Objection: Salad!

Aug 01

Homemade huevos rancheros.

Homemade huevos rancheros.

Mar 09

[video]

Oct 10

Modernist Cuisine mac & cheese

This is quite a revelation. It’s based on a simple idea: a cheese sauce is an emulsion, a smooth mixture of tiny particles of fat (from the cheese) evenly distributed through the water base of the sauce. But flour is a pretty poor quality emulsifying agent, so the fat particles clump together in larger lumps than we’d like, which can make makes the sauce pasty or gritty at worst. Even at best, it can still have a cloying mouthfeel.

So why not use a more powerful emulsifying agent? Modernist Cuisine suggests trisodium citrate, which is a commercial food additive. By molecular gastronomy standards, this recipe is very easy to make, requiring nothing more complex than a precision weighing scales (accurate down to 0.1 g), the additive itself (easily and cheaply available online, I paid £3 for a 500 g pot which is probably a lifetime’s supply) and an immersion blender.

I’ve made it a couple of times now and if anything the method is more straightforward than the traditional make-a-roux, add-milk, stir-in-cheese approach. You dissolve the trisodium citrate in cold water, bring to a simmer, and add grated cheese a spoonful at a time. Between each addition of cheese you blend the sauce with an immersion blender to ensure it is thoroughly mixed. The results are glorious: a perfectly smooth sauce which packs a real wallop of strong cheese flavour. And it passes my unofficial cheese sauce test — it’s so strong it’s hard at room temperature!

In the picture above, I added to the base sauce a caramelised leek and some chopped ham, stirred it through pasta, then baked with Panko breadcrumbs on top mixed with pecorino. The cheese mix was 80 g mature cheddar, 110 g gouda, and 20 g pecorino. This produced a good mixture of balanced flavours but of course you can take the cheese mix in any direction you want.

Modernist Cuisine mac & cheese

This is quite a revelation. It’s based on a simple idea: a cheese sauce is an emulsion, a smooth mixture of tiny particles of fat (from the cheese) evenly distributed through the water base of the sauce. But flour is a pretty poor quality emulsifying agent, so the fat particles clump together in larger lumps than we’d like, which can make makes the sauce pasty or gritty at worst. Even at best, it can still have a cloying mouthfeel.

So why not use a more powerful emulsifying agent? Modernist Cuisine suggests trisodium citrate, which is a commercial food additive. By molecular gastronomy standards, this recipe is very easy to make, requiring nothing more complex than a precision weighing scales (accurate down to 0.1 g), the additive itself (easily and cheaply available online, I paid £3 for a 500 g pot which is probably a lifetime’s supply) and an immersion blender.

I’ve made it a couple of times now and if anything the method is more straightforward than the traditional make-a-roux, add-milk, stir-in-cheese approach. You dissolve the trisodium citrate in cold water, bring to a simmer, and add grated cheese a spoonful at a time. Between each addition of cheese you blend the sauce with an immersion blender to ensure it is thoroughly mixed. The results are glorious: a perfectly smooth sauce which packs a real wallop of strong cheese flavour. And it passes my unofficial cheese sauce test — it’s so strong it’s hard at room temperature!

In the picture above, I added to the base sauce a caramelised leek and some chopped ham, stirred it through pasta, then baked with Panko breadcrumbs on top mixed with pecorino. The cheese mix was 80 g mature cheddar, 110 g gouda, and 20 g pecorino. This produced a good mixture of balanced flavours but of course you can take the cheese mix in any direction you want.

Jul 07

A simple and light barbecued dinner for a blazingly hot Sunday: Simon and Garfunkel grilled chicken (because it’s seasoned with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…), caramelised baby leeks, caprese couscous salad. The chicken and leeks were cooked on the barbecue with applewood chips.

The herby dry-rubbed chicken was an experiment, the first time I’d tried this seasoning mix. It was very good and was a nice change from the more typical barbecue flavours like paprika, sugar, and cayenne. I think you could serve this as part of a meal with pulled pork or brisket or pork ribs and it would be able to hold its own, to still have a sense of identity.

A simple and light barbecued dinner for a blazingly hot Sunday: Simon and Garfunkel grilled chicken (because it’s seasoned with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…), caramelised baby leeks, caprese couscous salad. The chicken and leeks were cooked on the barbecue with applewood chips.

The herby dry-rubbed chicken was an experiment, the first time I’d tried this seasoning mix. It was very good and was a nice change from the more typical barbecue flavours like paprika, sugar, and cayenne. I think you could serve this as part of a meal with pulled pork or brisket or pork ribs and it would be able to hold its own, to still have a sense of identity.

Jun 19

Tomato, courgette and chorizo risotto

Very pleased with this, I’d was craving a tomato risotto for a while and improvised this together based on what I had in the fridge. To be fair, it’s hard to go far wrong with risotto…

Fried one courgette (diced), half an onion (diced), a clove of garlic (minced) and 100 g of cooking chorizo (also diced). Added the rice (200 g). Added about 4 Tbsp of double concentrate tomato puree and continued to fry briefly. Made the risotto as usual with chicken stock (about 0.75 l). At the end, I stirred in a few Tbsp of mascarpone cheese and some grated parmesan, left it to stand for a few minutes with a lid on, then stirred throughly before serving with roasted Tomkin tomatoes.

Tomato, courgette and chorizo risotto

Very pleased with this, I’d was craving a tomato risotto for a while and improvised this together based on what I had in the fridge. To be fair, it’s hard to go far wrong with risotto…

Fried one courgette (diced), half an onion (diced), a clove of garlic (minced) and 100 g of cooking chorizo (also diced). Added the rice (200 g). Added about 4 Tbsp of double concentrate tomato puree and continued to fry briefly. Made the risotto as usual with chicken stock (about 0.75 l). At the end, I stirred in a few Tbsp of mascarpone cheese and some grated parmesan, left it to stand for a few minutes with a lid on, then stirred throughly before serving with roasted Tomkin tomatoes.

Jun 06

[video]

Jun 02

[video]

May 22

Lemon, garlic, and rosemary hasselback potatoes

This is long one of my favourite ways to cook potatoes, being surprisingly easy to do for a result that looks great and is uncommon enough to impress guests. You take a baking potato, slice a bit off one side so it sits flat, then make lots of parallel cuts almost — but not quite — all the way through. You can put a chopstick or wooden spoon on either side of the potato and use that as a guide for how deep to cut. Then roast as with a normal potato. You get fluffy roast-potato texture at the bottom, and crisp fried-potato texture at the top.

Tonight I tried a slightly different technique from Chris Scheuer that involves brushing the potatoes a few times during cooking with melted butter and oil infused with garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary. I tasted plenty of lemon in the finished potato but less garlic than I wanted (disclaimer: I really like garlic). I will probably revert back to my earlier method of placing a sliver of raw garlic into each cut in the potato next time.

Lemon, garlic, and rosemary hasselback potatoes

This is long one of my favourite ways to cook potatoes, being surprisingly easy to do for a result that looks great and is uncommon enough to impress guests. You take a baking potato, slice a bit off one side so it sits flat, then make lots of parallel cuts almost — but not quite — all the way through. You can put a chopstick or wooden spoon on either side of the potato and use that as a guide for how deep to cut. Then roast as with a normal potato. You get fluffy roast-potato texture at the bottom, and crisp fried-potato texture at the top.

Tonight I tried a slightly different technique from Chris Scheuer that involves brushing the potatoes a few times during cooking with melted butter and oil infused with garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary. I tasted plenty of lemon in the finished potato but less garlic than I wanted (disclaimer: I really like garlic). I will probably revert back to my earlier method of placing a sliver of raw garlic into each cut in the potato next time.

May 18

[video]

May 14

One of my favourite things to eat (and by extension, cook) is a traditional British Sunday lunch and my go-to meat to roast is chicken (because I can’t afford a rib of beef ever week!) Of course, having gone to the effort of roasting a whole chicken for just me and Danielle, I typically choose a big one so there’s leftover meat to use in a quick weeknight dinner or two.

This means I’m often trying to come up with ways to use up leftover roast chicken, which is admittedly no bad problem to have. This week, I decided I was bored of fajitas and stir-fries, and I’d already used some of my leftovers to make a tomato pasta sauce we’d eaten with gnocchi. So I was searching for inspiration. Pies are another obvious answer for leftover meat of all kinds but it’s rather a lengthy process for a weeknight dinner, even with store-bought pastry.

So I decided to cheat, sort-of make the pie filling (but leave the pie out) and serve with some vegetables that I had lying around and needed eating up.

Here’s how I made the sauce, if you’re curious. Note that this was a rather improvised process, so all quantities are approximate.

Fry 1/2 onion and 1 clove of garlic until softened.
Add about 125 g of mushrooms (chunky dice), fry until they’ve stopped giving off water.
Add a glass of dry white wine, deglaze the pan, and boil until reduced to about 1/3rd
Add some thyme leaves, a dash of mushroom ketchup, another dash of Madeira, and about 300 ml of chicken stock.
Continue to boil and reduce. My aim here was to only have enough sauce to coat the chicken, not to make a casserole.
Add cornflour to thicken the sauce.
Reduce heat to low. Stir through several tablespoons of double cream.
Stir in the shredded cooked chicken, put a lid on the pan, and leave for five minutes or so to (gently) reheat the chicken.
I served this with some charred purple sprouting broccoli and some sweet potato wedges, roasted with cumin, paprika, and smoked sea salt.

One of my favourite things to eat (and by extension, cook) is a traditional British Sunday lunch and my go-to meat to roast is chicken (because I can’t afford a rib of beef ever week!) Of course, having gone to the effort of roasting a whole chicken for just me and Danielle, I typically choose a big one so there’s leftover meat to use in a quick weeknight dinner or two.

This means I’m often trying to come up with ways to use up leftover roast chicken, which is admittedly no bad problem to have. This week, I decided I was bored of fajitas and stir-fries, and I’d already used some of my leftovers to make a tomato pasta sauce we’d eaten with gnocchi. So I was searching for inspiration. Pies are another obvious answer for leftover meat of all kinds but it’s rather a lengthy process for a weeknight dinner, even with store-bought pastry.

So I decided to cheat, sort-of make the pie filling (but leave the pie out) and serve with some vegetables that I had lying around and needed eating up.

Here’s how I made the sauce, if you’re curious. Note that this was a rather improvised process, so all quantities are approximate.

  1. Fry 1/2 onion and 1 clove of garlic until softened.
  2. Add about 125 g of mushrooms (chunky dice), fry until they’ve stopped giving off water.
  3. Add a glass of dry white wine, deglaze the pan, and boil until reduced to about 1/3rd
  4. Add some thyme leaves, a dash of mushroom ketchup, another dash of Madeira, and about 300 ml of chicken stock.
  5. Continue to boil and reduce. My aim here was to only have enough sauce to coat the chicken, not to make a casserole.
  6. Add cornflour to thicken the sauce.
  7. Reduce heat to low. Stir through several tablespoons of double cream.
  8. Stir in the shredded cooked chicken, put a lid on the pan, and leave for five minutes or so to (gently) reheat the chicken.

I served this with some charred purple sprouting broccoli and some sweet potato wedges, roasted with cumin, paprika, and smoked sea salt.