Friday, 22 October 2010

Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone But Toast Is a Different Matter

Toast. Its a ruddy marvel. It transforms the humble slice into a crunchy, warming, comforting and downright tasty snack.

Toasting your bread is only just beginning of what can be the most complex or the simplest of culinary adventures. Once your slice of golden magic emerges from under the grill (or toaster if you prefer carbon dark one side and hardly warmed the other) a world of choices await you.

Eat it there and then just as dry toast (hangover anyone) or top with, well, just about anything. Lovely melting butter is of course the true staple of any toast devotee but it doesn’t stop there. Jam, Marmalade, Marmite (one of my favourites especially post pub), baked beans, eggs in all guises, chocolate spread, dripping, mushrooms, kidneys, toast toppers (remember them), of course cheese, pilchards, sardines …. I could go on
Rub it with garlic and drizzle with olive oil and you have the base for any number of bruschetta connotations.
Cut it into soldiers for egg dipping is there anything you can’t do with toast? Some people and really I’ve seen this, dip it into their mug of tea.
Kids love it, grannies love it even the dog is partial to morsel.
You can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper as a snack whenever you want.

Why am I enthusing so much about toast, it’s because I’m sat here with a cup of tea and a couple of rounds of the good stuff what more could you ask for.

So to whoever discovered that waving a piece of bread in front of a flame made the ideal snack, hats off to you sir (or madam)


Recipe : Paella

It seems that like Bolognese, everyone has their own Paella recipe, so not being one to shirk convention here’s mine

OK, so I developed this one by looking at various recipes for paella, taking those basic principles and then adding ingredients that I liked.

As you’ll notice from the picture attached I have a paella pan, woo get me.
Anyway this caused me much consternation as my first attempt to cook with it brought about the realisation that a massive pan requires a burner of equal capacity.
Not being blessed with a burner the size of a tractor wheel I have to frequently move the pan around my wok hob. This approach works well if you’re standing in the kitchen whiling away the worries of the world with a mate and a glass of wine. Of course you can cook this in a normal frying pan equally well but having “proper” pan induces suitable ooh’s and ahh’s from your guests when you plonk it on the table and they can all dig in.

Ingredients – please excuse approximations as I have yet to weigh and measure the precise amounts.

Serves 6

2 Shallots chopped finely
2 Garlic cloves chopped finely
2 Tomatoes de-seeded and diced
80g Chorizo sliced
2 Chicken breasts cubed (bite size)
100g Green Beans cut to desired size
200g King Prawns – Cooked or Raw, have to be peeled
6 Handfuls of paella rice, I cup my hand and then fill the palm, although I do have big hands
1 Glass of dry white wine
1 Teaspoon of Paprika
Pinch of Saffron
Pinch of Chilli flakes
600 ml of Chicken stock
Water for topping up

Brown the chicken on all sides then remove from the pan.
Gently fry the shallots and garlic until soft in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper
Add the tomatoes and continue to gently fry for a minute
Add the Chorizo turn up the heat and fry until the oils are released
Now add the rice, cooking for a couple of Mins stirring all the time
Add the wine and reduce till hardly any liquid is left
Add the paprika and stir so that everything is coated
Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce to simmer.
Add Chilli flakes and saffron and stir to distribute
TASTE – add more seasoning and or spice if required
Now reduce the heat so that it’s barely simmering.

So now you leave it to simmer and please don’t stir, this causes the rice to release its starch and that’s now what you want, unless you want a plate of mush.
This should take now around 15 Mins, you’ll know when it’s cooked because the rice is still firm but not crunchy or chalky tasting.
Important: keep an eye on the pan if it looks too dry then top up with water, you may have to do this several times.
Once you’re happy that the rice is cooked place your prawns on top on the rice, dotted about the pan.

Finally when the prawns are cooked, top off with a good dash of chopped parsley.
Serve with lemon slices for those who want the extra zing

Apart from a bit of prep this is quite simple, you can add what you like really, some fish for example or as they do in some regions of Spain, snails!

Whatever it is you put in, so long as you follow the basics and season properly, you’ll have a guaranteed crowd pleaser

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Man Flu Remedy in a Tin

I make no apologies for this one, when I'm suffering (which I have been since Sunday) and really don't want to cook anything this old favorite perks me up no end

and some hot buttered toast of course to dunk into it

Friday, 8 October 2010

Recipe: Chicken and Chorizo Stew

Pleased to say I created this myself just using what I thought went well, actually feeling quite proud of myself with this one as it tastes great and you cant beat one pot cooking, This is a slow cook so you can make well in advance and the chicken falls apart, lovely

Serves 6
Prep time 30-45 mins
Cooking time 2-3 hours


8 Chicken Thighs
150g Chorizo sliced
1 really big or 3 medium sized carrots diced
1 Onion chopped finely
2 Cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 Celery stalks finely chopped
4 medium sized waxy potatoes peeled and cubed
2 tins of plum tomatoes
1 heaped teaspoon of paprika
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 glass of dry white wine
600 ml of chicken stock
80g plain flour well seasoned
1 pot of pitted black olives halved lengthways

Big faggot of herbs, I used parsley, thyme and bay, you could use rosemary but I find it perfumes the dish too much
2 Tablespoons of olive oil

For this you’ll need a large flame proof (will go onto the hob) casserole dish

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees
Put the flour in a large bowl and dredge the chicken through the flour to coat them evenly.
On the hob heat the oil in the casserole dish, then shake off excess flour and brown the chicken on both sides, once brown remove from the pan and put to one side, you may need to do this in two or three batches
Lower the heat and add the Onion, Garlic and celery, sweat gently until soft and add seasoning
Turn up the heat and add the chorizo, fry until the oils are released from the chorizo
Add the paprika and cayenne stirring until the contents of the pan are coated.
Now add all of the flour from the bowl and continue to cook , stirring constantly until for about a minute
Now add the wine, bring to the boil and use a spatula to remove all the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the liquid slightly and add in the tomatoes
Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring back to the boil
Add the potatoes, carrots, herbs and chicken to the stew.
Give the whole thing a good stir ,cover and place in the middle of the oven
Cook for 2 – 2.5 hours until the chicken is falling apart and the sauce is lovely and thick. I find it best to stir it every 30 mins and have a taste so you can adjust seasoning and or spices to your taste.
About 30 mins before you are ready to serve add the olives and return to the oven covered

Serve in big bowls stirred through with some freshly chopped parsley and served with fresh crusty bread

Left Overs will keep in the fridge for a few days, may freeze well without the olives

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Scallops and me Don't get on

As a food fan I'm supposed to be sent into a dreamy eyelid fluttering state at the mere mention of these seabound shell dwellers. Well frankly I've tried them twice now and to be honest I don't much care for them

The first time was when Lisa took me to a Michelin starred restaurant for my 40th. After sampling the holy grail of seafood I felt a little queasy but put that down to the celebratory bottle of wine I'd had before hand. The taste left me a little disappointed and with the thought of what's all the fuss about. But being a proper restaurant the stuff that came with it tasted divine so all was not lost  

So last night I ate in Cote - Horsham and again tried some seared scallops and again after about an hour I felt weird and woke up at 3:30 am with indigestion. Ok I had had a drink or two but surely this can't be coincidence

Apart from my stomach rebelling I've actually come to the conclusion that I don't like them much
After watching countless masterchefs and listened to Greg enthuse about sweet tasty scallops I was always of the opinion they must be great. Greg you're wrong they're not nice at all.
The texture is wrong, it's somewhere between what you'd imagine a snail to be like and a jelly. In fact its like a badly made fish flavoured pana cotta . Yuk

So you can keep your odd tasting wobbly little buggers and leave me with the black pudding and pea puree please

Obviously this is just my view and really I'm miffed I don't like something other people rave about. So if you do like them fair play to you they're just not for me 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My first post and a tasty treat

Ok first post done.
Typical the day I start this and it's one of the few days I'm not cooking as I'm working away.
So this blog is all about food, the pleasure of cooking and of course eating. Obviously I shall be eating later on but that will be limited to what Horsham (which is where I'm working at the moment, I haven't made a special trip or anything like that) has to offer within my meager expenses budget.

Anyway being all keen and stuff to get blogging I thought I'd start with my current favourite midweek recipe.
Now one thing to point out is I'm no expert and something vital thing to remember is that tasting is of the utmost importance. Please don't blindly follow this or any other recipe for that matter, you must, must, must taste at every opportunity.
The amounts here are what I like and what cooks well on my stove you might be completely different.
So don't be afraid to follow with what your mouth tells you, if you don't like too much garlic add less , if you love spice add more chili it's totally up to you.

Oh and some of the recipes don't have exact amounts either some of it is about what feels right.

So, my first recipe, I love because it's very tasty, cheap and easy to make. The olives add an extra flavour dimension and the only place I can find them is Sainsburys everywhere else selling olives adds herbs or other stuff.which I don't want in this dish. As said I'm no expert but what I can tell you is it contains no additives , I think it's fairly healthy (Consult your nutritionist of choice) and even the kids love it

Penne With Spicy Tomato and Black Olive Sauce

Serves 4 to 6 depending on portion sizes

Penne Pasta , the amount depends on how many people you’re cooking for
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
5 cloves of Garlic finely chopped
1 Shallot finely chopped
1 Birds eye chili chopped and keep the seeds (remove the seeds if you want it less spicy)
Pancetta cubes 1 box
Mushrooms about a handful
Handful of Basil Leaves
Good glug of red wine
1 Small pot of pitted black olives , halved length ways
Good quality extra virgin olive oil

In a Saucepan heat a little olive oil (not the good stuff, normal cooking olive oil) and gently fry, with a little salt and pepper, the shallot and garlic until soft .

Add the tinned tomatoes and continue to cook until bubbling
Fill about a third of the empty tomato can with red wine and tip into the pan
Bring back to the boil and then simmer.
Add the olives
Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and add to the pan
Add the chopped chillies
Taste and season as you go (very important, just in case you didn't read the bit above, how rude!)

Put a big pan of water on to boil

Whilst the tomatoes are simmering thinly slice the mushrooms
Put a non stick frying pan on the heat , when it is hot add the pancetta cubes
Fry them until oil is released and add the mushrooms
When both are cooked add a little water to bind them all together and tip into the pan with the tomatoes, mushroom ketchup instead of water or a little Worcestershire sauce also work well

Simmer the tomato mix for another 10 mins or until the mixture thickens

When the big pan is boiling add lots of salt
Then add your penne and give it a good stir with a pasta spoon thing (You can probably guess I don’t know the proper name for this) and stir every few mins to keep the penne separated
Once the water is boiling again take a two or three large spoons of the pasta water and add to your tomato sauce until it has the consistency you want. It should be nice a glossy in appearance.
We're near the end now so remember taste it and if required add more seasoning
Cook the penne to packet instruction or test if yourself as you go, by tasting bits. Ideally you want it soft but with a bit of resistance when you bite into it. Again though the consistency of the pasta should be how you like it. If you like it soft and mushy then go ahead and boil the hell out of it , just don't ask me to eat it

When the pasta is cooked use the saucepan lid to drain off the pasta
Add lots of pepper to the drained pasta and then drizzle on some of the extra virgin olive oil and stir with your pasta spoon fork thing

Dish up the pasta onto the plates, then add enough sauce for each persons liking
Finally add more torn basil if you want and drizzle with some more of the good olive oil
This goes well with Garlic toast

So as an added bonus …

Garlic Toast

Two thick slices of country bread per person will do
One or two cloves of Garlic peeled
Good Olive oil

Toast the bread on both sides and whilst still very hot rub the garlic onto the toast covering every inch of one side.
Finally drizzle with the olive oil and you’re done

Got Some Left?
Great, scrape out all of the remaining sauce into an air tight container , leave out to cool until room temperature then pop it in the fridge where it will sit for about 3 days. Just reheat when you need it

To be honest it doesn't taste as good reheated but its still good and a very cheap meal