Category Archives: food

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.

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.

heston blumenthal kitchen wizz pro food processor review

heston blumenthal kitchen wizz pro

You may have noticed I rarely do full-on review posts like this. It’s just not my thing. I’d run out of things to say too quickly. But for this gadget I’m willing to make an exception.

You know how some kitchen gadgets get used once, and even if you like them you’ll shuffle them away to a back cupboard? Or give them away? That’s not the case with this one. This one has invaded my kitchen to the point where I’ve put others away in the loft. My beloved Kenwood Prospero has been boxed up and relegated. The Kitchen Wizz Pro is the new bad boy in town.

And “bad boy” is somewhat appropriate; as I unboxed it from it’s Heston-heavy packaging Mrs. Spud said: “it is a boy’s toy, isn’t it?” and she’s right. Finished in brushed aluminium and dark greys, heavy as hell and packed with mean looking accessories, this is not your Nan’s Moulinex. If you like your kitchen toys to have a feminine edge this is not for you. It does also weigh a ton which is extremely useful when in operation but you need to know it takes effort to get it out of the cupboard.

kitchen wizz pro accessoriesAs with many top-end gadgets, it’s the details that show you how well-crafted it is. It comes with a battery of chopping blades and attachments in their own neat box: grating blades, adjustable slicers, whisks, double choppers etc. plus a little spatula for scraping out and a cute brush for cleaning. One of my favourite gadgets is a chipper which turns potatoes into cute curved chips. Inside the chopping bowl itself is a smaller bowl you can use for working with smaller amounts of ingredients. The lid has a rubber seal so it really shuts fast. The hopper is huge (14cm!); you can fit a couple of potatoes widthways in it. The mixer also keeps a timer going as you use it so you can clock how long it’s been running.

I’ve road tested it on a whole bunch of different things: it’s taken on coleslaw, short pastry, whipping cream, cookies, whisking eggs, making onion and garlic puree, spice mixes… it’s made swift work of the lot. Pastry comes out the smoothest I’ve ever made it, all plasticine-soft. Biscuit crumbs for cheesecake bases come out like fine dust. And the sheer speed of it is terrifying. The weight keeps the gadget firmly on the counter, it’s not walking anywhere. It also cleans up as well as any other device of this nature; it is dishwasher-happy but I’d rather not put it in there to keep it as pristine as long as possible. That said water does get into the grip and I’ve no idea how to get it out of there, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

What are the downsides? I’d like to have variable speed on the mixing; it goes full whack (and scarily fast, but reasonably quietly) and comes with a pulse function, from time to time I’d prefer to use a slower speed. I can’t ignore the price: £399 RRP. It’s hardly the budget option but it really does feel like a Rolls Royce gadget and I can see it lasting for years (there is a generous 25 year warranty on the motor).

It’s fair to say I’m besotted with it and it’s one of the best kitchen gadgets I’ve ever used. Ask everyone to give you vouchers for birthday and Christmas and save up for one. It’s superb.

Thanks to Lindsey at MBA for sending me this to review. I’ve been road-testing it for about 7 weeks to give it a good going over. Read more about the Kitchen Wizz Pro at Sage Appliances. Buy online at Amazon

heston blumenthal’s lemon tart

heston blumenthal's lemon tart

Hold on to your toques, this is a Blumenthal gadget-fest. Here’s a run-down of the Heston kitchen toys employed in this recipe:

That’s a hell of a list. The odd one out in this list is the Kitchen Wizz Pro, a beast of a food processor, but more on that in a future post. I’ve also used my trusty chef’s knife, easily the best knife I’ve ever used. Most of them are Salter’s / HoMedics to celebrate the launch of their new range of Heston gadgets. It’s fair to say they’re a mixed bag.

heston blumenthal kitchen gadgets

The initial range of Heston By Salter tools are all solid: the probe thermometer, kitchen timer, fridge thermometer, oven thermometer, measuring jug, scales; all good. Some of the newer items feel superfluous. First up the adjustable rolling pin. It comes with discs that adjust the height of the pin from the surface. Genius! I was looking forward to this. As someone who is mostly terrible at pastry the ability to roll out to a consistent thickness really appealed to me. Unfortunately the pastry stuck immediately to the pin and made a complete mess. After prodding it for a while I transferred it to the pastry dish for baking and rolled it up loosely around the pin. Again it all stuck to the pin and essentially turned my smooth-plasticine dough to a patchwork quilt. Just look at the pastry in the picture, that’s supposed to be 3mm but it’s more like a centimetre! Very disappointing.

The whisk is much better, being well-balanced, sturdy and comfortable to hold when whisking an egg custard over a bain marie. The measuring spoons are a cute gimmick, in that you slide the compartment to the right measurement (e.g. 1 teaspoon, ½ tablespoon) and then drag a little lid over the powder to level it off. But a couple of things bothered me: my fingers were a little greasy from handling butter and I just couldn’t work it without putting everything down, washing hands and re-measuring. And I can’t get past the price: £17.99 RRP for two spoons when the same thing is achieved with a £1 (or less) set of plastic measuring spoons available anywhere, with the help of any knife for levelling.

Rounding out the collection are the spatulas which are quickly becoming two of my favourite things in the kitchen: with one curved end for sculpting and smoothing, and a firmer end for flipping and scraping. I use a lot of non-stick bakeware, frying pans and saucepans so having something to poke at the edges of something to flip it over is really handy. Again though I have to wince at the price: £17.99 for two spatulas isn’t great value.

All the equipment in the range is well made and thoughtfully designed, but these items are just not as “must have” as the original kitchen gadgets. They’d make great gifts though.

I used all these tools and more in making Heston’s lemon tart. There’s an awful lot of Heston in this; he spent years at the Fat Duck perfecting the ‘wobble’ in his cakes. It comes down to temperature – a tart at 70°C is perfectly set. And of course, he’s right. It’s a brilliant dessert, and the probe thermometer is the most essential gadget of them all. Just one niggle: serving with creme fraiche is a complete waste of time. Totally gets lost against the lemon flavour – don’t bother.

Heston Blumenthal’s lemon tart (serves 10 – 12):

For the pastry:

120g icing sugar

3 large egg yolks

300g plain flour

150g unsalted butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Zest of ½ a lemon, grated

For the filling:

9 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons

300g double cream

390g caster sugar

To serve:

80g caster sugar

Creme fraiche

  1. Start with the pastry: blitz the icing sugar and yolks together and set aside. In a mixer mix the flour, butter and salt until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla, lemon and yolk mixture and continue to mix until you have a smooth, soft dough. Mould into a rectangle and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. After resting, roll the pastry to 3mm (ha ha) and line it in your 20cm tart tin. Prick with a fork all over and freeze for 30 minutes. Blind bake the base for 40 minutes and trim off the excess pastry. Drop the oven to 120°C.
  3. Place the eggs and egg yolks in a bain marie and whisk together until it reaches 62°C (mine took about 10 minutes). At this point strain through a sieve, remove the bubbles from the surface with a metal spoon and pour into the pastry case. Bake until the filling reaches 70°C. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. When ready to serve, sprinkle over the caster sugar and caramelise with a blow torch. Serve with creme fraiche if you like.