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Coquilles St Jacques

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This is my children’s favourite dish to cook in the house. We make this dish at least every couple of weeks. I think this is a great recipe to try on the kids, the sweet scallop topped with creamy mash and melted cheese are flavours and textures that kids love. Give them the piping bag and let them loose on the potato topping. As I always say if your kids help prepare the food they will be more likely to try anything. It’s good to get them interested in shellfish at an early age. This really is a very simple dish to prepare and home with the family. Give it a go!!!!


Ingredients;

For the scallop filling;

900g shelled scallops, corals removed
350ml fish stock
350ml white wine
1tblsp butter
350g button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
Juice of ½ a lemon

For the potato topping;

1½kg floury potatoes, King Edwards or Maris piper, peeled
85g butter
6 egg yolks

For the sauce;

2 shallots finely diced
65g butter
35g plain flour
75ml double cream
50ml crème fraiche

To serve;

8 large scallop shells
2tblsp breadcrumbs
2tblsp Gruyere cheese grated
1tblsp melted butter
4 lemons cut in half and wrapped in muslin

Method;

Pre heat an oven to 180c.

For the scallop filling;

Discard the white muscle from each scallop and cut any large scallops horizontally in half. Heat the fish stock and wine in a pan, add the scallops, cover and poach 1-2 minutes until the scallops just whiten (remember that they will cook further in the sauce). Transfer them to a bowl, reserving the stock separately.
Place a large frying pan over high heat; add the butter, when the butter starts to foam add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until golden brown and all of their liquid has evaporated, add the lemon juice and season to taste. If any liquid remains, continue to cook uncovered until it has all evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the scallops.

For the potatoes;

Take a pan big enough to hold the potatoes, cut the potatoes into 2-3 pieces depending on their size and place them into the pot. Cover with water, season to taste and bring to the boil. Boil until tender. When the potatoes are tender remove from the heat and drain through a colander, leave them to drain very well, put them back in the pan and dry them for 1-2 minutes over a low heat. Take off the heat and mash the potatoes with the butter, salt and pepper, then beat over a low heat until fluffy. Take the potatoes off the heat and beat in the egg yolks to thicken. Adjust the seasoning. Let the purée cool slightly, then spoon it into a piping bag with a plain nozzle

For the sauce;

Boil the reserved stock for 10 minutes until reduced to 450ml. Fry the shallots in the butter until soft, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until it's foaming. Whisk in the stock and bring to a boil, whisking, and then simmer until the sauce thickens to coat a spoon, 3-5 minutes. Add the crème fraîche and any liquid released by the scallops, and simmer until the sauce reaches coating consistency. Season to taste.

To serve;

Stir the scallops and mushrooms into the sauce and spoon into the shells. (Can be prepared ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge for 6-8 hours.) Pipe a generous border of potato around each scallop shell. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, grated cheese and melted butter. Set the shells on a baking sheet, steadying them on a slice of bread or a bed of foil. Bake until browned and bubbling, 12-15 minutes. Serve very hot with the lemon on the side.




Venison, golden beetroot, potato croquette, Jerusalem artichoke puree, beetroot puree

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The main course of the evening we had simply billed as a mystery A Surprise for the Senses’. A mystery that wouldn’t even be revealed until the plate was delivered to the table. We had organised for the waiting staff to hand out blindfolds and I would then explain to the guest that this course was to be savored and enjoyed using only the sense of taste and smell and of course touch. 
This worked well, with some people and others just couldn’t adjust to sitting in a room full of strangers, blindfolded and trying to work out what they were eating.
What this did achieve was a room full of nervous excitement and a great buzz throughout the dining room. We have done many blindfold dinners at the Merchant hotel, but never to the scale of 90 diners in one go. I think all will agree, whether they loved it or hated it, it definitely gave the room something to talk about.

Ingredients;

For the venison;

1kg wild venison loin, trimmed of all fat and sinew
1tblsp juniper berries
50g rosemary leaves only
250g blackberries
1tsp Maldon salt

For the beetroot;

2 large golden beetroot washed well
1ltr water
100ml red wine
50ml red port
50ml sherry vinegar
40g sugar
Seasoning

For the beetroot puree;

400g beetroot trimmings
3tblsp olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves only
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Jerusalem artichoke puree;

500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled
500ml whole milk
30g butter
1-2tblsp double cream

For the potato croquettes;

1kg Maris piper or Desiree potatoes, peeled
20g butter
1 egg beaten
Maldon salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
100g wild mushrooms, cooked in butter and drained
100g softened butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
1cup plain flour
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
Maldon salt to taste

To serve;

Red wine jus

Method;

For the venison;

Cut the venison loin in half each weighing 500g each.
Place the juniper berries and rosemary into a mortar and bash to a coarse paste with a pestle. Add the black berries and salt and mash again very lightly. Lay the venison onto a tray and rub all over with the paste that has just been made. Place the venison into plastic vac pak bags and seal in the vac machine to remove all of the air and force the marinade into the meat.
Leave the meat to marinade for 24 hours.
The meat will be cooked in the bags in a water bath at 42c on the night of service.

For the beetroot;

Place the beetroot, water, red wine, port, sherry vinegar and sugar into a medium size pan.
Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, simmer the beetroot for 1½ hours or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow the beetroot to cool in the stock. When cool enough to handle peel the beetroot. Cut the beetroot into even dices all the same size. Keep all of the beetroot trimmings for the puree.

For the beetroot puree;

Place the beetroot into a food processor and blend to a purée, slowly trickle in the oil to emulsify. Add the thyme and the seasoning and set aside. Cool and store in the fridge.

For the Jerusalem artichoke puree;

Cut the Jerusalem artichokes into chunks, and then put them in a pan with the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer and cook the artichokes for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft.
Strain the artichokes, reserving the hot milk, and transfer to a food processor.
Add the butter and blend for a few minutes until smooth, adding a splash of the milk, if necessary. Push the purée through a fine sieve back into the pan and season well. Stir in the cream and heat gently until you have a thick purée. Keep hot.

For the potato croquettes;

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and place through a ricer. Stir through butter, egg and seasoning and mix until smooth; set aside to cool
Coarsely chop the mushroom and mix with the softened butter. Put potato mixture into refrigerator and chill until firm.
Place egg, plain flour and breadcrumbs in separate shallow dishes.
Roll the potato mixture into small oval croquette shapes and dip each croquettes into egg, then flour and then into breadcrumbs.
Cook croquettes, in a deep fat fryer in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Drain on absorbent paper and season to taste with Maldon salt and keep hot.

To serve;

Place a water bath on at 42c or this can be achieved with a pan of water , probed at 42c. Place the venison into the water bath for 1 hour.
Place a pan large enough to hold the two pieces of venison over high heat. Add a little olive oil. Remove the venison from the vac bags and drain well. Seal the venison all over very quickly in the pans, remember the venison will be cooked to perfection in the water bath; we are only trying to seal the meat and cook all over until golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Place a pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil, season the beetroot squares with salt and pepper and roast until golden in the hot oil.
Spoon the cold beetroot puree onto the top of the plate. Spoon the hot artichoke puree onto the bottom of the plate.
Slice each venison into 9 slices and place three slices per plate in-between the purees.
Cut the croquettes in half and place two halves per plate, drizzle with a little red wine jus.
Place 4 golden beetroot squares into the purees.
Give your guest a blindfold and serve.
Don’t tell then the flavours and let them all try and guess, it’s great fun.

Boning a chicken

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There are some basic cooking techniques that, once mastered, you can use on an almost daily basis. Others you’ll employ less frequently, though no less effectively. Boning a chicken falls into the latter category. It’s perhaps not something you’d attempt during the week after a long day at work, but a slow and rainy Sunday afternoon, when you’re craving a roast chicken, might just be the time to practice some knife skills.
As with all butchery, you’ll need a sharp boning knife, a heavy cook’s knife and a good sharpening steel to keep your blades honed during the process. Poultry scissors, available from select kitchenware stores, could also come in handy. Once you have your tools, it’s simply a case of patience, feeling your way and taking things slowly.
There are a couple of hints to bear in mind as you go. First of all, use the tip of your knife to feel out the bones, then follow them, using short sharp strokes to free the flesh from the bone. Use your other hand to hold the separated flesh out of the way so you can see your way clear to the next step. Next, aim to remove the bones with as little flesh on them as possible. This, of course, will become easier to achieve the more you practice. When cutting through joints, dislocate the bone from the socket and cut through the gap between ball and socket. This applies to all joints, be it wing or thigh. Finally, take care when using a sharp knife and for the best end result, use a free-range and/or organic bird.
So why bone a chicken (or any other bird) in the first place? Well, once the bones are removed, the bird can be dressed simply and roasted flat in a much-reduced cooking time. It also means the flesh cooks more evenly, lessening the potential for perfectly cooked breast and still-pink legs, or perfectly cooked legs and dried-out breast.
There’s also the opportunity to impart flavour through the use of stuffing, limited only by the ingredients to hand and your imagination. A tarragon and garlic-scented farce is easy and effective, or scatter the chicken with a mixture of sautéed chicken livers, pancetta and onion. Or channel Spanish influences, and stuff it with smoky chorizo, coarse breadcrumbs and oregano. The flavour of the chorizo permeates the flesh, making for a more-ish feast.
Once stuffed, rolled, tied and roasted, the lack of bones makes for easy-as-pie carving and restaurant-perfect presentation. You’ll also discover that a boned and stuffed chicken will feed more people than the average roast chook.
The bones don’t need to go to waste, either. Make them into a stock and freeze ready for the next time you want to make a soup or risotto (recipe follows).
Once mastered, you can apply this same technique to any bird, such as game birds, duck and guinea fowl.


Boning a chicken

Ingredients;


1  
organic chicken (1.8kg)


Method;



Place chicken, breast-side up, on a cutting board. Use a boning knife to trim neck. Stretch out wings and cut off at joint closest to body, between ball and socket. Discard the wing tips, bbut keep them for the stock.

At the neck, pull skin back and slide knife along the underside of the wishbone, cut around and under, and pull out with fingers.

Turn bird over, breast-side down, and cut along either side of spine from tail to neck.

With short sharp strokes of your knife and keeping knife close to bones, separate flesh from carcass on both sides of spine.

Use the tip of your knife to find and cut through ball-and-socket joints of wing and thigh bones that connect to carcass. Dislocate them so they’re separated but still remain attached to skin on both sides.

Gently separate breastbone and carcass from the flesh (be careful as skin tears easily).

On both sides, cut flesh from curved (saber) bone near wing to remove. Holding wing bone from the flesh side, cut through tendons and scrape meat from bone using knife. Pull out bone, using knife to free it, then reposition so skin-side is facing out.

On both sides, hold leg bone from inside bird, cut through tendons and scrape meat from bone using knife. Pull out bone with knife, then reposition with skin-side facing out.

Deboned chicken is now ready for stuffing, roasting, pan-frying or grilling. Season to taste first. Alternatively, refrigerate until required.


Chicken stock;

Ingredients;

10kg chicken carcasses roasted until golden brown
4 white onions peeled and roughly chopped
4 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic cut through the centre
10lts water
1tblsp whole black peppercorns
4 bay leaves

Method;

Place all ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 1 hour, skimming all the time. It is important to keep the stock clear from scum at all times. After 1 hour remove from the heat and strain through a fine chinois into another pot, place back over the heat and reduce to desired consistency. I recommend reducing by half for soups and risottos ect or if using in sauces and gravies I would reduce the stock by ¾. This will give the stock body and a very rich depth of flavour.

This recipe make quite a large quantity of stock. It is best to freeze the un used stock into 1ltr containers ready to defrost and use when required.

Mushrooms on toast

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A simple and easy starter that is perfect for this time of year. Any mushrooms can be used in this recipe, making it a very versatile dish to have in your repertoire. I also like to finish this dish with a little truffle oil, this adds a fantastic deep truffle flavour to this simple mushroom on toast recipe.

Ingredients;

300g button mushrooms or mushrooms of your choice
50g butter
2tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed
1 small red chilli seeded and finely chopped
Juice from half a lemon
1tblsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
150ml double cream
4 thick slices of crusty bread
100g Glebe Breton cheese, grated
50g fresh breadcrumbs
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method;

Pre heat a grill.
Clean and trim the mushrooms as appropriate to the mushroom choice. Cut the mushrooms if necessary. Place a large pan over high heat and add the butter and the oil. Sauté the mushrooms for a minute or two then add the garlic and the chilli, continue to cook until slightly softened. Add the lemon juice and parsley and stir briefly.  Add the cream and cook for 8mins or until the mushrooms are tender and the cream has reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
 Place the bread slices under the pre heated grill and toast on each side until golden brown.
Place the toast slices onto a tray and top each slice of toast with some of the mixture and sprinkle over the cheese. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and place under the grill again. Cook for 5mins or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
Serve at once.

Bouillabaisse

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This is a variation of a very classic French soup/fish stew. In France all of the fish would be cooked together whole, but I find that this way of making the stew is more appealing as all of the bones have been removed from the fish making it a lot easier to eat.
A bouillabaisse is not worth making in small quantities it is a dish that should be shared. Here I have given the presentation of the dish when served at the Merchant hotel, but if I were to cook this dish at home, it would be cooked the same way, but all served in one big dish in the middle of the table with loads of crusty bread and rouille.

Serves 6;

Ingredients;

For the broth;

450g monkfish fillet, cut into 6 even chunks, bones reserved
3 red mullet descaled and filleted, bones reserved
1 large Dover sole, filleted and skinned, bones reserved
12 large scallops, removed of coral and coral reserved
5tblsp olive oil
2onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, finely chopped (reserve the tops)
675g tomatoes, chopped
1tsp of fennel seeds
1tsp tomato puree
1 small bunch freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 strips orange peel
500ml/1pt fish stock
2lts water
1tsp saffron
Maldon salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2tblsp pernod, or similar

For the rouille;

200g mashed potatoes, still warm
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, seeded and finely diced
4 egg yolks
4 red peppers, roasted and peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
500ml olive oil
Seasoning
Cayenne pepper

For the saffron potatoes;

1tsp saffron
1ltr water
1tsp Maldon salt
12 baby potatoes, turned into a barrel shape

To serve;

Green beans
Slices of toasted baguette
Sorrel cress

Method

For the broth;

Place a clean J cloth or kitchen roll onto a tray. Lay the fish onto this tray. Cover and leave in the fridge.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat; add the onion, garlic, leek, and fennel. Cook over a medium heat until the veg has softened without colour. Stir in the tomatoes, fennel seeds, tomato purée and continue to cook for 5mins. Add the fish trimmings, bones and scallop corals, the chopped parsley, thyme and bay leaves. Add the orange zest, fish stock and mineral water and finally the saffron. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes skimming the surface occasionally to remove any froth.
When the fish broth has reduced to about 1.7ltr, remove from the heat and strain into a clean pan. Add the pernod, taste and season accordingly.

For the rouille;

Place the potato, garlic, egg yolks, peppers and lemon juice into the robo and blend to a smooth puree. With the motor still running, very slowly trickle in the oil until all has been amalgamated.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Store ready for use.

For the saffron potatoes;

Place a medium pot over high heat and add the saffron, water and salt, swirl the saffron in the water to colour. Add the potatoes and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender approx 10mins.

To serve;

Remove the tray of fish from the fridge.
Lay the two sole fillets onto a board and cut into 3 strips each. Roll each strip from top to tail and secure with a tooth pick. Place the rolled sole fillets and the red mullet fillets onto a tray, drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Place this tray under a pre heated grill and cook for 5mins or until cooked through.
In the meantime place a large pan over a high heat and add a little olive oil. Season the scallops and the monkfish and cook in the hot pan until golden on each side and cooked through.
Place the stock into a pot and bring to the boil add the potatoes and warm through, add the green beans and cook for a minute.
Arrange the cooked fish, green beans, potatoes and croutons into 6 bowls as shown above. Garnish with cress and serve the rouille on the side.

Pea Soup, Spiced Black Figs, Ibérico Ham and Goat’s Cheese

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After the drama of the first three courses of the evening of Pop up Belfast, the soup would be the course to simply deliver on taste and texture without any dramatic effects.
We placed a bowl with half a grilled sweet spiced fig, some crisps Ibérico ham and some crumbled St Tola goats cheese into a bowl and garnished them with a little rocket cress. The chefs then walked around the tables behind the waiters and we poured the fresh, simply flavoured pea soup, fresh and vivid green in colour into the bowl.
As the hot soup hits the spiced fig the smells of all of the spices that the fig had been marinated in are release and the dinner gets a sense of the flavour to come.  
This soup is a very simple dish to make at home and well worth the effort, all of the flavours from the soup and the marinated fig are pulled together with the salty goat’s cheese and Ibérico ham a truly great combination!!

Serves 10;

Ingredients;

For the vegetable stock;

2 onions
1 leeks
2 sticks of celery
3 carrots
1 bulbs of fennel
4ltr water
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
4 star anise
2 bay leaves
1tsp white peppercorns
1tsp pink peppercorns
1tsp coriander seeds
1 cup of mixed coriander, tarragon, parsley and basil
½btl of white wine

For the soup;

1tblsp extra virgin olive oil
25g butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1kg frozen peas
1ltr vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the fig;

2 cloves
1 star anise
1tsp 5 spice powder
1tsp cinnamon powder
1tsp ground ginger
5 very ripe plump black figs

To serve;

250g St Tola goat’s cheese crumbled
5 slices of Ibérico ham cooked until crisp and golden
Small punnet of rocket cress

Method;

For the vegetable stock;

Chop all the vegetables into a rough dice and place in a large pan, cover with water and add the garlic, star anise, bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10mins. Add the herbs and simmer for a further 3mins, now add the wine and remove from the heat, allow to cool. When cold place in the fridge. Leave the stock to marinade for 2 days in the fridge. Then strain and reserve liquid ready for use. This will make more of the vegetable stock than needed for this recipe, but any left over stock can be kept in the freeze ready for anther use.

For the soup;

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the 1ltr of stock and bring to the boil.
Place the soup and frozen peas into a blender in batches depending on the size of your blender and blend the soup, until you have a very smooth, vivid green puree.  Pass the soup through a very fine sieve and store in the fridge ready for use.
It is important not to cook the peas in the soup as they will discolour; we are looking for a very fresh taste of pea from this soup with a very deep green colour.

For the figs;

Place the cloves and the star anise into a mortar and grin to a powder with a pestle. Add this powder to the other spices and mix well.
Cut each fig in half and place onto a tray, sprinkle over a little of the spice mixture, wrap the figs in cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for 1 hour.
Remove the figs from the fridge and brush with a little oil. Heat a ridged grill pan and when hot grill the figs on the cut side only for 4-5mins. This will intensify the spices and draw out the sweet nature of the fig. keep figs hot ready to serve.

To serve;

Place the soup into a pan over high heat and bring to the boil.
Place 1 half of fig into each bowl, crumble over the goats cheese and the crisp Ibérico ham, garnish with a little rocket cress and bring the bowls to the table.
Pour the soup into serving jugs and pour over the prepared bowls.
Eat and enjoy!!!!!!