Thursday, 24 November 2016
First he lifts the greaseproof paper up. And then he puts the greaseproof paper down. Then it goes up again. Oh and now it's coming back down. But no, wait, the paper goes up once more and now he is shaking it about. The paper is going up and down, up and down, left and right, and we are all watching the paper; like the crowd at Centre Court, watching the ball slam to and fro across the net. Someone, trying to focus on the action through the screen on their iPad, gets so dizzy, they pass out and fall under the table. Eventually, after spending a few minutes excitedly explaining the magical properties of greaseproof paper, Daniel Galmiche, self-styled cuisinier and Michelin starred chef, finally places a square into the pan.
"Voila!" he claps. "So if your non-stick frying pan is a little bit done in, a little bit knackered, zis is a trick you can do, to fry your trout, skin side down, wiz no worries."
This was just one of the many tricks and tips that came our way during a fun cookery lesson I attended recently. Run by Great British Chefs in partnership with the Norwegian Seafood Council, the lowdown on how to get the best out of Norwegian Fjord Trout was held at the bespoke kitchen above the main bar and restaurant at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, in Clerkenwell. A personal and homely space that immediately puts you ease, over the usual sparse white and steel you often see at cookery schools. Adam Gray was also in attendance, being executive chef at B&H and all, and therefore the only person who knew how to switch on the fancy induction hobs we were using.
Actually, Adam's steely presence served as a good counterpoint to Daniel's exuberant Gallic flair. Not that he didn't display any flashes of humour himself. During proceedings, Adam would often slyly point out that we were using good and proper British ingredients, such as rapeseed oil and bacon. As opposed to French. Which Daniel acknowledged with a glint in his eye and a slight widening of the nostrils. The pair, having worked together before with Raymond Blanc, were obviously used to sharing what is known as the 'bants'. Is that right, kids? All of which added to a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.
Getting stuck into Adam's easy to prepare and delicious starter of poached, or confit, trout with spinach, pomme purée (mash!) and chorizo oil also helped to enhance the mood. However, it was soon time to get down to the business end, as Daniel went on to demonstrate how to fillet the surprising large Fjord Trout. At first glance, you could have been mistaken that it was salmon he was working on but a quick clip around the ear, to pay attention, soon revealed that the flesh of Fjord Trout has a different fat distribution to salmon; particularly around the belly. Making cuts from that area a fine candidate for sashimi, such is it's mild, delicate flavour. Which in turn, is down to the habitat of the fish, the calm environs of Norway's crystal clear fjords. Healthy, clean, Nordic, you can just imagine it can't you. Just breathe that saltwater in.
Daniel didn't clip me around the ear by the way but he did want people to concentrate and it was great to listen to him talk and to soak up some of his fevered passion. Not just about the fish - which is available in Tesco (points finger, winks) - but about how to approach cooking in general. The lead on dish or recipe he wanted us to make, was pan-roasted Fjord Trout with lentils, crispy bacon and chervil and on paper, it is a fairly simple approach. Not under Daniel's guidance though.
"Ze bacon, it must be crisp, it must not stew in ze fat! Ze vegetables must be just cooked through, to soak up ze flavour of ze lentils! Ze dressing! Do not put anything but Dijon in ze vinaigrette!"
(Although English mustard could work, as Adam quipped.)
What with all these 'Ze's' I am throwing into the equation, I am doing a terrible injustice to Daniel's accent. He is from the Jura, in Eastern France. Not the Rhineland. He speaks with a wonderful soft lilt really.
What I am trying to say, is that it was great to spend some time in the presence of someone who approaches food not only with joy, but also a fiery and somewhat maniacal intent. It's infectious.
Watching him go doesn't arf give you a stiff neck though.
I attended as a guest of Great British Chefs and Norwegian Seafood Council.
Pan-roasted Fjord Trout with lentils, crispy bacon and chervil - serves 4
4 trout fillets, each weighing 150g
1 knob of butter
200g of puy lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 shallot, peeled
1 carrot, small, peeled
1 bouquet garni, made with 1 thyme sprig, 1 parsley sprig
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
1 handful of chervil, leaves only, chopped
75g of smoked bacon
French vinaigrette for the lentils
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or balsamic
125ml of olive oil, or rapeseed oil
freshly ground black pepper
micro cress, chervil
1 - To begin, place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim away any foam that rises to the surface.
2 - Add the shallot, carrot, bouquet garni and garlic, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until al dente.
3 - Strain, reserving 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid and remove and reserve the shallot and carrot. Discard the garlic and bouquet garni.
4 - To make the vinaigrette, whisk together mustard, a dash of the lentil cooking liquid and the vinegar until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking continuously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper – this will need to be mixed again before use
5 - While the lentils are cooking, cut the bacon into lardons or small pieces and place in a pan over a medium heat.
6 - Cook the bacon, stirring frequently until the fat renders down and the bacon starts to brown and crisp up. When ready, remove from the pan and onto absorbent paper towel. Leave in a warm place until required.
7 - To cook the trout, heat a large non-stick pan over a medium-high heat with a small dash of vegetable oil
8 - Season the skin lightly and place skin-side down in the pan, cooking for 3–4 minutes. Turn each fillet carefully, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and add a knob of butter
9 - Once the butter is melted and foaming, remove the pan from the stove and allow the residual heat to cook the fish for 1 additional minute. It should still be pink in the middle and feel very tender to the touch.
10 - During the last few minutes of cooking the trout, return the lentils to the heat, cut the shallot into long rustic strips and the carrot into a combination of fine dice and julienne. Add a dash more of the reserved lentil cooking liquid. Once hot, remove from the heat and finish with the vinaigrette and chopped chervil.
11 - To plate, add the hot lentils to each bowl, followed by the seared trout. Finish with the shallot, carrot, crispy bacon, rocket and cress.
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Making a hash of things, by very definition of the phrase, should be easy enough to do. Yet I would argue that it's not. It's actually hard work. Especially when you decide to make one from a variety of root vegetables such as swede, parsnip and celeriac. Good grief, my poor hands, they took a battering the other day. I may as well have tried to cube up a railway sleeper with one of those orange, plastic, shatterproof rulers, that we all took to school in the 80's. The swede was the worst. With my knife firmly wedged halfway through the blighter, I held it up as a sort of weighty, bulbous trophy and wondered if it would ever come unstuck, ever again. I even thought about glazing it in some sort resin and sticking up on the shelf. A piece of artwork, titled - 'The Swede That Won.' Perhaps I should get my trusty chef's blade reground.
Anyway, this is probably a good reason why the majority of recipes for hash call for softened leftovers, when all the cooking and the labour is done. Usually by somebody else. I am of course talking about that frugal mashup of vegetables here. In case you were wondering. The hash that is the more robust cousin of bubble and squeak. Enjoyed with protein, normally corned beef and a wibbling fried egg set atop. Not the other hash. Nooooo. And with Bonfire Night fast approaching, when debbie and andrew's approached me and asked if I could come up with a tasty and easy dish that could be slapped on the patio table, all sizzling and hot, a hash immediately came to mind. To conjure up a few more 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the crowd, as rockets fly up into the air.
debbie and andrew's are of course in the business of making sausages. With an intention on creating the perfect banger that is so fevered, so devoted, they often forget to put caps at the start of their names. Meatier than most supermarket offerings, they have now extended their range into the heady realm of the chipolata, a little upstart of a sausage that packs in a flavour that belies its size. When testing, notes of pepper, mace and coriander danced about my palate, after I elegantly wolfed them down. The best thing I found about them is that they are quick to cook and because you get more of them in a pack, it really doesn't matter if one goes missing during the process. If you know what I mean. Two will get you caught out though.
Coming back to the notion of the hash itself, because it is usually cold on these sort of evenings, I decided to inject a bit of heat into proceedings, by giving the root veg a healthy sprinkling of garam masala and a few slices of red chilli. In my efforts to get the kids to up their appreciation of the Scoville scale, I've slowly been adding a touch more capsicum here and there, and I am really pleased that they that they dug into their plates without crying this time. The addition of a fried egg always helps. I mean, who doesn't like a fried egg? But if you reach for debbie and andrew's sausages with dietary requirements in mind, just dispense with the ol' sunny side up.
The recipe below caters for a large group and you will need to find a platter to stack upon this joyous mountain of pork, soft onions and sweet tubers. But you could easily size it down. I made and served ours up in my fairly mahoosive paella pan (you could easily do this with roasting tins) and after giving it a final stir through, some of the chipolatas did break into pieces. Which doesn't matter, the final result is no less theatrical. Morsels make it more easier to eat, if anything else.
To give this a real sense of showmanship though, may I suggest you take your swede and gather friends and family around? To watch you decimate it with an axe, before light falls? The cubes probably won't be so even and you will probably end up with a very lopsided brunoise but you'll get the job done.
Or you could simply make sure that your knife is sharp.
Chipolata and root vegetable hash - serves 8 to 10
2 packets of debbie and andrew's Perfect Pork Chipolatas, snipped into individual sossidges (24 in total)
1 large swede (approx 1 kg), peeled and cubed
1 large celeriac (approx 1 kg), peeled and cubed
4 large parsnips (approx 1 kg), peeled and cubed
2 onions, finely sliced
2 tbs garam masala
2 red red chillies
1 tbs sage leaves, chopped
3 tbs rapeseed oil
Serve each portion with a fried egg, if wanted, and a dollop of Siracha.
|Root veg, eggs and sauce, chipolatas|
First, turn your oven on, up to 180C and put your cubed root vegetables into a large stock pot and cover with water, add a good amount of salt and place on the hob, bringing to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. You will need to cook for about 20 mins until the cubes soften but not too squishy. Saying that, if they do start to fluff up, this does add a nice crispness to them.
Drain in a colander and leave to steam for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chipolatas into a roasting tin into the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking them about every now and then, so that they nicely browned and cooked through. Take them out the oven when done.
Place a large frying pan, the biggest you've got or a large roasting tin onto the hob, over a medium heat and add the oil.
Throw in your onions and stir fry until soft and golden, takes about 10 minutes and then add the chilli and garam masala and cook through for another couple of minutes.
Add the cubed root veg and turn the heat up a touch and continue to stir through, so that it all heats up and starts to catch. This takes about 10 minutes.
|Cubes, hash, excitement|
|Nice with beer|
|And an egg|
Tuesday, 1 November 2016
|There be banana in there, somewhere.|
Ignore them at your peril.
Luckily, fruit doesn’t get really wasted at home and forgotten pears, even when injured by a plummeting thumb, are soon cut up and transformed for toppings on say porridge, pork chops and um...pancakes. Ha! Alliteration in your face just there!
Maimed bananas on the other hand are a problem. They seem sturdy enough and when it comes to ripeness, the skin itself should give you a clue to its current stasis. My great-grandmother, Alice, would always wait until they were completely black before peeling them and if that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, I don’t know what will. However, this isn’t always the case because banana stalks and skins can easily break, split and hide early maturity. I’ve picked up many a healthy looking banana in my lifetime and howled because one end has turned black.
‘Whose grubby hands ripped at these bananas? ‘Look, they are ready before they are ready! Be careful with my bananas!’ I will say.
But no-one ever cares.
Working out what to do with half firm, half manky bananas then, presents a bit more of a problem; especially if you have a massive bunch, teetering on the edge. I get fed up with making banana bread you see. Then I came across the concept of banana and chicken curry, an idea that was once suggested to me by friend and fellow fud writer/blogger, Zoe Perrett, some time ago. Just recently, I returned it to once more; after yet again finding some sad, mistreated, malformed bananas and I thought to myself - ‘Bloomin’ ‘eck, I should really put this up on FU.’
Although I didn’t take any photos, the one on display is old. Bad blogger.
Now, if the notion of throwing bananas into the pot with spice, ginger, curry leaves and onions sounds as abhorrent as Nanny Alice’s penchant for mummified nanas, bear with me. Fruit in curry really isn’t as weird as it sounds, as there is strong precedent for sweet flavours in Indian food, especially in the south, to help balance out any fiery heat. Chicken breast is best (thigh is too strong) and coconut milk is the deal breaker. But by adding some mustard seeds to the mix, you actually make it more Bengali in style. Which, as I am sure you are aware, alludes to the cuisine of the east. I got that from the horse’s mouth by the way, I wouldn’t have a clue and this is really Zoe’s recipe, more than anything else.
I always like to add some toasted cashews, to style things out and add crunch but it’s not necessary. The very fact that you’ve paired up bananas and chicken for the benefit of saving on food waste, should and will draw gasps of amazement from the crowd around your table.
'We love it!' they will all say. Honest.
Your fruit still needs to have a certain firmness about it though. So if part of your nana is too blackened and bruised, you will have chop it off and dispose of it, I am afraid.
Unless of course, you have a Nana who likes that sort of thing.
Banana and chicken curry - serves four
3 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
3 bananas, sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 chilli, finely sliced
Small handful of curry leaves
Half tsp asafoetida
Half tsp turmeric
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 can of coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Chopped coriander, for garnish
First, heat about 100ml of oil in a wide pan on the hob and add the mustard seeds. You want the heat to be fairly high at first but turn it down a touch as they start to go snap crackle and pop.
Add the cumin seed, curry leaves, asafoetida, turmeric, chilli and ginger, some salt and pepper and stir through, cooking off for a good five minutes and then add the onion.
Turn the heat down and touch more and gently fry the onions off, until they go all soft.
Next add the chicken and turn the heat back (up, down, up, down, I don’t know) and brown the chicken off and then add the coconut milk. Bring up to a simmer and leave to cook for ten minutes.
Towards the end, add the sliced banana and cook for another two minutes or so.
Check for seasoning and serve with plain Basmati rice (cooked of course) and scatter some coriander over the top. And some toasted cashew nuts if you fancy it.