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.

Tomato and Chorizo Pasta

A good winter warmer. Tomato and Chorizo Pasta is simple and quick to make. Use any pasta shape you like. I think penne or a shell type pasta works best.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1-2 fresh chillies to taste, or some chilli flakes
  • 2-4 fresh medium tomatoes, chopped (I don’t skin them but you can)
  • 100ml double cream (more or less to taste)
  • 1 chorizo (cooked), chopped or sliced
  • Some of the pasta cooking water to loosen
  • Basil leaves
  • Parmesan for sprinkling

Method

  1. Put on a big pot of salted boiling water for the pasta.
  2. Put the chopped onions and chilli in some olive oil and soften them gently till the onions are translucent and soft. This can take up to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic once the onions are soft. (Garlic cooks much quicker than the onions and easily burns to the bottom of the pan if put in too early.)
  4. Put the pasta in the boiling water. I use dried pasta and it takes about 10 minutes to cook.
  5. While the pasta cooks add the tomatoes and salt to the onions, chilli and garlic. Let this simmer gently till the tomatoes are soft.
  6. Just before serving add the chorizo and the cream to taste. Warm through but don’t cook (if the chorizos need to be cooked add them alone and a bit earlier).
  7. Stir in some fresh basil and/or parsley.
  8. Drain the penne (keeping the cooking water) when cooked and serve with the sauce. Garnish with pepper and parmesan as your fancy takes you.
Tips
I like good smoky Spanish chorizo for the tomato and chorizo pasta. I find six inches of chorizo good for two to three people. I strip any skin or membrane before I cut them up by cutting along one side of the sausage. I find the membrane usually peels off easily.
Using raw chorizo should be equally nice, in which case I might put some fennel seeds in too because it feels right.
Omit the cream if you don’t like or are watching fat.

Cod and Chorizo Stew

A lovely cod and chorizo stew with a Spanish element. It makes a great bowl dinner and is great served with pieces of nice bread and butter. Based on a Tom Kerridge recipe but changed a little.
Fish wise this works fine with Cod or any other similar white fish. Just watch the cooking time. Less is more. Fish overcooks very easily and becomes unpleasant.
This a good freezer dish because you can make the tomato chorizo stew part in advance and freeze it. Then the fish can be done after defrosting and reheating, with the spinach added at the end.
If you are not keeping the stew for later do the fish part first as it needs at least an hour in the saffron.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 4 cooking chorizos (we find the raw chorizo style sausages that are a bit like a British banger work quite well, or you can go for the more Spanish style but they may be a bit more intense)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 4 pieces of cod loin (skinned), nice thick pieces about 5-6cm square and 2-3cm thick if you can find them
  • 200g spinach leaves
Bowl showing the cod and chorizo stew with cod loin on top
Cod and chorizo stew

Method

  1. Lay out a piece of cling film for each cod fillet on the counter. Lightly break up the saffron with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle half of it over the cling film. Put each cod fillet on top of the saffron cling film then sprinkle the remaining saffron over the tops. Wrap tightly in the cling film and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours. (If you are making the stew and then freezing it then skip preparing the fish until you defrost and want to heat the dish.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
  3. Place a casserole on the heat with the olive oil then add the onions, grated garlic and red chillies and cook over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
  4. Skin the chorizo sausages then slice into bite-sized chunks and add it to the casserole. Cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the red paprika oil comes out of the sausage. Add the cumin, paprika, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil then cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the drained can of beans.
  7. Take the cod from the fridge then remove the cling film, and place on top of the cooking stew, replacing the lid. Don’t submerge it. The cod will sit on top of the sauce and cook in the steam from the casserole.
  8. Transfer to the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. (Thin fillets may only need 5-6 minutes, beware of overcooking.)
  9. Take the casserole from the oven then gently lift the fish from the pot and place on a warmed plate.
  10. Stir the spinach and stir into the stew until it is just wilted.
Serve the cod and chorizo in bowls. Spoon some stew into the bowl then place the cooked fish on top. Serve with good fresh bread and butter on the side.

Lamb Scottadito

These are little barbequed lamb chops designed to be eaten with your hands. Known as lamb scottadito in Italian cookery, this is a brilliant way to speed up the cooking of lamb cutlets. Kids love them prepared like this because you can pick them up with your fingers (scottadito refers to burning your fingers in your rush to eat.) Best cooked on a barbecue.
Salsa verde is a lovely sauce to go with the cutlets, this quantity probably does 8-9 cutlets.  You probably want 3 cutlets per person. Increase the salsa verde quantities for more servings.

Ingredients

  • A rack of lamb (or more then one if you need), French trimmed – which just means with the bones stripped and cleanly showing
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
For the salsa verde
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp small capers in vinegar, or salted – rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet (packed in oil), drained and finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Make the salsa verde, mix together all the chopped ingredients in a bowl, then add the mustard and olive oil, stir well to amalgamate. Check and adjust the seasoning. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the lamb.
  2. Cut the rack of lamb into individual cutlets.
  3. Now beat them out slightly before cooking. Put each one on a chopping board and lay a sheet of clingfilm on top. Using a rolling pin, or the flat part of a heavy knife or cleaver, gently hit the meaty part so it flattens to half the original thickness and spreads to twice the width.
  4. Cook on a barbecue or a ridged griddle pan. Brush both sides of the flattened cutlets with olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Place the cutlets carefully on the hot pan or grill and cook for a maximum of 1 minute on each side, less if this seems too long.
  5. I use my blowtorch to finish the cutlets. Sometimes the bones (which cook slower) can be a bit bloody and this isn’t very appetising. So I take the blowtorch very quickly around the edge of the bones and cutlets to finish them off before serving.
Serve the lamb scottadito on warmed plates and drizzle over the salsa verde. Serve warm.

Leek and Potato Soup

Washing the leeks in cold water to remove grit
Washing the leeks

A very delicious and simple no fuss Leek and Potato soup, which has the merit of being veggie. Much better than you might imagine. This is based on a Delia recipe. Lovely warm. Can also be served chilled as Vichysoisse

Ingredients

  • 4 large leeks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, about 1cm cubes is fine
  • 50g butter
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, it’s indispensable)
  • 250 ml milk
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
To serve:
  • Snipped fresh chives or chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons cream or crème fraiche

Method

Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
  1. Start by trimming the leeks, discarding any tough or scraggy outer layer.
  2. First, cut the bottom half off each leek (the white bit) a short distance below the point where the leaves splay. This bit doesn’t have any soil or grit and can be quickly cut in half lengthwise and sliced.
  3. Split the top sections in half lengthways and slice them quite finely, then wash them thoroughly in two or three changes of water to get rid of any grit. Drain well.
  4. In a largish saucepan, melt the butter, then add the leeks, onions and potatoes.  Season with some salt and pepper, then cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 15 minutes. You don’t want any colouring or browning.
  5. Then add the stock and milk, bring to simmering point, cover and let the soup simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes – take care, if you have the heat too high the milk in it may cause it to boil over.
  6. Now you can put the whole lot into a blender – leave it to cool first – and blend to a purée.
  7. Blend the soup in batches, then return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently, tasting to check the seasoning.
  8. Add a swirl of cream or crème fraîche to each serving and sprinkle with freshly snipped chives (fabulous) or parsley.
I like croutons with this.

Croutons

Bag of frozen croutons
Frozen croutons

Croutons are often a lovely addition to a soup. They give a texture and some carbohydrates if they are needed. If you serve them in a bowl then folks can add as many or as few as they prefer.

The trouble with croutons is making them. Usually, when you think of them it’s all a bit too late and you don’t have any suitable bread and myriad other reasons why you just won’t bother.

The freezer is your saviour here. I keep a bag of pre-cut croutons in the freezer for just such occasions. You can make them in about 15 minutes with almost no effort.

Whenever I have leftover homemade bread (either from the breadmaker or handmade) I cube it up into croutons. My preferred size is quite rustic, about 1.5cm (⅔”) square. I also trim the crusts as they can go quite crusty and hard. Leave them on if you prefer. Keep a poly bag in the freezer and add croutons every time there’s some leftover bread.

Croutons don’t keep well when cooked. They can dry right out and become overly firm and crunchy. You need to serve them within 10-15 minutes of being ready.

If they are larger sized I find they have a nice crunchy outside but a slightly softer centre which is the preferred texture as far as I am concerned. I also prefer white bread croutons as I think that is nicer than some of the denser types of bread.

Method

  1. They defrost in 10 minutes in a warm kitchen, if you spread them around, while the oven is warming to about 180C.
  2. Put them in a big enough bowl and add a glug of some vegetable, or olive oil if it’s not too strong.
  3. Stir them around so they absorb the oil, adding more if you need it. When you cook them any excess will come out.
  4. Spread them on an oven tray and put them in the oven for 5-6 minutes till they look a golden brown but not too dark
  5. Put them in a serving bowl lined with some kitchen paper to absorb any excess

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

This is now my favourite Ragu sauce for pasta. It’s not a traditional Bolognese sauce but this is how I like it.
You can do this with beef, or pork, or a mix of pork and beef. I like the mixed pork & beef mince. You can either get pork and beef and grind it yourself or you can buy it ready minced.
I suggest you make a double batch. Have a fresh egg pasta, ideally tagliatelle, with the sauce. Or Gnocchi is good. Bag up a couple for the freezer. Or make a lasagne. A homemade lasagne with fresh homemade pasta sheets is a bit of work, but a joy.
Serve with grated parmesan or a lovely creamy pecorino if you have.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 50-100g of pancetta (it’s even better if you can get proper Italian pancetta)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
  • Bouquet Garni – Sprig of rosemary, Sprig of sage, Couple of fresh bay leaves. Chopped basil stalks can be good too if not too woody and just added to the soffrito.
  • Half bottle of drinkable red wine
  • Tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1kg good fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, then chopped. (Alternatively, I frequently use a couple of tins as the fresh ones are often poor)
  • 500g Minced Beef
  • 500g Minced Pork
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Finely chop the carrots, onion, celery. And the pancetta into matchsticks
  2. Put a decent amount of olive oil in a pot and fry off the carrots, onion, celery, with the garlic cloves in a pot and fry them moderately to make the soffritto. Keep stirring and the aim is to sweat them off but not brown them too much.
  3. Fry the pancetta until slightly crispy and add to the soffritto.
  4. In a separate frying pan brown the mince in some oil. Do it in parts. Grey steamed mince is not what we want. This needs a properly hot pan and the mince needs to brown. A slightly golden colour as the mince ever so slightly crisps is the desired outcome. You can actually hear the change in sound from a hiss to a more crackly sound as the mince begins to caramelise. This is what makes the flavour in your ragu. Put the cooked mince in with the vegetables and repeat until you are done. (Tom Kerridge cooks the mince spread thinly on a baking sheet and in a very hot oven until quite golden, I’ve not tried yet but seems like it could be easier and less smoky in the kitchen.)
  5. Now add the herbs in the bouquet garni to the pot, turn the heat up and add the red wine. Stir and cook it off until almost all of the wine is gone.
  6. Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes and stir it in. Bringing back to a gentle simmer.
  7. Put a lid on it and put it in a medium oven for about 90 minutes. Check it every 30 minutes or so. If it’s too wet and sloppy then leave the lid off so it reduces a bit. Don’t be frightened to give it another 30 minutes if it needs it.
  8. When you take it out the sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s not you can put it on the stovetop and reduce it down, but stand over it, stirring all the time or you will burn it.
I bag it up in single and double portions and freeze it so it’s a source of convenient meals. It’s one of those great discoveries in the freezer when you can’t be bothered doing much cooking and you find a leftover bag of ragu. A quick microwave and a boiling of spaghetti produces a delicious emergency dinner.

Thai Beef Salad

Thai beef salad with medium cooked steak layered on top
Thai Beef Salad

I love this Thai Beef Salad. Fresh lime leaves are essential I’m afraid. They give such an unmistakable zing.

I added some salad leaves and served it with a bowl of jasmine rice. Use whatever salad you prefer or have to hand. You need enough dressing to provide a liquid to blend into the rice. I spooned salad in beside the rice in a bowl and loved the mix of creamy bland rice and strong salad dressing.
I’m very lucky to have custody of my son’s lime leaf plant. I have a cutting developing. It lives outside in summer, but inside at all other times.

Ingredients

Dressing and Marinade (do multiple quantities if you are doing more steaks)

  • 1½ tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

Salad

  • Beef steak as much as you like, sirloin, rib eye, or rump according to preference
  • 200g tomatoes, whatever you like, cherry or cut up larger tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthways, sliced
  • 1 red onion, halved and cut into very thin slices
  • Anything else you fancy – avocado is nice, grated carrot, etc.
  • 2 fresh red chillies, as hot as you prefer, halved and deseeded, thinly sliced lengthways, chop lengths smaller if they are too long
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, large leaves torn
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked, lightly chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh Thai basil, leaves picked and torn, I just use regular basil if I don’t have Thai basil
  • Some salad leaves, as you prefer
  • 50g toasted peanuts or cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 kaffir lime leaves, centre veins removed, finely shredded

Method

  1. Whisk together lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and palm sugar in a jug.
  2. Place the steak in a suitable dish. Cover with enough of the dressing to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours. Remember that you must NOT use the marinade dressing in the salad as it has been in contact with the raw meat. You have to discard later.
  3. Prepare your salad vegetables
  4. Toast your cashew or peanuts in a dry frying pan, set aside to cool
  5. Cook your steak as you prefer and let it rest somewhere warm. Be careful of temperature and turning the steak as the marinade has sugar in it. This will make it char to black quite easily on the outside, so some care is required not to burn the outside.
  6. Make up a bowl or tray with the salad leaves and other salad items.
  7. Slice up the steak to thin ribbons and place on top of the salad
  8. Drizzle with the remaining dressing (NOT the marinade) and sprinkle with the nuts
Serve with on its own with some jasmine rice, or as part of a larger Thai meal.