In 2002 I got a call from The Independent Magazine's then food and drink editor Caroline Stacey, asking me whether I would like to take over Simon Hopkinson's column. I thought about it for about five seconds and replied that of course I would! I jumped at the idea of writing weekly recipes.
I had always hankered after a column in a national paper or magazine – so this was the most important phone call I had received that year. I was slightly nervous, however, about stepping into Hoppy's shoes, as he had such an amazing reputation as a chef and food writer.
One good thing, however, was that Simon Hopkinson's style of cooking and philosophy on food was very close to mine, and so I just had to follow in his footsteps as best I could. I was also one of Hoppy's devoted readers, so at the beginning it was tricky finding recipes that he hadn't already done in the magazine. I often had to go back to the drawing board when Caroline reminded me that Simon had recently done something similar.
So this week I find myself not scratching around for new recipes that Hoppy hasn't already done, but instead including recipes from his wonderful new book, Week In Week Out, which is a collection of dishes from his long stint on the Independent Magazine – from 1994 to 2002. And it therefore felt natural to dedicate this week's column to the great writer who unwittingly gave me the opportunity to follow on from where he left off.
Michael Birkett, who was a great friend of Simon's for years, was the catalyst for the book. As Hoppy says in his introduction, he had the idea after he saw Michael's collection of newspaper cuttings of his recipes over the years. It reminded Simon that great recipes just don't date.
I've had to concentrate really hard on making sure that I've copied Hoppy's recipes line for line, because I must admit that the last time I did a Hopkinson recipe I left out a crucial ingredient – the eggs in the Harry's Bar pancakes. Sadly, only one person wrote in to point out the error, which means either you were all very polite, or that you just aren't bothering to cook the recipes.
Next week's column will be in similar vein, as Jason Lowe has also decided to write a cookery book – with his wife Lori de Mori, on Tuscan cuisine – and I will be featuring recipes from it.
Ceps fried with potatoes, garlic and parsley
Fresh ceps (Boletus edulis) are referred to as porcini (little pigs) in Italian. At around £25 per kilo, they're not cheap, but they are in season now, so if you know where to go to forage for them, then so much the better. This is one of those dishes in which Hoppy and I share our simple approach to food. If you find yourself in possession of fresh ceps, foraged or purchased, they will need very little doing to them. Simon's new book has its own little deserved section on ceps, featuring very simple and delicious recipes.
200g fresh firm ceps (more if you wish), cleaned and thickly sliced
200g waxy potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced small
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp freshly chopped parsley
A squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan until moderately hot (a non-stick pan is good here, to prevent occasional sticking). Throw in the ceps and potatoes, season and immediately start to toss them around in the oil, while also stirring briskly with the aid of a wooden spoon to both separate and nicely gild each component; this will take several minutes. Keeping them on a moderately brisk heat, now add the butter and garlic. Continue to fry and agitate the ceps and potatoes while the butter melts and froths, so allowing the garlic to slightly cook and colour a little. Finally, stir in the parsley and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Serve at once, tipped on to a hot serving dish.
Ray with potatoes and red wine vinaigrette
Simon originally used skate in this recipe, but now that we chefs are encouraged to find more sustainable alternatives, I've taken the liberty of changing the title; and ray is very similar. I've tried to choose recipes that Hoppy hasn't lifted from other cookery writers so that you can get a feel for what his cooking is about. All chefs nick each other's ideas, so it can be hard to know where certain ideas originated. But it's all about believing in the ingredients you're cooking with and have cooked with for years, and as Simon says in this case, he believes in the combination of ray and red wine. Those fish lovers out there who believe that the only match for fish is white wine might be surprised to learn that meaty textured fish can withstand a good light red wine. I think it's time to counter that old-fashioned wine snobbery so that the public can experience interesting and different combinations of flavours.
1 ray wing weighing 250-300g
Salt and pepper
2-3 medium-sized potatoes (red-skinned if possible), steamed or boiled and then peeled
A little olive oil
Spring onions or snipped chives
For the vinaigrette
200ml red wine
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small bay leaf
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
50-75ml olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add salt and a splash of any old vinegar. Slip the wing into the water, bring back to a bare simmer, cover and then switch off the heat. Leave to finish cooking on the hot water. Thickly slice the cooked potatoes and fry ever so gently in a frying pan using a little olive oil, turning them occasionally until lightly gilded on each side.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Put the red wine and vinegar into a small, stainless-steel saucepan together with the shallot, bay leaf and sugar. Bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce by about three quarters. Allow to cool in the pan, season and then whisk in the olive oil as if making a normal vinaigrette. Add lemon juice to taste, then strain the result into a small bowl.
To serve, arrange the potatoes on to two hot plates. Lift the fish from its cooking liquor, ease off the flesh from the cartilage in thick strips and lay on to the potatoes. Spoon the vinaigrette over each serving and scatter with the spring onions or chives. Delicious eaten with a large dollop of garlic mayonnaise (aioli). Perfect as a simple supper or light lunch.
Grilled veal kidneys with creamed onions and sage
Week In Week Out has its own little section on kidneys called " Particular Treats". Kidneys are also one of my particular treats, especially veal kidneys. This dish, like many of Simon's, has a very old-fashioned yet modern feel about it, which is something that Simon excels at.
3 large Spanish onions, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
50ml white wine vinegar
100ml medium dry white wine
400ml whipping cream
2 whole sprigs of sage
A few extra sage leaves, chopped
A little olive oil
2 veal kidneys, trimmed and cut into 1cm-thick slices
Melt the butter in a roomy pan and add the onions. Season and allow them to stew gently, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes, or until very soft and melting. Stir occasionally and be careful not to allow the onions to catch or colour.
Add the white wine vinegar and continue to simmer until there is no trace left of any liquid whatsoever.
Now add the wine and similarly simmer away, but this time arrest cooking a few minutes before the wine has fully evaporated. Pour in the cream and stir in the sage sprigs.
Finally, bring the mixture to its final simmer and leave to stew for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Do not let the onions catch; use one of those heat-diffuser pads if you have one. Pick out the sage sprigs and discard, then stir in the extra chopped leaves. Cover the onions and keep warm. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy frying pan until almost smoking-hot. Season the slices of kidney and briefly sear on each side until golden; the entire operation – possibly in two batches – should not take much more than several minutes to achieve a nice pink interior to the kidneys.
Spoon the onions on to hot plates and lay the slices of kidney on top. Serve without delay.
St Clement's cream
St Clement's was a drink I always remember having when I was a kid down at the local golf club in Bridport, and I was at that in-between age when I wasn't quite old enough to partake in alcohol but I wanted something a little more interesting as a tipple. At this time of year, it can be a struggle to come up with a fruity dessert – and this oranges and lemons combination from Simon's new book fits the bill perfectly.
For the creams
Juice of 2 large oranges
500ml double cream
100g caster sugar
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Grated rind of 1 large orange
Juice of 2 lemons
For the orange jelly
1 large leaf of gelatine (3g)
150ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Juice of half a lemon
1tbsp Grand Marnier (optional, but it does give the jelly a better flavour, not to mention the colour)
Put the orange juice into a small saucepan and, over a low heat, reduce until syrupy – by about three-quarters, I guess. Put to one side. Bring the cream, sugar and rinds of the two fruits to the boil in a large pan (the size of the pan is important here, to allow for the expansion of the cream as it boils). Boil all together for exactly 2 minutes. Take off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and reduced orange juice. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Now strain everything through a fine sieve into a bowl and then ladle into ramekins. Chill for at least 4 hours.
To make the jelly, first soften the gelatine in cold water until soft. Bring the orange and lemon juice just to the boil, noted particularly by the moment when a scum forms on the surface. Immediately strain through muslin into a clean pan and stir in the softened gelatine while the juice is still hot. Add the Grand Marnier. Cool to room temperature and then spoon a tablespoonful over the surface of each cream. Return to the fridge to chill for a further hour before serving.Reuse content