Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Philly Cheesesteak (sorta...)

You gotta love America. It's big, it's bold and dammit it loves its food. I remember back in 2004, the presidential election. George W. Bush gunning for re-election and John Kerry stepping up to challenge. My buddy Bobby turns to me and says 'this Kerry guy...he's got a lot of potential and all, probably the better candidate but he's never going to win this race.' And so, I mustered up every little bit of interest I had in me and asked why he would say such a thing. 'Onions' Bobby replied. 'He's just done Philadelphia and he asked for a cheesesteak without onions. That's just not gonna fly.'
Obviously we all know what happened next. Was it the onions? We'll never know. Onions. Ha.
And so, because I'm clearly more American than SENATOR John Kerry himself, I started my cheesesteak with one white onion and one green pepper. Slice them up and fry them off for 8-10 minutes in a bit of oil until they soften up nicely. Stick them to the side.
All good sandwiches start with good bread. A couple of hoagies or Italian loaves will do a treat, slice them lengthways and hollow out a bit of the dough. (More room for more meat, dummy)
So this is why I call this my Philly Cheesesteak 'sorta', and I'm sorry to anyone from Philly who reads this (anyone?). A real Philly Cheesesteak is pretty strictly made with provolone. White American, maybe. Unfortunately Buckinghamshire is not Philadelphia. And ASDA is not Joe's Italian Deli and so I had to work with what I had. I chose maasdam. A nice light, slighty sweet Dutch cheese. Sorry.
About 400g of flat beef steak. Nice, pink and tasty. Slice it up into slightly-smaller-then-mouth-sized chunks and fry it off with a bit oil. You can go ahead and use the same pan you used for the vegetables, go on, it's fine. After the meat has browned nicely add the veggies and shake it all up.
Top with the cheese and take it off the heat. Now if I were a younger, single-r man this might be the point that I grab a fork and say 'hell to y'all' but I'm a grown-up in a relationship and that stuff doesn't really fly around here anymore. Scoop it all up and fill up your meat pockets. Ummm.
That's it. My Philly Cheesesteak (sorta). Hot sauce is a must, beer fries are recommended, napkins are optional. Dig in and enjoy. God Bless America.

1 bell pepper
1 white onion
400g flat beef steak
2 Italian loaves
hot sauce (I like Franks)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Beer Fries

I'd heard about this new trend hitting a lot of bars in the states and I knew I had to have a try myself. Two of the greatest things on god's green earth combined into one tasty snack. You like beer? Good. You like fries? Good. Let's keep it simple - today we're making beer fries.
When I posted this picture online, asking people to guess what I was making, I had everything from the inspirational (fish & chips with beer batter?) to the hilarious (beer and potato?). Truth is, it's nowhere near as complicated as a plate of fish and chips, and only slightly more complicated than beer and potato. It might seem silly, but stick with me, OK? You gotta start with a good quality beer. Goliath from Wychwood Brewery is just that. Rich, malty, a little bit of caramel - British bitter done right. Too bad I ain't drinking it...
A couple of baking potatoes, skin-on, scrubbed clean and cut into thick fries. Or 'chips' if you prefer. (Cue 10 minute argument inside my head as to whether these are 'chips' or 'fries'...)
Tip your fries into a bowl, big enough so they're below the rim. Do you know why? Can you guess what's coming? Of course you can. You rascal.
Cover the fries with the beer, so that they're totally submerged. It's almost hard to do, pouring all of that beautiful beer into someplace that's not your gullet. Trust me on this one. Have I ever let you down? No. No I haven't. Let the fries soak for about half an hour, during which time they'll soak up about half of the beer. (In fact, they drink faster than a lot of my mates...wheyyyyyy). Drain well.
Toss the chips with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a few minced cloves of garlic and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Make sure all of the seasoning distributes well and then arrange on a baking tray. Bang them into a hot oven, about 220C should do the trick.
Give the fries about 45 minutes in the oven to get like this. More or less depending on how you like them. In the Fatboy household fries are cooked one way and one way only - crispy. The darker, almost caramelised bit of potato skin lathered in seasoning and spices....that's just Flavourtown, USA. And the ridiculous thing about these fellas is that you can totally taste the beer, and it's amazing. The richness of the bitter absolutely comes's a taste sensation. And a pretty bodacious one at that. Do people still say 'bodacious'? Has anyone who isn't a Ninja Turtle ever said 'bodacious'? Don't worry about it, I won't.
And that's that. Beer and potato, basically. Pass me the ketchup. And another beer.

1 good quality bottle of beer
2-3 baking potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
sea salt
black pepper

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I've cooked a fair few things in my time. Ask me for a good burger recipe, or how to make a great steak pie and I've got you covered. I can whip up a pretty mean souffle and my banoffee pie has won awards*. But last week, when a colleague asked me for some cookie advice I realised that I was at a loose end. Sure I'd made cookies before, but never really from scratch. And when I say 'made' I sorta mean 'ate store-bought dough by the tubeful'. Ahhh good times. Anyway, I can't take any credit for this recipe, it comes from one of my favourite food bloggers - Joy the Baker. They were just so darn good I had to share them with you. (*Winner, Best Banoffee Pie, Fatboy's Kitchen Awards 2012).
The secret of this recipe has got to be in the browned butter, which gives the cookies a brilliant nutty taste. I can't wait to take some of her techniques and play around with them myself. There will certainly be more cookies in the future. Good news for everyone. Start off by melting 150g of unsalted butter over a medium heat. Keep an eye on it as the water starts to cook out - it will crack and spit a little bit so watch yo'self. Pretty soon after the fat solids will start to brown, smelling rich and delicious - remove from the heat and stick in a bowl to cool.
In another bowl, cream 150g of unsalted butter with a cup of granulated sugar until you've got a nice and fluffy mixture. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of black treacle, the cooled brown butter and 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cream for a couple more minutes. Add one egg and one egg yolk and beat for another minute. As I'm ripping off her recipe I should probably take the opportunity to plug Joy the Baker's Cookbook which - as a man who enjoys man things - I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit is freaking awesome.
In a large bowl mix together 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. Tip the lot into the butter mixture and beat it all together on a low speed, just until the flour is incorporated. No more, no less. Next is when you fold in your chocolate. If you want to know how much to use I'd say take as much as you think is necessary, then double it. I took two bars of dark chocolate, smashed them up with a rolling pin and went with that. Worked a trick.
Cover the bowl with cling film and bang it in the fridge for half an hour or so whilst the oven pre-heats to 190C and you line some baking sheets with parchment. This is the time when 2008 Fatboy would have run off into the sunset with a big bowl of cookie dough. Good thing 2013 Fatboy knows better. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and space about two inches apart on the baking sheet then bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them because, as my beautiful and not-mentioned-enough-on-this-blog-fiancee says 'they're done before you think they're done.' Remove from the oven and stick on a wire rack to cool. Or eat straight away. Your call.

250g unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon black treacle
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
300g chocolate pieces

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sourdough Starter

I've always been fascinated by gastronomy. The science behind how different ingredients interact with each other, cooking processes, new and old all just blows my mind. My earliest memory of this comes from when I was probably about 6 or 7, and my mom and her friends started passing around a sourdough starter to make Amish Friendship Bread. The concept was kinda chain letter-ish...basically you'd take a cup of the starter to make a loaf, then pass two cups onto the next person. They'd then feed the starter with flour and water, give it a couple of days to grow and then start the process all over again. I remember being amazed by the idea of this everlasting food source and it's something that's always stuck with me. And so now, twenty years later I'm giving it a go myself. Funnily enough, none of the other Amish-like traditions seemed to stick...
Ready for a poorly construed science lesson? Most breads use fresh or dried yeast as a rising agent. Sourdough works a little differently. It's all about FER-MEN-TAY-SHUN. You combine flour with water, and over time natural yeasts start to develop until you've a stable culture that both adds flavour to the bread as well as allowing it to rise. A little bit of research told me that a few grapes work wonders when creating your starter. They start to ferment in the mixture, which really speeds up the whole process. Sounds kinda gross right? Get over it.
Mix equal parts of strong bread flour and water with a few chopped grapes until you've got a nice sticky dough, then pour it into a large jar and forget about it for a few days. Go read a couple of books, go to work, have a long nap. I'm sure you can find something to do.
After a couple of days the mixture will have doubled in size and is looking all bubbly. Kinda like a bread soda. Oh, and it smells STINKY. That just means it's working. Take half of the mixture out and chuck it away, it's no good to you. Feed the starter with more flour and water - equal parts - give it a good stir and then seal it up again. Think of it as a pet - a doughy, stinky pet.
Mine's been sat for about 4 days now...I'll probably give it the same again and then start thinking about some bread to bake, I'll let you know how I get on. Just gotta remember to keep feeding it every few days, and this stuff will literally last forever. I mean, I've heard of decades-old starters being sold at auctions for big money...crazy stuff right? Food is so cool.