I’ve never been much of a fan of telly chefs; I remember vaguely watching the Galloping Gourmet prancing about a kitchen in the days of black and white television, I probably watched some Delia under duress in the seventies and giggled at Keith Floyd in the eighties but, since then, I’ve rarely engaged with any of them. Which is why I was so intrigued when three different friends, completely separately, told me how much they had liked the new Simon Hopkinson programme. The recipes were, and I quote, ‘things I can imagine making and eating’. When one of those friends kindly gave me a copy of the book that accompanies the TV series, I wanted to test out the recipes and the opinions.
The book, a bit like Hopkinson’s most famous one, is very idiosyncratic. He doesn’t attempt to cover every dish or permutation (a plus, in my opinion since who can?), he focuses on particular ingredients or groups of ingredients (a second plus, since often I want to cook a specific thing; I love the first Riverford book for doing this) and the recipes are, for the most part, accessible to the normal human (bar a few notable exceptions, like the one that uses cotechino sausage and mustard fruits). They’re also incredibly tempting. So far I want to try lamb with Asian green sauce, apricot and almond turnovers and the buttered rice with mozzarella, garlic and basil (I especially like the last for sounding like risotto without the work).
But I started, for once, with the first recipe in the book. I don’t think I have ever done that before but, since I had all the ingredients (redcurrant jelly from making a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall sauce for squid; Marsala from making a birthday present tiramisu) bar puff pastry, it seemed both affordable and accessible.
My only gripe about this recipe, and many of the others in the book, is that it is too long. Roast duck with apple sauce covers three pages (four with the picture), rice with mussels and saffron three and even a fried ham and cheese sandwich covers two. A lot of that is the intros but, still, I’d have chopped them down; wordiness means pages need turning and that’s never fun when your hands are covered in food.
Otherwise this is a lovely take on a classic; the onions reduced in Marsala and redcurrant jelly are inspired though I think it would be even better with red onions. And, not having either cayenne or herbes de Provence, I used a crushed dried chilli and some fresh rosemary and thyme. Finally, I put the rolled-out pastry into the fridge, not the freezer as per the recipe since I don’t have one, and I halved the quantities to make it a small dinner for two or a large one for one with leftovers.
Anchovy and onion tart, adapted from The Good Cook
For a tart for two, snacks for four:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
port or Marsala, 100ml
redcurrant jelly, ½ teaspoon
red wine vinegar, 1½ tablespoons
puff pastry, 150g
tinned anchovy fillets, 10-12
fresh rosemary and thyme, a sprig of each
dried chilli, 1
1. Peel the onion, cut in it half then cut it into thin slices. Strip the herb leaves from the stalks and crush the dried chilli.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan big enough to hold the onion, then add the onion slices and cook them over a low heat for about 15-20 minutes until softened and just colouring.
3. Add the port or Marsala, the redcurrant jelly, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt to the onions, stir to mix in then leave to simmer over a medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. This will take about ten minutes but it’s best to watch it since every pan/oven and onion differs and it will be ruined if it burns. Leave to cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-assisted/gas 6.
5. Grease a large flat baking tray then roll the pastry out into a thin rectangle, place it on the tray and prick it all over with a fork.
6. If you have a freezer, put the tray in it for about 15 minutes to chill; I put mine in the fridge for about the same time.
7. Take the pastry out of the fridge/freezer, tip the onion mixture into the middle and spread it out all over the pastry keeping it about ½cm in from the edge.
8. Space the anchovies out on top of the onions at regular intervals, then sprinkle the crushed dried chilli and herb leaves over the top.
9. Bake for about eight minutes, then cover with a piece of foil and bake for another five.
10. Serve warm as a whole tart with salad, or cut into fingers to go with drinks.