chicken with sherry and cream

chicken with sherry and cream

Two thirds of the post title are wrong. This is my take on a Heston Blumenthal recipe so read on to find out what I’ve changed…

I’ve read Heston at Home a bunch of times but I’ve always glossed over this recipe. The picture isn’t very appealing – in fact you can barely see the dish. It took good old In Search of Heston blogging it to make me give it a go. Handily, they’d pointed out a few quirks in the method worth noticing so I’m totally surfing their experience here. Such as using an expensive sherry – no way am I buying booze for a one-off but I always keep a bottle of Marsala on hand for cooking. And using double cream is just too indulgent, so I went for creme fraiche. Seem like reasonable substitutions to me. There’s a brining stage too which I went for but you can skip if you’re short on time.

There’s also a heart wrenching moment after you’ve simmered diced veg in the broth that you’re supposed to throw the vegetables away. No chance am I binning that goodness and frankly, money. I chose to blitz this up my trusty Kitchen Wizz Pro which thickens the sauce and makes it more wholesome.

joel robuchon chicken bouillonThis recipe also gave me the opportunity to try a product I think Heston would approve of. Joel Robuchon chicken boullion comes in these giant tea bags that you poach gently. I admit to being skeptical – it had the whiff of duff endorsement about it. But it creates a surprisingly interesting flavour, wholesome but clean-tasting. A step above a stock cube for sure.

The finished dinner is rib-sticking and gorgeous. In fact, to be thrifty I’d get to the point where the chicken is cooked and stop there. You’d have a delicious cream of chicken style soup, plus some poached chicken portions for other recipes. The broth really is delicious, I had to shoo Mrs Spud away from the wooden spoon. In fact, I think the finishing touches of mustard, cheese and truffle oil are completely superfluous and the parmesan in particular only serves to muddy the taste. Next time I’d skip the garnish (apart from the parsley – needs that fresh edge to it).

I served mine with sweet potato mash and petits pois a la francais, but you definitely need some greens on there to offset your carb intake!

Creamy chicken with Marsala (serves 4):

6 chicken thighs

A brine of 8% salt, 50g brown sugar and 1 star anise

1 red onion, sliced

1 leek, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, bashed

300g Marsala wine

500g chicken stock

250g creme fraiche

200g chestnut mushrooms

6 rashers streaky bacon

20g parmesan, grated

5g Dijon mustard

Dash of truffle oil

Parsley, chopped

  1. Place the chicken in the brine, chilled, for 6 hours, not too much longer as it’ll be too strong. Drain and pat dry when ready.
  2. Season the chicken with flour, salt and pepper and fry in a large casserole dish with a little butter until golden. Remove from the pan to one side, and gently fry the onions, leek and garlic for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Add the Marsala to the casserole pan, crank up the heat and set alight. When the flames have died down turn the heat back down and add the stock and creme fraiche. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan, cover and roast for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked to 70°C throughout. Allow the chicken to rest and cool to room temperature in the liquid.
  5. Remove the chicken, pour the liquid & veg into a food processor and blitz until fine. Pour this back into the casserole pan and boil until reduced by half. Resist all urges to drink from the dish. Meanwhile, fry the bacon and mushrooms until tender, then add to the casserole pan. Stir through the cheese and mustard and pop the chicken back in to warm through. Serve garnished with chopped parsley.

beef rendang

brisket beef rendang thai curry

When Jamie started banging on about using brisket to save money, I didn’t need any convincing. I’ve been a fan of this largely ignored beef cut for years; I’ve got 5 or 6 recipes around here somewhere including the mighty cholent, a very popular dinner in this house.

I bought a lovely 2.5kg piece for £19, divided it up and froze half. I roasted the other half to serve 4 people generously and still had four portions left. Two of them ended up in this beef rendang. I don’t often get out to a Thai restaurant but this is my go-to order. It’s a thick, rich and deeply coconutty curry with a low, slow-burning heat.

And this recipe is a blinding version of it. As with every single Jamie recipe in existence I’ve dialled the heat right down but it still packs a spicy punch that really delivers. This one is going on regular rotation in my house.

Based on a recipe from Save with Jamie.

Beef rendang (serves 2):

250g shredded brisket (any cooked beef will do, or you could fry some strips of steak instead)

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

300ml coconut milk

200ml beef stock

1 lime

Flatbreads or tortillas, coriander leaves and more lime wedges on the side

Coconut rice to serve

For the paste:

1 red onion

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of fresh coriander

  1. Blitz the paste ingredients together with the coriander stalks in a food processor with some salt. Add some oil to a pan and fry this paste off for about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the beef, stock and coconut and bring to the boil. Simmer for another 15 minutes, grate in the lime zest and add lime juice to taste. Season and serve with rice, flatbreads, coriander leaves and rice.

turkey masala burgers

turkey masala burgers with sweet potato wedges and cauliflower pickle

A turkey isn’t just for Christmas. It’s for all year round.

That was the message put out by the British Turkey board. Headed up by Paul Kelly – a good Essex boy – me and a bunch of others were entertained as a guest of Cyrus Todiwala to help promote the use of turkey throughout the year. Cyrus was an affable host, preparing dinner and chatting away. We were blown away by dishes like turkey heart pie and turkey cafreal tikka. All of us were stuffed with the amount of turkey dishes served, it really did showcase the bird!

It inspired me to cook an Indian-flavoured dinner. I have to be honest and say I’d not used turkey outside of December for a few years; it’s appearance in supermarkets seems to have declined. I would quite often but the breast strips for marinating, stir frying or for pies. Using mince here I made a burger with rich masala flavours, inspired by Cyrus Todiwala’s tikka recipe. I marinated mine in clotted cream, because I had some knocking about, but traditionally you’d use yoghurt.

My turkey here was succulent and meaty, and supported by spiced flavours it was a real hit. I will definitely be putting turkey in my basket more regularly.

Based on a recipe by Cyrus Todiwala

Turkey masala burgers (serves 4):

800g British turkey mince

¼ teaspoon turmeric

2 heaped tablespoons clotted cream

40g ginger

4 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon red chilli powder

Juice of 1 lime

½ teaspoon garam masala

For the sweet potatoes:

5 sweet potatoes, scrubbed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

For the cauliflower pickle:

400g frozen cauliflower

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ red onion, peeled and sliced

Burger buns and mango chutney, to serve

  1. Season the mince with the turmeric and plenty of salt and pepper. Combine well then form into 4 patties, and leave covered in the fridge while you make the marinade.
  2. Bash up the garlic and ginger with the cumin, coriander and chilli powder in a pestle and mortar until you have a paste. Add the lime juice and cream and mix well to combine. Smother the turkey patties in the marinade, cover (twice!) and leave in the fridge overnight.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C, get a saucepan over a high heat and the grill on medium high. Slice the potatoes into wedges, dust with the cumin and drizzle with oil. Roast for 30 – 40 mins, turning frequently until starten to blacken at the edges. Sprinkle salt over as they come out of the oven.
  4. When the potatoes are in the oven, put the onion in a bowl with the vinegar and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add the cumin and nigella seeds to the saucepan and allow to heat for a minute. Add the cauliflower and jam the lid on. Toss frequently and cook for about 15 minutes or until tender. Add the onion for the last minute of cooking and check for seasoning.
  6. Grill the burgers for about 6 – 9 minutes each side, until browned and cooked through. Serve in a toasted burger with plenty of mango chutney.

bbt tortilla

bacon broccoli tomato tortilla

What a great year it’s been for tomatoes. The plants in my garden have been raving with fruit, and they’ve been bursting with sweetness. A really bumper crop. Most of them have ended up in pasta sauce and pizza topping but these ones were deserving of a little more.

And so I happened across a recipe for a “BLT tortilla” in the SORTED cookbook but didn’t fancy rocket in mine, so some frozen broccoli jumped in instead. Coupled with refreshing, sweet tomatoes what you get is a portable and tasty lunch that’d be great in a picnic or easily upgraded to main meal status with a decent salad.

BBT tortilla (serves 4 – 6):

6 rashers smoked bacon, diced

About 12 frozen broccoli florets

8 eggs

A couple of handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

A handful of grated parmesan

  1. Get a frying pan over a high heat and preheat the oven to 180°C. Add a dash of oil to the pan and fry the bacon briskly until coloured, and then add the broccoli. Stir fry until the broccoli has started to soften.
  2. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the parmesan, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour this and the tomatoes into the pan, and take this opportunity to space the veg around the pan evenly. When that’s done transfer to the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the wobble has just gone. Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.

roasted new potatoes

roasted new potatoes with rosemary and thyme

For all the different things I make on this blog, I do still love a roasted potato as often as I can. Usually fluffy varieties are the ones, but a new potato can be a great alternative if treated right. Although to be honest slathering anything in rosemary, garlic and thyme is often a good idea.

hidden valley ranch dressingReally though, I made these as a vehicle for ranch dressing. When relatives come back from the States they bring food gifts like sweets, and the occasional sachet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. It’s MSG-tastic but when made up with mayo and milk makes a creamy, thick and delicious dip that goes well with crudites, salad potatoes, crisps, salad, chicken, green veg… it’s really good stuff.

Roasted new potatoes (serves 4 as a side dish):

250g new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

3 cloves garlic, squashed

3 sprigs rosemary

2 sprigs thyme

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Heat a large lidded casserole on a hob and add a little oil and a knob of butter. Add the herbs and garlic, fry for 30 seconds and then add the potatoes. Turn several times in the flavoured oil to get them started, then cover and transfer to the oven.
  2. Roast for 35 – 45 minutes, turning occasionally until browned and fudgy in the middle. Serve with ranch dressing.

beef madras

beef madras curry from sorted food

YouTube is quickly giving rise to a whole new breed of superstar; the self-made vlogger. From NineBrassMonkeys to Periodic Videos, if you’ve got something to say there’s a place for your voice. And if people like you, you’ll build a following (a quick shout out to my great mate MeganIsSleeping – go watch, subscribe and like!). This of course allows room for all hobbies, including food and cooking. I’ve given it a try myself but struggle to make it work. Some people that have found the magic formula are Sorted Food. With nearly half a million subscribers and over 35 million combined views, they’re clearly doing something right.

I was sent a printed copy of Sorted Food’s Food with Friends. On first pass everything reads a little ordinary, but looking again there’s surprising time-saving ingenuity at play – tapenade as a duxelle substitute in a Wellington, tinned oysters in a gratin, BLT in tortilla form. In terms of writing all the instructions are bold and brash with laddish overtones, featuring plenty of SQUEEZE this and SPLASH that. There’s definitely a debt to Jamie Oliver in the style, but it may put some off.

As a fan of the channel, Spud Jr took over this one. We left this simmering for 90 minutes but there was definitely something missing from the flavour, it lacked depth. I had to tone down the chilli content for the family so the tomato was the dominant flavour. It took a little boost from powdered coconut to add a rich sweetness (I love  this stuff from Maggi’s and have always got a box handy for coconut rice, Thai dishes or cake mixes). The instructions are slightly off on this recipe, referencing a paste which you may not realise you’ve just created in previous steps. My beef also wasn’t tender in 90 minutes, so this recipe would need someone confident dealing with casseroling meat to know it may take longer. I reckon with patience 4 hours would make this melting and delicious.

This are nitpicks really, from someone who’s spent a long time in the kitchen. If you’re looking for a great core of recipes you’re likely to actually want to make in an accessible style, this would be a good start. With recipes at the more humble end of budgets and a focus on fast food (the good kind!), this would be a great book to slide into a student’s bag before they head off to Uni (or gift them the Kindle version).

If you want to give it a try, The Ultimate Barbie from the Sorted crew is free to download for Kindle. Thanks to Penguin for the book.

Beef madras (serves 4):

2 onions, peeled

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon chilli powder

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lemon

800g diced beef

4 tablespoons tomato puree

200ml beef stock

1 tin tomatoes

2 tablespoons powdered coconut

For the leek garnish:

½ a leek

1 tablespoon cornflour

  1. Get a large lidded casserole on the hob over a high heat. Season the beef and fry all over until browned.
  2. While the beef browns, in a food processor blitz the onion, garlic and ginger to a paste. Add the salt and some pepper, the chilli, coriander, lemon and fennel and whizz for a second or two to recombine. Add this to the browned beef and continue to fry until fragrant.
  3. Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and stock, stir well to combine and then cover. SImmer on a low heat for 60 minutes and stir in the coconut. After 90 minutes check to see if the beef is tender.
  4. For the leek garnish, slice the leek into fine strips and dust with cornflour. In a generous amount of oil fry the leek strips for a minute on each side then drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and scatter over the curry. Serve with creme fraiche and basmati rice.

m&m’s cheesecake

m & m cheesecake with pop tart base

The in-laws recently returned from the States laden with ‘candy’. I had to resist the urge to cram it all down my throat in one go, and decided to turn some of it into a cheesecake.m&m cheesecake

There was all sorts in there. Pop Tarts (are they still around over here? The most absurd excuse for breakfast ever), Baby Ruths, random chocolates and quirky flavour M&Ms: peanut butter; and pretzel. Both were interesting and the peanut butter ones have that moreish salt/sweet character.

I thought I’d whack some of the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Pop Tarts *COUGHoreoCOUGH* in the base and was surprised how well they worked. With the aforementioned peanut butter M&Ms providing a little burst every so often, the peaches were helping offset some of the guilt and help cleanse the mouth.

Not an everyday treat, but very enjoyable.

M&M cheesecake (serves 6 – 8):

For the base:

Cookies & Cream Pop Tarts

50g Bourbon biscuits

15g butter, melted

For the filling:

150ml double cream

150g cream cheese

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 bags Peanut Butter M&M’s

To finish:

1 tin of peaches, drained

  1. Whizz the Pop Tarts and biscuits together to dust and stir in the butter. Pack into an 18cm springform tin and place in the freezer.
  2. Whisk the cream, cream cheese and sugar together until completely smooth, then stir in the M&M’s. Pour this on top of the biscuit base, cover and leave in the fridge for at least two hours.
  3. Before serving, arrange the peaches on top.