Here's our variation of Michel Roux Jr's pork pies.

The concept is the same: make a pork pie filling from a mix of smoked and unsmoked ham and a fatty piece of meat, spice with apples and sage (Michel also adds chestnuts). Use ready-made puff pastry for the pie, bake and enjoy with a sexy herbal salad. 

For the filling, I use 30% smoked ham and bacon, 30% unsmoked ham, and 40% belly of pork. Michel uses shoulder of pork; I find belly is easier to find and available in smaller portions.

Mince the lot, then spice it to taste. We like a very generous portion of freshly toasted then ground fennel and coriander seeds with added mustard powerder. Unlike Michel, we also add fresh white breadcrumbs. Not stale bread, but fresh, either torn into small irregular pieces, or diced really fine. Add one whole egg, and mix everything really well. 

Line a cup or small bowl with a sheet of puff pastry and fill in layers of meat filling, thin apple slices, deep-fried sage leaves and whatever you fancy. Add a sheet of puff pastry for the bottom, seal around the edges and turn upside down for a nice iglo shape. 

Apply an egg-wash made from an egg yolk and a similar amount of cold water, then carve a nice pattern into the surface. Bake at 190C for approximately 1 hour.

I don't take credit for this recipe; credit goes to Monica Galetti, who presented this as her skills-test challange in Masterchef Professional in the 2013 series. We saw and liked, then we made our own version and liked, so here's the plan:

Make a savory Champagne Zabaglione, sear scallops. Dress the scallops with a spoon or two of Zabaglione and whack under the grill until the Zabaglione begins to brown. 

Monica's candidates had to do it in 10 minutes. You may take longer, but it is actually pretty quick to make.

Pre-heat the grill at full whack.

For the Zabaglione, whisk one egg yolk per portion in a Bairne Marie. Whisk, whisk and whisk. Never stop, never slow. You'd want the yolks to heat while whisking them white and fluffy. When you've reached 60C, begin slowly adding Champage, about 70ml per portion. Season to taste with a sprinkle of salt, possibly a small dash of lime juice. Monica used fresh horseraddish shavings, which we found nice. Black pepper would also work. 

Keep whisking until you've reached the consistency of runny custard, and put in the fridge for a few minutes while you sear the scallops in a black pepper butter. 

Take a nice wide-rimmed soup plate, add two or three scallops into each, and dress with two large spoons of the Zabaglione. Grill for a minute or two, just until it begins to brown. 

Decorate with some samphire or a little fresh dill, serve and enjoy with fresh baquette.

Bacalhau is the portuguese word for cod, commonly understood to mean salted and dried cod. Bacalhau is not a meal per se, but quickly transforms a humble bachelor meal into something delicious. 

 

Real men don't eat quiche. All right. Fine by me. I am a quiche-eater, guilty as charged. Not a real man, according to Bruce Feirstein, but I know how to make the finest and most rewarding quiche (and enjoy eating it).

This is based on a recipe published by Michel Roux Jr. It takes some time to make. We think it's worth the extra effort, but not everyone may agree. 

The idea is to serve a little crumbly tarte with a side salad. The tarte is filled with a Red Snapper Mousse and chunks of poached Mackerel, topped with a Tomato Fondue, and served with a Dill sauce. There are quite a few steps here, but none of the steps is particularly difficult, some can be done earlier, and there's enough to do for two and a nice social cooking affair.

(By comparison, Michel uses Whiting for the mousse, puff pasty for the tarte, and serves with Beurre Blanc and a Chive butter. Other differences are in the mousse and tomato preparations.)

The steps are: make a solid vegetable stock. Poach the mackerels. Prepare the shortcrust pastry. Prepare the tomato fondue. Pre-bake the tarts. Make the fish mousse. Make the dill sauce. Assemble and bake the tarts. Prepare the plates cold with a side salad. Serve the works with a slice of white bread and a glass of wine.

The amounts in the following produce four tarts, one per diner. 


Prepare avegetable stock from 2 onions, two cloves of garlic, a few carrots, a bulb of fennel, a small leak, some celery greens. Cut everything into chunky pieces and briefly fry in a little olive oil. Add two bay leaves, two or three twigs of fresh thyme, a good portion of black pepper, two crushed juniper berries and a little salt and stir, then add 1500ml (or 3 pt) or cold water. 

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, clean two Mackerels if the fishmonger hasn't done it for you: remove the heads and the innards, and rinse. 

Take the stock off the heat, wait until it stops bubbling. Submerge the mackeles, put the lid back on and let slowly cool down in a corner of your kitchen (not in a particularily hot or cold spot).


Cut 120g of soft butter into little pieces. The butter should not be hard, but cool enough so that you still need a knife to dice it. Add 240g of plain white wheat flour. Add a pinch of salt unless you were using salted butter, then blend the mix together to make crumbles. You can get your hands dirty with this, but because your hands are warm and melt the butter, it is best to use a hand mixer or similar. 

When you have crumbles, add two medium-sized whole free range eggs. (I say medium sized because no recipe was ever written for the large monstrosities that appear to be the norm on supermarket shelves these days.) Mix until you have a smooth yet firm dough, adding one or two tablespoons of cold water if necessary. 

Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for half an hour, especially if you were using your hands to make the dough. 


Blanch four ripe tomatoes for a few seconds. Peel, then remove all seeds, and dice. Gently toast one star anise and half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, then ground to powder. Sweat one large shallot, finely diced, in olive oil until soft. Add one or two cloves of garlic, pureed or very finely crushed. Add the spices, add a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Add the tomatoes and a teaspoon of tomato puree. Cover with a cartouche (a sheet of greaseproof paper), and simmer gently for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until you've got a silky, smooth, rich and thick tomato fondue.

(Michel doesn't use the fennel and star anise spicing, but we find it adds depth and an interesting accent.)


The next step is to pre-bake the tarts. We use 120mm baking trays of anodised aluminium with a loose bottom. Butter the trays, and roll out the dough to an even thickness of 3mm. Line the trays with the rolled-out dough. Be careful to tuck it into the corners but not to stretch it too thinly as you do so. Cover each tarte with greaseproof paper and a handful of pie weights.  

Pre-heat the oven to 190C, then bake the tarts until they begin to turn golden at the edges (12..15 minutes).

Remove from the oven and remove the covering paper and pie weights immediately, but keep them in the baking trays.

Reduce the heat to 180C and keep the oven hot for the final bake.


Meanwhile, prepare the fish mousse. Michel uses whiting, we prefer Red Snapper or Red Mullet. Filet, debone and skin the fish, approximately 75g of fish per portion. Add one egg white and puree in a blender or food processor, then push the puree through a sieve. Beat in double cream, about 40ml per portion, until the mix is rich, smooth and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Beat 2 egg whites until they are stiff, and gently fold the beaten egg whites under the mousse. Keep the yolks for the sauce.

(Michel doesn't add egg whites. We like the mousse light though.)

Keep in the fridge until you're ready to assemble.


For the dill sauce, cook one finely diced shallot with a pinch of salt in 50ml of dry white wine, 50ml of white wine or cider vinegar and 50ml of water. Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated and the shallots are soft, then pass through a sieve. Heat the resulting puree on very gently heat and whisk in 100g of salted butter, one walnut-sized piece at the time. Take care to keep the heat very low; you want the mix to be at approximately 80C - hot, not boiling. 

Remove from the heat and whisk in the two egg yolks. Keep whisking until the sauce has cooled down and the egg yolks are cooked in the residual heat.

Add a generous amount of finely chopped fresh dill. Keep at room temperature.


Now to the easy part: assembly.

Remove the mackerels from the stock. Remove the flesh from the skin, remove all bones. 

Put a generous portion of mouse into each tarte. Smoothen the surface a little, then cover the surface with chunks of mackerel. Put a nicely shaped tablespoon of tomato fondue on top and bake for 10 minutes at 180C. Serve with the dill sauce, a small side salad, a crisp white wine and lots of Aahs and Oohs. 

One of the household favourites, over many, many, years. This delicious pudding is known in Portugal as a pudim flan, in Spain as a caramello, in France as creme caramel. We call it pudim flan, or flan for short.

According to Rachel Khoo, savoury clafoutis are se very fashionable dish in Paris. I don't know how accurate Rachel's trend monitoring is, but the idea made immediate sense for me.

American cheesecakes require no baking, and make for a perfect desert. Never fails to please the crowds, this one.