Ah, the Star Spangled Banner. The one national anthem that no-one seems to really know the words to. Which sounds sacrilegious and inflammatory but seriously, we're convinced that the majority of those that do sing it, are simply making the words up as they go along.
'Oh say, can you see, what a great bumblebee, what proudly we hailed, la la la la la laaaah la.' That sort of thing.
No, come July 4th, the really important thing is to do everything with gusto and to bellow out joyously. Regardless of true lyrics. And if you are celebrating and holding a party of some description; then really, the food should follow suit.
We're talking big, bold flavours here, with a strong sense of indulgence and a melting pot of inspiration. The sort of thing that America does best. As such, we've teamed up some of the biggest names in food and have come up with a collection of recipes and suggestions for Independence Day. First up are Gizzi Erskine, Ed Smith and Dan Doherty, delivering a healthy twist on meatballs, a classic US nod for your side plate and a sumptuous dessert, fit for a King.
And we do mean THE King.
You'd be wise actually, to work it all off with some serious dancing afterwards. We recommend a playlist that includes some Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin and The Ramones.
Oh and Jimi Hendrix. You can forget the words to the Star Spangled Banner but don't leave him out.
Gizzie Erksine - New York-Style Meatballs & Gravy with Courgetti
The first time I went to New York I wasn’t an annoyingly snobby food brat like I am now. I wanted to try all the classic foods you see in the movies: eat a hot dog or a pretzel from a street-food cart, go to a Jewish deli and visit Little Italy. This desire came from my love of mafia movies and The Sopranos, which have so many scenes showing the characters cooking a good tomato sauce – or ‘gravy’ as it’s known by Italian-Americans. In this recipe, the tomato ‘gravy’ is puréed and the meatballs are a tiny bit bigger than we’re used to. You can serve them with any long pasta but I’ve done them here with courgetti (courgettes turned into ‘spaghetti’ with a spiralizer) that you don’t need to cook because the heat of the meatballs and sauce will warm it through.
20 minutes, plus cooling
For the meatballs
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
450g minced pork
450g minced beef
a few thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
sea salt flakes and freshly
ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1kg fresh plum or cherry
1–2 tablespoons red wine or
1 teaspoon sugar
½ bunch of basil
100g courgetti per person, or
grated Parmesan cheese
To make the meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan, then add the garlic and onion and sweat for 4–5 minutes, or until soft and a little golden. Leave to cool. In a bowl, mix together the minced pork and beef with the sweated onion and garlic and the herbs and season well with salt and pepper.
Fry a tiny bit of the meatball mixture and then taste to check the seasoning. If necessary, adjust the seasoning of the meatball mixture. Divide the mixture into 18 round balls (about 80g each) and refrigerate until needed.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sweat the onions for 10 minutes, or until soft, adding in the garlic for the last minute. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for few minutes, then add the canned tomatoes and the plum or cherry tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Cook the sauce slowly for about 1 hour, or until reduced but still a pouring consistency. At this stage, I like to blitz the sauce in a food processor for an Italian-American-style ‘gravy’ but you don’t have to. Return the sauce to the pan, stir through the basil and season to taste.
While the sauce is cooking, fry off the meatballs in the remaining oil in a heavy-based frying pan until they are browned and cooked through. Add the meatballs to the ‘gravy’ and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve the meatballs and sauce with courgetti and tons of black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.
Gizzi Erskine is a chef, food and travel writer, and author of several books, including Gizzi's Healthy Appetite, published by Mitchell Beazley, RRP £25. You can find her on social media as @GizziErskine
Ed Smith - Fried Green Tomatoes
Cinematic legend will have you believe that our friends over in the United States like a fried green tomato.
It (the green tomato) is not an ingredient we make much of over here, but we should — they’re better than the red varieties when cooked. You’ll find sharp, hard, unripe green tomatoes as well as softer, more subtle heirloom varieties in the shops. And instead of frying them, I reckon you should try just putting them under the grill, with the simple, complementary addition of dried oregano, chilli and nutty rapeseed oil suggested in this recipe.
On 4th July, these warm, yielding and aromatic tomatoes will go extremely well with fried or BBQ chicken or simple minute steaks. On other days, they make a great side to things like grilled fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod) and cheeses like ricotta and halloumi; basically, they’re juicy and luscious and are effective at cutting through savoury and salty foods without hogging the limelight.
Other sides to consider for your 4th July menus? Creamed corn, grilled corn or quick blanched corn; roast or baked sweet potatoes with sour cream; and Spring greens or hispi cabbage sautéed in plenty of butter — to mimic collard greens.
4–6 large green tomatoes (either unripe or intentionally green)
3–4 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 medium mild red chilli, finely diced
Sea salt and ground white pepper
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cut the tomatoes in half widthways (rather than from stem to tip).
Place each of the halves on a small baking tray into which they all fit snugly, cut-side up. If they don’t sit flat, slice a tiny bit off the other end so that they do. Drizzle and slick the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle them with a little pinch of white pepper, a bigger pinch of salt and a scattering of dried oregano.
Place under the grill about 8–10cm from the heat with the oven door ajar. Cook for 8–12 minutes, during which time they’ll sizzle and spit, soften and sink a little (but not totally), and dry out a touch on top.
Soft, ripe heirloom tomatoes will take less time than harder, unripe green tomatoes; you’re looking for the flesh to sink a little, the outer skin to start slipping and the tomato to be tender but still hold its shape. Remove from the oven, drizzle each with more oil, add another sprinkle of salt and top with the diced red chilli.
Dan Doherty - “The PBJ”
PBJ pops up in many of my recipes and dishes at the restaurant in different guises. It’s such a great combination, endorsed, of course, by the one and only Mr Presley. The crumbled shortbread adds a crunchy texture.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
50ml (2fl oz) double cream
10g (¼oz) caster sugar
½ vanilla pod, seeds only
2 tablespoons peanut butter
4 American-style Pancakes
1 tablespoon strawberry jam
1 shortbread biscuit
In a mixing bowl, whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla seeds together until the mixture forms soft peaks.
When ready to serve, “butter” each of the pancakes with the peanut butter, then spread over the jam. Give each one a good spoon of whipped cream, scatter the strawberries around, and finish by crumbling the shortbread biscuit and scattering over the top.
Dan Doherty is Executive Chef at Duck & Waffle and author of Toast Hash Roast Mash, published by Mitchell Beazley, RRP £20. You can find also him at www.dan-doherty.co.uk and as @DanDoherty_ on social media.