Autumn almanac…

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Autumn almanac...

I was going to call this Autumn is cumin in…but that was just too naff…so as the Kinks were on the i pod it ended up as you see above…and this dish is everything that is good about autumn…it is lightly spicy..courtesy of the cumin…it is wonderfully colourful (the squash simply exudes bonfires and mellowness) with a regalia of autumnal colours, yet still with the lingering flavours of a Med summer, courtesy of the peppers. Tonight’s supper is in many ways, thanks to Nigel Slater – no he did not drop round and cook with me – sadness pervades – but I was curled up in front of the fire reading his Kitchen Diaries 2, the October section, and I was just inspired to cook something redolent of autumn – and to use up the half of butternut squash that was whistling dixie in the fridge.

So, I peeled the squash, and cut it into chip like strips, then cut up one long red and one long yellow pepper into similar size strips. Popped these on a baking tray with 5 or 6 cloves of unpeeled cloves of garlic. Then drizzled all with olive oil and a good sprinkling of cumin seeds.

The chicken thighs I places on another tray and scattered each with lemon thyme salt and olive oil. I then took some rather pleasant new potatoes and cut them into chips, and bathed them in vegetable oil.

I put the pepper / squash tray into the top oven at 200c and the chicken and the potato chips into the bottom oven, same temperature, for 40 minutes. The congruity of these ingredients must also be remarked upon – because they all kindly cooked at more or less the same time.

I drained the potato chips, drained the chicken jus into a pan, then added the potato chips  to the chicken thigh tray and popped them back into the oven – turning the heat off;  the skin of the chicken was deliciously crispy by now. I removed the peppers / squash tray and left them on a rack to wait patiently for their moment. I added a little chicken stock and hot water to the jus to make a zingingly tangy salty jus that would compliment the whole dish perfectly.

I removed the chicken thighs from the oven, added the squash. pepper and garlic to it and served it at the table. Jus was drizzled over by request.

The flavours were phenomenal – simple as that – the cumin wedded with the butternut squash was mouth-fillingly vibrant.
The whole ensemble was simple, cheap and autumnal – colour wise – flavour wise and fragrance wise.

I felt so relaxed and mellow after eating this – it hit all the spots in the right order and, along with a smoky South African Merlot, reminded me why I am alive. Oh, and thank you Nigel for the inspiration!

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Saturday Supper Part Deux – Med Eggs…

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Saturday Supper Part Deux - Med Eggs...

I used to love egg and chips for supper as a child – in fact I still do…who doesn’t…but these eggs, with a mediterranean twist, are just a wee bit posher, yet still simple. I will give you the ingredients for one person and then you can multiply it to your heart’s content…this is a very social dish.

Olive oil & vegetable oil
2/3 potatoes, par boiled for 15 minutes – I used Maris Pipers
2 spring onions, chopped quite finely
A good handful of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, sliced
1 good free range or organic egg
Fresh rosemary – a good tbsp chopped roughly
1 clove of garlic chopped finely.
Black pepper and sea salt

Once the potatoes have cooled – I leave them for about 15 minutes or so in a sieve over a pan – slice them into rounds-some may split but that does not matter. In a really serious splash of olive oil, pan fry the potato slices until starting to brown – be patient and turn gently with a spatula – great word that – spatula…love it! Add a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.

Then add the spring onions, garlic, tomatoes and rosemary. Continue to fry gently for about another five minutes – at this stage you could also add some slices of serrano or parma ham if you felt so inclined and in a more meaty mood.

In another frying pan, heat a splash of vegetable oil and fry the eggs until the white sets but the yolk is still unctiously runny. I used eggs from  Old Cotswold Legbars last night – a favourite of mine – so tasty and deep golden. And their shells are a rather funky pastel blue colour!

Serve the spuds in a dish and slide the egg on top…I split some of the white doing this…as you can see above…blast…so take care…but, hey , it still tasted wonderfully wonderful! I love a little zing with this dish- so I also threw a few slices of red jalapenos on mine.

The eggs, olive oil and rosemary just meld so well flavour wise. A great Saturday supper….or indeed anytime!

The picture below is of the ingredients making friends in the pan…..Happy Sunday to you all!

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Camembert to the rescue….

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Camembert to the rescue....

Larder pretty empty after the trips abroad so making the most of what IS in as I have been lazy and not made a serious trip to the shops yet….also heading off to the Lake District on Friday so not worth stocking up much. Anyway…tonight we had simple but scintillating fare. Pearl new potatoes, stimulating smoked bacon, steamed broccoli and cauliflower enrobed in a camembert and crème fraîche sauce (simply break up a whole camembert and add to a pan with a 300ml tub of crème f – heat gently until it all blends together – no need for seasoning believe me – it is nirvana. It may not have been 5 star Michelin food tonight but it hit every spot available on my taste buds on a rather damp squib of a night in darkest Hampshire. 5 star yum!

Patatas bravas…be bold my friends…be bold…

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Patatas bravas...be bold my friends...be bold...

Two of my favourite tapas that I make at home are tortilla and patatas bravas. The latter is often not done properly in some of the more touristy areas, where it can just be virtually chips with mayonnaise and a spicy ketchup.

This may be ok, but it ain’t patatas bravas, amigo!

Here is a very good version that produces a fairly authentic taste. To make the perfect patatas bravas, I roast the potatoes instead of frying them, which gives a less greasy, but equally crisp result (and is also considerably easier in most kitchens).

The creamy, unashamedly garlicky alioli-style sauce completes the dish perfectly – the Spanish equivalent of many students kebab van favourite, chips with ketchup and garlic sauce! Paired with a chilled Spanish beer, this is is just one of those unbeatable late night snacks.Can be a side dish, a tapa or an accompaniment. Whatever rocks your socks.

PATATAS BRAVAS

Serves 4-6
500g waxy potatoes
300ml olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 red chillis, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Tsp sugar
Tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 egg
1 clove garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 2cm chunks. Put a roasting tray with 2 tbsp olive oil into the oven and leave to heat for 5 minutes, then take out, toss the potatoes in the hot oil, and bake for about 45 minutes until crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, make the sauces. Put 2 tbsp oil into a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat, and
cook the onion for about seven minutes until golden and soft. Add the chilli, and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and smoked paprika and stir well.

Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until thick and dark. Take off the heat, add 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To make the alioli, put the egg in the small bowl of a food processor along with the garlic and 1tbsp sherry vinegar. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and whizz until incorporated, then drizzle in the rest of the olive oil with the motor running, until you have creamy mayonnaise-style sauce.

Season to taste. (You can also use a hand blender, but it’s harder to drizzle and beat at the same time.) Take the potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle with a little salt.

Spread the tomato sauce on to the plates, put the potatoes on top, then serve with a small bowl of  alioli on the side and serve immediately.

The whole point of these is the ‘bravas’ part. If it ain’t a heat challenge then there is no bravado! Be bloody, bold and resolute!

Tonight I served mine with some meanly pan fried belly pork – the flavours were fixatingly stunning.