The fig is a fruit like no other, it is historic, ancient and evocative. Like all the best things, the second crop has a short season, so you have to savour it before it is gone again for another year. We're getting to the end of the season, so why not finish off with this delicious tart.
For the sweet pastry:
225g plain flour
125g fridge-cold butter
90g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
For the filling:
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
150g creme fraiche
2 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, and cut the cold butter into small chunks. With clean hands, rub the butter and flour between your finger and thumb tips until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and add the egg yolks.
Mix in the eggs with your hands until the mix is bound together. It may be necessary to add a couple of drops of water, but please exercise caution! When you have a soft ball of dough, cover with cling film and cool in the fridge for 1 hour.
After cooling, roll out the pastry on a floured surface so that it will fit a deep 25cm tart tin. Lift the pastry, and place into the tart tin, pushing the pastry lightly into the corners.
Prick the pastry with a fork, place a piece of greaseproof paper over it, and weigh down with dried beans or rice. Rest the pastry whilst the oven heats up to 180C. Bake the pastry for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven, remove the dried beans/rice and the greaseproof paper and pop back in the oven for a further 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool a little.
Take your figs and cut deep crosses into them. Place the figs into the tart tin, ensuring each fig opens up. Stuff the mascarpone into each of the open figs.Take the honey ( a thyme flavoured honey would be fantastic) and pour over the fruit. Now mix the creme fraiche with the eggs and the caster sugar. Carefully pour over the fruit.
Place back into the oven and bake for up to 35 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are nicely browned and the mascarpone, fig juices and creme fraiche mix have formed a nice light custard.
Remove carefully from the oven and allow to cool and set.
Serve, enjoy and be prepared to fight over seconds!
This is one of my favourite ways of preparing, and eating, squid. As with all simple recipes, particularly with seafood, it requires the freshest, best quality squid. Frozen stuff from the supermarket will not pass muster!
Although a simple dish I believe the preparation of ingredients is very important, please take the time to very finely dice, it really makes the difference!
800 g small whole squid
50 g cornflour
groundnut oil for frying
2 tablespoons very finely sliced coriander stalks and leaves
3 tablespoons very finely sliced spring onions
1 1/2 tablespoons very finely diced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons very finely diced red chillies, de-seeded
1 1/2 tablespoon very finely diced garlic
a good pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sichuan pepper - freshly ground and mixed with 2 teaspoons sea salt
3 iceberg lettuce leaves, very finely sliced
Ideally get your fishmonger to clean your squid for you, however if you have do it yourself, do as follows: Gently pull the head and tentacles away from the body and cut the tentacles from the head, just below the eyes. Discard the head. Pull out the quill from inside the body and discard the entrails. Remove the side wings and fine membrane from the body. Now rinse the body, tentacles and wings thoroughly and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the squid down the centre so that it opens flat. Slice the body and wings into strips no more than 5mm wide. Set aside.
Prepare each of the remaining ingredients, ready for cooking and serving.
In a bowl, combine the squid including tentacles, with cornflour and toss to coat, shaking of any excess.
Pour sufficient oil into the wok for deep frying, and place on the heat until the oil seems to shimmer slightly (watch carefully). Add half of the floured squid and deep-fry for 1 minute, until just tender and starting to colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat the process with the remaining squid.
Pour off the oil from the wok and refresh with 1 tablesppon of clean oil. Heat until almost smoking and add the coriander, spring onions, ginger, chilli and garlic. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Return the squid to the wok and season with a pinch of sea salt and the sea salt/sichuan pepper mix. Stir fry for another 30 seconds.
To serve, place the finely shredded lettuce in a bowl with a wedge of lime on the side. Sprinkle a little extra sea salt/sichuan pepper mix on top and serve immediately.
Delicious with an ice cold beer!
This is a truly authentic chinese recipe that braises a ham over a long time with wonderfully subtle yet flavour enhancing seasonings. The braising liquid reduces down to produce a rich sauce which combines beautifully with the pork.
This dish is easy to prepare, and can be cooked in advance. It is delicious either hot or cold.
Fresh ham, bone in - approximately 2.5kg
10 spring onions (chopped but not finely)
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
5 cm fresh ginger root, finely sliced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 litre of water
240 ml dark soy sauce
240 ml shao shing wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons roasted sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons sugar
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons five spice powder
salt to taste
Dry the ham thoroughly with a kitchen towel, and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Now take the largest casserole pot, large enough to hold the ham comfortably. Place on a medium heat and stir fry the ginger , garlic and spring onions in a little oil for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Place the ham into the pot and brown the ham on all sides, turning regularly. This process will take approximately 10 minutes. Pour off the oil and add back the stir fried garlic, ginger and spring onions.
Now add the water, shao shing wine, and the rest of the seasonings to the pot. Bring to the boil and skim the surface of any impurities. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook at a simmer for between 4.5 and 5 hours. Gently turn the ham several times during cooking.
After cooking remove the ham carefully, it will be very tender, almost falling apart ! Pour off the cooking liquor into another pan, straining and remove any excess fat from the surface. On a moderate heat reduce this sauce down until it will coat the back of a spoon.
Serve hot or cold as part of a chinese banquet or as a single dish with plain boiled rice and stir fried vegetables of choice.
Delicious, and any left over goes great in fried rice, or with a bowl of noodles!
Given Pierre Koffman's brief but spectacular return to the London restaurant scene, I thought I'd share one of his favourite dishes. Perhaps not as grand as some of his creations, but nevertheless a dish that tastes truly spectacular.
Ultimate comfort food in my book!
400g shop bought puff pastry
flour for dusting
500g good firm waxy potatoes, very thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon very finely chopped thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon milk (egg wash)
100 ml double cream
1 egg yolk
Pre-heat the oven to 190 C.
Whilst the oven is warming, very finely slice the potatoes, if possible with a mandoline or other form of vegetable slicer. The slices should be no more than 3mm thick. Set aside in a bowl of water to stop browning.
Take the pastry from the fridge, allow to rest for 10 minutes or so and roll out 300 g of the pastry on to a cool, lightly floured surface. Now line a gratin dish with the pastry, pushing firmly into the corners.
Drain the bowl of potatoes well, dry with a tea towel or paper towel and place back in the bowl. Finely chop the garlic, parsley and the thyme leaves and mix well with the sliced potatoes. Carefully place into the lined gratin dish, layer by layer. When full to the top, roll out the rest of the pastry to form a lid. Place on top of the potatoes and seal the edges carefully. Brush the top with the egg wash. Cut a hole in the lid to allow the steam to escape. Bake the pie in the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden brown.
Mix the cream and the egg yolk, and very carefully (use a funnel if available), pour the mixture through the whole in the pastry. Now return the pie to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and serve immediately.
The combination of these truly humble ingredients makes the most fantastic dish.
Enjoy, I know you'll return to this dish time and time again!
For lovers of persian food there is a great Persian food shop and general store called Persepolis right in the heart of Peckham. The owner Sally Butcher also wrote an excellent book "Persia in Peckham".
In the book there is an interesting herb, bean and lamb casserole called Ghormeh Sabzi. Apparently it is Iran's favourite dish. Having made it myself, it is stunning, really exceptional. Made correctly it turns a rich green colour and has the most amazing aroma.
A shoulder of lamb, cut into chunks, trimmed of excess fat
2 large onions, chopped
8 dried limes, washed and pricked
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 tins cooked kidney beans
1 bunch each of coriander, parsley, chives, spinach, and fenugreek - washed, drained and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the lamb, onion and dried limes in a pan of water, sprinkle the tumeric on top and bring up to just below the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the dish to simmer. Stir after one hour.
Now take the chopped herbs, and in a large pan fry them in a little oil, stirring constantly. It is important that they are cooked through thoroughly otherwise they will clump together in the stew. The herbs should be cooked after 6 to 7 minutes frying.
Carefully add the herbs to the stew (khoresht) stirring in well. Add a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Set the pan to a simmer and allow to cook for a further hour at a minimum. If necessary top up with a little water. Twenty minutes before the end of cooking add the cooked kidney beans.
The finished dish has a thick rich green sauce, and the meat is exceptionally tender.
As with many stews I believe this tastes better the day after cooking, when the flavours have developed. I love the combination of the fresh herbs, the lamb and particularly the unique flavours of the preserved lime.
Authentically, the stew is served with plain white basmati rice, wedges of onion, raw garlic and a pot of plain yoghurt. I however eat it with basmati rice, naan bread and a mango chutney!
The sight of a big bowl of moules marinieres is a joy to behold! I love the gleaming black of the mussels with a glimpse of orange flesh, and steam furling upwards. Cooked in minutes, and devoured in minutes, the ultimate fast food!Simple to make, but so tasty to eat, a good reward to effort ratio!
2 onions chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh parsley
250 ml dry white wine
30 g unsalted butter
a few tablespoons of double cream (to taste)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clean the mussels in plenty of cold water. One by one scrape of any barnacles and remove the "beard". Discard any that don't close when tapped, or any with broken shells. Drain and set aside. Never leave mussels in fresh water as it will kill them.
Now in a very large pan, gently and briefly fry the onions and the chopped garlic, enough to soften but not to colour. Add half the chopped parsley, a little black pepper and the white wine. Now add the mussels, shake the pan well. Place a firm fitting lid on, and cook over the highest of heats for as long as it takes for all the mussels to open. The time will depend on the size of the gas burner and the size of the pan.
Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon into a large bowl and keep warm. Immediately boil down the liquid left in the pan, reducing by half. Whisk in the butter, add the cream and pour back in the mussels. Garnish with the remaining parsley, season with a little salt and black pepper and serve immediately.
In France and Belgium, moules marinieres is traditionally served with a plate of thin frites (french fries), alternatively a good crusty bread can be used to mop up those fabulous juices.
Great as a family meal, or just a quick supper.Enjoy the scent of the sea!
Quince is an amazing fruit. When raw it has a hard, tannic flesh, and is often furry to touch, therefore rendering it unpalatable. A little patience in the kitchen though, provides a memorable eating experience, golden, perfumed and voluptuous! The added flavours of cinnamon, bay and honey make this dish memorable!
100ml apple juice
squeeze of lemon juice
fine zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons good quality honey
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod, split
Creme fraiche to serve
Preheat the oven to 150 C. Whilst the oven is warming, wipe the quinces clean and remove any of the furry layer with a dry cloth. Quarter them lengthways, leave the pips and core intact and place in a baking tray cut side up.
Pour the apple juice over the quince and give a good squeeze of lemon juice also. Scatter over the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and lemon zest. Add the vanilla pod. Finally, drizzle the honey over the quince.
Take a sheet of foil and cover the baking tray, but not too tightly. Now place in the oven and bake for a minimum of 2 hours, ideally for 2 1/2. Turn the quince after an hour of cooking.
The quince are ready when beautifully sticky and soft, with an amazing burnt orange colour. Remove the cinnamon, bay and vanilla pod. Allow to cool, serving either just warm or at room temperature with a little creme fraiche.
Absolutely delicious, I assure you!
Serves 3 to 4
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 200 g each
for the marinade:
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
for the sauce:
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
8 dried red chili peppers
2 cloves garlic
2 spring onions (scallions)
oil for stir-frying as needed
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorn
a good handful of cashew nuts (alternatively peanuts)
a few drops sesame oil
Serve immediately with boiled rice and some stir fried vegetables.
Enjoy a truly authentic szechuan dish with plenty of heat, but also the subtle flavour of sesame oil and the cashew nuts!
The long razor clams are often ignored in the UK, yet in Spain and Portugal loved and used as extensively as palourdes and mussels. The key, as with most shellfish, is simplicity and freshness. Here's a simple but delicious recipe that combines very well the sweetness of the razor clam with broad beans, thyme and pancetta.
Try it, it's delicious and very interesting to serve to friends, a perfect starter - they won't be disappointed!
1kg live razor clams
1/2 glass of dry white wine
A few sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
1tbsp chopped parsley, reserving the stalks
250g broad beans, shelled
4tbsp olive oil
150g cubed pancetta
Freshly ground black pepper
Start with the razor clams. Rinse the razor clams well in cold, running water for a couple of minutes. Like all shellfish discard any that don't close when handled. Place in a pot with the wine, thyme, garlic, salt and parsley stalks. Cover and cook over a high heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the shells have opened. Drain in a colander and leave to cool.
Whilst cooking the clams, preheat the oven to 130C. Carefully remove the clams from the shells, keeping the shell intact. Cut away the central, dark, intestinal sac and discard. Chop each clam into 4 or 5 pieces, place back into the open shell and arrange the shells on a baking tray. Keep warm in the low oven.
Now cook the shelled broad beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and cook the pancetta on a relatively high heat for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Add the cooked broad beans,a squeeze of lemon juice, butter and chopped parsley, toss and season with freshly ground pepper.
Now, place the clams in their shells on warmed serving plates and spoon the pancetta/broad beans mixture over, and serve immediately.
Enjoy with some nice warm crusty bread!