Pheasant breast and confit leg

I was practicing my butchery skills with this dish, as I bought the whole bird, but if you don’t want to get your hands messy you can buy these ready prepared. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when cooking wild game: it is very lean meat, so care should be taken not to overcook it, as it will get tough otherwise. Also, it’s good to remember that the meat might contain a pellet or two on occasion. I served my pheasant with puy lentils and quinoa, roasted parsnips and steamed tenderstem broccoli.

Confit leg
sea salt
ground black pepper
thyme leaves
2 dl vegetable oil
2 dl duck fat
2 garlic cloves

Breast
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
ground black pepper
thyme leaves

Sauce
2 shallots
1 thyme stalk
1 dl port wine
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 dl chicken stock
1 tbsp grainy mustard
salt
black pepper

1. Rub some sea salt, ground black pepper and thyme leaves on the legs. Cover with cling film, and rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

2. Wash the salt rub off the legs, and pat dry the them. Heat the oil – fat mixture to very low temperature,  including garlic cloves and thyme stalk. Place the legs in the oil, and cook on very low heat for 3 hours. Make sure you have enough oil/fat to cover the meat.

img_1316

3. Whilst the legs are cooking, marinate the breast, cover and place in the fridge for couple of hours.

4. Finely chop shallots, and fry in olive oil together with the thyme stalk until shallots are translucent. Add port, sherry vinegar and stock, and reduce by boiling uncovered until desired thickness. Add grainy mustard, check the taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

5. Pan fry the breasts for 1 minute, skin side down. Turn skin side up, and place in preheated oven 200°C / 390°F for 10 minutes.

Dark chocolate mousse with pistachio crumb

I’m not sure why I don’t make this decadent dessert more often (my husband agrees!), as it only requires a few ingredients. You do need to get certain things right when making it or it might fail, but I still think it’s simple enough to make easily. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream to soothe the bitterness of the chocolate and add pistachio crumb for some crunch and texture. It’s very rich, so you won’t need big portion sizes.

serves 6-8
120g dark chocolate (I used 70%)
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/2 dl caster sugar
~~~~~
handful of pistachios, crushed
whipped cream

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together into a thick foam.

img_1308

2. Gently melt the chocolate in a bain marie (water bath), stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth, remove from the bain marie and let cool for 3 minutes. Pour the yolks into the chocolate, stirring. The mixture will become stiff at this stage.

3. Little by little, add spoonfuls of the egg white foam, folding together with the chocolate mixture. Try not to mix too hard, just gently fold them together, as hard mixing may ‘kill’ the foamy texture required for the mousse. The colour of the mousse will become lighter as you go along.

4. Put the mousse in ramekins, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for few hours to allow the mousse to set.

img_1307

Butter chicken curry

A lot of people seem to think that curry always means spicy, and if they don’t like spicy food they’re not interested. You couldn’t be further from the truth thinking this way. It is true that it can often be spicy, but there is so much more curry (or Indian food) can offer. I think the main thing about Indian food is flavor, spicy or not. I’m actually a friend of spicy food, however this is one of my favourite non-spicy curries. It’s amazing the fragrance you will get when cooking this food, certain to awaken your appetite. Last time I made this I thought the sauce itself was too runny, so I reduced the liquid in todays’ recipe, however I thought it might have been too thick to my taste this time. The recipe is for my cooking today, and if you want yours slightly runnier just add a bit more of the liquids. Cooking Indian curries can usually be a little bit time consuming in terms of needing you to be organized well in advanced, needing preparations a long time before cooking, but I can promise you it’s all worth it.

2-3 chicken breasts
~~~~~
100ml natural yoghurt
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp fresh root ginger (about half a thumb size piece, then cut the skin off)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp tomato puree
~~~~~
50g butter
1 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods (bruised)
1 medium onion or a few shallots
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground paprika
1 dl chicken stock (click here for recipe)
1/2 – 1 tin of tomato puree (I used a small tin of 140g of double concentrate)
150ml cream

1. Finely chop garlic and peeled ginger, and mix all marinade ingredient together. Chop the chicken to desired size pieces. Mix into the marinade. Cover with cling film, and cover for overnight, or 6-8 hours (I have done this for less time when I haven’t been organized enough, but the longer you marinate the better it’ll be).

2. Finely chop onion. Heat the butter in a pan, and add the onions, cinnamon and cardamoms. For bruised cardamoms, put a knife over the pods, resting the knife flat side on the pods, and hit the knife with your fist. Cook until the onions become translucent, stirring.

img_1288

3. Add the chicken marinade, and cook for about 5 minutes.

4. Add all remaining ingredients apart from the cream, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then add the cream, and cook for another 10 minutes.

Cauliflower soup

This tasty soup is very easy and simple to make. I usually use some crispy bacon for some crunch and texture, but this can easily be left out to make the soup a vegetarian version.

1 cauliflower
4 large potatoes
2 medium onions
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp bouillon powder
2 dl double cream
2 dl
sweetcorn
salt
ground black pepper
1 liter
water
150g-200g
bacon

1. Peel and chop the potatoes, onions and garlic. Cut the  cauliflower, and add all four ingredients to a pan. Pour water over, and add the bouillon powder. Bring to boil and simmer until cooked and soft. If you don’t want to use bouillon powder you can always replace the water and the powder with same amount of vegetable stock.

2. Cook the bacon in the oven / under a grill, until overcooked but not burned.  I normally use smoked bacon, but use whatever bacon you prefer. Take out and let cool. Once cooled, crumble to small pieces by hand.

3. Once onions, potatoes, garlic and cauliflower are cooked. Let cool slightly, and puree in a blender. Pour back in the pan and add cream, sweetcorn and crispy bacon crumble. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Marinated oriental salmon

This salmon dish is something I make very regularly. The salmon itself can be steamed, pan fried, grilled or oven cooked. Today I added roasted bone marrow (which I’ve never cooked before) to this dish. In terms of flavour, it doesn’t really contribute much, but it’s supposed to offer some health benefits. I marinade the salmon, and then use the same liquid for the fried vegetables. I tend to use plain basmati rice for this, as the marinade mixture is full of flavour.

serves 2
salmon fillets
(beef bone marrow)
3/4 cup of basmati rice
~~~~~
Marinade
20ml light soy sauce
30ml dark soy sauce
10ml rice vinegar
50ml sesame oil
10ml fish sauce
20ml lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
thumb size piece of root ginger
1 small green chilli
1 shallot
~~~~~
2 mushrooms
1 carrot
1 courgette (zucchini)
handful of mangetouts
handful of baby sweetcorn

1. Finely chop ginger, garlic, chilli and shallot. Mix all marinade ingredients together. Put the salmon fillets in a re-sealable bag, and pour the marinade in. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning over half way through, so that both sides marinate.

img_1265

2. Chop the vegetables, to be ready for frying later.

img_1264

3. If using bone marrow, season with salt and pepper, and roast in an preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 20 minutes. Cooked marrow will easily come off the bone with a spoon.

4. Measure 3/4 of a cup of basmati rice. Wash the rice in a bowl or sieve, until the water doesn’t get cloudy anymore (this washes off the starch). Put the washed rice in a pan, add a pinch of salt. Add 1 1/4 cups of boiled water (use same cup /measure you use for the rice). Bring to boil, stir, then reduce to simmer. It should take about 15 minutes until all water has been absorbed.

5. Salmon cooks quickly, which ever way you cook it. I think gentle steaming is a great way to keep the salmon juice and moist. You’ll only need about 7 minutes on a low heat, cover with a lid.

img_1262

6. Fry the vegetables in hot oil (I used ground nut oil for this, but you can also use other vegetable oils) for about 5 minutes. Pour the salmon marinade liquid into the pan, and fry for another few minutes.

Chocolate bread

In my husband’s mind, I don’t make this bread often enough (he would still say this even if I made it almost every week). Chocolate bread might sound like a weird concept, and you would probably expect it to be sweet. I don’t think it’s either of the mentioned. Cocoa powder itself is always pretty bitter, and the bread only uses a little bit of sugar to counteract that. The taste of the bread is somewhere in a twilight zone between savory, bitter and sweet, and is quite addictive. You can of course alter the end taste by eating it with normal butter, nutella, peanut butter etc.

450g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
25g cocoa powder
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
300ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1. Mix all the dry ingredients flour, salt, cocoa powder, sugar and yeast together. The cocoa powder tends to be a bit lumpy, you can either sift it through a sieve when adding it, or when mixing all ingredients together with a spoon just break the biggest lumps, which is what I do. Kneading the dough will get rid of the remaining lumps.

2. Mix oil and water together.  I use a food processor for kneading, but you can also do it by hand. Whilst mixing / kneading, slowly pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Once it’s all mixed together, knead for 10 minutes. Cover with oiled cling film and a cloth, and place the bowl in a sink with some hot water at the bottom. Leave to rise for 1 hour.

 

img_1224

3. Knead again for about 30 seconds. Shape to a log to be length / width of your bread tin. Slightly oil your tin, and place the dough in. Cover with the oiled cling film, and let rise for 30 minutes.

img_1225 img_1226

 

4. Bake in preheated oven 200°C / 400°F for 25-30 minutes.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

img_1227

 

Restaurant review: M Twickenham, London

Reviewing the latest addition to the M restaurants, the Twickenham branch, is somewhat tricky for me. If, like me, you usually do fine dining more than anything else, this doesn’t really measure up to those standards. If, however, you prefer hearty meals in standard restaurants or pubs, you would consider M to be an upmarket place. Either way, you should be prepared for the pinch to your wallet. Most of my reviews will be of fine dining restaurants, so I think I have to use the same considerations, standards and ratings for comparison. Only very rare restaurants will ever get 5 stars from me. 4 is very good, 3 good and above average. 2 would have something missing and be below average, and 1 poor (I hope I will never have to give 1).

We had been to this restaurant once since it opened a while ago. We thought it was decent enough, although as mentioned above, not exactly the fine dining standard. This time, we decided to go for a Sunday dinner (however not roast, but a la carte). Restaurant was busier than we expected, but we had no problem getting a table. Couple of tables from us there was a group, and they had two big dogs with them. This was inside the restaurant, quite close to the open kitchen. If the place was a country pub this would be something you’d expect, however I was slightly uncomfortable with this, especially when one of the dogs started shaking it’s body. I was trying to calculate the distance and what amount of particles floated onto my food (I don’t really want to think about it too much). I do like dogs, just not in a supposedly upmarket restaurant.

Restaurant had run out of couple of options, one of them being what my husband would’ve ordered.

Apart from the bread, you have to pay for absolutely everything separately. Things got to a good start with the bread. One of the first things we always use for assessing a restaurant is the butter. You still sometimes get butter that’s rock hard, and almost impossible to spread. Perfect butter should be very soft, almost mousse-like. At the M, the butter was perfectly soft. For the wine we went for Argentinian Malbec, which was the restaurant’s own label, and decent enough.

img_1203

For starters I had ‘Courgette’, and my husband had ‘Wagyu scotch egg’. I enjoyed my starter, which had differently prepared courgette: fermented, pickled, and courgette flower filled with cheese, coated with batter and deepfried.  The cheese was very light, almost foamy, and oozed out when the flower was cut. Coming from fine dining in mind, the plating was probably lacking a bit of finesse.  My husband’s dish was also nice, however spiced wagyu beef didn’t taste spiced at all. The beef itself was quite like tartare, so if you don’t like raw / medium beef you might want to reconsider your choice. The egg inside was nice and oozy, just as it should be.

With the main, you must be prepared to order sides, as you literally get nothing else on your plate. We ordered spiced chickpeas, spinach and rocket salad, and triple cooked chips. I’m not too big a fan of chunky chips, so asked for skinny fries, but the only option was their chips. When the chips came they were actually ok for me as they were more like skinny fries than chips. The salad came without any utensils, so we had to try to get some out with our knives and forks. That might be awkward if you weren’t just with your other half. The chickpeas for me were slightly too tomato flavoured, not fresh tomato but tinned. They also didn’t appear spiced as promised on the menu. My husband liked them but I was disappointed.

img_1206

The star of the meal without doubt was the meat. I had a fillet steak, and my husband had fillet medallions (as his first choice had run out). Both were perfectly cooked as requested, medium-rare. When I saw my piece of meat arrive I was thinking it wouldn’t be, as it’s very difficult to get a thick piece of fillet cooked right. We both ordered black garlic aioli as the sauce for the meat. I couldn’t really decide for quite a while what I thought of it, but I think in the end my decision has been that it’s not my thing. My husband did however like it, so it might just be a question of taste.

For dessert I had ‘bakewell tart’ and my husband had ‘pumpkin brulée’. I thought the cake was quite nice and moist. My husband liked his dessert. I would often order crème brulée in a restaurant, and I’m not sure I would’ve been happy if I had received that. I don’t think it was exactly brulée.

Final additional comments:

One of the serving staff made an insensitive comment whilst serving our food. It didn’t personally affect us, but would have potentially affected someone with a family member suffering from Parkinsons.

We asked to move to the bar with our remaining wine and water after finishing our meal, and it didn’t seem to occur to the staff to take our drinks, until we asked about it again.

The ladies’ and gentlemens’ rooms are supposed to have high-end hand soap. My husband came back horrified. What the bottle said, was the same fragrance as one of his shower gels from the same brand. The colour should be yellow, but was green, and smelled completely different. It was also foamy at the top, and appeared to be something like dish washing liquid. My thought following this is that if you’re lying about something like this, what else would you be lying  about?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆