Over the last few weeks we have had some unseasonably warm weather, making me think that spring has finally sprung. The daffodils are out, the lambs are leaping, and the chicks are chirping.
What could be more fitting for an Easter breakfast than eggs? I love a full English, but you need to save room for your roast spring lamb for lunch – and not forgetting all the chocolate that needs to be eaten.
These Eggs en Concotte are just warm and filling enough to get you through to lunch, with a nice spring walk and a chocolate egg in-between.
We’ve decided to use hollowed out rolls for our en Concotte, as opposed to the traditional method of using a ramekin, baked in the oven in a bain-marie – the beauty of this, firstly, less washing up, secondly, when you cut them open, the hot, runny yolk runs out over the salty bacon and onto the crusty roll – a delicious fork-full of eggs and bacon on toast!
Phil, is that you in there?
Eggs en Cocotte
4 bread rolls
100g bacon lardons
50ml double cream
1Tbsp chives, chopped
Pre heat the oven to 200’c.
Sauté the bacon for a few minutes until crisp, then place on kitchen paper to drain the fat off.
Cut the lids off the rolls, and scoop out the filling – making a deeper indent in the centre so the eggs sit in the middle.
Scatter ½ of the bacon and chives into the bottom of the rolls.
Crack the eggs into the indents.
Pour the cream over the eggs.
Scatter the remaining bacon and chives over the eggs.
Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg whites are set.
We like to use the lids from the rolls to dip into the yolk – we think you’ll agree that these are just eggcellent!
It’s a bit of a classic this week, but I’m going to make a few changes from the traditional recipe. Chefs like to put twists on things or deconstruct dishes, but I’m not trying to mess with this, just make it a bit more realistic to make.
The first change I’m going to make is to use a normal chicken. Trying to find a rooster to make this would be lovely for a special occasion, but this way it can be more of an every day dish.
Another thing I’m going to do is just use the legs from the bird. The problem I find with using the whole bird is that the amount of time needed to cook the legs until tender dries out the breast meat. I’m going to take a whole bird, remove the legs for the coq au vin and use the breasts for one of 1000’s of other recipes.
The last thing I’m doing different is to add some dark chicken stock to the pot, rather than just wine, to add even more flavour. I’ll be doing this by roasting the carcass of the birds to make a very flavoursome dark stock. As if chicken cooked in red wine was not delicious enough – this takes it to another level!
I think these changes enhance this classic without changing the nature of the dish. I hope you agree and add this to your repertoire of dinners.
Coq au Vin
For the stock
2 chicken carcasses
1 carrot chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped
1 large onion sliced
1 tbsp tomato pure
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
For the Coq au Vin
2 whole chickens
1 bottle of very drinkable red wine (If you’re the photographer that’s pretty much anything in a bottle)
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1tsp thyme chopped
1 bay leaf
100g button onions
100g smoked streaky bacon sliced
20 button mushrooms
500ml chicken stock
2Tbsp olive oil
20g butter softened
20g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Start by making the stock. Remove the legs and breasts from the birds. Chop up the carcasses and place into a roasting tray with the vegetables. Toss it all in the oil and roast at 200’c for 1 hour, turning everything over half-way to ensure everything gets nicely coloured.
Remove the bones and vegetables from the pan and place into a stock-pot. Pour some water into the roasting pan and de-glaze it. Add the water from the pan to the stockpot. Add the tomato puree and herbs to the pot, and cover with cold water. Put on the heat and bring up to the simmer. Turn the heat down and cook for 3 hours, skimming any scum and fat from the top of the pan as it cooks.
After this time strain the stock through a fine sieve and allow to cool.
As the stock is cooking, get the chicken legs marinating. Cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks, then put into a container. Add the thyme, garlic and bay, then pour over the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve the marinade for one of the next steps.
Heat the oil in a casserole dish and brown the chicken pieces. Remove from the pan for later. Now each at a time cook the onions, bacon and mushrooms in the pan, removing each and setting aside when cooked. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, tip most of it away. Put the chicken back into the pan and pour the marinade over the top. Add 500ml of your chicken stock and bring the pan up to the simmer. Return the onions, bacon and mushrooms to the casserole, turn the heat down and cook for 50 minutes.
After this time lift out a bit of chicken and prod it to see how much give it has. If it is nice and soft, and the meat comes away from the bone, it’s done – remove all the chicken. If not, keep cooking until it reaches this stage.
Beat the butter and flour together. Increase the heat under the casserole, bringing it back to the simmer. Now drop in small pieces of the flour mix, stirring it in. This will thicken the sauce, so keep adding bits until it reaches a nice consistency. Season to taste. If serving from the casserole, return the chicken to the sauce. If not, place the chicken in bowls with some mashed potatoes, and ladle the sauce over.I should have said that you will need more wine to drink with this dish…..
Now its time for the main event. The main course needs to be impressive and this really fits the bill. Take this to the table and carve a piece of tender meat wrapped in crispy pastry and its sure to seduce. The rest is up to you.
The second of our classic dishes is a take on beef wellington. I love the original made with a whole fillet of beef and carved at the table in front of everyone it’s a real showstopper. I have made this with a piece of venison fillet which has a more interesting flavour than the standard beef, and will give you and your partner something to talk about for weeks to come. (Honestly, the Photographer won’t shut up about it now!)
Serve this with the two veg of your choice and the only other thing it needs to go with it is some more wine to help set the mood.
10oz venison fillet
1 Savoy cabbage
100g button mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp thyme chopped
500g puff pastry
1 egg beaten
6 slices Parma ham
1Tbsp vegetable oil
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter along with the thyme. Season, then whiz in a food processer till it makes a coarse mushroom pate. Leave to cool.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan until very hot. Season the venison fillet and sear on all sides until browned. Place on a plate to rest.
Remove 4 large leaves from the cabbage and cut out the stalks. Bring a pan of water to the boil then blanch the leaves for 1 minute. Refresh in cold water. Remove from the water and place on kitchen paper to dry.
Pull out a length of cling film. On it lay the cabbage leaves. They need to overlap to form a sheet longer than the fillet and wide enough to roll round it. On to the cabbage lay the slices of ham in two rows of 3, making one large sheet of ham.
Take the mushroom pate and spread it over the ham. Place the fillet on the middle of the sheet of ham.
Now lift up the edge of the cling film furthest from you and fold the cabbage and ham over the venison. Roll it up in to a sausage and twist the ends. Place in the fridge while you roll the pastry.
Roll the pastry out into the thickness of a pound coin, making it longer than the cling-filmed parcel and wide enough to wrap round it.
Un-wrap the parcel and place in the middle of the pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg then roll the pastry over, folding in the sides to form a neat little package.
If you have any excess pasty you can use it to decorate the top of the wellington. Something romantic and heart shaped should do the trick.
It can now be chilled until you sit down for your starter. When you are ready, brush the top with egg and bake at 200’c for about 20 minutes then allow to rest for 10 minutes.
You can cook it to the same level you like you steak, and the best way to do this is to invest in a digital meat probe. It might sound fancy, but they are quite cheap now, and available even from some supermarkets. Cooking temperatures are as follows: