A while back you may remember me talking about how my thai yellow soup came into being. This is the very recipe where that chilli mishap occurred. You see, my beloved Elly is not a big fan of “spicy” food so I was trying to create a thai curry that she would at least like, so I could have a curry more often without feeling guilty that I was torturing her.
Honestly it had nothing to do with me wanting to slowly increase her tolerance for spicy food
On that fateful day the particular green chili I had decided to use was (unknown to me) not terribly hot and as I was cooking with Elly in mind I also removed the seeds. Since that incident I now cut a tiny amount of chilli off the end and touch my tongue with it to get an idea of heat. If I don’t feel a burn I use the seeds in the dish.
But that’s just me – I’ve known people who put lots more chilli in their cooking than I do, it’s all down to personal taste so it’s always a good idea to experiment with the strength and amount of chilli in a curry if it’s not to your liking.
1 stick of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli (seeds optional)
Half an onion
Thumb sized piece of ginger
Handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of half a lime (zest the lime first and save along with the remaining juice)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Roughly a quarter can of coconut milk
and the rest
1 and a half onions, finely diced
4 chicken breasts, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
Three-quarter tin of coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
The Curry Paste
To make the curry paste, roughly chop the ingredients and add everything except the coconut milk to your blender. Give them a few pulses to break it down a little. You are looking for a this to become a thick but smooth paste, so add the coconut milk a little at a time and try to blend. As soon as it starts to turn into a paste stop adding coconut milk and blend to a smooth paste.
Now you have your curry paste, you can store this for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge. Or you can use it fresh, which is always my preference. It’s nice to know that you could make this up in advance if you were going to be a little pushed for time.
and the rest
Next, you’ll want to heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat and when it is up to temperature add a little oil and then your paste. You just want to release the aromatics from it so don’t wait too long (about a minute) before adding the rest of the onions and allowing them to soften a little (about 5 minutes). Add the diced chicken and stir fry until sealed (about 5 minutes).
Now increase the heat under your pan and add the coconut milk, diced peppers and the kaffir lime leaves. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce to a simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes and serve on a bed of pilaf rice.
Remember the lime zest and juice I said to save? Well, here’s a great way to use it up and add a real subtle zing and punch to this dish. When making the rice pilaf, add the lime zest and juice instead of the turmeric and cook as normal. Hey presto, zingy rice!
This recipe takes me right back to my childhood, my mum used to make a very similar dish and I had completely forgotten about it until I was reminded about it in college last (academic) year. It came up in one of our practical cookery classes and since then I have experimented with it several times until I came up with this recipe.
The recipe that I give for the stuffing, is a large enough quantity for three or four fillets, I like to make up the stuffing and freeze what I don’t use in “portions” so I’m not making it every time. I can just stuff, roll and roast as needed then. It’s also surprising just how quickly this can be put together even on a week night, just roast a few potatoes and some fresh veg in the oven with it and you have a really simple impressive dinner.
Apricot and raisin stuffing
1 large onion, diced
115g dried apricots, soaked, drained and diced
115g seedless raisins
115g fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
and the rest
1 x pork fillet
Packet of Serrano ham
Begin by making the stuffing, heat the butter in a small pan and fry the onion over a moderate heat for about 3 minutes until translucent.
Place the apricots into a large bowl. Add the onions (butter and all), raisins, breadcrumbs and ginger. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you pick up a handful of the stuffing and squeeze it gently in your fist it should just about hold its shape when you let go. if it’s too dry just add a little more butter, if it’s a little too wet add some more breadcrumbs. Allow the stuffing to cool before use.
Next you want to take your pork fillet and trim off any excess fat carefully. Once this is done lay it out on a chopping board and make a cut about three-quarters way deep into it and the full length. This should allow you to open the fillet flat onto your chopping board. Using the heel of your hand you want to begin, flattening both sides of the fillet. If you strike at the centre with a movement towards either edge alternatively you should flatten and stretch the fillet out as much as possible.
Now comes the construction part, lay out your Serrano ham slices so that they just about overlap and are about an inch wider than the length of the fillet. Next lay the fillet on top (across all the Serrano ham overlaps) and place a line of your stuffing down the centre. Now comes the difficult bit, you need to fold either end of the Serrano ham over the ends of the fillet and roll the lot into one oversized Serrano ham wrapped sausage type of thing.
Place this in an oiled roasting tray and bake in a 180C oven for one hour, once the juices flow clear you’re ready to rest it for 10 minutes, then simply carve and serve.
lasagna is a typical Italian dish, it has many variations even in the same regions there can be big differences. I’ve developed my own over the years as I like the northern style with plenty of Béchamel sauce while also liking the simple tomato based meat sauces of the southern regions. This recipe combines the best of both and one or two other influences as well.
While it’s very common to see lasagna not many people realise just how much goes into it, you cook up a meat sauce, then you make the Béchamel sauce and finally you layer it all together and bake it. A 3 part process that can be a little time-consuming but is well worth the effort.
Oh and before anyone says it, I know, a Béchamel sauce with cheese added is a Mornay sauce so this is not a traditional lasagna at all really.
I use a lasagna tray for making this (approx. 32cm x 26cm x 8cm), if you don’t have one of similar size you could use a number of smaller ones, just be aware of the depth, you’ll be surprised how much the layers add up to.
1 x Anchovy fillet
6 x slices of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 x large sprig of rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 x bay leaves
1 x large red onion, diced
2 x sticks of celery, diced
1 x carrot, diced
2 x cloves of garlic, crushed
500g Beef mince
500g Pork mince
250ml Red wine
3 x 400g tins of tomatoes, chopped (plus one tin of water)
1 x Star Anise
Béchamel (Mornay) sauce
6 x cloves
75g x parmesan
3 x mozzarella balls, diced
400g of lasagna sheets
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Serves 12 – 15 portions
The meat Sauce
Begin by heating a large saucepan over a medium heat, once it’s up to temperature add a little extra virgin olive oil, then the anchovy and pancetta/bacon, fry them for about a minute and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Cook these together gently for about 20 minutes.
Next you want to add your meat, making sure to break it up as much as possible as you’re adding it and keep it moving over a high heat until it browns, then add the wine and simmer for a minute before adding the 3 tins of chopped tomatoes and a tin of water.
Finally add a single star anise, bring the lot to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Then taste and season before removing the bay leaves and star anise as they can have a very unpleasant texture and it’s only their flavour we’re after anyway.
While the meat sauce is simmering get on with the Béchamel sauce.
Béchamel (Mornay) sauce
Take the half onion and skewer it with the cloves, now place this in a saucepan along with the milk and warm it but do not let it boil.
In another slightly larger saucepan, start melting the butter but do not let it burn, keep the heat as low as possible. Once melted add the flour and quickly stir it in until you have a sandy paste like substance. Now using a wooden spoon or plastic whisk start to slowly add the warmed milk, (but not the onion and cloves) mixing it in as you go, the slower you can add the milk the less likely you are to end up with a lumpy sauce so take your time.
Once all the milk has been added you need to “cook out” the flour, this is done by continuing to bring the sauce slowly up to temperature, stirring regularly and tasting. This can take as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. When you taste it, if you can still taste flour then keep going and taste again in another few minutes. Once you’ve “cooked out” the flour you have a Béchamel sauce and this can be used with many dishes or subtly changed by adding things like chopped parsley or dill to create other sauces.
But what we want to do is make a Mornay sauce so we add in about half the diced mozzarella and most of the parmesan cheese, hold back enough to cover the top of the final dish. Stir the sauce until the cheese melts and combines completely with the sauce, if it’s too thick use a little milk to thin it, but don’t go crazy we want it a little thick so it will sit on top of the meat layer rather than combining with it.
Final assembly and baking
Take some kitchen paper dipped in extra virgin olive oil and oil up your lasagna dish. If you have a non stick dish, I prefer to start with a pasta layer as it makes the lasagna a little easier to serve. next you want to add a layer of meat sauce followed by a layer of the Béchamel/Mornay sauce. Then sprinkle at little less than a third of the remaining mozzarella over the Béchamel, sprinkle a little grated nutmeg and repeat the Pasta, meat sauce, Béchamel, mozzarella and nutmeg, layers twice more using all the remaining mozzarella on the top, also sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180C until the top is golden and bubbling. You can serve this immediately although it’s best to let it cool a little first as the portions will stay together better.
This also freezes very well just wait for the lasagna to cool completely and portion into freezer suitable bags or boxes. Then when you just have to defrost them and reheat when you want Lasagne.
400g Potatoes, peeled
These are fairly easy to make and a great alternative to mash or baked potatoes. They do need a bit more effort though, not much, so let’s not think about it and just get started.
First you need to peel and wash the potatoes, they should be roughly the same size so cut them only if you really need to. Next place them in a saucepan with just enough salted water to cover them. Place this on a high heat and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for about a minute then remove the potatoes from the water and allow them to cool slightly before moving onto the next step.
Grate all the potato using a large grater, season with salt and pepper and add the melted butter, a little at a time, mixing in well each time, until the potatoes stick together. Depending on the type of potatoes the amount of butter will vary, however I find the starchier the potato the less butter is required. You could also substitute sunflower oil for the butter, but I find this can effect the flavour and colour of the result.
Next take a small amount of the mixture and form it into a mini burger shape. Fry it until golden brown on both sides and taste to check the seasoning. If you’re not happy add more salt and pepper to taste.
Next, shape the mixture into rounds like you’re making burgers. I use a ring mould for this but you can form them into rounds by hand either. Then fry on a hot pan until golden brown, usually 3 -4 minutes a side.
I’m not a huge fan of purée on main course plates, but celeriac has such great flavour and goes so well with brown meats, particularly roast beef, so I find myself loving this. Plus, it’s really easy to make 😉
Wash, peel and rewash the celeriac. Chop it into 1 cm dice and place in a saucepan and barely cover with a half and half mix of milk and water, add a little salt.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently until tender and drain well, retaining the liquid. Place the celeriac chunks into the blender along with the butter and roughly half the retained liquid. Blend until smooth, if they won’t blend or the purée is a little thick you can add more of the retained liquid to help, but remember it’s a purée not a soup 😉
Taste and adjust the seasoning as required with salt and pepper.
Return it to the pan, to reheat until serving.