Archive | August, 2011

Free herbs

28 Aug


Everyone likes free shit and with the aid of this post I expect you to be out foraging some awesome herbs.

My favourite herb is Bay, not the dried stuff you buy from the spice section in your supermarket but FRESH BAY. Bay is what is know in the trade as an aromat or aromatic herb used to flavour soups, sauces and stocks. Most commonly used as part of a bouquet garni, which is thyme, parsley stalks, 5 whole peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves.

Bay is a laurel bush and is evergreen and like most herbs is very hardy if grow in the right environment. In my last three flats a bay tree has always been close by and as it is common you might even have it in your garden and not know it. The way I recognise herbs is by smell and all I do is pick a leaf and crunch it between my thumb and forefinger, if it smells like pasta sauce, then that’s bay. If you still do not feel confident go to a good green grocer and ask for bay and accustom yourself to it.


Simple pasta sauce recipe serves 2

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 fresh bay leafs
1 small chilli
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bulb of garlic chopped in half
2 teaspoons of sugar
Salt and pepper
A slug of good olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and boil the the shit out of them for at least half an hour, stir quiet a lot to prevent the sauce sticking to the bottom. Taste! the idea is you are cooking the water out of the tomatoes and heightening their tomatoiness. Once you are satisfied pass through a sieve using a ladle so you squash the chilli and garlic essence through into the sauce and get rid of the herb and bits and your sauce is finished.


Lemon tart

22 Aug


Recently for my mums birthday I made a lemon tart which is her favourite. I had made it perfectly, written happy birthday mum in chocolate and set it to one side to cool. In the intervening period my parents Alsatian puppy decided to chase one of their Siamese cats around the kitchen. Little did I know that the cat had jumped up onto the lemon tart and when I did the big reveal lifting the tea towel to show my Mum her tart it had been graced with cat paw prints.

This is Raymond Blanc recipe, as I believe all his recipes to be spot on I will not change it. Just as with all baking make sure you follow the recipe.

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

Sweet pastry
– 120 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
– 75 g (3 oz.) sifted icing sugar + extra for sprinkling
– 3 egg yolks
– 250 g (8 oz.) white flour
– 2 tbsp. water

Lemon filling
– 5 medium organic eggs
– 150 g (5 oz.) powdered sugar
– 85 ml (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice
– 2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
– 150 ml (10 tbsp.) heavy cream
Making the sweet pastry

In a large bowl, with a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the soft butter and icing sugar to a cream; then beat in 2 of the egg yolks.
Add the flour and, with your fingertips, rub the butter mixture and flour together to achieve a crumbly texture.
Add the water and press the mixture together to form a ball.
With the palms of your hands, knead the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it is blended (maximum 30 seconds – do not overwork the pastry or it will be hard and lose its crumbly texture).
Flatten the pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps the dough lose its elasticity).
Making the lemon cream

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest and whisk for a few seconds. Add the cream and whisk it in, then place in the fridge.
Rolling out the pastry

On a lightly floured work surface, evenly roll out the pastry into a circle 3 mm (1/8 in) thick.
Lining the tart tin

Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll it over a 24 cm (91/2 in) loose-bottomed tart tin.
With one hand lift the pastry and with the other gently tuck it into the bottom edge of the tin so that it fits tightly. Be careful not to stretch it.
Cut off excess pastry by rolling the pin over the top edge of the tin.
Take a small ball of pastry and gently press it all around the base of the tart to ensure a snug fit.
Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps prevent shrinkage during cooking). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F).
Cooking the pastry

Line the pastry case with aluminium foil and fill with dried beans, pushing them against the side. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and lift out both foil and beans.
Return the tart tin to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Brush the inside of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and return to the oven for 1 minute (this creates a seal on the pastry and prevents it becoming soggy when the lemon cream is added).
Turn the oven down to 140°C (275°F).
Cooking the lemon tart

Pour the lemon cream mixture into a saucepan and warm it gently (this is to speed up the cooking time of the tart), being careful not to heat it too much or it will scramble.
Pour the warm mixture into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes, until barely set.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 1 hour, then dredge icing sugar around the edge of the tart.
Remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving plate.


Gammon and pineapple

19 Aug


Well as I am in France at the moment, I would like to give a nod to a local food hero in the vendee, ham. France is all about region of origin and the vendee is famous for 5 things in France Mussels, Oysters, Muscadet, Mogettes (a White bean) and ham.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

Cost per person £2.75

Prices are based on and includes all sides

  • Ingredients
  • 2 gammon steaks
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

  • A quarter of a pineapple cored and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons of creme de casis
  • 100g of new potatoes
  • 100g of french beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • A knob of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil

Gammon and pineapple is proper peasant food as it is cheap, easy and very tasty. You can serve it with chips, a casoulet as is favourite in the Vendee or with French beans and new potatoes as I have.

First you need yo get the taties into a pan of cold salted water and put on a pan of water for the beans. Monitor the potatoes until cooked for roughly around 10 mins. Whilst these cook heat up your skillet, the secret to girdling any meat is a fucking hot pan. Make sure you use the olive oil to cover the surface of the gammon steak, this is instead of oiling the pan.

Fry the gammon with the sprigs of rosemary for roughly around 5 mins or how you like, I used the creme de casis as a gastric. A ‘gastric’ alcohol in this case is a device for heightening flavour, you do not need the flavour of the alcohol you just want the alcohol too enhance the flavour of the ham and it will. Add a very small amount of alcohol too each steak when you flip the gammon during cooking. Rest the ham for the same amount of time you cooked it. You can cook the pineapple at the same time as the gammon depending on the size of your pan. You do not want to crowd the gammon in the pan otherwise it will alter the end result of cooking the meat lessening the flavour, cook the pineapple whilst the gammon rests. Add the beans to boiling water and cook for roughly around 5 mins.

To serve add salt, pepper and butter to the potatoes and stir. Crush the garlic with the base of your hand and chop finely stir through the beans with a little olive oil. Serve all together with the gammon and the pineapple and a dash of tobasco if you like a chilli hit, yum.


Apricot & pistachio Pavlova

15 Aug


This is Australia’s most famous dish with a twist I believe it will provide a light yet sumptuous dessert to share with your friends, a dish inspired by my lovely wife. Apricots are one of my favourites, bang in season, extremely nutritious and as my Mum say’s eating apricots will help you live for a very long time. Apricot and pistachio is an awesome combo and this might help you use up those annoying spare egg whites or check these recipes for alternatives:

2 tsp corn flour
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp white wine vinegar, or any other wine or cider vinegar
5 large egg whites
300g golden caster sugar
50g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
650g ripe fresh apricots
3 tbsp Cointreau or other orange flavoured liqueur
4 tbsp icing sugar, or even more to taste
568ml carton whipping cream or double cream

Serves 8
Preheat the oven to 140C/gas 1/fan 120C and line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. In a small bowl, blend the corn flour, vanilla extract and vinegar to a smooth paste.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff in a separate clean bowl. Gradually whisk in the sugar a little at a time to make a thick and glossy meringue, then whisk in the corn flour paste until well combined. Spoon the mixture on to the paper, then spread, without flattening it, to form a 23cm/9in round. Swirl the edges with the back of the spoon to give lovely soft folds and peaks. Scatter half the pistachios over the meringue and bake for 1 hour, by which time it will feel crisp if you tap it. Turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova to cool with the oven door open.
Set aside 450g/1lb of the apricots and roughly chop the rest, discarding the stones. Purée the chopped apricots, then push them through a sieve with a metal spoon. Stir in the liqueur and sweeten with 3 tbsp of the icing sugar, or enough to sweeten as you like it.
Lightly whip the cream so it’s soft and billowy, then spoon over the Pavlova. Cut the reserved 450g/1lb apricots in half, discard the stones, and then cut into wedges. Scatter them over the whipped cream along with the remaining pistachios. Dust with the rest of the icing sugar and serve with the apricot purée.

My favourite sauce ‘Bernies’

13 Aug


Béarnaise sauce or bernies sauce if your from golders green, is my absolute favourite sauce in the entire world of sauces. I especially love it on a steak or on steamed broccoli. So as I am in France while I wait for my Aussie visa, the spiritual home of bernies sauce I thought I would share with you my recipe for sauce béarnaise parfaite.

6 egg yolks
200g butter
A handful of tarragon (keep stalks)
A handful of chervil
1 shallot
50ml White wine vinegar
50ml water

Bernies is a derivative of hollandaise and is all about the emulsification of the fat (butter) and protein. (egg) It differs to a hollandaise in two ways the acid element in hollandaise is lemon juice in my béarnaise it is a tarragon, shallot, vinegar and water reduction. The other difference is the introduction of chopped tarragon and chervil to a béarnaise, where a hollandaise has no herbs.

First you will need to make your vinegar reduction get a small heavy based saucepan and combine the vinegar, water, a roughly chopped shallot and the tarragon stalks. Place on the heat and reduce by half then Strain and place to one side to cool. (You can make your own tarragon vinegar by feeding the stalks into a shop bought bottle of White wine vinegar)

You will need to whisk the egg yolks in a Pyrex bowl add a a pinch of salt and whisk in half of the vinegar reduction. You can correct the seasoning when the sauce is finished, by adding more vinegar and more salt & pepper. Chef’s have a saying you can always under season never over.

Now for the emulsification, mixing your soft or melted clarified butter into the eggs. Fussy head chefs have made me separate the butter milk from the fat before whisking into the egg. Let me clarify (no pun intended) this makes no difference to the end result like olive oil in the water when boiling pasta it has entirely no effect on the end result.

Now I have exorcised that ghost, you will need to make a ban Marie on your stove. A ban Marie is a cooking device where you get a pan of water and over it you place a Pyrex bowl with your sauce in and use the steam omitted by the pan of water to cook your sauce in the Pyrex bowl. Very important to be patient with a béarnaise or hollandaise, once on the heat you will need to constantly whisk add the butter gradually. It very important not to let the water in the ban marie BOIL or to touch the bottom of the bowl! Manage the ban marie if the water boils take the pan off the heat while continually whisking or else your bernies will cook too quickly and curdle.

Be patient you will notice the mixture start to thicken when the protein in the egg yolks is strengthen by fat in the butter. When the mixture begins getting thick like a good custard take off the heat add the chopped tarragon and chervil. Taste to correct the seasoning you might need to add some more of vinegar and some salt & pepper.

Your béarnaise sauce is ready to be served, this is my favourite sauce let me know what yours is and maybe I can give you a recipe.

Get your cook on,

Ollie x

My peasant kitchen

12 Aug


I thought I would break from the format today and give you a window on my current kitchen. I would not be without a decent sharp knife, do not buy a shitty blunt knife, it will slow you down and also most probably cause you harm. (check vids for ultimate in knife porn) Next there are some ingredients I would not be without, garlic, lemons, salt and pepper. Let me know what you wouldn’t be without in your kitchen?

Smoked duck breast salad

10 Aug

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Cost per person £3.25


  • Salad Ingredients
  • 250g smoked duck breast
  • 1 whole lettuce I like Oak leaf or Lambs leaf

  • 100g of bacon lardons
  • 100g of frozen blanched button onions
  • Half a cucumber chopped into thin slices
  • 200g of tomatoes roughly chopped
  • Raspberry vinaigrette Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp of frozen raspberries
  • 2 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 30 ml of red wine vinegar
  • 30 ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch tof salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp of hot water


Smoked duck breast is a fantastic ingredient, similar to Parma ham in texture but not as salty and more of a creamy distinct flavour. It might be tricky to get hold of, specialist deli’s will do it, alternatively you can smoke a duck breast yourself. (I will place a video guide in video section of my site :o)

First you need to make your bacon lardons crispy, you can do this by several different methods my preferred method is to oven roast them for 5-10 minutes. Next make the vinaigrette by simply blitzing all the ingredients together with a stick blender, the hot water is too help the dressing emulsify. If making by hand mix all ingredients bar oil & water then add oil in gradually and continually whisk to emulsify then add hot water still whisking. Pan fry the button onions with a little butter and a tsp of sugar. Now to pull together the salad, vinaigrette in the bowl first then mix cucumber, lettuce and tomato into the dressing. Mix in the bacon and onions then slice the duck very thinly and place on top.