Easy recipes for the newbie cook, the beginner in the kitchen, the nervous novice: we all had to start somewhere, and you can start right here.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mushrooms with Garlic Butter: How to Cook Them

I am always banging on about how good food does not have to be expensive, nor does it have to be complicated. My mission is to encourage everyone to cook: to reassure them that however new, nervous or inexperienced in the kitchen, they too can make great food.

These mushrooms cover all those bases: they are inexpensive, taste wonderful, and really couldn’t be easier. They would obviously make a great side dish for a steak or a punchy piece of fish such as bass, but they could easily be the feature of the meal, and not just for vegetarians. Or, if you want something really simple, then just stuff them into a crusty baguette or roll, or serve them on some good, thick, buttery toast.

Don’t wash mushrooms: you want them to give off excess moisture during cooking, not let them soak up more. Get rid of the dirt with a dry pastry brush, or give them a wipe with a damp towel or piece of kitchen paper. Don’t peel them, either.

Once again, notice that I am not giving strict timings, or quantities of ingredients. Real cooking isn’t like that, unless you are cake baking or making a soufflĂ©, when you do have to be fairly precise. How big are your mushrooms? What about the garlic cloves – plump and juicy, or a bit on the small side? And, obviously, if I don’t know how big the mushrooms are, I can’t tell you how much butter, salt and pepper to use. And how hot is your grill, and how far away is it from your food?

However nervous a cook, however much a newbie, trust your own judgement here.

Mushrooms with Garlic Butter


As many of the big, flat mushrooms as you will eat – they don’t shrink much in this style of cooking, just soften and “deflate” a little, so it’s easy to judge.
A clove or two of garlic, as required, preferably minced fine with a knife rather than forced through a garlic press, which leaves too much of the “good stuff” behind.
A good knob of butter per mushroom
Plenty of salt and pepper

Optional – by all means add some finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice, but avoid the powdery dried ones from the back of your cupboard.


Remove and finely chop the stalk from each cleaned mushroom, and reserve. Put the mushrooms top-down under a medium-hot grill until they begin to soften and take on a little colour. You could do this part in a frying pan with a little oil and butter, top-side up, until you see a little steam and/or droplets of moisture form on the gills. Now fill the “cup” of each mushroom with the finely chopped stalks, some minced garlic, the herbs if using, and dot with a few dabs of butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Pop back under the grill until the garlicky butter has melted into the mushroom, and all has softened and taken on colour. Serve immediately, and don’t lose any of the delicious juices.

Monday, 28 March 2011

How to Fry an Egg, and a Foodie Rant/Mission Statement

Sometimes, I am surprised, after several decades of propaganda by the Health Nazis and the Cholesterol Police, that anyone still eats eggs at all. And, you know what? The great irony is that it seems that they have probably been wrong all along. The human body is perfectly adapted, or designed, if you prefer, to use animal and natural vegetable fats; what it is not particularly good at is dealing with the artificial hydrogenated and trans-fats. In other words, butter is better for you than margarine. Dietary cholesterol, from eggs, dairy, shellfish and animal fats, avocados (i.e., all that good stuff that we’re not supposed to eat) etc contributes to less than 15% of your serum (blood) cholesterol levels. Your body loves cholesterol: it needs it in every cell of your body, and your liver will efficiently churn out as much as you need, whatever you eat.

Toxicologists will tell you that everything is poisonous, at a high enough dose. Oxygen is one of the most corrosive substances on the planet, yet we can’t survive without it. People have become very ill, even died, from drinking too much water too quickly. Large amounts of salt will raise your blood pressure: eat nothing but bananas and celery (healthy foods, right?) and your BP will drop to dangerous levels, causing you to faint, or worse.

Manufactured low-fat foods are full of sugar, salt and additives to make it taste of something, low-sugar foods are full of trans-fats and salt, and low-salt foods are full of just about any kind of junk they can put in it. Health foods make you sick.

Despite all the dietary advice we have been getting, and the products we have been sold, the average American and Northern European is 20 pounds heavier than we were a couple of decades ago. We may appear to live longer lives than our ancestors, but much of this is made up of the reduction in infant mortality, raising the average age considerably, and to the advances in medication and surgical procedures to mitigate the effects of the Modern Western Diet – and so one arm of the giant multinational is selling you health foods that not only don’t work, but make you sick, while their other, pharmaceutical arm is selling you the drugs to relieve the very symptoms they create.

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “What does not kill me, makes me stronger”, although he was actually nicking an old Latin proverb in the process. If he’d been commenting on the Modern Western Diet With Added “Health” Food he’d probably have said something like “What does not kill me, makes me fat, sclerotic, hypertensive, diabetic, cancer-prone… And, actually, will probably kill me.”

I’d better stop before I raise my own blood pressure to dangerous levels by continuing with this. I strongly urge you to read “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan, who sums the whole nonsense up in one pithy, concise and frequently funny little book: reading this will change the way you eat, in a good way. No more guilt for eating cheese, or steak, and lots of pleasure in eating a cabbage because you like cabbage, not because it’s “good” for you. And no more edible foodlike substances, as he calls them. I’ve posted the Amazon links below.

Not from the UK? Click here to buy Food Rules: An Eater's Manual from Amazon.com

So, that’s the rant part: what’s the mission statement? Well, just this. If it’s actually OK to eat any “real” food as part of a good, varied diet and lifestyle, then let’s damn well enjoy it when we do. Eat an ice-cream that’s made with real cream and sugar rather than something hideous made from chemicals in a vat that is supposedly Lo-Something. Eat a nice piece of crusty bread and slather it with real butter. And, while we’re at it, let’s have a big chunk of real cheese alongside. Have a lovely slice of slow-roasted pork belly, and revel in the crunchy crackling and melt-in-the-mouth fat. But make the bulk of what you eat fruit, vegetables and generally unprocessed foods. You’ll be healthier and happier for it, you’ll probably live longer (for a start, you won’t be stressing about each mouthful in a paranoid “what is this doing to my heart/waistline/cellulite” kind of way) and most of all, you’ll enjoy your food.

(We’re heading towards the recipe now, by the way. Nearly there. I don’t know, you’re thinking, all this for a fried egg?)

You are going to buy good eggs, of course. At least free-range, if not organic. Yes, I know they cost more, but come on. Why pay half-price for something that tastes bad? Is that really a bargain? Half a dozen of the finest free-range eggs hardly requires a bank loan. If you’re broke, as I have been many times, and probably will be again, eat less eggs, rather than the same amount of nasty ones. There is plenty of good food out there that won’t break the bank; I wrote about this in two of my earliest posts on this blog: “The Cheese Sandwich Concept” and “Mugged By Chicken.”

(Warning: this paragraph contains a somewhat unpleasant image, and a mildly rude word or two. If you’re easily offended, skip it.) Cheap eggs are produced from battery chickens, each confined for the whole of her short miserable life in a cage about the size of a toaster. Water, and the lowest grade of feed (often fishmeal and ground animal proteins) goes in the front, and turds and eggs come out the back. Is it any wonder that these eggs taste like shit?

So, you’re going to buy good eggs, right?

A traditional French method of frying eggs is to gently poach them in about 2oz/55grams of butter. Now, despite what I have said above, this is somewhat extravagant, even for me. I’m not worried about the cholesterol, and I’m sure they will taste delicious, but as I’m not going to eat fried eggs every day, or even every week, all that butter is going to get thrown out, as it’s going to be a bit eggy to use elsewhere. However, there are some important lessons in the French method. Gently; take it easy, we’re not in a hurry here. Poach, to use plenty of fat, not a thin smear in the pan – we’re not scared of fat anymore, are we? And to use butter, for the flavour.

So, what I do is to use a mixture of oil (usually a bland, flavourless oil) and butter. How much fat in total? Well, when the butter has melted and the eggs broken in, there should be enough fat when you tilt the pan to easily scoop up a spoonful for basting.

Do use a good, medium-heavy non-stick pan. Thin pans are useless; they buckle, dent and don’t conduct the heat efficiently or evenly.

How to Fry an Egg


As many very good, very fresh eggs as you need, but I would suggest not cooking more than two at a time.
Oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan to a “spoonable” depth
A good knob of butter, perhaps the amount you would spread on a slice or two of toast

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Add the oil and butter to your pan. If you like crispy-bottomed eggs, use a fiercer temperature, otherwise put on a low heat until the butter has melted and started to froth. Don’t let it brown or burn; swirl the pan to amalgamate, then crack in one or two eggs. The eggs should start to set immediately, but will proceed relatively slowly, unless you are going for the crispy lace-doyley effect. Cooking slowly gives you total control to produce your perfect fried egg, but even so the whole job is unlikely to take more than three or four minutes. If you like your eggs well done or over-easy, turn them once the base has set enough to get your egg-flipper under. For sunnyside, just let them gently cook through. I usually use a soup spoon to baste the top of the egg with hot oil/butter – avoid the yolk if you don’t want it to develop that translucent veil or “bloom”, which personally doesn’t bother me at all.

Serve with your accompaniment of choice: simple bread and butter (NOT margarine), bacon, a Full English Breakfast, toast, fried bread, to top an Indonesian-style rice dish such as Nasi Goreng…

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Monkfish and Chorizo Stew Recipe

Several things inspired me to cook, and blog, this recipe. I recently posted on Sausage and Mash, using real, old fashioned British or Irish bangers, rather than anything more spicy, but mentioned in passing how I love pretty much any kind of sausage from all cultures and cuisines, with a particular fondness for chorizo – I wrote something along the lines that I could eat it until I turn red from all the paprika. Which, of course, put into my head that I would need a chorizo fix pretty soon.

I have also been re-reading Anthony Bourdain’s (he of “Kitchen Confidential” fame) “A Cook’s Tour” in which he travels the world looking for the ultimate meal. There are a couple of evocative scenes in Portugal and Spain, where the use of chorizo and seafood figure heavily. For those of you who have not yet discovered Bourdain, he is an essential read for the foodie, for anyone who has ever worked in catering, and particularly for anyone who has ever day-dreamed about becoming a professional cook: the last may definitely think twice after reading Kitchen Confidential. He writes very well, being funny, sarcastic, bitter, twisted, passionate, rude, brutally honest and totally entertaining throughout. Whatever else you may take from his books, you certainly leave them feeling hungry.

If you're not in the UK, order your copy of the Anthony Bourdain Omnibus: "Kitchen Confidential", "A Cook's Tour" from Amazon.com here

A third inspiration for this meal is that I live just a few seconds walk from the sea, in a small, West Country town, where there are not one, but two, first-class fishmongers, as well as several other excellent food stores, including a deli where I could pick up the chorizo. Quite literally, the ingredients for this were available right on my doorstep.

Those of you who have read previous Guerilla Griller posts will know by now that I am passionate about several issues: anyone who eats can learn to cook, and cook well; good cooking isn’t difficult; buy good food, real food, which doesn’t mean buy the most expensive (although, for this recipe, I accept that monkfish is quite costly); without necessarily becoming a fanatic, be aware of issues such as sustainable fish stocks, responsible and ethical farming practices; buy local and free range/organic where practical.

There has been controversy in recent years as to whether monkfish are in decline or not, and therefore whether or not we should eat them. It currently appears that British stocks are healthy, and that British fishermen generally catch them in an ethical and sustainable manner. Who knows how long this will remain so: for now, I’ll eat monkfish as an occasional treat and keep an eye on the sustainability websites. If you are not from Britain, please do your own checks on the ethics of eating monkfish in your part of the world, or by all means substitute another meaty fish that is available to you. I’d love you to leave your suggestions in the comments box below: I would suggest alternatives (some costly, some quite affordable – and only from sustainable sources, of course) such as sea bass, shark, scallops, lobster, gurnard or pollack.

Monkfish used to be cheap: it is an ugly brute, also known as Anglerfish, and its looks would scare the living daylights out of customers at the fishmongers. It was therefore usually sold only as fillets, and frequently chopped up for the frozen food industry and sold as mock-scampi, or even sent to the canneries for cat food. Now we know better, and the price has shot up (thank you, TV chefs). Still, it is delicious, and, like I say, good for an occasional treat. If you’re not that great with a filleting knife, get your fishmonger to do it for you. Don’t even consider buying frozen.

Tomatoes: I have written similar about tomatoes before on these pages, and doubtless will again. If, and only if, fresh, ripe, flavoursome tomatoes are available to you in season, then use them and be thankful – and if there’s a glut, take advantage, buy lots and make and freeze down portions of good, home-made tomato sauce. Don’t use bland, hothouse, supermarket toms that have the taste and texture of vaguely acidic cotton wool. Please don’t. If we all stop buying the damn things then eventually they’ll stop selling these travesties. I swear that there are generations of kids who have no idea what tomatoes actually taste like, despite eating tomato-like objects every day. If there aren’t any good toms in season, then use good quality canned ones.

Monkfish and Chorizo Stew (serves 2 – 4, depending on accompaniment, greed and appetite – this is VERY moreish)


12 oz/340gram monkfish tail fillet, all bone and skin removed, cut into bite sized chunks
4oz/110gram chorizo, bought in the piece, roughly chopped, skin removed if tough
1 large onion, peeled and roughly sliced
1 large red or yellow pepper
2 fat cloves garlic (or more if you’re a garlic fan), peeled and sliced very thinly
1lb/440gram tomatoes – either fresh (see note above) skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped, or the equivalent amount of good quality tinned tomatoes, also chopped
A couple of pinches of a good robust herb, such as thyme or rosemary, roughly chopped
Good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A glass of red or white wine
Olive oil for cooking


Put the pepper in a hot oven or under the grill until the skin is completely blackened. Put into a plastic bag or sealable container until cool, then all the black skin should come off easily, leaving the sweet flesh – you can give it a wipe with a damp cloth, but don’t run it under the tap or half the flavour will go down the drain. Remove the stalk and seeds, and cut into similar sized slices to the onion.

Put a good splash of olive oil into your frying pan, and gently sweat the onion and pepper slices until they begin to soften, and the onion takes on a little colour. Add the finely sliced garlic and continue to cook until that too softens and takes on golden tinges – watch it like a hawk, as burned garlic tastes hideous and will spoil the whole dish. Remove the vegetables from the pan, and reserve, along with any cooking juices that have released.

Raise the heat a little, and add a splash more oil if needed. Fry the chorizo pieces until they begin to colour, and then reduce the heat to a bare minimum. Return the vegetables to the pan, stirring well, and you should see the paprika colouring begin to seep from the chorizo, tingeing all with its brick-red goodness. Add the tomatoes, the wine, the herbs and the seasoning.

Allow the stew to gently simmer away for at least an hour, or as long as you like – the longer the better, but at least until the chorizo has become very tender and has thoroughly flavoured and coloured the sauce. If it starts becoming dry, add a little plain water, or stock if you prefer and have some handy. (You could cook to this stage the day before, refrigerate overnight, and then reheat before serving.)

Add the chunks of fish, stirring them well into the stew. Depending on their size, they may take five to ten minutes to cook through. Monkfish is pretty robust, but don’t cook it for much longer – monkfish can suddenly release rather a lot of juice; don’t be alarmed if this happens, just stir it in. If you want to be a bit cheffy, and I’m afraid I often do, first stir-fry the fish in a separate hot pan or wok, with a little oil and butter, for just a few minutes, until it takes on a golden brown colour, and then stir into the stew – it will obviously then only need a very few more minutes to finish.

You could serve this with any kind of carb you like: rice, noodles, potatoes, but most times, I will serve this with a good salad and hunks of crusty bread. And plenty of wine.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sausage and Mash: How to Cook The British Classic

Preparing this meal starts, as with any cooking, at the shops.  You will be buying good butchers’ sausages, not those generic rubbery tubes that come in supermarket packs and appear to be filled with stodgy pink toothpaste.  You will also need the correct potatoes; floury varieties, not waxy types.

Every meat-eating culture must have its own version of the sausage; once you’ve roasted or grilled all the prime cuts, braised or stewed all the tasty hard-working muscle meat, and even tucked into the offal, there’s still an awful lot left, and it would be a shame to waste it.  Grind it up, with its fat, perhaps not too fine, add some seasonings, spicing and herbs and push it into those useful intestines which were just begging to be used for sausage casings.

I adore the spicy sausages of other cultures: the merguez, the chorizo (I could probably eat chorizo until I turn brick red from all the paprika), seekh kebab (ok, it’s on a stick and is skinless, but it’s a sausage, ok?), salamis, keilbasa etc.  I love haggis, which is, of course, effectively a large round sausage, and can always find room for a slice or two of black pudding, boudin noir (not quite the same thing), hogs pudding, white pudding, liver sausage, garlic sausage, mortadella (not the type made with donkey meat, though) and all the rest of them.  But, for sausage and mash, or, as I should capitalise it, Sausage and Mash, you want good, by which I mean excellent, British (or Irish) Sausages, where the seasoning may contain herbs, and spices such as mace, but otherwise rarely anything more exotic than plenty of salt and enough ground white pepper to make your tongue sing.

British and Irish sausages also contain filler, which can be breadcrumbs, rusk or similar.  This is a good thing, if it is not abused by unscrupulous sausage stuffers and the ratio weighted too far towards the carbs.  The filler helps with the texture, and absorbs some of the fat in the cooking, allowing the sausages to remain juicy without bursting or exploding into smithereens – for you should NOT prick the sausages before cooking, whatever you have been told.  Cooked carefully, a good sausage will not burst; pricking holes in the casing just allows all the good stuff to drizzle out.  The improperly cooked exploding sausage, as mentioned above, is the source of the word banger, as in Bangers and Mash, the other name for this famous dish.

Cooking the spuds for mash is pretty easy, as long as you follow a few simple points.  The first is that you will never get good mash from the wrong potatoes.  Waxy potatoes are not suitable for mash, whatever some TV chefs will tell you.  Yes, you can make the crushed spuds, with a rosemary, garlic and olive oil dressing so trendy a few years back, but this is not mash.  Mashed potato is fluffy and lump-free, and should only be made from floury potatoes.  Maris Piper, King Edward, Desiree, Wilja, Rooster etc all make excellent mash.  If you’ve ever wondered why at certain times of year your mash just turns out lumpy, or worse, gluey, whatever you do, it’s because you’ve been supplied with the wrong spuds – the so called “general purpose” potatoes available at this time of year are, frankly, not good for much, in my opinion.  If you want mashed potatoes from late spring to summer, then you have only a few choices: buy expensive imported floury potatoes from another part of the world where they are still in season; buy a good quality frozen mash (or freeze your own in season); or, do without mash altogether for these months.  You’re not even thinking of powdered mash, are you?

Another thing to be aware of when cooking spuds for mash is that it isn’t as difficult as some writers make out: I have seen too many methods where you are sternly told to cook the potatoes whole and in their skins.  Nonsense!  I mean, have you ever tried to peel a hot potato?  I have pretty tough, battle-scarred hands from my time spent in kitchens and as a musician, but I don’t need to add blisters and take further skin off them this way.  Peel the raw potatoes, cut them into not-too-large similar-sized chunks (so they cook consistently), bung ‘em into cold or hot water (doesn’t matter), bring to the boil, then simmer until they begin to break up.  Tip them into a strainer or colander, put a clean tea-towel or cloth over them, and leave them to drain for at least five to ten minutes – this gets rid of any excess water, and allows the steam to escape, leaving you with lovely dry spuds for a light, fluffy finish.

A final point is the mashing process itself.  Some writers and TV cooks (Saint Delia, for one) favour the use of an electric whisk.  In my experience, this only works well if done very lightly, and the potatoes are the right type and so perfectly cooked that it would only be the work of a few minutes to hand-mash them anyway.  Otherwise, the whisk or food-processor method is risky.  Cooked potato has a cell structure of starch grains (rub a bit of mash between your fingertips or over your tongue and you’ll feel it).  You do NOT want to break or burst these cells, or you’ll end up with the aforementioned glue.  These cells or grains are not the same as lumps.  If you’ve chosen the correct potatoes and cooked them well, the lumps will come out without bursting the cells.

A potato ricer is a brilliant device: if you’ve never used one, it’s like an over-sized garlic crusher.  You put the spuds in, one or two at a time, squeeze the handles, and perfect, airy mash is produced.  Or, you can use an old-fashioned hand-masher.  If some lumps persist, don’t be tempted to use the food-processor or electric whisk (see glue, above).  Instead, push the mash through a sieve (“passed,” in chef-speak), using the back of a ladle or similar.  This can be tough on the wrists, but the results are excellent.  No lumps, but no glue either.
Sausage and Mash is an easy meal to prepare, but it does take some time, and is a little labour intensive, what with the peeling, boiling and mashing of the spuds.  You are rewarded for your efforts, though, with a thoroughly tasty, comforting and more-ish supper that will not break the bank.

For accompaniments, a very traditional English side dish would be a tin of Heinz Baked Beans.  Nothing wrong with that, and that’s a childhood taste that I’ve certainly never shaken off, and beans of any type go wonderfully well with sausages and pork of all kinds.  I often make a bean casserole to go with the Bangers and Mash, rather than open the blue tin.  However, a simple veg or two would go very well on the side.  Last night, I had broccoli and red cabbage, both just simply simmered (separately) until just tender.  The colour combination looked great on the plate, and the tastes were very complimentary.

Well, after that essay, the actual recipe and method is going to be short and sweet.

Sausage and Mashed Potato a.k.a. Bangers and Mash


Approximately 4oz/110gram good pork sausages per person (more if you like)
Approximately 8-12oz/240-360gram floury potatoes, unpeeled weight
Optional: 1 small to medium onion, peeled and roughly sliced
2oz/55gram butter
Salt and ground white pepper
A little oil for frying or roasting

Vegetable accompaniments of your choice.
Gravy, if you like (recipe here)


Peel the potatoes, and cut into chunks.  Bring to the boil in plenty of water, then reduce to a gentle simmer until breaking up.  Drain and allow to dry out as above.  The sausages can be fried, grilled/broiled or cooked in the oven, but the idea is to cook them slowly, turning them from time to time.  They do need to be thoroughly cooked right through to the middle; a long, slow cooking allows this, and for the outsides to gently caramelise, with no risk of bursting or exploding – the aforementioned “bangers”.  The whole process could take forty minutes, and they can safely be left ticking over for longer while you get on with the rest of the meal.  If you like onions, tuck them, roughly chopped, in among the sausages.

When you are nearly ready to serve (and whatever other vegetables you have are draining) mash the potatoes as above, adding the butter and plenty of seasoning. Mashed potatoes can take a lot of salt and pepper, so add, taste, and repeat until seasoned to perfection.  Be warned that ground white pepper loses its power quite quickly, so if you’ve just bought a fresh pot to replace the one that’s been sitting in the back of your cupboard for a while, it may be hotter than you expect, so go carefully. I am not a fan of adding milk to mashed potatoes, as, for me, they go too sloppy, but you could add a dash of cream for a bit of luxury.

Plate up and enjoy.

As a variation, you could stir into the mash some chopped spring onions/scallions, or baby leeks, that have been gently sautĂ©ed in butter, giving you a version of the Irish potato dish known as Champ.  Or, add some finely chopped chives for an alternative oniony flavour.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Jugged Kippers with Poached Eggs

The Guerilla Griller is back, after a short absence enforced by the chaos of a house move and a delay in getting the broadband connected at the new place.  For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, thank you for your patience.  For those of you who have found this by accident while googling for kippers, hello, welcome, and I suppose I’d better get on with the recipe.

Often served for breakfast in the UK, and an ideal brunch for a lazy weekend morning, kippers are herring, gutted, split, salted and then cold-smoked.  As with bacon etc, it is sadly all too easy to buy imitations which have been injected or bathed in a combination of food dye and artificial smoke flavourings: avoid these, and insist on the real thing.

Kippers are often grilled, and as the Guerilla Griller I suppose I should favour this treatment, as they are delicious when cooked this way.  However, your house will smell of kippers for days afterwards, as will anything else you cook in the grill, however well-scrubbed, and every cat from the neighbourhood will be trying to break down your door.  Far better, perhaps, and much easier to “jug” them.  This has nothing to do with “jugged hare” recipes, in which the creature is cooked with its own blood, and it simply means that you cook the kippers in a jug of boiling water.

This truly is a very simple and easy five-minute fish recipe; the kippers will be taking care of themselves while you poach the eggs and slice the bread.

Jugged Kippers with Poached Eggs Recipe and Method

1 pair of kippers per person – a “pair” is actually one fish, split down the middle, but left as one piece, like an open book or magazine.
Boiling water to cover the fish
1 or 2 very fresh free-range eggs per person as you desire
More boiling water for the eggs, salted and with a dash of vinegar (the vinegar helps set the protein of the egg whites, and it tastes good)


A large heatproof jug or bowl for the kippers, a pan for the poached eggs.


Put the fish, head down, into the jug and pour on boiling water until the fish is covered (the tails can stick out, as you’re not going to eat them).  Cover with a towel or similar to keep warm.  The fish will be ready in five minutes.

Bring a pan of salted and vinegared water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer (I find frying pans ideal for poaching eggs, as you have more space in which to operate, but any pan or saucepan will do).  Break an egg onto a saucer or plate, and gently slide the egg from there into the water, which helps it keep its shape.  If you have to do more than two eggs, it may be best to do them in batches.  To batch-cook poached eggs: poach the eggs until set to the consistency you like, then scoop from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water, which will immediately stop them cooking further.  Once you have cooked all the eggs, they can be refrigerated and then reheated when needed by plunging into some freshly boiled water for a few minutes.

Decant the kippers from the water and serve with the poached eggs, and perhaps some crusty bread or toast.  I like a good grind of black pepper on the eggs and fish, but you probably won’t need to add any salt.

As kippers are not easily found in many countries, you could experiment and try this method with any cold-smoked fish that you like that is locally available to you.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Short Break

The Guerilla Griller will be away from these pages for about a week; the regular posting of new recipes, hints and tips won't be interrupted for long.  In the meantime, please enjoy the archive, check out any links you find interesting, and I'll be back very soon.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Marinated Steak Sandwich: Quick, Easy and Delicious

I mentioned in my last post that as I am moving house in the next few days I am looking to feed myself quickly and easily, while still maintaining quality, taste and flavour.  Food that cooks in minutes, and can be stuffed into some kind of bread, obviously comes into this category.  Last night, I had in my possession an 8oz sirloin steak which I had to stretch to feed two people.  I could have made the Bookmaker’s Baguette that I described in a previous recipe, but decided to ring the changes a little and come up with a variation.

Dicing the meat helps it go further (and cook faster), and marinating ensures that it will remain tasty and succulent.  Although there are an infinite amount of variations on marinades, they broadly fall into two categories: short and long.  With long marinades we are trying to tenderize an otherwise tough piece of meat, as well as adding flavour.  With short marinades, we are basically just adding flavour and a bit more juiciness.  Contrary to usual practice, I believe that it is a mistake to add ingredients such as alcohol, salt, sugar and citrus to long marinades: although these will tenderize the meat and add flavour, they will also draw out juices, and are thus counter-productive.  Better to keep the long marinades heavy on the oil and aromatics, and reserve the booze etc to the short marinades, as here, where they will add all the flavours we want, but won’t have time to do any harm.

As always with these types of recipes, feel free to take the basic idea and run with it.  This would work well with any kind of meat, most fish/seafood and is well-suited to vegetarian versions, with good mushrooms, say, or with meat substitutes.  Likewise with the marinade: if you don’t have the exact ingredients I use, or don’t like any of them, adapt as required.  Use whatever bread you like, too.  This could become a sandwich on “normal” bread, a filling for a floury bap or split pitta bread, or rolled into a tortilla etc.

I know that directions to add “a splash” of this or that irritate some people, but this is not a recipe of precision.  Frankly, unless I am baking or making certain sauces, I rarely measure or weigh anything.  Use your judgement and your own tastes.

Marinated Steak Sandwich (serves two)

8oz/225gram good steak such as rump, sirloin or fillet, diced into bite-sized chunks
1 crusty baguette

For the marinade:
Enough good olive oil to cover the meat while marinating
A splash of red wine
A splash of brandy
A splash of balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or very thinly sliced
Plenty of salt and pepper

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl, add the meat, and stir well to make sure it is well coated.  Cover and leave to stand for half an hour.

Cut baguette into portions and split.

Heat a frying pan or wok until very hot, then add the meat with its marinade.  Don’t stir-fry as such: allow the meat to gain colour before turning.  The whole process should take no longer than 2-3 minutes, unless you like the meat well-done.  Take care not to burn the garlic, so adjust the heat as necessary.

Put the meat into the baguettes, spooning over the juices, and serve.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Easy Meatballs, or Kofte: How to Make Them

Although I am typing this surrounded by cardboard boxes in anticipation of my house-move (the reason for the slow-down in posting here: normal service will be resumed as soon as possible), and half my kitchen is already packed away, I still need to feed myself.  In such circumstances, it is easy to turn to convenience foods and take-out meals, but I still want to eat real food.  Obviously, though, I want something that is quick and easy to prepare, so I can then get on with the packing (amazing what you find in the loft, isn’t it?)

This simple little meatball dish is inspired by Turkish or Greek Kofte, but you can change the meat and the spicing to anything you like or have to hand.  You could use fish instead, and even change the carbohydrate to cooked rice, couscous, cracked wheat or whatever.  It is my favourite kind of food: infinitely adaptable once you’ve got the basic idea.  It is also a good way to use up leftovers, which is a persistent Guerilla Griller theme.

For the basic meatballs, you will need:

2 slices of stale bread, crusts removed, soaked in water for a few minutes
1lb/500grams minced/ground fresh or leftover lamb, beef, pork etc
1 small to medium onion, grated or diced finely
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or diced finely
2 tablespoons chopped mint (although I always prefer fresh herbs, the dried mint works OK here, if that’s all you have)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (dried parsley is horrible, so omit if you don’t have fresh)
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

A little plain/all purpose flour for dusting
A little oil for frying

Squeeze out as much water as you can from the bread, getting it as dry as possible.  Combine all the ingredients and mix well: use a food processor if you like, but it’s not difficult to do this by hand.

Form into small balls, perhaps the size of a walnut.  Dust or roll lightly in the flour, then fry gently until they are taking a good colour and are cooked through.  This can take anything from 3-10 minutes, depending on the size of the balls and the heat.  You may need to cook them in batches if you don’t have a big enough pan.  Or you could grill/broil them, or put them in the oven, which will take a bit longer: about 15-20 minutes.

These can be served in many ways: with pasta, rice, some form of potato.  On their own with a salad.  Perhaps make a simple tomato sauce to go with them.  Or serve in a split baguette or similar.

If you’ve used leftover meat, and slices of yesterday’s bread, this is almost a free meal, as well as a tasty and very quick one, which is great for the wallet as well as the soul.