Thursday, 23 October 2014

Leek and Chicken Rarebit

I adore Welsh Rarebit, or posh cheese on toast, that combination of cheese and beer that grills to golden perfection. Looking at the tired leeks at the bottom of my fridge, nestling alongside yesterday's roast chicken scraps, gave me a great idea. An even posher posh cheese on toast! So here you have it. Hot, beer tinged spicy mustardy roast bubbling delight. Hungry yet?

Leek and Chicken Rarebit
Serves 2

2 medium leeks, halved, trimmed and sliced into 1cm chunks
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
25g butter
25g plain flour
100ml beer
150g strong Cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp English mustard
A couple of handfuls of leftover roast chicken, shredded
Salt and pepper
4 thick slices of wholemeal bread

1 - Heat up the grill to medium.
2 - Heat up the oil in a pan and gently cook the leeks until soft and beginning to colour. Keep aside.
3 - Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir for 1 minute then gradually add the beer until you have a thick beer-like roux.
4 - Stir in the cheese, egg yolk and mustard. Season with a little pepper; it won't need much salt due to the cheese. Stir in the leeks and chicken.
5 - Toast one side of the bread, turn then pile on the mixture. Cook under the hot grill until golden and bubbly. Serve with the leftover ale.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

My favourite season has definitely arrived. I know that Autumn is here as each of my windows are covered in condensation. I also know that it is here when my washing remains damp and cold on the drying line.

Something about this time of the year gets me a bit excited and brings out the food obsessive in me. I start to plan ahead with great enthusiasm. Already I have chutneys made with marrows and damsons. I've lots of jams made with various summer berries. Herbs have been dried and crumbled. Litres of sloe gin and sticky plum vodka are marinating away ready for a winter treat by the fire. I've done battle with the grey squirrels and hoarded a few bags of cob nuts.

The cob nuts excite me the most. Bags of hazelnuts, fresh ones at that, are not cheap. So a few squeaky fresh creamy textured fresh nuts make me more than happy. It is hard to resist just cracking them as I find them and eating them as they are. But if you can resist, you can make all kinds of lovely produce.

Soup is going to be pretty much a daily food in my house now that the roots and mushrooms are here in abundance. This soup combines a magnificent pairing in tarragon and mushroom, the aniseed of the dried tarragon perfectly matching the meatiness of the field mushrooms I use.  A few of my lovely cob nuts, pan roasted and distributed throughout, gives a nice crunchy surprise. There are reasons for seasons.

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

Serves 4

1 leek, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
500g wild mushrooms, sliced (I used field mushrooms)
2 tbsp dried or fresh tarragon
2 handfuls of cob nuts or hazelnuts
750ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

For the butter

25g butter
1 tbsp fresh or dried tarragon
1 tbsp cob nuts or hazelnuts

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the leek, mushrooms and tarragon and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until golden and well reduced.
2 - Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
3 - Blitz in a blender until smooth then return to the pan. Pan roast the cob nuts in a dry pan until golden, then roughly chop and stir into the soup.
4 - For the butter, pan roast the cobnuts then finely chop. Mash the butter with the herbs and nuts.
5 - Taste the soup for seasoning, then serve in bowls with a spoon of the butter.

Christmas Pavlova

I’ve invented a twist on a traditional Pavlova, a meringue, cream and fruit-based dessert. Made to resemble a Festive wreath, it not only lo...