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Monthly Archives: January 2010

The queen of domestic cookery is celebrating 50 years in the kitchen limelight. Chef Marco Pierre White is a huge fan, and has written an introduction to a series highlighting some of her recipes. He writes:

I love Delia. She’s been a part of my life for so long, and I think most British cooks have a similar affection for her. I’m probably her biggest fan, and to me she is more than just ‘a national treasure’. Delia is Britain’s queen without the crown. I’ve been thinking about her success and appeal. When she began to make her name we’d seen Fanny Cradock and the Galloping Gourmet, but Delia offered something new and different. Nation’s best loved cook: Delia is the housewife’s heroine She was young, methodical and her recipes worked which, let’s face it, is no bad thing. She won our trust – and she earned our respect. She is both curious pupil and caring teacher. Or maybe she is like the kind mother reassuring her child: ‘I know you think cooking is difficult, but let’s try it together…’ She is understated, graceful and incapable of patronising her loyal audience. Sure, she can do the perfect roast, but she also appeals to the sweet-toothed among us – Delia did for the cake what Bernard Matthews did for the turkey. While Keith Floyd captured the heart of the husband of the house, Delia has been more the housewife’s heroine. Her slight nerviness is endearing: she has never tried to be a star, and showbiz parties are not her thing. She never aspired to be a kitchen goddess, she just loves food and cooking, and wants others to enjoy those passions. Just because my career was all about winning Michelin stars, it doesn’t mean I like complex food. Actually, I’m a great believer in simplicity, as is Delia. She cooks the classics, but she cooks them well. Quiche Lorraine and Black Forest gateau have a bad reputation because often they are made in factories and taste indifferent. But Delia does these dishes beautifully. A short while ago, she asked me to open a restaurant, Yellows, at her beloved Norwich City Football Club. I was told that she had been timid about phoning me to ask me to cut the ribbon. I confess that I was the one who was a little apprehensive; a little edgy because I, the fan, had been chosen by the great lady… And when I met her, she didn’t disappoint. She was every bit as comforting as she always has been in the countless cookery programmes we all loved.

Families have been abandoning more expensive restaurants due to the recession, a fact that has helped McDonald’s achieve record sales over the last year. The chain saw its visitor numbers across the UK grow by 83million on the previous year to over 1 billion, with the sale of Big Macs achieving a massive 87million units. These results make Britain the companies best performing major market in 2009. McDonald’s has seen a particular increase in the demand for both its ‘saver menu’ and recently introduced ‘little tasters’ value menu. Sales from these ranges were up 12 per cent. McDonald’s saver menu offers regular burgers for £1 and the Chicken Snack Wraps for £1.59. The companies 1,200 UK restaurants now sell more coffee than Starbucks, increasing sales in 2009 by 9 million cups. The beans used by McDonalds are all ethically sourced, wile the milk and cream used is both British and organic. The firm has invested heavily over 2009 to improve its image, introducing many healthy options including salads and fresh fruits.

A wonderfully simple dish full of refreshing flavours. Delicious served hot or cold with ice cream, yoghurt or a thick dollop of crème fresh. To produce take 4 nectarines, halved and stoned, 2 figs, quartered, a 100g of blueberries and 4tbsp of clear honey and a half dozen fresh bay leaves, torn. Preheat an oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. Arrange the fruit over the base of a shallow ovenproof dish in a single layer. Tuck the torn bay leaves between the fruit. Drizzle over the honey. Roast for 20–25 minutes until the fruit is tender. For a special twist, crumble amaretti biscuits over the top just before serving.

A giant bluefin tuna weighing 233kg (513lb) has been sold by a Japanese wholesaler for a massive £110,000. The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo sold the fish to a consortium of three sushi restaurants, two are based in Japan while the third is in Hong Kong.

The word bolognaise translates as ‘in the style of Bologna’. As well being the regional capital of  the Bologna Province and the Emilia-Romagna Region in northern Italy, bologna is a large Italian styled North American smoked sausage, usually containing a combination of finely ground and seasoned meats including beef, pork, lamb, chicken or turkey. An authentic Italian bolognaise sauce is more correctly referred to as a ‘ragù’, this being a meat based sauce traditionally served with a pasta. Ragù is a phonetical Italian spelling of the French word ragout, which is derived from the old French ‘ragoûter’, meaning ‘to revive the taste’. As with most cuisines methods for bolognaise vary across Italy, but a typical recipe would always begin with a ‘soffritto’ of finely diced onions, carrots and celery. This is fried in olive oil and butter until caramelised, then seasoned with garlic and herbs. Assorted fresh mushrooms are then added and cooked until tender. The meat is then added which is usually a blend of three finely ground meats. Pork, veal and lamb could be used but goose liver is also a popular addition. Next milk will be added, this renders the meat flavours more delicate. Sometimes cream may be used, but only in small amounts. The mixture is then brought to the boil. Red wine and a quality stock is added along with a little tomato paste. The ragù is then seasoned and allowed to simmer gently for around 6 hours. When ready the sauce is served with a fresh pasta such as ‘tagliatelle alla bolognese’. An authentic Italian bolognaise contains little tomato, would not necessarily include beef and would never be served with spaghetti. Spaghetti is a smooth textured pasta and so would not be able to retain any of sauce when served. The sauce would simply slide off the pasta and back onto the plate. A rough textured pasta such as tagliatelle is always used as this retains the bolognaise sauce.

A classic French sauce produced by the emulsification of butter, lemon and egg yolks which are seasoned with a little salt and cayenne pepper. Some recipes suggest vinegar as apposed to the lemon juice, while some also include a little water with the egg yolk. It has a rich and creamy appearance with a smooth texture and a distinctive piquant. An excellent sauce when served with eggs dishes, vegetables or poached fish. Its origins are unclear with many believing it to have been originally developed for a state visit by the King of the Netherlands to France. Hollandaise is sometimes referred to as Dutch sauce. A reference to a sauce similar to Hollandaise is found in ‘Le Cusinier Francois’ dating from 1651, Francois La Varenne describes a sauce which “is made with good fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt, nutmeg and an egg yolk to bind”. Hollandaise requires some skill and knowledge to prepare. If the ingredients are not emulsified correctly they will separate, resulting in the sauce separating and coagulating. It should be produced and served warm, not hot or over heated. A normal ratio of ingredients for Hollandaise is 1 egg yolk to 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and a pinch each of fine salt and cayenne pepper. When producing this sauce a good quality whisk and thin-bottomed bowl should be used. Separate the egg and beat the yolk thoroughly. Add the lemon juice. Clarify the butter and add very very slowly to the egg, whisking continually over a pan of simmering water. Do not over heat, this will scramble the egg. Eventually the egg will begin to thicken, at this stage the butted may be added more quickly. When all the butter has been added and the sauce has thickened, add the salt and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately as required. This same method is used to produce mayonnaise, but without the use of heat and by replacing the butter with oil and with the addition of mustard.

Click here for our easy guide to making Hollindaise

Pata negra, more commonly known as ‘Iberico ham‘, is a variety of Spanish cured ham produced from the ‘Iberian black pig’ which is more correctly referred to as the ‘cerdo negro’. Found mainly in the south and south western regions of Spain these pigs are also farmed in neighbouring Portugal where the ham it produces is referred to as ‘porco de raça alentejana’. Immediately after weaning the piglets are fattened on a diet of barley and maize. Then, after several weeks, the pigs are allowed to roam free in open pastures and oak groves, feeding naturally on grass, roots, herbs and acorns until they are due for slaughter. At this point the diet is strictly limited to acorns, so produceing the finest quality hams. Thes are known as ‘jamón ibérico’. The hams are then salted and left to dry for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for a further six weeks. The curing process then continues for at least twelve months, although some producers will cure their jamones ibéricos for up to three years. These hams is regarded by many as the worlds finest, with a whole leg of Iberico ham, weighing seven kilos and complete with DNA certification, costing £1800.

Also known as a ‘Tiger Loaf’ or originally as ‘Dutch Crunch’, this is a bread made with the addition of sesame oil, it also has a characteristic ‘tiger stripe’ pattern baked into the top. This is produced by painting a special dough paste onto the surface prior to baking. The paste dries and cracks during the baking process, creating a two-colour effect similar to the markings of a tiger, hence the name. The pasted crust also gives the bread a distinctive flavouring. It has a crusty exterior, but is soft inside. Typically, tiger bread is made as a white bloomer or roll, but the technique can be applied to any shape of bread. Tiger bread originated from the Netherlands in the early 1900s, where it is known as ‘tijgerbrood’. It was introduced to Britain in 2005 as ‘tiger bread‘. It is also now found in North America, being especially common in delis around San Francisco where is known as ‘Dutch crunch’ or ’dragonette bread’. The paste used to produce this bread is made from rice flour, this contains no gluten, thus does not stretch like a traditional bread dough and instead cracks, so producing the tiger stripe pattern. It is possible to increased the cracked look when making this bread, first add the paste and then cover the bread with oiled cling film. Allow to rise. Remove the cling film before baking. To produce the dough paste take 60g of ground rice flour, a 1 tsp of white sugar, ½ a tsp of fresh yeast, ½ a tsp of sesame oil and 65ml of lukewarm water. Dissolve the sugar into the water. Add the yeast and mix. Add the sesame oil. Whisk. Blend into the rice flour, forming a paste. Add a little extra water if the paste is to thick, it should be of a spreading consistency. Allow to rest in a warm place for half an hour. Paste over the top of your bread mix at the final proving stage. Allow to prove. Bake.

Click here for a simple bread recipe

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has been dealt a fresh blow with his restaurant at Claridge’s, London, losing its only Michelin star. The latest edition of the Michelin Guide failed to include he restaurant which is run by Gordon Ramsay Holdings, the company responsible for Ramsay’s world wide food operations. He has retained his place at the top of the culinary tree however, with his famous Chelsea restaurant maintaining its coveted three star status. Only three other chefs hold three Michelin stars in Britain; Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Heston Blumenthal and Alain Roux. The Michelin Guide first introduced its restaurant star system in 1926, adding the two and three star rankings during the early 1930s.This year a 140 British restaurants have been awarded stars, a record number. The updated Michelin Guide for 2010 is published on Thursday.