Saturday 14 February 2009

Recipe: Endive with Orange

When serving a deliciously uncomplicated joint of meat, or a baked fish, or a spit-roast bird - where the freshness and sheer quality of the creature shines through, and the less you muck around with it, the better it is - there's an opportunity to offset this with a vegetable dish where there's clearly rather more going on. This is one of those dishes. I've experimented with an easier version, where I merely shredded and sauteed the endive, and added the orange flavouring at the end, and although it worked perfectly adequately, it was nowhere near as good as the version given here The concentration of flavours in the sauce and the slightly 'caramelised' texture of the endive lifts it to a higher level, but without it too obviously crying out for attention. If serving for a dinner party, prepare the endive in advance to the point where it's about to go into the oven, and then set it aside and put it into the oven as you sit to the first course.

For four.

Ingredients: 4 Belgian Endive; 2 oz Butter; 1 clove of Garlic, minced; juice and rind of half an Orange; 1 tsp Brown Sugar; 4 tbs White Wine Vinegar; 5 fl oz Water; Salt, to taste.


1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C.

2. Melt the Butter in a sauté pan (one that can subsequently fit entirely in the oven) and once melted, lightly colour the Garlic in the Butter.

3. Cut the Endives in half, lengthwise, and discard any obviously hard bits of central core. Place the Endives face down in the sauté pan and cook a couple for of minutes on each side, until slightly browned at the edges. Add all the remaining ingredients, and bring them to a boil, stirring all the time. Remove from heat.

4. Cover the pan with foil, and then place in the pre-heated oven for twenty minutes. Once the Endives are tender and cooked through, remove the pan from the oven and take the Endives out of the sauce. Place them on the serving plates.

5. Boil the sauce down for a minute or so, until it has noticeably reduced and thickened; spoon the sauce over the plated Endives, and serve

Thursday 12 February 2009

Eat Eggs!

It won't surprise any regular reader of this blog to hear that I don't have a lot of time for so-called food-health 'experts'. To my mind, they talk a lot of witless blather, and are closely associated with the mass hysteria that risk-averse governments (in the UK, particularly) engender every two or three years, in conjunction with the idiots from the health-and-safety police. Two or three months ago, it was Irish Pork that we were all supposed to be shunning...although, when closely questioned, the 'experts' quietly acknowledged that the risk associated with eating the stuff was about on the same level as the likelihood of winning the lottery.

In pretty much the same discreet way, it appears that the truth is now finally being admitted about the much-maligned egg. Ok, the advice that nobody should consume more than one egg a week was long ago acknowledged to have been the result of somebody in the WHO having got their decimal point in the wrong place. But it was only in 2007 that the idea was officially dropped that three eggs a week per person was a healthy maximum...and this was done in such a low key way, that it appears that 45% of the population still believes that eggs are somehow bad for you, and lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks. Equally quietly, the British Heart Foundation (spokesperson: Senior Dietician, Victoria Taylor) has now concluded firstly that the cholesterol in eggs has only a clinically insignificant effect on a person's blood-cholesterol, and secondly that in fact no more than a third of the cholesterol in the human body is in any way related to the cholesterol that they've ingested by way of food consumption. For the most part, it's generated internally as a direct result of various aspects of lifestyle. And to my mind, the mealy-mouthed acknowledgement of 'no more than a third' invites investigation to establish quite how much less than a third might be closer to reality.

In any event, this is good news for egg-lovers everywhere, who hitherto have felt constrained from going for their desired level of consumption (in which group I don't count myself, and the average weekly consumption of eggs in this household has always hovered around the dozen per person - if not more...) Eggs are stuffed full of proteins and vitamins (and apparently are also good sources of 'lipids', whatever they might be); they're low in calories (if you bother about that sort of thing); and there now appears to be no upper limit to how many you should eat, beyond exactly as many as you feel like!


Tuesday 10 February 2009

Recipe: Apples Baked in Cream

Delicious. This is a first cousin to the fantastic Italian recipe for Pears baked in Marsala, which is one of my favourite standbys: in both instances, the flavour of the fruit concentrates wonderfully as it bakes, surrendering its juices into the liquid in which it sits, and those flavours in turn mingling with the dark richness of the muscovado sugar. Home and hearth and self-indulgence, all in one!

Not the most elegant of dishes, this can still present well enough to serve to guests (as long as you haven't reduced the apples to complete road-kill in the process of removing their cores, that is) and the flavour of the end-result will definitely win you points. It also scores on the basis of ease of preparation...takes about five minutes prep in total, and is yet another of those dishes that meets the "What the hell amI going to make for dessert within the five minutes I actually have available?" criteria.

For two.

Ingredients: 2 large or 3 medium eating Apples; 6 tablespoons Muscovado Sugar; 6-8 fl oz Cream.


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Peel the Apples; slice them in half vertically, and then carefully remove the core from each half, leaving you with an apple-half with a neat depression where the core has been removed.

3. Place the apple-halves, depression-side-up, in a buttered baking dish.

4. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of Sugar over the halves and then carefully pour the Cream in and around the fruit. Place in the oven.

5. After 10 minutes, remove the dish from the oven, and sprinkle the remaining Sugar over the Apples. Return to the oven for a further half an hour.

Allow to cool down for five minutes or so before serving, so that the dish isn't too hot to be able to enjoy the flavours.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Gaston Lenotre...

...has died. And of all the places to learn of it, the fact that it was on the obituary page in last week's Economist magazine indicates just what a tour de force he became in his lifetime in the world of food. I hadn't particularly realised the stature of the man - until quite recently - and for many years he was no more than the face on the front of my battered copy of 'Desserts & Pastries' which has been the source of many good recipes and very reliable techniques over the past twenty five years or so. I think he's currently out of print - which is quite scandalous, when you consider the towering piles of second rate 'celebrity chef' tat available in bookshops the length and breadth of the land - and when I just checked on Amazon, the sort of prices being asked for second hand copies of his various books quite took my breath away.

In some respects, the Economist obituary got him absolutely spot-on: pâtisserie is about precision, and his explanations for making all different kinds of pastries and doughs are clear, concise ... and they work! And not in the ho-hum Delia Smith I-suppose-it-will-do way of 'working', but they are light and delicious and positively ambrosial. There were other aspects of the obituary which I think must have had him turning in his grave, though - a reference to using 'a cupful' of sugar, for example, instead of a specific measurement by weight would not have gone down well with Monsieur L...and I suspect he would have thought it rather sloppy to talk of eating Galette des Rois on January 8th, when any self-respecting frenchman knows that it is traditionally served on the Sunday closest to January 6th. January 8th this year was a Thursday... Yes, I knowI'm being a pedant, but it's that kind of pedantry which is necessary in good baking and which formed the underpinning to Lenôtre's entire approach to cooking.

Slightly eerily, although I only just came across his obituary, it was actually on January 8th that he died...which was the same day on which I served Pear & Almond Tarts for dessert, following his excellent recipe, and wondered aloud to the Technical Dept whether Lenôtre could still be alive "since he must be about 89, by now". In fact, he was 88 at the time of his passing. The World is a richer place for his having been around.

Tonight's Dinner:

Mackerel in White Wine, with Juniper, Shallots & Carrots.

Duck Breasts, grilled; Gratin of Turnips.

Cointreau-flavoured panna cotta
(I'm out of Limoncello in London, and Cointreau is a delicious alternative)