Thursday, 10 November 2011

Five-spiced roast pork belly with leek pilaff

Serves 4


For the pork:

2 tsp five spice powder
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
A thumb and a half sized piece of ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 star anise
8 large pork belly strips

For the pilaff:

100g wild rice
140g basmati rice
1 leek, cut lengthways and finely sliced
1 large bunch coriander, leaves picked
1 lime


Mix the 5 spice, soy, grated ginger and hoisin sauce and then rub into the meat. Put the marinated meat in a baking dish which just accommodates it, and leave it to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or ideally overnight.

Approx 2 hours before you want to eat, pre-heat your oven to 160 ° C. Arrange the pork strips skin side up and put them in the oven. After 30 minutes baste the pork with the juices. Repeat after another 30 minutes and then keep an eye on the pork to ensure it does't burn on top. If it gets close to burning, you should be able to turn some pieces so that the more cooked side is sitting in the juice.

Stir-fry the leek in a little sesame oil, grate in the zest of half a lime and add a good pinch of salt. Cook the rice as per the instructions. I put the wild rice in first and throw in the basmati 8-9 minutes before the wild rice is ready. Add the leek to the cooked rice and stir in the juice of half a lime. If the pork isn't ready, you can cover the rice and keep it warm in a cool oven.

Twenty minutes before you want to eat, drain the juice from the pork and return the pork to a cooler oven. About 140 ° C. The pork, now free from juice, should now dry out and crisp up a bit. Don't work, it won't dry out too much as it has layered fat within the meat.

The pan juice is full of flavour but will also be very fatty. Strain off the juice and discard the fat. If there is a lot of juice, you could now reduce it while you wait for the pork.

Divide the pilaff between warmed plates, drizzle a little pan juice over the rice and top each pile with two belly strips. Garnish with coriander leaves if you're posh.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spaghetti With Goats Cheese and Rocket

Some of my favourite meals are the simple pasta dishes which take minutes to prepare and have very few ingredients. I suppose this is a cousin of macaroni cheese, so it was always going to have a very good chance.


These quantities are per person and make for a large main course.

100g spaghetti (De Cecco where possible)
50ml milk
50g goats cheese
25g rocket
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, plus more to serve
half a bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste


Put the pasta into well seasoned boiling water and get it bubbling steadily. Heat the milk in a small pan and gently melt in the goat cheese. If the goats cheese has rind, which hopefully it does, chop the rind well. As the cheese melts, you can do away with some of the cindy chunks by pressing them into the edge of a pan with a wooden spoon. I don't mind chunks though. When the cheese is incorporated, add the bay leaf, stir in the the parmesan and leave the sauce to rest.

Wash the rocket and reserve a few leaves to garnish. Roughly chop the remaining rocket.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the pan. Add the chopped rocket and sauce and give to a quick blast of heat to make sure its piping. Check the seasoning. Its unlikely to need much salt (unless you forgot to salt the water), but I always add a healthy twist of pepper.

Serve on warmed plates garnished with the reserved rocket leaves and a few parmesan shavings.

Notes to gluttons

Timing. If you prepare this (sauce) in advance or over-boil it, it will separate. So don't do anything until the pasta is on. Olivia first cooked this dish and it coated the pasta beautifully. My version had chunks of curd and sat in a puddle of whey.

Pasta needs salt and I think that when cooking pasta and sauce, the benchmark of well-seasoned pasta is whether or not you would eat it on its own, no sauce. If the pasta is unseasoned when you add the sauce, you are in danger of spending the whole meal chasing the seasoning. A little more salt, a little more salt. By salting the water sufficiently, you are seasoning the core of the dish and not just adding seasoning as an afterthought.

Rocket is often rubbish quality in UK supermarkets. Even at its freshest, you only have to open the bag to get a slight whiff of rot. Morrisons sell bags of unwashed wild rocket (though how wild can it really be) which is very fresh and very tasty. I guess the process of washing and drying it leaves rocket covered in stale water and that the moisture causes it to deteriorate faster. So if you can get unwashed rocket, you should find it tastes and lasts better.

What to drink

Well, red wine for sure. We're drinking Morrisons "The Best" 2009 Fleurie. Sorry to sound like an advert for Morrisons. In the most part I don't really like shopping there, but tonight I happen to have combined two of their best products.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Michelin-Starred Lemon Tart

This tart is unbelievably lemony. It is sharp enough to wake up the taste buds after a heavy meal yet also heavy enough to provide a solid kick to an afternoon coffee break. It looks wonderful - so vividly yellow from the lemon zest and egg yolks. If you are the type of person to have black plates (you probably have black sheets too), it will contrast brilliantly. On white plates, set it off with some red fruit or a drizzle of jus.

This recipe was given to me by the pastry chef at Chez Bruce when I did a 2 day stage in the kitchen. His recipe involved 40 eggs so I have had to scale it down for domestic proportions. The recipe below fits my 28cm flan tin (which is quite shallow) perfectly so you may need to adjust it slightly depending on your tin.

My pastry tends to come out thicker than I'd like. At Chez Bruce the pastry is waffer-thin.


For the pastry:

350g of flour
3 egg yolks
175g of butter
100g of icing sugar
pinch of salt (only if using unsalted butter)

For the filling:

175ml double cream
7 eggs
juice of 4 lemons
zest of 1 and a half lemons
250g caster sugar


To make the filling, mix all of the ingredients together and leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour so that the flavour of the zest has time to infuse. If you can leave it overnight, all the better.

To make the sweet pastry, combine the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Once well mixed (you're aiming for breadcrumbs), beat in the egg yolks one by one. You can do this in a food processor and finish it off in a mixing bowl if you like. I prefer to do it with my hands and to get mucky. Once the egg yolks are beaten in, add water drip-by-drip until the pastry is just firm, but not stiff. It will need to be pliable when you roll it. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Lightly grease a 28cm flan tin with a removable base. Take the chilled pastry from the fridge and give it 15 mins to warm up a little. Roll it out very thinly (3mm ideally) so that it will fill the flan case with at least 1cm overlap all round the edge of the tin. Line the tin with one large circle of pastry, pressing the pastry into the corners and ensuring the 1cm or spare pastry remains all around the edge. The pastry needs to be watertight as the filling is very runny indeed - so repair any holes with moistened pastry patches.

Line the pastry with a circle of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beads. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until very light brown. Remove the baking beads and paper and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. My oven has a mind of its own, so I rotate the tin regularly to ensure it is evenly cooked.

Remove the tin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 120 degrees. Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tin with a sharp knife. Your flan tin should now have a pastry lining which fits perfectly or near-perfectly.

Strain the filling mixture using a fine sieve and pour it into the base while still hot (this will ensure the case is sealed). The filling should come up to just below the top of the pastry. Carefully return the full tin to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. When you take the tart out of the oven, the middle will still be gooey. Don't worry, leave the tart to cool for at least 40 minutes. You will find that the residual heat in the pastry and case will set the filling perfectly. If you over-bake the tart, the filling will dry out and crack.

Serve the tart by itself or with cream. Drizzle a coulis/jus if you want to make the plate more exciting. If like me, your jam has not set this year, try using a spoonful of the runny jam.

Notes for gluttons

As an alternative, sift icing sugar over the top of the tart and place it under the grill to caramelize the sugar to a light golden brown. Try it without first though, as I reckon it needs no elaboration.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Parsons Nose Butcher, Parsons Green

The beautiful piece of pork belly I used in the recipe below came from a new butcher in Parsons Green. They are worth mentioning here as an addendum to my "love of butchers" piece from many months back.

The butchers at the Parsons Nose supply great quality meat and game. They age their beef in store and I believe the quality of their produce to be on a par with Randalls but considerably cheaper. Their venison sausages are probably the finest sausages I have ever eaten. Here are the vital stats:

The Parsons Nose
753a Fulham Rd
020 7736 4492

They also gave me this 10% off voucher for Christmas purchases which I am passing on to you.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Confit Pork Belly

This recipe requires a bit of dedication and planning but will reward you with belly pork perfection - tender, moist, flesh with uniformly perfect crackling.

The word "confit" means preserved (as in "confiture") and involves slow-cooking the subject of the meal in duck fat. Only the French could invent something so ridiculously unhealthy! Now you will need quite a lot of fat, so plan to have several roast ducks or geese in the run-up to your confit or alternatively secure your fat from elsewhere.

The fat for this confit comprised:

1. a jar of goose fat from the supermarket
2. the strained and reserved fat from roasting a duck (and some duck legs)
3. a glug of olive oil (because I was short for my first confit)
4. a large tub of beef dripping

The above amounts to about about a litre and a quarter which is enough to confit a 4 portion chunk of belly pork.


For the confit:

a large piece of pork belly - boned and trimmed of gristle
lots of animal fat (see above)
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
a sprig of rosemary

For the salting mixture:

a bay leaf per portion
1 star anise
a sprig of rosemary
1 clove of garlic per portion
5 peppercorns per portion
60g rock salt per portion

Step 1 - Salting

Roughly chop the bay, rosemary and garlic and mix with the salt. Lightly crush the peppercorns and add the crushed peppercorns to the salt mixture.

Smear the salt mixture all over the pork. Cover the pork and leave in the fridge for 24 hours or at least overnight. If you get a chance at any point in the day, rub the mixture into the pork to make sure it has an even covering.

Step 2 - The confit

Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C.

Remove the pork from the fridge and transfer it to an ovenproof dish which fits the cut of pork as tightly as possible. The tighter the fit, the less fat you will need to cover the pork. Melt the fat in a saucepan and pour over the pork until it is covered. Tuck in a whole bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary and a star anise.

Cover the pork (with a lid or else tin foil) and transfer to the oven. Leave it simmering slowly in the oven for about 4 hours. Check the pork while it is cooking and if any part is sticking out, turn it over to ensure even, moist cooking. You might also want to turn down the oven if it is boiling too rapidly.

Remove from the oven and leave the meat to cool in its oil. The meat should not cool completely. See step 3.

Step 3 - Pressing

In order to ensure that the portions are neat and perfectly flat, you now need to set your portions in a press. Before the fat sets, remove the pork from the fat and wrap it loosely in cling film. Place the pork skin-side down on a flat surface and place a flat board on top of it so that the pork belly is pressed as flat as possible.

Place a heavy weight on the top board. A case of wine perhaps? Leave like this overnight. The pork skin should set perfectly flat. This will allow you to pan-fry the skin and get wonderful crackling. Once removed from the weights, the pork is now cooked and semi-cured so should keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Step 4 - Final cooking

Take the pork and cut into neat square portions. Score the rind in whichever way you want (I go for inch cubes). Take a heavy-bottomed oven-safe frying pan which is large enough to contain all of the belly portions. Get the pan hot and place the portions skin side down in the pan. Fry over a medium heat until the skin is crisp and golden.

Transfer the pan to a hot oven for 6-8 minutes with the pork remaining skin side down.


When you turn the belly portions out of the pan, the crackling should be perfectly crispy. Place them on a mound of mash and serve with braised red cabbage and apple sauce. Oh, and please have a glass of wine at this point, you have earned it!

The confit fat can be strained, kept and re-used a number of times. Hugh Fearnley-Whojimaflip says you can use it 3 times before it becomes too salty. I have done 2 confits, duck and pork belly. What on earth shall I do next?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Savoury Bread & Butter Pudding

In fact, this is quite possibly closer to tartiflette than it is to B&B pudding.

The choice of cheese is up to you. Gruyere is the obvious one for me as I love the sweet, straw aroma and flavour of cooked gruyere. Beaufort or comte will be similarly great. Good farmhouse cheddar or stilton will give a different slant. Maybe you should just use up your cheese leftovers? Neals Yard sell lovely blue-streaked chunks of cheddar for cooking at a vastly reduced price.

Serves 4


half an onion finely chopped
3 or 4 slices of thin-cut pancetta
250g grated cheese
half a loaf or so of buttered crustless sliced white bread
one and a half pints of full-cream milk
6 large eggs
salt & pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Line the bottom of a shallow ovenproof dish with several slices of the buttered bread. Sprinkle over two thirds of the cheese and lay the pancetta over the cheese. Place the rest of bread on top.

Fry the onion with a knob of butter until softened. Once soft, stir in the milk and add a little salt (remembering that both the cheese and the bacon will have their own) and pepper. Pour mixture into the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Then pour the milk and egg mix over the bread in the dish and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Take the pudding out of the oven and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown.

This is delicious served with a simple salad. If you have used a milder cheese, the salad should be dressed with something tart and punchy (use wine vinegar rather than balsamic and maybe add some lemon juice). If you have used a powerful salty cheese such as stilton or strong cheddar, try a sweeter dressing made with gloopy balsamic.

Notes for gluttons

This recipe is clearly adaptable. You could try adding mushrooms, peppers or other veg. You could go italian and use basil, sun dried toms and mozzarella. No, I've got it, chicken bread and tikka butter masala.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

New York Cheesecake

Wow. Two pudding posts in a row. This backs up my suspicion that I am increasingly a slave to my sweet tooth. In my twilight years my comfy chair is sure to be surrounded by a debris of cake crumbs. Back to the recipe - I kid you not, this is the only cheesecake recipe you will ever need.


For the crumb base:

85g melted butter
140g (approx 10) digestive biscuits
1/2 tbsp castor sugar
60g chocolate chips
1 tbsp cocoa powder

For the filling:

900g full fat soft cheese (E.g. Philadelphia)
250g castor sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of lemon (2tsp)
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 large eggs plus 1 yolk
284 ml soured cream

For the soured cream topping:

142 ml soured cream (alternatively fresh cream and lemon juice)
1 tbsp castor sugar
2 tsp lemon juice


For the crumb base:

Melt the butter in a medium pan, add the biscuit and sugar. Remove from heat, add the cocoa powder and chocolate chips and mix well.

For the cheesecake filling:

Beat the soft cheese for a couple of minutes until soft and creamy, (this is easier if done in a food processor). Gradually add the sugar, followed by the flour and mix well. Whisk in the vanilla, lemon zest and juice then whisk in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Finally, stir in the soured cream and blend well (do not overbeat). Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin.

For sour cream topping:

Mix the soured cream, sugar and lemon juice together and spread over the cheesecake, cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for 8 hours overnight.

To put together cheesecake:

Position the shelf in the centre of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan assisted) or 240°C (conventional).

Line the base of a 23 cm spring form cake tin, with non stick parchment and brush the sides of the tin with melted butter. Place on to a baking tray. Press the mixed biscuit base down gently on the cake tin base until even (the crumb should not be pressed down too heavily). Pour in the filling and tap the sides of the tin to prevent any bubbles. Place the tin into the oven and cook for 10 minutes then reduce the temp to 90°C (fan assisted) or 110°C conventional or quarter of a gas mark and bake for 25 minutes.

Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool down slowly and gently for 40 minutes, this will help prevent any cracking. Gently remove from the oven and leave to cool. When cool, spread the soured cream mix over the cake and refrigerate preferably for up to 8 hours or overnight.

To serve the cheesecake, lightly run a round bladed knife around the cake tin edges and unlock the cake tin, slide away the parchment and cut into required portions.

Noted for gluttons

I prefer a little more base than in this recipe so try adding half as much again to the base quantities.

Digestive biscuits vary in salt content. The salt makes all the difference here so I recommend adding a pinch of salt to the base mix. It really gets the juices flowing.