Wednesday, September 30, 2009

#191 Lamb with Plums

It was Butters’ birthday the other week, so naturally I did a bit cooking. He requested lamb as that is his favourite meat. This one is an interesting one – a leg of lamb pot roasted with wine and plums. Butters was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a roast, you just can’t please some people, can you? I wanted to do this one because it used plums and they are in season and are nice and cheap to boot. I’m quite a fan of the English habit of eating rich meat with fruit; we have gotten out of this habit recently though. Another important thing: it’s also nice and easy.

Start off by browning a leg of lamb all over in butter. If it is very fatty, it would be a good idea to trim any excess off – it’ll prevent the dish becoming too greasy. Place the joint in a large ovenproof casserole and add two glasses of red wine, ten plums (leave them whole), a medium chopped onion, a chopped clove of garlic and a quarter teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and allspice (or nutmeg). Cover with the lid and place in an oven preheat to 200⁰C for around two hours. Remove the lamb, and keep it warm. Skim any fat from the juices in the casserole and pass it through a sieve to make a smooth sauce. Reheat it and add sugar – one or two teaspoons should do, you don’t want it too sweet, plus some extra spices if you like. Pour some sauce over the lamb, and serve the remainder in a jug or gravy boat. Griggers is strict with the accompaniments: “Potatoes are the only vegetable to serve with lamb cooked in this way.” That’s us told.

#191 Lamb with Plums. This was a really delicious, simple recipe. The lamb turned out to be very succulent and the tart, spicy plum sauce was really delicious. I’m not about just having spuds with it though, I like a bit of green with my tea. 8/10.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

#190 Finnan Haddock

A bit of a cop out this one as it it’s not really a recipe, though it is listed as one in the book. It’s actually more a bit of advice on good eating. There’s many like this in the book. Here, Griggers discusses the dos and don’ts of buying Finnan haddock, which is smoked haddock. We call it Finny haddock in Yorkshire. Findon, or Finnan is a small coastal village near Aberdeen in Scotland. It is there where the proper stuff is made. Griggers warns us of buying those ‘golden fillets’ that are that weird shiny orange colour like cheap sweaty spray-on tan, which I suppose it is but with added smoke flavour. Splarf. My mum used to buy them and they are vastly inferior to the proper stuff. There have been a few recipes so far in the book that has used Finnan haddock, and I think that I have mentioned all this before. However, if you want the really good shit, it is Arbroath that you need to travel to. There, Arbroath smokies are made. As I was in the fishmongers buying some prawns (see a later entry for what I wanted those for) there some were, just lying there. So I bought one, as you have to be opportunistic in this game.

So the recipe? “Heat briefly under the grill or in the oven, and eaten with plenty of butter and bread, or used for kedgeree.” So a brief grilling it was for my little smokie.

#190 Finnan Haddock. If you ever see those little Arbroath smokies in the fishmongers you have to buy some. The flesh was so succulent and sweet due to its protection by the now leathery skin, and the smoke flavour was nothing like anything I’ve tasted before: it was as though it had only just been taken out of the smokehouse and slipped onto my plate. The smoke flavour was sweet and acrid, not unlike a good cigar. Excellent. 8/10. If I catch any of you buying a golden fillet, I will come over personally and poke you in the eye with it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly

“People sometimes shudder at the mention of roly-poly puddings” says the Grigson; er, no dear, just the idea of THIS one! Why on Earth is there no jam roly-poly pudding, please!? I’ve been putting off the more weird ones – like this – but they are building up now. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but Griggers really does big this one up. It is cheap though, at least when mussels are in season.

I have only recently been able to pluck up the courage to eat mussels; I’ve always been a bit squeamish with bivalves for some reason. However, I do love mussels now. The Romans loved them too, and they’ve been cultured in France since the late thirteenth century, ever since a shipwrecked Irishman called Patrick Walton was washed up on a French beach and noticed some mussels growing on the fishermen’s nets. I doubt he wrapped them in suet pasty though.

To begin you need to cook your mussels – 48 in all, says Grigson. Scrub them and remove their beards and any parasites. Place them in a hot, wide shallow pan and cover. As soon as the mussels open, take them off the heat. Don’t use any mussels that have not opened. Shell them, reserving any juices, and let them cool. Pass the juices through some muslin into a small pan.

Now make the rest of the stuffing: In a bowl, mix together 3 ounces of finely chopped onion, 2 trimmed and finely chopped leeks, 2 chopped rashers of streaky bacon, 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley and a little salt plus plenty of ground black pepper.

Suet pastry is the easiest pastry to make. Sieve 10 ounces of self-raising flour in a large bowl and mix in a pinch of salt and 5 ounces of shredded suet. Using a knife or your hands, mix in some cold water until a firm and light dough is formed.

You are now ready to construct the rolypoly pudding. Roll the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle over the leek mixture leaving a centimetre border around three sides, and then evenly sprinkle over the mussels. Brush the edges with water and roll up the pastry starting at the borderless end, lastly press down the sides to prevent any leakage from the sides. Wrap it in a tightly-sealed but baggy foil parcel and steam for two hours on a rack in a self-basting roaster. If you don’t have one – use a normal roaster and make a foil lid as I did. When ready, place in an ovenproof serving dish and crisp it up in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes - careful now, it might collapse (see pic!). Whilst that is happening, make the butter sauce. Boil down the reserved mussel liquor, take it off the heat, and whisk in 4 ounces of chilled, cubed butter, bit by bit. Season well, add some chopped parsley, and it is ready.

#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly 4.5/10. I though I liked this in the end, but then I wasn’t sure; it certainly wasn’t awful. I even had seconds. The mussels were soft and sweet, the leeks were cooked nicely and the pastry was crisp. The sauce was good too. I think it was too rich, and I ate too much. An unusual one, but I’m not sure I would recommend it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

#188 Ragout of Lamb

Another bargain from Orton Farmers’ market – a nice leg of lamb for a tenner. I love lamb, I do. Griggers actually half-inched this one from a chap called Michael Smith. I don’t know who he is. Anyway, I wanted to do this one because I got to use to use up a massive punnet of tomatoes that I also got from the market. This recipe is not worth making with those crappy old chlorosed supermarket thingies. Get some proper ones; if you grow them yourself, alls the better. It’s a nice recipe this one, a nice summery stew.

You need 2 pounds of leg of lamb that has been cubed for this recipe. If you get the butcher to bone it, don’t forget to ask for the bone – you’ve paid for it, make some stock out of it! Shake the cubed meat in a bag along with two tablespoons of well-seasoned flour. Brown them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the browned lamb in a casserole and then brown 2 diced carrots and half a head of celery that has also been diced in the pan. When done add those to the casserole. If you have a casserole that can go straight onto the hob, then you can do it all in one. Now add ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and the grated rind of a lemon to the meat and vegetables and pour over 1 ¼ pints of chicken stock. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 190⁰C.

At the mid-way point, you need to add around 18 caramelised spring or pickling onions. To make them prepare the onions: leave about 2 or 3 inches of green stalk on the spring onions. If it’s pickling onions, you are using, just peel them. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a pan and add the onions, plus 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar. Cook until caramelised, making sure they all get coated and browned evenly.

The final stage of this recipe is to cook the tomatoes lightly – they are used as a topping: peel the tomatoes, halve them, scoop out the seeds and dice them up. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a saucepan and cook the tomatoes lightly. Take the ragout out of the oven, skim it of fat, check for seasoning, place it in a bowl and place the tomatoes on top. Scatter with chopped basil. Serve with a baked potato.

#188 Ragout of Lamb. A really nice stew this one; the meat was beautifully tender and the chicken stock, tomatoes and basil really lifted and made it light and summery – it’s a shame we have no actual summer to speak of. The onions collapse into sweet, sweet mush too. Great stuff - 7.5/10.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

#187 Soyer's Clear Vegetable Soup

I am still trying to count the pennies at the minute and this recipe was designed to be cheap to make as it is from Alexis Soyer’s book Shilling Cookery for the People (1845). I’ve mentioned Soyer before in the blog – he was a French chef who wanted to help the people and the book was one way. He was also a pioneer – he helped develop cooking on gas and ovens with adjustable temperatures. Anyway, I did baulk at this recipe: shilling cookery with veal in it!? However, I was wrong; I managed to get hold of a veal knuckle to make the soup for just 25 pence from the Orton Farmers' Market. Bargain. You may have some reservations about eating veal, but these days you really don’t need to – I’ll discuss that in a later entry though.

I love how the book has two vegetable soup recipes and neither even entertain being vegetarian! Brilliant. We love Griggers!

To make this soup you need to begin by making a veal stock: You need to get hold of 2 pounds of veal knuckle – it seems that they are quite easy to get hold of as long as your butcher sells veal in the first place. Ask the butcher to chop it into small pieces – I couldn’t as I was at the market and had to do it myself which was a nightmare to do. Place the knuckle pieces in a large pan along with 2 ounces of butter; 2 ounces of chopped, lean unsmoked bacon; 3 teaspoons of salt; ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper; 6 ounces of sliced onion; and ¼ pint of water. Bring the water to a boil and stir the ingredients for around 10 minutes. An opaque whitish stock is created. Now add a further 4 ½ pints of water and bring to a boil, then skim, then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock when cooked. You can do all this in advance, of course.

For the soup itself you need to dice some vegetables: around 8 ounces of turnip, Jerusalem artichokes or carrot, or a mixture; plus 3 ounces of mixed onion, leek and celery. Melt 2 ounces of butter or dripping in a pan and add the diced vegetables along with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir them until they caramelise and, when ready, add 3 pints of the stock. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Lastly, stir through 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley or chives, or both. Serve with brown bread and butter.

#187 Soyer’s Clear Vegetable Soup. This was an unusual soup; I can’t decide if I liked it or not. I was a very thin soup that wasn’t hearty at all, so it didn’t fill any gap in my stomach! It was saved by the sweet vegetables and their caramelised coating that darkened the soup and made look quite attractive. Not sure if I’d make it again though - 5/10.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#186 Cheese and Oat Biscuits

To go with the vegetable soup I made yesterday, Old Griggers recommends these cheese and oat biscuits to help pad it out into a main meal. Indeed, they go well with most soups, she says. She also says that they are good piled high with cream cheese, finely chopped onion and Cayenne pepper. I’ve never made my own savoury biscuits, so I was interested in seeing how these turned out. They are also cheap to make; a prerequisite these days.

Mix together 3 ounces of rolled oats with 5 ounces of plain flour and rub in 3 ½ ounces of salted butter. Next stir in 4 ounces of grated cheese – a mixture of grated strong Cheddar and Parmesan (I did a ratio of about 3:1) and form it into a dough with two egg yolks. Use a little cold water to bring it together if need be. Season the dough well with salt and pepper. Now roll out thinly and cut our rounds with a scone cutter, place them on a greased baking tray and bake at 200⁰C for around 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

#186 Cheese and Oat Biscuits. I was really impressed by these. So impressed, in fact, that I managed to scoff them all over the course of the evening. Both the use of strong cheeses and a good seasoning is very important, and that is what makes them so much better than any cheese biscuit you could buy. The fact that they’re a piece of piss to make is an added bonus! 8/10.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

#185 Vegetable Soup

In case you didn’t know, ‘Thrifty’ is my middle name. Well ‘Skint’ is, at any rate and I’m ploughing through the cheaper of the recipes. This is not necessarily a difficult, but they also have to be healthy too as I’ve developed a bit of a man gut and my moobs are beginning to bud. This is not good.

Obviously the soups are a good target and this vegetable soup seems perfect. I have my own recipe for vegetable soup that I’ve put on the blog before and I think it’s pretty good, she has some interesting additions such as dill and allspice berries. Let’s see if Griggers does a better one…

An important point that Griggers makes is that you don’ have to stick to any particular strict rules with this kind of soup – any vegetables will do I think. Also, this recipe for vegetable soup is not vegetarian, but it could easily be adapted by omitting the meat and using vegetable stock.

Begin by simmering a pound of sliced cabbage in 2 ½ pints of water or light stock along with 12 lightly crushed peppercorns, 6 crushed allspice berries and ½ pound of salt pork, smoked bacon joint or ham hock for 30 minutes. I would use just water if your using a hock with bone, stock otherwise. Now add 2 coarsely chopped carrots, 4 potatoes that have been peeled and cubed, 2 sliced leeks (or one leek and one onion) and a few lovage leaves (these are optional). Simmer for a further 30 minutes. Remove the meat and use it for another meal, or, as I did, chop it up and return it to the soup at the end. The soup needs to be blended now – don’t go mad with it, either pulse and partially liquidise it, or use a mouli-legumes. Found that one of those hand blenders is the best thing for this job. Finally, add one to two tablespoons of grated Parmesan, some dill (optional), cream (also optional) and season with salt, pepper and sugar. Griggers suggests eating the soup with fingers of cheese on toast or cheese and oat biscuits. I went with the latter (cheap and easy to make!).

#185 Vegetable Soup. I can’t believe I’ve not made this recipe yet! Well I have to say it beats my vegetable soup hands down. The soup is very hearty and the addition of the salty piquant cheese and the lemon-fresh dillweed really transform it into a pretty macho vegetable soup. 8/10.

Monday, September 7, 2009

#184 Kedgeree

The thrifty cooking is going well – Charlotte and I having been very shrewd. However, when it comes to Sunday dinnertime, I did want a nice big hearty (and pricey) roast. Instead I went for kedgeree. I don’t recall ever having eaten it before, even though I knew exactly what is required to make it. I had high hopes for it: curry, eggs and Finnan (smoked) haddock. What can’t be good about that!? It used to be a breakfast dish, but these days it’s eaten for dinner or tea.

I have been researching the origins of kedgeree, and there seems to be two differing stories: the Scots reckon that it hails from there, and when the lovely British Empire decided to pop over to Asia and add India to its collection, the Scots brought it over too and the curry element was added. The alternative story is that the dish started in India, but then when colonialists came over, they added the smoked fish. I’m going with the latter story – the best evidence is the etymology of the word: kedgeri is the name of a similar Indian dish containing rice, lentils and eggs.

To make kedgeree, start off by poaching a pound of Finnan haddock in barely simmering water for ten minutes. You can use any good-flavoured cured fish, of course, for example kippers, smoked salmon or bloaters. Meanwhile chop a large onion and fry it in olive oil until it browns. Add a teaspoon of curry paste (I used Madras) and fry for a minute. Remove the fish from the water, remove its skin and flake the flesh, removing any bones. To the pan, stir in six ounces of long grain rice and when translucent add a pint of the poaching water. Cover the pan and let it simmer gently until all the water has been absorbed. Gently stir in the flaked fish along with a large knob of butter. Plate out the kedgeree and decorate with quartered hard-boiled eggs, prawns and chopped parsley. Serve with a lemon wedge and mango chutney.

#184 Kedgeree. This did not disappoint – the food was substantial and well-flavoured, but light. The combination of curry and eggs, and of smoked fish and eggs is great. Plus the extra addition of the lemon, prawns and mango chutney; not something I would normally associate with this dish really makes it special. This is a high-scorer – the only gripe (and it is a minor one) is the use of long grain rice, I am a Basmati man myself; it has a nutty flavour and doesn’t go as stodgy. 8/10.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

#183 Scotch Rabbit/Rarebit (1749)

The second of the three rabbits/rarebits that appear in English Food (the third being English of course). After the appearance of Welsh rabbit in the early eighteenth century, and its subsequent popularity, meant that it diversified. Griggers finds this recipe in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 book Art of Cookery. Scotch rabbit seems much easier (and cheaper, natch) as the only ingredients are cheese, toast and butter. The recipe is in fact just lifted directly out of her book, so that is what I’ll do:

Toast a piece of bread nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.

Easy? Let’s go through it again:
Toast a piece of bread nicely on both sides, butter it. Check.
…cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread… Yep, good, done that.
…toast it on both sides… Say what now? How the hell are you meant to toast a piece of cheese on both sides!?

This is what I did: I cut the cut and laid it on a piece of buttered grease-proof paper in the hope it could grill it and turn it over. This was not the case as you can see by the photo!

#183 Scotch Rabbit (Rarebit) – 2/10. What a pathetic sight it was. The cheese just stuck to the paper and ended up a big mess. What I don’t understand is that normal good-old cheese on toast is better, tastier and above all easy to make. There is no wonder at all why the Scotch rabbit never took off.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

#182 Apple Soup

I wanted to hit the ground running with the Griggers project this September after being away in Turin (work, not play) for the latter part of August, but alas, I have been hindered. There are two main problems here: I am skint and I have become a right old fat knacker all of a sudden. These factors combined can be a hindrance with the recipes in English Food. However, Charmolian and I are being rather more mindful of budgets by planning stuff out properly and sharing cooking duties. To begin with, I tried this soup – cheap and easy, but an unusual one. It is apparently, a very old recipe going right back to the fifteenth century. It is very cheap to make and therefore I assume it was a peasant dish: (windfall) apples and beef broth, basically.

So thrifty folks, here’s how to make your own taste of Medieval England:

Start off by simmering some pearl barley and/or rice in some beef stock until cooked. Next bring 2 ½ pints of beef stock in a saucepan. Meanwhile, roughly chop roughly around 12 ounces of either cooking apples or Cox’s apples ; no need to peel or core. Add the apples to the beef stock and simmer until soft. Strain and push the apples through the sieve, and then add half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper before stirring in the rice or barley. Serve very hot.

#182 Apple Soup. A strange one, this one. It’s not the most exciting – it is what it is, apples and beef, and I’m hardly about to do cartwheels over it, but I did grow to enjoy it after a few spoonfuls. The texture was quite appealing, the high pectin content of the apples makes it slightly viscous and gloopy, and combined with the thickening barley and rice made it seem more substantial than it was, which is good as it’s almost totally calorie-free. Would I make it again? Only when I’m very poor. It’s interesting to eat some food that has some history though. 5/10.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September Food

September, the month that bridges summer with autumn, things are in plenty and are relatively cheap. Game is coming back into season, as is eel, apparently, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that as I’ve never tried it, other than on sushi. Now is the time to cook my more favorite foods – suet puddings, warming pies and stews, of course I should be saving them for further into winter, but I just can’t wait!

Look out for…

Vegetables: globe artichokes, aubergines, beetroot, borlotti beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, chard, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, lamb’s lettuce, onions, pak choi, peas, peppers and chillies, pumpkins, rocket, runner beans, salsify, sorrel, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes, watercress.

Fruit: apples, blackberries, blueberries, greengages, loganberries, melons, peaches and nectarines, plums, pears

Wild greens and herbs: horseradish

Wild flowers and fruits: bilberries, blackberries, bullace, damsons, elderberries, juniper berries

Fungi and nuts: ceps, chanterelles, chicken of the woods, field mushrooms, hazelnuts, horse mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, parasol mushrooms, puffballs, giant shaggy inkcap, summer truffles

Fish and shellfish: black bream, crab, signal crayfish, eels, lobster, mussels, oyster, mackerel, prawns, salmon, scallops, sea bass, sprats, squid, trout

Game: goose, grey squirrel, grouse, mallard, rabbit, woodpigeon