Rick Stein

Parsley soup

parsley soup 2.jpg

I was watching Rick Stein on one of his long weekends in Bordeaux over Christmas. He was gushing about French markets selling huge bunches of herbs and how that didn’t really happen in the UK. But the following week I went into my local greengrocers (Fred Hallam in Beeston, Nottingham) and low and behold they were selling enormous bunches of locally grown parsley just like the Bordeaux market.

I couldn’t resist buying lots of it. I added parsley to everything that week but still had plenty left over. I then remembered this soup recipe where parsley is the main ingredient (which coincidentally is a Rick Stein one). It is one of my all time favourite soups and the perfect lunch for a cold, wet January day when one is trying to be a little more healthy after all that Christmas indulgence.

You do however need a good, cheap parsley supply – it would cost a fortune if you had to make it with those measly 30g bags from the supermarket.

Parsley soup

  • 2 large leeks or 2 small onions
  • A huge bunch of parsley (curly or flat leaf) approximately 200g
  • 75g of butter (you can use less if you’re watching your fat content, I use about half this amount and it still has a nice velvety texture)
  • 275g of floury potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I don’t bother peeling them)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock (home-made is best but stock cubes or pots are fine)
  • You can add double cream if you like (the original Rick Stein recipe uses 50ml) but I don’t think this is necessary

If using leeks then discard the darker green tops and chop roughly, alternatively roughly chop the onion.

Roughly chop the parsley stalks and leaves, reserving a handful of the bright green leaves for later.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the parsley and leeks/onion and soften gently for about 5 minutes.

Now add the potatoes and chicken stock then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Blitz the whole lot in a food processor along with the handful of uncooked parsley leaves until very smooth.

Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper (and add the double cream if you like).

Prawn cocktail

prawn cocktail

I’m not cooking Christmas dinner this year, but if I was, this would be the starter.

It has always been tradition in our family to have something fishy to start the Christmas meal (I was simply horrified when I had Christmas dinner at my in-law’s and they served up tinned beef consomme with packet croutons – we took over the cooking after that). You may think prawn cocktail dull and old fashioned – at times I’ve thought the same – but I’ve tried alternatives and still come back to this because it’s just so damned delicious.

And this Rick Stein recipe for the Marie Rose sauce is the best one I’ve found. The secret ingredient is brandy.

I love prawns but my son is so obsessed with them that he even tried to persuade me to make prawn curry when his friend came for tea. “Mummy, J’s never had prawn curry and he really wants to try it”. Nice try Eddie – I went for Spaghetti Bolognese – but to appease him we made prawn cocktail for Saturday night’s tea and he enjoyed helping to make it (see photo below).

PS. In case you’re interested here’s a recap of some of the Christmas recipes on this blog. I made my first batch of mince pies this week and am feeling quite Christmassy (I’m currently burning cinnamon scented candles and playing the Pogues).

Christmas pudding
Christmas biscuits
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Bread sauce

Best ever prawn cocktail sauce

(from Rick Stein’s seafood lovers’ guide)

  • 8 tablespoons of mayonnaise (shop bought is fine or you can make your own)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 4-6 shakes of tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac or brandy  (cheap cooking brandy is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mix up all the ingredients above and add some good quality prawns. I like little ones the best as they tend to have more flavour than larger king prawns.

Serve over thinly sliced ice berg lettuce and cucumber.

Don’t forget the retro paprika sprinkling.

prawn cocktail sauce and Eddie

Prawn lover.


The only way to cook pork belly

crispy pork belly 2

I don’t actually cook pork belly myself, but very occasionally (when I’m feeling particularly gluttonous) I will buy a slab when it’s my husband’s turn to cook and casually leave this recipe open on the work surface. We have several cookbooks with recipes for pork belly and Ben always forgets which one to use, but I ALWAYS remember that this one from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’ is the best.

The photo above will either make you salivate or gag depending on your appetite for crispy meat fat. I just love it and when I do a regular roast pork joint there is never enough crackling to satisfy me (especially now I have to share it with my children). In contrast there is so much crispy fat on a piece of pork belly that I’m in culinary heaven. Having said this, by the time I’d eaten half of everything you see in the photo above I was ready to go on a detox and eat vegetables and muesli for a week to clear out my arteries.

Crisp Chinese roast pork (from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’)

Serves 4-6 (or 2 if you’re a real glutton like me)

  • A large slab of pork belly with the rind still on (roughly 1.5kg)
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon
  • 2 teaspoons of five spice powder (if you want to grind your own see my post ‘What spices make up Chinese five spice?’)
  • 2 teaspoons of caster sugar

Spike the skin of the pork with a fine skewer as many times as you can, going through the fat but not the flesh.

Pour a kettle of boiling water over the skin, leave it to drain and then pat dry with kitchen towel.

Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat, add the two types of peppercorns and shake them in the pan for a few seconds until fragrant. Put them in a spice grinder, pestle and mortar or mini food processor and grind to a fine powder. Tip them into a bowl with the salt, five spice and sugar.

Turn the pork flesh side up on a tray and rub the spice mixture into the meat. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 200oC.

Turn the pork skin side up and place it on a roasting rack resting above a roasting tin half full of water.

Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 180oC and cook for a further 2 hours, checking periodically and topping up the water in the tin if necessary.

Increase the oven temperature to 230oC and cook for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cook slightly before carving. We like to carve it into large slices, although Rick recommends small squares.

Serve with steamed rice and greens (if you don’t know how to cook rice by now see my post Nice Rice).

crispy pork belly

Last supper

A setback and a recipe for Harissa

Harissa paste

In my last post I vowed to be more adventurous in the kitchen and to try a brand new recipe every week. But in doing this I forgot what a frustrating process it can be when recipes just don’t work. As an example, this week I earmarked Yotam Ottolenghi’s braised cabbage with miso where you cook a small white cabbage for four hours and apparently create some kind of heaven. I set to it, very smug because I was destined to fulfil two of my New Year’s resolutions in one fell swoop (new, interesting recipe, eat more greens).

But the result was disastrous, just a shrivelled, brown, acrid mess that could barely be identified as cabbage. I was gutted, I followed the recipe precisely but my greens were inedible and I had to have a beer to sooth the disappointment (thus breaking my ‘cut down on alcohol’ resolution).

I’m not going to give up just yet though because you do have to try new things. If you don’t life becomes turgid and boring and you turn into one of those households who eat the same meals on the same day every week (baked potatoes on a Monday, sausages on a Tuesday, fish on a Friday etc etc) which is akin to counting down the hours until death in my opinion.

To make up for it I did have some success with a lamb and apricot tagine from Lindsay Bareham’s ‘Just One Pot’ but I need to tinker with the recipe before I can confidently post it on this blog. I’m also going to try a Nigel Slater version in the next couple of weeks.

I did however make my own harissa paste for the tagine and it was delicious. I was unable to find any in Tesco so I trawled through my recipe books and found this recipe in Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide’.

PS. The red blobs in the photo above are the harissa paste.

Harissa paste (from Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide)

Makes enough to fill a small 150g jar

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped, seeds removed
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of salt

Cut the red pepper in half, remove the stalk and seeds, and place under a hot grill until the skin turns black (this should take somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes). Once the pepper is cool enough to handle peel off the skin and roughly chop.

Put the pepper into a food processor with all the other ingredients and blitz until you have a smooth paste.

You can keep the paste in a sterilised jar in the fridge covered with a thin layer of olive oil for several weeks.

Use to finish off your tagine – recipe coming soon.

Chicken and rosewater biryani

rosewater chicken rice

I’ve never felt so hungry for the food on a cookery programme than when watching Rick Stein’s India. The curries and other dishes looked so delicious that I was desperate to eat my way around India on my next holiday. But then I saw Rick, sweating so profusely that it reminded me why I’ve not been there yet – it’s just too bloody hot.

I’ve had this recipe in my ‘to do’ folder ever since I saw it on the India programme but until recently every time I looked at it I got scared and found something else to cook – it just sounded far too complicated. So many ingredients, too many steps, and (like many BBC food recipes on the web) not quite enough detail (a bit like that bit in the Bake Off technical bake where Mary or Paul give some instructions but miss out bits to test the contestant’s intuition).

Sometimes though it is nice to try something a bit challenging and when it’s miserable outside it’s rather pleasant to spend a whole Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with the radio on and the children snapping at my heals trying to be helpful. This recipe did work out remarkably well and was worth all the nervousness and effort.

I’ve changed a couple of things, the main one being to bake the assembled dish in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (I’d seen this in another recipe and liked the idea that the rice would go a bit crispy around the edges of the pan).

Rick Stein’s chicken and rosewater biryani (slightly altered by me)

Serves 2 heartily with left overs for the children

To marinade the chicken

  • 300g chicken legs, boned, skinned and cut into quarters (this is roughly two large chicken legs)
  • 125ml natural yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely crushed
  • 3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

For the crisp fried onions

  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced

For the sauce

  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods, bruised with a rolling pin
  • 1 Indian bay leaves (I used a normal bayleaf)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the rice

  • 300g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
  • 1 teaspoon salt per 1 litre of cooking water

To assemble

  • 50g ghee
  • A pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk for 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater

To garnish

  • 10g cashew nuts and 10g shelled pistachios, dry-roasted in a hot pan until golden-brown

In a bowl combine all the marinade ingredients and the chicken. Mix until all the chicken is coated and then set aside to marinate for an hour.

For the crisp fried onions, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and fry for 10–15 minutes until deep golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.

Pour off all but about 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil from the frying pan, set to a medium heat and add the whole spices. Fry for about a minute and then add the chicken and its marinade. Bring to a simmer and stir in the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is clinging to the chicken. Break some of the chicken pieces in half to form smaller pieces – if you can do this easily with the side of a wooden spoon then you know that the chicken is cooked through and tender. The final sauce should be quite dry. This chicken mixture is so delicious that I would happily just eat this as it is with some plain white rice or naan bread. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan to keep warm and set aside whilst you prepare the rice.

For the rice, drain the soaked rice and tip into a large pan of boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, or until the rice is just tender but still firm. Drain well. Test that the rice is cooked by squeezing a grain between your fingers – it should be soft and break up at the edges, but stay firm in the middle.

Preheat your oven to 200oC fan.

Assemble straight away while the rice is still hot. There will be five layers: rice, chicken, rice, chicken, rice.

To assemble you will need a small oven proof pan with a lid. I used one 10cm deep with a 16cm diameter.

Make sure you have all the elements to hand – chicken, rice, onions, and that you have measured out the ghee and rosewater.

First pour about 1 ½ tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into the pan, then spoon in a third of the rice. Sprinkle over about a third of the saffron milk and rosewater, then spread with half of the chicken mixture and a third of the fried onions.

Add another third of the rice and repeat as above, using the rest of the chicken.

Top with the remaining rice and splash with the remaining saffron milk and rosewater. Drizzle the remaining ghee around the edges of the rice so that it drips down the inside of the pan and cover with a well-fitting lid (if you don’t have a lid you could use two layers of tin foil crimped around the pan to form a tight seal).

Put over a high heat on the hob to get the ghee hot and some steam going. Then put in the oven for 30 minutes. To serve, spoon out onto a large serving platter and scatter with the rest of the crisp onions and toasted cashews and pistachios.

Serve with a raita (which is a sauce made from chopped cucumber, natural yoghurt, mint and a seasoning of salt and pepper).

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.

An easy mid-week recipe

Chorizo and butter beans 2

I’m not sure what I’d do without this recipe adapted from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’. It involves a couple of tins from the cupboard, a little chorizo and some herbs from the garden (or spice rack). It’s what we cook when we’ve got very little in and when we really can’t be bothered. Chorizo* is always in our fridge as it’s so versatile and can easily spice up many dishes.

Rick soaks and cooks his beans for this dish but I just use a tin. If you haven’t got butter beans, then cannelloni, haricot or (at a push) chickpeas work fine.

*Not the posh deli sort which is rather pricey, but the one they sell as a ring, pre-packed in the supermarket – not great uncooked but just fine in cooking.

Rick Stein’s chorizo and bean stew (slightly adapted for regular folk)

Serves 2 greedy adults with leftovers for 2 children

  • A regular tin of butter beans
  • 125g bog standard chorizo (this recipe is nicest with a good amount of chorizo but if you don’t have this much to spare because you’re on a budget, or on a diet, then you can add less)
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
  • 100ml red wine (I buy the cheapest possible red from the supermarket for cooking with, I’m afraid that I don’t agree with the “if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it” motto)
  • A regular tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme (fresh is better but dried is OK)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (this really does liven up the dish but if you don’t have any fresh parsley available then just leave it out as dried parsley is horrid)
  • Salt

Cut the chorizo sausage up. I like to cut half into thick slices and half into small cubes. Put the olive oil and garlic into a pan and heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. And the chorizo and cook until the edges start to brown, then add the onion and cook until the onion has softened.

Add the red wine and leave to bubble away until it is reduced to almost nothing. Then add the tomatoes, thyme, beans and a good pinch of salt. Simmer for 15 minutes without a lid until the sauce thickens up.

Just before serving stir in the parsley.

I like this with saffron rice. (see my post ‘Nice Rice’).