Moroccan style poussin with spicy harissa potatoes

This recipe takes inspiration from Middle Eastern flavours that pack a punch! If you haven’t tried ras el hanout before then now is your chance. It’s a delicate blend of spices that is versatile and ideal as a marinade or rub for meat. I balanced the ras el hanout with the more spicy kick of harissa. Harissa can vary in spice levels but I like to use a rose harissa which offers a gentle heat. wpid-wp-1414071215696.jpegwpid-img_20141023_143858.jpg Ingredients- serves 2 (can be doubled)
2 poussin
3 tsp ras el hanout
2 tsp olive oil
Squeeze of honey
1 lemon
3 garlic cloves-1 crushed and 2 left whole
250g baby potatoes- halved
1 tbsp harissa or rose harissa
1/2 small red chilli- finely chopped (optional)
1 shallot- finely sliced lengthways
1 jarred roasted red pepper- cut into strips
Salt and pepper to season
Small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Prepare the poussin marinade first of all by combining the ras el hanout, olive oil and honey and mix to combine. Add in a little squeeze of lemon juice before setting the lemon aside for later. Brush the marinade over the poussins and leave to marinade for at least an hour or overnight if you can.

2. When you are ready to use the poussins, take half the leftover lemon and slice into thin wedges before placing around the poussins along with the two whole garlic cloves. Heat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan and cook for 40- 45 minutes until cooked through and the juices run clear.

3. About 15 minutes into cooking the poussins you need to get going on the spicy potatoes so everything is ready together. Par boil the halved potatoes for 5-7 minutes until becoming tender and drain well. Heat a glug of oil in a frying pan over a medium/ high heat and add the shallot and one crushed garlic clove; fry for 1 minute. Add in the potatoes and cook until golden. The shallot will caramelise and will smell wonderful! A couple of minutes before the potatoes are ready, pop in the harissa and mix through so all the potatoes are coated before adding the red pepper and seasoning. If you want a bit more heat then you can also add some red chilli at this point.

Serve the potatoes in a warmed serving dish so everyone can help themselves and finish off with a small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley before serving alongside the poussin. I served this with a simple side salad dressed with a combination of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and some dukkah (a Middle Eastern crunchy wonder!).

Moroccan style poussin with harissa potatoes- a taste of the Middle East in the comfort of your own home!

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Venison sausage and lentil stew

Who doesn’t love a hearty sausage stew? This marries the delicate but rich game flavour of venison with earthy lentils which make for a simple dinner. If you’re not sure about game then this is a great way to start eating it.  I use white wine to lighten the stew however red wine would also work if you prefer a richer finish.

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Ingredients: Serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
8 venison sausages
1 small onion or shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 celery sticks- finely chopped
100g cubed pancetta (optional)
120ml white wine
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
600ml vegetable stock
200g green or puy lentils
Sprig of thyme
Handful chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to season

1. Take a heavy bottomed casserole pot and heat the oil over a medium/ high heat and cook the sausages until golden all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Use some of the fat from the sausages to cook the onion and garlic until softened. Next up goes the tomato puree which needs to be cooked out for a couple of minutes. Pop in the carrot, celery and pancetta and cook for a further couple of minutes until the vegetables are softened and the pancetta starts to crisp up.

3. Add in the white wine and reduce by half before adding the stock, tomatoes, thyme and seasoning. The lentils then need to be added along with the venison sausages and bring to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the lentils and until tender; if needed you can to up with a little extra stock as you go. Finish with the parsley and check the seasoning before serving with crusty bread.

Venison sausage and green lentil stew- a perfect introduction to game!

Miso marinated salmon with udon noodles

Now’s your chance to broaden your culinary horizons and try tantalisingly savoury Japanese dishes. If you think Japanese is just sushi then read on and try something new.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the miso marinated salmon:
6 tbsp white miso paste
2 tbsp sake or rice wine 
4 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
4 boneless salmon fillets

For the udon noodles
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
3cm piece fresh ginger- grated
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine
4 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
400g udon noodles
400g ribboned or sliced mixed vegetables of your choice

1. You need to start this recipe ahead of time so plan when you want to cook it and work back from there. Combine all the miso marinade ingredients and stir well to dissolve the sugar and then put half in a large dish. Take a piece of muslin or j cloth which is double the size of the dish and lay one half of the length in the dish with the marinade. Next, pop in the fillets skin side down and cover with the cloth. Add in the remaining half of the marinade and cook in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight if you can. The cloth allows the flavours to permeate but will minimise the risk of the salmon catching when cooked as without it the sugar will burn when cooked.

2. When ready, preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Remove the salmon from the marinade and shake off any excess marinade before placing on a baking tray. The salmon can also be grilled if you prefer. Cook for 15 minutes until just cooked through and get on with the noodles in the meantime.

3. Boil the noodles until they are two minutes from ready. In a small bowl add all the stir fry dressing ingredients. Heat a splash of groundnut or vegetable oil in hot wok and fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the vegetable for a couple of minutes before the dressing goes in and cook for a further minute. Next up goes the noodles and toss the wok so all ingredients combine. Cook until heated through and the noodles are tender.

Serve in large bowls with the salmon perched atop a bed of delicious noodles. 

Miso marinated salmon- a perfect taste of Japan!

Vietnamese style caramel pork

Think pork and sweet caramel don’t go together? Think again! This is my version of a classic Vietnamese dish which balances hot, sweet and savoury flavours for a well rounded meal. I have also used the base of the recipe with pan fried trout fillets which also works well if you prefer fish. Chicken and beef can be substituted and will be just as delicious. Pork shoulder can also be used but tenderloin remains more succulent when cooked over a high heat.

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Ingredients- serves 2 (can be doubled)
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
300- 350g pork tenderloin- cut into bite size pieces
1 red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
1 shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
2cm piece of ginger- peeled and grated
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
40g dark brown sugar
160ml water
4 spring onions- 2 finely sliced and 2 cut finely lengthways
2 heads of choi sum or other Chinese greens
2 tbsp sesame oil
80g jasmine rice

1. To start, grab make sure all your ingredients are prepped and weighed out as once you get going this recipe is quick so don’t be caught out! Boil a kettle ready for the rice and heat a griddle pan over a medium heat in preparation for the greens if using. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok over a high heat and cook the pork pieces until browned all over and then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. If you are serving with rice and Chinese greens then pop the rice in and cook for around 10 minutes. I like to leave mine a little longer to make a sticky jasmine rice and then stir 2 chopped spring onions through it. The greens will need to be wilted in a griddle (or wok) with a drizzle of sesame oil so everything is ready together.

3. Heat the remaining oil and fry the chilli, shallot, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. Next, pop in the sugar, water and fish sauce and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Keep the mixture bubbling and add the pork back in the wok. This will take around 8- 10 minutes (depending on size of pieces) and the caramel will coat the pork to give a dark, sticky, glossy glaze. When ready, sprinkle the thin slices of spring onion over the pork. Serve in heated bowls along with the rice and greens.

Vietnamese style caramel pork- a midweek winner!

Melt in the mouth red wine and rosemary braised lamb shanks

This recipe treats beautiful lamb shanks with the respect they deserve. I cook the shanks slow and low in the oven but you could also use a slow cooker if you prefer and leave on for a few hours whilst you put your feet up.

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Ingredients- serves 2 (can be doubled)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lamb shanks- approx 350g each
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
Clove of garlic- crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
3 anchovy fillets- cut into thirds
80ml red wine
100ml lamb stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Dash of balsamic vinegar
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
Salt and pepper to season
2 small carrots- finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to. 160c/ 140 fan.Grab your casserole and heat the oil over a medium/ high heat. Brown off the lamb shanks and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and, using the fat from the lamb, cook the shallot and onion until softened.

2. Pop in the tomato puree and anchovy (a little savoury bomb!) and cook out for a minute or two before adding the wine; the wine needs to be reduced by half. Next up goes the stock, tinned tomatoes and a dash of balsamic vinegar (trust me, it works!) and stir well to combine. Throw in the carrots and rosemary and season to taste.

3. Bring the pan to a simmer and then add the lamb shanks back to the pan. Pop the lamb in the oven for 2- 2 1/2 hours (depending on the size of the shanks) until the sauce has thickened and the lamb falls away from the bone. Remember to turn the shanks halfway through cooking.I like to take the shanks out of the oven about ten minutes before the end, take the shanks out gently and set aside before further thickening the sauce on the hob before serving. Serve with dauphinoise potatoes (see below!) and seasonal greens such as kale.

Easy Dauphinoise Potatoes

Potatoes and cream- what’s not to like?! Not one to eat everyday but one to treat yourself to every now and again. You could substitute cream for creme fraiche if you prefer and do try it with a splash of vegetable stock over the top too.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Small Knob of unsalted butter
1 garlic clove- cut in half
800g potatoes- cut into thin slices
300ml double cream

1. Preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Choose a large oven proof dish (or a couple of smaller dishes if you prefer) and rub the inside with butter so the potatoes don’t stick to the sides. Take the cut garlic clove and rub this inside too.

2. Layer the potatoes in the dish. Save any smaller slices for the top so they crisp up.  Add a little seasoning to the cream before pouring over the top. Cook in the oven for 50- 60 minutes until the point of a sharp knife goes really through the golden layers of potato. You can also add gruyere cheese on top of you like.

A classic, creamy treat that’s perfect as a supporting act to a whole host of mains. A sumptuous dinner that you’ll come back to time and time again!

Wild mushroom and onion squash gratin

There is one thing that I simply can’t get enough of in autumn… wild mushrooms! This dish balances the earthiness fragrance of the mushrooms with the delicate sweetness of the squash (my other current fascination). Make use of the abundance of different types of squash and try something new- step away from the old faithful butternut! I have used onion squash here so give this a go!

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Ingredients- serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 banana shallot- finely sliced

2 onion squashes- peeled and cubed (no need to remove skin)

200g mixed wild mushrooms- cleaned and larger ones sliced

150ml vegetable stock

4tbsp creme fraiche

40g speck

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1. Start off by pre- heating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Warm half the oil in a large non- stick frying pan over a medium heat on the hob and add the shallot, cubed squash and seasoning. Cover and cook for 15minutes until the squash is tender. This can also be roasted in the oven in a roasting tray with a drizzle of oil and some seasoning if you prefer.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate pan heat the remaing oil and fry the wild mushrooms until light golden. Use a slotted spoon to remove these from the pan and set aside before adding ribbons of speck to the pan to crisp up; again, when ready set aside.

3. When the squash is tender (you should be able to put the point of knife through the cubes easily), add the mushrooms and mix gently. Pop in the hot vegetable stock and cook until most of the stock has evaporated. At this point, stir in the creme fraiche. Next up goes the thyme which you need to remove from the stalk and sprinkle the leaves through the mixture. Last but not least add the crispy speck (if you haven’t already eaten it as you were cooking- always the risk!) and scatter over the top. You can also grate some postman over the top if you like.

4. Cover the pan and pop in the oven and cook for 45- 60 minutes. It can be served as a hearty main or as a side dish so take your pick! It would go well with a simple meat dish so you can taste each delicate flavour.

Wild mushroom and onion squash gratin- an autumnal gratin to rule them all!

Indulgent autumn gnocchi

Gnocchi AKA little pillows of joy are the star of this dish! Combine this with seasonal vegetables, a dash of creme fraiche and a liberal helping of hunger and you have the perfect dinner. If you can’t find speck, then a good parma or serrano ham can be used.

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Ingredients- serves 4
40g unsalted butter
Pack (approx. 70g) speck- cut into thin strips
250g chestnut mushrooms- washed and sliced
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- crushed
60ml dry white wine
3 tbsp creme fraiche (full or half fat)
Handful of shredded curly kale
Salt and pepper to season
400g pack of ready made gnocchi

1. Boil a kettle of water and cook the kale in a large pan for 3 minutes- refresh in cold water, drain and set aside.

2. Start off with melting half of the butter in a large non- stick frying pan over a medium heat. Pop in the strips of speck and fry until starting to crisp up. Remove from the pan and set aside on a piece of kitchen paper.

3. Next you need to fry the mushrooms until the water evaporates (you don’t want a watery sauce!) and the mushrooms turn golden. Again, remove from the pan and set aside.

4. Add the remaining butter and cook the shallot and onion until softened. Pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the creme fraiche, season to taste, and simmer for a couple of minutes whilst you cook the gnocchi. Gnocci only takes 2 minutes so drain when the gnocchi rises to the surface in a boiling pan of water.

5. Stir the mushroom, kale and speck through the sauce before also adding the cooked gnocchi. Cook for a further minute to make sure it is all heated through and serve in warmed bowls. A sprinkling of parmesan is also called for!

A warming autumn gnocchi which is a sure fire pleaser!