Tag Archives: fat

Garlic Mayo

You won’t ever see mayo curdle; you’ll feel it. It will suddenly lose all its fight, and go slack, before turning to liquid. Don’t let this put you off, as it’s easily avoided, easily rectified, and, once you’ve had homemade mayo, there’s no going back. Yes, I know you can do this with a blender, but the washing up is more effort than whisking by hand. Yes, I know it’s properly called Aïoli, but not all my guests speak Foreign. Yes, I suppose you could make it without garlic but, frankly, what’s the point of being alive?

Assuming two greedy people, you’ll need one egg yolk, 150mL groundnut oil, 50mL of your best extra virgin, half a lemon, a pinch of salt, and a clove of garlic. You’ll also need a certain amount of sang-froid in case it all goes wrong, plus a spare egg.

Start by popping the yolk and the salt into a small round mixing bowl. Crush the garlic into this and give it a good thirty seconds with a balloon whisk. Doesn’t need to be furiously thrashed, just steadily mixed. This will seem pointless, but don’t worry. The mixture will lighten in colour; now leave it alone for a minute or two. It helps if your mixing bowl is heavy, resting on a rubber mat or, failing that, a slightly damp teatowel.

I find pouring directly from the oil bottle a bit awkward, so normally measure it out into a jug with a spout, to give me a little more control. Start with the groundnut oil, and have your half lemon ready.

Start whisking the yolk again, slowly, and feel how it’s slightly sticky, slightly resistant. From now on, keep on whisking. Slowly. Gently. Steadily. More of an andantino than an allegro furioso. Pour in a few drops of the oil. You’re aiming for a teaspoon or less, and keep whisking. Feel how the mixture momentarily loosens, then tightens again, as the oil is incorporated. Another teaspoon. That’s five millilitres. And again. And again; whisking all the time.

At this point you can start to think about adding larger quantities of oil (always less than a third of the volume you’ve already got in the mixing bowl) perhaps even consider a constant pour, in the thinnest stream your measuring jug permits. After around 50mL of oil, the mixture will start to become extremely sticky, and will threaten to attach itself to your whisk as an almost solid lump. Before that can happen, put the oil down, and give the half lemon a gentle squeeze to add a teaspoon of juice. Don’t stop whisking at any point. The mixture will loosen, and return to its prior stickiness. Keep adding oil, and a squirt of lemon juice each time the mixture becomes too thick.

Once all the groundnut oil is incorporated, you can stop for a quick rest, but once you’re ready, add the olive oil as before, again with a squirt of lemon juice to loosen. You may not need the entire half lemon.

Some recipes recommend more or less oil, but 200mL per egg yolk seems safe. Made using nothing but olive oil, it’s a little overwhelming, plus groundnut oil has the advantage of being cheaper. And when it goes wrong? Deploy the yolk of your spare egg into a clean bowl, start whisking, and gradually add the curdled mayo from the other bowl.

Serve it with steamed asparagus, new potatoes, baked fish, or as a dip for crusty white bread. It can be kept in the fridge for a day or two, assuming you have enough self control.




Mention you’re cooking Bolognese to an Italian and you’ll get a serious rolling of the eyeballs. Risotto? More of a sceptical narrowing of the eyes. But Carbonara? That’s a fighting word.

Per person you will need: 120g dried pasta, 60g pancetta finely diced, a whole egg, 10g of butter and 20g of Parmesan or your favourite Italian hard cheese. It’s allegedly a Roman dish, so perhaps Pecorino might be better. Use whatever long dried pasta you have to hand: spaghetti, fettucine, linguine etc.

Pancetta can be replaced with sweet-cured belly bacon, but see below about getting some help from nutmeg and garlic. Fancy supermarkets often sell Pancetta pre-cubed in little sealed plastic pouches that can be popped into the freezer, meaning this can be whipped up al pronto if needs must.

If you have a bit of practice, then you should be able to prep and cook the sauce in the same time it takes to do the pasta, but I’d err on the side of caution, and start with the pancetta.

  1. Gently fry the pancetta and the butter, stirring occasionally, until it starts to colour.  Grind over some black pepper.
  2. Get the pasta going.
  3. In a bowl or jug, combine the egg and Parmesan.
  4. Once the pancetta is lightly browned, but not crunchy, turn off the heat.
  5. Once the pasta is done, use a teacup to fish out a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water, and put to one side.
  6. Drain the pasta, and add to the saucepan with the pancetta, combining thoroughly. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen it up, and then the cheese and egg mixture, stirring like mad. Serve immediately, with more Parmesan.


Stuff you could add…

This is where controversy begins. Don’t mention any of this to your Italian friends.

  • a clove of garlic, split down the middle, fried with the pancetta, and then discarded, is nice
  • a small grating of nutmeg won’t hurt – if you can’t get Pancetta, and you’re using bacon, then the nutmeg is useful
  • I don’t think cream is necessary
  • a spot of peperoncino, fried with the pancetta could be fun

Suet Dumplings


A quick note: per person you will need 50g plain flour, 20g suet (the shredded stuff in packets, e.g. Atora), 1tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Mix dry ingredients, and add just enough water to bring it together into a ball of dough.

Divide into four pieces and roll between the palms of your hands to render them spherical and dust with a little extra flour if they’re sticky. Pop them on top of a firmly simmering stew for 20 minutes; covered.

If you forget the baking powder, then you will end up with quite solid dumplings: still very tasty, but unmistakably Victorian.

Spuds of Shame

These are a little naughty, and will have your guests licking their plates. To serve four people as a side dish you will need…

  • 1 kilo potatoes (any variety, I use baby potatoes)
  • 10g butter
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • as much garlic as you dare (four very fat cloves or half a head, peeled and finely sliced or chopped)
  • as much chilli as you dare (2tsp chilli flakes)
  • 150mL cream (single, double, doesn’t matter)

…and then…

  1. Hack up the potatoes into pieces of roughly equal thickness, maybe an inch or so; peel them if they have thick skins. When I use baby potatoes I just halve them down the long axis.
  2. Pop the spuds into a steamer and, well, steam them, until they’re done, which will probably be around 20 minutes. Check that they’re tender when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.
  3. Just as the spuds are finishing, melt the butter in a large pan, with the vegetable oil to stop it burning, and fry the garlic and chilli, until the garlic is translucent and golden.
  4. Tip in the potatoes and combine well, adding a generous sprinkle of salt and a thorough grind of black pepper. There’s no need to sauté the spuds.
  5. Finally, add the cream, combine well, wait for it to boil, and turn off the heat.

You could add more cream, more chilli and more garlic. Some finely chopped fresh basil leaves won’t hurt either, but don’t bother with dried for this dish.

Root Veg

Here’s what goes with the slow roast lamb shoulder. In terms of timing, it’s quite forgiving.

  • 600g parnsnips
  • 600g carrots
  • salt, pepper
  • 2tbsp honey

Wash and scrub the veg thoroughly, but I wouldn’t bother peeling them. Quarter them lengthways: you want pieces of roughly equal thickness, so slimmer roots can just be halved or trisected if your knife skillz are up to it. Some parsnips have very thin spindly ends, which will burn, so chop them off.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and add the carrots. After five minutes add the parsnips. After another five minutes try piercing a piece of carrot with a metal skewer. If you can, albeit with a little resistance, then they’re done.

Drain the veg and then tip them into small baking dish (one or two layers) and add 25g fat: duck fat or butter is preferable; lard or vegetable oil in an emergency. Toss them around with a spoon to get them coated, and season lightly. You can now set aside, at room temperature, for as long as you need.

If, like me, you’re doing lamb at Gas 2, then pop them in an hour before the lamb is done. When I remove the lamb, I then crank the oven up to max, and also remove this dish, so I can pour over the honey, toss again to coat, and then return to the oven for another fifteen minutes. That way they’re done at the same time the lamb has finished resting. Do keep an eye on them, as the honey glaze can burn quite rapidly.

Otherwise about half an hour on Gas 5 (190°C, less in a fan oven) basting with the honey after fifteen minutes.


Let’s forget about confit of duck, goose fat, and all the fancy stuff. Cassoulet is about fat and beans, so today’s is done with sausages and bacon. Annoyingly, the beans need to be the dried ones, so you will have to soak them. Tinned beans would turn to mush during the cooking. Delia makes a good point that if you’re using sausages, make sure the meat content is reasonably high, as bready sausages will also collapse.

I’m using the following (feeds four with seconds and leftovers):

  • six Toulouse sausages (about 400g)
  • 250g dried haricot beans
  • an onion, a couple of carrots, and a couple of sticks of celery; all chopped up (a similar weight to the sausages)
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • about 75g tasty bacon of some sort chopped into quarter inch cubes (a single vacuum pack of cubed pancetta ideal)
  • a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained – if we leave the juice then it’s too tomatoey and starts to resemble high class baked beans
  • two bay leaves
  • about a teaspoon dried thyme (or half a bunch fresh)

The pot. Pick a large one that’s good for the oven and the stove top, as we’re visiting both locations.

The beans need to be soaked in a litre of cold water, overnight, after which they’ll double in mass. (St Delia mentions the idea of putting the beans in cold water in a saucepan, bringing to the boil, turning the heat off and leaving for three hours as a way to accelerate the process.)

Once that’s done, change the water, apply some heat and get them going at a vicious boil for 15 minutes. After that, reduce to a simmer, and pop them on them on the back burner, both literally and figuratively. (You’ll need the front of the stove later.)

Crank the oven up to 160ºC, putting the sausages and bacon into the pot and the pot into the oven. Keep an eye on them, turning the sausages occasionally so we get an all over tan. After about half an hour, the sausages will be done enough for our purposes, so transfer the pot to the hob, on a low heat. Also, at this point, the beans will have been simmering for about 30 minutes, leave ’em on the back burner, ready for action in a moment.

(But don’t turn off the oven.)

Remove the sausages from the pot, and set to one side. Tip the veg into the pot, and gently fry in the fat that will have been exuded by the pig. After about five minutes add the garlic, and fry until translucent; about two minutes. (Best way to do this is shove the veg to one side so there’s a small exposed bit of the bottom of the pan where the garlic can fry. A splash of olive oil to assist if required.)

Deglaze with a splash of wine (white or red, or failing that some hot water) and then add the beans plus enough of the cooking liquid to almost-but-not-quite cover everything. Think runny, rather than soupy. Herbs, salt, pepper.

Return the sausages on top. I’d slice the sausages into three or four pieces each. Return to the oven for another two hours, lowering the temperature to about 140ºC. Leave the pot uncovered so the top gradually darkens and becomes sticky. Pretty much impossible to overdo, but check the liquid levels every so often, and if necessary, top up from a freshly boiled jug.

Despite every town in the south of France claiming that it (and it alone) is the Home of Cassoulet, there’s no definitive recipe. You could…

  • sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top about 30 minutes before it’s done
  • double the quantity of sausage
  • do it with pork belly cut up into two inch cubes instead of the sausages – the pork belly will need much longer – at least an hour – and a splash of water in the bottom of the pot – you might even want to do the pork belly for three hours so it totally breaks down

The Major is threatening to feed us with his cassoulet, which is a far superior product, and will feature his very own confit of duck. (I shall report back.)

Duck Legs

My reaction, on tasting duck for the first time, was to wonder why we hadn’t hunted it to extinction. A damned tasty animal, be it roasted, fried, stewed, or, quiver, in confit. (More about that another time.)

Duck breasts – maigret de canard – are now fashionable and expensive. By comparison, duck legs are cheap. (And there is normally a spectacular glut of them at the start of Autumn, so keep your eyes peeled.)

Anyway, I used:

  • two duck legs (about 400g)
  • three King Edward potatoes (about 500g) but any kind of spud is fine
  • one large onion
  • half a bunch of thyme

Get the oven going at 180ºC. (I’m using a fan forced, so your mileage will vary.)

Find a small roasting tin you can put on the hob without it buckling, get it hot, and put the duck legs in, skin side down. No oil required. Turn the heat down to the lowish side of medium, so they’re gently sizzling, and starting to ooze fat.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes – no need to peel – and cut them into small pieces, about 2cm thick. If you just chop each potato into 2cm slices, and then divide those as you see fit, you’ll be fine. By the time you’ve cut up the potatoes, the duck will have oozed a layer of fat onto the bottom of the roasting tin. A good ten minutes or so: do check after about five that the skin isn’t going brown, as we’re just after a light gold colour.

Put the potatoes in and gently toss them in the hot fat. You may need to remove the duck for a moment in order to do this. Yeah. Hot fat. Be careful. Gluttony is transient, third degree burns aren’t.

Return the duck to the tin (skin side up, with the thyme spread out underneath it) and even out the potato into a single layer. Salt and pepper, and then into the oven. Check from time to time, and move the spuds around so they don’t stick. Inevitably some of them will. If everything seems to be crisping too fast, maybe turn the oven down a whisker.

After forty-five minutes, slice the onion lengthwise into eight segments – more if it’s huge – and peel. Pop these segments into the roasting tin, and roll them around in the fat. (If we put the onion in at the beginning it would burn.)

It should be done after another forty-five minutes, so ninety minutes in total. It’s difficult to overcook duck legs, but if they’re not in long enough, the meat will be cooked, but the connective tissue won’t have broken down, and they’ll be tough as boot leather. If the pieces of potato are too small, they may start to burn before the duck is done.

Once done (you can double-check by piercing the thickest part of the duck leg with a metal skewer and confirming the juices run clear) remove everything from the roasting tin onto plates, and deglaze the roasting tin with a splash of red wine or dry vermouth, to produce a tiny amount of sharp tasty sauce. Pour over and tuck in.

Note. The eating of duck legs is not a dignified process. Suggest you not serve these if the bishop is coming to tea.

Mince Pies

No major secrets to making mince pies, but you will need to do some calculating and engineering to get the pastry circles the right size. I use muffin tins (in which I’ve made all sorts of things, but never muffins) and aim for a pie about a half an inch deep.

This will use up about half of the mincemeat in the previous recipe, and produce 24 small pies. (I don’t hold with huge deep pies, as they will go soggy.)

My parents used to get very worked up about making pastry from scratch. I don’t think there’s any major secret, other than not letting the fat melt. It helps if you’re the sort of person about whose cold hands people complain.

  • 350g plain flour (you could substitute 25g of ground almonds for 25g of the flour if you fancied)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g butter
  • 75g lard (you could use all butter but the pastry would not be as crisp nor as light)
  • 25g caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
  • mincemeat (around 500g)

Start by filling a small bowl or large teacup with cold water and putting it in the freezer.

Roughly chop up the fat, and then pop all the ingredients into a large bowl and rub the flour into the fat with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Some recipes tell you to do this stage in the blender, which I reckon just creates unnecessary washing up. (If it’s a hot day, or the room in which you’re working has a blazing oven or fire, then there is a slight risk the mix may go slimy, that is, the fat will start to melt. If this happens, wrap in cling film, and pop it into the fridge for ten minutes to recover.)

Retrieve the now icy water from the freezer, and mix it in with your hands, one tablespoon at a time, until the pastry comes together in a ball. There’s enough fat for it not to stick to the bowl. You’ll probably need 5 – 6 tablespoons, i.e. 75 – 90mL, maybe one or two more. Tightly cover the ball in cling wrap, and put it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest. (This is vital, otherwise it will not behave. At all.)

Once the pastry has rested, flour a work surface, and divide the ball into four roughly equal pieces. A single heroic sheet will be too much trouble to roll. Roll the pastry as thin as it will go, without tearing: probably 2-3 millimetres thick.

Now, you’ll need to cut the pastry into large and small circles, for the bases and lids, respectively. You could use a pastry cutter, I tend to use a large tumbler and a small tumbler. Press bases and lids in alternation, so you don’t run out of pastry and find you don’t have enough lids. Using the quantities above, I got enough pastry for about 16 pies on the first attempt. Squish all the off-cuts of pastry into a ball and roll out again to do the rest. I needed to re-roll a second time for the final four.

Get the oven going. I crank my fan-forced up to 200ºC.

Put the large discs into the muffin moulds. Doesn’t matter too much if there are wrinkles etc as these will smooth out during baking. Put about a tablespoon of mincemeat in each pie. Try not to overstuff. Less is more. Pop the lids on. If you moisten the edges, the lids stand a chance of sticking to the bases. (In the photo above you can see that the lids look like they’re about to escape, but are in fact firmly glued in place by the mincemeat: I should have made both bases and lids a whisker larger.)

Twenty minutes in the oven should do the trick. Whip the pies out of the moulds and onto a cooling rack, and dust with icing sugar. (This is purely for visual effect.)

Venison Sausages

Grumpy? Maybe it’s because it’s cold, wet and miserable, or perhaps there’s just not enough sausage in your life. This is based on a similar idea where Saint Nigel roasts thinly sliced spuds, and then slips some mackerel fillets on just before the end. In this case, I’m using venison sausages, although any kind of sausage is good.

To prick or not to prick? Some people get very passionate about this: see Matthew Fort’s articles. Out of scientific curiosity, I pricked half of the sausages, but couldn’t tell once they were done.

I used:

  • 6 sausages + 500g charlottes, sliced about 5mm thick; no need to peel
  • salt+pepper
  • you could add thyme, garlic, sage, bay leaves etc – I popped two unpeeled gloves of garlic in

Now, I don’t know how fatty your sausages are, nor how thickly you sliced your spuds, so there is no foolproof procedure for what happens next – St Delia would doubtless be horrified. Start with 45 minutes at 160ºC (fan forced temp) and then take a look. The sausages will most likely be done, but the spuds will need a bit longer, pick one of the larger pieces and taste it to make sure. Pop the sausages to one side (on a plate covered with foil is a good start) and put the spuds back in, turning the oven up to 200ºC, and see how they’re looking after 15 minutes. Don’t despair if they take longer, just slip the sausages back on top for a few minutes to warm them up, if necessary.

The final phase is straightforward. Dole out the bangers and spuds, tip out any excess fat from the tin (not down the drain!) and add a splash of port plus a generous spoon of redcurrant jelly. Tonight I used 30mL of port and about a tablespoon of redcurrent jelly, but feel free to mess around with the proportions. The port will hiss and spit, and the jelly will sit there unhelpfully, so stir like mad. (Or you could melt the jelly into the port in another saucepan if you don’t mind the extra washing up.) The resulting sauce/gravy is just the right thing, although might need to be pushed through a coarse sieve to get any recalcitrant lumps of jelly and spud out. (Munch them when nobody’s watching.)

Duck Liver Pate

Just when I think all the washing up is done, and the kitchen’s looking clean, I get the urge to do this. Oh, well.

This is fairly close to the procedure described in Appetite, plus some notes of my own. I used…

  • 400g duck livers (there were no chicken livers today due to a “supplier problem”, but then, then they had duck livers, and I couldn’t resist)
  • 120g butter (40g for frying, the rest chopped into slices)
  • 100mL single cream
  • salt, pepper, Armagnac

The livers need to be soaked in enough milk to cover them for about half an hour. They will be fried after this, so it’s worth draining them quite thoroughly. I have been warned to cut out any green bits and dark spots, but never noticed any.

Getting ready

The livers get fried in 40g of the butter, as hot as it will go without turning the butter brown.


The livers, plus cream and the rest of the butter get hurled into the blender, with salt and pepper and zapped into mush. Slater mentions getting the butter soft first, I just slice it up, and figure that nestling against hot livers for a few seconds will do any softening required.

When deglazing the pan I slipped with the Armagnac. Then I slipped again; just to make sure. No point in flambé – just whack in the blender and zap again. This way, we hope some alcohol makes it into the pâté.


The next phase is vital: push the mixture through a sieve. It only needs to be a coarse sieve, so will only take about a minute or two of pushing it through with the same rubber spatula with which you emptied the blender. Several lifetimes can go by if you use a fine sieve, and I’m not sure I notice the benefit. What you will notice after is lots of fibrous chewy stuff trapped in the sieve, as opposed to being in the pâté.

Once you get to this stage, you could whack the whole lot into a terrine, let it cool, and seal with some melted butter about half an hour later. This looks very pretty. My more prosaic approach is to line a tupper with cling film, pour the mix into that, fold the edges over, and put the lid on. This way the whole lot comes out in one easy block.


Either way, the results should go in the fridge for a few hours to set.

(Note from 2013: not sure there’s enough information here to cook this: so pick up a copy of Appetite.)