Homemade Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Easy Peasy Cheese Straws – this recipe contains no peas!

WARNING THIS IS A RECIPE FOR SERIOUSLY ADDICTIVE CHEESY NIBBLES

This is a very simple recipe to produce mouth-watering, addictive bar snacks or party nibbles, puff pastry Cheese Straws. Unlike American cheese straws when a flavoured cheese pastry is piped on to baking trays, these straws are made with puff pastry. Puff pastry, as I posted previously, is one of those items where I think the shop bought item is pretty damn good and you are hard pressed to make such a uniform pastry at home. That is what makes this Cheese Straws recipe really easy peasy, they are great for parties or as a garnish for French Onion soup instead of the classic toasted croute, but be warned make a seriously generous amount as you will eat loads of these.

Homemade Puff Pastry Cheese Straws
Cheddar and Parmesan Cheese Straws

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws     makes 30 to 40

350 gr frozen Puff Pastry

60 gr very finely grated Cheddar Cheese

30 gr very finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Smoked Paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 fresh free-range Egg

30 ml  fresh Milk

Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. On a clean floured worktop roll out your pastry into a rectangle about one eighth on an inch thick. Whisk the egg and milk together and brush over half the pastry. Cover with three quarters of the Cheddar and Parmesan and a generous sprinkle of paprika and black pepper. Fold over the other half of the pastry and roll out again until just over half a centimeter of an inch thick.

Cheese Straws 2

Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut the pastry into thin strips about the width of a finger. Working quickly place the strips on to a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Then hold a straw at each end gently twist three or four times and replace onto the tray.

Cheese Straws 3

Repeat until all the straws are twisted. Brush with the remaining egg wash and carefully cover with remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle with more paprika and a little salt. Place in oven and bake until the straws are puffed up, light golden brown in colour and crispy.

You can vary the recipe by replacing the Cheddar with Gouda or Gruyère and finishing the straws before you bake them with any of the following; freshly cracked black pepper, sesame, poppy and fennel seeds, smoked sea salt ( this is delicious ), freshly chopped thyme or rosemary and finally if you like heat cayenne pepper or chilli pepper flakes.

Grilled Oysters

Oysters Blue and Blonde – A Valentine’s Day Recipe

Valentines Cover

Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th and it is a religious feast day honouring an early Christian martyr Saint Valentine of Rome. Valentine’s Day first became associated with a medieval ideal of romance, armour clad knights, perilous quests, beautiful maidens, the Arthur and Guinevere ‘ please honour me with a token of thy affection sweet lady and I shall boldly go forth and slay the curmudgeonly dragon ’ in the fourteenth century but fortunately by the eighteenth century it had become a much more civilised and lets face it safer occasion marked by people in love sending cards know as ‘valentines’. Obviously, we would all go kill a murderous mythical creature for our loved ones it’s just sometimes popping to Paperchase for a card is easier. Other gifts for the romantically inclined included flowers, confectionary, and St. Valentine’s Keys to unlock the recipient’s heart. The Victorians as ever over-egged the pudding and are responsible for the surfeit of hearts, doves, lacy frills ( on the cards at least ) and flocks of winged Cupids.

Undoubtedly one of the worlds great romantics was the Italian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova who when he wasn’t gambling, fighting, spying, studying the occult and generally hanging around with Voltaire, Mozart, Goethe, Madame de Pompadour, Rousseau and innumerable aristocrats was something of a lady’s man. The stories, many told it has to be said by himself, recount numerous amorous adventures and this probably explains why it is said he would consume up to fifty oysters for breakfast as an aphrodisiac. *

Traditional Oysters
Oysters served chilled

The reason oysters were considered an aphrodisiac had been put down to the zinc levels which handily for you lusty feeling folk are highest in early spring. Then in March 2005, a group of American and Italian researchers presented a paper to the American Chemical Society following a study into molluscs such as clams and mussels that were rich in a series of rare amino acids that triggered increased levels of hormones in mice. There was a huge interest in the research but really no proof of the effect from eating oysters directly, in fact, Nancy Amy, a nutritionist, and toxicologist at the University of California provided another theory “There’s an amazing placebo effect with aphrodisiacs,” she said. “It’s very culturally specific and there’s no scientific evidence, but if you think it’s going to work, then there’s already a 50 percent chance that it will.” Enough said.

*Casanova retired from adventuring and took up the position of librarian to a Bohemian Count, perhaps he relished a quieter life but it somewhat dispels the image we have of shy, retiring bookworms.

Oysters are eaten raw traditionally with lemon, Tabasco or a spoon of Migonette, a mix of very finely diced shallots, cracked black pepper and wine vinegar or they can be lightly baked or grilled. There are a number of classic grilled oyster recipes such as with garlic butter, oysters Rockefeller with spinach and pastis, oysters Kilpatrick with Worcestershire sauce and crisp bacon or glazed with buttery, tangy Bearnaise sauce. Alternatively, oysters can be deep-fried in in tempura batter or covered in breadcrumbs for the Southern favourite oyster Po’boy.

Baked Oysters
Grilled Oysters

So, while I cannot guarantee that this recipe will have you swinging from the lampshade in leopard skin briefs it’s really rather nice and tasty and uses some really nice Jersey ingredients ( you kind use your own local alternatives ). The oysters are gratinated with a crisp mix of fresh herbs, savoury biscuit crumbs, and Jersey Blue soft cheese which creamy and slightly tangy taste accentuates the salty ozone flavour of the Jersey oysters. The very light continental style beer, Liberation Blonde provides the base for a refreshing dressing to the baked oysters and chilled is an ideal accompaniment. You can substitute these with a local cheese and beer of your choice and you won’t be disappointed.

Grilled Oysters
Grilled Oysters Blonde and Blue

Grilled Jersey Oysters ‘Blonde and Blue’           serves 2 or 3

12 Jersey Oysters

Classic Herd organic Jersey Blue cheese or similar such as organic blue veined Brie

50 ml Liberation Blonde Ale

25 ml quality White Wine Vinegar

80 gr crushed Water Biscuits or plain Cheese Crackers

2 medium Shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon each of the following, finely chopped Chives, Chervil and Parsley

If you have a friendly fishmonger you can ask him to shuck or open your oysters for you before taking them home to cook and serve. If not, you first need to open your oysters and loosen them from their shells. Set each opened oyster down on a small mound of rock salt, on a baking tray. Remove the rind from your cheese and finely dice, divide evenly onto the oysters. Mix the herbs with the finely crushed biscuit crumbs and sprinkle over the cheese-topped oysters.

For the dressing simmer the chopped shallots with the white wine vinegar, cayenne, and a little water until the shallots start to soften but retain a little bite. Evaporate almost all of the liquid. Chill. When cold add the Blonde beer. Grill the oysters for 3 to 4 minutes under a medium grill until the cheese starts to bubble and the crumb mix browns. Serve topped with a little dressing, extra chopped herbs and the remaining dressing as a side.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Oysters are classically matched with flinty, Chablis or dry Champagne but why not try a Fino Sherry or hoppy Continental-style lagers and light fruity beers.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk Oyster Traces of sulphites in the beer

Please see the Allergens Page

valentines-cover.jpg

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Mousse

Valentine’s Day How to Cook the Perfect Steak

Valentine’s Day Bearnaise Sauce

Easy Chicken Liver Parfait

This parfait* recipe is so simple, so tasty and ideal if you are time poor ( that’s a very fancy way of saying busy ) and that is probably most of us, even if you have stopped with a coffee to browse this posting. The best thing about this recipe is that it does not require the poaching in a water bath or bain-marie that you find in classic pâté and parfait recipes. Actually, make that the second best thing, the most important thing you need to know about this parfait is it is delicious, absolutely delicious. It is easily adapted, and you can fancy it up a little up by substituting duck livers for chicken and adding extra flavours like orange peel, tarragon, and Cointreau.

Parfait.jpg

You can serve this pate as a simple starter with crisp Melba toast and maybe some tangy, delicious homemade chutney or you can take it in a cold box, on a picnic, to generously spread on crusty French bread. I personally love the taste of chicken livers and have to be stopped picking them from the pan once cooked, but some people find any liver can be a little strong. You can soak your chicken livers in milk overnight in the refrigerator to achieve an even milder finish. Just strain and blot dry with kitchen paper before cooking.

*A parfait is a really, really silky smooth pâté that you can whip up like a mousse.

 

Easy Chicken Liver Parfait        for 6 to 8 medium ramekins

2 x 250g packs of Jersey Butter ( other butters are great too )

1kg Chicken Livers, preferably free-range or organic, trimmed

4 large Banana Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

A small bunch of fresh Thyme leaves picked

50ml good quality Olive Oil

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

A small wineglass of Brandy

to garnish

Thyme, Bay leaves, Pink Peppercorns

Clarified Butter – Place one whole pack of butter in a pan on a low heat or pilot light and let it tick away for 20 to 30 minutes until completely separated. The clear butterfat will separate from the white part in the bottom which is the whey. Skim the clear fat off the top and put in a separate container. This a similar technique to making Ghee the staple of Indian cookery and the base of many of the rich buttery curry sauces. Clarified butter can be used at a much higher temperature because there are no milk solids to burn.

In the oil sauté the shallot, garlic, and thyme for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to colour. Turn up the heat and add a splash more oil, the chicken livers and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about more than 4 minutes until the livers plump up and they are still very pink in the middle. Add brandy to the pan of livers, and let it flame off. Tip everything straight into a food processor with all the juices scraping out the pan. Blitz until smooth and check seasoning. Dice up your remaining pack of butter, and add it piece by piece, with the food processor still running. Wait for each piece to be combined before adding more. Keep whizzing when it’s all in, and you’ll see it start to shine. Taste again and season again if necessary. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into ramekins, then cool. Decorate with thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns and top with clarified butter. Return to refrigerator and serve once the butter is set.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

 

Seafood Tarts

There are more than a few signs that Spring is definitely here. Last weekend we had an impromptu picnic in the nearby park and the weather was truly glorious * And when Spring is the air we chefs start to think about some delicious, lighter lunches and dinner instead of all the hearty soups and stews. I think I have the perfect recipe then, for you today, Seafood Feuilleté, a buttery, puff-pastry case full of sensational seafood in a creamy vermouth sauce.

Seafood Tart

Now before we start I don’t want you to panic at the thought of puff pastry, I’m going to put up my hands up right now and admit straight away few of us are lucky to have the time and patience to perfect the technique of making puff pastry at home. Even after hours of practice, I struggle to get an even rise and perfect bake every time, so my solution, used correctly the bought-in product is practical, versatile and very labour saving. Rich and flaky, ready-made puff pastry can top a rich fish pie, enclose marzipan and fruit for a luxurious dessert or make simple crisp cheese straws to nibble.

Puff pastry can also be used to make savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can be used in a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

*The fog returned Monday morning with a vengeance and it was more than a tad chilly.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms or a seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard, glazed poached peach halves and raspberries.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )

Egg wash

For the method please follow this link.

 

For the Filling

6 -8 Gamba’s or large Shell on Prawns

500 gr Fresh Mussels

500 gr Fresh Clams

12 Scallops

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick double cream

50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )

25 ml Olive Oil

25 gr Butter

Juice of one fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight-fitting lid ), melt the half of the butter and add half of the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heatproof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.

When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Melt the remaining butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan and saute the gambas, over a gentle heat, for three minutes before turning up the heat and adding the scallops, turn over the prawns and the scallops as soon as they are brown. After two more minutes remove from heat, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and keep warm.

Heat the mussels and clams gently in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the remaining lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required. Place a warm pastry case onto a deep lipped plate and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Add a couple of scallops then fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids or a large prawn. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour     Milk Oyster Crab

Please see the Allergens Page

Gazpacho

Trying to enjoy the not so sunny Jersey summer and dodging the thunderstorms I can at least celebrate some of the delicious produce available on the island, fragrant, ripe Jersey tomatoes and a host of salads, fruits, and vegetables. This simple version of classic chilled tomato soup is ideal as an appetizer or as a light lunch. Gazpacho is very popular across the Iberian peninsula and is believed to have developed from either a Moorish or Roman origins. It varies across Spain and Portugal from thick purées, almost the consistency of a dip, through to fiery peppery water with the addition of a selection of diced vegetables.

Gazpacho
A blended Gazpacho

I once had a disagreement with my then Executive Chef. Not a good move for your career to argue with an Executive Chef, on the authentic Gazpacho texture, rough or smooth, thick or thin. He was, of course, right because quite simply he was Chef and I was right because I am an annoying, know it all ( there I said it before anyone else ). Eventually, we came to an unusual and diplomatic compromise in a kitchen, especially between two opinionated individuals, we were both right. We did however totally agree on its early preparation to allow the flavours to fully develop and most importantly to ensure sufficient time in the refrigerator to completely chill. Quite a few years later, after a lot more research, as I tried to find out if I was right, I saw just how many varied recipes and what is a highly individual approach there is to making Gazpacho, there is no cookery book classic or definitive method. The texture and ingredients are different, region by region, family to family, person to person.

Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup
A Gazpacho amuse-bouche

Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar to keep it cool, the result is rustic, less than the smooth finish achieved in many modern recipes using a food processor. You may add green bell peppers which I omit on a purely personal basis ( I just don’t like them ), whilst stale bread soaked in a little water thickens and adds a silky texture. As a lunchtime dish, bowls of ham, egg, and almonds are served alongside the soup. I guess the key is to experiment and find your own personal preference. I have often used Gazpacho as a little amuse-bouche  ( see photo ) to get my customers taste buds tingling and this recipe is ideal. Modern Gazpacho variations can be made with cucumbers, avocados, and watermelons for different colours, flavours, and textures.

Gazpacho

serves a good 12 shots or 4 individual portions

1kg really Ripe ( Jersey ) Tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small bunch of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped

1 Cucumber, peeled

2 roasted Sweet Red Peppers, peeled and de-seeded

A good pinch of Cayenne Pepper

75ml good quality Olive Oil

3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Celery Salt

Cracked Black Pepper to taste

To finish your choice of:

Finely diced Red and Green Pepper, Grated Egg, Air dried Ham, toasted Almonds, Pimento, extra virgin Olive Oil.

Put the chopped tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cucumber, Cayenne, and celery salt in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve a couple of times to remove most of the pulped skin and seeds. Put the mix back in the blender and slowly add the olive oil and sherry vinegar and season well to taste. Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Serve as an appetiser or as a light lunch with a selection of toppings to spoon over your soup in the center of the table.

Wine

 

What to Drink? Serve your Gazpacho with a chilled Amontillado or Manzanilla over ice, a Picpoul de Pinet or the toasted, nutty flavour of a classic English Brown Ale.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery   Eggs   nuts

Please see the Allergens Page

Classic French Onion Soup

My Classic French Onion Soup – A suitable recipe for Bastille Day

Classic French Onion Soup
Homemade French Onion Soup

Tomorrow is the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and across France there will be large military parades and festivities commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution. Beginning with the storming of the Bastille, a large prison in Paris, the period was one of great political and social upheaval which saw the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the French Republic. In honour of this traditional French National Holiday, I am going to cook a classic recipe, French Onion Soup which probably had its origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth-century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock to French Onion Soup came later, as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ). French Onion Soup went through a renaissance in the sixties when American chefs really started promoting French recipes and was used as a very fancy dinner party starter although I think it is altogether better as a lunch dish. Enjoy

My Classic French Onion Soup serves 6

1.5 kg peeled sweet Onions, peeled and finely sliced

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

1 ½ litres fresh Beef Stock

100 ml quality Dry Sherry

60 gr Butter

50 ml quality Olive Oil

1 tsp fresh Thyme Leaves, finely chopped

2 Bay Leaves

½ tsp each of Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg

Half of a day old Baguette

50 gr grated Cheddar or Gruyère

50 gr grated Parmesan

A couple of pinches of Cayenne pepper

To garnish

Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped

Heat a slug of the oil and the butter together in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the onions. Stew the onions stirring frequently until all the cooking juices evaporate and the onions start to caramelise. Begin to stir continuously, to prevent the onions from sticking and burning and cook until they reach a light brown nutty colour. Add the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, stock, and seasoning and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for fifteen minutes add the sherry and simmer for a further fifteen minutes to evaporate off the alcohol. Correct the seasoning and keep warm.

For the croutes preheat your oven to 325 F / 170 C / Gas mark 3 and thinly slice the baguette. Lay the pieces on a baking tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Place in the oven and bake for forty minutes until golden brown. Turn up the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Pour the soup into six ovenproof bowls and top with the grated cheeses then sprinkle with the Cayenne. Place the bowls on a tray and place in the oven for fifteen minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Take out of the oven, top with chopped parsley and serve. Please warn your guests about the hot bowls.

Wine

What to Drink? Try pairing your French Onion Soup with a fruity and refreshingly acidic Beaujolais wine or the complimentary nutty caramel flavours of a brown ale.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour  Milk  Celery

Please see the Allergens Page