Sunday, 24 June 2012

Veal in a Caper sauce with Thyme Roast New potatoes and Water Cress

Don’t you just love it when you go to a new foodie heaven and find great ingredients. Veal is incredibly difficult to find, but at this new location (Jimmy’s farm if you know it), I find British Veal galore! This dinner is the best of British; Suffolk Veal, Kent New potatoes and Watercress from Hampshire (don’t ask where the Capers are from ;-).

Veal in Caper sauce with Thyme roast New Potatoes and Watercress
This dish takes no time at all to cook, even the roast New Potatoes are started in the pan, and finished in the oven, so get the plates warm oven on (200 degree’s) and lets begin.
New Potatoes 600g
Rapeseed Oil
Bunch of Fresh Thyme

Get the New Potatoes in a Saucepan of boiling salted water, part cook the potatoes for 5 – 7  minutes until you can just start to push a fork into them.
In an oven proof frying pan, get some Rapeseed heating up. When hot, toss in the Potatoes with plenty of fresh Thyme. Fry the Potatoes until they just start to take colour, add your Salt and Pepper, toss and then place in the oven whilst you complete your Veal.

For the Veal and Caper Sauce:
Veal (700g of Rolled Rib, cut in two and re-tied, Escalope or Chops will work great too)
Sprig of Rosemary
Tbsp Chopped Thyme
Glass of White Wine
Tbsp Butter
Rapeseed Oil
2 Tbsp Capers
3 Tbsp Crème Fraiche

Take the Veal (I had to tie mine up as I was using a rolled rib). Season generously on both sides and fry the Veal on a high heat, whilst using a spoon to coat the rest of the meat in hot oil and butter. When colour has been achieved turn the Veal and repeat. My Veal portions were so greedy and huge (partly due to an over eager butcher and a certain individual who can’t say no when faced with the question… Is that too big?), that they took 10 minutes to cook (and it was still rare). Cook the meat on all sides and then test to see if it’s cooked (Veal takes very little time to cook, ask your butcher). Once cooked, set aside on a warm plate, cover in tin foil and keep warm.
The pan that you used to cook the Veal in is flavour waiting to happen. Pour off the excess fat and in the pour a glass of white wine, add a spring of Rosemary and the chopped Thyme. Turn up the heat and reduce the wine by half scraping the bottom of the pan whilst you go. Once the sauce has reduced, add the Crème Fraiche and any Veal juice that will have collected on still warm Veal plate. Season the sauce well with Salt and Pepper and taste.. It should be lovely.

By now the potatoes should have crisped up (10-12 mins in the oven). Place them on the plate, follow up with your Veal, then add a pile of Watercress. Dress the Watercress in a little Rapeseed Oil, a little pinch of salt and then sauce the Veal.
The sauce has a lovely piquancy that balances beautifully against the Veal. The crispy Thyme roasted New potatoes are great and the Watercress just adds a peppery freshness that is just right! You must try it.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Jimmy's farm Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

A weekend trip to Jimmy’s farm yielded some amazing Classic – Essex sausages. Jimmy doesn’t muck around and they are packed with the delicious slow growing rare breed meat, great flavour and a lovely sausage on its own. During the week I like some veg and the weather had turned so comfort food was back on the menu.. English ingredients with an Italian twist me thinks.
Jimmy’s farm Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
6 Classic Essex Jimmy’s farm Sausages (any free range sausage would work)
250g Pasta (Penne)
200g Broccoli
1 Large White Onion
1 Green Chilli (Frozen)
½ Tsp Fennel Seeds
Tsp Chopped Thyme
Rapeseed Oil
Maldon Salt
Black Pepper
2 Chicken Stock cubes
Red Leicester for garnish
Firstly find a suitably sized saucepan and a generously sized sautee pan.
Fill the saucepan up with water, season with Salt and throw in the Chicken stock cubes. When the saucepan of water is boiling throw in your pasta and cook until just before it is ready (check the pack for instructions, cooking times for pasta’s vary hugely).
Meanwhile, chop your onion (fine dice) and Broccoli floret (into small bite sized florets) any extra Broccoli stalk chop up and add to the frying pan.
Next break up the sausages (pinch the meat through the skin) to from rough bite sized balls. Get them in the frying pan alongside the onions and fry them, make sure you get a little colour on the Sausage.  Add the Fennel seeds too.
Just before the pasta is about to complete cooking add the Broccoli florets to it to cook for a minute or so.  

Finally add the Thyme and finely chopped Chilli to the pan, I added this last so not to burn it.

Once the Pasta and Broccoli is cooked, drain and then add to the frying pan. Toss the ingredients together so that the Pasta and Broccoli is nicely coated with the cooking Oil and then serve on warm plates.

Get some Red Leicester onto the pasta and finish with a swirl of Rapeseed Oil. Really simple dish made with lovely ingredients, you can’t go wrong making this!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Pea, Asparagus, Mozarella and Smoked Bacon Tart

By the time its gets to late May I am becoming predatory about Garden Peas and Broad Beans. I move from farm shop to supermarket, food festival to market stall on my seemingly never ending search for the first of the seasons Peas or Beans. Well yesterday I found the first! Glorious, sweet garden peas grown in the South West. Stunning. I bought two bags, by the time I got to cooking this recipe I was down to 1 and half bags. This recipe is a celebration of fresh Peas and Asparagus, the fact that I had some Smoked Back Bacon (still warm from the smoker) when I got home, made for this luxuriant Pea recipe even better!

Pea, Asparagus, Mozzarella and Smoked Bacon Tart
For the Pea and Asparagus puree:
(1 1/2 bags) or 750g Fresh Garden Peas
4 Large Spring Onions
8 Asparagus Spears
2 Handfuls of Mint (I used a wonderful Apple Mint from the garden)
Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Soured Cream
Black Pepper
Maldon Salt

Get a saucepan of salted water on the hob and boiling. Also, you’ll need a blender and sieve and one of those slotted spoons. Firstly prep your Asparagus, break of the tough ends and then place in the boiling water for 3 minutes. When cooked, place it in your sieve, run it under cold water (to stop it cooking) and then place in your blender. Next cook the peas (reserve a handful of peas for the topping), two minutes for these, drain and again run the Peas under cold water to prevent them cooking – place in the blender also. Roughly chop your Spring Onions and Mint then add these along with the Soured Cream, seasoning and a good glug of Olive Oil to the blender. Blend until smooth, taste, correct the seasoning if required then set aside.

For the puff pastry tart:

375g Puff Pastry (all Butter)
Bunch of Asparagus
The handful of reserved Peas
3 Rashers of Smoked Bacon
Ball of Mozzarella
1 Egg (for the pastry)
Pea shoots for garnish

It’s a short cut I know, but I bought ready rolled puff pastry (must be the all butter type), with only a small amount of adjustment it fitted on my tin which I had oiled with Olive Oil to prevent it sticking. Using a blunt knife such as a butter knife I gently scored a margin around the edge of the pastry so that the edges can puff up when cooked (about 3 or 4cm in). Take your Pea and Asparagus Puree and spread the puree up to the margin that you have cut, similar to spreading tomato sauce onto a pizza, make sure that you get loads on and you don’t push it over the margins.

Get the oven on to 200 degrees.

Next place the Asparagus spears over the top of the tart, place them how you like, but I tried a more natural pattern. Then tear up your Mozzarella and place this over the tart too. Follow with the chopped Smoked Bacon and then the reserved Peas. Next, quickly whisk up an egg and then using a pastry brush, brush the pastry edge and that’s it.

Place the Pea, Asparagus, Mozzarella and Smoked Bacon Tart into the hot oven and cook for 20 minutes when the fantastic puff pastry would have puffed up and the tart will be looking glorious.

Decorate with Pea shoots and eat quickly. Fresh, smoky, yummy. Try it!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lamb Kebabs with Asparagus & Chilli Salad, Mint Yoghurt and Pitta

I just love Spring. When you awaken from the slumber of Winter and the ingredients start to change it is just such an exciting time to cook. I could be considered to be one of the most enthusiastic cooks, especially of seasonal food. And as the leaves start to appear on the trees my anticipation of a new cooking chapter makes me almost fit to burst.  Finally it arrives and the first spears of Asparagus start to poke through the soil, British Lamb appears back on the shelves and fresh herbs are back on the menu.  
Herby Lamb Kebabs with a warm Asparagus and Green Chill Salad, with Mint Yoghurt and Pitta
400g Lamb Mince
1 white Onion (Finely diced)
Handful of Herbs (Garlic Chives, Parsley and Mint)
Tbsp Coriander Seeds (Crushed)
Tsp Cumin Seeds (Crushed)
2 Green Chilli’s (Finely Diced)
Maldon Salt
Black Pepper
Get all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.. The best advice I can give when you are making kebabs, burgers or any meat dish that contains chopped vegetables is to chop them uber fine!! Even onion will cook inside a kebab if it is really finely diced (don’t grate as too much water is emitted from the vegetables and the kebabs won’t hold). I like to use those long wooden skewers as opposed to metal ones as I feel that the lamb grips to the skewer better, chop them in half and remove any splinters so that they fit in your griddle pan.
Make sure the Lamb Kebab is well seasoned and mixed well.

Buy chefs knives at the Great Dinner Recipes Store
To make the kebab simply grab a palm of the kebab mix, place the skewer in the middle and mould with your hands until a nice stable cone is achieved with the skewer running roughly down the centre of the lamb kebab. Make up the mix, this makes 8 and then put them in the fridge for 20 minutes to half an hour to firm up (this will prevent the kebab falling of the skewer when cooking).
Next, the Warm Salad:

You are going to need just a few items..
2 Small Cos lettuce (I had the red type) quartered lengthways
Handful of Asparagus Spears (Hard ends removed)
6 Small Sweet Green Chilli’s (from the freezer)
3 fat Spring Onions (chopped on the slant)

Prep your veg and set aside. Find a Frying pan that will be able to hold them all and move onto the dressing.

For the dressing:

Hot Mustard (I had Pilgrims Pantry Mustard with herbs, if you ever see it you have to buy it!!)
Glug of Cider Vinegar (1Tbsp)
Three glugs of Rapeseed Oil (3 Tbsp)
Good pinch of Maldon Salt
Black Pepper

Get all of the ingredients in an old clean jar and shake until emulsified. Have a taste and if you need to correct the oil, do so. If you need a little more Cider Vinegar go for it! Dressings are very personal, when you’re done with your mustard dressing set aside.

Next you want a little cooling minty, yoghurt to go on the side.. Especially if one of those Green Chilli’s turns out to be a hotty! This is basically an Indian Raita, goes great with lamb or spicy food.

200gm Organic Plain Yoghurt
10cm section Cucumber
Handful of Mint
Squeeze Lemon or Lime Juice
Tsp of Caster Sugar
Maldon Salt
Black Pepper

Chop out these central sections of the cucumbers in a long diagonal cut, I love to eat that bit! Then finely dice the cucumber. Place in a bowl. Chop up the mint finely, get it in the bowl. Follow with the Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Lime juice and Yoghurt and then give it all a stir. There should be plenty of salty yoghurt that has a slight freshness from the mint, a cooling background from the cucumber and most of all that’s tasty. Have a play around until it’s just right, you’ll love this and make it again and again once you have got it sorted (great with Chilli too). Once done, get it in the fridge and prepare to cook your dinner.
To the cooking..

You’ll need a couple of frying pans both big enough to hold loads of veg or the lamb kebabs. Get plenty of Rapeseed Oil in both and firstly get the Kebabs in. Make sure the pan is nice and hot and start them frying. After a minute or two, turn the kebabs, you want a crisp caramelisation on the kebabs (burned bits ; -)  When they are half cooked it’s time to get your vegetables on.

In a separate pan (large) heat up some rapeseed oil, get it really hot! Then place in your lettuce. You want to cook the lettuce really quickly, but not through. Get some colour on the lettuce, turn it and then cook the other side – you don’t want the lettuce cooked through and soggy, still crisp in the middle. When cooked, place the lettuce in a mixing bowl and fry of the Chilli’s. Half the Chilli’s and fry until cooked (place in the salad bowl). Then the Asparagus and Spring Onions, fry until you have a little colour (again really hot), then add a splash of water. When the water is evaporated tip the Asparagus and spring onions (along with the cooking oil) into the salad bowl. Dress with your dressing (toss the vegetables in the dressing) and then get ready to plate up.

Your Lamb Kebabs should be cooked through with a lovely crispy edge, your vegetables cooked but still crunchy, dressed in the mustardy dressing. Add some toasted Pitta breads to the plates and you’re away..! 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Sea Bass with Asparagus, Radish and Jersey Royal Salad with Sorrel Mayonnaise

Beautiful warm Spring evening and my mind turns to fish.. Here’s a little tip about buying fish. If like me you are in a poor place to source your fish (there is no fishmongers in Chelmsford) and you have to rely on a supermarket, pick a good one and regularly check out the fish stall within it. Once you are happy with the Fish stall (I refuse to call it a fishmongers) and of course you fancy some.. Call in that evening to pick it up (on the way home from work), make sure it was brought in that day and hey presto…
Well, it’s as fresh as you’ll get it from a supermarket anyway! This time the sea Bass was freshest in (always ask), so I decided to make this dish..

Sea Bass with Asparagus, Radish and Jersey Royal Salad with Sorrel Mayonnaise

400g Jersey Royal Potatoes (cleaned)

Big ones cut into halves, little ones left whole. Put them in a saucepan with a little Sea Salt and get them boiling. Small Jersey royals really don't take long to cook, after 7 - 8 minutes check. When cooked, drain and coat in a little Olive. Keep warm on the hob. Whilst your potatoes are cooking its time to make your Sorrel Mayonaise.

Sorrel Mayonnaise:

Mayonnaise is real easy to make as long as you are patient!! The trick to not splitting mayonnaise is to pour the oils real slow, I mean a real trickle, extremely slow in the beginning, building up to more of a slow trickle near the end.

150ml of Sunflower Oil
100ml Rapeseed Oil Zest and Juice of a small Lemon (zest from a zester or chopped really fine)
Pinch of Salt
4 Large Sorrel leaves

Place the salt, lemon juice and rind in a mixer. Give them a little blend then pour your oils into a small jug. Pour into the top of the blender really slowly with the blender on full. I repeat really slowly!! When all of the oil is in (and hopefully your mayonnaise is still not split). Chop your Sorrel finely and then add to the mixer for a final blend (you can use any herb if you haven’t got Sorrel, but grow some it works well in those shady patches of the garden that won’t grow anything else edible!!).  Blend and then get it in the fridge. Mayo done!

Buy blenders at the Great Dinner Recipes store

Get a frying pan and place a little water in it, about half a cup. Season with Salt and then prepare your Asparagus by breaking off the tough ends. When the water is boiling, cook the Asparagus for 2 minutes until warmed through and then store with the Jersey Royals to keep warm.

The Sea Bass:

2 Sea Bass (I had small farmed fish, but you could use a large piece of Wild Sea Bass fillet person)
Fresh English Thyme (chopped)
Next prepare your fish, by filleting the Sea Bass. Then season and sprinkle with chopped Fresh Thyme, coat in a little Olive Oil and make sure that the Bass fillets have a nice generous coating of seasoning and herbs.

Discard any water from your Asparagus pan and heat up a little Olive Oil. We are now ready to fry the fish.

Place the Bass fillets in the Frying pan skin side down (once the oil is hot). We are going to cook the fish through on the skin side, so although you wanted the pan hot at the beginning, turn down the heat so you can manage the cooking easier – not too much though.

The Bass Fillets should take 5 or 6 minutes to cook, you should be able to see the cooked white flesh almost all the way to the top of the fillet. When this is nearly achieved, turn off the heat, turn the fillet onto the flesh side and prepare to plate.

5 Radish
Handful of Garlic Chives
3 Big Spring onions

Chop up your Herbs, Radish and Spring Onions, these should all be nice and thin. Toss them through your warm potatoes and Asparagus with a little Olive Oil and a little more seasoning (taste).

Plate up by simply piling up the vegetables in the centre of the plate then place the Bass fillets in a cross formation on top. I topped this with a little finely chopped greens from the top of the spring onions. Lovely dish!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ham, Spinach and Ricotta pie with crunchy filo pastry

It was a lovely warm day, so something light but full on flavour was the order of the day. This pie was going to be it.. I had some great local ham (buy British outdoor reared pork, it’s the best in the world!) Loads of Ricotta and some Filo pastry, with a few other items form the fridge such as Spinach and a little Feta I was away.

The pie filling:

1 Onion
Bag of Spinach (250g)
In a large frying pan place the finely diced onion with a healthy glug of Olive oil. Cook the onions down gently until they are translucent and sweet. When cooked add the Spinach to the pan (that’s why you needed a big pan!!). Cook the Spinach down until its completely wilted (but still green, don’t cook it to death) turn off the heat and then allow to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl you want to make the filling..
250g Ricotta
1 Egg
100g Feta Cheese
3 Slices of good Ham
Small handful of Fresh Thyme
Black Pepper
Simply mix the Ricotta and Egg together until thoroughly mixed, grate a healthy amount of Nutmeg into the mix and then season well with Pepper (no need for Salt, the Ham and Feta Cheese are salty enough).  Chop the Feta Cheese into cubes, cut the Fresh Thyme up, slice the Ham and add to the bowl.
Grated Parmesan
I can’t get enough of Parmesan right now, so I also grated a load of Parmesan in at this point.

Buy kitchen gadgets at the Great Dinner Recipes Store
Next, back to your Onion, Spinach mix. Spoon the Spinach and onions into a sieve and using the back of that spoon squeeze out the remaining water from the leaves. Plenty will come out, but this is fine. If you used whole giant leaves of Spinach run a knife through them (on the chopping board of course) and then add to the Ricotta and Ham mix. Mix thoroughly.
The pie:
You’ll need a cheesecake tin or something like that, brush it well with Olive Oil and then get your Filo pastry from the fridge, you’ll need 4 or 5 big sheets of Filo, plus a heaped Tbsp of Pine nuts – plus plenty more Olive Oil.
5 sheets of Filo Pastry
Tbsp Pine Nuts

Olive Oil (and Brush)
In your well oiled tin, gently place a sheet of Filo pastry, I have no doubt it will rip, but don’t worry seal the tear by pushing the pastry together, then brush the pastry with oil – leave the edges out of the dish. Place the second sheet on top of the first – in the opposite direction – and gently tuck into the corners of the dish. Brush with oil again. This time I wanted a crunchy layer between the layers of pastry..

Take the Tbsp of Pine Nuts and using a knife chop quite finely, this does not have to be perfect. Take 2/3’s of the Pine nuts and sprinkle around the base and edges – try and get some of the nuts to stick to the oiled edges. Next place another sheet of pastry of the first two, gently tuck it in leaving the edges exposed, oil and add the fourth and fifth layers. You should have a flower shaped arrangement of Filo pastry, with the edges flopping over the outside of the tin. Spoon your Ricotta, Ham and Spinach mix into the filo pastry lined tin and even out, making sure that you get the mix into the edges. Finally pull some of the layers of pastry over the top of the pie, sprinkle with the remaining chopped Pine nuts and then pull the remaining pastry edges in, giving it a final brushing of Olive Oil to finish. To add to the crunchiness that now is hidden in the layers of pastry I finished the pie with a fine layer of sea salt. Now place in the oven at 180 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown and… Crispy!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sausage Meatball Spaghetti with Spring Vegetables

Serves 2

Got home and I am craving something quick, easy and green. Not feeling the whole vegetarian thing tonight and there was a pack of sausages in the fridge that kept staring at me. So this is the concoction I came up with.. Spicy sausage meatballs packed with the freshness of fresh herbs, plus loads of my favourite early spring vegetables in a light mustardy creamy sauce. Really simple, really delicious!
For the Meatballs:
6 pack of good sausages
2 Green Chilli’s
Handful of Garden Herbs (Mint, Marjoram, Garlic Chives)
Maldon Salt
Black Pepper
Run a knife down the sausages and release them from their skins, breaking them up into a mixing bowl. Next, really finely chop the green chilli’s (I had a bunch of Frozen ones, but a tsp of dried Chilli flakes would work fine). Also chop the garden herbs, then place the herbs, chilli and a really good amount of seasoning into the sausage mix. Mix thoroughly and then grabbing equal small amounts roll in the sausage mix into little balls (as round as a 10p piece). Get them all rolled out, place on a plate and then let them sit in the fridge to chill for 25 minutes or as long as you have got (this will help them hold together better).

Grow your own herbs and buy herb starter kits at the Great Dinner Recipes Store
Get a pan for the Spaghetti on, season it with sea salt and add a chicken stock cube.
Next the spring vegetables:
1 White Onion (although Spring Onions would have worked even better)
Bunch of Asparagus
Small bunch of Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Small bunch of Spinach (washed)
Small bunch of Watercress (washed)
Chop the onion finely and the spring vegetables into bite sized chunks (discarding thick stalks and then ends of the Asparagus).
Next, fry off the meatballs in a large pan with plenty of Olive Oil, you want colour on the meatballs so give it some heat (tip: move the pan don’t use a spatula as this will break up the meatballs). Once they are cooked (5 – 7 minutes for small meatballs) remove from the pan and keep warm on the hob.
Next, cook the onion, turn the heat down and cook the onion gently until translucent (make sure you use the fat and the pan you cooked the meatballs in), add a little salt at this point as it makes the onion release its water and helps a little in preventing them from colouring.
You’ll need ½ 500g packet of Wholewheat Spaghetti for 2 healthy portions.
To make the sauce and cook the vegetables you’ll need to have everything ready.. (put the Spaghetti on now).
Get the Broccoli in the pan with the onions and gently cook for a couple of minutes. By the end of cooking you want the spring vegetables to be warmed through but still with a crunch and bursting with vitamins and goodness.
Next add the chopped Asparagus and a ladle of the liquid that the Spaghetti is cooking in, this will help the vegetables to steam lightly and provide some liquid for the sauce.
For the sauce:
Tsp of Wholegrain Mustard
5 Tbsp Mascarpone
Add Mascarpone and Mustard to the pan, stir in (add a little more of the pasta water if necessary). Next add the chopped Spinach and Water cress and a little chopped Parsley. Stir in, until the vegetables just start to wilt and then add the sausage meatballs. Tong the Spaghetti straight into the pan, stir it all up so the vegetables are evenly distributed and then (by grabbing a load of spaghetti and twisting it as you put it on the dish) place it onto a warm plate.
Finish with some Parmesan, a little more chopped Parsley and some fresh green tasting Olive Oil.