Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

We decided to avoid the bars and parties this year and to sit down for a nice meal to see out 2013 and to welcome in 2014.

Earlier this week I took some nice salmon fillets and prepared them according to recipe I had seen on TV just before Christmas. Nathan Outlaw had beetroot cured a side of salmon (  Having prepared a slightly smaller batch of the cure I placed the salmon fillets in the cure and put it in the fridge for 30 hours. I then removed it from the fridge, washed off the cure and dried the salmon. I then did my best to cut thin slices of the fish. I stored this in vacuum packed bags where it should keep for at least 3 weeks. This will provide a simple starter for tonight served with a little salad and some buttered brown bread.

Now on to the main course. I managed to get a nice pork joint earlier today at a bargain price. This has spent the last 4 hours roasting slowly at 120C. With about 50 minutes to go to serving I have turned the heat up to 220C to get a good crisp crackling.

I intend serving this with some carrots cooked off in orange juice, butter, a little sugar and a star anise. I will accompany this with red cabbage prepared according to another recipe I saw being prepared by Tom Kerridge ( and some roast potatoes and parsnip. I am duty bound to steam a few brussel sprouts for my wife.

As for the dessert, well there is plenty of cheese left over. Christmas pudding or lemon posset should we still have room.

Thank you all for the time you have taken to read my blog in 2013. I hope to bring you more of my food experiences in 2014 but until then I wish you all a Happy New Year

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Blind Menu

It has been a few weeks since my last post. With Christmas on the way there was a lot to do. Not least trips to see family, Christmas shopping, cooking and a short break in Brussels at one of my favorite hide aways abroad 'Be Manos'. More about that in a later post.

Finally, on the 20th December, with the Christmas shopping done what better way to relax before the big day than a short trip to Lille to take in the Christmas market and some good French cuisine? Off we set on Eurostar and in a short while we were in the city taking a short walk to the Lille Carlton ( . The hotel has some mixed reviews but from my point of view it is a nice hotel. Typically french. It is elegently furnished with a comfortable bed . What more do you need.

We had met up with my sister-in-law on the train as planned and once we had settled in and changed out of our travelling clothes into something a little more stylish we set out with her and her husband in search of sustenance. He was already in France and, as we were arriving mid evening, had taken the liberty of booking us a table so that we were guaranteed a good place to eat on our first night.

A short walk from the hotel in Rue de Barre was the Restaurant Au Gout Du Jour ( ). After a swift diversion to Fifi's Wine Bar opposite for a Christmas beer we ambled across the cobbles and into the restaurant. The menu was novel. A simple choice of one or two starters, a main course, cheese and/or dessert  The price started at around 40 euros and rose to 50 depending on the choices you made. We were asked if we had any allergies or foods we did not like and offered wine to match the as yet undisclosed food.

The amuse buche, a cauliflower soup both creamy and thick gave a hint as to theskills of the chef. Not a vegetable I often enjoy, this particular recipe was an exception. A well balanced and luxurious soup that took away the winter chill.

Next, our starter course arrived. Perfectly cooked sole that had been molded into a cylinder and poached. This was served on a creamy bed of chopped celery with a stunning onion marmalade. The marmalade had been pureed forming a delicious black paste to accompany the fish. The sole was dusted with dried caviar ( just prior to being eaten. The perfectly balanced flavours were complemented with a glass of white Languedoc wine.

Onto the main course. Another perfectly cooked fish dish consisting of a seared salmon trutta fillet (sewin or sea trout to you and me) on a parsnip puree with roasted parsnip and wild mushrooms. The crisp skin added a wonderful texture to this simple but delicius dish. The red cote du rhone that accompanied this was a touch too rich to be a perfect match but the reason for the choice became clear when the cheese course arrived. A smorgersboard of cheeses from the delicate through to the very pungent was served next. The wine was a great match to this.

Finaly the dessert course. An ellegant sounding white chocolate emullsion on top of a sweet potato mouse with clemantines. Another great flavour combination that was slightly marred by the clemantine segments that were still encased in their segment skin and accompanied by pips. A little more effort to remove these would have made for a perfect end to an excellent meal

Good coffee and petti four prepared us for our short walk home and the promise of more cullenary adventures in the comming few days, Best of all, a restarant menu that was a complete surprise that, at this seasonal time, did not include turkey or goose.

Friday, 6 December 2013

A solution to a lazy night

Earlier today I left my sick sofa ( posher than a bed) today after the ravages of man flu (a simple cold) with a hunger for something tasty that I didn't need to create. My wife and I progressed to the local Waitrose in search of  something to awaken our taste buds, As we strolled I suggested a curry having remember a package I saw on my last visit. My wife, used to the usual culinary delights, was up for 'a curry'. Imagine her despair when I picked up a packet marked Chicken Tikka Masala.  After a short discourse on the benefits of something simple for the feeble minded (me with my cold induced woolly brain) she agreed not to pester me for a home grown curry.

I had purchased some chicken thighs, the best cut for a good flavour, and had sufficient ingredients with regards to chutneys and naan breads to see us through. After a short sojourn to our local social club to welcome in the weekend with some London Pride, we retired to our little house.

I set the skillet to the heat and once it was searingly hot I placed the thighs and a little oil onto the iron. Once the meat had taken a good browning I added the masala paste into the pan. A good tip here. Score the flesh of the thighs before you start to cook it, with a sharp knife , down to the bone. At least three cuts to a thigh. This helps to soak up the flavour.

I cooked this off in the fabled iron skillet with a tight fitting lid.I had added the tin of coconut cream supplied in the 'cook me' pack. Over the next 20 minutes, over a low heat, I turned the chicken in the rich sauce. In the final few minutes I removed the lid, microwaved the rice (also supplied) and warmed the plates.

As the dish came together, I served the rice, placed the chicken upon it and spooned the thick and rich sauce over the chicken. Coconut flakes and rose petals (dried) had been supplied in the pack. I added these and served the dish with a Peshawar naan (I love these).

In short, superb. An excellent, cheats way of producing a good looking and tasty curry without dialing the local take away for 'red/brown something with rice'.

Sorry for the cheat but we all need one from time to time.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Salve, Salve, Salve Fallernum

Sorry for the long break. Trips to Wales and a damned head cold have left me more than a little un-creative but today, full of cold, I decided to fix myself. A little research and a bracing walk in a storm force wind to the supermarket for some ingredients.

1 litre white Bacardi rum
2 oz fresh ginger ( julienned )
15 cloves
10 allspice berries
2 star anise
zest of 5 limes

This all went into a ziplock bag then into the sous vide for 2 hours at 60C

I made a simple syrup with 2 cups of caster sugar to one cup of water. You can spend an age with a jar shaking the mixture until all the sugar dissolves or put the whole lot in a pan and bring it to the boil. Simmer until all the crystals are dissolved then cool.

I juiced the limes and, once the cooking was complete and cooled, I mixed the simple syrup, lime juice and sous vide flavoured rum together and bottled it. 1.5 litres or so of comforting, warming Fallernum cordial. A perfect salve for a cold and a great addition to a cocktail.

There are a lot of old recipes for cocktails with Fallernum cordial and a lot of recipes for the same cordial. This is mine. A friend who owns a cocktail bar got a taste and proclaimed it needed nothing more for a perfect drink. I think it would be great with crushed ice and soda water. Another taster reckoned on tonic water. All I say is try it. Perfect right from the bottle for a cold or mixed for an old style cocktail.