Kitchen tip # 29 - Crispy fry noodles

Sunday, September 28, 2008
Noodle soup, noodle salad, noodle stir-fry...... there are so many things you can make with noodles. Like these crispy fried noodles. Not to be confused with the deep-fried variety. These are crisp on the outside and soft in the middle - a delicious contrast of textures.

Something I first made at Charingworth Manor years ago - they make a great alternative to potatoes, pasta or rice. Take normal egg noodles and boil for 2 minutes. If you are cooking a couple of batches keep the remainder warm while you fry the rest -they cook much quicker when hot as you don't have to return them to temperature.

Cooking crispy fried noodles is just like cooking potato rosti. When cooking either I have a small saucepan of vegetable oil which I dip the metal rings into - this means you can swill the rings round with oil, and return them to the pan after you havefinished cooking without making a mess by the side of your stove. The frying pan wants to be on a medium heat - too low and you don't get any colour, too high and they burn before they stick together enough to be turned, and you want enough oil for them to shallow fry.

Transfer the rings to the warm frying pan with the tongs. You then pack in the noodles about 3/4 of the way to the top of the ring as they compress as the cook, and pack them down with a spoon to create a flat layer at the bottom and flat sides. As they brown & crisp underneath - 2 - 3 minutes, turn them over with the tongs. If the noodles stick to the sides of the ring ease them off the side with a sharp knife. Leave them to brown on the second side, remove the ring.

If you have a large number of people to feed you can keep making batches of crispy noodle rings and place them on a baking tray when finished. When you are ready to serve the dish, your crispy noodles just need to be flashed in the oven for 3 - 5 minutes till hot.

You could of course add flavour variations to your noodles - ginger, spring onions, chilli, lemon grass etc.

Ref: Grilled fillet of salmon with steamed leeks and mangetout, a mussel broth and crispy noodles


Smoked duck salad wth orange, watercress and a pommegranite dressing


Assiette of desserts

The say all that glitters isn't gold. This however is:
Gold leaf on chocolate tart

as part of the assiette of desserts at Wysdom Hall last night

Chocolate tart with gold leaf, glazed lemon tart, shortbread with raspberries and crème patisserie, japanese spoon of crème brûlée and shotglass of Three Choirs Cuvée sorbet

Shortbreads in production the day before using half normal flour and half Doves Farm rice flour (now there's a tip!) ....

.... and cooling next to mini eclairs for a canape party


Lamb and apricot casserole aka lamb tagine

Monday, September 22, 2008
The good thing about being asked to make the same dish again and again is that you can perfect it, and make it better and better each time you do it. Lamb and apricot casserole is something I’ve been making for 12 years and 3 months. Not that I’m counting. And on and off of course. It started as the best seller at Goblets Wine Bar, the Lygon Arms brasserie where I started my career. Back then we used diced leg of lamb for convenience more than anything.

Years later it is now a best seller on my bistro menu, and like many recipes I‘ve made a few modifications.

Lamb neck rings and chops, sealed before filling up with stock

I use a combination of lamb neck rings and chops (I find that when using leg it can taste quite dry so use neck instead) from Home Farm in Bredons Norton where they butcher their own meat on the farm. It is seared like the beef for the beef pie, then cooked with onions for 3 - 4 hours in red wine, tomatoes, onion and rosemary which often comes from my garden (when supplies aren’t exhausted as it’s only a young plant).

After that you drain the sauce and thicken it while leaving the lamb to cool while it's cool enough to handle whereupon you can take the meat away from the bone, sinew and fat. The advantage of cooking it on the bone is that the bones impart all their flavour to the meat, and the sauce while cooking, and on the whole, just like cooking duck or chicken on the bone, it is just much more succulent.

If you chill the meat it makes it easy to cut into bite-size morsels - like above, and keeps a better shape. The sauce can be modified to taste - seasoning, a splash of balsamic maybe, tomato paste, garlic, red wine (when you add red wine at the end you retain it's fresh taste) and then thickened with cornflour (if you thicken it this way at the end, rather than with flour at the begining you don't have the 3 - 4 hour cooked-hard-to-the-bottom-of-the-tray effect - much easier to clean!).
If you are eating straight away drop the lamb, onions, chopped rosemary and chopped apricots back in to re-heat, or if not leave to cool and re-heat the next day (always tastes better heated up).

Lamb tagine for a buffet at Hill House 18 March 2012
Roast and grilled vegetables for lamb tagine above
Watermelon boats with strawberries, pineapple, passionfruit, mango, blueberries and coconut - going for  the healthy option after the lamb tagine above, 18 March 2012

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Beans means hake

Saturday, September 20, 2008

“Gouda is ze best cheese in ze world”. According to a former Claridges colleague, Michael from Germany that is. Gouda, ham, warm bread, jam and coffee. These were things you ate for breakfast in Germany, and this is why he could not get used to seeing baked beans in the canteen.

The British it seems are as famous for baked beans as fish and chips or roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. But beans are beans - they taste the same pretty much wherever you are in the world. That is until you make your own.

Dried harricot beans before being cooked

Boston bean hot pot - the traditional all American dish cooked in billy cans over an open fire was a regular staple on the Benson family repetoire when I was young. My mum tried to vary our meals as much as possible, although the concept of a meal that wasn’t meat and two veg to my dad with his Yorkshire roots seemed abhorrent (she did at least save the smoked haddock and poached egg for when he was away on business). The beans would be soaked overnight then put in the slow cooker early in the morning before work and school and it was ready for the evening - if you could wait that long. It goes very well with garlic bread and tomato salad, and tastes even better heated up the next day, but then slow cooked things always do.

Stirred in to the tomato/ provençal sauce

It wasn’t till May this year when I first tried making baked beans. At Claridges we would make endless braised harricot blanc. The secret for the best flavour was to sneak in to the veg section’s fridge before they got in in the morning and drain some of their chicken consomme (“must have evaporated overnight“), then add some onion, garlic and thyme from their soup mis en place, then it was into the sauce fridge and shave off some duck fat before they got in, so it wasn’t noticeable and you could hide it in your fridge for later in the day. The harricot beans could then be added to the pilfered ingredients, covered with foil and left in the legendary big red oven when the veal bones came out. The big red oven was the last of the original Claridges ovens - over a hundred years old, the one shown off to all the tours that past through the kitchens and putting something in it was like putting live meat in a lions mouth and hoping for the best. It had a wonderful dry heat - like an aga that seems to be great for baking beans, and drying tomatoes (as long as you remembered they were in there). From the cooked braised beans we made white bean puree to accompany foie gras and corn-fed chicken terrine, or peppered salmon.

Provençal style harricot beans on test, May '08

When you cook your own beans from raw they soak up all the flavour you add. On that occasion I had some provencal sauce left from my salmon dish - so there were capers, olives, peppers and basil among the tomatoes and onion, now you can’t get that in a can. Yet. Once cooked till soft and the sauce reduced and thickened I found they went awfully well with smoked cod and sautéed nettles. Also with poached chicken and rocket. And on toasted ciabatta with blue cheese. In fact I liked them so much it was only a matter of time before they made it on to the menu.

Cannellini beans, bistro menu, 20th September '08

Because cannellini beans are 3 or 4 times the size of a harricot bean they have more texture and they feel more substatial. Cannellini beans like red kidney beans need soaking ovenight and must be boilled vigorously for 10 minutes before braising or simmering otherwise they can be toxic - remember all those cases of food poisoning in the 70’s when the nation started eating red kidney beans in chilli but hadn’t boiled them.

A provençal base - onions, peppers, and a family tomato sauce recipe that has certain vintage Delia origins which is cooked down with a splash of balsamic.

Once boiled they are braised in tomato sauce - onions, peppers, and a tomato sauce. Then either chicken stock (for meat eaters) or vegetable stock (vegetarians) and a bit of thyme and the beans are cooked for 3 - 4 hours till tender. After 4 hours if they are tender and you added too much stock and your tomato sauce is still a little watery, as happened on this occasion (with only 20 minutes to go before I had to leave with them chilled and packed - I love my blast chiller) you can whip them out of the oven and put them on the stove top to reduce fast. Taste them too, adding seasoning, herbs, tobasco, Worcester sauce, balsamic syrup, cherry tomatoes - whatever it takes to make them taste the best…….

What the hake?

To this day I think hake is a really underrated fish - don’t forget monkfish was once the poor man’s fish - and now look at it.

Smoked cod or haddock goes very well with the baked beans, but so does the silky soft, melt in the mouth texture of hake - it's a natural combination, especially when you crisp the skin under the grill.
Here it is prepared for a delivery with sliced lemons, baby plum tomatoes and thyme underneath which will all add to the flavour as the fish is re-heated. It was filleted, baked and chilled first, with instructions to be finished under the grill which will give you a crispy skin. What could be better? Well yes, maybe dauphinoise potato with it as well. But I made those too.