Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Loosely based on a Fat Duck this is dedicated to my mum – Happy Mothers Day.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Lamb
2tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 juniper berries
dash lemon juice
800g rolled, boned lamb breast, cut in half widthways to make two pieces
Pea Puree
300g frozen peas
½ garlic stock cube (or 2 cloves crushed garlic)
pinch of salt
60g butter
dash of cream
dash lemon juice
4 sprigs dill
Caramelised Onion Gel
1 large white onion
1 large red onion
knob of butter
1 leaf gelatine
Pickled Cucumber
¼ cucumber stick
100ml olive oil
100ml white wine vinegar
black pepper
splash of lemon juice
3 sprigs dill
pinch of salt (3g)
pinch of sugar (5g)
Lamb Jus
Reserved caramel onions
Reserved lamb juice
Spelt Poppadoms
200g flour
water
oil
1tsp fennel seeds
50g spelt
pinch of salt


1.     For the Pickled Cucumber, peel and halve the cucumber lengthways. Halve lengthways again then halve widthways. Mix the oil, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, salt, sugar and cucumber. Leave to marinate.
2.     For the Caramelised Onion Gel, peel the onions and slice into rings thinly. Put in a frying pan with the butter and cover, leaving over a low heat for 30mins. When the onions are golden and caramelised, remove from the heat and pour over 150ml water immediately, then cover. Leave for 5mins, and then drain the onions, reserving the liquid. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 1min then mix into the onion liquid. Place in the fridge for 1-2hrs until set*. Puree the remaining onions and reserve.
3.     For the Puree, Pour boiling water over the peas with the garlic. Leave for 3-5mins, topping up with boiling water if the water goes cold, until the peas are a bright green and do not feel frozen but feel a little tender. Drain and puree wit the butter and cream, leave aside.
4.     For the lamb, place in a shallow dish and pour over the spices. Then pour over boiling water and leave for 7mins.
5.     For the Poppadoms’, mix the flour, salt, fennel seeds, 2tbsp oil and spelt with water, adding until it forms a firm dough (roughly 100ml-200ml water). Split into 3 pieces and roll out thinly. Heat up 3tbsp oil in a pan till hot, fry each piece for 4mins until crispy, turning halfway.
6.     For the lamb, drain and reserve the liquid. Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and sear the lamb for 2-3mins on each side. Meanwhile mix the onions and 300ml reserved lamb liquid and heat to boiling, simmering for 5mins until it forms a jammy gravy.
7.     To serve, warm the pea puree and spoon a large teardrop onto the right side of the plate. Delicately place four cucumber pieces on the left of the tear drop on each plate at different angles. Chop each lamb piece into four slices and lay on top of the teardrop. Gently spoon over the gravy on the lamb. Spoon out dabs of the Caramelised onion gel and dot between the cucumber Finally break up the poppadum and place a shard between each lamb slice facing upwards, finish with dill sprigs.

*alternatively place in freezer for 30-40mins
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Crème Fraiche takes centre stage

Crème Fraiche takes centre stage
It gets to a point when you have been cooking for your parents through your teenage years that you realise when you leave for university; it’s not you who might be unable to survive but your parents. Occasionally I wonder if I should have weaned them off my cooking gently so as to prevent occasions such as the time my dad had to send his secretary out for a croissant because inexplicably the cereal wasn’t on the table for breakfast and he had no idea where we kept it. My mother is semi-domesticated, she has a talent for washing and ironing (at which I am abysmal), unloading and loading the dishwasher, boiling eggs and making coffee, but I am not sure she knows how to grocery shop after years of my sister and I taking control. You would think that shopping online would be simple, but having learnt the basics of technology (we taught her how to make animated PowerPoint’s a while ago), Internet shopping may be one technological step too far. I have taken to picking up food on the way home from university just to make sure I have something for breakfast the next day having come home too many times to an empty fridge save a little mouldy cheese and a bottle of salad dressing we can’t seem to shift. It’s no wonder the fridge has started leaking, I expect it’s feeling unloved. To be fair to my parents they both have jobs where lunch is provided and dinner is quite often offered too. There will come a time where they will need to cook for themselves (well unless I really fail in life and am living at home at the age of 30), which is hopefully where this blog will come in handy.
Once again I am staring into the fridge hoping for a little inspiration when my mum enters the kitchen. ‘I was so pleased to see you bought crème fraiche I really like crème fraiche. When you weren’t here we had some with jacket potatoes’ she states proudly, before promptly walking out of the kitchen. ‘I’m off to finish writing the book’. (I would just like to say that she did indeed finish the book that evening, so this dish was celebratory). There I have it, my inspiration, Crème Fraiche. Not usually the central component of a dish so I routed around in the freezer for something a little more focused. I find prawns and peas and decide that this was all coming together nicely. Add the remainder of those damn endless preserved lemons and you have a prawn, pea, lemon, crème fraiche risotto.
So I fried garlic in a large chunk of butter, throw in a bay leaf, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lots of pepper. (It is worth mentioning at this point that you could add an onion here. My dishes tend to not include onions. My Dad refuses to eat them and he can spot them a mile off. In fact he removed all of the preserved lemon pieces methodically from this dish before being told that they were in fact not onions, at which point he ate them up without a word. Why he claims he likes onions I have no idea……) I added the risotto rice to the pan and stirred it for a bit before gradually adding fish stock, stirring till I got a thick risotto. I added a few frozen prawns, the peas, and a couple of mange tout pieces before stirring in more black pepper and the crowning glory – the crème fraiche-. It wasn’t half bad, although there is still a half full pack of crème fraiche left to eat….

A Dean’s Dinner

A Dean’s Dinner
            ‘The Dean is coming to dinner on Saturday’ my mother announces walking in to the kitchen on Thursday, ‘would you mind???” I know my place. I also know I would not be keen for the reputation of the cooking in this household to be totally ruined, especially because the Dean is a fellow foodie. The limitations are as follows, I have two days only, I would like to join in the fun and chat and we need little to no leftovers because we leave for Lincoln the next morning. Challenge accepted. So I do my research on the Great British Menu website and find three manageable recipes that appear to fit all my restrictions.
            I find recipes can be adapted as to how you feel, but sometimes they can be useful. When following recipes I tend not to measure things out and often if I think extra herbs or spices should be added I do. For the first course – Scallops with celeriac and truffle puree, apple caramel and apple jelly- http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/scallop-celeriac-recipe– I learned the best way to cook scallops perfectly. 30secs on a searing heat before flipping them and putting them in the oven for 1 min, every time.

            The Duck course was the biggest success, further proof that often the simplest dish can be the most effective if the flavours are right. Duck with braised lettuce, pea and bacon. If anybody is planning on going on come dine with me anytime soon I strongly advise you take a similar view to me and always slow cook, because the most irritating thing to do during a dinner party is frazzle your hair, melt your make up and set the fire alarm off while overcooking a piece of meat. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/slow-cooked-gressingham-duck-legs-recipe
For the carb garnish I turned to Nigella, a women who taught me that butter is the answer to everything with her really quick roast potatoes, another cheat. The only thing I did different from her simple method of deep frying gnocchi was use a dash of truffle oil and add garlic to the oil for flavour, delicious.
            For the final course I wanted to do something unusual (although I’m not sure anything can top the pigs ears I once insisted upon serving up for one of my parents dinner parties, thank you so much to them for putting up with that). I chose an Avocado mousse with dark chocolate ganache but decided that that simply wasn’t enough. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/avocado-lime-chocolate-parfait-recipeSo I accompanied the dish with a raspberry coulis, chocolate shard and pine nut brittle for added crunch, surprisingly delicious. (although it did melt a little in the heat of the kitchen). 

Pea Pesto and Billionaire’s Shortbread

The main issue with starting to have a reputation among your friends as a chef is that they tend to expect a lot from you when you cook for them. Earlier this summer I was staying with friends while working at a catering and events company. There were often up to 10 of us staying in the house all out working during the day, so the obvious solution to getting everybody fed at the end of the day was a food rota. When it came to my turn I was faced with the task of cooking not only for 10 people, but also a vegetarian. While I was perfectly happy cooking chicken for the majority, cooking a vegetarian dish (especially one that excluded quite a lot of cheese that I found out is in fact not vegetarian) pushed me out of my comfort zone. At this point I came across a golden recipe that I have used many times now to a great reception. It’s good with pasta, on toast and even just on it’s own.
Pea Pesto
180g Peas, defrosted
35g Pine Nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, crushed
handful mint
handful parsley
80ml olive oil
2 pinches sea salt
pepper
1.     Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz till smooth
While working at my internship I relished in being incredibly busy all day, like my mother and sister I find it hard to stop once I’ve started moving around. So on my days off I usually had no idea what to do. Alone in someone else’s house is a bit disconcerting anyway but with the nearest town a train ride away I tended to get a little bored. So I decided to bake. However my baking was limited to the ingredients of the corner shop 20mins down the road. I decided in the end the best idea would be to combine some of my favourite flavours, shortbread, peanuts and chocolate and hope that it turned out alright. This time it worked and one of my hosts nicknamed it the Billionaire’s Shortbread.
Billionaires Shortbread
For the base
230g unsalted butter, softened
140g brown sugar
340g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
For the topping
115g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
115g honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
140g salted roasted peanuts
60g unsalted cashews

100g milk chocolate chips

1.     Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
2.     Cream butter and sugar together till smooth. Add in flour and salt to make a crumbly dough.
3.     Press the dough into the tin, then prick the top with a fork.
4.     Bake for 20mins till golden brown
5.     Meanwhile combine the butter, sugar, honey and cream over a low heat and stir. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 minute.
6.     Take it off the heat and stir in the nuts.
7.     Remove the base from the oven and immediately pour the topping over.
8.     Return to the oven and bake for 20mins.
9.     As soon as you take it out of the oven sprinkle over the chocolate chips and leave to cool.
10.When cool chop into squares.