Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne is a Tex Mex classic. Makes a big pot, flex the ingredients according to the quantity you’re making or your taste. We always make a huge batch and freeze portions we don’t use on the day.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 celery sticks finely chopped
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 or 2 peppers (capsicums, bell peppers), any colour, diced
  • 1kg diced stewing beef, I like shin, blade etc
  • 0.5kg minced (ground) beef
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes (with nothing added, ie. no herbs, spices, salt)
  • 1-2 tbsp chunky peanut butter
  • 1 tin kidney beans (in water, try to avoid sugar and salt added)
  • 4-6 dried chipotles (depending on size and heat required), or ready flaked chipotles
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt to taste (I find 1 teaspoon per tin of tomatoes a good guide for anything)
  • Ground pepper to taste

Method

  1. If you are using dried chillies, put them in enough boiling water to cover them and let them soak while you prepare the rest of the dish
  2. Put the oven on to heat at about 165C or 150C for a fan oven.
  3. Start the dish in a big enough pot that is ovenproof.
  4. Put the onions, carrots and finely sliced celery in some oil and soften them gently till the onions are translucent and soft. This can take about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic once the onions are soft. (Garlic cooks much quicker than the onions and easily burns to the bottom of the pot if put in too early.)
  6. Now add the tinned tomatoes, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper. Keep the heat low allowing everything to get hot.
  7. Drain the soaked chipotles (put the drained water in the pot for extra flavour), take off any tough stalks, chop and put everything, including the seeds in the pot.
  8. Heat a separate frying pan. Brown off all the meat, in batches or it will produce too much fluid and be a dull grey colour, and put in the pot as you brown it.
  9. Lastly, add the peanut butter.
  10. Place in the oven for about 2-3 hours depending on the beef you have.
  11. One hour before the end of cooking add the chopped peppers. If you add them too soon they will dissolve
  12. Take out and add the drained kidney beans, then put back in for another 30 minutes. (The kidney beans are already cooked and can go to mush if added at the beginning.)
We serve with guacamole, sour cream and coriander, and wraps. Enjoy.

Tips

I think the mix of ground beef and beef chunks is best for Chilli con carne. Don’t cut the beef too small or it can “dry out” and be hard, about 3cm square is good. I like to serve with rice.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

This does enough Dauphinoise Potatoes for four people as a side dish. Or perhaps two as a main with some green vegetable sides.
This method where the creamy sauce and potatoes are pre-cooked together speeds the dish up a bit.

Ingredients

  • 500g peeled floury potatoes (Maris Pipers, King Edwards, Desiree etc.)
  • 300ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • Grated nutmeg (according to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove (reduce or increase according to taste)
  • 100g grated gruyere
  • Salt and pepper
A square 20cm baking tray is ideal to cook the dish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to about 140C fan
  2. Peel the potatoes and keep them whole. For quickness, I slice them to about 2mm using my mandolin, but you can finely slice them with a sharp knife. Don’t rinse them, you want all the starch.
  3. Put the milk and cream in a pot, with grated nutmeg, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and heat to boiling point. You will need a decent amount of salt with the potatoes, I use about 1 tsp.
  4. Add the sliced potatoes and simmer them gently in the creamy sauce for about 8-10 minutes, so the potatoes keep their sliced shape.
  5. Layer the sliced potatoes with the gruyere in the baking dish. I make about three layers, potato then cheese.
  6. Put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked, testing by probing with a knife tip.
  7. Then either turn the heat up to the maximum for 5-8 minutes until the top browns or put the dish under a hot grill.
The creamy Dauphinoise Potatoes will be scorching hot and it really benefits from sitting and cooling down for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Chow Mein

Chicken chow mein is a lovely noodle dish that is really simple and quick to do. Easiest with a wok. This will probably do two people just flex the quantities to your preferred portion size.

Ingredients

  • 150g dried thin/medium egg noodles as preferred
  • dash toasted sesame oil
  • 300g skinless chicken breast fillets, sliced into strips about 6-8mm thick
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (for marinade)
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp chilli sauce (optional, I usually use sriracha)
  • 2-3 tbsp cornflour
  • 1-2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • Some tender stem broccoli or bok choi as a stir-fried green
  • 150g (more or less to taste) bean sprouts
  • 1 spring onion, sliced lengthways
  • 2 tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Put the chicken in a bowl to marinade with the soy sauce, five-spice and chilli sauce,
  2. Cook the noodles. Usually, 5 minutes standing in some boiled water. Then drain and chill with cold water and drain thoroughly. Add a dash of sesame oil and mix to prevent them sticking together.
  3. Drain the marinated chicken. Put the cornflour in a large food bag and then drop in the chicken pieces. Shake and manipulate the bag to coat all the chicken pieces. Then lift them out to a plate shaking off the loose flour.
  4. Have all your other ingredient looked out and to hand as this is where you start cooking. Heat enough oil to fry the chicken, you may need to do this in a couple of batches. Cook all the chicken till it is cooked and has a bit of colour, and put it in a warm holding oven when cooked.
  5. Pour out the oil and wipe the wok clean.
  6. Now heat a splash more oil. And add the broccoli or bok choi, cooking this till mostly done.
  7. Add the spring onion and the bean sprouts, cooking these quickly
  8. Now add the cold noodles and the oyster and soy sauce
  9. Cook these for a couple of minutes until the whole thing is steaming hot
Serve the chicken chow mein in warm bowls with the chicken scattered on top and a twist of pepper. Add an extra splash of soy or a hot chilli sauce if you like.

Variations

Obviously, you can alter and amend this in countless ways. The meat can be varied, it could even be prawns. Also, the vegetables can be flexed in type and quantity. Personally, I like green vegetables but you could add carrot shreds, or you could try some mushroom. Go for it.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a delicious soup. It does take a fair amount of elapsed time because the onions can take 90 minutes plus to cook and then it simmers for about an hour once all the ingredients are in. Good to do if you are in the kitchen for something else anyway as the onions need occasional stirring.
Another tip of the hat to Felicity Cloake.
Depending on the cider or wine used the flavour can be more or less acidic. You might find that some wines will give an acidic edge and you would reduce or omit the vinegar.

Ingredients

  • 80g butter, plus a little extra for the toasts
  • 4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 sprigs thyme, just the leaves
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (vary this depending on the acidity of the wine/cider)
  • 400ml medium cider (or white wine)
  • 600ml good-quality beef stock
  • Dash of calvados or other brandy (optional)
  • 8 slices of baguette
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 100g Gruyère, grated

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat. Add the onions, season and cook, stirring regularly, until caramelised and deep brown. (Once they’ve softened, you can turn up the heat a little, but keep an eye on them.) This will probably take about 90 minutes.
  2. Stir in the flour and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring the flour in, then add the vinegar and a third of the cider, stirring and scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the rest of the cider and the stock, and bring to the boil. Add the bay leaf. Simmer for about an hour. Meanwhile, heat the grill and rub the baguette slices with the cut side of the garlic clove. Brush with melted butter, and toast on both sides.
  3. Add the brandy to the soup and check the seasoning.
  4. To serve, ladle into ovenproof dishes and top with 2 croutons and a mound of cheese. Grill until golden, then serve immediately.

Cock-a-Leekie

Cock-a-Leekie is a traditional Scottish chicken and leek soup that is very tasty. You are poaching a chicken in chicken stock and then just cooking some vegetables. Simple and perfect.
This is based on a Mary Berry recipe. I’m not sure if the prunes are traditional but they do add a background sweetness and work well.
With the meat of the whole chicken in the soup, along with the vegetables, it can get pretty “thick”, or crowded. Adding a little vegetable stock (the wonderful Marigold Boullion) can thin it to a nicer consistency without losing the great chicken flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 small chicken
  • 2 litres chicken stock (or use a vegetable stock), add more later if needed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 medium leeks, or just 3 if they are huge, cleaned of grit and halved lengthways, and then sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthways, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, halved lengthways, sliced
  • 12 ready-to-eat dried prunes, cut into halves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Sit the chicken in a large saucepan so it fits snugly and add the stock; you need enough to cover the chicken.
  2. Add the bay and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil on a high heat. Cover and simmer for 1–1¼ hours. Take the chicken out to cool and cover with foil.
  3. Add the leeks, carrots, celery and prunes to the cooking liquid. Add any extra stock if it’s needed.
  4. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Pull the meat from the chicken carcass into and cut into bite-sized pieces, discarding any skin and bone. Remove the bay leaves from the pan, add a little salt and pepper if needed, return the chicken to the pan and stir. Heat until piping hot.

The cock-a-Leekie soup really needs no garnish or fanciness. It’s just a big bowl of lovely chicken soup.

Variant

A good variant to make the dish into more of a carby meal is to soften off some thin egg noodles as the pack instructions say, and then add the drained noodles to the soup just before serving.

Freekeh Pilaf

Freekeh is a whole or cracked dried green wheat. It is typically Palestinian/Eastern Med.  It makes a light alternative to Risotto and works well as a side to some vegetable dishes or some grilled meats. I find it’s “lighter” than risotto and makes a good summer alternative.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 150g freekeh (or bulgar wheat)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 270ml good-quality vegetable stock
  • 10g parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 10g mint, finely chopped
  • 10g coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt and pepper

Side

  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • salt

Method

  1. Soak the Freekeh in cold water for 5 minutes.
  2. Soften the onions in a large pot with the oil and butter for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden.
  3. Add the drained freekeh, spices, salt, pepper and stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then set it aside covered for about 5 minutes
  5. Uncover for another 5 minutes to allow it to cool a bit.
  6. Mix the yoghurt, lemon, garlic and salt as a side dressing
  7. Stir in the herbs to the pilaf
  8. Serve with the pine nuts sprinkled over and a drizzle of olive oil, with the yoghurt dressing on the side.

Celeriac Remoulade

Celeriac remoulade is ideal with cooked ham. Make about 30 minutes in advance. It can’t be made too much longer in advance or the texture changes and it becomes a bit gluey.
This is a slightly sharp mustardy flavour that contrasts nicely with sweet-salty ham. The celeriac retains a slight crunch providing a good texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 average celeriac (about 450g)
  • Lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp double cream or creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Prepare a working bowl and juice half the lemon into the bowl
  2. Cut the celeriac into matchstick-thin pieces. I use a mandolin for this. Immediately put the cut pieces into the lemon juice to prevent them browning, and the acid in the lemon will start “cooking” the celeriac.
  3. Simply mix the remaining ingredients (mayonnaise etc) into another serving bowl to create a thinking liquid a bit like unwhipped double cream.
  4. Now gently fold the celeriac with some seasoning into the creamy liquid.
  5. Leave it for 30 minutes to become ready.

Serve the celeriac remoulade as an accompaniment to cold cooked ham or other cold meats.

Mayonnaise

A simple mayonnaise recipe that can be flexed in many ways. It needs proper seasoning or it will be a bit bland. You may want bland if you intend to use it as part of another recipe. Everybody should become competent at making this, it’s incredibly simple. Once you’ve learned how to make this you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.
A homemade mayonnaise is a delight and a very different thing from the shop bought jars. You can use it as a base for dressings like Coronation Chicken.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, mustard is essential to the flavour too
  • 250ml Groundnut oil, or Sunflower Oil, or a nameless vegetable oil. I like Sunflower Oil. Olive oil is a much stronger flavour and I think it’s too much for a mayonnaise. You could put a proportion in if you prefer, e.g. 10% olive oil, but I often find the flavour is too strong.
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar or 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and ground pepper

Method

  1. Combine the egg yolks, mustard and salt/pepper
  2. Pour in the oil while whisking continuously. Slow and steady works best. It’s critical that you go very slow at the start to begin the emulsion.
  3. Once all incorporated whisk vigorously and add the wine or lemon juice
  4. Check the seasoning and serve
I use this table to vary quantities:
Ingredient/Qty
120ml
240ml
Egg yolks
1
2
Dijon mustard
1 dsp
1 tbsp
Oil
125ml
250ml
Lemon juice/wine vinegar
1 dsp
1tbsp
If using unpasteurised eggs it’s not wise to let this mayonnaise sit around at room temperature for more than a few hours. I find it keeps well for a few days in the fridge. I usually put it in a Kilner jar, and it’s always a joy to remember some pre-made mayonnaise when a sandwich is required.
A flavoured oil could be used, eg. a proportion of Tarragon oil, and whisking some of the finely chopped herbs in at the end.
Make it into an Aioli by adding half a crushed garlic clove to the mix at the end and letting it sit for half an hour. Add more or less garlic as preferred. Delicious for dipping with chips (french fries.)

Coronation Chicken – Worth the Effort

Coronation Chicken was indeed created for a coronation, that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, by Rosemary Hume and Constance Spry. The yellowish ready made concoction you find in your local sandwich shop is a pale shadow of the real thing. Indeed, the dressing actually has a pale pinkish colour when made properly because of the red wine and tomato puree involved (depending on how much turmeric is in your curry powder.)

Make no mistake, this is no sandwich filler. A very British picnic or lunch should have succulent poached chicken dressed with the Coronation Chicken sauce and served with a crisp salad. You will be amazed how much better and different this is to the normal gloop.

I have to be honest it is a bit of effort, but you can freeze the liquid essence that flavours the mix, to use it multiple times. If you have some leftover wine (that can happen, right?) then make the essence and freeze it in a couple of portions.

The quantities here will dress enough salad for about 6 servings, or more depending on size, and generosity with the precious sauce.

Ingredients

Essence

  • 50g of chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 dsp to tbsp of a decent traditional British Madras curry powder (if you are in the UK I can recommend the M&S roasted curry powder, it’s perfect)
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 150ml red wine
  • 120ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • a twist of pepper
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • And a small squeeze of the lemon juice

Dressing

  • about 400ml of bland homemade mayonnaise (made with sunflower oil and be modest with the mustard and lemon)
  • 2 tbsp apricot puree (the non-whole fruit part of apricot jam is just fine)
  • 3 tbsp softly whipped cream

Method

Essence

  1. Soften the onions in the oil very slowly until they are fully soft and not browned, this can easily take 20 plus minutes
  2. Add the curry powder and cook off for a couple of minutes
  3. Add the tomato puree, wine, water, bay leaf, salt, sugar, pepper, lemon slice and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Now strain the liquid into a container through a sieve, pushing the onions through the sieve and stirring the small amount of onion paste into the essence. It seems a bit unpromising and not quite the right flavour at this stage but stick with it. You can freeze this essence.

Dressing

  1. Put the mayonnaise into a bowl
  2. Add the apricot puree (this provides sweetness and balances with the acidic essence)
  3. Spoon in the softly whipped cream
  4. Add as much of the essence you feel you need and gently hand whisk it to amalgamate.
  5. Taste and season, and adjust, if required.

Serve the Coronation Chicken sauce as a dressing with some poached chicken and salad.

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

Delicious rum and raisin ice cream which is best served “affogato” style with a shot of Pedro Ximez sherry on the side, which can be poured over, around, or drunk along with the ice cream.
Rum and raisin ice cream, with PX sherry, makes a great alternative Christmas dessert.
Two to three days in advance of making take as many raisins as you fancy and put them in a bowl. Cover them with as much nice dark rum (I try and use Dark Matter) as it takes. Allow them to soak at room temperature for about 48 hours. They should plump up and absorb the rum, an extra day soaking will do no harm.
Once the raisins are ready to use make a classic vanilla ice cream. Right at the end pour in the strained raisins and as much of the rummy liquid as you think it can stand. Put it in the freezer.
Fabulous. You can make this a week or two in advance.