Mains, Pasta

Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato

This is a nice pasta dish that I cook a lot because it’s relatively easy and really yummy.
The nuts and vegetables can of course be varied to whatever is available in the shops or in season. When wonderful purple sprouting broccoli is in season I tend to use that, otherwise tenderstem broccoli works just fine.
On this occasion I’ve used Casarecce pasta but any short shaped pasta shape will do.

Ingredients for Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
200g Gorgonzola Piccante, cubed
200g tenderstem broccoli
250g Casarecce (or other short-tube pasta)
100g Crème fraîche
0.5 tsp Dijon mustard
15g butter
2 preserved anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, concasse
Handful of pinenuts
Handful of walnuts
Splash of white wine or Vermouth
Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to make Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
First thing to do is to put a sheet pan in the freezer, which we will use later for the broccoli.
Start with putting on water for the pasta and when it’s cooking salt the pasta water to the salinity of sea water (around 10g salt to 1 liter water). Put on another pan of water for the broccoli, again with sea water salting levels.
Make a cross top and bottom on the tomatoes then put in a bowl with boiling water for a few minutes. When the skins are softened peel the tomatoes and then with a paring knife remove the bit of stem left at the top. Concasse the tomatoes and reserve.
Put the oven on 180C fan. Oil two sheetpans and put the pinenuts on one and walnuts on another. Lightly salt both the nuts. Roast the nuts in the oven until nicely golden. Leave the nuts on kitchen-towel to drain some of some of the oil off. When ready you can crush the walnuts with the underside of a pan or in a pestle and mortar.
Start the sauce by melting the butter with a touch of olive oil in a smallish stainless steel pan. When the bubbling subsides add the garlic and anchovies, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the anchovy is dissolved and the garlic is slightly brown. Add the cubed gorgonzola to the pot together with a splash of white wine and the dijon. Lower the heat to low and continue stirring and basting the gorgonzola cubes until they melt. Add a large tablespoon of the crème fraîche and stir. Taste the sauce as you go along to see how dominant you want the gorgonzola to be, tame it with more crème fraîche if the sauce needs to be milder. That’s the sauce pretty much done, let it bubble away ever so gently on a low flame.
Boil the broccoli until tender, not too al dente but not too soft either. When cooked (test doneness with a sharp paring knife) drain the broccoli and then spread out on the frozen sheet tray to cool rapidly without leaking flavour. Set aside.
Boil the pasta. When done to al dente drain but save a bit of the starchy pasta water. After draining put the pasta back in the pasta pot and put some extra virgin olive oil through it.

To assemble the dish, roughly chop the broccoli and add to the warm pasta pot. Toss to heat through. Check the consistency of the gorgonzola sauce and if too thick thin it out a bit with the starchy pasta water. Add the gorgonzola sauce to the pasta pot too and stir through. Finally add the tomato concasse and stir through.

Serve the pasta on warmed pasta plates and top with the nuts.


Crème Caramel (all yolk version)

IMG_0003-1For a long time I wanted to make Crème Caramel since it’s one of those French desserts I really enjoy. When I was recently left with six egg yolks after clarifying some stock the time was ripe.

Normally Crème Caramel, a free-standing custard, is made with milk, cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Since I was stuck with my egg yolks I “had” to make a kind of super-rich version with double cream to boot. It was rather nice though, with January being a cold and miserable month.

The only pitfalls would be making the caramel, which in my opinion should be rather dark to give a bitter contrast to the creamy sweetness, and also to bake the creme caramels. Like Crème Brûlée it’s easy to overdo it so check the Crème Caramels carefully towards the end of the cooking.

Ingredients for the Crème Caramel:
400g double cream
75g whole milk
6 medium egg yolks
1 medium egg
120g caster sugar
0.5 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
150g caster sugar for the caramel

Preparing the Crème Caramel:
Start by preheating the oven to 140C non-fan.
Heat the cream and milk in a pot, let it boil briefly and then let cool.
Place the egg yolks and egg, 120g sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and mix softly with a whisk. Be careful not to produce any foam, since foam would lead to bubbles in the crème caramel later.
Stir in the cream-milk-mixture carefully. Set aside.

Melt the remaining sugar until you desired caramel stage and then pour it into 6 ramekins (approx 100 ml each). Let cool until the caramel sets. Pour custard cream carefully on top.

Prepare a baking tray by placing some parchment paper at the bottom of the tray, then place the ramekins on top of the parchment paper. Pour in boiling water in the tray, you want the ramekins to stand in about two fingers width deep water. Pour the rest of the water in when the baking tray is in the oven if that is easier. Cover the baking tray with parchment paper when it’s in the oven.

Place the baking tray on the middle rack of the oven and bake the creme caramel for about 50 – 60 minutes. Checking the Crème Caramels consistency by jiggling the ramekins towards the end of the cooking time. Remove cups from baking tray, let chill and place into fridge for 4 – 6 hours.
To serve, dip the bottm of the ramekin briefly in a bowl of boiling water then run a small sharp knife around the edge of each bowl and turn upside down on plates.


Roast Chicken

This recipe utilises brining to uniformly season the chicken and also to make it more moist. After the brining the chicken is rested in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin so you get really great roasted skin.
The brine is 3.5 % salt.

This recipe is a lot easier to make if you have a large plastic container (6 – 7 liter) that you can place the brine and chicken in. Just make sure that the container fits in your fridge.

Ingredients for the Roast Chicken:
5 liters water
175g sea salt
100g honey
12 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
2 tbsp black peppercorns
10g fresh rosemary leaves
10g thyme leaves
50g flat-leaf parsley
2 lemons, halfed

One free range chicken, about 1.5 kg
15g thyme (twigs)
Rapeseed oil

Preparing the roast chicken:
Place all of the brine ingredients into a large saucepan. Cover with a lid and boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Rinse the chicken thoroughly under cold running water. Add the chicken to the brine. Chill in the fridge for six hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Place the chicken on a cake rack and place uncovered in the fridge overnight, this will further dry out the chicken skin.

Preheat the oven to 240C.

Season the inside of each chicken with a light sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To truss the chicken, place one chicken on a tray with the legs towards you. Tuck the wing tips under the bird. Cut a 90 cm piece of kitchen twine and place it on top of the neck end of the breast. Lift the neck end of the bird and pull the twine down around the wings and under the chicken, then bring the ends up over the breast, towards you, and tie the twine into a knot, pulling it tight to plump the breast.

Bring the ends of the twine around the ends of the drumsticks and straight up. Tie as before to pull the drumsticks together and form a compact bird; tie again to secure the knot.
Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before roasting.

Season the outside of the chicken with a light sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place a heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. When the pan is hot, add half the oil and heat until hot.
Put the chicken breast-side up into the pan, and then into the oven with the legs facing the back of the oven. Roast for 40 minutes, checking the bird every 15 minutes and rotating the frying pan if the chicken are browning unevenly.
After 40 minutes, check the temperature of the bird by inserting a thermometer between the leg and the thigh. The temperature should read approximately 68C. The chicken will continue to cook as it sits, reaching a temperature of about 73C.
When the bird are cooked, remove from the oven, add the thyme leaves to the pans, and baste the bird with the juices and thyme leaves. Set aside in a warm place for ten minutes.

Carve and serve.


Fillet of beef stroganoff with riz pilaff

beef_stroganoff-1Beef stroganoff is one of my favorite beef dishes and it’s quick enough to prepare for a weeknight supper.
The secret to a good stroganoff is to saute the beef very quickly to keep it as rare as possible while still browning it. Another secret is to reduce the vinegar until almost evaporated, otherwise the dish can end up too sour.

Serve with a medium bodied red wine, like a Sangiovese or a Fleurie.

This recipe serves two [hungry] people.

Ingredients for the beef stroganoff:
450g fillet of beef
1 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp vegetable oil
30g butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
115g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp tomato purée
50ml white wine vinegar
75ml white wine
200ml double cream
115g dill pickle, julienned
125ml sour cream
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 pinch sweet paprika

Preparing the beef stroganoff:
Sprinkle the beef strips with the paprika and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a large frying pan with the vegetable oil. Quickly flash-fry the beef strips, making sure you keep them as rare as possible, then tip the meat into a colander, reserving any juices that drain off.
Using the same pan, add the butter, shallots and sliced mushrooms and cook for one minute. Add the tomato purée and cook for few more minutes, stirring the ingredients together. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until completely evaporated.
Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half then pour in the double cream, bring to a boil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the seared beef and the reserved juice and gently warm through, taking care not to boil or you will overcook the beef.
To serve, pour the stroganoff into a large warmed serving dish and sprinkle with dill pickle. Drizzle the sour cream over the top then sprinkle with chopped parsley and dust with paprika. Serve with the rice along side.

Ingredients for the riz pilaff:
50g butter
50g onion, finely chopped
250g long-grain rice
500ml hot white chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparing the riz pilaff:
For the rice, preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat an ovenproof sauté pan until hot, add half the butter and the onion and cook gently for a few minutes until softened but not colored.
Add the rice and stir well then fry gently for another minute, again without colouring, and add the hot stock, seasoning and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon, then cover with buttered grease-proofpaper and a lid and place in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked but still firm.

Remove the bay leaf, add the last of the butter and separate the grains of rice with a fork.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper then transfer to a clean warmed serving dish and keep covered with a clean piece of grease-proof paper until ready to serve.


Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream


I got this recipe from Ideas in Food and it’s an amazing ice cream. A bit like a mix between vanilla and caramel ice cream and with some toasted notes as well.
The only changes I’ve done is to use vanilla pods instead of vanilla powder (my local store was out) and I charred it three times instead of two. If you want more of the burnt caramel note you can char it more times.
You can order guar gum online.

Ingredients for the Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream:
160g sugar
2.8g salt
1.9g guar gum
400g heavy cream
400g whole milk
10g vanilla paste
2 big vanilla pods, around 1.4 g vanilla seeds (Ideas in Food recipe uses 2 g vanilla powder)

Preparing the Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream:
Put the sugar, salt, and guar gum in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Put the cream and milk in a blender and turn it on medium. Pour the sugar mixture into the vortex and puree until the sugar is dissolved, 10-15 seconds. Add the vanilla paste and vanilla powder to the blender and increase the speed to medium high and puree for 15 seconds. Turn the blender off and pour the ice cream base into a metal bowl. Use a butane torch to burn the surface of the ice cream. When the surface is roughly charred, stir the mixture with a whisk and char the surface one more time. Repeat the whisking, charring and whisking a third time (or more if you want). Transfer the mixture along with the empty vanilla pods to a covered container and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to overnight. Remove the vanilla pods and then churn the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.

The ice cream is good served with some warm stewed raspberries or similar fruit.

Mains, Pasta

Portobello-Porcini Pasta

porcini_pastaThis is a nice robust pasta sauce for autumn and 100 % vegetarian.
Makes two large portions.

Ingredients for the Portobello-Porcini Pasta:
250g portobello mushrooms, sliced in 5 mm slices
50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 200 ml warm water for 10 minutes
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
100ml double cream
1/2 lemon
250g rigatoni pasta
Olive oil
Splash of Noilly Prat vermouth, optional
Small handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
Small handful of freshly chopped basil, optional

Preparing the Portobello-Porcini Pasta:
Heat a large saute pan until hot. Add some olive oil and then add the garlic and thyme leaves. Saute for a few minutes.
Add the portobello mushrooms to the pan and saute for 15 minutes. They will release a bit of water so keep sauteing and “jumping them” in the pan until the water is absorbed back into the mushrooms.
Drain the porcini mushrooms using a finemesh sieve, reserving the soaking liquor. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water (sometimes they can have a bit of sand and grit on them). Chop the porcini mushrooms finely.
Deglaze the saute pan with a bit of Noilly Prat if using, scrape the bottom of the pan and boil hard to get rid of the alcohol.
Add the porcini liquor and the chopped porcinis to the pan. Saute for about 10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice to the pan and boil a bit, add the double cream and stir to incorporate. Add basil and parsley if using.
Boil the rigatoni according to the instructions on the packet (in water with plenty of salt).
Drain the rigatoni but reserve two ladles of the pasta water.
Add the rigatoni to the sauce and stir to combine, add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
Serve in warmed bowls with plenty of parmesan, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top and freshly milled pepper, add some parsley as well if you have some.


Clementine Sorbet

The use of fructose (fruit sugar) instead of sucrose in this sorbet gives it an incredible tangy flavour.

Ingredients for the Clementine Sorbet:
750g clementine juice (about 2.5 kilos of clementines)
125g fructose
One leaf of gelatin

Preparing the Clementine Sorbet:
Half the clementines and squeeze the juice out of them. Bloom the gelatin leaf in a bit of cold water.
Put the fructose and 125g of the clementine juice (passed through a sieve) into a sauce pan. Bring to the boil until the fructose dissolves. Squeeze as much water as possible from the gelatin and add it to the sauce pan while stirring to dissolve. Take off the heat. Add the rest of the juice (passed through a sieve) to the pan.
Transfer to a jug and store in the fridge until very cold.
Pour the mixture into your ice-cream machine and churn for 20-30 minutes until frozen.


Slow Cooked Fillet Steak, Pommes Puree, Braised Shallots, Veal Jus

steak_jus-1This was a nice dinner where I got to use a few different techniques.
I wanted to make a salad or something green to go with it but ran out of space and time.
Cooking the fillet steak at around 60C in the oven for a fairly long time (55 minutes) ensures that 95 % of the steak is medium rare (around 56C core temperature) and you also get a very uniform result throughout the steak.
It’s important to use a fairly hot pan when you sear the steak before roasting them in the oven since this step have to happen very quickly so you don’t overcook the steak.
The sauce is quite simple, just sauteing some mirepoix and then reducing veal stock. It has a fantastic umami flavor that really complements the beef.

This recipe serves two persons.

Ingredients for the steak:
2 fillet steaks, 175g each
Groundnut oil (or other neutral oil with high smoking point)

Preparing the steak:
Bring the steak out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking to ensure that the steaks come up to room temperature. Cooking the steaks from cold will lower the temperature of the pan.
Turn on the oven to 60C, preferably use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature.
Heat a frying pan on high heat.
Oil, then salt and pepper the steaks on all sides.
Have a small oven tray ready for the steaks.
When the frying pan is very hot, sear the steaks one by one on all sides. It’s easiest to hold the steaks with a tonge when doing this step. This step should take maximum 30 seconds per steak. Once seared all over put steaks on oven tray.
Transfer to middle of the oven and roast for 55 minutes. Half way through the cooking time flip the steaks over. Once removed from the oven let the steaks rest on a rack for a few minutes.

Ingredients for the braised shallots:
6 shallots, peeled with root area left intact
500ml chicken stock
1 sprig of thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled
25g butter
Rapeseed oil

Preparing the braised shallots:
Saute the shallots in a bit of oil until golden brown all around. Add the butter, thyme and garlic and cook for another two minutes.
Add the chicken stock, cover and let simmer gently for about 25 minutes or until the shallots are very soft and tender.
Check for seasoning.

Ingredients for the pommes puree:
500g Ratte potatoes (or Charlottes), scrubbed but not cleaned.
125g unsalted butter, chilled
125ml whole milk
White pepper

Preparing the pommes puree:
Cover the potatoes with 1 liter of cold water and 0.5 tablespoon of course salt. Bring to the boil and once it reached the boiling point lower the temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid.
Boil the potatoes for 25 minutes. Drain and peel.
Put the potatoes (while still warm) through a potato ricer or a mouli fitted with the finest disk into a clean saucepan.
Put the mashed potatoes over a medium heat and stir vigorously with a spatula for 5 minutes to dry out the flesh a bit.
Meanwhile rinse a small saucepan with water, pour it out (do not wipe dry) then add the milk. Warm the milk until boiling point and then take it off the heat.
Lower heat for the potato pan to low. Add the butter bit by bit while stirring with spatula, keep adding until it’s all incorporated and the puree is homogenous.The potato and butter might separate a bit at this stage but keep stirring and it will come together.
Add the milk in a thin stream while stirring briskly. When all the milk is incorporated you should have a silky smooth puree. If you want it even smoother you can pass it through a fine sieve.
Check for seasoning.

Ingredients for the veal jus:
1 carrot, diced
1 leek (white part only), diced
0.5 medium onion, diced
1 sprig of thyme
Rapeseed oil
Red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or something similar)
300ml veal stock

Preparing the veal jus:
Heat a saute pan (preferably the same one you cooked the steaks in) to medium high heat. Add a splash of oil and then saute the carrot, leeks and onions until golden brown, add the sprig of thyme. Deglaze with a generous splash of red wine. Boil until red wine is evaporated.
Add the veal stock and let this simmer for a few minutes. When the sauce had a bit of body, pass through a sieve into a small sauce pan. Reduce further until you achieve a semi-sticky consistency.

Mains, Risotto

Risotto ai Funghi di Bosco

This is a great risotto, especially if you love mushrooms.

This makes enough for at least 4 people.

Ingredients for the mushroom risotto:
1.5 liters chicken (or vegetable) stock
140g unsalted butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
25g dried porcini mushrooms
25g dried galetti mushrooms (optional)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
150ml dry white wine or Vermouth
500g Carnaroli risotto rice
75g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparing the mushroom risotto:
Put the stock in a saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and poor over enough hot water to cover. Let stand for 20-30 minutes and then sieve the mushrooms over another bowl. Keep the soaking liquor. Rinse the soaked mushrooms under cold water then chop them roughly.
Melt 100 g of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and then add the shallots and garlic. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until soft, golden but not browned. Stir in the mushrooms and herbs then cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes to heat through. Salt and pepper.
Pour in the wine and boil hard until it has reduced and almost disappeared. This will remove the taste of raw alcohol. Add about 100 ml of the mushroom soaking liquor and boil a bit longer until this has reduced.
Stir in the rice and fry with the onion and mushrooms until dry and slightly opaque.
Begin adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until each ladle has been absorbed by the rice. Continue until the rice is tender and creamy but still with some bite. This takes about 20 minutes.
Add the rest of the mushroom soaking liquor to a small saucepan and put on high heat to reduce.
Taste and season the risotto well with salt and pepper.
Stir in the parmesan and the remaining butter (cubed into small cubes). Cover the saucepan and let rest for a couple of minutes.
Serve the risotto in warmed bowls. Spoon a bit of the reduced mushroom liquor on top to give extra mushroom flavor. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and finally shave some Parmesan on top and finish with a few turns of the black pepper mill.