Kitchen Chat and more…
Kitchen Chat and more…
When Delia Smith, the headmistress of British cooking dared to tell us how to boil an egg, we all felt rather insulted, not unlike Nigella Lawson returning to British television screens in November 2015 with a new series called Simply Nigella starring Lawson’s infamous ‘Avocado Toast’ in the first episode.
Fellow celebrity chef Gary Rhodes took the opportunity to defend Britain’s household cooks by presuming even the most incompetent knows how to boil an egg. It must have been a long time since Gary had honed such rudimentary skills and in no doubt his battery of chefs were similarly skilled but it has to be admitted there is nothing worse than ordering a Salad Nicoise and finding a rubbery egg with a black ringed yolk balanced in the greenery.
Delia had obviously ordered something similar to inspire the need to teach us about how to boil an egg. Albeit about as boring as washing your dishes dry, I have to admit she made some pretty interesting points on the topic. Back in the fifties, when we were less prickly about being told what to do, Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, the founders of that venerable institution the Cordon Bleu School, showed no embarrassment telling us exactly how to cook eggs.
Boiled Egg and Asparagus
Allow 1 duck egg and a half a dozen asparagus tips per person
Ground salt and pepper
2 slices of buttered, wholemeal toast
Thoroughly wash the tips to remove every bit of grit and leave to drain. Tie the bundle together lightly and stand in a pan deep enough to allow for this. This is easier if you use an asparagus basket but you can improvise by standing them in a Pyrex jug, for example, inside the pan. The stalks should be one-third immersed in simmering water and the heads will cook in the steam, seal the lid on the pan. They will need about three minutes depending on the thickness of asparagus tips.
Boil a pan of water big enough to take the number of eggs required. When the water is boiling, remove from the heat, lay the eggs in the bottom of the pan and return to the heat. Bring slowly back to the boil. Allow four-and-a-half minutes for a lightly-boiled egg and longer for a firmer egg. I cook a duck egg for about five minutes to ensure the white has set. Serve with some hot buttery toast and warm asparagus for dipping.
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 pt (600ml) double cream
1 vanilla pod
extra caster sugar for caramel top
Now for something sweet. This simple but delicious pudding was a specialty of Trinity College, Cambridge. Mix the yolks well with the sugar. Scrape the black seeds out of the vanilla pod using a knife and add these to the pan of cream. Bring the cream to scalding point, just below a simmer. Pour on to the yolks and stir well, return to the pan and thicken over a low heat. Be very careful not to allow the custard to boil or, indeed, move.
Pour into four individual ramekins or suitable bowls. At this stage, they can be left in the fridge, even overnight, until needed. Heat the grill, dust the surface with sugar and melt under the grill until the sugar has gone light brown. Cool before serving.
Aubergines are still in season, which means they are cheap to buy and at their best. When buying aubergines you should look for an unblemished skin and a bright green calyx (the stalk), this will ensure flavour and freshness. Aubergines have often mistakenly been considered bland or even bitter but this would have been the result of incorrect preparation. Nowadays, the newer varieties of aubergines don’t need salting to draw out the bitter juices. However, there is a definite advantage in doing so because pre-salted aubergines will absorb less oil during cooking, giving a less greasy finished dish. This just requires sprinkling a little salt evenly all over the sliced aubergine and leaving it for about ten to 20 minutes to allow the juices to come to the surface. Don’t rinse, just wipe with absorbent kitchen roll.
To extract the best flavours from the aubergines, they should be fried, grilled or roasted with a little olive oil. Fennel also remains in season until the end of October. With its subtle liquorice flavour, fennel makes a perfect accompaniment to fish. It is grown here in Britain now but the best fennel, I have to admit, comes from France and Italy. All the parts of the fennel plant can be eaten – the bulb, the leaves and the seeds from the flowers. Its culinary desirability is matched by its health benefits – fennel is a strong antioxidant with high levels of vitamin C. This menu is inspired by Italian food but given a British slant. All recipes serve 4.
4 small aubergines
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin tomatoes
4 large spoonfuls of cooked pasta
large handful fresh basil
large handful curly parsley
salt and black pepper
If you want to find a way to use up yesterday’s pasta, this is your answer. I like to use a short pasta for this recipe, such as maccheroncini, tubetti or gnocchetti sardi. Preheat the oven 200C, 400F or Gas 6. Bake the aubergines whole for 20-30 minutes or until they are completely tender all the way through. While they are cooking, fry the onion in the oil until soft and then add the garlic, tomatoes and seasoning. Cook the sauce for about 20 minutes. When the aubergines are ready, slit them two thirds of the way round, leaving the stalk in place. Scoop out the flesh on to a plate and roughly mash with a fork. Tip into the pan with the sauce and stir well. Add the cooked pasta, roughly diced mozzarella and the herbs. Adjust the seasoning and then fill the aubergine shells with the pasta mixture. Serve straight away.
3 bulbs of fennel
50g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp freshly-grated Parmesan
salt and black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
Preheat the oven 240C, 475F or Gas 9. Cut each head of fennel in half through the length of the bulb. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves and cut out the core. Trim the leaves and stalks of the bulb and put into a saucepan with enough water to just cover the fennel. Salt the water and simmer gently until the bulbs begin to soften but retain an al dente texture. Carefully drain the water from the pan and place each half in a shallow, ovenproof dish. Season well with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Melt the butter and distribute evenly over the fennel. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Fish Galore Ltd is a wholesale fish and seafood supplier based in Central Hove. They are committed to environmental factors and are discerning about the provenance of everything they sell. I was happy to find a source with integrity for locally caught fresh fish and seafood, which is then expertly prepared by their team. It seems that it is “dealing” with fish which puts so many people off cooking it at home. A good fish monger will do all the cleaning, gutting, de-scaling and filleting for you.
The most important thing to remember when cooking fish is that the flesh is delicate. Too much cooking will ruin the fish, giving it a chewy texture. You should be looking for a slight rawness next to the bone as it is removed from the heat. Fish continues cooking while it is being served, ensuring the meat remains tender when it reaches the table. These next recipes are quick and easy to prepare and taste delicious! For a perfectly paired wine for both dishes, try the Slovenian Krizno Sauvignon Blanc.
Salmon with a Dill and Lemon Crust
4 Salmon fillets, each weighing 100g-150g
25g dill, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
large clove of garlic, crushed
6 tbsp olive oil
Mix all ingredients together to form a paste. Spread the herb paste evenly over the surface of each fillet. Leave to marinate for at least two hours. Heat the grill and place the fillets on a metal tray. Place under the grill for about 4-5 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of each fillet. The dill crust should be slightly browned and the flesh soft and tender
Marinated Tuna Steaks
4 tuna steaks, each weighing 150g
8 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp light soy sauce
2cm chunk of fresh ginger, either grated or finely chopped
handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow oven dish. Place the steaks in the marinade , turning well to ensure they get a good covering. Put some foil over the dish and leave overnight or for a minimum of four hours. Heat up a ridged grill pan until good and hot (if you don’t have one, use the grill instead). Remove the steaks with a slotted spoon and grill in the pan for 2-3 mins on each side. Serve immediately.
There is nothing more satisfying than spending an afternoon baking in the kitchen, unless the weather is gorgeous! The house is filled with the comforting smell of freshly – baked cakes and, as a throwback to days gone by, it’s so civilised to invite friends round for afternoon tea. Why not create an occasion, what would be nicer than to invite a few friends round over the weekend and spoil them with your baking?
This simple cake always adds grace and taste to the tea table. However, take note: The strawberry jam has to be absolutely first class. If you don’t have any homemade jam from last summer, try Duchy Originals Organic or the Co-op’s own brand. Don’t skimp on the cream either. I use Coombe Farm double cream because of its richness and colour. Lastly, use good quality unsalted butter and free-range eggs.
Strawberry Victoria Sponge
100g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp of vanilla essence
half a jar of strawberry jam
half a pint (300ml) double cream
Turn the oven on to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich cake tins. Cream the sugar and butter until pale. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of sieved flour and beat well. Sieve the remainder of the flour into the mixture and add the vanilla essence, folding in carefully. Divide the mixture between the two tins and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. To test the cakes are ready, lightly press the surface with your finger tips. It should spring back and be evenly browned. Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Beat the cream with a little extra sugar if desired. When the cakes are cool, sandwich together with the jam and cream and dust with icing sugar. Serve with a cup of Earl Grey tea, or a glass of fizz if you fancy!
I’ve visited the Caribbean before but had never been as far south as Tobago, one of the smaller and, as yet, less spoilt islands. It reminded me of my travels in West Africa, where the people adjust their pace according to the heat of the day. Small roadside shops pile their produce high on the dusty road: Great piles of green oranges, limes, papayas, yellow and black ackees, avocados, huge yams and fleshy pumpkins. At midday, the local people sit under the shade and hold animated conversations, talking in patois at such a speed that it’s impossible to understand. However, when I expressed an interest in proper Caribbean food rather than the European-style food we were getting at the hotel, I was welcomed into the conversation with great enthusiasm. They loved the sound of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, while I wanted to know how to cook Sancoche, cornmeal dumplings and pepper pot.
I watched these dishes being made at Sunday School, a regular party or ‘Jump Up’, held each Sunday evening. The food and the music seemed to be inseparable. It was all cooked outside on calor gas cookers and washed down with a bottle of Carib, the local beer, while our feet were kept moving to the sounds of a steel band on one side and reggae on the other. This is the heart of Caribbean food – a lot of love goes into it but very little ceremony. Food, music, and sunshine combined and left me wanting to reproduce the memories here at home. These recipes have been chosen to welcome in the summer and make use of the new season’s foods which are now coming into the shops.
1 kg raw prawns, peeled and deveined
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp crushed hot red chillies
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp vegetable oil
75g unsalted better, melted
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 med tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lime pickle, chopped salt
Using a pestle and mortar, crush the coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds with the peppercorns, chillies and bay leaves. Saute the onions in the oil until golden brown, add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lime juice and lime pickle. Season well, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes on a very low heat. You may need to add some stock to the pan of the mixture becomes too dry. Add the prawns and cook for a further 3 minutes. Serve with boiled rice, mango chutney and roti (recipe below).
Rotis are Indian in origin, they are simply a small round flat bread which is eaten with a savoury filling, in this case folded in half and filled with the prawn curry.
225g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
milk or water to mix
ghee or vegetable oil
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add sufficient milk to mix into a firm dough. Knead the dough well, then divide into four. Roll each one into a 16cm circle and brush with the ghee or oil. Cover and leave to relax for 20 minutes. Re-form into four balls and repeat the process. Heat a flat griddle pan, brush with oil and place each circle on the hot surface for a minute on each side, brush again with the ghee. As they are removed from the pan, pat them in hands until they become pliable and keep warm in a clean cloth.
The pine nut looks beautiful when toasted and scattered over salads, giving off a buttery & mildly resinous taste which is very appealing. Like the almond, these small, tear-shaped seeds are now cultivated around the world. Pine nuts are the seeds found in pine cones of the Pinaceae family of trees and are widely used in Mediterranean cooking, most notably in Italy. Italy began to cultivate pine forests during Roman times by order of the Pope. Pine nuts were used to make wine, preserved in honey and made into sausages. Evidence of their use was also found in the excavations of Pompei. Their use today continues to be as widespread and popular and there is never any difficulty in sourcing recipes. This is good news for people with high cholesterol or diabetes and also for children who need food packed with energy. One of my favourite things to make is pesto, usually homemade pesto is made according to personal taste. It’s not always wise to be too precise with the proportions of each ingredient – some people prefer more oil for a slacker result, others may like more garlic. Therefore, use this recipe as a platform for creating your own personalised pesto sauce!
75g basil leaves (a large handful)
2 cloves garlic
50g pine nuts
150ml of the best olive oil you can afford
Put into a food processor bowl and grind on high for about one minute until smooth paste develops. You may like to leave a few lumps for a more rustic-style pesto.
Nuts have been used in cooking for thousands of years in most parts of the world. Vegetarians and vegans have long recognised their nutritional benefits in our diets since they provide protein, minerals and valuable fats. Nuts stabilise blood sugar levels which can be sustained over a long period of time and therefore give you more energy. Perhaps the tastiest and most valuable nut used in cooking is the almond. Not only is it a high source of protein, it is also rich in calcium, magnesium and zinc. The humble almond which was originally grown in Central and South West Asia, is now grown in North America, the Middle East and most of Europe.
Orange & Almond Syrup Cake
200g unsalted butter
grated zest of 1 orange
165g soft light brown sugar
80g fine semolina
125g ground almonds
225g self-raising flour
200ml plain, set yoghurt
juice of half an orange
For the Syrup:
200g granulated sugar
juice of 2 oranges
Pre-heat oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Grease and line a 24cm-round cake tin – loose-bottom tins are better for this. Using a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it becomes pale in colour, then add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of sieved flour. Now stir in the semolina, almonds, yoghurt, juice and flour and combine the ingredients well. Pour into the prepared tin, spread evenly and make a small hollow in the centre to encourage a flat top to the cake. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until browned and firm to the touch. Allow to stand for ten minutes before turning out of the tin and leaving to cool on a cooling rack. Now make the syrup by combining sugar and juice in a small saucepan, heating slowly until the sugar has melted then allowing to boil until it has become slightly reduced. Leave to cool off before pouring over the top of the cake – this should be done slowly so the cake can absorb the syrup.
Food is always an important element of any holiday for me and this post was inspired by my last visit to France when my husband and I cycled to Paris with a couple of our good friends. I particularly like the regional dishes of the French Alps, which is why our skiing trip during the Christmas holidays was so perfect.
We stayed with some friends in St. Jean D’Aulps and they introduced us to their favourite eateries, one of which was a small village called Londarais. The specialty of Londarais is a wonderfully sharp goat’s cheese used to make Salad Chèvre Chaud, my friend Jane’s favourite lunch.
Back home in Brighton, I discovered some really good cheese in Infinity Foods, made just half an hour away in Horsted Keynes at the Sussex High Weald Dairy. This is a small gem in the heart of the countryside where the Hardy family has been making cheese for 25 years! Most of their cheese is made from sheep’s milk which has a higher protein content than dairy and is more easily digested. Obviously this is good news for those suffering from a milk allergy but another reason it is preferable to cow’s milk is because it contains 100 percent more calcium and 33 percent more vitamins, amino acids and minerals. So why not consider locally produced cheese when a recipe specifies a European cheese next time?
Sheep’s Cheese Salad
4 Organic Slipcote cheeses cheeses, each sliced into 2 rounds
8 slices of a large French baguette
1/4 pint of good olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 lettuce torn into pieces, use a strong tasting lettuce
1 fennel bulb, tough stalk removed and finely sliced
4 spring onions
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, shredded
20 walnuts halved
4 stalks of cherry tomatoes, each vine holding at least five tomatoes
For the Dressing:
3 tbs of olive oil
juice of half lemon and salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6 and turn on the grill. Place the tomato vines in the oven until evenly browned, this will take about ten minutes if your oven is already hot. Crush the garlic and mix with the oil, then pour on to a plate and dip in the bread so it is oiled on both sides. Lay the slices on the grill pan and toast on one side. Meanwhile, put the oil, lemon juice and seasoning into a large bowl, mix together and add all the salad ingredients. Toss until everything is evenly coated. Turn the toasts over, place one round of cheese on each and spread to reach the edges of the crust. Replace under the grill until golden and bubbling. Make a pile of the salad on the plate, place two toasts on top and finish with the stalk of roasted tomatoes.
Who doesn’t love a reason to drink good beer, eat good food and have a great time with friends and family? That was us just a couple of weeks ago to celebrate The Brighton Bierhaus 1st Birthday!
The Perfect Plum hosted a weekend pop-up for the occasion and served a delicious variety of boards with an array of options to leave everyone satisfied. We had so much fun collaborating with The Brighton Bierhaus and getting the chance to meet such amazing people- both employees and patrons!
Events like these are a true testament that capture the true flavour of Brighton!
Vegan Board – Roast courgette with thyme and smoked paprika with homemade mushroom walnut paté. Pickled carrot and cucumber served with marinated smoked peppers and white bean and garlic dip served with sourdough bread and olive oil.
Cheese Board – Selection of Sussex cheeses including Olde Sussex Cheddar, Brighton Blue and Duddleswell. Comes with Home pickled pears and homemade mango apple chutney and pickled radish, carrot and cucumber. Served with oatcakes and sourdough bread.
Charcuterie Board – Selection of prosciutto, salami, and bresaola. Homemade chicken liver paté with home pickled radish, cauliflower and fennel. Black and green olives served with sourdough bread and olive oil.
Fish Board – Home cured beetroot gravlax with mustard creme fraiche sauce. Marinated garlic lemon and dill mediterranean prawns with aioli. Homemade smoked mackerel paté with home pickled fennel, carrot and cucumber served with sourdough bread.
What I love most about Easter is the fact that I can gather all my family for an indulgent meal without going through the frenzy one experiences at Christmas. Easter, with its promise of better weather, manages to inspire a sense of celebration sprinkled with spring flowers. The giving and receiving of chocolate eggs lends a simplicity to the day leaving everyone relaxed and appreciative of each others company. This is surely worth celebrating, even for the most sceptical non-believers.
Lamb is traditionally served at Easter because of its symbolic relation to the Easter story, but also coincides with the natural breeding cycle of sheep producing spring lamb during the Easter period. We are more fortunate than many parts of Britain, except of course Wales, to have such excellent lamb reared here in Sussex! South Downs lamb has a sweet, succulent flavour, very similar to that of Welsh lamb. Here is a recipe from one of my traditional Easter menu’s that is not only a joy to make but also a luxury to eat.
Rosemary & Dijon Rack of Lamb with Aubergine Relish
2 medium-size best ends of lamb, eight chops per piece and Frenched (ie. the rib ends cleaned and trimmed)
1 large stalk of rosemary
2 tsp Dijon mustard
light olive oil for searing the lamb.
For the Relish:
2 large aubergines, diced large and salted
4 medium red onions
4 red peppers, diced small
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp light olive oil
250ml red wine vinegar
400g granulated sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped mint
To prepare the lamb, rub a tsp of mustard into the fat side of each best end and coat the whole area evenly. Press the chopped rosemary into the mustard and place the meat in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
Now to make the relish: Peel and chop the onions into large dice. Fry the onion with the ginger and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil until the onion turns transparent. Add the diced pepper and cook for two minutes. Now add the vinegar, sugar and paprika and cook until the mixture becomes caramelised. Put the aubergine pieces in a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the juices, using a firm grip. Fry them in the remaining oil until evenly browned all over. Mix the aubergine in with the onion mixture, season and stir well. Leave to cool. When cool, stir in the chopped mint.
Preheat the oven to 220C, 425F. Place the lamb in a roasting tin and roast for 10-20 minutes, depending on hoe you like your lamb. Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest fr five minutes. Put a spoonful of the aubergine relish on each plate and cut each rack of lamb in half, sit each piece on top of the relish and serve with homemade mint jelly.
Enjoy and Happy Easter!
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be fitting to share one of our favourite recipes for the occasion!
The new website is now live… a teensy bit of construction remains, but a whole new look – highlighting our new kitchen location in Hove, new menus and offerings like classes, pop-ups, fundraisers and adventure weekends.
We’re anxious to get any feedback, so please drop us a message via the contact page and let us know what you think!
(and please spread the word!)
Hoping to post more delicious recipes and ideas on the blog in the very near, so check back soon.
This tart always gets a great reaction from everyone who I’ve made it for, it’s basically a rich frangipan but the oranges give it a bit of sharpness and balances the sweetness of the almonds and sugar. I use a short pastry to make the base because pate sucrée is a bit too sweet, so make a 500g quantity of basic shortcrust pastry and line a 8-10inch fluted flan tin. Prick the base and leave to rest in the fridge whilst you make the orange frangipane.
You need a couple of tablespoons of orange curd, it’s quite acceptable to buy this, Waitress sell a very good one. If you prefer to make your own, take the zest and juice of 2 large oranges and put into a bowl with 400g sugar, 140g soft butter cubed, 4 eggs + 3 yolks. Set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted, keep stirring until the mixture will coat the back of a spoon.
Spread the curd onto the base of the pastry case.
To make the frangipan, put 100g of butter, 10g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, 1 teaspoon of orange, 100g caster sugar, zest of 1 large orange, 2 eggs. Whizz everything together in a food processor and spread over the curd evenly. Bake in a preheated oven 180C until lightly brown, at this stage scatter over a few flaked almonds and return to the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 25mins. Cool and serve with some creme fraiche or homemade vanilla icecream.
3a Kings Mews
Hove, East Sussex
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Our menus for parties and weddings offer innovative dishes which look and taste fantastic. You can serve these yourself or have our staff to do the work for you. We also regularly change our menus as each new season brings its own selection of ingredients.