Hay Roast Chicken and Morel Mushrooms

Hay Roast Chicken
I don’t recall how I first heard about cooking things in hay but I saw an episode of a show with Tom Kerridge in it on the BBC that reminded me recently.

“Now that right proper grub” he said (or something like that, probably) in his West Country twang.

I was a little sceptical to be honest. I love the smell of cut grass and hay, it reminds me of growing up at home playing in the woods and fields at the back of the house, but to flavour meat? Hmm.

It certainly looks the part – chicken, baking parchment and straw – this is hipster heaven. I believe Mr Kerridge added some cider to his but I stuck with some chicken stock I had in the freezer. Chicken simmered in chicken stock: it’s pretty chicken-ey.

I’m not sure about the hay effect, but then I did use greaseproof baking parchment to cover the meat as I didn’t have enough muslin cloth left to do the job, maybe it did too good a job job of separating the bird and the hay. I find whole chicken a sod to flavour at the best of times though – get past the skin and it’s a often a fairly bland affair even after days of marinading.

The flavour, almost sweet and nutty, was definitely more noticeable from the bottom half, where it came in contact with the hay and the stock, so it was probably my fault for not being organised enough with the equipment. I’ll do this again one day.

To serve it I had some nice morel mushrooms, mixed cabbage and a reduction made from the cooking liquor with a little Muscat for good measure. Hay or not, this was a nice dish mind you and it made it a bit of fun for the kids. Lastly, to go with the theme, some shoestring fries – they kind of look like hay you see…..

Serves 3-4:

  • 1 whole chicken. Preferably one happily running around freely before it met it’s maker.
  • A few handfuls of hay.
  • 6 garlic cloves. Unpeeled and bashed with the side of a knife.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Muslin cloth (preferably not the parchment I used here).
  • About 500 ml of chicken stock
  • 3 or 4 morel mushrooms per person, depending on size.
  • Butter
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • A splash of muscat (couple of tbsp)
  • Salt
  • White and savoy cabbage thinly sliced and mixed
  • 2 small frying potatoes – Maris Piper or similar
  • Oil to deep fry

Wrap the chicken in muslin cloth with the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and tie. The parchment I used here was OK, but this would have been better.

Chicken with thyme and bay

Place in the bottom of a snug fitting lidded pot and pack the hay down the sides and over the top. Heat the stock and pour it over, place the lid on and cook for around 2 hours at 160ºC/320ºF – check it with a temperature probe.

Chicken in hay

Once done, remove the chicken and using a carving fork in the cavity, rinse off any hay under a tap. Pre-heat the oven as hot as it will go and put the chicken back in briefly, on a baking tray to crisp up/colour. Not too long or it will dry. Leave to rest under some foil and finish the rest.

Strain the liquor twice – through a regular sieve and then through a very fine one, or muslin cloth if you have either of them. Set aside in a jug.

Prep the veg – slice a mixture of savoy and white cabbage thinly and matchstick the potatoes (keep in water to stop them going brown, but dry well before using).

Place the cabbage in a steamer for a few minutes until softened, but not ‘school-dinner soggy’.

Fry the morels in a good knob of butter. Once nearly done, add a good splash of muscat (a couple of tbsp), stir and remove the morels, keeping them warm.


Aided by my glamorous assistant…

Pour in the cooking liquor and reduce until it thickens and flavours intensify. Taste and season if necessary. Add the morels back to the pan, turn off the heat and stir through some chopped parsley and another knob of butter. Keep warm.

Pre heat the deep dat fryer.

Carve the chicken on a warmed plate and place on top of the cabbage. Spoon on the morels and a few tablespoons of the reduction – it should be very rich.

Last of all briefly fry the potatoes at around 170ºC/340ºF until crispy, it will take only a minute of two. Season with seat salt and serve them straight away or they can go soft.

A nice citrusy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc went very down very nicely too.

Hay roast chicken with morel mushrooms


Spiced Seafood and Cauliflower Veloute

Spiced seafood and cauliflower veloute

Experts reckon the 19th of January was ‘Blue Monday’. On this day we all felt at our lowest ebb in the post Christmas hangover, our bank balances were begging for mercy and we were struggling with the shortened, dark days (in Northern Europe at least).

Except, I like January. I find it a soothing antidote to the manic pace of December. I prefer the weather too with crisp cold mornings and the occasional snowy day. A far cry from the usual drab grey weather of the month before. Dicken’s best efforts to convince us of a winter wonderland generally proving a little optimistic. Baa humbug.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand about January though is that the food media is filled with recipes described as ‘comforting’. Comforting. I just find it a toe-curling adjective to describe food. For me it’s light, heavy, filling, spicy or rich – that kind of thing. To the point.

I don’t find food ‘comforting’, any more than I find it patronising, sarcastic or arousing. Mind you there was a rib of beef I made once that came close….

I digress. I came up with this recipe a few weeks ago and it IS somehow light, rich, heavy and spicy. I took number 1 daughter down to the local fishmonger with me and we spent an age perusing the offerings I just knew she wouldn’t eat.

I’ve banged on about Latimers plenty of times before; they have superbly fresh fish. I contemplated the enourmous live lobster on display until another punter asked how much. £82 according to the scales. So anyway, I got some Red Gurnard and squid, caught within 20 nautical miles of the store apparently. There was also some massive prawns, which I presume came from some rather warmer shores.

It seems the Gurnard’s stock is rising at the moment (much to the despair of the Gurnard presumably) being relatively plentiful and therefore sustainable at the moment. Some suggest, rather rudely, that its unpopularity has been down to the ugliness of the poor blighter. I can’t personally see any fish winning a beauty contest, but I see their point.

You could use all manner of fish for this, although I might substitute the squid next time, but something with a little firmness such as Monkfish would be a good alternative  (now, that very much is the Shrek of the seas).

The veloute was very rich and made with a stock derived from the Gurnard’s ugly mug and the prawn shells. It was finished with a kind of basic tempering oil made simply with fennel seed. It worked nicely with the spices.

For the spiced seafood.

  • 1-2 whole Red Gurnard, filleted.
  • 2 large prawns or lobster tails, if you’re feeling flush.
  • 2 whole squid
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam massala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt

For the veloute

  • 1/2 a cauliflower head, cut into eight.
  • 1 onion
  • 50g butter
  • 200ml single cream
  • 500ml fish stock
  • Salt

For the ‘tempering oil’

  • A good lug of oil
  • 2 tsp fennel seed

Prep the seafood carefully, preferably accompanied by uplifting montage music…

Fish Prep Edited-imp

Fillet the Gurnard and remove the head and backbone. Keep them but discard the innards. Locate the pin bones in the fillets and carefully cut or tweeze them out.

Remove the squid’s innards by pulling the head away. Cut away the tentacles and squeeze out the beak. Locate and pull out the transparent quill – very satisfying. Remove as much membrane from the squid as possible, slice to open and clean well under a tap. Score with a very sharp knife.

Remove the prawn tails under the shell around the head, and peel. I use scissors to cut the shell from under the tail. It comes away quite easily.

Prepared seafood

Place the fish and prawn trimmings in a small pan, cover with 750ml water and bring to simmer for 30 minutes or so and season to taste. You could use aromatics (celery, bay or carrot) but I didn’t find it necessary.

Fish stock

Sieve through muslin cloth or a very fine strainer.

Fish stock straining

Fry some roughly chopped onion gently in the butter until soft. Add the cauliflower pieces and, cream and the stock. Simmer/reduce for 20 minutes. The cauliflower will be quite soft. Blend well and return to the pan. Season to taste.

Cauliflower veloute

In a small milk pan, very gently fry the fennel seed for a couple of minutes without burning them. Remove from the heat

Tempering oil

Mix the spices and flour and dust the seafood well.


Fry the prawn tails first, one at a time so as not to crowd the pan. Keep warm. Next fry the Gurnard fillets for no more than 1 minute, on the skin side. Flip only to colour the flesh side and keep warm. Lastly, cook the squid, it will be ready in seconds so don’t over cook it.


IMG_2013-impSpoon some veloute into a warmed dish and lay over the fish. Dot with the tempering oil and you’re good to go. Spiced seafood and cauliflower veloute

Smoked Salmon and Prawn Fish Cakes with Tarragon Cream Sauce

fishcake with tarragon sauce and spinach

Forever a food legend in this house along with “Helen’s Super-Tangy Fish Pie®” (and man, it was tangy) was the disastrous “Fish-Splat”. It was a hastily assembled and surprisingly liquid concoction supposedly resembling a fishcake.

Things didn’t start well – as the cakes hit the pan, they immediately doubled in circumference. Things got worse as I tried to flip the gloop with a fish slice; the individual cakes became ‘one’ in a spectacular display of entropy. A mega-cake formed in the centre of the pan and the Fish-Splat was born.

As I despondently scooped a quarter of Fish-Splat onto our plates, filling the air with profanities that would cause Tarantino to blush, something changed. Like that hangover from your first bottle of booze after raiding your mate’s Dad’s drinks cabinet at their 17th birthday party (french brandy…shudder…), I couldn’t face the prospect of going through it again.

It’s a new year and a new me though – time to man-up and face the fear.

Well, I pleased to say things turned out a little better this time. I took the liberty of using some of the mustard flavoured with pieces of truffle shown below. I’m normally a little skeptical of anything infused with truffle, but this was potent stuff and had to be used carefully. Any mustard is fine of course though, pick your weapon of choice.

Truffle mustard

Joking aside, there is little secret to a good fishcake, jut ensure you let the mashed potato dry thoroughly and avoid introducing any extra liquid.  A quick chill before adding the breadcrumbs and frying goes a good way to avoiding Fish-Splat too, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

The tarragon cream sauce was basically a white sauce made with a little extra cream for richness. The tarragon was added once the heat was removed so as not to lose its delicate flavour. Finally, some steamed spinach –  the perfect partner to counter all that richness – and peashoots for a little freshness and flourish.

Makes 4

For the fish cakes:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon (broken up well)
  • 3 handfuls of good quality fresh (but cooked) or frozen prawns
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled
  • Grated parmesan (to taste)
  • 1 tsp of mustard or truffle mustard as I used – sparingly (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Flour to dust
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • A few handfuls of breadcrumbs to coat
  • Oil for frying

For the tarragon cream sauce:

  • 200ml whole milk
  • 100ml single cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • Salt
  • Steamed spinach and peashoots to serve

Cook the potato, mash and lay out thinly on a tray to steam dry until cool.

Mashed potato drying

Chop the parsley and capers and mix into a bowl with the smoked salmon, cooked prawns and potato.

Fishcake mix

Add the parmesan, truffle mustard and salt to taste. As all the ingredients are cooked, tasting the mixture is no problem. Make into cake shapes and chill for half an hour.



Once chilled, coat them in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs.

Fishcake floured

Fry on each side, until golden brown, in plenty of oil, keeping them well spaced in the pan.

Fried fishcake

Marvel at their firmness – wipe the tear from your eye.

Meanwhile, make a white sauce by blending the butter and flour. Fry it gently in a saucepan for a couple of minutes then gradually whisk in the whole milk. Once at a simmer add the cream and reduce until thickened a little, but still easily poured. Remove form the heat and stir in the tarragon. Season to taste.

Serve it with steamed spinach, some peashoots and a nice Sauvignon Blanc.

Smoked Salmon, Celeriac Remoulade and Toasted Rye Bread

Smoked salmon and remoulade

Apologies for the tardiness in recent postings; it’s been an exciting and busy time both…..

“What you doing?”

Sorry all, one second….

“I’m writing a very mediocre intro for a post on my blog”

“A bog?”

“Yes, a blog”

“What’s a bog?”

“It’s where I write about food I’ve made and post the photos I’ve taken of it”


(In fairness, good question) “I enjoy it”


(An even better question) “I just…do”

“Can I push the buttons?”

htfTFTU…… mjfeokhkoegwp@@LPKIJ{P J.

Apologies again. *Urges little one to go and find Mummy as she may have an ice cream and shuts door*

I know this is another smoked salmon post, but it’s based on a dish we both thoroughly enjoyed a while back albeit with some roast beef. It’s a classic celeriac remoulade with some griddled rye bread and good smoked salmon. I’ve tweaked the remoulade a little but it works nicely.

Criminally under used, in the UK at least, celeriac is brilliantly versatile and this is a superb way of using it – just make sure you don’t drown the delicate flavour in a tidal wave of mayo. I actually added a bit of creme fraiche, courtesy of a tip from Nigel Slater that I liked. I think it worked.

As before, this borrows heavily from recent Scandinavian influences so even though the calorie count is moderately high, it darn well does feel like it. Besides, the festive season is round the corner and this feels just about right I think. Plus, it’s cold outside. The glass of Prosecco, whilst doing nothing for my sense of masculinity was nevertheless a great pairing too.

  • 4 slices of good smoked salmon.
  • 1 medium/small celeriac
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 4 heaped tbsp mayo – make your own if you can. Try to avoid ‘lighter’ versions
  • 1 heaped tbsp full fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (English mustard is too strong)
  • 4 tsp capers, chopped
  • Small handful of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • 4 slice of rye toast
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Juice the lemon and place half of it in a bowl large enough to eventually hold the celeriac. Keep the rest for later if you feel it needs it.

Peel the celeriac well (remove all traces of the knobbly skin) and julienne into strips – don’t be too exact about it.

As you make the julienne celeriac, mix it into the lemon juice to stop it browning.

Julienne celeriac

When done, chop the capers and walnuts.

Celeriac capers walnuts

Throw them into the bowl with the two mustards, mayo and creme fraiche.

Celeriac remoulade

Mix thoroughly, season with a little salt and taste. Tweak the mixture to taste – add some more mustard if you like, or a little more lemon. Leave to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Lay out the salmon to bring to room temperature.

Smoked salmon

Heat a griddle on a high heat until smoking hot. Slice the rye bread and brush well on each side with olive oil. Season with sea salt and griddle until nicely charred on each side.

Layer the celeriac remoulade on the rye bread, followed by the salmon and sprinkling of the chopped dill.

Smoked salmon rye bread celeriac remoulade

Warm Smoked Salmon Salad


Last week Helen and I lived the life of decadence. We dined out every night, sipped the finest wine in a chic Paris bar after a whimsical last-minute weekend getaway.

We went to the cinema, to the theatre to watch a comedy and then we hiked across through the English Lakes, stopping of at a warm pub for a pint of ale and Sunday Roast.

Except that of course we didn’t. We washed and cleaned and persuaded small mouths to accept “just one more mouthful” with using the currency of Peppa Pig yogurt.

Frankly (and generally of course I am) though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s exhausting but so rewarding as any new parent knows. Damn, I’m turning in that party bore – I apologise.

I’ve been busy baking with the girls though. Well, I say baking with, more baking for. It was during this latest activity made the mistake of putting down the flour and then the unforgivable schoolboy error of TURNING AROUND FOR A COUPLE OF SECONDS.

This was the result my friends: Flour. A lot of flour.

How the hell does so much carnage happen in such a small space of time?

I arrived home from work the other night (having spent the day, unwittingly, with a paint print round the back of my shirt) to the normal rapturous welcome. With the little ones safely in bed, fully scrubbed, brushed and read to, I set about making this.

I don’t know why I’m posting this one as it’s embarrassingly easy to do but I guess it made me hanker after our trip to Copenhagen. A city I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the simplicity of the Scandinavian food with its focus on ‘fresh’.

I much prefer hot smoked salmon for this as cured/cold smoked salmon would be too harsh for my taste. I’m also lucky to have a fishmonger down the road who hot smokes salmon daily.

  • 1 large or two small hot smoked salmon fillet(s)
  • 10 baby potatoes, skin on
  • 1/2 an onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • Peppery mixed leaves (rocket, watercress etc)
  • 1-2 tsp of chopped dill – depending on how much you like it.

For the dressing (approximately – tweak to suit of course):

  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp stronger mustard (dijon)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 or 2 pinches of salt
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Halve the potatoes and boil them until just done (about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, gently heat the salmon in a very low oven. You just want to warm it through not cooked it any more

Let the potatoes cool until they are just warm (blood temperature).

Toss the potatoes with the onion and capers and let them all come to the same temperature.


Flake the salmon and stir it into the potatoes.

Mix the dressing ingredients in an old jam jar and shake well. Spoon it over the potatoes/salmon until ‘dressed’ but not ‘drenched’ Add the dill and mix well but gently so as not to break the fish or potatoes too much.

Serve it all up on the leaves and relax for another day….


Croquetas de Pollo y Jamon


Well I can honestly say it’s nice to be back and typing about something I enjoy for a change; God knows it’s been a few weeks now.

Despite the sagging in-tray, I had to write about this one although I have a feeling I’m a little late to the party with this rather classic tapas. I would go on about it but feel I’d be coming across like someone who’s just starting watching Breaking Bad – ranting on about how good it was to all and sundry even though the entire Western world has watched it already. Actually….that was me. I don’t watch too many shows.

However, this recipe was given to me by Helen’s new colleague Elena who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks back and who hails from beautiful Valencia. Of course, I made it as soon as I could. I’m ashamed to say, after all this time I had no idea proper croquetas were made with a thick béchamel type filling. I always assumed quite wrongly, that it was mashed potato. I’m sorry Elena!

These did of course taste delicious. The original recipe given to me was for chicken, but she said I was free to add whatever I wanted, so I tried a little thyme and some ham as well. I would have instinctively added butter to make the béchamel, but it certainly doesn’t need it – the filing is wonderfully rich as it is….

Elena’s recipe:




  • 500 gr boneless chicken (I added a couple of handfuls of ham and 1 tbsp thyme too!)
  • 3 glasses of milk (glass=200 ml). 
  • 6 tablespoonful of flour
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Sunflower oil
  • Breadcrumbs 
  • 2 or 3 Eggs

Cook the chicken and dice it in small bits (1 cm approx). I usually boil the chicken, instead of frying it. 

Dice the onion in small bits and add it to the heated pan with the sunflower oil. It´s important that the oil covers the base of the pan (4 or 5 ml deep).

Fried onion

Fry the onion over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes and before it is golden, add the flour. Stir the mixture and let it toast. The mixture needs to have a soft brown colour. Keep stirring and when you see it´s toasted, add the 3 glasses of warm milk and you can increase the heat to medium. Keep stirring to avoid too many lumps.

Me. Stirring.

Me. Stirring.

Now add the chicken and add the salt without keeping stirring. You´ll see how it thickens. Before removing from the hob, taste and rectify the salt if necessary.

Now, dump the mixture out into a big dish and let it cool. I usually prepare this the night before so I let it stand in the fridge overnight. 


The following day, take it out from the fridge and shape the dough into small balls (I made oblongs, I don’t know why – Phil) . I usually get 20 croquetas for the amount of ingredients used above. 

Whisk two eggs in deep dish or a bowl. And pour the breadcrumbs in another dish or bowl. Now, you need to cover the balls first with the eggs and then with the breadcrumbs. If you feel you have got a lot of “croquetas” and you don´t think you you´ll use them all, you can freeze some of them.


Now, you need to prepare a pan with plenty of oil and fry them in over medium heat until they are golden. They should be ready now. BUEN PROVECHO!

NB: Instead of chicken, you can add any ingredient that you fancy. I´ve done them with bacon and mushrooms, just with mushrooms, spinach and small prawns. 


‘Spanish’ Ribs with Padron Peppers

Spanish ribs and padron peppers

Well, it’s been a few weeks but Helen and I are still banging on about Barcelona. It really was a superb city – every street was a piece of art.

The harbour in Barcelona

Armed with Mad Dog’s recommendations and a link to this website we found some great places to sit, eat and drink in between wandering around the place.

Salamanca near the harbour.

Salamanca, near the harbour.

It was also my first introduction to the tapas bar. They ranged in quality when we strayed from the the aforementioned lists but some of it was excellent. There was one in particular that we visited a couple of times in the Gothic Quarter. It was manically busy and cramped but great fun. Quite how the owner (we presumed) managed to keep track of all the plates flying out was anyone’s guess. Maybe he didn’t? I’ll try and get the name of the place.

It’s a great way to eat: you sight-see, you sit, you eat a little, you have a drink and repeat. No bloating three course dinners making you feel like a nap – people still do though of course.


Cerveceria Catalana – great bar and tapas. Sorry for the focus issue, many cervezas had no doubt been consumed.

Slicing serrano ham

So we’ve had a few tapas style dinners since but this dish is more an inspiration born from some of the flavours we had. Pork and tortilla are ubiquitous of course, but I also really liked these small padron  peppers. I managed to find the delicious little suckers in a certain UK higher-end supermarket. Unfortunately they were also at a higher-end price…

fThe ribs were cooked the night before and literally fell off the bone. Seriously, I know that’s generally BBQ nirvana, but when they’re sticking to the grill and falling apart in your hand the novelty wears off a little. The were slow cooked in a mixture of tomato, stock and orange and paprika, which I then kept, reduced and blended to make a superb sauce.

Definitely one to try. May I also add, the plates were not my idea.

For the ribs:

  • 8-10 ribs if you’re hungry
  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • 1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 500ml chicken or pork stock.
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 good pinches of sea salt (and more to taste).
  • Black Pepper

For the tortilla:

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 new potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • A pinch of smoked paprika
  • A good pitch of salt
  • Ac couple of handfuls of Manchego cheese
  • Olive oil

For the peppers:

  • 20 or so padron peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • The night before:

Preheat the oven to 140°C/280°F

Add all the rib ingredients to a hob proof pot and bring to a simmer. I added in half of the juiced orange to add a little more flavour.


Ribs in a tomato and orange sauce

Put it in the oven for 2 hours. Check it with an hour to go to make sure it hasn’t dried out, but it should be OK with a lid on.

I tend to just turn the oven off and go to bed, letting it sit in the sauce until I need it the next day. You may want to put it in the fridge once cooled in the morning.

If you do put it in the fridge, just heat the pan contents through a little on the hob before you try and take the ribs out or they stick firmly. They are pretty fragile.

Remove the ribs and put them on a plate. Blend the sauce thoroughly (again you may need to heat it slightly first) and bring to a simmer. Let it reduce if too watery or add a little more stock if too dry to blend.

Orange and tomato BBQ sauce

For the tortilla, simmer the potato sliced briefly and drain. In a frying pan, fry the onion, and green peppers to soften. Add the potatoes, egg and paprika. Cook the base then add the cheese and grill/broil to finish it off. Keep warm.

I feel like I should dedicate this shot to Conor...

I feel like I should dedicate this shot to Conor…

Put the ribs on BBQ if you can. I have a gas one with some lava rocks in that does a decent jobs of replicating the charcoal Webber. Other wise you can put them in a hot oven to sear. Cook them until coloured well.

BBQ ribs

Mean while, simply fry the peppers in a little oil and season with sea salt.


Padron peppers

That’s it. Delicious.


Lamb Chops with Minted Pea Puree and a Rosemary Anchovy Sauce

Lamb chops, anchovies, minted pea puree

I can’t put it any other way, but I made this dish because my wife would hate it.

I just know she would battle on regardless and I’d get one of the standard responses I’m used to when thing aren’t to her liking: “that was…..fine” typically.

Or worse, the dreaded:  “at least it’s healthy”.

Lamb, peas, anchovies and mint are not a combination she’d enjoy so I had to wait until she was going out so I could make it for myself. I, on the other hand, love this sort of thing.

The dish covers the range of bases with the sweet peas making a great contrast to the salty anchovies. The soft puree works against the crunchy blanched vegetable. It’s very simple, on the face of it, but actually becomes a bit of a balancing act bringing it together in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it though.

Now I’m just awaiting her next evening out with friends so I can buy some baby squid….

Northumberland Lamb Chops

Serves 2 (providing your ‘other’ will eat it).

  • 4 good lamb chops – these were local, from a Northumberland farm.
  • Oil
  • Salt

For the minted pea puree:

  • 4 handfuls of frozen peas
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 300ml Vegetable stock (or enough to cover)
  • 15g butter
  • Salt to taste

For the anchovy sauce

  • 6 anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • A sprig of rosemary, stalk removed
  • Vegetable stock form the peas above
  • A little more butter
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large courgette/zucchini
  • 6 decent sized Jersey Royal new potatoes.

Heat the oven to 160°C/320°F

Boil a kettle and start the potatoes – they’ll take 15-20 mins. Prepare the courgette and carrot by making them into thin strips using a potato peeler or a mandolin if you’re brave. Leave in water until needed.

Get an oven proof frying with a little oil smoking hot. Season the lamb lightly and fry it until well coloured. Flip them over and seal the other side for about 30 seconds then place the pan in the oven for around 10 minutes if you like it rare (as I do). A kitchen thermometer will help you here.

At the same time, heat the peas in the stock until well heated through Try not to boil them. Drain the stock but keep it to one side. 

In a blender, place the peas, butter, good pinch of salt and chopped mint leaf. Blitz and add some stock, a little at a time, until loosened a little. Keep warm.

Pea puree

By now the potatoes should be done (or nearly done) Take them out the pan and set aside. They’ll need to cool down a bit anyway.

In the same water, blanch the vegetables for just a minute or two. Set aside with the potato to keep warm.

Once the lamb is done, turn the oven off and open the door to cool it down. Wrap the lamb in foil to rest. You may want to use it to keep everything warm whilst you finish the sauce:

In the lamb frying pan, add a little more oil if needed and fry the garlic gently for a minute or two. Add the anchovies and stir them around until they form a pulp.

Anchovies, garlic, rosemary


Add the rosemary and the reserved stock. Gently reduce by half. Taste but you shouldn’t need to season it. Stir in the butter to melt.

Serve it all up with a nice ‘big’ Rioja if you have some. Lovely.



Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Funny isn’t it.

You can get spaghetti  in the shops for next to nothing in the UK; as little as 50p for a supermarket own brand – but you get what you pay for of course.  A decent brand like De Cecco costs around £1.50.

Start delving into the stranger shapes and you could be paying twice that. Same ingredients, there or thereabouts, just a different form. I know, I know it’s all about economies of scale, but go with me on this.

I confess I’m a sucker for the more obscure pasta shapes, especially if it comes in rustic paper packaging and with nothing but Italian written on it. I’m a food importer’s dream. I must say decent pasta does make a difference – it has better bite – but I think there is a bit of a plateau, once you get to a certain price point. A bit like wine really.

Walking around town the other day I spied this bucatini: paper packaging. Check. English instructions? No. Check. Funky shape? Close enough. Check. Cost £4.95. Jeez…

Bucatini pastaAs you can see they’re thick hollow tubes, about the same thickness as Pici.bucatini pasta

I bought it anyway of course but now what to do with it? l had a recipe for bigoli in salsa from my prized Polpo recipe book that suggests bucatini as a nice alternative. The ‘salsa’ in question is mainly anchovy fillet though, so I wasn’t sure Helen would have shared my enthusiasm.

This recipes was the obvious answer in the end of course. It’s the Romanised and therefore more widely recognised version of the Amatrice dish that authentically calls for spaghetti, pecorino Amatriciano and cured pork jowl called Guanciale *closes Google tab* Pancetta is a worthy alternative it seems though thankfully. I’ll try and get the ‘original’ ingredients in the future but trying to emulate super-regional dishes in a different country will test even the best stocked delis.

If you can get a nice block of pancetta like this, it’s so much better than the ready cubed supermarket version. It’s no more expensive generally either.

One thing I did find is that the sauce, being made with dry white wine and tomatoes, turns out very sharp in flavour. Unpleasantly so for my personal taste. Maybe using the type of sweet fresh tomato you get in sun bathed Italy the results are different, but here in the UK? So, as much as it pains me with current clamp down on excessive  sugar, I had to add a teaspoon in. It’s still a tenth of what you’d find in a can of Coke though and it makes enough sauce for 4 so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.

Oh and a word of warning: bucatini, being pretty thick, has a certain ‘spring’ to it. After eating the left overs for work in the office, I ended up looking like an extra in Reservoir Dogs.

Thankfully I had no meetings that day.

Serves 4

  • 300-400g bucatini pasta
  • Olive oil for frying. Not extra virgin, it’s a waste.
  • 1 can of plum tomatoes.
  • 1 Glass white wine
  • 1 red chilli
  • 200g pancetta
  • 1 onion
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar (or as you need it).
  • Pecorino (or parmesan) and extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Slice the pancetta into thick cubes and finely dice the onion.

Brown the pancetta in a medium sized frying pan. When crisp, turn the heat down and add the onion and chilli. Cook gently until softened but don’t colour it..

Pancetta onion chilli

Add the wine to the onion and pancetta and reduce to almost gone.

Finally, pour in the tomatoes and reduce.

While this is happening, start the pasta. 1l/35 fl oz salted water per 100g. It will take about 12 minutes. Better to have the sauce ready before the pasta.

The pasta sauce should be fairly thick when done. Season to taste with the sugar, salt and pepper.

If you can, drain the pasta just before it’s done and return to the pot –  keeping a few tbsp of water back. Add the sauce and reserved water and finish it off with the lid on. It’ll take on a bit more of flavour of the sauce.

Serve it with pecorino, or parmesan if not, black pepper and a quick drizzle of  extra virgin olive oil.

Pecorino cheese

Bucatini All'Amatriciana




Pork Chops with Black Pudding, Cavolo Nero, Grilled Peaches and Port


Pork chops, peaches, black pudding, port, cavolo nero

It’s fair to say ‘planning and meticulous detail’ aren’t really words I’d apply to some of the things I come up with. When I get the chance to find somewhere decent to food shop, I tend to try and pick something interesting and then build an idea around it.

Cavolo nero, I admit is something I’d never tried and threw in the basket to kick this one off, but heading up to the meat counter, I saw some decent local pork chops, made a connection and it started from there….

I think the grilled peaches idea came from a salad recipe. That black pudding accompaniment; well, pretty much most gastro-pub menus and a little personal preference. The sauce was originally pencilled in using Marsala wine, which the store was out of, but later a quick rifle through the drinks cupboard indicated that we had a stockpile of Port and it seemed silly not to use it.

The pork was good and inexpensive. I liked that the bone was still attached, but you need to cook it carefully to make sure you cook the meat in contact with it, without cremating the rest. Thermometers – the most important tool in the kitchen!

This would have been great, nicely done on the BBQ/grill. But, well, this was the scene in the back garden, so kitchen it was….

IMG_7056-impI must admit, we liked this. The peaches were a little under-ripe and therefore a bit sharper than I’d like but it’s easily resolved next time. The sweet port sauce helped though and added a bit of richness.

peaches, cavolo nero

Ingredients for 2

For the pork:

  • 2 good pork chops
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for frying

2 peaches, halved and stoned. You know what I mean.

6 small slices of black pudding (or fewer, larger ones).

4 handfuls of sliced cavolo nero


  • About 100ml port
  • A little oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed, but in its skin
  • 200ml good pork or chicken stock
  • A handful of thyme, on the stalks
  • Salt
  • Butter to finish (about 30g)

A handful of peashoots to finish

Let the pork come to room temperature. Preheat an oven to 160°C/320°F.

In a heavy pan/skillet, heat some oil until smoking and brown the meat well. Flip it over. Add the black pudding to the pan and place in the oven for ten minutes.


Meanwhile, in a small pan, fry the garlic and thyme very gently to infuse the oil. Pour in the port and stock and gently simmer to reduce it until thickened.

Boil and kettle and steam/gently boil the cavolo nero in shallow water for about 5 or 6 minutes – making sure the tough stalks are tender. Drain, season and put back in the pan with a lid to keep warm.

Check the pork with a thermometer, especially near the bone. I take 62°C/144°F as cooked without being overdone – good pork is pretty safe these day and some cuts can be served rare – but I’ll leave this for you to decide yourselves!

Remove the pan from the oven and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan until smoking. Take the peach halves and place them cut side down to heat through and take on some bar marks. Gently prise them free with a spatula or preferably a thin palette knife. They might be stuck so be careful not to take away the nicely charred bits.

Stir the butter into the sauce, which should have reduced nicely. Taste and season.

Heated plates are important here. Place the pork on the cavolo nero and arrange the rest around it.  Pour over the sauce to make a nice cheffy ‘moat’ and tuck in.

This cries out for a nice citrusy white wine and who was I to argue.