I used to throw away parmesan rinds as waste. Sure I might keep one or two every now and again if I knew I was making a stew and thought slipping a rind in would boost the flavour, but mainly they ended up in the bin. When I think of all those poor rinds that never got to fulfil their potential it’s more shame than one man should ever have to bear. I mean I use a lot of parmesan, in risotto, in pesto, in salads, in Bolognese sauce and even sometimes when I think no-one is looking in a folded over piece of white bread with some tomato sauce. I mean don’t judge me until you’ve tried it, and then you can, and probably will, judge me. All the while, I could have been making this parmesan broth. It’s genuinely insane – adds an umami punch to sauces, soups and stews, makes a totally knockout risotto and is actually just amazing as a standalone broth as in this recipe. All for the small price of freezing your parmesan rinds each time you use one and not wastefully throwing them away. Mea culpa, Edith Piaf notwithstanding je regrette beaucoup.
Did anyone else ever watch the British sit-com Friday Night Dinners? G and I watched it almost religiously over its far too short lifespan and it never disappointed. However, as well as being funny, it always made me feel that the Jewish tradition of a Friday Night Dinner, full of ritual and warmth would be a lovely tradition to have. It’s reflected in the show as well, that despite their gripes and the incessant bickering between the brothers (which makes the show) they also have traditions they can’t fathom not being part of their Friday night ritual. Who gets the best bit of the Challah? Who manages to pinch some of mum’s signature dish before it gets to the table? Who dares to sit in someone else’s spot at the table? Desperately impractical as an idea for most modern families, especially those with family as far flung as G’s and mine but a lovely idea all the same. We never did it growing up, our family being a mix of all sorts of beliefs and doubts that the only bastions of my father’s Judaism were the “big holidays”. Passover meal remains etched in my food nostalgia bank and I can sometimes still smell the scent of candles on Yom Kippur with my grandmother making some mysterious hand gestures over them which I’m certain to this day she made up when she first had to do it and just kept on doing the same way year after year. So, it was with a certain zeal that I approached hosting one for the first time. Some of our very dear friends are getting married this year and she has both recently converted to Judaism and returned from the US – to celebrate both we had them round and the only day that worked was a Friday. So, that’s how I ended up getting a little excited and going overboard.
G and I celebrated our three year wedding anniversary the other day having been a couple our entire adult lives. We try and go out to a really nice restaurant for our anniversaries and having spent our first year anniversary at L’enclume in Cumbria year two had a lot to live up to. However, year two we spent at the bottom of a freezing quarry near Heathrow airport qualifying for our PADI diving licences before heading to the Great Barrier Reef last Christmas. Totally worth it but not quite the culinary extravaganza of year 1. So I ended up cooking and ventured down memory lane cooking G the first thing I ever made her. Bill Granger’s sweetcorn fritters with bacon and avocado and the same dessert I made her for breakfast on the day I proposed – Pain Perdu. This year, we did both. Over the weekend we supped and drank to our hearts content at the inimitable Waterside Inn at Bray but since our anniversary fell in the middle of the week it was up to muggins here to make a meal. When I made it I wasn’t planning on adding it to the blog, and therefore there aren’t as many photos as normal and they’re a bit hastily done. However, the dish was so ruddy good that I thought I would share it anyway. Plus, as is customary here at TimedEating, it is totally stress-free on the actual day as all the work was done before I went to bed the night before. Perfect for when all you really want to be doing is sharing a glass of champagne with the love of your life. So without further gilding the lily and with no more ado (bonus points for knowing the reference without clicking the link) I give you orange and miso risotto with roasted monkfish and ikura.
G has been away a lot for work recently and so I’ve been experiencing spending large amounts of time cooking for one for pretty much the first time in my life. You see, G and I met very early at university and never lived more than about 5 minutes away from each other and I used to cook a lot for her (and others). Then G and I moved in together, got married and all the time I’m always cooking for two or more. Simple answer is cooking for one is kinda rubbish and so when G is back it’s really nice to put a bit more thought into what we’re eating – not just will it be nice, quick and easy to do after work but what does it remind me of. The upshot of that is I remembered a dish I hadn’t made since we were in second year of university. A dish that after I made it G asked me to make it again and again until I grew tired of it and forgot about it. A dish that is actually incredibly simple and quick and leaves wonderful leftovers for the next day – a dish so good that once I made it for G and we reminisced I ended up making it just for myself, over and over again because sometimes cooking for one isn’t rubbish, not when it tastes delicious, lasts for multiple days and makes you remember happy memories. So, I restarted an obsession with soba noodles and nori wrapped salmon.
In the summer, I adore a one-pot-dish that’s full of vegetables: Less washing up, a light flavour, and no long cooking times heating up our flat. This particular dish was inspired by the idea of petits pois a l’ancienne (braised lettuce with peas) which is a classic French dish often served with robust flavours like pigeon. For a brilliant example of how it is done classically, here’s one of my favourite food porn videos. I wanted a lighter version that would be perfect to serve with a delicately poached fillet of white fish – in this case cod. The end result was a super, light weeknight meal with the sweetness of leeks, saltiness of bacon, and an occasional burst of intensity from mustard seeds all paired with the gentle bitterness of braised lettuce and delicious, flaky, unctuous fish. Not to mention, unlike some other fish recipes, the cooking of the cod couldn’t be easier…
I have long shied away from writing a post about Bolognese sauce. There are a few reasons why it’s a somewhat daunting prospect. Few dishes command the stalwart fanaticism that Bolognese does. More than that, so many of these long held beliefs contradict one another: “Bolognese is only Bolognese with a glug of red wine”; “There should be no wine in Bolognese”; “I like my Bolognese to be full of tomatoes”; “Bolognese is a meat sauce and should barely have tomatoes”; “Bolognese should have a little dairy”; “Milk or cream in Bolognese is sacrilege”. It’s also very difficult to get an attractive photo of spaghetti Bolognese (most of the time it looks like an actual dog’s dinner despite how good it tastes) and so many people have written about it that it’s hard to have much new to say. However, a couple of friends asked me for the recipe, so I thought I’d offer up my contribution to the evolving Bolognese landscape and hope that if people don’t think it classifies as Bolognese they can just call it whatever they like because it’s still delicious! Also, for all those who say Bolognese is a sign that Winter is Coming, well I think you just haven’t tried stuffing squash with it – delightfully light and summery.
It’s one my life’s great pleasures to cook food for friends so it was completely remarkable to me when I learned recently that one of my oldest and dearest friends had never had any of my food. Having been friends since we were 11 both moving to the other side of the world and having shared countless restaurant meals and bottles of wine it seemed bizarre to me that the only thing I’d ever “cooked” was defrosting some frozen ravioli one very late evening in Sydney. So, to fix this long standing horror, we had his boyfriend and him round for lunch the other week. Since I’d only ever made him frozen ravioli I thought it might be nice to make some fresh. The end result was a dish that I would instantly put on my hypothetical menu at my fictional future restaurant. Deeply savoury beef shin and oxtail tortelloni with intense Jerusalem artichoke purée, roasted hazelnuts and a light tomato and basil dressing – it felt like that perfect beginning of spring dish where it’s still cold outside but you want to use the great produce that is just starting to pop up and you want it to feel light.
We had some friends round for brunch the other day, and I went a little overboard. That’s to say that, although everyone seemed to agree the food was delicious, it is in some sense a little strange to start cooking brunch two days in advance. If, however, you’re looking for a truly awesome twist on the classic bacon and eggs, this just might be the post for you. The dish was made up of a slow poached egg, sous vide thick cut bacon, caramelised onion purée, a ham hock bonbon with the caramelised onions mixed in, pavé potatoes, glazed shallots, and a ham reduction sauce. The whole idea started from watching a BBC show called Great British Menu. If you live in the UK and haven’t watched it before, it’s amazing – check it out. On that show the Head Chef of Berner’s Tavern in London, Phil Carmichael, cooked a dish based on onions, bacon and eggs (the theme of the show was celebrating OBE winners) which looked delicious. At the same time I started hearing about sous vide bacon, most notably from the folks over at chefsteps who were extolling the benefits of cooking bacon low and slow until extremely succulent before giving it a quick sear. This makes absolute sense because bacon is simply pork belly, which benefits from that cooking method, so I figured I’d give it a go. Most of the time here on TimedEating I try and steer away from recipes that use fancy cooking equipment because it’s just not very helpful to recommend using some niche bit of kit that hardly anyone has. The sous vide bacon results were pretty awesome, but then bacon is pretty awesome by itself so I’m sure this dish would still be fantastic with a nice thick slab of seared bacon instead. It does need to be quite thick cut though (around 1-1.5cm), so I recommend buying it unsliced from the butcher and slicing it at home.
This recipe is actually more of a template for a scrummy and speedy weeknight meal. Of course, I happen to think this flavour combination works really well: it’s earthy yet vibrant, hearty yet light. However, it’s not the particular combination that matters quite as much as having an easy way to create a weeknight meal quickly, without feeling monotonous and still capturing that feeling of a meal being special. Just because time is precious (especially in the working week), dinner shouldn’t have to be a one-pot-meal, stir fry, or pasta (all of which have a huge part to play in our routine). I think the combination of a vegetable purée for richness and moisture, a light vegetable element for crunch and acidity, and a quickly cooked piece of protein gives a balanced, healthy, and quick yet complex weeknight meal. So, this recipe is for quickly seared salmon with celeriac purée and soy sauce edamame, sweet corn, and tenderstem broccoli.
We’ve probably all had a Chicken Kiev at some point, and it was probably disappointing. Dry mealy chicken with a soggy crust and no discernible garlic or butter flavour but a thin layer of unidentifiable green in the middle. But done properly, Chicken Kiev can be gloriously delicious, oozing with herby garlic butter and with a moistness that beggars belief. Whipped up in under half an hour with largely pantry staples it’s a common weeknight treat in our household. G is no big chicken lover but I swear by pollo diablo (bonus points to anyone who gets the reference without clicking the link) that Chicken Kiev hits the spot every time. You can even do all the prep work in advance before people come round or whilst kids are at school. However, to make a good Chicken Kiev we must have three things – a crackingly crunchy exterior, deliciously moist chicken and a flavourful butter filling which is in every bite (not just hidden in the middle).