butter

Risotto Milanese

Risotto Milanese is the traditional accompaniment to Osso Buco. In its genuine form, it contains beef bone marrow, though this is usually left  out of most modern versions of the risotto. Because I love beef bone marrow, I am putting it in.

375g arborio rice
60g butter
75g uncooked beef bone marrow, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
750ml chicken stock
250ml dry white wine
½  teaspoon saffron threads
30g butter extra
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In one saucepan, bring stock to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.

In another large heavy-based pot or casserole, heat oil and cook onion until tender. Stir in the bone marrow, then add the rice and stir well until all the rice has been coated with the butter. Add wine and 1 cup of the hot stock and the saffron. Bring to the boil, stirring well. When liquid has almost evaporated, add more stock, stir until liquid has almost evaporated and continue to add stock and stir until the risotto is ‘al dente’, or cooked but still firm. Cooking is all done with the pot uncovered and should take about 20 minutes. The risotto should not be too dry.

When almost cooked, add extra butter and grated Parmesan and stir until melted. Serve at once.

Serves 6.

Goats cheese, parmesan, leek and thyme tart

I first made this tart (or quiche, though I have noticed that men don’t like eating quiches, though they don’t mind tarts!) for a ‘plein air’ day at my landscape painting class. It was a huge success, and I had to print out twelve copies of the recipe. It appears below exactly as I typed it. The cheese references are for the people who hadn’t a clue what goat’s cheese was and firmly believed that Parmesan was smelly grated cheese that came in a green shaker!

1 x savoury shortcrust pastry base, frozen then baked blind in a 25cm diameter x 3.5cm deep flan tin with a removable base or a pate brisee base.

Filling:
6 medium sized leeks, well washed and finely sliced (white part only)
A little butter
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 round goats’ cheese (125g) *
150g good Parmesan cheese, grated **
A good handful of fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
6 – 7 eggs
1 ½ cups (375ml) pouring cream
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan until the butter sizzles. Reduce heat and add the finely sliced leeks. Stir so that they don’t catch and continue to cook until leeks are transparent and tender. Remove from heat and place in a colander or sieve to drain well.

Preheat the oven to 200C, or a little hotter.

Sprinkle about one third of the Parmesan cheese evenly onto the tart base, then add the leeks, making sure they cover the base, right to the edges. Add some of the thyme leaves.

Slice or crumble (depending its consistency  – see note below) the goats’ cheese and distribute it evenly, then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining thyme.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Break 6 of the eggs into a bowl and beat until an even consistency. Add a scant 1¼

cups of cream and beat together lightly. (Hold the remaining egg and cream until you know if you need them.) Add a little freshly grated nutmeg, then pour the mixture carefully into the tart, taking care not to overfill. If you don’t have enough egg/cream mixture, beat together the remaining egg and cream and add.

Place the tart tin onto a baking tray. (This will make it easier to remove without accidentally pushing the base of the tin up and so breaking the hot tart. It will also prevent any of the egg and cream mixture that might leak from ending up on the floor of your oven.)

Bake at 200C for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden colour or the quiche is set.

Pate brisee

For years this has been the recipe I reach for whenever a savoury pastry shell is called for. 

Pate brisee (broken pastry) gives a slightly flaky crust without a strong individual taste, which makes it perfect for savoury flans, pies and quiches.  

These quantities make enough for one 25cm diameter quiche, or 20 tartlet moulds, each 5 cm in diameter and 1cm deep

100g chilled butter
225g plain flour
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon oil
Pinch of salt

Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and put the butter into a mixing bowl with the flour and the salt. Using a fork, or two knives, work the butter into the flour until the mixture has the texture of oatmeal.

Beat the egg yolk with the cold water and add the oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the oil. Mix with a fork, then use your hands to form the dough into a ball.

If using a food processor, place the flour and salt into the bowl and add butter cut into small pieces. Using the metal blade, process until the mixture has the texture of oatmeal.

Beat egg yolk with the cold water, and add the oil. With the processor switched on, add the egg mixture through the feed tube, processing until the mixture forms a ball around the blade. Switch off immediately.

Wrap the pastry in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm…at least 20 minutes. This mixture will keep for weeks in the freezer.

If recipe specifies that a pastry shell be ‘blind baked’ before filling, follow the instructions in ‘Blind Baking a Pastry Tart Shell’ in this section.

Eggs benedict

The recipe for this dish originated in America, I think at the Waldorf Hotel, where it is served on so-called ‘English muffins’. They don’t resemble English muffins at all. I would use sourdough or perhaps ciabatta for this dish, sliced fairly thickly and grilled.

4 generous slices ham from the bone, fat removed
4 thick slices of sourdough bread
Olive oil
8 eggs (these can be poached in advance and reheated as they would be in a restaurant situation)
Hollandaise sauce (see Sauces)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Brush both sides of the sourdough slices with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes each side until crisp and golden.

In a buttered heavy-based frying pan, lightly fry the ham to heat it through.

Top each slice of sourdough with a generous quantity of warm ham, top the ham with 2 reheated and well-drained poached eggs. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs.

Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

Holandaise sauce

Like mayonnaise, Hollandaise and Béarnaise are emulsion sauces. Emulsion sauces are made with egg yolks, oil or fat and an acid to stablilise them. In the case of Hollandaise and Béarnaise, the fat is butter; with Hollandaise, the acid is lemon juice. Adding a teaspoon of the acid to the egg yolks before the fat is added helps prevent curdling and ensures a thick sauce.

Traditionally, all emulsion sauces are made in a double boiler, but both Hollandaise and Béarnaise can be made in a food processor. To finish the sauce you will need a double boiler, or a basin sitting in a saucepan of hot (but not boiling) water.

4 egg yolks
175g butter, melted, but not hot
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

 Place egg yolks, water and a little of the lemon juice in the bowl of the food processor and, using the metal blade, process until light and well mixed. With the machine switched on, add the butter in a slow steady stream. Continue to process for another 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a double boiler, cook at low heat, but be careful not to let the water boil. Add a little cold water to the bottom of the double boiler frequently to keep it below boiling point. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens to the consistency of custard. Add extra lemon juice to taste, but remember, too much lemon will spoil the sauce. Stir in the lemon juice well to stabilise the sauce. Add freshly ground pepper.

Hollandaise keeps in the refrigerator, but it does harden to the consistency of butter. Remove from the fridge well before serving time to soften it, or stand it in warm water. It may need to be whisked with a fork, or returned to the food processor for a few seconds. Should the sauce curdle, return it to the bowl of the food processor, switch on, and feed 1 – 2 tablespoons of boiling water through the feed tube, a little at a time.

Hollandaise sauce is traditionally served with asparagus or other vegetables, eggs and fish, especially salmon.

Goat’s cheese and hazelnut souffle

This is a really delicious recipe of Philip Johnson’s. It is also the one on which I came to grief one night when the mixture ‘split’ just as I was about to add the egg whites. The flour I should have been using was baker’s flour, or strong flour, which has a higher gluten (protein) content than the plain flour available on supermarket shelves. It is also the flour that many professional cooks use as a matter of course, so that when they say ‘plain flour’, they really mean baker’s flour.   

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup polenta
50g unsalted butter
50g strong or baker’s flour
300ml cream
300ml milk
4 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped
Pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 egg yolks
225g mature goat’s cheese, melted
6 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (unless using a copper bowl for egg whites)
½ cup (50g) hazelnuts, roasted and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 220C, on static, not fan-forced setting.  Brush six 180ml capacity ceramic soufflé dishes with the melted butter and coat with polenta, shaking out the excess.

Melt the 50g butter in a heavy-based pan over moderate heat, then stir in flour. Cook and stir until mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan, then remove from heat. Gradually whisk in cream, then milk until smooth.

Bring mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook for a further 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and black pepper to taste.

Whisk egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar, unless you are using a copper bowl, in which case, omit the cream of tartar. Whites should be able to hold a peak without sagging. Using a metal spoon, fold one cup of the whites into soufflé mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remainder.

Divide mixture among soufflé dishes and scatter the tops with hazelnuts. Place dishes on an oven tray and bake until souffles are well risen and golden, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Serve immediately with a green salad. The pear and walnut salad included with the Goat’s Cheese Tart recipe in this section would be perfect.

Before you begin – Oils

Oil. Think carefully about which oil to use in a recipe. In 1997, canola oil was considered to be the best oil to use health-wise. Cooking oils all contain saturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats and poly – unsaturated fats in varying proportions. Canola oil (and Grapeseed oil) has the biggest proportion of ‘good’ fats and the lowest proportion of ‘bad’ fats. In addition it also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, usually found in fish. These Omega 3 acids prevent the blood from clotting and are therefore considered very important in preventing heart disease. They are also important in reducing inflammation in some kinds of arthritis, in preventing asthma, in the development of the brain and in maintaining a healthy retina of the eye.

Less than a year later, some experts were saying that olive oil was the healthiest way to cook. To hedge my bets, I tend to cook with both…canola or grapseed oil for general cooking, seafood and Asian food, olive oil for all Mediterranean-style cooking. I still prefer the flavour (or rather the lack of it) of grape seed oil for fish cooking, and because grape seed oil rates fairly highly on the scale of ‘good oils’, I will still use it for cooking fish.

Ironically, however, in 2004 it was announced that vegetable oils, and in particular, canola oil was responsible for causing macular degeneration of the eye and was causing blindness in quite young people. So you can use butter and die of heart disease or use vegetable oil and go blind!

Once upon a time, I used peanut oil almost exclusively, and always for Asian cooking. These days I won’t even have it in the pantry. The incidence of peanut allergies has risen so dramatically over the last few decades that it is just not worth it.

Even the tiniest amount of peanut oil served to a person with a peanut allergy could result in death and I am just not prepared to take that risk.

I still use butter for some cooking. I cannot make a bechamel sauce without it, try as I might. I use butter for cooking liver as butter gives liver a better colour.

Just a word about olive oil. The flavour of olive oil is completely foreign to all Asian countries with the exception of Macau. (Macanese cuisine is a unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cooking.) Most Asian cuisines use peanut (but see above) or sunflower oil. Canola oil is fine too. In Asian cooking the oil is simply a cooking medium; in Mediterranean cooking the flavour of the olive oil is important. Never use olive oil when preparing an Asian dish.

Olive oil is made by pressing the olives a number of times. The best oil comes from the first pressing. This is called ‘Extra Virgin’, and the oil produced is usually a fairly deep green. The second pressing produces ‘Virgin’ Olive oil, which is slightly lighter in colour. The third produces ‘Classic’ or ‘Classico’, which is usually a fairly deep gold in colour. Then come the final pressings producing ‘Light’ and ‘Extra Light’ Olive Oil. These are generally despised by the true Italian and Provencal cooks, but for our tastes, they are less overpowering than the earlier pressings. All are pure oil and all contain the same amount of fat. It is a flavour choice, not a health choice. Extra virgin olive oil contains the same amount of fat as extra light olive oil.

It is a myth that adding oil to the water when cooking pasta stops the pasta from sticking. All it does is inhibit the ability of the pasta sauce from adhering to the pasta.