Filthy, healthy living

lemond

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch”

-Orson Welles

Beloved ample darlings! It has been far too long an absence since I last shared my culinary ramblings with you all and for this, I sincerely apologise. If only I could excuse my lack of foodie chatter by means of an exotic voyage or a whirlwind romance (I have that already!) and yet, it is sheer, menial work that has kept me from you all this time! That, and a broken aga, no internet connection and a touch of laziness all mixed in together. The good news is however, that my Cordon Bleu teachings are just around the corner meaning, that this blog is going to be “crème pâtissière packed” with recipes all year round. Truly, this blog is going to be bursting at the sponge seams with fabulous techniques, teachings and ideas from an internationally recognised culinary hub! I can’t promise to share the exact recipes (I’m sure that’s quite naughty!) but I will point you in the right direction without a doubt. Right, let’s get on with this week’s edition already!

Video Kitchen Aid

 I had to let you down straight off didn’t I! Or perhaps not…this week my internet it down and I don’t think it appropriate to film a kitchen aid sequence in pret! I’m going to let the great Gordon Ramsey teach you how to do a perfect steak. Lads and ladies, get excited! This is a brilliant video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmC9SmCBUj4

Seemingly Seasonal

Fruit & Vegetables;

  • Damsons
  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Berries (end of season)
  • Cabbage
  • Pumpkin
  • Aubergine
  • Beetroot
  • Chicory
  • Courgette
  • Fennel
  • French Beans
  • Globe Artichoke
  • Leeks

Fish & Meat;

  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Haddock
  • Mackerel
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Duck*
  • Goose*
  • Venison*

[*coming into season]

Culinary Query

 Felix, Putney

This sounds stupid, but how do I cook dried pasta properly?

Funnily enough, you’re not the first person to ask me this. When cooking dried pasta, your water must be boiling hot! The quickest way to do this is, to boil a full kettle and take out your largest pan. Once the kettle has boiled, pour the water into the pot and add a teaspoon of salt. Turn the hob on fairly high and pour in your desired amount of pasta. For one healthy sized portion, I would recommend between 75g-115g of dried pasta. Don’t put a lid on the pot as this will encourage the water to boil over. The pasta should take 8-10 minutes to cook but keep checking and don’t forget to stir occasionally in order to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan! Once cooked to your preference, drain and serve on a hot plate.

This Weeks’ Recipes

Super Healthy Salmon Fish cakes

fishcakes

An ideal dinner alternative to a salmon fillet with salad. These fishcakes use neither potatoes nor breadcrumbs and still taste fab! I served mine with some sweet chilli sauce and a soy & rice noodle stir fry with grilled broccoli. It was utterly delicious and was wonderfully quick and easy to put together.

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, about 550g/1lb 4oz in total, cut into chunks

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

thumb-size piece fresh root ginger, grated

1 tsp soy sauce

1 bunch coriander, half chopped, half leaves picked

1 tsp vegetable oil

lemon wedges, to serve

Method:

Tip the salmon into a food processor with the paste, ginger, soy and chopped coriander. Pulse until roughly minced. Tip out the mix and shape into 4 patties. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, then fry the fishcakes for 4-5 mins on each side, turning until crisp and cooked through.

Bean and Chorizo Broth

broth

I call this a broth because it’s a halfway house between a stew and a soup. When I am trying to eat well but not compromise on flavour, I tend to make a pot of something so when it’s feeding time at the zoo (any meal time for me!) I can heat it up and eat straight away. This one pot is great on its own but equally, words well served with chicken or fish. Also, kale works as a rice substitute for all you health buffs out there and tastes pretty darn good.

Ingredients:

1 white onion

5” of chorizo, sliced

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

400g of ready to eat haricot beans

250ml beef stock

A glug of red wine

A few heads of parsley

Salt and pepper, oil for frying

Method:

Finely chop your white onion and fry in a big dish on a medium heat with a little oil, till translucent and soft. Add the chorizo next and watch the beautiful orange oil run all over the onions. Let the chorizo cook a little on both sides then add the tomatoes. Stir the ingredients together, adding the stock and red wine at the same time. Finally, throw in the beans, parsley and season to your liking. Leave it to reduce with the lid on for a further 25-30mins on a low heat.

Cauliflower based pizza

cauliflower pizza

Peeked your interest?! I know this sounds a little bizarre but honestly, it’s quite pleasant. Introduced to the concept by a good (gluten intolerant) friend of mine, Francesca Miller, using ground-up cauliflower florets, almonds and 2 eggs makes a healthy alternative to your usual flower-based pizza. It went down a storm with my friends and I would make it again without hesitation. And yet, I feel like I should admit that although the cauliflower has a good texture etc….I’d still choose a gorgeous and floury, thin Italian pizza base any day!

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower

4 tbsp ground almonds

2 eggs

Method:

Take off all the leaves and greenery around your cauliflower and remove the bitter root at the base. Using a sharp knife, cut off the florets (the flowery bits and their stalks), place in a blender and blend till they resemble small breadcrumbs. Next, steam the blended cauliflower for 3-5 minutes on a medium heat. I made my ‘steamer’ with a sieve resting on top of a big silver saucepan. Make sure the water does NOT TOUCH the cauliflower.

Once the cauliflower is nicely steamed, place the crumbs into the centre of a clean tea towel and pull up the edges so it makes a tight little bundle. Squeeze the cauliflower bundle gently and watch as a huge amount of water will be forced out! Once you think you have removed all the water, place the cauliflower crumbs into a bowl and add the eggs and ground almonds. Mix together until nicely combined. Finally pour onto a greaseproofed baking tray and using your hands, shape the mixture into your desire shape. Don’t spread your ‘dough’ too thinly as it won’t rise when in the oven. Try and keep it around half an inch thick minimum. Place the finished and shaped dough into a preheated oven of 200°C for 15-20 mins. It should be slightly golden brown when you take it out. The last thing you do is add your passata, mozzarella and toppings and cook for a further 10 mins until your pizza is ready!

Note: If you want to use aubergines on your pizza, I recommend that you grill them first, likewise with courgettes as they can be a little tough.

Before I go, I would like to thoroughly recommend a newly set-up bakery in Putney. It is an ethical bakery named Lazaro which specializes in soda bread. Ruben, a Venezuelan baker and co-founder of Lazaro is wonderfully charming and a skilful bread maker! Not only is the soda bread gorgeous (they do a chorizo & green olive as well as their signature potato variety!) but they offer brioche, classic baguettes, homemade pastries and the most wonderful sweet loaves such as butternut squash tea cake. If you find yourself in the Putney area, please do check this place out as it is artisan baking at its best!

bread

https://www.facebook.com/lazaroartisanbakery

Lastly, here is a picture of my father’s proud pooch who won second prize as most handsome dog in Peckham Rye’s annual dog show. Who doesn’t love a sausage dog?!

merli

Until next week little chickens!

Love,

E. Wells xX

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Tittle tattle and a little tipple

ample top

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

– Dr Seuss

Good morrow ample followers! I hope this latest blog finds you all most well and contented on this cold but bright Friday afternoon. I feel that an apology is an order before I begin listing my weekly plethora of culinary delights. Indeed I am sorry to admit this blog is a little overdue however, I believe I have a valid excuse. As you may be aware I am a ‘chef in training’ hoping to gain a place at the esteemed centre of excellence, The Cordon Bleu London. In order to apply for the scholarship programme 2013 resulting in a fully paid course worth £30,000 and an apprenticeship at The Ritz at the end of the nine month course, I have to submit an application video lasting one minute and a half in length. Despite its short length, the video itself took an awfully long time to put together and I’m afraid I had to put my ample cooking on the back burner (aka stove) for a few days. If you wish to see for yourself what kept me so busy this past week, click on the link below. And if you’re feeling very generous you can even vote for my video by clicking the thumbs up button on the top left hand corner. You see, fifteen candidates for the scholarship go through to the next round by choice of the Cordon Bleu board and the sixteenth goes through by gaining the highest number of votes on their video. I’m currently on 680 votes and would be grateful of your vote. Thank you.

em vid

Moving swiftly on! Let’s talk about tarts, baileys infused cupcakes and stewed figs. Over the past two days, I have been scurrying about the kitchen putting various dishes and desserts together in order to soothe your appetite. Today we shall begin with a little treat, a tart in fact but not just any old tart, a Portuguese one. I first tried this recipe when Jamie’s 30 minutes meals aired our screens in 2010.  For many years now, my mother has bought home the most divine Portuguese custard tarts from a little café in Vauxhall and I fancied making my own. If made from scratch, I’m sure the taste would be just that little more sweet and yet, the pre-bought puff pastry does the job if you’re in a hurry. These little darlings are simply delightful with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The orange flavoured caramel is delicious. Enjoy!

portuguese tarts

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Plain flour, for dusting

1 x 375g pack of pre-rolled puff pastry

Ground cinnamon

125g crème fraiche

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract

5 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 orange

Dust a clean surface with flour. Unroll the sheet of pastry, then cut it in half so you end up with two 20 x 20cm squares of pastry (put one in the fridge for another day). Sprinkle over a few good pinches of ground cinnamon, then roll the pastry into a Swiss roll shape and cut into 6 rounds. Put these into 6 of the holes in a muffin tin, and use your thumbs to stretch and mould the pastry into the holes so the bottom is flat and the pastry comes up to the top. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for around 8 to 10 minutes (set the timer), or until lightly golden. Spoon the crème fraîche into a small bowl. Add the egg, vanilla paste or extract, 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar and the zest of 1 orange. Mix well. Take the muffin tin out of the oven, and use a teaspoon to press the puffed up pastry back to the sides and make room for the filling. Spoon the crème fraîche mixture into the tart cases, and return to the top shelf of the oven. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Put a small saucepan on a high heat. Squeeze in the juice from the zested orange and add 4 tablespoons of golden caster sugar. Stir and keep a good eye on it, but remember caramel can burn badly so don’t touch or taste.  Pour some caramel over each tart (they’ll still be wobbly, but that’s good). Put aside to set.

cupcakes

Yesterday, a lovely young lady named Milly joined me in the kitchen for an afternoon of baking. She told me about a family friend who brought round some homemade baileys cupcakes to her house at Christmas and needless to say, I was quite taken with this idea. Cupcake fans around the world, if you haven’t made these before, do so. In fact, do it NOW. I am often of the opinion that cupcakes are overrated but I promise you, these are gorgeous and very quick to make. Not only is the icing heavenly but the sponge is as light as a feather. Click on the link below to take you to the best recipe to date. Perfect for a naughty after dinner treat, or in my case breakfast….

Going back a fair few years ago, my mother and stepfather held a dinner party in which my mother cooked ‘pistou’ a warming French stew with homemade pesto sitting on the top and a family friend, Mark made baked figs in port for dessert. The meal was wonderful and my mother raved about the fig dish for some time afterwards. It was effortlessly delicious and so, I attempted to recreate this dish on my own. Mark definitely baked his figs in the oven and they were notably fresh. In an ovenproof dish he placed figs, doused them in alcohol and threw in a vanilla pod and a little honey. For my recreation I used dried figs, just because they were at hand and I wanted to see if they would work. In a saucepan over a low heat, I placed three dried figs and decanted a lug of port. Next, I placed a cinnamon stick and a vanilla pod into the liquid and sprinkled a little ginger. The syrupy port softened the dried figs quite quickly and then, I placed the figs on a tower of crème fraiche and poured a little of the liquid. I then consumed it instantly. This would work very well for a quick fix dessert as it incorporates many ingredients found in a kitchen just after a gluttonous time of the year.

figs

Now, the last thing recipe I wish to share with you today is something a ‘spin off’ dish from Jamie Oliver’s Indian salad. Everyone likes fajitas because they’re quick and tasty but far too often do we extend a hand to old el paso’s packets of instant flavour. If you fancy taking a stroll down health conscious lane I have a solution, curry paste. This dish is ideal for students as it’s fairly cheap to make and satisfies the needs of both boys and girls.

fajitas one

Spiced Fajitas

(For Two)

Four wraps

Two chicken thighs, cut into thin strips

One red pepper

Two onions, chopped lengthways

Tikka masala paste (patak’s will do nicely!)

A bag of spinach

Greek yoghurt

Mango chutney

Rub two tablespoons of paste into the chicken thighs and leave for five minutes. Then, place a pan on a medium heat with a little oil and throw in the chicken which is now cut into thin strips. Cook for a few minutes then add the onions and season. After a further few minutes add the red pepper which is also sliced lengthways and stir till the chicken is cooked through. Finally, add the spinach which should wilt very quickly. Heat the wraps in the oven for a couple of minutes at 180ºC and then lie two wraps on each plate. Place a little chicken mixture in the centre, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a teaspoon of mango chutney. Wrap up the wrap and consume.

 fajita two

Until next week ample followers!

E. Wells