Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Sunday Lunch - with not too much effort!

I cook lunch most Sundays.  I like taking the time in the middle of the day to sit down with friends and family and spend a couple of hours eating, drinking and talking.  So, what do I cook?
It's never anything very complicated - after all, Sunday mornings come after Saturday nights and it's often not the best time to experiment! I might start with an Italian cold seafood salad with big prawns, scallops and mussels, briefly cooked in a little garlic and oil, all bathed in olive oil, spiked up with lemon juice, chilli flakes and lots of finely chopped parsley; seared scallops wrapped up in Parma ham then grilled and served with a rocket salad; or a prawn cocktail with frisee as the base, tiny cubed tomatoes and cucumber, prawns fried in garlic before cooling and binding with the mayo mixed with tomato ketchup, smoked hot paprika and a dash of Tabasco. Mains include roast chicken cooked with lemons and sage with roast potatoes; slow cooked lamb shoulder served with boulangere potatoes, or a slab of slow cooked pork belly with crackling. As for puddings I love tarts above all - perhaps a pear frangipane, or lemon, or plum….

So, what did I do this Sunday?  To start we had smoked salmon, torn into strips, piled up on a salad of baby salad leaves and finely shredded fennel. This was dressed with a citrussy olive oil dressing and I added tiny capers and cornichons.  Pudding was a simple chocolate mousse, made with Elizabeth David’s recipe of 1 oz chocolate and I egg per person.  Melt the chocolate then stir in the egg yolks.  Beat the egg whites until soft peak then fold into the cooled chocolate mixture. Spoon into glasses then chill.  I added a dash of brandy and decorated with a swirl of cream and toasted flaked almonds.

The main event was designed to do away with the hassle of roast potatoes, last minute carving and gravy making.  Chicken baked with wine then served in a creamy mushroom sauce:

Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

I medium sized chicken, free range and organic if possible
1 lemon, cut into 8
Bunch of thyme
Glass of white wine

400g mixed mushrooms – I used oyster, shitake and chestnut
2 shallots
Glass of dry vermouth
Glass of white wine
250 ml chicken stock
150ml double cream
Chopped fresh thyme
Chopped fresh parsley

Untruss the chicken, bring the wings from under the body and fill the cavity with the chopped up lemon and a handful of fresh thyme.  Smear some butter over the chicken, season and put into a roasting tray.  Pour round a glass of white wine, cover with foil, and cook at about 180 for an hour or until the legs wiggle easily (technical term) and juices run clear.

While the chicken is cooking slowly fry the shallots in 25g butter until transluscent.  Add the vermouth and white wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half.  Push through a sieve making sure you pulverise as much of the shallot as possible. Return the stock to the pan.

Once cooked remove the chicken onto a plate in a warm place.  Strain off the cooking juices and skim off the fat.  Add to the stock in the pan and make up to about 500ml with the chicken stock.    Fry the mushrooms off in some olive oil over a high heat until cooked and slightly browned. Bring sauce up to simmer and add the cream, then, once it has come to the boil and reduced slightly, add the thyme and mushrooms.  Taste and season, adding a little lemon juice to cut the cream and heighten the flavours.

Joint the chicken and place in a shallow warmed serving dish.  Pour over the sauce and sprinkle with lots of parsley.  I served it with new potatoes tossed in butter and chives, and purple sprouting broccoli.  Lovely for a slightly chilly Spring Sunday!

Monday, 9 May 2011



Mmmm – More Lamb!

I love lamb – I think it is probably my favourite meat.  It stands up to all kinds of robust flavouring, and yet is delicious and flavoursome enough to be enjoyed simply grilled, fried or roasted.  Most of the time when we feel the need for a pile of lamb chops I just brush them with a little mix of wholegrain mustard and runny honey and grill them quickly, to serve with mash and greens. 

But it was too summery for that treatment last week so I decided to veer toward the Mediterranean again and do something a little bit spicier.  All very simple – just rub them with a mixture of spices, let them marinate for a couple of hours and grill.  

Rub/marinade for 6 lamb chops

1 tblsp ground cumin
1 tblsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet, whichever you prefer)
1 tblsp Ras-El-Hanout – the yellow one with lots of fennel in is nice for this
Good couple of grinds of black pepper

Mix spices together, add a glug of olive oil, and rub into the chops, getting into all the nooks and crannies.  Leave them in the fridge for at least an hour.  When ready to cook crank your grill up nice and hot and grill for five minutes a side, or until done to your likeness.  They will also barbecue well but I don’t have a garden!

I served them with couscous.  For two people put 100g of couscous in a measuring jug and put the same amount of hot water in – you can also use chicken stock or vegetable stock if you wish.  Once the couscous has absorbed the liquid turn it into a large bowl, let it cool a little, and then stir in a handful of finely chopped cucumber, the same of tomatoes, a big bunch of chopped mint, season then dress with lemon juice and olive oil – not too much, you don’t want it to go soggy, just to glisten a little.

I also coated some sliced aubergines in dry polenta and shallow fried in olive oil.  The polenta adds a nice crunch to the otherwise voluptuous aubergine!  Then all you need is a spoonful of creamy yoghurt and some harissa on the side.  Lovely summer food - let's hope the weather holds!