I’ve been absorbed by the always-absurd Masterchef: The Professionals. Current professional chefs take part in elimination challenges under the bellow of Gregg Wallace and the bird-like gaze of Michel Roux Jr. It really only needs the super-intelligent yet engaging Michel, Gregg only serves to bark out a repeat of what the other guy just said.
One of the challenges for the wannabe Micheliners is to reproduce a ‘classic’ recipe under a time limit to test their skills. This week Michel announced that they would be making a ‘far breton’ or Brittany Cake. I’d never heard of this but it sounded delicious, so I set Google Chrome to work to find me a recipe. I devoured half a dozen or so to get the gist and then thought about how to make it my own. It’s a kind of yorkshire-puddingy type dessert with fruit in. I decided on mixed dried fruit (as I had it to hand) and ditched the prunes (as not enjoyed in my house) and substituted apples.
The result was very tasty, but already I’m planning my next one. It didn’t quite rise enough so I’ll return to my standard yorkie recipe, and try a different pan – my mix started to leak underneath and make battery tentacles on the baking tray! Still, nice and sweet and just right for this time of year.
70g caster sugar
Few drops vanilla essence
35g plain flour
Pinch of salt
Handful dried mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas etc.)
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 tablespoons marsala wine
- Cream the butter and half the sugar together. Add in the flour, vanilla essence, eggs and salt and mix to a smooth batter. Refrigerate while you get on with everything else.
- Soak the mixed fruit in water for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Fry the apples in a dry pan with the rest of the sugar until they start to become tender. Add the fruit and their water and bubble until the liquid is reduced.
- Add the marsala wine and bubble fast until almost dry. Leave to one side to cool.
- Mix the fruit in with the batter and pour into a greased baking dish. Bake until browned and a skewer comes out of the cake clean (about 45 mins).
- Serve dusted with icing sugar. Good with custard too!
This is yet another delve into Jamie Oliver’s latest book, Jamie’s America. I’d bought a whole chicken at the weekend to wanted to portion it up for use throughout the week. Here the wings and one breast went into a soupy, veggie oven-baked dish, browning off while leaking their savoury juices into the broth. I made a few of my own tweaks, leaving out sweet potatoes (not a favourite of mine since the rancid ‘Barefoot Contessa’ destroyed it in a recipe of hers I recreated) and substituting carrots. Otherwise it’s essentially sliced carrots and sliced potatoes baked in chicken stock with some oregano for half an hour, then chicken pieces added on top for another half hour. The other great touch here was brining the chicken; something I’ve always contemplated but never tried. The meat was left for three hours in a mixture of water, salt, garlic, honey and sage. It left the meat tasty and juicy and something I will definitely return to. I know for example Heston Blumenthal’s perfect roast chicken requires a few days’ brining… watch this space.
The whole dish was very tasty though next time I think I’d add an acidic twist with perhaps a splash of white wine.
Yet another risotto, I can’t get enough of them. Following a lovely roast chicken, I’m left with a gorgeous carcass with which to make glorious stock; and chunky chicken bursting with potential. I made a typical risotto bianco and towards the end added shredded chicken. Whilst I love a creamy, unctuous risotto it can be a touch bland so thinking about the garnishes of a Japanese Yaki Soba I set to a punchy, salty kick to round out the mouthful. I blitzed up streaky bacon and breadcrumbs to make a ruby powder that provides crunch and interest to every spoon.
Chicken risotto with bacon breadcrumbs:
1 onion, diced
A handful of risotto rice per person
Chicken stock, as required
100ml white wine
Shredded cooked chicken
For the bacon breadcrumbs:
2 streaky bacon rashers
- For the breadcrumbs, blitz the bread and bacon together until powdery, then fry on a high heat until browned. Drain on kitchen paper until needed.
- Fry an onion in olive oil until softened.
- Add the rice and toast for a minute. Pour in the white wine and cook over a high heat until reduced to a slight trickle.
- Add the boiling stock a ladleful at a time. At each ladle wait until the liquid has almost disappeared before adding the next.
- After 20 mins or so taste the rice and check that it is tender. If not, keep adding more stock.
- When tender, add the butter and stir vigourously. Add the chicken and warm through.
- Serve scattered with breadcrumbs.
The great British Sunday brunch-before-anybody-knew-it-was-called brunch: Bubble ‘n’ Squeak. After a successful roast with plenty of leftovers, is there any better way to put all those still-tasty morsels to good use? Crunchy and tasty, these are perfect little pick-me-ups. Served with a drizzle of leftover gravy too and some strong coffee, and breakfast gets little better than this. There’s no point listing a recipe for this, as it’s whatever there is to hand! There has to be potatoes, so mash these up with other veg lying about. I use a stick blender to mush it up a bit. Then with wet hands form them into little patties and fry in butter and oil until browned all over. Serve with either a splash of gravy or HP Sauce.
I wanted to treat some guests to something a bit fancy and a bit special, yet could be made well in advance. I hit on a “strawberries and champagne” theme and sidetracked over to jelly. So I had strawberry jelly made with champagne with strawberries suspended in it. I’d intended to make a champagne foam to top it off too, but I just couldn’t be arsed! I recommend making half the mixture, setting the first lot with fruit in, then pouring the remainder on top to allow the fruit to dangle in jelly-space.
Champagne and strawberry jelly:
135g strawberry jelly, diced
100ml boiling water
Strawberries, 5 or 6 per serving
Mint leaves to garnish
- Melt the jelly cubes with boiling water in a jug. Top up with champagne.
- Pour half of the mixture into serving glasses and put the fruit in. Put in the fridge to set (about two hours).
- Top up with the remaining jelly mix and allow that to set. Garnish with mint leaves.