Tagged: salt

Pimping your Food – Onion Stylee!

This is going to be a pretty short post because it’s not really about a whole plate of food. It’s about how to take a simple family classic and give it a simple tweak that will elevate it to a whole new level.

So, the simple dish of the day is… SAUSAGES & MASH!

Doesn’t get much easier than that. You can start with the basics and mess around to your hearts content, but everyone who has even basic kitchen skills should be able to put together some sausages and mashed potato so I won’t be telling you how to do either of them…

Well, all right, I will make a few suggestions…

I always roast my sausages in the oven, turning a couple of times… it takes about 30 mins and gives a nice all round ‘cook’.

As for mash, I rarely have it plain. There are just to many ways to sex it up. You’ll see from the pictures that I actually threw a few carrots into mine, cooked at the same time as the potatoes and mashed together too. Easy and more colourful… and, of course more tasty.

You can throw a handful of peeled garlic cloves into the potatoes as they cook and mash them all up together to get a really subtle flavour. Alternatively, at the mashing stage add mustard, or creamed horseradish, or harissa paste, or smoked paprika, or marmalade, or … well you get the idea.

But to get to the real point of this blog I want to introduce you to a little bit of classical French cooking. If you were a ‘saucier’, this gem would be a key piece of your arsenal. Surprisingly though, it is a rarely heard of sauce. I should point out too that I am going to be showing you a bit of a cheats version rather than the full hit ‘Masterchef’ one.

The sauce you are going to be making replaces the key missing element from the S&M which, as we all know, would normally be ONION GRAVY! (And fear not, I still love gravy and will continue you to use it as part of my S&M routine in years to come)

“Get on with it!” I hear you clamouring.

You are going to now discover how to make a SAUCE SOUBISE.

Already, it sounds a bit posh… perfect for dinner party oneupmanship etc.

A Sauce Soubise is basically where you combine a classic bechamel sauce with a fine onion puree… and that would be the proper way to do it… but most of us don’t have the time to be passing ingredients through fine sieves etc which is what you have to do if you are going down the ‘Masterchef’ route.

This is how you make a simplified version… but you can now call it “Sauce Soubise au Paysanne” and still keep ahead of your poncey mates!

Get three large onions and chop them coarsely.

Add them to a pan with a large knob of butter ( and I do mean large… 1/3 of a standard 250g block).

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Now all you are going to do is sweat them down for 30 mins on a low heat. Stir them regularly so they don’t brown up… you want to try and keep them pale in colour.

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Next, add a heaped tablespoon of flour and stir it around in the pan until it soaks up all the butter and onion juices.

Then add about a pint of vegetable stock and stir well so that it combines thoroughly with the onions and flour mix. Raise the heat slightly and get the pan going on a rolling simmer. This will let the liquid reduce slightly and start to thicken.

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Add some salt and white pepper (if you have it – black is fine too).

After about ten mins, get your electric hand blender (C’mon… you HAVE to have one of these in the kitchen!) and blitz the mixture until the you have made it into as fine a puree as you can.

Finally, add about 300ml of single cream and stir thoroughly until everything has warmed through.

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And that’s it… it really is a simple few steps and creates a marvellously rich and more’ish sauce. All the elements of an onion gravy with enough sophistication to satisfy the most pretentious of guests and… it really is bloody gorgeous. I first had this in a swanky restaurant and was in awe of how lovely it was… and then when I found out that it was so simple to make this basic version at home… HALLELUJAH!!

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Anyway, hope you enjoy… and if you want to go full out for cheffy marks, try the true classical version… but this one will do me just fine for the moment.

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Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce, Parsnip Mash and Pointed Cabbage

 

I love duck, roasted, crispy but mainly duck breast, pan fried. One of it’s main benefits is that it always goes well with a sauce, and a tart fruity sauce is best.

But isn’t duck expensive? Well if you shop at Tesco, yes. But guess where I found a very cheap duck breast at? – yes, Lidl. These buggers are BIG. At Tesco you get 2 in a 400g pack for £7. At Lidl you get just the one 400g breast for under a fiver. They are frozen so perfect to get some in for just when you francy some.

 

And why pointy cabbage? Well basically it’s what the missus brought home cheap from M&S. I would usually use Savoy cabbage but we use what we have, dont we! I won’t give a list of ingredients as there is nothing that you won’t have in and the rest is in the title of the dish.

First thing you need to do is defrost the duck and then score the fat by making a criss cross pattern in the skin, season the fatty side and place on a plate for later.

Next take a couple of spuds and a couple of parsnips, peel them, put them in a pan and just cover with water. Cut the potatoes small as the parsnips cook very quickly and you want them to be done at roughly the same time. Bring to the boil and cook until soft enough to mash.

While the spuds & parsnips are cooking, prepare your cabbage. I like to cut it into thin strips, place in a pan, add some water – but not so much that you cover the cabbage, add a pinch of salt, put on the lid and bring to the boil for a minute or 2, so still slightly undercooked. Then drain the hot water off and then rinse your cabbage through a few times with cold water to stop the cooking process and leave in cold water till later when you can bring it back to life.

You can start on the sauce. I used some cherries in a jar that I also used for my Black Forest Cheesecake. Blitz around half a jar with some of the syrup.

Put the mixture into a small saucepan and add a glug of Red Wine, a little sugar to sweeten the cherries a bit, and a little of your homemade chicken stock and bring to the boil and reduce to a nice thick double cream consistency. You can now leave this till plating up.

Now cook the duck. Put into a frying pan, fat side down on a medium heat, no need for oil as the fat will release loads as it renders down. Fry it on this side for 10-12 minutes then turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Make sure the edges get done by fryng the duck with the edges touching the side of the pan.

While this is cooking you make your mash. Add a knob of butter and a splash of milk to the drained spuds & parsnips – add a little sea salt too. Now mash and test for seasoning, add some more salt if you want, but not too much. Leave in the same hot pan till serving.

When the duck is done, you want it pink in the middle. Trust yourself, keep poking it till you feel satisfied that it isn’t raw in the middle or even worse, that it has gone dry and overcooked. Put it on a warm plate to rest. This does two things, the meat relaxes so it will be tender and secondly, juices will leech out which you can use in the sauce. Collect the duck fat from the breast to use next time you want roast spuds for a sunday lunch, but  leave a smidgen to use with the cabbage

While the Duck is resting you need to reheat the cabbage . Finely chop a clove of garlic and add to the pan the duck was cooked in, I also added a finely chopped slice of bacon and fry gently and when the bacon is cooked throw in the cabbage and mix till cooked through.

Heat up your sauce and add the juices from the rested duck and a little knob of butter, it makes the sauce shiny! Now plate up. A good dollop of mash in the middle of the plate, cabbage on the side and slice the duck breast into half centimetre slices and lay on top of the mash. Drizzle the sauce over and around the duck and there you go. Top quality scran for less than £3 each for 2 people.

Right, that’s my Cherries used up, but I still have more Duck left.

Try it and let us know how you got on. Was lovely with some Shiraz.  Yours, Mugsie.