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Food: Executive Relief, August 2001

Easy posh dinners for people who value their time. This menu from Jonathan Green.

Virginia Hume

Topics Politics

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If you love good food and entertaining, but have better things to do than pore over recipe books, make lists, and then spend half a day in the kitchen with cooker, children, and smoke alarm competing for your attention, then you might be in need of Executive Relief.

Executive Relief will feature dinner party menus, with simple recipes designed to take minimal time and effort – while reaching the standard you would expect from a good restaurant.

You are invited to share your own dinner menus with spiked readers. The best, as judged by my dinner guests, will get a bottle of champagne. To take part, see the rules at the end.

This month’s menu comes from Jonathan Green, author of several books on language, and dubbed ‘Mr Slang’ by Martin Amis for compiling both The Cassell Dictionary of Slang and The Penguin Slang Thesaurus. Green is described by Jonathan Meades, restaurant critic with the The Times (London), as ‘a non-observant Jew who cooks nonetheless in the Ashkenazi tradition and does it brilliantly’. Do try this at home.

Warm Mushroom Salad

Salt Beef and Potato Latkes

Fresh Fruit Salad

Cheese

Warm Mushroom Salad

Serves 6

‘I have served this in summer and winter, for large numbers and small.’

2 pkts mixed salad leaves or similar; 750 gm mixed mushrooms, eg, oyster, field, shiitake; 500 gm broad beans; 1 handful pine nuts; 2 large cloves garlic; 1 red onion; bunch of parsley (and/or other fresh herbs); 3 large/4 medium lemons; sunflower or similar oil (not olive); salt & pepper

Clean and roughly slice mushrooms. Finely chop garlic. Lightly boil broad beans, leave to cool, and remove outer shells. Arrange leaves on six plates.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan or wok. Add mushrooms and garlic; toss in hot oil, adding more oil if necessary (mushrooms are very absorbent), then season.

Squeeze juice of the lemons on to the mushrooms, adding it to the mushroom juice/oil mix in the pan. Once cooked, keep warm on low heat.

Divide the broad beans and mushrooms on to the prepared plates. Pour a generous amount of the warm liquid over each one. Sprinkle with pine nuts, chopped parsley or herbs, and add fine slices of red onion. Serve while still warm, with French bread. NB: A ‘heavier’ version of the
salad adds in chunks of feta cheese.

Wine suggestion – ‘I have tried Retsina with the en-Feta’ed version (accentuating the Greek feel), but in the end any dry white works. For the sake of argument, Montagny Premier Cru (Majestic Wine’s Louis Latour version) is always dependable.’

Salt Beef and Potato Latkes

Serves 6 (generously)

Salt Beef

‘You will probably have to order your beef, and the chunk will arrive in a sealed polythene bag, as packaged by the wholesaler. Salt beef shrinks during cooking so there is no point in getting a smaller amount, say 4lbs. Whatever is left over can be eaten cold and in sandwiches. Despite the quantity it shouldn’t be very expensive – salt beef isn’t fillet.’

1 piece of salt beef, approximately 8 to 10lbs; 6 bay leaves; handful of black peppercorns; handful of cloves; 2 onions, whole and unpeeled; 6 medium carrots

Take the polythene bag off and rinse the beef under a cold tap until the slight sliminess of the brine in which it has been soaked has been washed away. Place in a large pan, capable of holding the beef and fully submerging it in water. The pan needs a properly fitting lid.

Peel the carrots. Stud the onions (which need not be peeled, although you may wish to ‘top and tail’ them) with the cloves (they are sharp enough to penetrate easily).

Place carrots, onions, bay leaves, peppercorns in pan with beef. For what I trust are obvious reasons, do not salt. Cover with cold water. Put on lid. Bring to the boil, skim off such detritus that has risen to the top (a slight foam) and reduce heat. Re-cover and simmer at reduced heat (a heat diffuser is useful to bring the temperature right down) for a minimum of
three hours. Three-and-a-half is fine. Ideally, if you want your beef hot/warm, the cooking should be timed to reach its end about 30 minutes before you want to eat.

Remove heat, let cool, then remove beef to chopping board and slice. Serve with mustard, horseradish, ‘chrain’ (the classic Jewish beetroot and horseradish mix) and gherkins (new green, sweet and sour or ‘haimish’, according to taste/availability).

Potato Latkes

3lb large potatoes; 1 large onion; 2 eggs; 3 tbsp self-raising or potato flour; salt and black pepper; sunflower and olive oil for cooking

Peel potatoes and leave to soak in a bowl of cold water for one hour.

Remove, pat dry and grate the potatoes and the onion into a bowl. This generates a large amount of liquid. Place the contents into a sieve and press down to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Leave in sieve to drain further.

In a large bowl beat the eggs; add salt. Squeeze the potato/onion mixture again and add to the beaten eggs. Sprinkle with flour and mix together. Add pepper.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan, or ideally (if your stove provides sufficient heat) a wok. (Woks are always good for deep frying and seem to saturate the food less than a flat frying pan.) Olive oil by itself cooks too fast; a mix with sunflower oil gives both heat and flavour. Drop
in tablespoonfuls of the mixture, then cook on a moderate heat until cooked through. Remove and drain on kitchen paper, and place in an ovenproof dish, which can be placed in a very low oven to keep the latkes warm until served. Repeat process until the mixture is all cooked.

Wine suggestion – traditional Jewish meals were not accompanied by wine, but in this
case any solid red, for example, a claret, will do. For a change try Villa Antinori Chianti Classico.

Fresh Fruit Salad

‘As a diabetic (I take my sugar in alcohol), I haven’t eaten a dessert since 1989. Nor have I cooked one. I would also suggest that most people find salt beef more than a little filling, so a rich pudding is not really on. If needs must, then a fresh fruit salad seems to work – just find the best fresh fruit available at the time. It should be pleasantly astringent after the richness of the beef.’

Cheese

‘No dessert perhaps, but always cheese. For all my comments about the filling capacities of salt beef, etc, I know of no cheese too rank or ripe. It is hard to legislate for those beyond one’s own area – and London is inevitably spoilt for such things – but try perhaps for some Roquefort, a small Livarot, and a harder cheese, perhaps Tomme de Chevre.’

Wine suggestion – ‘More Villa Antinori, and, if you’re feeling generous, some grappa to accompany the coffee.’

Shopping List

2 pkts mixed salad leaves or similar

750 gm. mixed mushrooms, eg, oyster, field, shiitake, etc

500 gm, broad beans

1 handful pine nuts

2 large cloves garlic

1 red onion

3 large white onions

bunch of parsley (and/or other fresh herbs)

3 large / 4 medium lemons

6 bay leaves

black peppercorns

cloves

6 medium carrots

8 -10lb piece Salt Beef

mustard
horseradish

‘chrain’ (the classic Jewish beetroot and horseradish mix)

gherkins (new green, sweet and sour or ‘haimish’ according to taste/availability)

3 lb large potatoes

2 eggs

self-raising or potato flour

salt and black pepper

sunflower oil

olive oil

fresh fruit for salad

Roquefort

Livarot

Tomme de Chevre

Montagny Premier Cru

Claret or Villa Antinori Chianti Classico

Grappa

Executive Relief: The rules

You are invited to share your dinner menus with spiked readers. The recipes do not have to be original – they just have to be good. Simply follow the rules below, and send your recipes to: virginia@vhume.demon.co.uk.

1) There should be at least three courses, only one of which needs to be cooked on the day of the dinner.

2) It should not be too fiddly or difficult – nothing that requires balloons, spun sugar or blowtorches.

3) You should suggest a wine for each course.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics

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