Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How to make perfect roast potatoes

I think roast potatoes are my favourite part of Sunday dinner, even above the meat. And I would go so far as to say that roast potatoes are my favourite way of eating spuds. Perhaps this is because we rarely had them in my family. They were seen as unhealthy. However, when made this way, they contain little saturated fat but are still golden, crunchy and fluffy all at the same time.

Lots of people seem to struggle with roasties, but they really aren't that difficult to make after a little practice. There are just a couple of things to consider. The first is the type of potatoes. I use red skinned Desiree, which is a good all-rounder, but King Edward and Maris Piper would work equally well.

The second consideration is fat. Animal fat from the meat imparts a great flavour, but is unhealthier. I tend to use vegetable oil for a more guilt free roasty. I may occasionally add a little fat from the meat on special occasions.

Third is the coating and the shaking up, steps that many people miss. Breaking up the edges of the potato is what creates the gorgeous crispy outside, and adding flour accentuates the crunch factor. I have tried using ground semolina, as Nigella Lawson recommends, but I didn't notice any significant improvement.

Last is the temperature. You must put them into a hot oven, as hot as it will go, to crisp up the outsides and make sure that the centres are soft and fluffy. However, if you leave your roasties at a high temperature for too long you run the risk of burning them.

Follow these steps and you are but a boil, a shake and a bake from roast potato heaven.

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Makes enough for two to three people

600g potatoes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 heaped tbsp flour

1.    Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. I like a variety of sizes as larger and smaller roasties each have their particular charms. Put into a large pan with a lid and cover with water.

2.    When you take your meat out of the oven, set it to rest covered in tin foil and turn the oven up as high as it will go. Salt the potatoes generously and bring to the boil.

3.    When the potatoes are boiling, pour the oil onto a baking tray and put into the oven to get hot.

4.    Boil the potatoes for 5 or 6 minutes, so that the edges start to soften.

5.    Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Add the flour and, with the saucepan lid on, shake the potatoes vigorously to coat with the flour and break up the edges.

6.    Remove the baking tray from the oven and make sure that the hot oil has covered the entire surface. Tip the potatoes onto the tray. Spread them out a bit and return to the oven.

7.    Wash the saucepan immediately, as the flour and potato combination is a nightmare to remove!

8.    After around 15 minutes move the potatoes around in the pan, turning them over to coat in the oil. Reduce the oven to 200°C as the potaoes can burn. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the roasties are golden and crisp.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Right Pea-Souper

A friend of mine recently attended a Halloween party dressed as Regan from the Exorcist, with mushy peas smeared down the front of his nightie. Try not to think about that as you greedily guzzle this delicious soup.

Thai Green Pea Soup

Enough for one

2 spring onions, roughly chopped
200g frozen peas
300ml boiling water
Thai green curry paste – about a teaspoon, to taste
50ml coconut cream, plus extra to garnish
Spritz of lime juice

1.    Chuck the peas, spring onions and water into a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the peas are just cooked.
2.    Take off the heat. Stir in the curry paste and whizz with a hand blender. Give it a taste and add more if you like it hotter.
3.    Stir in the coconut cream and a little lime juice. From a bottle is ok I suppose, but fresh is better.
4.    Heat through once more and serve with an artistic swirl of coconut cream.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Christmas Food / Bread Sauce Recipe

Christmas food

Christmas is coming and, as December looms it's not just the goose that's getting fat! Part of me is dreading the time when it becomes acceptable to eat a mince pie because, when it comes to Christmas food, I have serious trouble holding back.
Food is, for me, the best thing about Christmas. Sure, presents are nice. A decorated tree is undoubtedly pretty. Hanging out with your family is fine until your mother-in-law's sherry-fuelled passive aggression kicks in and the kids fall out over a game of Buckaroo as their sugar levels plummet. The food never disappoints, if only for the comforting nostalgia it evokes.
I'm an absolute traditionalist when it comes to Christmas dinner. Salmon en croute and chocolate fondant is for Valentine's Day as far as I'm concerned. It has to be turkey with bread sauce, roast parsnips and chipolatas wrapped in bacon. Hell, Christmas day is the one day of the year that I will choke down a sprout or two. And the idea of anything other than Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert is unthinkable.

One of my favourite things at the Christmas table is my bread sauce. I make a very easy but extra tasty version that doesn't involve steeping onions studded with cloves in hot milk and finely grating breadcrumbs. Yawn. This is made all in one stage and is so much the better for that. Rustic, creamy and spicy, with this recipe I have converted the most hardened bread sauce dodger. It is also wonderful with roast beef if you replace the herbs and spices with a generous dollop of horseradish sauce.

Easy Bread Sauce

About 4 servings

Generous knob of butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Large pinch of dried sage
Freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
White pepper
Milk – about half a pint
Bread – enough!
A splash of double cream, if you fancy it

1.    Melt the butter in a pan and gently sautee the onions with the bay leaf until soft and translucent. Add the herbs and spices and cook for another minute or so, until it smells really good.
2.    Add the milk and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
3.    Tear the bread into pieces and add to the hot milk. I pull the crusts off but the odd bit won't matter. For this amount I would use two or three slices of bread, depending on the bread itself and the consistency you want. I like it fairly thick.
4.    Return to the heat and stir until the bread has broken down. Add more bread if you would like it a little thicker.
5.    At this point you can either finish the sauce or leave it until you are ready to use it. To finish it off just pop it back on the heat, remove the bay leaf, add a splash of double cream if you like and check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and any more of the herbs and spices as you wish.
6.    Tip into a bowl and serve!