Saturday 30 June 2007

Recipe: Yorkshire Pudding

As an adjunct to the post on 'Roasting', what more appropriate than directions for the acme of all Yorkshire Puddings? This is a slightly unorthodox method, but produces an amazing result: the pudding rises a good five or six inches in the oven, and you practically need planning permission to make it! It retains its shape and crispness once it comes out of the oven, too....

For Four.

Ingedients: 2 Eggs; a tablespoon of Oil or Dripping, for the roasting dish; a quarter of a pint of Milk; 4 oz Plain Flour; generous pinch of Salt; a quarter of a teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees C. (If you've been roasting meat and it's done, remove the meat either to a warming oven or to keep warm under foil, and re-set the oven temperature to 230). Place the Oil or dripping in the dish in which you intend to cook the pudding, and put this into the oven to heat.

2. Place in a blender the Eggs, Milk, Worcestershire Sauce and Salt. Blend at high speed for twenty seconds, then leave to sit for fifteen minutes.

3. After fifteen minutes, add the Flour to the blender and blend again at high speed for twenty seconds.

4. Pour this batter into the pre-heated roasting dish, and cook for twenty minutes at 23o degrees C.

The pudding will be so crisp that, if you've made it as one large pudding, rather than individual ones, the best way to cut it up will be with a large pair of kitchen scissors, rather than with a knife.

Friday 29 June 2007

Roasting Success.....

Like many people, I suspect, I grew up with an idea of 'Roasting' as a mystical ritual that was associated with ceremonial meals - Turkey, at Christmas, and Beef or Chicken on Sundays. It was clearly a long and complicated process, in the course of which wonderful aromas would gradually and hieratically permeate the house. As a result, I developed a disproportionately cautious approach to the practice, and gave it a wide berth literally for decades. Until the advent of Mrs Kafka, that is. In 1995, she published her bible on Roasting - justifiably greeted with rapturous enthusiasm by the New York Times, when it first appeared - and in one go the mystical bubble was pricked. Her approach is so simple it hardly seems worth explaining: turn your oven up to 25o degrees C, and whatever you want to roast, zap it in there and it will be done practically before you've had time to think about it (generally around half an hour, in practice....). Crisp, caramelised skin, combined with a succulent interior. Best done using an oven with a self-clean function, as this method ends up with quite a lot of fat on the inside of the oven...... For me, this has meant that roasting has lost all of its mystique, and in fact - rather than being a highdays and holidays thing - is the most likely choice for post-cinema, or any occasion when I want to cook something quick and uncomplicated. How times have changed!

In his book on Meat, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall adopts a variant on the same approach, where he tempers Mrs Kafka's method with a second stage at a lower temperature to ensure that the inside of the roast is properly cooked. Both methods then benefit from a period of resting (under foil) to allow the juices to go back into the meat; generally, I finish roasting in time for the start of dinner, and then let it rest during the first course. The Fearnley Whittingstall method is appropriate for pieces of meat of a size appropriate for more then three people, and after your 30-40 minutes at 250 degrees C, you should then lower the temperature to 190 for a further twenty minutes or so, before resting.

Of course there are other ways of doing it. Carrier, in his New Great Dishes of the World , has a recipe for roasting beef which involves roasting it for five minutes per pound in a 250 degree C oven, then turning the oven off, and letting the meat sit for two hours in the cooling oven before you open the door. It works. The result is splendid - we did it for Christmas dinner two years ago. But I did feel as though it should have been accompanied by incantations and a few sacrificial offerings to the Lares and Penates at the same time!

Dinner Tonight:

Beef Salad, in Sesame Dressing.

Haddock, in Coriander and Lemon, with Creamed Curried Puy Lentils.

Pear Souffle

Thursday 28 June 2007

Recipe: Globe Artichokes

OK - it's something of an exaggeration to call this a 'recipe', when all that's involved is plunging some artichokes into boiling water and leaving them there for half an hour. The reality is, though, that I suspect a lot of people don't actually know that that's all you have to do - with the result that very few people buy them. And it bothers me that at this rate they'll disappear entirely, as retailers decide they're a waste of shelf space. Which would be a catastrophe, since Globe Artichokes are one of the true pleasures of summer!

Allow one Globe Artichoke per person. My preferred method of cooking them is as follows:

1. Fill a large pan with water, salted as for any vegetable, and bring it to the boil.

2. Add the Artichokes, bum-side down, and let the water return to the boil, then cover the pan and cook the artichokes at a rolling boil for exactly thirty minutes. (Before covering the pan with a lid, I generally put a Japanese floating lid right on top of the Artichokes, to keep them submerged during cooking; this is a detail that needn't bother you if you don't have one, however......)

3. Test for doneness by removing an Artichoke from the water and pulling off one of the base leaves; if the flesh is tender and comes easily away from the leaf, then the Artichokes are done. If not, give them a few more minutes' cooking and try again.

4. When cooked, remove the Artichokes from the water and leave them to drain and cool to room temperature bum-side up. Once cooled, for aesthetic purposes, slice off any remaining stalk, so they will sit flat on the plate, and snip off all the points of the leaves (sounds fiddly, but in fact takes only a couple of minutes - this is best done after cooking as the leaves are easier to cut at this stage, and if you do it before cooking you then have to acidulate the cooking water in order to stop the cut edges from going brown during cooking)

Serve, accompanied with either a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, flavoured to choice, for dipping the leaves into before you eat them. Don't forget generous bowls on the table for all of that Artichoke detritus!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Making Mayonnaise....

This post was prompted by the current availability in the market of Globe Artichokes, my preferred complement to which is a rich home-made mayonnaise, flavoured either with Lime, Orange, or Saffron.

Mayonnaise forms because the Oil is broken down into an emulsion made of thousands of tiny droplets separated by Water from the Egg Yolk. Natural emulsifiers found in Egg Yolk and Mustard act to keep the Oil droplets separate. If the Egg is old the emulsion may not form as easily because fresh Egg Yolks are richer in emulsifiers than old ones. (If you want to know more about the science of oil in water emulsions, consult chapter 11 of Harold Magee's 'On Food & Cooking'.)

The Ingredients:

I Egg Yolk
I teaspoon of Mustard - preferably French
180ml Oil - any sort. (Strongly-flavoured Oils, such as Olive, will need the addition of strong flavouring agents such as Citrus Oils or rind, or Spices and will be best with strongly-flavoured dishes.)
12ml Lemon Juice or Vinegar.

NB: In making Mayonnaise, it makes things simpler if you use an oil bottle fitted with a pourer with a narrow spout, so you can control the oil flow precisely while holding the bottle in one hand. Since you need the other hand to mix the sauce, position the bowl (narrow based, with a capacity of between 500 ml and a litre) so that it can't slide about, for example on a damp dishcloth.


1. Using a fork or whisk, mix the Egg Yolk with the Mustard until slightly thickened.

2. Start adding Oil, literally one drop at a time, while mixing. As the Oil drops are absorbed by the egg mixture it will thicken. When, and only when, it does, you can increase the Oil flow to a drizzle.

3. If at any time you can see a pool of Oil which has not been absorbed, stop the Oil flow. Don't try to incorporate all the surplus Oil into the emulsion in one go. Tip the bowl slightly so the surplus Oil flows away from the area you are mixing and start bringing this surplus Oil into the mixture a little at a time. When all the Oil is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is even and thick, go back to adding Oil.

4. You will find by experience that the more emulsion you have in the bowl the faster you can add Oil. I normally use a fork and start by mixing only in one small area of the bowl, occasionally bringing mixture from the rest of the bowl into the emulsion. This reduces the chance of trying to incorporate too much Oil too quickly.

5. When you have added all the Oil, flavour the Mayonnaise with Lemon Juice or Vinegar, and the flavourings of your choice.
( NB.If you are using a flavour agent which is in powder form - such as Saffron or Curry Powder - add this to the Egg Yolk at the beginning, before you start the addition of the Oil. If you add it at the end the powder can form into lumps and be difficult to amalgamate.)
You can thin the Mayonnaise with any liquid such as Lemon Juice, Water or Cream. The whole process should take 5-10 minutes.

6. It can happen that the emulsion 'breaks' because the Oil has been added too quickly. You will know the mixture has broken if it becomes runny, oily and the ingredients have obviously separated. This is more likely at the beginning of the process, hence the importance of starting by adding Oil only one drop at a time. The solution is to start again with fresh ingredients. After you have made ¼ of a cup of Mayonnaise, you can then incorporate the 'failed' mixture instead of the remaining oil. Alternatively bring 2 tablespoons of Vinegar to the boil in a pan or in the microwave and pour it into the mixture while whisking vigorously: the emulsion will re-form.

7. If 1 Egg Yolk and 180ml of Oil doesn't give you enough Mayonnaise, you can add more Oil if you mix in a teaspoon of Water first before adding any more Oil. The Mayonnaise with raw Egg Yolk will keep at least 24 hours in a refrigerator.

Tonight's Dinner:

Globe Artichokes with Saffron Mayonnaise

Pomiane's 'Spanish' Stew, with Fennel slow-cooked with Dill

Apple Strudel

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Recipe: Cod in Chorizo Sauce

Ingredients: 50 ml White Wine or Vermouth; 150 ml Chicken Stock; 50 ml Fish Stock; 1 small clove of Garlic; 100 ml Double Cream; 50g Chorizo Sausage, thinly sliced; 30g Butter, chilled and cut into small pieces; half a tablespoon of Red Wine Vinegar; 1 tablespoon of Fresh Chives; 2 skinned Cod Fillets (approximately 160g each)


1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

2. Heat the wine to boiling point, then boil it for one minute. Add the Chicken and Fish Stock and the Garlic, and return the mixture to the boil.

3. Add Cream and Chorizo, then simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly before liquidizing. If necessary, return this mixture to the pan and reduce over medium heat until the sauce is quite thick.

4. Put the Cod Fillets into a buttered oven-proof dish; season lightly with salt & pepper, then cover the dish with foil and bake in the pre-heated oven for ten minutes.

5. Gradually add the chilled Butter to the sauce and whisk it in piece, by piece, to give the sauce a creamy consistency. Finally, whisk in the Vinegar and chopped Chives.

Plate the Cod fillets and spoon the sauce generously over the top before serving.

Monday 25 June 2007

A Matter of Perspective....

To the Royal College of Art, for their summer show. Much of it extremely impressive - and the buzz of ideas cannoning off the walls was stimulating in the extreme. I was even drawn in by some of the performance art, which normally leaves me fairly cold - particularly Adam Jones' mesmerising 'Lady in Red'. Another one to watch is Seung-Hyun Suh, whose designs in glass and silver are simple and beautiful. Star of the show, though, for me was Sam Douglas and his intense oil-on-board landscapes, with a rich detail that comes straight from Seventeenth century Italy. Splendid!

We dined last night with the Brancolis-in-London. Moroccan Lamb in Pitta bread, with a delicious tzatziki (it had another, Moroccan name.......but it was definitely Tzatziki), followed by a meltingly gooey Lemon Tart. All washed down with an excellent Crozes Hermitages '98. We took along a box of Caramel truffles from Maison du Chocolat in Picadilly - ruinously expensive, but the only option these days for good chocolate on a Sunday, now that Pierre Marcolini (of happy memory) in Lancer Square appears to have bitten the dust. Such a shame; it's much to be hoped that he re-surfaces elsewhere sometime soon. Second mortgage aside, the Caramel Truffles were fairly wonderful.......subsequent analysis suggests that the fillings must have been frozen before being dipped in chocolate, and that they then had to be rolled in cocoa powder to disguise the fact that the chill of the centres will have taken the chocolate out of temper in the process of dipping. Once back at room temperature, though, the centres are almost liquid, and the taste is sublime.......

In theory, dinner was supposed to be taken in front of the TV, as we were all under a three-line whip to watch the entire series of 'Talking Sex with Mum and Dad' in a show of support for the presenter, who is one of our nearest and dearest. I'm not sure why the show of support was needed, since most of the rest of the nation already seems to have weighed in and watched it without any of our help.......however, ours was not to reason why....
In any event, a Brancoli technological malfunction in recording the programmes meant that there was actually nothing for us to watch, so we were spared the ordeal after all, and could collapse into post-prandial grappa and chocolates with easy consciences. (There is a God!)

Tonight's Dinner:

Quiche Lorraine

Salmon Fillets in Walnut Oil, with Celery

'Poached' Pears with Honey & Rosemary

Sunday 24 June 2007

Recipe: Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine is another of those dishes which we all grew (justifiably) to despise on the basis of the mass-market product that was churned out in the seventies - heavy pastry, generally woefully soggy, combined with salty cheese and stringy ham, all melded together in a thin baked custard. I can even recall attempts to liven it up by introducing a layer of sliced tomato, thus taking it even further away from the original idea....

In fact, Quiche Lorraine should be light and airy, unctuous and delicious, and contained within a crisp pastry shell that is lighter than air. Its rehabilitation is long overdue!

The following is a simplified version of the recipe given by Pomiane himself.

Ingredients: 2 sheets of Phyllo Pastry, approx 12" x 6" each; 25g melted Butter; 100g Lardons; 1 clove of Garlic; 2 large Eggs; 2 tablespoons of Cream; Salt & Pepper; half a tablespoon of Flour.


1. Using the Phyllo Pastry and melted Butter, make two individual pastry shells, and bake until properly browned. Remove the shells from the oven.

2. Increase the oven temperature to 220 degrees C, while you make the filling for the shells.

3. Fry the Lardons over high heat for a few minutes until they are crisp and brown. Mince the Garlic and add it to the Lardons for the last minute of cooking, stirring the Garlic round in the fat thrown off by the Lardons.

4. Whisk the Eggs in a bowl with the Cream. Add a generous pinch of Salt and a few grindings of Pepper, then add the Flour, and whisk to incorporate.

5. Divide the Lardons & Garlic between the two shells, then pour the Egg, Cream & Flour mixture over the Lardons. Place in the pre-heated oven. After five minutes, reduce the heat to 200 degrees C and continue to cook until the filling has risen significantly and the top has browned - this should take an additional ten minutes.