I’ve revived an old habit of mine: devouring biographies. My local library has seen a lot of me lately, as I’ve read stories from all walks of life, Ken Livingstone to Steve-o, Chris Evans to Keith Floyd.
One that’s stayed with me is Antonio Carluccio – A Recipe for Life. I picked it up as a fan of his food and TV programmes. I wasn’t prepared for the vast scope of his life, from growing up the station master’s son, to travelling Europe in all sorts of jobs, to being driven to several suicide attempts due to crippling depression. You would expect the avuncular TV host’s story to be whimsical and giddy, but it is weighed down by a man who seems profoundly lonely. Even his now-beloved Gennaro betrays him and further fuels his sadness.
It’s a sobering read, but well worth tracking down.
On a more upbeat note, Antonio was on Saturday Kitchen this weekend and served up this delightfully simple dish that speaks to his core food philosophy: mof-mof, or “minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour”. Only an Italian could come up with that credo!
It’s a delicious pasta dish, and if I could’ve laid my hands on parsley like the original recipe asks it would’ve been perfect. I embellished mine with truffle salt, a birthday present which just happened to be Carluccio’s branded too. It’s so quick to cook, and delicious.
Open raviolo with mushrooms (serves 2):
1 garlic clove, crushed
300g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon tomato puree
70ml white wine
4 fresh lasagne sheets
Freshly grated parmesan
- Get a frying pan on a medium-low heat and some salted water on to boil in a saucepan. Add a little oil to the saucepan to prevent the sheets from sticking.
- Melt the butter in the frying pan and add the garlic. Before it browns add the mushrooms and gently fry for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and season with truffle salt and black pepper. Cook for another minute before adding the wine and bringing to the boil to reduce.
- Pop the lasagne in the water to cook – this should only take 1 – 2 minutes. Put them to one side when done.
- When the wine has reduced to a thick orangey sauce, assemble the dish by alternating pasta sheets with the mushroom mixture. Top with parmesan before serving.
Shock, horror! Another roast potato recipe on this blog. What an anomaly.
Of course it isn’t, I’ve got roast potato recipes here, here and here for starters. But this was another twist, derived from cooking Heston’s perfect chicken (again). The chicken there is treated with a boozy butter baste. I’d gone a bit crazy and made too much, so decided to slather it on the potatoes. And with a little lemon and garlic to really boost those flavours I think it’s a great alternative!
Any white wine would work, but I had some Pinot Grigio a-wastin’ so that’s what I used. You want something sweet-ish here I think, a dry wine could turn out bitter with such fierce roasting.
Pinot Grigio potatoes (serves 4):
700g – 1kg Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and diced to walnut-sized pieces
100ml white wine
125 unsalted butter
A few sprigs of thyme
3 cloves garlic
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Simmer the potatoes in salted water until really tender. Drain and allow to steam off excess water a little while you prepare the baste.
Put a heavy baking tray in the oven to preheat. Add the wine, butter and thyme to a saucepan and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Toss the potatoes in the buttery wine and tip on to the baking tray and roast.
After 20 mins, peel the lemon zest in strips and add to the baking tray along with the garlic. Toss the potatoes well to coat. If it’s looking a bit dry add a dash of oil.
Roast for a further 20 mins, or until the potatoes are very crisp. Season with salt and pepper before serving.
I’ve always wondered what fricassée meant (I had to google “wiki fricassee” to find that. Try saying it out loud, it’s fun), and making this recipe meant I finally looked it up: poultry stew in gravy thickened with dairy. I’ve strayed a little from that definition in making this but I hope it’ll do.
I came to this recipe via Port Salut. It’s a cheese I’d almost forgotten about; until I was sent some to try along with some Jean Christophe Novelli recipes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jean Christophe before and couldn’t wait to try these out. Essentially chicken, leeks and mushrooms sweated down with cream and cheese – what’s not to like? I substituted a few things based on my larder and came up with a wholesome and tasty one-pot dinner. The Port Salut was creamy and nutty, kinda like a Brie.
Personally speaking I’d put the breadcrumbs to one side and serve it with tagliatelle next time. I think it would be great all tangled up with some pasta.
Chicken, leek, mushroom and port salut fricassée (serves 2):
2 chicken breasts, diced
Pinch of paprika
2 leeks, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
100ml white wine
200ml creme fraiche
100g Port Salut, thinly sliced
50g Port Salut, diced
50g wholemeal breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put a large casserole dish on a medium heat and a little oil.
- Dust the chicken with paprika and season, then fry in the pan for a couple of minutes until coloured all over. Remove to one side.
- Turn the heat down to low, melt the butter in the pan and add the leeks, rosemary and onion. Sweat gently for 5 – 10 minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, then crank up the heat.
- Add the wine. After a minute of bubbling away stir in the creme fraiche, sliced Port Salut and put the chicken back in. When everything is melting together stir well and check for seasoning. Top with the breadcrumbs and diced cheese and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until everything is bubbling and brown.
There’s always room on the cookbook shelf for someone offering midweek family meals done in an interesting way. And that’s the motto of Alex Mackay’s new book Everybody, Everyday. The premise is presented simply: take one mother component or recipe and then spin it off half-a-dozen ways. It means it encourages you to use a familiar thing, such as pesto, and find new culinary homes for it. The book also has other dimensions, encouraging family food and how to prepare the same meal for toddlers. As someone always trying to think of new things to cook a littl’un the ideas are very welcome. Handily (uniquely?) the recipes are all for 2 people, the usual amount I cook for, and makes it super-easy to multiply up. Nothing is super fancy or cheffy but there are a few subtle restaurant-style tricks to lift your cooking, such as draining off fat but basting in butter for a finishing glaze. There’s plenty of inspiration to be had.
There are a few downsides to the recipes I’ve tried so far though: some of the recipes take a while. I can be nippy in the kitchen when I want to be, but I’m taking nearly an hour on each one so far. And they use pans by the bucket, plenty of hob-juggling required which requires good planning or washing up inbetween. Don’t let that detract from the great inspiration on offer though, each recipe I’ve cooked so far has been packed with flavour and extremely tasty. Like this one – a minced beef patty, topped with a glossy and rich meaty gravy and served with crisp saute potatoes. Delicious!
Burger with red onion and red wine sauce (serves 2):
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
250ml red wine
200ml beef stock
300g new potatoes, halved
350g beef mince
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Preheat the oven to it’s lowest setting and get the kettle on. Let’s start the sauce.
- Fry 10g of butter with the onion, vinegar, soy and with 3 tablespoons water over a medium heat, covered for about 8 minutes. Take the lid off and crank up the heat, then add the wine until reduced by three quarters. Then add the stock and reduce by about two thirds. Turn off the heat.
- While this is going on, simmer the potatoes for 12 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain and leave to steam for a few minutes.
- Get a frying pan on really hot and add a splash of oil. Lower the heat, add the potatoes cut side down and fry for 5 or so minutes until golden. Turn off the heat, drain off the fat, then toss the potatoes in 10g of butter, a sprinkle of sea salt and some chopped parsley. Pop in the oven to keep warm.
- Mix the mince with the mustard and a pinch of salt and form into 2 burgers. Fry in a little oil over a medium heat for a couple minutes on each side. Again drain the fat and toss with 10g butter and leave to rest for a couple of minutes while you reheat the sauce. Bring the sauce back to the boil and stir in the rest of the butter, seasoning if necessary. Serve and devour!
Yes eagle-eyes, you’re right: that’s not macaroni in the picture. But this recipe is full of substitutions. What it tells me is this recipe has a great base from which to build on.
This is Heston’s recipe for macaroni cheese from How To Cook Like Heston, and is predictably very, very tasty. Like most people I usually kick cheese sauces off with a roux, but this approach melts cheese into reduced wine and stock. I’m amazed it works. I think I let the cheese cook a tiny bit too long and it started to split on me, but just about caught it in time. I also veered off from the recipe as I didn’t have a posh cheddar, nor cream cheese in the house but instead let it down with pasta water. That’s another bonkers bit – in the original recipe the pasta is cooked in a very shallow amount of water but I didn’t quite have the attention to monitor that one today. I boiled it in the usual way and it worked just fine.
I’ll definitely be making cheese sauces from this base in future – no more floury rouxs for me.
The original recipe is here, and you can find it in Heston Blumenthal At Home (as “truffle macaroni”) as well.
Heston Blumenthal’s macaroni cheese (serves 4):
300ml white wine
300ml chicken stock
140g cheddar, grated
1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
A few drops of truffle oil
A little grated parmesan
- Get the pasta on to boil in a large saucepan of salted water and cook according to the packet instructions.
- In a separate pan reduce the wine down to “30ml” (I have no idea how you can easily tell what level you’re down to without a lot of faff so eyeball it and trust your gut). Add the stock to this wine reduction.
- Preheat the grill. Toss the cheese with the cornflour and add to the winey stock. Turn the heat right down low, add some black pepper and stir until thoroughly combined. As soon as it’s smooth turn the heat off.
- Drain the pasta and reserve some of the water. Trickle over a tiny amount of truffle oil, toss and add to the sauce, then transfer to a baking dish. Top with the parmesan and pop under the grill until bubbling.