Friday, 19 February 2010

A quick lunch with leftover roast chicken

The remains of a roast chicken are a feast until perhaps Day 3; after that the excitement begins to pall just a little and you wonder what you might do to inject a little flavour back into proceedings. Well, wonder no more - this is a brilliant and quick ad-hoc solution I came up with today.

Finely shred any remaining meat and skin and add to a hot pan with a little vegetable oil and a crushed clove of garlic. While it's crisping (occasionally push around the pan so it doesn't stick), arrange aesthetically - or not - in a bowl, chopped tomato, baby spinach leaves and half a sliced papaya. These salad ingredients are simply what were in the fridge at the time, but try mango, pineapple, rocket, cucumber, spring onions - anything you fancy. Once the chicken and garlic are starting to fizzle and darken slightly sprinkle over a little sugar to help it all caramelise. Quickly whisk together a dressing with a good squeeze of lime, a little sugar, some chopped red chilli and a good drizzle of fish sauce. Then shake a few drops of soy sauce over the chicken and stir vigorously so the shards are sticky and dark gold. Tip the lot over the salad then pour over the dressing.

That's it. 10 minutes, tops. There is no photo - I ate it too fast. I would also try it with leftover roast pork, game and even lamb and beef - all are receptive to Thai flavours.

Monday, 15 February 2010

An extravagant Valentine's dinner

Oh dear - I never claimed to have an eye for a photo (or indeed any restraint and it occurs to me I should have taken a photo before we dug in) and it did look rather better in real life than compressed and dulled by a mobile phone shot, but above is my love for MCD in cake form. It is in fact a chocolate loaf cake, adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast (I seem to be using her a lot at the moment but she does have a wealth of cake recipes), where a simple chocolate cake is studded through with blitzed dark chocolate, poured into a loaf tin and baked for an hour. I then made a cocoa syrup and soaked the cake in it (that's the brown-y liquid there looking oh-so-appealing on the left there) and then shaved more dark chocolate over the top.

And because it was Valentine's Day and I like to embrace kitsch where I can, I decorated the top with silver heart dragees and scarlet raspberries and ate with Chantilly cream.

But that was the finale and I'm getting ahead of myself - what I actually wanted to tell you about was a home-y take on Tournedos Rossini, given we are embracing the spirit of the day and I had a couple of fillet steaks longing for love and attention.

First things first - the sauce. I sweated a sliced half an onion in some butter until golden and soft, then sprinkled with a little pinch of sugar to caramelise. I chucked in half a sliced carrot and a couple of quartered button mushrooms, sweated for a few minutes, then added a tbsp or so of brandy, which I allowed to evaporate. Add half a tbsp or so of plain flour and cook out for a couple of minutes, then add a good glass and a half of red wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Then add 200ml beef stock, some parsley stalks and a good grind of black pepper and reduce until you have a slightly syrupy, intense-tasting liquid, then season. Strain and chuck the veg and set the sauce aside.

Make a mushrooms pate: Blitz a handful of button mushrooms, the other half of the onion and a clove or two of garlic until finely chopped. Heat a knob of butter in a pan and cook until golden - I added a splash of brandy again (the bottle was still on the surface within tempting distance) and reduced - check the seasoning and add a handful of finely chopped parsley. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut out 2 rounds of slightly stale bread and brush with melted butter and bake in the oven until lightly golden.

Cook your fillet steaks how you will and then make sure you rest them for at least 5 minutes, double wrapped in foil - very very important. Meanwhile, I simply cooked off some chopped cavolo nero, which I always do the same way - heat a little olive oil, add the greens and a pinch of salt and a splash of water (or in this case white wine), bang on a lid and leave to wilt for as long as the steaks are resting.

Pour the steak juices into the sauce and reheat the sauce. Spread the mushroom pate on the bread croutes and top with a steak. Serve your greens on the side and carefully pour the precious sauce around.

Feast. And use your finger to wipe the plate.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Three great breakfasts

I can't decide which of these is the current favourite so I'm having them in rotation whilst also fitting in the odd bowl of muesli to keep my suddenly wayward IBS under control.

Breakfast idea no 1: A variation on the smoked mackerel theme, this time i mix together chopped tomatoes, avocado and smoked mackerel then souse the lot in lime juice and a good few shakes of smoked chipotle Tabasco. Pile onto lightly toasted sourdough.

Breakfast idea no 2: A slice of thick-cut honey-roast (or your choice) ham with a few sliced of halloumi, fried until patchily golden and dressed with a little lemon juice and a handful of lightly fried tomatoes.

Breakfast idea no 3: Bacon and sliced fresh tomato on toasted muffins. I had quite forgotted how delicious these are. Also excellent with sausages. Which in turn reminds me I had plans to make Nigella's Welsh Rarebit muffins to accompany sausages one weekend - I shall let you know.

You can quite see how time can get away from one when there are decisions such as these to be made...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Just a thought...

Has anyone else noticed? The brave new man in the Lurpak ad makes surprisingly swift and smooth shortcrust pastry, beautifully evenly rolled (though a bit rough around the edges, cos, you know, he's a man), arranges it oh-so-clumsily on the pie and lo, when he removes it from the oven, by the power that is Lurpak, obviously, the shortcrust pastry has now become puff pastry.

And while we're on the topic of food on t'telly, was anyone else even slightly repulsed by the Hairy Bikers' feature on 1970's special occasion food, in particular the lemon 'souffle' with cream and grapes and the chocolate meringue cake smothered in uncooked meringue (really...?)...? I know, I know it was a time of Technicolour and learning and free love in the kitchen, but God - no wonder the era of nouveau was such a hit.

In other news - what are you cooking for Valentine's Day? Are you even acknowledging its existence? I'm going for braised short ribs and a quadruple chocolate loaf cake - recipes to be posted soon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A warm salad for a rainy night

It doesn't sound entirely pre-possessing, does it, salad and rain not being best buddies, but stick with me. I've blogged before on the fabulousness that is Jerusalem artichoke soup and it does tend to be my reflex cooking method as it somewhat dims the side effects. However, last night I was in the mood for something punchier and more textured. Pace Nigel Slater, this is what I came up with.

Bung a couple of chicken thighs, legs, whatever, in the oven to roast with plenty of salt and lemon. That's the protein taken care of. Peel a big handful of Jersualem artichokes and dip into acidulated water. Steam them until tender - you may find it easier to cut the larger ones in half so they all steam equally. It takes about 15-20 minutes, but go carefully because they do have a tendency to turn to mush.

While they're steaming away, fry off some pancetta or streaky bacon with a sliced leek. Once golden and appetising-looking, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Slice your artichokes into pound coin thicknesses and add to the pan with a little more oil if needed. Sauté until golden brown and crisp then add the bacon and leek back in and season.

Whisk up a good mustardy dressing - I used a tbsp Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon and a lot of olive oil, then add a good handful of finely chopped parsley. On a plate arrange your chicken pieces and I put alongside a handful of pea shoots for the colour and sweetness. Then toss your artichoke mixture in the mustardy dressing and spoon on top of the pea shoots so they wilt a little. Sprinkle over a little more parsley and lemon if desired and tuck in.