Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fish and Chips

All has been quiet on the cooking front lately. I seem to go in and out of cooking phases, and I'm currently 'out', but I'm reading the French Laundry Cookbook and Heat by Bill Buford so I expect I'll have a renewed enthusiasm for cooking soon.

Anyway, this is the sort of dish to cook when you can't be bothered cooking: basic grilled fish and chips. Sweetlips has disappointed us the last few times we've been there, so we thought we'd make some at home.

The fish: season and dust in a little flour, then pan-fry over medium-high heat in butter and a little olive oil. Sprinkle some lemon zest over the top and add a bit of lemon juice and parsley at the end.

The chips: cut into roughly 1cm chips, add to a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil, then immediately drain. Leave to steam/dry for a few minutes in the colander, then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss them in plenty of olive oil and salt, then roast at 220c for about 40 mins (or until they're nice and crispy).

Serve with a few slices of lemon and tartare sauce.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Braised oxtail with pan-fried gnocchi

This is the sort of thing that's very easy to do, but a bit tricky to do very well. Gnocchi need a light touch and as little flour as possible to make them light and delicious. I can honestly say that I'm as happy with this dish as I have been with anything I've cooked.

I love the arrival of slightly colder weather, as it gives me an excuse to go back to cooking this sort of food. If someone asked me what me favourite dish is, I'd probably have to reply "a cheap cut of meat cooked for several hours".

This dish was inspired by Cantina's delicious pan-fried gnocchi. I can't remember what they served them with, but it was incredible.

For the oxtail:

Softly sweat a large onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and maybe some celery.

Meanwhile brown the oxtail pieces on all sides over a high heat.

Add some crushed spices (fennel seeds in this case), a cinnamon stick, bay leaf, a few tins of tomatoes and some wine to the onions, then add the browned meat and braise at 150c for four or five hours. Take the tail pieces out of the braising liquid, allow to cool, carefully shred with forks, return to the braising liquid.

For the gnocchi:

Take 6 medium-sized potatoes, prick their skins all over with a fork, rub them with olive oil and place on a bed of rock salt. Roast at 220c for about an hour.

Give them a couple of minutes to cool down, then slice them in half and scoop out their insides. Push the potato insides through a sieve (a masher is not fine enough), then season, add an egg yolk and half a handful of flour.

The idea is to shape this potato mix into sausage-like strips and then cut them into gnocchi (which apparently means "lumps"). The problem with this is that your mixture will be quite wet and sticky, and hard to work with. You need to add flour to make it more pliable, but not too much flour. Flour makes your gnocchi heavier and stodgier, so you need just enough flour to bind it all together without overdoing it.

The whole thing is a bit hard to quantify, and it has taken me a few attempts to really be happy with the results, but these particular gnocchi were everything I'd hoped for: soft, light little things that still held together in the pot.

To cook them I blanched them in a large pot of salted water and then placed them in an enamelled cast iron pan with plenty of butter. Don't be tempted to turn the gnocchi too often, as they won't get that beautiful browned outside if you do. Add a good handful of sage leaves for the last 45 seconds or so, and serve on top of braised oxtail. Serve with good parmesan.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Prosciutto and Fig and Chevre, oh my!

Not much cooking went on with this but it was tasty so I say it counts. I should mention this was inspired by an awesome salad at Cantina a couple of months ago.

Onto the (West End Deli baguette, the king of the breads) sliced bread went:
1. homemade fig jam
2. some layers of prosciutto
3. small yet expensive amount of crumbled chevre
4. a mint leaf
5. candied prosciutto

For the candied prosciutto, fry strips in some oil & butter until they are all buckled and crispy and "rich mahogany" in colour, according to the recipe I vaguely went from and then leave to cool completely. While thats cooling, make a simple sugar syrup and let that cool a bit, then dip the crunchy (caution: fragile!) prosciutto in the syrup and then heat with a kitchen blow torch until its seems caramelly and almost golden. Be careful not to get the flame too close or direct onto any unsugared prosciutto or it will burn and that is no fun. Let it cool, not on paper towel, until crisp again.

(starter for dinner, 29/3/09)