In the last few weeks I’ve been (albeit a little slowly) posting about a dinner party we had with some extraordinary company recently. G and I served pork bonbons with a fennel and blood orange salad to start; 72 hour beef shortrib with pickled shiitake mushrooms, star anise flavoured carrot purée and oxtail puff pastry tartine for main; and to finish, G’s molten chocolate cake with a creamy chocolate custard filling.
Tartine is historically the French word for a little tart. However, in France it now refers to a piece of grilled toast with a topping and can be sweet or savoury – think bruschetta or goat’s cheese and fig. Essentially a fancy word for an open faced sandwich. This Tartine is sort of a combination of both, a beautifully crunchy layer of pressed puff pastry is covered in an intensely savoury yet sweet, peppery pea purée and a comforting layer of braised oxtail which has been rendered deliciously smoky and slightly spicy through the addition of chipotle. Served with 72 hour beef short ribs, sherry vinegar pickled shiitake mushrooms, carrot purée and a port and beef jus it made a pretty cracking main course, but if I’m honest the tartine would have made a great meal all by itself.
Mrs Patchett’s Chicken and Leek Pies. Won’t meant much to most people, in fact if you’re not from Sydney it won’t mean anything at all. Even if you are, you probably don’t remember the name. But I do. I fell in love with those little pies. You could buy them from the local deli and every now and again mum and dad used to buy them as treats. I’d sneak them when they weren’t looking, I’d ask for them for dinner. They came in a little individual size which I used to have as treat on Saturdays after playing three games of rugby. In short Mrs Patchett’s Chicken and Leek pies were symbols of my childhood and the bar which I needed to beat if I ever were to post a recipe. The other day, I think I did just that.
Sometimes street food should be made fancy and sometimes fancy food should be sold on the street. The plethora of lobster rolls or steak tartare that you find in London street food nowadays is simply dazzling and nothing says bold like buttermilk fried chicken occurring on a tasting menu served in a Noma style bowl of branches at the London restaurant Clove Club. This pork bonbon recipe, however, is one of those beautiful things which sits in the middle. Both decadently fast food and somehow classy. Quick to finish but requiring a little bit of work to prepare. In fact, they’re so tasty that in our house they’ve replaced stuffing at Christmas – somehow stuffing balls doesn’t sound very appetising though so I’ll stick to pork bonbons!
Valentine’s day meals always end in chocolate in our house. Over the years either G or I have cooked profiteroles, chocolate cake, or chocolate pots with strawberries, and it all started with the first dessert I ever learnt to cook and had to show off immediately – chocolate fondant. This year it’s like chocolate fondant on steroids. Move over under cooked chocolate cake (don’t worry fondant, I still love you really), but in 2015 we’re making a molten chocolate custard wrapped in a crispy chocolate cake crust.When you break the crunchy, chocolate sponge exterior, out flows a rich chocolate custard. Just talking about it makes me want to bake one right now. And that’s the best bit, once you’ve done all the hard work they sit in your freezer just begging for you to pop it in the oven!
Sometimes it’s difficult to make dishes fit into the TimedEating approach of not having to do too much last minute. For others, like Beef Wellington, they’re purpose built already. Beef Wellington is that perfect dish which is incredibly tasty, not very technical and can be made ready to go into the oven up to two days before you actually cook it. It’s something for special occasions but a beef fillet (tenderloin) encased in savoury mushrooms with bacon and a crispy puff pastry filling is one of the great classics – everyone should know how to make Beef Wellington.
There’s an argument in our house, G (my darling wife) insists that the best form of potatoes of all time are roast potatoes. I think mash wins hands down. So every Christmas that we go back to Australia we have two types of potatoes on the table – the Libling family tradition of creamy mashed potatoes with slow cooked onions and peas and G’s favourite, a pile of golden roast potatoes. This year though my side of the potato argument started to get a bit more lonely – my dad deserted me to the roast potatoes camp and I think my mum did too. Only my loyal little brother remained on my side (he’s taller, stronger and broader than I am but he’s still younger and hence will always be little). I like to think they’re only deserting me because after many trials I’ve finally cracked roast potatoes – G even went so far as to say they were the best roast potatoes she’s ever had (considering she ate no fewer than 7 on Christmas day, she’s has her fair share in her time).
I used to buy Florentines with my mum from a deli in Queen Street in Sydney. Little beautiful biscuits that were so delicate and fancy. As a boy of 8 or 9 I used to wonder how on Earth they got the biscuits and chocolate so thin, crisp and delicate. They were bursting with nuts and fruit, in particular glacé cherries which are still one of my guilty favourites. One of the few sweet treats that my dad liked as well (he’s allergic to sugar) Florentines were for special occasions, if for no other reason than they made any occasion special.
This Vietnamese pork belly recipe is perfect for a mid-week meal or as a dish to serve to friends when they come round. Salty, sweet, sharp and thoroughly delicious. It’s adapted from a recipe book called Koto – it’s . A beautiful book which touches on not just stunning recipes and photos of Vietnamese food but breaks down the cuisine by region and gives you a sense of Vietnamese culture along the way. It’s quite similar in that way to the cook book Samarkand, my favourite Persian cookbook from which I’ve shared recipes before (Tahdig and Aubergine Purée). Both cookbooks were given to me by my dad who it turns out has excellent cookbook taste. However, good cookbook or no this recipe is still an absolute cracker and the sauce works brilliantly whether it’s with pork belly, chicken thighs or even (if used sparingly) some fish.
I first cooked this herb crusted cod a few weeks ago and since I’ve probably driven G to distraction cooking it again and again. It’s a perfect combination of soft, subtle cod with a crunchy and pungent herb topping, the sweet flavours of the purée and vegetables making for a light and intensely satisfying dish. However, I kept tinkering – The herb crust wasn’t quite right, should it be crunchier? Are fresh breadcrumbs better than dried? Should I cook the cod in the oven or a pan? What’s the right kind of carrot to use, and is it better cooked in a pan or vacuum packed? Is it actually better with butternut squash not carrot? How finely should I shred the cabbage to make sure it cooks in the same time as the sweetcorn? Is Sweetheart cabbage better than Savoy? Through this process I found out three things.
- It doesn’t matter really, it’s always delicious
- The whole meal takes less than 30 minutes start to finish and can be paused in such a way that it will take 10 minutes to finish
- You can have too much of a good thing