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Squid Risotto

I love how eye catching this risotto is. The jet-black of the squid ink is pretty amazing, especially when it’s contrasted with the white sauteed squid on top, which is nicely scored in a criss-cross pattern and finished with a pinch of persillade, which adds a nice hint of green. It’s a good-looking dish, that’s undeniable, but it also tastes great too of course!

Ask your fishmonger to separate the squid bodies and tentacles. The tentacles are great fried whole until they’re crisp and they are perfect for garnishing the top of the risotto with, but I also like to chop some of them into small pieces and put them in the soffrito with the shallots and garlic. If you fry them in a hot pan until they’re caramelised and sticky, this gives a powerful savoury base for the risotto.

Even if the squid has been cleaned and prepped beforehand, scoring the bodies properly is a bit time consuming and requires some finesse to get it right. It’s worth making the effort to make it nice though.

  • 3 medium squid, cleaned
  • 1 sachet squid ink
  • 200g carnaroli rice
  • 2 medium banana shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 glassful dry white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice
  • 50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 handful parsley, finely chopped
  1. Firstly, prepare the squid. Hopefully your fishmonger has already cleaned the squid and separated the bodies from the tentacles. Rinse the squid under running cold water. Set aside 1 set of tentacles for each portion, for the garnish at the end. Now remove the wings from the sides of the squid bodies and the remaining tentacles and finely chop them with a sharp knife, then set aside.

  2. Scoring the bodies of the squid is a bit fiddly: cut each of the bodies down one side to create a flat piece of squid. The outside of the squid is noticeably tougher than the inside, which is fairly soft. Place each one on the chopping board, soft side down and trim the edges so until uniformly smooth and use the knife to scrape any stray bits of membrane off. You want to score the soft side of the squid in lines about 3mm apart, but you should be careful not to cut all the way through. It’s actually easier if you’re knife isn’t very sharp. Once all the squid is scored, store it on a kitchen towel or j-cloth and set aside.

  3. Make some persillade by mixing about a teaspoonful of the chopped garlic with the chopped parsley. Now for the risotto. Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped squid with a generous pinch of salt. Stir briefly, then leave the squid alone to caramelise. When it’s starting to colour, stir it again. A bit of liquid will probably be released as it’s cooking which is fine, just let it boil off. When all the liquid has gone and the squid is sticky and sweet, add the shallots and garlic. Turn the heat down to low and add some more olive oil if the pan is looking a bit dry. Cook gently, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until the shallots are soft and sweet.

  4. Make sure the stock is boiling hot. Add the rice, and turn the heat to high. Stir and fry the rice in the sticky shallots and squid for about 1 minute, then add the white wine. Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously until all the liquid is gone. Add the stock, one ladleful at a time, and keep stirring. Continue like this until the rice is just cooked. It’s important to not stop stirring as you need to massage as much starch out of the rice as possible.

  5. When the rice is ready, take it off the heat and add the butter (leaving a bit aside for the garnish), a little at a time, until it’s thoroughly mixed in. Add the parmesan and about a ½ teaspoon of the squid ink. Stir until thoroughly mixed, then put a lid on the risotto and set aside while you prepare the garnish.

  6. Take a heavy-based frying pan and place it over a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wait for it to get hot (about 20 seconds). Take the scored squid and the reserved tentacles and season them with salt. Place the scored squid in the pan, scored side down, and throw in the tentacles. Fry them until they’re caramelised, then remove from the heat and allow the pan to cool for about 30 seconds. Add a small piece of butter and about 1 teaspoon of persillade, and toss until the squid is coated. Ladle the risotto into bowls and garnish with the sauteed squid.

Provençal Fish Soup

When I mention fish soup to my friends they typically turn up their noses. I think the first thing that comes to their minds is some kind of unappetising greyish slop, but this one is about as far from that image as you could get! This recipe has its roots in Provence, in the south of France. It’s a two-day affair; first you have to diligently clean the fish and rinse them under running water before marinating overnight in olive oil, a selection of herbs and spices, and a mire poix of vegetables. This marinating really makes a difference to the depth of flavour - I recommend you don’t omit this step. The spices (saffron and paprika) give the soup an inviting golden colour.

In the restaurant we would order fish soup mix from our fishmonger and they would provide us with a nice range of small fish such as gurnard, mullet, hake or john dory. They were too small to be worth selling on their own as there would be hardly any meat on them, but they were perfect for soup. Luckily I live only a ten minute walk from the harbour, and there is a fishmonger right there on the waterfront. Unfortunately they didn’t have any fish-soup-sized fish in stock, so I took one small sea bream and one small sea bass instead.

For extra savoury punch I begin the soup by frying anchovies to create a sticky, salty base. While the fish are roasting in the oven I add the vegetables to the pan and cook them down until soft and sweet. I also add a tin of cooked sardines. The oily fish gives an extra richness. The amazing thing about this soup is everything is pureed, bones included, to create quite a thick, substantial meal. It’s perfect served with black olive tapenade on toast. It really is an amazing dish and I promise that you’ll see fish soup in a different light after eating this!

  • 1kg small white fish, such as John Dory, hake, bream
  • 1 small tin anchovies, drained but reserve the oil
  • 1 tin sardines
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, roughly chopped
  • 1 small leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 large pinch saffron
  • crusty bread, for toasting
  • 6 tablespoons black olive tapenade
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off all the fins and sharp bits from the fish and discard them. Remove the innards, gills and eyeballs and discard those also. Wash the fish thoroughly under running cold water, then drain in a colander. If you didn’t manage to source any small fish (about the size of your palm or smaller), cut the fish into chunks then place in a deep-sized tray or large bowl. Pick some thyme leaves and reserve them to use as garnish at the end. Add the carrots, tomatoes, fennel, leek, onion, garlic, thyme, paprika, saffron, about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt to the fish and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave in the fridge for 12 hours, mixing it occasionally.

  2. Heat the oven to 200C. Carefully separate the vegetables from the fish. Place the fish in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 30-40 minute, or until golden. Meanwhile, place a large, heavy-based pot or casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Wait 1 minute for the oil to heat up, then add the anchovies plus about a tablespoon of the oil from the tin. Stir-and-fry until the anchovies have broken down into a nice sticky paste, then add the rest of the vegetables. Add another pinch of salt, then cook over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and sweet and starting to caramelise.

  3. At this point, the fish should be ready. Add the roasted pieces to the pot with the vegetables, and drain the tin of sardines and add that too. Mix well, then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming and froth that rises to the surface. Once boiling, turn down to a gentle simmer and cook like this for 1.5 hours, topping up with water to keep the ingredients just covered. The bones of the fish should be very soft and almost mushy.

  4. Blend the soup, in batches if need be, and pass through a fine sieve. It’s very important to use a fine mesh sieve here as you don’t want any of the coarse stuff in the soup.

  5. Get the bread toasted and spread it with the tapenade. To garnish the soup, sprinkle over some paprika and the reserved thyme leaves, and drizzle some olive oil.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Ricotta

One of the old school forgotten vegetables, the jerusalem artichoke is one of my favourites. Roasting them until they’re crisp and caramelised, almost blackened, brings out the sweetness in this humble root, and it just happens to go really well with some homemade ricotta, made soft by mixing some of the whey back into it, and a generous glug of best quality extra virgin olive oil. It’s excellent served simply with some nice bread.

The method for making the ricotta is exactly the same as my existing recipe. You will need muslin (cheesecloth) or a clean tea-towel to strain the cheese.

  • 1 kg jerusalem artichokes, washed
  • 1.25 litres whole milk
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • vegetable oil, for cooking
  • fine quality extra virgin olive oil
  1. Firstly, make the ricotta. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a large pan and slowly heat to around 83C (it doesn’t have to be exactly precise, but definitely don’t let it boil). The curds will begin to separate from the whey. Hold at this temperature for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, dampen and fold your muslin into 5-6 layers (a single layer will do if you’re using a tea-towel). Carefully Ladle the curds onto the muslin and bring the corners together to hang. Drain in the fridge for 1 hour. When cool, mix some of the whey back into the cheese to make it soft, and season to taste with sea salt.

  2. Heat the oven to 200C and place a roasting tray in to get nice and hot. Slice the artichokes in half. When the oven is hot, remove the tray and place over a medium flame on the hob. Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and wait 30s for it to heat up, then add the artichokes along with a generous pinch of sea salt, a little cracked black pepper, the whole garlic cloves and thyme. Stir-and-fry for around 2 minutes, until the artichokes are starting to get a bit of colour on them. Now place the tray in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, tossing a couple of times, until they’re dark and caramelised. It might take longer, depending on your oven.

  3. To serve, spoon the softened ricotta onto the plate, and place the roasted artichokes in the middle in a heap. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over the whole plate. Serve with crusty bread.

Pheasant with Rapeseed Mustard Dressing

The game season is finished now, but I happen to have a small supply of pheasant breasts in the freezer. I like pheasant but it has one drawback; it’s easy to overcook and can be quite dry if you’re not careful. To counteract this tendency to dryness I cooked them carefully in butter at a fairly low temperature, almost like a confit, and served them with a generous amount of bright yellow rapeseed dressing which is pretty much just a light mayonnaise.

As is always the case in my kitchen, I had a pile of sourdough bread scraps to use up. They were crying out to me made into croutons and this provided the perfect addition to the dish, bringing a vital texture contrast. Cutting the still-warm pheasant into chunky dice, with a little pinkness showing, and the croutons cut the same size, I was happy with the result.

  • 3 large pheasant breasts, skin removed
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 handfuls of stale sourdough bread
  • 150ml fine quality rapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Firstly, cook the pheasant breasts. Place the butter In a wide heavy-based pan and place over a medium-low heat . Season the pheasant breasts all over with salt and pepper then place in the pan. Cook on a low heat, without letting the butter sizzle, for around 15 minutes, turning every 3 minutes or so, or basting the breasts with the butter. Cook until they’re slightly pink in the middle (60C), then remove from the pan and allow to cool. You can reserve the butter for use in another recipe.

  2. Cut the sourdough into approx. half-inch cubes. In another pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sourdough cubes and stir to coat evenly in the oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then stir and fry the croutons until they’re golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave in a colander or sieve to drain.

  3. For the dressing, place the egg yolk, vinegar, Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk until combined, then begin to add the rapeseed oil, a little at a time, while whisking continuously. Once all the oil is combined you should have a thick, mayonnaise-like consistency. Add some water to thin it out a bit, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.

  4. Cut the pheasant breasts into the same size cubes as the croutons. Mix everything together, leaving a few cubes with nice pinkness showing for display on the top. Finally sprinkle over some thyme leaves for garnish.