This is a lovely dish even if it looks reminiscent of something you may have deposited in a back street after a big night on the town. Besides, there are plenty of things in life that look awful but taste great and I urge you to give this a go – it really is beautiful, and it is (at least in its original form) an Italian classic.
Vitello Tonnato (DATW style)
The classic recipe requires you to used veal poached in a herby broth as the basis for this dish, but I used seared beef carpaccio instead which I think works really well.
To make the sauce, you need to put the following in a blender and give it a good whizz – a tin of really good tuna in oil and a tin of anchovies in oil (after having drained the oil), two hard boiled egg yolks, a tablespoon of capers, the juice of a lemon and a good glug of good olive oil. Once blended, season with black pepper and salt (carefully – you don’t need much salt).
For the beef, use my carpaccio recipe – take a piece of really good beef fillet and roll it in a dry rub of herbs and spices that you’ve pounded with a pestle and mortar. My favourites are finely chopped thyme and rosemary with cumin and corainder seeds and lots of maldon sea salt and black pepper (Note – whenever I refer to salt in here, just assume it’s maldon sea salt…). Then sear the beef all over in a very hot frying pan with a little oil and leave it rest for ten minutes. If there are any lovely juices at this point, add them to the sauce.
Now take the beef and slice it thinly onto a plate, covering the surface (and again adding any juices to the sauce). Spoon over the tuna sauce and sprinkle over a little chopped parsley and capers. As always, serve with really good bread and a bottle of crisp white wine or a bottle of Bandol rose if the sun is shining…
Terrible start to the day. I don’t think anyone would call Penzance a cultural centre, but last night we shook our stuff with the best of them and sampled many local delights. Needless to say we weren’t feeling too clever in the morning.
The day doesn’t really happen for me – the only thing that keeps me going is that I promised to cook dinner for the boys – I go to the supermarket in a state of semi consciousness and somehow manage to push the trolley from aisle to aisle picking up the things I need to bring the team back to life and ready for another night…
The boys for head off a long walk to Porthleven while I begin to prepare a couple of things to eat…
Take the best quality beef fillet you are prepared to afford – I usually go for the tail end of the fillet as it’s easier to cut into slices. You need about an inch of fillet for each person as a starter. Now take a mixture of herbs and spices and pound them together with a pestle and mortar until they have the texture of ground black pepper (not too fine). I usually use coriander seed, cumin (a must), oregano, salt, pepper, thyme and fennel. Now roll the fillet in the mix until it’s completely coated and set aside until about 10 minutes before you want to eat.
At this time, sear the fillet in a hot frying pan (with olive oil) for about one minute on each side – so about 4-5 mins in total. The beef should be a lovely caramelised colour. Now leave it to rest for about 5 mins.
To serve – take your plates and pour (not drizzle please) a little olive oil on the bottom of each plate. Then cut the fillet into slices as thinly as you can (but don’t get anal about it) with a very sharp knife. Lay the slices on the plates, hopefully covering the bottom of each plate and then take a bag of wild rocket and cover the beef with it. Finally use a potato peeler to shave parmesan over the rocket and finish with a good splash of lemon juice and more olive oil. Serve with really good stonebaked crusty bread…
Followed by Chicken Casserole with Sweet Potato Mustard Mash
As always, you can pretty much wing this as long as you get a few basics straight –
For four people, start with a whole chicken (you can use pieces if you like but it seems odd when you can get all you need from a whole chicken with a tiny bit of effort and you get a carcass as a bonus to make decent stock with). Remove the breasts, and legs, then separate the thigh from the rest of the leg and chop off the horrible knobbly ankle bit at the end of the drumstick. Then cut the breasts in half – so now you should have eight portions of chicken. These now need frying (off?) in a frying pan until brown all over. When you’re done you can put them aside.
Now take some veg – I used half a celery, a large onion, a handful of sweet baby carrots, and a red pepper – chop them roughly and fry gently in your casserole dish with butter and olive oil. Next fry a pan full of mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper and add to the casserole.
Pour in the majority of a bottle of white wine or Marsala, two tablespoons of grainy mustard, a tablespoon of dried (or a handful of fresh) tarragon. Mix it up, season with salt and pepper and place the chicken pieces on top. The liquid should just about reach halfway up the chicken pieces.
Put the lid on and place in an oven at 200c for about 40 mins.
While the casserole is cooking peel some potatoes and a sweet potato, cut them up and boil in salted water. When they are done mash them with a tablespoon of grainy mustard lots of butter, salt, pepper, and cream!
Ten minutes before serving, take the chicken pieces out of the casserole and place on a roasting tin in a very hot oven to make the skin lovely and crispy. While you’re doing this add a little flour to the casserole to thicken it, and then place the chicken back ready for serving.
Serve the chicken and mash together with more crusty bread and a wine that goes with the wine you used in the casserole – in this case I used the Australian Riesling – again!
Needless to say the boys were very happy…