Cauliflower Cheese on toast

This was one of the starters at Lucs Burger Club, it’s kind of halfway between a Welsh rarebit and cauliflower cheese.

Serves 4

– 300g cooked and puréed cauliflower still warm
– 300g grated medium strength cheese (I like puur brabander which is nice and nutty)
– 2 egg yolks
– 2 tsp Dijon mustard
– 1/8 tsp nutmeg
– 1/8 tsp white pepper
– thick slices of sourdough bread

Fold the cheese into the still warm purée, fold in the mustard, nutmeg and pepper, adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the yolks and keep at room temperature until you’re ready to cook.

Toast the sourdough bread under a hot grill. Spread the cauliflower mixture to a thicknes of 7-10mm and return to the hot grill until bubbly and well browned.


Bar Tartine Pepper Pastes

Bar Tartine’s book of techniques and recipes came out in December 2014. I had it on pre order and it was delivered on the day of release. This means that at time of writing some five months later, not enough time has passed to finish a large proportion of the recipes in the book which can take six months to a year!

But some are almost ready; fermented Brussels sprouts have another eight weeks in brine, and the first of my pepper pastes will be ready in about six. Although I’ve been cheating with the pepper pastes from the beginning, tasting them, cooking with them and seeing how their flavors develop over time.

For me the fermented pepper pastes are by far the most interesting technique in the book. There are four different recipes covering sweet, charred, sambal and chipotle pastes, and although the recipes are very different they follow the same basic steps:

– Break down peppers/chillies plus other ingredients to a purée
– Add salt
– Allow to ferment
– Partly dry/dehydrate
– Allow fermentation to continue at low temperature

Some recipes use peppers, some add chili, some add extra ingredients like onions and garlic. Some call for burning and/or smoking the peppers before puréeing. Regardless of the extras the basic technique is the same and once you’ve figured that out you can let your imagination go.

I’ve made several versions including smoked jalapeño (hot as hell) and smoked sweet pepper with tomatoes (smoky & very acidic from fermented fresh tomato), but the best batch so far was made with long red sweet peppers, onions and garlic. burnt over coals, then smoked. It mostly follows the charred pepper paste recipe from the book but also smokes the peppers as in the chipotle paste recipe.

I adjusted the salt to 2% of the weight of the puréed pepper mix rather than quantity given in the book; the original recipe calls for 45g salt per 2.6kg of raw ingredients (1.75%), but as everything gets charred & smoked the weight loss will vary from batch to batch so a post smoking % of salt is more consistent and allows for a variable batch size.

This recipe uses an offset smoker but you can adjust it for whichever smoker you have. You don’t specifically need a dehydrator, if your oven can be set to 43 degrees this will also work but you’ll need to double the drying time.

You will need:

– a large amount of long sweet red peppers, halved and seeds removed
– 1 hot chili of your choice per 5 peppers, halved and seeds removed
– 1 red onion per 5 peppers, sliced into thick rounds
– 1 clove of garlic per 5 peppers, peeled.

Light a chimney of charcoal or briquettes and tip into your BBQ.

Arrange the peppers, chili and onion directly on the coals, turn occasionally until well charred. When nicely blackened move to the smoking chamber (or wherever you smoke in your BBQ) and repeat with the remaining peppers. When done close up the smoking chamber and add some wood/wood chips/etc to the coals (I prefer to use large pieces of wood as they smolder and smoke for longer). Smoke the peppers for 3 hours; in my offset smoker I use a metal pan of water as a heat diffuser to stop them burning.

The garlic needs to be cooked in some way. I found that peeled garlic cloves in the big smoker are impractical, so I use my stovetop smoker to hot smoke for twenty minutes. If you don’t have this option a ten minute simmer in milk will also work.

Once the peppers, chili, onion & garlic are smoked blitz them to a rough paste in a food processor. Weigh the resulting paste and stir in 2% by weight of salt (multiply total weight in grams by 0.02).

Move the paste to a large bowl, lay a clean sheet of cling film directly over the surface to stop mold growth and leave for ten days. Every day remove the plastic and stir the paste, smooth out and cover again with a clean piece of cling film. After two to three days the volume will increase as the paste starts to ferment.

Start to taste the paste around day eight, by day ten the paste should be slightly sour and more complex. When you’re happy with the acidity transfer the paste to a glass dish and dehydrate for 16 hours at 43 degrees until the paste is as thick as tomato purée from a tin. Transfer the paste to sealable jars and store in the fridge for six months to let the flavor develop & intensify.


Nacho cheese sauce

Infinitely customisable thick cheesy nacho sauce that’s not too starchy or heavy… You can choose any kind of cheese you like, but I prefer a blend of strong hard cheese and something mild like emmental which seems to keep the sauce stringy!

  • 100g grated hard cheese, a blend of your own choice around
  • 5g cornflour/corn starch (you can thicken the sauce or thin it by adjusting this up or down a few grams)
  • 5g Colemans mustard powder
  • 5g turmeric
  • 2g black pepper
  • 175g evaporated milk (koffiemelk in NL)

Optional extras:

fresh chilli, coriander, onions, garlic, smoked paprika etc etc

Whisk the cornflour, mustard, turmeric and black pepper into the evaporated milk in a pan. Add the cheese and stir over a medium heat for around ten minutes until the cheese has melted. The sauce should be nice and hot and smooth. If you’re adding extras do it now and let the sauce come back up to temprature before serving.

Pour over hot nacho chips (or indeed regular chips. Or anything.)


Smoked pickled peppers

This pickle came about while working on a chilli cheeseburger for the next burger popup. It’s hot, sweet, smoky and sour and works brilliantly well with almost anything, especially burgers. If you don’t have a suitable BBQ you can charr the skins of the peppers under a grill then peel, but you’ll miss out on the smokey flavor.

  • 12 large bell type peppers of different colours
  • 250g cider vinegar
  • 120g water
  • 30g sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 5g coursly crushed black peppercorns
  • 5g sweet onion or spring onion powder
  • 5g sweet paprika
  • 5g smoked hot paprika
  • 1-5g jalapeño flakes to taste

I use a dehydrator to make the sweet paprika, spring onion powder and jalapeño flakes but you can also buy them as powders.


Light a Webber type chimney full of charcoal or briquettes and empty into the BBQ/smoker when ready (bottom of the BBQ for kettle type BBQs, offset Fire chamber for offset models). Lay the peppers directly on to the coals turning frequently until charred all over. When the peppers are nicely charred move them to one side (kettle bbq) or to the smoking chamber (offset models).

Add soaked wood chips or larger chunks of oak to the coals and smoke the peppers for around 2 hours, try to keep the temprature between 60-80 degrees around the peppers.

Meanwhile make the pickling liquid. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the spice mixture. Set aside.

When the peppers are finished smoking, move them to a large bowl and wrap in cling film. Rest for ten minutes to loosen the skins, then peel as much skin off as you can, remove the stalks, seeds and and juices. Slice the peppers into 1cm wide strips and and transfer to a jar/Tupperware container big enough to hold them for a few weeks.

Pour the pickling liquid over the peppers and gently stir. The peppers are ready to eat after a couple of hours but improve after a week. Keeps for at least a month but I normally eat them faster!


Six hour onion soup

Onion soup from three ingredients; onions, water, salt. It’s not only possible but absolutely worth the six hours it takes to make. The finished soup is clear, dark, sweet and rich, with tiny slivers of onion floating in it. Best served with a giant sourdough crouton topped with cheese and grilled.

For two people:

  • 8 large onions peeled and sliced into half moons
  • Salt
  • Water

To serve:

  • Thick slice of sourdough
  • Nice melty cheese like Gruyere

In a high sided pan on a low/medium heat, fry the onions with a lid on for around an hour, stiring every five minutes. During this first phase the water will render out of the onions and they will gently stew in their own juices. The juices will be almost gone after an hour.

Drop the heat to low, leave the lid halfway on the pan and continue cooking for another two hours, stiring every twenty minutes.


After the third hour the onions will start sticking to the pan and caramalising. Drop the heat the the lowest setting and continue to cook for another two hours, stiring every twenty minutes.


The onions will eventually be very dark brown, about 10% of their original volume and extremely sweet. Pour in a liter of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Start seasoning the soup with salt, a little at a time over a thirty minute period and keep tasting until you’re happy with the flavor.


The soup is now finished. You could go nuts and add some black pepper. You may find the soup a little sweet from the caramalisation on the onions, you can fix this with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

To finish the dish cut the sourdough to about the size of your serving bowl and toast on both sides. Pour the soup into the bowls, top with the toast and then the melty cheese. Put the bowls under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and brown.


Mac & cheese 131

This isn’t finished, probably won’t ever be finished, but here is a version of Mac & Cheese that I like, that other people have tasted and enjoyed. It is according to my notes, attempt no. 131 at making Fred Smith’s (from his days at Ad Cod), Mac & Cheese.

600g macaroni raw weight
60g butter
70g plain flour
6g English mustard powder
1g turmeric
1g smoked paprika
6g salt
500g whole milk
250g cream
260g strong cheese grated (something nice and old)
250g marscapone
40g cider vinegar
30g frenchs mustard
3 egg yolks
50g butter to finish
Sea salt and black pepper to finish
Breadcrumbs and cheese to finish
100ml cream also to finish

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for one minute less than the pack instructions, drain and refresh in cold running water. Warm the milk over a medium heat stirring occasionally until it’s almost unomfortable to dip a finger in.

Melt the butter in a large pan on a medium heat. In a small bowl mix the flour, mustard powder, turmeric, paprika & salt. Add this to the butter and stir until it’s well combined and starts to sizzle. let this mixture cook for about 5 minutes, stiring constantly.

Gradually add the warm milk, stiring all the time. Once all the milk is added keep stiring until the sauce comes close to boiling and gets very thick. Add the cream and cheese and stir until the cheese has melted. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the vinegar, French’s mustard and the marscapone. When the marscapone has dissolved into the sauce, fold in the remaining butter and egg yolks. Transfer the sauce to a clean pan or bowl, lay a piece of cling film over the surface of the sauce and leave to cool.

When you’re ready to build the Mac & cheese, mix the part cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce and pour into a suitably large oven dish. Sprinkle over breadcrumbs (preferably toasted sourdough crumbs) and cheese and the remaining 100ml cream. Season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven on 180 degrees for 22 mins. Rotate the dish if it’s browning unevenly and drop the oven temprature buy 20 degrees if it’s colouring too quickly.



Grilled Pickled Onions

This is based on the GPO recipe from Le Pigeon, but I scaled it up and added extra spice. It’s worth firing up the BBQ to really caramalised the onions but a hot griddle pan also works.

  • 10 medium red onions, peeled & sliced into 1cm thick disks
  • 500g red wine vinegar
  • 200g Apple cider vinegar
  • 250g water
  • 10 tablespoons dark Muscavado sugar
  • 4tbs sea salt
  • a bunch of thyme (about 15g)
  • a handful of bay leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic roughly crushed
  • 3tbs yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinamon stick
  • 3 chipotle chillies, roughly chopped

If you’re grilling the onions on the BBQ, light it and get a nice big surface area of coals as hot as possible. If you’re using a grill pan turn it onto a high heat and wait until it starts smoking.

Combine all of the ingredients except the onions in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Using your hands gently rub vegetable oil onto the cut faces of the onion disks, try to keep them as complete disks rather than separate rings. Working in small batches lay the disks onto the BBQ or grill pan and let them sizzle for 1-2 minutes each side until clear dark grill marks are visible and they smell smokey. As they become ready flip them into the still hot pickling liquid. Repeat with the rest of the onion disks.

When done, let the onions cool enough to handle and transfer to a preserving jar. Let them cool completely then move to the fridge. They’re ready after a week but after 2 weeks they become really special.

When I’m down to about  250g in my jar, I make a new batch and mix the old batch through the new before re bottling, this gives excellent contrast between young, sweet crunchy onions and older soft & sharper onions.

Breakfast Muffins

This recipe uses a tiny amount of yeast over a long period of time to make light fluffy muffins with a thick chewy crust. I like to let them char a little on the outside for even more flavor, but I’m a baker and we tend to like burnt bread!

I call them breakfast muffins because if you follow this schedule they’ll be ready to eat at 9am on Sunday. If you can’t get stoneground wheat, all purpose flour is an ok substitute.


This is a preferment that gives more flavor to the finished muffins. 

Stoneground wheat flour 100g | 100%
Water at room temp 100g | 100%
Dried yeast 2g | 2%

Saturday 12pm Mix the dried yeast through the flour then add the water and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and leave for four hours.


Stoneground wheat flour 400g | 100%
Very hot water from the tap 125g | 31%
Cold milk 125g | 31%
Poolish 200g | 50%
Butter 20g | 5%
Salt 10g | 2% (2% of total flour in the recipe)
Sugar 25g | 5%

Note: there is no extra yeast added to the dough, the activity from the tiny amount in the poolish is enough to raise the dough.

Saturday 4pm Mix the hot water with the cold milk, combine with the rest of ingredients in a stand mixer or by hand. In a stand mixer mix for one minute on low speed and three minutes on fast (number 4 or 5 on a kitchen aid). If mixing by hand, combine the ingredients to a shaggy mass then kneed on a work top for 3 or 4 minutes until you have stretchy dough, return to the bowl and cover with plastic.

Saturday 4:45pm Using wet hands reach into the bowl and grab one side of the dough, gently stretch this up and fold it over on itself. Repeat this three or four times, rotating the bowl slightly each time. This stretch and fold action helps develop the dough, build gluten strength and equalise the dough temperature.

Saturday 5:15pm Repeat the stretch and fold action.

Saturday 6:00pm Repeat the stretch and fold; by this time the dough will be light and bubbly and very stretchy. Wrap the bowl well in plastic and store in the coolest part of the fridge. This does two things; it allows the dough to continue slowly fermenting and building more flavor, and it means the dough is ready to shape on Sunday morning.

Developed dough

Sunday 7:00am Yes it’s early but this will take ten minutes then you can go back to bed. Tip the dough onto the work surface and scale to 110g, you should get eight muffins from the recipe. Shape them as best you can into flattish balls and lay them to rest on a tea towel covered with cornmeal/polenta or rice flour, cover loosely with another towel and go back to bed.

Sunday 9:00am The muffins are ready to bake; heat a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat and add three or four muffins – don’t overcrowd the pan. Turn them 180 degrees after three mins, after five minutes flip them over and keep cooking for five more minutes, rotating halfway.

Repeat with the remaining muffins.



Fermented Chili Sauce

I’ve been reading Sandor Katz’s Art of Fermentation on and off for about six months; it’s an absolute treasure trove of information covering more types of fermentation than I even knew existed. It’s also pretty boring so takes time and concentration to read.

I’ve done a few experiments from it, some successful some not so much. This hot and sour fermented chili sauce is version three of a rough formula outlined in the book (the methods in the book are less recipe and more meandering discussions of possible variations of endless possibilities).

You can vary which chilies you use depending how hot you want it, I currently have a plain red chili sauce which is no hotter than Tabasco, and one spiked with scotch bonnets and habaneros which is quite fiery. No two ferments are the same so it’s always exciting to see how the finished sauce will be.

I’ve made this recipe in percentages, meaning the total weight of your chillies = 100%, everything else is a percentage of the chili weight.


Chillies 100%
Garlic 5%
Ginger 2.5%
Toasted, ground and sieved Sichuan pepper 0.5%
Sea salt 2%

Remove the stems from the chillies and finely slice them and add to a metal bowl. Mince the garlic and ginger and add to the chillies.

Sprinkle over the salt and Sichuan pepper, then start mashing it all together; I use the flat end of a rolling pin, you need to mash it for about ten minutes to break down the cell walls of the chili and let the juices out and the salt in.

After ten minutes you will end up with a kind of wet, chili paste, your eyes will stream and your skin will burn.


Transfer the mixture to a suitably large preserving jar. This mashed chili mixture has enough salt to keep bad microbes away but not too much to kill the natural yeasts and good bacteria that live in the chillies. At warm temperatures this will start fermenting in a few hours, in winter it could take a day or so.


Once the chili sauce starts fermenting, lactic and acetic acid is produced, this adds a delicious sharpness to the finished sauce, but also makes the sauce hostile to bad bacteria such as those that cause botulism. The sauce is essentially pickled.

Actively fermenting sauce
Actively fermenting sauce

This can ferment for anywhere between two and four weeks, it’s difficult to taste in this state so you need to decide how sour you want the sauce to be, closer to four weeks it will be more sour than at two weeks. Eventually the yeasts and bacteria will run out of food, or the sauce becomes too acidic, and fermentation will stop.

The following picture was taken at 3 weeks, fermentation had almost finished, probably because it was 30+ degrees for most of the three weeks (warm things ferment faster)


When ready, blitz the chili sauce in a food processor and pass through a sieve. You’ll end up with a sauce with the consistency of Tabasco, but infinitely more flavor. Bottle and store in the fridge; the flavor will continue to change(improve?) for many months as it continues to slowly ferment. Keeps for at least three months, probably years.


Banana cream pie

This is the first dessert I’ve made from Le Pigeon, the complete dish should include a soy milk foam, rum marinated pineapple and pineapple sorbet. I skipped that and got on with the tart which was enough work by itself.

This was a very cool recipe which included freezing the pastry cases and baking from frozen and a caramel aerated with baking soda to make the very light macadamia nut praline.