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 tow of us. More like £7.50 a portion - a bargain.