Sunday 30 June 2013

Spiced Aubergine Salad

First things first, if you don’t already own it, and you have even the slightest interest in cooking, I urge you to immediately drop everything and hurry as fast as your legs can propel you towards the nearest bookshop. Once there, forcibly demand a copy of Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’. It is without a doubt one of the finest recipe books ever printed; you will never regret buying it.

Perusing the contents, you’ll find that every recipe is a classic, they all work beautifully and it’s surprisingly comprehensive for such a small volume.

Where am I going with this? Well, my newly acquired Lamb Ste Menehould addiction has sparked a renewed interest in Elizabeth David’s recipes and Simon Hopkinson; who is also a fan, features a few in his book.

I’m sure you know who Elizabeth David is, but just in case you’re unsure, she was a hugely revered British cookery writer who pretty much singlehandedly changed the national outlook towards cooking and food in post-war Britain, still under rationing until 1954. Her books and articles inspired generations of cooks and chefs and still do to this day.

Apparently this spiced aubergine salad was one of her favourite dishes and appears in ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’. Typical of Simon Hopkinson, there are no shortcuts, everything is done properly and exactly so, and all the better for it. So prepare to skin your tomatoes and salt your aubergines.

Utter ball ache? Yeah, probably.
Worth it? Definitely.

This dish, similar to imam bayildi is absolutely delicious and handily, best served cold. So no need to rush making it. Definitely serve it with the mint yoghurt, maybe a bowl of brown rice or some toasted pita bread wouldn’t go amiss either.

Spiced Aubergine Salad
Serves 4

You’ll need: -
2 large aubergines
100ml olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
8 ripe tomatoes, skinned and coarsely chopped
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp cayenne
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp currants
2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh coriander

You’ll also need: -
Greek yoghurt
Handful of mint leaves
Cut the aubergines into 1cm cubes. Put them in a colander and sprinkle with 2 tsp of salt. Mix and leave to drain for 30-40 mins.
Meanwhile, heat 50ml of olive oil in a pan and fry the onions until golden.
Add the tomatoes and spices. Stew gently for 5-10 minutes, then stir in the garlic and take off the heat.
Stir in the currants.
Tip the aubergines into a clean tea towel and gently squeeze them dry.
Put the remaining 50ml of olive oil in a large frying pan and heat until smoking. Add the aubergines and stir-fry briskly until thoroughly golden and cooked through.
Into this stir in the onion and tomato mixture, add the fresh herbs.
Tip everything into a bowl and leave to cool. Taste and add salt & pepper, if needed.
Serve with a bowl of yoghurt containing fresh chopped mint through it and a few dashes of Tabasco to liven it up.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Lamb Ste Menehould

This dish is recognised as an absolute culinary classic. It’s an Elizabeth David belter of a recipe that somehow, had completely passed me by. Yes, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of it until just the other week. My introduction was a starter at my favourite new restaurant; Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms in Bristol and it blew me away.

It’s lamb breast in breadcrumbs and ‘holy-tasty-fried-meat’ it’s good. Good in a kind of similar way to the resulting carnage if Colonel Sanders had the afternoon off from chicken and was let loose with a cleaver and a deep fat fryer in a field full of sheep. Yeah that’s what I call finger licking good. Combine it with a sharp creamy tartare sauce? Frigging ding-dong.

Since that awakening moment, I’ve been thinking of nothing else but having a go at recreating it at home. First I studied the original Elizabeth David recipe (reproduced in Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken & Other Stories), next I asked Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel from Bell’s how he made his version.

As you might imagine, the demands of a professional kitchen mean that Sam’s preparation and cooking methods are a bit different from Lizzy David’s home cooked version. The original recipe calls for the lamb to be slowly braised in white wine and water, breadcrumbed and finished in the oven. The restaurant version has the lamb breast salted, then cooked confit in duck fat (which makes sense for avoiding waste, confit meat keeps for ages) It’s then quickly deep fried to finish.

Being an awkward twat, I decided to pinch a bit of both methods. Mainly because I was too tight to buy duck fat for the confit and also because I’m lazy and I like the idea of finishing the dish in two minutes, especially after it has taken hours to prepare.

I should point out that lamb breast is one of those dirt-cheap, tough as old boots, cuts that when cooked for hours, tastes incredible.

So, here we have my bastardised recipe. It’s pretty rich, I don’t think you could eat loads, at least I couldn’t and I’m essentially a mouth connected to a bottomless pit, so I reckon this will easily feed 4. I served it with sauce Gribiche but at Bell’s, Sam served it with Tartare sauce and I reckon that’s definitely the better option. With regards to Tartare sauce, you can slavishly follow a recipe or do what I generally do, sling a few tablespoons of mayonnaise in a bowl and throw in a heaped tablespoon each of chopped capers, gherkins, parsley, and maybe a bit of tarragon and a tiny bit of Dijon. If you don’t have all of that, don’t worry, even if all you can rummage together is just mayo with some chopped gherkins through, it won’t be far wrong.

Lamb Ste Menehould

You’ll need:-
1 Breast of Lamb (bones left in)
2 Carrots, sliced
2 Onions, sliced
A few sprigs of thyme
1 Glass White Wine
1 Glass of Water
Salt & Pepper

You’ll also need:-
1 Egg, beaten
Flour for dusting
Breadcrumbs (preferably Panko, excellent Japanese breadcrumbs, widely available)

A deep fat fryer

Preheat the oven to 140C

Simply sling the lamb and the other bits and bobs into a pan, cover it with foil and whack in the oven for 3 hours. Turning the meat over every hour or so.

By this time, after you’ve let it cool down a bit, it should be so tender you can pull the bones right out.

You’ll need to sandwich your cold lamb breast between something flat, a couple of chopping boards or baking trays would be ideal. Place it in the fridge and weigh the top down with whatever’s handy. Ideally you’d want to leave it like this overnight, but a good few hours will probably do it.

When ready to serve, cut your lamb into oblong pieces, roughly a fingers length and say a couple of centimetres wide.
Dust in the flour, dip in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs.

Deep fry at around 190C for 2 minutes.

Season with salt.
Eat crisp and hot, dipped in tartare sauce.

Elizabeth David also recommends serving with some mashed potato, which sounds like a frigging capital idea. I love it – my recipe for uber mash is here

Thanks for Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel at Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms for allowing me to reproduce his method here.

Monday 17 June 2013

Essex Eating in Seville

A few weeks ago, I descended on Southern Spain, like an Essex accented pestilence stripping bare their bars of tapas, beer and sherry whilst leaving in my wake dazed, starving Spaniards who didn’t quite know what had hit them.

A major part of my ‘Essex pestilence tour’ was spent in Seville. An ancient city of culture, oranges, flamenco, tapas and errr…shoe shops. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shoes for sale anywhere on the planet, but I digress, my entire focus was on eating and drinking, muchos, and that’s an aim I achieved for the three days I was there.

The budget didn’t stretch to fine dining and to be honest, that’s not the sort of place I’m after in Spain, because you can eat and drink incredibly well for relatively sod all at the less salubrious end of the scale. I’m at my happiest propped up at a bar, with a glass of sherry at 1.5 euros a glass, and with tapas just as much of a giveaway bargain, tipping both into my mouth, conveyor belt style, all night long.

So, bearing that in mind, here are the places I enjoyed the most on my brief visit.
La Brunilda

The food I ate here was without a doubt the best food I ate in Andalucía in the two weeks or so I was there. It was so good in fact, despite only being in Seville for three days and having a whole host of restaurants to try, I ate there twice.
Chef, Diego Caminos’ menu features traditional tapas with a modern slant, such as a take on Salmorejo featuring orange, raisins, mackerel and cress.
Other stand out dishes I wolfed down over the two visits included a beautifully flavoured and textured risotto (in fact one of the best I’ve eaten anywhere) which featured the unlikely pairing of a sweet red wine reduction, truffle oil, orange and asparagus.
Excellent salt cod fritters with pear alioli.
Foie gras cooked ‘a la plancha’.
A slider style veal burger, which was delicious.
In fact, everything I ate here from start to finish was superb. Nothing disappointed, and as you can see from the pics, I gave the menu a pretty thorough going over. Even better, it was incredibly cheap. If you’re visiting Seville, I can’t recommend this place enough.

La Brunilda
c/ Galera 5
(near Mercado Arenal)
Telephone: 954 220 481


I had a cracking lunch at Eslava, standing outside on the pavement basking in the warmth of the Spanish midday sun. When I arrived, it was rammed, with more people turning up the whole time. It’s definitely a popular joint. The prices are ridiculously cheap; hardly anything on the tapas menu is above 3 Euros. As you can imagine, I happily took advantage of the fact.
My ‘I’ll stick anything in my mouth’ outlook demanded that I started off with some of the Sangre Encebollada (a sort of black pudding made from fried chicken blood). To be honest, I can’t say I was a massive fan; it was quite flavourless and had a texture somehow reminiscent of biting into a lump of Plasticine.
Shaking my head to clear horrific flashbacks to childhood culinary experimentation, I moved onto the much more agreeable, roasted pork ribs with rosemary honey glaze. These were excelllent. 
Green Pepper stuffed with Hake was also pretty damn nice as was a piece of roasted mackerel.
Scallops with seaweed puree and rather pretentious sounding kataifi noodles (turns out it's a type of finely shredded filo) were also good.
Finally, if you thought the noodles sounded a  bit special, how about a slow cooked egg served on a mushroom cake with caramelized wine reduction? Posh but peasant(ly) priced at 2 Euro 50 (see what I did there?) In case you're wondering, it was pretty nice actually.

c/Eslava 5
Telephone: 954 906 568

La Azotea

La Azotea felt somewhat similar to La Brunilda with regards to the modern take on traditional tapas. No surprise then that I liked it so much.
Croquettas with an Oso Buco filling. Errr....Hell yes!
Even better, Iberico Pork cheek and goats cheese gratin.
A plate of Morcilla with caramelized onion and quails egg was similarly delicious.
The only dish that didn’t quiet come off was a special of avocado and cucumber salmorejo (so basically guacamole, yeah?) with fried baby squid. It was incredibly rich, thick and cloying. It didn’t matter though, as with the other places I’ve recommended above, the menu was priced so you can romp through it to your hearts content and not really have to worry about the bill too much. Got to love that.

La Azotea
Jesús del Gran Poder, 31
Telephone: 955 116 748

Casa Morales

Finally, how about something a bit more traditional? A proper bar, which does excellent, old school tapas. They must be doing something right, it’s been open since 1850. It’s very atmospheric, battered, noisy, packed and most importantly, cheap.

This is the perfect place to stand at the battered age worn bar, necking bargain sherry or a cold beer and topping yourself up with jamon.

Casa Morales
Garcia de Vinuesa 11

Massive thanks to Shawn of Sevilla Tapas for all the tips.