Wednesday, December 31, 2008
To make brandy butter (or hard sauce, as it used to be called), cream 4 ounces of butter, when you've done that, beat in 4 ounces of icing sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy, some freshly grated nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Allow to set in the fridge. Make this in advance - I made it a few days before the big day.
#88 Richard Boston's Guinness Christmas Pudding - 3.5/10. Pretty disappointing this pudding was. It tasted really good, but was extremely stodgy and soft. I think I'll use half breadcrumbs, half flour next time.
#102 Brandy Butter - 6.5/10. Nice, but very rich indeed. Think I prefer good old custard.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Begin by cutting the crusts off a large white loaf of bread and blitz it in a food processor until it becomes crumbs. Lay the crumbs on a large baking tray and allow them to dry out in a cool oven – you don’t want them to brown so 80ºC will be enough. Weight out 8 ounces of the crumbs (freeze the rest) and put in a large bowl and mix in the zest of two lemons and the juice of one, a bunch of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a teaspoon of dried marjoram, 8 ounces of creamed butter, 3 eggs and a good seasoning. Mix the ingredients with your hands and stuff the main cavity of the turkey with it. You probably won’t use it all, so freeze the rest in balls so you can put them in the cavity of chickens for your Sunday Roast.
#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing – 7/10. A nice fresh and light tasting stuffing. I reckon it’ll go better with chicken than with turkey.
The first thing to do is to remove the giblets and stuff the bird. You can stuff the cavity or the neck end, it doesn’t really matter. Next, calculate the cooking time of the turkey: 30 minutes per kilo if it’s below 7 kilos (15 lbs). If you are cooking a monster, add an extra 20 minutes per kilo after that. You must include the weight of any stuffing you’ve used too. Put the turkey on its side on a rack in a roasting pan and smear it all over with 6 ounces of slightly salted butter. Cover with a double layer of foil and cook at 190ºC for the appropriate time. Just under halfway through the cooking time, turn the bird onto its other side, and then in the final half an hour, put it on its back and remove the foil so it can brown nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Baste it a few times, if you like. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before you carve it. In fact, we left it for about an hour and it was still juicy and hot, so don’t feel you have to rush or anything. Skim off the fat from the juices in the pan, then make your gravy by boiling up the juices with a quarter of a pint of dry white wine and thicken with flour or gravy browning. Add enough hot vegetable stock to achieve the right thickness.
#100 Roast Turkey - 9.5/10. I love Christmas dinner, so I’m really glad that I did the turkey for the 100th recipe. This is a foolproof methods for doing your Christmas/Thanksgiving bird; succulent, tasty, not in the slightest dry. Bloody marvellous.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Serves at least 6…
Choose a carp weighing around 3 pounds and ask the fishmonger to scale, gut and clean the fish* (and cut the head off, if you’re squeamish about these things). When you get home wash the carp in 6 tablespoons of vinegar dissolved in 4 pints of water. (Not sure why, may be to get rid of the slime – several freshwater fish produce slime). Whilst it’s draining, select a baking dish that will fit the fish snugly (to achieve this I unfortunately had to cut the head off). Smear the bottom of the dish with 6 ounces of butter and lay the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter teaspoon each of mace, nutmeg and cloves, a bouquet garni (I did parsley stalks, bay and some pared lemon rind), a generous teaspoon of anchovy sauce and a chopped onion. Top up with dry white wine, so that the carp is almost covered. Cover with foil and bake at 200ºC for 40 to 50 minutes.
When done, put it on a serving dish and strain the cooking juices into a heavy based pan. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly. Mash 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of flour and drop knobs of the mixture gradually whilst whisking to thicken. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little cream. Pour some sauce over the carp, and serve the rest in a sauceboat.
FYI: If you're concerned as the potential damage to stocks of carp by this sudden increase of demand, the common carp is either farmed these days, or lakes are stocked with them. In fact they are considered a bit of an evasive species, so tuck in ladies and gents.
#99 Baked Carp – 7.5/10. I really liked this dish; I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’ve not really eaten freshwater fish much (except for salmon, which I don’t like). I was very surprised at it’s subtly fishy and oddly gamey flavour. The very English mace-laced sauce was lovely. If you get the chance to lay your hands on one over Christmas, get it bought, though I’m not sure I’d replace my turkey with it!
*If you are lucky enough to have a fish with roe inside, ask the fishmonger to keep it aside, as you can make a stuffing with it – I didn’t get any, but it’s the look of the draw. Obviously I can’t comment on it’s loveliness, but have a go and tell me about it: Start by softening a small onion in butter. Meanwhile, mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with some milk to turn them to a paste. Mix the onions in along with the chopped roe, a tablespoon of chopped green herbs, a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and ½ teaspoon of anchovy essence. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stuff the fish with the mixture and sew it up.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
These measures make loads of Cawl – enough for 6 to 8 people.
Start off by browning your meat in some beef dripping; you need pounds altogether, either beef brisket of shin of beef, but best is to use one pound of beef and a pound of smoked hock, gammon or bacon. I went for brisket and a giant piece of smoked bacon. When browned, put in a large saucepan or stockpot. Next, brown 2 sliced onions and 3 carrots, parsnip, turnips or some swede cut into chunks; a mixture is best. Once they are browned, add them to the meat and cover with cold water, add salt and two stalks of chopped celery. Bring to the boil slowly, skimming off any scum that may rise to the surface. Add a bouquet garni (I used parsley, thyme and bay), sea salt and pepper to season, turn to a very low heat and simmer for at least three hours. I actually did all this the day before, so that we didn’t have to wait very long to eat when we got back.
About half an hour before you want to eat, add a pound of small potatoes (or larger ones cut up), and ten minutes before add a small white or green cabbage that has been sliced. When the potatoes are cooked the soup is ready. Finely slice 2 or 3 leeks and sprinkle them on top of the soup; the heat of the soup will cook them. Remove the joints and slice them up, putting some of each kind in each bowl, along with some of the veg and stock.
#98 Cawl – 7/10. A delicious, warming and beautifully clear soup. The meat was falling apart and the smoked bacon gave the whole thing a really delicious flavour. Definitely one of the best soups so far. This will become a staple winter dish, I think.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Beat together 6 rounded tablespoons of plain flour, 2 of sugar and 3 of soured cream along with a pinch of salt and 3 eggs until smooth. Next, mix together ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a rounded tablespoon of cream of tartare with 4 tablespoons of water. Quickly add it to the batter and stir in enough milk or buttermilk to make a batter that’s “not too thick” – a tricky one when you’ve no frame of reference; I think the consistency of thick double cream.
Now heat up a frying pan or griddle and add a little oil. Coat the pan and pour off any excess. Ladle a small amount in the centre of the pan to make small pancakes. Don’t swirl them around like crepes, they should be thick. After a minute or two flip it over and cook for another minute. Pile them up on a plate, spreading each one with butter. Serve in wedges with something nice and sweet – maple syrup or, as we used, golden syrup.
#97 Welsh Light Cakes or Pancakes - 9/10. Officially my favourite pancake. I know you can make crepes with normal average store-cupboard ingredients, but these are something special. Light, fluffy and slightly sour in taste, they went perfectly with the sweet golden syrup. Whenever anyone stays over, these will be made for breakfast every time. Me and Charlotte liked them so much we made seconds! Oink!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Start off by peeling, coring and slicing a pound of cooking apples and 8 ounces of Cox Orange Pippins. Arrange these in a pie dish, mounding it up in the centre, sprinkling sugar as you go. Try the apples before you add the sugar; you don’t want it too sweet. Roll out 8 ounces of shortcrust pastry. Cut a strip off pastry and glue it to around the edge of the dish with water. Brush this pastry with more water and press the rest of the rolled-out pastry onto it. Brush the lid with water, sprinkle with sugar and make a couple of slits in theb centre so that the steam can escape. Bake at 220ºC for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190ºC for another 30 minutes. Check with a knife that the apples are soft before you take it out though. Serve with double cream.
#96 Apple Pie 7/10. I love pie! This one is super-quick and easy. I’ve had better in the past, but they also require a lot more work. This is deffo the best way if you want to make one quickly.
Monday, December 1, 2008
FYI: please don’t all go out and order a hare from your butchers – they have had a decline in recent decades. I only bought mine because it just happened to be at the game stall. Check out the Hare Preservation Trust website for more details.
The trickiest part of this dish is the preparation of the hare itself; unless you have a good butcher who’ll joint it for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. I’m not going to go through how to do it here, but here’s a link to the River Cottage guide to jointing a rabbit, which is the same principle. I have to say: make sure you invest in sturdy knives, including a meat cleaver, otherwise it’ll be very tricky to do. Also keep any blood and the liver for thickening the stew with later. (Also, don’t tell anyone about that bit, as it may be one step too far for some folk.)
Once jointed, turn the pieces of hare in plenty of seasoned flour and brown them well along with one chopped onion and 8 ounces of chopped streaky bacon in 3 ounces of lard (yes, you COULD use oil, but what’s the point in that!?) in a large stockpot or casserole. Add a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and half a bay leaf to the pot along with enough stock to just cover everything; use either game stock or beef stock, I used half-and-half of each. Charlotte and I added the heart too; seemed silly to waster it since we were using the liver and blood too. Let the whole thing simmer gently until the meat comes away from the bone easily – around 2 or 3 hours. Now add 6 tablespoons of port and a large tablespoon or two of redcurrant jelly along with some salt and pepper and the dish is done! Use a tablespoon of flour slaked with some hot stew liquor to thicken the stew, or use the blood and mashed liver. Don’t let it boil if using blood, as it will curdle not unlike egg yolks in over-cooked custard. Charlotte and I spent a while removing bones from the meat though, so people didn’t have to worry about bones.
Now that’s done, make the forcemeat balls (named forcemeat as you are making a small amount of meat go very far – peasant food, innit?). In a bowl mix together 4 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 2 ounces of chopped suet, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of thyme, the grated rind of half a lemon, 2 ounces of finely chopped bacon, a large egg and some salt and pepper. Form the mixture into balls of around an inch in diameter and fry them until golden in more (yes, more!) lard.
I served it all up with boiled potatoes and peas.
#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls – 7/10. The more game I eat, the more I feel I’ve been missing out! I’m always slightly tentative about game, but this is another corker! The stew was rich and thick; hare is very gamy, but the port and redcurrant jelly helped cut through it. Given the chance, I’ll be cooking the remaining hare recipes. The surprise star though was the forcemeat balls – Grigson suggests making them for soups, so if you don’t fancy the hare, make the meatballs! The heart tasted surprisingly nice too...
Jane Grigson gives instructions on how to make them. She says to use shortcrust pastry rather than puff pastry (unless you are eating them warm). I made pastry with half butter, half lard; I prefer it as it is more crisp and 'short'. Whichever way you do it remember the flour:fat ratio is 2:1. Roll out pastry thinly and cut circles out with a scone-cutter to line small tart tins. Place a small teaspoon inside – don’t overdo it though, the fresh suet expands. Seal the top with another circle of pastry, gluing it on with some egg white. Make a cross in the middle and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes at 220ºC. Serve warm or cold.
#94 ‘To Make Mince Pies’ – 8/10. I really like the mincemeat. The meat is totally undetectable; but it, the fresh suet and the grated apple make the resulting pie-innards succulent and tasty, it’s not overly sweet either, which is good because you can eat more of them! Good old Mrs Beeton, where would we be without her! It’s been a while since I’ve had homemade mince pie and it brought back a lot of memories for me making them with my Mum. I am definitely getting in the Christmas spirit!