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Chicken Alfredo

This was always a favourite of customers and staff at the restaurant. when the question of ‘what’s for dinner’ comes up this is one of those dishes that has minimal effort with high flavour impact and it is one of those dishes that will take less than half an hour from start to eating.

Here is what you need.

1 Chicken fillet per person
100g mushrooms per person
2 cloves of garlic per person
100g parmesan cheese & shavings for garnish
pinch or two of nutmeg
butter
cream
fresh parsley
fettucine  pasta

First put on the kettle put heat under a good size pot for the pasta and a skillet for the Alfredo  Once the kettle boils put the water in the pot with some salt and put a lid on to get it up to a rolling boil. Slice the chicken fairly thin, this will speed up cooking process. Slice your mushrooms and mince the garlic. Add a good knob of butter to the skillet and add the chicken and the garlic, you do not want to colour the chicken you want it to remain pale. When the chicken is beginning to take on colour add the mushrooms, nutmeg and toss, you may want to add another knob of butter. When the mushrooms are starting to release moisture add enough cream to half cover  Add grated parmesan and stir it in. Add glug of olive oil to the water and put in your pasta. By the time the pasta is cooked your sauce will be reduced to about half the volume and will thicken. Drain the pasta and serve with parmesan shavings and parsley.

Let me know how you get on.

Slow braised ox cheeks

Before I opened a restaurant braised lamb shanks were up there in my top 5 dishes. Deliberately did not cook them at work in case I got tired of them. Then I missed cooking and eating them so we put them on as a special one weekend and it became a customer favourite so they went on the menu and sure enough I got tired of them so went on the hunt for an alternative.

Lamb shanks are relatively inexpensive and with care and slow cooking they can rival some of the more expensive cuts they are also really easy to prepare. I watch a lot of cookery programmes and read a lot of recipes and in a few different places I saw beef cheeks and thought I would give it a go. After a little trial and error here is what I came up with. This is one of those recipes that is not an exact science. You can play around with flavours here and really impress your family and friends.

Because this is not a well sought after cut you are going to have to search for the cheeks, seriously, it will be well worth the hunt. If there is a farmers market near you go and talk to some of the farmers and ask if they have it or if they can get them.

4-6 beef/ox cheeks
2 medium onion
3 carrots
3-4 stalks of celery
3 cloves garlic
half bottle red wine
2 tins chopped tomatoes
tomato paste
beef stock
3 bay leaves

Put the oven on a moderate heat and get a casserole dish ready. Chop up the vegetables to a medium dice. Rinse off the cheeks and pat them dry with paper towel. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in the casserole and brown off the cheek. take your time here and get some good colour on them. When they are all browned set aside and add a little more oil and ad veg and garlic, cook these for about 5 mins then add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two. de glaze the pot with red wine then add tinned tomatoes, stock and bay leaf. Return the cheeks to the pot, add enough stock to nearly cover the cheeks,  cover and put in the oven. Check on them every hour or so for at least 5 hours, turning them over each time.

You will know when they are done, they will start to fall apart when you try to pick one up with tongs. if you pull at it with tongs and it does not pull apart easily, put it back in the oven for another while. When they are cooked, remove the cheeks and set aside, strain the liquid and reduce until glossy. You can simply serve them on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with glazed carrots, or with polenta the options are only limited to your imagination.

You can also treat the cheeks in different ways, you can cook it in the same style as beef bourguignon and try introducing other flavours; star anise and orange zest work really well. Give it a try as i said, it is well worth the effort. Let me know how you get on.

Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese buttercream icing

 

Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese buttercream icing

I strongly recommend trying these out. They are delicious, gooey and decadent. I tried several recipes before creating this hybrid. This is for a tray of 1 dozen good sized rolls with generous icing, the only thing that can make these better is a cup of really good coffee.

4 cups bakers flour
1 cup caster sugar
pinch salt

1 cup milk
28g dried yeast
300g melted butter
2 large eggs

120g melted butter
1 ½ cups dark soft brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon powder

Heat the milk until just warm, I do it in the microwave, then add the yeast and whisk a little until foaming. Set it aside for a minute or two. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl then add the butter, milk and yeast, and the eggs. Bring together loosely and then turn onto a floured work surface and start kneading. After a 10 min workout you should end up with a nice smooth dough. Dust flour in a bowl (the one you mixed in already is ideal) put the dough in and cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until doubled in size. Now, if you have a food processor with a dough hook, you can just add the dry ingredients to the bowl then add the wet and turn it on. Once combined, crank it up a notch or two and give it a workout for 2 or 3 mins then flour it and cover it. I have one such machine, but if I am not in a hurry I prefer to do it by hand.

Once doubled in size Turn it onto a floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle about 12” by 20”. Let this rest for a few mins then spread the melted butter all over evenly leaving a 1 ½ “ unbuttered line one of the long sides. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together then sprinkle evenly all over the butter. Make sure the cinnamon mixture goes right to the edges. The measurements for the cinnamon and sugar are guidelines, I eyeball it at this stage, pretty sure I put a little extra of each in. Now the roll; the roll starts with a fold. Fold over the long edge opposite the one with the clean line (this is where you are going to seal the rolls) Then you want to roll it as tightly as you can up to the clear line, the tighter you keep is the better the end result, be gentle though! Wet you fingers with water and moisten the clear line and finish rolling up you cinnamon log. Shape the log if you need to so that you end up with a uniform shape. Trim off the ends to neaten it up, then cut in half, then each piece in half again, now each of the four pieces need to be cut into three equal pieces. A long way of saying cut into 12!! Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place rolls cut side up into the tray. Bake in middle of oven at about 180 for 10 to 15 mins until golden brown. Keep an eye on them during the last few mins.

While the rolls are baking you can get the icing together. Put 150g softened butter in bowl with about 50g room temp cream cheese. Use electric hand mixer or a wooden spoon and beat until light and totally blended. Sift in about 2 cups  of icing sugar a ¼ cup at a time blending after addition. Add a teaspoon of good vanilla extract and combine. (you can use the seeds from a vanilla pod instead) Once the rolls are cooked and have cooled in the pan for about 5 mins, dollop the icing evenly over each roll and get a plate, best time to eat these is right away!

It may seem a little involved but the end result is justified. Let me know if you try them and how you got on.

Basic tomato sauce

2 medium onions
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
3 tins of chopped tomatoes
tomato paste
Chicken stock
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

put a heavy bottomed sauce pan in medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil in and let it heat. Finely dice onions and slice the garlic as thin as you can and add to the oil. Let the onions cook gently, do not let them colour, you want to take your time with this. You want them to be translucent and soft, about 10-15 mins. Add 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic and cook for a minute or two. Add 3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook for another minute or so. Add tinned tomatoes and stock and let it simmer for 30-45 mins. If it is on the thick side add some more stock

Image

New series of windswept hawthorn trees

New series of windswept hawthorn trees

Picture shows tree in its presentation bob. Secured to the box inside makes for safe shipping. These are on sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/GlennGibsConSculpture

Commissioning new works

Commissioning a new work is a simple process. To give and example, a client contacted me and wanted a tree similar to one she had seen in the restaurant but a little bigger to fit into a large window nook. She sent me the dimensions of the space to be filled and I created a mock up of this area in cardboard. While working i kept in mind the space in which the piece was going to be displayed. and the end result is a unique sculpture that maximises the space available.

The entire process can take from 6 to 8 weeks. Each piece is specially packed to ensure safe shipping. I have shipped works all over the world, shipping costs are dependant on destination.

 

What you don’t see

There is a common “truth” that joins us all. This is described in as many ways as there are people trying to describe it. Expression is the language of this truth, ambiguous and piercing. I cannot always put it into words, and my current capabilities will not allow me to paint you a picture. But the need for me to express is as basic and strong as my will to breathe. If my work can compel one other person to gain but a heartbeats view of the truth I see, then I will have surpassed all that I had hoped to achieve in my time here.

Quirky as it may be, I believe that even in our conscious state we are not aware of ourselves at all times. There are many moments throughout any day when we retreat to a place other that the one we hold in common. Here and not here, black and white, positive and negative. My current work plays not only on what it is I want you to see but also leaves blanks to be filled in. There is an interpretive interaction required for the viewer to finish my sentence; imposing a little of themselves into what they see and think they see.

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