Vegetable Stock

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Vegetable Stock

Introduction

Let's be clear, our goal is to produce a clear, clean liquid which will enrich and enhance anything that it is added to, without imposing a flavour of its own. It should not be good enough to consume by itself.

I use nothing more than the cook's "holy trinity" of roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery, also known as a mirepoix which provide pleasing sweet middle tones. You can substitute half the quantity of onion with leek. The only aromatic we will use is parsley and I use just the stalks for flavour.

Tips

The proportions: one part vegetables to 10 parts water.

You cannot produce a clear and clean stock without skimming the impurities that will rise to the surface. If you don't remove this scum it will simply boil and emulsify adding it's "flavour" to your stock, this makes it nigh on impossible to achieve a clear liquid, no matter how much you filter it.

Salt. Cooks to not add salt to stock. We wait to flavour the end dish, not this one.

Pear and Chocolate Tart

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Pear and Chocolate TartPear and Chocolate Tart

Introduction

Quick Update - this was a reminder of why content should always be checked by two pairs of eyes. I went to make this the other day and realised that I had made a few chefs shortcuts, i.e. been a little lazy, so I have edited it.

There is a baker in my local French town who makes a “pain aux poires et chocolate”, that’s a croissant filled with chocolate and pears. It’s divine. This is a play on that idea, but using an open-faced tart, which allows your eyes to get excited before you taste it.

Loin of Cod or Sandre au beurre blanc

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sandre au beurre blanc

Introduction

A culinary marriage from Poitou-Charentes. You'll find this in restaurants throughout Poitou-Charentes and the Western Loire. It is often referred to as simply "poisson au beurre blanc".

Sandre English: Pikeperch or Zander is a firm and fine white fish with a delicate flavour. Fine specimens up to 1.2m (4ft) long have been caught in the Thouet river just a two minute walk from our house and the fish is common in the rivers of Poitou-Charentes. In these days of dwindling fish stocks, it is nice to offer a recipe for a fish that is delicious, plentiful and thriving. You could substitute any firm white fish but my recommendation would be loin of cod (dos de cabillaud).

Beurre blanc English: White Butter is the sauce of the region. The butter of Poitou Charentes, the first to be granted an AOC, is a pale creamy butter with a high (82%) butterfat content. It is highly prized by chefs worldwide. The sauce is actually a warm emulsion and needs to be prepared and served immediately. If left to stand it will separate.

Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu

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Duck Ragu

Introduction

In the autumn and winter I like to use whatever meat is plentiful in my ragu. Wild rabbit and wild boar (with bitter chocolate) are particular favourites, lamb shanks can be fantastic, goose too.

I made this version with duck legs mostly drumsticks, but you can substitute any of the meats mentioned above. The secret is to use cuts of meat that require long slow cooking.

Wild or domestic duck are equally good, but the wild bird will take longer to cook.

Garganelli Pasta

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Garganelli

Introduction

Garganelli is a favourite of mine and gets requested often; I think of it as the richer forerunner of penne. Making pasta like this is a labour of love, so I keep it for special occasions.

Pasta like this holds sauces well and the imperfections of hand-made pasta offer a more sensuous texture.

This pasta combines well with any meat ragu.

Sweet Potato or Squash Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Sweet Potato or Squash Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Introduction

Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to celebrate but they can also be used to innovate in the kitchen. I am happy to be constrained by “traditional” ingredients as long as I am free to choose what to do with them.

The reason for scare quotes: traditional = old bad habit, constraint and enemy of innovation; I have little time for it.

I came up with this dish for a Thanksgiving dinner in Atlanta a couple of years ago. We had sent our guests a wide list of ingredients and asked them to choose the flavours that they most associated with Thanksgiving, celebration and autumn/fall. This dish, one of many small courses that we served, was a result of their choices.

I had wanted to do something with sweet potato that showed it in a different light. The dish is equally good with sweet potato or squash, but look for a Potimarron or Hokkaido squash, they are less moist which is essential.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

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Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Introduction

This is a house speciality and one of the 'classic' variants that I mention in Spaghetti all Gricia. I tend to think of it as 'Gricia in a winter coat'.

Guanciale also known as pig's cheek bacon (guancia = cheek) is a subtle fatty meat with an un-rivalled flavour. It has started to turn up in good Italian delis, but I cure my own.

This dish is about about pasta and pork, so avoid the temptation to increase the other ingredients, you want to coat the pasta not drown it.

There is a debate as to whether this should be made with onion or garlic or a combination. I tend to use one or the other, am less happy with the result of using both. See suggestion.

Zucchini Bread with Dates & Walnuts

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Zucchini Bread with Dates & Walnuts

Introduction

At the end of our summer squash season we ended up, as you often do, with a couple of giant zucchini\courgettes. They are best eaten when smaller, but were perfect for these loaves.

To readers outside the U.S. think cake rather than bread, this is not savoury. The nearest things I can compare it to are a carrot cake and the Jamaican Ginger cakes that were popular when I was growing up in the UK.

Boeuf Bourguignon Nu or Beef Burgundy Redux

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Introduction

I have been cooking and refining this dish for years. The recipe is based upon one by Madame Germaine Carter whose 'Home Book of French Cookery' was a favourite in my teens, not only because of the recipes but also due to its narrative. Mme Carter and her co-authors were interned in a number of prisoner of war camps during World War II. During a winter of particular privation in 1941-42, a fellow prisoner suggested the book as a means to boost their flagging spirits. The book is long out of print, but copies are not hard to find.

I have included additional ingredients that you'll find in most 'authentic' recipes in the Suggestion section, but with the exception of the bread fried in bacon fat, I find them a distraction.

This dish is always better when made a day in advance.

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

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Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

Introduction

I have or thought I had a 'Zucca piena di Napoli' squash growing, a rare Italian variety with a beautiful blue-ish green hue. While I was away last week it turned a pale tan colour because it is actually butternut squash. No complaints butternut has an excellent flavour and is particularly good in risotto and soup.

I let the squash, the whopper pictured below which weighed 2.2kg (almost 5lbs), mature a day or two more on the vine and then let it sit for a couple of days once cut to allow it to dry a little. This concentrates the flavour.

Any firm autumn\winter squash will work. I am looking forward to experimenting with some of the varieties that we have planted in the kitchen garden; let's hope they don't all turn out to be butternut.

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