Churros n’ Choc Sauce


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

It’s hot there and cold here!

As winter extends its icy grasp, Martin Blunos sends us relief with a chocolately Spanish tradition…back to basics…

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that autumn is upon us with a vengeance; trees are shedding leaves like crazy and the temperature has dropped big time. The notion that our Indian summer would last has been dismissed with a click of the central heating thermostat. The word on the street is that we are in for a stinking winter.

So what are folk to do? Huddle around the Aga, de-moth ball the thermals or in my case, fly off to the south of Spain. Alright for some I hear you say but this was business, honest! The weather was terrific although I didn’t get to see much of it as most of my time was spent behind a computer screen or on the road.

I was working with a (younger – he’ll love that bit) pal of mine setting up villa cookery ‘holidays’ for next year. Informal, laid back and above all fun is the ethos behind the week-long courses. Based in amazing villas, just outside Marbella, they entail market and producer visits and a live cooking experience in a local Restaurant (a la Hell’s Kitchen). Imagine though when it’s down time and you toss the apron on the chopping board, whack on the Speedos and dive into the villa’s pool, sipping on a cold one, catching a few rays while reflecting on the nuances of fish cookery – after all it is a holiday! (the picture, the view over the computer screen, shows said pool). The idea is, you come home with an armful of recipes, knowhow, a tan and a bunch of new friends to send Christmas cards to. I am looking forward to taking the courses and to sending a lot more Christmas cards next year.

As the cookery holidays are based in sunny Spain, this month’s recipe has to be a Spanish favourite – Churros n Choc. Similar to doughnuts, these fellas are great to eat dunked in a mug of ‘real’ drinking chocolate al fresco over there, or huddled around the Aga over here!

Churros n’ Choc Sauce

For the churros
5 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tbsp Ground cinnamon
1 Lemon, microplaned zest only
200g Plain flour, sieved
½ tsp Salt
1 Egg
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
6 tbsp Caster sugar

For the hot chocolate
225g Plain bitter dark chocolate, broken into squares
900ml Milk
175ml Double cream
Pinch of salt

Method

  1. For the churros: place 300ml water in a saucepan with the oil, half the cinnamon and the lemon rind. Bring to the boil. Meanwhile, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. Once the water mixture is at a rolling boil, tip in the flour, beating well with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Leave to cool a little, then beat in the egg.
  3. For the hot chocolate: place chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C. Spoon the churros mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 2.5cm star-shaped nozzle. Pipe 7.5cm lengths of dough directly into the hot oil and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden, turning once. Cook in batches.
  5. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining cinnamon and sugar on a flat plate. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked churros from the oil. Quickly drain on kitchen paper, then roll in the cinnamon sugar. Pile on to a plate and keep them warm while you finish cooking the rest of the churros.
  6. To finish the hot chocolate, place the milk, salt and cream in a small saucepan. Using a spatula, add the melted chocolate, stirring to combine or ziss with a stick blender to make it frothy. Heat gently for a few minutes.
  7. When ready to serve, pour the hot chocolate into mugs, dunk in the churros and enjoy…






Blunos’ beer batter


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

Back to basics

As the survival of the traditional pub continues to face an uphill battle, Martin Blunos gathers steam and gets us back to basics.

It’s another hectic month over and I’m already getting stuck into, you guessed it, another hectic month; judging at Frome Cheese Show, food demonstrations at Goodwood Revival and at the BBC Good Food show to name a few.

During the little down time I do have it’s nice to relax over a pint and a bite to eat in the pub. The good old British pub is in decline -– they are closing down at the rate of knots – and to survive many are upping the anti with their food offering, and the ones that are, are still in business. Good for them and even better for us.

Pubs have always sold something to ‘fill the gap’ whether it be a packet of crisps, a ploughman’s or roast beef lunch. Nowadays, pubs are being awarded Michelin stars for their food. Many are being called gastro pubs, in my eyes two words that don’t really sit together.

Another saying that gets my hackles rising is ‘fine dining’ as in “we popped along to this amazing fine dining pub”, after all, isn’t all good food fine?

I’m involved with a couple of pub projects and am really enjoying the experience, it’s a blast working menus that encompass everything from doorstep sarnies, faggots ‘n’ peas to pot roast grouse. I’ve also noticed that folk are really up for good, simple and honest dishes. It makes sense not to stray far from family favourites and instead just give them a twist.

This twist can be as simple as buying a better sausage for the toad in the hole with onion gravy, or adding a good splash of vinegar with the butter when finishing the mushy peas to serve with the beer battered fish and chips.

This month’s recipe with a twist is for my beer batter – it works well with fish and also with vegetable fritters – anything that can be deep fried. Don’t worry about the alcohol in the lager as that will evaporate on cooking and all that will remain will be the flavour. Oh the twist – it’s the balsamic; not only the trace of flavour it imparts, but the acidity it contains permeates the batter as it cooks to help crispness. Enjoy..!

Blunos’ beer batter

Ingredients
180 grams plain flour
30 grams fresh yeast
5 ml balsamic vinegar
250 ml beer (lager)
A pinch of salt
A pinch of caster sugar

Method

  1. Dissolve yeast in beer adding salt, sugar and balsamic – do this in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sieve flour over liquid, beat until smooth and creamy. Place in ambient place for at least 45 minutes before using.
  3. Use vegetable oil at 180°C for frying.






Onion and Fennel Bhajis


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

Homemade Heroes

Having spent the last few months travelling up and down the country, this month Martin Blunos enjoys attending an event much closer to home…

I’ve been judging the annual Bath Chef v Chef competition at the City of Bath College for a few years now and every year the standard just keeps getting better. The competition includes three categories – up to 16 years of age, under 23s and over 23s. These young hopefuls are all given a box of goodies plus all the ingredients to make a generic dish (this year crème caramel) a couple of hours to work their magic and then it’s tasting time!

The generic dish is a revelation, how you can end up with so many variations of the same dish using the same ingredients baffles me. You really see a young chef’s free spirit coming out to play and it’s a sight to behold.

The up to 16-year-olds did amazingly well. The gold medal winner Seb Soare was only 12- years-old and cooked with a maturity beyond his years. The relative naivety of the contestants at this level made the dishes simple and honest without over complication – the perfect backdrop for a French classic.

My recipe this month might not be local to Bath, but it’s a little corker that I’m sure would tickle the taste buds of everyone from the Romans through to the present inhabitants of my fair city. I can just imagine the takeaway queues of centurions after a few pints in The Bell on Walcot Street.

Onion and Fennel Bhajis

Ingredients
2 large white onions
1 medium fennel bulb
1 bunch of spring onions
200g chick pea flour
1 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄4 tsp mild red chilli flakes
1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp cumin
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
1⁄4 fennel seeds
1⁄4 tsp black onion seeds
100ml cold water
Salt

Method

  1. Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix in the water to make a smooth batter.
  2. Trim the fennel and shred it wafer thin – ideally with a mandolin. Shred the spring onions and add to the mixture.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 160°C.
  4. Gently drop spoonfuls of the bhaji mix in the oil and cook until golden, turning them from time to time to colour evenly.






Chicken thighs – coconut crisped


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

As running around the countryside to catch our tea is longer necessary, Martin Blunos cooks us up a perfect alternative…

I was asked recently and not for the first time, “What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever cooked and eaten?” My reply of swan and peacock may not have been the expected reply. After all we don’t kill and eat those birds nowadays, and I for one know why – they taste awful!

It’s form over function with swans and peacocks, as they look so much better than they taste. I think the reason why, back in the Middle Ages, these birds were eaten is down to their distinct lack of camouflage – white and multicoloured does not lend itself to blending in with the countryside.

But in the days of hunting and gathering, with a trusty bow and arrow as your weapon of choice in search of quarry to feed the family, a swan set against a background of shrubbery would have stood out like a full moon in the night sky. Your arrows would have flown and two hours later it would have been Big Bird for tea.

Times have moved on. Our choice of food is unhindered and our method of getting the food just requires a quick trip down to the shops. So, as we don’t eat swans and peacocks anymore, and believe me you’re not missing anything, here is a colourful chicken recipe I’ve created for you to try.

Chicken thighs – coconut crisped

Great with a simple salad, boiled rice or just with a dollop of sweet mango chutney
Ingredients
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 limes with zest and juice plus extra wedges to serve
2 tsp medium curry powder
1⁄2 tsp chilli flakes
1⁄4 tsp black onion seeds
50g desiccated coconut
1 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
Salt


Method

  1. Heat oven to 190°C. Put the chicken in a large bowl with the lime zest and juice, curry powder, chilli flakes, onion seeds and a pinch of salt.
  2. Mix well then roll through the coconut.
  3. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting tin and dribble with the oil. Bake for 25 minutes until cooked through and tender.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a little salt to retain crispy finish. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.






Orange Marmalade


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

We’re off, and what a start to the year. VAT’s up and the temperature’s down. In my book, comfort food is the answer, which means broths, bakes and braises. Cheap and warming, they’re a much welcomed internal cuddle…

Shopping for fresh food is a lot quicker at this time of year because the seasonal choice is limited, and too much choice is sometimes a pain in the proverbial.

Nowadays we’ve got a choice of full fat, semi skimmed and skimmed milk and not just from cows! Bread displays that once used to fill half a shelf, now take an isle. If you’re anything like me, you can spend forty minutes choosing and end up on the street clutching a tetra pack of semi skimmed pro biotic yaks milk, a mixed grain mini bloomer loaf and a box of twenty five, hand woven silk pouches of decaffeinated earl grey! Tea and toast has taken on a new meaning.

Talking toast, Seville oranges make their brief appearance at this time of year which means that it’s time to dust of the preserving pan and make marmalade. Making home made preserves is really satisfying – the house smells like a sweet shop and all the preparation and time that you put in results in jar upon jar of golden goodness.

Here’s my marmalade recipe, try it spread thickly on your toasted slices of mixed grain! Alternatively, a dollop worked into a bread and butter pudding works a treat and for savoury dishes, try it smeared over a baked ham whilst glazing it in the oven. The classic duck à l’orange is lifted by using a spoon of marmalade in its creation. See now I’m giving you choices – enjoy!

ORANGE MARMALADE

Ingredients
900g Seville oranges
2 lemons
2.5 litres cold water
1.8kg granulated sugar

Method

  1. Wash fruit under cold running water and place in a large preserving pan. Add the measured water, cover the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat so water simmers gently.
  2. Cook for 2 hours or until the fruits are tender when tested with a wooden skewer. Put the sugar in a large roasting tray and heat through a low oven (140°C) for about an hour.
  3. Drain the fruits from the water and leave the water to one side. When the fruit is cool enough to handle, cut in half and scoop out pith and seeds – put these back into the pan along with the lemons.
  4. Bring the pan back to a fast boil and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Strain and push through a sieve back into the pan. Add the warmed sugar and place the pan over a low heat, stirring from time to time untill all the sugar has dissolved. 5 Shred all the orange skins to (your) desired thickness. Add to the pan and bring to a rolling boil – cook for twenty minutes then do a plate test (spoon a little of the marmalade onto a cold side plate. Ater a few minutes, when cold, push your finger through the small puddle of marmalade and if it is ready it will wrinkle.) If set is not achieved continue to boil for another
  5. minutes and repeat the test.
  6. When ready turn off the heat and allow to cool. Pour into sterile jars, cover and seal.






Cotswold Gold


One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

I’m a big fan of rapeseed oil and champion its qualities and local provenance. So it was great to be invited to see the harvest and process that gets those tiny black seeds, from the bright yellow flowers, to release the prized golden oil.

I was lucky, along with Lance, my wing man form the restaurant, to be shown the whole shebang from field to bottle by the energetic and knowledgeable Charlie Beldam of Cotswold Gold. His business is growing year on year and Charlie knows everything there is to know about rapeseed oil. Not only does he work on the family farm in Stanton near Broadway up in Worcestershire, which also grows wheat, beans and even, (not a farmed crop, I might add) wild strawberries, a few of which Charlie’s mum found in the farmhouse garden for us to enjoy with an alfresco lunch after the tour, he also promotes his oil at shows around the country.

Arriving at East Lodge Farm it was straight on with the tour. Harvested seeds were weighed, checked, sampled and then tipped into a corkscrew hopper that carried them to silos from where they are sieved of their chaff then conveyored to a storage shed. Then it was a short trip past fields of near ripe wheat on either side of us – the next crop to be harvested after the rapeseed – and back to the farm’s weighbridge with a trailer full of freshly harvested seeds.

The crop had been part harvested by the two combines that were busy cutting through the swathes of rape. It didn’t take much persuading to get us in the cab of each monster of a machine; after all we are West Country boys.

Fun over and expecting to see a massive rumbling contraption of cogs and grinding stones, like those I’ve seen in flourmills, it was a surprise when Charlie ushered us into his pressing, filtering, bottling and labelling plant. Perhaps plant is the wrong word, it’s actually a converted part of the now defunct dairy (the farm’s previous life involved cattle). The two presses can run 24/7 and are barely bigger than domestic mincer attachments for your Kenwood – and just as quiet. They are fed the black seeds by a hopper from above and the golden oil dribbles constantly. It is then stored in large stainless steel vats to settle before being filtered, bottled and labelled – a job now done by an awesome looking piece of kit. In the early days it was all done by Charlie’s fair hand on the dining room table, which on the day it gave way (a couple of hundred bottles of oil being too much for it to bear), and after a cleanup operation he was relegated to the old dairy.

He is now developing flavoured rape oils – the dill and the smoked being particular favourites of mine.

The end result of 2011’s harvest was brilliant. I, for one, am now more educated and aware of what goes into producing the contents of the funky labelled bottle that is ‘Cotswold gold’!

www.cotswoldgold.co.uk







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