Lentil Purée

A vegetable accompaniment that started from one by Nico Ladenis. The original, I realized after I first cooked it with red lentils, uses green lentils. DUH! It also involved double cream and a bothersome demi-glace but I think cream is over-rich and a splash of a good (i.e. home made) chicken stock works well. [For Darwin’s sake don’t use stock cubes.] A good brown chicken stock would be perfectly fine and closer to demi-glace depending upon how rich do you want it.

The fresh herb added could be varied according to the starring item. If the lentils will accompany chicken, then tarragon would work well, for example. The coarse grain mustard is terrific.


serves: 4
preparation time: 5 mins
cooking time: 40 mins


  • 200g red split lentils
  • knob of butter
  • 1 large banana shallot, chopped
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tbs coarse-grain mustard
  • Salt & pepper


Simmer the lentils in just enough unsalted water (900ml is about right) for about 25 minutes or until they are breaking down. Red lentils are great because they purée themselves. Drain any excess liquid through a fine sieve.

Heat the knob of butter in a modestly sized sauté pan and, when melted, gently fry the shallot for 3-5 minutes to soften it. Add the lentils and stir to mix. Now add enough stock to slacken the mixture – a consistency like single cream is good. Stir in the chives (or chosen herb) and whole grain mustard. Let the mixture bubble gently, stirring to stop any catching on the bottom of the pan, to thicken slightly – go for a consistency similar to double cream.

Adjust the seasoning with salt, definitely, and pepper, maybe – since red lentils have a mild peppery taste anyway, you may decide not to use any more.

Get a pdf version of this recipe

Posted in Veggies

Sag Aloo

I’ve always been fond of Sag Aloo as an accompaniment in our local, excellent Indian restaurant and, having some potatoes and spinach to use up, decided to try this as a side to my chicken and lentil (Murghi aur Masoor Dal) curry.

This version, basically from the BBC, proved delicious but, as usual, I had to adjust the potato cooking time. Since I use stainless steel pans which dislike undissolved salt – salt crystals make pits in stainless steel – I also changed the point where the salt was added.


serves: 4
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 35 mins


  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 400g potato, cut into 1½-2cm chunks
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded & finely sliced
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • salt
  • 250g spinach leaves


Heat the sunflower oil in a sauté pan (one that has a lid). Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for about 3 mins until the onion is softened.

Stir in the potato chunks with the chilli, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and turmeric, and continue cooking and stirring for 5 mins more.

Add a splash of water and stir. [Modification time] The original recipe adds salt above, with the other spices, before the water. I used a stainless steal pan which doesn’t react well to undissolved salt so I stir it in now, after the water. Cover, and cook for a further 15-20 mins or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the spinach leaves and cover again to wilt them. Stir them around a few times to mix well while they’re wilting well.

Get a pdf version of this recipe

Posted in Veggies Tagged with:

Smoked Trout & Egg Salad

This is from a Waitrose recipe card . The main appeal of this recipe for me was the light pickling treatment given to the cucumber and onion.

As luck would have it, it seemed that no sooner was this recipe published than my local Waitrose store stopped stocking the required hot-smoked trout. How perverse is that? Undeterred, I used a couple of pieces of their excellent lightly cold-smoked salmon portions, which, being cold-smoked and therefore raw, I poached gently and allowed to cool. Actually, it was great to have something appealing that suited them. They worked well as, I’m sure, would the trout if it ever returns.

Despite the enforced modification, it shot straight into my favourite salads list.


serves: 2
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 10 mins


  • 250g new potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cucumber, finely sliced
  • ½ red onion, halved & finely sliced
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 130g fresh leaves (e.g. spinach, rocket & watercress)
  • 125g hot-smoked trout fillets/2 lightly cold-smoked salmon pieces
  • 3 tbs Greek yogurt
  • handful chopped fresh dill


If you’re using the raw, lightly cold-smoked salmon option, poach it gently in water (just below simmering point) until barely set (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Boil the new potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes or so until just tender. Set aside to cool.

Boil the eggs. I tend to start with the water cold, bring it to the simmer and cook for about 5 minutes to get a soft set to the yolk. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a bowl large enough to hold the cucumber and onion slices, mix together the vinegar and honey with a pinch of salt. Add the cucumber and onion and toss well together with the pickling juices. Stir occasionally, pickling it for about an hour.

When everything is cooled and either you or the cucumber is pickled, dress the plates with the salad leaves. Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on size, and add them to the salad leaves. Flake the smoked fish over the salad. Lift the cucumber and onion from the pickling juices, reserving the liquid, and scatter them over the top. Stir the yogurt and most of the dill into the pickling juices to make a dressing; spoon the dressing over the salad. Peel and quarter the eggs and place these on top of the salad. Scatter over the remaining dill.

Get a pdf version of this recipe

Posted in Salads Tagged with:

Chicken Livers de Mike

This is work-in-progress. There was a restaurant in Jalón, Spain, whose chef, Mike, was sadly lost to cancer. He made stunning hamburgers, mincing his own steak, and also a very popular dish of chicken livers which he served either on salad or on noodles. There was supposedly a secret ingredient, , which may have been responsible for this dish’s popularity.

This is an ingredient list, sin quantities, which suggests that the secret ingredient was most likely sobrasada, a raw, cured sausage specialty from the Balearic islands. In an earlier personal experience, supermarket sobrasada in a plastic tub proved to be a depressingly unpleasant experience but versions are available from proper charcuteries, which are considerably more palatable. I’ll try it with one of those.

Since there are no quantites given, this must be assembled using your skill and judgement, remembering that you do not want to swamp the chicken livers, which should remain the star ingredient.


serves: n/a
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 15 mins


  • 40% walnut oil
  • 60% olive oil
  • onions, chopped
  • smoked bacon, diced
  • serrano ham, diced
  • sobrasada
  • chicken stock
  • croutons
  • chicken livers, trimmed, washed and dried


Cook the onions slowly until soft in the combined oils. Add some sobrasada, bacon and Serrano and fry for a little longer to mix the flavours.

The original suggestion was now to moisten with enough chicken stock to make a thick sauce, before adding the chicken livers. I’ve tried it that way and I think that’s wrong. I think you need to fry off the chicken livers first, with the sausage and bacon mixture. Then you can add enough chicken stock to make a little sauce, just enough to help coat the noodles with which it goes so well.

Alternatively, the livers can be served with salad but that, maybe, needs the mixture to be a little drier so in this case, just moisten the livers with a little chicken stock and warm it through.

Posted in Starters Tagged with:

Quail in Escabeche

Or Codorniz en Escabeche, to give it its proper Spanish name.

I’m very fond of fish in escabeche and, on our journeys back through Spain to the ferry, we’ve seen bottled Quail in Escabeche, so I could hardly resist documenting this version of the latter. The use of dried fruits is very different to the fish recipe, though.

This would serve 4 as a tapa, BTW.

[Yet to be tried.]


serves: 2
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 2½ hrs


  • 4 quail, spatchcocked
  • Salt & pepper
  • 400ml olive oil
  • 200ml white condiment (a.k.a. white balsamic)
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 20g pine nuts
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 100g stoned dried prunes
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • Selection of herbs, e.g.: sage, tarragon, mint, thyme, rosemary (handful each)


Put all the ingredients for the escabeche into a large pan. Warm very gently for 10 minutes, then set aside. Don’t let this boil as you will lose the aromatics. Pour the warm escabeche into a bowl to await the quail.

Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Grill the quail for about 3 to 4 minutes, skin side down, then turn and
grill the opposite side for 2 or 3 minutes more, just until done. [Note to self: I’m not entirely sure roasting wouldn’t be better approach, here.] Put the hot quail straight into the escabeche mixture and leave to infuse for 20 to 30 minutes in a warmish place, turning them halfway through.

Remove the quail from the escabeche and place on plates, spooning some of the escabeche mixture over each bird. Season well with salt and pepper and serve.

Posted in Game, Starters Tagged with:

Pigs’ Cheeks

Pigs’ Cheeks (most seem to write it as Pig’s Cheeks, which seems to imply a single pig) have become very popular in recent years, particularly in Spain, so here’s a recipe to try that uses them. Long, slow cooking is the order of the day.

[Untested as yet.]


serves: 4
preparation time: 30 mins
cooking time: 2½ hrs


  • olive oil
  • 1kg pigs’ cheeks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, in 1cm dice
  • 2 leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • juice of a lemon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt & pepper


Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat in a large casserole or pan until almost smoking. Add the pigs’ cheeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-7 minutes, then turn the cheeks over, season again, and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove the Cheeks and set aside.

Add the garlic and shallots and cook for 2 minutes, then add 3 more dessertspoons of olive oil. Add the carrots and cook for 1 minute, then add the leeks and celery and cook for a further minute. Add the bay leaves and thyme.

Add the wine and simmer over a medium heat until it has almost all disappeared. Add the stock and the pigs’ cheeks and bring back to the boil. Place a cartouche over the pigs’ cheeks and simmer on a low heat for 2 hours.

When the pig’s cheeks are ready. take the casserole off the heat and skim off and discard any fat that has risen to
the surface. The sauce should be thick — if it isn’t, remove the cheeks and keep warm while you simmer the sauce until it is reduced, thick and flavoursome.

Celeriac puree makes a good accompaniment to this.

Posted in Meat, Untested Tagged with:

Spanish Cassoulet

Arrocina beans were the original base for this. They are tiny white beans grown in the Gredos mountains of Spain. I’d never heard of them until I found the original of this recipe in Barrafina but I imagine any of the white pulses would do admirably. The original had more of a description than a title: Arrocina Beans with Chorizo, Morcilla and Pork Belly. However, given that it is a stew of white beans, belly pork and sausages, this seems to be something of a Spanish equivalent of a French Cassoulet, hence my title.

[Yet to be tried.]


serves: 6
preparation time: 30 mins
cooking time: 2½ hrs


  • 500g pork belly, in the piece
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 fennel bulbs, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 banana shallots, chopped
  • 1 leek (white only), diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves finely chopped
  • 150g morcilla curada
  • 3 dried choricero peppers, soaked for 2 hrs
  • 3 dried guindilla chillies, halved lengthwise
  • 5 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • small bunch fresh thyme
  • 500g dried white beans, soaked overnight
  • 2ltrs chicken stock
  • 800g cooking chorizo, sliced
  • 150g morcilla de Burgos, skinned & sliced
  • 1 Savoy cabbage, finely sliced & lightly cooked
  • Salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

Rub the meaty side of the pork belly with a little of the olive oil and season it with salt, pepper and cumin seeds. Put it into a large roasting tray. skin side down, and roast in the oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and cut it into strips ~ 3cm in width. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan or casserole over a medium heat and add 2 dessertspoons of olive oil. Add the vegetables and garlic and cook gently, stirring, for 10 minutes. Peel the morcilla curada and crumble it into the casserole with your hands. Drain the choricero peppers and slice, removing the seeds. Add the choriceros, chillies, bay leaves and thyme to the casserole and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the drained Arrocina beans and the chicken stock and simmer very gently, uncovered, for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. until the beans are cooked and beautifully soft.

Heat a dessertspoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and morcilla de Burgos and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. then add to the stew. Finally add the sliced pork belly and cooked Savoy cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. and serve.

Posted in Meat Tagged with:

Arroz Campero

This is similar to a paella but I think, technically, is what would be classed in Spain as one of the arroces. Since this one features a couple of my favourite ingredients, rabbit and morcilla de Burgos, I could hardly resist it.

Morcilla de Burgos is a Spanish black pudding containing rice and onions. I haven’t found a half-way reasonable substitute yet in the UK – British black pudding just doesn’t do it, so one really needs a Spanish food supplier.

[Right, tested a half-quantity of this and all is well.]


serves: 6
preparation time: 30 mins
cooking time: 1 hr


  • olive oil
  • 1 rabbit, cut into 12 pieces
  • 500g mixed mushrooms
  • 4 bay leaves
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • 2 banana shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 leeks (white only), finely chopped
  • 150g morcilla de Burgos, skin removed
  • 1ltr rabbit stock (use head and trimmings)
  • 300g paella rice (bomba)
  • 50g Pecorino cheese (or other ewe’s milk cheese)
  • 2 tbs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper


Season the rabbit pieces and brown them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat, cooking for a few minutes on each side. Remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside.

Add a splash more oil to the pan, then add the mushrooms and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Throw in the bay leaves and thyme and cook for a further few minutes before adding the shallots, garlic and leeks. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme from the pan, then crumble in the morcilla along with 125ml of the stock, stirring well. Add the rice and a little more of the stock, then put the rabbit back into the pan and mix well. Keep adding the stock bit by bit, stirring until it has all been absorbed.

When the rice is tender, adjust the seasoning.

Shave the Pecorino cheese over the top, scatter with the parsley and serve.

Posted in Meat Tagged with:

Lamb Braised in Manzanilla

This is something I’m trying in Spain, where the lamb shoulders are much smaller than in the UK and just about big enough for three. If this proves successful, I may then try it back at home with a full sized shoulder of New Zealand/British lamb. That will, of course, need considerably more cooking.

[OK, I’ve tested this now and it’s bloody stunning.]


serves: 3
preparation time: 10 mins
cooking time: 2½ hrs


  • olive oil
  • shoulder of milk-fed lamb
  • 4 clove garlic, squashed with a knife blade
  • 2 banana shallots, peeled & quartered lengthways
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • 3 fresh bayleaves
  • 200ml manzanilla sherry
  • Salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

Put 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy-bottomed casserole and heat until nearly smoking. Add the lamb and sear on all sides until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Remove the lamb from the casserole, then turn down the heat a little and add the shallots, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Add a little more olive oil if necessary and cook until the shallots and garlic are nicely coloured.

Add the sherry and deglaze the casserole over a high heat, scraping all the caramelized bits from the bottom. Return the lamb to the casserole. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 45 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 140°C/275°F/gas 1 and cook for another 1½ hours. The lamb should be beginning to fall off the bone at this stage.

Take the lamb out of the casserole and keep it warm. Put the casserole on a medium heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by three-quarters. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Carve the lamb with a spoon and serve. Drizzle with the sauce.

Posted in Meat Tagged with:

Caneton aux Navets

A French country classic. I had a swift panic recently because I thought I might have lost this recipe. Fortunately, I hadn’t; I found the old Time-Life book, The Cooking of Provincial France , from which it comes. However, for future protection, I thought I should document it.

Turnips are wonderful and it’s great to have a recipe that features them in centre stage. They give a wonderful earthy character to the sauce in this duck recipe.


serves: 4
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 3 hrs


  • 2kg duck (preferably with giblets)
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 3 medium onions, peeled
  • 1 celery stick, coarsely chopped
  • 500-600g medium turnips, washed & peeled (peel reserved)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few stalks of fresh parsley
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt & pepper


First, heat the oven to 150°C/gas 2.

While the oven is heating, get the brown duck stock underway. Fortunately, at the time of writing, most ducks are supplied with their giblets whereas chickens rarely are. Do not use the liver (this would make the stock bitter and, anyway, is much better used as a canapé on toast). Chop up the neck, gizzard and heart. To this add the wing tips and middle wing sections, each cut in half. I cut off the parson’s nose and add that, too. Without adding oil, brown these pieces of duck in a cast iron pan over moderate heat. When they begin to caramelize, add a carrot, onion and celery stick, all roughly chopped, and continue browning. When everything has a nice brown tinge, add water to cover by about an inch. Add a bay leaf, half a dozen black peppercorns and the turnip peelings. Simmer for 2 hours.

Once the stock is simmering, begin braising the duck. Slash the duck skin all over, underneath and sides, too, with a sharp knife to allow the fat to run. Try not to cut into the duck flesh beneath the skin. Season the duck inside with salt and pepper. Heat a suitable roasting pan and add the olive oil. Brown the duck all over, or as much all over as you can. A considerable amount of the duck fat should melt and run out into the pan.

While the duck is browning, roughly slice the remaining two onions and two carrots. In a casserole just large enough to hold the duck, melt the butter and sweat the vegetables until they are becoming soft. Add a bay leaf and a few stalks of parsley. Place the browned duck on top of the onion and carrot bed, season it with salt and pepper, cover with a close-fitting lid and pop into the oven for about 75 minutes.

While the duck in braising, quarter the turnips. If you are feeling particularly posh, you can turn the quarters into olive shapes – great for a dinner party.

Remove the casserole from the oven and lift out the duck. Strain the braising juices into a container, pressing down on the vegetables to extract as much flavour as possible. Let the juices settle and remove as much of the fat removed as possible. Discard the braising vegetables. Your stock should have had about two hours by now – strain it and throw away the bits. Return the duck to the casserole and surround it with the turnip quarters. Pour in the braising liquid and enough stock to barely cover the turnips. Return the casserole to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the turnips are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remover the casserole from the oven.

Now magic is required – we are supposed to crisp up the duck skin. Good luck! Personally, I don’t think the duck ever gets truly crispy, having been braised, but give it a go. Increase the oven to 225°C/gas 7. Place the braised duck in a roasting pan and bang it back in the now hot oven for 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, remove the turnips from the cooking liquid. Boil the liquid to reduce it, thicken it slightly and intensify the flavours. Add the juice of jalf a lemon to give it a lift and adjust the seasoning.

The 15 minutes in a hot oven should have made the duck skin somewhat crisp. Remove it from the oven for the final time and serve, surrounded by the turnips with the sauce in a boat on the side.

Get a pdf version of this recipe

Posted in Poultry Tagged with: