Dry Rub Ribs

Ribs 2“Dry rub” – where a mix of ground dry spices, salt and brown sugar are rubbed into the meat before cooking – is my favourite kind of barbecue. The spice mix I use is based on the regional style of Kansas City, and this recipe may make a little more than you need but you can keep the rest in a jar in a cupboard.

I’ve simplified this recipe from the one I served at the Supper Club after being informed by my friends that it was pure insanity. I still recommend the curing step as it gets flavour deep into the pork and keeps the meat moist during cooking.
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Buttermilk Onion Rings

Onion RingsSoaking in buttermilk makes these onion rings meltingly tender, and the polenta gives them a nice crunch.

I’ve also found that replacing the plain flour with gram flour is a pretty cheap and easy way to win you the love and adoration of gluten-free friends and family, without making the onion rings any less delicious.

What you need

  • About 1 large onion per 2 people
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • About 150g of plain flour or gram flour
  • 1 tsp polenta
  • Generous pinch of salt and pepper
  • Cayenne powder to taste (optional)

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower SoupA definite hit at March’s Supper Clubs, this soup is a winter treat teaming nutty roasted cauliflower with Indian spices.

What you need:

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • About 200ml of neutral oil (eg rapeseed or sunflower oil)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric, finely diced (or 1 tbsp turmeric powder)
  • 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely diced (or 2 tsp ginger powder)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp onion seed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 can of coconut milk

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Smoky red pepper & sweetcorn soup

Roasted pepper and smoked sweetcorn soup

At my supper clubs, I always offer alternatives for people with dietary requirements, but I don’t want anyone looking across the table and seeing something they wish they could have had. So for any alternative dish on my menu, my rule is that it has to be fundamentally similar to (and as good as) the dish that it’s based on. It’s a rule that can sometimes be trying, but occasionally it pays dividends. This soup is one of those dividends.

I’d just been dazzled by a smoky bacon and sweetcorn veloute at the Oxford Kitchen and I was looking to steal the idea for an upcoming supper club. However, for a vegetarian guest I also needed a meat-free alternative. I remembered the blackened skins of my wood-oven-roasted red peppers and thought, with their smokiness, they might make a passable substitute for the bacon. But I was wrong. They were miles better.

In the end, I didn’t bother serving or even making the bacon version, but this smoky red pepper and sweetcorn soup has appeared on more than one supper club menu, and frequently gets cited as people’s favourite dish of the night. It’s my favourite too, because it reminds me of the incredible opportunity that can exist within the challenge of having to come up with alternatives.

 

Recipe

  • 4 to 6 red peppers
  • 2 heads of corn on the cob
  • Salt, white pepper and lemon juice to taste
  • Smoked paprika and/or cayenne (optional)

Blacken the peppers over a direct heat on a barbecue, directly over a gas flame or under the grill. Keep turning them until the skin blisters and is black and burnt all over.

Take the peppers off and allow to cool. When they cold enough to handle, peel off the burnt skin. Trim the tops off the peppers and scoop out the seedy core.

Toast the sweetcorn well all over. Cut the kernels from the cob and blend kernels and peppers with 1 to 2 cups of water.

Parse through a fine sieve and discard the pulp.

Season with salt, white pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add cayenne if you like it spicier or smoked paprika if you like it smokier. Serve hot as an amuse bouche or a stunning starter, or chilled with a dash of vodka as a souped-up Bloody Mary.

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Secret 2nd Dessert from my August 8th Supper Club

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Read any recipe that involves puff pastry and you’ll likely be reassured to learn that the laborious and Byzantine of making your own puff pastry is entirely unnecessary – a roll you buy from the supermarket is just as good.

Whoever wrote that recipe is a liar. They are a liar who doesn’t want you to enjoy really good puff pastry. They lied to you twice: first when they told you making puff pastry is difficult, and then again when they told you that premade pastry is an acceptable substitute. You can learn how to do it yourself in under six minutes by watching this video and even if you screw it up, it will probably still be the best puff pastry you’ve had in your life. That’s how much better it is when you make it yourself.

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These custard tarts are the opposite of the almond shortcrust tart I blogged about in June, where I blind baked the shortcrust pastry until it was done and then poured in hot custard and put it back in the the oven turned all the way down to slowly bring the custard up to the temperature where it would set without further browning the pastry. For the Portuguese custard tarts, which can’t be blind baked, the challenge is to brown the pastry without overcooking the custard. Start with cold custard (you can even assemble the tarts the night before and put them in the freezer, cooking them straight from frozen.) Turn the oven up hot – 230-250 C (depending on your oven). The pastry, which is in contact with the metal of the tin, will respond faster to the heat, and will brown and puff up within 5-10 minutes. You want the custard to set to a unctuous, gooey consistency, and this will depend on how deep the tarts are filled and how cold they were when you began, but once the pastry is cooked you can turn the oven down and finish them off slowly.

Finally, sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of the tarts and caramelise it with a blowtorch. If you don’t have a blowtorch, try dousing the sugar with a teaspoonful of brandy (or burbon) and lighting it. Brandy certainly isn’t going to make these little beauties any worse.
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Gold Bar

IMG_1568People are surprised to learn that I don’t watch a lot of cooking television these days, but four years ago when I was in Sydney I had a real soft spot for Masterchef Australia. One episode had contestents running around New York to cook three different dishes from three different multi-Michelin starred restaurants. This challenge was the first time I ever heard of Paul Liebrandt or ever saw Gold Bar, and it’s been stuck on my mind ever since.

The recipe was never revealed on the show, not even if you pause the video and advance it frame by frame, but I did find a blog post by a kindred (ie: lunatic) spirit who had tried to recreate the dish from the list of its elements. Gold bar is:

  • A pressee biscuit base layer
  • A layer of salted dulce du leche caramel
  • A layer of chocolate cremeaux
  • A coating of chocolate glacage (aka: chocolate mirror icing)
  • A pair of cocoa dentelles
  • And a few flecks of edible gold leaf

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Salmon and Saag Aloo

Salmon and Saag Aloo

It started with a fish.

I’d been looking for sea bass, but the sea bass were looking a bit fishy. My eye drifted over to the salmon, and I was hooked.IMG_0477

I came up with a plan:
Buy a whole salmon, fillet it myself. Preserve one side with a beetroot-cure and cook the other side for dinner tonight with nothing but a little salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and maybe a bay leaf in the pan – just crispy skin and the essential flavours of the salmon.

But what did I want to serve it with?

A bowl of hot, buttery, new season potatoes, crushed by a fork and sprinkled with grassy chives and flakes of sea salt? Or a nest of wilted spinach – a bitter, dark-green, iron-y tang against the sweet, rich, blushing pink flesh of the salmon?

The answer obviously was both, but as soon as those two ingredients were in my head, my thoughts went to saag aloo. Melding spinach and potatoes with Indian flavours is the best thing I can think to do with either of those ingredients, let alone both, so I was sure it would be the perfect complement to the salmon.

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And it is.
Against a plainer accompaniment salmon can dominate a plate, but faced with the bold and spicy saag aloo it reveals the more delicate side of its fishy nature. At the last minute, I decided to add a vegetable fritter, which backed up the crispy salmon skin beautifully and brought the whole dish together.

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Salmon and Saag Aloo

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Red and Green Slaw

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Far from the anonymous, bland mess that is your average coleslaw, this slaw tastes as bright and vibrant as it looks. The recipe is based on one by the good people at Pitt Cue, who started out cooking from a smoker in a trailer and now run what’s probably my favourite restaurant in London.

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There’s a lot of different ingredients in this slaw and it’s very easy to leave something out, either through forgetfulness or having run out of supplies. And it’s not going to make it a bad dish, but there’s a big difference between a slaw being genuinely impressive in it’s own right and it being just a nice side order. The capers and the cornichons, for example, give little pops of salty, briney flavour whenever you find one. The coriander seeds crunch explosively with a burst of floral perfume. The orange of the carrots and the green of the coriander leaves set off the colour of the purple cabbage.

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The beating heart of this dish though is the red cabbage, apple and ginger combination. This slaw lives to go with pork, especially the pulled pork from my last blog post (another Pitt Cue inspired recipe).

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