Thursday 8 March 2007


I've been reminded that I omitted to include reference yesterday to the stone pot manufacturer's website. It can be found at

Tonight's Menu: Tiger Prawns with Chili (see below for the recipe. I think I originally 'borrowed' this from a book of Spanish recipes by Penelope Casas, which came from the shelves of Waldenbooks in Key West, sometime around 1983)

Liver alla Milanese.

Chocolate and Apricot Tarts.

Recipe: Tiger Prawns with Chili Peppers....

For Two.
Ingredients: 2 oz Butter; approximately 20 peeled Tiger Prawns; 2 cloves Garlic; 1 large dried chili; half a Cup of Chicken Stock; half a Cup of Dry Vermouth; seasoning; 2 tablespoons chopped Parsley.


1. Melt the Butter in a heavy frying pan. Add the minced Garlic, and stir once or twice over a high heat, until slightly browned.

2. Add the Prawns, turning them quickly to colour in the hot Butter. Add the Stock and Vermouth. Crumble the dried Chili over the prawns as the liquid bubbles; keep stirring all the time.

3. When the liquid has reduced by about half, add the chopped Parsley and correct the seasoning.

Use a slotted spoon to serve the prawns into shallow bowls and then pour the sauce from the pan over the top. It shouldn't be necessary, but if the sauce is still too thin, reduce it for thirty seconds over a high heat before pouring it over the Prawns.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Essential Equipment: The Stone Pot....

Ok, I admit that to call this 'essential' is perhaps going a bit far. It falls definitely within the 'nice to have' rather than 'need to have' category....but when it winked at me from the shelves in Conran around ten years ago, it winked irresistably. A casserole carved entirely from one block of stone, with a stone lid to match. It appealed to all those atavistic instincts that are probably a fundamental element in appreciating good food and the processes involved in producing it. Its density means that it has to sit and warm in the oven for at least half an hour before it can be used, or else its sheer massiveness prevents any heat from penetrating to the ingredients within for at least that length of time after anything has been put inside it and placed in the oven to cook. The weight of the lid prevents any juices from escaping - so you need to adjust for recipes which assume the inevitable reduction of cooking liquids over time - and in effect the pot acts much in the way that a daubière does once you've sealed the top. The results are splendid every time, and when the pot is resting, I find it makes an excellent air-tight crock in which to keep bread, or even particularly smelly cheese. Its one drawback is the need for regular visits to the gymn in order to be able to lift the thing from the shelf to the worktop to the oven.....but then, I suppose we all have to suffer a little for our Art!

Tonight's menu:

A salad of arugala, dressed in oil and seasoning, then a layer on top of crayfish tails, topped in turn with shavings of fresh parmesan, and then fresh lemon juice and ground black pepper. Simple but delicious; first tasted in a restaurant in Reggio di Calabria, when we went there several years ago to look at the Riace bronzes. I remember, there was an excellent grilled Spigola at the same meal - simple and perfect!

Chicken Kiev: about time to revisit a dish that has been devalued over time by over-exposure in too many third class bistros and indifferent supermarket offerings. Properly done, this is a wonderful surprise of chicken wrapped around a flavour-bomb of lemon and garlic. (See below for the recipe)

Anjou Pears, poached in Port, then chilled with fresh raspberries and served with thick cream.

Recipe: Chicken Kiev

For Four.
Ingredients: 4 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts; 4 oz Butter; Salt and Pepper; 1 large clove Garlic; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Parsley; juice and rind of half a Lemon; half a cup of Breadcrumbs; 1 Egg; Flour; Oil.


1. Pound the Chicken Breasts until they are approximately 4"-5" across (best done with the 'skin' side up, as the membranes are less likely to fracture and tear in the process; it doesn't matter gastronomically if they do, but is preferable aesthetically if they don't).

2. Add to the softened Butter, the Garlic, Parsley, Lemon Juice and Rind, and seasoning. Mash well with a fork, and once all the ingredients are properly integrated, place in the fridge to firm up for five minutes or so.

3. Divide the Butter mixture between the beaten Chicken Breasts. Wrap each breast up into a bundle around its Butter filling and secure each one with a couple of wooden toothpicks.

4. Beat the Egg in a shallow dish. Put the breadcrumbs into a second shallow dish. Dust the Chicken bundles with Flour and season lightly, then dip in turn in the beaten Egg, and then in the Breadcrumbs. Once breaded, leave the bundles in the fridge for at least an hour - preferably two - to firm up.

5. Heat the Oil to a high temperature in a heavy pan on the stove. Brown the Chicken bundles on all sides in the Oil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about fifteen minutes, turning them from time to time to ensure that they cook evenly.

Serve. You can either struggle to remove the toothpicks before serving (and risk making the thing look a complete buggers' muddle in the process) or else warn your guests and let them do it for themselves. Personally, I don't see why people shouldn't have to work a bit........

Sunday 4 March 2007

Older than I thought....

Idle curiosity prompted me to check the alla sarda sauce from Dario's dinner, and I looked it up in the the bible ne plus ultra of Italian Cooking: Il Grande Libro della Cucina Italiana of Alessandro Molinaro Pradelli. Essentially, Pradelli confirmed the ingredients and method for the sauce itself, but he described it as being more normally used in a baked pasta dish, rather than merely being added to pasta that has been cooked in a saucepan in the usual way. He talks of a dish where the sauce is layered between a number of layers of cooked pasta - a macaroni type of pasta, not a lasagne type - and the finished dish is then baked in the oven. In Greece this would be instantly recognisable as a Pasticcio, which immediately places the provenence of the dish in Italy much, much earlier than the arab presence in Sicily, and instead suggests the Greek colonisation of Magna Graecia, almost a thousand years earlier.

More personally, it brings to mind the summer I spent as a tour-guide in the Peloponnese, and Maria's Taverna in Corinth, where we always stopped for lunch on the first day of the tour out from Athens. Invariably, the weather was beautiful, and lunch was taken with the doors wide open onto the square outside, which became ever more lazily somnulent as the lunch hour progressed. And we always had Pasticcio, creamy and filling and inches thick, washed down with quantities of local wine, poured straight from the jug. Happy memories......

Tonight's Menu:

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

Roast Beef, with a dish of Leeks and Mushroom in saffron

Chocolate Crepes filled with Pears and Brandy (See below for the recipe)

Recipe: Chocolate Crepes with Pears

For Two.
Crepe Ingredients: 1 egg; 30g chocolate powder; 65g plain flour; 200 ml milk; 50ml cream
Filling Ingredients: 2 pears; 40g butter; 1 tablespoon brandy; half teaspoon lemon oil; 30g sugar.

1. Place all of the Crepe ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed for twenty seconds. Leave to rest for thirty minutes before use.

2. Meanwhile, peel and core the pears and chop into cubes of approximately 1 centimetre each. Place in a covered saucepan, over medium heat, for about twenty minutes. Check and stir the pears from time to time - they should give up quite a lot of juice, and the flesh will become tender without going to mush.

3. When the pear pieces are tender, add the remaining filling ingredients to the pan. Turn the heat to high until the butter has melted , then reduce to medium again. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pears have collapsed some more and their cooking juices are significantly reduced. Leave over low heat to continue cooking through as you make the crepes, then set aside if you aren't filling the crepes immediately.

4. Using an oiled crepe pan over high heat, make crepes from the chocolate batter. The proportions given are sufficient for 5-6 crepes; reserve the unwanted ones for a different dessert on the following day (filled with whipped cream and raspberries they are excellent!). Set the crepes aside once they are done, covered in cling film to prevent them drying out.

5. At the same time as serving the main course for dinner, place a generous spoonful of filling in the centre of each crepe, then fold the crepe in four, to make a fan shape. Place the fans in an oven proof dish, then place this in a warming oven until needed.

To serve, place one folded crepe on each plate, then dust with confectioners' sugar. A spoonful of cream also goes well with this.