Recipe: Toad in the Hole

Hello Brummies

If you suddenly found yourself single in the last week or two you will be surprised to learn that you are not the only ones.  February is statistically the most popular for the breaking up of relationships. Maybe it is the thought of Valentine's day and all that lovey-dovey stuff that breaks shaky relationships.

So Chef Nick has something to cheer you up.  Good stodgy comfort food idea for a winters night.  I think we can kick the diet into touch now, can't we?  Yup, and open the bloody wine while you are at it.

You will need:

  • 200 grams of plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml of milk.  I would recommend full fat for this.  You will taste the difference.
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Two good quality butchers sausages.  Can I recommend Aubrey Allen of Coventry.
  • Half an onion
  • Sticky brown sugar
  • Sweet red wine, like Mavrodaphne
  • Instant gravy (yeah, don't judge me)


  • Sauce pan
  • Oven proof dish
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Tongs
  • Green chopping board
  • Sharp veg knife
  • Baking tray
  • Pan stand or nice thick wooden board


  1. Set your oven to 200 degrees.  Place your sausages on a tray and bake for ten minutes or until they are just starting to brown a little.  At the same time add two die-sized cubes of lard to a baking dish and place it into the oven next to the sausages.
  2. While they are baking, place a green chopping board on a flat work surface over a damp cloth.  Finely slice half an onion.  Heat some oil in a sauce pan and add the onion.  Fry it until it is golden brown.  Add two heaped tablespoons of brown sugar and allow it to melt into the onions.  Add 125ml of red wine.  You don't need me to tell you what to do with the rest of it...
  3. Make up some instant gravy in a jug, make sure it is nice and thick.  Add it to the sauce pan.  Stir it in and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
  4. Remove the sausages from the oven and set them aside.  Turn your oven up to maximum so the oil in the baking dish gets very hot.
  5. Measure out the flour, oil and milk.  Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the milk and oil.  Mix them well and slowly mix in the flour until you have a nice smooth batter.
  6. Now the dangerous bit, please use extreme caution. Using a thick dry oven cloth remove the baking dish with the oil and place it on a pan stand or wooden board.  Add to it enough batter mix to fill it a quarter way (or slightly less).  Add the sausages using the tongs.  Carefully place it back in the oven and cook for a further ten minutes at 200 degrees.

Do NOT open the oven for ten minutes, or it will deflate.

Go listen to Morrissey or something.

7.  Now check the pudding by standing well back and opening the oven door an inch.  If it looks risen and nicely brown it is good to eat.  If not, give it another ten minutes.  As long as you keep the heat in the oven, or can see it through a window, you will be fine.

 Remove the Toad in the Hole from the oven using great care.  Place your oven dish on a cool plate and pour the gravy over the top.  Serve it up with the rest of the bottle of red wine.

Now, give Chef Nick a smile.


Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Deep South Ribs

Good day to you Brummies, and welcome back.

An announcement.  As you may be aware, Birmingham Favourites is slowing down it's production.  This is for several reasons. Firstly, we agree that it has served it's purpose in getting the ball rolling, in highlighting the best of the city.  Secondly, we all need to move on to other projects. [Nicely put - the Ed]

But, as it stands, you will be getting one post a month from me, henceforth.

Anyway, crack on, Chef..

So, today we are doing ribs again.  But better this time.  Now, for a good rib recipe, avoid the 'Mommy-bloggers' on Youtube, with their Stepford-perfect kitchens.  You need the Hillbillies,  You know the ones I mean:  bad teeth, dungerees, loaded shotgun propping up  a propane tank, mirrored shades.  The guys who look like a casting call for Deliverence.  There are your guys. Check out the Barbecue Pit Boys on YouTube.

You will need:

  • One rack of pork ribs per person
  • Salt and whole black pepper corns
  • Bay leaves, one palm full

For the sauce:

  • One can of tomatoes
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • One onion, finely diced
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic and tomato puree

Finally, kit:

  • One baking tray
  • Metal foil
  • One saucepan and a spatula.

Cooking time, two hours.

That's all.

Right kids, set your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Remove your ribs from the packet and carefully rinse them under the tap. You may have to cut off any excess membrane from under the ribs.  Place the ribs in the tray.  Add a liberal sprinkle of salt, throw in a handful of black peppercorns and the same amount of bay leaves.  Add a pint of water and cover tightly with the foil.

Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for two hours.

When you get up to one and a half hours, start on the sauce.  Take a saucepan and add a little oil.  Add the finely chopped onions and fry them until brown.  Add three tablespoons of brown sugar and allow it to caramelize into the onion.  Now add two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and one of Dijon mustard.  Stir it in well. Mind your eyes, the fumes can be potent.  (Why not add a glug of Jack Daniels?)  Add the tomatoes and bring to the simmer.  Once they are bubbling away, add a tablespoon of tomato and/or garlic puree.  Stir in well and allow to simmer for five minutes.

Grab a thick, dry oven cloth.

Remove the ribs from the oven.  Carefully remove the foil, allowing the steam to escape.  Remember, steam burns hurt like hell.

Drain off the water and scrape off the Bay leaves with a knife.  Now slowly pour the sauce over the ribs, rubbing it on with the spatula.  Make sure it is nice and even. Replace the metal foil tightly over the ribs and place back in the oven for a further ten minutes.

Now go play your banjo for a bit.

When the ribs are ready, remove the ribs from the oven and use oven tongs to move them to your plate.  I always serve them with coleslaw or chips.

Now, they taste A-freaking-mazing.  Remember to keep paper towels handy.

And enjoy, Birmingham.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Toasted Spicy Nuts

Hey Birmingham

How is the Christmas shopping going? Anything wrapped yet

I have found a new recipe that is more addictive than crack.  To compliment your drinks, try Spicy Toasted Nuts.  Furthermore, they are really easy.

You need the following equipment:

  • One baking tray
  • One mixing bowl
  • One spatula

And the following ingredients:

  • One big bag of mixed nuts
  • Two tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • One tablespoon of salt
  • One teaspoon of sugar
  • One tablespoon of paprika
  • Half a teaspoon of cracked black pepper
  1. Set your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix them well with the spatula.
  3. Pour them into a baking tray, lined with grease-proof paper and place in the oven.  Spread them out a bit.
  4. Bake them in the oven for five minutes then turn them over with the spatula.
  5. Bake for another five minutes then pour them into a bowl.  Allow them to cool and serve

They taste amazing, make you very thirsty, but they go great with beer or cider.

Enjoy your party!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Thai Salmon Fishcakes

In the on-going party season you need to sometimes give something slightly bigger than scrawny chicken wings.  Especially when there is that much alcohol floating around.  I will be straight with you, that fish cakes take a bit of work, but you can freeze them, and defrost them on the day you need them, so plan ahead.

For equipment you need the following:

  • saucepan
  • colander
  • green chopping board
  • small knife
  • lime zester or fine grater
  • juicer
  • three bowls
  • large mixing bowl
  • grease proof paper
  • small ice cream scoop


  • four large potatoes
  • two salmon fillets
  • two limes
  • three red chillies
  • plain flour
  • two egg whites
  • breadcrumbs
  • Thai seven spice

Firstly take your green board and place it over a damp cloth on a clean surface.  It is going to get a lot of use today.  Peel and chop the potatoes and add them to the pan. Add boiling water and cook until they are soft.

Next add the Salmon fillets to a baking tray and bake for twenty minutes at 180 degrees.  While they are cooking, take the lime and grate off the zest into a bowl.  Juice the remaining lime.  Now take the chilli and slit them lengthways.  Remove the seeds with the knife tip.  If you miss so much as one you are playing fish cake-Russian-roulette with your mouth.  Which can be fun if you have my warped sense of humour, but I digress.  Now dice the chillies very finely

Drain the potatoes and crush them up in a bowl.  Remove the salmon from the oven and slice it from the skin - throw that bit away.  Crumble the salmon into the potatoes, add the lime zest, juice and red chilli.  Now add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir the mixture up really well.  Let it sit in the fridge for half an hour or it will be too hot to handle.

Clear some space on a table, and lay down some grease proof paper.  And right about now, you want to switch on your fryer.

Using the ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of fish cake mix and place them on the paper.  Then, you can mould them into shape with your hands.  Set up three bowls, one with flour, one with egg whites and water mixed, and one with breadcrumbs and a little 7 spice. One at a time, roll them in the flour, then the egg white, and then the breadcrumbs.  Place them in the fryer carefully.  Repeat, until you have three balls in the fryer.  Fry them for about a minute, and repeat.

Drain them carefully and place them in a bowl.  And serve with any dip that you like.  I recommend homemade tartar sauce or Thai sweet chilli dip.

Enjoy the party, kids.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Southern Fried Chicken Wings


Hello noble people of Brum,

Well the party season is just around the corner, and you seem to have the drink end pretty much sorted out.  But what about party food?  Nibbles and buffet food?  We need that too or people will be trollied by the first hour.

Let's start with an old favourite.  Chicken wings are cheap, cook easy enough and are pretty tasty.  But if you add a dash of the deep south, they become a whole lot more.

You need:

  • One red board
  • One meat cleaver or very sharp knife
  • one baking tray
  • three bowls
  • a deep fat fryer

And the ingredients:

  • Chicken wings, as many as you want, really
  • Plain flour
  • Two egg whites and a little water
  • White breadcrumbs and southern fried chicken spices

Take the red board and place it over a damp cloth on a clean work top.  Make sure it is really secure for this one.  Take your cleaver or big-ass knife.  Cut the chicken wing at the pivot joint.  They sometimes take a little sawing so be very careful.  Seriously, now.

Add them to the baking tray and bake for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.  You may wish to check them with a knife for any pinkness.  Allow them to cool for about 15 minutes.

Take three bowls, add the flour to the first one.  Then separate two egg whites from the yolks and add the whites to a bowl.  Stir in a little water to dilute them.  In the last bowl, add a fifty-fifty mix of dried breadcrumbs and southern fried chicken spices.  You can buy these from the foreign foods section of most food stores.

Dip the wings into the flour first, then the egg white, followed by the breadcrumb mix, and add to the fryer basket.  Fry for about a minute and allow to drain.  Shake them a little and add them to a bowl.

I serve them with a dip, such as Thai sweet dipping sauce.  Or blue cheese dressing.  That's just yum.

That's it, give it a good.

Enjoy the party season, Brummies.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Cocktails with Nick : Espresso Martini

Good evening Birmingham.

What we are about to discuss is an important recipe. This is the secret drink that keeps bartenders wired and energized on even the toughest days.

You need the following equipment:

  • A martini glass
  • A cocktail shaker
  • An Espresso maker


  • Good vodka
  • Espresso coffee

That's all.

Firstly, you need espresso coffee.  Make it in a proper espresso maker and allow it to cool.  Accept no substitute.  If you use Nescafé, we can't be friends.

Take the shaker and add five large chunks of ice.  Add 60ml of vodka and the same amount of coffee.  Shake well until condensation appears on the outside of the shaker.

Strain it into the martini glass and serve.

One sip is like doing the ice bucket challenge. But some nights, it is exactly what you need.  Trust me on this.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


Cocktails with Nick

Bonjour Brummies I am hanging up the apron for the month, and switching the cookers off. It is time for me to dig out my best shirt, pants and bow tie.  In the back bedroom there is a case of cocktail kit and some very dusty bottles. I've scrubbed them all down to present Nick's guide to running a bar for a party.

First of all, you need a bar. But really all you need is a clothed table, and possibly a shelf behind, depending on what you have got. You need a bucket of ice, glassware, and a few tools of the trade.  Oh, and booze.  Lots and lots of boozy booze and mixers too.

Let's start with cocktail shakers. They normally come in two types.  First, the three-part shaker, which is mostly old school and there is the two-part shaker, that requires at least one separate strainer. To use a three-part shaker, stick the cap on the top half, add ice to the base, and add the top half.  Now to shake a cocktail, place one hand firmly on the top, and one hand on the base, and shake firmly into the shoulder.  Not over it.  And never hold the shaker by the sides, it will fly open and cause a godawful mess.  I have seen this happen at competition level.  After the one shake, the shaker will now be nice and cold, covered in condensation, and ready to go.

So what kind of kit does a bar need?  In the photo you will see some examples.  Tongs for ice and lemon, bar spoons for stirring and adding ingredients such as sugar. Notice how the stems spiral?  That isn't just funky design - they are used to liquors to trickle down when you are making layered cocktails such as the B-52.  The flat-headed wooden thing is a muddler, used for making Mojitos or muddled drinks where you squish down soft fruit, limes or mint.

The little grater is a zester, this is used to extract the lemon zest from the skin.  It is also used for spices such as nutmeg that get added to some milky cocktails.  The fruit knife is always small, preferably very sharp.  Blunt ones just cause more accidents as they can slip easily.

Next to it is a bar zester, another handy bit of kit.  When someone asks for a Martini with a twist, they mean a strip of lemon zest that you cut with the side of the zester, very carefully.  Then they place it in the Martini glass and send it over to Mr Bond's table.

On the far right is a small strainer, to prevent bits of pulp falling from the shaker into your drink.  The one pictured is not, in fact, a very good example.  You really need a strainer like a small sieve.

At the bottom is one of the most important pieces of kit.  To a barman or waiter, this is the most important piece of kit.  The waiter's friend.  The little knife at the front is for cutting through foil on bottles, the lever at the other end is for latching on to bottle edges and the corkscrew drills into the soft cork.  Pull back against the anchored lever and the cork will come out nice and smoothly.  And you look much cooler.  The last thing you need are bar towels or small lint-free towels.

You don't need all this kit, all the time, but it helps, trust me.


Big fruity cocktails should come in nice big sturdy glasses that hold out well and smaller, tall drinks come in half pint glasses. Built drinks, such as Mojitos or a White Russian come in shallow, wide, and thick based glasses usually used for whisky.  They are wide so you get to appreciate the vapours of the whisky.

The triangular glass near the back is, of course, the Martini glass, immortalised by one Mr J Bond.  Of course it was around a long time before he appeared on screen.

Next to it is a slightly more rounded wide cup.  This is a coupe, used mainly for Margaritas.  It is no coincidence that they always seem to be plastic.

On the far right is a latte glass.  Now an important safety tip is that warm drinks such as Irish coffee or mulled wine should only be served in these glasses.  They have a handle and are made from very thick glass that does not shatter when exposed to sudden heat.

For every cold drink, you need ice.  Either nice big pieces or well and truly crushed.  For that, you will need an ice crusher.  If you do not possess one, use a blender or wrap your ice in a clean towel and beat it with a rolling-pin.  It never fails.

As well as spirits and liquors, you'll stock juices, mixers and other herbs, such as cloves and mint.  For mixers, go for things like coke, ginger ale or lemonade.  For juices, orange is always the best bet. Pineapple is very sweet, but when shaken, it gives a lovely frothy head to a drink.  Grapefruit is very bitter but it gives a hell of a kick. Tomato is best served with just spirits on its own.

For fruit, you don't need the full fruit salad, Del-boy style, just cut a lemon or lime wedge or a full slice of orange.  Less is more. The photo also shows an egg and these are used raw, although I don't recommend it. Egg yolks atop vodka and tomato makes a hell of a hangover cure (apparently).

The last thing you need is a few bar decorations. A good bar ought to have a personal touch, be it a few ornaments, flags or small games. Put a full orange in a pint glass of water. Ask people to balance a coin on top of the orange, to see if they can.  You will soon pay off your mortgage.

So this is a good start in what a bar needs. Not all of them, not all the time, it depends on what kind of party you are planning. Next week we get into the serious business of mixing the cocktails. Have your spare liver standing by.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


Recipe: Potato and Cauliflower Curry (Indian month)

Good morning, fine folk of Birmingham.  Did you enjoy your Sunday lunch? Got any leftover roast potatoes and cauliflower? Great, I have just the quick recipe for you.

The last curry we did was a bit of an  epic, but this one will be much quicker to put together. Half the work is done already.

You need:

  • Several roast potatoes per person.  How many depends on how hungry you are.
  • Several florets of precooked cauliflower.  The same applies.
  • One large onion.
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • One chopped green chilli
  • Ground cumin
  • Tumeric
  • Curry powder

Take a green chopping board and place it on a counter over a damp cloth.  Then start by finely dicing the onion, garlic and de-seeded chilli. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling chillies.

Take a wok or frying pan. Add a little oil and heat.  Then add a teaspoon of curry powder and stir it into the oil.  Once the curry powder and hot oil have mixed, add the onion, garlic and chilli.  Cook these off until they are soft and golden in colour.

Next add a teaspoon of Cumin and one of Tumeric.  Once these have blended in, add the tomatoes and stir them in until they start to bubble a little, add the potatoes and cauliflower.  Stir in well, and cover the vegetables well with the sauce.  Now cover with a lid and allow the curry to simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Occasionally stir it and check that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

Take a taste, is it spicy and full of flavour?  If not leave it a little bit longer.  If it is too spicy, add a little lime juice. Too bitter? Add a little sugar.

After 30 minutes it should have thickened up somewhat and be ready to eat.

Serve with rice, if you like, and/or naan bread.  You will definitely need natural yoghurt to take the sting out of the chilli.

And that is it.  Enjoy!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Lamb Curry with Bombay Potatoes (Indian month)

Feeling ready for a challenge?  This is a recipe that has been a bit of a work in progress over the last week.  It combines a lot of flavours  and takes over an hour and a half to prep and cook. [But I’m sure it’s worth it – Ed.]

You need the following:

  • Two lamb steaks per person
  • Flour for coating and frying
  • Red or white onions
  • Baby button mushrooms
  • Freshly chopped mint
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • pureed ginger
  • pureed garlic
  • pureed chilli
  • pureed tomato
  • Natural yoghurt
  • Canned coconut cream
  • Green pepper (optional)

For the Bombay potatoes:

  • New potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions
  • One green chilli, de seeded and finely chopped.

For the rice you need:

  • Rice

So, let's do this thing..

You need one small frying pan on heat with a little oil. Fill a dish with flour.  Take a red chopping board, placed over a damp cloth, on a counter.  Dice the lamb into small cubes, and coat it thoroughly in the flour.  Wash your hands and open a window for ventilation, this is where it tends to get a bit smoky.

Fry your cubes of lamb in the oil, until they are all brown on all sides.  Transfer the lamb to a clean plate and set aside.  You can also cover it to prevent contamination by insects and other yucky things. Leave your small pan in the sink to soak with loads of washing up liquid and water.  It will come off easy later.

Take a green chopping board, set us as before. Peel the onions and chop them into wedges.  Take the mint, wash it and remove the leaves, then chop them very finely. Wash the button mushrooms carefully under the tap. Cut the green pepper into strips.

Next, prep work for the Bombay Potatoes...

Rinse the new potatoes in the sink and set them aside.  Boil the spinach leaves in a small pan of water until they wilt.  This kills all the germs and nastiness.  Drain the leaves and transfer to a saucer.

Take half a white onion and dice it very finely on the green board.  Next, de-seed and finely chop the green chilli.  Set all of this aside on a plate. So, that is all your prep work done.  Wash your hands after working with chillies!

Next, take a great big wok or deep cooking pot.  Add a little oil and place on heat.  First add the onion wedges, turn them over and allow them to soften.  Add the mushrooms and stir them in.  Again, let them soften of their own accord.  Add the Lamb and mint next.

Then one tablespoon of garlic puree, one teaspoon of ginger puree, one of chilli and one of tomato.  Stir it all in and allow it to melt.  Add the tin of tomatoes and allow to simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile, open the can of coconut milk and spoon one spoonful over the kernel (that is the thick white gloopy stuff.  Throw the transparent liquid under it away - you don't want to drink that.  (It is a laxative!)

Stir in the coconut cream and add the mint.  Now add a tablespoon of natural yoghurt.  Reduce heat and allow the curry to simmer gently.

While the curry is doing it's thing, boil a pan of water and boil the new potatoes until they are soft.  Poke them with a knife to check they are soft right through to the middle.  Drain the water and transfer the potatoes to a deep dish.  and crush them up, using a potato masher or a fork.  I prefer a fork, as you don't really want to mash them up too much.  Put a small frying pan on heat with a little oil.  Add the onions, spinach and chillies.  Mind your eyes for chilli vapours, they sting like hell.

Once they have softened and browned a little, add the potato and stir in.  Adding a teaspoon of yoghurt is optional.  And that is your Bombay potatoes sorted.

Boil another pan of water (hey, just rinse out the pan you have already used, save on the washing up).  Add two-thirds of a cup of rice per person.  Bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer until the rice is soft.

Taste the curry, it should have just a nice tang to it.  And the lamb should be just soft enough.  It generally takes about an hour to cook.  Add the green pepper finally, just to give it a little crunch.

Drain the rice and add all three elements to a bowl, and serve for each person. I really hope you enjoy this new challenge (to me, anyway), and let's keep pushing those culinary boundaries at home.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe for Indian Month: Chicken Tikka

Good morning my little Brummies.  I hope you are enjoying the lovely warm autumn weekends. Drank enough Pumpkin spiced latte yet?

This month we are cooking Indian food.  That's me, teaching you. This is hilarious and terrifying for several reasons.  I am from a very small, very white town in Yorkshire.  I never had a curry till I was 21. I have never worked in an Indian restaurant, never been to India, and know very few Indians. Hell, I have never even been to Sparkhill. And you people have been brought up on Indian food.  So, let's take this slow.

We are starting with Chicken Tikka, because it is nice and simple. You need the following:

(prep time 4 hours minimum, just so you know)

  • Two chicken thighs per person
  • Natural Yoghurt
  • Tikka Spices (available from all good supermarkets)
  • Rice
  • Coriander

Take a large, deep bowl and fill it with a pint and a half of fresh, natural yoghurt.  Not too thick.  Take a whisk and blend in half a packet of Tikka spices.  Add the chicken thighs and coat them well in the mix.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least four hours.  Or even overnight, which really tenderizes the chicken and makes it taste awesome.

Preheat an oven at 180 degrees centigrade.  Take an oven dish, preferably with a lid.  Add your chicken, and a little of the mix.  Now sprinkle over this with some freshly chopped coriander, which goes so well with chicken.  Cover with the lid or metal foil, and bake in the oven at 140 degrees for 40 minutes.  Meanwhile boil a cup of rice on the stove until the rice is soft, then drain.  This usually takes under ten minutes.

When the chicken is cooked, place it in a dish and serve with rice on the side.  Top it off with a little of the yoghurt coating and chicken fat.  The latter with seep into the rice and enhance the flavour a little.

That's it.  Enjoy your supper!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Italian Sausage and Chips


Happy Monday, people of Birmingham.  Had a fun Birmingham Weekender with the Rugby?  Did you look around Grand Central yet?  So it is time for the curtain to drop on Italian month, for this year.  I hope you enjoyed it and learned some interesting and diverse things.  I know a lot of it was slow cooking things that took hours.  So, to wrap up, I thought I would leave you with something quick and very simple for a Monday night supper.

Per person you need:

  • Three decent quality sausages
  • Two good-sized potatoes
  • Half an onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A piece of lard, the size of your thumb.
  • Peel your potatoes and cut them into small fries.  Dice your onion, peel and slice the garlic.  Place the lard in a baking tray and place in the oven.  Set your oven to its highest level and let the lard melt and bubble.  After nearly ten minutes it should be ready.  Reduce the heat to 180C.

Add your chips, sausages, onion and garlic.  Stir in well.  Sprinkle with parsley and oregano.  Bake for ten minutes, then turn the chips and sausages over.  Bake further until everything is nice and golden brown.  Remembering to use an oven cloth, remove the tray from the oven and transfer the contents to a plate.  And serve.

There you go, a nice easy dinner, Italian style.

Ciao, Bella!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Slow Braised Alpine Rabbit

Welcome one and all to the latest of the Italian series of recipes.

As I noted at the start, a lot of Italian food reflects the coldness of a mountainous environment.  After the war, food was scarce, and unusual meats had to be hunted down.  In the Alpine region, which suffered the longest, Rabbit was often a staple diet.  Another was Polenta, a maze meal that can be roasted, baked or fried and has a neutral flavour.  It is very cheap to make, and sustained many families throughout the hard post-war years.

Rabbit is available from most good butchers in the UK, although you may have to pre-order it.  It tastes just like chicken, but a little richer. I am giving this recipe a danger rating of three severed fingers.

So, to start, you need:

  • One Rabbit, dead, skinned and gutted.
  • One slab of Polenta
  • One handful of baby button mushrooms
  • One lemon
  • Two tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Chicken stock
  • White wine
  • Plain flour

First, take a red chopping board and put it over a damp piece of kitchen paper, on a work top.  Make certain it is stuck down fast.  Take a meat cleaver or heavy knife and CAREFULLY cut the rabbit into quarters.  Take a hot pan and add a little oil to it.  Coat the rabbit in flour and fry gently until it is golden.  Add it to a deep baking tray.  Move the red chopping board to the wash up area.  Replace it with a green board.  Chop up your Polenta into roast potato sized pieces. Chop the celery into smaller pieces, and the lemon into quarters.

Pan fry or deep fry the Polenta just until the edges turn golden and crispy.  Add it to the tray.  Add the celery and the lemon.  Wash the mushrooms to remove any loose soil and grit, then add them to the tray.

Boil a kettle and add the boiling water to a deep bowl.  Cut a cross into the top of each tomato and place them in the bowl.  After a minute the skin will peel off.  Once they are peeled, add them to the tray.

Add a small glass of white wine and half a pint of chicken stock poured evenly over the Rabbit, Polenta and vegetables.  Cover the whole tray tightly with metal foil and place in the oven.  Bake it slowly for three hours.  After each hour, add a little chicken stock if it is going dry.

By the time it is cooked it should be tender and falling off the bone, ready to enjoy.  Just be aware that rabbit bones are smaller and more brittle.

Enjoy a good, Alpine, autumn/winter night's supper.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Salmon Arrabbiata Risotto

Hello people and welcome to the second instalment of Italian recipe month. To offset the rainy start to Autumn, we have something tasty from the shores of the Amalfi coast.

For two people you need the following:

  • Two Salmon steaks
  • Prosciutto Ham (one slice per steak)
  • Risotto rice (two cups per person)
  • One white onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • White wine (250ml for two and two glasses to drink)
  • Chicken stock (one pint)
  • Half a tin of tomatoes
  • Chopped red chillies
  • Tomato puree

We start with the veg prep.  Take a green chopping board and place it over a damp paper towel on a work top.  Peel and finely chop your onion and the garlic. Move them to a plate together and now chop your red chillies, very finely.  Keep or remove the seeds, depending on how brave you feel.  Move the chillies to another plate.

Now take a shallow saucepan or a frying pan and add a little olive oil.  Sweat off the onion and garlic until they are translucent and slightly brown, but not too brown.  Add the rice and stir in well until it too becomes translucent.  Remove from the heat.  Heat your chicken stock slowly on the hob until it is steaming, but not boiling.  Add the white wine to the rice and stir in, and continue to heat gently.  It should evaporate quickly.  Now take a ladle and spoon the stock into the rice, a little at a time.  Keep stirring and the rice will expand quickly.  It will also soak up all the stock, so you need to keep adding it a little at a time, making sure the pan does not go dry.

Next we make the Arrabbiata sauce (it is Italian for angry, by the way).  Very simple, take a saucepan and add a little olive oil.  Fry off the chillies (beware of the fumes, they hit you like CS gas).  Add half a tin of tomatoes, whatever seasonings you like, and two tablespoons of tomato puree.  Bring it to the boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and allow it to reduce.

Set your oven to 180C and allow it to pre-heat.  Take a baking tin and place a piece of baking foil in  the middle of it.  Drizzle a little oil over it to prevent stickiness.  Next, wash your hands thoroughly.  Now carefully wrap each salmon steak in the ham, tightly.  Drizzle a little oil over the salmon and place it in the oven.

Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the Salmon.  As it cooks, the ham will shrink and tighten around the salmon.

Take a plate and cover the middle with risotto rice.  Flatten it down a little, then place the Salmon on top.  Cover the salmon with a few spoons of Arrabbiata sauce.

I have a little broccoli with mine, but it is optional.

Ciao, et buon appetito!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Limoncello Chicken

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Our theme for the month of September is Italian food.

I thought about how to put an interesting slant on the month, and I figured we could make it more interesting if we go Pasta free.  Just for the challenge.  Furthermore, we always think of Italy as a sun soaked country where they live on olives, seafood and tomatoes.  A lot of the time this is true, but we forget that a lot of Italy is cold, mountainous country.  The Dolomites and the Alps have inspired some of Italy's most challenging recipes, using whatever comes to hand.  A lot of their recipes include freshly caught rabbits, free range boar, and forage truffles.

Also we are going for nice, warm comfort food since summer seems to have turned up it's toes for the year.  That's all folks, please exit through the gift shop.  And someone turn the heating up please?

Right, to business.  Here is your shopping list:

For the sauce:

  • Chicken stock, one pint.  Today I am using the jellied kind.
  • The juice of two large, whole lemons
  • Limoncello Liquor (about 50 ml)
  • Star anise
  • Cornflour

For the chicken thighs you need, well, chicken thighs

  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One sprig of Rosemary

For the vegetables:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Honey
  • Butter

For the vegetables, we are going with cubed and fried potatoes, which the Italians love, and steamed broccoli.  The other veg is honey batons of carrots.  Not very Italian, but there you go.

OK, let's start with one medium-sized saucepan.  Put it on the heat and add the stock.  Heat gently and add the juice of two large lemons.  Stir it in and add the limoncello and one star anise.  Stir in well.  Allow it to simmer but not boil for five minutes.  Then to thicken it up, make a paste of cornflour and water in a small jug. Add about 25ml just enough to thicken it to a glaze.

Set up your chicken thighs in a baking tray, coated with metal foil.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper, Coriander and Oregano.  Pour a little of the lemon sauce over the chicken and use a pastry brush to coat the skin completely.  Place it in the oven at 180 C and bake for 35-40 minutes.  If you like, add a sprig of Rosemary.  Keep the rest of the sauce warm.

While they are baking, chop your potatoes into small cubes and deep fry.  Or you can oven bake them in a baking tray with hot lard and Rosemary.

For the vegetables you steam the broccoli.  Steaming it for four minutes.  It is so much better than boiled, as it keeps its colour and a little crispness.

For the carrots, heat a small pan of water.  Add a small knob of butter.  Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Add four tablespoons of honey and allow it to melt into the water.  Peel and chop your carrots into batons and add them to the water.  Cook them until they are soft and sweetened.

Once the chicken is cooked, plate it up, dry the potatoes with kitchen roll.  Drain the carrots and add them to the plate and finally add the broccoli, with butter if you like.

Serve and enjoy.

Buon Appetito!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Pork and Sage Burgers with Gilmartin's own relish

#ChefsTable This week's fantastic instalment of the BBQ series from chef Nick includes his own family's secret recipe.

Good morning people, sorry I am late.  Busy life, y'know....

Anyway, to business.  We are creating minced pork burgers today.  But with a kicker - my own family recipe for burger relish.

So grab a pen and paper, this is your shopping list:

  • Minced pork
  • One egg (or specifically the white)
  • Breadcrumbs (half a teacup for one burger)
  • Half a white onion, finely chopped or grated
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh Sage

That's the burger.  For the relish you need the following

  • The other half of the white onion
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tomato Puree
  • Sticky brown sugar

Right, time to get messy.  Set up a mixing bowl, one red and one green chopping board.  We start by finely dicing the onion, and then the Sage.  Fresh sage works best - I grow my own in the back garden.

For each burger you want about a tablespoon of onion and a teaspoon of Sage.  Then a palm-full of minced pork.  Add (per burger) a teaspoon of egg white. Finally add the onion, a teaspoon of Dijon Mustard, Worcestershire sauce and half a cup of breadcrumbs. I prefer to make a batch of about three or four at a time, they mix better that way.

Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Now mix the ingredients together into a ball, and pull of enough to fill the palm of your hand.  Twist the palms of your hands in opposing directions to make the patty shape.

Place the finished burgers on a red meat board, until they are ready to be grilled.

Right, that's the burgers, let's move on to the sauce.

This recipe came about in the long hot summer of 1976.  My parents would have a barbecue every Saturday night, with all their friends in the street.  While my dad was figuring out how to open the party seven beer can (google it), my mum would make her tangy tomato relish.

Start with a hot saucepan and a teaspoon of oil.  Add to this half a diced onion.  Sweat this off until it starts to go golden brown.  Add two heaped tablespoons of sticky brown sugar.  Stir it in until it caramelises.  Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and two tablespoons of tomato puree.  Stir it all together and reduce for a minute.  If it reduces too far, add a tablespoon of water.

Grill your burger until it is golden brown on both sides.  Now toast the burger bun and add a spoon of relish to the underside of the burger.

And that is pretty much it.  Serve with chips or whatever you like.


Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Bacon 'Jam' Burger

Our chef Nick continues the BBQ series with very special jimmy burgers!

Happy Tuesday everybody!

Ready to try a new way to sex up your burger?  Well step this very way.

We are making Bacon Jam, which is nothing at all like fruit jam, but has a similar process of manufacture.  It is very simple, but oh my, it does pep up the burger very nicely.  But first we need the burger.

Wash your hands, we are going to get messy.

For one individual burger you need a palm full of minced beef, of good quality.  Literally enough to fit in the palm of your hand.  Half an egg white and a quarter of a tea-cup of white breadcrumbs.  Add to this a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Mix it well with your hands and roll it into a ball.  Then twist your palms in opposite directions to make the burger patty shape.  Set it aside in the fridge to grill later.

But the burger itself isn't the star of the show today.  Set up a sauce pan and the following ingredients:

  • Two white onions, peeled and finely diced
  • Five tablespoons of thick brown sugar
  • 150 grams of Pancetta or finely chopped bacon
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Maple syrup
  • Garlic puree

Take one sauce pan and add a little oil.  Put it on the heat. Start by gently frying off your onion, just enough so it goes golden brown.  Add all the sugar.  Stir it in until it melts.  Reduce heat to prevent burning.  Now add the bacon and stir it in well.  Once the bacon is visibly cooked, add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Next, add four tablespoons of maple syrup.  Slowly continue to cook the jam until it reduces.  Stir it well, or it will stick. Finally add half a teaspoon of garlic puree and stir in well. Continue to stir until the contents reduce to a sticky,  jam like consistency.

Grill your burger until it is brown on both sides.  Add cheese to the top if you like.  Add tomato or onion on top if you like.  toast your burger bun lightly and place on a plate.

Add the bacon jam to the base of the bun.  Place the burger over this and the cheese over the burger.  Melt the cheese under the grill and add the tomato if you like.

And that, dear readers, is your Bacon Jam burger.  Burger King missed a trick or two, don't you think?

Catcha laters, sweet potatoes.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Greek Lamb Burgers

For  the #ChefsTable series during August, our chef is bringing you recipes for the BBQ season - inside or out! Well, you have got to love the British weather.  Always keeping us on our toes.  There I was, with a lovely barbecue menu planned out and it keeps raining.  So, instead, we are going with a barbecue-adaptable menu, which you can use, depending on the weather, with either a grill or al fresco.

We are starting with something I came up with while flicking through old photos of my Malia days.

You need:

  • Minced Lamb
  • One egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Freshly chopped mint
  • Garlic powder
  • Gyros spices, if you have any
  • Oregano
  • Cucumber
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Beefsteak tomato
  • Halloumi cheese (optional)
  • Feta Cheese (optional)

Oh, and a bread cake. (I’m from Yorkshire, and we call them bread cakes, OK?)

Take one big mixing bowl and place it on a dry worktop.  Wash your hands very carefully, between your fingers and right up your wrists.

Per burger you need enough lamb mince to fill the palm of your hand, half an egg white, and a quarter of a teacup of fine, white breadcrumbs.

To this, add half a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of finely chopped mint, half a teaspoon of Oregano, and, if you have any, Gyros spices.  These are the same that the Greeks use in their kebabs. If you wish, crumble in some Feta cheese.

Now, kneed it well into a ball, and divide up into burger sized balls, and flatten down on a red chopping board, or a plate. That is your burger sorted.

Next up, you need the Tzatziki.  This will be going inside the bun, under the burger.

Take a cereal bowl, add a teaspoon of chopped mint, a tablespoon of grated cucumber, half a teaspoon of garlic powder.  Now for the shameless product placement - you need Total Greek Yoghurt for the best Tzatziki.  It is thick, creamy and totally delicious.  The rest are like thickened milk by comparison.  Add a good tablespoon and mix it well. Grill your burger until it is brown on both sides.  Lamb is relatively safe to eat medium rare.  After grilling on both sides, add your Halloumi cheese to the top and grill it until it starts to brown at the corners.  Now grill your bun until it, too, is golden brown.  Don't take your eyes off it, they burn very quickly.

Cut a nice thick slice of Beefsteak Tomato.  These tomatoes are the business, you can do so much more with them than standard size tomatoes.

Now, to assemble your burger, spread the Tzatziki over the base.  Place the slice of tomato over this, and then place the burger on top.

That is pretty much all these is to it.  If you like, serve it with chips or a small Greek salad.  Yummy.

That’s it for today, next week, we are doing regular burgers, but with one very special ingredient.  Stay tuned.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Slow Roasted Vegetarian Baguette


When I was just checking back through my posts the other day I noticed that I had, for months, made one glaring omission. I had included no vegetarian food.  None, nil, nada.  So I thought I had better make amends and come up with something that will rock your world. For this you will need:

  • Half a Ciabatta, exactly like the one we used in the steak sandwich.
  • Two large portobello mushrooms.
  • Onion chutney
  • Stilton cheese - enough to cover the mushrooms
  • Dijon mustard mayonnaise
  • Two halves of pepper.  Any colour you like.  I mix and match for visual impact.

Set your oven at 180 degrees centigrade.  Remove the cores of your mushrooms and place them in a baking tin with a little oil and black pepper for seasoning. Roughly slice the peppers and add them to the baking tin.  Now bake the whole tray for twenty minutes. When the time is up, take out the tray.  Add a teaspoon of onion chutney to each mushroom, and cover with Stilton.  Place it back in the oven. Now switch on your grill. Cut the ciabatta in half and split it into top and bottom halves, using a bread knife carefully. Toast the inside of the ciabatta under the grill then switch it off. Take a small dish and make a 50-50 mix of Dijon mustard and Mayonnaise and spread it over the toasted side of the bread. Remove the baking tin from the oven. Using a green board, cut the mushrooms into two semi-circles and place them on the bread.  Over and around these, add the peppers. Place the lid on the bread and serve. Quick and easy for a change, eh? Enjoy! And that concludes American month.  Next month, we are doing burgers.  Real, proper home-made burgers.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Philadelphia Cheese Steak

Chef Nick Gilmartin continues this month's American cooking series.

Hola Amigos!

Fancy something quick, meaty and satisfying that you can eat on the go?  Step this way.

American sandwiches are not like the little triangles we get over here. They are big, half-loaf things stuffed full of meat and vegetables.  And boy, do they hit the spot.  The one mainstay of every street corner food cart is the Philadelphia Cheese Steak. 

We're making two of them, right?  Introduce a friend.  Hell, introduce a Vegetarian. You need the following:

  • Two rump steaks, as thin as you can find.  Then mallet them so thin you can fit them under the door.
  •  One ciabatta loaf
  •  One onion, pick any colour
  •  Two handfuls of mushrooms
  •  Mayonnaise
  •  Dijon Mustard
  •  Worcestershire sauce

Oh, and cheese, mustn't forget that.  Grated cheddar on this occasion.  But why not try Stilton?

As for the kit, you will need one very thick based frying pan, one small frying pan, tongs, one red board and one green board.  And one very big, dangerous mallet.

Right, to kick off, wash your hands!

Place a damp cloth on a worktop.  Now place the red chopping board on that.  Take your pieces of steak and spread them out over the red board.  Take a mallet and CAREFULLY beat them to a pulp, minding your fingers. [box type="alert" style="rounded"]Important safety tip.  Wear shoes for this.  If you drop a mallet on your toe, it will hurt.  A lot [/box]Move the steak on to a plate and liberally coat it in Worcestershire sauce.  Now leave it aside.

Peel and thinly slice the onion.  Thinly, being the operative word. Slice the mushrooms to the same thinness and sweat them off in the small frying pan.

Heat the thick frying pan with a little oil.  We need a thick one to stop the steak from burning.  Using your tongs, place the steak in the pan and fry it off for about a minute either side.  This is why it is sometimes called minute steak by the French. Once it is cooked, move it on to a yellow chopping board, or a wooden one.  Slice it into strips.  Take the onions and mushrooms off the heat and leave aside.

Fire up your grill. Take your ciabatta, and cut it into two halves then slice it carefully into two sides, top and bottom.  Place it under the grill and allow it to toast - that's as opposed to burn - please keep an eye on it!  Now take it off the heat. 

Take a small dish and make a 50-50 mix of Dijon mustard and Mayonnaise.  Add a little cracked black pepper and lemon if you like.

Spread the mustard mayo over the base of the bread.  And over the top, if you like.  Over this, you spread the onions and mushrooms and place the steak on top of that. Finally cover the whole thing with lots and lots of grated cheese.

Place it back under the grill until the cheese starts to bubble and melt.  Now place the lid over the top, and serve up, on its own or with chips or French fries (the difference being the thickness) and a dip pot of mustard mayo.  Because it's awesome.

And that is really it.  Simple, tasty and quick.  Enjoy

Have a nice day!

More American recipes here.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Chicken & Ribs

So today we are moving on to something a bit more elaborate.  It also takes a few hours to bake the ribs, so set you can leave them to let them do their thing.  So, first and foremost, you need the following:

[Note: This recipe takes most of the day.  Either do the prep work before you leave for work, or do I the night before]

  • One full rack of ribs.
  • Two chicken breasts.
  • Two large baking potatoes.
  • Two tomatoes.
  • Two large Portobello mushrooms.
  • Stilton
  • Onion chutney.
  • Flour, one egg and breadcrumbs with seasonings.
  • Lemon juice

For the dry rub you will need:

Two tablespoons of brown sugar, one teaspoon of chilli flakes, one teaspoon of paprika, one of oregano, one of salt, one of pepper and one of garlic powder.

For the marinade, on this occasion, I am using Paul Newman's sticky barbecue sauce, because I am a huge advocate of his products. You can make your own, but I don't want this recipe to take any longer - you will be starving!

Start by washing your hands, and then take a damp cloth and place it on the work top.  Place a red meat chopping board over that.

The morning before dinner, you need to take the ribs  out of their packaging.  Give them a good rinse under the cold tap and place them on the red board.  Take a sharp knife and cut off any excess skin and sinew off the bottom.  Place your ribs in a baking tin or on to a plate.  Start by pouring the juice of a lemon over the ribs.  Now take all the dry rub ingredients and mix them well in a dish.  Sprinkle them carefully and evenly over the ribs and rub them in with your fingers.  Make sure you spread it out well over the ridges in the ribs. 

Cover it with cling film and leave it in the fridge for a minimum of four hours and nd get on with your day.

About two hours before dinner, take out the ribs.  Remove the cling film and replace with metal foil.  Set your oven to 160 C and place the ribs on the middle shelf.  Now leave them there to cook for a minimum of two hours.

Take two baking potatoes, prick them carefully with a knife, and wrap them individually in metal foil.  Place them in the oven on the shelf above the ribs.  Now you have a couple of hours to fill.

About two hours later, switch on your deep fat fryer and your grill.  Take your red chopping board and place in on the worktop, over a damp cloth.  Take your chicken breasts and split them through the side, to butterfly them, like we have before.  Just cut far enough to leave the two halves attached. Place the chicken under the grill and leave until it is cooked on both sides.  It should be all white, with no traces of pink when your cut into it. 

Take three bowls.  Into the first, place two tea cups of flour.  Into the second, break an egg and whisk it up with a little water.  Into the third, add a fifty-fifty mix of bread crumbs and southern fried chicken seasoning.  Mix them up well.  

Using tongs, place your butterfly chicken into the flour first.  Pack it around well, and then dip it into the egg mix, again, making sure it is well coated. Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs and seasoning.  Make sure it is well covered.  Now place the chicken in the fryer for a minute until the coating turns a nice golden brown.  Take the chicken out of the oil and drain off the fat and leave them somewhere warm until the ribs are ready.

Next, the mushrooms and tomatoes.  For this you need a thick, flat oven pan.  Boil a kettle and place the boiling water into a deep dish or container.  Using  a small knife, cut an X shape into the top of each tomato.  Place them in the boiling water, carefully and leave them for a minute.  Remove them with tongs.  Notice how the skin has stretched back from the cut you made?  So, now you just peel the skin straight off.  Place it in the oven pan.  

Take your large mushrooms and give them a quick rinse under the tap.  Pull out the core of the mushroom.  It will pop out fairly easily.  Place one teaspoon of onion chutney in the middle of each mushroom, and cover it with some crumbled stilton.  Place the mushrooms into the oven pan with the tomatoes and place in the oven.  They take about fifteen minutes to cook at most.

Now, you need large plates for all of this, so warm a couple.  We're nearly there.

Take out the ribs, and coat them in the marinade.  God bless Paul Newman.

Place them back in the oven for a further two minutes, under the foil.  Finally remove the ribs and cut the rack into two halves.  For each person, you get one half rack or ribs, one piece of southern fried chicken, one nice big jacket potato, one tomato and one mushroom.

Trust me, you won't need dessert.


Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Also in the series: Meatloaf