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


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


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


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


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


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)


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.