Seared tuna steaks

Sometimes there is hardly any cooking involved.

Egg-fried rice is simplicity, this has peas and chopped chillies added to it and drizzled with toasted sesame oil, and the salad is the crunchy white parts of Chinese leaves with a mirin and yuzu dressing.

The tuna steaks were just seared so that the insides remained lovely and raw and everything was dressed with nori flakes, some tamari soy and a few coriander leaves.

From start to finish, this took less than 10 minutes to cook.

Blanquette de veau (sort of!)

A blanquette is a dish in French cuisine that is cooked with the aim of keeping a pale colour, with no browning of the meat or other ingredients.

A classic blanquette has the sauce thickened at the end with egg yolks, but I didn’t do this because the sauce was a reasonable consistency by the time the meat was tender.

Anyway, I softened some finely chopped carrot, celery, shallot and leek in butter and sunflower oil, without allowing the butter to brown and then added about a third of a bottle of white wine and some chicken stock. To this, I added diced British rose veal shoulder and halved button mushrooms together with a couple of bay leaves, a crushed clove of garlic (not traditional), a teaspoon of salt and a third of a teaspoon of Epices Rabelais, a French proprietary brand of mixed spices and dried herbs.

This was simmered for about an hour or so, until the meat was tender. At this point I added about 300 ml of single cream and reduced the volume of liquid so that the sauce coated the back of a spoon.

To serve, I cooked some plain white rice, which the French call riz créole, and some steamed asparagus.

To drink we had a bottle of red Saumur-Champigny, although a white wine would be a more classic accompaniment.

Chicken and mushrooms in oyster sauce and stir-fried vegetables

A nice easy Chinese evening meal.

The chicken was breast meat, cut into thin chunks and fried in groundnut oil with ginger, garlic and spring onions to which I added some light soy sauce and oyster sauce and continued cooking. Then I added the mushrooms (enoki and shitake), plus some water. To finish, I thickened the sauce with some potato flour paste.

The vegetables were blanched beansprouts and blanched pak choi, fried in groundnut oil with garlic, ginger and spring onions and with some black vinegar and dark soy sauce added, with some shredded red pepper for colour.

To finish, there was some egg-fried rice.

Retro or classic?

A simple dish of mozzarella and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper is one of life’s joys, when it comes to food.

Some people might think of this as a blast from the past, a bit of 1970s retro but I prefer to see it as a true classic.

The same applies to breaded escalopes or schnitzels. These things are popular for a reason, and the reason is that they are just incredibly satisfying things to eat.

Smoked mackerel fishcakes

I like fishcakes a lot, but the ones you buy are often a real let-down. I’d bought the smoked mackerel fillets for a paté but I had some leftover mashed potato, so I made these instead.

They are simplicity itself. I flaked the mackerel into a bowl with some chopped parsley, a little salt, some Aleppo pepper flakes and the mash and then mixed everything together by hand.

I shaped the mixture into patties which I coated in dried breadcrumbs and left in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. You don’t need to do the flour/egg/crumb process here because the crumbs will stick to the potato.

They were shallow fried in some rapeseed oil and served with peas and horseradish sauce.

You could add some capers to the fishcakes, I think that would work well, or maybe some chopped gherkin, but you need to keep them quite dry or they might fall apart in the frying pan.

A quick food round-up

This isn’t a post with recipes, but more of a catch-up of a few things I’ve eaten this week.

First off, I made some pork burgers which we had with fries, fried onions, salady bits and bobs and relishes;

Pretty decent for a mid-week evening meal. The burgers were just minced pork, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and some dried herbs (sage, thyme, marjoram) and Aleppo pepper flakes.

Then, on Saturday evening we had one of those stand-by dishes, chicken breasts stuffed with Gruyère cheese and wrapped in Parma ham, served with fresh linguini and a simple tomato, garlic and fresh basil sauce;

And, finally, Sunday brunch, a Turkish-style affair with sucuk sausage, fried eggs, toasted pitta and pickled Turkish chillies, accompanied with strong Moka Express coffee;

Boeuf aux carottes

This is real cold weather comfort food, maybe the kind of thing you won’t find in many French restaurants but the sort of thing that would be welcome if you did.

I think that it is rather old-fashioned food, and all the better for not being updated or modernised. I looked through a variety of cookery books to see if I had a recipe for this, without luck, but there are plenty of versions on the internet. Clearly you need some beef, ideally a cheaper cut that requires a long slow cook, lots of carrots and some liquid, plus the aromatics. It is really just another one of those classic French slow-cooked daubes.

I used the following;

4 thick slices of beef shin, about a kilo, trimmed and cubed and coated in seasoned flour
8 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks on the bias,
1 diced onion
3 thinly sliced shallots
3 crushed cloves of garlic
half a bottle of dry white wine
500ml beef stock
three chopped plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato purée
3 twigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

In an oven- and hob-proof casserole, heat the olive oil and brown the beef in batches and set aside. In the same oil slowly fry the onions, shallots and garlic until soft and slightly coloured.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock and return the beef, plus any juices that have come out of the meat. Stir together and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, bay leaves and carrots, cover and place in a 160C oven for at least two and a half hours, longer if the meat isn’t tender at that point. You want the meat to be soft enough to be cut with the edge of a fork.

Shin needs a lot of cooking to break down the fibres and tissue and turn the toughness into something meltingly delicious.

I served this with Colcannon mash, not French, I know, but delicious. It is a kind of bubble and squeak really. I steamed a shredded January King cabbage and made some mash, pushing the potatoes through a ricer to ensure that it would be smooth.

I melted about 100g of butter in a deep non-stick pan and softened some chopped spring onions before adding chopped parsley, the cabbage and potato, stirring well so that it was nicely mixed. I seasoned it with a lot of black pepper and some salt and let this cook, so that the bottom took on some colour.

I think that the mix of a French dish and an Irish one is maybe the kind of food you would find in a decent pub.

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