BUTTERS may not at first seem the most exciting of recipes, but if you can master a few classic combinations, it’s possible to add incredible flavour to your dishes and give them a little twist, turning something simple into a mouth-watering meal.
With that in mind, seasoned butters can be a real store cupboard secret, especially at this time of year when we’re all trying to save a few pennies.
We use a lot of butters in the restaurant and I’ll often bring some home with me to keep in the freezer, as they can make great additions to simple, home-cooked dinners.
Take some fresh new potatoes, straight from the ground and cooked until golden in the oven. They’re delicious smothered in melting butter, but use butter that’s seasoned and they are all the more outstanding. It’s a simple, pleasure and perfect for a cold winter’s evening.
The great joy is that you can add any flavours, herbs or spices and you have a home-made sauce or accompaniment for just about any dish you can think of, from fresh seasonal vegetables to grilled fish to succulent meats.
Once you’ve chosen your favourite flavours and added them to your butter, you can create a roll and freeze it, so that any time you want to use it, you just cut off a slice, then place it back in the freezer, ready for next time you need it. What could be simpler?
One of my favourite recipes is the classic pastis butter, which is a perfect match for lots of fish dishes. It can be found in many French bistros as an accompaniment to shellfish or snails. I recommend you serve it with lots of fresh crusty bread, as it’s wonderful to be able to dip the bread in the melted butter, soaking up every last drop.
Another real classic you will often come across is the Café de Paris butter. It tastes fantastic with grilled meats such as pork chop, beef rib or steak – which is sometimes referred to as entrecôte Café de Paris’ The Café de Paris sauce and inspiration for the butter is said to have originated in the Café de Paris restaurant in Geneva in the 1940s. To this day, the original recipe remains a bit of a trade secret and the restaurant is still famed for the sauce, and even provides it to other restaurants.
Café de Paris butter is really delicious and moreish. Versions typically contain a mixture of ingredients such as mustard, marjoram, dill, rosemary, tarragon, capers, parsley, shallots, garlic and anchovies. The potential list is endless, but what makes this such a great concept is that you can add flavours and herbs to suit your own taste. All of these can be whipped into the butter and the result is wonderful when melted over hot meat.
That’s the great thing about making your own seasoned butters – you can have so much fun with them and play around with different varieties. These recipes can be tweaked as you like, depending on which herbs and spices you have fresh and to hand, but whatever you choose, you’ll find they add real depth and flavour to all manner of dishes. The bonus is they are quick, easy and economic, yet always impress.
knob of butter
5 slices Parma ham, finely diced
6 shallots, finely diced
1 fennel, finely diced
200g button mushrooms, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
150ml pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur and aperitif from France)
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 sprig dill, finely chopped
Soften the butter, then place into a blender and whisk for two to three minutes until well whisked, then set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan and add another knob of butter. Add the diced Parma ham and sweat gently for two to three minutes to release the fat.
Sweat the shallots, fennel and butter mushrooms gently for two to three minutes. Add the garlic.
Next add the pastis and reduce it all until the mixture is dry.
Add the chopped herbs – tarragon, parsley and dill – then set aside to cool.
Fold the mixture through the butter until they are all mixed.
Spread a layer of clingfilm on the table.
Roll the butter into inch-wide cylinder shapes, then wrap the clingfilm around the cylinder tightly several times.
Set aside and place in the freezer for storing.
Buerre Café de Paris
knob of butter
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
splash of brandy
splash of Madeira
splash of Worcester sauce
15g Dijon mustard
Soften your butter, but take care not to soften it too much.
Place the butter into a mixer with a whisk blade, then whisk for three to four minutes. It will begin to turn white. When it does, set it aside.
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan. Add another knob of butter and sweat the shallots gently, then add the garlic and sweat for another minute.
Next add all the herbs – parsley, thyme, tarragon and rosemary – and sweat gently to release the flavour.
Add a pinch of salt, then set aside to cool.
Once cool, add to the 500g of butter and then add a splash of brandy, Madeira and Worcester sauce. Add the Dijon mustard and ketchup and mix together until all the ingredients are combined with the butter.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Spread a layer of clingfilm on the table. Roll the butter into inch-wide cylinder shapes, then wrap the clingfilm around the cylinder tightly several times. Set aside and place in the freezer for storing.