Archive for the 'Simon Hopkinson' Category

Mushrooms Armeniennes

November 29, 2009

I’ve been a bit quiet this week. It’s not that there aren’t things I want to cook in ‘Week In, Week Out’, which is actually very appealing: a glossy and vividly photographed coffee-table sized book containing a selection of Simon Hopkinson’s food writing from The Independent in the form of ’52 seasonal stories’,  but none of the things that have actually made it onto my table have been very exciting. It’s disappointing, really, because I was all up for jointing my first rabbit. According to Hopkinson, “Any self-respecting French housewife would not be seen dead asking that her rabbit be jointed by the stall holder or butcher; she just knows how to do it as a matter of course.” Of course. And slow-braised rabbit shoulders with white beans and parsley sounded so perfect for the blustery weather. Or what about braised rabbit legs in red wine with smoked bacon, chilli and orange? Sounds delicious, don’t you think? Sadly, the local butcher was not co-operative. So it is I come to you with a recipe for mushrooms on toast.

These are very nice mushrooms on toast though – not that a recipe is really needed, but I started with the one from Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Wolf in the Kitchen’, and you can tell from the fact that Lindsey Bareham collaborated with Hopkinson on ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ that their cooking styles are quite similar. ‘Wolf…’ was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned as a student and I still rate it very highly for straightforward but unpatronising advice and a good range of decent recipes. It has mushrooms sauteed with garlic, bacon and spring onions and then tipped over toast spread with cream cheese. Mushrooms Armeniennes, apparently, comes from an Elizabeth David recipe and keeps the garlic and bacon, but with an additional stewing in red wine, which makes your kitchen smell as if you were making boeuf bourgignon, but in considerably less time than it would take to make it. If you should be looking for an excuse to open a bottle of red wine at lunchtime, this is it. If, like me, you’re not much of a lunchtime drinker, you can take the rest of the bottle round to a friend’s house in the evening (maybe with some cheese straws and financiers you made, which went down very well but are not from this book so I shan’t write about those).

Mushrooms Armeniennes  Serves 4 for lunch

This is taken from a section on mushroom recipes specifically designed for the commonly available tame mushroom, as opposed to the more exotic wild mushrooms that are so popular – not always justifiably, Hopkinson feels – on restaurant menus. So don’t feel you need to use any particularly special mushrooms for this.

2 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers of bacon, chopped (the recipe says to remove the rind and add it back in later, but mine didn’t really have a rind)
about 700g button mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
300ml red wine
3 tbsp chopped parsley
4 thick slices of bread

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper, and reserved bacon rind, if using. Stir until all is coated with the fat and leave to stew, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil and cook rapidly for 10 more minutes. The recipe then directs you to tip the contents of the pan into a colander over a clean pan and let it drip for a few minutes, before reducing the liquid in the new pan separately. I was hungry so I just reduced the liquid in the pan with the mushrooms. Either way, you should be left with a small amount of syrupy, dark liquid. Toast your bread, and pour over the mushrooms and juice, checking for seasoning. Scatter with the parsley before serving.

Adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Week In, Week Out’.


Roast chicken

November 23, 2009

Well, I couldn’t very well cook from a book called ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ for a week without making roast chicken, could I? Also, and frankly, this is shameful to admit, but…I’ve never roasted a chicken before. I know. I have a food blog and I’ve never made one of the basic staples of the Sunday lunch table country-wide. A hangover from The Vegetarian Years, maybe, but I’m just not very confident at cooking animals – particularly if they’re animal shaped as opposed to, say, neatly contained as a thigh or a sausage or an escalope. It just seems more of an event to cook an entire creature and I worry that I won’t do it justice – it dies for my dinner and I make it dry or tough and tasteless. I want to honour my meat. But this is no way to go on. Faint heart never won fine gravy…ahem.  As of Sunday, I decided, there would be a turning point in my life: the post-chicken roasting era would begin!

Having procured my chicken in the scant 5 minute window during which it was not raining, I armed myself with plenty of butter, a lemon, some garlic and herbs. Potatoes were par-boiled. Bird was carefully anointed, cavity was stuffed, and into a hot oven she went. An hour or so later and…well, I was ridiculously over-pleased with myself. The skin was all golden and crispy, just like it was supposed to be, there was enough juice (after a bit of poking about) to mix with the melted buttery bits into a gravy of sorts, and the flesh was moist and not dry at all. Some leftover courgettes from the veg box were sauteed briefly and dressed with vinegar and mint as a slightly sharp contrast, and we sat down to enjoy it in front of the first season of Mad Men. Tom declared it ‘the best Sunday lunch ever’, though I’m sure he was just being nice.

OK, so my carving skills still need some a lot of work, but it wasn’t bad for a first attempt. And the best part is, we now have neatly cling-filmed leftovers sitting in the fridge and waiting to be turned into a lemony pilaf for tomorrow night’s dinner and a chicken and bread salad for lunch the day after that. If there’s one thing I love more than successfully tackling a new recipe, it’s successfully stockpiling the leftovers.

Coming up next: more Simon Hopkinson, with ‘Week In, Week Out’.


Roast Chicken  Serves 4, or 2 with plenty of leftovers

110g butter, at room temperature
large free-range chicken, around 1.8kg
salt and pepper
1 lemon
several sprigs of thyme, tarragon, or both (I used parsley as it was all I had, but tarragon would have been better)
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Preheat the oven to 230c. Put the chicken in a roasting tin and smear the butter all over it with your hands. Season it liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out, and squeeze over the juice of the lemon. Put the herbs, garlic and squeezed out lemon halves inside the cavity.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Baste, then turn the oven down to 190c and roast for a further 30-45 minutes, basting occasionally. The bird should be golden brown with a crisp skin and if you pierce the thigh the juices should run clear.

Turn off the oven, leaving the door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for around 15 minutes before carving. The recipe recommends carving in the roasting tin – you can then set aside the carcass for stock later, stir or whisk the juices that have amalgamated in the tin and pour them over the meat. Another option given, which I didn’t bother with, is to scoop the herbs and garlic out of the cavity and stir them into the juices, gently heating through and straining before serving.

From Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.

Onion tart & petit pots au chocolat

November 21, 2009

Or tarte a l’oignon and little chocolate pots, possibly. Friends were coming round for dinner at the end of another long week, and we had been talking tarts. Specifically, why don’t we make them more? A tart soothes with pastry and soft, billowy mouthfuls of mild creamy custard, yet it’s also a little bit sophisticated and manages to seem somehow wholesome, despite its full-fat dairy quotient. A tart is a light lunch or a simple dinner and the perfect size to share with friends.

‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ certainly delivers on the tart front: anchovy and onion, cep, crab, leek, onion, red pepper, tomato and pesto. I decided on the classic onion tart – mountains of thinly sliced onion half-moons, softened very gently in butter for a whole hour until transformed into a tangled slump, then mixed happily with cream, egg yolks and black pepper. The magic is in the slow cooking of the onions to bring out their deep, gentle savory-sweetness. I didn’t even need to add salt.

Dessert was the little chocolate pots, the consistency of a chocolate truffle under a firmer crust, to attack with a spoon while the discussion veered from meetings with Hermione Lee to Megan Fox’s bra size. Well, just because you’re eating sophisticated French food doesn’t mean you have to have sophisticated conversation.

Onion tart  Serves 4

Simon seems to assume you know what you’re doing on the pastry front and, having made it only once before, I didn’t. Well, anyhow, it seemed to work almost perfectly so I’ve added my notes.

This recipe will leave you with a lot of egg whites, so either make meringues or freeze them (try and remember to write the number of whites on the label).

For the pastry:
50g butter, cut into cubes
110g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
110g butter
4 large onions (I only had miniature onions so I used about 7)
salt and pepper
4 egg yolks
300ml double cream

To make the pastry, quickly work the butter into the flour, rubbing them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. There can be a mix of bigger and smaller pieces. I’ve read about everything having to be very cold when you make pastry, but I disregarded that and it didn’t seem to matter. Add the egg yolk, salt, and enough water so that you can stir it and it forms a firm dough. I found this was a tiny amount, so add cautiously. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180c. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry as thinly as you can. Grease a deep 20.5cm flan tin and line it with the pastry, pressing it into the edges. Trim off the overhang, either with a knife or your fingers. Don’t be over-zealous, as the pastry may shrink in the oven (mine did). Keep the off-cuts in case of cracks developing. Prick the bottom gently with a fork. Now is the time to use your ceramic beans or pie weights if you have them, or you can use dried beans. This is to stop the pastry from bubbling up in the oven. I didn’t use anything and it was fine. Bake the case for about 15-20 minutes until straw coloured. If cracks have developed, patch them up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onions and a sprinkle of salt, and cook gently with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes. Make sure the onions don’t brown. When very sloppy, remove the lid and carry on cooking on the lowest heat, stirring from time to time, until most of the liquid has evaporated. This may take up to 1 hour. The onions should become very soft and turn darker in colour, but you’re not caramelising them so make sure they don’t stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. When done, pour into a bowl and cool.

Mix the egg yolks and cream together and add to the onions with a generous amount of black pepper. Taste and see if it needs salt. Pour the mixture into the pastry case – you may not be able to fit it all in, but try to get in as much as possible. As Simon says, “half-filled tarts are always disappointing.” If you have leftover mixture, look around and see if you still have those pastry off-cuts. If yes, you can form yourself a little miniature tart for your boyfriend to have for lunch tomorrow – you wouldn’t want him to miss out, would you?

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Mine looked about done after 20, so I turned off the oven and left it in there for the last 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

Petit pot au chocolat  Serves 4

175ml double cream
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways
75ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
125g dark, bitter chocolate, broken into pieces (I used some 73% cocoa stuff bought from my veg box people)
2 small egg yolks (now you can really make a lot of meringues)
1 heaped tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 140c. Warm the cream with the vanilla pod – careful, it can boil up quickly! Stir to disperse the vanilla seeds, turn off the heat, cover and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the milk. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar (you may need to sieve the sugar first, icing sugar tends to go lumpy) and add to the chocolate milk and vanilla cream. Mix together thoroughly. Pass through a fine sieve (not sure this was necessary, but I did it) into 4 small pots or ramekins. The ones you get from GU chocolate puds are about the right size.

Bake in a bain-marie (i.e. half fill a deep baking tray with hot water and place the pots in it) for 45 minutes – 1 hour. The pots should puff up slightly and you want them to get to a stage where a crust forms on top – they will probably start to develop teeny cracks in the top when ready. Cool in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving.

Adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.

Grilled aubergines with sesame

November 21, 2009

After all that talk about squaring up to the French classics, the next two recipes I cooked from Simon Hopkinson were, um, an oriental rice noodle salad and aubergines with satay sauce. Perhaps I haven’t made quite as much progress in my French cuisine rehabilitation as I thought. Let me tell you about the aubergines though, because they’re well worth sticking in your comfort zone for. Unless you’re the sort of person who can confidently whip up oeufs en meurette but have yet to essay forth into the world of cooking with peanut butter, of course.

One of my hang-ups about classic cooking, English in particular, is the belief that a meal is not a meal unless it centres around a great fist of meat. And yes, aubergines are a typical stand-in for meat when people who never cook vegetarian food cook for vegetarians. So this may sound a little cliched, but: these aubergines are good enough to be the centrepiece of a meal, even for people who wouldn’t normally consider a vegetable capable of such a thing. They could, too, easily be a side dish to some stir-fried prawns or chicken or even greens, but that might almost be too much of a good thing. With a bowl of brown rice, you’re free to concentrate on the flavour and it’s so compellingly delicious that brown rice and vegetables for dinner doesn’t seem austere at all.

Grilled aubergines with sesame  Serves 4 as a modest main course or large side dish

Just a note on quantities – I halved the ingredients for the sauce and still had some leftover, which confirmed my hunch that the original quantities would make a vast amount. Still, it is good, so if you want a lot then double it again.

175g peanut butter (I think crunchy is always best)
50ml soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, or about half a lemon’s worth
2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 pieces stem ginger
1 1/2 tbsp stem ginger syrup
4 shakes of tabasco, more if you like it hot
1 garlic clove, peeled
50ml cold water
2 large aubergines
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2-4 tbsp groundnut oil or sunflower oil, for frying aubergines

To prepare the aubergines, cut them into thick slices and then quarter so you have 2.5cm/1 inch chunks. Heat the groundnut oil/sunflower oil in a large frying pan until very hot (the amount depends partly on the size of your aubergines, but aubergines tend to absorb a lot of oil and I used less than advised. If they do end up very oily, drain them on kitchen paper). Add the aubergine chunks and fry until well browned and soft all the way through, then set to one side.

Put all the rest of the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, in a blender and process to a smooth paste. It should be the consistency of thick cream, so add more water if necessary. Place the cooked aubergines on a baking tray, spread over the sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Place under a hot grill until nicely browned – don’t worry if the aubergines start to burn a little at the edges.

Adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.

Salade frisee aux lardons

November 17, 2009

And our featured book this week is: Roast Chicken and Other Stories, by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham, which, according to my Oxfam copy, was voted ‘the most useful cookbook of all time’ by Waitrose Food Illustrated. And that’s a publication I respect. Roast Chicken etc. is built around forty chapters, each of which are based on one of Simon’s favourite ingredient, which include anchovies, brains, endives, kidneys and potatoes. The recipes, as you might imagine, are quite heavily biased towards French and British classics; in other words, the kind of cooking I grew up on and have spent most of my subsequent adult life avoiding due to a childhood horror of, well, most food, and a teenage distaste for meat, rich sauces, and absent vegetables. While my taste may still veer towards mainly vegetarian dishes and far more small grain-like things and pulses than my parents would ever consider normal, as I’ve got older I’ve consciously tried to broaden my food horizons. I was struck by Jeffrey Steingarten’s theory, in The Man Who Ate Everything, that all food aversions are really phobias which can, and should, be overcome. I may still have a few (mayonnaise, urgh) but the range of food I will eat now would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Besides, who can take pride in their cooking skills without being able to roast a chicken well?

This salad, which despite the French name is actually bacon and egg salad, conjures up for me an image of a little French bistro, a pavement-side table and a glass of cold white wine. But it went down pretty well even in a small flat in Oxford on a Monday night, and this is key, I think, because it was so simple and so delicious that I understood why this book might have been voted so useful – I can see this becoming one of my standbys.

Salade frisee aux lardons  Serves 4

The instructions preceding the recipe tell you to have everything ready and to hand before you start, as everything comes together quickly, and he’s right – you should.

1 head of frisee, washed and picked over into small tendrils (I couldn’t find frisee alone, but most supermarkets will sell a salad mix of mainly frisee)
salt and pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
vinegared water for poaching
4 eggs
6 thick, rindless streaky bacon rashers, cut into lardons (small pieces)
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small baguette, rubbed with a garlic clove, cut into cubes, and fried in olive oil (I sliced, toasted, and rubbed with garlic instead)
1 heaped tbsp flat-leaf parsley

Have the washed frisee ready in a large bowl. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Put a frying pan on to heat and bring the water for poaching the egg to a simmer. Heat the oil in the frying pan and start to fry the bacon until as crisp as you like it. Start to poach the eggs (I find the easiest way is to break the egg into a cup and then lower the cup into the simmering water, twisting the cup to slip the egg gently out, and removing the cup).

When the bacon is crisp, throw it onto the frisee and stir it in. Immediately add the red wine vinegar to the hot frying pan (off the heat), swirl it around, and tip that into the salad leaves too. Mix in the parsley and croutons and divide between four plates. Place a poached egg on the top of each salad, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

From Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.