Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas feasting (part 3 - dessert)

Without further ado - the final course of my Christmas feast. Because Paul isn't a dessert lover, I decided to do a Christmassy version of one of the desserts he will eat - the tiramisu. Plus tiramisu is pretty much trifle, and for whatever reason trifles are a big part of a British Christmas. I reckon this is the best chocolate dessert I have ever, ever made. It's very rich, not very sweet and just gorgeous. It was so good that I am delighted I purchased a trifle bowl just for this occasion.

Chocolate chestnut tiramisu (serves about 8-10)

1 packet savoiardi biscuits (prob won't need all of them)
1 cup very strong coffee
1/4 cup dry marsala
180g very good dark chocolate
50ml marsala (extra)
3tbs caster sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 eggs, separated
250g mascarpone
1 can (435g) unsweetened chestnut puree
200ml double cream
chocolate & marrons glace for garnishing

Mix the cooled coffee and marsala. Place a layer of savoiardi biscuits in the bottom of a trifle dish and pour half of the coffee mixture over it in an even layer.

In a glass bowl, mix the broken chocolate, sugar, extra marsala and vanilla. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and beat until the chocolate is just melted, then add the eggyolks and whisk until it forms a frothy mousse. Remove from the heat & fold through the mascarpone and chestnut puree.

In a clean bowl, whisk the eggwhites to soft peaks. In two batches, fold the eggwhites through the chocolate mixture, until just combined, then pour half the moussey chocolate mixture over the layer of savoiardi in the trifle bowl.

Place another layer of savoiardi gently over the chocolate mixture, and sprinkle with more of the coffee and marsala mixture. You may not need all of it to give them a good coating.

Pour the rest of the chocolate mixture over the second layer of savoiardi.

Whisk the cream to soft peaks, and spread over the chocolate mixture. Garnish with grated chocolate and pieces of marrons glace.

Cover with cling film and set aside in a cool place for a couple of hours before serving.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas feasting (part 2 - main course)

I was quite determined that we were going to have goose as the centrepiece of our Christmas meal. Apparently roast goose has been the festive meat of Britain since the ancient Celts fattened them for Samhain, and I saw no reason to break with that tradition!

Of course, a goose is too big for two people, so when it was delivered on the 23rd I jumped into action with a sharp knife and a pair of poultry shears. The legs came off and were put into a bit of salt, to cure before making them into confit, to be eaten another day.

The breasts came off as well. One went into the fridge just as it was, to be browned in a frying pan before being finished in the oven on a rack over a dish of water. The other breast joined the legs being cured, although I made a slightly more flavoursome cure of mace, sugar, salt, fennel pollen and thyme. That breast was going to be hot smoked over lapsang souchong tea.

The large lumps of fat in the body cavity and most of the rest of the skin and fat went into a pan with some cold water, to render out the fat. A large piece of skin, plus whatever extra meat I could strip off, and the liver, were made into a sausage, which was also going to be smoked (this ended up tasting horrible, and it didn't make the final platter, so I won't mention it again).

Finally whatever was left of the carcass, along with the giblets, some stock veg and a bayleaf, went into a large pot with some cold water to be simmered for stock.

I decided that because it was just us sharing the celebration, the plating would look much nicer if I just made one large shared platter. Sauteed cabbage, cauliflower puree (I was going to make a celeriac mash, but I had a lot of cauliflower left from the canapes, so I combined it with an equal amount of mashed potato) topped with some of the goose scratchings rendered out of the fat. The smoked goose breast. The roast goose breast. And some of these pickled pears.

It was wonderful!

The leftover meat is going to join the confit goose legs in a very grand and rich cassoulet in a couple of days, with beans cooked in the goose stock. And the goosefat is safely tucked away in the freezer, for superior roast potatoes once we recover from all this rich food.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Feasting (part 1 - canapes)

I hope everyone has recovered from yesterday? Not too much stress or over-indulgence or travelling ridiculous distances?

I had a lovely day yesterday! I took full advantage of it just being us & Urchin at home, and the snowy weather, to make a Christmas dinner as I felt it should be done. We're not usually at home for Christmas, so I have never had an excuse to decorate. This year I bought a wreath for the door, decorated a tree (a small juniper that Paul is contemplating bonsai-ing) and hung mistletoe from the light fittings.

One of the things I really like about Christmas in this country is how deeply you feel the roots of the celebration. I can understand Christians getting upset about losing "the reason for the season", but the early church co-opted the existing winter solstice festivals, and many of the traditional Christmas trappings in the UK are definitely pre-Christian.

Mistletoe, holly, ivy, mulled cider and a table groaning under the weight of roasted meats - these things have absolutely nothing to do with a child being born in a stable in Bethlehem, probably in spring, and everything to do with the frozen darkness of midwinter in Europe. And I think it is fab.

So as well as enjoying the faintly twee aspects of Christmas: cups of cocoa adorned with candy canes; carol singers coming through the neighbourhood; brandy and cinnamon in everything, I was also planning my menu.

We'd decided to have the main meal in the evening, but with some champagne and fortifying canapes during the day. A couple of weeks ago I was at Borough Market, and bought some gorgeous little Scottish oatcake canape cases, which I filled with a cauliflower puree and topped with salmon roe. This was a nod to a New Year's Eve dinner that I made for Paul about 6 years ago, which stood out as the best New Year's either of us has ever had. I also bought a jar of baby figs marinated in brandy, and wrapped a fig and a lump of stilton in proscuitto and baked them until the cheese softened and the ham began to crisp. We had a bottle of Moet. I opened my presents (Paul's sadly haven't arrived yet). It was the perfect start to Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Other Blogger's Dishes - lamb, soup & ox cheeks

As I was saying the other day, what with all the bloggers and the foody TV around, I almost don't bother with cookbooks any more. And, as the year is coming to an end, I thought I should tip my hat to a few of the bloggers whose dishes have been rocking my world of late.

Firstly, the totally awesome Peter Minakis of Kalofagas. Vine Grower's Lamb is one of the many dishes that he has posted about that I have wanted to try ASAP. And I actually had most of the ingredients! A stash of vine leaves frozen from spring, a joint of mutton (turned out to be unboned, but boning out a leg of lamb is a useful skill to learn) and some home made cheese combined to make an absolutely delicious dish.

I served it with a butternut and barley pilaf and a dollop of yoghurt, rather than making the sauce.

Kavey, of Kavey Eats, was the source of this lovely ox-cheek Bordelaise recipe. I'd heard all these reports about the Waitrose "forgotten cuts" range of meats - the fatty, bony, sinewy bits that reward patience with sweet, gelatinous meat and full-bodied sauces, but when I actually got my hands on some of their ox cheeks, I was at a bit of a loss. This recipe was the perfect way to showcase them. And was so good that I have bought some more ox cheek to make it again - but this time I was able to source marrow bones.

But the absolute stand-out, "really? does that work? ...oh my god can we have this again tomorrow?!", dish of recent weeks has been Kat & Matt's Lasagna Soup from A Good Appetite. It was the addition of the ricotta that threw me, but it works!

I used chorizo, and fresh basil and oregano instead of dried. I didn't blend it, because Paul prefers a chunky soup. I also added a bit of extra chilli sauce (it was really cold!) and took Kat's advice about adding some spinach for colour (although not the winter greens in the diet bit) and used green lasagne. Absolutely perfect. Rib-sticking, spoon-stand-upping and gorgeous. It'd probably be wonderful made with some leftover ham & turkey, if you have such things lying about after Christmas. This is definitely what you want to eat when it is -5C outside, like it is now.

Merry Christmas Bloggers! Thanks for another great year!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Figgins for Hogswatch

Hogswatchnight is, of course, the night that the Hogfather visits the inhabitants of Discworld, in his sleigh pulled by four wild boars, to distribute toys and pork products.

It is customary to leave out turnips for Gouger, Rooter, Tusker and Snouter, and a glass of sherry and a little treat for the Hogfather. I didn't have any turnips, and I would rather drink most of the sherry myself, but I did bake some figgins.

Figgins (makes about 10)

115g plain flour
80g lard, chilled in the freezer for an hour (you could use butter or shortening, but we are making treats for the Hogfather, so it really should be lard)
pinch of salt
100g raisins
50ml sherry
15g butter
50g dark muscovado sugar
grated zest of an orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
milk & demerara sugar to glaze

The day before baking, put the raisins to soak in the sherry.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Wrap the lard in a piece of greaseproof paper, leaving the end exposed, and holding it by the paper, dip it in the flour and grate it into the bowl, dipping it again if the grater starts to gum up. You will end up with a pile of frozen, grated lard in the middle of the flour. Yum yum. But I promise you this makes the most gorgeous flaky pastry. Using a knife, cut the lard through the flour, then add just enough cold water to bring the mixture together into a dough. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge.

Put the raisins and any sherry that hasn't been absorbed in a small saucepan and add the butter, muscovado sugar, orange zest and spices. Cook over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolves. Cool.

Roll the chilled pastry out thinly and cut 5" diameter circles out. Place a tablespoon of filling on the centre of each circle and fold over, crimping the edge into a pasty sort of shape. Transfer to a baking sheet, glaze with a little milk and a sprinkling of sugar. Bake at 220C for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool a bit before eating.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Festive Treats

Christmas is Coming! The blogger's getting fat,
So please take some fudge from the foody's stash!
If you don't like fudge there's some jelly too,
And if you don't like jelly, will pâté do?

I know I am not the only one who likes cooking but doesn't have a big family to inflict it on. Even worse, I like making some sweet stuff from time to time and my only resident taster doesn't really have a sweet tooth. So most of the stuff I have been making in a fit of Christmas spirit (mulled wine with extra cherry brandy being my Christmas spirit of choice this year) has been going into work, or my dance class.

I've made a couple of batches of cheat's fudge - white chocolate with orange and cranberry, and dark chocolate with peppermint. The recipe is originally from a Mennonite cookbook but I have taken it and run with it.

Cheat's Fudge

1 can condensed milk (sorry people, you have to use the full-fat version for this, the low-fat one goes soupy)
400g chocolate
50g butter
flavourings, inclusions etc

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add condensed milk. Stir until smooth. Add your flavourings and inclusions & spread into a lamington tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Chill and then cut into small pieces.

For my white chocolate one I added the zest of an orange, 100g dried cranberries and garnished it with some edible red glitter. For the dark chocolate I added a bit of peppermint essence and pressed crushed candy canes into the soft fudge, then sprinkled with a little iridescent glitter. Only problem being that the candy canes de-natured and I was left with (very delicious) chocolate fudge swimming in pale pink syrup.

I was also inspired by this recipe from Dan Lepard, for mulled wine plum jellies (scroll past the gorgeous caramels). I love those soft fruit jelly sweets with the crunchy sugar coating, but there are always too many flavours that I don't really care for in a bag, so I was delighted to come across a recipe that promised something similar, if more sophisticated. Now, Paul has been stripping the fruit off his calamondin to prepare it for winter and I have a whole jar of last year's calamondin marmalade left, so I pureed the fruit and used that, along with white wine. Yum. These are so good I am not too keen to share them with anybody! Either as a sweet, or with cheese, these are definitely going to be repeated. And with the useful bit of information that jam gels at 105C, I think my preserving has just turned a corner.

But for Paul, I really did have to make a savoury treat, so I made Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Game Terrine. Mine doesn't sit up as proudly as Hugh's because the mallard I thought was in the freezer wasn't, and there weren't as many pigeon breasts as I thought, so my 1kg lean game was more like 500g. Still - it looks very impressive and it tastes absolutely wonderful. Very festive!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Meat-Free Monday: Vegan carrot rice pudding

This was born out of necessity - I had an enormous pile of carrots that weren't going to keep for much longer. I started thinking about Indian desserts like carrot halva, and this was born. It would make a delicious, comforting (and substantial) dessert, but I actually ate it, warmed in the microwave, instead of porridge for breakfast.

Vegan Carrot Rice Pudding

1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice (I use metric cups)
1 1/2 cups water
1 piece of cinnamon, about 5cm long
3 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
400ml can coconut milk
700g carrots, scrubbed and grated
1 cup raw sugar

Put the rice, water and spices in a heavy based saucepan. Cover, bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and simmer really gently until most of the water is absorbed. About 20 minutes. The rice won't be cooked yet but it will be starting to swell and soften.

Stir in the coconut milk, carrots and sugar and cover again. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, fragrant, creamy and thick.

I just ate it as it was, but the incorrigible sweet tooth might like to top it with fresh mango, or a sprinkling more sugar, or some coconut cream.

Friday, 10 December 2010

TV Cooks

I've almost given up buying cookbooks. Almost. I find that between TV, newspapers and food bloggers, I have so many recipes earmarked to try that I can't really think about actually buying cookbooks as well.

So here's a bit of a selection of the stuff I have been cooking from TV shows I have been watching.

We've got 3 different versions of Nigella's Crustless Pizza, from the Kitchen series. It's really more of an Italian-flavoured toad in the hole, and very adaptable. I've started making it as a brunch dish with bacon, eggs and cherry tomatoes.

We've also got Nigella's Asian Braised Shin of Beef, also from Kitchen, served with Jamie's Sweet Potato Mash from 30-minutes Meals. Next time I make the mash, I will use half the amount of lime, and use fish sauce instead of soy (assuming no vegetarians are present) because the soy ruined the colour.

And finally, the Hairy Biker's sausage and rosemary skewers with salmoriglio and lentil salad. A tasty, quick meal from the Hairy Bikers Cook-Off. The rosemary skewers smelled nice while they cooked, but I didn't really feel that they added any flavour to the meal.

And that is without any of the dishes from Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (two of my favourites) that are in my files. So many dishes, so much TV, so little time!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Product Review: Davidstow Cheddar

I think I have been quite forthright about my passion for cheese. Is there anyone who hasn't noticed it? I didn't think so.

So when I was offered some samples of Davidstow Cheddar to taste* I honestly couldn't resist.

Things started badly, it has to be said, when I got home very late one night to a note through the door saying that a parcel had been left with my neighbour. It was far too late to knock on the door, so I had to wait until the following evening to see what the parcel was. And as she picked up the cute little insulated bag from next to her radiator, my heart sank. Was there going to be anything in a usable state after 36 hours next to the radiator?

As it happens, the bubblewrap and insulated bag had done a magnificent job, and other than being slightly sweaty, the cheese had survived in good condition.

I was sent two different cheeses, the Cornish Classic and Cornish Crackler.

The Cornish Classic is matured for up to 14 months. It was very creamy, and lacked the slightly crumbly texture I associate with mature cheddar, but it had a well-rounded, pronounced cheese flavour.

The Cornish Crackler is matured for over 20 months. It had more of a crumbly texture, and was slightly sharper, but without the other flavours being more developed.

Normally I like strong, mature cheddar, but I really felt that the Cornish Classic was the better cheese. Its balance of flavours was more even and it stood up to being eaten on its own better.

The Cornish Crackler, however, was just the thing to stand up to the robust flavours of a Cornish Rarebit.

Cornish Rarebit (serves 2)

1tsp butter
1tsp plain flour
100ml Cornish IPA beer
1tsp mustard
125g grated Cornish Crackler cheddar
splash of worcestershire sauce
4 crumpets, to serve

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour, and stir to a smooth roux. Cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually stir in the beer. Once you have a smooth sauce, add the mustard and cheese, and stir until melted, seasoning with a splash of worcestershire sauce.

Divide the cheese sauce between 4 crumpets, pop under the grill and toast until bubbling and burnished with colour. Makes a lovely accompaniment to a cup of soup.

* I received no payment for this review and was not required to post about these products.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Spaghetti Bolognese for Cook the Books

I had a really hard time getting a handle on Heat, the latest offering for Cook the Books, the best darn food-blogger bookclub in the blogosphere. What was Buford doing? If he was writing a biography of Mario Batali, it was superficial. If he was going for a guts-&-all kitchen exposé, he just isn't Bourdain. If it was supposed to be a bildungsroman of his growth into cooking, well, he didn't give enough of himself to make me feel the journey. He spends too much time hiding in the shadow of (somewhat tediously) larger than life characters for me to really be that interested when he finally steps out into the sun.

Bildungsroman. Good grief it has been a long time since I needed to use that word in a sentence.

What Heat did have going for it was meat. I found Buford's Italian experiences to be the most interesting in the book. Learning to prepare meat from the Maestro and coming to understand how to use a knife, how to feel his way through, was the most emotionally engaging part for me. So I wanted to make a meat dish, and I wanted it to be Italian.

I was particularly interested in the ragu recipe. The idea that it is a meat sauce, not a meat & tomato sauce, just faintly tinted pink with tomato paste, was totally way out for me. So ragu bolognese it was. I cooked pork, veal & beef mince slowly, with pancetta, garlic and chicken livers. I added white wine, and when that was reduced I added milk. Some sprigs of fresh oregano. A grating of nutmeg. A squeeze of sundried tomato paste.

It ended up unlike any Bolognese sauce I have ever tasted. Very rich and intensely meaty. The flavour was so powerful that I just couldn't add as much sauce to the pasta as I usually would, bringing it closer to the Italian ideal. It won't replace my tomato-based sauce for regular use, but for an occasional, more luxurious treat, it is definitely one to remember.

ETA The recipe, by request!

Ragu Bolognese (makes loads, impossible to do in a small quantity!)

100g pancetta, cubed
Olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
500g minced beef (I used one with 10% fat)
500g minced pork (was 8% fat)
500g minced veal (15% fat - I only use high welfare rose veal)
300g chicken livers, cleaned and chopped
200ml white wine
200ml semi-skimmed milk
a sprig of fresh oregano
2tbs sundried tomato paste
Salt, pepper, nutmeg

In a large, heavy based saucepan over a low heat, stir the cubed pancetta until the fat starts to render out. If it seems a bit dry or starts to stick, add a bit of olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic, and when that starts to soften, add the beef, pork & veal. Stir gently, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until it is well-browned all over. This takes about half an hour. Add the chicken livers and wine and cook slowly, covered, for half an hour. Then add the milk and oregano and again cover and cook slowly for half an hour. Add the tomato paste, and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer another 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Meat-Free Monday: Eggs with Yoghurt

Or, how to appal a vegan with your vegetarian option.

I spotted this Turkish dish on Su-Lin's blog Tamarind and Thyme a week or so ago and I could not get my head around it at all. How on earth does yoghurt topped with eggs and melted butter actually add up to dinner? But her taste in food generally chimes with mine, and I had eggs and yoghurt so I figured that there was really nothing to lose on a night when Paul was away.

You know what? YUM. The cold, garlicky yoghurt (I used TOTAL fat-free Greek yoghurt), hot, runny-yolked eggs (I fried. My poaching is not reliable enough and I didn't have back-up eggs and it meant I could use the one pan for eggs and butter) and spicy melted butter is actually a gorgeous combination for the hardened dairy lover. I made a little salad of grated carrot and chopped parsley, dressed with lemon juice. I warmed a (bought) naan to sop up the mixture. I had dinner on the table in under 10 minutes.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

White chocolate cheesecake cookies

I have been waiting over a year for the chance to make these cookies! I spotted them on Laura's eternally entertaining blog Hungry and Frozen in June last year, but the right moment for a white chocolate cheesecake cookie had never arrived. Until now.

My variations on the recipe as written: I left out the 1/2 cup brown sugar, because a) it's fucking white chocolate, it doesn't need extra sweetness and b) I didn't want to mess with the white beauty of them; I used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract; I substituted 1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots for some of the white chocolate chunks.

And the verdict? Oh yes! They are quite cakey, rather than being at all crisp; the cream cheese flavour pops out just enough to undercut the flavour of the white chocolate; the apricots were an excellent addition! It's a good thing I loved these, because the recipe makes thousands! I think you could substitute some slivered pistachios and cranberries for the apricots, to make wee festive red & green cookies, if you are still finalising your Christmas baking plans. Even if you don't, I really urge you to try these!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Meat-Free Monday: Fondue Squash with Orzo

When I saw this recipe a couple of weeks ago, I knew that I had to make it! I mean, what could be better than pumpkin, baked slowly with garlic, cheese and crème fraîche? Well, pumpkin baked slowly with garlic, cheese and crème fraîche and mixed with lovely little torpedoes of orzo pasta. Am I right?

Well, I did encounter a slight hurdle - a round squash was not to be found. So I used butternut, and since there wasn't a big enough cavity for my cheese mixture, I peeled it, cut it into chunks and tipped it into a pyrex baking dish, then covered it with foil.

Unfortunately the flavour was only so-so. It was just a bit one-dimensional. It was definitely sweet and creamy, if that is what blows your hair back, but I wanted more. Paul made the point that vegetarian dishes sometimes lack umami, so it feels like there is a hole in the flavour landscape. I think he is partly right, but I don't think adding bacon is necessarily the answer (on this occasion). Adding some dry white wine, to balance the sweetness with a bit of acidity perhaps. Maybe finishing it with a gremolata (garlic, parsley and lemon zest) instead of the crisp sage leaves. Maybe just a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit of zing, or some parmesan for a deeper savoury kick. It's definitely worth revisiting with some of those ideas in mind.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Paul hasn't had much chance to go fishing this year - the combination of working away and his fishing partner in crime being overseas has reduced the opportunities. But at the start of autumn, as the fish started to get a bit feistier after the summer torpor, they did get out for a throw. And Paul brought home this lovely 5lb creature.

One fillet was cut into tranches. I just seasoned a couple with a bit of salt & pepper, cooked them in a hot pan with a little olive oil and served them with a basil and lemon dressing, tomato & buffalo mozzarella salad and courgette chips. It was moist, juicy and had a lovely flavour - just perfect.

The remaining piece from the fresh fillet went into a seafood lasagne. I cut the flesh into chunks and combined it with some mirepoix (previously cooked and cooled), shredded spinach, undyed smoked haddock and big fat prawns. Then I mixed in some white sauce, layered it up with spinach lasagne sheets and topped it with more white sauce and some grated cheese to get the top nicely browned.

A 5lb fish is far too much for the two of us to eat fresh, so I cured the second fillet for 2 days in the fridge, in a mixture of sugar, salt & dill, then hot-smoked it on beechwood chips.

I think this was my most successful smoked fish so far. The smoke flavour subtle enough to let the flavour of the fish through, the sugar and salt were well balanced and there was a delicate aniseed tang from the dill.

We ate some of it just on crackers, to test the flavour, and the rest was portioned up and stored in the freezer.

The other night I pulled out a piece and made a pasta dish/ While some angel hair pasta was boiling, I crushed a clove of garlic. While the pasta was drained, I sauteed the garlic in a knob of butter in the pasta saucepan, then added 100ml Greek yoghurt, some boiled and peeled brown shrimp, some baby spinach leaves and some flakes of the smoked trout. I tossed the drained pasta through this mixture until everything was hot, then served it with some roasted cherry tomatoes and salmon roe. The slight tang of the yoghurt, the smoke from the trout, the salty burst of the salmon roe with the sweet-acid burst of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the brown shrimp all came together really beautifully. Totally delicious.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Pheasant saltimbocca

One of the compensations for the cold and dark of autumn is the food (the other is cashmere). As much as I love the fruit and vegetables, the barbecued meat and chilled desserts of summer, I can't help but think that winter food is a lot more interesting. Rich, gelatinous meat, earthy pulses, softly melting cheese and sweet root vegetables give a lot of scope for a cook when the wind is cold.

Remind me I said this come February when I am sick to the back teeth of cabbage, OK?

One of the big features of British autumn produce are the game meats that come into season. In the last couple of years the supermarkets have taken them on board and have started to produce some more user-friendly, convenient cuts, which will hopefully broaden the appeal of these lean, tasty meats.

Now, I don't go to the supermarket very often (love my internet grocery shopping), but the other day I did have an errand to run, so had a bit of a poke around the butchery aisle while I was there. And I spied a packet of skinned pheasant thigh fillets.

By the time I got home I knew I wanted to make a pheasant saltimbocca with them. I thought I was being SO original and SO clever, but then I had a look at t'internet and discovered that one of Alex's Masterchef final dishes was a pheasant saltimbocca. I missed the final, but I must have read about it somewhere.

Anyway - here's my recipe.

Pheasant Saltimbocca (serves 2)

8 skinned pheasant thigh fillets
4 fresh sage leaves
4 large/8 small slices of proscuitto
Freshly ground black pepper
plain flour
knob of butter
splash of olive oil
bigger splash of dry sherry (I would have preferred dry marsala but it's hard to come by)

Place 2 pheasant thigh fillets, slightly overlapping, between sheets of cling film and give them a bit of a whack with a rolling pin to make them a more even thickness and stick them together (you could do each one individually, but I wanted a higher ratio of pheasant to proscuitto in each bite). Place a sage leaf on the combined, bigger pheasant thigh, and season with black pepper. Wrap in a slice of proscuitto, 2 if they aren't big enough to enclose it. You could stick it together with a toothpick if you think it is insecure, but mine held together without.

Repeat with the remaining pheasant, sage and proscuitto.

Dust each parcel lightly with flour.

Heat a large saute pan and add the butter and oil. When the butter foams, add the pheasant parcels. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side; the proscuitto should be crisping but you don't want to overcook the pheasant. Pour the sherry in, swirl around for a second and then remove the pheasant. Scrape up any crispy bits into the sherry while it reduces a bit and then pour it over the pheasant.

I served it with a warm roast butternut, spinach and puy lentil salad, but mash would be good too.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Christmas preparations

This year, for the first time ever, Paul and I are having Christmas at home. I have to say, I am a bit excited about this. As much fun as a family Christmas can be, I really like the idea of it just being us, and in our own home, not some hotel somewhere.

And obviously, I have already started to think about the food.

One of the traditional Christmas foods in England is a roast goose. A goose is far too big for the two of us, so I was thinking about dividing it up - confiting the legs for another meal and boning out the breast and stuffing it for Christmas. The downfall of this cunning plan is that I have never boned out poultry before.

So I figured I would start small with a chicken and see how I got on.

It actually turned out very well. It was a bit fiddly and time consuming, but not at all difficult.

I stuffed the boned chicken with a mixture of rehydrated dried porcini, ordinary white mushrooms, pinenuts, onion, tarragon and breadcrumbs, with a little lemon zest. Then I sewed it up and roasted it.

Delicious. The only trouble being that of course stuffing it is actually a way of stretching the meat. So my new cunning plan is to cut off the breasts and legs of my goose, freeze half, and just roast a breast and one confited leg. That should still give plenty of leftovers for sandwiches the following day.

Given that it is still early November, these plans may be subject to change.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Pumpkin Yoghurt Slice for Halloween 2010

I wasn't going to carve a pumpkin this year - although I was very happy with last year's attempt - but on Friday I was in Waitrose and they had cute little carving pumpkins, so I couldn't resist.

My nod to Halloween was going to be a pumpkin pie. Which I really like. Paul was sceptical though: he felt that it could easily be too pumpkin-y and not spicy enough. So I gave it some serious thought and came up with something mid-way between pumpkin pie and cheesecake, but quite a lot lighter than either.

It's a rich vanilla shortbread base (pretty much the base from Joy of Baking's Millionaire's Shortbread), topped with a spiced yoghurt and butternut puree. It turned out beautifully: Paul liked it, so I think even other pumpkin pie sceptics could be turned around by this.

Pumpkin Yoghurt Slice


170g butter, softened
50g golden caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla bean paste
100g plain flour
100g tapioca flour


400g TOTAL Greek yoghurt (I'm still using the enormous supply they kindly sent me)
300g butternut squash (this is the raw, peeled weight)
85ml maple syrup
1tsp pumpkin pie spice (I haven't seen pumpkin pie spice in the UK, I used this blend)
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 7" x 11" lamington tin with baking parchment.

Cut the butternut into small chunks and bake for about half an hour until tender but not too brown.

Place the maple syrup in a small pan and boil for a few minutes until slightly reduced, then cool. You want it the consistency of honey, not toffee.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla paste with a wooden spoon until fluffy, then add the flours and mix to a paste. I find it easiest to bring it together with my hands towards the end. Press firmly into the base of the lamington. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Force the cooked butternut through a sieve so you have a smooth puree. Discard the fibrous bits left in the sieve. Beat into the puree the cooled, reduced maple syrup, the yoghurt and spices. Taste, and add more spices if needed, remembering that the flavours will develop more with cooking. Then beat in the eggs.

Pour the filling mixture over the shortbread base and return to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes or until just set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool.

I topped it with some caramelised almond flakes but that is optional.

Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Harvest 2010

While I can't say that 2010 produced an abundant harvest from our garden, it certainly provided us with a few good meals and some excellent learning points for next year.

There isn't really a whole lot to say about each thing, so I decided to take the opportunity to do another snazzy slideshow.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Chip hash

I hate wasting food. I really, really hate it. Even so, I was faintly worried that I was taking frugality a bit too far with this one.

As an occasional treat, on a Friday evening Paul and I will get takeaway fish and chips from the shop around the corner. It's very good, but the portions of chips are enormous. We usually get a medium chips to share (they only do medium and large) and even then we can only eat about 1/3 of them.

The last time we did this I looked at the enormous pile of leftover chips and declared that enough was enough - I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

But what to do with them? They don't reheat to the same glory, so I needed to come up with a different form to present them in. And thus was born...

Leftover chip hash (serves 2)

Leftover chips (French fries people, not crisps)
1 onion, diced
1 packet of bacon, cut into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
handful of parsley, chopped
eggs to serve

Put your bacon into a saute pan and cook gently until the fat starts to render out. Add your onion and stir until translucent. Turn up the heat and add the chips, cut into smaller chunks, and the garlic, and stir until everything is beginning to mush in places and crisp in places. Season generously with black pepper (no extra salt, don't be silly) and chopped parsley. Top with fried or poached eggs.

Delicious. I almost wished I had a hangover, as I realised what perfect hangover food this was. And then I wished I had a bloody mary, because that would really be an epic food match. I will never throw away chips again.

ETA Simona from the lovely bi-lingual blog briciole put me on to the Love Food, Hate Waste website. It's a campaign I am very happy to support! Recipes to use up leftovers - Love Food Hate  Waste campaign


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