Sunday, 29 November 2009

Parmesan toasts!

I do like a bit of bread with my soup but sometimes I yearn for something a little different. Heres one idea:


  • French stick / bagette
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup of finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 190/200 deg C. Blend garlic with the olive oil until smooth and brush over thin slices of the baguette. Sprinkle with black pepper and then top off with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 mins until brown. Serve straight away or when cooled down just great on their own or with a thick soup!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fish Stew (or Bouillabaisse)

This recipe gives you a soup that is ‘strained’ of the bits but has the fish in it giving a rich taste and allowing you to enjoy the texture of the meats. Mrs H. is not that keen on squid or mussels etc so I used white fish, salmon and prawns but you could use anything you fancy or anything that is on offer at the market – inc mussels!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 1 small fillet of cod
  • 2 small fillets of other white fish – different textures – say 200gms each
  • 1 small fillet of salmon
  • Small pack of peeled prawns
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ bulb of fennel, finely chopped
  • (I used 5 mini fennel bulbs)
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (440gms)
  • 1 tsp of tomato puree
  • 2 small sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml of fish stock
  • 1L of water
  • ½ tsp of saffron stamens
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • Charlotte potatoes – peeled and turned or chopped
  • 1 tbspish Chopped parsley

Remove the bones and skin from all the fish and chop into decent size chunks and put to one side.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion, garlic, carrot, leek and fennel and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Stir in the tomatoes, puree, fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf and any fish trimmings (if you kept them). Add the stock, water and saffron and bring to the boil. Gently simmer uncovered for around 45 minutes. About half way through, add the potatoes. When it has reduced to about 1 litre remove from the heat, remove potatoes with a slotted spoon into a dish and then strain mixutre into a clean pan. Keep the potatoes warm (ensure they are firm but edible!) Now its time to taste and season accordingly. Bring back to a simmer and add the cod and white fish . After a few minutes, add the prawns and stir in the chopped parsley. When all cooked, which isn’t long, add the potatoes and serve immediately with warm crusty bread in large bowls – I am now drewling again and may have to cook this again tonight!

The secret is to cook the fish in stages so that the firmer cuts cook first and the softer ones cook last. I have seen some recipes for this where 15 different fish are used and cooked in separate pans and added just at the last minute into the dish – now there is dedication!

Sea Bass, Mullet, Monkfish are all great. For a change I tried Tilapia fillet and Vietnamese River Cobbler ! Whatever you choose it will taste great!

Monday, 16 November 2009

One lasting memory of food I do not like...

In fact I’ll go as far as saying I will never order it again, ever, from anywhere. Carpaccio de Pied de Cochon. No you have not got it wrong – yes, it is carpaccio of pigs trotters. I’d liken it to thin slivers of semi-congealed fat (substiture snot for fat!). The texture was dreadful and the flavour not much better. Call me fussy, but I know when my palette says NO! Anyway – ordered in a Bistro in Chartres and no doubt loved by some French. It reminds me of the Restaurant Lyonnais that used to be in the Boulogne old town… but that is another story!

Review - Le Chateaubriand, Paris

I thought I had lost the menu from my visit there in September – it was a fabulous meal and evening. I may not remember everything from that evening but I do remember a fabulous meal.

It started by us turning up @ around 7:45 for our table booking @ 8:00pm. It was looking a bit strange with most of the staff sitting down and the maitre d' telling us to come back – 'the bar over the road was good' he said. We were now worried and whilst surveying the restaurant from a different bar from recommended, we mused over various delivery vans coming and going to the restaurant. We had theories from 'they have gone bust' to 'all the food is prepared elsewhere'. Never was it thought at any point that we were just, well, early.

The restaurant is not brightly lit, there are no pictures on the wall and the tables are small. The bar is typically French with a large mirror and prospective punters await at the bar whilst enjoying an odd aperitif etc We returned to a heaving restaurant and were escorted to our coffee table sized patch. The fixed menu (€45 per head) was given to us and were were asked if we had any allergies – with a firm no, he proceeded to tell us, very politely, about the forthcoming meal – it looked exciting:

  • Amuse Bouche
  • Encornets, cocos, Tomates
  • Limand Sole, Carottes, Beurre Noisette, Noisette
  • Boeuf d'Hugo Limousin, Aubergine brulee, faiselle
  • Fruits Rouge, Chantilly ou
  • Fromage du jour

I'll translate as I talk you through the experience. The amuse bouche comprised of sliced gherkin, salad, herbs, sliced radish and a sweetish dressing – a perfect opener! Then came the next course, this was lightly fried squid on a bed of pureed coco bean (a speciality over there). On the side was a tomato salsa and also halved cherry tomatoes, black olives and fresh basil – it all tasted very good indeed. Then the fish course! A small filet of lemon sole with miniature 'al dente' carrots in a sweet butter, caramel sauce and hazelnut on the top. It really was getting better. Then came the beef. This was like a strib of rib beef (no bone) and was delicious and very tender albeit quite rarer. This was served on a bed of rich and smoked aubegine puree – it looked fairly black – and this ensemble was accompanied by finely sliced pickled red cauliflour. By now my tastebuds were tingling – Some of these flavours were just incredible. After a well earned rest, we had both the pudding and the cheese. The former was an upmarked Eton mess and the latter included some of the finer and stronger goats cheese around. The house wines were sensibly priced and all enjoyable – but not memorable!

The style of food is simple yet very tasty food – no Michelin presentation here – just served to perfection. Have a look at this clip on YouTube. You can also see here that it jumped in as the 40th best restaurant in the world - thats better than the Gavroche! If you are in Paris, make the detour but remember, you will be well advised to book!

Salad of Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot

There are just times when I cook something and it is perfect – not often, I have to say – but this is one of those occasions that did it. It’s also a dish that kept well in the fridge for a second bash the next day – it was just as good!

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter):

  • 250g Pack of cooked beetroot
  • 70gms of caster sugar
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 80ml of white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp of vinegar
  • 150ml of water
  • 1 tbsp of creamed horseradish sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp English mustard powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100ml of double cream
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets (skinned)
  • Watercress as a garnish

There are 3 parts to this and all easy. Firstly chop the beetroot up and place in a bowl. In a pan, boil the water and add the 70gms of sugar to it to dissolve. Add the onion and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes then add the vinegar. Take off the heat and add this mixture to the beetroot and allow to cool and infuse, stirring occasionally.

Whip the double cream gently until just starting to peak and then carefully fold in the lemon juice, sugar, mustard, horseradish and vinegar together with salt and pepper. You should then get a lovely soft but firm horseradish cream. It is not strong but this can be changed by using a stronger horseradish sauce and more of it!! Lastly, drain the beetroot mix and then arrange the beetroot and onion on the plate with a dollop of the cream and the watercress around the plate. Break up the mackerel and scatter over the beetroot salad. Needless to say, it goes with saying that you can use fresh horseradish and freshly cooked beetroot. Either way - Enjoy - if you like beetroot, you'll love this.

Good Food Show / Masterchef 2009

Whatever you want to call it, it was fun. It wasn’t too busy and we felt we had plenty to east, taste and do. We went on the Sunday and arrived 5 minutes before opening – not intentional but we walked in and up the stairs to the awaiting doors.

Here are some of our highlights:

  • Masterchef cook-off between Matt Follas and Steven Wallis – It looked a little contrived but it was none the less entertaining
  • Beyond Chocolate – they definitely sold the best chocolates in the show – now in Waitrose, alledgedly!
  • Elderflower liqueur – I just had to buy this! Ideal with champagne, I’m told
  • Beetroot and Apple Chutney – This was great with a decent cheddar
  • Restaurant Experience – A great way to sample some very special dishes – including some Masterchef winning dishes – sorry Mat, didn’t get to try the Lavander Mouse… ;-(
  • Knife Skills – Quite an interesting little overview by Marianne Lumb
  • Other demonstrations around the hall were well attended and seemed enjoyable
  • Plenty/Bounty Girls – what more can I say about them – well there is plenty of them
  • Gregg / John / Michel and Monica – They can certainly draw a crowd
  • Lovely Bubbly – enjoyed a little sojourn here tasting Champagne!
  • And lots more…. I’ll be there next year!

Cry Tiger Thai Beef (Weeping Tiger)

I’m gradually getting there, trying to perfect this dish – close but not quite there!

Ingredients (serves 2):

For the steak:

  • 2 Clove Garlic
  • 2 tsp of thai fish sauce
  • 2 tsp of light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • ½ lb sirloin steak (2)

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp Thai rice
  • 3 tsp of Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tsp of Lime juice
  • ½ tsp sweet chilli paste
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – depending on how hot you like it!
  • 1 tsp palm sugar

In a mortar, grind the garlic and coriander then add the remaining fish sauce, soy and sugar and mix well. Put the steaks into a bowl and rub the mixture into the steaks well. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour.

For the sauce, ‘toast' the rice in a pan and then grind to a fine powder. Put his powder into a bowl and add the lime juice, fish sauce, chilli powder and paste. Stir well and ensure the sugar is dissolved.

Fry the steaks on a pre oiled, hot griddle to your taste – I prefer them medium to well done in this dish but you can just as easily do them rare. Rest the meat when cooked and then slice into strips. Serve the meat with the sauce together with some fragrant sticky rice – delicious!

Monday, 9 November 2009

King Prawns and Rice

Friday last saw Mrs H and I tucking into King Prawns and rice – just the way we like them. The idea of a Thai salad on a cold evening sis not appeal to us! It a quick and simple dish and tastes great. In fact it takes more time to peel the prawns than cook then! The primary ingredient are those type of prawns that are massive – I tend to buy then from my local Korean supermarket – about £10 for 20 and about 150mm’s long. (make sure they are the uncooked variety!) - they are often frozen as they probably come from The far east...

Ingredients (serves between 2/3 people):

  • Pack of Super King prawns
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 10gms Butter

For the rice:

  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 1 tsp of groung tumeric
  • 2 tbsp of sultanas
  • 2 tbsp of pistachio nuts
  • 1 tsp of pine kernel nuts
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • Olive oil

I take a prawn and remove the head. I then cut the prawn lengthways to break open the underside of the shell. The shell is then easy to remove and the prawn can be cooked on a griddle, splayed open. Wash all the peeled and split prawns and set aside.

Boil the rice until just cooked with the tumeric. Drain and wash with hot water and leave to drain. Chop and fry the onion in about 1tbsp of olive oil. When cooked, add all of the nuts and sultanas and fry until starting to turn brown. Add the rice and ensure all is completely mixed well and hot throughout. Keep warm.

Now melt the butter in a hotish pan or griddle and add the garlic. After a few seconds, add the prawns and fry until they change colour to pink – meaning they are just cooked.

Serve prawns on a bed of the rice and spoon over any butter and garlic on to the top. Absolute bliss!!