Essence Cookbook challenge 19

This week we have a recipe from Le Champignon Sauvage, one of the best restaurants in the UK in my opinion and holder of two michelin stars since 2000 (sadly demoted to one in the 2019 guide). Le Champignon served food very much based around local and foraged ingredients, often cooked up in a more french style. David Everett-Matthias head chef and co-owner of the restaurant is so focused on his food, that he does not miss a service. Unlike so many chefs who can’t wait to do TV, on the rare occasion David has, he has closed his restaurant for the day.

The recipe this week is                                                                                        Halibut roasted on the bone with baby broad beans, morels and sweet cicely velouté. Very much a spring dish, this being Denmark and falling into winter baby broad beans and morels are not available (sadly neither was the halibut on the bone). So we have an autumnal version with Roast Halibut, Brussel sprouts, oyster mushrooms, bacon and a sweet cicely velouté.


Serves 4

4 good Halibut fillets

Brussel sprouts only the leafy part (about 6 in all)

100grm bacon

100grm wild mushrooms

Small bunch sweet cicely ( tarragon or dill will also work)

Bechemel sauce about 1 pint

Make your sauce and keep warm

Pick the brussel sprout leaves and blanch in salty water for two minutes max keep warm.

Fry the bacon til crisp and add the mushrooms keep warm whilst you fry the fish in the same pan whilst resting the fish, put the sweet cicely into the sauce cook for one minute then blend to a smooth texture.

Plate up how you would like, being of a certain age i’ve plated very 80s style.



Brexit and the hospitality industry

Reading Harvest America Ventures blog “the cook next to me”, prompted me to write about Brexit and the hospitality industry in the UK.

Catering and the whole hospitality industry is very heavily reliant upon foreign workers. Not just now but possibly the last 50 years if not more, we have welcomed people into the industry and they have brought new ideas, methods and tastes we would never have dreamed of. Curry is one of our national dishes, ice cream whilst walking on the beach in the rain(so British), chips with anything very English, all introduced by immigrants. Our food choices are so much richer with the influence of other cultures, and im sure somewhere in the world people are happy for what we have brought to their table. Now Brexit looms ever closer, the hospitality industry could be facing a major crisis with staffing levels dwindling on a daily basis. Hospitality is like a magnet to foreign workers, plenty of jobs, on the job training and usually plenty of hours available to anybody who wants them. Anybody who has talked to me about Brexi in the last 2 years, knows where I stand on the lazy British worker who likes to complain about “foreigners taking our jobs”, but is unwilling to go out and do the job their self. The hospitality industry is hard work with long hours and is criminally underpaid, quite often literally minimum wage is often seen as a guide not the law. To sum up the industry needs these people, not just for their work ethic and willingness to work for peanuts, but because they also bring new and fresh ideas to the industry.

From a personal point of view, back in 1985 when i started cooking my first head chef was from Sweden. Since then i have been lucky enough to work with people from, Tunisia, Portugal, Angola, Albania, Thailand, Denmark, Iceland, China, Jamaica, Vietnam, Israel, Barbados, Ireland, France, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Italy, Kenya and of course the UK. I count myself fortunate to have worked and learnt from these people, and happy to have had the opportunity.

Det stor Danske madleksikon Cookbook challenge 17

This week is a very short post from a big series of books. Let star Danske madleksikon compiles of 20 books alphabetically listing all manner of Danish classics (and some foreign). It’s a little like a hardback version of those little cards you could collect from magazines then put into a big plastic box. This weeks recipe is so simple, schnitzel the classic German dish that the Danes have taken to their hearts. Like the Germans the Danes consider this a great meal to drink beer with, and they put a lot of importance on the sides. You must have potatoes,peas(though not me), fresh horseradish, capers, lemon and anchovies, these strong flavours are why its the perfect accompaniment to wheat, and pilsner style beers


As for the recipe easy

serves 4

4 good quality boneless chops (pork or veal)

2 eggs

100g flour seasoned with salt and pepper

100g breadcrumbs

Beat out your chops until quite thin 1cm is good

coat lightly in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess

dip into beaten eggs, then coat in the breadcrumbs.

repeat the egg and breadcrumb part.

fry in butter untill golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with whatever takes your fancy as long as theirs a good beer involved


Danish Cooking Cookbook challenge 16

This week were back in Denmark, and possibly the first english book based solely on Danish cooking. Published in 1964 this book spends a lot of time on smørrebrød and jul (open sandwiches and christmas), than everyday recipes. This weeks recipe is an Othello cake, and happens to be Mettes favourite (I’m sure she looked this one up beforehand). The cake itself dates back to the early 1900s, and the story is Danes were fed up about being asked the whereabouts of Hamlets grave, so they created another connection to Shakespeare, sounds very flimsy to me though. As politically incorrect as it is, the chocolate and the cream in this cake are supposed to represent Othello and Desdemona.

The cake itself is quite some work, and as you can buy one in the supermarkets for around a third of the cost, I understand why people don’t make them. Anyway here is my recipe made for a 15cm round cake.


Creme pattisiere

35g sugar

35g cornflour

280ml milk

30g egg yolks (2small)

170ml cream

75ml cream for use later

Warm your milk up slowly, mix together the cornflour, egg yolks, sugar and cream to a paste. whisk into the warmed milk and stir until quite thick. Put into the fridge with clingfilm on the top to stop any skin forming,

Sponge base

2 eggs

62g sugar

40g flour

20g potato flour

Beat the eggs and sugar together until tripled in volume and are almost white. Sift the two flours together and gently fold into the egg mix. Put into two lightly oiled baking forms and bake 200c about 10 minutes. Let them cool before taking out and chill in the fridge,

Macaron base

60g marzipan

30g icing sugar

30g egg whites (from previous eggs)

40g chopped almonds

Mix the marzipan and icing sugar together so it is well mixed with no streaks of sugar add the almonds. mix in the egg whites till you have a pipeable consistency. pipe out to the size of you cake tin and bake 180c 10 minutes. Rest to cool before taking out.

Before assemble mix in the extra cream (75ml) into the creme pat to a nice creamy filling.

To assemble

Macron base topped with cream topped with a sponge then more cream then the last sponge, press to a good flat top and chill whilst you make the chocolate topping.

Chocolate topping

60g dark chocolate

75g icing sugar

a little water

Melt the chocolate and icing sugar together when melted take off the heat add a little water until you have a nice pouring mix. You must whisk quickly to avoid splitting the chocolate. Pour over the cake and level out best you can, put back into the fridge.


400g marzipan

Measure your cake circumference and height add one centimetre, roll out the marzipan using icing sugar to stop it sticking, until you have the required length and height place around the cake neatly. then pipe whipped cream ( 50ml) around the top as pictured

It’s a lot of work but apparently worth it.


Cuisine Gourmande Cookbook challenge 14

This weeks book is Cuisine Gourmande by renowned French chef Michel Guérard. Guérard is probably most known as one of the chefs behind the modern incarnation of nouvelle cuisine, along with Bocuse and Troisgros. Way back in  1976 Guérard wrote his first book Cuisine Minceur, which was a sort of high-class weight watchers book. With Cuisine Gourmande he returns to more classic French cuisine, but still a little lighter. At 85 years old Michel is still present in his Kitchen at Eugene les Bains.

This weeks recipe Jacky’s Lamb Charlotte, a lamb stew encased in Aubergine and a lamb farce. As I have some courgette’s i have used them for the outer layer instead of aubergines as well as a few other tweaks.


Jack’s Lamb Charlotte Serve 2-4(depending how hungry you are)

For the farce

50gms lean lamb shoulder as much fat removed as possible

15grm breadcrumbs soaked in 2 tbsp milk

1 aubergine baked and flesh removed

5 tbsp creme fraiche

salt and pepper

For the stew

400 grm lamb shoulder meat

2 carrots

1 medium-sized onion

2 sticks celery

2 cloves garlic

1 heaped teaspoon flour

400ml water/dry white wine

salt and pepper

To finish

2 courgettes sliced lengthways thinly and lightly fried until soft.

To make the farce blend everything together to a smooth paste and chill in the fridge until needed

For the stew dice the meat up to whatever size suits you. Make mirepoix with the vegetables(fine dice). In a pan fry the lamb until you have a nice colour then add the vegetables and cook for ten minutes more, sprinkle over the flour and mix in well cook out for 2 minutes. Add the water/wine and simmer for about 20 minutes, then drain keep the gravy.

To put together take an ovenproof dish (6″ round/oval was ok) coat the inside with butter or oil and place the courgettes on the bottom and sides, spread the cold farce inside them, then add the drained stew to about 2cm off the top. Spread more farce if you have over the top then close with a layer of courgette. Bake in a water bath 190c for about ab hour. When cooked turn it upside down and let it stand for ten minutes, it should then slip out. Serve with vegetables of your choice and the gravy from the stew. A light red wine from the south of France pairs perfect with this.


Cooking with a Danish Flavour Cookbook challenge 13

Cooking with a Danish Flavour by Pauline Viola and Knud Ravnkilde, a book i bought from a charity shop, as you can see the for princely sum of 1 pound. Back in the days when i first met my Danish better half(so she says). Back then i bought quite a few books with a Scandinavian theme, didn’t know i would end up living here or Scandinavia would become a “hip trendy place to be”. I am reminded on a regular basis that hip and trendy only applies to Copenhagen and that Jutlanders are all down to earth working people.

This weeks recipe (or not really) is Flæskesteg (roast pork to most of us). An absolute favourite of the Danish people, remember this is a country that prides itself on its pigs think New Zealand and lamb. Roast pork is a key part to any Danish Christmas dinner, and there a quite a few components. As well as the pork you will have roast duck, caramelised potatoes, boiled potatoes, red cabbage, prunes, apples, gravy and this is just the classic there are many variations, but without the roast pork it’s just dinner.

As you can see from the picture I mixed mine with an English Sunday roast, roast potatoes gravy, apple sauce, red cabbage (the dak blob in the bowl) and to be honest some of the worst yorkshire pudding I’ve ever made(typical when you take a picture)


The main thing with roast pork is of course the crackling, even though Danes don’t particularly like fatty food, they will fight like vikings on a pillage for the last bit of crackling. There are many ways to get a good crispy crackling, mine works for me and is taken from the Chinese Peking Duck. First buy a nice piece of pork with a good clean fat layer pre-scored if you can. A day or two before you want to cook it take it out of the pack and place into a shallow dish where it can lay flat. Rub some neutral alcohol (vodka is best) over the skin and work it in, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Put it back in the middle of the fridge uncovered, minimum 24 hours the alcohol and cold air will dry it out nicely. On the day you want to cook it get your oven as high as it will go and leave it for ten minutes to make sure its hot, then put you pork in (in an ovenproof dish) and leave it for about 20-30 minutes. Then just cook as normal 15 minutes to the pound (500grm) if you have an oven thermometer cook to 62-64c it will go up about 6 degrees during the rest period.


The Constance Spry Cookery Book Cookbook challenge 12

Well it was going to happen at some point, this week we venture into patisserie. A long way out of my comfort zone, fiddly little things and decoration are not really me. Although I took the first part of the pastry chefs qualification (and passed with a distinction), I soon realised all that exactness and eye for detail was not for me, though  I do admire pastry chefs for their art immensely.

This weeks book is The Constance Spry Cookery Book from 1956, Constance was a well-known florist and had written many books on the subject before going into the food business. Along with Rosemary Hume she set up a  domestic science school in Winkfield Berkshire, it was here the recipe for Coronation Chicken was created to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the second. Although  the vast majority of recipes in this book were created by Rosemary Hume, herself a graduate of the cordon bleu school in Paris and teacher at the cordon bleu in London. Constance Spry was so well-known that it was decided the book should carry her name on the cover, and Rosemary’s on the side and throughout the book itself.

This weeks recipe, Mokatines (or Mochatines origanally) a small gateaux with coffee butter cream and almonds.


Mochatines (makes 6)

Grease and line a  rectangular or square cake tin or any thing you bake in I used a 26x19cm ovenproof dish.

Make a sponge with

125gm flour

4 eggs

125gm sugar

50gm softened butter(melted would be better)

I prefer the all in one method but make how you would normally.

Pour into your baking form and level out, bake at 170c about 30 minutes maybe less depending on your oven, check its baked with a toothpick or thin knife. Let the sponge completely cool before you take out of the form.

Whilst cooling make your butter cream

4 egg yolks

150gm butter

100Gm icing sugar (I find it easier to use than ordinary sugar)

A very strong espresso or two depending on how much coffee flavour you want

Beat everything together until you have a smooth mixture wet enough to pipe(you may need to add a drop of water)

When the sponge is cooled square off into 6 portions, slice in half from top to bottom, spread a thin layer of butter cream in the middle and around the sides to make it nice and square. Roll in some chopped almonds or any nuts you prefer, again let it chill in the fridge for 10 minutes then pipe around the top as in the picture.


Classically these should be finished with an apricot glaze, but I’ve just melted some chocolate with another espresso and filled in the top I think it looks nicer.





The Complete Meze Table Cookbook challenge 11

This week we travel to the middle east, this particular book actually belongs to my wonderful partner Mette (so it’s not seen much use before). The complete Maze by Rosamund Man, is a collection of food from mainly Turkey and Greece. The recipe we have this week was Dajaj Mashwi bil Baharat (chicken with spices) from Baghdad. The recipe calls for 10 cardamom pods for 1 chicken, now I like cardamon but i think that maybe like a trip to the dentists. So i have scaled down a little to a more western palate.

Without waffling on for ever I’m keeping this very short so here is my recipe for

Dajaj Mashwi bil Baharat.


As you can see i went for the rustic look served on a warm chickpea salad with yoghurt.

1 whole chicken cut into 4 (keep the bones to make a stock)

3 cardamom pods crushed

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp allspice

6 cloves garlic

Juice and zest of 2 large lemons

100ml olive oil

Put the chicken into a ovenproof dish and let the skin dry out for half an hour, then prick a few holes into the chicken.

Blend everything else together to a nice paste, marinade the chicken overnight, remember to really work the marinade into the bird.

Cook as you would a chicken 180c about 25 minutes until the juices run clear.

Serve it with couscous, chickpeas or even potatoes it’s really very good.



Classic food of China Cookbook challenge 10

Well I made it to ten, and I’m not bored yet. This weeks cookbook Classic Food of Chine by Yan-Kit So. The book contains around 150 recipes from various regions of China, all of which are interesting enough. For me though the first 120 pages of the book are the best. The author writes about the history and regional diversities of Chinese cuisine as well as the importance of tea (might only be PG but I hold tea in very high regard also).

As for todays recipe could not be simpler,sautéed bean curd with spinach. Five items and very little work, a perfect light evening meal for that meat free day you keep promising yourself.


Serves 2

500gr fresh spinach

300gr tofu cut into cubes( the recipe is for bean curd but Tofu is just the pressed version)

100ml vegetable stock(or chicken if you prefer)

10ml thin soya sauce add to the stock

Vegetable oil for frying

Wash the spinach, there wash it again because you will always miss some, cover it in boiling water for 5 minutes then drain and squeeze as much water out as possible.

Cover the bottom of a frying pan in oil and fry the tofu gently getting a nice caramelization on the sides. Then pour over the stock and cook for a couple of minutes, so the tofu can absorb some flavour. Remove the tofu and add the spinach and heat up add the tofu and serve. You may want to season at the very end, as the salt from the soya sauce can be enough for some.



Casa Moro Cookbook challenge 9

This week’s recipe is merguez sausages from the Cast Moro cookbook. You may have noticed two books in the cover photograph, the bottom book Moro happens to be one of my favourite cookbooks. In cases where I have more than one book by the same people we only take one book one recipe(otherwise this will be a long journey). Restaurant Moro lies in exmouth market in east London, and is a fabulous place to eat. Some time back in the late 90’s i was here on a work jolly and really enjoyed the food and the concept. The food is very Mediterranean with a focus on  moorish influences. Usually the recipes in these books are so good i don’t mess with them, but as it happens i have my own recipe for merguez sausages and that is what i will use.


Firstly you need your spice mixture here we have

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tbsp harissa powder

1tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp powdered clove

6 cloves garlic

1tsp fennel powder

Lightly roast these in a dry pan then blend together(if you like heat add some cayenne pepper)

Mix this together with 800grm minced lamb


To make the sausages you need some sausage casings preferably lamb, but pig or vegetarian will do(just ask your butcher). If you can’t get casings or don’t want the fuss you can make these into tasty burgers. Remember to rinse out the casings well as they will be salty.

Make your sausages with a machine or piping bag by stuffing the casings, then tie off at a size good for you.


Let them air dry for an hour or so before putting into the fridge, hang them if you can or let the sit on a trivet so they can continue drying.

Cook as you would a normal sausage they are delicious.

DSC00012 2