Harissa Paste

HarissaHarissa is a popular North African hot chilli paste generally made from a mix of smoky, roasted red peppers, hot chilli peppers, garlic, spices such as coriander and caraway seeds and olive oil. Variations can be found in the cuisine of Libya, Algeria, Morocco and particularly Tunisia and may contain onions, tomato puree, lemon juice, saffron and even rose water. Harissa can be used as a condiment or as a rub for meat, in meat, poultry and fish stews, in soups and as a flavouring for couscous.

 

Harissa Paste

2 Red Peppers

1 medium White Onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped

3 hot Red Chillies

4 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Tomato Puree

Juice of a freshly squeezed Lemon

1 teaspoon Coriander Seeds

1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds

½ teaspoon Cumin Seeds

½  teaspoon Sea Salt

Place the peppers under a very hot grill and roast turning occasionally until the skin is blackened on the outside and the pepper completely soft. Transfer to a small glass bowl, and cover with cling film, and allow to cool completely. Carefully peel the peppers and discard its skin and seeds.

Using a heavy-bottomed frying pan lightly toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds for a couple of minutes over a low heat. Place them in a spice blender or a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. Heat the olive oil in the frying pan over medium heat, and sauté the onion until it starts to caramelise, then and the garlic and chillies and cook for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove from the heat and allow to thoroughly cool then using a blender or a food processor blitz all of the ingredients until smooth, adding a little more oil if needed. Store in a sterilized glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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Mignonette

Mignonette is a traditional accompaniment to chilled, raw oysters containing a mix of pepper, shallots, and vinegar the name is thought to come from a traditional spice mix of peppercorns, cloves, and other spices.

Chilled Oysters Mignonette
Traditional Oysters Mignonette

 

Mignonette

75 ml quality White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar

1 medium Shallot, peeled and very, very finely diced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Stir together all ingredients and allow the flavours to infuse for thirty minutes before serving.

If you like things a little fierier, add one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce.

Sriracha

Thai Sriracha Sauce
Sriracha Hot Sauce

Sriracha is a hot chilli-based condiment from Thailand used predominantly in Thai and Vietnamese cooking and used in soups, sauces and as a dip for seafood and spring rolls. It is made from red chillies, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. As its popularity has spread the sauce is now used to flavour mayonnaise served with seafood and burgers, as a glaze for grilled bacon and in cocktails. In America, the sauce is commonly known as Rooster sauce from the logo on the most predominant brand available.

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche the French for ‘fresh cream’ is a dairy product, a soured cream containing 10–45% butterfat. It is often served simply with soft Summer berries or poached fruits and added to soups and sauces as an alternative to cream.

Fresh berries and Creme fraiche
Raspberries and Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is produced by adding a starter culture of bacteria to heavy cream, and allowing it to stand at room temperature until it thickens, this process gives crème fraîche its distinctive flavour. In France the crème fraîche from Normandy is regarded as the best and has its own appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), which was awarded in 1986.

Master Sauces

There is a long history of sauce in French cooking, dating back to the Middle Ages. In classic French cuisine or ‘cuisine classique’ through to ‘nouvelle cuisine’ in the nineteen seventies and eighties sauces were a major component of most savoury dishes and many of these sauces are derived from what we call the five Master Sauces. In a traditional kitchen brigade, a ‘saucier’ or sauce cook is the most senior chef after the Head Chef and Sous or second chef. The saucier prepares all of the sauces, and casseroles as well cooking dishes to order.

Demi-glace reduction
A Demi-glace reduction

In the early nineteenth century, the chef Marie-Antoine Carême created a list of sauces, many which were his own recipes. Carême made many of these recipes using four base Master SaucesEspagnoleVelouté, Allemande, and Béchamel. The chef Auguste Escoffier developed the list of sauces in his book ‘Le Guide Culinaire’ or A Guide to Modern Cookery, he removed Allemande because of its similarity to Velouté and added Hollandaise, the emulsion of eggs and butter and Tomato Sauce. This list became the five Master Sauces with the substitution of Demi-glace for the heavier Espangole.

Thickening Sauces

Thickening sauces have developed from using starchy vegetables, the ground nuts, and breadcrumbs from medieval cookery to using gums and gelling agents in today’s advanced gastronomy. The most common and popular methods are;

Roux

Flour and butter for a roux
Preparing a Roux

roux is a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. It is traditionally used to thicken the classical French Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole sauces and in Cajun and Creole cooking. The roux is made from equal parts wheat flour and either butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings or lard which are cooked together with or without colouring. The warm liquid such as stock or scalded milk is then slowly whisked in to the cooked roux, which is then cooked out over a low heat.

Beurre monté

This is a French term meaning to finish a sauce with butter forming an emulsion. Immediately before serving you can whisk in chunks of cold unsalted butter, one at a time, into a hot sauce. The sauce must not boil or the butter emulsion will split. The finished sauce has a velvety texture and rich flavour.

Beurre manié

Is a paste made by kneading butter and flour together which can be crumbled over and quickly whisked into a simmering sauce. It can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. A ratio of fifty grammes of butter to seventy-five grammes of plain flour will thicken one litre of sauce.

Liaison

This is a mixture of cream and egg yolks, used to thicken soups and sauces. Never add directly to hot liquids or the eggs will cook out and scramble. Temper the liaison by adding a small amount of the hot sauce to it which gradually raises the temperature, then whisk this mixture back into the remaining sauce. DO NOT BOIL and serve straight away. This is a very rich method of finishing classic sauces.

Reduction

Demi-glace reduction
A Demi-glace reduction

This is the same as the American term “cooking down” … as the stock or sauce simmers water vapour evaporates. This thickens the sauce and intensifies the flavour. Use a large heavy pot and bring the liquid or sauce to a gentle simmer, a vigorous boiling may burn the sauce and evaporate volatile flavourings. Many of the sauces found in modern cuisine are based on reductions see Demi-glace.

Slurry

A slurry is a mixture of a starch and cold water. You can use cornstarch for thickening milk or dairy sauces, arrowroot used to thicken fruits juices because of the clear, glossy finished result on fruit tarts, potato starch, rice flour, wheat flour or dried powdered yam. The ration is one-part starch with two parts cold water. Always remove the sauce from the heat before adding the slurry to stop the starch cooking in thin streams or ribbons and not mixing. Then return to the heat stirring continuously.

Roux

A roux is a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. It is traditionally used to thicken the classical French Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole sauces and in Cajun and Creole cooking. The roux is made from equal parts wheat flour and either butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings or lard which are cooked together with or without colouring. In Cajun cuisine, the roux is almost always made with oil or lard instead of butter, which would burn and is dark brown in colour, adding greatly to the flavour of the finished sauce. In regional American cuisine, bacon is sometimes rendered to produce the fat to use in a roux for extra flavour, in recipes such a sausage gravy. In the case of meat gravies, fat rendered from meat is often used to make a pan gravy.

Roux.jpg

Cooking the roux produces the correct chemical structure to thicken the sauce and starts to remove the floury taste from the finished sauce. A light roux of flour and butter, cooked for two or three minutes without colouring is used in the traditional béchamel sauce. Cooking until the mixture becomes golden in colour and sandy in texture produces a blonde roux the base of velouté sauces. Darker roux can range from light brown to chocolate in colour and add a distinct nutty flavour to a dish. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has, a chocolate roux has about a quarter of the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux.

The golden rules when thickening a roux based sauce is to allow the roux to cool slightly after cooking and use a liquid that is just off the boil to make combining the ingredients much easier. The sauce will then need to very gently simmer for at least thirty minutes to cook out and eliminate any floury taste. The resulting sauce will be smooth, rich and creamy in texture.