March 2009 Archives

Hello SunshineWe're so ruddy close to spring, here's what the man from Chelsea (pictued here popping into someone's acid trip) cobbled together last year with some peas and a leg of ham that he found in his garden (unconfirmed fact).

Salad of peas and Parma ham

Serves four

2 leaves gelatine
600g shelled fresh peas
caster sugar
200ml double cream semi-whipped
small bunch of mint
2 long shallots diced finely
3 punnets pea shoots
4 slices Parma ham

For The Dressing
1 egg yolk
zest and juice of 2 lemons
225ml olive oil

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. Cook 400g peas in boiling salted water for about four minutes with a large pinch of sugar and salt to taste, then drain and plunge into iced water, leave for a few minutes then drain.

Cook the remaining peas in the same way, retaining their cooking water then place this last third in to a blender with 150ml of the cooking water add the soaked gelatine and make a purée. Pass this purée through a fine sieve and then place in to a bowl and into the fridge . Stir from time to time until it has nearly set, then add the cream which should be the consistency of thick custard, season and add a tbsp of chopped mint and you may need to add a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of lemon juice. Then chill.

To make the dressing place the yolk in to the blender with the juice and zest of lemon then blend for a minute, slowly add 200ml olive oil and a little water if it gets too thick , season then add a pinch of mint.

Cook the shallots in the remaining oil until soft but not coloured, then place in to a bowl to cool. Add the rest of the cooked peas another large pinch of chopped mint with a little dressing to bind them together. Place the shallot and pea mixture on to the plate with a little dressing and then the pea mousse, pea shoots and Parma ham.

Tom Aikens

One from the man with the lived-in face:

Gordon Ramsay's pot au feu of pigeon de Bresse poached in a bouillon of cèpes served with choux farci


(Serves four)
For the cèpe consommé
100g shallots
75g dried cèpes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
Black peppercorns
1 litre chicken stock
For the clarification
1 chicken leg, boned and minced
25g shallots, minced
25g carrots, minced
50g dried cèpes, minced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
Black peppercorns
1 celery stick, minced
2 egg whites, beaten
Chopped truffle
12 baby carrots, prepped
6 baby navets
4 baby leeks
50g peas
50g broad beans
1 celery stick
4 pigeons (450-500g)

To prepare the cèpe consommé sweat shallots until golden brown add cèpes bay leaf thyme and peppercorns and cook out. Add chicken stock and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain stock

Mix the clarification ingredients add egg whites and mix well. Add this to cèpe stock and bring to the boil stirring constantly. Simmer for 20 minutes then pass through a muslin leaving the crust in the pan. Finish with chopped truffle and seasoning.

Prepare blanch and refresh all the baby vegetables in water. Trim and clean the pigeon removing the innards. Poach pigeon in chicken stock or cèpe consommé for six to seven minutes. Allow pigeon to rest for five minutes then remove from the bone.

Reheat pigeon and vegetables in consommé and serve in a bowl.



Crab and wild garlic tart by Henry Herbert

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Wild garlic: wild hairFor those of you who haven't been to the Coach and Horses in London's Clerkenwell is a fab little gastropub with head chef Henry Herbert (pictured here doing an impression of Cate Blanchett doing an impression of Bob Dylan) big on his foraging. And he's foraged up this cheeky recipe using bang in season produce; crab and wild garlic.

Wild Garlic & Crab Tart

Ingredients for the Pastry:

125g Unsalted Butter
250g Plain Flour
2 Egg Yolks
Pinch of Salt
2 Tablespoons Cold Water

Ingredients for the Filling:

2 Whole Eggs
4 Egg Yolks     
400ml Double Cream
200ml Milk
50g Grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper
200g White Crab Meat
30g Shredded Wild Garlic Leaves
10g Tarragon
20g Flaked Almonds

For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour. Mix in the yolks, salt and cold water until the pastry comes together. Wrap in cling-film and rest in fridge for 2 hours. Line a greased 10inch tart case and bake at 180C for 12 minutes, remove from oven, brush pastry with egg wash and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. For the filling whisk together the eggs, yolks, cream, milk, parmesan and seasoning. Fold in the crab meat, wild garlic and tarragon. Pour the mix into the tart case and sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake at 160C for 30 minutes.  Cool and serve with a green salad.

Henry Herbert, head chef, the Coach and Horses, Clerkenwell, London

Say cheeseWhat's this? A fricking frommelier you say?

Sommelier + fromage (cheese in French talk) = Well. You do the maths.

It's nice to see that, with unemployment nearing the two million mark and press reports suggesting one in five are nervous over their jobs, Le Bouchon Breton in Spitalfields is doing its own little bit for the economy by paying some dude to look after their cheese.

The guy in question is the fanstatically French named Jean Claude Ali Cherif, whose job, so the press release goes, is to look after the 40-plus cheeses on the Breton trolley: "making sure the cheese is served at its best and at the right temperature makes all the difference, good storage and regular checking ensures each cheese is brought to life ready for the customer".

Anyho, the guy must obviously know his cheese or he wouldn't have a full-time job dealing with the stuff, and if you'd like to bask in this reflected knowledge old Ali Cherif is putting on a monthly cheese masterclass. The hour long cheese-chat is priced at £50 and is being held on the following dates:

Breton Cheese Master Class Dates for 2009
6-7pm Tuesday 31st of March
6-7pm Tuesday 28th of April
6-7pm Tuesday 26th of May
6-7pm Tuesday 30th of June
6-7pm Tuesday 28th of July
6-7pm Tuesday 25th of August 

Great British Menu 2009 contestants: Aiden Byrne

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Invisible page three models: sexyLovely Aiden Byrne, dome-headed genius and youngest British recipient of a Michelin star, is a newby on the Great British Menu. He might have gone from London now but the capital's loss is Cheshire's gain and despite the Scouse chef saying his food is slightly simpler at his pub-cum-restaurant the Church Green in Lymm it still has the same bold flavours, exquisite technique and visual prominence of the cooking that drew plaudits during his time at the Grill Room at the Dorchester. And while it's a shame Aiden (pictured here with an invisible page three model) might not be pushing the envelope as much as he once was, it's good to see a talented chef now cooking near the relative culinary wasteland that is Liverpool.

For those new to the shiny-scalped chef's cooking he's worked at Adlards in Norwich (where he got a star), at the Commons in Dublin, as head chef to Tom Aikens, as head chef at the Oak Room at Danesfield House, as head chef at the Grill Room at London's Dorchester Hotel and now as chef patron at the Church Green pub in Lymm.

Scroll down for a cheeky snippet of his cooking via a recipe.

It's better if you're black not white rice

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If you're thinking aboutn being my dinner it's better if you're black not white (rice)Once you go black you never look back. So goes the old maxim. It works for rice; doesn't work so well applied to Michael Jackson.

It might be tenuously put together, my whole Jackson/race/rice theme, but it's nice and timely with the 50-year-old King of Poppets being wheeled by the bailifs for one last creaky-limbed boogy round the 02 Arena. Meanwhile, head chef at Gilgamesh Ian Pengelley launches a menu using only black rice. Coincidence? I think not. Political dig at Jacko? Maybe - that's all i'm saying.

Anyho. In the whole white vs brown debate, apparently black is the best (we're talking rice now). Black rice is wildly cultivated across Asia, with Chinese black rice often the most popular for its slightly nutty flavour.  It contains more nutrients than both white and brown rice and also has high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin. According to some boffins black rice can actually lower cholesterol. It also lacks the high levels of bran found in brown rice so can be ideal for those following a diet low in carbohydrates.

If you fancy checking it out at Gilgamesh, scroll down for a list of dishes.


Great British Menu 2009 contestants: Glynn Purnell

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Glynn Purnell: popular with dinner ladiesFor those of you unfamiliar with Glynn Purnell's food, it's culinary embodiment of the idea that you are what you cook. As much as Jamie Oliver's food is simple, friendly, media savvy nosh, or Bruce Poole's warm, appealing, big-hearted grub, Purnell's stuff is playful, mischievous, Brummie fare from a man as Birmingham-centric as Friday night curry vomit.

After sneaking through to the final with a strawberry dessert last year Purnell (pictured here enjoying a choc-ice with his pal after successfully retaking his maths GCSE) is back again. This year he's up against Daniel Clifford from Midsummer House in Cambridge in a Midlands heat and he's got a lot to live up to after not only becoming not only the first chef to pick up a perfect score for a dish on last year's dessert but also gaining the arguably-somewhat-better accolade of a Michelin star this January at his eponymous Birmingham restaurant, set up in 2007 after he left his position as head chef at Birmingham's Jessica's restaurant (where he also gained a star).

Anyho, this is first and foremost a food blog, so scroll down for a recipe of Glynn that is, just maybe, one of my favourite dishes I've eaten. It's definitely the only one to have made me smile while I'm eating it. Which is more than Purnell's joke has ever done: Q: What do you say to a man with no arms when you want to know the time? A: Do you have the time on you cock?

Born to be wild garlic

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Eat it raw put don't go clubbing afterwardsAbout a year ago I was romping through God's own country - or Yorkshire to those of us who possess all our own teeth - and it was effing everywhere. I'm talking about wild garlic, or ramsons if you prefer. So i started wolfed a load of it down and repelled all form of human, animal and vampire for the next two to three hours.

For the next month if you see a bit of wild garlic, probably in woodland near a lovely old patch of bluebells, chances are you'll see a whole host of it. If you're unsure, give it a whiff, and if it smells of a Frenchman's breath you've got the right leaf.

It's a personal highlight of Spring and a gem of an ingredient with a whole host of food - lamb or venison for example - or great just as a spring-time broth. How to harvest it, use it and pretty much everything you could hop to know about the plant is available from this excellent blog post two years ago from the ever interesting Food Fun blog.

There's a ray of light breaking through winter's dying clouds right now, so keep your eyes open and try it with gurnard in this recipe, another from Oliver Peyton's excellent National Cookbook:

Pan-roasted red gurnard with wild garlic and clams

500g small clams, such as carpet shells
2tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
100ml dry white wine
8-12 red gurnard fillets with skin, weighing 600-700g in total
2tbsp plain flour
30g butter
100g St George's mushrooms or oyster mushrooms, sliced
100ml whipping or double cream
400g wild garlic leaves or baby spinach leaves

Serves four

Gurnard is the T-bone steak of fish. Chunky like halibut and monkfish, it has a
strong enough flavour to hold its own against the pungency of the garlic in this
dish. The season for wild garlic only lasts a few weeks, so go mad with it when
you can. It's powerful, but it doesn't linger on the palate like garlic cloves do.

1. Scrub the clams clean under cold running water. Discard any that
are open, or that do not close when tapped on the work surface.

2. Heat a large saucepan until hot, then add 1tbsp of the oil and cook
the shallot for about 2 minutes. Add the clams and wine, cover the
pan tightly and cook until the shells open, which will take about 5
minutes. Lift out the clams and set aside, discarding any that are still
closed. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid.

3. Dust the fish fillets with the flour on the skin side only.

4. Heat half of the butter in a flameproof casserole and cook the
mushrooms for about 3 minutes or until soft. Add the cooking
liquid from the clams and boil to reduce by half.

5. Heat a large frying pan (or two pans) over a medium heat and add
the remaining oil and butter. Season the fish and cook, skin-side
down, for 2 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for 2 minutes.

6. While the fish is cooking, add the cream to the mushrooms and
boil for 1 minute, then place the clams in the pan and top with the
wild garlic. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes or just until the
garlic leaves wilt.

7. When the fish is cooked, turn it over onto its skin side again and
remove from the heat. Serve the mushrooms, clams and garlic in
four warmed bowls, topped with the gurnard.

Market report - Fish is cheap cheap cheap!

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Get your fish at sale prices! Fish

Because the rest of Europe is mysteriously quiet UK fish prices have tumbled to their lowest for years. There was even fish going unsold at Newlyn market the other day - buyers so spoilt for choice that they wouldn't even stump up 50p a kilo for the remainder. Expect a whole heap of bargains for the next week or two - lemon sole, brill and monkfish are all down. Dover sole is at a rock-bottom £13 per kg, large hake at £5 per kg. In general, everything is pretty reasonable and available - langoustines, scallops, shellfish, sardines and herrings from Cornwall. And there's even more good news, the first two sea trout were caught in the River Towey this weekend, ushering in a new season to join the already exciting Irish wild trout season.

Source: Chef Direct


The Jamie Oliver effect has seen a big increase in pork demand, especially for shoulder, his recommended cut. Luckily there is enough around. There's still plenty of mutton on the market, and there will continue to be so until the end of the month, when it'll be replaced by spring lamb. Game has now completely finished and lots of kitchens have switched to wood pigeon and hare to fill that wild quota.

Source: Chef Direct


What's there to be excited about? Forced rhubarb, blood oranges, red Brussels tops are all nice treats this time of year. We can't be too far from nettles and wild garlic but until then it's the usual crop of winter cabbage and roots.

Source: 4 Degrees