Smoke and Thyme in New Orleans: Shaya

Uptown, on the west side of the city (“Up” being a river direction in New Orleans), is host to enough excellent restaurants to overflow the page of a moleskine notebook devoted to listing them. And if you go asking every waiter, barfly and streetcar-rider the best place to eat in town, one of the names you will hear over and over again is Shaya.

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Smoke and Thyme in New Orleans: Patois

In the leafy uptown suburbs near Audoban park is a quaint, romantic, neighborhood restaurant that serves classic French food with a local accent: Patois.

On the last day of my New Orleans trip last year, I treated my brother, my best friend and our NOLA host to dinner at Patois. It had come recommended to me by nobody and it turned up in no research I had done about Crescent City culinary tableau, but Patois was a “can’t miss” destination for me for one reason: it was the filming location for Chef Janette Desautel’s restaurant in Treme.

I have her fictional menu memorised.

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Introducing Guest Chef Finn Baird

Click here to book for the Finn Baird Guest Chef Supper Clubs

This is Finn.

Finn has been my best friend since the age of 9, a professional chef since he was 16, and for 4 glorious months in 2013, my business partner under the name Urban Picnic – the make-all-the-mistakes-and-get-out-before-they-find-the-bodies precursor to Smoke and Thyme. Since I’ve known him he’s worked in some of my favourite restaurants in London, Oxford and Bristol as well as starting one of his own in rural Worcestershire, raised his own pigs and cultured or cured just about everything he’s been able to get his hands on.

While I’m in New Orleans, Finn is going to be the Guest Chef at my Supper Clubs so that Smoke and Thyme can “continue” to “run smoothly” in my absence. He’s an extremely capable and imaginative chef who will be bringing a great many fresh new ideas to the supper clubs. I’m going to be working closely with him on the menus – passing back new recipes that I’ve found in New Orleans and doing the same kind of ruthless refinement of each other’s ideas that we do whenever we cook together. Continue reading

Smoke and Thyme: New Orleans

Through a combination of a beloved tv show, an adventurous brother, the organisational skills of two perfect strangers and a best friend with some annual leave to use up, I found myself in New Orleans for almost two weeks over Halloween. It was the trip of a lifetime to a city whose blend of food, culture, music, history, public nudity, street drinking, tragedy, friendliness and cheap plastic tat on a string was everything I never knew I needed in my life. Continue reading

Pumpkin Curry

Look out for this dish at the Locavore Harvest Feast on October 7th and 14th, or stop by the Cultivate Veg Van to pick up the ingredients to make it yourself. 

I first had this pumpkin curry at a restaurant in Soho called Kricket. I was hooked the moment I saw these beautiful, charred crescent-moon slices of pumpkin draped with a silky makhani sauce. It really makes the pumpkin the star rather than just the thing that happens to be in the curry. I recommend serving with hot buttered flatbreads while they’re still almost too hot to tear. Continue reading

Hogget Casserole

This casserole is exactly as simple as it needs to be, which is to say, it is exceptionally complicated. I make no apology for this. Each step has its reason, and the reason is that it’s worth it. If you want an easy life, stay tuned for next week’s slow roast shoulder recipe. It is delicious. But if your obsession for the perfect casserole is equal to mine, you will learn here everything I know about how to make it, and in a fraction of the time I took to discover it.

Hogget Casserole

  • 1 hogget shank
  • 1 hogget knuckle
  • 1 hogget neck
  • About 1 litre flavourful liquid e.g best quality lamb, chicken or beef stock, beer, red wine or any combination of these (see note below)
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 3 large carrots/8 small carrots
  • 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary, thyme, parsley and/or oregano tied with a small piece of string)
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 1 small celeriac
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp honey or demerara sugar

Season the meat and fry in a flame-proof casserole dish over a hot heat until well browned all over. Remove the meat and deglaze the dish with a little stock/wine. The browning adds flavour to the meat and the deglazing ensures that the flavour of the little bits that stick to the pan is not lost.

Create a vegetable trivet by putting a couple of stalks of celery, a carrot sliced lengthways down the middle, and an onion cut into 1cm thick rounds on the bottom of the casserole dish. The trivet vegetables will be cooked so long that their texture becomes undesirable but their flavour will enrich the sauce. 

Arrange the browned meat on the trivet of vegetables – top up with liquid to just below the level of the meat. Add the bouquet garni. By using a minimum of liquid, the flavour from the meat won’t be diluted but will be concentrated within an intense sauce. The meat sits atop the trivet and almost steams, rather than boils. 

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hrs at 140C or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cooked for too long, the meat will lose flavour. Check regularly and stop cooking once the right level of tenderness is reached. 

Once cooled remove the pieces of meat and put to one side. Wring out and discard the vegetable trivet but retain the braising liquid. Allowing the meat to cool in the liquid causes it to draw up the moisture and avoids it drying out.

Fry the remaining onions in a little oil until very well browned. Grate the parsnips and celeriac and fry in oil until very well browned. Combine all these vegetables and pour over the braising liquid. Simmer over a very low flame until sauce thickens. Shred the meat by hand and mix through the sauce. Season the casserole to taste. Cooking the vegetables separately gives greater control over their texture. You can cook the casserole up to this step well in advance – the flavour improves with a night in the fridge. 

Cut remaining carrots into rounds/oblique shapes. Place in a saucepan with a knob of butter, pinch of salt and honey/demerara sugar. Add just enough water to cover the carrots and bring to the boil and simmer until tender (approx 8 mins). Add carrots to casserole and serve. Cooking the carrots in this way preserves their colour, which helps greatly with presentation of the casserole. 


Notes on stock

“Flavourful liquid” glosses over a great deal of hidden work that went into this recipe. I started with my best quality chicken stock – made in a pressure cooker from well-roasted chicken carcasses. I then roasted ALL of the unused hogget bones and all the vegetable ends and peelings from the entire seven course meal, added those to the strained chicken stock and effectively made a double stock. I then added half a bottle of red wine, half a bottle of beer and the liquid from pressure cooking caramelised onions to the stock and reduced this down into the “flavourful liquid” that I made the casserole with.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that you engage in this kind of madness, but I will observe that it did taste bloody good.