Healthy Chicken Korma

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One of the Christmas presents I got this year was a cookery book called GQ Eats which is full of beautiful pictures of delicious looking recipes.
The food is selected by some of food’s biggest names and has a foreword from Heston.
Whenever I get a new cook book I always try to cook at least one recipe from it as soon as I can or before you know it I’ve slipped it into the book shelf and forgotten about it.
I’m steering clear of baked goods at the moment and loved the idea of cooking this korma for lunch as it’s quite healthy with no cream or ghee.
It went down very well, lots of clean fresh flavours from the spices and ginger with a citrus undertone.
Give it a whirl and simply adjust the quantities to serve more people, it’s Atul Kochhar’s recipe.

Ingredients (for one)
One chicken breast, fat removed and diced
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Five onions, sliced
Tw garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
10cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and cut to julienne
Five green cardamom pods
Half tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
Two cinnamon sticks
One star anise
Seasoning
100ml low fat yoghurt
400ml coconut milk
Four Jersey potatoes washed and cut in half
One tsp lemon juice

Method

1) Heat oil and sauté garlic but do not colour.
2) Add whole spices and when they start to crackle add onions.
3) Cook onions for five minutes and then add other spices and cook for a minute or two mixing well.
4) Add potatoes, stir, then half the coconut milk and 200ml of water, simmer until potatoes are cooked.
5) Add chicken pieces and cook for 20 mins or until just done.
6) Whisk remaining coconut milk with yoghurt and add to pan, stir, add ginger and lemon juice and cook for two minutes.
7) Serve with steamed brown rice.

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Stilton, pear and walnut salad

Like most people at Christmas I ended up over ordering on cheese and was left with a block of lovely Stilton.
This is a great winter salad which works well as a starter or light supper and helps use up left over blue cheese.

Ingredients (main for one)

Two handfuls of mixed leaves, ideally rocket, watercress and spinach
One ripe pear, peeled and sliced
Handful of walnut pieces
Piece of Stilton, about 75grams

For dressing
Tsp of Dijon mustard
Tsp of honey
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Method
1)Heat oven to 200c and place pear slices and walnuts on baking tray and cook for five minutes before removing.
2)Mix dressing ingredients by shaking together in an empty jam jar.
3)Toss leaves in half dressing
4)Place dressed leaves in serving bowl and scatter over pear and walnut pieces.
5)Crumble over Stilton and finish with drizzle of the remaining dressing

Nb: this recipe also works well with chicory

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A trip to L’Enclume

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“Wowzers it’s ace” is the the first thing I have to say about the restaurant L’Enclume and I can see why it made top spot in the Good Food Guide UK.

I’d been hoping to get away for a few days at the end of the year and decided to forego my usual trip to Cornwall and visits to Nathan Outlaw or Rick Stein and instead head north to the Lake District and try Simon Rogan’s foraging influenced menu.

It’s not cheap but the food was sensational, bar one dish of dover sole which I felt was very slightly underdone and so didn’t finish it.

Don’t go expecting a three course – starter, main, pudding – set-up as this is a culinary journey. It’s as though the kitchen wants to show off all their brilliant ideas and so give you a little of everything.

The menu changes each day and, as the terrific manager Sam Ward explained before I ate, while the prospect of 22 courses sounds overwhelming many dishes are little more than canape-sized and I left feeling full but not stuffed.

A word of advice is to go steady on the alcohol, I had local pale ale with the early courses, a glass of manzanilla, one glass of red, one of white and sparkling desert wine and that was plenty.

The staff are attentive and friendly and the environment is much more relaxed than many restaurants which are based in London.

It’s a real destination for foodies so you aren’t going to get a load of bankers flashing the cash which you do in some Michelin starred places down south.

My highlights on the menu were the “smoked eel and ham fat” – think supercharged fishy, salty mini scotch egg but with eel instead of egg, the “shrimp , brown bread and lettuce” – a great spin on the classic prawn cocktail but with brown bread ice cream, and “aged dexter with smoked marrow” – beautiful rare beef served with melt in the mouth pieces of marrow.

The two what I would call signature dishes I was served were “Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel” – served rare the meat is given a charred flavour by dressing in oil infused with charcoal, and “cod ‘yolk’ with watercress and salt and vinegar” – slow cooked cod roe made to look like an egg yolk using saffron served with puffed rice flavoured with salt and vinegar.

The food is fun and delicious made the meal on of the most memorable I have ever eaten alongside my first visit to Nobu in New York and Nathan Outlaw’s tasting menu, in Rock.

L’Enclume is delightful restaurant in a beautiful part of the world and I’m already to saving to return.

ImageOyster pebbles.

ImageRadish and blackberry.

ImageSmoked eel with ham fat. Artichoke with truffle. Innes, malt, tarragon. (L-R)

ImageEgg, fermented garlic and kales.

ImageRaw scallop, caviar.

ImageShrimp, brown bread and lettuce.

ImageHot pot.

ImageCod ‘yolk’ with watercress, salt and vinegar.

ImageValley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel.

ImageLangoustine, parsnip, black pudding, hazelnut and cured yolk.

ImagePotatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel.

ImageButter poached dover sole with razor clams, leeks, nasturtium butter.

ImageAged Dexter, smoked marrow, grilled carrot and, dittander.

ImageBurnt pear and beetroot. Milk skin, chestnut, truffle. (L-R)

ImageElderflower wine, yoghurt, cobnut.

ImageButtermilk custard with caramelised quince, rosehip, muscovado, honey oats.

ImageMeadowsweet, granny smith, sorrel, walnuts.ImageCeleriac, sweet cheese, woodruff.

Butternut squash soup

It might just be damp outside but I can feel a proper cold snap coming and when a friend wrote on Twitter she’d seen frost I knew it was time rescue some vegetables from the allotment.
The problem with frost is it’s frozen water from the air but it will also mean frozen liquid in all my surface lying beetroots and squashes. They go mushy as the molecular structure changes as it freezes and defrosts and while this is great when you want to tenderise something like squid it’s less great when you want to preserve structure or flavour.
Butternut squash properly stored lasts for months so I cut mine, making sure to leave plenty stalk – this is where moisture can get in and you don’t want that.

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So with a few hardening off in my spare room (radiator turned off) I thought I’d whip up a favourite winter soup recipe with a butternut.
This comes from Dom Chapman the head chef at the fantastic Royal Oak pub in Berkshire and alumni of Heston Blumenthal’s kitchens.
I used a fresh red chilli added at the beginning instead of the cayenne and very little milk as I like my soup thick and this came out thinner than I expected. I also roasted the skins of the butternut tossed in olive oil and on a baking tray for 30min at 150C then scattered on top

Ingredients (makes four generous servings)

Butternut squash soup
1kg of butternut squash
1 large onion
200g of butter
1l of water
700ml of milk
salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Method

1. Peel the butternut squash. Cut it in half lengthways and scrape the seeds out. Then slice the squash with a mandolin as thinly as possible

2. Halve the onion, peel and slice as thinly as possible

3. Take a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients and melt 150g of the butter over a low heat, being careful not to burn it. Add the onion and butternut squash and sweat off over a low heat for 10 minutes

4. Turn the heat up and add the water, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft

5. Remove from the heat and liquidize the soup. Pass through a fine seive. Now add the milk to obtain the right consistancy. The soup should be silky-smooth. Be careful you do not add to much milk, so diluting the flavour

6. Finish the butternut squash soup by whisking in the rest of the butter and check the seasoning. Stir in a dash of cayenne pepper just before serving

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Christmas cake

I have very strong memories of making cakes with my late mother.
Standing on a chair at the table stirring various egg, sugar and flour combinations with the promise of being able to run my finger around the mixing bowl.
The taste of uncooked cake mixture transports me back to my childhood.
One of the best cakes my mum made was the annual Christmas cake – heavy with fruit and brandy and seemingly never-ending.
Our family one was cooked and “fed” with brandy for months and then wrapped in marzipan before being covered in Royal icing and decorated with ancient Santa Claus and plastic holly.
This year I have decided to make some cakes as presents and pass them on and hopefully start a tradition which my mum would approve of.
As she did before me I’ve turned to Delia Smith as for Christmas her recipes generally cannot be beaten when it comes to staple dishes.
We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, just make a cake.
A quick warning this recipe takes 12hours to soak the fruit and four hours to bake and this cake is supposed to get better with age – some people make theirs a year in advance – so don’t leave it to the last minute.

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Ingredients

For the pre-soaking:
450g currants
175g sultanas
175g raisins
50g chopped glacé cherries
50g mixed chopped candied peel
100ml brandy

For the cake:
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ level teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g dark brown soft sugar
4 large eggs
One dessertspoon black treacle
225g spreadable butter
50g chopped almonds (skin on)
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

For feeding and topping:
Brandy to ‘feed’ the cake
100g whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t, like me, plan to ice the cake)

Method – this recipe is from Delia’s Cakes

You should get the pre-soaking ingredients ready the night before you make the cake. Put all the fruits in a bowl and mix them with the brandy, cover with a cloth and leave them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C.

Now all you do is sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large roomy mixing bowl then add the sugar, eggs, treacle (warm it a little first to make it easier) and butter and beat with an electric hand whisk until everything is smooth and fluffy.

Now gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.

Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.

Finally take a double square of baking parchment with a 50p-sized hole in the centre (for extra protection during the cooking) and place this not on top of the mixture itself but on the rim of the brown paper.

Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched.

Sometimes it can take 30–45 minutes longer than this, but in any case don’t look at it for 4 hours.

Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When it’s cold, ‘feed’ it by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy, then wrap it in parchment-lined foil and store in an airtight tin.

You can now ‘feed’ it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.

Happy Christmas cake making!

Grouse with all the trimmings

The Glorious 12th of August marks the start of the grouse shooting season which runs until December.
I like the little birds and you’ll often find them on upmarket menus during the autumn months.
However what I really like is the trimmings, creamy bread sauce, crispy potato chips and fresh green brussel sprouts, all a nod that the best meal of the year (Christmas lunch) is not far away.
I’ve read that at the start of the grouse season some unscrupulous suppliers have been known to push out any remaining birds they had in their freezers.
For that reason now seems the perfect time to buy fresh as the season is in full swing and the shooters are supplying a steady stream of the feathered foodstuffs.
Down at Borough Market virtually every butcher seems to have grouse squeezed alongside pheasant and maybe a partridge or two.
I got mine from my favourite poultry supplier Wyndham House at £9 each but I noticed the Ginger Pig was doing two for £14 – perhaps an indication of the number of birds on the market.
When I got home I roasted mine rubbed with butter, seasoned and draped in streaky bacon for about 20/25 mins in a very very hot oven.
Best served pink but you can cook them more thoroughly.
Admittedly small game birds can be tricky to eat but a sharp knife and a generous dollop of creamy bread sauce makes the experience one of the great culinary luxuries.

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Roast grouse and bread sauce by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

1/2-1 grouse per person, plucked and drawn, the neck and giblets reserved
a little soft butter, lard or dripping
2 rashers of fatty streaky bacon per bird
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stock/dressing:

the neck and giblets from the bird (minus the liver)
the wings (optional)
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tbs fat or oil
1 bay leaf
red wine
plain flour
redcurrant or quince jelly (optional)
bread sauce

Prepare the birds by smearing a little fat over the breasts, seasoning with a twist of pepper and covering them with a couple of rashers of streaky bacon. The grouse’s liver is particularly good, and can be replaced in the cavity, perhaps with a couple of teaspoons of port, before cooking. Place in a roasting tin and put in the centre of a very hot oven (230C/gas 8).

Remove the bacon after 8-10 minutes and take it out of the oven if it’s as crisp as you’d like it to be. At this point you could baste the birds with any fat in the tin, but do it fast so as not to let the oven cool. About 20 minutes in total should be enough to cook most grouse through without drying them out, 25 minutes for a larger bird, provided in both cases they can rest for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the gravy. The meat should be just a little pink, but if this is not to your taste, add 5-7 minutes to the cooking time.

Skim off any excess fat from the roasting tin (what little there is will be from the bacon). Place the tin on the hob and sprinkle just a teaspoon of flour into it. Scrape the base with a wooden spatula, scratching up any crispy bits and mixing them with the flour and juices. Use a small splash of wine and a little of the reserved stock to help this process and loosen the gravy. Now strain all the liquid in the roasting tin through a sieve into a small clean saucepan. Whisk in the rest of the stock and bring to the boil. Taste the gravy, adding just a little redcurrant or quince jelly if you think it needs sweetness. Boil to reduce if you want to intensify the flavour, then season with salt and pepper as you see fit. Whisk in a little more flour if you want to thicken it. In short, fix the gravy how you like it.

Bread Sauce by Delia Smith (just halve quantities for less)

1. To make enough for eight people, halve a large onion and stick cloves into each half (how many you use is a matter of personal taste – I suggest 15-18. If you don’t like them at all, use some freshly grated nutmeg instead). Place the onion halves in a saucepan with a bay leaf, 8 black peppercorns, 1 pint (570 ml) of creamy milk and some salt. Bring everything up to simmering point, remove from the heat, put the lid on and leave everything to infuse for at least 2 hours.

2. When you are ready to make the bread sauce, remove the onion, bay leaf and, if you can, the peppercorns, with a draining spoon. Keep the onion to one side, as you may want to put it back into the finished sauce for extra flavour.

3. Stir 4 oz (110 g) freshly made white breadcrumbs into the milk and add 1 oz (25 g) butter. Stir over a low heat to melt the butter and thicken the sauce slightly – this will take about 15 minutes.

4. After that, you can add the onion back in, to give the sauce extra flavour. Leave the sauce in the pan in a warm place until you are ready to serve it. Just before serving, remove the onion and spices. Re-heat the sauce gently then beat in another 1 oz (25 g) of butter and 2 tablespoons of double cream. Taste to check the seasoning. Pour into a warmed serving jug.

Game chips

1) Using a manolin on medium setting slice one medium potato per person
2) Brush each piece with olive oil and place on baking tray
3) Roast in 200c oven for about 10 minutes until crisp.
4) Drain on kitchen paper and repeat until you have enough, season and serve.