27 July 2011

Sarah Raven's Watercress and Smoked Trout Salad with Horseradish

Trying to eat healthily is all very well but it can be a bit boring can't it? So Joe has been rifling through the cookery books for something that we don't usually have and came up with this from Sarah Raven's Garden Cook Book. It's actually from the March/April section but you can get all the ingredients now but I do have to hold my hands up for cheating right away. The recipe calls for freshly grated horseradish and I just couldn't be bothered to go and get any when I have some in a jar in the fridge. I've also halved the recipe as we were making it just for the two of us... double up and you'll get the original for 4.

Serves 2

2 leeks
bunch of chives, chopped
100g watercress
2 smoked trout fillets (or hot smoked salmon)

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish (I used 2 tbsp of jar stuff)
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
60ml groundnut oil
salt and black pepper

1. Cut the leeks into quarters lengthways, wash and boil or steam for 8-10 minutes. Drain well. Don't chop them up yet - it's easier to do that when they've been in the dressing.

2. Make the dressing by mixing together the grated horseradish, mustard, vinegar and 1 tbsp water, then add the groudnut oil. Season well.

3. Add the dressing to the leeks and leave for a few minutes. Add the chopped chives.

4. Lift the leeks out of the dressing and put them into a large shallow dish, roughly chop them as best you can, toss the watercress in the dressing and add to the dish.

5. Lastly add the smoked trout and serve. I cannot tell you how tasty this is.

25 July 2011

The Duke of Sussex

I'm always slightly suspicious of pubs that do food other than pub food. I've accepted the gastro pub and since the smoking ban I actually prefer them... they seem to smell less like innards than pub pubs... well in London anyway. So although I love tapas and it looks like it should be nice I've always been a little suspicious of the Duke of Sussex in Chiswick which famously does a mainly Spanish menu. However, Joe decided I needed to be taken out for a Friday date night there when on Wednesday morning I announced that I felt like I was having a mental meltdown. I was actually pretty impressed with this idea as even though every time we drive past it I say 'I wonder what it's like... it looks nice...' I have been married long enough to know that 99% of these kinds of musings are completely ignored.

On arrival it was as I expected from a swanky Chiswick pub - floor boards, wooden tables, chalk board menus and waiting staff in black shirts (not noticeably referring to political preferences) but there is something compelling about the restaurant area. It is still floor boarded and wooden tabled but there are genuinely old, distressed mirrors around one corner of the wall and the height of the ceiling is accentuated by curved arches, art deco chandeliers and old fashioned sky lights surrounded by painted cherubs. We could have eaten in the large but attractive garden but I whinged about it being cold (and it did in fact rain half way through dinner so there) and the restaurant did feel special and separate from the pub area even though we were right next to it.

Time Out hate this restaurant - they didn't like the food or the slow service - but Time Out users all seem to have much better experiences and give it 5 out of 5. Knowing all this and dining with an ex-restaurant review I was prepared to be open minded bordering on ruthless but I have to say I came out definitely more in the 5 star camp than the other way. We were seated promptly, given menus to look at and the wine list to peruse.

The menu is a really well thought out mix of tapas and larger main courses so you can either have a mix of both or go all out on the tapas. I thought we were doing the latter but Joe had his eye on the seafood paella and as I'm not allowed to eat prawns until November I decided to have marinated skirt steak and chips - not very Spanish but with yummy alioili. So we chose three tapas dishes to share as our starters - chiporones, pinchos morunos and chorizo con huevos.

Chiporones are basically calamari but not rings of squid they are just bits of the small squid fried. These were yummy and although I like mine as battery as possible these were done just enough to be tasty without making you feel like a heart attack was imminent - less naughty than I'm used too but very appropriate to start off a big supper. I was against getting the pinchos morunos, marinated beef skewers, as I was having steak for my main course - traditionally these are made with marinated pork but this beef version was absolutely delicious and I would definitely have again even with a whole steak coming later. Chorizo con huevos - chorizo sausage with eggs - was probably the weakest of the tapas that we tried but still delicious, it's just that I've had better, but that was in Spain so that's probably not really fair!

Joe's seafood paella looked and smelled delicious and contained enough prawns, clams and mussels to justify it's title. Maybe I'm a cynic or I've been living in London too long but I am no longer surprised when dishes like this arrive with barely a smattering of the good stuff - I frequently get Greek salad with one small cube of tasteless feta. But this really did looked and tasted like the real deal. My skirt steak was beautifully marinated and cooked medium rare automatically. As much as I like the courtesy of being asked how I like my steak cooked (rare... very rare) I really respect chef's who know how they want their food to be eaten. Risky but worth it in my mind.

We were too full for pudding so we sat happily sipping the rest of our wine - very nice Spanish red that I can't remember the name of. One thing I would say is the service - although mostly prompt we were left waiting to order a drink for quite a long time and when we were being served the staff seemed stressed and as if we were slightly taking up their time. Never were they impolite but I slightly felt that perhaps the Duchess of Cambridge was sneakily sitting at another table they had been sent into a flustery tail spin. Our food was all on time - we arrived just before 8 and were ready to leave at 9.30 having taken lots of time over our food and wine - there was just something about the staff that made me feel slightly like their lives would have been easier if we weren't there. Sort of understandable (but never acceptable) in a massively busy, London restaurant but we were one of three tables when we arrived at the Duke of Sussex so a little surprising there.

A definite contender for future birthdays - I think this would be a great place to meet for dinner and then drinks afterwards - you'd feel well fed and relaxed and could move into the lovely pub area for drinks after. I really enjoyed it, will definitely be going back and what was so lovely about this pub was the lovely atmosphere and having a menu where I could immidiately see a whole dinners-worth of other things I wanted to try out.

Duke of Sussex on Urbanspoon

19 July 2011

Hot American Chicken Salad

I've taken this recipe from Some Food for Thoughts - a cookery book sold in aid of Le Court Cheshire Home, Hampshire and other charities. This is a great amalgamation of recipes from residents in the care home, their friends and families - ranging from Chiang Mai Noodle Soup to Roast Monkfish and Pancetta with Herbs and loads inbetween. I'm not sure if it's available on the Internet but do get in touch with me if you'd like to know of any other recipes or details or how to order one.

This salad is so incredibly simple but wonderfully mayonnaisey and decadent and lets face it if the sun's out you don't want to be slaving over a hot stove or doing anything with chickpeas... do you really? We poached the chicken in stock the night before so it was all ready to go the next day.

Serves 4 
Ok so it's just cheese but I LOVE CHEESE

340g (12oz) cooked chicken, chopped quite small
4 sticks celery, finely sliced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 pint mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
113g (4oz) cheddar cheese, grated

For the topping:
1/2 packet kettle potato chips, crumbled
a little bit of paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. You will need an ovenproof dish for this - we used a medium sized rectangular one - you need to be careful not to overcook this or the sauce will separate!

1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl with 85g of the cheddar cheese, season and mix together. The cheese will be quite salty so taste it before adding too much salt.

2. Turn into a shallow ovenproof dish, top with the remaining cheese, crisps and dash of paprika. We added some tobasco do this - just a few drizzles over the top should do.

3. Bake at 200C for 10-15 mins.

hot american chicken salad
Finished Chicken Salad

18 July 2011

Nigella's Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes

As part of my Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home frenzy I cooked this the other night (actually to go with the Banoffee Cheesecake pudding) and it was yummy delicious in every way and highly recommended because it's incredibly easy, if slightly expensive which is fine really because it tastes amazing enough to be great for dinner parties but is just so simple to make that you can actually have a drink with your guests when they arrive rather than slaving in the kitchen (shock horror!). This makes a lot of food too so you get yummy leftovers for lunches the next day so really you are getting a couple of meals for your money.

What was so fantastic about making this with the cheesecake was that the pudding was made the night before and only had to be unleashed from its springform tin and drizzled with toffee sauce half an hour before we wanted it and the chicken and chorizo can be wedged in its tins covered with clingfilm and ready to go in the fridge so you only need to drizzle with olive and put in the pre-heated oven.

Serves 6

2tbsp olive oil
12 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
750g chorizo sausages, ideally the baby cooking ones
1kg new potatoes, halved
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
grated zest of 1 orange ( I do not include this - I'm sure it's yummy but no...)

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 7. You will need two shallow roasting trays.

1. Put the oil in the bottom of the two roasting tins, 1 tbsp in each. Rub the skin of the chicken in the oil, then turn them skin side up, 6 in each tin.

2. Divide the chorizo sausages and new potatoes between the two tins. Sprinkle the onion and oregano over and, if you are using it, grate over the orange zest. As I don't use the orange juice I just gave a little extra drizzle of olive oil over it before I put it in the o

OK so raw chicken is never going to look that appealing

3. Cook for 1 hour, swapping the trays round and basting after 30 minutes.

This is minimum input maximum output and the left overs are to die for - I followed Nigella's instructions and made quesadilla's which were just fantastic. Dice up the leftovers, add some grated cheese (I use cheddar), cover half a tortilla with the mixture, fold in half and then griddle or fry. This is fantastic for a hangover.

I meant to take a picture of it daintily cut in half - but I ate it too fast

10 July 2011

Fruit-free Fridge Cake

I'm not much of a cake fan, I don't really have a sweet tooth but I have always found fridge cake pretty irresistible. I have, however, never made it... until now. Lovely friends had brand spanking new baby and I didn't even have time to make my New Baby Brownies but I did want to take something homemade round that would be useful to give to all the visitors you inevitably have when you bring your baby home. This gave me the perfect excuse to make fridge cake and although I took a big box round to them I did keep 8 or so little slices for us as a treat. This is incredibly easy and versatile - you can use whatever you have in the cupboard and of course you can use fruit and nuts if you like but I think it's so incredibly decadent you should just go for it on the naughty front and keep the fruit for another time.

Makes 12 - 16 squares - depending on how you cut them

150g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
100g butter
150g golden syrup
250g digestive biscuits, crushed
2 Mars bars, chopped into cubes
2 regular sized bags Malteasers
A handful of mini marshmallows

You need a small-ish baking tin - I used my 8 x 8 inch one that I use for Turkish Delight - line it with clingfilm so that you have lots of overhang on each side.

1. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water stirring occasionally.

2. When it has all melted together remove from the heat and stir in the biscuits, Mars bar, Malteasters and marshmallows.

3. Tip the whole lot into your cake tin and make sure it's in every corner and relatively smooth on top - a potato masher is good for this.

4. Cover the top with the overhanging clingfilm and put in the fridge until you need it or for at least 2 hours.

5. When you are ready to chop it up then you can use the clingfilm to maneuver it out of the tin. Then cut up with a sharp knife into the size squares you like. This is best kept in the fridge when you are not wanting it and lasts for ages.
Chopping up the fridge cake!

7 July 2011

Chicken and Bacon Tart

This is great for leftover chicken and in fact you can make it with anything you have hanging about in the fridge as long as you use the egg/sour cream filler anything can go in. The important thing about tarts is to season them enough - I know people are scared of salt but you can have a little taste of the filling before you pour it in and see. It's really too sad to have an under-seasoned tart. If you don't have chicken then a cheddar cheese and bacon version of this is great and you can always stick a leek in instead of onion.

Serves 4

For the pastry:
220g plain flour
110g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp chilled water

For the filling:
Chicken and bacon (on a small plate)
2 cooked chicken breasts or left over roast chicken
4 rashers of bacon
1 onion - or whatever you have. I like using large shallots and a bunch of 6 or so spring onions
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
A handful of tarragon, chopped finely
300ml creme fraiche or sour cream
salt and pepper
A tiny pinch of garlic salt if you want

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. You will need a fluted tart tin - I'm not entirely confident of the size of mine but I think probably about 23cm. This is also good if you want to make the pastry up before hand. The pasty does have to rest quite a bit and then you bake the base blind so it's not the speediest recipe in the world.

1. Make the pastry by sifting the flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl, adding the cubed butter and rubbing it into the flour like you are making some sort of strange double handed sign for money. You want the mixture to resemble breadcrumbs when you finished and you want as much air in it as possible so lift the mixture up in your hands as you rub the butter into the flour.

2. Wrap the pastry in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. Roll it out so it is larger than you tin and then line the tin with it using a rolling pin rolled over the top of the tart tin to give you neat edges. Then put in the fridge for a further 20 mins to rest.
pastry case
Neat pastry case

3. Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a from, line with baking paper, fill with baking balls and then bake blind for 12-15 mins. When it's done leave it to cool and make the filling.

Baking balls!

4. Heat the oil in the pan and cook the onions over a medium heat until they are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the shredded chicken and bacon and tip into the prepared pastry case.

Chicken and bacon in pastry case

5. Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche, tarragon, salt or garlic salt, and pepper and pour over the tart.

6. Cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top. Serve with salad and onion marmalade or chutney.

Chicken and bacon tart
Finished Tart

1 July 2011

Mortadella and Mozarella Frittata

This was a fantastic supper for when you've possibly been the pub for a couple of large glasses of rose and then realise that you need to make supper for a couple of your friends. It would of course work with any ham and any cheese but this is a really fantastic combination and both can be in your fridge ready for a frittata emergency.

As you can probably tell I've been on a bit of a Nigella's Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home binge - this is not going to turn into a Nigella blog but I looked through her book just before going to Sainsburys and so ended up getting lots of ingredients for her recipes...

Serves 4-6

6 eggs
125g mortadella. chopped
125g mozzarella, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp butter
a drop of garlic oil

1. Turn on the grill so it can get hot. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then add the chopped or diced mortadella and mozzarella.

2. Whisk in the parsley, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Be careful with the seasoning - the ham and mozzarella are both quite salty.

3. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan (with oven proof handle) or cast iron skillet and once it's hot and foamy add the omelette mixture.

4. Cook for about 5 minutes over a gentle heat without stirring, until the frittata is set underneath and golden.

5. Transfer the pan to the hot grill (keeping the handle away from the heat) and cook the frittata until it is set on top - don't leave the pan unattended as this can happen quite quickly, and remember to wear oven gloves to remove the pan.

mortadella and mozarella frittata
6. Leave it to stand for a couple of minutes, then run a knife or spatula round the edge of the frittata and ease it out of the pan, keeping it the same way up, onto a board or plate.

7. Cut into triangle like a cake, then sprinkle with extra parsley and serve with salad.
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