Crab on Sourdough Toast

Crab on Sourdough Toast

And so here we are at the Easter weekend and I’m ready for the extended break. Business is booming, which is great news, but everyone needs a breather right?

As ever, with any break, it gives me the opportunity to get out the old routine and try out something ‘new’. I say new, this is based on something I had at a gastro-pub recently – I liked it so much though I knew I’d have to try it myself at home.

Helen and some of her esteemed colleagues, went down to our local fish deli – Latimers, at lunchtime yesterday. I feel I spend a lot of time blowing their trumpet, but I think it’s praise well deserved and I want to support local suppliers any way I can.

I’ll be posting about the fish she bought later, but whilst there she managed to get hold of some freshly cooked and picked white crab meat.

I intended to use it in part of a fish dish, but being so fresh, it seemed sacrilege to hide it away and so made this brunch dish where it can sit centre-stage.

I seasoned it very lightly using only creme fraiche, lemon, parsley from the garden, salt, pepper and a tiny dash of vinegar to lift it a bit – be careful though I only added a few drops. To serve it, the toast gives a nice contrast and I used plenty of real butter to add a bit of decadent richness 😉  I’ve put in my quantities, but I’d suggest adding a little less and adjusting to your own  taste. The cayenne was a last minute thing but I’m glad I tried it as it added a nice bite.

I’m suprised I didn’t make this before. I think this would make a nice light starter too. Hmm….

Parsley

Served 1, but Helen ended up eating half of it…..

  • About 85g/3 oz white crab meat
  • 1 heaped tbsp creme fraiche
  • I used the juice of half a small lemon – but add to taste.
  • 2 tsp of finely chopped parsley
  • A small dash (no more than a 1/4 tsp) white wine vinegar.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to finish

Crab meat

Simplicity itself – just combine all the ingredient in a bowl and taste it. The above measure were tweaked as I went along, so I’d suggest adding a little less of everything and adjusting as you see fit.

Toast and butter a couple small slices of sourdough bread (or 1 large one). Spoon on the crab mixture and dust with cayenne pepper

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“Italian” Sausage Pappardelle

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Ahh, spring is nearly here. The sounds of lambs bleating to their anxious mothers across dewy fields. Birds calling for a mate in budding trees above the flowering crocus and snowdrops.

Well, no. The apocalyptic scene below, my friends, is my local coast and is all down to one stubborn mother of a blocking anti-cyclone somewhere off the Scottish coast according the good people at BBC weather. And we’ve had it lightly by all accounts. I’ve no doubt the snow-bound residents of Ireland, Dumfries and Galloway or Yorkshire would rather like this delinquent weather system to ‘block off’. Fairly quickly.

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I’m getting fed up of winter fires and ‘comfort food’, whatever that means – I want sunshine, barbecues, seafood in a busy cafe. For the first time in my life I’m becoming worried about rickets. What’s going on?

As a compromise, I made this big pappardelle dish recently. Hearty but hinting at holidays in Northern Italy, it succeeded in cheering me up no end.

It started with the distinctly un-Italian Cumberland sausage, which bar a few key ingredients is actually fairly similar, being made with plenty of herbs and a coarse texture. I filled in the gaps in this with some roast and ground fennel seed, dried chilli and gently fried garlic to give it that familiar Italian taste

I finished it off with some light single cream, finely sliced sweet red peppers and a good handful of grated parmesan.

Big flavours resulted and I felt both ‘comforted’ and slightly less like hibernating. Now if only we could dislodge this pesky anti-cyclone – over to you climatologists…

  • 200g Pappardelle pasta
  • 3 coarse pork sausages, Cumberland if you can get them
  • 1 tbsp fennel seed, dry roasted and ground to a  powder
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely sliced
  • About 200ml single cream
  • Parmesan cheese to taste
  • Salt and Black pepper

Boil a large pan of water, season with salt and put in the pasta. 12 minutes to get on with the rest….

Heat a smallish frying pan with some olive oil. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and a pinch of salt and gently fry for a few minutes. Meanwhile, remove the sausage skins. Add the sausage meat to the pan with 1-2 tsp of ground fennel seed (to suit your taste) and brown well.

Add the peppers and soften for a few minutes more. Check the pasta, should be nearly there.

Lastly, pour in the cream and simmer to reduce a little.

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Stir in a handful of parmesan, taste and season if necessary.

Drain the pasta and serve it up with the sauce on top (or mix in together in the pan..) and a good twist of black pepper.

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Chicken Milanese and Spaghetti Pomodoro

Chicken Milanese with Spaghetti Pomodoro

And so the end of the UK financial year approaches and as is typical of this time of year, government organisations are busy spending what’s left of their budget before some bright spark takes any unspent amounts off them for the next. Kind of reminds me of the way, before Euros, holiday makers would frantically try and spend their drachma, before boarding the plane home (unless you were a Greek holiday maker of course). Always baffles me that one. No, not baffles, annoys. It means a huge slug of work descends upon me for two unfeasibly busy months of the year whilst we work to this magic ‘must be invoiced by early April’ deadline.

Don’t get me wrong, I should be grateful in these tough times, but it has meant working a lot of late nights and weekends. In turn, cooking takes a back seat and takeaways and restaurants move up front.

Whilst still busy, I’m trying to ease back into the old routine and thought I’d post a Frankly household favourite of Chicken Milanese, or less romantically, breaded chicken. It meant I also got to show off my oblong plates, bought for me by Helen a little while back 😉

For this I had some nice free-range chicken fillets which are simply bashed flat and breaded in the usual production line of seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs. I used some panko breadcrumbs here which I know aren’t traditionally Italian of course, but are nevertheless great for this dish. For a bit more flavour I also added freshly grated parmesan to the crumbs for a salty kick.

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I made twice the amount of spaghetti I needed to take the rest into the office for lunch 😉

Seves 2:

  • Two chicken breasts at room temperature
  • Oil for shallow frying
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150g or 1/2 cup of flour, seasoned with salt, chilli flakes and pepper to taste
  • two large handfuls of panko breadcrumb (ordinary will do of course)
  • 1 small handful of grated parmesan
  • 150g spaghetti 
  • 2 tsp salt (for the pasta water)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely slices
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 7 large fresh tomatoes, quartered (or use tinned – 400g)
  • 1 good pinch sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil to finish

Start with the pasta sauce: Gently fry off the garlic in a medium pan for a minute and add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, so the juice start to com out

Using a blender, blitz the tomatoes to a smooth sauce and push through a fine sieve with a tablespoon back into a pan. Add the sugar and leave to simmer for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and season to taste.

Boil the pasta. I won’t go into details here! Once the pasta goes into the boiling pan, though, start the chicken. It’s flat so won’t take long to cook

Put a large pan on the heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Bash the fillets flat using a rolling pin and some cling film. Dust them in the flour then dip in the egg, ensuring you remove any excess. Lastly, cover in the breadcrumb, pressing down to coat them well.

Fry for 10  minutes until just done (or they’ll dry out) – I used a thermometer again.

Check the pasta!

Gently warm the sauce if needed and stir through the drained pasta. Bellissimo.

Chicken Milanese with Spaghetti Pomodoro

Still ridiculously busy so I thought I’d re-blog some old posts in the meantime! Feel I should have a test card up or something….

Food, Frankly

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No wait, come back!

Mutton is rarely used or available but is great in a slow cooked curry. I got it at the Wallington food festival from a company called Greenbrae, http://www.greenbrae.co.uk/. If you can’t get it, lamb or beef will work as a substitute.

Being a work night, I’ve taken a slight shortcut with the spices, using a shop bought madras powder instead of roasting & grinding my own.

The result was very rich so I added spinach to lighten it up. I served it with plain basmati (that’s all it needs).

2 Tbsp oil
300g of diced mutton
3 garlic cloves and 1 large chilli, finely chopped.
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp madras curry power
1 tsp turmeric
500ml chicken or beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp sugar (if needed)
4 handfuls of spinach
Handful Chopped coriander leaves

In a…

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Duck with Potato Puree and Quince Jelly Sauce

Duck with quince jelly and potato puree

And so, another weekend flies by and with it, Sunday afternoon. This part of the week was traditionally a bit of a departure lounge at the end of a holiday for me – waiting patiently for the return flight to Monday morning.

In the Frankly household of late though I’ve tried to fight off the dreariness as I attempt, and I use that word advisedly, something I have neither the time nor inclination to piece together in the week. I’m not sure this really fits that bill, but it was something new.

I had some duck breasts in the fridge and (sticking to a theme from a couple of posts ago) some quince jelly. I remember reading somewhere that these go together pretty cosily, as duck can be paired with pretty much any sharp tasting fruit and so decided to incorporate into a sauce.

My minor obsession experiments with purees continues, my apologies, but I’d never actually made a potato puree before (or should I say pomme puree – this dish has a decidedly French tone) so thought I’d give it a go.

I pan fried the duck to keep it nice and rare. Well-done duck breast should be outlawed under some EU treaty in my opinion, but have had it in some over-anxious restaurants probably concerned more with keeping its punters out of the bathroom.

The sauce was a reduction made with the pan/resting juices, some red wine (a nice Shiraz  – full of berries), chicken stock and the quince jelly.

For the potato puree, I must admit, I think I over-worked it a bit and it was a bit gluey, not bad by any stretch, but more like “C+, good effort”. Schoolboy error.

  • 2 duck breasts at room temperature
  • About 10 button mushrooms
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oil

For the potato puree:

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • About 150ml warm milk (enough to make a loose puree)
  •  Butter – to taste or as your waistline dictates 😉
  • Salt

For the sauce:

  • 200ml good ‘fruity’ red wine (I used Shiraz)
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • About two tbsp quince jelly
  • Salt
  • Steamed Cauliflower and Broccoli to serve

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Start by getting the potatoes on to boil. Once simmering away, get on with the rest…

Get a metal pan smoking hot with just a little oil. Rub the duck breasts with a pinch of salt and pepper on each side. Place in the pan, skin side down, to coat in oil. Leave to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes. It releases an alarming amount of oil, but don’t worry, it won’t all be in the final dish.

After ten minutes, flip them and cook to other side(s) until well seared all over for 3 or 4 minutes – this will leave them nice and pink in the middle.

As soon as I flipped them I actually added the vegetables to steam for a few minutes in a steamer insert over the potatoes. Saves washing up and energy!

Before the end of cooking the duck, the potatoes/vegetables will probably be done, if they are, drain the potatoes and leave in the hot pan to dry a bit, but place the steamed vegetables to keep warm in an oven.

Remove the duck breasts and leave to rest in the warm oven (80C) on a plate. Fry off the mushrooms for a few minutes until tender in the duck fat and then set aside with the duck in the oven.

Pour out most of the fat, being careful to leave in any caramelised bits and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Pour it into a small saucepan and reduce rapidly for a few minutes with the chicken stock. Add the quince jelly and any resting juices from the well rested duck and season to taste.

I thickened it slightly with arrowroot, but it’s not essential. Finish the sauce with a knob of butter for taste and shine.

Lastly use a potato ricer (best – but a masher will do) to mash the potato. Microwave the milk to warm it through for 30secs to 1 min and pour it in with the butter. Stir well to make a puree and season to taste. Don’t overwork it like I did, stir gently.

Sliced duck breast

Slice the duck at a nice ‘cheffy’ angle. Plate it all up on very hot plates and pour over the sauce. Enjoy with a large glass of Shiraz. Salut!

Variations on a variation of a theme……

Sweet potato and polenta 'cottage pie'

Busy, busy busy. I’ve been busy.

Blogging about food, fun as it is, but doesn’t pay the bills so work comes first I’m afraid. Getting back late every night means sticking to tried and trusted faithfuls for me and so I had nothing particularly blogable (some may say I don’t anyway 😉 ).

I did however have a hankering for a shepherd’s/cottage pie midweek and some lovely leftover venison from the roast I made on Sunday. A plan was forming. I remembered a very nice dish of braised venison at an Italian restaurant recently and thought about varying the theme a bit. I had some sweet potatoes left over and, brilliantly, I thought to myself, some polenta.

I made a simple, but rich stew from the left over venison. I didn’t make it from a recipe, nor did I make a note of any quantities, but it was a standard affair of red wine, mirepoix and beef stock, with added diced swede and baby carrots. I actually made it the night before I used it, it’s always better that way.

I made two cottage pies (as  I suppose they must be) one topped with mashed sweet potato, the other with a fairly wet polenta.

The sweet potato was simply mashed with butter and some thyme, but to the polenta I added some taleggio cheese. I used a couple of bread tins to split the venison and topped each with the polenta and sweet potato respectively.

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To both, I scattered on the grated end of a block of parmesan. It really was a great way to use up the fridge contents. I baked them at 180C, or 350F for about 20 minutes and turned on the oven grill element for the last ten to get a nice crust.

They were both very good, I preferred the polenta which I thought was a bit of a triumph to be honest, but then, I really like polenta….

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Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Celeriac Puree

Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce
Amazingly, I took a day off with Helen on Friday, primarily to attend the Spice Festival in Newcastle. Unfortunately (or some may say typically), we turned up to find it didn’t actually start until 4pm. Ah well.

So, we headed off into the city for a quick look around, a decent coffee and to make the most of our rare day off together. Somewhat more fortuitously though, there was a small farmers’ market on with some good local suppliers, no doubt doing a great trade thanks to supermarkets shooting themselves in the foot. Good times.

One stall caught my eye – a small supplier selling game meat called Ridleys Game and Fish, based near Hexham in Northumberland. A quick Google on the way to get some cash, revealed they have been awarded Great Taste Awards for some of their produce, which in my experience is a very reliable seal of approval. In particular, there were various cuts of Sika Deer Venison which I’d never come across before. It’s not cheap, but I was keen to try it and I went for a rolled and tied haunch. Thankfully, I wasn’t to be disappointed, this was some of the nicest venison I’ve tasted – so much flavour and yet still tender.

I posted a venison dish a couple of weeks ago, so I apologise for another so quickly, but it is only in season for another month, so make hay while the sun shines eh? I wasn’t sure what to do with it but I did make some comments about making a chocolate sauce with real chocolate next time I made a venison dish. I also found some quince paste and remember seeing a recent BBC show that used it in a sauce. I thought it would work well here, but it is optional.

The venison itself was cooked fairly rare in about 40 minutes. A little longer than the twenty minutes some sources stated I should cook it for. I was ‘johnny on the spot’ with the themometer as it’s a very lean meat and like all leans meat can turn disappointingly dry in the blink of an eye. It really is the best kitchen gadget I’ve ever bought, well worth it.

It’s a game meat, so you can throw some big flavours at it and I added parma ham, smoked bacon lardon and shallots to the roasting process for which I used a cast iron skillet. I made a sinfully rich celeriac puree, which was inspired by a dinner I had last night with good friends in Leeds to finish it off along with simply steamed carrot and cabbage.

I will be honest, this worked very nicely. It was uber rich and all the better for it.

Serves two with leftovers:

  • I rolled and boned haunch of venison (about 1 kg or 2 lbs)
  • 100g smoked bacon lardons
  • 3 slices of parma ham
  • about 10 shallots peeled but left whole

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 60ml Port
  • 300ml light stock, I used chicken, but veal/game would be better
  • 1 small knob of butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp quince paste
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 20g dark (70% coco) chocolate (or, to taste)

For the celeriac puree:

  • Half a celeriac
  • About 200ml whole milk
  • About 1 tbsp butter or more if you like (I said it was rich….)
  • Salt to taste
  • About 10 whole baby carrots
  • 3 cabbage leaves, stems removed and sliced

Start with the venison:

Get the oven on to about 190°C/375°F.

Get the cast iron skillet smoking hot with a little oil. Season the venison and brown it all over. Remove and wrap around parma ham to cover before returning to the pan. Roast for about 30 minutes and check the centre – about 50-55°C or 125-130°F is right for rare meat.

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In the meantime, peel and half the celeriac, then cut into chunks. Bring to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Add the carrots in a steamer insert above and leave for around 15 minutes or until the celriac is tender. For the last 5 minutes, add the cabbage to the steamer as it won’t take long.

At the same time, fry off the garlic in a small pan and add the port and stock. Simmer to reduce until halved.

Once the venison is done, leave it to rest for 10 minutes at least, in some foil and finish off the rest.

De-glaze the skillet with the stock reduction and pour it back in the pan. Reserve the roasted shallots and bacon to serve later and keep warm.

Add the chocolate and quince paste to the sauce and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Cover to keep warm.

For the puree, warm the milk and butter and pour into a blender with the drained celeriac. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt.

Slice the venison and serve the whole lot up on very hot plates with a glass of good red wine!

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