Escargot in Garlic and Shallot Butter

Escargot? Yes, that's snails! Snails? Really? Hell, yeah!!!

Snails are consumed across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East. There is much misinformation around the preparation, proposing snails as complicated in preparation and even dangerous to eat.

Let's prepare some snails ...

Catch a number of snails from your garden and put them in a ventilated box from which they cannot naturally escape.

For a week, or so, feed them human consumable food to purge their guts out of soil and grit. Lettuce leaves, herbs, that kind of thing - strong herbs are great because the snails will adopt that flavour!

Two or three days before you want to cook them, do not feed them any more. This will purge out their digestive tract. Commercially, snails are simply hung up in baskets for a couple of weeks.

Wash the snails thoroughly and bring up a large pan of water to the boil and maintain a rolling boil. Simply add the snails to the water and boil for three minutes.

Drain the water and then tackle each snail in turn with a special two prong fork to winkle them out of their shells. The shells can be re-washed and used later to place the cooked snails back into for serving, but this is not necessary.

Salting is not necessary, nor is cornflower; both were believed to remove the sliminess from the snails, but simple boiling is all that is necessary.

... or simply buy a can of prepared snails.

Finely chops some shallot and much garlic, placing in an ovenproof dish.

Add a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and some butter, lard, dripping or bacon grease.

Add the snails and bake in a pre-heated oven for a ten minutes or so at 180C, or fry off on the hob. Oven cooking retains more moisture.

Serve over a plate of the things you fed the snails - lettuce, cabbage, herbs and so on, and a good grind of freshly milled black pepper.

Bon appetit!


Ginger & Thyme Hinted Duck Breast over Shredded Cabbage

Duck breast will render all the fat you need to cook this whole dish! I don't need to say how good for you duck fat is.

First warm up a frying pan and without adding any further fat, place the duck breasts in skin side down and hold them down with a fish slice.

After about 90 seconds, let go and let them cook on a slightly lower heat for another few minutes. You'll see the fat render out.

Turn the breasts over onto a bed of fresh thyme and a little chopped ginger and, on a really low heat, let them simmer in their own juices for another 5 minutes, or so ... perfectly pink, but cooked is the goal.

Meanwhile, shred and steam some cabbage.

Set the duck breasts on a board to rest, frying off some chorizo in the rendered fat and tossing in the steamed cabbage at the end to collect all the good fat. The chorizo brings all the saltiness and spiciness necessary to elevate this dish.

Simple, eh?

Serve out, cabbage down first and slices of duck breast over the top.


Prawn Mayonnaise Wrapped in Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon wrapped prawns is a lazy dinner party starter. Dinner parties should be spent with guests and this starter is quick, simple and can be prepared in advance or assembled in seconds before serving.

Let's get prepared ...

First, make the mayonnaise - two egg yolks, whisk until lighter and fluffy and then gradually add avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil) in constantly whisking. You will get a feel for how much oil you need, but the exact ratio does not really matter.

Defrosted some frozen cooked prawns and once defrosed, combine into the mayonnaise and optionally add a spoon of creme fraiche.

Cut some thin lemon slices and cut mostly across the diameter so that a twist will be held by one side of the slice.

Put the lot into the fridge.

When ready to serve, take slices of smoked salmon, spoon a portion of the prawn mayonnaise onto the smoked salmon and roll up.

Garnish with a twist of freshly milled black pepper or some chopped dill and lay a lemon slice over the top.


Gourmet Bangers & Mash

When you've got some good sausage in, it's a crime not to ...

Bangers & Mash is a classic British dish. It should be kept simple: sausages, mash and gravy. Done, that's all, no need to faff it up any more ...

... although we can.

High meat content sausages cook best in the oven, in my opinion, somewhere like 180C (350F?) for about 30 minutes, turned half way through and they'll come out coloured up and perfectly cooked through.

Do that ...

Meanwhile, peel and boil some potatoes and some butternut squash. This is the first deviation: butternut squash, which lends a real depth to the mash. You'll need about 30 minutes, so get on with it ... preparation, then about 20 minutes of boiling, drain, mash in butter and then using a spatula, really refine the mash. Some like to pass it through a sieve, but that's for restaurants.

You'll also want a gravy ...

I made up a simple gravy with a beef stock cube, poured over some portobello mushrooms sautéed in butter and some shredded onion. This is the second deviation: mushrooms. What they bring to the party is well worth having, and I bet restaurants will use them in their gravy but not serve them, which seems a real shame.

Cook that long and slow, reducing gently to concentrate the flavours ...

Ready to eat? Serve up!

Mash down first, mushrooms spooned over. Sausages on top, onions spooned over. Just poured carefully around the side.

Grab your diggers and get in there!


Renhjärta Risotto

Renhjärta Risotto
Risotto is a simple dish of gently cooked Arborio Rice.

Should it be here? On this website? Well, yes ... having read Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet's The Perfect Health Diet I am left thinking that simple starches are not at all an issue if you're athletic and not trying to lose weight. I'm happy to include simple starches like this every now and again.

That, and what a wonderful way to finish off the last of the reindeer heart that my friend brought be back from Sweden.

Simply sliced, it was folded through cooked risotto just before serving.

The risotto is a simple enough dish to prepare ...

Have a good bowl of stock alongside, a heavy based frying pan and get on with it. Chopped onion softened in butter, a good chunk of butter, then the rice dropped in and stirred in the butter until it becomes almost translucent. Chopped garlic goes in now.

Now ladle in stock. First, a good amount and reduce it quickly. Drop the heat and ladle in less, stirring the rice as you go. Season to taste.

Fold in slices of reindeer heart at the end. Thinly chopped chestnut mushrooms would be nice if you're all our of reindeer heart ...


Smoked Renhjärta

Smoked renhjärta, or reindeer heart, is a no-preparation meal in itself.

A delicacy of Scandinavian cuisine, reindeer heart is utterly gorgeous; the finest truffle chocolate you have ever tasted and the fat, so rich without being cloy.

Simply slice and wolf down.

You could slice or cube up the heart and include in a hearty stew, but that does seem a shame and a waste of such a fine ingredient.

Making a dish of finesse to show off the delicacy, it should be served simply - specifically chosen leaves of watercress, rocket, pea shoots, and stems of dill and parsley.

Slice the heart into thin slices and serve under the leaves with berry compote to accompany.


Pan-fried Salmon with Crushed Garlic Potatoes and Broccoli Puree

Garlic crushed potatoes are gorgeous!

Simply take some salad potatoes, skin on (let's live dangerously, eh?), boil 'em, then crush 'em gently with a fork, mixing in butter and crushed garlic as you go. The heat will just cook out the rawness of the garlic yet leave its strong perfume.

Meanwhile, steam some broccoli and blend to a purée which a good fillet of salmon gently colours up in good butter.

Serve out, broccoli puree as a sauce, potato garnished with dill and salmon on top ...

... and, something a little different: crème fraîche and a couple of strawberries chopped in half. Crème fraîche is a great partner with salmon and fruit, generally, works well with fish. This, curiously, worked perfectly.


Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs with Shaved Truffle

Posh scrambled eggs!

Eggs should be free range at the very least, woodland reared are best since the chickens are left to roam, peck and scratch for grubs natural to their diet, and the taste difference is evident.

Combined with smoked salmon, heavy cream and topped with truffle the dish should be deep and sumptuous; a real treat!

Truffle is the fruiting body an underground fungus and rightly deserve their accolade as "diamond of the kitchen".

Let's get cracking ...

Crack three eggs into a bowl and gently whisk - not too much as to make a smooth liquid, but just enough to break the yolks and combine lightly. This texture will add to the overall effect of the dish.

Drop a little heavy cream into the egg mixture and just fold it gently.

Slice up some smoked salmon, sufficient to punctuate the dish, but not too much as to overwhelm the eggs - the smoked salmon will be combined into the eggs.

Wake up ... time to fry!

Drop a good portion of pastured butter into a cold frying pan and put on the heat to gently melt the butter. The pan should never become too hot - we don't want to burn the eggs. The method of scrambling eggs often has the pan off direct heat using residual heat to cook through.

Just as the butter melts, pour in the egg mixture and allow it to sit for a moment. Gently fold the cooked part back into the uncooked part.

Sprinkle the smoked salmon into the partly cooked mixture and continue to gently fold the cooked part into the uncooked, removing the pan from the heat periodically if it gets too hot.

Just before the whole dish is cooked through, remove from the heat and sprinlke a little sea salt over if your smoked salmon is not already salty enough. Salt should not be added to the initial mixture, as it breaks down egg whites and makes the eggs more runny.

Use the residual heat in the pan to cook through fully.

Turn out onto a plate and grate some truffle over.


Vera Cruz Halibut & Mango Salsa

Veracruz, a State in Mexico and home to a simple style of cooking seafood.

Simply, a sauce of tomato, onion, garlic, chillies and olives. Oregano perfumes the dish, although over here in Britain, marjoram is closer to Mexican oregano.

So, two pans ...

In the first pan, soften some onions in lard, add in chopped garlic and a carton of chopped tomatoes. Enhanced the tomato flavour with some tomato purée and toss in chopped jalapeño chillies. Sprinkle over some oregano or marjoram and toss in some green olives, perhaps halved.

That's the sauce ... reduce gently.

In the other pan, gently fry off your fish. Again, lard is good. I went with halibut, a North Atlantic fish, which has a firm yet delicate texture and flavour. Perfect for this sauce.

Meanwhile, make up a simple salsa ...

Chopped mango and red chillies.

Plate up ...

Fish down first, sauce over, salsa alongside ... with a couple of slices of avocado.


Eggs Benedict with Shaved Truffle

Eggs Benedict is a dish of poached egg on a bed of ham or bacon over a muffin half and covered in lashings of Hollandaise - egg yolks emulsified with butter.

Topping with grated or shaved truffle makes an especially rich dish and one which is a real treat!

Truffle is the fruiting body an underground fungus and rightly deserve their accolade as "diamond of the kitchen".

Let's get cracking ...

First, the "muffin" - place a Portobello mushroom in the oven set to around 180C to soften up.

Next, the Hollandaise.

Collect three egg yolks in a glass mixing bowl.

Put a good block of butter in a pan and on a gentle heat. As the butter melts, the solids will drop out leaving clarified butter to pour off, discarding the solids and returning the clarified top to the gentle heat to keep warm. The shortcut here is to use ghee.

Whisk the eggs briskly with a balloon whisk and add a splash of lemon juice.

Over a baines marie (sitting the mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water without the base of the bowl touching the water) and whisking constantly, pour the clarified butter into the mix in a constant stream.

You may need to lift the bowl off the heat every so often to prevent it from turning to custard.

If the Hollandaise becomes too thick, add a teaspoon of water.

Set the Hollandaise to one side.

Crack a further egg into a ramekin taking care not to break the yolk.

Add a generous splash of white distilled vinegar to the water, get it up to a rolling boil and then drop the heat. Gently swirl the water and carefully pour the egg into the vortex to poach.

Poach the egg, retrieve and dry off by resting it on a folded kitchen paper towel.

Re-warm the Hollandaise over the water, adjusting consistency with a little water if necessary. No need to add salt, since the ham will provide all the saltiness the dish needs.

Build the dish ...

Place the mushroom in the centre of the plate and cover generously with good cooked ham.

Gently place the poached egg on the ham and smother with the Hollandaise.

Crown the dish with shaved or grated truffle!


Wood Pigeon Stir Fry

Actually a member of the dove family, the wood pigeon is a wild bird which gleans fatty pink breast meat with a game flavour from its diet taken from open fields or gardens and lawns; young shoots and seedlings are favoured, as well as certain fruits and berries.

This delicious meat is best served slightly pink and can be fast cooked as whole breast or cut into small chunks for stir fry.

Let's get frying ...

Prepare the breast under running water and inspect carefully for shot. How carefully you inspect the meat will depend upon whether you've ever crunched a tooth on a piece of shot ... it's not good! Once this has happened to you ... trust me, you will inspect game meat very carefully!

Cut up the breast into bite-sized pieces.

Slice up some stir fry ingredients - whatever takes your fancy, although red, green and yellow peppers work very well indeed, as do mild chillis chopped into good slices.

Prepare some "noodles" by julienning complimentary vegetables such as mooli or cucumber.

Using a hot wok, sear the breast pieces and using the fat which renders out to prevent sticking, toss in the vegetables. The wok should be smoking hot.

Serve with a good helping of the juliennes and a generous portion of stir fry over the top. Feel free to use some chilli sauce or a squirt of lemon juice over the top.