Beef cheeks braised in red wine

Also known as Joues de Bœuf à la Bourguignonne in it’s native tongue, this was a great autumnal dish full of flavour and richness. As often with braises it’s better the next day so make it in advance if you can.

This serves about 4 people.

Ingredients for Beef cheeks braised in red wine:
100g plain flour
10g salt
10g pepper
700g beef cheeks, cut into 12 large pieces
50ml rapeseed oil
150g carrots, roughly chopped
150g onions, roughly chopped
1.1 litres good-quality red wine
4 cloves garlic, chopped

For the bouquet garni:
1 stick celery
4 stalks flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
3 green leek leaves

For the garnish:

120g baby onions or small shallots
30g unsalted butter, plus extra to glaze
½ tsp caster sugar
200g baby carrots
120g, smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
12 button mushrooms

For the mashed potato:
800g potatoes, such as Maris Piper, King Edward or Idaho
1 litre water
25g salt
200g unsalted butter
100ml double cream
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)

How to make Beef cheeks braised in red wine:
For the mash, peel the potatoes, cut into quarters and place in a large saucepan. Cover with the water and add the salt. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer until tender – if you boil them too hard, they will take on too much salt. The timing will depend on the size of your chunks.

Drain in a colander and allow to dry by leaving them to sit and steam in the colander for a few minutes. Pass the potato and butter through a mouli or return them to the pan and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a small saucepan and warm it through gently. Place the pan of mashed potato back on a medium heat and stir to dry the potato out. Add the warm cream and mix it in with a spoon until very smooth. Check the seasoning, garnish with the parsley, if using, and serve immediately.

To make the beef cheeks, heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the flour on a plate, season with salt and pepper, then roll the pieces of meat in it until lightly coated. Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole until very hot. Brown the meat quickly and evenly. Add the chopped carrot and onion, cover, and leave to sweat gently for 10 minutes.

Holding the lid over the casserole, pour away all the cooking fat. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Bring to the boil, then add the garlic and bouquet garni, and season. Replace the lid and cook in the oven for about 2½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Stir regularly during cooking, adding a little water if necessary.

Meanwhile, place the baby onions in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover with 50ml water, or enough so that the onions are only just covered, and stir in the butter and sugar. Place a circle of greaseproof paper (a cartouche) over the surface of the liquid and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are glazed and shiny. Keep warm, covered, over a very low heat.

At the same time, blanch the baby carrots in boiling salted water, drain well, then return to the pan and toss in enough butter to coat them until they are shiny. Fry the bacon in a small frying pan over a high heat, until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, then add the mushrooms to the pan, frying them in the bacon fat, until golden and tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Lift out the pieces of meat with a slotted spoon and discard the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Place the meat in a clean pan, pass the sauce through a fine sieve over the meat and gently stir in the bacon and mushrooms.

Serve the daube on plates with mashed potato, the glazed button onions and carrots, and the sauce over the top.


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.


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.


Steak with Potato Wedges and Sauce Béarnaise

Ingredients for the potato wedges:
3 medium to large sized potatoes per person (I used Maris Piper)
Handful or so of fresh rosemary twigs
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Two garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt (preferably Maldon)

Preparing the potato wedges:
Bring a pot of water to the boil and put in the thyme sprigs and garlic gloves (with their skins on but crush them a bit with a knife).
Turn the oven on to 200 C. Peel the potatoes and slice each one into six wedges. Put the wedges into the boiling water and let them boil for 5 – 10 minutes. Drain and discard the thyme and garlic.
Put the wedges on an oven tray, drizzle olive oil on top and mix them up a bit so they are all covered by oil. Turn the wedges so that the sharp edge is facing upwards. Season with salt and pepper. Tear off as rosemary leaves and distribute evenly over the potatoes.
Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes turn the oven to grill, 225 C, to get a nice crispy exterior. After about 5 minutes under the grill the potatoes should be ready.
Turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar if you need to keep them warm.

Ingredients for the salad:
Rocket salad leaves
Baby plum tomatoes

Preparing the salad:
Cut the tomatoes in two, combine with the rocket leaves. Dress with the vinaigrette.

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:
50 ml Champagne vinegar
150 ml extra virgin olive oil

Preparing the vinaigrette:
Make sure that the oil and vinegar is at room temperature since this makes it easier to form the emulsion. Whisk the vinegar and oil together in a bowl until a good emulsion is formed. Season with salt and pepper. It’s better to prepare the vinaigrette 1-3 hours before needed to let the flavors meld.

More to follow…


Garlic Confit

Garlic confit is a great pantry staple and very easy to make. It can be used to flavour mashed potatoes, stirred into soup or simply spread on a piece of toasted baguette. The garlic confit can be stored in the fridge for about a month (completely submerged in the oil) and the oil can be used for other purposes, for instance dressings.

Ingredients for the garlic confit:
About 45 peeled garlic cloves (roughly equal in size)
About 500 ml rapeseed oil

Preparing the garlic confit:
Place the peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough oil to cover them by about 2 cm. Make sure that none of the garlic cloves are poking through the oil, if necessary add more oil.
Place the saucepan over medium-low heat. If you have a gas burner use a diffuser to lower the heat. The garlic should cook very gently, look out for very small bubbles in the oil.
Cook for about 40 minutes and give the cloves a stir every 5 minutes or so. After 40 minutes pick up one of the cloves with your spoon and pierce it with a paring knife, it should be completely tender if they are done.
Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool in the oil.
Transfer to a jar and poor over the oil, make sure that the garlic confit is submerged in the oil. Refrigerate for up to one month.


Tarte Tatin

tatin3Tarte Tatin is one of my favorite desserts. The sumptuous combination of tart apples, sweet caramel och crispy pastry is great after a dinner in the autumn.
I used Golden Delicious apples for my Tarte Tatin since they are the type of apples typically used. Either way, use firm dessert apples and not cooking apples since you want the apples to keep their shape and not disintegrate too much.

Ingredients for the tarte tatin:
1 kilo apples (preferably Golden Delicious)
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp pectin powder
100 g unsalted butter
200 ml caster sugar
All butter puff pastry, rolled out to a 32 cm disc.

Vanilla ice cream for serving

Preparing the tarte tatin:
Peel and core the apples, then cut them into 2 mm slices. Mix the vanilla sugar and pectin powder and then mix together with the apples. The pectin binds the juice from the apples during the baking so the tarte doesn’t end up too sticky.
Melt the butter in a cast iron frying pan (about 22 cm in diameter) over medium heat. Poor over the sugar and let it melt to a brownish caramel.
Distribute the apple slices in the pan in a circular fashion. Press them down a bit to make the tarte even. Cover with a lid and let the apples stew for 10 minutes, remove the lid and cook for about another 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the apples cool to room temperature.
Put the pastry over the pan and press it down over the apples. Clean up the edges with a paring knife. Pierce the pastry with a fork all over.
Put the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes. Turn on the oven, 225 C.
Put the pan in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 175 C and bake for another 20 minutes until the pastry is nice and golden.
Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Flip the tarte upside-down on a serving plate and serve.
tatin1 tatin2


Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

This was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had.
Don’t be fooled by the “Salted” part of the name… the salt (use as much or little as you want) lifts the flavors to great effect.
This is pure indulgence so you’d want some acidic fruit or berry to cut through the richness… or just enjoy it on it’s own.

Ingredients for the salted butter caramel ice cream:
500 ml whole milk, divided
300 g sugar
60 g salted butter
Scant ½ teaspoon sea salt (preferably fleur de sel, otherwise Maldon)
250 ml heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparing the salted butter caramel ice cream:
Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)
Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 250 ml of the milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 71 – 77 C.

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a small bowl (enough for 2 l) in a larger bowl partially filled with ice cubes and water. Set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the rest of the milk into the bowl.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla extract, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Transfer to a jug and chill until thoroughly chilled (preferably overnight).

Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Clarified butter

This was easy to make, took about 20 minutes. I need it for Hollandaise sauce that I will make some time soon…
I sieved the butter first through a cheesecloth lined sieve over a Pyrex jug and then from jug to plastic container lined with cheesecloth, this gave me a very clear clarified butter with almost none of the milk solids. I used Unsalted butter because I read that it yields more than Salted butter once clarified, and I usually use Unsalted butter anyway.

250 grams of President Unsalted butter gave me 170 grams of clarified butter.

There are many guides online on how to make clarified butter, like this one or this one.