Monday, February 26, 2007

Tinola (Philipino chicken soup)

Love this recipe and mess about with it constantly. This is partially because I can usually never get the sayote as it is mostly sold in Oriental stores. My local Lebanese stores, usually very helpful in selling all things Asian, do not have it so I have to go to Chinese or Thai stores in other neighbourhoods. The defining elements of this soup over other chicken soups are the use of ginger and fish sauce. The only reason the Pinoys use sayote is that it is abundant and cheep in the Philippines. In any case from what I've read the real tradition is to use raw, i.e. unripe, papaya but that is not exactly widely available in London either.

I have replaced the sayote with various forms of kale, courgette, and even root veggies. It all works. I have also replaced the onion with leeks, shallot and even celery although I must say that did not quite work. I have also read Pinoy recipes (e.g. Pinoycook) that use pork which does not excite me all that much. Pinoycook does however discuss cooking a chicken liver in the broth and making a dunking sauce with it which does excite me. Must try that next time.


  • 2 onions peeled and quartered;
  • 6 slices of ginger peeled (1-2 inches length);
  • 1 chicken;
  • 8 or so new potatoes peeled;
  • 2 sayote (Chayote, Christophene, vegetable pear) peeled and sliced into big chunks;
  • Sili leaves;
  • water;
  • salt, pepper;
  • Thai (or if you can get it Phillipine Patis) fish sauce;
Saute onions and ginger in vegetable oil then add chicken, skin side down. (2-3 pieces per person and use the backs for more flavour). Turn chicken it doesn't need to be very browned. Then add water and season with salt, pepper and fish sauce.

Simmer over low heat with cover for about 40 minutes. Add potatoes when there is 10 minutes remaining. Add sayote about 5 minutes after potatoes. Then let cool and scrape off the fat from the top.

Serve with rice

Beetroot Tartar

To prepare blend together:
  • 1 Cornition
  • 1 tbls Capers
  • 1 Shallot
  • Red vine or cherry vinegar
  • Worcester sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Home made majo to taste
  • 2 Beets
All finely chopped but not pulped. Serve on toast or cheese.

Dinner Menu 24 February 2007

  • Caviar Versailles
  • Conchiglioni con Cavalo Nero, Spec e funghi Galletti
  • Roasted Fennel
  • Saltimbocca a la Romana
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate brownies

Caviar Versailles is a brilliant method of getting you the three most important food groups namely, carbohydrates, cream and Caviar (Beluga naturally). You make potato mash with mealy potatoes, double cream and white pepper (white is important as black is too strong and looks odd) until you have a smooth but lumpy mash. You then load the mash into a whiskey tumbler sized glass upto half way, cover with a layer of crème frais and cover that with as much caviar as you can afford. If you are Roman Abromovitch stop at the top of the tumbler. This is apparently how caviar was served at Napoleon’s coronation at Versailles. I have no idea where I originally got the recipe but it is one of the best methods of serving caviar I’ve ever come across.

Served with: Reykja Vodka

The Conchiglioni (literally pasta shells) are loosely based on a River Café recipe principally how to prepare the cream sauce. In any case you remove the central stem from the Cavalo Nero, tear the blades into two to three pieces and blanch in gently simmering water. Heat about 300 ml double cream (or single or even yogurt) with loads of garlic (I used five cloves for a seven person recipe) and keep it simmering until the garlic is cooked, pulverize in a blender. Reconstitute the mushrooms as per below. Cut the speck into relatively thick sticks and fry at medium heat with a bit of olive oil until caramelized on all sides. Add the mushrooms and Cavalo Nero and turn until the Cavalo looses its water and sort of wilts. Poor over the cream and garlic sauce, season to taste and poor over the Conchiglioni.

To prepare the Conchiglioni the most important thing you can do is, as I’ve discovered, to completely ignore the bloody instructions on the pack. Apparently, pasta shells due to their size and thickness take a long time to cook but not the 25 minutes that the F***er who wrote the instructions for Waitrose thinks. This I unfortunately did not discover until I had six people sitting at my dinner table so rather than make them wait they had soggy pasta. As far as I can tell 15 min in boiling salted water is just fine.

Roasted Fennel as per 4 February 2007.

Saltimbocca as per the ’06 Christmas menu except I served it with zucchini. I cut the zucchini into a two centimeter cubes and fried them with butter, truffle olive oil, salvia, salt and pepper. I left the zucchini to simmer in the oil and butter until cooked through but still al dente. This turned out to be an excellent vegetable to have with the Saltimbocca.

Served with: Chataux Montrose 2001

Update: David says we got the Caviar recipe from Saveur Mag.

SARDO Canale

(23 February 2007)
42 Gloucester Ave,
Primrose Hill,
London NW1 8JD

This is the Primrose Hill offshoot of Sardo in Fitzrovia but I greatly prefer the Canale to Centrale. This is both because I think the Canale’s décor in a converted warehouse at the Regent’s canal is cool but also I always seem to get very eccentric and experimental food there. This is at least partially because I always go with the same friend who knows the owner and the staff so we end up getting whatever the cook is experimenting with. This is particularly true now because they have a new chef who is only 23 and anxious to leave his mark on the restaurant. He is however only 23 and therefore lacking the experience that would allow him to avoid some particularly embarrassing mistakes. That being said we had three of his experiments and two where fantastic and one was a definite miss. I am however, quite willing to suffer that ratio in order to get experimental food at the highest quality.

We had:

Talleri di carne and Talleri di pesce these are wooden platters of meats and cheeses or treated fish that are quite generous but pricey at £17. They also contained one of chef’s creations a fresh artichoke heart salad that was excellent. Everything on the Talleri was of the highest quality but the cheese was particularly memorable;

Seafood Gnocci with artichoke heart sauce (chef’s creation fantastic!);

Black Inc & Squid Gnocci with orange juice (chef’s creation – good idea but needs work as the ingredients where at war with each other!);

Scaloppa di vitello all'Ovinfort – definitely a keeper. Ovinfort is a Sardinian blue cheese that’s mild and creamy and the combination of the scalloppa and the mild cheese sauce was very memorable;

We drank some very presentable Sardinian vines with all of this and I wish I could remember their names but for obvious reasons I don’t. Ended the evening by drinking too much grappa at the front of the house.

Gato di Patate

This is originally an Anna del Conte recipe but has over the years become much bastardised by repeated experimentation. This is in anycase one of these Itlaian stables where every family has an opinion so you can find endless variations in cookbooks. The basic idea, however, is to make a Gato out of potato mash and cheese as brunch.

  1. Mealy potatoes (about 800 gr) boiled and pealed
  2. Olive oil
  3. Butter
  4. Milk
  5. 2 eggs & 1 egg yoke
  6. Grated Parmesan cheese (50 gr)
  7. Mozzarella cheese (sliced about 150 gr)
  8. Parma ham (or similar)
  9. Basil & Parsley (couple of tablespoons each)
  10. Grated nutmeg (optional)
  11. Salt and white pepper
The proportion of oil to butter to milk is just a case of personal preference. The original recipe does not call for olive oil but I prefer a little bit of it in the mix.

Melt the butter with the oil before adding the milk and bringing the whole thing to a simmer. Add the liquid to the potatoes while mashing them. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan and herbs; season to taste.

Butter an oven proof form and half fill it with the mash. Add the mozzarella and ham and cover with the rest of the mash. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for about 20 min. Let the gato sit for 10 min before serving.

It is very tempting to add loads of mozzarella at this point but it does not actually work; too much and the gato becomes soggy and overly rich. I use 125 gr mainly because that is the size they sell in Waitrose and find that it is just about the right amount. A little bit more is good but since that would involve opening another pack I never use more. The ham can be replaced by sausage or mortadella or just about any meat. I really like the parma ham.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ristorante Malga Panna

(13 February 2007)
Via Costalunga, 56
38035 Moena, Trentino

I went there to celebrate my Sister-in-law's 50th birthday with family and friends. We where skiing in Val de Fasse in the Alte Adige as a substitute for her having a massive party. The restaurant is out of the way to say the least and we would never have found it had we not been following our friend Franko who is a local bar owner. Basically, you drive all through the town of Moena, a suburb of Trentino, until you come to the hills behind the town. Then you thread through the old town in the hills on streets barely wide enough for a car. Once out of the town you drive up a winding hill for a few hundred meters until all of a sudden a great big farm house appears out of nowhere. We where doing this during a pitch black winter night but I don’t think we would have found it during daylight either. But clearly if you make it well enough the customers will come because the food was fabulous and the restaurant full.

I had the following:

  • Foie gras with Parmesan Cheese Sable, Caramelized Apples and Balsamic Reduction;
  • Tortelli al talleggio e tartufo trentino (Tortellini filled with Tallegio Cheese served with Trentino Truffles);
  • Il Maialino Si Fa in Tre (Trio of Suckling Pig)
  • Pre Dessert - Mousse of Toffee and Dark Bear Gele
  • Composition of Chocolate

The foie gras consisted of tinned and fresh liver perched on the parmesan cheese sable. Very good combination but what made this dish was a fig reduction that was heavenly. The reduction had a quality that was like very fine runny liquorish but sweet like fig. A great combination with the FG. Unfortunately, the chef has the same problem as I with fresh foie gras as per the reindeer recipe below. The fresh foie was not fully cooked and did not work for me.

The Tortellini was unbelievable. One of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. There is very little to say about this dish except for the sauce otherwise it is literally as advertised. Some cheese filled fresh tortellini with shavings of truffle on top. I don’t think the cheese had been treated in any way. The sauce was made by frying up end pieces of beef and then boiling them in water until a very small amount of strong stock remained. The stock was then mixed with truffle olive oil (I think!) and a little bit of Tallegio cheese melted into the sauce. This is one of those combos that if well done is indescribably good. Others in my party had a tortellini filled with smoked pumpkin and hare ragout on the side, very special and very tasty. The wild mushroom angel hair pasta was also fantastic and the house specialty.

The Trio of Suckling Pig was typical chef’s dish that says “see how perfect my craft is” but is nevertheless very very good. It consisted of suckling pig fillet, cutlet and crispy belly all impeccably cooked on the outside and moist on the inside. Great quality meat as well; no complaints. Most of the rest of the table had venison that was on par with the best meat I've ever had. My brother had a braised veal and quail combo that he declared excellent.

The pre dessert was a huge surprise both because it is very Hestonish for what is a very traditional restaurant and because it worked so well. It is quite hard to describe but somehow the two tastes perfectly complement each other and the gele was actually a little crispy and provided a bit of texture.

Composition of Chocolate was a classic Michelin starred dish, great mousse, great cakes, great sauce. Had it before, still love it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worst Italian in London

If there where such a contest then I'm sure the Trattoria at City Airport would win hands down. It really is astonishingly bad; they actually nuke the pasta. They have really simple concept easily handled pasta sauce (bolognese, pesto etc.) and a choice of different pasta types. All they have to do is keep a big pot of water going on the boil and drop in individual portions of pasta and you have something that tastes good but is very friendly to mass production. But no the idiots drop the pasta in a great big bowl with the sauce and then nuke it! The result is disgusting.

The only other thing I've had was a very watery expresso so I can't speak to the rest of the menu. I expect very little from someone who nukes pasta, however. The place is run by someone called the Carestel Group - clearly someone to avoid.

Sent from my Blackberry Mobile

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lunch Sunday 4 February 2007

  • Stracciatella Soup
  • Smoked Wild Icelandic Salmon on Potato Latkes and Crème Fraise
  • Roasted Fennel with Lemmon Oil Dressing
  • Braised Phesant with Forest Mushroom Sauce, Stir Fried Savoy Cabbage and Vacherin over Fresh Potatoes
  • Lemmon Tart with Rosemary Mascarpone and Green Tomato Jam

Stracciatella Soup for me is nothing but a method for making plain chicken broth more interesting. By the same token I only ever have it when I happen to have particularly good chicken broth. To make chicken broth into Stracciatella mix an egg, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and a pinch of nutmeg together and blend into the broth after whirling the broth quite fast. Whirling the broth is supposed to ensure the egg mixture breaks up and does not clump together. I actually think it is fun to put a dollop of the mixture on the bottom of a bowl before pouring in the broth leaving it to the diner to break up. Salt and pepper to taste.

Alternatives, to this recipe are to add finely chopped parsley, coarsely chopped spinach (then apparently it is called an Italian Wedding Soup), semolina (instead of the bread) and you can skip the nutmeg. Actually I prefer skipping the nutmeg.

For the Salmon recipe it really helps to have a brother who is an enthusiastic salmon fisherman, who catches more than he consumes of Icelandic Salmon and is generous with his catch. If this is lacking in your family I highly recommend getting one as they are really handy. Alternatively, use high quality farmed salmon. Try to find salmon that has very little fat marbling. Wild salmon is basically nature’s tri athlete and has no fat other than what is in its muscles. Farmed salmon in contrast are really sloppy city cousins who feed on junk food and have completely unnecessary fat deposits. There is no similarity in taste but farmed salmon has been getting better at the top end of the market.

I would normally serve this dish with blinis but I am very bored with those mainly because of certain friends who keep asking for them. The potato latkes are something I learned to make in cookery school about 15 years ago and have never made since. I was reminded of them when I came across a recipe for them in a women’s magazine. Sadly I did not rip the recipe out of the magazine because I’ve forgotten the recipe and my Cordon Blue book is somewhere at the bottom of a moving box.

From a very hazy memory I grated together about 400 grams potatoes (half coarsely and half fine), two shallots and a handful of finely cut chives. I then squeezed as much liquid out of the potato mixture as possible before adding 1 egg, 1 egg white and a tablespoon of flour and a pinch of salt. I then formed pancakes from about a tablespoon of the mixture and fried them in Olive oil. I actually fried the latkes twice, first with very little oil, because I was afraid that doing them in one go would leave them very oily. I don’t know if this is really a part of the recipe but it worked as I the latkes where not oily at all. I got 14 latkes out of this recipe.

To serve I put the crème fraise on top of the latkes, some more chives on top of the crème before adding salmon on top. I served the latkes with cold champagne although white wine would be the obvious choice.

The Roasted Fennel recipe is from my newest favourite cookbook the River Café Cookbook. You cut up the fennel into ½ cm slices in such a way that the stalks remain whole and then roast the slices until cooked but “al dente”. I did this in my sandwich maker which worked just fine. After roasting toss the fennels in a dressing made by beating five parts olive oil into one part lemon juice, drizzle with sea salt and serve. The Rive Café recipe is a little different but not that much.

I got the Phesant from my friend James, who was invited for lunch, and I must say having friends that are enthusiastic hunters is quite cool as well. I had four guests and three Phesant which was a lot but not ridiculously so as basically we had ½ bird left over. The birds where fresh and had not been hanged which my guest preferred but I think is a shame as game really needs to hang to get the full taste.

To make this dish you need to start by reconstituting about 50 grams of dried mushrooms, I used mixed forest mushrooms. You do this by pouring about 400 ml of warm water over the mushroom in a bowl and covering the bowl. After about 10 minutes remove the mushrooms and rinse any remaining grit under running water. Pour the mushroom water through a very fine sieve or paper to get any grit out and set a third of the liquid aside. Mix the remaining liquid with about equal amount of white wine.

To prepare the Phesant clean it of any bits and pieces such as stray feathers and fat. In a braising pan that is large enough to cover with all the birds inside, fry all sides of the birds until brown and remove from the pan. Soften one large onion and two cloves of garlic in the pan before adding back the Phesant. At this point there are two options you can either add all the mushroom and wine liquid, cover and leave to simmer in a 160 degrees Centigrade hot oven for about 40 minutes or you can do the difficult method. The difficult method involves pouring in about a fifth of the liquid covering, letting the liquid reduce to almost nothing, adding more liquid etc for about 20 – 25 minutes at high heat. You then remove the birds and add any remaining liquid to make the sauce. I had other things to do so I selected the easy method. I also added three sprigs each of rosemary and thyme, a dozen or so black pepper corns, three bay leaves and salt to taste.

The lazy method is also good if you like me underestimate the time it will take to get through to main course because by turning the birds and lowering the heat you can prevent them from drying out. This way, even if you leave the birds in there for more than 90 minutes, they will still be moist when served.

While the Phesant is cooking fry the mushrooms in butter and when they have absorbed the butter start to slowly add in the remaining mushroom liquid. The objective here is to reconstitute the mushrooms in such a way that they regain some volume. Do too much though, and the mushrooms become soggy and unattractive, so pay attention.

For the Savoy Cabbage you need a sliced clove of garlic, 50 grams cubed pancetta, ¼ cup each red vine and stock and naturally enough Savoy Cabbage. Prepare the cabbage by removing the thick white central stalk and tearing each blade in half. Fry the pancetta in a large pan until brown, add the garlic and fry until soft. Add the cabbage to the pan and heat through. Add the liquid and simmer until it is completely gone.

For the sauce remove the Partridge and pour the remaining liquid through a sieve into a sauce pot. Add about a teaspoon of sauce thickener (maisana or flour or even roux if you can be bothered) and the mushrooms and reduce until you have achieved the desired thickness.

For the potatoes add them to the pan with the Phesant for the last twenty minutes or so. You heat the cheese in the oven with the Phesant inside its box for about 10 – 15 minutes. When you remove the Phesant you also remove the potatoes and put them into individual small bowls, crush them and drizzle with sea salt. When it is time to serve the birds you pour about a tablespoons worth of cheese over 4 – 5 potatoes per person.

To serve cover a plate with the Savoy Cabbage and place the Phesant on top. I carved the partridge in such a way that each guest had two medium slices of breast cut along the whole breast with half a leg placed over. Pour over the sauce and serve with the potatoes.

Served with: Chataux Montrose 2001, (Pessac-Leognan)

The Tart is a classic Italian Torta di Limone although I took the recipe from the River Café cookbook. It is made from butter, sugar, almond flour (in equal measures), ½ measure polenta, eggs (about 1 egg per 300 grams of the other stuff) and vanilla extract plus the juice and rind of lemon. My innovation is to serve it with the Rosemary flavoured Mascarpone and green tomato jam. To make Rosemary Mascarpone you need Rosemary flavoured honey and mascarpone cheese which you whisk together until you have the desired flavour. I like the flavour of the Rosemary to be very much in the background but you can add more of the honey if you actually like a stronger taste. The green tomato jam I buy in the South of France from a particular farm but I’m sure you can find it everywhere these days. The combination of these three somewhat diverse flavors really works.

Served with: d'Arenberg Riesling, The Noble (a very fine Aussie dessert wine)

Hey presto one Sunday lunch!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Runny Chocolate Brownies


  1. 175 gr. Butter;
  2. 175 gr. Bitter chocolate 70% or above, grated;
  3. 180 gr. Caster sugar;
  4. 3 egg yokes;
  5. 50 - 100 gr. Ground almonds;
  6. ( 100 gr. Flour - optional);
  7. (10 gr ginger jam - optional);
  8. 3 egg whites whisked until you have soft peaks;

Melt the butter in a pan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate slowly enough so that it melts in the butter. Add the sugar, yokes and ginger and beat together until you have a paste. Add the flour (if you are using it) and almonds. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Bake at 175 Centigrade in a buttered form for about 20 – 25 minutes. If you want the brownie liquid line the form with butter paper to make it easy to get it out. Let cool before remove from the form. Serve with cream or mascarpone and fresh fruit such as kiwi or strawberries.

(Courtesy of Kristin Hognadottir)

Game Sauce (to go with the Reindeer below)

  1. Reserve some (100 – 150 gr) of the meat;
  2. 3 Shallots roughly cut;
  3. 2 Caroots cut into wheels;
  4. 1 Celery stick cut into dice;
  5. 500 ml Meat Broth (preferably strong tasting game broth but any meat broth will do but the stronger the better);
  6. 150 ml Porto or Madeira (definitely Porto rather than Madeira);
  7. Box of Button Mushrooms (any type of mushroom will do and so if you want fancy use Portobello or some wild variety);
  8. Salt & Pepper;
  9. 2 tbls butter;

Brown the meat until quite dark, add the vegetables and caramelize before adding and completely boiling off the Porto. To strengthen the taste you can add more vine and boil it off again. Add the broth and bring to a boil before simmering for half an hour. Pour through a sieve and add salt and pepper to taste. Fry the mushrooms in butter on separate pan and add before reheating the sauce.

Just before serving reheat the sauce and add any additional ingredients such as the brandy from the foie gras below or strong heavy tasting red vine. At the last moment add butter to taste and to get the really rather nice sheen that comes from freshly melted butter.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reindeer steak with brandy flambéed foie gras, wild mushroom sauce, beetroots in balsamic vinegar and candied potatoes

We had two types of reindeer for New Years Eve, a large steak from the thigh and a couple of smaller fillets. We dry marinated all of the meat overnight in salt and a pepper mix and added red vine to the marinate a couple of hours before serving the meat. The reason for not adding the vine earlier is to prevent it from cooking the meat to much. The small steaks we simply fried, 1.5 – 2 minutes each site, on a very hot pan but the large steaks are more complex. You really need a meat thermometer as it is very important that the core temperature of the reindeer not exceed 60 degrees Celsius. What we did was to brown the meat on a pan and then put it in a preheated convection oven at around 200 Centigrade. You then take out the meat when core temperatures reach 60 degrees.

I much prefer the small fillets to the large piece of meat although both where excellent. The thing about reindeer is that it is basically equivalent to very lean and strong tasting beef and can easily be eaten rare but that extremely hard to accomplish with the big piece.

The foie gras was fresh and I’ve never been any good at pan frying fresh goose liver. Basically, what usually happens is that by the time I have browned the foie gras most of the fat has melted away. This is a serious problem when dealing with something that is mostly fat. I also find that most restaurants have the same problem and that even if they manage to brown the outside the center of the liver is totally uncooked and not terribly appealing.

My latest attempt at teaching myself (one day I’ll ask a master chef!) to cook foie gras I decided to use a cooking method that I’ve never tried before; namely flambéing. The idea here was to heat the liver through at a relatively low temperature to avoid melting and then to get a nice caramelisation going on the outside very quickly. To do this you must first cut the liver into slice no more than 2.5 cm thick and put them on a pan at low flame. When it is time to turn over the liver heat 30 ml of brandy in a separate pan and ignite it before pouring the burning liquid over the liver (the alcohol burns extremly hot so it cooks the outside o the liver quite quickly). Flambé the liver until the alcohol has burned off. Save the alcohol for the sauce. You do all of this after the meat is out of the oven and is settling the idea being that you should serve the reindeer immediately after the foie gras is ready. Basically, cold fried foie gras is disgusting.

Now assuming you have prepared the sauce, beetroot and potatoes you assemble the dish on plates and serve!