Something to fawn over

Finding a match of ingredients that both warms and satisfies, without leaving you feeling like you’ve over-indulged is no mean feat.

This warm venison and squash salad is easily assembled from a few hearty ingredients, pulled together with a rich blackberry, juniper & sage sauce.


Given that music is the best accompaniment to food, these couple of songs should go nicely with your time in the kitchen.

Furns have a brilliant back catalogue of laid back songs, with a new album due this year.

Furns – Forever Yours

Seaside Lovers – Evening Shadows


Your shopping list:
venison leg steaks x 2
shallots x 2
1/2 butternut squash
kale 50g
puy lentils 250g
garlic cloves x 2
fresh thyme

For the sauce:
shallot (finely chopped) x 1
butter 50g
game/chicken stock 200ml
handful juniper berries (crushed)
handful fresh sage
fresh thyme
bay leaves x 3
blackberries 100g
splash of port
half tspn wildflower honey
lemon zest


Ensure you leave your venison to reach room temperature (about 3 hours out the fridge) before starting. 


The sauce
Fry your shallot in the butter, add a tspn of plain flour. Add the port and reduce.
Season well and add your game/chicken stock.

At this point throw in a handful of sage leaves & thyme, the bay leaves, lemon zest, the honey, chopped blackberries and the juniper berries.

Simmer on med-high for around 15 minutes, until it starts to thicken as a sauce.
Season to taste.

Sieve and leave to one side.


The venison

Prepare your lentils by adding the required amount of boiling water, and cooking until soft. Leave to one side.
Or if you bought pre-cooked lentils in the bag, then you can skip this part.

Start by chopping your 1/2 squash into manageable chunks/cubes. Add to a pan with a splash of boiled water (enough to cover up to a 1/3 of the squash chunks).
Season well.
Cover and leave to steam for 15 minutes on medium. Remove and leave to cool, before chopping into small pieces.

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Finely chop your shallots, and grate your garlic into a pan with some oil on a medium heat. Fry gently until soft and add the lentils, thyme and a splash more oil.
Season well.
Introduce the squash and fry on a high heat, without stirring too much, until the squash just starts to brown. Turn off the heat and add the kale, roughly chopped.
Season, cover and leave the kale to gently cook in the residual heat.

If you like your venison pink, fry your well-seasoned steaks for 4 minutes on each side, on med-high. Remove from the heat, wrap in foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

At this point reheat your sauce gently.

Unwrap your delicious parcels and pour the juices into the sauce.

Slice your venison, serve with the squash and drizzle with sauce.

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Enjoy x

Foolproof baba ghanoush

During the brighter months of 2016, there isn’t a single dish I made more of than I did baba ghanoush.

Usually served alongside other middle-eastern dishes, baba ghanoush is a wonderful (and healthier) alternative to hummus. In the summertime I’d consume bowl after bowl, with pittas and fresh tomato & avocado salads. It took me a while to come to be completely happy with what I was making – there were plenty of times it came out too runny, or lacking in flavour. I sussed out that having some really good extra virgin olive oil was key.


Get yourself:

large aubergine x 2
garlic clove x 2
juice 1/3 lemon
1 & 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
tahini x 2 tbspn
za’atar
pomegranate seeds
fresh parsley


Turn your grill on its highest setting and place the aubergines on a baking tray (without any oil). Poke them both with a small sharp knife and place under the hot grill for 18 minutes, turning half way through.

After making a horizontal cut into each aubergine to let the steam out, sprinkle a good handful of salt over each of them. Leave for 3-5 hours or overnight – this will allow the majority of unwanted water to leave, before making your baba ghanoush.

Mix together the tahini, lemon juice, grated garlic cloves together with a hand blender.

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Scoop out the flesh of the aubergines, together with the skin of one, and add to the tahini paste along with the olive oil.

Blend until it just holds some texture.
Season to taste.

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Finish with a dusting of za’atar, a drizzle more of the oil, and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and parsley.

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Enjoy
x

The cheek of it

The best things in life are simple. Simple ingredients, prepared in simple ways.

Slow-braised beef cheeks with creamy mashed potato is a perfect example.

If you’ve never cooked with beef cheeks before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As with other cheaper cuts of beef, they simply need a bit longer in the oven at a lower heat. The result is meltingly tender meat, and a rich sauce. If you can find smoked garlic, now’s the time to use it.

If your butcher doesn’t stock beef cheeks, they should be able to order them in for you at ease.

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If you’re looking for a cheeky song or 2 to accompany your prep:

Alma – Nicholas

The Answer – Apollo Brown


Get yourself:
(serves 4)

beef cheeks x 2
white onion x 2
Carrots x 3
Celery sticks x 3
Chestnut mushrooms 200g
smoked garlic cloves x 2
Red wine 187ml
cloves x 2
Star anise (crushed) x 1
bay leaves x 3
thyme sprigs x 1 handful
tomato puree x 1tbsp
Beef stock 750ml

Potatoes x 5
Leek x 1
butter

Kale to serve


Set your oven to 180c

You may want to ask your butcher to cut your cheeks into slightly smaller pieces. If you have a sharp enough knife at home, do so yourself. Make certain you remove any hanging bits of sinew or fat from the cheeks’ exterior.

Season your cheek pieces well with salt, pepper, and flour.

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On a high heat, brown the pieces evenly in a casserole dish. Remove from the dish and add your veg, finely chopped. Keep the heat on medium and season well.

Add your wine and reduce. Crush your star anise & garlic, and throw into to the dish along with your thyme springs, cloves and bay leaves.

At this point add your stock, and simmer.
Season well.

Re-introduce your cheeks, cover and place in the oven. Lower the temp to 120 degrees celsius, and leave for 5-6  hours.

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When the time arrives, finely chop your leek and fry gently with a knob of butter.

Boil your potatoes gently for 15 minutes with a pinch of salt, remove from the heat and add your leek.
Season well, add another knob of butter and blend with a hand blender until smooth.

Remove your beef cheeks from your dish and cover with foil, and set aside in a warm oven. Sieve the sauce into a separate pan and continue to reduce.

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Serve your cheeks with the creamy mash and a healthy serving of the reduced sauce, along with some steamed kale, if you like.

Enjoy

Back in bisqueness

Is this thing still on?

Bearing in mind that London seems to eat up as much of my time as it does the content of my wallet, my sabbatical is perhaps understandable (and forgivable?).


If you have the time and the patience, making a simple crab & saffron bisque can be an almost therapeutic pastime. The flavour achieved here is more than worth the wait, and just the smells it creates alone, are enough to brighten any gloomy winter day.

Treat your ears to songs like this, a perfect accompaniment to a bisque journey.

Aso – Seasons

For this I used blue crabs. They’re slightly smaller than the brown crab and carry a sweeter flavour – perfect for a bisque. Blue crabs are also considerably easier to manage once cooked, although watch out for their spiney claws!

To make the stock:
blue crabs x 2
white onions x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 2
garlic cloves (smashed) x 3
tomato puree
splash of dry white wine
lemon thyme
juice of 1/2 lemon
boiling water 2.5l

For the bisque (Serves 4):
crab stock (see above)
white onion x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 1
garlic clove x 1
saffron threads x 3
fennel seeds x 1 pinch
single cream x 2tbsp
white crab meat, lemon zest & fresh parsley to garnish


The stock

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Start by roughly chopping your veg, smashing your garlic cloves, and boiling your water.
Heat a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large stock pot or pan and add your veg. Keeping the heat on high, add a squeeze of your tomato puree.
Season well.

After 5 minutes or so, add a good splash of white wine, the thyme, lemon juice and reduce. Now add the water and keep it simmering for 20 minutes.
Season well.

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If you bought your crabs alive, I’d urge you to use a humane method of dispatching them before cooking them. You can find these methods online, complete with video instructions. 

Boil the crabs in the stock for 10 minutes and then carefully lift them out, and leave to cool before handling. Twist off its two main claws. With the crab lying on its back, use your thumbs to push the purse (main body) away from the top shell. Now, remove the legs and leave to one side.

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On the underside of the purse you will notice feather-like gills – remove all of these and discard, as they are poisonous. 

Using a large knife, divide the purse into four sections, keeping aside as much of the white meat as possible.

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Don’t bother scooping out the brown meat from the top shell, this will add even more flavour to the stock.

Wrapping the pieces of shell, claws and legs in a cloth, use a rolling pin to smash the pieces up finely and re-add to the stock along with the four sections of the purse.

Season well and simmer on medium-high for 80 minutes.
Use a spoon to skim off any scum that collects at the top.

Using a fine sieve, remove all the solids, and transfer to another pan.

Et voila, you have some delicious crab stock.
From here you really have a blank canvas. This stock can be used in risottos, soups, pasta sauces, paellas, curries etc. You’ll struggle to replicate this seafood flavour any other way.


The bisque

The hard part’s over, now all you have to do is use the stock to make a creamy bisque.

Finely chop the vegetables, and add to a hot pan with a knob of butter. Fry on medium until soft. Grate your clove of garlic and keep on a low heat for a few more minutes. Now add 600ml stock, along with with the saffron and fennel seeds, turn up the heat and reduce for 10 minutes.

Blend with a hand blender until smooth.

Finish by adding the cream, and turning down the heat.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, white crab meat and lemon zest, if you like.

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Enjoy
x

Honey honey

I had a few (very welcome) days off, and the indulgence that followed left me craving something fresh and healthy. I bought a few chicken breasts to last me a whole week’s worth of lunches to take into work.

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I ended up making a very simple Honey Mustard Chicken and Watercress Salad. Turns out I already had most of the ingredients at home.


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For the marinade I used:
Organic runny honey, wholegrain mustard, olive oil, zest of 1 lime, ground coriander, black pepper and salt

My salad:
1 bag of watercress, 1 large white onion, 2 handfuls of fresh chives and 1 of fresh coriander, 1 bunch of spring onions, 1 sweet red pepper

I applied all marinade ingredients liberally and poked a few holes into the chicken. After rubbing the flavours into the fillets I left them in the fridge overnight.

When the time arrived, I laid out my chicken pieces with some cherry tomatoes under a very hot grill for 20 minutes.

While the chicken was cooking I sliced the white onion finely and fried on medium for 5 minutes before adding the watercress and red pepper. After another minute on a low heat, I turned off the heat and added the herbs.

Serve your chicken with the salad and a sprinkling of diced spring onions if you feel like it!

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Enjoy!

x

Kanye

There has been much debate since the announcement of Kanye West’s headline slot at this year’s Glastonbury festival. To say that the announcement has split opinions is somewhat of an understatement.

As of 23/3/15 the petition to have Mr. West removed from the lineup has gathered over 125,000 signatures.

Given the rapper/producer’s record sales and influence in popular music over the last decade, this number does surprise me. But I wonder how much of the recent negative outpouring is down to his change in persona in more recent years, rather than an actual distaste in his music.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about which songs he’d choose to perform at Glastonbury. The notion that his music doesn’t fit into the theme and feel of Glastonbury is a strange one. Having seen him perform live twice, I can testify that he has the songs in his arsenal to rival any modern rock band on a main stage. The issue for me is that more recently, I would have to admit, his songs perhaps would not translate so well to the feel of a festival, and especially one that people hold so dear to their hearts.

When Jay-Z headlined the same festival back in 2008, there was a similar outcry. However, critics were soon silenced as he performed what was undoubtedly one of his most triumphant shows. Under immense scrutiny and pressure, he delivered both a musically superb and entertaining show, fitting of any festival. He even took the time to poke fun at one of the most outspoken critics of his headlining slot, Noel Gallagher, with a cover of Wonderwall.

In comparison, I would argue that Kanye West possesses a greater collection of individual songs which are more commercially successful and well-known, than Jay-Z did in 2008.

His change in persona and the affect it has had on his music must therefore be playing some part in such a public outcry. On the one hand, I agree that his self-proclaimed God status, and the (massively below-standard) music it has spawned over the last two or three years, would seem an odd fit for Glastonbury.

But on the other hand, I have faith that he will recognise this fact, and choose his set carefully. With his music, he not only has the resources to put on a fantastic musical event, but one that could remind us of just how gifted he is musically.

Along with the majority of my friends, I will still be looking forward to watching his performance on television. Here are three songs I’d love to see him play for the Glastonbury crowd.

Treat City Vol. 4

I hope you’ve all had a brilliant Mothers’ Day. I also hope you’ve treated your mothers in some way or another. Perhaps you cooked something delicious for her, or maybe you took her out for the day.

Either way, here’s your chance to continue treating her for the coming days with a batch of freshly baked Peanut Butter, Choc Chunk and Maple Syrup Cookies!


In the upper echelons of the treat world you will find the cookie.

A simple and delicious treat that allows for almost endless tastes and flavours. A treat so good that even cookie dough is arguably its own treat.

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What you’ll need:
100g peanuts, 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), 140g unsalted butter, 250g plain flour
1 duck egg, 2 and half tbsp maple syrup, 200g caster sugar, 120g chunky peanut butter, 1/2 tsp baking powder


Set your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Get your peanuts on a baking tray and place them in your hot oven to toast them to your liking.

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Break up the chocolate into chunks. Beat your egg lightly.

Take a large mixing bowl and mix together all the ingredients, except the egg and syrup. Don’t forget to sift your ingredients into the mixing bowl.

I used the tips of my fingers to mix the ingredients until it resembled large bread crumbs.

Now you can add your egg and syrup. Mix for another minute or so.

Fold in 2/3 of your peanuts and chocolate chunks, keeping the remainder for topping your cookies. Next take a spoon and have a mouthful of the cookie dough.

Mind. Blown.

Back to business.
Roll the dough into balls, just bigger than golf balls and then press slightly. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper and rub with some butter. Place your cookie dough balls on the baking tray. I would say about 4 cookies per batch, as they do spread a lot in the oven.

Cover the cookies in peanuts and chocolate.

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Delicious.

Keep them in the oven for 12 minutes. If the edges of the cookies have started to brown, they’re ready. Leave them to cool on a cooling rack.

You should end up with around 8-12 cookies depending on how much cookie dough you ate prior to baking.

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Store in a cool, dry place. 

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Enjoy!

x