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!
Beef stroganoff, you don’t think about it as a Christmas food. Largely because it’s simply not. However, the first time I ever cooked beef stroganoff it was Christmas back home in Sydney and we were in a lovely house by the beach. There was the beef stroganoff in the centre of the table standing proudly next to a pile of crab cakes, some homemade butternut squash ravioli, tomato risotto and of course the turkey, roast potatoes (extra crispy of course) and veg. It was the weirdest Christmas meal I think we’ve ever had. You see we used to have a tradition that everyone got to choose one dish and then that dish had to be cooked. It was a lovely idea, and it worked so well growing up with us all pitching in. Then one year it was really just me making it and I think that meal near the beach was just a little too strange. Anyway, that stroganoff was the last time we ever followed that tradition. We’re so spread out around the world (3 continents!) that when we come back together it’s traditional ham and trimmings. However, I’ll always remember making that first beef stroganoff by the beach and pretty much ballsing it up as I mixed it up with goulash in my head. Thankfully though, I cooked it again and again and again and the recipe I’d like to share with you today is nothing like that one. This one is one of my genuine favourite weeknight meals to cook.
I’ve slowly become a very large fan of Persian food over the last year or so. I’ve become somewhat entranced by the complex flavours and playful way that flavours and aromas are layered and melded in ways that Western food would never dare attempt. I have a couple of wonderful Persian cookbooks and one recipe had always stood out but had never been attempted – Fesenjan. Fesenjan is an intoxicatingly delicious and heady sauce/stew made from spices, walnuts and pomegranates. Fesenjan is scrumptious. Fesenjan is intriguing. Fesenjan is exotic. Fesenjan is ugly. I mean really ugly. The kind of ugly that makes you wonder if you’ve messed it up whilst cooking and should just throw it in. The kind of ugly that makes you think, “what instagram filter could make this work…maybe really dark?”. The kind of ugly that makes you know that if someone is raving about it, it must taste good!
When people think of artichokes, they only ever think of globe artichokes. You know them, the big green leafy ones that are known as impossible to prepare (always going brown, fuzzy choke to remove and lots to trim away but you need to keep the right bits). Jerusalem artichokes are their lesser known, lesser used, easier to prepare and better tasting cousins (although technically they’re not actually related at all). Maybe I like them because they’re underdogs, they’re a bit funny looking – all knobbly and a fairly unattractive purpley colour (there are two types, gerard jerusalem artichokes are purple, the others are brown), they feel like the kind of vegetables people walk past in the shops and think, “too strange, too difficult, not for me”. Well, I think that just makes me love Jerusalem artichokes even more.
Seafood pasta is a many wondrous thing – it’s almost a compulsion of mine to order spaghetti alle vongole (Clam pasta) at every restaurant that I think will serve a good one. When I’m in Italy it’s almost all I order and I never get sick of it. However, I also never really cook clams at home. At least in the UK it’s a bit difficult to source good ones. You see the beauty of that kind of seafood pasta is that the clams are super fresh and the juices that come out of them create a luscious sweet sauce. Supermarket clams just won’t do that and often become rubbery and I find it quite difficult to find the time to go a fishmonger or to Billingsgate fish market (although that’s a lovely thing to do). However, that doesn’t mean my desire for seafood pasta is in anyway lessened and so when I recently had the pleasure of stumbling across the Venetian custom of adding cinnamon to seafood I had to try it. Yes you read me correctly, cinnamon in seafood pasta. Trust me, it’s not just delicious but the spices mean you can make a few compromises on the seafood itself.
I’ve posted a few duck breast photos recently on the blog and even a couple of duck breast recipes (A duck breast salad and how to make duck ham). However, I’ve never taken the time to really focus on how to cook a duck breast really properly as I’ve always been featuring the accompaniments to the duck breast rather than the duck breast itself (Like these braised chickpeas or this ratatouille). Truth is that’s a crying shame as I love duck breast and many people don’t quite know how to cook it properly. Although it’s easy once you know how, cooking duck breast the wrong way can lead to it tasting super fatty, with flabby rubbery skin and a dry mealy ring around either a raw, overly iron tasting or equally dry and mealy centre. Another common error: people know honey and duck breast go super well together (and they do) but burnt acrid honey with undercooked duck breast is a bit much. I hope I can demystify how to turn out perfect a duck breast every time and get us cooking them more.
The other day we had some great friends round for a tapas meal and one of the couples brought their little baby J, who also happens to be my Godson. It was an absolutely lovely evening with wine flowing freely (after J was asleep of course) and great conversation. In fact, we even discovered late in the evening when J re-awoke that our spotify playlist, complete with a decent amount of electronic music, is exactly J’s jam – he was grooving far better than I ever have. It was one of those dinner parties where you really don’t want to be away from the table if you can help it. I’m lucky in that our kitchen and living room are part of one larger room so you still feel somewhat part of it, but, even still, you want to be at the table with a glass of bubbles firmly grasped. Thus, it was somewhat ambitious that I decided to cook tapas (as well as a starter and dessert – OK, G did the dessert of course). All in all that meant 7 dishes and a dessert – this one pushed doing it in advance to the limit!