Monday 30 December 2013

Christmas food and leftovers. Mostly leftovers

We spent Christmas Day with friends this year. Our contribution was the starter, a crab and crayfish cocktail of which I was extremely proud. But we also made a couple of festive meals designed with lots of lovely leftovers in mind.
The glaze is simple - treacle, mustard and sugar.
Nigella's ham in coke (no jokes please, I love her) was a beautiful thing served hot with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but its 3kg bulk was destined for sandwiches, a pasta sauce, a pie, and a bean-thick soup.
I cooked the cabbage in the buttery turkey juices while the joint rested
A turkey breast joint reclined in splendour next to a pile of Italianate pandoro and sausagemeat stuffing, perked up with cranberries, pistachios and lemon zest, but then joined up with the ham for sandwiches and the splendid pie.
Turkey, ham, brie and stuffing in a baguette
The leftovers for the pie - the sauce was a veloute spiked with white wine

The rest of the pandoro from the stuffing (which had been sitting in the freezer since I bought it at a knock-down price in January) became a luxurious bread and butter pudding and a base for a rather novel cheesecake, which I will probably post about in the future.

Crab and Crayfish cocktails (serves 5)

cocktail sauce

100g mayonnaise (I used Hellmans roasted garlic)
60g ketchup
11/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp brandy (the brandy idea came from Kavey on twitter, it's a very good one)


1/2 little gem lettuce, cut into fine chiffonade
1/4 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into fine dice
1 slice pickled jalapeno chilli, finely minced
1/2 avocado, finely diced
Juice of half a lemon

to assemble

100g white crab meat
150g crayfish tails
50g caviar/lumpfish roe/salmon roe etc to garnish (optional)

Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brandy, and taste for seasoning. It might need a little more brandy.

Toss together the salad ingredients and divide between serving glasses.

Mix 2/3 of the cocktail sauce with the the crab and most of the crayfish tails, keeping a few aside for garnish.

Pile the sauced seafood on top of the salad, dollop with a little extra sauce and garnish with the reserved crayfish tails and some caviar, if using. Serve with some crisp toast.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Cranberry Pistachio Couronne

I am not the biggest fan of competitive cooking shows - things like Masterchef leave me cold. But I do utterly adore the Great British Bake-off, where talented amateur bakers get put through some pretty intense challenges in intensely twee surroundings.

This year, one of the "Technical challenges" (the bakers are given the ingredients and a rudimentary recipe and have to fill in the gaps) was for an apricot couronne. I'd never even heard of a couronne, but it turned out to be an elaborate fruited yeast bread, shaped into a wreath with a very cunning little trick. Even after watching the contestants make them, I couldn't quite figure it out, so I was very pleased to see that this was one of the techniques they showed in the follow-up masterclass show (this is it on youtube - not sure how long it'll stay up though).

I was keen to give it a go, but decided to make a slightly Christmassier version. Basically I followed the recipe but substituted dried cranberries for the apricots and raisins, pistachios for the walnuts and almonds and cointreau for the orange juice. More cointreau went into the glace icing.
Impressive, no? I was worried that having so much fruit exposed like that would lead to bitter, burnt bits, but no, the filling is succulent, moist and very well-distributed. We're having a very low-key Christmas this year, centred around things that we can just nibble on as the mood takes us, and this couronne is proving very useful to have with our morning coffee. It's disappearing quite fast, so it's hard to know how well it will keep.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday 21 December 2013

Wine and smoked garlic potato gratin

Our study has, of late, resembled a winery. Paul's been talking for years about attempting to make cider or wine, and a couple of weeks ago bit the bullet and bought one of the home wine-making kits where you get the grape juice concentrate and everything. The aim was to produce 20 litres of vin ordinaire. It just so happens that the temperature in the study is just right for a fast and dirty ferment.

It's been very successful. It's certainly not wine we would serve to other people, and it lacks finesse and interesting flavours, but it is definitely drinkable.

So for the first time I find myself being strongly encouraged to chuck wine around like water in my cooking. 20 litres of wine gives a lot of freedom to experiment.

The first thing I have made was absolutely divine - a potato gratin, heady with wine and smoked garlic, rich with cream. We had it with a basic roast chicken and it was just gorgeous. I know most people in Britain are firmly wedded to the traditional roast potato for their Christmas lunch, but I think this could definitely fit into seasonal feasting somewhere.

Wine and smoked garlic potato gratin (serves 4)

small knob of butter
4 large floury potatoes (I used King Edwards), peeled and sliced
2-3 fat cloves of smoked garlic, peeled and chopped
freshly ground black pepper
200ml strong chicken stock
200ml double cream
250ml white wine (Paul's homemade wine is a pretty dry riesling type)
nutmeg, optional

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease an oven-proof casserole dish with a bit of butter.

Layer the potatoes with a sprinkling of the smoked garlic and some black pepper.

Mix the cream and chicken stock. I don't know if this is strictly necessary, but I was a bit anxious that the rough wine would curdle the cream and thought that mixing the cream with the stock first might prevent that from happening. And the cream didn't curdle, so either there was no danger of it happening in the first place OR my instinct was correct. Pour the wine over the potatoes, trying not to disturb the layers too much, then pour over the combined cream and stock.

Bake for much longer than you think is necessary, at least an hour, until the top is well-browned and you can feel all the potatoes collapsing into mush under the point of the knife.

Grate a tiny sprinkling of nutmeg on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday 9 December 2013

Cranberry relish

I am a very visual person. I have to concentrate to understand puns, because when I hear a word, I see it written, so playing around with meanings and homophones passes me by.

So believe me when I say that, although this relish tastes really good, the absolutely best bit about it is the way it sounds when you cook it.

We did our appropriation-of-traditions thing and had ourselves a little Thanksgiving dinner. It was just the two of us and because it isn't really our holiday I felt quite relaxed about paring things back, and making just the elements of the meal that I think sound the most appealing. It's freeing to eat things because they sound nice and not because tradition dictates it.

I'd bought some fresh cranberries and frozen them, without much notion of what I would do with them, but then I decided that a sauce or relish really was in order. I read a lot of recipes and was disappointed by nearly all of them - they were just cranberries and sugar, and I didn't want to put jam on my meat. Martha Stewart's cranberry and ginger sounded much more my cup of tea, although it was far too big a batch. I altered the proportions a bit to suit our tastes, and it made one medium-sized ramekin of sauce, which will see us through Christmas as well.
Cranberry, chilli and ginger relish

75g caster sugar
75g fresh or frozen cranberries
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1tbs water
1tbs grated ginger
2tbs red wine vinegar

Combine the sugar, cranberries, chilli, water and ginger in a small saucepan and bring gently to the boil, swirling to dissolve the sugar. Boil for about 10 minutes, enjoying the sound of the cranberries popping and sighing and the slightly higher-pitched bursting of the sugary bubbles around them. Stir in the vinegar and bottle in a sterile glass jar.
We had it with a buttery turkey breast joint, green beans and soy-caramel glazed sweet potatoes. Earlier on in the day I'd thought about making mashed potatoes and gravy as well, but decided that this was plenty of food - but mash would have been welcome if any unexpected guests had dropped by. For dessert we had pumpkin babas, so while our meal was pared back, it certainly wasn't austere.

Friday 6 December 2013

The search box isn't working

Just in case you were consoling yourself in my absence by reading some of my greatest hits of the last few years, unfortunately the search function isn't currently working. Blogger have suggested a few work-arounds but they aren't very good. So I'd suggest reading random posts from the archives, or googling if you are after something specific.


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