Monday, April 30, 2007

Menu Sunday 29 April 2007

  1. Caviar Versailles
  2. Portobello Truffle Soup
  3. Brandade aux Mojo Rojo
  4. Red Deer W/Polenta Fontina
  5. Chocolate Nemesis;

I used the last of my Russia caviar loot make Caviar Versailles as per menu on 24/02/07. I will have to bribe some of my Russky friends to restock me. This is still the best way of serving caviar. I don’t care if the blini and cream and scrambled egg and charlotte are more traditional this is simply unbeatable. It is also just under a trillion calories per bite so not to be had often.

I skipped the vodka this time served with champagne.

The Portobello Truffle Soup is an invention of mine that I am not too happy with but which my guests liked a lot so it can’t be totally useless. Basically, you make chicken stock by simmering chicken pieces (brown and white meat), garlic, bouquet garni, an onion, carrots and whatever else is going off in your veggie drawer for about 1.5 hours. For six people you will need about a litre of stock.

When the stock is ready, put the liquid through a sieve, throw away the vegetables and all but about 100gr of chicken meat. Put the chicken and stock into a blender and whiz up until the chicken is totally obliterated put aside.

While the stock is simmering chop and fry about one Portobello per person in olive oil. When the mushrooms are done, in about 10 min, put about 80% of them in the blender with a single black truffle. Whiz up until the mushrooms are quite finely chopped but not a mush. Add to the stock with the remaining mushrooms.

Just before serving add about 50 - 100 ml of double cream and if you are feeling generous another black truffle finely sliced.

At this point we changed to Planeta a Sicilian chardonnay that I’m partial to.

I made a basic Brandade, see below, added a couple of tablespoons worth of double cream and filled one ramekin per person. I then covered the Brandade with parmesan cheese and heated in an oven with convection and the grill on at about 200 degrees. When the olive oil starts to bubble the Brandade is ready. Cover with Mojo Rojo… This really is a fantastic combination that will reappear on other menus.

The Polenta I made from about 200 grams of polenta as per instructions on the packet but instead of adding butter at the last moment I melted about 50 grams of Fontina cheese into the polenta. I then poured the polenta into a square oven proof form and let it set for 30 minutes. 15 minutes before serving the meat I put the polenta into the oven under the grill at 200 degrees.

To make the sauce I first made stock from the bones of the red deer. Essentially, I make it like any other stock. You start by grilling the bones with a bit of oil and then boil the hell out of it with veggies and herbs. I thickened the sauce with a bit of maisana before working about 50 grams of Fontina into about 300 ml of sauce.

The Red Deer was shot by my friend James somewhere near the Scottish border a few months ago and froze it after aging it a bit. What I was serving was the back fillet cut into about 1.5 cm steaks. I seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and flash fried in a very hot pan for just one minute per side. This is just about as good as red meat gets. It is extremely tender, gamey in a very delicate manner and just fantastic. I would compare this to any of the speciality beef types such as Kobe.

Served with Frans Haaz 2004, a pinot noir from Alte Aldige that is excellent with game.

The Chocolate Nemesis is taken straight from the River Café cookbook and consists solely of chocolate, butter, sugar and eggs. The recipe goes as follows:


  1. 675g dark chocolate (70% cocoa);
  2. 450g unsalted butter;
  3. 10 eggs;
  4. 675g caster sugar;
  5. Crème fraiche or mascarpone, to serve. It is also quite good to whip up some yogurt with honey as a somewhat healthy alternative.


  • Beat the eggs with 1/3 of the sugar, until the quantity quadruples;
  • Dissolve the remaining sugar into a syrup with hot water. You really need to make sure that enough of the water has evaporated so that you have syrup. Too much water and the cake won’t settle;
  • Place the chocolate and butter into the syrup, and combine over heat;
  • Allow to cool slightly before adding the chocolate syrup to the eggs;
  • Pour into a cake tin, and bake for 40-60 minutes in a bainmarie;
  • Allow to set completely before turning out. Serves 10-12;

The cake is astonishing. It has no redeeming features other than being just incredibly good.

Sent from my Blackberry Mobile

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Halibut with Fennel Risotto

I like halibut cut into 2 cm steaks, seasoned with salt & pepper and fried in olive oil 2.5 min each side. That’s it! Anything else detracts from the fish. You can put sauce over it, e.g. beurre blanc is very good, but this is an extremely fatty fish that in my, not overly humble, opinion does not react well to more involved cooking methods.

Fennel Risotto on the other hand is a dream for cooks that want to indulge in multi step recipes:


  1. 200 gr. Arborio Rice;
  2. 1 Leak finely sliced;
  3. 3 Garlic cloves chopped;
  4. 1 stalk Celery finely sliced (optional not sure the celery adds much);
  5. 1 Spring onion finely chopped;
  6. 1 Medium Fennel;
  7. 1 litre Vegetable broth;
  8. 25 gr. butter;
  9. 50 ml olive oil;
  10. 100 ml Vermouth;
  11. Salt & Pepper to taste;
  12. 75 gr. Grated Parmesan.


  • Cut the tops of the fennel and slice finely. Reserve any of the beard like leaves and add to the risotto at the same time as the parmesan. Cut the remaining fennel bulb in two and reserve half for the broth and slice the remainder into fine slices.
  • To prepare the broth either dissolve good quality vegetable bullion in hot water or make your own which I generally can not be bothered to do. Add the remaining fennel half and let simmer for at least 20 min to allow the fennel taste to leach into the broth.
  • In a very hot heavy bottomed pan heat about 15 ml of olive oil. When the oil is smoking add the sliced fennel and fennel tops and fry stirring occasionally until the fennel starts to caramelise. At this point lower the heat and add the remaining oil and butter and allow to melt before adding the leak, garlic, spring onion, and celery and allowing them to fry until soft.
  • Off the heat add the Arborio Rice and turn to coat in the oil and butter mixture. Put back on the heat and start adding the broth a ladleful at a time. The idea is that there should be enough broth to just about cover the rice. Allow the rice to absorb just about all the broth before adding more. Repeat until the rice is “al dente”.
  • When the rice is al dente add the Vermouth, and allow it to be absorbed before mixing in the parmesan. Season and serve immediately.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Razor Clams in White Wine Sauce

I am generally not much of a fan of shellfish i.e. I will happily eat it but won’t seek it out. The one exception is Razor clams or Atlantic Razors that I tasted for the first time at the house of a friend in Rapallo on the Italian Riviera. These guys were an absolute revelation and I’ve eaten them at every opportunity since. One thing that always intrigued me is that the Razors in Italy where much smaller than what I get in the shops and restaurants here in the UK. This even though I knew that most of the European Razor clam catches are in fact in Scotland.

The explanation for this turns out to be two separate subspecies of Razor clams, Ensis siliqua and Ensis. Arcuatus. The former gets exported to the Far East whereas the latter is exported to continental Europe to cater to different local tastes. For some reason us Londoners get the siliqua variation which is much larger than its cousin.

I like Razor Clams as simply cooked as possible as per the recipe below.


  1. 8 Razor Clams;
  2. Half a stalk of leak finely chopped;
  3. A large clove of garlic chopped;
  4. 100 ml white wine;
  5. 15 ml olive oil;
  6. 15 gr butter;
  • Buy these things cleaned if you can but otherwise you need to start by cutting of the entire “beard” and soak the clams in plenty of cold water. Razor clams are basically long cylinders that live covered in sand on sandy ocean floors and as a consequence the first thing to do is to get them to spit out all the sand inside them. By putting them in fresh i.e. non salty, water they basically think they are suffocating and start to spit out their guts. Drain and dry well;
  • Soften the garlic and leak at high heat in the olive oil and butter add the clams and turn to coat in the mixture;
  • Pour over the wine and let boil covered for about 3 – 4 minutes;
  • The clams (if they are alive) will open up during the cooking so you can use them as a container for the sauce. Lay them out on plates and scoop the sauce into the clams and serve.

The recipe above is as simple a recipe as possible but I have tasted a variety of different recipes. Simply replacing the wine with lemon substantially changes the taste without subtracting anything from the clams. Another simple addition that I’ve had and liked is a small quantity of Soya sauce. This changes the “type” of taste because the sauce becomes much more tart and salty but does not overwhelm the clam taste.

Friday, April 20, 2007


In writing the Brandade recipe yesterday it occurred to me that one of my favourite dishes growing up was what could be described as Icelandic Brandade, namely Plokkfiskur. The name literally means mashed fish and that not surprisingly is exactly what it is. Iceland when I was growing up was a place where fish was dirt cheep and, thus, the basic food and Plokkfiskur was the standard method of dealing with fish leftovers. These also meant that Plokkfiskur was made from any type of fish and believe me some are better than others. Catfish for example should not be made into Plokkfiskur under any circumstance and to be fair I don’t think I had it more than once.

Nowadays fish is no longer inexpensive so people do not typically have very many leftovers so fresh fish is bought for Plokkfiskur. Typically, you would use haddock in Iceland but I prefer cod. For some reason that I’ve never quite understood Icelanders historically do not eat much cod. We love haddock and eat it where other nations would use cod that they’ve usually bought from us.

I called Mum to get her recipe for Plokkfiskur and got a clear demonstration of from whom I inherited the inability to follow recipes. Her recipes are all about using a little bit that and if you like a little bit of this. It is a good thing she’s a naturally talented cook because otherwise we would have eaten some real rubbish when I was growing up. In any case this is Mum’s Plokkfiskur recipe (proportions are mine):


  1. 500 gr. cooked haddock or cod, (if using salted then soak the fish first) cleaned of bones and skin and flaked;
  2. 200 ml warm milk (it is not a bad idea to warm the milk with a bay leave in it);
  3. 30 gr. Butter;
  4. 1 onion, finely chopped;
  5. 30 gr. Flour;
  6. 500 gr. cooked cubed potatoes;
  7. Freshly ground white pepper;
  8. Salt (if using fresh fish);


  • Soften onion in butter over medium heat;
  • Work the flour into the butter and onion mix while stirring continuously until you have a roux or dough like mixture;
  • Slowly add the warm milk to the roux while stirring and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 min;
  • Add the fish and potatoes to the milk and mash them up with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. The idea is to get a very coarse paste like substance;
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon onto a plate and eat with buttered rye bread. If you are very skinny or 10 years old you can also add a knob of butter at this point! Mum always served this with tomato wedges and dressed with either chives or parsley.

This is Mum’s classic Plokkfiskur recipe but apparently what she now does, she may be 83 but that does not stop her from experimenting, is mix the fish, potatoes and onion with an egg and olive oil in a food processor. She then gratinates the whole thing in the oven under the grill, sometimes with a cheese topping, before serving as per above. Done that way it sounds an awful lot like Brandade.

I typed Plokkfiskur into google and found two excellent English language sites devoted to Icelandic food. The first one belongs to Jo who is apparently an English lit major who put up the website as a labour of love and the other belongs to Gestgjafinn an Icelandic gourmet magazine. They both have Plokkfiskur recipes that are substantially the same as Mum’s.

In Iceland you don't often see Plokkfiskur on the menu in restaurants but there is one restaurant that has made a speciality out of this unassuming dish. That place is called 3 Frakkar and I usually go to have their Plokkfiskur whenever I'm in Iceland.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Brandade De Morue

I first had Brandade de Morue (or baked salt cod) in approximately 1978 in Brasserie Lipp on the Boulevard St Germain in Paris and I was not especially impressed. Problem was that I was a teenager from a country where you have fish for every other meal at least and having fish in a restaurant was a wasted opportunity to eat meat as far as I was concerned. I returned to Brasserie Lipp about four years later and found that I loved the stuff. As a matter of fact to this day I return to Brasserie Lipp for no other reason than to have their Brandade.

Everybody seems to agree that the dish originates from Nimes in the South of France but there are a number of stories as how exactly the dish was invented and why it originates in a region that does not fish cod. The most likely explanation as far as I’m concerned is that Bretons traded salt cod with the Provençales in exchange for salt from the region. Local cooks then developed the dish over time to incorporate local ingredients and to adapt it to local tastes. Over time they then grew to love the taste.

My favourite tale of the origins of Brandade de Morue is that it was invented by Benedictine monks who decided to stretch their insufficient stock of Bacalao (Provençal for salt cod) with potatoes when faced with the sudden and unannounced appearance of an important visitor for lunch. This story, which I’ve come across several times, rings true (i.e. all the ingredients are what a Provençal kitchen would contain as a minimum even if they are broke) and the dish is sometimes know as Brandade de Morue à la Bénédictine. Unfortunately, things almost never happen in such an exciting manner and the more probable explanation is that years of trying to make a foreign food palatable was how we came to have this excellent dish.

The recipe for a basic or if you will classic Brandade is as follows:


  1. 750 gr. Salt cod;
  2. 1 large potato;
  3. 2 garlic cloves;
  4. 250 ml olive oil;
  5. Freshly ground black pepper to taste;


  • Soak salt cod at least 12 hours in cold water in the fridge, make sure you change the water at least 3 times preferably more often to remove excess salt. There is no consistency to how salty the cod is when sold so the time it takes to water the fish will vary. The idea is that the fish should be slightly more salty than a fresh fish that you’ve cooked covered in salt;
  • Put the cod in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Lett simmer for about 10 minutes;
  • Drain cod, and place in fresh water for 10 minutes;
  • Boil potato, remove skin and pass it through a sieve;
  • Flake the cod to remove any skin or bones;
  • Pound the cod and garlic to a paste in a mortar and combine with the potato;
  • (or you can just put the cod, garlic and potato in to a food processor and wiz it into a paste but where is the fun in that)
  • Place the cod paste in a sauce pan over low heat and combine, slowly, with the olive oil while stirring constantly;
  • Season with pepper to taste.

That’s your basic homemade Provençal Brandade but as far as I’m concerned this is where the fun starts. There are literally a million variations that start from this point. The first variations are to add herbs (bay leaves, thym) and/or vinegar (white vine) to the soaking water. Depending on how you are actually planning on consuming the Brandade this will give a little added flavour to the dish.

It is for also very common to replace the oil with warm milk or to mix milk or oil with warm cream. I’ve even seen recipes with cream only but that is way rich for my tastes. Lemon juice as seasoning is also very common as is mixing in parsley.

The next step is in serving the Brandade. Brasserie Lipp gratinates the Bradade with cheese (I think they use Cantal) before serving it with a small salad. Another classic is to drizzle olive oil, bread crums and paprika on top before warming the Brandade up in the oven.

This weekend I intend to serve Brandade warmed up in ramekin and covered in the Mojo Rojo I discovered in the Canaries. I figure that if the Mojo Rojo made regular potatoes excellent then potatoes and salt cod should also benefit greatly from the mixture.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Meal to Remember

Tasting Menu

07 April 2007

Rivisitazione di fichi e prosciutto di parma

A fig mousse served with whole figs pan-fried in Port served with

Parma ham and drizzled with a reduction of Anghelu ruju

(a fortified Sardinian wine)

Coulis di patate e porcini tartufate

Cream of potato and porcini with a hint of truffle


Gnocchi di patate con radicchio e bottarga

Home made gnocchi served with a sauce of radicchio and dried mullet roe

Risotto ai calamari e miele di Corbezzolo con calamari ripieni

Risotto of squid and honey topped with baby squid

stuffed with carrot and spinach


Filetto di branzino con salsa di olive verdi e sambuca

Fillet of Sea bass in a sauce of green olives, Sambuca and

tomato concasse served with pan-fried spinach


Sgroppino all’arancia e basilico con Grand Marnier

A taste breaker of orange sorbet, basil and Grand Marnier


Petto di Pollo con salsa all’arancia

Chicken breast cooked in burro chiarificato (clarified butter)with an orange

infused sauce and served with a compote of aubergine, courgette,

cherry tomatoes and pine nuts


Mousse bianca di caffe con caramello

A white coffee and soft caramel mousse

I really do not think anything else needs to be said about this menu except to say that it was just as good as it sounds! The chef is 23, he'll be absolutely awesome by the time he's 30.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Frith street Soho,
(Lunch 12/04/07)

Catalan style tapas bar from the owners of Fino in Fitzrovia. This lunch was slightly bigger than intended but we were having fun sampling the menu. I highly recommend this place as the food was of the highest quality without being overworked or falling into any of the other traps that chefs fall for when serving simple food.

We had:
  1. Mixed meat (lomo, jamon de jabugo, Chorizo etc great quality)
  2. Tomato toast (essentially white toast rubbed with garlic and butter covered in a tomato sauce, a classic dish but unusually good)
  3. Totilla Jamon and Spinach (very nice combo, would like to know how they make it though as the tortilla was like a container stuffed with the other ingredient as opposed to everything being mixed up together as is more usual)
  4. Deep fried red mullet (fresh red mullet, deep fried with a lemon on the side, what could be better)
  5. Tellines (tiny little clams that have been fried with butter and olive oil. this was the only disappointment as they had not put them in cold water to spit out any sand i.e. the clams where gritty)
  6. Chorizo on toast w/aioli and rocket (mmmm)
  7. Green salad (need that at some point!)
  8. Morcilla w/Piquillo Peppers (essentially black budding. Served on a simple boiled potato with a relish of the peppers. Did not really work for me as the morcilla/pepper combo was not really strong/sweet/rich enough to cope with the potato)
  9. Cotelleta (lam chops done the Spanish way, simple beautiful)

We had a bottle of Red with all of this a Mas Donis 2005 from Montsant (Garnacha and Tempranillo) recommended by the patron!

Sent from my Blackberry Mobile