20 November 2017

How to Make a Delicious Pan Sauce in Minutes!

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I don’t often watch cooking programmes on the telly but yesterday, accidentally, I watched and enjoyed Rick Stein’s Long Weekends where he visited Bordeaux.  One dish he ate there was steak in a rich sauce of shallots, bone marrow and Bordeaux wine  which got me both drooling and thinking.

Pan sauces are so quick, so easy and so perfect for seared meats I thought I’d explain the method, the stages, the reasoning and give some good examples to get you started.

Quantities given are for one steak, pork chop, chicken breast, lamb chop or whatever.

Pan Searing

The reason you should sear meat is to brown it causing what is known as the Maillard reaction which, in short, makes it tasty! The browned and caramelised drippings that are stuck to the bottom of a pan are known as the fond which is French for base. They are, indeed, the base of a great sauce. to make the most of it ALWAYS deglaze the pan after cooking meat – see below. (In this picture I was browning meat for a stew, where the maillard reaction is also important, but it is the same principal - just smaller lumps of meat!)

~   The meat should be patted dry and lightly seasoned before you start to cook it.
~   The best fat to use is a combination of 1 tbsp olive oil and a teaspoon of butter per steak or other piece of meat. On its own butter might burn but mixed with oil it will add its flavour without burning.
~   When pan frying ALWAYS get the pan good and hot before adding oil and then get the oil good and hot before adding the meat.
~   If cooking more than one piece of meat ALWAYS leave plenty of room between pieces, otherwise what they will actually do is steam rather than fry and they'll end up pallid and soggy.
~   When turning meat use tongs rather than a fork to manipulate it so as not to pierce it allowing valuable juices to be lost.
~   If the meat seems stuck to the pan when you want to turn it wait a little while; once a good crust has formed it will release itself from the pan, providing you dried the meat properly before cooking.


Resting Meat

Pan seared meat should always be set aside in a warm place, lightly covered with foil, for 10 minutes or so, during which time the fibres of the meat will relax, juices re-distribute and the meat will become tender and succulent. While the meat is relaxing you will have plenty of time to make the sauce.

Adding Aromatics – maybe!

This stage is optional but adding appropriate aromatics such as very finely chopped shallots, onions or garlic, spices can add a lot to a sauce. Here’s what you do …

~   Pour off any excess fat being careful not to disturb any of the fond.
~   Over medium heat add your aromatics and stir for 2-3 minutes till vegetables have soften and spices have “bloomed” which means they have released their volatile oils and smell gorgeous.

Deglazing the Pan

~   Add a about 100ml of appropriate liquid to the pan. – red wine or beef stock for beef and lamb, white wine or chicken stock for pork and poultry- get the idea? Try Madeira with steak, sherry or balsamic vinegar also work well in some instances. Even water is a lot better than nothing!
~   Bring it to a simmer scraping up anything the fond that that has stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Reducing the Liquid

~   Cook stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon till all these yummy bits have dissolved into the liquid and continue cooking till the liquid has thickened and is syrupy enough to lightly coat the wooden spoon.

You now have a fine sauce which will be delicious served with your lump of protein, but you can go one step further and make it even better!

Finish the Sauce

Add a generous knob of butter or a splash of cream and stir in. Butter will not only add flavour and lushness it also makes the sauce glossy. Cream makes it ... creamier. Here's an idea - you could use a deliciously and appropriately flavoured butter! Oh and don't boil the sauce after adding butter.

Taste & Season

Whether or not you have enriched the sauce now is the time to taste and season with salt and whatever else you fancy and is appropriate e.g. black pepper, a dash of hot sauce, a spoonful of apple sauce (great for pork) fresh chopped herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a little whole grain mustard or whatever.

Serve immediately with the well-rested meat. Pan sauces tend to be rich, you don’t need a great deal, just a few spoonsful.

So that’s how to do it - lots to read but not much to do! – and here’s a few ideas.

Pan Sauce Suggestions

Pan Sauces for Pork

Apple Cider Sauce - deglaze with chicken stock and/or dry cider and, once reduced add a spoonful of apple sauce and a little chopped fresh sage.
~   Honey Mustard Sauce – deglaze with chicken sauce, reduce then add a spoonful of runny honey and a spoonful of whole grain mustard.

Pan Sauces for Steak

~   Shallot Sauce - cook a finely chopped shallot in the pan at the aromatic stage and deglaze with red wine and/or beef stock, maybe add a teaspoon of Dijon or wholegrain mustard or even a teaspoon of black garlic. Finish with butter.
~   Peppered Steak - coat the steak with freshly and coarsely ground black pepper before pan frying. Deglaze the pan with beef stock and a little brandy.  Finish with cream.
~   Caramelised Onion Sauce - deglaze with beef stock and/or red wine, reduce and then stir in a spoonful of onionscooked my favourite way. Finish with butter.

Pan Sauces for Lamb

~   Red Wine & Rosemary Sauce – cook a finely chopped garlic clove at the Aromatics stage, deglaze with red wine, reduce the sauce till it coats the wooden spoon. Stir in a little freshly finely minced rosemary and finish with a little butter.
~   Minty Pan Sauce – as above but instead of the rosemary and parsley add a spoonful of mint sauce. 
~   Roasted Garlic Sauce – deglaze the pan with a light chicken or vegetable stock, reduce and then squeeze in a couple of roasted garlic cloves.  Finish with butter.

Pan Sauces for Chicken

~   Tarragon Sauce - deglaze with white wine and/or chicken stock. Finish with cream and maybe a handful of finely chopped tarragon.
~   Garlicky Mushroom Sauce - at the aromatics stage add a very finely chopped garlic clove and a handful of quartered mushrooms and sauté till the mushrooms are browning.  Deglaze with white wine and finish with cream.
~   Lemon Sauce - deglaze with chicken stock, reduce, then add a squeeze of lemon, some freshly chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon.  You could add some capers – but I wouldn’t because I don’t like them!

Of course these are all just suggestion, follow the steps and make up your own sauces.

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13 November 2017

Simple Homemade Dumplings from Scratch

My last post (an unconscionable 2 weeks ago) was about comfort food for the winter but I forgot to mention dumplings!

If you have made a casserole or stew you can, with very little time, effort or money, add some delicious, light, fluffy (but comforting) dumplings.

I often make 8 or 9 of these for my real man, a Geordie lad, to eat with his minced beef or chicken stew and every time I make them he looks surprised and says, “nice dumplings!” which is possibly the greatest compliment he has ever given me!


Sorry about the quality of this picture - it was a bit steamy. 


This makes about 12 dumplings, so enough for 1½ Geordies or 3-4 “normal” people.

Have your delicious stew, which you have already made, at a simmer before making the dumplings.

225g/8oz self-raising flour
225g/8oz plain flour + 1 rounded tsp baking powder (about 8g/a scant ½oz)
half a teaspoon of salt
60g/2½oz cold butter or margarine
100ml/3½ fl oz milk

~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder (if using).
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved (see below).
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest. Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~  R
oll the dough into walnut sized balls and, as you form them drop, spaced out a bit so they don’t touch, into the simmering stew. 
~   Turn down the heat, cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes till the dumplings are risen and firm.
~   Take the lid off the pot and allow to steam for a couple more minutes to dry out the tops of the dumplings.

How to Rub In

This is just lightly rubbing the flour and the fat between your fingertips till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.


~   If you use butter cut it up into small pieces first for easier rubbing in, margarine being softer doesn’t need this.
~   Hold your hands a little above the bowl so that the flour and fat stays cool, airy and flaky. Be gentle with it!
~   Shake the bowl occasionally which will cause larger pieces of fat
to be revealed ready for rubbing in.

You can also do this in a food processor using the pulse button, but it hardly seems worth the faff for a few dumplings or whatever. It is quick and easy and more controllable by hand.


This is the very same easy dough that I use to make scones, biscuits, rock buns, doughnuts, cobbles, griddle cakes and more and which I have written about in my book The Secret Life of Scones.

Dumpling Variations

Of course, you can add all sorts of things to your basic dumpling dough, for instance …

~   herbs, spices, garlic, mustard, grated cheese, seeds and so on.
~   maybe sprinkle the cooked dumplings with cheese or breadcrumbs or panko crumbs or a mixture and pop under a hot grill to crisp up.
~   you could even put a nugget of something (a flavoured butter, for instance, or a piece of cheese) into the middle of the dumplings so long as you make sure the dough is completely sealed around it. 


You can also make sweet dumplings, of course, including Grand-Père – a superb Canadian dish of little dumplings simmered in diluted maple syrup. By the time they are cooked the syrup has concentrated back into a glorious sticky goo which coats the dumplings and makes you happy! The recipe is in my above-mentioned book; The Secret Life of Scones.

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Leftover Dumplings

The best way I know of re-heating dumplings is to cut them in half and then fry, cut side down, in a little butter or oil till crisp and golden and hot through.  Place on top of your dish, as in this picture of roasted tomato soup with fried dumplings, crisp side up.

Dumpling Eaters

I recently downloaded A Learned Dissertation on Dumpling:Its Dignity, Antiquity and Excellence  which starts with the surprising sentence (well, I didn’t know this) …


The dumpling-eaters are a race sprung partly from the old Epicurean and partly from the Peripatetic Sect; they were first brought into Britain by Julius Caesar; and finding it a Land of Plenty, they wisely resolved never to go home again.

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31 October 2017

Comfort Foods ~ 'cos it's going to get colder!

As I sit here writing this, in Cornwall, the sun is streaming in and it is warm enough to sit outside in the garden, without a jumper!  I’d be there now if only I could see the screen in all that sunshine. Oh, and we have poppies and primroses in flower – does anyone know if that is normal?

I understand, however, that it is soon to be become a lot colder, so I thought I’d post a list of some of my favourite “rib sticking” recipes.  


The first one I thought of was Penne Pasta in a Creamy Blue Cheese Sauce with Roasted Pears but the original post seemed to have disappeared so I re-did it and posted it yesterday.

Here are some other recipes I think could have a lovely warming effect on a cold day.


Potato & Smoked Salmon Gratin

I have to say, even though it is my recipe, that this is gorgeous – must make it again soon! The recipe for this lovely salmon gratin in here.


Melted Onion Panade

A thick, warm, comforting, cheap and utterly delicious sort of French Onion Soup / Bread Pudding Cross! 


Lamb & Leek Hotpot

A hotpot is a hearty one pot dish of meat, onions, potatoes and rich stock slowly baked together till lush as in this recipe for Lamb & Leek Hotpot. Perfect for chilly weather.


Red Wine Braised Lamb


And soup - obviously!

If you are familiar with Sudden Lunch you will know that I have written a lot about soup including a whole book! SOUP (almost) the only Recipe You Will Ever Need, but I think one of the loveliest for warming purposes is ...


Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Soup

Manly Marmalade Bread Pudding

Not the wobbly creamy bread and butter pudding type thing (although that recipe is in the same post) but lovely rib-sticking bread pud!


Toffee Apple Crumble

This is the best Apple Crumble I have ever made - perfect for the windfalls that are ubiquitous just now!

Oh and there's some fine Comfort Food here too - with benefits!

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30 October 2017

Penne in a Creamy Blue Cheese Sauce with Roasted Pears

Firstly, an admission ~ I wanted to refer back to the post about this lovely blue cheese pasta recipe which I wrote in 2010 but the whole thing seems to have disappeared!   So, instead I referred back to my old Sudden Lunch! files and have repeated the whole thing, virtually verbatim, here! 
I had lunch for dinner last night - makes a change! The reason being that I was out all day and was absolutely starving, darlings, by the time I got in. So, my evening lunch was whipped up quickly out of a few things I had laying around the place, notably some award winning and scrummy Cornish Blue Cheese and some Butterscotch Roasted Pears. I was not that surprised, therefore, when I made this dish as it is an old standby of mine. 

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Years ago, at work, I did a dessert of Butterscotch Baked Pears. It sold well but I found I was left with a couple of portions; too small an amount to offer on the evening’s menu but too big to throw away. (Actually, I think almost everything is too big to throw away – I can’t abide waste, my dears, which is why I wrote The Leftovers Handbook!

Anyhoo, the upshot is that I stirred the pears into a Gorgonzola sauce I had made, and it was divine. One customer trailed sadly after me for weeks until I gave him the recipe (I was a little embarrassed).  The reason I had some of these pears laying around last night is that I was making some Butterscotch Pear Ice Cream (see Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine for the recipe!).

The basic Pasta in Blue Cheese Sauce recipe, for which I now use the wonderful Cornish Blue, goes thus …

Penne Pasta in  Blue Cheese Alfredo for 2

200ml double cream
15g butter
25g freshly grated Parmesan
50g crumbled Cornish Blue Cheese (or Gorgonzola, Cambozola, Stilton, etc)
salt and pepper to taste - I myself, personally, would be heavy on freshly ground black pepper
225g (raw weight) penne (or other) pasta - cooked

~   Gently heat the butter and the cream together, stirring, till the butter has melted into the cream.
~   Add the 50g of shredded Parmesan and the blue cheese and stir till melted.
~   Slowly bring almost to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat and simmer gently, still stirring quite a lot but only for a minute or so, maybe less, till you have a smooth creamy sauce.
~   Toss together with the cooked pasta till all hot.
~   Stir in a handful of butterscotch baked pears or, perhaps, sprinkle with crunchy toasted walnuts.

Butterscotch Baked Pears

500g ripe but still a little firm pears – about 4
85g butter
85g soft light brown sugar
pinch of salt

~   Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Peel and core and halve, slice or dice the pears according to how you intend serving them.
~   Put the butter, sugar and salt into a shallow oven proof dish and heat in the oven for a few minutes till melted.
~   Turn the pears in the buttery goo to coat.
~   Cover with foil and bake for about 45 - 60 minutes till the pears are tender and reclining in a butterscotch sauce.

Serve with ice cream or cream, in cakes, pancakes, etc. or add to the above pasta dish.

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2 October 2017

Banana Bread ~ but not as we know it, Jim

WARNING ~ this is a very short post, don't fall off the end!


The other day I picked up this interesting little book which was printed in 1965.  It was written by Mrs Eva Pendaeli-Sarakikya and Sister Agnes Blaster.  The first lady collected recipes that “were African in character” and the secon lady collected “the other recipes” which appear to be those from English ex-pats, things such as Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich Filling or Lemon Meringue Pie.

Some of the African are strange and interesting and many of them remind me of my years in the Caribbean where often people still cook the traditional foods of Africa.

The reason I am writing this small post, however, is this very interesting recipe …

Banana Yeast!

2 ripe plantains (large type bananas)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 heaped tablespoon wheat flour
½ teacup lukewarm water

1.   Peel and thoroughly mash the bananas in a basin.
2    Add sugar and then the flour and mix well.
3.   Add the water and stir well.
4.   Pour this into a bottle with a cork.  Leave in a cool place until it starts to ferment.
5.   This amount is enough to raise 2lb of flour.

I am very tempted to try this but, sadly, I am Bananaphobic.   Maybe I’ll man-up some time and give it a go.  In the meantime, if anyone else fancies making this – please do let me know the result.

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18 September 2017

Did you ever do this with Ketchup?


You probably already know loads of ways to use this; some people put it on everything! But it's not only good on a vast range of foods it can be used also as an ingredient in many dishes.

~   Tomato based sauces, soups and stews, e.g. chilli con carne, can taste a little sharp – a spoonful or two of ketchup will fix this.

~   A surprisingly good instant pizza sauce can be made by mixing together equal parts of tomato ketchup and tomato paste. I know it sounds a bit lame but try it! Add a little hot sauce or chipotle paste if you wish.  Oh, and see here for my easy and flexible pizza base recipe.

~   Sauce Marie Rose – this is the classic Prawn Cocktail sauce and can be made simply by mixing together 120g mayonnaise and 1½ tbsp tomato ketchup. If you wish, add a squeeze of lemon juice, maybe a drip or two of hot sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce or, although not normally considered a condiment, a splash of brandy is good in this too!

~   Cocktail Sauce – this is a stronger tasting sauce for seafood.  Simply mix 250ml ketchup with a teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce, a teaspoon of horseradish sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and season if needed. You might wish to add a little hot sauce.

~   Seafood Alfredo – add a squirt of ketchup to Alfredo Sauce plus perhaps a little brandy, stir in some cooked seafood in and toss with pasta.

Carolina Red Slaw

This is how they make coleslaw in Lexington, North Carolina …

160ml tomato ketchup
120ml cider vinegar
150g caster sugar
a dash of hot sauce - optional
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium cabbage

~   Mix together the first three ingredients.
~   Taste and add hot sauce, salt and pepper till it is utterly delicious.
~   Finely shred the cabbage and toss with the dressing.
~   Chill till needed.

See here for my basic coleslaw recipe plus good ideas to vary it.

Speaking of American chaps here are two more of their traditional recipes …

Catalina Dressing

This is quite sweet and often used to dress Taco Salad.

60ml ketchup
60ml white wine vinegar
½ small onion– very finely chopped or even grated, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
120ml vegetable oil
salt and pepper and maybe a little hot sauce to taste

~   Mix everything, except the salt, pepper and optional hot sauce, together vigorously. A blender would be a good idea if you can be bothered with the subsequent clean up.
~   Taste and season deliciously.
~   Chill till needed.

Sloppy Joes

Serves 4

This is a bit sweet too but it works, brown sugar goes well with beef.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
half a green pepper (traditional) or red pepper (nicer) – finely chopped
1 garlic clove – very finely chopped
600g minced beef
½ tsp Dijon mustard
160ml tomato ketchup
3 teaspoons soft dark brown sugar
150ml hot water
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
(this seems to be standard in ketchup-using recipes!)
4 burger buns – split

~   Heat the oil, add the onion and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, till it starts to soften and maybe even brown slightly.
~   Add the garlic and cook a minute or so more.
~   Stir in the beef, turn up the heat, and cook, stirring a bit, till the beef has turned brown.
~   Stir in the mustard, ketchup and sugar and when well combined add the hot water.
~   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary – the mixture should be thick and saucy, not dry.
~   Taste and season.
~   Serve hot in the burger buns.


BBQ Sauce

This is good brushed onto sausages, burgers, ribs, kebabs, chicken or whatever you have on your barbecue.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small red onion – finely chopped
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
300ml tomato ketchup
50ml soy sauce
55g soft dark brown sugar
salt, pepper and, guess what?  Hot sauce!

~   In a small pan gently cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil till tender.
~   Stir in the tomato ketchup, soy sauce and sugar and stir together over medium heat till the sugar has melted and the sauce is smooth.
~   Taste and season.

According to an article in the Telegraph 


Well if that is the case I have a suggestion for them.

You may remember I recently wrote a post on 38 ways to flavour mayonnaiseWell ketchup also lends itself to the addition of other flavours, thus becoming more exotic! This time I’ve only come up with a dozen ideas but I’m sure there are lots more – any ideas?

12 Flavoured Ketchup Ideas ...

In theory, my suggestions below are for 240ml ketchup but pretty well in all cases it is a matter of personal preference; add a little, taste and, if you wish, add a little more until it is yummy!

Caramelised Onion Ketchupsee here for how to caramelise onions  and when you have made some and they are cool mix (or even better, purée) into the ketchup in the proportions of about 1 part caramelised onion to 2 parts ketchup. 

Chipotle Ketchup – stir 1 teaspoon chipotle paste into the ketchup, a squeeze of lime would be good too if you have such a thing.

Curried Ketchup – add 1 teaspoon curry paste to the ketchup and stir briskly to combine.

Roasted Garlic Ketchup– mix or purée in 2-3 roasted garlic cloves.


Black Garlic Ketchup – as above but use 2 or 3 cloves black garlic. Read more about back garlic here. 

Balsamic Ketchup – stir in a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar and a little soft dark brown sugar.

Mexican – add 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander and chili powder plus the juice of a lime.

Chinese – add a tablespoon of soy sauce and a couple of teaspoons of 5-spice powder.


Caribbean Mango Ketchup – peel, dice and purée a fresh mango, mix with the ketchup and adjust flavour with lime juice and a little jerk seasoning.

Spanish-ish Pepper Ketchup – 1 roasted, peeled and finely chopped red pepper (or the equivalent from a jar), 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, ½ tsp smoked paprika and a dash of sherry vinegar.

Spicy Orange Ketchup – the zest and juice 1 orange and a little of either hot sauce or chipotle paste.

Sweet Chilli Ketchup – just stir in sweet chilli sauce till it tastes to your liking; probably about 3 or so tablespoons but up to you!


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