Tuesday 29 April 2014

Slow cooked cauliflower in yoghurt

I have certain dishes in favourite restaurants that are so bloody good, no matter what else is on the menu, I’ll always manage to find room to squeeze a cheeky one in somewhere.  The slow cooked cauliflower in yoghurt at my favourite Bristol restaurant, Bell’s Diner is a cracking example.

Cauliflower, cooked down until almost creamy, then subtly spiced with coriander, cumin, garlic and chilli with a lovely tangy acidity from the yoghurt. Oh yeah. It’s phenomenal. Chef, Sam Sohn-Rethel, who very generously allowed me to reproduce his recipe here, based this dish on a cauliflower soup he used to cook during his time at Moro.

In the restaurant, it’s served as a tapas size portion, but I'm something of a lazy bastard and wanted to stretch it out for dinner, so dished it up, heaped on chargrilled sourdough. Lovely. 
Slow cooked cauliflower with yoghurt

Serves 4

You’ll need:-
150g butter
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp mild chilli flakes
1 cauliflower, stalk and tough outer leaves removed
1 handful coriander leaves
1 egg yolk
½ tsp cornflour
500ml Greek yoghurt

Heat 100g of the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion until translucent.

Add the garlic, cumin, coriander seeds and chilli and cook for another five minutes.

Finely chop the cauliflower along with the tender inner leaves, add them to the pan and season with plenty of salt.

Finely chop 2/3rds of the coriander leaves and stir into the cauliflower.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and continue cooking over a gentle heat until the cauliflower is completely soft and cooked down to a mush.

Beat together the egg yolk, cornflower and yoghurt then add the mixture to the pan and cook for five more minutes. 

Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. 

Keep warm until ready to serve. 

Heat the remaining 50g of butter in a small pan until it caramelises, as dark brown as you dare. Then pour it over the cauliflower.

Scatter over the remaining coriander leaves and serve.

Toasted breadcrumbs are a nice optional addition for a bit of texture.

Thanks again to Sam for allowing me use his recipe on the blog. I'm hoping to be able to wheedle/cajole/threaten/beg/blackmail recipes for a few more of my favourite dishes out of my regular restaurant haunts very soon.

Watch this space, people. 

Monday 21 April 2014

Roast coconut and ginger parsnips

Moving several steps upward from the dubious delights of an après booze kebab, I recently ended up drunkenly dining in the second floor restaurant at Harvey Nichols, after something of a sprawling evening guzzling muchos alcohol.

The meal was fine, what I can remember of it, but one dish in particular caught my constantly shifting, blurred focus. From the sides section of the menu, roasted coconut and ginger parsnips. Now, normally I’d say don’t f*ck with my parsnips, but my guard was down, I was drunk and I ordered them. Surprisingly (for me) the coconut, ginger and lime worked really well with the sweetness of the parsnips, they were absolutely frigging delicious.

Happily, my pal, Jemma, had enough wits about her to ask for the recipe and received a scribbled note from the kitchen giving just enough instruction that, when combined with a quick internet search for similar recipes allowed me to reproduce more or less the same dish in my own kitchen. Oh yeah.

You need the creamed coconut that comes in a block for this, not a tin of coconut milk, which you will be unable to grate *slaps forehead*

Roast coconut and ginger parsnips

You’ll need:-
5 parsnips, peeled
40g creamed coconut
5cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Grated zest ½ lime
Vegetable oil for roasting

Heat the oven to 190C

Quarter or half the parsnips (depending on size) and cook in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes, then drain.

Grate the creamed coconut into a bowl, add the ginger, chillies and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water and stir together until you have a paste.
It’ll probably be a bit clumpy so blitz it in a blender if you think it needs it. Finally stir in the lime zest.

Heat the vegetable oil in a roasting tray for 5 mins or so.

Toss the parsnips in the coconut paste, and then transfer to the smoking hot roasting tray.

Roast the parsnips for 30-40 mins until they’re browned and crisped up. 

If after 30 mins or so, they’re looking a bit anaemic still, flash them under the grill to brown them off. 

Sunday 13 April 2014

Sauce Verte

Before I get started celebrating the virtues of my new favourite sauce, I feel that some small measure of profuse apology is in order. Regular readers may have noticed a recent lack of updates to the blog of late.

Although no doubt, general cause for celebration amongst the masses, I also believe that there are a handful of misguided individuals out there that have felt genuine loss at my lack of output. To these unhappy few, I’m sorry for leaving a gaping ‘Essex Eating’ shaped void in your lives and promise never to leave you devoid of my dubious pleasures again.

Basically, I’ve been notably less than prolific for a number of reasons. There was the upheaval of moving home, then the seemingly interminable ballache of getting broadband installed (this still hasn’t happened, I’m writing this in a local café) Oh and finally a hefty dose of good old writers block. I’ve still been eating out in restaurants, cooking and drinking enough for a whole crowd of gluttons, but just couldn’t find that spark within me to write about it. I’ve no idea why, I probably caught it off a toilet seat, honest.

Anyway, that was then, this is now. I’m back in the saddle. Leaner, fitter, hungrier and mungously brainier. So, turn those frowns upside down, organise a parade, drink a pint of gin or two in celebration (Plymouth obviously) and let the good times roll, you lucky bastardos.

So, Sauce Verte. The French green sauce. I’ve recently discovered this via the venerable Simon Hopkinson, basically aioli pimped with seemingly every herb in existence. The combination of garlic, lemon and fresh herbs is superb. It goes particularly well with fish, but is also pretty damn nice with boiled potatoes and chargrilled vegetables, such as asparagus.

First, make your aioli base.

You’ll need:-

2 egg yolks
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Salt & Pepper
300-450ml Olive Oil
Although I find just using just olive oil too rasping and peppery, as well as frigging expensive, so cut it with vegetable oil in whatever proportions your budget and taste deems appropriate.  
Juice of 1 Lemon

You can make it with a whisk, but despite my obviously muscular physique, I’m a notoriously lazy bastard so use a hand blender, in a tall beaker that just fits over the tip of your err…blending rod, or whatever its called.

First make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks with the garlic and a little salt, until thick.

Add the oil, but just a trickle at a time. Too much and it’ll split.

Add a little lemon juice, and then some more oil, alternating a little at a time, incorporating it before adding more, patience is key. Carry on till both are all used up.

At some point, if the mayonnaise gods are smiling on you, it will have come together and you’ll have a pot of luscious, thick gunk. If they’re not, as is nearly always the case with me, you’ll have thin split mess. If this is the case, don’t panic.

Get another pot, with a couple of egg yolks. Start again, this time carefully trickling your split mess into the egg yolks as you thrash away with the blender or whisk. It should come right this time. If it doesn’t, sorry but you are truly f*cked. Curse the gods of mayo. Tip it into the bin and accept it isn’t your day and go buy a jar of Hellmans.

But of course, everything has gone right and you’re marvelling at a quivering pot of homemade, garlic tinged mayonnaise.

Now to turn it into Sauce Verte. For this, you might consider wearing a beret, but this step is entirely optional.

You’ll need:-

A bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only
A bunch of watercress, leaves only
4 tarragon sprigs, leaves only
4 mint sprigs, leaves only
10 basil leaves
2 anchovy fillets

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, throw in the parsley and watercress leaves, stir and drain. Rinse them with cold water and squeeze dry in a tea towel. Chop them until extremely fine.

Then, in a frenzy of extremely fine chopping, get to work on everything else and stir the lot into your mayonnaise base. Season carefully and stir in a little extra lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Sauce Verte. Done.