The side dish can turn what would have been a good meal into a disappointment or elevate it to new heights, it's not something that should be an afterthought or just thrown together at the last minute, it's as much a part of the meal as the main dish. You can't have a roast dinner without vegetables can you? It would be like watching a movie with no supporting cast or listening to the Rolling Stones without a rhythm section, it's just not going to work, all meat and no potatoes? Thats just silly.
6 oz all purpose flour
6 fl oz milk
4 fl oz water
Salt and Pepper
Put all the ingredients in a blender and give it a good seeing to, making sure to scrape down the sides and get it to a nice creamy batter. Let it sit for a few minutes while you have a glass of wine or something and then give it another blast. The idea is to get as much air into the batter as possible. When the meat comes out of the oven crank it up to 425F / 220C and get the pan ready.
I like to use popover pans, they’re like muffin pans but deeper. You can use cake tins or just pour the lot into a baking dish and make one big one, like my Mum did every Sunday. Put some lard in the pan and get it in the oven, when the fat is smoking hot give the batter another beating pour into the pan and into the oven for about 20 mins. Do not open the oven to check, if you can’t help it just crack the door open but do it very gently. They’ll puff up into puddings of joy, serve with the meat and veg smothered in gravy. You’ll want to do it once a week.
On the very rare occasion that there might be anything leftover, the breakfast opportunities are something to look forward to. Chop it all up, throw it in a frying pan, fry an egg, put it all on two slices of buttered toast. Nice cup of tea and off to the sofa for a lay down.
1 large Cauliflower
2 cups Grated Cheese
2 tbsp Flour
2 oz Butter
2 cups Milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (grainy)
Salt & Pepper
Cut the Cauliflower into florets and put in a saucepan of salted boiling water for ten minutes, drain and put in a baking dish.
In another saucepan melt the butter and as it starts to bubble add about 2 tbsp of flour. Have a small whisk standing by and give it a good stir so the flour has soaked up all the butter and made a kind of paste.
Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until it’s a nice thick consistency. If it’s too thick just add more milk and conversely if it’s too thin add more flour. Bear in mind that when you add the cheese it will thicken a bit more.
The cheese you use is of course up to you but you want a good melter, in my opinion you can’t beat a nice strong cheddar but I must admit whenever I make this dish I like to use up any bits of leftover cheese that I might have. Gruyere, stilton, whatever you have, it’s all good, grate it and get it in the sauce to melt and then add the mustard, salt & pepper.
Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and bake in a hot oven for about 30-40 mins until the sauce is bubbling and its golden brown on top. Oh yes indeed, serve with just about anything, this is comfort food that’s so comfortable it should only be eaten while sitting on a sofa watching an old movie with the dogs laying in front of the fire, cold and raining outside, lovely jubbly.
2 cups White Rice
1 cup Capellini Pasta broken into 1" bits
4 cups good quality chicken stock
Salt & Pepper
This can be used as a base for a number of different dishes or is equally as good on its own. Spice it up with some hot sauce or chilis or whatever you like. This is a recipe I've stolen from a dear friend, Brian, affectionately known as 'Bubba' to his closest pals. It's the best rice you'll ever eat, I love it. I've never managed to get it quite as good as Brian's but this comes pretty close. I never really liked him anyway.
Put 2 cups of rice in a sieve and run it under a cold tap for a bit to wash off any stuff. Put the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan with a lid, preferably a Le Creuset or similar, a standard saucepan will burn the rice and it will not be good. If you don’t have one, get one, I know they’re expensive but they’re worth it, you’ll use it every day.
Anyway, once the butter has melted throw in the rice and the broken up pasta and stir it all about on a fairly high heat until the rice has a white opaque look. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, add salt and plenty of black pepper and bring it to a boil, put on the lid and turn it down to low so it just simmers gently. Set a timer for 23 minutes and DO NOT take the lid off until the timer has told you to.
When the bell tolls carefully remove the lid, there'll be a lot of steam so use oven gloves, and fluff up the rice with a fork, taste for seasoning, it might need more salt and personally I really like this rice with a lot of black pepper, but don't bother listening to me, what do I know? Just ask Bubba.
2 Large Onions
1 cup Gram Flour
1/2 cup Rice Flour
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Curry Powder
3 cloves Garlic
1 small Chilli Pepper
2 or 3 bottles Cobra Lager
2 tsp grated Ginger
1 tbs melted Butter
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Handful of fresh Coriander
Kick off the proceedings by pouring yourself a glass of nicely chilled lager while you take stock of the situation. If you're making Bhaji's then presumably there's some other stuff going on like Tandoori Chicken or some Daal, both of which will take longer to cook than these little darlings, so get all that done first. Having said that I would recommend making these up beforehand and letting them chill in the fridge for an hour or so, it helps keep them together for cooking.
So, to Business. Peel the onions and chop them in half. Then slice them quite thinly and put the whole lot in a mixing bowl. Open up another Cobra and enjoy the bubbles and hops for a little while.
Crush and finely chop the garlic, finely chop the chilli and mix in another bowl with all the spices and the flour. Add the lemon juice and melted butter and while stirring slowly add enough water to make a thick batter, about the consistency of double cream.
Roughly chop the coriander and mix in with the batter, keeping a little aside for a garnish.
Mix the sliced onions into the batter and using your hands, squidge it all up and form into balls about the size of tangerines, you should end up with about ten of them, give or take.
Ten minutes before you want to eat get a pan of veg oil on the heat, it should be 180c (360f), And using a slotted spoon, very carefully place the Bhajis in the oil. They'll need about 2-3 mins cooking and then gently roll them over to do the other side. When they are golden and crispy and perfect get them out of the oil and onto a couple of sheets of kitchen roll to soak up any excess oil. sprinkle with the remaining coriander and some good salt.
They should be lovely and crispy on the outside and gooey deliciousness on the inside.
1 ½ cups red lentils, washed
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion3-4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
2 red chilli peppers
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tomato, diced
salt & pepper
4 – 6 cups of water
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Finely chop the onion and cook in the butter until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a minute or two before you add the spices, tomato and finally the lentils. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring all the time until every lentil is coated in the spicy joy and it’s all looking good and smelling good.
Add 4 cups of water and when it gets to boiling turn down the heat and put a lid on it. Let it simmer along nicely for 30 mins checking regularly that it dried up or started burning, just add more water and give it a stir when you feel it needs it.
When the lentils are soft and it’s become a nice thick stew, you are ready to enjoy a vegetarian delight. Salt & pepper to taste, fresh coriander and sliced clilli peppers on top, perhaps a splash or two of cream. Serve with Tandoori Chicken, Bubba's Rice and Naan Bread.
4 slices good bacon cut into small pieces
3 medium onions, finely sliced
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 shot bourbon
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp salt
Put the bacon in a skillet on medium heat and get it all lovely and crispy and bacony, mmm there’s no better smell in the world than bacon cooking in my kitchen. When it’s perfect put the bacon in a bowl for later and get the sliced onions going in all that lovely bacon fat. If you think there’s too much fat in the pan you can always drain some out but then if you ask me ‘too much fat’ is an oxymoron anyway, so just get the onions in there and stop worrying so much.
When the onions are caramelized mix in the sugar and keep stirring until it has dissolved and then add all the other ingredients.
Let it all simmer away for ten minutes or so, until it’s really syrupy and then add the bacon, stir it all together and once cooled, spoon the marmalade into a jam jar, or Marmalade Jar, with a tight-fitting lid and pour yourself another bourbon.
Now, sit down for 5 minutes, sip your bourbon and think about all the yummy things you can make that will be even more yummier with the addition of bacon marmalade. Sausage Rolls definitely, Chicken & Ham Pie, Roast Lamb, Pulled Pork, the list goes on. Suffice to say that this delicious marmalade or jam or whatever it is will make almost anything better. Because it has bacon in it. And whiskey. You know it makes sense.