Tag Archives: recipe

Lobster a L’Americaine

24 Feb

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I have to admit that I should have posted this a while ago – actually during Christmas week as it is something I used to make every Christmas Eve for my parents, siblings, partners and whoever was spending Christmas with us when I lived in North London.

My dad and I used to go to Billingsgate market at some ungodly, freezing hour of the morning but I relished it and for those of you living in London, I urge you to go if you never have.  You get the pick of the best fresh fish and seafood and all the atmosphere that markets in the early hours have to offer.  It was also the only way one could afford to cook 8 or 10 lobsters as they were less that half the price of the fishmongers or supermarkets and obviously much fresher.

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Anyhow, I digress.  This year, for various reasons, Mick and I decided to stay in Spain for Christmas by ourselves, and for the first time in 7 years my family opted to stay in London.  Strange though it was, it was enjoyable in a different kind of way and meant that despite this hideous recession, I was able to cook lobster for the two of us on Christmas Eve, using my old recipe (still on an apron that my dad brought back from the states I don’t know how many years ago – I have never written it out before, and had to have the apron on the work top until now that is!).   So here it is – the most delicious lobster dish if you want a change from cold lobster and salad – if you are on a budget, then serve half a lobster per person and throw in some plump prawns or langoustine at the end of cooking time.

It is not a difficult dish to make, just a little fiddly, you need time to prepare but the cooking bit is pretty last minute, so make up a green salad and lay the table in advance and serve the lobster with some jacket potatoes which can finish cooking whilst you cook and assemble the lobsters.  It has quite a few ingredients so take time to read the shopping list otherwise you end up missing something.  If you can’t find clam juice, simply leave it out or buy half a kilo (easily available here) and simmer them for a few minutes in some water and a decent splash of white wine, salt and pepper.  You can use the clams for a spaghetti vongole lunch!

Also, I have only ever cooked this on a gas hob – so if you have an electric hob just make sure you have a decent solid square pan and watch the heat!  – my dad bought me one that goes over the entire hob, which you do need if cooking for 6 of you – if you are cooking for two, then a decent roasting pan will do.  If you are cooking in warmer weather, then you could place the pan on the griddle of your barbeque – it may be easier.

Pour yourself a glass of Vina Sol, take a deep breath and have a go!

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My recipe is for 6, just adapt according to how many you are cooking for.

As this is an American recipe they use “cups” – 1 cup = 8 ounces

6 lobsters around 1lb each

Half a cup of olive oil

9 tbsps butter (I think this is a bit heavy handed, so half it!)

1 cup finely chopped onions

9 shallots, finely chopped

4 large cloves, crushed

2/3rd ‘s cup of cognac warmed

9 large tomatoes peeled and seeded

6 oz tomato puree

1 and a half cups of clam juice (you can find them in bottles, look up on the internet for stockists, or just don’t worry about it!)

1 and a half cups water

1 and a half cups dry white wine

3 tablespoons chopped tarragon (or 3 teaspoons dried)

6 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

3 teaspoons salt (or less)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon thyme, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces (or less!)

3 additional tablespoons of chopped parsley

Ask your fishmonger to cleanly cut your lobsters in two if they are live and you can’t cope! – or you can buy cooked ones, you need to clean them whichever, just leaving the lovely white tail meat – break off the claws and crack the shells as this will make it easier to eat when they are covered in sauce!  If you are doing it yourself at home, make sure you catch the juice, liver and coral. (google it if you are not sure!).

Heat the oil and butter in your pan and add all the lobster pieces (only if they are uncooked, if cooked just put them in before flaming them in cognac below).   Cook until the shells turn red and then remove and set aside.  Add the onions, shallots, farlic and cook until transparent but not brown.  Return the lobsters and flame with the cognac and swirl until the flames subside and then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, clam juice if using, water, wine, all the herbs, salt and cayenne (go easy on the cayenne as you don’t want to mask the wonderful flavours).  Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then remove the lobster again.  Over a high heat boil the liquid until slightly reduced – return the lobster with any juices reserved, plus the liver and coral. Now add a bit more butter ,check the seasoning and sprinkle with fresh parsley.  Serve on hot platters with lots of paper napkins and enjoy!  Trust me it is well worth the effort.

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Biscotti with Almonds and Figs

21 Nov

We love these little festive biscuits with an espresso or coffee morning – they always seem to be a treat to buy from an Italian deli in London, as they seem expensive – but when you look at the ingredients, I suppose they are not really. But I found this recipe somewhere ages ago and have made them for us and our friends ever since and now would just never buy them.  Don’t be afraid of the way the “logs” look when you take them out after the first baking – they look pretty dreadful – but once they are sliced diagonally and then baked again, they look like the ones you buy in the shops (you may say a pointless exercise then, but it is fun to make them –and very easy!)

 

Makes 24-28

 

50 g butter

225g plain flour

150 g caster sugar (I just use granulated!)

pinch of salt

Half teaspoon baking powder

75 g whole almonds with skin (or you can use pistachios) chopped

100 g dried figs, or cranberries would be nice for Christmas, or apricots or cherries work well too, chopped – just use what you like

Zest of half lemon (I use the zest of a whole lemon)

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Pre-heat the ovento 180 c,350 f, Gas mark 4

 

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Sieve the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into roomy mixing bowl.  Add the fruit and nuts and lemon zest,  whatever you are using – don’t be tempted to add more than the recipe – it may break up the dough, which is already a little crumbly so stick to the quantities above.  Mix in well together.  Take the melted butter, egg yolk and whole egg, vanilla extract and give it a good old whisk with a fork.  Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the egg mixture to it.  Stir firmly but take your time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.  I find flour varies and so if it is a little too crumbly, just add the smallish splash of milk until you have something that will come together in a ball – divide the mixture in two.

 

Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment (or brown parcel paper will do if you haven’t got any parchment).  Lightly flour a smooth surface and place one of your biscotti balls on top and then just lightly roll into a 10 cm log, you can just pat each end every couple of rolls to keep it nice and firm, but don’t overdo it or it will fall apart – you don’t want a skinny roll!  Place on the baking tray and then make the other log.  Place them side by side on the tray, leaving plenty of space between them (about 5 cms should do it) as they spread a little.  Bake on the middle shelf for about 35minutes, until golden (but not brown) and firm to the touch.   As said before, these kind of look like flat, gone wrong rock cakes at this point, but trust me on this, you will end up with the real thing!   Just leave to cool on the baking tray and go and do something else for an hour or so!  Turn the oven off.

 

When you come back pre heat the oven to 170c, 325f, Gas Mark 3 and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

 

Using a sharp knife slice the biscotti on the diagonal into slices no thicker than 1 cm each.  Arrange these on the baking tray in a single layer.  Just be gentle and they should slice easily without breaking.  Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes until crisp and  dark golden – keep an eye on them as oven vary and you don’t want them too dark.  You may like to swap the trays around halfway through cooking to ensure an even colour.  Cool and store, or if you are giving away as presents, put into cellophane bags and tie with ribbon.  They do need to be stored in an airtight container and best eaten within a week (this won’t be a problem!).

 

If your attempt fails the first time, stick with it as I promise you, you will have fun making these, they are just great to take to friends with a bottle of wine for after dinner, to have in a tin at home for when people drop by for coffee, or they make lovely tree presents at Christmas time if you package them beautifully,  and they are really easy to make without having a load of ingredients in your cupboard which you will only use once.

Do not be tempted to use self raising flour, or omit the baking powder, small amount though it is!  People forget the cooking is a science and unless you are prepared to experiment 6 times before achieving a good result, my advice is always stick to the recipe where baking is concerned.  Do experiment with the fruit and nuts though.

Cod wrapped in Serrano ham, with chilli and lime

6 Jun

I am currently trying to shed a few pounds – an easy way to help is to eat more fish – I know we have fish counters that groan under the weight of a vast selection of fish – I buy whatever looks good generally.  Last week I had friends staying, always a bit tough on the diet, but thought if I included fish on the menu a couple of evenings they would enjoy it and it would be healthy for all of us.  Some people are a bit nervous of cooking fish, simply because they might not really know what to do with it.  This is the most simple dish, takes minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to oven bake and is quite stunning.

Cod with ham, chilli and lime

If you are in the UK, just go to your local fishmonger or fish counter in the supermarket and take a look at what they have – hake would do just as well for this if there is no cod.  Ask the butcher for fillets of either, they need to be nice and chunky.

 

Pre-heat your oven to 180c, 350f, gas mark 4

 

Lightly oil a metal baking tray (this helps the fish to cook through properly).

 

 

Take your Serrano ham and lay it on a board.  Put the fish on top and then sprinkle on some chopped chilli (fresh or dried is fine, fresh looks prettier), a squeeze of lime juice and some course sea salt and ground pepper.  Then wrap up the fish like a little parcel.  You can put an extra piece of ham on top if it doesn’t quite meet in the middle.  Then put onto the baking tray, put in the centre of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the fish.  I serve this with paprika potato wedges (sprayed with oil and baked in the oven 20 minutes before the fish, then just leave them on a shelf above the fish and continue cooking), and minted pea and crème fresh puree.

 

 

Rhubarb jelly

20 Feb

The other day I was making an apple and pear crumble and I thought I would add some tinned rhubarb too to make it a bit more interesting.  Rhubarb is a bit precious here – even tinned!  There isn’t a word in Spanish for it and they simply don’t know what it is!  Quite often when friends ask me if there is anything they can bring fromEngland, I say “Fresh rhubarb please” if it is in season.  They think I am bonkers of course.

 

Anyhow, after I had added the fruit I thought I would use the juice (not syrup) to make jelly – it is the most divine and subtle flavour and if you add some chopped up stem ginger to the liquid it makes quite a sophisticated dessert and needs nothing else.  If you are not using all the fruit for something else, then you could add some rhubarb to the jelly and make a compote to go with it.  It is the simplest of home made desserts and fantastic after something like a casserole or pie which can be on the heavy side.

 

Use a couple of tins to yield half a pint of juice and put in a small pan to warm.

 

Method

 

Soak two leaves of gelatine in a little cold water for 5 minutes, then drain and squeeze the gelatine and put in with the juice. Stir until completely dissolved and then take off the heat.  Chop a piece of stem ginger into tiny chunks and add to the liquid.  I don’t think it needs any more sweetening, but you can make your own mind up and if you like add a teaspoon of soft brown sugar while the liquid is still warm.  Then add to a couple of individual glasses and refrigerate for a few hours or make the day before you need it if you are planning a dinner party.  I must say, that because it is a completely natural jelly, I did add the tiniest bit of pink colouring to mine to make it prettier, but this is not needed!

 

Piedmont Roasted Peppers

25 Sep

This recipe is just fantastic – it is so simple, healthy and delicious – I serve it as a starter quite often as it is light on the tummy,  or a lovely easy lunch during the week, where I make one whole pepper each and serve with a piece of crusty bread.  If I am dieting, I just go easy with the olive oil (a teaspoon will be fine).  The peppers here are fantastic, large and plentiful.

It is so easy to prepare and can just be popped in the oven an hour before you want to serve.

So, if you are making it as a starter you will only need one large red pepper between two – don’t try and make it with green peppers, they are much more bitter and it doesn’t work.

For 4 people as a starter

2 large crisp red peppers

3or 4 large ripe tomatoes

8 tinned anchovy fillets

Couple of cloves of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper

Small bunch of basil leaves

Pre heat your oven to gas 4, 180 c, 350 F

Cut the peppers in half, through the stalk and cut out the seeds.  Place in a roasting tin.

Skin the tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water and leave for 5 or so minutes.

Cut into quarter and stuff into the peppers.  Peel and slice the garlic and sprinkle over each pepper.  Snip a couple of anchovy fillets over and season with black pepper (no salt needed with the anchovies).  Put a good glug of oil over each pepper.

Put the roasting tin on a high shelf and roast for 50 or 60 minutes.

Serve straight from the oven with the juice spooned over with lots of crusty bread.