Author Archives: Chris Wallis

Strawberry Rollups

My take on making strawberry rollups, for which there seem to be millions of recipes already online.  Most just do strawberry plus sugar, but I think it’s more interesting to use more complex combinations.

Ingredients

– Strawberries

– Sugar to taste

– Apple juice

– Black pepper

Method

1. Blend all ingredients

2. Spread on baking paper and cook on a baking tray in an oven at 80 degrees C until dehydrated

3. Cut into strips and roll up

Penne on fire

A quick penne pasta in spicy tomato and bacon sauce.  I stole this from my mother who in turn stole the recipe from an Italian.  I’m not entirely sure it really qualifies as proper Italian food, and for years we named the dish incorrectly – I’ve titled this as what we thought it translated to, not the “original” Italian.  If anybody is reading this and recognises it as a named dish, I’d like to know what it should be called correctly.

Ingredients

– Olive oil

– 12 slices smoked Bacon, cut into small pieces

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 cans chopped tomato

– tomato puree

– Chilli to taste (dried or fresh)

– Garlic

– Seasoning (I’m lazy and use pre-prepared Italian seasoning)

– Penne pasta

– Grated cheese

Method

– Fry the bacon and onion in LOTS of olive oil until soft.  The olive oil adds flavour, so use more than you’d normally use for frying

– Add the other ingredients except the pasta, and simmer for 15-20 minutes

– Cook pasta separately.  To serve, mix drained pasta with sauce and put grated cheese on top

Any left over sauce will freeze and reheat easily.

Turkey Butter

Nobody likes their turkey to be dry – this method and recipe virtually guarantees that this won’t happen using sous vide, and the butter it’s cooked in gives a nice Christmassy flavour.

Ingredients

– 250g butter

– 2 tbsp cranberry sauce

– 1 orange zest and juice

– 1tsp salt

– 200g pureed chestnuts

Method

– Melt butter in a pan, mix in cranberry sauce, orange zest, orange juice, salt and pureed chestnuts.  Pass through a fine sieve to help ensure the mixture is smooth.  The first time I tried this, I used whole chestnuts and mashed them with a fork, but the texture ended up not very good, so I switched to using pre-pureed chestnuts from a packet.

– Cook the turkey sous vide in bags with the butter mixture (you can allow the mixture to solidify first in the freezer for easier vacuum sealing).

Turkey sous vide times and temperatures are similar to those of chicken – my suggestion is 64 degrees C for 2-4 hours for breast.  It’s better without skin (it gets soggy and can be roasted separately), so this recipe works particularly well with pieces the butcher has pre-rolled.

Silent Toast

Every time I butter toast, my Dad tells me off for being too noisy.  Not because he dislikes the sound, but because he has a theory that the more quietly you butter the toast, the more crunch it retains when you eat it.  He calls this technique “silent toast”.  It almost sounds plausible to me, but I’ve never actually tried loud vs silent in a single sitting to compare them.  What does anybody else think?

In Search of Perfect Porridge

I don’t like instant porridge, I much prefer making it properly from oats.  I thought I was good at making it until I tried it at Galton Blackiston’s Morston Hall hotel in Norfolk, where it is simply amazing (as was all of his food).  I’ve a vague idea on how he does it (he does some sort of overnight cooking/soaking of steel cut oats and cooks it with butter and cream), but since trying it I’ve been on a quest to find the best possible recipe combinations I can, some variations of which are here.

Cooking Method Variations

  • The slow cooker does well when you use rolled oats, but not so well with steel cut oats
  • The pressure cooker randomly seems to do either really well, or burns everything.  Also a pain to clean, especially if I use the release valve to depressurise it, at which point porridge shoots up blocking the mechanism.  If you choose to use a pressure cooker, you’ve GOT to depressurise slowly
  • Sous vide inside mason jars at 60-65 degrees C.  This has the benefit that you won’t overcook it easily, and can start cooking the night before.  I have found that you have to cook in just water though – I tried it with milk overnight, but it curdled.  In fact, this seems to be a general rule anyway – cook the porridge in water and maybe salt ONLY, then flavour with milk or whatever else AFTER it’s cooked.  The drawback with sous vide is that the water doesn’t evaporate in the same way as it does with other methods, and the oats come out with a very different texture
  • On the hob – possibly the best way for all but steel cut oats
  • Combination of sous vide and finishing on the hob – sous vide can be used (again with mason jars) before finishing off on the hob.  This lets you use tougher “cuts” of oats as they soften a few hours first, but then you can adjust the texture and liquid amount easily on the hob.

Ingredient Variations

  • Milk and sugar – just a boring but classic way of doing it
  • Coconut milk or almond milk – I tried these thinking it’d be interesting to add new flavours, and also that I could maybe throw them in overnight without the risk of them curdling like milk does.  They ended up too sweet for my pallet though.
  • Oat milk – This was an attempt at making the oats more oat flavoured.  It didn’t really work though.
  • Soy milk – I found this quite similar to just using regular milk.  The flavour is subtly different, but not something I’d go out of my way for.
  • Cream – possibly the best tasting liquid to add, but to my taste it makes it a bit too heavy, so I can only eat half a portion with cream added.
  • Coco nibs – these are quite a hard texture.  I’d hoped they would soften like the oat nibs, but it didn’t really work out so well.
  • Dried fruit – seems obvious, but this works pretty well
  • Jam – again, an obvious choice
  • Rolled oats – Gives a blander texture, more like wallpaper compared to steel cut oats
  • Steel cut oats – these took me AGES to find in the UK, but you can get them at Amazon and in some shops if you look hard enough.  They give a much better flavour than rolled oats, but are much harder to cook and take far longer.  Once cooked, you can refrigerate them a few days and reheat later and they still taste about the same (don’t refrigerate with any flavouring ingredients added though as this will make it go off faster)

Things I will try but haven’t yet:

  • Cooking in butter
  • Soaking overnight in milk in the fridge, then cooking
  • Mixing various amounts of steel cut, rolled, and quick cook oats to try to finesse the texture
  • Working out some savoury flavours, maybe something surprising.

Anybody want to share some perfect porridge tips?

Sous Vide Mauritian-style Curry

Disclaimer: sous vide isn’t really a technique I’m aware of being used in Mauritius (maybe in hotels and restaurants but not in home cooking).  I took the basic recipe from a French trained Mauritian chef, then modified it to do sous vide because that’s how I like to cook.  The original recipe uses a pan on a stove for a long time, but a slow cooker is also a good alternative.  I’ve also tried pressure cooking this, but the result tends to be too liquid.

I don’t claim to be an expert in Mauritian cooking, but if you want to learn more about it (and you should), this blog is excellent: https://inspiredtobake.wordpress.com/category/cultural/mauritian/

Ingredients

  • 1 tomato (for moistness)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Pureed garlic.  Do not use fresh.
  • Crushed ginger
  • 4 Skinless chicken thighs

Method

  1. Fry everything except chicken together to soften
  2. Place all ingredients including chicken into a vaccuum bag and seal (it may help to freeze then seal)
  3. Cook at 80C for 4-8 hours (+30 minutes extra if from frozen – so minimum time 4.30)
  4. Serve with rice

This gets good results every time, and while the actual cooking time is loooong, the prep time is about 10 minutes.

Salmon Wrapped Egg Sous Vide – FAIL

WARNING: This recipe did NOT work, try it at your own risk.

Jamie Oliver had a TV show where he wraps eggs with salmon or various herbs in Clingfilm, then poaches them.  I tried it, and it’s pretty good tasting, but I struggled to get the texture correct.  I ended up with one with a runny white, and one with a hard crumbly yolk.

In an attempt to fix this I thought the way forward would be to be more precise about temperatures and timings, so I turned to the sous vide.  What follows is a set of steps that did NOT work, so don’t try to follow this recipe unless you can see a way to fix my mistakes (in which case please tell me how you did it).

The FAILED Method:

1. Put Clingfilm into a cup.  Line the inside of the Clingfilm with salmon, then crack an egg into it, and tie it off to create a pouch for the egg.  Note: Normally you’d not crack an egg for sous vide poaching, but in this method you need to because you want it to absorb/fuse with the salmon flavour.

2. Suspend the Clingfilm bag in the freezer.  Laying it down flat results in a flattened shape egg, but by hanging the bag off something, it should freeze more spherical, which will look nicer once served.

3. Once frozen, remove the egg and vacuum seal in a sous vide bag.

Step 3 is where things start to go wrong.  Here, I have two options – leave it in the Clingfilm so that it can’t run and lose it’s shape as it cooks, or to remove the Clingfilm and just seal the frozen egg.  I opt for Clingfilm to help keep the shape.  Now, as the egg cooks in the vacuum bag, it’s still going to deform, so ideally I want a circular seal around the egg, which my vacuum sealer does not do.  I tried to use a soldering iron to draw a seal line around the egg, and while initial experiments in this worked ok, sometimes the soldering iron burns through the plastic rather than just sealing it.  Eventually I did manage to do a bad job of sealing the bags by making lots of individual seals with the vacuum sealer, but it was a long way from the ideal shape.

4. Cook the bags sous vide.  Timing and temperature not yet worked out.

The next problem is that eggs and salmon cook at very different temperatures – salmon is low, eggs are relatively high.  I went for a mid point temperature and time so as to cook the eggs without over cooking the salmon, but again my eggs came out too runny.  With enough experiments, this might be a solvable problem (maybe some longer time at a lower temperature?) but given that I can’t manage a neat seal I gave up here.  I also can’t afford the huge amounts of salmon I’d need to try every temperature and time combination I can think of.

A potential fix for the method is to do away with the vacuum bag and just sous vide cook the eggs in their Clingfilm, but once frozen and thawed I’m not entirely convinced that the Clingfilm will always stay in one piece, which could mean I end up with an egg coated sous vide machine.

Anybody willing to try some experiments to work out how to fix this recipe to become idiot proof?