Caesar Salad

Ingredients

2-3 dstsp mayonnaise
juice 1 large lemon
50 g finely grated Parmesan plus extra for shaving
half a small loaf of day-old bread (most prefer ciabatta but any good white bread is fine) – mostly decrusted and cubed
3-4 anchovies – finely chopped
2 medium size chicken breasts, pounded flat (about 0.5- 1cm thick all over)
1 head Romaine/Cos lettuce
1 large clove garlic – finely chopped
pinch dried herbs like oregano or basil
olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Method

1) Pre heat the oven to 180°C

2) Start with the dressing by spooning mayo into a medium sized glass bowl and then pound your garlic and anchovies in the mortar and pestle to make a fine paste. Add some olive oil to this at the last stage to ensure you get as much of that salty pungent goodness out of the mortar and tip it all into the mayo bowl. Don’t add any salt at this stage but do add the lemon juice, black pepper and finely grated parmesan and whisk together to form a fairly smooth sauce although it won’t be completely smooth unless you’ve ground the Parmesan to dust.

3) In a lined baking tray, tumble the bread cubes, oil, salt and pepper and pinch of herbs together – and place in oven

4) Season your flattened chicken breasts and fry for about 5 minutes in olive oil by which time it might also be worth checking the croutons, as they will now be becoming. Flip over and fry for another 5 mins (having, I’d suggest, tumbled the croutons once during baking to avoid them burning on one side and not getting quite golden brown enough on another)

5) Remove the croutons after about 15 mins in total (but check after 12) – if you’ve turned them during the bake, they will be appetisingly coloured

6) Slice the chicken breast into strips of about 1.5cm

7) Cut off the root of the romaine lettuce and separate the leaves loosely into the awaiting mayo-based dressing – if you’re going to wash them, make sure the leaves are completely dry so this would be better done in advance.

8) Don’t worry about getting a perfect covering of dressing as you can dribble more on later, but the key thing is to arrange your dressed leaves quite artfully and then gently pile on some strips of chicken and some croutons. Dribble over any remaining dressing.

9) As a final flourish, delicately shave a bit more Parmesan with a veg peeler directly onto the salad. If you’re like me (and i admit, very few are), real decadence is achieved by draping over a few extra thin strips of anchovy fillet.

10) Now marvel at this punchy, wonderfully coloured, multi-textured feast as you gorge upon it!

Stuffed courgette flowers with a spicy parmesan crust

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

Serves 2 as a starter

 INGREDIENTS

4 baby courgettes with flowers attached

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

Ingredients  for the flowers filling

100g marscapone cheese (or ricotta – or even Philly!)

50g feta cheese (or goats cheese)  – finely crumbled

2 anchovy filets – finely chopped

green part of a spring onion – finely sliced (or dsp of chopped chives)

leaves from 3-4 stalks of tarragon – finely chopped (or you could use fresh basil)

small bunch flat leaf parsley – leaves picked and finely chopped

zest of half a lemon – finely grated

freshly cracked black pepper

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

Ingredients for the parmesan crust

 

1 large free range egg

1 tbsp cornflower

25g finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp breadcrumbs

½ tsn dried red chilli flakes

fresh cracked black pepper

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

To fry

olive oil

sunflower/vegetable oil

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

To serve

pinch sea salt

½ lemon

nasturtium flowers if available.

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

 METHOD

You might find courgette flowers at a farmers’ market (if you live in Dulwich or another trendy location…) but even I have to admit that, unless you grow courgettes yourself, this is going to be challenging. However, it is unbelievably summery and beautiful (like Brenda’s latest frock…) and guests or a paramour, will be bowled over – and in the case of the latter, will definitely make the effort worthwhile in terms of the quality of your evening later on …… Anyway, moving swiftly forward

1)   Gently open the courgette flowers to snip the stamens  off  – they’re not poisonous, but they’re rather bitter (unlike Brenda, who is both…) Wipe all over and remove any insects.

2)   Combine all the ingredients for the flower filling in a bowl and stir/beat until  smooth. Check seasoning although it’s unlikely any salt will be needed due to the feta and anchovy

3)   Combine in a separate bowl (long enough to accommodate the full length of the courgette with its flower attached) the dry ingredients for the parmesan crust (again, careful with salt, due to the Parmesan) ….

4)   ….and in another bowl, similarly long, crack the egg and gently beat

5)   Spoon or pipe the flower filling mix into the courgette flower – you should get 1-2 tsp mix into each one. Carefully fold the petals over the mix and twist the (usually four) tips together to seal

6)   Heat a medium frying pan with enough olive/vegetable oil (you can use which combo you like but some olive oil for its flavour is nice) to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 1cm

7)   While that’s getting up to temperature, dip each courgette (with attached stuffed flower) into the egg and then into the cheesy crumb mix.

8)   Once the oil is at 180C (or hot enough to brown a cube of bread in about  1 minute, if you haven’t got a thermometer), gently lower the courgettes into the oil and shallow fry . After 2 minutes, turn and do the same on the other side

9)   After 4 minutes in total, the courgettes will be a lovely light golden brown at which point they should be removed from the pan and laid on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil

10)   Serve immediately with a pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon and a couple of nasturtiums if you have them.

stuffed courgette flowers with a parmesan crust

 

 

 

A Marvellous Steak Sandwich

fanny and brenda's guide to a really delicious steak sandwich

This is a superb recipe for anyone wanting to enjoy a lazy weekend lunch, and doesn’t want to have to resort to a fast food chain. In short, the flavour and taste of this sandwich matches the photograph – how often can we say that about the average burger promotion? Of course, this isn’t fast food; it’s something to mull over, drool over, savour and enjoy. Or to put it another way, this isn’t the motorway pit stop; it’s the destination.

Ingredients

250 g ribeye steak
1 large onion
knob of butter
olive oil
25 g dark brown sugar
60 ml red wine vinegar
sprig thyme or lemon thyme
1 ciabatta loaf
1 tbsp mayo
2 tsp Dijon or grain mustard
1 handful of watercress
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

fanny and brenda's guide to a really delicious steak sandwich

Method

1) Take the steak out from the fridge and let it sit on the side – this allows it 45 mins or so to come to room temperature, which you want for even cooking.

fanny and brenda's guide to a really delicious steak sandwich

2) Meanwhile, peel the onion and slice into four 1cm-thick rounds. You can reserve the “end bits” for something else.

3) Put the butter, a glug of oil into a frying pan on a medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, place the onions into the pan in a single layer, and cook for 5 minutes.

fanny and brenda's guide to a really delicious steak sandwich

4) Add the sugar and vinegar, sprinkle with a few thyme leaves if you have them, season well with a good pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper and put a the lid on, reducing the heat to low and cook for around 45 minutes. Check periodically it’s not sticking/burning – you don’t need to turn them as you’re looking for the onions to stay in their round shape but have collapsed to a very soft and caramelised state – like Brenda after one too many on the sun lounger.

5) Switch on the oven to 100°C and pop in the ciabatta to warm through.

6) Put a heavy-bottomed pan on a high heat. Once it’s beginning to smoke, lightly oil the steak with olive oil, season well with sea salt and cracked black pepper then put it into the pan and cook for 2 – 2 1/2 minutes on each side for medium rare, but this will depend on the thickness of your steak and how “done” you like it. Also, as always when cooking steak, once you’ve put it down, leave it alone and do not move it at all – this really does make the difference in developing that lovely brown outer crust

7) Remove from the pan to a warm plate, rest for 3-4 minutes, then slice up how you like.

8) While the steak is resting, combine the mayo and mustard.

fanny and brenda's guide to a really delicious steak sandwich

9) To assemble, slice the warm ciabatta in half sideways so you have a lower and an upper half; and spoon/pour onto both pieces any leftover steak juices from the resting plate, then spread about a couple of tsp of the mayo/mustard mix, also onto to each half, followed by lifting the caramelised onions carefully onto the lower half, then the steak strips – and watercress as the uppermost layer. Crown with the top half of the loaf, press down lightly and using a sharp bread knife, divide into two, at an angle.

10) Gobble inelegantly