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There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .

The night Pierre Koffmann cooked for me

Beef Bourguignon - Pierre KoffmanI wish . . . but as you probably guessed he did not really cook for me.

Morrisons supermarkets launched a new range of ready meals this month and as part of the hype and publicity they got some of the big names in the food world to create a dish each. And they don't come much bigger than Pierre Koffmann of La Tante Claire fame. Obviously most of the dishes are created by the in-house chefs but it does add something of an endorsement to have big names involved.

The Pierre Koffmann dish is part of what Morrisons are calling the M Kitchen range – no prizes for originality although the quality of the food is more important than the name.

This is how Morrisons describes the range:

Five of today’s greatest chefs have developed a restaurant quality dish, especially for our M Kitchen range. From Pierre Koffmann's French classic, Beef Bourguignon, to Atul Kochhar's tasty Korma with rose petals, there's a delicious dish for everyone.

In fact there are five chef dishes as well as a whole host of others to choose from. These are the five chef dishes:

  • Pizza Calabrese - Aldo Zilli
    "This pizza is named after a region of Italy that I love, called Calabria. It’s one of the most underrated areas in Italy and is famous for its pigs, onions and fantastic types of sausage. Two Italian specialities are N’duja and salsiccia, which are types of sausage that I’ve used on this pizza."

  • Beef Bourguignon - Pierre Koffman
    "I created this dish in the same way that I would in my restaurant, with no expense spared when it came to the quality of the ingredients. We’ve used beef ox cheek as it’s so succulent and a good dark wine that will give a good colour to the sauce."

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon (beans not included)

  • Shepherd’s Pie - Bryn Williams
    "We’ve used a slightly larger mince to give the dish more texture, then added a bit of Madeira to the sauce. You could say it’s the chef in me – I’m just taking my mum’s recipe and giving it a twist. Madeira helps to cut through the fattiness of the lamb and actually helps to bring out the flavour."

  • Lancashire Hotpot - Nigel Haworth
    "We’ve used a mixture of diced lamb leg and neck cuts as each has a different flavour and texture. We’ve also used King Edward potatoes for the perfect crispy top. This is the exact recipe I use for all my hotpots, whether I’m making them at home for my family or at the restaurant."

  • Chicken Korma - Atul Kochhar
    "To give the dish lots of flavour, the fresh chicken pieces are marinated and then chargrilled before cooking through in the sauce. And to make the sauce really authentic, I’ve added garam masala, cashew nut purée and green cardamom powder."

The best part of it all is the Freddie Flintoff video promoting the new range.

Morrisons have obviously invested a lot of effort into the range (and there is a lot more than the famous chef dishes) so what are they like?

My wife and I tried two of them. The first, which strangely is not listed on the Morrisons web site, was from the Bistro section and called Duck Cassoulet with tomatoes, cannellini beans, sausage, pancetta and vegetables cooked gently in a 'sous vide' bag to seal in the flavours. We also had the Bistro Potato Dauphinoise to go with it. I am all for cooking your own meals but there are times when you just do not have the time or just feel too tired. I have to say this was very good and would certainly be something we will have again when we do not feel like cooking. Definitely a recommendation.

Having enjoyed the duck it made sense to try another one (giving me two nights of very little cooking) and the choice was Pierre Koffman's Beef Bourguignon. This came with mashed potato and was served with some garlic ciabatta on the side. This was something of a disappointment. The taste of the dish was excellent but unfortunately one of the bags leaked whilst being heated in a pan of boiling water and half the sauce was lost. Fortunately no water got in but when you are looking forward to a full plate . . .

The range is currently promotionally priced but even when it starts selling at normal price it still represents good value both in terms of how much it would cost to cook for yourself and also compared to the cost of buying a takeaway.

I think we will try Atul Kochhar's Chicken Korma next.

Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.


Paella Stock – a bone of contention

Traditional Spanish PaellaPaella is probably the most controversial recipe in Spain, die hard purists will insist that the ‘authentic’ Valencian recipe is the real paella whereas others will say that paella is one of those versatile dishes which will accommodate any number of ingredients. In short (unless you are a purist) there are no hard and fast rules, indeed just like Mama used to make does not necessarily result in the most authentic Spanish paella nor does it mean that it is a bad one either – consider Fideua a paella made with pasta which also originates from Valencia . . . pity the poor soul who many decades ago forgot the rice for the family paella yet in the end redeemed himself by creating a paella with pasta.

Paella is and will continue to be one of those dishes which over time will adapt depending on the chef or budding cook who wants to test his or her culinary skills recreating the most famous dish from Spain. To create a good paella we need to go back to the building blocks of any rice based dish and that is liquid, or in this case good stock. Most paella kits on the market these days will contain stock cubes which are fine, they do the job but for a really good paella home made stock will make all the difference so pop those chicken carcasses into a bag and freeze for later or boil up and make the stock first and pop that in the freezer too.

Home made stock is by far the best for flavour however there is an alternative method to making a paella stock, particularly if you are using meats such as chicken or pork. The majority of paella recipes include meat and the best way to serve meat in your paella is on the bone. Using meat on the bone such as chicken pieces, pork rib, rabbit, etc will add much more flavour, help prevent the meat from drying out and offer a good stock whilst being cooked in the pan prior to the addition of the rice. Making a quick stock this way may go against the grain for many paella enthusiasts/makers but in Spain this is the way stock is made for meat paella. It does however pay to keep some extra stock aside in case more is required but in the main all of that lovely flavour comes from both the meat and the bones with the simple addition of water.

Easy as paella! The technique for creating perfect paella stock:

  1. Fry your chosen meat in garlic until browned all over.
  2. Add vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
  3. When the ingredients begin to stick add warm water.

By adding the warm water to all of the ingredients you achieve much more flavour both through the meat on the bone and also the fried vegetables which results in a hearty meat stock with all the goodness from peppers, tomatoes, garlic, beans or whatever you may be adding. This is a simple technique for what is essentially a very simple dish just remember to ladle in your hot water counting as you go as the general rule for standard paella rice is 2 parts water to 1 part rice. The difference in making stock this way will certainly impact on the flavour of your Spanish paella. Give it a go next time and you will not be disappointed!

Spanish ingredients >>>


I just love crabI have made a dish like this many times over the years but as so often happens I am too busy to bother writing it down at the time. The next time I want to make it I have to reinvent it. I know it is never the same, although not why, but it always makes a great starter . . . and it is easy to do. This time I did write it down!



1 medium size dressed crab
50g butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 red chilli finely chopped
1 small glass of sherry
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 heaped tsp English mustard
150ml crème fraiche
Freshly ground pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
Parmesan cheese, grated
50g breadcrumbs or crunchy topping*

*such as Jamie Oliver's Herb Crust

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C / Gas mark 5.

  • Chop your white crab meat into smaller pieces and mix with brown meat.

  • Using a suitable pan for sautéing add the butter.

  • Add the shallot and sauté until it softens but do not allow it to brown.

  • Add the sherry and boil for a few seconds, then add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and bring back to the boil.

  • Stir in the mustard and then add the crème fraiche.

  • Simmer the mixture for about three or four minutes.

  • Gratin dishAdd the crab meat to the sauce and mix thoroughly together.

  • Season as required with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

  • Divide the mixture between two suitable oven proof dishes.

  • Sprinkle with breadcrumbs or the crunchy topping and then with a light covering of Parmesan cheese.

  • Place the dishes on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes.

  • Serve hot.

Serves 2




25g butter
1 onion, chopped
5 sticks celery, roughly chopped
300ml milk
300ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp cornflour
75g Stilton cheese, crumbled
50ml single cream

How to make:

  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and celery, sauté until soft.

  • Add most of the milk and all of the stock, simmer for 20 minutes.

  • Once cooked, liquidise the soup until smooth.

  • Return to the saucepan and bring back to the boil.

  • Blend the cornflour with the remaining milk, stir into the soup and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • Reduce the heat and stir in the Stilton.

  • Pour into soup bowls and garnish with a swirl of cream.

Serves 4


Wine Tasting22nd November 2011 - Annual Christmas Wine Tasting

On Tuesday 22nd November from 6:30pm, online wine retailer will be hosting their annual Christmas wine tasting at The Chelsea Gardener at 125 Sydney Street, Kings Road, London, SW3 6NR.

FromVineyardsDirect invite guests to get into the festive spirit with canapés and wine in the attractive setting of The Chelsea Gardener. It is the perfect opportunity to find some great wine for Christmas. stands out from other similar sized wine merchants due to its small, but perfectly formed list of wines. The founders have expert knowledge about what constitutes a great wine, thus they personally source their wines from all over the world, selecting wines that they themselves enjoy. Due to small overheads, being an online company, they can offer their customers great value for money. Brainchild of Esme Johnstone, co-founder of Majestic Wines, and David Campbell, publisher of Everyman’s Library, the company was launched in 2006 and last year saw sales up 88% on 2009.

Tickets cost £10 (redeemable on any purchase) - to book visit



Homepride self raising flourIngredients 

8oz flour
4oz margarine
4oz sugar
3oz currants
1oz mixed peel (optional)
1 egg
a little milk


  • Mix the flour and sugar and rub in the mragarine.
  • Mix in the fruit.
  • Add a little milk to mix a stiff dough.
  • Place in rough heaps on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 200°C / Gas mark 6 for approximately 20 minuites.

Food tip on preserving and pickling jars

  • To sterilise jars for preserves and pickles etc place them carefully in a pot of cold water and slowly bring to a gentle simmer, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

    Moist heat is far more effective than dry for destroying bacteria, so this method is far safer than popping them in a hot oven.
  • Placing a tea-towel on the base of the pot and others separating the jars will avoid undue movement and possible breakage, this should also be done when sterilising the final product.


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