Perfect Potato Dauphinoise

 

Potato dauphinoise has to be the ultimate comfort food. Mouthwateringly delicious as a side or on its own with a big spoon! But there is no place to hide, the dish is so well know and allegedly simple that much can go wrong. My search for the perfect dauphinoise has been a long mission, seeing many catastrophes and near misses. I think I’ve finally cracked it.

Keep it simple. No messing about, no sneaky ingredients – stick to potatoes, cream, butter, a little garlic and seasoning and you won’t go wrong. For years I was obsessed with over complicating the dauphinoise, adding anything I could lay my hands on. Truffle was an unmitigated disaster and mustard wasn’t far behind.

This is my recipe for the perfect dauphinoise. Don’t be tempted to use more garlic, you need only a whiff. Using waxy potatoes ensures they don’t fall to bits, as Be does keeping them a little thicker. sure to use a heavy baking or casserole dish – having a crisp top and bottom is magical!

Potato Dauphinoise
Serves 4/6
Ingredients:
1kg Large Waxy Potatoes, Peeled and Sliced
1 Garlic Clove
Large Knob Unsalted Butter
1 Pint/600ml Double Cream
Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Rub the baking dish all over with the garlic clove and the butter. Discard the garlic clove.
2) Arrange the potatoes in the dish in layers. Season every second layer with sea salt and pepper – be careful with the salt.
3) Bring the double cream to the boil and pour over the potatoes.
4) Bake, uncovered, for around 2 hours or until cooked to your liking.

This should last a few days, but it rarely does!

Pork Belly, Apple, Tomato

 

We have much to thank the humble pig for – Bacon, Sausages, Hams. The list is endless. But pork belly? Now that is something for which we should be truly thankful. That delicious, fatty hunk of porkiness is by far my favorite cut of meat.

Just give it enough time and don’t let it get too hot and you will have the most glorious supper. Better still, leftovers will keep you going for countless days and can be used in a multitude of dishes.

Pork and apples are best friends. Here I have paired roast belly with apple purée and some oven-dried tomatoes. A very simple dish which would be great for a lazy Sunday. I also made some quick thyme sauté potatoes to accompany.

 

Pork Belly, Apple, Tomato

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Pork: 1-1.5kg Boneless Pork Belly (Skin Removed), 4tbsp Olive Oil, 1 Sliced Lemon, Sea Salt, Black Pepper

For the Apple Purée: 6 Granny Smith Apples (Peeled, Cored and Chopped), 2tbsp Unsalted Butter, 3tbsp Water, 1/2tbsp Sugar, 1/2tsp Sea Salt, Squeeze of Lemon Juice

For the Tomatoes: 15 Cherry Tomatoes Halved, Sea Salt

Method:

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C. Season the pork belly generously and wrap in a double layer of foil with the sliced lemon and olive oil. Place in the bottom of the oven and roast for around 3 hours or until ready. To check if its ready, push a table knife through the middle of the belly – if there is no resistance it is ready.

2) Meanwhile, make the apple purée. Place the chopped apples in a pan with the butter, sugar, water, salt and a little squeeze of lemon. Cook covered over a low heat for around 1 hour until the apples have turned to a purée. Cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes to allow some of the water to evaporate (nothing worse than a runny purée!). Pass through a sieve and set to one side.

3) To prepare the tomatoes – place the halved tomatoes (cut side up) on a lightly oiled baking tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Place in the top of the oven with the pork and cook for around 20 minutes until slightly dried. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4) Once the pork is cooked, remove from the oven and unwrap. Cut into manageable portions. Fry these portions in a little olive oil if desired to form a crust.

5) Serve the pork with the warmed apple purée and tomatoes.

Great accompanied with sauté potatoes or a pea shoot salad.

Review: Baboo, Benalmádena, Spain

Sometimes the most satisfying experiences are the unexpected. After a quick 9 holes at Benalmádena Golf we thought it fitting that we pop in for lunch at the clubhouse restaurant – Baboo.

My experiences of clubhouse lunches have been mixed. Whilst some have proved remarkable (Sandy Lane, Barbados is standout), the vast majority are mediocre at best – trying to tempt you with outdated and overpriced menus. Although Baboo looked great (modern and airy with some asian embellishments), the ‘fusion’ menu sent shivers down my spine. For those of you who don’t know, I usually detest all forms of food dubbed ‘fusion’ – an overused term which usually describes a car-crash of ingredients.

Baboo proved me wrong. The food was stunningly, unexpectedly delicious.

A light, airy brick of frozen foie gras (akin to el bulli parmesan air) was paired with freeze-dried raspberries, caramel wafers and crunchy peanut butter. The result was fantastic, very light whilst maintaining an impressive depth of flavour – sweet without cloying.

Cod, Smoked Egg Yolk

Crunchy morsels of delicate, flaky cod were fried in potato and served atop a smoked egg yolk. Kept interesting by the smoked yolk, this was a refreshingly simple dish.

Bresaola Salad

Bresaola salad contained wonderfully mature bresaola, pickled chillies, hard cheese and a punchy wholegrain mustard dressing. The cheese was so expertly shaved it all but dissolved on the tongue.

Ibérico Pork Stirfry

A pork stirfry – elevating stirfry to new heights. The inclusion of crunchy potato sticks amongst the morsels of tender pork were a revelation. Remaining crunchy in the stirfry they gave glorious contrast of texture when paired with the soft noodles. The vegetables were kept crisp and all was helped along by a rich soy based sauce.

Baboo has made me think twice about criticising fusion cooking. Presentation and balance of flavour were superb. I certainly did not expect to stumble across this little gem when hacking my way around 9 holes. Modern, refreshing food in fine surroundings – I will be sure to make a return.

Restaurant Baboo

http://www.baboorestaurant.com

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Not Essential

Recommend: Yes

Praline and Caramel Layer Cake

 

If I am ever stuck on a desert island, give me a box of pralines and a bottle of red and I’ll be a very happy man. The humble hazelnut creates one of the finest foods known to man. Pair praline with caramel and you have a glorious combination.

This cake is so simple to prepare and I can guarantee it will not last long!

Praline and Caramel Layer Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake: 175g Soft Unsalted Butter, 100g Golden Caster Sugar, 220g Dulce De Leche (Shop Bought Tinned Caramel), 2 Large Eggs, 125g Toasted and Ground hazelnuts, 175g Plain Flour, 1tbsp Cocoa Powder, 2tsp Baking Powder

For the Icing: 50g Soft Unsalted Butter, 150g Dulce De Leche, 150g Icing Sugar, 1tsp Vanilla Extract or Paste

Method:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line two shallow cake tins with baking paper.

2) With an electric mixer or whisk beat the butter, sugar and caramel on high for a few minutes until thick and smooth. Next, beat in the eggs individually until smooth.

3) Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a separate bowl. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour until well incorporated. Continue to beat and add the toasted and ground hazelnuts. Mix until smooth.

4) Weigh the batter equally into the cake tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. To check if they are done, stick a skewer into the middle of the cake – when it comes out clean, its ready.

5) Whilst the cakes are in the oven, make the icing. Beat the butter, caramel and vanilla in an electric mixer or with a whisk until smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until thick and smooth. Place the icing in the fridge to firm up.

6) Once the cakes are cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 20 minutes. Then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack until cooled completely.

7) Once cooled, sandwich the two layers together with 1/3 to 1/2 of the icing mixture. Use the remaining icing on the top of the cake.

Don’t leave unattended – it will be quick to disappear!

Thai Prawns, Noodle Salad

 

I love, love, love Thai food. That magnificent balance of sweet, salt, sour and spice. Just the ticket to perk you up after a busy day. More often than not I cook Thai curry, making my own paste with ingredients from the garden. Tonight; however, I fancied something a little different.

Rice noodles make the most intriguing salad, carrying other flavours very well and mellowing hot chili. I have paired my go-to noodle salad with lightly spiced prawns – fried in a quick curry paste.

What would Thai food be without chili. Chili plants are very easy and rewarding to grow – most giving a large crop throughout the summer and autumn. Tonight I used some freshly picked Poinsettia chilies for the paste coupled with some Anaheims for the salad.

Poinsettia Chili

 

Thai Prawns, Noodle Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients:
For the Prawns: 200g Raw Peeled Prawns, 1tsp Turmeric Powder, 2 Lemongrass Stalks (Inner Core), 2 Garlic Cloves, 1 Small Green Chili, Juice 1/2 Lime, 2tsp Palm Sugar, 4tbsp Vegetable Oil, 1tsp Sea Salt

For the Noodle Salad: 200g Rice Noodles, 1 Carrot Julienne, 5 Spring Onions Sliced, Handful Mint Chopped, 1 Large Red Chili Sliced, 2tbsp Toasted Sesame Seeds

For the Dressing: 2-3tbsp Light Soy Sauce, 2tsp Sesame Oil, 2tsp Rice Vinegar, 1 Garlic Clove Crushed, Juice 1 Lime

Method:

1) First make the paste for the prawns by combining all of the ingredients (except the prawns) with 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a spice grinder and grind to a paste.

2) Next soak the rice noodles in boiling water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Rinse through with cold water and drain.

3) Meanwhile make the salad dressing by combining all of the ingredients.

4) Make the noodle salad by combining the drained noodles with the carrot, spring onion, mint, chili and sesame seeds and toss through with the dressing.

5) In a wok, fry the curry paste over a high heat in the remainder of the vegetable oil for 1 minute, add the prawns and cook over a high heat for 2-5 minutes stirring continuously until cooked through.

6) Serve the prawns immediately, either with the noodle salad or separately.

The noodle salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and is great for a quick and healthy snack. These prawns are just as delicious on their own as a quick starter!

Speedy Tomato Chicken

 

I’m having serious Autumn denial – everything I cook at the moment seems fit for the middle of Summer! This is one of those feel good dishes, incredibly simple and fast to cook, but very satisfying.

Our tomatoes have been much later in ripening this year but are perfect right now. Best not to mess with them too much, they taste deliciously sweet unadulterated, their flavour accentuated in this dish by the simple addition of lemon, basil and sherry vinegar.

Tomato Chicken

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Fillets, Sliced on the diagonal into thick strips.

12 Cherry Tomatoes, Halved and Quartered

4tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1tbsp Sherry Vinegar

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Handful Fresh Basil Leaves, Torn

1/2tsp Thyme Leaves

Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method:

1) Fry the chicken in the olive oil and thyme for around 10 minutes, turning occasionally until very nearly cooked.

2) Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes over a medium heat, until the tomatoes have softened a little.

3) Add the sherry vinegar and lemon juice to the pan, allow the strong vapors of the vinegar to cook off.

4) Add the torn basil, and season with cracked black pepper and sea salt flakes. Toss to combine.

5) Serve

Excellent served with toasted ciabatta rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

 

My Favourite Frittata

 

A Frittata is a superb dish for a speedy supper. There is also usually enough left for a light lunch the following day.

This is my take on the humble frittata. Packed with fresh greens and a nice lemony hit – made even better when you come across a chunk of beautifully melted Comté.

I would love to hear your suggestions for fillings!

Leek, Asparagus & Comté Frittata

Serves 4-6 (Large Silicon Cake Mould)

Ingredients:

12 Eggs

1 Bunch Asparagus, Trimmed

4 Medium/6 Small Leeks, Washed and Sliced

3 Medium Shallots, Sliced

Zest of 1 Lemon

60g Butter

Handful Chopped Chives

Handful Grated Parmesan

150g Comté, Cut into 1cm Cubes

Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Method:

1) Pre heat your oven to 200C. Fry the shallots and leeks in the butter over a medium heat for 10 minutes until softened, be careful not to over-brown.

2) Add the asparagus and lemon zest to the leeks and cook for 5 minutes.

3) Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a bowl with the chives, comté and seasoning (be careful with the salt because of the addition of the parmesan and comté).

4) Once the asparagus is tender, remove from the heat and add the egg mixture – whisking to ensure the egg does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

5) Transfer the mixture to a silicon cake tin and ensure the asparagus and comté is distributed evenly. Sprinkle the grated parmesan on top.

6) Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes uncovered, or until the egg is cooked through.

7) Turn out and tuck in!

Great served with some Serrano ham and roasted peppers the following day!

 

Review: Restaurante Calima, Marbella, Spain

I’m suffering from severe post-holiday blues following a week of some fantastic Andalusian food!

During a whistle-stop tour of Marbella I just had to visit Restaurante Calima. Opened by local poster boy Dani Garcia in 2005, Calima is one of seventeen two-star restaurants in Spain and the only in Andalusia.

Situated on the Marbella beachfront adjacent to the Gran Meliá Don Pepe hotel, the dining room offers beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Tables are very generously spaced and the modern dining room is flanked by an open finishing kitchen – separated from diners by floor to ceiling glass.

One of our party has Coeliac disease and an allergy to poultry – often resulting in incomplete or inedible dishes. Calima provided fresh gluten-free bread and substituted a variety of dishes, for this they must be applauded.

Dani Garcia has crafted a 21 course menu (the only on offer) entitled Oxímoron. Showcasing local produce the menu is predominately fish based and carefully crafts both unusual and contradicting flavours.

Memorable dishes follow.

‘Egg with no egg’ was a delicious hollowed egg-shell filled with a cold garlic and almond soup and lychee – both sweet and very savoury.

Roasted Nitro Tomato

Nitro Tomato looked incredible. Nitro tomato covered in a metallic jelly and paired with a salt cod emulsion. A great burst of tomato flavour, although the interior of my tomato was a little icy. The emulsion was strong without overpowering.

Rocky Seabed

Rocky Seabed was a real feast for the eyes. The sight of tentacles and heads usually fills me with dread, thankfully these were miniscule and delicious – fresh and tender. The addition of lemon peel gave the dish some much-needed acidity. The texture of the ‘crisp’ was sublime – created from obulato (a potato starch).

Cherries with Cream

Cherries with Cream was a star course. Meltingly smooth, cold foie gras mousse was encased with port jelly. Served with an acidic cheese foam (with a taste similar to unripe goats cheese).

Boquerones’s Stall

Boquerones’s Stall – Anchovies encased in a pliable meringue tasting of lemon. Past experience dictates that I avoid anchovies like the plague; however, these were a pleasant surprise. Very tender, salty and acidic.

‘Caviar’

An optional course, Spanish caviar was paired with dates and a lightly smoked foam. Another very memorable course, the balance of flavour was near perfect – sweet, salty and savoury.

Emulsified Béarnaise & Pigeon

A beautifully rich and tangy béarnaise sat atop diced pigeon. A heavy dish, the crunch of the potato ‘nest’ added great texture.

‘The Butterfly’

A previous dessert of ‘silkworm’ (cotton candy filled with cream cheese and raspberry) transformed into ‘The Butterfly’. Delicate mango tuiles for wings, a raspberry and chocolate body. A delicious combination of textured, the wings were overpowered by the strong chocolate.

‘Checkmate’

Checkmate was served before petit fours, white and dark chocolate pieces containing peach mousse. The chocolate thin, the filling nicely tart.

Herb tea followed – a small selection of fresh herbs cut table side. Not quite as impressive as the flamboyant and exotic herb trolley at Steirereck, but still good.

The craftsmanship required to create dishes of this level must be applauded. However, we felt that the menu was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst some were memorable and truly delicious (often the simplest) others failed to truly hit the mark. Around 11 of the 21 dishes were truly delicious. This is not to say that we did not enjoy all we ate, some just failed to reach the level of expectation a restaurant of this caliber dictates. It must be noted that all of the dishes we tasted were beautifully presented with painstaking attention to detail.

Calima was a pleasurable experience. The food certainly merits applause and whilst some was not entirely to my tastes, it was still very satisfying. Perhaps the quantity of food could be paired back a little (all four of us were monumentally stuffed) by making the dishes smaller, this would have allowed us to give later courses the full justice they deserved. Despite the ‘contradiction’ in the Menu Oxímoron being elusive, we all agreed that our trip to Calima was worthwhile.

If you ever find yourself near Marbella, you would be hard pushed to find a more indulgent experience.

Restaurante Calima Dani Garcia

http://www.restaurantecalima.es

Food (For Four): €600

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes

Ultimate Steak Sandwich

 

Steak sandwich has always been my staple hangover cure. The only problem is, I can’t normally taste anything the day after!

Pushed for time tonight, I thought I would finally do the steak sandwich some justice. A quick, easy meal that requires next to no preparation but is oh so satisfying (especially if you are a little under the weather).

I have used thinly sliced fillet steak, purely because it is the most tender – I did not want to be chewing my way through supper. This is paired with a whole grain mustard mayo, watercress, sun-blushed peppers and caramalised onions – all served on a deliciously chewy ciabatta.

Big enough to feed a small army – this is my Ultimate Steak Sandwich.

Ultimate Steak Sandwich

Serves 1 (or 2 normal eaters!)

1 Long Ciabatta

4 Thin Fillet Steaks

1/4 Jar Sun-Blushed Red Peppers, Strained and Chopped

Large Handful Watercress

1 Medium Onion, Sliced

2Tbsp Mayo

1Tbsp Whole grain Mustard

Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method:

1) Place the ciabattas in a medium oven to warm for 5 minutes.

2) Fry the onion in a little olive oil over a high heat until caramalised (10 minutes), season generously with salt and pepper.

3) Fry the fillet steaks over a high heat in some olive oil and season well. They should take less than a minute each side.

4) Slice the ciabatta in half, spread the onions on the bottom and top with the steak. Top the steak with the peppers and watercress. Spread the mustard mayo on the lid.

Sit back and enjoy!

 

Healthy(ish) Spaghetti Carbonara

 

I love pasta and especially carbonara. When I was growing up I always looked forward to tucking into a bowl of creamy spaghetti. Unfortunately cream doesn’t quite agree with me these days.

Rather than giving up a beloved childhood dish, I now cook this adapted version which is cream free but equally as delicious.

The addition of peas and a little chili help to lift this classic dish. I cooked this version with gluten-free spaghetti, which requires a little more liquid but tastes just as good!

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 2

Ingredients:

200g Spaghetti

For the base: 1/2 Long Shallot Finely Chopped, 100g Chopped Pancetta, 1 Garlic Clove Crushed, 1tbsp Unsalted Butter, 1tsp Dried Chili Flakes, Large Handful Frozen Peas, Handful Chopped Parsley

For the Sauce: 2 Egg Yolks, 80g Grated Parmesan, Ground Black Pepper, Sea Salt, 6tbsp Pasta Cooking Water

Method:

1) First put your spaghetti on to cook in a large pan of boiling salted water.

2) Meanwhile make the base in a large frying pan by frying the pancetta, shallot, garlic and chili in the butter for 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy. Then turn down the heat and add the peas.

3) Whilst the base is cooking prepare the sauce. Combine the egg yolks with the parmesan and seasoning in a bowl. Whisk in the cooking water from the pasta.

4) Once the pasta has cooked, drain and add to the base. Quickly add the sauce and chopped parsley and toss to combine.

5) Serve immediately.

Enjoy!