Friday, 30 January 2015

Mushroom marsala tart for IHCC

Diana Henry's mushroom and marsala tart is a luxurious response to the "meat-free" theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Thin, crisp pastry (I used bought butter shortcrust) and a creamy, eggy custard spiked with fortified wine and loads of lovely bosky mushrooms.

Completely delicious warm (not piping hot - it needs time to cool and set a little) or cold, this made a lovely dinner and very good leftovers for lunch the next day. It just needs a simple salad on the side.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lucia's Breakfast - vegetarian with cocktails

I'd heard people talk about the Mapp and Lucia books with the sort of veneration offered to Nancy Mitford's books, or Cold Comfort Farm, but without any real idea of what they were about. Then I saw that the BBC had done a dramatisation of them featuring Duckface and Queenie. If two such talented actors were involved, the source material had to be worth a look.

The books are interesting. Definitely readable and enjoyable, but the characters are all so nasty and petty. In Lucia in London, a group of people who are entertained by Lucia's social-climbing antics forms, calling itself the Luciaphils. I got the impression that E.F Benson was very much a Luciaphil, seeing right through and being amused by his own creation.

Anyway, as part of her climbing, Lucia befriends Mrs Allingsby "tall, weird and intense, dressed rather like a bird-of-paradise that had been out in a high gale, but very well connected". Mrs Allingsby invites her to meet a painter, Sigismund: "Breakfast about half past twelve. Vegetarian with cocktails". Benson is using the invitation to mock Mrs Allingsby's Bohemian affectations, but what could be nicer than breakfast about half past twelve? Especially with cocktails.

So, I made broccoli sformati and a jug of bloody mary. Lucia, when not in a position to be challenged, claims to speak Italian, but I think she may have referred to my sformato as a souffle.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Venison Haggis Wellington

  Today is Burns' Day. Which is, of course, a good excuse to eat haggis. And drink lovely whisky. We actually had ours on Friday evening, because Friday is better for drinking whisky than Sunday.

This year, I decided to do something a bit different and put the haggis in a Wellington.

I had a venison haggis, MacSweens, of course, and a venison "steak" (the butcher who sliced it and called it a steak should be run out of the profession): it made sense to put them together. So I seasoned and seared the steak and let it cool completely.

Then I rolled out a sheet of butter puff pastry and topped it with the venison and the haggis (it was a tidy little one in a plastic casing, not a traditional one).

I'm not very good at the wrapping up and sealing side of making a Wellington. I tend to end up with a lot of tears and leaks, so this time I folded and crimped and squashed and showed it no mercy. It probably compromised the rising of the pastry layers, but at least it didn't fall apart... Then I glazed it with egg yolk and baked it.

The whisky we had with it was far too nice to cook with, and the haggis itself was seasoned with port, so I decided to stick with a fortified wine flavour for my sauce. I softened a shallot in a knob of butter, added 150ml chicken stock, 150ml madeira and 1tbs green peppercorns and simmered the sauce until it was reduced by half. Then I added a heaped tablespoon of sour cream, whisked it in and just brought it back to a simmer.

Because of the pastry, I didn't think we needed potatoes or swedes or anything starchy with it. But I had been fascinated by this article on "kalettes" or flower sprouts so I bought some to try. Very pretty, they cook in moments and taste more like a brussels sprout than kale, which is a good thing to my mind! I steamed them for a couple of minutes and tossed in a knob of butter.

The kalettes were the perfect thing with the rich, peppery wellington and creamy peppercorn sauce. And then of course delicious whisky was the icing on the cake. Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Smoked haddock rarebit and winter salad for IHCC

This week is pot luck week with I Heart Cooking Clubs, so I have two delicious dishes from Diana Henry which added up to one delicious meal.

A smoked haddock rarebit, rich, smoky and satisfying, and a crunchy salad with a tangy dressing went beautifully together. It's nice to have a salad that really makes the most of the vegetables that are around in winter, although I think for best effect I should have got out the mandolin to julienne the celeriac and carrot.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Marmalade suet pudding

It's cold. I know it is cold because Urchin has been snuggling on the bed, which only usually happens when the temperature plummets. It makes thick stews and soups very appetising. And rich, fluffy suet puddings.

This is basically Simon Hopkinson's steamed ginger sponge pudding recipe, but with all golden syrup instead of mixed syrup and treacle, and globs of my home made calamondin and cointreau marmalade instead of the preserved ginger. We had it with Laverstoke Park buffalo milk ice cream. The brandy one. Which is amazing and you should buy it if you see it.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Smoked Haddock with Indian Spiced Lentils for IHCC

Along the Spice TrailThis week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is Along the Spice Trail: Choosing Diana Henry recipes that use exotic and aromatic spices. And a dish I had made a couple of months ago definitely fit the bill - Smoked haddock with Indian spiced lentils from A Change of Appetite
This was a delicious, aromatic take on the Anglo-Indian kedgeree, featuring the lentils and spice (turmeric, ginger, cardamom) of the original Indian khichri, and the smoked haddock and curry powder of a British kedgeree. I adore kedgeree, but I am tempted to say that this dish was better. 
At first sight the recipe contains a worrying triple-carb combination of bulgur wheat, lentils and potatoes, but the potatoes really just provide a different texture. And using bulgur wheat like this instead of just in tabbouleh was a revelation to me. It's just so damn tasty! The recipe as written contains a little bit of cream, for richness. I didn't have any cream but I did want a little richness, so I added a couple of spoonsful of desiccated coconut to the stew. The coconut flavour was so good in it, that I think next time I will skip the cream again but use coconut cream.

Monday, 12 January 2015

New Year's Indulgence: white truffle

That's what 10g white truffles looks like
After our experiment last year with summer truffles, we were pretty keen to have a go with the much-more-expensive delicacy. As Christmas/New Year provides a good opportunity to be extravagant, we decided to forego our traditional New Year's Eve fondue and eat truffles instead.

A 10g chunk of white gold was duly delivered on the 30th and tucked into a sealed jar of arborio rice over night.

I made a simple white risotto, using some of the poultry broth from our Christmas goose, white wine and a couple of baby leeks. As the final enrichment I beat in some beautiful taleggio cheese. Then I grated a generous pile of truffle shavings over each portion. The aroma was utterly gorgeous. A very delicious and indulgent way to say good bye to the old year.

Of course, grated like that, a little piece of truffle goes a very long way, so there was a bit left over for lunch the following day. We welcomed the new year with a pizza, covered with more taleggio, buffalo mozzarella and finely sliced garlic, and when it was a beautiful bubbly golden brown, the rest of the truffle was grated on top.  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Soy Chilli Caramel Roast Duck

It's reasonable, after Christmas, to swear off roast dinners for a while. Many people seem to end up having three or four fairly similar meals within the space of a week and then shudder at the thought of another plate of roast meat, potatoes and greens.

That was pretty much the position I was taking, but Paul still wanted a Sunday roast. Although we had it on Monday because we weren't that hungry on Sunday night. Anyway, Gressingham ducks are half price at the moment, which made them cheaper than any of the higher-welfare chicken options on the supermarket shelf, and roast duck is always nice.

I decided to move it away from usual British Sunday roast flavours and give the meal some spice. The one possibly unusual piece of equipment you need for this is a gravy separator. It's not absolutely essential, but it means you'll be able to pour the delicious juices over your dinner without swimming in fat. Not that there is anything wrong with swimming in fat if that is what you are into.

I found this recipe on Joanne's blog, which as well as sounding enticing was pretty funny for her firm "I couldn't be a vegetarian" stance, when she's been vegetarian for years now! So a similar soy caramel was my starting point, flavouring the vegetables and glazing the meat.

Soy Chilli Caramel Roast Duck (serves 2 with leftovers)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 3tbs water
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 hot red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
1 whole duck, giblets removed
1tbs five spice paste

Mix the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a fast boil, swirling rather than stirring until it turns a rich golden brown and smells caramelly but not burnt. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and water mixture. It will bubble and spit and the caramel will start to seize. Return to the heat and add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir until it makes a smooth sauce. Turn off the heat.

Place the sweet potato and aubergine in a large-ish bowl, pour most of the caramel sauce over the vegetables (keep back 1tbs or so to glaze the duck) and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a roasting tin with baking parchment. Spread the vegetables in the base of the tin and place the duck on top of them. Prick the duck all over with the point of a knife and smear the skin with the five spice paste. Roast for one hour.

At the end of the hour, remove the duck from the oven, spread with the remaining soy caramel sauce and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the duck and vegetables from the tin and keep warm. Pour all the juices into the gravy separator and allow to settle while you prepare some greens. I stirfried some shredded cabbage with garlic and chilli and a spoonful more soy sauce.

Carve the duck and serve with the vegetables, pouring the de-fatted juices over the top.

With the carcase and leg portions I made a spiced broth following Mimi's chicken pho recipe in Noodle! to which I added a bag of stirfry mix and poured it over rice noodles.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Mystery Box Madness

Mystery Box Badge

Purely by accident I have ended up with two entries for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs "Mystery Box Madness" challenge. The aim is to use any three ingredients from the box, in a dish by one of the IHCC featured cooks. This months box is: Potatoes, Buttermilk, Flour, Paprika, Onion, Leafy Greens (Any Kind), Lemon, Honey, Prawns/Shrimp, Feta. It just so happens that in Spring/Summer of 2013 Yotam Ottolenghi was the featured cook and those ingredients come up quite a lot in his dishes in Jerusalem, which I bought a couple of months ago.

So - his recipe for prawns, scallops and clams with tomato and feta features (spring) onions, lemon, prawns and feta. We had it as a main meal, with a chunk of nice bread to clean up the delicious juices.

And his chicken sofrito features paprika, lemon and onions - and potatoes which I didn't include because I served it with his delicious roast sweet potatoes and fresh figs.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Christmas Dinner Recap

I know, it's 2015 now, Christmas is behind us. But I was so delighted with our Christmas dinner I wanted to show the world.

We had a beautiful goose crown from Turner & George, which we simply seasoned and roasted - goose is fatty enough that it doesn't need much extra done to it, and the way the crown was cut it sat up on its bones and didn't need to be on a rack to stay out of the rendered fat.

We kept the accompaniments few and simple but delicious - a celeriac and potato gratin and Diana Henry's stunning persimmon, chicory and hazelnut salad. We omitted the cheese from the salad - with the rich meat and gratin we didn't need the extra fat or salt.

It was celebratory and festive but at the end of the meal we didn't feel ridiculously bloated. We didn't have a dessert - I'd bought some figs stuffed with chocolate truffle and coated in chocolate, but they lived to see another day too.

I stripped the remaining meat off the goose and used it in a hearty bean soup, along with a smoked pork shank and some vegetables. That saw us through a couple of meals, getting thicker and richer each time we boiled it up. As we went from very mild weather on Christmas Day into a hard frost that lasted through to New Year's Day, it was very welcome. The rest of the goose carcase joined some chicken wings, duck giblets and veg to make a nice poultry stock, most of which is now in the freezer.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy Healthy feta salad for IHCC

Obviously, I like food. I like it a lot. But maybe it is a sign of old age or something, but increasingly I prefer food that makes me feel good after I have eaten it, as well as while I eat it.

That's the point where this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs falls. The theme is Happy, Healthy! the good-for-you dishes that taste great. And fortunately this is an area where the current featured cook, Diana Henry, really excels. She does the most amazingly enticing things with vegetables and salads...

Deb had already made Diana's orange and fennel salad with feta and pomegranate for the October Potluck IHCC, but it was too good not to feature again. And the version I made, from A Change of Appetite, also included almonds caramelised in honey and spices.

As I was making it in the lead up to Christmas though, I gave it a little twist using pistachios instead of almonds.

I served it with Sabrina Ghayour's za'atar cod with relish. The fish totally fell apart, but it was delicious, as was the relish that went with it. I used a couple of home-pickled habaneros instead of the milder, commercial pickled chillies. It was a wonderful combination! It reminded me a bit of one of my most memorable ever meals, red emperor with tapenade and a Greek salad, at The Bathers Pavilion, back in the days when Victoria Alexander was chef. Even without that bit of nostalgia it was a superb meal - several days later Paul was still saying how much he enjoyed it.


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