Thursday, November 30, 2006

Insalata Mista with Harry's Bar Dressing

This is the kind of fresh, Italian salad that you crave for after a heavy meal. The veggies--especially the celery and fennel-- complement each other wonderfully. Interestingly, there's no need to add herbs or black pepper (seldom do we see this in Italian salads).


  1. 5 best quality bibb lettuce cut in quarters
  2. 2 fennel bulbs
  3. 12 sweet cherry tomatoes halved
  4. 2 celery stalks
  5. 2-3 carrots grated (thick not thin)
  6. Top quality red wine vinegar
  7. Best extra virgin olive oil available
  8. Maldon sea salt


Assemble in a bowl the bibb lettuce quarters: in four separate quadrants, add a pile of each (fennel, tomatoes, celery, carrots) leaving the lettuce visible in the middle

Make dressing by mixing 1 part vinegar with a teaspoon of English dried mustard and salt, and gradually mix in 8 parts olive oil.

Pour over salad and mix until vinaigrette is thoroughly integrated.

(Courtesy of David Richter)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Squash Gnocchi with Meat Sauce

A regular favorite in the household, to be eaten as frost gathers on your windows.


  1. 1/2 lb. ground beef
  2. 1/2 lb. ground pork
  3. 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  5. 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  6. 1 28-oz. can peeled whole plum tomatoes, chopped
  7. 1 small butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed
  8. 2 eggs
  9. Salt
  10. 1 cup flour


For the meat sauce: brown beef and pork in 1 tbsp. of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, using the back of a wooden spoon to break meat up. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook onions in remaining 1 tbsp. oil in another medium skillet over medium heat until soft and golden, about 20 minutes, then stir in tomatoes and their juices. Reduce heat to low and simmer, cook til sauce thickens. Drain fat from meat then add meat to tomato sauce. Adjust seasoning.

For the gnocchi: Preheat oven to 350°. Put squash in a baking pan, cover with foil, and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh into a strainer, then press out as much liquid as you can. Transfer to a large bowl, add eggs, and mash together with a potato masher. Season to taste with salt, then work in flour to form a thick, soft dough.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Using 2 tablespoons (1 to scoop, the other to push batter off spoon), drop spoonfuls of batter into water. (If gnocchi fall apart, skim pieces out of water, add a little flour to batter, and try again.) Cook until gnocchi have risen to surface and simmered for 1-2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a warm platter. Continue until all batter has been used. Spoon warm sauce over gnocchi.

(Courtesy David Richter)

Ravioli Fiorentina

This is a lovely, sweet-salty, festive ravioli that should get a collective "hmmmm" around the table when served. My wife and I first tried it in an Osteria off the beaten path in Florence (never easy, but possible).

  1. "00" Flour
  2. Italian organic eggs
  3. Ricotta
  4. Spinach
  5. Nutmeg
  6. French Butter
  7. Vegetable Broth
  8. Sultanas
  9. Cinnamon Sticks
  10. Maldon Sea Salt, Fresh-Ground Pepper
  11. Parmesan


  1. Make pasta according to how much you need using the flour and egg yolks; wrap in cling film and let set at room temperature til needed (not more than 2-3 hours)
  2. Make ravioli filling by combining 3 cups of steamed spinach (which has been squeezed dry) and 2.5 cups of ricotta. Grate generous amount of nutmeg, 1 egg yolk, salt and pepper, then mix well. Set aside in fridge.
  3. Fill ravioli and place on a polenta-covered non-stick tray
  4. Melt a pack of butter in a large saute pan (the largest you can find); add raisins then the broth until you have a smooth, thick sauce
  5. Boil ravioli; sample for doneness. Drain ravioli, retaining some of the pasta water, then add to saute pan with butter in it. Continue to cook for about a minute making sure that raviolis are submerged in the butter.
  6. Serve ravioli in saute pan, after having grated parmesan, cinnamon, salt and pepper on top

(Courtesy of David Richter)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fontina Polenta with Foie Gras

A true Friullian specialty discovered while touring the region there a few years ago. The trick is to get your polenta tasting very cheesy.

  1. Polenta
  2. Foie Gras (cooked)
  3. French butter
  4. Fontina
  5. Ground Pepper + maldon salt


  1. Cook your polenta according to package instructions; make sure there's sufficient salt and pepper
  2. When done, add enough fontina so that the whole thing becomes quite cheesy
  3. Heat your butter till it becomes brown butter
  4. Slice up your foie gras
  5. Assemble slice of foie gras on a plate, add a spoonful of polenta on the side
  6. Sprinkle Maldon sea salt on the foie gras to give the smooth texture a crunchy contrast
  7. Drizzle brown butter all over
(Courtesy of David Richter)
UPDATE: Made this dish at my Sis's birthday party for the Sunday after dinner. Very important! You only need 20 or so gramms of Polenta per person for this dish and cheesyness is definately a must. I used fresh foie gras which I don't recomend. It melts up and when you put that on top of the cheesy polenta the whole thing becomes way rich.

Lardo Crostini

This is one of those simple recipes where quality ingredients make all the difference. It was discovered at the Locando Locatelli booth at the annual Regents Park Restaurant fair, with Giorgio in hand to praise the virtues of this simple yet elegant appetizer.


  1. Toasted country bread;
  2. Garlic;
  3. Thinly sliced Italian "lardo";
  4. Fresh Rosemary;
  5. Best Olive Oil;
  6. Maldon Sea Salt.
  1. Cut hard rind off lard, then cut lard strips into squares;
  2. Grill country bread, and then scrub with garlic;
  3. Very importantly, place 2 or 2 lard squares on bread while still hot so that they melt (important to segment the lard otherwise the whole strip would come off with the first bite into the crostini);
  4. Drizzle olive oil and Rosemary on bread -- don't be bashful;
  5. Sprinkle salt, and then serve immediately while still hot.
(Courtesy of David Richter)

Saltimbocca alla Romana

(Made 25 November 2006)

I am assured that this is the most classic of Roman dishes but as I’ve never been I can’t confirm. I first had Saltimbocca, which means Hope-In-The-Mouth, at a Roman friend’s house and the recipe below is loosely based on his. I say loosely because it is from memory and Andrea may very well have done something frightfully clever which I’ve forgotten.

The combination of veal, sage and Parma ham is one of those that is so perfect that you simply can not imagine an improvement. The addition of butter and white vine just serves to bring the whole thing together.

  1. Veal Cutlets (for main course assume about 250 grams per person) flattened out to a thickness of about 0.5 cm;
  2. Parma ham enough to cover the cutlets;
  3. 1 large leave of fresh Sage per cutlet;
  4. 100 grams of floor;
  5. 2 tablespoons of butter;
  6. 1 large (175 ml) glass of white vine;
  7. Salt & Pepper;

Put a leave of Sage on each cutlet and cover with the ham. Fold over and fix in place with a toothpick (if you have time to do this a few hours before so that the sage has time to infuse the meat that’s even better). Mix floor, salt and pepper together on a large plate and use to coat the veal. Melt the butter on a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil (this is just to increase the frying temperature of the butter) and start frying the Saltimbocca. After about 1.5 min turnover and fry for another 1.5 min before adding the white vine. When the vine is all but evaporated and it and the butter forms a thin sauce the Saltimbocca is ready. Serve with the sauce pored over. I never serve anything with the Saltimbocca but if you wish roast potatoes go perfectly as will fresh veggies such as string beans.

To turn the Saltimbocca into Saltimbocca bites as per the menu below instead of the cutlets buy veal fillet. The fillet needs to be about a hand wide and long enough so that you can roll it up. You then prepare the veal exactly as above except you roll it up instead of folding it. After frying the veal you then stick toothpicks through it at about 1 cm intervals and then cut the rolled up veal to form the “bites”.

The Ivy

(27 November 2006)

Got taken there yesterday by some Canadian Bankers/Investors. Apparently, Canada like the rest of the world is so flush with cash that they don't know what to do with it so what better way to spend it than take people with assets to sell to dinner at the Ivy.

I've always been of the opinion that the Ivy is the most overrated and overpriced bistro in the world. The food is very simple, but good, the service to be fair is great as is the vine cellar. The primary reason to go there at the prices they charge is to gaze at the rich and famous. Leslie Nielsen was the only person I recognised last night; just about as disappointing as when I went to Nobu and Salman Rushdie was the only person I recognised.

That being said if you stick to what they do well and are not expecting innovation then the Ivy does not disappoint. They are essentially very good at the kind of simple traditional English/French food that Delia advocates. I had dressed crab (yummy) and Shepherds Pie made from beef and lamp that was excellent. My colleague had lobster bisque and steak tartar both of which he declared excellent.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bistro Ari & David

Bistro Ari & David

Christmas 2006 Tasting Menu

Lardo-Rosemary Crostini

Pumpkin Minestrone


Saltimbocca Bites

♦ ♦ ♦

Cappellini with Beluga Caviar & Vodka Shot
Polenta & Foie Gras
Ravioli Fiorentina “Dieci Anni”

♦ ♦ ♦

Pineapple Carpaccio

♦ ♦ ♦

Salt Crust-Baked Turbot with Swiss Chard
Bolzano Braised Beef with Truffle Mash

♦ ♦ ♦

Insalata Mista with Harry’s Bar Dressing

♦ ♦ ♦

Parmigiano & Chestnut Honey

♦ ♦ ♦

Monte Bianco with Marscapone

♦ ♦ ♦

Espresso or Fennel Infusione

Chocolate Biscotti

♦ ♦ ♦


(Served to our Friends on 25 November 2006)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Aragosta al Forno (Roasted Langoustine)

(Made last Christmas)

Heat oven to 180C and grease a roasting pan

  1. For starter take 200 grams uncooked langoustine (500 gr for main), shell, cut along the tail, clean out the black stuff and flatten out;
  2. 4 tbsp olive oil;
  3. Salt and freashly ground black pepper;
  4. Juice of 2 - 3 lemons
  5. 2 tbsp dried white breadcrumbs
  6. 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leave parsley

Distribute the langoustine evenly around the roasting pan back side up. Try to leave some space around each langoustine so that they roast rather than boil. Sprinkle with 1/2 the lemon juice, 1/2 the olive oil, the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 15 min and then allow 5 min to cool before serving.

Whisk the remaining lemon juice and oil together with salt and pepper and serve as dip.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Beef Brisket Braised in Trappist Beer:

(Made: 19 November 2006)

This is a new favourite that I have been developing in preparation of the annual Christmas dinner I throw with my Friend David. I have based the method on various similar dishes I’ve had in restaurants and traditional recipes from amongst others Raymond Olivier. Essentially, the idea to use beer is very much a modern idea whereas the Cinnamon is very traditionally French.

I serve the brisket with a variety of potato dishes including very fine truffle mash and rough mash with root vegetables mashed in. I also like to serve vegetables such as spinach on the side but the dish becomes very busy that way.

  1. 1kg beef brisket preferably aged cut into individual, i.e. in the right size for a single portion, pieces;
  2. Trappist Beer;
  3. 1 large red onion cut into centimetre thick slices;
  4. 4 large carrots cut into large approximately 3 cm by 1.5 cm pieces basically large enough to survive the braising;
  5. 2 celery stalks cut into 3 cm pieces;
  6. 4 cloves of garlic;
  7. 1 bouqet garnie;
  8. 1 Cinnamon Stick;
  9. 2 – 3 laurel leaves;
  10. Salt and Pepper.

In a large braising pot seal the meat in some oil remove and put aside. Caramelise the vegetables in a bit of olive oil and butter. When done turn off the heat and put the meat on top of the vegetables, season with salt and pepper before covering with the beer. It is important to completely cover with the beer so that there is a centimetre thick cover of beer over the meat. Add in the cinnamon, bouqet garnie and laurel leaves and let marinate for 4 – 5 hours at room temperature.

At least four hours before you intend to serve the brisket put the pot into a preheated oven at 170 degrees Centigrade. Let the meat braise for four hours until fifteen minutes before you want to serve it then take out the meat and separate the vegetables from the remaining sauce. Use the vegetables to prop up the meat on a serving plate. Thicken the sauce in a sauce pan and drizzle around the meat.

If you want to serve the truffle mash then this is the method. After pealing and boiling enough potatoes for the number of people you are serving mash them by forcing through a fine sieve. Once mashed work warm milk and butter into the mash until it is creamy but not runny. Then force back through the sieve one more time before working in truffle flavoured olive oil until you have achieved the desired consistency and flavour.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Buttercup Squash (Kabocha) Soup

(Made: 19 November 2006)

I created this recipe after coming across a black pumpkin in Marylebone Sunday Farmers Market and becoming intrigued after the farmer told me it was like pumpkin but better. He claimed it had all the attractive aspects of the pumpkin but none of the unattractive overly sweet aspects.

I now know it is called Buttercup Squash and is part of the Turban squash family and a variety of winter squash. Has a sweet and creamy orange flesh. This squash is much sweeter than other winter varieties and is know as Kabocha in Japan.


  1. One medium Buttercup Squash around one kilo. Cut off the skin with a sharp knife and cut into approximately eight equal chunks;
  2. One leak stalk, cut into pieces approximately 3 cm long;
  3. A bunch of garden onions;
  4. A couple of whole garlic cloves;
  5. Teaspoon of mustard seeds;
  6. 500 milliliters chicken stock (or vegetable) from a cube is you must but naturally the soup will be better if you make your own;
  7. Fistful of both Parsley and Oregano;
  8. Parmesan cheese and crème fraise;
  9. Olive Oil and tablespoon butter.

In a roasting pan season the squash, leak, onions and garlic with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast at around 200 degrees Centigrade for about 20 minutes. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot and drop in the mustard seed when hot. Season the oil and butter with the mustard seeds for about three minutes before adding all the vegetables, stock and herbs.

Simmer for about ten minutes before pulping the soup in a mixer or with a magic stick. Server with a dollop of crème fraise floating on top of grated or sliced parmesan cheese.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Roast Chicken

(Made 12 November 2006)

Everybody who knows anything about cooking has a recipe for roasting chicken but for some reason most people do not have a good recipe for roasting chicken. I don’t know why but people seem to regard roast chicken as too pedestrian to make something interesting with it. Most recipes just consist of rubbing salt and pepper into bad quality chicken and roasting the life out of it.

There are in fact three aspects to making good roast chicken namely the chicken itself, the moistness (that’s a word I swear), and the seasoning. To make really good roast chicken you need good quality free range chicken preferably of a slow growing variety. There is no point in using battery grown chicken as they are too fat and the meat to floppy to retain the flavours of the roasting and the seasoning. If you are going to use one of those you are actually better off buying a pre roasted bird from the supermarket. It will taste the same and cost less. Whether or not to use chicken raised on something like corn is just a matter of taste and I have no opinion either way.

Moistness is a bit of an art with chicken but it boils down to three things roasting temperature, added fat and a source of liquid during the roasting. With temperature the thing is too much and the bird shrivels up and looses all moistness and too little and it just boils. Of course you also have to keep in mind that too long and too short are no good either. I find that 170 degrees Celsius, with convection for about 1 hour fifteen minutes for a medium bird (1.5 kilos) is perfect. If the bird is smaller shorten the time and lengthen it for a bigger bird but keep in mind that the relationship between time required and weight is not linear.

Added fat is a no-no for a lot of people but I like to do one of two things either I rub butter all over the chicken (also helps to keep the seasoning in place) or I cover the bird in bacon rashes. Butter is good in that it enriches the flavour in a semi neutral way and then disappears during the cooking. Bacon on the other hand seals in the liquids of the bird, adds its own rather distinct taste and is quite good mixed with veggies or potatoes as a side. Both of them do the trick but I select one or the other depending on what I’m seasoning the bird with and what I’m having as carb and vegetable.

The last aspect is the source of liquids during roasting. Mostly this means basting the bird every 15 min or so but I find that a lemon/lime cut in half inside the cavity of the chicken does wonders. The fruit will release its liquid over the roasting process and keep the bird nice and moist. Some people stuff the bird with liver and kidney and such for the same purpose but I find that these leave a taste that I don’t care for as well as being messy.

To season a chicken I start by rubbing the insides of the cavity with butter, salt and pepper and any herb/spice I plan on using on the outside. Next I cut incisions into the skin over the chest and upper leg and stuff the skin with herbs. I like to use sage if I’m adding butter or basil if I’m using bacon. Thereafter, I rub the outside of the chicken with salt, pepper and dried herbs e.g. rosemary, parsley. If I’m using butter it goes on first and bacon after.

I serve the chicken with all manner of different sides including mash, roast potatoes and veggies, pasta and vegetable mashes. Last time I made a mushroom pasta that went down a treat.

Watercress soup

When I moved to Paris in 1986 I had never heard of watercress let alone consumed it in any form. At the time I was living with my sis and her then husband, Paul Dymock, who loved watercress, in sandwiches and salads but more than anything in soup. This recipe is roughly how he made the soup although I suspect he did not have a recipe and just threw things in that he felt like using.
  1. 100 grams watercress (I actually like to use landcress which is a lot more peppery and more interesting) carefully washed as for some reason watercress can carry sand;
  2. 2 shallots roughly cut;
  3. A garlic clove, chopped;
  4. 2 medium potatoes, preferably mealy ones as the potato is for thickening the soup;
  5. A handful of chopped parsley (or some other more interesting herb I’ve used tarragon which was a mistake, coriander which was great and basilicum which was ok but kind of clashed with the watercress);
  6. 400 ml chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer);
  7. 1 tbs butter;
  8. 1 tbs olive oil;
  9. Salt and Pepper;
  10. Parmesan cheese grated or sliced;
  11. Good quality crème fraiche.

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the butter and olive oil and when hot put in shallots and garlic. Sweat the shallots until soft then add the rest of the ingredients except cheese and cream. When the potatoes are well done purée the soup in a mixer or with a magic stick until creamy and no large pieces remain of the vegetables. Serve in a soup bowl with the crème fraiche floating on top of a table spoon’s worth of parmesan cheese.

This serves two as a regular soup or four as a small starter.


It has been (forcefully) pointed out to me that in respect to making this soup all references to ahem... "him" should be replaced by ahem... "her". If you would please take note of this small correction...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Slow Cooked Pork

(Made 13 November 2006)
  1. One kilo pork loin roast w/bone in keep the fat on but if the skin is still on take that off;
  2. Olive oil;
  3. 45 gr softened butter;
  4. 2 large shallots roughly cut up (or onions);
  5. 6 cloves garlic;
  6. 1 tsp Rock salt;
  7. Ten or so black pepper corns;
  8. 2 tsp fresh sprigs thyme;
  9. 2 tsp fresh sage (Actually you can replace the herbs with any other herbs that you like);
  10. 2 carrots finely chopped;
  11. 2 sticks celery cut into 2 cm pits;
  12. 350 ml chicken stock;
  13. 350 ml white vine;
  14. 150 gr of new potatoes per person;
  15. 200 gram tin of Cannelloni beans.

In a mortar create a paste out of ingredients 2 – 9 leaving aside about 15 grams of butter, two cloves garlic and one shallot. You start with the pepper and salt and mash those until fine, then add the herbs and mash until fine. Then add the garlic and shallot and mash until you have a paste into which you work the softened butter and olive oil. Basically, you are looking for a paste that is easy to spread but not runny and the quantity of olive oil needed will be thus determined.

Spread the paste over the no-bone parts of the pork until you have an even layer covering the meat. Leave in a cool place for a couple of hours for the meat to marinade. If you really like your garlic you could make incisions into the meaty parts and push bits of garlic into the meat before spreading the paste. The added benefit of this is that there will be more surface for the marinade to cover.

In a heavy braising pot heat the remaining butter and some olive oil and when hot add the carrot, celery, remaining shallot and garlic. Sweat the vegetables without coloring them. When done add the meat bone-side down (push the vegetables away so that the meat is resting on the pot), poor the vine and stock around (not over) the meat, close the pot and put in a preheated oven at the lowest level. The oven should be at 140 Celsius for four hours (falling of the bone) or 180 Celsius for two hours (still firm but juicy). Use the convection function if you have it otherwise over-under. Traditionally, recipes call for you to braise the meat every 30 minutes or so but I find that it make very little difference with a closed pot.

For the last 30 minutes uncover the meat (and leave uncovered) and add the potatoes to the broth. If these are truly new potatoes you do not need to peal them and the skin will take on a very appealing color as one side roasts and the other absorbs the liquids.

Take pork and potatoes out of oven, cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile strain the liquid and put into a hot gravy pot. Combine with the Cannelloni beans and bring to a boil. The beans when heated will release starch that will thicken the sauce. If the sauce is not thick enough crush a few of the beans and mix.

Serve with bean sauce spooned over the meat. I like to put the carrots and celery (or what remains of them) under the meat before spooning over the sauce but most recipes would tell you to throw them away. I had an excellent Australian pinot noir with the meat but any medium bodied read or full bodied white will do.

I love this method of preparing the potatoes but I’ve served this dish with pommes gratine which is just as good. You can also add some mushrooms to the broth and a vegetable purée will not do any harm although the dish will be quite busy.