Monday, 11 June 2007

What it's all about

Simplicity sometimes just has to be the key. This is not a book aimed at stars or complicated techniques, it is a book of ingredients married together; advice and tips about how to enjoy creating a simple snack to a three course dinner. The vast majority of dishes are simple things I have picked up over the years, but some are more complicated – extracted from exciting adrenalin fuelled kitchens – that can still easily be recreated at home.
I cook far more often at home now than I do in the kitchen – after all I cannot be in them all, so it is better to be in none and influence them by taking my experiences and guiding menus, flavours, suppliers, butchers and fishmongers. It goes without saying that buying the best gives you every chance of creating something memorable, whether it is fresh herbs instead of dried, the butcher's shop well hung meat over a supermarket plastic wrapped bright red steak, or fresh fish over frozen.
Cooking at home, you don’t have the advantage or the product that a restaurant has. It is a specialist profession: you can never have the time nor the manpower of a brigade of chefs, nor the expertise of a wine merchant or sommelier. So what this book does is give the home cook – and the professional in some cases – the simple ways I have collected over the last 20 years to create something special: from a soup to a sandwich, from a steak to a soufflé.
Here's an example of how the simplest of ideas can have the best results: take some really good vanilla ice cream, pour over a good measure of Pedro Ximénez sherry and serve – it's the dog's wotsits.
Hope this keeps you in the kitchen – but not for too long.
– Paul Heathcote

Clear tomato & melon juice

half a ripe galia melon
1kg over-ripe tomatoes
sprig of thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 basil leaves
1 glass dry white wine
for the garnish:
galia, charentais, ogen and watermelon
2 tomatoes
mint leaves
Put all the ingredients in a bowl, add one teaspoon of sea salt a few turns of freshly milled pepper, and mash together well with your hands. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so.
Cover the inside of a colander or large sieve with a clean linen teatowel or square of muslin, and balance the colander over a bowl. Now tip the ingredients into the cloth and let the juices start to trickle through the cloth into the bowl.
Pull the corners of the cloth together in a knot and gently tighten it. Let it drop through in the fridge for an hour or two.
Just before serving, discard the pulp in the cloth and pour the clear juice into serving bowls.
Scoop balls from the three melons; skin and seed the two tomatoes and chop into 1cm pieces. Divide the orange, yellow and green melon balls into the bowls with the chopped tomoato and sprigs of mint.

warm baked brie with toasted herb & almond crust

1 individual brie (approx 125g-200g)
3 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh herbs
(parsley, rosemary, thyme)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp flaked almonds
Toast the almonds on a metal baking tray under a hot grill until golden brown; set aside.
Meanwhile put the dried bread, herbs, almonds and garlic in a food processor and blitz to a green crumb. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil to bind the crumbs together a little.
Put the brie back in its wooden box (leaving the lid off), or in an ovenproof dish, and prick the skin with the tip of a sharp knife. Lightly season the cheese with freshly milled pepper and liberally scatter the herb crumbs over.
Place the brie in a pre heated moderate oven (180°C/gas mark 7) and bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the cheese is soft and runny in the middle.
Serve with bread sticks or crusty bread hot from the oven, or just serve with teaspoons and let your guests help themselves.
• Chef’s tip: This dish is ideal for sharing and can easily be served for four or six people by using several smaller cheeses or one larger cheese, your local cheese shop or delicatessen will be able to help you with this.

best end of lamb in provençale herb crumbs

1 loin or best end of lamb, on the bone, fat removed
1 egg white
1 clove garlic
sprig thyme
sprig rosemary
approx 30g parsley
2 slices dried white bread
good glug of olive oil
Place all the ingredients into a food processor except the olive oil. Chop to a fine green crumb then slowly add the olive oil.
Season the lamb with sea salt and freshly milled pepper. Lightly whisk the egg white; dip the lamb into the egg white and roll in the herb crumbs, pressing firmly.
Gently roast on a lightly greased tray about 150-160°C/gas mark 3-4 for 10 minutes until pink.

Skate wings with lemon pickle

1 large skate wing filleted into two pieces
25g butter
olive oil
chopped parsley
Take a hot frying pan, add a little oil, season the skate with salt and pepper and cook on one side until crispy and golden brown.
Turn over and cook for a further minute and remove from the pan.
Wipe the pan clean and add the butter, sizzle until starting to brown; add four dessertspoons of lemon pickle and when hot, spoon over the skate and finish with chopped parsley.

Goat's cheese & leek risotto

100g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic
2 shallots
1 large leek sliced in rings
250g arborio rice
half glass white wine
250ml vegetable stock
100ml warm goat's milk
glug of olive oil
bunch chopped chives
100g goat's cheese
Chop the shallots and garlic finely and sweat them with the leek in butter until soft, but make sure they don’t colour.
Add rice and cook for about one minute, until it has turned transparent. Add white wine and stir in until it has all been soaked up.
Add stock a little at a time, stirring constantly until all is absorbed then repeat with the milk until the rice is cooked and creamy. Add more stock than the recipe if the rice is still slightly undercooked. Season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper and a little olive oil.
Stir in the crumbled goat's cheese 20-30 seconds before serving. Sprinkle with lots of chopped chives.
• Chef’s note: Goat’s cheese can vary in strength from very mild to strong, and can be soft or hard, so experiment with different cheeses each time you make this. Personally, I like to use the mild crumbly cheese of Delamere for this dish.

favourite bread and butter pudding

5 thin slices white bread
75g butter
100g sultanas
3 eggs
220ml milk
220ml cream
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
25g icing sugar
50g apricot jam
Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Butter the bread and remove the crusts. Place one layer of bread on the base of the tray and cover with a layer of sultanas. Place the rest of the bread on top of the sultanas.
Bring the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla seeds to the boil in a pan and place the eggs in a bowl and whisk the hot liquid into them. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and place the dish in a bain-marie (or a roasting dish half full of water) and put in a moderate oven for about half an hour until cooked.
Dust with icing sugar and glaze until golden. Spread thickly with apricot jam.
Serve with clotted cream and a compôte of dried apricots.


as above, plus
100g grated chocolate muscovado, not caster
1 level tsp mixed spice
50g cocoa powder
For a change, try the spicy chocolate version:
The method is almost identical, but replace 50g of the sultanas with 100g of grated dark chocolate on the bottom layer of bread. Use dark muscovado sugar instead of white caster sugar; and add the mixed spice and cocoa powder in with the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla when you make the custard
(see photo inset).
Serve with whipped cream and Armagnac prunes

Parmesan & cheddar biscuits

50g grated red cheddar
50g grated Parmesan
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
flour for rolling
pinch of cayenne pepper
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and rub together well. Mould into a ball of cling film and rest for 30 minutes in a fridge.
Roll out the dough about 3-4mm thick and cut out biscuits with a 6cm cutter. Put them on to a lightly greased tray, prick each one once with a fork and bake for about 10 minutes or until light brown at 180°C.
Lift onto a cooking wire to cool before serving.

Four British cheese boards

• Cerney Goat Pyramid, Burland Green, Bishop Kennedy, Quicks Cheddar, Garstang Blue
• Pant-ys-gawn, Cooleeny, Celtic promise, Trotters Hill Tasty, Yorkshire Blue
• Golden Cross, Delamere Golden Brie, Stinking Bishop, Hawes special reserve Wensleydale, Cropwell Bishop Stilton
• Kidderston Ash, Wigmore, Tornegus, Appleby’s coloured Cheshire, Lanark Blue