo for prawns and swap the coriander and chilli for parsley and peas - Paella Scrambled Eggs! Double fab.

Anyway, this type of dish is always well received. The only thing to really make sure you do is cook the eggs as little as possible by scrambling them very quickly in a very hot pan, and then serving them straight away on heated plates. By doing that, you won't end up with a puddle of watery condensation on your plate (the scourge of the average scrambled egg).

Cost-wise, my version comes in at £2.50 per serving - but your costing will depend on how extravagant your own ingredients are.

Serves 2 (very generously)

INGREDIENTS:

200g chorizo
1 onion, coarsley chopped
1 red sweet pepper, cut into 1cm dice
1 small courgette, cut into 1cm dice
1 large tomato, de-seeded, cut into 1 cm dice
6 eggs, beaten
3-4 fresh red chillies, cut into rings
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, torn

In a very hot dry pan, fry the chorizo until soft but not too coloured. Add the onion and cook until soft, then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes until they have lost their rawness, but are not cooked through, then add the eggs and cook quickly (no more than 2 minutes). Remove from the pan onto heated plates (v v v important) and then garnish with the chillies and coriander leaves. Serve IMMEDIATELY.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Instant Pear Sorbet


Ernest Glaces in La Rochelle makes the best ice cream in the world. Forget Italian 'gelato' or Pinkberry frozen yoghurt (NOT ice cream, whatever they may say) or other fancy concoctions, go to La Rochelle and tell Ernest that Reggie sent you. I will be reviewing Ernest properly in a later post.

So at Ernest's ice cream-a-porium, I ordered my favourite combination - pear sorbet and chocolate fudge ice cream in an attempt to recreate a 1970s dessert favourite of mine: Poires belle Helene - and it was like eating heaven. So, this weekend I thought I would attempt to re-live a holiday culinary treat and buy the same from an ice cream parlour in the UK. But...

Pear sorbet is surprisingly impossible to find in London.

I tried everywhere (except possibly Fortnum's or Harrods - but then I'm not really in the '£10 per tub' ice cream market), but had to use lateral thinking to come up with this dish in as short a time frame as possible. After all, I wanted to eat it NOW!!!

So an instant homemade miracle it had to be. Just check out the non-huge list of ingredients for this fantastic dessert. I really don't think you can call this a recipe - more of a technique to be used when you can't buy the flavour of sorbet you want from your local supermarket. Due to the huge success of this treat, I just bought a tin of mango pulp in syrup to add to my own range of flavours. I'll let you know how it goes.

I didn't bother to make the chocolate fudge ice cream - Ben and Jerry helped me out with that.

Cost-wise, a tin of pears at my local Waitrose is 69p, so the whole recipe is £1.38, which means less than 13p per serving. So at 2 Euros a boule in La Rochelle, I reckon Ernest Glaces is raking it in.

Makes 10-12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 x 400g tins of pear halves in syrup

Freeze the tins until hard, then remove the contents by opening both ends of the tin and using a wooden spoon to prod the pears through into a strong bowl. Using a hand blender, blend the pears until smooth and transfer to a freezer-proof container. You can serve the sorbet immediately (which will be fairly soft but still slushily frozen), or freeze until hard and then remove the sorbet from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving to allow to soften slightly. 


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Chicken and Bacon Croquettes Tapas


So, having got back off our summer hols in sunny Biarritz (many incredible recipes and restaurant reviews from our two week road trip to follow really soon), I thought I'd post one of the recipes I cooked while using the kitchen of our sunny and very delightful holiday flat rental.

The thing is, Biarritz is really close to the Spanish border - just a hop, skip and a jump to fabulous San Sebastian (or 'Donastia', if you're a sycophantic Basqueophile) - so the tapas influence is strong in that southern part of France.

We ate at many tapas places, and I couldn't help but marvel at the many pinxos on offer. These tasty morsels, usually fried or atop a crispy slice of baguette, accompany the local plonk and are usually reasonably priced and intensely tasty.

So, one day, I decided to attempt a pinxo or two of my own and made these delightful little croquettes. Mrs Ribeye loved them. The chicken I used was left over from a very fancy and expensive locally reared artisan black leg, and so the recipe came in at a very reasonable £3 per dozen croquettes. If you use a cheap UK chicken, the results won't be vastly different to these fritters in taste, but you won't get to gnaw on some freaky looking roasted black chicken feet as a cook's treat.

Saying that, the last time I saw feet on a supermarket chicken in Britain was in about 1975.

Makes 12 croquettes

INGREDIENTS:

200g leftover cooked chicken, shredded
150g bacon lardons
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50ml olive oil
2 tbsps plain flour
300ml milk
Salt and black pepper
Small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

To fry:
50g flour
2 eggs, beaten
100g breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium hot pan, fry the chicken, bacon, onion and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent. Add the flour and stir to remove lumps. Add the milk but-by-bit until you have a smooth thick mixture and then add the seasoning and parsley. Allow the mixture to cool and firm-up in the refrigerator. Once the mixture is cool, form into croquettes. Dip them into the flour egg and breadcrumbs until well coated. Deep fry at 180c for 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with garlic mayo (aioli) or a spicy tomato sauce.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Gourmet Beans on Toast


Sometimes I can't be bothered to cook. Like yesterday; I bought a pack of un-podded broad beans with all the intention of making a fancy dish. However, after spending a day-off messing about with my nephews, sister and mum over at my sister's house, I got home at about 6 and looked at the bag of beans with disdain. No way could I be bothered to come up with any kind of gastronomic delight from scratch at this late hour.

So, after surveying my store cupboard I decided that easy comfort food it had to be. My bread bin contained a half-eaten wholewheat sourdough bread from the weekend, the freezer had some bacon lardons slowly petrifying at the back of the top shelf, the larder contained many, many tins of miscellaneous foodstuffs. Of course, I could have easily foraged for some fancy cheese and fresh herbs and constructed some kind of bruschetta, but I wasn't in the mood. So without a hint of guilt I told Mrs Ribeye (who had just arrived home after a long day of work) that dinner would be 'beans on toast'. Mrs Ribeye - knowing how I rarely capitulate to laziness when it comes to meal preparation - looked at me quizzically.

Up my sleeve, of course, were the broad beans and lardons to go with the dense chewy (slightly stale, which for this dish is key) sourdough bread. After spending a couple of minutes blanching the broad beans and adding them and the raw lardons to a tin of Heinz's bright orange baked variety, the result was fantastic! The broad beans add a different, slightly waxy, texture to the tinned stuff; the lardons added a savoury note to counteract the cloying sweetness of the tinned beans; the sourdough was a perfect base. All-in-all, another fantastic dinner. Of course, being pigs, we ate the beans on toast with a frozen cod fillet in breadcrumbs, which I also found in the freezer along with the lardons, (you can never have enough enough carbs) to accompany it.

Mrs Ribeye was totally sold. I kid you not; I'm putting this dish on as a Potless Towers regular.

Oh and it's cheap too. The bread is practically free, being a leftover; the broad beans cost £1.50 for a big bag; the lardons were £1; the Heinz beans were 69p - which puts this dish at £1.60 per serving. Brilliant.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 x 400g tin of baked beans
150g podded broad beans, blanched and skinned
150g bacon lardons
4 slices wholewheat sourdough bread (or any other dense bread), lightly toasted

Mix all of the beans and the lardons in a saucepan and simmer while stirring, to reduce the sauce to a thick gloop and cook the bacon thoroughly. Top the toast with the mixture and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving, to allow the sauce to soften the toast slightly. Serve with salad or (in my case) other carb-laden foods.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Piperade


Piperade is an absolutely genius dish. More substantial than a mere sauce and not quite robust enough to stand on its own feet as a stew, piperade is actually an ingredient used to 'posh-up' fairly humdrum meals. I used it to jazz up a sea bream lunch dish (recipe to follow soon), but it could be equally used to add pizzazz to breakfast eggs or supper of grilled lamb or chicken. I once saw Keith Floyd making piperade really badly on one of his vintage cookery shows, and getting a thorough bollocking from a disapproving French grand dame standing at his shoulder. Hilarious. He took it fairly well though.

Anyway, the reason I made piperade today is because I got over excited at my local market in Church Street when I saw a few stallholders selling beautiful fresh sweet peppers at a pound ('paaaaaahnd') a bowl (boooowwwwwwllll'). Without thinking, I paid over three quid and heaved home a dozen huge red, green, yellow and red peppers. After making a salad, and after leaving them in the fridge for a couple of days I panicked. What was I going to make with the eleven peppers taking up nearly two shelves of fridge space?? Ratatouille? No, I didn't want to buy courgettes and aubergines to add insult to injury. So piperade it had to be. And what a choice! I kid you not, having served up a big bowl to a few chosen participants, the verdict was in: Piperade ROCKS!

I would have spread some around some later meals if my mates hadn't scoffed a kilo of the stuff in record time. Next time I'm keeping all it to myself.

Cost-wise, because of my Church Street bargain, this dish comes in at about 50p a dollop. Even when peppers are out of season I don't expect that piperade will be a particularly sprend-thrifty meal. 'Thrift, not spendthrift' - I like it. It has a nice ring to it.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

75ml olive oil
3 peppers, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 large dried chilli, crumbled
Salt and black pepper
400g can of plum tomatoes, plus a quarter can of water

Stew everything together until thick and unctuous. Serve warm, cold, on its own or with other food.


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Oven-Baked Vegetable Noodles with Ginger and Sesame Oil


I hate stir-frying. I hate woks. I hate stir-fried food made at home. I hate all 'home-cooked Chinese food'. I love Chinese takeaways.

Chinese takeaways are not going to win Michelin stars, but the Chinese know how to cook food that caucasians like to eat. I'm talking about bright red crispy stuff in gloopy sauces. I'm talking about fried stuff with noodles. I'm talking about rice with bright stuff in it. I don't know how it's done and I don't care. I just love it (especially when it comes with a bag of free prawn crackers sitting on the top of the brown paper sack already leaking grease down the delivery driver's arm).

I'm a really good cook, and I love buying exotic produce from my Asian grocer, but I CANNOT MAKE CHINESE FOOD. I have a Chinese friend who has taught me how to make Chinese food , but I CANNOT MAKE CHINESE FOOD. So now I (almost) stop trying.

The problem is not the ingredients, but the technique. How many times have I wielded my wok and followed my good friend Yang's instructions to 'hey, only cook the vegetables for a few minutes!'? Yes Yang, after I remove the beautiful vibrant veg/meat/rice/noodles from the wok and put it onto the plate it starts leaching water until I have a 3cm pool at the bottom of the plate. The meat is hard and tasteless. The noodles have formed a crust on the bottom of the wok and are now scraped-off to form a stupid non-traditional gnarly crispy noodley garnish for the top of my crappy dish (I won't waste a scrap of food for any reason ever). What the eff?

The answer: Ditch the wok. Now by roasting everything in the oven, I just sit back and drink wine while waiting for my delicious dinner. No waiting for the wok to 'heat until blistering'. No getting covered in splats of oil. And definitely no watery slop.

The key is to oven cook the veg until all the water has been driven off and then keep adding things until everything is amalgamated. It is total stupidity that you must cook the veg for two minutes 'to keep all the vitamins in'. You want vitamins? Take a pill. For me, I want it to taste good.

Oh and while on the subject of taste? Fresh ginger and garlic with soy and sesame oil is a far better alternative to the stir-fry sauce nonsense served up in sachets in supermarket aisles (what is that brown goo? Wood stain?). Simple is always best - unless you're ordering food from your local takeaway, or you happen to have an Asian friend prepared to make you dinner.

This is no joke - the whole dinner comes in at £1.50 per very generous serving and is fairly close to rivaling my local Chinese takeaway for flavour. The recipe here is basic, but you can add some oven roasted meat or fish to the top. I made some salmon with mine and plonked it on top before serving. Delish.

Now, if only I could find a way to oven roast myself a few free prawn crackers...

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500g mixed stir-fry vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil
400g ready-cooked egg noodles
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Preheat oven to 220c. Mix together the ginger, garlic and vegetables and arrange in an even layer on a non-stick baking tray, then sprinkle with the olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until well cooked (turning a few times), and then add the noodles, soy sauce and sesame oil, and mix everything together until well amalgamated. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve immediately.


Monday, 13 May 2013

Asparagus with Instant Hollandaise Boiled Eggs


I do love a bit of drama. And I am a bit lazy. Put these virtues(?) together, and voila! Do-it-yourself beautiful seasonal food.

Today's dish is a bit of an old springtime favourite - asparagus with hollandaise sauce. However, instead of slaving over a hot stove trying not to let your sauce curdle, just soft-boil a few eggs, and add the sauce ingredients at the table. Or even better, let your guests do it themselves.

All you need to remember is to not let the eggs overcook, otherwise the sauce will not smoothly come together and you will end up with vinegary eggs topped with hard butter- yuck.

I made this dish for my mum, Mrs Ribeye Sr, and she 'quite liked' it. I would love to tell you that she 'loved' it, but she is a die-hard traditionalist and would have preferred not to have 'done-it-herself'. Mrs Ribeye Jr (the wife), however, loved it - as did I. We too are looking forward to getting old and stuck in our ways in a few years time. Our (as yet unborn) children are soooo lucky...!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

10 fat asparagus spears
4 eggs
A few drops of white wine vinegar
4 small knobs of butter
Celery or rock salt
Black pepper

Boil the asparagus and eggs, in the same pan, for 4 minutes. Remove everything from the pan and arrange five asparagus spears and two eggs per person on a serving plate. Serve by removing the tops from the eggs and adding a few drops of vinegar and the butter; then sprinkle with the celery salt and pepper. Dip and swirl the asparagus into the eggs to create instant hollandaise sauce.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Sesame, Chilli and Ginger Salmon Sashimi with Watercress and Radish Salad


What a beautiful late spring/early summer dish!

Yesterday I noticed that Marks and Sparks had some fresh salmon fillet in, so I decided to eat it raw. I normally only eat fish raw if I can guarantee its freshness, and with supermarkets you can never tell 100% how long it has stayed in some cold storage unit in an industrial estate in Derbyshire (or somewhere equally inauspicious). So when I'm not certain of provenance, I use my nose - and some salt.

Salting raw fish does various great things: 1. It makes it taste nice; 2. It firms it up for slicing; 3. It cures it. How long you decide to cure it for will depend on what you what to do with it. For Gravadlax, I cure for it for a few days - for sashimi just a few hours.

The rest of the ingredients for this stunning dish are also found in supermarkets across the land. In a few minutes, you have a great dinner party starter or a lunch dish all on its own.

Maybe this dish could be made with other fish just as well - bream or sea bass would be great I reckon. Mackerel: Yes. Tuna: Of course. Cod or haddock? Not so much.

Get sashiming! It's cheap (£3 worth of salmon fillet feeds two easily), healthy, and most of all, a bit... 'WOW HOW DID YOU DO THAT?'!

All-in, this is a Potless thrift speciality - £2 per serving is all.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

250g very fresh salmon fillet
3 tablespoons salt
Large handful baby watercress
12 radishes, halved
2 large red chillies, sliced into 5mm rings
Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
Pinch of red chilli flakes
1 tablespoon each of rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, dark soy sauce, honey, wasabi paste
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

Sprinkle the salmon with the salt and refrigerate for an hour or two, until the fish has released about two tablespoons of moisture. Remove from the fridge and slice thinly (about 4mm thick). Arrange the watercress and the radishes on a serving plate and surround with the salmon slices, topping each slice with a piece of chilli. Mix the chilli flakes, ginger, vinegar, oil, soy, honey and wasabi together to make a dressing. Dress the plate generously. Sprinkle with sesame seeds immediately before serving.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Japanese Coleslaw


I adore Japanese food. It's light and flavourful and mostly colourful and beautiful too.

If I'm out in town and I want to eat healthily, I always try to eat sushi or some kind of Far Eastern broth. If I fancy a bit of both, then a bento box from a Japanese cafe would be perfect. In reality, it looks like a TV dinner with compartments in an oblong box for different bites. There's always some rice, topped with a protein of some kind. Maybe a salad, maybe soup, maybe some pickles, and maybe something sweet. I adore the variety.

When I'm home, I sometimes try to re-create the bento by serving some Miso Soup along with a main course and a side dish. Today's coleslaw accompanies some Teryaki Haddock (recipe to follow soon) I made with brown rice. The coleslaw is so easy to make and uses very similar ingredients to the western-style one, but with a sweet and sour dressing instead of the usual heavy mayonnaise. I think it may be time to ditch the mayo out of my life. The regular stuff is too fattening (it's basically a pure oil/egg emulsion - why do it to yourself?) and the light stuff is not mayo - it's house paint.

The dressing ingredients were all bought from my local Asian grocery, but you can easily find the same stuff in you regular supermarket.  Cost-wise, the dressing ingredients set you back a bit when you buy them, but they last forever. Cabbage and carrot are cheap as anything. All-in, this lovely side dish comes in at 50p per serving.

Ideally, I would buy some bento boxes with compartments to use at home. But I think that it may be taking my Japanese obsession a bit too far. What would be next? A kimono and a ceremonial sword?

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Quarter of a white or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, grated
1 teaspoon of black onion (nigella) seeds
2 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, grated
Half a clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon each of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and brown sugar
Salt and black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavours develop. Serve as part of a bento box-style meal


Monday, 22 April 2013

My Sister's Baby Tomato, Chilli and Black Olive Salad


My sister Roxanne never cooked much until she had kids, and now she's forever placing fish 'en papillotte', or gratinating various vegetables, or layering things. Nothing tastes as good as when it's layered. Apparently.

Today's simple recipe was an accompaniment to a main course (err, fish en papillotte, of course) for a dinner party she had on the weekend. I don't normally rip my family's recipes off - unless the food is sensational despite the shoddy photograph (my mum's baked cheesecake recipe springs to mind) - or the food is good but the photo is knockout.

Hence today's inclusion. Have you ever seen tomatoes look quite so delectable? Olives have never looked blacker or shinier. My sister can not only cook, she is also a great photographer. Maybe one day she'll think of doing one of these things as a job. But I doubt it.

Anyway, this simple summer salad goes well with fish or perhaps as an accompaniment to a ploughman's lunch. Either way, I would be delighted to have something so colourful put in front of me at any mealtime.

The only thing is, Roxanne tells me that the dressing is olive oil, with no acidic counterbalance.  Maybe the tomatoes will add an astringent note, but I would add a teaspoon of lemon juice or red wine vinegar to the mix just to enhance the sharpness of the dish.

My sister is as thrifty as I am. I would guess that she paid no more than £1 per serving for this salad. A bargain I reckon.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

300g mixed baby tomatoes (I prefer cherry plum tomatoes myself)
2 large red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
100g pitted black olives, halved
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (make sure you remove the bitter centre stem)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar (optional, see note above)
Salt and black pepper
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

On a large serving platter, arrange the tomatoes and chillies, with the olives arranged in neat rows on top. Scatter the salad with the garlic and then dress with the olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, if using. Season the salad and garnish with the parsley immediately before serving, and not before.



Miso Soup


WARNING! THIS RECIPE IS NONSENSE.

I love eating at sushi restaurants but I'm getting sick and tired of the big con. Years ago sushi in the UK would be expensive because non-one really ate it; therefore only a few restaurants did it, and because they couldn't guarantee selling everything they bought they would factor in a huge wastage amount into the dish prices.

These days, however, sushi is pretty much a British signature cuisine. There's a sushi place every 50 yards in London and every 100 yards everywhere else. I'm not counting supermarket sushi or Pret a Manger ('no raw fish!' they proclaim, proudly for some reason), but I am including Yo Sushi, Wasabi and You&Me. The thing they all have in common is that the salmon and tuna is pretty much as exotic as it gets in these High Street places. And THAT is the big con. Order in any normal restaurant a tuna nicoise salad or a salmon fishcake and it'll cost you £8 maximum. Go to a sushi restaurant, however, and half that sized portion of fish is £20. AND THEY DON'T EVEN COOK IT!

Me, on the other hand, a veteran of a few Far Eastern trips, prefer eating the more obscure gungy stuff. I love sea urchin, any number of fish roes, raw molluscs and raw octopus. The weirder and more repugnant, the better (I'm not truly happy until I shudder at the very thought of putting the food in my mouth). But whatever I eat and wherever I eat it, I always need a miso soup to accompany it. It's very comforting.

For years, I was afraid of miso. When stirred in a soup, it clouds up. After settling for a minute, it looks like a living breathing amoebic organism. It is, regardless of its questionable looks, delicious and packed full of that mythical sixth taste, umami.

What I didn't know, was that it doesn't need cooking. You just stir and dissolve some of the fermented soya paste into some boiling water and add some cheap garnishes. In a way, a miso soup is closer to a Nescafe beverage than real food. It lasts forever (it's already fermented, FFS) and so there is no wastage. So why the f**k are the restaurants charging more than a pound a bowl? Some of the more 'upmarket' places charge a fiver! Since I discovered the secret, I refuse to eat it anywhere that charges more than a pound. Lie: I mean 75p.

One other thing to add, is that miso paste is not only completely delicious, but probably quite versatile too. It's hard to keep my fingers out of the jar. Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to experiment with it and see whether I can make some soup dumplings with it, maybe a salad dressing, maybe a dip. Whatever it is, will taste bloody brilliant.

At £4 for a big jar, a single serving comes in at 40 pence, including the garnishes.

It may be cheap, and not much of a recipe, but this soup is absolutely delightful. Buy some white miso paste flavoured with dashi (a type of dried fish flake, called bonito) and you won't look back.

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon of white miso paste, flavoured with dashi (or without dashi, if you're a veggie)
400ml boiling water
50g block tofu, diced
1 spring (salad) onion, chopped
1 small piece wakame (seaweed), optional

Dissolve the miso in the boiling water and add the garnishes. Not very difficult, eh?


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Spaghetti Mr Ribeye


I was so jealous that my wife has her own favourite dish named after her ('Linguine Mrs Ribeye', no less), that I made up a dish and named it after myself.

Ta-da! SPAGHETTI MR RIBEYE!!!

If I'm honest, I'm slightly perturbed that my wife didn't make the dish for me and name it in my honour, but, well... she can't cook. At all. So I'll take one on the chin - and my tastebuds will thank me later.

Today's dish involves feta cheese and chillies - one of my favourite cheeses and my all-time favourite vegetable (or 'fruit' if you're pedantic). Actually, chillies may just be my favourite food of all time. I sometimes eat them whole on their own for an after-work snack with a glass of wine, cut-up raw on houmous, salads and burgers, or pickled on almost every other dish. But put chillies with feta cheese, and you have an atomic-super-duper-frenzy of a taste explosion. I'm getting a bit warm just thinking about it...

Smooth rich young cheese with fiery chilli. Mmm. Actually hold on... What if I were to roast some of the chillies to bring out their sweetness, and then have some raw ones on top to freshen the dish up? What an idea!

Regular Potless readers will notice that I have married together feta with roasted chillies in a dish before - in my Feta and Roasted Jalapeno Burger - but these days I am more of a veggie pasta than a burger guy (actually that's a lie; if I wasn't such a 'potential fatso', I would eat a burger a day).

And so it was born. The best pasta dish this side of Napoli, and the hottest dish this side of the sun. In a word...

'Fantabuloustasticerrificilliantissimo'. As they definitely say in Italy. Well, most days probably.

As ever, with my careful eye on the purse strings, this dish comes in at a very reasonable £2 per serving. Another reason why this is probably my signature recipe.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

3 whole large red chillies
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 x 400g tin of whole Italian tomatoes in their own juice
1 teaspoon of dried oregano, plus extra for dusting
Pinches of salt and pepper
Cooked spaghetti (250g uncooked weight), to serve
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 red chillies, sliced, to garnish

To a blisteringly hot pan, add the chillies and oil and fry until the skins are slightly charred and roasted, then set aside until needed. To the oily pan, add the garlic and gently fry until it has the merest tinge of golden colour. Add the tomatoes, oregano, seasoning and about a quarter of the tomato tin filled up with water, and cook rapidly until the sauce is thick and unctuous (20 minutes approx). Add the spaghetti to the sauce (not the other way around) and mix to coat thoroughly. Top with the feta cheese, then the roasted and then the raw chillies. Lightly dust the dish with the extra oregano. Serve immediately.


Friday, 12 April 2013

Razor Clam Spaghetti Vongole


Every now and again I pop up to Church Street market and see what's new in. The market is a bit crappy and very functional - no Portobello Road antiques or Marylebone farmers market Jerusalem artichokes here; because this market is for local people, buying day-to-day food at knock-down prices. There is, of course, the odd exotic bargain to be purchased, which is the sort of exception which makes the rule.

At one of the three fish stalls dotted down the street (it's the one outside the manky pub where my dad bought me my first beer - I was about twelve. How times have changed - now, twelve year olds take drugs, probably) the fishmonger normally selling 'four bream or sea bass for a tenner', happened to have some fresh razor clams in at £8 per kilo.

I've never cooked razor clams before, but how hard can it be? Just steam them like other clams and eat them, right?

Well, you could. But then you would be eating a ton of black gunk that sits in their guts, and your dinner would be ruined. Therefore a little dissection is going to be needed between par-cooking them, and gently re-heating them in the sauce. That being said, the meats are sweet, tender and delicious, and the shells make a fantastic garnish talking point. As you can see from the photo, I re-assembled the cleaned cooked clams back into their shells 'for their close-up, daahling...'

Oh, one thing, you may get a bit attached to their antics, which may make them hard to kill without feeling a bit guilty and sad. I bought the razors, put them in a big pot of fresh water to purge them, and then watched as their little noses poked out of their shells to check out their new environment. Inquisitively, I picked up a clam, and it spat a stream of water six feet across my kitchen! Brilliant!

Oh well, can't be a wuss about these things. As much as I quite liked having some molluscan pets for an hour or two, their necessary despatch ended up with me and Mrs Ribeye enjoying one of my best ever home-cooked seafood dishes. And so easy to prepare too, with very few ingredients to make an authentic Italian vongole.

As far as vongole is concerned, the dish should be 'blanco', not thickly red from tomatoes (the way they always seem to serve it in 'Italian-style restaurants' Or tins.) No, the dish should be light and fresh, with a hint of spice from a fresh chilli, fragrant from a light white wine, and carpeted in fresh parsley.

Cost wise, razor clams are about half the price in Church Street than anywhere else in London, I reckon. For two people, 750g is adequate - about 4-5 clams each. The dish may look fantastic and taste luxurious, but at £3 per serving, it's another Potless miracle.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

750g razor clams, in their shells
75ml olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fat red chilli, finely chopped
125ml dry white wine
300g cooked spaghetti
Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

Wash the clams in plenty of cold water and leave to stand for an hour or two, then drain. In the meantime, in a hot pan, fry the garlic and chilli in the olive oil until soft. Add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil, and then  add the drained clams and cover the pan. Cook the clams for 4 minutes until they open, then remove from the pan. Leave the pan on the heat, to reduce the cooking liquor by a third, while you remove the intestinal sac and black gunk from the clams with a sharp knife. Chop the clam meats into bite-sized pieces and add them to the clam liquor with the cooked spaghetti. Toss everything together and transfer to serving plates. Carpet with the parsley and  serve immediately (you can place some of the meats into a couple of reserved shells, for aesthetic effect, as pictured).


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Gratin


Jerusalem artichokes are good for your heart, Jerusalem artichokes make you fart, the more you fart the more you eat, the more you sit on the toilet seat.

The Jerusalem artichoke truly is the most intriguing of vegetables. The looks of a ginger root, the density of a potato, the flavour of an artichoke, the flatulence-giving properties of the baked bean. Oh, and they are utterly delicious too.

Five minutes walk from our flat is Marylebone farmers market, held every Sunday in the car park behind Waitrose. There are not that many stalls, but the ones that it does have stock a fabulous array of organic muddy veg, free-range meat, artisan treats and potted herbs. Everything is pretty expensive, but then it should be.

Take the bread for instance. We bought a spelt bread for £3.20 from a stoned-looking lady standing at one of the two bakery stalls in the market. On our way home, we popped into Waitrose for some cream to make today's gratin recipe, and I happened upon their range of breads, which included an insipid looking spelt loaf half the size and half the price of the one I bought. While I accept that three-and-a-bit-quid is a lot for a loaf of bread from the farmers market, I can say without reservation that, after scoffing the whole thing in a day, it was easily the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Ever. I'm sure that the £1.79 one from Waitrose was nowhere near as good - it certainly didn't look it.

Not everything was dear though. A kilo of Jerusalem artichokes from a ruddy-faced farmer came in at a very reasonable £1.50. Having never cooked them before, I was a little unsure of how to treat them. But recognising their starchy attributes and interesting skins, I realised that a creamy cheesy gratin would probably be OK (but then, what wouldn't be delicious baked in cheese and cream?).

I wasn't wrong. The dish was incredible. Smooth, silky artichokes perfectly complemented by the rich, creamy sauce. The onions and garlic add a perfect savoury note against the sweet 'chokes (which I suspect may be a bit sickly without them).

Cost-wise, the whole dish came in at a bargain £1.25 per serving. Mrs Ribeye and I ate it as a lunch dish main course, but it would be equally good as a side dish with dinner.

Just a quick word to the wise: Don't eat this dish on a first date, or in a closed environment. Trust me.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

750g Jerusalem artichokes, skins on and scrubbed
1 large onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
300ml single cream
100g parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper

Cook the artichokes in vigorously boiling water until slightly tender (20-30 mins approx). In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200c. In an ovenproof skillet or pan, fry the onion in the olive oil and then add the garlic, and cook until soft. Slice the artichokes into 1cm thick rounds and distribute in the pan in an even layer. Pour over the cream and top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-30 mins, until the cream has reduced and the cheese is golden. Serve immediately and open a window.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Roasted Asian-Spiced Mackerel with Egg Fried Rice


Having just come back from spending Easter weekend with Mrs Ribeye in Weymouth in Dorset, I noticed just how in love with mackerel the locals are. Every fish and chip shop and cafe in the area screams about their mackerel baps (as invented by Tim Maddams on the TV programme 'Hugh's Fish Fight'), or their mackerel curry, or their mackerel lettuce and tomato sandwich, or their Big Mac (er, actually that last one may be a burger).

Anyway, I, along with Tim and his former mentor Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, firmly believe that the mackerel is the under-ratedest fish in the sea. It's sustainable (whatever that means), its flesh is salty and sweet, it's easy to fillet (just hold it cut side down after gutting it and press it flat, then simply pull out the spine), it's full of omega-3 oily goodness for the ticker, and because it is no namby-pamby breed, its characterful rich fillets can take really strong flavours without being overpowered.

Oh, and at around a fiver a kilo, it's dirt cheap (mm, maybe that's the reason I like it so much).

Anyway, whatever the reason, today's dish really is such a winner for a mid-week dinner or a weekend lunch. I love Asian-ing up a bit of fish. All you need is a bit of ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce, and all of a sudden you're a chef. The secret is, that the whole dish takes five minutes to prepare and fifteen minutes to cook.

As you can see from the picture, my egg fried rice is quite a dark oak colour. This is due to some very thick sticky soy sauce I accidentally bought from my local Asian grocery. Until I poured it over my rice, I had no idea that it would be quite so creosote-ish. But as sometimes the best accidents make the most innovative dishes, I couldn't be happier. The black glue ended up being a fantastic glossy coat to my rice grains and lent my dish quite an exotic earthy tint. It tasted great too.

A whole good-sized mackerel at my local Waitrose (not exactly a budget supermarket, so you might be able to buy cheaper elsewhere) is about £1.50, which means that this dish comes in at a very sustainable (yes Hugh, you're not the only one to over-use the word you know) £2.25 per serving.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 whole mackerel, filleted, but left whole (see note above)
Half a thumb of ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Black pepper

For the Egg Fried Rice:

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
Half a thumb of ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 beaten eggs
200g cooked basmati or short grain rice
75g frozen peas
2 tablespoons of sticky dark soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 230c. Slash the skin of the fish three times along each fillet and rub in some ginger and garlic into the slits. Place onto a non-stick baking sheet and pour over the sesame oil and soy sauce. Place the fish on the top shelf of the oven and cook for fifteen minutes (I don't bother turning it over), until the top skin becomes crispy and the slits open up. While the fish is cooking, fry the onion in a wok with the sunflower oil and then add the ginger and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the beaten egg and scramble lightly. Add the cooked rice and the peas and carefully turn through the onion and egg mixture without breaking up the rice grains. Finally, add the soy sauce and carefully coat the rice. Plate the dish by serving a fish over a mound of the fried rice, then spoon any remaining baking tray juices over the fish. Serve immediately.


Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Perfect Guacamole


Why the 'perfect' guacamole, you may ask?

Well, you really only need mashed avocados and salt to make a guacamole, because there really is no 'traditional' Mexican recipe. Therefore, after years of trying and testing, I can safely proclaim that I have found the true alchemic formula - and it's green. And delicious.

The key to making the perfect guac, is to use the perfect avocado - and this is no mean feat. I now use the Haas variety instead of those shiny green-skinned ones. I have found that the while the Haas is an altogether less aesthetically pleasing avocado, the flesh is richer and less prone to hairy fibrousness like the others.

I buy my Haas rock-hard on day one and do not attempt to eat it until day six. Any earlier and its slightly rubbery, much later and it's gunky, over-ripe and covered in black mushy spots.

As to the other ingredients: Lime juice? Check. De-seeded tomato? Check. Spring onion? Check. Fresh coriander? Check. Fresh Chilli? Check. Black pepper? Check.

Here are some 'no way' ingredients: Cumin (too pungent); sour cream or mayo or cream or yoghurt (yuck); garlic (too strong and all wrong); Anything else in the world? (er, no).

So here it is, the perfect guacamole. How do I know it's perfect? Well, last night our good friends Ophelia and Kumar came over for a food-and-movie-party (the director's cut of the 1973 version of The Wicker Man - incredible) and I made Fish Tacos (recipe to follow soon), and between the three of them - my wife included- I barely got a look-in at the guacamole. Ophelia even licked the GD bowl!

Four avocados for a pound at my local Morrison's supermarket, means that this dish comes in at a very delightful 50p per serving. 'Perfect' indeed.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

3 ripe avocados
3 large spring (salad) onions, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 large fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
Juice of a large lime
Salt and black pepper

Mash all ingredients together until blended, but still quite chunky. Serve chilled, with tortilla chips (or in Ophelia's case, with nothing at all...)


Friday, 22 March 2013

Passover Cinnamon Balls


Another fantastic telephone conversation with my mother:

After the old dear told me that she couldn't be bothered to make cinnamon balls this year, and I told her that I would be bothered instead, she explained to me that she didn't know the recipe. After 40 years of making them every single year.

So, after a brief and vague discussion with her about ingredients and measurements, I just made them up as I went along. She did however, explain to me in great detail what an 'airtight container' to store them in was. Me: 'Just to recap Mum, how much air should I let into the container?' Mum: 'You're not too old to smack, you know.' (I am. I'm nearly forty one.)

Oh, and sorry mum, my cobbled together recipe is better than yours. How do I know? Because despite warnings that they could end up hard as bullets, mine are gooey and delicious, and exactly how I remember them tasting in the 1970's - just as all Jewish food should.

I was told to use caster sugar; since I didn't have any, granulated had to do.
I was told to beat the egg whites until stiff; a bare froth was all I could manage before getting bored and my hand hurt.
I was told to use two spoons of cinnamon - I always feel that the cinnamon needs to be a bit stronger than when my mum makes them (they're called Cinnamon Balls FFS!), so three went into mine.
I was told to bake them for twenty five minutes; twenty was all I could wait before whipping them out of the oven.

The thing is, the slight under-cooking has left them a tiny bit gooey in the middle - absolutely sublime.

The whole project took me less than a half hour from start to scoff. When my wife (Mrs Ribeye Jr) came home from work, she told me that my cinnamon balls were delicious and that they tasted like some unpronounceable Russian word from her childhood. No dear. They're cinnamon balls. Not 'Schroonabobbletopf.'

The whole guntz comes to about £2 for 16 balls. That's 12p per ball. Very thrifty.

Makes 16 balls

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg whites
200g ground almonds
150g granulated sugar
3 (slightly more than level) teaspoons of cinnamon
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 160c. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until a bit frothy and then add the almonds, granulated sugar and cinnamon. The mixture should look like damp grainy crumbs. With wet hands roll the mixture into 16 balls and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until the balls have slightly risen (it doesn't matter if they slightly crack). After cooking, gently prise them off the baking sheet with the end of a spoon and roll them in the icing sugar while still slightly warm.


Friday, 15 March 2013

Seared Sirloin of Beef 'Tagliata' with Rocket and Parmesan


Mrs Ribeye and I had a very scary conversation tonight. No, not about kids, or anything quite as mind-bendingly horrific as that (although deep down, we're actually excited at the prospect of becoming parents in the fairly very distant future), I'm talking about us giving up meat.

Now, anyone who has been following Potless will know, that the wife and I have been weaning ourselves off the flesh for some time now. We stopped eating meat on weekdays about a year ago, favouring the fish and veg diet (not 'pescatarianism' - we're not wankers), and only eating meat between Friday night and Sunday night. However, we have started to think that we might be able to give up meat altogether.

Why though? Well, it's because we both agreed that after eating less meat, we feel that it tastes kinda... dirty. I initially thought that the dirtiness came from substandard quality purchases - the McD springs to mind - but we joined Costco a few months ago, and the meat we have been buying from them has been tip-top. Therefore, we can only think that we have unwittingly become pescatarian wankers.

It can happen to the best of you. If you want to start wanting less meat, the key is to start actually eating less meat. The same goes for sweets and sex.

So, why on earth am I writing about my latest tagliata dish? A plate piled high with almost raw, bloody beef? Well, Mrs Ribeye and I have decided that when do decide to eat meat on the very odd occasion, it has to be the best. And trust me, this dish is THE BEST.

From now on, meat will feature in our diets about once every 2-3 weeks. And when it does, it will rock our world. Today, I chose the most succulent 28-day hung Aberdeen Angus beef and seared it for seconds on each side until it formed a crust on the outside, but was meltingly raw and tender within. Heaven. The thing is, it was so full of carnivorous delights that I feel that I can hold myself for a month or so until my next dose. I suppose my wife and I are kind of like a boa constrictors in that way.

Cost-wise, a little meat goes a long way, when you cut it wafer thin and make it a sort of garnish for a rocket and parmesan salad. A big (300g) sirloin steak is about a fiver between two of us, which means that this dish comes in at a very reasonable £3 per serving. It's back to veg again tomorrow... In a weird way, I can't wait.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 large sirloin steak - about 300g
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon dried mixed Italian herbs (or herbes de Provence)
2 large handfuls of fresh wild rocket
1 tablespoon lemon juice
50g block parmesan cheese, shaved
Rock salt and black pepper

Marinate the steaks in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the herbs and set aside until they reach room temperature. Heat a pan until blisteringly hot. Fry the steaks on both sides for a minute or two until crispy and then set aside to relax for 5 minutes. Pile the rocket onto the centre of each serving plate and dress with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Top with the parmesan. Slice the steak thinly and arrange around the salad leaves. Season fairly heavily and serve immediately.


Monday, 11 March 2013

Seared Scallop Salad with Ginger and Sesame Dressing


I haven't been blogging for a while, because my 'real life' has taken over and sucked every last drop of creative writing energy from my soul.

However, in a fit of pique, I put pen to paper (actually finger to keyboard) and decided to fire up the old Potless machine to tell you about a very piggy weekend Mrs Ribeye and I had a few days ago.

On Friday night, I told Mrs Ribeye that any of our usual weekend festivities (er, pub with mates to be exact) would be put on hold for a well deserved night in. As an inducement in lieu of external entertainments, I explained that we could spend our money and efforts on a stay-at-home-night-out. Which meant extravagant wine and food.

So, today's dish was the starter to our main course of chorizo and cheddar quesadillas with sour cream. Slight problem: Both dishes (delicious on their own and eaten in moderation) don't go together particularly well - which meant a night feeling sick and eventual dreaming of being waterboarded with dairy products.

Next time, this salad will be a main course, and the quesadillas will be a main course... on a different day entirely.

Scallops are really reasonably priced these days. I bought eight big fat fresh King daddies from Morrisons for just over a fiver. What a bargain! And they were totally delicious! And I loved them (as did the missus)! And they looked so pretty! And I wish I hadn't eaten quesadillas straight after them!

The dressing is so so easy. Basically stem ginger in syrup (from a jar) with garlic and a few store cupboard ingredients, which makes the dish taste quite Japanese and exotic and very special. From beginning to end, the whole dish took 5 minutes to cook, and 3 minutes to eat. Oh, and at £3 per serving, a bargain too.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

8 king scallops, shelled, with roes still attached
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and black pepper
3 pieces of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped, with a tablespoon of the syrup
Half a clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon each of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce
2 large handfuls of salad leaves

In a blisteringly hot pan with the olive oil, sear the scallops for a minute on each side until crispy on the edges and still slightly raw within. Season the scallops as they are removed from the pan and set aside while you make the salad. Mix the dressing ingredients together and dress the salad leaves. Place a pile of leaves on each serving plate and dot with the scallops. Serve immediately.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Za'atar-Topped Naan Breads


I have gone spice-crazy at my local Waitrose. Noticing that they stock the whole Bart spice range, I decided to spend some of my John Lewis (which you can also spend at Waitrose - who knew?) Christmas vouchers on the whole gamut of exotic delights adorning the racks of dried herbs, spices, rubs, marinades, potions, tinctures and unctions.

Ras-el-hanout (four-bloody-quid-thankyoumuchly) is some kind of translation for 'best spices in the house', and is a heady mixture of the pungent and fragrant. The mix can vary from place to place, but mine contained  cinnamon and clove, together with coriander and cumin - and rose petals, among other things. What a weird idea, but very very effective. A sprinkle on to a salmon fillet and a quick roast in the oven, and you have a feast, rather than a meal.

Sumac. Ahhh, sumac. It seems that every Londoner I have spoken to recently has told me about eating some houmous sprinkled with an amazing mystical sour-tasting orange-coloured spice, in a Lebanese restaurant, which justified the menu price of £6 for a starter portion. After their enquiry of the reluctant waiter, it became apparent that the secret is sumac. And what a find! £2 for a big jar means that my shop-bought houmous will magically taste six times more expensive. And guess what? It does.

Za'atar (yup, another four quid). A blend of dried wild thyme, sesame seeds and some of that spicy cocaine (err, sumac again) is the only thing to adorn freshly made bread. Mrs Ribeye and I live above a Middle Eastern grocer, who along with the dodgy baked beans ('Multipack. Not to be sold separately') and questionable brand toilet paper, does do a nice line in pitta bread with a fabulous thick dark herby coating. Until now, I had no idea this was za'atar.

So, with my bag of spicy delights in my eager-with-anticipation sweaty palm, I hotfoot it home to start cooking for my Saturday night dinner party. The only problem: Which spices do I use in tonight's menu? The answer: All of them. Problem solved.

I cooked ras-el-hanout salmon with a sumac and garlic yoghurt sauce, together with rice and salad. And these breads on the side. Bingo. All three purchases in one fell swoop. Did they go together well? Yes! The salmon was rubbed with the 'ras' a full day earlier to allow the flavours to fully intermingle and penetrate. The yoghurt sauce was subtle enough not to overpower the fish, but was still redolent enough with sumac to let my buddies know that there was something special going on, and the bread was - well the bread was incredible actually. In fairness, not incredible enough to entirely stop me popping downstairs to Mazur's shop to buy his pittas, but incredible enough to think twice.

Bread-making may be more time-consuming than a quick trot down the rickety staircase, but it is so much more rewarding to be able to tell your mates that you made the stuff yourself. Being a good bread buyer is not quite as cool than being a good baker. Even in central London.

Price-wise, home-made bread is a HUGE win. I made eight breads (1 each for my greedy guts friends, plus leftovers for lunch today) for the princely sum of £1.50. Even if za'atar is pricey for a whole tin, I only used a scant half-teaspoon per bread, which means that this recipe comes in at a less-than-fancy 20 pence per serving. Certainly cheaper than that Lebanese restaurant (but then, they probably put sumac on their bread too).

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

500g strong white bread flour
1 level tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 beaten egg
150ml milk, warm
150ml yoghurt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil, plus a little extra for the baking sheets and for glazing the breads before cooking
3-4 tablespoons of za'atar
1 tablespoon of rock salt, for sprinkling

In a large pot, mix all of the ingredients - not the za'atar or rock salt - together (much as I do for my Regular Bread Recipe) and prove it, then form into hamburger-shaped breads. Transfer to oiled baking sheets, smear the tops with more sunflower oil, then liberally with the za'atar and rock salt, and allow to prove for a second time. Preheat oven to the maximum setting (230-240c) and place the breads onto the highest shelf. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the breads are golden, crispy and risen. Remove from the oven and serve still warm.


Friday, 1 February 2013

Marmalade


Having made Houmous at home, and decided that shop-bought is actually better, I thought I would change my luck and try my hand at some marmalade. The reason, is that Seville oranges happen to be available at my local Waitrose and knowing that they make the best marmalade and that they are rarely available in supermarkets, I thought I'd give them a go.

One problem: I have no idea what I'm doing.

So, using a little common sense and a load of blind luck; after using my potato ricer (basically a giant garlic press) to extract all of the juice and pulp from the oranges, and mixing in a load of sugar (no idea exactly how much) and boiled it until the mixture was thick and gluey, then it cooled down... Voila, marmalade. I am not kidding. Actual marmalade.

I chose not to make the type with the bits in, (a) because I'm not a fan of the bitter peel; and (b) because clear marmalade is more versatile in other recipes (like cakes etc), in case I found that I didn't like it that much on toast.

So, let's get down to what actually happened:

I bought a kilo of oranges. I cut them open and squeezed them to extract the juice. I found that about a dozen decent sized oranges yielded a measly half cup of juice. So I set to work with the potato ricer to get every last drop of nectar out of the pathetic dry fruits - and knew that I needed some pulp and pith etc to extract 'pectin', the mythical enzyme which turns juice to jelly.

When I guessed how much sugar I would need, I went to my sugar tub in the cupboard and saw it was a third full. So I dumped the whole lot into the saucepan. How much was in there? No idea, but it was about a third of a container that used to hold just under a kilo, so I would say 300g.

Then I boiled the mixture. For how long? Can't remember. But I do know I watched an episode of Iron Chef America while it cooked, which is 40 minutes without the fast-forwarded commercials - which means I cooked the marmalade for 45 minutes, including the time it took to find the episode and the remote control and sit down to watch it.

How did I know when it was done? I didn't. The mixture looked like a fairly runny orange syrup. When I put it into the sterilised kilner jar (by 'sterilising' I mean put into a hot oven for 10 minutes) and then allowed it to cool down, I had no idea if I was the owner of a jar of sweet orange juice or marmalade. I waited an hour or two until the jar was cool and then stuck in a spoon. A REVELATION! The best marmalade ever! Smooth, fruity, sharp/sweet in the right proportions, back notes of toffee. In a word... Marmalade.

Slight problem: A dozen oranges (£2) and 300g of sugar (50p ish) has yielded half a jar of marmalade - which means a whole jar would be a fiver (not including the cost of the jar, which in fairness I will re-use). But so what? The marmalade is home-made, and definitely tastes different to shop-bought, and another victory chalked up to 5% knowledge and 95% good fortune. A perfect ratio.

Do Do Do make your own. I know it's expensive and time consuming and you have to wash up a sticky pan afterwards, but it's so rewarding to know you can make really delicious stuff so easily. The half jar may have set me back £2.50, but at 10p a serving, it's still a Potless bargain.

Makes a half jar (200g approx)

INGREDIENTS

12 Seville oranges
300g granulated sugar

Extract as much juice and pulp from the oranges as you humanly can, and transfer to a heatproof pan together with the sugar. At this stage, you can cut up some of the peel (but none of the bitter pith) and add it to the mixture to make marmalade with bits in. Simmer the mixture on a low to medium heat for 45 minutes. The mixture should be runny but thick. Transfer to a sterilised jar and allow to cool. Spread onto buttered toast or use in cake recipes.