Real Men eat Quiche

Ok here we go again, I have read some of my early posts and realise that they are peppered with bad puns ( sorry ), some quite obscure references* and that I seem to regularly lambaste and offend without even trying. I really did not wish to do that today but the choice of title was just too easy an option. I eat quiche, in fact, I adore quiche and so questions concerning the nature of whether I am or not ‘ a real man ‘ must be addressed to my long-suffering partner. I do however have a couple of reservations.

quiche

I like proper quiche, the Quiche Lorraine, rustic French cooking, crisp pastry filled with a thick layer of creamy, wobbly egg custard flavoured only with some fried cubes of really good bacon. That is it, nothing more, not a single thing, not even parsley. I am not a fan of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quiche of the salmon, broccoli, blue cheese and anchovy variety.  I am in luck then that I have in my possession a very battered but beautiful French cookery book with just the most perfect recipe. At this point take a bow Annie who scoured a Paris flea market to procure it for me as a gift. Everybody a big hand for my friend, thank you so much.

Quiche Lorraine was originally an open pie, rustic in style, made with bread dough for the crust, in a cast iron pan. Today a rich short-crust or flaky rough puff pastry is used to line a pie dish. Regional variations include adding Gruyère cheese which makes a quiche Vosgienne and onions a quiche Alsacienne. Adding tomato to the recipe creates a quiche Provençal and spinach a quiche Florentine.

 *Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche is the name of a book Bruce Feirstein

Quiche Lorraine                            serves 8 – 10

for the pastry

250 gr strong White Flour

75 gr cold Beef Dripping, cut into small pieces

50 gr cold unsalted Butter, diced

1-2 tablespoons ice cold Water

A generous pinch of Salt

for the filling

4 free-range Eggs

30 gr Butter

1 tablespoon quality Virgin Olive Oil

150 gr Bacon Lardons, preferably cut from a thick piece of bacon

250 ml Double Cream

¼ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

8 inch flan ring ( at least 1 inch deep )

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add both fats and rub together with your fingertips lifting and separating the fat with the flour until you achieve the texture of breadcrumbs. Pour in one tablespoon of water and gentle form together as a dough. Use more water as required. Do not knead the dough and treat gently for the best results. Alternatively blitz ingredients to the crumb stage in a food processor, then add water until you get the same result. Wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator to relax for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Roll out the chilled pastry on a clean, floured, work surface to a thickness of approximately a quarter of an inch. Butter a flan dish or pie ring and carefully line trying not to split the pastry. If you do tear the pastry take a little surplus from the edge and gently push over the gap to patch the hole. Trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang over the lip of the pie dish as the pastry will shrink during cooking. Chill again for half an hour then cover the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and fill the dish with rice or baking beans.

Place on a baking tray and put in the oven. After ten minutes turn the oven down to 375°F/fan 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for fifteen more minutes. Carefully take out from the oven and remove the baking parchment and rice or beans. Beat up one of the eggs with a fork and brush the inside of the pastry case with a soft pastry brush. Bake in the oven for a further ten minutes until light gold in colour, this is to seal the tart. Take out and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. When cool trim off any excess pastry.

In a medium sized heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over a low heat. Add the bacon lardons and fry until crispy and light brown. In a large bowl beat the remaining eggs with nutmeg, cayenne pepper and season sparingly as the bacon will naturally add salt. Whisk in the double cream and then strain into a jug to remove any strands of thick egg white. Take the pastry case and evenly spread with the bacon lardons. Place baking tray with the pastry case on to the oven shelf, then pour in the custard mix, filling the case right to the top. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling has just set and is slightly wobbly to the touch and the top of the quiche is lovely and golden brown.

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World Apple Day

Black Butter Ham

The history of Apple Day, held on the 21st of October, is relatively new, the first official celebration was in 1990 in Covent Garden, this event has grown and is now a fixture all over the UK. However, there have been fairs across the south-west cider growing regions for a much longer time. Apple Day is now a celebration of all the myriad varieties of apple, their cultivation, cooking with them and, of course, making cider. There is another tradition much older, as old as cider making itself invoking pagan gods in an ancient fertility ritual which is Wassailing, which takes place in the cider orchards on January 17th.

Black butter

Jersey and Guernsey have a proud apple growing tradition going back many centuries and in Jersey around a fifth of the islands, fertile growing land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was occupied by orchards. Today both islands boast fine cider makers in La Robeline in Jersey and Roquette in Guernsey. But Jersey has another old, traditional product made from sharp, cider apples, ‘ black butter ’ or ‘ Le Nierre Buerre ’. Black butter is now made on Apple Day, with a great many islanders taking part in the production at the Jersey Nation Trust.

Black butter is made from cider apples, cider and sugar which is slowly cooked and reduced over a very long time, often all night with volunteers stirring all evening, with a special wooden paddle, to prevent the mix burning due to the high sugar content. The concentrate is then flavoured with a secret blend of spices, lemon, and liquorice. During the evening there is traditional singing, dancing, story-telling and perhaps drinking of a few glasses of cider.

The finished product is a sweet, dark, sticky spread which you can eat with a salty cheese or perhaps as an alternative to jam with a scone but my favourite is as a glaze on baked ham.

Black Butter Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. For more information on curing please visit A Cooks Compendium. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produce a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup.

A piece of boned and rolled dry cured Ham, around 1.5 kg – 2 kg is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 or 2 onions, peeled

2 carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of celery, washed

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

10 – 12 whole coriander seeds

6 – 8 black peppercorns

100 gr Jersey Black Butter

a large pan sufficient to submerge the ham

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

Preheat your oven to 400 F /200 C / Gas mark 6. Take out your ham from the cold stock which you can strain and reserve to make an excellent soup. Place on a baking tray and with a sharp knife remove the skin leaving a nice layer of fat. Score through the fat with the tip of your knife to leave small, squares or diamonds. Spread over the Black Butter and cook in the oven for thirty to forty minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

Meringues

I come from a family of serious meringue fans, the marriage of whisked egg whites and caster sugar, the crispy meringue shells, dried in the oven overnight and sandwiched with thick cream and topped with fresh berries and the show-stopping Pavlova with its chewy, marshmallow-like center. To make them chewy, we add cornflour and vinegar to the whipped-up sugar and egg whites. My mum makes an epic Pavlova and my Aunty Mary ate nearly a whole one for her eightieth birthday.

meringue.jpg

There is an old saying that you need ‘old eggs and a clear day’ to make a good meringue, certainly meringues are best made from older eggs, the runny whites are easier to whisk up, and frozen egg whites work very well so keep them from other recipes such a Sable pastry labelled in the freezer until needed, but allow to thoroughly defrost and reach room temperature before attempting the recipe.

There are several recipes for meringue in a professional kitchen including using super-hot sugar syrup ( Italian or Swiss Meringue ) but you can use one technique and warm your caster sugar on a baking tray in a hot oven, before adding to the egg whites, this helps the sugar dissolve quicker and the finished meringue will shrink less ( ideal for when you are making a Lemon Meringue Pie ). Golden caster sugar will make your finished meringue a darker colour but adds a delicious caramel flavour.

Finally, your meringues don’t have to be picture perfect remember you can just use some more cream to cover up cracks and flaws and if in the worst case just turn them into Eton Mess.

Top Tips

Use scrupulously clean bowls, any grease in the bowl will stop your egg whites properly expanding. Rubbing your bowl with half a cut lemon can help, but make sure you wipe it really dry with kitchen roll afterward.

It is an old habit I have but whenever I am baking I always crack the eggs individually into a small separate bowl. This means if you get a bad egg which happens occasionally you can avoid contaminating the rest of a bake. If a little egg yolk gets into the white, try to remove it with half of the cracked eggshell. If the yolk gets broken and mixed into the white, start again.

Be careful not to over-beat the egg whites. Whisk them until they hold firm peaks when the whisk is removed from the bowl. If you over‑whip them the finished texture will be grainy.

Cooking meringues is a process of trial and error and getting to know your oven. You don’t need a fan just an even heat. I have relatives and friends who have used the warm section of an Aga cooker, a plate warmer and an airing cupboard to dry out their meringues!

Classic Meringue Recipe

The simple ratio to remember is double the weight of sugar to egg whites.

300 gr Caster Sugar ( golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour )
The whites of 5 free-range Eggs, at room temperature
Half a fresh Lemon

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6, and spread the Caster sugar over an oven tray lined with baking paper and heat in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, wipe the inside of your mixing bowl with the cut lemon and add the egg whites. Whisk up to a foam, then carefully remove the sugar from the oven and tip a third into the egg whites continuing to mix constantly ( you may need help if you are using a hand mixer ). Add the remaining sugar and continue whisking until the mixture has cooled, and is glossy and will hold its shape.

Turn the oven down to its lowest setting. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, and spoon the meringue mix on, remember to leave sufficient gaps as they will increase in size as they dry out. Place them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, depending on their size, this could take four to six hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there until it has cooled, then immediately transfer to an air-tight container.

Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Gosh doesn’t everyone love milkshake, as a child I was so spoilt, with thick shakes made with fresh strawberries, just picked, washed and hulled, scoops of ice cream and a splash or two of full fat, gold top milk? They were so thick you could barely suck them up the straw. Even now I’m quite partial when we are out to a froth, ice cold milkshake, although they are made with syrup or powder. So, when I saw a Strawberry Milkshake cupcake in a magazine, well, I just had to have a try myself.

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcakes.jpg

Cupcakes are a phenomenon, they have become so popular, and are fun and versatile and very easy to make. Next week I will be baking lots of Halloween themed cupcakes topped with sugar pumpkins, ghosts, and witches’ hats. The secret of this recipe to use Nesquik milkshake powder which gives a real milkshake flavour to both the cake and the topping and I added another childhood favourite some white chocolate buttons to give it my own little twist.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Milkshake Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr White Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

75 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

100 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Red Gel Food Colouring

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and strawberry milkshake powder together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick. Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in half of the white chocolate buttons.

Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. In a jug, mix together the milk and strawberry milkshake powder, then gradually pour the liquid into the icing while mixing on a slow speed. Add a little red food colouring to colour the icing pink. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. To get the two-tone effect I diluted a little more food colouring with a little water and brushed around the inside of the piping bag before piping the frosting onto the cakes.

Decorate with the remaining white chocolate buttons, some fresh or freeze-dried strawberries and a dust of icing sugar.

My Murgh Makhani – National Curry Week

We are if you are unaware in a celebratory culinary alignment of epic proportions it is National Curry Week, Seafood Week, Chocolate Week and National Porridge Day. “Go on”, I hear you cry, “You’ve had all year have you come up with a recipe combining all of these?”

Well no. We had porridge for breakfast, big bowls made with creamy Jersey milk and I can hear all you spurtle welders screaming, yes made with milk.* Chocolate, I have two daughters so I could use Willy Wonka’s chocolate fountain, seafood I will save for the weekend so supper this rather chilly, wet evening was a suitable curry, one of my favourite curries, in fact, Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken. This week I have soaked lentils, pounded garlic, ginger and cinnamon sticks, roasted coriander, mustard, and fennel seeds and even opened a jar of the now infamous, homemade chilli and lime pickle. I love cooking curries and balancing the complex flavours of the spices.

*The spurtle is used to stir proper porridge made with rolled oats, salt, and water only. I worked for a two times winner of the Golden Spurtle but that as they say is another story.

Butter Chicken.jpgButter Chicken does not have a pedigree stretching into the dawn of history, it is believed to have been created in Peshawar and after the British partition, the chef moved to a New Delhi restaurant. A customer wanted a meal late in the evening and marinated chicken, ready for the Tandoor oven, was tossed with tomatoes, butter and spices and the Murgh Makhani ( butter chicken ) was born. While the dish looks similar to a Chicken Tikka Masala, it is more flavoursome with more depth of spicing in the rich tomato-based sauce. The Tikka Masala is Britain’s most popular curry and is believed to have been made originally with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and to have originated in the hallowed curry houses of either Birmingham or Glasgow.

The chicken, either on or off the bone, is marinated in yoghurt and spices but the secret of of a true Murgh Makhani is Qasuri Methi or dried fenugreek leaves. The chicken is best cooked in an extremely hot oven, a Tandoor ( if you have one ) or over coals or on a char grill to add an authentic smoky flavour before finishing in the sauce and serving. So, you can fire up the BBQ.  Garnish with green chillies, sliced hard boiled eggs, coriander leaves, raisins and toasted almonds.

Murgh Makhani ( Spiced – Butter Chicken ) serves 4 – 6

for marinated chicken

1.5 kg of Chicken pieces, skin removed or 1 kg chunky diced Chicken

Juice of 2 Limes

150 gr fresh natural Yoghurt

1 medium sized red Chilli, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds

2 tablespoons Fennel Seeds

1 tablespoon Cumin Seeds

1 tablespoon Fenugreek Seeds

6 Cloves

8 White Peppercorns

¼ Stick of Cinnamon

2 Bay Leaves

8 Cardamom Pods, crushed and seeds removed

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt

Vegetable Oil

for butter sauce

75 gr Butter in small pieces

3 tablespoons Clarified Butter or Ghee

2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped

8 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

3 centimetre piece of Ginger, peeled and crushed to paste

4 tablespoons Tomato Puree

8 fresh Tomatoes, de-seeded and roughly chopped

200 ml Pouring Cream

2 tablespoons Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder

Juice of 1 fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Coriander leaves to garnish

Toast the spices, excluding the chilli, cardamom and cayenne pepper by heating them in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed frying pan, stirring occasionally, until they colour slightly. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder with the cayenne and cardamom seeds and reduce to a powder. Mix half of your spice mix with the chilli, lime juice, and yogurt and in a large glass or ceramic bowl stir in the chicken. Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least two hours. Larger chicken pieces benefit from marinating an extra couple of hours.

Preheat your oven to 425 F / 220 C / Gas mark 7. Drain off any excess yogurt mix from the chicken and set aside. Place the marinated chicken pieces on an oiled baking tray and cook for fifteen minutes for diced chicken or twenty-five minutes for the large chicken pieces. The chicken can brown well, almost char in the oven as this improves the flavour of the finished dish. At the same time as the chicken is cooking heat the clarified butter and a little more oil in a large casserole, add the onions. Sauté the onions for 15 minutes until golden brown in and then add the ginger, garlic, remaining spice mix and the turmeric. Cook for two more minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.

Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, kasuri methi, cream and any remaining yogurt marinade to the pan and mix together. Place in the chicken and simmer for ten to fifteen more minutes till the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Do not boil as the sauce will split. Finish the sauce by correcting the seasoning and immediately before serving stir in the lemon juice and butter pieces. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan bread and rice.

Perfect Roast Beef and British Roast Dinner Week

Roast Dinner Week

My waistline will attest that I love food and I adore eating almost anything, apart from desiccated coconut and the dates you get in those little wooden boxes at Christmas. Feed me Chinese cuisine, Italian cooking, sticky-icky smoky barbecue food and I’m a happy chef but the food I think I love most and would be my death row last meal choice, although at this moment in time that is not an option I’m considering, is the classic British roast. Succulent roast chicken with crispy skin; chunks of tender lamb flavoured with garlic, rosemary, and anchovy; melting, fatty pork with salty crackling or medium rare roast beef with rich red wine gravy, it is very difficult to choose which I prefer most.  Which is your favourite? Which is the most popular roast in the country? Well, the roast that everyone worldwide knows is as British as roast beef, well is er….. roast beef.

Roast Beef - Copy.jpeg

So if the king of the British roast is a joint of beef, in my humble opinion it is the equally aristocratically sounding Sirloin* that is the best beef to roast. There are moderately cheaper joints such as a corner cut topside that make for an excellent roast, if you can afford it a rib on the bone is perhaps the most show stopping roast to present at a table, but I prefer is the sirloin. The meat itself is very lean, however, that lovely layer of fat will help keep the meat moist when cooking. The taste is terrific, there is a minimal waste and it is fantastically easy to carve at the table if you feel like impressing your guests.

*You are perhaps aware of the story that an effusive monarch was so taken with his beef dinner he knighted the remains of the joint on the spot. It has been attributed to Henry VIII, Charles II and the host of English kings in between and was so popular it was referenced by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson, but the origins of the word sirloin are much less regal. The old English word would be originally written as ‘surloyn’ or ‘surloine’, and was derived from French word ‘surlonge’, sur meaning over and longe meaning loin, the sirloin was then quite simply a cut of beef taken from above the loin. Interestingly most of our words describing cuts of meat or the name of the meat are from French origins, the names of animals or livestock are more often of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Now as a family we sit down about one o’clock for a traditional roast on a Sunday, just as I did with my parents and grandparents, this week, however, is National Roast Dinner Week* encouraging you to eat a roast when and where ever and I am all for that. I have posted the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding, the classic accompaniment to roast beef previously, so here is my recipe for the perfect roast beef. A good local butcher will be able to provide you with a great piece of beef from a reputable, quality supplier. If you can find grass fed, mature beef, hung for three weeks it will be simply delicious, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 *I have a theory about space and time and alternative universes that postulates the somewhere in a never-ending series of multiverses it will always be a named something day or week, Free the Herring Day, Shred more Paper Week alternatively this is just the creation of canny marketers to get you to purchase something you neither want or need.

Roast Sirloin of Beef and Rich Red Wine Gravy         serves 6-8

1 ½ to 2 kg center cut Sirloin, rolled and tied

( Ask your local butcher to do this )

250 gr Beef Dripping or Lard

1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves

½ tablespoon English Mustard Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon ground Black Pepper

For the gravy

350ml red wine

200ml beef stock

75ml port

1 small White Onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and sliced

1 stick of Celery, washed and sliced

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

1 heaped tablespoon Plain Flour

1 Bay leaf

A few sprigs of Thyme

Heat your oven to 400 F / 200C/ Gas Mark 6 and weigh your joint of beef. Put the dripping into a roasting pan and place in the oven. Mix the thyme, mustard, salt and black pepper and rub all over the beef and when the dripping is melted and hot, place in the beef fat side down and return the roasting pan to the oven. Roast the beef for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the piece of beef over before placing back in the oven.

Turn the heat down to 360 F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. For every 450 gr of raw weight, cook your joint for ten minutes per 450 gr for a rare piece of beef and for fifteen minutes per 450 gr for well done. When the beef is cooked to your particular preference, take it out of the roasting pan, cover with foil and allow to rest somewhere warm for thirty minutes.

To make the red wine gravy, place the roasting tin on a high heat with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay lea, and thyme. Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes then add the flour, cook for a couple more minutes stirring continuously. Pour in the port, scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any debris from the tin and add the red wine. Continue to simmer and reduce by three-quarters before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce by a quarter and season to taste. Pour any juices from resting the meat back into the tin, warm and pour the gravy through a sieve into a warm jug. Carve the meat and serve with the gravy and Yorkshire puddings.

Seafood Tarts

There are more than a few signs that Spring is definitely here. Last weekend we had an impromptu picnic in the nearby park and the weather was truly glorious * And when Spring is the air we chefs start to think about some delicious, lighter lunches and dinner instead of all the hearty soups and stews. I think I have the perfect recipe then, for you today, Seafood Feuilleté, a buttery, puff-pastry case full of sensational seafood in a creamy vermouth sauce.

Seafood Tart

Now before we start I don’t want you to panic at the thought of puff pastry, I’m going to put up my hands up right now and admit straight away few of us are lucky to have the time and patience to perfect the technique of making puff pastry at home. Even after hours of practice, I struggle to get an even rise and perfect bake every time, so my solution, used correctly the bought-in product is practical, versatile and very labour saving. Rich and flaky, ready-made puff pastry can top a rich fish pie, enclose marzipan and fruit for a luxurious dessert or make simple crisp cheese straws to nibble.

Puff pastry can also be used to make savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can be used in a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

*The fog returned Monday morning with a vengeance and it was more than a tad chilly.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms or a seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard, glazed poached peach halves and raspberries.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )

Egg wash

For the method please follow this link.

 

For the Filling

6 -8 Gamba’s or large Shell on Prawns

500 gr Fresh Mussels Fresh Clams

500 gr Fresh Clams

12 Scallops

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick double cream

50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )

25 ml Olive Oil

25 gr Butter

Juice of one fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight fitting lid ), melt the half of the butter and add half of the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heat proof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.

When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Melt the remaining butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan and saute the gambas, over a gentle heat, for three minutes before turning up the heat and adding the scallops, turn over the prawns and the scallops as soon as they are brown. After two more minutes remove from heat, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and keep warm.

Heat the mussels and clams gently in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the remaining lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required. Place a warm pastry case onto a deep lipped plate and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Add a couple of scallops then fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids or a large prawn. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.

 

British Pie Week – Braised Beef and Red Wine Pie

It is nearly the end of National Pie Week*, and some of you may already know what I think of some of these marketing inspired theme days, but in the spirit of things it is not too late for you to roll up your sleeves, don an apron and please whilst not exactly releasing your inner Sweeny Todd, get making some pies.

Beef Pie.jpg

 

Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.

Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.

Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.

*March 6th– March 12th

Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can substitute the red wine for a strong tasting beer for beef and ale pie and adapt the recipe further adding chestnut mushrooms, sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking.

Shin of Beef and Red Wine Pie

1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks

( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin

and ask the butcher to give you the bone )

2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped

1 ltr quality Beef Stock

250 ml good Red Wine

100 ml quality Olive Oil

100 gr Plain Flour or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping

2 tablespoons Tomato Puree

Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste
Ready-made puff pastry (use an all-butter one if you can) or shortcrust
1 egg, beaten

Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the red wine and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.

Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.

To serve, pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish.

Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked.

Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas.

Beignets and Mardis Gras

Beignets and Barbecues

As a family, we certainly get into the mood on Pancake Day and eat pancakes for England. Next year as Honey gets older I think I will have to invest in a second pancake pan to keep up. Number one daughter Lilly is a dab hand at pancake batter and can now measure out the ingredients pretty much by eye so at least some of the work is shared. But as a treat this weekend I made us all Beignets, which are like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is traditionally square-shaped and without a hole. Beignets are considered the forerunners of the raised doughnut and are a favourite during Mardis Gras.

mardis-gras Mardis Gras / New Orleans  @ AmemericanSky

Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras and the world famous Carnivals in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans are festivals which developed from the Christian tradition of eating special rich foods before…

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National Toast Day and the Best Ever Hangover Cure

Wholegrain Toast with Bacon Jam and Fried Egg

It is National Toast Day so I want to share with you one of my favourite recipes. When you read the title, you might think I’ve lost the plot ( again ) but there is definitely something very, very moreish* about the combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat. You will also probably think that this is quite an expensive dish to make with a lot of bacon** but rather like marmite this is something to use sparingly on your toast, and unlike marmite there will be no polarisation, I’m sure everyone who tries it will LOVE it.

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This recipe for bacon jam is my adaptation of any number of American recipes, each perfectly wonderful, reflecting the availability of ingredients and my own personal preferences. You can try substituting Maple syrup for the honey and adding more chilli if you want more kick in your finished jam. Other recipes I looked at substitute a cup of ground coffee or beer for the water. Next time I am going to use Guinness and I’ll let you know about the result.

*Everyone I know who’s tried it, and I’m a bit of a bacon jam evangelist, always asks for more. It is the ultimate hangover cure on thick toast topped with a fried egg.

**Ask your local butcher if he has any bacon and gammon offcuts this will help with the price.

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Bacon Jam

500 gr quality dry cure Smoky Bacon ( this is better if it is quite fatty )

2 large Spanish Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml White Wine Vinegar

100 ml Water

250 gr soft Brown Sugar

100 ml runny Honey

1 medium Red Chilli Pepper, finely diced

2 dried Bay leaves

10 – 12 Coriander Seeds

3 – 4 Cloves

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

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Slice the bacon into half inch thick strips ( any smaller and they tend to burn ). Put the bacon strips into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium to high heat. Fry the bacon stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the bacon is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. The bacon will cook in its own fat which will melt down, this process is called rendering. When the bacon is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess fat. This can be stored and used for cooking*. Once the bacon is cool, chop very finely into very small pieces.

cooking-bacon-bits

Add the onions to the pan in sufficient bacon fat to allow them to fry. Cook over a medium heat, for ten to fifteen minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. While the onions are cooking blitz the spices in a coffee grinder ( you can, of course, use a pestle and mortar ). Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the bacon and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar and honey content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Process the jam using the pulse setting in a food processor to help break up the onion, If the result is still quite liquid return to a pan and bring back to the boil. Simmer to reduce the liquid further stirring all the time. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month. Served warm or hot on toasted bread or breakfast muffins and top with a fried egg.

*I’m unashamedly old school just as you cannot have too much butter, cream, alcohol or garlic in your cooking, pretty much anything tastes better fried in bacon fat. Pour the melted bacon fat through a piece of muslin cloth and keep in the fridge in an airtight container.