Monday, 30 May 2011

Toad in the Hole

I believe in the old adage "ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out", and even though June is almost upon us, on a day like this, I crave comfort food. Something like Toad in the Hole.

The key is getting the batter right; not enough flour, and you end up with sausage omelette. Too much, and you've got a stodgy mess.

I have experimented and have come up with my ideal recipe. It makes enough for two, if you're not planning on having spuds with it. If you fancy mash or roasties, then there should be enough for four people. Just add more sausages. I prefer it without spuds, serving it with veg and  decent onion gravy.

One final comment; it's not a dish for the faint hearted. The fat from the sausages, if you're not going veggie, adds to the taste of the batter, and you will need a fair amount of oil in the dish in any case. I like my Yorkie pudding to be crispy on on the outside, and moist in the middle. Not uncooked, mind. The crispiness comes from the oil. Add less, and you will have a perfectly fine Yorkie, just not a crispy one.


For the batter:
½ cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Sausages - 2-3 per person

Vegetable or sunflower oil

Add the ingredients to a bowl

Whisk vigorously

Leave to rest

Preheat the oven to about 220°C

At this stage, I add a couple of ice cubes - I don't know why this works, it does

Pour the oil into a non-stick dish - I tend to make sure that there is a 2-3mm coating on the bottom. Also bear in mind that if you are using meat sausages, these will release oil, and add to what you have

Cook the sausages for about 10 minutes

After the 10 minutes is up, take the dish out of the oven, quickly turn the sausages and then add the batter - the batter needs to be added whilst the oil is very hot, so be careful when doing this

Return to the oven, and turn the temp down to 200°C

Cook for 25 minutes

There you have it, perfect comfort food!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Eaten Back to Life

Interesting fact: there are no good Italian bands.

One of my favourite things to do is to make interesting recipes using leftovers - particularly roast chicken carcasses.  All too often we throw them away even though there are so many nice piss-easy recipes you can make with them.  For this recipe I'll describe how to make the stock and the risotto, but the stock is useful for many other recipes too and tastes way better than stock cubes.

Ingredients (stock - makes about 1.5 litres):
  • 1 x leftover roast chicken carcass
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 1 x large onion
  • 2 x carrots
  • 1 x leeks
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
Ingredients (risotto - serves 4)
  • 400g arborio/carnaroli rice
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • A few handfuls of kale leaves
  • Chicken stripped from the carcass
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • 6 x slices of good quality streaky bacon/pancetta
  • 1 x red onion
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of lemon thyme
  • Glass of dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few knobs of butter
  • 100g freshly grated parmesan (not the powdered or ready grated crap

1) To make the stock, strip all the chicken meat from the carcass and set it aside in the fridge.  Heat the oil and chuck all the roughly chopped veg into a big saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the onions, leeks and celery have softened.  Don't bother peeling anything as long as it's clean.  Then chuck the chicken carcass in, cover with water, add the bay leaves and bring it to the boil.  Simmer briskly for about 2 hours and skim it occasionally.  Don't add seasoning at this stage as you will season the final product.  If you want to make this in advance, let it cool, then strain it and chill it in the fridge, where it will keep for a few days.

2) When you're ready to start the risotto, make sure you have your stock to one side in a saucepan and keep it hot.  Finely dice the onion, slice the mushrooms and chop the bacon/pancetta into small strips.  Heat the bacon in a heavy-based saucepan so that it goes crispy and the fat renders down, stirring and adding a little butter if necessary to stop it sticking too much, then add the onion and mushrooms and cook them gently until it's softened.  Next, add the rice for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time, and add the wine to deglaze the pan.

3) Using your wanking arm, keep stirring the rice at all times - this releases the starch and gives it its creamy texture. When the wine has almost entirely evaporated, lower the heat to medium and add a ladle of stock and the lemon thyme, tied together with an elastic band.   When that has evaporated, add another ladle, and so on, for about 12 minutes until the rice is al dente.  Add the seasoning little by little and don't be too overzealous with the salt as this recipe contains bacon (which is obviously salty), parmesan and chicken that's already been seasoned from the first time it got cooked.

4) Chop up the kale and stir it into the risotto, along with the reserved chicken, for the last few minutes of cooking.  Beat in some cold butter and the parmesan right at the end - this is called a mantecatura and it makes a silky smooth risotto.

5) Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and serve it to your girlfriend, who will love you.