Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pork Cheeks braised in Absinthe

New favourite. Still learning how to make this properly.


  1. 4 trimmed pig’s cheeks;
  2. 50 ml Absinthe;
  3. 30 ml Good quality white wine vinegar;
  4. 5 tbsp olive oil;
  5. 1 leek, finely sliced;
  6. 2 carrots cubed;
  7. 2-3 sticks celery, chopped;
  8. 1 onion, chopped;
  9. 2 cloves garlic, chopped;
  10. 1 bay leaf;
  11. 2 sprigs thyme;
  12. 1 tbsp tomato purée;
  13. 2 tbsp honey
  14. 750ml chicken stock
  15. 125ml white wine;
  16. Freshly ground salt and pepper


  • Marinate the meat in 2 tbsp olive oil, the Absinthe, vinegar and salt and pepper for at least 4 hours before cooking. The Absinthe gives a very distinct taste that may not be to everyone’s liking and could be replaced with e.g. vermouth or some other liquor;
  • Preheat the oven to 170C;
  • Heat the oil in a casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Add the leek, celery, carrot, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, then add the bay leaf, thyme, and tomato purée. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the honey and cook for a further 5 minutes to caramelise;
  • Add pig’s cheeks, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes to coat and colour. Add the stock and wine. Bring to the boil, season, then cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 2 ½ - 3 hours;Remove from the oven, lift the cheeks from the stock and reserve. Strain the stock and place in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to the boil and allow the mixture to reduce in volume by half;
  • For an extra savoury sauce wiz the strained vegetables (less herbs) in a food processor until smooth and add back to sauce until desired consistency is achieved;

Serve with creamy mash or parsnip puree and your selection of vegetables. Last weekend this was the filling for the best pasta parcels I’ve ever had.

Skate Knobs with Crab Potatoes & Beurre Blance

I got the recipe for the crab potatoes from Santino Busciglio the chef at Mennula in Charlotte Street. The restaurant btw is highly recommended. They serve very simple but delicious Sicilian food that hits all the buttons as far as I am concerned.

Ingredients (for a starter for 4 triple everything for a main):

  1. 300 gr mealy potatoes e.g. King Edwards;
  2. Fresh preferably white crab meat;
  3. 2 spring onions;
  4. 3 tbsp best quality EVOO;
  5. 1 tbsp white wine balsamic;
  6. S&P to taste;
  7. 1 large skate knob per person;
  8. Beurre Blanc.


  • Bake the potatoes in their skins on a bed of coarse sea salt at about 160 to 180 depending on their size;
  • When potatoes are cooked through slice the potato in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl;
  • Crush the potatoes with a fork (crush don’t mash you want the texture of potato) and the olive oil, sweet white balsamic vinegar, chopped spring onions, season with salt and finally the fresh crab meat. Do not over mix as it will turn in to crab glue.
  • Fry skate knobs in oil on a hot pan for about 1 min per side;
  • Form crab potatoes into a circular pile by pressing them through cake cutters, add skate knob on top, add about a table spoon of the beurre blance. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fondant potatoes

Gordon’s own recipe more or less. I have been cooking those a lot lately after having forgotten about fondant potatoes for a long time.

  1. 2kg potatoes;
  2. 50g butter;
  3. 400ml chicken or vegetable stock;
  4. 1 sprig fresh thyme;
  5. 2 peeled cloves garlic;
  6. Freshly ground pepper and salt
  • Peel and cut the potatoes into even-sized barrel shapes, approximately 4cm in length, 2.5cm in width. It is important that the potatoes be of a similar size so that they cook evenly. I usually just them to size and to a more of a square form than barrel;
  • In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over a low heat, add the potatoes, thyme and garlic and cook slowly, shaking the pan and stirring regularly until potatoes are golden brown all over. This will take 15-20 minutes;
  • Add 200ml of the stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the remaining stock and cook for 35-40 minutes until the stock has reduced and potatoes are tender. Season and serve immediately.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Il Duomo

Il Duomo

Ragusa Ibla



Sicily’s only two Michelin star restaurant, probably only worth one star but probably got the second on the basis of it being very innovative. Baroque building, rather austere interior and rather stiff service that was trying too had to live up to the two star billing. I suspect they are trying very hard to distinguish themselves from the rather informal/casual air of Ragusa in general.

We had a 15 course tasting menu. This is not quite as large as it sounds as 9 of the dishes where very small antipasto style dishes some of which where only one bite. Nonetheless that means we had 9 small and 6 normal sized dishes. This completely overpowered my appetite!

Much of the food was not terribly memorable such as the local langouste served raw with honey as a one bite dish. Pleasant, fresh but not memorable. Similarly, a dish of raw sea urchin and ricotta sounded exiting but did not live up to its billing.


  1. Melon sorbet w/basil soup. An absolutely stunning combination. I’m not sure how you make basil soup it may just be masticated basil with water and some syrup but add in very cold cantaloupe melon sorbet and you have a killer combination;
  2. Sword Fish w/fresh green chilli. Literally just a 5 ml thick slice of lightly seared swordfish fillet with a tiny piece of chilli. Turns out that’s all you need for a wonderful mouthful;
  3. Sauce from leaves of zucchini: we had a rather uninspiring tuna steak that was served in a sauce made from the leaves of the zucchini plant which I was not aware where used for cooking. Turns out they have a wonderful fresh yet tangy taste and as a sauce completely saved the dish;
  4. Pasta al limone w/squeeze of scrimp head: If I understood the Matre D correctly this is nothing but classic pasta al limone (lemon juice, lemon zest, Parmigianino and olive oil) with the juice made by crushing scrimp heads, pored over at the last moment. We also had a few lightly steamed scrimp in the pasta but they where not important. The important thing was the strangely attractive combination of the limone sauce and the scrimp head juice. Very difficult to describe but somehow the fishyness of the scrimp head and the light clear and tart taste of the sauce just work perfectly.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Seared Sesame Salmon!

A simple everyday salmon recipe:


  1. A skinned salmon filet;
  2. Tablespoon of sesame seeds (toasted if you like);
  3. Pinch of sweet soft cayenne or other such pepper;
  4. Pinch of salt and a couple of twists of the pepper mill;
  5. 1 tbsp Toasted Sesame oil;
  6. 1 tbsp EVOO;
  7. 1 tsp mild soy sauce;


  1. Mix the seeds and spices together in deep plate;
  2. Whisk the liquids together and completely cover the salmon fillet;
  3. Coat the salmon fillet with the seeds mixture;
  4. Heat a non stick pan over high heat;
  5. Fry the salmon on both sides for no more than 30 sec per side, less if the fillet is thin;
  6. Set the salmon aside to cool before cutting it into ½ cm thick strips;

I serve the salmon on top of a peppery salad leeve, avocado and potato salad tossed in a simple Dijon mustard, lemon juice and EVOO dressing. Eggs and beans are great additions as are croutons.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Square

The Square

2nd Anniversary Dinner July 26, 2009

Thinly Sliced Avocado with a Sweet Pepper Vinaigrette, Gazpacho Jelly Shot and Sour Cream Ice Cream


Saute of Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle


Roast Foie Gras with a Sweet and Sour Citrus Glaze, Slow Cooked Cherries and Honeycomb


Loin of Monkfish with a Puree of Peas, Lardo di Collonata and Glazed Lettuce


Herb Crusted Saddle of West Country Lamb with Shallot Puree, Garlic, Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil


A Tasting of Barkham Blue Cheese


Brillat-Savarin and Red Currant Cheesecake with Black Currant Sorbet and White Currant Puree


Peach Melba Souffle

Josmayer: Hengst, Riesling Alsace Grand Cru 2000

Sylvain Cathiard: Nuit-St-Georges – 1er Cru “Aux Murges” 2002

What can I say. I needed a fantastic dinner to celebrate and The Square delivered a perfect evening. The food and service completely lived up to the two star billing.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Braised Fennel

This is an all time favourite originally picked up from a River Café cookbook. Like so many of the recipes I have prepared repeatedly my version is not necessarily recognisable as the RC recipe I started with. I also think that at some point I picked up a recipe from the guy who owns the French Laundry in California that somehow got worked into my own version.

Ingredients (for 4):

  1. 4 medium size fennels cut into quarters. Clean up the end but keep the tough core as it will keep the fennel from falling apart during the cooking. Reserve the fronds and tops and chop finely;
  2. 50 gr butter;
  3. 1 glass or about 125 ml white wine;
  4. 150 ml good quality chicken stock;
  5. 2 tbsp EVOO;
  6. 1 tbsp sweet vinegar such as cider or white balsamic;
  7. 1 lemon;
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.


    • Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan under medium heat. Add fennel and caramelize the flat sides turn over and caramelize the rounded bit a little;
    • Return the fennel onto the flat side and poor over the white wine. Let simmer until most of the wine has evaporated;
    • Add the chicken stock and let simmer covered over low heat until the fennel is soft through or about 30 min (the chicken stock should come up to half the sides of the fennel);
    • Remove fennel from the pan and set aside. Stir the vinegar into the remaining sauce and slowly add the EVOO while stirring constantly. You are hoping to emulsify the sauce;
    • You can either pour the desired amount of sauce over the fennel or toss the fennel in the sauce. I prefer the former;
    • Garnish with the chopped fronds and tops and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over just before serving.


  1. Before adding the wine, flambé 1 shot of brandy or pastis (not sure this does much for the dish but it is good theatre);
  2. 1 large Onion chopped roughly added at the same time as the fennel;
  3. Rosemary & Garlic added just before the wine (this was in the original River Café recipe);
  4. Replace half the chicken stock with orange juice and use the rind of one orange mixed in with the fronds (in this case skip the lemon juice at the end).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pasta alla Gricia

I thought I had already posted the recipe for Pasta alla Gricia after my trip to Rome for new year's 2007. I thought I had gotten the recipe of David but apparently not as I can't find it either on my PC or on the blog. I however, really fancied Gricia yesterday so I researched the recipe and here is what I made yesterday:


  1. 150 gr guanciale, (this is the extremely fatty pork cheek. You can also use unsmoked bacon but that just does not quite do it for me) diced. I found guanciale of Spanish Pata Negra pork that tasted fantastic;
  2. 1 Chopped red chilli pepper;
  3. 500 gr pasta (bucatini, ziti, or spaghetti);
  4. 5 tbsp EVOO;
  5. Salt & pepper;
  6. 100 gr pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated.


  • Put the olive oil, guanciale and red pepper in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. It is important to put the ingredients into the pan cold as the role of the oil is to help render the bacon fat which is ultimately what the sauce is made of. Heat to medium heat and fry until the bacon is browned;
  • At the same time have the pasta boiling in a large quantity of salted water;
  • When the bacon is browned put a ladleful of the pasta water in the pan let evaporate and repeat until the pasta is ready;
  • Add the pasta to the pan along with 80% of the cheese and toss vigorously. Server immediately with the remaining cheese.

Blackened Black Cod

Making Nobu style blackened miso cod has always seemed rather daunting as it requires rather a lot of advance preparation. I recently came across this method which could not be simpler even though it still requires some advance preparation. The recipe uses black cod but you could use real cod or haddock. The quantities below served as a starter for seven.


  1. 8 3cm thick black cod steaks skin on approximately 1200 gr;
  2. 200 gr white miso paste;
  3. 25 ml Mirin sauce;
  4. 25 ml white wine;
  5. 1 tbsp honey (optional);


  • Whisk up the miso paste, wine and Mirin (and honey if using) until light and creamy;
  • Put the miso mixture into a ziplock bag, add the fish and make sure all the steaks are completely covered in the mixture;
  • Push all air out of the bag close it and leave the fish to marinate in for at least 12 hours in the fridge. 24 hours is better but 12 will do;
  • Line an oven tray with aluminium foil, place the black cod on top and broil in the oven for about 10 min.

Served the black cod on top of thin steamed asparagus spears that I had tossed in rapeseed oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper.

Prawn and Leek Sauce

I'm not sure this concoction really qualifies as sauce but you could easily serve it with pasta or rice. I served it yesterday on top of toasted sourdough bread as I wanted to minimize the carbohydrates on offer and that worked quite well. The quantities below served seven people as quite a generous starter.


  1. 1.5 kg leeks, washed thoroughly, quartered and chopped into 1 cm pieces;
  2. 1/2 kg peeled and cleaned prawns;
  3. 50 gr minced fresh ginger;
  4. 4 tbsp EVOO (you can substitute other oils for a different result);
  5. 1 tbsp light soy sauce (e.g. kinkoman);
  6. 1 tbsp dry sherry;
  7. Salt and pepper.


  • Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat until smoking. Add the leaks and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the leaks begin to brown.
  • Remove the leeks from the pan and add the remaining olive oil, prawns and ginger. Cook until the prawns are almost pink then add back the leeks and season to taste. When the prawns are cooked (no gray remains) add in the soy and sherry and stir until half the liquid has evaporated, serve on your choice of carb.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poached razor clams with chorizo and broad beans

Ingredients (for six as a starter):

  1. 1 kg razor clams;
  2. Chorizo sausage (about 150gr), cut into disks, quartered with the outer skin removed;
  3. 1 kg broad beans (that’s 1 kg in the pod), boiled for about 4 min in salted water;
  4. 1 tbsp Olive oil;
  5. 1 tbsp butter;
  6. 2 chopped garlic cloves;
  7. 1 finely chopped red chilli, (optional);
  8. 1 glass of white wine;
  9. 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme (fresh if you can get it);
  10. A handful of chopped parsley;
  11. Coarsely chopped parsley stalks;
  12. Salt and pepper;


  • Clean the razor clams for 10 – 15 minutes under running water. Discard any clams that don’t close up;
  • Heat half the oil in a pot before adding the clams, wine, thyme, garlic, salt and parsley stalks. Cover and cook over high heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the shells have opened, discard any shells that don’t open. Drain in a colander and leave to cool.
  • When the clams are cold enough to handle gently remove them from the shells and cut away any ugly and dirty bits. Also open up the business end of the clam and clean out any residue of sand and other nasty stuff that may still be lurking. Cut remainder of clams into 3 cm pieces;
  • Heat remaining olive oil in a pan and fry chorizo over low heat until they are slightly crispy and have given up most of their fat (you can tell the fat has mixed with the oil as it changes colour to red). Add the chopped clams, beans, butter and chopped parsley and turn until the beans and clams are coated and warm through;
  • Serve by spooning the clam and chorizo mixture into the shells of the razor clams (which you cleaned earlier).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentines dinner

Because I'm such a romantic soul we had a Valentines dinner party at our house rather than a romantic dinner aux deux in a fancy restaurant. This is an improvement on last year when my poor girlfriend had to make do with going to dinner with a mate of mine.

In any case the menu below was well received and I'll post the recipes when I have time.

Valentines dinner


Friday, February 13, 2009

La Comptesse's Surprise

David post the following on his website as "One of my favorite recipes from Ari" and since I think he actually took the text from an email I sent him I am stealing it.

The name of the dish literally comes from the fact that we got it off a Comptesse. My Sis used to go to these cooking classes held by a very grand Belgian Comptesse. The classes where all attended by the kind of ladies who lunch and have kitchens large enough to accommodate cooking lessons for 20 at the time. She came back with all sorts of clever recipes from these sessions including this one.

We used the recipe for our first Christmas extravaganza and gave it the name La Comptesse's Surprise for the effect on the menu.

1. Smoked magret de canard
2. 1 pear
3. 2 endives
4. 3 lemons
5. Gorgonzola
6. Double cream
7. Salt & pepper

• Cube pears and endive into inch long pieces combine and douse with enough lemon juice to make moist. Leave aside for at least 2 hrs.
• Warm cheese in a pot until soft. Combine with cream and season.
• Pour over individual portions of salad until your need for fat is satisfied.
• Part cover salad with magret de canard fume or another smoked/ cured meat

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dressed Crab on Mustard Butter Toast

1. 1 garlic clove;
2. 1 shallot;
3. 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks;
4. 5 large basil leaves;
5. 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
6. 2 tbsp sherry vinegar;
7. salt and fresh ground pepper;
8. 1 pound crab;
9. Mango slices;
10. Whole grain toast.

Combine garlic, shallot, tomato, basil, oil and vinegar in blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add enough dressing to crab to moisten it to the desired level. This has to be don to taste.

Mustard butter

1. Shallot;
2. Red vine vinegar;
3. Tarragon;
4. Butter;
5. Grainy Dijon Mustard.

Combine shallot, red wine vinegar and tarragon in a pan over medium heat. Stir mixture until the shallot moist and transparent and almost all the vinegar has evaporated. Mix in butter and grainy mustard. Leave combination to cool.

To serve butter the whole grain toast with mustard butter and heap dressed crab so that it generously covers the toast. Add slice of Mango on top.

Nobu Style Chili Steak Sauce


1. Aji panca or red chili paste
2. Fourth tsp dried oregano
3. 5 tbsp sake
4. 3 tbsp rice vin
5. 25 gr minced garlic
6. 1 tsp cumin
7. 1 tsp black pepper
8. 2 tsp sea salt
9. 3 tblsp grapeseed oil

Combine everything ex oil and mix well

Add oil gradually in mixer or while whisking the sauce hard enough to emulsify the oil.