I love oranges. That sticky feeling as the sweet juice dribbles down your chin. The decision as to how many slices to cut it into. The inevitable orange skin mouthguard or dracula teeth. They bring back memories of halftime in rugby as a kid; that muddy exhausted feeling where you felt if you just had one more orange slice who knew what superhuman feat might happen back on the field. I remember the afternoons when you’d come home from school to find that mum or dad had bought a crate of oranges and you just knew you’d be having orange juice for breakfast, oranges in your lunch box and oranges for afternoon tea, but you’d still want more. I remember driving around Queensland with G shortly before we starting living together and finding vendors by the side of the road with so much produce they didn’t know what to do with it. Eating them with a pineapple from that same street vendor in the dusty carpark of a camp site with the person you loved and being intensely satisfied by the simplicity of what you were eating. However, since moving to the UK, I’ve found it hard to replicate those same intensely satisfying orangey feelings – whereas oranges in Australia are amazing, oranges in the UK are simply nice. Reflections of an ideal orange, memories, but not the real thing. This salad has changed all that. With a little help from some friends, it covers up all the blemishes of a UK orange and creates the kind of salad which transports me back to those rich memories. Refreshing, delicious, simple. So simple I almost feel guilty sharing it here as a recipe. But then if you enjoy it half as much as I do it’s worth sharing.
Couscous is one of those foods that G didn’t used to like. She’s not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination, but if there was a choice between couscous and pretty much any other filling side the couscous was being left on the bench. So that meant I didn’t really cook it much. To be frank, I could see her point – it’s so often dry and mealy with very little flavour and feels like it’s just there because someone thought their tagine needed a side dish more authentic than rice. Also, why would you go with couscous when you could eat a different more flavoursome grain like freekeh, farro, or Israeli couscous? Well, this all changed when we went to Morocco and realised we’d never had real couscous before. In Western countries we buy instant couscous and it struggles to match the heights of the slow steamed version. Although that is delicious, it’s very time consuming and non-instant couscous is actually hard to buy so I wanted to make instant work. Despite what the guy in this video might say you can make instant couscous delicious! After a few early blander versions, I’ve come up with a few rules that have transformed both G and myself into die hard couscous converts. It can be completely delicious whilst still being fast and easy, can be made in advance for a picnic, is delicious the next day, and goes with everything. It’s so good that if I came home after a few tipples and saw both leftover couscous and left over Chinese food in the fridge, the Chinese food will still be there in the morning!
I love chicken and leek pie. I’ve posted chicken and leek pie recipes which avoid the starchy nature some commercial ones have. I have fond chicken and leek pie memories dating back to Mrs Patchett’s chicken and leek pies in Sydney and I obsessively order them if they’re on a menu. However, Chicken Pastilla may be my new favourite chicken pie. Well I say pie, for me a pie has to have a pastry base and lid (The English obsession with pot pies baffles me). Chicken pastilla fails this test as it is more open topped. However, despite its dubious pie credentials, it’s still delicious and has me questioning life long allegiances so I think it’s worth writing about. At its heart it’s braised chicken thighs with warming Moroccan spices and citrus notes wrapped in filo pastry tasting slightly of beurre noisette. Frankly, of course it’s delicious – I mean how could it not be.
Pavé potatoes are something I hadn’t heard of until recently. I mean really outside of professional cooks who has heard of pavé potatoes and what even are they? Pavé is French for paving stone and in culinary terms generally refers to a slice. In this case, pavé potatoes are layered a bit like dauphinoise or boulangère so they’ve got lots of very thin slices on top of each other cooked with a bit of butter. Served like that they’re delicious and rich but to really push them over the edge you cool them down, slice them thickly (like a pavé stone) and roast them until crisp and crunchy. At that point they’re the single most decadently delicious roast potato you’ve ever had, somehow creamy and crisp at the same time, buttery and sweet yet savoury and intense. I mean pavé potatoes, who knew and if they knew why didn’t they tell me sooner?
Cabbage is one of those vegetables I didn’t know I loved until I came to the UK. I liked it in Sauerkraut, Bigos and Kimchi but hadn’t really had it plain as it’s not a very popular side dish in Australia. When I had eaten it, it was invariably boiled until almost mushy and was rather bland until it was smothered in butter and salt at which point it just tasted like butter. However, this all changed because of my wife. My wife loves cabbage, I mean she really loves it which is why it turns up in so many TimedEating posts (Herb Crusted Cod and Duck breast being just a couple of examples). Therefore I learnt to cook it and have been asked by a couple of people how – so I figured I’d write a quick post about it as it’s all in what method you use.
I don’t know when I started loving mushrooms. I remember as a kid reviling at their slippery nature and finding them bland. Partly it was how they were cooked and partly I’m pretty sure I just didn’t like them. Then, when I was about ten years old I went to a restaurant called Bill’s in Queen Street, Sydney. I didn’t order the mushrooms, I had the sweetcorn fritters with avocado and bacon which to this day remains one of the truly great breakfasts the world over (and coincidentally the first thing I ever cooked for my wife). However, my dad had sourdough toast with mushrooms and avocado and I had a bite and from there the love affair with mushrooms started. They were meaty yet subtle, tender yet robust and all while being deeply earthy. Now I add them to dishes left right and centre like the recent tahini crusted beef which gets a big umami kick from shiitake mushrooms. Normally I’m in favour of pan roasting them until they’re deeply browned like you would for mushrooms on toast or a good beef stroganoff. However, here I wanted to share a different method for cooking mushrooms, one that’s super easy, very quick and is so versatile that you can use it in dishes as varied as soup, beef wellington, ravioli, pasta sauce, risotto, a dip, mixed into stews or even a crackingly good fried snack with beer. Oh, and it only takes 15 minutes and doesn’t have any ingredients except mushrooms.
A wonderful friend of ours turned 40 recently, and at the last minute we decided to join him in Madrid to celebrate. That’s the kind of last minute decision I love about the UK – it’s so close to Europe and cultural diversity is never more than a moment away. That same friend recently got married to his awesome partner, and the wedding was a really beautiful affair with around 20 people and at least 12 different nationalities – only one person was born in Britain – and there were more cohesiveness and shared values around the table than most weddings I’ve been to. In light of both glorious occasions, I thought I’d share a little about Madrid and the beautiful cultural and culinary experience we had there.
Confit salmon was one of the first things that I cooked and thought, “huh, not everything fancy has to be hard”. It sounds fancy – it looks a little fancy and it tastes a bit fancy. But really it’s perfect to do for guests or a special dinner and the hardest part about it is not letting the cooking oil get too hot. I like to serve it with a vanilla mayonnaise, some cucumber pickled in cucumber syrup and a little grapefruit for a subtle play of contrasts against the meltingly tender fish. However, you could just as easily serve it wish a simple fennel salad (As the great Wakuda Testuya does) or you can even lightly smoke them and serve them with a sweetcorn velouté and toasted hazelnuts. You can mix up how you flavour the confit salmon itself. I infuse the oil with citrus and lemon thyme but you could spice it up with dried chillies and szechuan peppercorns and serve it with a soy honey dressing and some pak choi for an Asian twist. I guess all I’m really saying is it’s pretty versatile and once you’ve learnt the technique you can play around to your heart’s content and people will be super impressed.
After a few helpful beers, a friend and I got to talking about our perfect meal. For me, the more I’ve had to drink the more I gravitate towards slabs of slow cooked meat, in particular ribs. One of the truly great eating experiences is a full rack of Hurricanes’ beef ribs on Bondi Beach in Sydney. It’s not that they’re the best ribs I’ve ever had – they’re definitely good but they’re not the best. It’s not even that they come with beautiful buttered corn on the cobs (or is that corns on the cob?). It’s the whole experience of getting messy and tearing into them until you’re almost ready for a food coma, all the while staring at a beautiful beach on which afterwards you know you’ll sunbathe until you no longer feel like moving will kill you. At which point you’ll bravely decide that the sea looks inviting only to quickly realise you maybe need a bit more of a lie-down on the hot sand. The more beers I’ve had the more that sounds like heaven. However, my friend was resolute. In the particular lilting tones that only a drunk Irishman can possess, he waxed lyrical about proper British food; custard and spotted dick, pies and stews, fish and chips. But two dishes rose above all the rest – the humble scotch egg and the majestic Beef Wellington. So, fair’s fair, I said he should come round one day and I’d cook them for him and a couple of mates, and we’d wash it all down with a Lemon Tart.
Everyone has a recipe for marinated chicken thighs and this is mine. It’s a one pot meal. It is delicious and quick and easy. It ticks all the buzzwords necessary for a mid-week meal. It’s perfect if you’re cooking for a whole family and if you’re cooking for one or two it also just seems to work. Basically, you can customise this recipe to work for you – throw in some chillies if you want a bit of spice, if you don’t like leeks, onions, or potatoes then try sweet potatoes with sweetcorn or caramelised mushrooms with cabbage and bacon. You can put whatever flavours tickle your fancy into this wonderful marinated chicken dish. That being said, there are a few basic principles to follow and a few choices to make along the way. I’m going to be focusing on a recipe for pomegranate molasses marinated chicken with cinnamon, orange, and vegetables, but the tips and tricks will work for almost any flavour combination you fancy!