Cooking the books

Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 01:00

Gordon’s chicken pie and Jamie’s flapjack crumble are winning recipes from new cookbooks, writes DOMINI KEMP

SOMETIMES I’M A bit reluctant to buy books by Michelin-standard celebrity chefs as I feel their heart can’t really be in making a good fish pie. Jamie Oliver is a bit different, in that the food in his restaurants has always been as accessible as the food in his books. But I get the impression that making a simple apple crumble with Marcus Wareing or a similarly high-reaching chef wouldn’t be quite as cosy or relaxed as it would with Rachel Allan or Delia Smith, for example.

Then there’s Gordon Ramsay – like a wrinkled Paddington Bear – once known for screaming ferociously in his own three-star restaurant, and now a complete and utter commercial enterprise.

Do we believe that by swapping the long hours of three-star kitchens every night to work long days in their branded empire, they’ve mastered the world’s best lasagne?

Then there’s Heston Blumenthal At Home – which I love – and even though you might only consider cooking less than 10 per cent of the recipes, there’s so much good writing in there that you forgive him for slipping in his recipe for carrot and beetroot lollipops, under the pretence that it is home cooking. Heston, what were you thinking?

I like to compare and contrast what they all say, the sage advice, top tips, and see how their books change over the years and how their rules of cooking mellow as science challenges old techniques and classic cooking methods.

Gordon’s chicken pie (from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course) was more like chicken fricassee with a lid on it. We kept the same principles, but eased up on the extra steps and therefore, the washing up – those pesky celebrity chefs usually have an army of helpers in the kitchen, so washing 20 pans is clearly not a problem for them.

The idea of using 200 grams of celeriac in a recipe and then staring at the other 600 grams of it for weeks after – until it ends up in the compost heap – is something that annoys most of us. So we chopped and changed, eliminated the butternut squash – or you would have had half of one of those to go on the compost heap with the celeriac – and really bunged the whole lot together. It was easy, made a decent enough sized dish and I froze a few small portions so the kids could have a ready-meal some night.

The flapjack crumble was a great hit. Jamie Oliver bakes the flapjack base and cooks the apple separately, then finishes the lot in the oven, topped with crumble topping. This worked well, but I tried it a second time using loads of plums and one pack of frozen fruit that was tossed in sugar, but given no pre-cooking. This worked equally well. So the moral of this story is that it’s one of those recipes you can easily tweak to suit yourself and whatever fruit you want to use.

Chicken autumn pie

Serves 4-6

130g pancetta lardons or bacon lardons

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, trimmed and sliced

1 celeriac, peeled and diced

Thyme leaves

Salt and pepper

4 skinless chicken breasts, diced

50ml white wine

300ml chicken stock

200ml crème fraiche

200g puff pastry, thawed

Flour for dusting

Egg yolk

Preheat oven to 200 degrees/gas 6.

Fry the pancetta or bacon with a little oil until it is good and crisp and then remove it from the pan. Add the rest of the oil and sauté the vegetables. Add the thyme leaves and season lightly. Mix well and then add the chicken, and again season lightly. When you feel you are getting little hints of colour on some of the chicken or vegetables, you can add the wine and let it bubble away and evaporate.

Then slowly add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer.

Cook for about 10 minutes and then remove the lid and cook for another five minutes to reduce the stock down. Add the crème fraiche and the lardons. At this stage, it should be cooked through, but you need to taste it and cook it gently a little longer to reduce the sauce to a nicer and thicker consistency, and tweak the seasoning.

While this is cooking, roll out the pastry to fit a suitable-sized gratin dish or even to make four to six individual ones. Lay it out on greaseproof paper and brush with egg yolk that you’ve let down with a little salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Serve the pie in individual dishes with some pastry on top.

Flapjack crumble

Serves 6

25g mixed nuts, roughly chopped

1 ball stem ginger, finely chopped

120g oats

2 tbsp raisins

60g butter

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 cooking apple

3 regular apples

50g dark brown sugar

Good pinch cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

1 orange squeezed and zested

250g fresh blackberries

150g flour

100g butter

75g Demerara sugar

(I used a 25cm x 18cm gratin dish)

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4.

Mix the nuts and stem ginger with the oats and raisins. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup. Pour this onto the oats and nut mix; mix well and then spread into the gratin dish and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, core and chop the apples, then place in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice and zest. Cook out for about five minutes until soft and then add the blackberries, mix well and pour on top of the flapjack base. In a food processor, whizz together the flour, butter and Demerara sugar till it forms coarse breadcrumbs and then sprinkle this on top. Bake for about 45 minutes until starting to turn a nice golden colour. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with whipped cream or yoghurt.

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