Coq au vin is traditionally made with a one-year-old cockerel – full flavoured and perfect for the stew pot. If you can get a real coq, brilliant (a few good butchers supply them – in London try the Ginger Pig, delivered to your door by Hubbub). Otherwise use the legs of regular chickens – one per person. Legs have more flavour than breasts, and are more suited to slow cooking.
To get 10 pieces from the bird: Cut out the spine and save for stock. Take the legs off and divide into thighs and drumsticks. Take the wings off, remove the wingtips and save them for stock. Remove the breast plate and cut the breast in half, then divide each breast piece into two. You should have 10 pieces. Or ask your butcher to do it.
Artichokes are a bit of a faff to prepare, but once you’ve tasted the results you’ll realise it was worth it! Once you’ve braised the artichokes, instead of putting them in a gratin you could add them to a salad instead, or marinate them in herbs and olive oil and serve them cold as antipasti. How much of the artichoke you cut away and how much you save to eat totally depends on the artichoke’s size and maturity. Cut off anything that you imagine will still be tough after cooking.
This French pastry-less tart (actually more like a puffy, fruit-studded thick pancake) is traditionally made with unstoned cherries, but you can stone them if you like, or substitute plums or other fruits.
If you do stone the cherries, pop the stones in a jar and cover with the strongest, plainest alcohol you have (97% from Italy, or the strongest vodka you can find). Store somewhere dark and shake the jar every now and then when you remember. Several months later you will have kirsch!
This recipe was inspired by the one I learnt while working briefly at Zibibbo – a fantastic restaurant in Florence. There they make it with lots of capers, which balance the rich creaminess of the livers, and serve it with toasted brioche and blood orange zest and port syrup. Yum!
This recipe makes a fair bit, so if there are just a few mouths to feed you could do a half batch.
This recipe comes from my friend and colleague Jennifer Altman – currently pastry chef at Bay Wolf restaurant in Oakland, California – who recently came to London to give a series of fantastic baking masterclasses with me. We made these macarons at the Cookies Masterclass and they turned out beautifully. Don’t miss out the drying step before you bake as it’s essential for creating the macarons’ distinctive ‘feet’.
If possible, make this with those famous Agen prunes, and some really good Armagnac, both of course from southwest France. This recipe uses American cups, and is one of the few examples of when I think it is marginally easier to do so. 1 cup = 240ml.
Of course you can buy this in tins (especially easy in southwest France), but the home-made version tends to be less salty and more delicious. While it does take some time, it is far from difficult. And it will keep in the fridge for several weeks.
I was prompted to make a batch of duck confit again this year after a trip through Les Landes in France, where, it seemed, no day passed without a plate of duck confit being placed in front of us. On one particularly successful day we had it twice. Duck confit is also popular in nearby northern Spain, as we found on our trip through Catalonia a couple of years back.
Serve with crispy fried potatoes or braised flageolet beans. I like to garnish with a drizzle of zingy green sauce made from lovage leaves whizzed up in olive oil and mixed with minced parsley, fried rosemary, crushed garlic, diced shallots macerated in cider vinegar, and chopped olives. Yum.
While living in San Francisco, training as a chef at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, I went through a phase of making lemon tarts. At home we ate them day after day after day, as I had to practise making the perfect sweet ‘shortcrust’ tart dough and the perfect lemon curd. Matt didn’t seem to mind.
Both crust and curd are harder than you might think. The tart shell must be perfectly even and crisp; the curd must have a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and be luxuriously rich and smooth. And then there is the challenge of slowly baking the assembled tart such that the curd sets up beautifully and does not curdle, blister or crack.
In San Francisco I used Meyer lemons – a particularly sweet and fragrant variety – but now back in London they are nowhere to be found. I recently dug out my notes (including tips I gleaned from two fantastic pastry chefs, Jennifer Altman and Jim Dodge) to make lemon tarts for one of my Secret Kitchen dinners. I served it with poached forced Yorkshire rhubarb flavoured with a little orange zest, and thick double cream.
Note that the dough’s sugar:butter:flour ratio is 1:2:3 – easy to remember. For a wonderfully golden curd, use free range organic eggs.
I firmly believe that old classics are old classics for a reason – they’re utterly delicious – and therefore should not be overlooked on the assumption they’re either too boring or too fussy and antiquated. Boeuf bourguignon is the perfect example; you just can’t beat slow cooked beef with the simple additional flavours of red wine, bacon, onions and mushrooms. For maximum flavour, make this a day in advance.
While staying in Paris at the start of our culinary travels in 2008, I took a class with chef Eric Fraudeau. On my request, and despite having made them all many times before, we cooked boeuf bourguignon, gratin dauphinois and tarte Tatin. It’s always fascinating to see how different people approach the classic dishes; there’s always more than one way. Sometimes they turn out equally delicious but for different reasons; other times you come to realise there’s a reason behind the original recipe. (That’s assuming you can put your finger on an ‘original’ recipe; such dishes are usually highly contested.) Boeuf bourguignon is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, but if you’re up for a really rich meal, the gratin dauphinois works a treat.
Eric’s bourguignon was pretty standard, with all the usual suspects for ingredients. I have only made some slight alterations for the recipe here. Eric recommends beef cheek – it will cook down to the most unctuous, tender and tasty mouthfuls you can imagine. However, I was disappointed to find that I cannot get beef cheeks where I live. In Paris it was easy – Eric took us to a series of wonderful butchers selling all kinds of things, including horse. In England, my local butcher tells me, EU laws are applied more strictly and due to the additional regulations surrounding carcass heads (think BSE and the rest …) there are more steps and inspections in the process. The result is that what should be one of the cheapest cuts becomes too expensive for most butchers to bother with.
In place of cheek, my butcher recommends chuck steak, which is from the shoulder. If not that, then any good stewing cut – such as rump, round or shin – would do. For the wine, the only book I have that actually recommends using a Burgundy is the little ‘recettes bourguignonnes’ cookbook I found in Beaune. Everyone else recommends something fuller bodied, such as a Côtes du Rhône. Finally, I can’t tell you what a difference good bacon makes. Try to avoid those packets of pre-cut ‘lardons’ in supermarkets; they’re full of water and taste of little. Instead, see if your local butcher sells bacon bits leftover from his own slicing.
Creamy or crusty? That is the question. The answer is, both, of course, but in what proportions? Everyone seems to have their own way for making this, perhaps the most classic of potato dishes. And they’re almost always delicious; it just depends which kind you prefer. My extensive research and testing (you can’t eat too much gratin dauphinois) has followed the two main schools of thought, both of which I love, but for different reasons
First up is the ‘thin ‘n’ crispy’ version, as perfected by American food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, who points out that ‘gratin’ comes from ‘gratter’, to scrape, which hints at the true form and in fact whole point of the dish – it should be really sticky and crispy, requiring much scraping so as not to leave behind a scrap of that wonderful brown goo encrusted on the potatoes and the dish itself. His version is only one layer deep, resulting in much stickiness both above and below. The flavours end up quite concentrated, with salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic and reduced cream combining into an intense savouriness, not dissimilar to parmesan cheese, despite the absence of cheese in the recipe. In fact, Jeffrey considers the addition of cheese “a gross and pitiful imposture, an admission of failure.” I would agree entirely.
Equally delicious, just in a different way, is what I call the ‘deep ‘n’ creamy’ version, which chef Eric Fraudeau in Paris (with whom I took a class at the start of our culinary travels in 2008) assures me is the correct method. The question of how to correctly and authentically cook a gratin dauphinois was apparently so aggressively contested that Charles de Gaulle held a competition to determine the definitive recipe. Eric is adamant that the potatoes should first be cooked on the stove in milk, which is then discarded, and then baked in cream. Also, the potatoes are cut lengthways, slightly thicker, and arranged in more than one layer. The result is creamier, with the notes of nutmeg et al appearing only as hints. You still get the wonderful crispy crust on top of course, essential to any and every version of the dish.