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.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Kipper Carbonara

In my quest to swim the channel, I have turned my attentions to particularly nourishing food which is high both in protein and carbohydrates. When my body is exhausted, it seems to tell me that it needs fish and pasta to repair itself. This one fits the bill perfectly and is poached (pun very much intended) from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall.

Nutritious, delicious and also cheap as chips.


Serves 5 - 6

500g Spaghetti or Linguine
400g Kipper Fillets
4 Egg Yolks
200ml Double Cream


Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it well and throw in 500g spaghetti or linguine. Meanwhile, cut the flesh off the skin of 400g Kipper Fillets and remove any pin bones.

Slice the kipper flesh into small strips. Fry over a low heat in a knob of butter for just a couple of minutes, until cooked though.

Put 4 Egg yolks and 200ml cream into a large bowl. Season (going easy on the salt) and whisk together. As soon as the pasta is cooked ,drain it well, then return it to the still hot pan it was cooked in.

Add the egg and cream mixture and the kipper slices and quickly toss everything using two forks .The finished sauce should coat the pasta strands like silky custard.

Serve straight away, and pass the pepper mill around.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Ravioli o Tortelli Di Zucca Mantovani

This recipe is typical of Milan and the surrounding area. Milanese food is not my favourite in Italy. It tends to be heavy and can seem a bit bland compared to the pungent aromas favoured in the south. This recipe however is unique and exciting. The pasta filling is sweet and aromatic and though the concept sounds a wee bit strange, it works very well.

This is a powerful meal so I don't recommend you give yourself a huge bowl of it as you would bolognese. I have made that mistake in the past and regretted it. I suggest rather that you serve it as a primi piati and keep portions small. It is not an easy dish to make anyway so unless you want to be locked in your kitchen all day, small portions will probably suit you just fine.


For the filling:

1 kg butter nut squash
160g amaretti biscuits
160g mostarda di mantova
180g grated grana padano (or parmesan)
80g butter
salt and pepper

For the pasta:

600g italian 00 flour
6 eggs
a good pinch of finely ground salt

To serve:

grated grana padano
a few sage leaves


Before attempting this you will need to find some mostarda. Mostarda is a speciality of the Italian province of Milan, Lombardia. It looks a bit like glaceé fruit in sugar syrup, but when you taste it, you soon realise that the syrup packs a punch. The punch is mustard and the syrup is a unique sweet/savoury suspension of sugar and mustard. Going off the idea? Well its not for everyone but it works really well in this recipe so please persevere.

You can eat the remainder of the jar/tin (it comes in both) with cheese in place of quince or chutney. Mostarda is not readily available in the UK so you'll probably need to find an Italian deli unless your supermarket is very posh.

Chop the squash flesh into inch and a half cubes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a medium oven until the flesh is tender and gives easily when poked with a knife. The roasting process concentrates the flavour and brings out the amazing sweetness of BNS.

Remove and set aside to cool. When cooled, mix in a blender with the other filling ingredients. You are aiming for a smooth paste.

Make the pasta as normal. For pasta newbies, that means bunging all of the pasta ingredients in a mixing bowl or blender. Once mixed into a firm (not stiff) dough, cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Make the ravioli or tortelli as usual. I am not going to explain the process here now but will aim to produce a photographic tutorial at some point soon.

To serve the pasta, melt the butter with the sage leaves on a very low heat, drizzle the strained sage butter over the pasta with a light grating of grana padano.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Torta Della Nonna

This classic recipe is a regular sight in Italian cafes and pasticcerie. The sweet pastry is filled with a rich ricotta custard which bakes to a firm yet smooth texture. Italians would probably eat such a tart with an afternoon coffee rather than as a dessert. I think it works equally well as either.


For the pastry:
500g of flour
5 egg yolks
300g of butter
200g of icing sugar.

For the ricotta cream:
300g of ricotta
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or real vanilla)
half a litre of milk (room temperature, not straight from the fridge)
60g plain white flour
150g caster sugar
pine-nuts to decorate.


Prepare the pastry by mixing all the ingredients carefully and leave this mixture in the fridge for a while. For more info on the pastry making, refer to the similar pastry in this pear and almond tart recipe. Keep at least 1 egg white safe as you'll need if for the egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Now prepare the custard. Mix the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the sugar and vanilla flavouring. Slowly add the flour, stirring continuously. Slowly stir in the warm milk and mix thoroughly. Put the mixture in a pan on a low heat and continuously stir the custard as it comes up to the boil. Once it has boiled for 3 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta.

Take the pastry mix out of the fridge. Roll out just over half of the pastry mix with a rolling pin until thin. Form the pastry into a 'bowl-like shape' inside a round 28cm flan case. If pastry rolling isn't your thing, try the grating method also in the pear and almond tart recipe.

Prick the pastry base a couple of times, fill with ceramic baking beads and blind bake it for 20 mins or until it just starts to brown. Remove the base from the oven and allow to cool. Reduce the over temperature to 160.

Roll the remaining pastry 4-5mm thick and from it cut a 30cm round. Pour the ricotta custard mix into the cooked pastry base and top with the pastry round. Seal the tart by pressing the pastry together round the edges. Brush the top of the pastry with some reserved egg white and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake at 160 for 30 to 40 minutes in fan oven or 1 hour in a conventional oven. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Aubergine millefeuille

I get a bit stuck when veggies come for dinner. Especially gourmet ones like my friends Barney & Tam. I saw something similar to this cooked on TV years ago and always wanted to give it a crack. It's quite a light starter, which is great if you're serving 3 or 4 courses as it improves the chances of your guests enjoying the whole meal.


To serve 6

4 aubergines
a large handful of parsley
the juice of one lemon
1 clove of garlic, chopped
150ml olive oil


Slice two of the aubergines crossways - about 5mm slices. Generously salt the slices and place them in a colander with a tea towel on top and something underneath to catch the drips. Leave to stand for at least an hour (preferably two).

Fire up 2 gas hobs with a low-medium flame and place the other 2 aubergines directly over the flame. Keep moving them about until the skins are completely and evenly burnt. Fear not, the flesh will not burn, it will just pick up a lovely smokey flavour.

Allow to cool, peel and rinse (to remove the little bits of burnt skin). The flesh should be soft and cooked. If the middle is still hard, your flame was too high. Should this happen, cut the peeled aubergines in half and roast in a medium oven for another 20 mins or until soft.

Cube the cooked flesh and add to a food processor with most of the parsley, the juice of the lemon, the olive oil, garlic and a generous seasoning of sea salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth, taste for seasoning and set aside.

Rinse the salted aubergine slices and pat dry with kitchen roll. Brush the slices with olive oil and fry each one in a medium-hot griddle pan. The aim is to get the charred stripes while not overcooking the middle of the slices. You'll probably need to do them in batches.

Assemble the towers with alternate layers of fried slice, and puree dollop. You should aim for about 3 slices per portion. End with a small dollop of puree and garnish with a little parsley. Serve with the slices warm. The puree can be cooler without sacrificing the experience.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Pear & Almond Tart

This recipe was inspired by a bakery in Rome called Il Fornaio. More details can be found on my Roman food notes page. The recipe is cobbled together from various ones I found on the net and is vouched for with appreciative murmers.


Serves 8

For the pastry:

350g plain flour
175g salted butter
100g icing sugar
3 egg yolks

For the topping:

300g unsalted butter at room temperature
300g caster sugar
300g blanched almonds
3 eggs
5 ripe comice pears - peeled and halved


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. I do this in a food processor and finish it off in a mixing bowl. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

For the topping, finely chop the almonds in a food processor. Don't be tempted to substitute ground almonds at this point. They wont have the bite and the texture of the filling will suffer. Mix the almonds with the caster sugar and eggs until light and creamy.

Lightly grease a 28cm flan tin with a removable base. Take the chilled pastry from the fridge and grate it into a pile in the middle of the flan dish. Using your fingers, press the grated pastry into the edges and base of the flan tin until there is an even layer all around - that's right, no rolling. Once the pastry is even, prick the base a couple of times and blind bake it for 20 mins or until it just starts to brown. I add ceramic baking beads to stop the base lifting.

Assemble the tart by evenly-spacing the halved pears on the pastry base. Spoon the almond mixture around the pears (and fill in any cored cavities). If there is too much mixture it will overflow. This isn't a problem but bear in mind that you'll need to put it on a baking tray or your oven will become a butter bath.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160 and return the tart to the oven for 40mins or until it is browned all over.

Serve with double cream or crème fraîche. Its great hot or cold.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Raisin & Marsala Ice Cream

This upgraded version of rum & raisin was a complete accident. The mixture was made as a dessert filling but I had far too much and froze the leftovers. When I tried it from the freezer it was delicious and it has been recreated many times since.

Now when I say ice cream, I say it in a broad term. I have never made ice cream from a recipe and I certainly don't have an ice cream maker. So this is my take on ice cream. It is certainly creamy enough and I reckon it fights its corner admirably against real italian gelato and our friends at Oddonos. It is my Gelato Accidentale.


200g raisins
200ml sweet marsala such as Targa Riserva
500g marscapone (full fat)
600g creme fraiche (full fat)
60g icing sugar


Soak the raisins in the marsala for 24 hours. You may need to mix them occasionally as the top raisins will poke out of the liquid once they start to soak up the wine.

Beat the cream and marscapone together with a whisk and once blended, whisk in the sieved icing sugar. Drain the raisins and mix them into the cream mixture. Take half of the remaining liquid and mix into the ice cream mixture. Taste the mixture, check the consistency and decide if you think it needs (and can take) more of the raisin liquor. Add as appropriate.

Transfer to plastic containers and freeze. Remove the ice cream from the freezer each hour and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon. This should keep the mixture light and fluffy and ensure that the raisins are equally distributed. When it gets too stiff to beat, leave to freeze completely.

Notes for gluttons

The spare wine mixture is just too good to waste. If you have a lot of raisin liquor left over, you could reduce it with more sugar to form a syrup topping for the ice cream. You will obviously need to cool this. Remember that it will thicken as it cools.

I have tried this with white port in place of marsala. It worked well but required more sugar.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Baked Scrag End Lamb

This wonderful hearty dish is the epitome of simple home cooking. The flavours and textures are robust, the ingredients cheap and best of all its a one-dish meal - so minimal washing up. Scrag end chops cost next to nothing and because of the quantity of bone, the meat has great flavour.


Serves 4

10 smallish new potatoes
4 plum tomatoes
1 large aubergine
2 medium onions
6 cloves garlic
50ml olive oil
a few sprigs of rosemary
4 thick cut neck chops - at least 220g each


Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Clean the potatoes and halve lengthways. Add them to a medium/large roasting tin. Halve the tomatoes (also lengthways), dice the aubergine and add them both to the potatoes. Peel the onions and slice them thickly. Peel the garlic but leave it whole. Add the garlic and onions to the dish, pour over the oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Give the mixture a good mix so that the vegetables are covered with seasoned oil and tuck the rosemary sprigs under the vegetables. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Toss the vegetables once during cooking to prevent any burning but try not to break up the tomatoes.

Pick any bone fragments off the lamb chops and rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove the vegetables from the oven, toss them gently and put the chops on top. Turn the oven up to 220 degrees C and return the dish to the oven for 30 minutes. Test the lamb, it should be browned on the outside and still pink inside.

You will find that during the second period of cooking, juices from the chops drip down and douse the softened vegetables with a wonderful rich lamb flavour. When you plate up the meal, be sure to scoop the spare juice onto the plates. I like to eat this with my sister's crabapple jelly or redcurrant jelly if I've run out.