Crispy Roast Potatoes

Serves: 4

Truth is, I am not that enamoured by roast potatoes.

Which puts me in the minority because so often I hear from people just how much they love roast potatoes: also, that they are a treat?

It could be because I had them so often at boarding school, though what is amazing about a dry piece of roasted potato?

Mash with cream and Parmesan. Of course.

Colcannon. Most definitely.

Hasselbacks. Any day.

So there we are a few months back and Nat proposes a Sunday night roast. With roast potatoes.

“Sounds great” I gulp. “Can’t wait.”

Though Nat being Nat, she does her research. Plain old boarding school roast potatoes these will not be.

If you’re into your cooking, you have possibly come across the website Serious Eats. It’s a great site and a great service, where they take different recipes, pull them apart and rebuild them – using science – to create the very best version of that recipe.

It’s very cool.

And so here is… as they put it… “The Best Crispy Roast Potatoes Ever Recipe”.

And to their credit and Nat’s, these are the best I have ever eaten.

Cook them and tell me they’re not.

(The recipe specifically asks for two types of American potatoes that we cannot get in Australia. Through reading etc, the potatoes to use here in Australia are Dutch Cream, Desiree, Coliban or Sebago.)

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2kg potato (see note above), peeled and cut into large, 5cm chunks
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or duck fat
Small handful picked rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced

Method

  1. Adjust the oven rack to be centred and heat oven to 230c.
  2. Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot over a high heat until boiling. Add 2 tbsp salt, baking soda and potatoes and stir. Return to a boil and then simmer until knife meets little resistance when inserted into a potato chunk: about 10 minutes after returning to a boil.
  3. Combine the olive oil (or duck fat) with rosemary, garlic and a few grinds of pepper in a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Cook, stirring and shaking pan constantly, until garlic just begins to turn golden: about 3 minutes.
  4. Immediately strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer set in a large bowl. Set garlic/rosemary mixture aside and reserve separately.
  5. When potatoes are cooked, drain carefully and let them rest in the pot for 30 seconds to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Transfer to bowl with infused oil, season to taste with a little more salt and pepper and toss to coat, shaking bowl roughly, until a thick layer of mashed “potato-like” paste has built up on the chunks.
  6. Transfer potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and separate them, spreading them out evenly. Transfer to oven and roast, without moving, for 20 minutes. Using a thin, flexible metal spatula to release and stuck potatoes, shake pan and turn potatoes.
  7. Continue roasting until potatoes are deep brown and crisp all over, turning and shaking them a few times during cooking: around 30 – 40 minutes.
  8. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add the garlic/rosemary mixture and minced parsley. Toss to coast and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves: 4

We were in Queenstown, NZ this year for my birthday.

(If you haven’t visited Queenstown, it really does need to be on your bucketlist: some of the best restaurants we have eaten at, great bars, amazing vineyards, incredible drives and apparently skiing if you are so inclined.)

One of the most memorable meals was at a restaurant called Rata by Josh Emmet. A beautiful, contemporary restaurant, engaged service, incredibly good food and $45 (!!) for three courses. We simply couldn’t believe it.

Not complete with running an amazing restaurant or having three Michelin Stars to his name, Josh Emmet is also an accomplished cookbook writer and his book ‘The Recipe.’ would have to be one of the best cookbooks I have ever purchased.

The book is a collection of the world’s classic recipes as cooked by the “world’s best chefs”: Gordon Ramsay, Neil Perry, Ken Hom, Christine Manfield, you name it.

It is one of those cookbooks with such beautiful photography where you can happily spend the afternoon with a bottle of wine with your partner, earmarking all the dishes you’re going to cook and dreaming of the wonderful meals coming up.

(If it wasn’t clear, buy this book!)

So… dish #1 – cooked by my very culinarily-capable wife – was Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu.

And it was spectacular. Old school, new school spectacular.

Old school in that ham and cheese in a crumbed chicken breast is a bit our parent’s generation of Saturday night cooking. But wow, it was so good.

New school in that our parent’s didn’t cook it: they cooked it from frozen. Or if they did cook it (which they didn’t), they didn’t cook it like this.

This is honest, wonderful, cooking. On all levels.

Cheese oozing. Ham and mustard. A contemporary breadcrumb.

Make it one of those Sunday nights where you make an outrageous potato gratin. Open a Pinot. Put the kids to bed.

And don’t think of Monday.

Ingredients

A little butter, for greasing
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp chopped fresh chives
4 very thin slices lean cooked leg ham
4 very thin slices Swiss cheese (or grated Gruyère)
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp all-purpose plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup fine, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp paprika

Method

Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease a baking dish with butter.

Split the chicken breasts horizontally to give two flatter pieces. Place each between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten each chicken breast to a thickness of 5mm.

Spread each chicken breast with 1/2 tsp mustard and sprinkle each with 1 tsp chives. Cut ham and cheese slices to fit the chicken and top each chicken breast with ham and a cheese slice. Roll up, tucking the ends inside.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the egg and milk, beating slightly.

Place breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Coat chicken rolls in turn with flour, then egg mixture, then roll in crumbs. Place in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Chicken and Lime Salad

Serves: 2

At a certain point over the Christmas/New Year break, all of us yearn for a culinary breather.

An end to the eggnog, ham and Champagne. A meal that isn’t 1,200+ calories (before the wine!).

Which is where – thankfully – this clever salad comes in.

Repent and enjoy.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, poached and thinly sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber, diced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of two small limes
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp palm sugar
Chopped coriander
Lime wedges

Method

  1. Mix together the lime juice, chilli, fish sauce, oil and palm sugar and correct the flavours.
  2. Mix together the cucumber and tomatoes and arrange on plates. Arrange the sliced chicken over the vegetables.
  3. Spoon over the dressing, garnish with the coriander and serve with the lime wedges.

Jamie Oliver’s Sesame Butterflied Chicken

Serves: 2

This is a magic dish and sans the chicken, it would make an amazing, healthy salad.

The magic is the sauce: yoghurt, peanut butter, ginger and lime juice. Plus more lime and soy for the slaw.

We were really surprised at just how tasty this dish was and I commend it to your run sheet for next week’s dinners.

Ingredients

100gm fine rice noodles
2 skinless chicken breasts
Vegetable oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
200gm sugar snap peas, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 limes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Method

  1. In a bowl, cover the noodles with boiling water until they are rehydrated. Drain and set aside, ensuring they do not stick.
  2. Slice into the chicken breasts and open them out like a book. Rub with 1 tsp of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a pan over a medium-heat and cook the chicken. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine the spring onions, Chinese cabbage, sugar snap peas and chilli in a bowl. Dress with the juice of 1 lime and the soy sauce.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter with the yoghurt, grated ginger and the juice of the remaining lime. Season.
  5. Slice the chicken and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  6. Divide the noodles between bowls, add the slaw, the sliced chicken and the peanut sauce.

Chicken Bouillabaise

Serves: 4

This is a classic, classic French dish and this version is superb.

It is from my mother and it is one I had as a child and have then cooked as an adult.

It is pretty impossible not to love and served with the aioli-buttered toasts and the boiled baby potatoes, this is a warm, rich dinner in.

I sometimes substitute chicken thigh for a jointed chicken, though this isn’t a substitute you should make in this instance. Cutting the chicken off the bone is half the romance of the dish, if that can in anyway be a romantic thing.

If you’re after a French theme, you can do a whole lot worse than a Bouillabaise.

Get jointing.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup chopped fennel
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups peeled and finely chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup Pernod (we used Ouzo)
6 sprigs thyme
Sea salt
Good pinch of cayenne
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron threads
Chicken pieces from jointed chicken (including skin)
Olive oil
Baby potatoes, boiled
Toasted baguette slices
Aioli

Method

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer, remove from the heat, add the saffron and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, auté the chicken in a little olive oil over a medium heat until golden all over; remove and set aside.
  3. Pour off the fat, lower the heat and sauté the leeks, fennel and garlic until soft. Add the stock and saffron and deglaze the pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wine, Pernod and thyme, bring to a fast simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan together with any juices and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Lower the heat, season with salt and cayenne; add a little olive oil.
  7. Serve with the potatoes, baguette slices and aioli.

Nigella’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Serves: 8

I haven’t watched much Nigella, though the impression I get from the snippets I have seen is that when it comes to desserts, Nigella is all in.

Melted chocolate being poured into more chocolate, whipped cream being folded into egg yolks, zoom in, zoom out, chocolate.

This cake therefore perfectly embodies Nigella and it really couldn’t be any easier a dessert, qualified for a dinner party.

Cook the base in the afternoon, whip the cream and refrigerate and prep just when you’re ready to serve.

Ingredients

250gm dark chocolate
125gm unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, 2 whole, 4 separated
175gm caster sugar
500ml cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cocoa powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and butter and line a 23cm springform pan with paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate and stir through the butter until it melts.
  3. Beat the two whole eggs and 4 yolks with 75gm of the caster sugar and then gradually add the chocolate mixture.
  4. Beat the 4 egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 100gm of sugar and continue beating until the whites hold their shape but are not too stiff.
  5. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the cake has risen and cracked and the top is no longer wobbly.
  6. Beat the cream until soft and then add rather vanilla and continue beating until the cream is firm but not stiff.
  7. Fill the crater of the cake with the cream and then dust the top with cocoa powder.

Matt Preston’s World’s Best Rissoles

Serves: 4

I get the feeling that rissoles are back in vogue.

And thank you for that!

They still have the stigma of being a daggy, lazy dinner – left behind in the wave of MasterChef and salmon-three-ways – though it is the nostalgia and honesty of the rissole that now makes it on trend.

These Matt Preston rissoles are really good and served with a puréed mash and buttered peas, they closed off a weekend of cooking perfectly.

For lunch, Nat made Thomas Keller’s Cauliflower Panna Cotta with an Oyster Jelly and Bulgar Caviar; the night before, we made handmade noodles for a fusion Chinese/Middle Eastern dish.

Which is exactly why we needed these rissoles and why rissoles are what you need to hold back the endless waves of culinary complexity and sous videing. Enough is enough!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 zucchini, coarsely grated
800gm lamb mince
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 heaped tbsp of whatever European herbs you have: basil, oregano, parsley, coriander, tarragon or majoram, though not sage or mint
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
Sea salty and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup mint jelly
2 tbsp malt vinegar (we used black vinegar)
Mash (into which we mixed two finely chopped raw French onions)
Buttered peas

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat; add the onions, carrot and zucchini, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until everything softens. Set aside to cool.
  2. Add the mince, tomato sauce, herbs, oats and egg to the vegetable mixture and season. Mix well using your (clean) hands until well combined. Shape into 12 rissoles.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the rissoles in batches a cook for 5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  4. Add the mint jelly and vinegar to the pan and stir over a medium heat until the jelly melts. Return the rissoles and toss in the liquid for 2 minutes until coasted, sticky and glossy.
  5. Serve with mash and peas.