Friday, 11 February 2011

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

This is another meal I had the other week and just haven't got around to posting it! A couple of Sundays ago I'd picked up some Jerusalem artichokes and Italian spicy sausages from the little community farmers market in Palmers Green station's car park and a day or so after the mammoth Mexican feast really, really fancied a nice earthy, creamy, slightly cheesy jerusalem artichoke gratin.

I didn't really have a recipe, but just sort of made it up as I went along (hence the slightly 'vaguity' below).  Generally speaking it was a huge success, I'd perhaps omit the sage leaves next time - they didn't harm it but I don't think they really added anything either.

No real measurements here I'm afraid as I failed to weigh the artichokes, I guess about 200g though.

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin
Serves 2-4 (depending on how much you want for yourself really)

Jerusalem Artichokes
Truffle salt (optional)
A few sage leaves, finely chopped
2 smoked garlic cloves, sliced thinly
Knob of butter, diced
Grated Comté cheese (or Gruyere would work)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Single cream (I use the "fake" cream by Elmlea in a bid to convince myself that I'm not being quite so unhealty)
Panko breadcrumbs (or normal white breadcrumbs)
Freshly ground black pepper

Chop the Jerusalem artichokes into even sized chunks (but still quite large) but don't peel.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes until tender to the point of a sharp knive.  Drain and cool slightly until you can hadle them.  They should now be a lot easier to peel and then you can slice thinly.

Lightly grease as a shallow oven proof dish then add slices of the artichoke in one layer making sure there are as little gaps as possible.

Sprinkle in the truffle salt lightly if using (otherwise a little bit of normal salt), slices of garlic, and chopped sage.  Grate over a tiny amount of nutmeg.

Layer in more artichoke, top with a little more truffle salt and garlic then pour over some cream (so it is just covering the artichoke but not completely).  Sprinkle over the cheese and ground pepper and then top with the breadcrumbs.  Finally dot the cubes of butter all over the top.

Pop into a preheated over (at about 200) for about 20 mins or until golden & bubbling.

I served this with the sausages I'd also bought in the farmers market with some spinach sautéed in a tiny amount of olive oil with a little nutmeg and black pepper and a nice glass of red wine.  Yum!

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Mexican Sunday! A little belated...

I’ve been very bad at updates for a good week or so.. not sure why really - time has just got away from me I guess.  So I think I’ll have to do quite a few posts in a short amount of time to try and catch up.

So cast your mind back to Saturday night dinner at the Opera Tavern, just over a week ago...  after perhaps a little bit too much wine, sherry and Pedro Ximenez, Sunday seemed to call for a restorative, “beat the hangover” brunch of simple yet delicious Huevos Rancheros.  I basically took this (with a couple of small changes) from the highly recommended “Mexican Food Made Simple” by Thomasina Miers.  

This really did hit the spot - fairly large amounts of lard aside, it actually makes me feel quity healthy and worthy.  It was a beautiful day though so that may have helped.

Lunch was fairly uncalled for after that but the Mexican theme continued in the evening with dinner of jalapeno, cumin & lime marinated skirt steak, cooked quickly on the griddle at a very high heat, served with fresh guacomole, refried beans, chilli mushrooms, salsa & baked tortilla chips.  

Just what is needed on a Sunday night to chase those back to work tomorrow blues away...

Huevos Rancheros Brunch
serves 2

3 tbsp lard
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin chopped plum tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper
½ tsp demerara sugar
a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp chipotle paste
2 tbsp chopped tarragon (with a little extra for garnish)
2 corn tortillas
2 eggs
30g grated Lancashire cheese

Get the sauce started first by heating 1 tablespoon of lard  in a frying pan and add the onion and chilli. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutues until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more before adding the tomatoes.  Break the tomatoes up a little more with the back of a wooden spoon.

Season well with salt and pepper, sugar, worcestershire sauce and chipotle paste.  Let it all cook gently over a low heat 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if the sauce is getting too dry.  After 20 minutes preheat the oven to low (around 100 degrees c).

When the sauce is pretty much ready, melt ½ to 1 tablespoon of lard in another frying pan and when hot add the tortillas one by one cooking for a minute or so each side (turn gently) so they are softened and coated with lard. Wrap in foil then pop into the warm over, together with 2 plates.  

Add the tarragon to the pan with the sauce and give it a stir.  

Melt the rest of the lard - in the same pan the tortillas were just in - over a high heat and when it is sizzling, fry the eggs, spooning the hot lard over them occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.

Put a tortilla on each warmed plate and top that with the tomato sauce. Finally put an egg on top and scatter with the grated cheese and a little more tarragon.

The next time I do this I will definitely go for the greedy option and have 2 eggs to myself!

So onto the evening meal of mexican steak and accompaniments.  I should point out that the steak went into the marinade and the beans were put in water to soak on Saturday night, and early Sunday afternoon I cooked the beans.  Once the preparation is all done though it’s all very easy to put together.

Skirt is great cut of meat: after marinading, flash frying and cutting against the grain it is super tasty and tender - this really takes me back to a fantastic holiday on the Yucatan peninsula, sadly far too many years ago.

Serve with Margaritas on the rocks!

The tortilla chips were made by leaving a couple of corn tortillas out for a few hours to go slightly stale, then I brushed them with oil and cut into wedge shapes before spreading out on a baking sheet and popping into a hot oven for 10 minutes. Once out of the oven I ground some sea salt over. As you can see they're slightly overdone but were still by far the nicest I've had outside of Mexico!

Jalapeno, lime, coriander & cumin marinated skirt steak
serves 2
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
¼ tsp smoked sea salt (or normal maldon sea salt)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lime, juiced
large handful coriander, chopped
40ml extra-virgin olive oil (about 2½ tbsp)
200g skirt steak

Lightly toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat until aromatic, about 5 minutes.  

Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder (or food processor, or of course you could use a pestle and mortar).  Add the jalapenos, garlic, salt, pepper, and lime juice.  Pulse then add about half of the olive oil.  Pulse again then add remaining olive oil.  Pulse more until it's all blended into a lovely green puree.

Put the steaks into a freezer or sandwich bag, add the marinade, toss around to coat then seal and refrigerate for 24 hours (I did it for 48 in the end - I had very fresh steak from the fantastic McKanna Meats on Theobalds Road).

Remove the steaks from the fridge about 30 mins before cooking so they can come to room temperature.  Heat a griddle pan until very hot.  Wipe a piece of kitchen towel that has been soaked in olive oil quickly over the griddle.  Sear the steak on both side (about 3-4 minutes for the first side then 2-3 for the other).

Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting against the grain into thin(ish) slices.

Serve with the guacemole, refried beans and chilli mushrooms.

Chilli Mushrooms
Knob of butter
1tbsp olive oil
200g assorted mushrooms (I used chestnut, shitake & oyster)  - sliced
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
¼ tsp dried chili flakes
1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
25ml water
small handful of chopped tarragon & coriander

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sweat the shallots & chili over a low heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Add the butter to the pan, melt, then add the mushrooms, chipotle paste and water.  Cook for about 10 minutes over a low heat.  Stir the herbs in then serve.

1 fresh green chilli (you can add more or less depending on your personal taste), finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
Small handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 ripe Hass avocado  
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
black pepper

Put a quarter of the chopped onion, half the chili and a teaspoon of the coriander into a pestle and mortar, along with half of the salt and grind to a paste.

Peel and de-stone the avocado. Cut into cubes, add to the mortar and mash with a fork to a chunky paste, making sure to incorporate the chilli paste and also half of the lime juice.

Carefully fold in the rest of the onions, chilli and coriander.  Season with plenty of black pepper, add more of the remaining lime juice and salt to taste.

5 small ripe tomatoes, seeds & pulp discarded then diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Juice ½ lime
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp soft brown sugar
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, taste for seasoning and alter to taste.  Leave, to allow the flavours to meld and develop, for a good half an hour.

Enjoy :)
PS - any leftovers are fantastic the next day as a sandwich in a split and grilled pane rustica roll
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