Caesar Salad, Pancetta wrapped Cod, Jelly, Ice Cream and Chocolate

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents dearly. But for two immensely talented and successful people, they are absolutely hopeless at feeding themselves. People think I’m joking when they ask where I learnt to cook and I tell them it wasn’t so much where but why, it was a necessity if I didn’t want to live off fish cakes for the majority of my teenage years. Take this weekend when I came home. I had offered to cook dinner for the parents and the man upstairs, and in return my mum had bought in a shopping order. I had left basic items like stock and dried herbs off the list assuming anyone who isn’t a student, lives in a house full time and presumably eats would have these staples, I was wrong. My mothers response? ‘We had some at christmas’, yes we did, and I used it up, the last time I cooked in our house. My father is I’m afraid no better, while very good at selecting wines for our dinner, he took in the food order and left out most of the veg and salad because they wouldn’t fit in the fridge, the fridge was full of potatoes…. Anyway, for those of you who know how to store vegetables, here is a standard, albeit slightly middle class, quick dinner party menu.

Posh Caesar Salad (Serves 4) 

2 iceberg lettuces, 2 chicken breasts, 4 quails eggs, 10 anchovies, 1 small sourdough roll, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 tsp of English mustard, 1/2 tsp of garlic, finely chopped, 1 1/4 tsp of white wine vinegar, 1 1/4 tsp of lemon juice 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 10g of Parmesan, grated, 120ml of vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle chicken with sea salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and top with 1/2 crushed garlic clove each. Roast for 12-15mins at 180*C, leave to rest. 

  1. Meanwhile boil the quails eggs for 2 1/2mins, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool, peel and set aside. Cut the roll into croutons and toast on both sides under a grill, seasoned with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. For the dressing, blend 2 anchovies, egg yolk, mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil whilst blitzing. Add Worcester sauce, lemon juice and Parmesan, season to taste.

  3. Serve drizzled over Iceberg lettuce topped with chicken, anchovies, quails egg and Parmesan slivers.  

Pancetta wrapped cod, pearl barley risotto, garlic mushrooms, crispy kale, Early Grey jus

4 cod fillets, boneless and skinless, 12 rashes pancetta, 100g button mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 100g kale, dried rosemary, 320g pearl barley, 2 stock cubes, 1 onion, dried thyme, drizzle of truffle oil, 3tbsp Brandy. 2 earl grey tea bags.

  1. Soak the tea bags in 300ml hot water for at least 1hr. Wrap 3 pancetta rashes around each fish and set aside in a baking tray. Meanwhile place the kale in a baking dish, sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary and a small drizzle of oil. Place in the oven at 140*C for 25mins, stirring occasionally, until crispy.
  • .Meanwhile, slice the onions into small pieces. Sauté for 2-3mins in olive oil and salt. Add the pearl barley, thyme then brandy. Add 600ml stock and cook, stirring occasionally for 30mins, adding more water if needed. Season with lemon juice, pepper, salt and truffle oil and set aside.

  • Forthe mushrooms, finely chop garlic and cook in truffle oil for 1min. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5mins over a high heat, set aside. Put the fish on to cook in 140*C oven for 15mins.

  • Meanwhile, make jus. Combine earl grey stock with stock cube, salt, pepper and lemon juice, reduce by about half.

  • Just before serving, heat jus and risotto. Make a bed with the risotto, scatter around mushrooms, place fish on top, drizzle jus and scatter with kale chips.  

  • Grown-up Jelly, Ice cream and chocolate sauce

    A nostalgic nod to my primary school, The Rowans, where we indulgently were given those wonderful ice cream squares, strawberry jelly and chocolate custard, my favourite dessert. We used to mix them all up together in a wonderful synthtic, sugary mess we loved. This thankfully is more refined, very simple and quick and tasty, try adding ginger to the ice cream.

    1 tub vanilla ice cream, 200g shortbread biscuits, 4tbsp maple syrup, Silicone half sphere moulds, 300ml grapefruit juice, 4 gelatine leaves, 200g dark chocolate, 50g sugar, 50ml water, pinch of sea salt.

    1. Let the ice cream soften, until it can be squeezed out of its tub. Use a pastry brush to coat 4 silicone moulds. Crush shortbread in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Pour into moulds to coat and shake out so you have an even layer lining the moulds. Scoop ice cream into each mould, using a knife to level the base. Freeze.
  • For the jelly, heat grapefruit juice to boiling. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water, squeeze out and stir into grapefruit juice. Pour into a base lined square dish and refrigerate for at least 2hrs.

  • For the sauce, heat water and sugar to boiling. Stir in chocolate and salt until melted. Chop grapefruit jelly into squares. Serve beside ice cream and jelly in a little jug.

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    The Posh Man’s Jagerbomb

    The Posh Man’s Jagerbomb

    My Dad has a new addiction, introduced to him by the man who lives upstairs.  His latest fix was obtained last night when he popped his head in to where I was working studiously at my desk (ok admittedly the Kitchen table and with How I met your Mother on in the background…) at 5 to 7 to declare that we were going out to dinner to Quod with the man who lives upstairs. (So that is how the parents avoid stepping foot in any actual supermarkets for food for the entire time I am away). Feeling that having eaten my calorie allowance for the week at a lavish New Years Eve dinner at the organist’s house, I opted for a light salmon salad. However my healthy intentions were scuppered when my father suggested dessert. His excuse was that it would ‘speed me on my way’ to drinks with friends and he was of course right, I’d much rather be able to order that in a club than a Jagerbomb, although I admit it would be harder to drink/eat while dancing…. It is rarely on the menu at a restaurant but waiters always seem incredibly pleased when you ask for it, it’s rather like being in an exclusive club, in the know. Recently my Dad has passed on this knowledge to me and I haven’t looked back. It’s a very simple, quick, easy and not heavy after a big meal, perfect dinner party fare. On top of all of this it carries the triple threat of a Jagerbomb: caffeine, alcohol and sugar, no wonder it hits the spot. This dessert is an Affogato. A single scoop of ice cream served with a shot of coffee and a shot of amaretto which is poured over for a lethally delicious hit. Zizzi’s served it with amaretti biscuits which worked very well crushed up on top and a shot of frangelico. In Quod they served it with langues de chat biscuits, in Pizza Express they served it in a teacup and at home I served it in a cocktail glass with crushed hazelnuts. I wonder if it would work with Ben and Jerry’s and mocha (the big kids version)

    Recreating American treats

    Recreating American treats

    Some of you may have read my earlier blog post about San Francisco – foodie heaven! Of course as soon as I got home I was desperate to recreate some of the dishes I had tasted. Luckily the foodie neighbours were coming to dinner, although I’m not sure they were necessarily expecting such modern cuisine (despite the fact they came with us on the trip, they were mostly eating the provided school food with the boys) with my standard dinner party fare being french classic with a twist. However it seemed to go down rather well and I for one can’t get enough of the pecan pie and the candied bacon is addictive (i ate a lot in the kitchen).

    Pappardelle with green garlic cream, sweet roasted parsnips and a poached egg
    This is inspired by the dish we got given in Boulette’s larder in San Francisco. The extra dish we got given on top of what we ordered, a parmesan cream with candied parsnip, it just made sense to recreate it as a pasta dish

    Pappardelle for 4 (depends how hungry you are…)
    Butter
    Minced green garlic
    (you could also add minced shallots but as you know – my father won’t eat onions)
    165ml heavy cream
    4 parsnips
    couple of sprigs of thyme
    5tbsp brown sugar (soft)
    4 eggs
    Spinach

    1. Chop the parsnips into thin strips, toss in olive oil, sugar, thyme, salt and pepper and a little white wine vinegar, make sure they are evenly coated. Put in the oven at 200oC for 35mins. 
    2. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and drop in the pappardelle, for dried pasta it should take 8 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile bring another pot of salted water to the boil for the eggs, you may need to do this one at a time. Either use an egg poacher (handy) OR add a little vinegar to the water and swirl as you break the egg in to keep its shape. The egg should take 2-3mins to cook for a soft centre. One of the options you could do is cook the pasta and sauce first and keep it warm while you then cook the eggs in order to keep the eggs warm to put them straight on the pasta (this is probably a better option)
    4. For the sauce, melt butter in a pan, then add the garlic, salt and pepper. cook till soft. Then add the cream and cook for another minute. Stir in the parsnips. 
    5. Drain the pasta reserving 2tbsp of cooking water (the starch in the water helps the sauce bind to the pasta). Add the water and pasta to the sauce and stir over the heat for about a minute.
    6. Stir through the spinach and put on the plates with the poached egg on top.
    Pecan Pie with candied bacon and bourbon whiskey ice cream
    This was inspired by the amazing pecan pie I had in one market …. So america, so decadent, soooo tasty. I like taking shortcuts sometimes (pastry from a packet is so simple and always perfect, also I have no ice cream maker) so I apologise if this dessert just seems too simple to be so delicious.

    (makes 6)
    1 packet shortcrust pastry

    • 230g dark muscovado
    • 400g golden syrup 
    • tablespoons dark rum
    • 65g softened unsalted butter
    • large eggs
    • teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • cups broken pecan nuts

    vanilla ice cream
    boubon whisky

    1. Whizz vanilla ice cream in a food processor with a shot of whisky, work quickly and don’t let it get too liquid. Return immediately to the freezer (it will be softer than regular ice cream but I needed a quick fix cheat)
    2. Roll out the dough and use it to line 6 mini pie tins. Chill
    3. Combine sugar, rum, syrup and butter in a pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, boil for 1min then set aside to cool to lukewarm (important)
    4. Beat the eggs, then combine with the syrup with vanilla, salt and nuts. 
    5. Pour into the prepared cases and bake at 180oC for 40-50mins until set but with a slight wobble in the centre. 
    6. Meanwhile cover your grill with foil and lay strips of bacon on it, season both sides of the bacon with dark brown sugar. Grill until crispy turning halfway through cooking and then chop into little pieces.
    7. Serve the pies straight from the oven with a sprinkling of bacon pieces and a scoop of bourbon ice cream – heavenly.