Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honey and Lemon Chicken Drumsticks © Kevin Ashton 2006

Even the most inexperienced cook will find this dish easy to make but delicious enough for you to keep on making it!

Cooking tips:
Before you begin any recipe please read the recipe all the way through to get a general understanding of the process. Always measure out all the ingredients first so you can be relaxed and focused on the getting the method right.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)
8 chicken drumsticks- approximately 600g (1lb 8oz)
3 lemons
1tsp French mustard
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp of smoked paprika
2 small sprigs of rosemary cut into 8 pieces
50g (2oz) butter
600g (1lb 8oz ) (2.5cm/ 1 inch) diced potatoes, skin on
1 large clove of garlic chopped and crushed to a paste (optional)
2 little gem lettuce
2 vine ripe tomatoes


1.) Preheat the oven to 200 C/400F gas mark 6 or 190 C in a fan assisted oven.
2.) Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons and strain out any pips, then mix in the honey,
paprika, mustard, butter, rosemary and garlic.
3.) Put the diced potatoes and the chicken drumsticks into a non-stick roasting pan.
4.) Warm your honey mixture in a microwave for 20 seconds and then pour over the
drumsticks and potatoes.
5.) Stir the drumsticks and potatoes well to make sure the honey mix coats the meat
and potatoes evenly. 
6.)   Cook the chicken on the middle shelf of your oven for 45-50 minutes, gently turning over the chicken and potatoes every 10 minutes. 
7.)   Whilst the chicken is cooking make the salad by cutting each little gem into 8 wedges, wash and drain well paper towels. 
8.)   Put the drained lettuce into a large salad bowl, chop and add the tomatoes. 
9.)   When your chicken and potatoes are cooked remove from the oven, cut the remaining lemon in half, squeeze the juice over the chicken and serve.

More Cooking Tips:
As an alternative you can take the remaining lemon and slice into 8 wedges and cook it together with the chicken and potatoes.

If you don’t own a microwave then warm the mixture in the roasting tray for 1 minute before adding the chicken and potatoes. 

For those who have never tried garlic before…. I do urge you to try.
Recent medical studies have shown garlic actually widens and strengthens your arteries, thus improving your circulation and lowering your blood pressure.  

Garlic is also credited with dissolving the proteins that affect the formation of plaque.  It is no accident that our continental cousins who make olive oil and garlic part of their diet have less heart and circulation problems.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Luxury Toad in the Hole serves 3-4 © Kevin Ashton 2007

Go back more than a hundred and fifty years and you find that most cooks rarely wrote recipes down, let alone give an explanation as to the names of a dish.

Thus for years food historians have disagreed as to the origins of the name of this humble dish which is sausages baked in a Yorkshire pudding batter.

Some say it’s called Toad in the Hole because the sausages stick out of the batter, just like toads sticking their heads out of holes in the road.  But the truth is the earliest mentions of the dish refer to either bits of meat or a joint of meat baked in the middle of the batter.

Perhaps the vague origins of the dish and its strange name only add to the dish’s mystic, similar to other oddly named English dishes such as Spotted Dick.   Americans can never quite make up their mind whether to seek an explanation when they see it on a menu.

Here are a few tips to make sure your Toad in the Hole is a good one
Use large fresh eggs, plain flour, whole milk not skimmed milk.  Make sure your batter is well beaten and your Yorkshire pudding tins are very hot and oiled before pouring in the batter.  Toad in the hole is usually served with gravy and vegetables; you don’t necessarily need potatoes because the Yorkshire pudding replaces it.

100g (4 oz) plain flour sifted
1 large free-range egg
Salt and pepper
½ pint of milk
6 quality pork sausages
3 rashers of smoked bacon
2 slices of Serrano ham* (optional)
2 tbsp beef dripping
500ml (1 pint) gravy

  1. Whisk the milk and egg together, then slowly whisk this into the sifted flour.
  2. Be patient, or the mix will become lumpy.
  3. Once all the liquid is incorporated continue to whisk the batter to get plenty of air into the mix, with an electric whisk if you have one.
  4. Fry off the sausage and bacon until very lightly brown, then dice up the bacon.
  5. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 if your oven has a fan and gas mark 7 if you have no fan.
  6. Heat your roasting tray (approx 10 inches x 7 inches) until it is very hot then spoon in your dripping, making sure the fat coats the bottom of the roasting pan.
  7. Now add the chopped bacon and sausage and pour over the batter mix.
  8. Cook the toad in the hole on the middle shelf for 25-30 minutes until it is golden brown, don’t let the sausage get browned too much.
  9. If you have the Serrano ham bake on a tray until crispy, crumble it onto the toad in the hole.

To Serve
Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes in a warm place then cut into chunky portions and serve with good homemade gravy.

Chef’s Tip
Always save your beef dripping when roasting beef so you can freeze it and use on a tasty dish like this…it will make a big difference to the flavour.

 2002-2011 © Kevin Ashton.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beginner's Spaghetti Bolognaise

A couple years ago I wrote a series of simple recipes for my newspaper column, aimed at people who were just beginning to learn to cook.     Ever since then I have been asked by students and parents of students to recreate those recipes on line.

These days in many UK households Spaghetti Bolognaise, probably features at least once in a week.    
Better known in student circles as Spag Bol. The meat sauce is much loved for its versatility and is pretty hard to mess up.   Whilst purists may adhere to a traditional list of ingredients, it's a dish that can be a great for using up bits and pieces in your fridge. My brother-in-law's culinary claim to fame is Spaghetti Bromsgrove, in which the ingredi­ents include baked beans!

600g lean minced beef
2 large flat mushrooms, diced
250g onions, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
125ml red wine (optional)
500g tomato passata
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 organic Beef bouillon cube
75g (3oz) Parmesan cheese

1. Gently fry the minced beef in a saute pan, stirring occasionally to help break down the
2. Now add the diced onion and continue to stir from time to time, allowing about five minutes
before adding the diced mushrooms.
3. Next add the whole garlic cloves, bay leaf, oregano and the red wine and cook for a further five minutes.
4. Pour in the Passata and chopped tomatoes and turn the heat down to a simmer.
5. Simmer the Bolognaise sauce for 45 minutes, stirring for time to time, allowing the sauce to
reduce down and thicken.
6. Grate the parmesan cheese finely (let guests help themselves)
7. Cook approximately 100g of spaghetti (4oz) per person in boiling salted water, and then drain well.
8. Divide the pasta and sauce into four pasta bowls and serve with garlic bread and salad.

Don't buy ready-made spaghetti sauces. They are expensive, generally awful in taste, and often
full sugar and E numbers. Instead use a combi­nation of tinned tomatoes and some passata
(which is simply crushed and sieved tomatoes).
  Use the savings from not buying a ready-
made sauce to buy lean quality minced beef.

If you have a deep saute pan with a lid, this is ideal for making the entire dish. If not, fry off the
mince in a non-stick frying pan whilst you start the sauce in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
In some sauces I add the garlic whole then remove it when I feel there is enough garlic 
fla­vour, this is to prevent the garlic from burning.   By the time the Bolognaise sauce is cooked the cloves of garlic will be soft, so if you like your sauce to have a stronger garlic flavour just crush the cooked garlic into a paste and stir back into the sauce.   If your sauce gets a little too dry, add a small amount of cold water.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lord Stechford's Chicken Pie © Kevin Ashton 1991

When I had my own restaurant in the USA, it also had an “English Pub” at the front that was popular with the locals. My idea was that the pub part of the business would help support the restaurant on quieter days.
I served hot and cold food in the pub and this Chicken Pie topped with mashed potatoes instead of pastry became a popular dish. In trying to think of a name for the pie that would clearly tell the customers it was different, I remembered a running joke I had with my dad. When ever the prodigal son (me) would return home needing some kind of favour (as must young adults do) he would jokingly refer to me as “Lord Stechford” since at that time the family home was in Stechford. When rewriting this recipe for the Mercury
I wondered whether I should change the name? should it be more serious?, but then thinking of all the good memories of my dad I just couldn’t.

*you will need a 2-3 “ deep casserole or pie dish that’s about 8 “ in diameter
700 grams 1” diced raw chicken
2 Medium sized leeks 1/4” diced and well washed
100g  chestnut mushrooms cut in quarters
2 medium sized carrots peeled and cut into 1/4” size dice
375ml Chicken stock
60 grams  Plain flour
120 g butter
125ml whipping cream
1 sprig of thyme

1. Melt 60gr (2 oz) butter then add the chicken,leeks and mushrooms.
2. Cook the chicken mix for 10-15 minutes on a moderate gas, remove from the heat and then transfer to a bowl
3. Add the thyme to the stock and heat until simmering.
4. Melt 60gr butter and add the flour stirring well, cook on a low heat for 5 minutes stirring constantly.
5. Gradually stir in the hot stock, one ladle at a time, keep stirring the sauce to avoid lumps.
6. Once all the stock is incorporated, simmer the sauce for about 35 minutes stirring occasionally.
7. Stir in the cream and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
8. Put the the chicken mix into the pie dish the strain enough of the sauce to cover it but do not swamp it. Then let it cool
1.5 lb Maris Piper or White potatoes
60 gram (2 oz) grated Padano cheese
4 cloves of Garlic
60 grams butter
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal size pieces. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold
water together with 4 peeled cloves of garlic.
2. Bring the water to the boil then season them with salt & pepper., then simmer don’t boil.
3. When the potatoes are tender, drain them well, then mash them.
4. Wait until the mash its smooth, before adding the butter, then check the seasoning.
5. Use either a piping bag or a dessert spoon to put the mashed potato onto the pie.
6. If you used a spoon and not a piping bag then make a pattern with a fork.
7. Sprinkle with the grated padano cheese. and put in the oven
8. Preheat oven gas mark 5 and cook for 15 or until golden brown

Chef’s Tips
Preheat the oven, making sure the centre of the pie reaches 75 C
Make sure the chicken mix and sauce are well chilled before putting on the mashed potatoes.
Padano cheese is virtually the same as Parmesan but cheaper for more info follow thelink to my other food blog.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Roasted Vegetable Wrap with Herb & Garlic Mayonnaise(serves 3)

In my free time I occasionally go into several schools to give cooking lessons, so I know first hand that even if good healthy options are available kids don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes they spend their dinner money on buying junk food out of the vending machines, and I personally wish we would follow the French example and ban vending machines in all schools. While the weather is still mild, I think a nutritious packed lunch is a way to make sure your child eats a decent meal. If your child’s a vegetarian and he or she takes a packed lunch to school.... here is a simple but different idea. If your child is not vegetarian then add a little cooked chicken or turkey; either way the end result will be definitely better for them than Turkey Twizzlers!

3 tomato & herb tortilla wraps
Half courgette cut in two
Half yellow pepper cut in two
Half red pepper cut in two
Half red onion peeled & cut in two
1 large flat mushroom peeled & cut in two
50 grams chestnut mushrooms, washed
1.5 tbsp olive oil
100 grams sun blushed tomatoes
3 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
75 grams aubergine
4 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives

1. Preheat the oven 180 C( gas mark 4 )
2. Cut the aubergine into similar sized strips as the courgette.
3. In a large frying pan heat half tbsp olive oil then lightly fry off all of the vegetables & the garlic *except the sun blushed tomatoes. Fry a few pieces at a time so they fry not stew.
4. The vegetables should be fried until they are starting to go lightly brown, on a medium high heat then transferred into a large roasting tray ( making sure the vegetables are as spread out as much as possible).
5. Rub in half tbsp olive oil & season with salt and pepper.
6. Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven on the middle shelf, turning occasionally, cooking until all the roasted vegetables are quite tender, then allow to cool.
7. Peel the cooked cloves of garlic and smash them into a paste on your clean chopping board, then stir them well into the mayonnaise & add the herbs.
8. Now cut all the roasted vegetables (on the garlicky board) into small bite size pieces and put them into a bowl together with sun blush tomatoes, adding the remaining olive oil if needed.
9, Spread a teaspoon of the garlic mayonnaise onto the wrap then place a third of the roasted vegetable mix at one end then fold 25 mm in from each side and roll a tight cylinder that is about 45 -50 mm thick. Put some of the garlic mayonnaise into a small container so it can be used for a dip.

Chef Tips
If you make a packed lunch for your child during the warmer months, then find out whether the school offers refrigeration space to safely store it If not a cheap way to help keep the food items good & cold is to buy the single portions of juice drinks then freeze them the night before. Just make sure you put the drink carton into a plastic bag so your sandwiches stay dry.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Malt loaf Custard Pudding© Kevin Ashton 2006

When I create a dish that I think is new, that is of course exciting....but what should I call my new creation? Let’s talk for a moment or two about the idea for the dish. My starting point was the question...Could I make a dessert from a malt loaf? Now for those who are not familiar with malt loaf they are small, rectangular, dense, chewy; and flavoured with dried fruit & malt. Chocolate works well with malt as long as its not too sweet. To create a contrast I decided that a creamy baked vanilla custard top layer would make this dessert very special.

*Oval baking dish 32 cm long x 7 cm deep (12” x 3” deep)
150 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)
3 Tbspoons caster sugar
2 malt loaves sliced thinly
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
400 ml whipping cream
400 ml milk
2 Tbsp brandy
1.5 vanilla pods
60 grams chopped prunes or mixed dried fruit

1. Lightly butter oval baking dish, then cover bottom of dish with malt loaf slices leaving
no gaps. Preheat heat your oven 160 C (gas mark 3 1/2)
2. Sprinkle on the brandy and prunes.
3. Melt chocolate over a pan of hot water, then pour the chocolate over the malt loaf, then
4. Slice vanilla pods lengthwise and scrape seeds into a mixing bowl.
5. Add the whole eggs, 2 Tbsp sugar, egg yolks, whisk well then stir in the milk and
6. Place the oval baking dish inside a roasting tray and gently cover the malt loaf with the
egg custard mix.
7. Carefully half fill the roasting tray with cold water the transfer to the middle shelf of your
8. Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes until the custard is lightly brown and set.
9. In the last 7 minutes of cooking sprinkle on the remaining Tbsp of sugar to create a very
thin glaze.
To Serve
Let the pudding cool for 10 minutes before serving and offer a little clotted cream or sour cream on the side.

Malt loaf Custard Pudding© Kevin Ashton 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Chorizo & Chargrilled Chicken
© Kevin Ashton 2004

As a chef sometimes I get asked what are the new food trends for the year. Its a question I dislike almost as much as “So what’s your speciality?”.
In other words its a difficult question to answer and I’d

rather talk about my new current ideas. I often enjoy looking at an unfashionable ingredient such as yellow split peas and create a dish that
hopefully people will love and want to recreate themselves.

(serves 4)
300 (12 oz) grams Yellow Split peas
(soaked over night in cold water )
6 roughly chopped Shallots
1 pinch Saffron strands
1 large diced carrrot
I medium leek well washed & diced
2 litres (4 pints) Chicken stock
8-10 Basil leaves
1 x 227 gram (8 oz) Chicken breast
100 grams sliced Chorizo sausage
1 clove garlic crushed
4 tablespoons Olive oil

1. Drain off the water from the peas and rinse them in more cold water, then drain the peas.
2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, add the shallots, carrot, leek and cook on a medium heat, for 5 minutes without browning.
3. Add the peas, chicken stock & garlic and simmer.
4. Place the saffron strands in a teacup and cover with boiling water, leave for 2 minutes to infuse then add the saffron & water to the soup.
5. Cook the soup until all the ingredients are tender then liquidize in a food processer until smooth. *For additional smoothness you can also strain the soup through a fine strainer. Press through as much of the pulp as possible so you don’t lose too much!
6. Season with salt & white pepper.
7. Heat up a ribbed griddle pan if you own one, rub the remaining olive oil on to the chicken and when
pan is hot place the chicken on it at a 45 degree angle. Cook for about 5 minutes then turn over and repeat.
8. Cook the chicken until the juices running from it are clear but be careful not to over cook, or it will be dry. Season the chicken during the grilling process.

To Assemble
1. Warm your bowls and make sure the soup is hot.
2. Cut the chorizo slices into quarters.
3. Cut the Chicken into four longs strips then cut these again into 3-4 pieces.
4. Stack the basil leaves then roll them and carefully cut the stack into thin ribbons.
5. Ladle the soup into the bowls then, gently add the chorizo, chicken & finally the basil.
Chef’s Tip
Serve the soup with some flavoured bread rolls such as black olive or sundried tomato.