Lindsay (honorary Keston Kid) and I recently went to hear Duncan Ackery, chef and restauranteur, chat at the V&A Reading Rooms. They mentioned that space would be tight, and it was. There was just enough room for approximately twenty girls plus one token man cram in and listen to Duncan talk about cooking and entertaining. Not only was he talking but he was cutting things up, mixing ingredients, salting vegetables and handing them round for us to taste. Yes we were in for a good night.
Duncan had been to Borough Market that morning to pick up some seasonal items to discuss with us, the whole preface being that when entertaining, it is not just about the food but about having fun with your friends, so choose recipes well, get amazing fresh ingredients, make some stuff ahead and have a good time. In a fairly brief fashion here are some great things to make in spring:
- Mackerel pate served with rhubarb and blood orange compote on top (cook the rhubarb for 3-4 minutes so that it holds its form)
- Mackerel (raw) marinated in honey and mustard - this is good
- Really good mozzarella torn up and served with olive oil, lemon zest and sea salt (fleur de sel is a great garnish salt)
- Goats cheese and beetroot
- Radishes halved and salted
- Roasted fennel - roasted in a pan
- Mussels cooked with smoked french garlic, leeks (pre blanched to take away a little of the strong flavour) and white wine
- Asparagus - blanched for 2 minutes in just water, served with clarified butter (gently warmed butter which separates into two layers - use the top layer only) and salt
- Radicchio salad - you need a fairly strong dressing, like blue cheese or something lemony
Chinese Pork Belly - recipe in full. Duncan is passionate about Asian food, this recipe in particular, and so was everyone else by the time he'd finished speaking:
- Take a piece of pork belly and take off the skin (leave the fat)
- Chop the pork into thumb size pieces
- Boil the pork in water for 3 minutes and drain
- Heat some nut oil in a wok until is is really hot (I used sesame oil)
- Add in a dessert spoon of sugar, let it caramelise (turn to liquid) and then add the pork
- Add about 3 cups of Shaohsing rice wine, soy sauce, 3-4 broken up star anise and a couple of cinnamon sticks
- If you want some liquid then add stock at this point
Serve with rice and seasonal veg - like purple sprouting, cooked separately in a wok with nut oil and garlic. Add a tiny bit of stock and cover to allow the greens to steam briefly.
This is easy and quick and really fresh tasting. I got all the ingredients from my local oriental supermarket, including fortune cookies!
- Always have potted shrimp in the freezer - I've never used it so can't say much more. Needless to say I will buy some soon and give it a whirl...
- Chicken thigh fillet is SO much better than breast - it has tons more flavour and is great for frying
- Make use of good local beer, which is great for cooking - Fuller's Honey Dew was recommended