The Challenge: Soup For The Neighbours

One of the upsides of lockdown is that neighbours have suddenly become very neighbourly. Carrier bags of ‘stuff’ keep appearing at my gate; last week it was rhubarb, this week it’s lovage.

Of course this is all very nice, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. In order for me to reciprocate and enter into the neighbourly spirit, it seems I have to make things from said ‘stuff’ and return it whence it came. So, last week I was making rhubarb and custard tarts and leaving them on Mark’s doorstep, but this week… what the hell I can do with a bag of lovage is a far bigger challenge!

It’s not a herb we Brits use a great deal. It arrives in the garden mid to late spring and sticks around right through til’ autumn. It belongs to the celery family and really does resemble celery; tall, green and leafy.

Flavour-wise it’s super powerful; the Germans use it a lot and consider it a vital part of any bouquet garni. In Germany, it’s referred to as Maggi Kraut; (Maggi Herb), due to the fact that it has that unique Maggi-like, umami flavour. It also has healthful qualities… “good for flushing out the kidneys”, so I’m told.

Lovage works well with peas; so a pea, potato and lovage soup was a knocking bet. Neighbours love soup, right? It also works really well with raw tomatoes, in a salad with goat’s curd, broad beans and spring onions, although tomatoes aren’t really at their best right now unless you can find some Isle of Wight early varieties. It’s also surprisingly good deep-fried, either as it is or in a very light tempura-type batter. Prepared like this, it would give a lovely flavour hit to a roast rack of spring lamb with asparagus and Jersey Royals.

 

The Challenge: Lovage Soup For The Neighbours

 

Pea, Lovage & Jersey Potato Soup… For The Neighbours

 

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the vegetable stock and sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in the podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes until the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a knob of butter and maybe a dollop of crème fraiche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add a litre and a half of vegetable stock and 200g sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in 400g of podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes till the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose
their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a nob of butter and
maybe a dollop of crème fraîche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Share your own neighbourly lockdown creations on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.

Try This: Courgette Flan

The eighth week of lockdown, coupled with the uplift in weather, suggests to me that it’s time to start eating more vegetables.

Last week, my veg box contained far too many courgettes, so I had to get a bit creative in order to work through them all. This courgette flan came out on top. Served with tomato sauce, it makes a really great sunshine lunch.

 

Try This: Courgette Flan

 

COURGETTE FLAN

 

INGREDIENTS:

600g chopped courgettes
1 courgette, sliced into thin coins and blanched in boiling salted water
1 finely chopped onion
1 grated garlic clove
50g cooked potatoes, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp vegetable stock
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
150ml double cream
3 beaten eggs
40g grated Berkswell cheese (or pecorino, or parmesan)
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

METHOD:

  • Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of salt.
  • Then add the chopped courgettes and season with salt and milled black pepper. Cover with a lid and continue cooking slowly until tender.
  • Add the vegetable stock and cooked potatoes, continue cooking until very soft then chill well.
  • Transfer the mixture to a liquidiser and blend ‘til smooth, then pour into a bowl and whisk in the double cream, eggs, cheese and fresh thyme.
  • Butter an oven proof dish 17cm x 11cm and pour in the mixture.
  • Cook in the oven in a bain marie at 160°C for 45 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh tomato sauce

Getting creative with veg? Fancy giving this courgette flan a go? Follow this recipe and post on social media using the hashtag, #21AtHome. 

Try This: Dan Warren’s Lockdown Chicken

Dan Warren, Head Chef at The Broad Chare, shares a simple ‘one-pot’ dish that really delivers when it comes to spring flavours. 

 

This chicken recipe is quick and easy to make, with no compromise on flavour. It’s made up of pretty straight-forward ingredients and is the ideal one-pot dish to see you through a day or two in lockdown.

The bird is cooked sealed tight with potatoes, aromatics, stock and butter, resulting in juicy flesh, tender vegetables and a rich fragrant liquor.

 

 

LOCKDOWN CHICKEN

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 free-range chicken (around 1.5kg)
400g waxy salad potatoes, peeled and halved
2 celery sticks, washed & roughly chopped
1 small leek, washed & roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
Sprig of thyme and lovage (optional)
1 unwaxed lemon
50ml EV olive oil
100g unsalted butter, softened
200ml chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper
300g peas (fresh or frozen)

 

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.
  • Remove the wishbone from the chicken to ensure easier carving when cooked, then season liberally inside and out.
  • Place the potatoes, celery, leeks, garlic, pared lemon zest and herbs in an ovenproof (ideally cast iron) dish, then set the chicken on top.
  • Spread the butter generously on to the bird, pour over the stock and olive oil and season again. Place a square of greaseproof paper on the chicken, then foil the dish to create a tight seal, to prevent any moisture from escaping.
  • Cook for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150°C / gas mark 2. Cook for a further 45 minutes or until the juices run clear.
  • Remove chicken from the dish and add the peas for a further 30 minutes, while the bird rests. The peas will lose their verdant colour but will swell and become tender and sweet, absorbing the rich chicken juices.
  • To finish, joint the chicken and colour skin-side in a little foaming butter if desired. Adjust the cooking liquor to taste with a little lemon juice and seasoning.
  • Serve the chicken with the braised vegetables and their juices. Enjoy with aioli and some good bread.

 

Fancy giving Dan Warren’s Lockdown Chicken a go? Follow this recipe and post on social media using the hashtag, #21AtHome. 

Cheddar Cheese & Spinach Soufflé

An all-time 21 favourite

Our Cheddar Cheese & Spinach Soufflé is the perfect lockdown treat! We’ve been cooking and serving this dish for 30 years – and in that time, I’m sure that one or two of you have become addicted. Here’s a way to get your fix at home…

INGREDIENTS

180ml milk
1 bay leaf
100g grated parmesan cheese
1/4 small onion
1 clove
30g softened butter, plus a little extra for preparing the moulds
30g plain flour
100g grated mature cheddar cheese
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 tsp English mustard
60g chopped sautéed spinach
Pinch of salt
300ml double cream

METHOD

  1. Prepare 4 x oven proof ramekins by brushing with softened butter and dusting with a little of the grated parmesan cheese. Refrigerate.
  2. Bring milk to a boil together with the onion, bay leaf and clove. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse.
  3. Make a roux by melting 30g butter over a gentle heat and then add the flour, stir gently for 5 minutes over a low heat.
  4. Allow the roux to cool a little before adding the infused milk, a little at a time, stirring till smooth between each addition. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar cheese, followed by the English mustard, egg yolks and spinach.
  6. Cover with a buttered paper and keep warm.
  7. Whisk the egg whites with a tiny pinch of salt until quite firm.
  8. Beat 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the cheese sauce using a whisk.
  9. Fold in the remainder very carefully with a rubber spatula.
  10. Divide the mixture between the pre-prepared ramekins.
  11. Sit in an oven proof tray and add boiling water to come halfway up the ramekins.
  12. Transfer to the oven at 135 degrees C for 28 mins.
  13. Remove from the oven, increase the oven temp to 200 degrees C.
  14. Turn the soufflés out into individual oven proof dishes.
  15. Pour over a generous amount of double cream followed by a good dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.
  16. Return to the oven until well risen and golden (around 12 – 15 mins).
  17. Serve immediately.

Try This: Alpen Macaroni

Kitchen management is a challenge at the best of times. Throw in a global pandemic, a nationwide lockdown and several shopping restrictions, and we’ve got a task on our hands. 

But, with a bit of time, some creativity – and with the ability to digitally share our recipes and ideas – we’ll be able to share some easy-to-follow recipes in each newsletter bulletin. First up, it’s my Alpen Macaroni… 

In the mid 70s I spent a couple of years working in Switzerland, mainly in the Engadine Mountains around St Moritz and Davos. This pasta dish was always a big hit at the staff table. Hot, cheesy and comforting – it’s quick, simple and cheap to make; perfect lockdown food!

The apple sauce is a bit of an oddity – a peculiarly Swiss thing, but it really helps cut through the richness of the pasta gratin. Try it with a leaf salad and a fairly sharp, mustard dressing.

 

 

ALPEN MACARONI

INGREDIENTS:

225g Maris Piper (or other maincrop potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm cubes)
125g macaroni or penne
15g butter
1 finely diced onion
70g streaky bacon, cut into chunks
2tbls white wine
140ml chicken stock
240ml whipping cream
Salt and pepper, to season
½tbsl chopped parsley
25g grated Gruyere cheese

METHOD:

  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for 3 or 4 minutes before throwing in the pasta.
  • Continue cooking until the potatoes are tender and the pasta al dente. Drain in a colander.
  • Melt the butter in a wide pan and sweat the onions and bacon until the onions are soft.
  • Add the wine, scraping the base of the pan to release any tasty residue.
  • Simmer and reduce the wine by half, then add the stock and cream.
  • Add the pasta/potato mix and simmer on a low heat until the liquids are absorbed and the mixture is thick and unctuous.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper before stirring in the chopped parsley.
  • Transfer to an ovenproof dish, scatter the grated cheese over the top and glaze under the grill or in a hot oven.
  • Serve with apple sauce on the side, and a green salad.

 

APPLE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

300g Bramley apples
½ cinnamon stick
1 clove
1 pinch grated nutmeg
¼ lemon (juice)
½tsp caster sugar
2tbsl water
1½tsp butter

METHOD:

  • Peel, core and dice the apples.
  • Put into a stainless steel pan with the sugar, lemon juice, water, butter and spices.
  • Cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples collapse.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and clove, then puree the apples with a hand blender.
  • Cool and serve.
  • This will make more than you need, but it freezes well. You can use a store-bought alternative if you wish. You won’t get the sack!

Store-Cupboard Staple: Bay Leaves

I bet you’ve all had a look in the kitchen cupboard and thought, ‘what the hell am I going to do with this?’, more so than ever in recent weeks! 

The truth is, we’re all in this strange scenario together, and if we’re going to put a positive spin on it, let’s think of cooking as a challenge – a chance to unleash our creative side.  

With that in mind, I’m going to be setting fortnightly tasks for some of our team. My first ‘store-cupboard challenge’ goes to our Café 21 Head Chef, Kev Pratt. 

We’ve all been tasked with tackling those forgotten-about store-cupboard products. You’ve probably all got a jar of out-of-date bay leaves in the cupboard somewhere. How can we put them to good use in the kitchen?  

Let’s see what Kev can do with those bay leaves. 

Over to you, Kev…

 

 

BAY LEAVES

Often used either on their own or as part of a classic bouquet garni, bay leaves are at the foundation of flavoursome cooking. Think of bay as more of a spice than a herb; at its best when used with other ingredients to enhance herbal warmth or depth of spice.

Originally from the Mediterranean, bay leaves are one of the few herbs to grow as a tree, which makes them very different in the way they are enjoyed in food.

Use them to flavour and enhance your cooking. They release fragrance and flavour best when cooked slowly, so that is why you’ll often find them in soups and stews, but they also work well in desserts, such as rice pudding and crème brûlée.

Bay has been used medicinally since the middle ages, and contains vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Try dropping two leaves into boiling water with a pinch of sugar and cinnamon for a restorative drink.

 

3 WAYS TO COOK WITH BAY AT HOME

 

SCOTCH BROTH

[serves 4]

  • Gently fry 2 chopped onions in a little oil.
  • Add 250g each of chopped carrots, turnips (or swede) and 2 chopped celery stalks. Season well and sweat for a few minutes.
  • Add a handful of pearl barley and a handful of soaked split peas, then top up with stock and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour.

 

‘COQ AU VIN’

[serves 4]

  • Sweat 2 chopped shallots in a buttered casserole dish, then stir in 3 crushed garlic cloves, 50g chopped streaky bacon, dried thyme and 2 bay leaves.
  • Cook for a minute, then add 100g button mushrooms and 8 chicken thighs. Cook further to brown the chicken.
  • Add two teaspoons of flour and stir to incorporate, then add 600ml chicken stock and a glass of red wine.
  • Bring to a boil then simmer very gently for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

 

BAY-INFUSED RICE PUDDING

[serves 4]

  • Add 1 bay leaf to 500ml milk, 100g pudding rice, 60g sugar and 1 vanilla pod, and simmer very gently until the rice is soft.
  • Soak 1 gelatine leaf in cold water for 5 minutes, squeeze out then add to the rice.
  • Remove the bay. Whisk 130ml double cream into peaks and mix in 65ml natural yoghurt. Add to the rice with 30g raisins.
  • Pour into 4 moulds and chill for an hour.

 

Share what you do with your bay leaves on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge. 

A Day in the Life of… 21 Boss, Terry Laybourne

How I’m staying safe and keeping motivated at home during lockdown…

 

 

I GET UP ON A MORNING FOR… Right now it’s bizarre. Things are way too leisurely for me.

 

BREAKFAST IS… Bircher muesli and a slice of sourdough toast, with probably too much butter, Dan’s marmalade, and black coffee. I’m partial to the odd bowl of Coco Pops, too!

 

TO STAY ACTIVE, I… Try my best to exercise for an hour each day, either on my bike or walking in the countryside around us with Susan and our Airedale Terrier, Ernie.

 

TO UNWIND, I… Cook every day at the moment – which, for me, is a joy. I’m loving the challenge of cooking from the hip, using stuff up; opening the fridge or cupboard and trying to figure out what best to do with what I’ve got in front of me.

 

I’M WATCHING… Just finished binge-watching a Swedish cop thriller called Before You Die on All 4. It was captivating and dark… I really like this type of Scandi crime drama. I’ve also been enjoying our pal Roger Crosby knocking out some great tunes on Facebook. Check it out here.  

 

I’M READING… The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin (on audio). It’s a great, uplifting story that charts the career of a great chef. A must-read for anyone in our business. I’ve also got a Michael Connolly novel on the go, as I daren’t read anything remotely work-related before bed, otherwise I’ll never sleep. 

 

I’M LISTENING TO… A mixed bag really. Over the last few days I’ve been listening to The Fun Lovin Criminals Mimosa, Imelda May’s Life Love Flesh Blood, Robert Palmer’s Sneekin’ Sally Through the Alley, A Paul Weller Live album and a load of old soul compilations. All seriously good ‘kitchen music’!

 

SOMEWHERE I’D RATHER BE… Back to work and on the tools, I really miss it.

 

THREE TOP TIPS FOR STAYING AT HOME… Create a varied routine and try to stick to it. Stay active. Challenge yourself by learning something new – I’ve put a teach yourself French app on my phone… honestly, I’ve been learning the French language on and off for the last fifty years! If you fancy giving it a go and beating me to it, the download link is here.

 

DURING LOCKDOWN, I HAVE LEARNT… That time can run away with you, unless you make a conscious effort to get stuff done! If you’re not careful you can get up and go back to bed without achieving anything at all, which can be seriously demoralising.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY… “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”