Category Archives: Recipes

New Post, for New Site … Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli …

A beautiful recipe to introduce my new site … to read the whole post click here…

Just to polish off the fresh egg pasta thread, here’s the recipe for the ravioli filling.

When something works, why change it!? This recipe is a timeless combination of baby spinach, creamy ricotta and fresh herbs, all cradled in a springy homemade pasta and anointed with the majestic flavour of sage.

To read the full post click here…

As the credit-crunch bites, so do my posts … Fresh Egg Pasta recipe

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

With reference to my last post on thrift here’s the Egg Pasta recipe and a rather cringe-worthy ditty. All things taken into consideration, it is actually cheaper to buy fresh pasta but I haven’t come across any that are suitable for Ravioli. Once again, the ‘value’ of making your own pasta far outweighs the cost.

Ode al dente

My 3 free-range creamy yolks of embryo gone,
break forth unto ‘double-0′ and spill your song.

Enrich, elasticate and empower these humble milled means,
and let me fill your slippery skin with my wilted greens.

Apologies guys … definitely ‘barred’, rather than ‘The Bard’ …

… anyway that’s the ingredients in a nut-shell (egg-shell?).

This recipe makes about 250g of fresh egg pasta, enough for 12 large Ravioli and 1 large Lasagna (3 layers of pasta).

Equipment:
Pasta machine
Damp tea towels
Workspace

Ingredients:
250g ’00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
3 large free-range eggs (2 whole eggs and the yolk only of the third)
Pinch of salt
Water to keep your hands moist

Method:
Tip the flour onto a large clean work surface. Make a well in the middle and add the whole eggs and yolk into the middle making sure all the yolks are broken. Add a pinch of salt.

Using your finger tips, work the ingredients together by pulling the flour into the eggs in a circular motion. Start building up the mixture until completely combined.

Work the flour and eggs much like you would bread dough. Keep your hands moist to avoid the dough drying-out.

After about 5 minutes of work you should have a stiff yellowy ball of dough. Wrap the dough in a damp tea-towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Once rested, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roughly flatten to about 2 cm thick with a rolling pin.

Set the pasta machine to it’s highest (or lowest?) setting. Basically the setting with the widest gap between the rollers. Run the dough through the machine a couple of times, and then knock the setting down (or up?) and repeat.

Work the ever lengthening pasta sheet all the way through the machine to it’s lowest (or highest?) setting until you have 1 long sheet about 1.5 mm thick.

Fold the sheet over on itself to the approximate width of the pasta machine and repeat the above steps but feed the pasta through width ways. This will help to strengthen the pasta.

Cut the pasta sheet into more manageable lengths if preferred. Dust each layer with a little flour and cover with a damp tea-towel. I would recommend using immediately however to avoid drying-out.

Not a pretty picture … Turner Prize Contending Tartar Sauce

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

For this expo and warts-and-all showcase of my culinary flunking I’ve enclosed the images regardless. Contemporary? Only in aesthetics and probably a Turner prize contender given the going rate!

This tartar sauce definitely requires timley contemplation to understand the true inner beauty of the condiment, but served fresh with the fish and chips recipe, and stored in the fridge for no longer than 2-4 days should more than suffice.

Ingredients (makes about 350ml):

For the mayonnaise:
1 level tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 large free range egg yolks
250ml ground-nut oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon

Tartar additions (halve the quantities below and combine with half the mayonnaise if you prefer?):
2 tbsp capers, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornichons (small gherkins), finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
lemon juice to taste

Method:
In a large mixing bowl add the salt, garlic and egg yolks and combine with a electric whisk. Set the whisk speed to medium, and in a slow yet steady stream, pour in the oil making sure all the ingredients combine.

Once the mixture starts to thicken and turn glossy, stir in the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Give one final blast with the whisk to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

To the mayonnaise add the additional tartar ingredients and mix thoroughly, adding lemon juice to taste.

Serve with the fish and chips or any other sustainable fish dish that takes your fancy!

Jackson Pollock and Chips … (Beer Battered Fish and Chips Recipe)

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Beer Battered Fish and Chips

Beer Battered Fish and Chips

As much as I’m keen on homegrown organic goodness, I’m not keen on eating goldfish. I’ve never tried goldfish I might add, and once again happy to be proven wrong.

(All goldfish recipes should be sent to the usual address: info@tomdowson.com.)

So for this piece it’s more a post on sustainability rather than unattainability.

Now we all know that ‘fish and chips’ constitutes all that that is good in this country.
Essentially … humble ingredients of good stock! But the boney truth of depleted fish stocks can leave a rather bitter taste in ones mouth, therefore in the interest of the Gadus genus at large I decided upon the much hyped pollock instead.

(A quick google search reveals that Jackson Pollock is still more talked about than his aquatic counterpart. I’d love to think this ironic but it’s not really is it!?)

I scrapped a Fish and Chips recipe hunt and reverted back to basics with a simple beer batter for the pollock, twice cooked maris piper chips and served the tag-team with a deliciously creamy, yet tart, tartar. All washed down with a pseudo-posh bottle of Cava in true Friday night style.

Beer Battered Fish and Chips with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Ingredients (more than enough for 2 as a main):

For the fish:
2 x 200g pollock fillets, boned but with the skin left on
200g self-raising flour plus extra for dusting
250ml of cold English beer (I used Bombardier)
pinch of smoked paprika
freshly ground salt and pepper

For the chips:
5-6 medium sized maris piper potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chips
Maldon sea-salt or rock-salt

oil (sunflower or vegetable) for deep-frying

To serve:
salt and malt vinegar
homemade tartar sauce (recipe below)
newspaper
artistic license

Additional serving suggestions:
bread and butter
tomato ketchup
mushy peas

Method:
2/3 fill a large, high sided, heavy based pan with the oil and place over a high heat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the beer and self-rasing flour into a batter with the consistency of thick double cream, making sure there are no lumps. Place the batter mix in the fridge.

Rinse the chips and throughly in cold water and dry on a kitchen towel. Toss the dried chips in a few pinches of salt.

When the oil has reached a sufficient temperature (a cube of bread should brown and crisp in approximately 5-7 seconds) add the chips to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft but still pale in colour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chips and place on absorbed kitchen roll.

Remove the batter mix from the fridge.
Sift the reserved flour, season with freshly ground salt and pepper and add the pinch of smoked paprika. Turn the pollock fillets in the seasoned flour to thoroughly coat.

When the oil has once again reached the desired temperature, dip the pollock fillets in the batter mix and ensure there’s an even coating. Carefully place the fillets into the hot oil and cook until the batter crisps and turns a deep golden colour. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place on a wire wrack to rest.

Increase the heat on the oil and return the par-cooked chips to the pan. Once golden and crisp, remove the chips and immediately shovel onto yesterdays news.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and malt vinegar and top with the fish fillets. Ladle lashings of tartar sauce on the side and destroy while hot.

And so to the fungi, the mushrooms, the spores … Wild Mushroom and Goats Cheese Pasty Recipe

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

The finished mushroom pasty article...

The finished mushroom pasty article...

I’ve found myself justifying my blog title namesakes of late and therefore promise to keep the posts brief and to the point. Again the scene: a damp Saturday morning, the bewer, a hangover and a mission.


1. Clear the hangover
2. Keep the bewer happy
3. Pick mushrooms

1 out of 3 aint bad?!

Armed with my innocent looking, bravado inspiring, forager romanticising, £1 “Mushroom Hunting” by Collins, from the local charity store I endeavored into the wilds of Wimbledon Common (pre-empt: No Wombles on this trip). Now a “common” to a common man such as myself pertains to a … common, a field or grassland if you will, not a forest. Granted the eerie sounds of fauna are replaced with the A4 and various other major road truncations but here I’ve found a woodland Mecca on my doorstep (via the 219 Bus from Balham to Wimbledon Broadway and a 15 minute walk up the hill).

Excited with my Earth Balls, disappointed with their promised nauseating tendencies, reinvigorated by the crop of Cortinarius, again disappointed by their kidney failure inducing properties but elated by the Birch Puffball and the Yellow Swamp Russula. 3 hours later, with a chest proudly puffed, I had a babies-fistful of edible mushrooms and after a swift, rather fitting pint of real ale it was on to the kitchen.

Not wanting to detract from the earthy flavours of the mushrooms it was a toss-up between buttery mushrooms on toast or the pasty option. The latter winning out.

This recipe is so simple and really does justice to the mushrooms. To avoid swamping the dish with the richness from butters, I recommend adding the goats cheese. The creaminess of the cheese will obviously compliment the butters but the slight sharpness harnesses all the gout inducing goodness and perks the dish, helping unravel the complexities that may have otherwise been lost.

I must confess that the foraged readies did need a helping hand. I simply bulked up the puff pastry filling with Portobello mushrooms from Trinity Stores in Balham, Merchant Gourmet pre-cooked chestnuts, just a touch of seasoning and served the beast with a dressed bitter leaf salad.

(A Cheats) Wild Mushroom and Goat’s Cheese Pasty

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main meal):
400g wild mushrooms, wiped with any nasties removed and coarsely chopped (or try oyster, field, chestnut, or any other in season mushroom)
70g salted butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
100g pre-cooked chestnuts, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, woody stalks removed
splash of white wine
handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
100g tangy Welsh goats cheese
1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
freshly ground salt and black pepper
1 beaten egg

To serve:
1 handful each radicchio and frisee leaves
a glug of good olive oil
juice 1/2 lemon

Method:
Pre-heat a baking tray in the oven to 200℃.

In a large sauté pan over a medium to low heat, sweat the onions with a knob of butter for 10 minutes. Once translucent, add the thyme sprigs, the remaining butter, mushrooms and chestnuts.

Once the mushrooms have released their juices and reabsorbed them (approximately 15 minutes) add the splash of white wine to remoisten. Cook for a further 5 minutes and season to taste with freshly ground salt and black pepper.

Cut the puff pastry into a circle with a diameter of approximately 25cm. Add the parsley and the lemon zest to the to the pan and give one final stir. Spoon the mushroom mixture into the centre of the pastry disk, leaving a 5cm outer ring for crimping. Dot the mixture with the goat’s cheese and carefully fold one-side of the pastry to the other to make a bulging semi-circle.

From the bottom point of the semi circle, pull the 5cm rim over onto itself and tuck underneath each fold to completely encapsulate the mixture. Brush with the beaten egg and carefully transfer the pasty to the preheated baking tray. Dress the leaves with lemon juice and oil.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until the pasty turns a golden biscuit colour.

Fanfare the pasty from the kitchen to the table on a wooden chopping board, Allow the chosen few to serve themselves and watch them happily fight for the corner you haven’t already laid claims to. Cleanse each pasty mouthful with a chomp on the dressed leaves.

The marrow after the courgette before … Stuffed Courgette Flower Recipe

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Before the battering ... fershly picked courgette floweres

Before the battering ... freshly picked courgette flowers

I think, without naming names, that for the majority of my tender years I’ve been misled into chomping marrows rather than courgettes.

Now I’m sure that a marrow’s pure economies of scale justifies over boiling, steaming and/or over processing this off-white, green skinned vegetable and passing it off as “courgette” to unsuspecting school children, nieces/nephews and grandchildren but enough is enough. Through pure coincidence I’ve now had two tastes of zucchini zeitgeist and suspect that I (would have) always (given the chance) loved courgettes but I still rather dislike marrow (I’m happy to stand corrected on my current false-economies-of-marrows view point. All marrow recipes will be gratefully received info@tomdowson.com.

My recent mid-summer encounter with, what I was told were, lightly charred sliced baby courgettes, tossed in fruity olive oil, with toasted pinenuts, sultanas and plump shredded mint stirred through was the first welcome revelation. The simple dish giving an awesome prelude to the second and to my first forray into the rather strange courgette flowers.

Because of my initial distaste towards the “courgarrows” that I’ve been fed over the years, I’ve always chosen to ignore these alien spore like flowers as nothing more than chefy non-entical foodstuffs. How wrong could I have been!

I’ll set the scene … see post: Provenance, Perseverance, Preserves …

… so anyway the afore mentioned PYO centre had healthy crops of … yes your guessed it … courgettes! Still with slight scepticism I picked fruit plus flower with caution. The last thing I wanted to discover was that the wool had been pulled yet again and I’m back in courgarrow purgatory. I was confident that I could do justice to the mainstay of the vegetable using the recipe above, but the recipe below was one of the most triumphant cooking moments that I’ve ever had to date.

Like a mulberry hand-bag (so I’ve been told), you can dress a courgette flower up or down (in this case a simple batter), and whatever you put in (ricotta), the contents are invariably going to be given auto kudos because of what they’re housed in. Essentially both are simply great taste!

I don’t want to say anything more on the subject (nor on my handbag fetish) the recipe and result do more than enough talking, other than to: proclaim my undying love for courgettes, insist that you must try the recipe and emphasise my utter remorse that I may have to wait until next season to produce the same again!

Stuffed Courgette Flowers


Ingredients (enough 2 as a large starter):

7-8 fresh courgette flowers (carefully washed if necessary)

For the filling:
200g ricotta cheese
75g Parmesan cheese
1tsp fresh shredded basil
1tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2tsp of lemon zest
freshly ground salt and pepper

For the batter:

100g plain flour mixed
110ml ice-cold water
extra lightly seasoned plain flour for dusting

For deep frying:
750ml sunflower oil

To serve:
homemade Balsamic vinegar reduction or shop bought version
whole basil leaves and thyme sprigs

Method:

If necessary wash the courgette flowers carefully, lightly dry and set aside.
Pour the sunflower oil into a large pan and set over a medium heat.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together and carefully spoon into the courgette flowers. Twist the tips of the flowers to enclose the filling.

When the oil has reached a sufficient temperature (a cube of bread should brown and crisp in approximately 5-7 seconds), lightly roll the flowers in the seasoned flour and then holding the flower by the tips, dip into the batter mix and then straight into the hot oil. Fry in 2 batches.

When golden and crisp remove the flowers with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

Drop the basil leaves and thyme sprigs into the oil for literally 10 seconds to crisp and remove.

While still hot and crisp, plate up the courgette flowers, drizzle over the Balsamic reduction and top with the deep-fried herbs. Devour, making as many ridiculous breathy vocal sounds as possible when you inadvertently burn your mouth on the filling.

Provenance, Perseverance and Preserves … (Wild Strawberry and Raspberry Jam Recipe)

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Now I’m going to end up sounding like a broken record on the topic of food sourcing but alas I’m a born again forager, and proud of it!

So my bank holiday Sunday recently departed was spent picking my little heart out at Secretts Garden Centre in Milford, Surrey. Granted it was battery-farmed foraging and the first locally based pick your own I stumbled upon but boy did it deliver. And as a result of the bumper harvest, I now have arguably the most unique collection of receptacles dedicated to housing the spoils of my visit.

This is by no means a macho brag list but here are the fruits and vegetables of my (and the bewer’s) labour:

1.5kg Raspberries
1.4kg Blackcurrant
1.2kg Strawberries
0.4kg Blackberries
1kg Courgettes (plus flowers)
1 handful Puffball Mushrooms

I will talk about the courgettes with their alien like qualities and the mushrooms later, but for now I’ll suffice in talking about the jam.

I tracked down, both on and offline recipes, as per usual however, my mum came through with the goods, reiterating the fundamentals of many of the methods sourced. The bewer and I tested various combos (minus the inclusion of courgettes and mushrooms) and quantities but the method and recipe outlined below seemed to be the most consistent and requires no elaborate equipment.

It literally works with all the fruit we gathered. Being a non-puritan preserver, personally I think the combined fruits work best.

So here it is …

Equipment:

2 very large heavy based pots
3 – 4 saucers (left to chill in the freezer)
Ladel
Funnel
As many jars with lids as you can lay your jammy mitts on, steeped in boiling water for 20 minutes (don’t touch the inners of the jars and lids to avoid contamination)

Ingredients (this recipe makes enough for about 2kg of jam or approximately 4 regular sized jars):

1kg of washed ripe mixed berries (I’d personally recommend combining strawberries and raspberries in equal quantities. Chop the strawberries if large and always ensure the fruit is devoid of insects, rot etc)
100g caster sugar
30g jam sugar (sugar with pectin)
Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

Place the pan over a medium heat and pour in the 100g of caster sugar. Heat until the sugar begins to dissolve on the base of the pan. Stir frequently to avoid the sugar burning on the base.

After about 5 minutes add the mixed berries to the pan and stir quickly to ensure all are evenly coated with the granulated syrup that’s formed in the pan. Turn the heat up and stir for a few times until the berries begin to release their juice.

Once the berries begin swimming in their own juice, give it one last stir and add a lid to the pan. The berries should now begin to boil rapidly.

After approximately 5-10 minutes, remove the lid and add the lemon juice and jam sugar. Boil for another 5-10 minutes until the berries are almost completely broken down (Don’t bother skimming the surface to remove the foam … it’s way too laborious and for me, achieves nothing).

Now remove one of the saucers from the freezer and using a teaspoon, carefully place a small dollop on the centre of the saucer. Return the saucer to the freezer.

After 2 minutes check the “jam” on the saucer to see if it is at all set (the surface of the jam should wrinkle slightly when pushed with your finger). If so remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes. If not repeat the last step every 5 minutes until the desired consistency is reached.

Once you have your jam, begin filling every last receptacle with your spoils CAREFULLY!

Seal the jars with the lids and add to another large pan filled with cold water. For additional sterilisation, place the pan on a high heat and boil rapidly for about 20 minute.

Leave to cool completely, adorn the jars with any Lakeland Plastics labels and lumberjack shirt material you wish, store in a cool dark place and mention your homemade jam in polite company at every given opportunity.

26 years in the making but such simple ingredients …

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Well it’s an ice-breaker of sorts!

A well developed crop I think you’ll agree? … the hair! (I’ll talk about the courgettes later).

It’s rather difficult to start this post, especially with a mandatory introduction.

Hopefully once this initial post has been created, I can kick back and let the food do the talking? … as if!

Without trying to create a needless manifesto, I do feel a need to justify my blogging-clogging and hopefully substantiate my presence on these pages.

Well here we go …

In a nutshell it’s “food” and I’m reckoning that these rambling posts will be some sanctuary for myself, friends and family, who, I hope, enjoy the food I create, but would rather not have the reasoning, provenance and historical importance of the various ingredients rammed down their throats.

At least now they’ll have the option of engaging me in my culinary pursuits and I’ll be able to vent my enthusiasm in a documented medium with a wistful and romantic notion that somebody out there might actually be interested in the fact I made a pot of jam (to come).

Even if only for the sustanence of life, I think we all share an affiliation and passion for food. I know for me it’s been nurtured from very much home grown roots (no pun intended).

I was born into an environment where food was currency. My old dear, confidant and walking/talking reference library, runs a catering business in my hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne. She is undoubtedly my biggest culinary sensei and the cause for the purgatory that finds me consumed with the subject.

Having been brought-up on the delectable scraps of jobs well passed and through the sheer lack of my mother’s time and patience to produce the food requested on the whimsical wants of a Geordie teenager, I’ve actually had the opportunity to witness and taste mini food revolutions on a daily basis.

For approximately 24 years I was an innocent bystander to food. Although for most of them I’ve cooked with vigor and a passion, I think it’s only been recently that I’ve begun to understand, or at least want to understand food.

And so I find myself here … 26 and teetering on the edge of a stock pot abyss not knowing which way to stir the spoon …

This blog is intended to do nothing more than chart this journey and/or free fall.

And for anyone who gives a hoot, I’ll post the vital stats in a bit ;-)

Down to business!