Oeufs en Meurette (Eggs in Wine Sauce)

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The ingredients: Eggs, bacon, red wine, onion, garlic and a slice of bread.

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Fry the bacon in some butter. Add some onion and garlic to the pan and soften down. Then add in roughly 1/3 to ½ bottle of red wine and rapidly reduce to, say, half maybe less.

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Strain the sauce of the onion and garlic (use later on in a stew or piperade) and return to the pan. Add a couple of eggs and poach. Put the eggs onto a slice or two of fried bread and pour over the sauce.

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And here we are. Apparently Michel Roux Jr used to make this for French President Francois Mitterrand as a breakfast!

(It is much better than the image may suggest. I’ve tried and tried to get a decent image of this and not really succeeded. I’m not a professional food photographer or food stylist.)

Steak with Sauce a la Creme

Aside from the steak, these are the essential ingredients:

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Brandy and double cream. Everything else is an add on. Having said that, a really good blast of pepper is really good.

Personally, I always think a really good piece of steak needs nothing doing to it. However, a really good piece of steak can be hard to come by sometimes. In that eventuality, then this is a sauce which can make quite a difference!

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Just as an aside, switch the brandy for calvados, the steak for pork and some of the onion with apple and you have one of my ultimate favorate things! But that’s for another day.

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Fry off the steak to you preferred level of doneness and add the brandy.

Flambe and reduce. If you want to add butter then this is a good time to do it. For me, butter make this too rich.

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Remove the steak to a hot plate to rest. While the steak is resting add onion, garlic and mushroom to the pan and soften down. As things start to soften add in the double cream.

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Don’t add in too much cream or you will wreck it. A teaspoonful at a time and keep testing until you’ve got it. When the sauce is properly cooked through and pour over the steak.

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This is really good with plain boiled potatoes and those small green beans. And a good bottle of red wine.

Langoustines Vauclusienne

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Firstly, an admission. This is a straight steal from my food hero Keith Floyd. Do you realise that 2015 marks 30yrs since Floyd on Fish hit network television? Amazing.

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What you need: Langoustines, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, brandy, white wine, chilli sauce, olive oil, butter.

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Cook the langoustines in some olive oil with the onion and gently flambé.

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Add in the white wine and reduce for a minute or two. Then add in the rest.

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This is really good, really simple and so typical of Floyd. Here is the clip. Notice the philosophy on his approach. See what’s good, buy it and THEN decide how to cook it!

The Great Mexican Breakfast

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“Breakfast is a popular part of the day in Mexico, and with so many different treats on offer, it’s easy to see why. Back in London, fried eggs on tortillas bathed in a spicy tomato sauce or Mexican scrambled eggs make the perfect lazy weekend eating – and both beat the biggest hangovers.” – Thomasina Miers, Mexican Food Made Simple.

Sunday morning. I fancy something different. Flicking trough my library I came across this, The Great Mexican Breakfast from my current favourite TV chef Thomasina Miers of Masterchef and Wahaca fame. I only came across the television series Mexican Food Made Simple quite recently and was blown away by it.

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Most of what I need. Like everything I do, I adapt to what I have available. So this will differ from the book. Basically, tinned tomato, chilli, egg, onion, garlic and cheese.

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Bugger, I have no tarragon (“dynamite in this sauce”). In fact, I’m right out all my fresh herbs. I don’t even have frozen. So I’m going to use dried. I’m also leaving out the sugar (I’m diabetic). I’m also leaving out the lard (diabetes is enough, thank you very much). Chuck the onion, garlic and chilli in to a pan with a good slug of olive oil and soften. Then put in the tinned tomatoes and the dried herbs. Then comes a good bit. Going back to bet with a mug of tea for 20 minutes whist the sauce simmers on a low heat.

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Then comes what I rekon is a key, must have ingredient. One of the great, great classics and one of the great wonders of the culinary world. If there were to be a foodie version of Desert Island Discs then this would be one of my eight ingredients. In fact, like the works of Shakespeare, it might already be there.

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Worcestershire sauce. Widely used in Mexican cooking apparently. It’s easy to see why as we all know it compliments things like minced beef and tomato so, so well.

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Warm up a tortilla in a frying pan and put onto a plate.

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Then spread on the sauce. I think this is a good point to season with salt and pepper. Finally a fried egg and some grated cheese. The end result? Fantastic. Maybe I should have had two eggs?

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You, of course, won’t do this. You will do the original, which is so much better.

Cullen Skink

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It’s Burns night, 25th January 2014. All across Scotland people will be gathering to get sloshed on whisky, celebrate a great poet, ritually disembowel Englishmen and eat haggis. Haggis, the national dish of Scotland. It is amazing to me that such a miserable bag of offal should reach such heights. Seriously, think about it. Scotland has some seriously good food produce. This is a land which, probably, produces the best salmon and venison (fresh or farmed) that there is. Then of course there is the Aberdeen Angus. Which is, undisputedly, the best beef cattle there is. Arbroath smokies are legendary. These things are only the start of what could become quite a long list. And yet in the face of all this amazing stuff it is a sheep’s stomach of yuk which has risen to the top of the list. How? My guess it is a combination of the ritual of Burns night and the ritual disembowelment of Englishmen that provides most of the answer. But also, historically, the Haggis was the food of the common man. Salmon, venison and beef being only available to those at the top of society. However, there is one Scottish dish which is drop dead fantastic and is also available to the common man and uses a fish as fine as any fresh river salmon. It is Cullen Skink. Yet the people of Scotland seem to dismiss this wonderful, wonderful thing. What is it about us, the British, that makes us do this? We seem to have a kind of deep-seated inferiority complex when it comes to our own food. We seem to have this built-in assumption that if it originates overseas it must somehow be better. Why? Honestly the French bang on about things like Bouillabaise and Bourride but they simply are not in the same class as a dish as good as Cullen Skink. To me this is the kind of food that we should be celebrating.

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All you need. Potato, onion, parsley, butter, milk and undyed smoked haddock. Don’t skimp on the quality of the smoked haddock as it is crucial. Please, please, please, try to avoid dyed haddock if you can. The Talisker is for the cook and not the dish by the way.

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Skin the Haddock. If that’s a bit techy for you an alternative is to poach the Haddock in some milk for a few minutes, remove, cool, and pick the fish off with a fork. Keep the milk back to use later on.

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What happens next depends on how you like your Cullen Skink. I like mine quite chunky. Kind of like a stew. So I dice everything quite chunky. Others like theirs to be more like a soup or a chowder. In which case you should dice finer. Whatever your preference, the potato, haddock, onion and parsley need dicing. Then soften the onion in a good knob of butter. Soften the onion, don’t fry it.

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Add in the milk and the potato. The milk needs to be as fresh as you can get it and should be full cream. Don’t use skimmed or semi-skimmed. I find it really helps to part boil the potato.

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Next comes a mega important part. Mash up a few parts of the potato. Just a few. Enough to provide some thickening. I’m using a hand masher but pressing the potato with a fork works just fine. As an aside, I’m using a non-stick sauté pan so as to get some decent imagery. A regular everyday saucepan is ideal.

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Finally, add in the fish and the parsley. You may want to break up the fish a little if you want. It’s done when the fish is cooked through and the potato is soft. Some people like to add in a little cream at the end.

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It is very tempting to chef this up with wine, garlic, bay leaf and so on (for me it’s always a struggle to avoid lemon juice). But try to avoid temptation and keep to this simplicity. Please trust me, every additional thing you add will only take away from it. It’s the smoked haddock that really makes this work and is the star of the show. Let it do the talking.

Enjoy.

Brussels “Colcannon” Cakes

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This posting really follows on from an earlier post from this year when I dazzled the world with my deep insights into the world of the potato and Colcannon. Seeing as a Brussels sprout does seem a little like a mini cabbage then why not use it in a Colcannon? So I tried it and it was brilliant. Then I thought to myself why not go a step further and make it a potato cake? I tried it and it was brilliant. So here we are rapidly approaching the festive season and the inevitable avalanche of Brussels sprouts. So, dear followers, I present to you a possible alternative to plain boiling for your consideration. The Brussels ‘Colcannon’ Cake. By the way, I’m not claiming this is the most perfectly worked out dish since the creation of mankind. No doubt, any proper cook stumbling upon this could probably do a lot to improve.

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Chop up the ingredients of potato, Brussels sprouts, onion and butter. A fine dice for the onion and Brussels is good. The potato needs to be cooked until soft and the onion and Brussels sprouts need to be softened in a frying pan using the butter.

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What I really like about this is the colour. As the Brussels soften in the pan they take on a really bright and vibrant green colour. Contrasted with the red of the onion and the white of the potato it really looks the part. Mash it all into the potato. Then comes the tricky part that, I admit, I haven’t properly thought through. That is, turning them in to cakes. This is the tricky bit as they are prone to fall apart. Maybe some beaten egg as a binding would help?

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Turn the mix into “snowballs”. Form them really tightly just like you would a snowball you are about to throw. Then flatten them slightly whilst maintaining the edge. Add to a frying pan with plenty of hot oil. Fry them vigorously until you judge them to be browning (I can tell by the smell). It only takes a couple of minutes. As they cook gently squash and shape them with a fish slice. You may need to do this a few times to avoid breaking them up. You really do have to be very careful and vigilant with this. It is no time to take a phone call. Very carefully turn them over with the fish slice and continue to fry, squash and shape. When you judge the other side cooked (I do it by smell) serve them to a plate. There may well be a better way to do this. I’m open to suggestions. It’s the taste of fried potato that makes this amazing.

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So how would you use this? Well, serve them with anything you would normally serve plain boiled potatoes and Brussels sprouts with. Now here comes a variation. Add some bacon to the mix. What you end up with is the image at the top of this blog. Trust me, it tastes great. Bacon and Brussels, what a fantastic combination. Imagine this for a Sunday morning breakfast in Autumn or Winter. A Brussels potato cake made with bacon with a poached egg sitting on top. Maybe a lightly fried tomato and a couple of pieces of black pudding around the side. Imagine cutting into the yolk and seeing it run in to the potato cake and down the sides. Wouldn’t something like that just be great?

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It was 🙂

Red Kidney Bean Salad

A great salad to have with a piece of cold chicken: one small can red kidney beans well rinsed and drained, a well diced mushroom, a well diced tomato, 1/3 well diced bell pepper, some well diced onion, a couple of table spoons of a very light vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients in to a tupperware box and shake well. Serve. The ingredients must be very fresh and the vinaigrette must be very light. Be careful not to overdue the vinaigrette. Diabetics will note how low all the ingredients are on the GI index.