Showing posts from 2021

Spanish Carrot Salad and Black Hummus

For me, summer meals often mean creating a selection of mezze dishes (or should it be meze? I don't know and neither does my dictionary). I'll regularly make French carottes râpées and some classic hummus but, just for a change, here are two alternatives to those classics which should freshen things up a bit.  I use the amounts given here to serve 2, 3 or 4 people as part of a mezze, depending on how many other dishes I can be bothered to make. Spanish Carrot Salad I've had this recipe scribbled in a notebook for more than 30 years but, until recently, I'd never actually made a version using the PX (Pedro Ximenez) sherry vinegar that the recipe called for. It was only during lockdown that I shifted myself to buy some on line. But you could use another sherry vinegar, as long as you add a little extra sweetness (and maybe a dash of PX sherry). I've played around with the dish a little to suit my tastes these days but it's not complicated to make and it's an o

Frango na Púcara or its Distant Relative

I created a version of this dish based on stories I'd been told about it. As it happens, what I'd been told differed from person to person. So this version is doubtless a long way from its Portuguese roots but, nevertheless, it's seriously tasty. It takes its name from the dish in which it's cooked and that should really be quite a large, lidded clay pot (púcara). I don't have one so I used a classic, ceramic casserole dish.  The mustard and the assortment of alcohol makes this a little different to other chicken casseroles and you might imagine that the resulting dish tastes boozy but, in fact, it has a very savoury flavour. A whole, jointed chicken is normally at the heart of this dish but I've used chicken thighs here in an attempt to keep things simpler and smaller. Originally I was told to use chorizo for this dish but then I was told to use an air-dried ham instead, so use whichever you prefer and, if you use the ham, add a little paprika. I have a vivid

Chilli Sherry and What To Do With It

Combining chillies and sherry might sound like an eccentric fantasy today but I remember the 1960s (even though I was there - just about). Back then sherry was one of the staples in dinner party and restaurant cooking and, despite what we're often told, chillies and spices were available to English cooks who wanted them. So it was perfectly reasonable to stick a few chillies in one of your bottles of sherry while listening to the new Beatles LP. In fact, this method turns up in the Constance Spry Cookery Book published way back in the mid 1950s. Since then, sherry in cooking has become a bit of a joke and faded from use. It deserves a revival.  How To Make Chilli Sherry (it's really simple):  Step 1 - Go and buy a bottle of sherry. The two types of sherry favoured these days seem to be the very dry or the very sweet. For sipping purposes, I totally agree, but for chilli sherry in the kitchen a medium or medium-sweet is probably the most useful of all in my opinion.   Step 2

Rhubarb Vodka

Rhubarb is a wonderful thing in desserts, cakes and a number of savoury dishes and there's some excellent forced rhubarb around at the moment. But what happens when you have rhubarb but you just can't face eating yet another rhubarb crumble? Well, I make rhubarb vodka. It's an extremely pleasing drink when chilled and sipped on its own but it's even nicer in a cocktail. The good news is that it's easy to make at home. At least, it is if you make it this way. There are more complex recipes, but I'm happy to keep it simple.  Start by finding some good rhubarb and then this is all you need to do: For a 700 ml bottle of decent, neutral vodka, you'll need around 400 g of prepared rhubarb: just chop the cleaned stalks into small pieces and add them to a sterilised jar with a tight seal. Pour over the vodka. At this point, you need to decide how sweet the resulting drink should be. For average, freshly-picked rhubarb I'd recommend 4 - 6 tablespoons of caster su

Agneau aux Poires Tapées or Lamb with Dried Pears

I'm saddened by the permanent loss of so many restaurants in the last year. I don't normally cook restaurant-style dishes. I'm too incompetent for that. But occasionally nostalgia gets the better of me and I try to recreate something I've enjoyed.  This dish is based (loosely) on one that I ate in a restaurant overlooking a vineyard near Chinon many years ago. I'd just come across poires tapées and I wanted to try anything made with that local speciality. This dish isn't difficult to put together (the sauce and celeriac accompaniment can be prepared in advance) but if you want to get the flavours just right or impress someone special, then there are one or two details here that are worth taking trouble over. I'm not going to attempt to give a scholarly history of the poire tapée because there are plenty of people far better qualified than I to do that. Very briefly, they're pears dried in wood-fired ovens which are then pressed flat and end up deliciou