Cannon of lamb with curried vegetables and a curry sauce

I wanted to try something that was in the same vein as the more upmarket Indian dishes that we see on television from chefs like Cyrus Todiwala and Atul Kochar, not that I am claiming the same levels of skill as they have.

Anyway, I used cannon of lamb, which I seared in sunflower oil and thnn put in a 180C oven for 15 minutes, while I cooked some basmati ice.

I had previously made a sauce and cooked a vegetable side dish, as follows.

The sauce.

I fried some cumin seeds in hot sunflower oil in a saucepan before adding a chopped piece of ginger, some crushed garlic, a seeded green chilli, a diced onion, a bay leaf and some sprigs of mint. When these were softened, I added a teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin and coriander, a heaped tablespoon each of red lentils and white urad dhal and some hot water and simmered this for about half an hour until the pulses were cooked.

I removed the bay and mint and then liquidised the contents of the saucepan, added some salt and pepper and mixed in some lemon juice. Later, when I reheated this, I stirred in a nice glug of single cream.

The vegetables.

I blanched some diced potato and carrot with some frozen peas. I heated up some more oil in a pan and sizzled a teaspoon of panchporan whole spices. Then I fried off some diced onion and ginger and garlic paste with a couple of chopped green chillies. Then I added the vegetables plus a teaspoon of turmeric and another of garam masala and cooked this for about 10 minutes, until everything was nicely mixed and soft. At this point I added a handful of chopped fresh green coriander leaves.

To serve, I reheated the sauce and the vegetables and sliced the lamb into nice pieces. I topped the rice with fried red onions and the vegetables with some mango chutney.

I was pretty pleased with the result. Next time, I will try it with chicken breasts marinated in yoghurt and tandoori spices instead of lamb.

Salsiccia al finocchio

Otherwise known as Italian pork sausage with fennel seeds.

There is a Bristol butcher’s shop called Paeckert in Cheltenham Rd, well-known for excellent sausages. I bought some Italian pork and fennel sausage (it comes as a continuous coiled piece like a traditional Cumberland sausage) and roasted it in some olive oil until the sausage was cooked through. I cut this into pieces and set it aside while I made a simple garlic and tomato sauce, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and some dried red chilli. To this I added the sausage, and while this was heating through, I cooked some potato gnocchi. When these were done (they take about a minute or so), I added them to the pan with some torn Basil leaves.

This needed nothing else apart from some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and a bottle of Italian red wine for a lovely Italian comfort food supper.

Quiche Lorraine

The very first thing that must be said about a proper quiche Lorraine is that it does not contain cheese. If it has cheese in it, it is still a quiche, but not one from Lorraine.

The only ingredients in a real quiche Lorraine are cream, eggs, bacon and salt and pepper as seasoning. The pastry should be a nice flaky shortcrust, which I think is best made with lard, plus some butter.

The other ingredients are streaky bacon cut into lardons and fried, I like smoked, but you can use unsmoked, 300 ml of double cream mixed with three beaten egg yolks and one whole beaten egg, plus pepper and salt (but be careful because the bacon will be salty).

Anyway, you make your pastry (according to your favourite recipe) and after letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, you blind bake it in a flan ring with a removable base.

Then you add the filling and bake in the oven at 170C until it is set and the top is golden.

And that is it. A true classic.

And NO CHEESE!

Leftover poached chicken – a simple gratin

The leftover chicken and the stock from the poule au pot I cooked at the weekend was the basis of last night’s dinner, which was a nice chicken gratin, which is a simple thing to make, but tasty and filling on a cold evening.

First, I made a sauce with some of the chicken stock and a basic butter and flour roux, to which I added a tablespoonful of crème fraiche, some grated Comté cheese and two teaspoonfuls of Dijon mustard.

I then stripped the cold chicken from the carcass of the bird and put this into an ovenproof dish with some sliced mushrooms and pieces of blanched asparagus. This was covered with the cheese sauce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven until bubbling and browned on top.

I served it with mashed potato, but pasta or plain rice would work equally well.

Poule au pot

Most people who write about Poule au Pot talk about King Henri IV and his wish that all his subjects could eat such a thing every Sunday, so I won’t mention it again. However, I will point out two things about this dish. Firstly, it is really just a poached chicken and, secondly, the leftover meat is useful for making other dishes. Also, you get a nice amount of good quality chicken stock, which is always a good thing and which can be frozen for future use.

I think that the most important thing to remember is that the vegetables you use to cook the chicken are not the ones you will eat with the bird when it is done. All their flavour will have gone into the poaching stock.

Anyway, you will need a nice chicken, free range or organic for flavour and you need to stuff it with something herbed and meaty. A sausagemeat stuffing is good but for this version I used minced veal, together with some dried breadcrumbs, a lot of chopped parsley, a finely-chopped shallot, some chopped raw ham, salt and pepper and a flat teaspoonful of Epices Rabelais, which I have mentioned before, all mixed and bound together with an egg.

The stuffed and trussed chicken was put in a pot with half a bottle of white wine, a couple of carrots, the green parts of two leeks, two sticks of celery and a bouquet garni made of two bay leaves, a large sprig of thyme, some parsley stalks, a quartered onion with its skin on and some black peppercorns. The bouquet was tied up in a bag of butter muslin to make its removal easy. The pot was then topped up with water until the chicken was covered and a teaspoon of sea salt added.

This was brought to the boil, with the scum that gathered on the surface skimmed off and then covered and reduced to a simmer for around an hour. At this point, I removed the bouquet and the cooking vegetables and added in some carrot batons, halved waxy potatoes and some leeks, white parts only, cut into sections.

This was then cooked for a further 20 minutes, until the vegetables were done.

The chicken was removed from the pot and left on one side while I removed the vegetables and drained them in a colander.

The skin is not worth eating, so this went to the dogs.

I served the poached breasts with the vegetables, a slice of the stuffing and some Hollandaise sauce, thinned down with a little of the poaching liquor.

Roast chicken with aligot

This post is really about aligot, not roast chicken or even about red, orange and yellow carrots.

Aligot is a dish from the Massif Central in France. This region is noted for dairy produce, specifically cheeses like Cantal and Laguiole, with the latter being the cheese used in the Aveyron, which is claimed to the the original version. There is an excellent recipe for Aligot in Jeanne Strang’s book Goose Fat and Garlic. Her recipe uses the cheese known as tomme fraiche de Cantal.

Anyway, the dish is associated with the Auvergne, the Pays d’Aubrac, the Aveyron and elsewhere in south-western and southern France.

In simple terms, it is a rich purée of mashed potato with cheese and garlic. If you follow the purists, the correct cheese is the young fresh version of Laguiole, known as tomme de Laguiole, but you are extremely unlikely to find this in the UK, so you need an alternative. Cantal Doux is a good one, but so is the smooth buttery kind of Lancashire, which is what I used for this recipe. The purists will no doubt be horrified, but sometimes authenticity can be overrated and, anyway, I expect that in the Auvergne there are plenty of cooks who will defend their own local cheese as being the right kind for l’Aligot. You have to work with what is available. I would say, however that Cheddar is all wrong here so avoid using that.

Anyway, you need to boil and mash some floury potatoes, a ricer is great here as you get a lovely smooth mash.

Then you need garlic, a lot of garlic, which you need to cook in some butter until it melts. I find that grating it with a microplane grater helps a lot. Then add in some cream and the mashed potatoes and keep stirring.

Next, add in your grated cheese, you will need a lot, because this dish is all about the cheese, which you want to melt and bind together with the potatoes. You should keep on stirring with a wooden spoon over a low flame until the mixture is smooth and unctuous. Do not use a hand whisk or stick blender, because the texture will be all wrong.

The aligot is ready when it becomes stringy.

This is very rich and you won’t really need a lot on the plate. It goes well with sausages or with roast chicken, but you can also eat it by itself with just a green salad.

Any leftover aligot can be formed into balls or croquettes, floured, egged and breadcrumbed and deep-fried.

Potée

A potée is a peasant dish from France, but there are similar dishes from all over Europe. It is a sort of poor relation of a Pot-au-feu, with a piece of bacon replacing the beef.

In France there are many local variations of this dish, from Lorraine, the Auvergne, the South-West (where it is called Garbure) and elsewhere, but essentially it is salted pork (hocks, petit-salé, gammon etc), carrots, leeks, onions, potatoes and cabbage, with other root vegetables such as turnips and maybe soaked dried or fresh haricot beans as well. A smoked sausage is often added too. In France, this would probably be a Montbéliard sausage or a Saucisse de Morteau, althogh there are local versions of smoked pork sausages all over France.

The bacon joint is placed in a large pot with water and brought to the boil. A lot of whitish scum will be produced and this needs to be removed with a slotted spoon. It is OK if a small amount of soft white foam remains, but you need to get rid of the harder stuff.

Then you can add seasoning. You won’t need salt because the pork will be salty already, but you should add a bouquet garni and some black peppercorns, plus the tough green parts of the leeks tied up with string for easy removal. You can also add juniper berries, but be careful because the flavour can be overwhelming.

Simmer this for about an hour or so, until the meat is nearly cooked and then add in your prepared vegetables, except the cabbage, and the sausages (I used German Bockwurst this time). Remove the bouquet garni and the green leeks and cook this further, until the vegetables are done and then add in a cabbage, cut into wedges. I think that a Savoy cabbage is best here. This will take about 10-15 minutes to cook.

You need to remove the meat and strain the vegetables from the liquid, which you should keep for making soup.

Remove the rind and fat from the bacon and slice it.

This is best served on a large plate so that people can help themselves and make sure that there is Dijon mustard to accompany the meat.

Any hearty wine will go well with this, but so will beer.

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