Saturday, June 20, 2009

Au Revior!

See you later chaps and chapesses – I’m off to France for 2 weeks today on a field trip to St Auban, just a wee bit north of Nice in the South of France. I've told you about the place before. I’ve added a couple of notices to appear whilst I’m away (isn’t technology a wonderful thing), but that’s it for recipes until the 4th of July when I return. Whilst I'm away make something exciting, and tell me about it for when I get back.

Have fun in the sun!

Laters! x

Thursday, June 18, 2009

#164 Sorrel with Eggs

It’s always exciting trying a new food, and this one – sorrel – is completely new to me, even though it is a common part of many a British meadow’s flora. At least that’s what the foragers’ books keep on telling me. I’ve kept my eyes open and only found the quite similar, though inedible, dock leaf when I’ve been on the look-out. So, I was very lucky to happen up some at the Unicorn grocery whilst I wasn’t looking for it. It’s good really, because now I know what it looks like and tastes like I’m much more likely to see it in the grassland in the future.

Sorrel is one of our forgotten vegetables, and was once part of every garden as it grew happily in the early Spring when the store of over-wintered fruit and vegetables had run out, but the new springtime plants were not yet laden with their bounties. Famine time. These days of, course, we have no gap to fill in the food year and so it has gone out of favour. Another reason for its decline in popularity is that, because of its acidic zingy sharpness, it was used a lemon substitute and is therefore required no longer. It's very easy to grow - I shall be growing some next year, for sure. Here's a nice article about it from The Telegraph.

This recipe uses pureed sorrel that takes seconds to make, so if you find any, either in the meadow or the greengrocers, try this to get you started. It serves six, but you can decrease the amounts if you don’t have enough sorrel (or people!).

First boil six eggs for 6 minutes exactly (unless they are large, then boil for 7), this will achieve a boiled egg with well-cooked whites but still squidgy yolks. Whilst they are boiling, prepare 8 ounces of sorrel by rinsing, draining and removing the stalks just as for spinach. Add the leaves to a saucepan that’s over a moderate heat, after a few seconds it will reduce to a dark green puree, then add salt and pepper and 3 ounces of butter. Keep warm. Now fry six slices of bread in butter or oil until crisp, and cut into triangles (12 altogether). Now arrange the ingredients in a bowl or serving plate: sorrel first, then the eggs (whole or halved) and then the fried bread. Finally decorate with orange wedges (which I forgot to do!).

#164 Sorrel with Eggs – 7/10. I really enjoyed this usual and forgotten vegetable. The flavour was intense and was tempered well with the oily bread and creamy yolks of the eggs; it could be best described as lemon but with a strange astringency, like that of green rhubarb or raw gooseberries. It would be delicious with fish I expect. This is the only recipe that uses sorrel in English Food, but I am on the look out for other recipes elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream

Seeing as we’d had a very un-summery meal of beef and dumplings, I thought I’d better do something nice and cool and refreshing for pudding. This fool is classed as a winter fool by Jane Grigson, I assume because it has dried fruit rather than fresh fruit in it. However, she says it can also be made into an ice cream, transforming into a summer pud.

It uses an ingredient previously unknown to me – dried apricots; not the semi-dried apricots you get from the supermarket, but whole, tiny completely dry ones from Asian supermarkets. They really are rock-hard dry so make sure you soak them in cold water overnight before you use them.

In case you didn't know what to look for -

the apricots in their dry state

This recipe uses six ounces (dry weight) of the apricots.

Simmer the soaked apricots in their soaking water for 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and boil their soaking liquor down to a syrup. Meanwhile, remove the flesh, reserving the stones, and mash it into a coarse puree. Crack open the reserved stones, to reveal the kernels, chop them roughly and add those to the puree. When the soaking liquor is syrupy add that too and allow to cool. Add some icing sugar and lemon juice to bring out the flavours, if needed. Beat ½ pint of whipping or double cream and fold this into the puree. If you are making this into a fool put into glasses and chill, or alternatively pour into an ice cream maker.

Griggers suggests serving it with almond biscuits, but I went one better – I served them in ice cream cones with home make monkey blood (that’s raspberry sauce to you).

#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream – 6/10. Very nice, though lacked flavour; this was, I think, due to it being cold and therefore requiring a lot more sugar and lemon juice than I gave it, as it tasted fine before freezing. That said it did have a nice honey-like taste and the chopped kernels were delicious and made it texturally more interesting than a bog-standard ice cream. I think the recipe was best suited to a fool rather than an ice cream. With a few changes though, this could be bumped up to be a 7 or 8 out-of-ten ice cream.

FYI: apricot kernels contain potent anti-cancer drugs and have been used to treat tumours since the 6th Century. They are also believed to cleanse the respiratory system and have been used to treat coughs. Combine this with the super-high carotenoid content of the apricot flesh, and you've got a serious super-food on your hands, mister!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

#162 Horseradish Sauce

To accompany the salt beef, I made this classic accompaniment, though it goes very well with smoked fish such as trout.

It’s very easy to make: lightly whip ¼ pint of double cream and stir in 2 tablespoons of grated horseradish, then season with salt, pepper and the juice of up to half a lemon. It’s important to just lightly whip the cream as the acids in the lemon make it much thicker. Griggers also make the point that the outside of the horseradish root is alot hotter than the centre, so if you like it milder, grate across the root, rather than down the side.

FYI: horseradish can be found growing wild in most places in Europe and has been cultivated by the Egyptians and Romans and, according to Greek Myth, Apollo was told by the Delphic Oracle that it was worth it’s weight in gold, though why I don’t know.

Again, no pic, sorry – my camera’s doing some funny things

#162 Horseradish Sauce – 6.5/10. This very pleasant and creamy, though lacked the punch I expected, even though I was pretty generous with the horseradish. It was ok, but I think I prefer a jar of proprietary horseradish sauce! Is this bad of me!?

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings

After the reasonable success of the ham I cured, I was keen to try something else so I went for salt beef. You can of course just buy your beef already salted, but if you want to have a go at your own, follow this link. My friend Evelyn had also made a request for it a while back, and although beef and dumplings are in no way summery I thought I’d do it anyway.

Put your beef – silverside or brisket – in a large pot and pour in enough water to just cover it. Bring it slowly to a simmer – taste the water after 10 minutes, if it’s salty change the water and start again. Add 2 unpeeled onions that have been studded with four cloves each, a small piece of nutmeg, two blades of mace and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Once the beef is simmering turn it down to the lowest heat possible so that the tiniest amount of bubbling occurs. Now cover and leave to simmer – the time depends upon the weight of the meat, to calculate it use the same method as on this entry, but a 3 pound piece of beef will take 3 ½ hours in total.

Toward the end of the cooking time, make your dumpling mixture: sift 4 ounces of plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and stir in 2 ounces of shredded suet (i.e. packet suet). Add just enough water to make a slightly stick dough and with floured hands make little balls of the dough (about ten, I’d say). Add a little grated horseradish in their centres. Alternatively use a cube of fried bread or mix chopped parsley into the dough.

When the beef is cooked, remove it and let it rest. Add the dumplings and let them poach for 10-15 minutes.

Serve it with gravy made using some of the cooking liquor and glazed carrots, says Lady Griggers. I did peas too and some horseradish sauce.

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings – 8/10. Really delicious and definitely the best of the cured meat thus far. The beef was flaky and pink with the saltiness perfectly balanced with the aromatic herbs, spices and sugars from the brine cure and stock. I’ve never bought salt beef, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but I shall be definitely doing this one again, but perhaps during wintertime! The dumplings were okay – they could have been fluffier, however, they were cooking for longer than 10 minutes as I lost track of time getting everything else ready. Oopsey!

Sorry there's no photo - I took one, but for some reason it's no longer on my camera's memory! Double oopsey!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#160 Rice Cake

Every Wednesday at work, one of us tries to make a cake and bring it in so we can all get together for a chat; something we rarely get to do. We have been a bit slack as a department recently, so I thought I’d make one. This seemed perfect, I had all the ingredients in, it seemed a little unusual, but basically a normal cake mixture, so great stuff… I expected this cake to be a real hidden gem – Jane Grigson write quite a lengthy entry on this cake and she says that she was easily converted from the ‘traditional’ flour-based cake.

Here’s how to make a rice cake:

Cream 4 ounces of butter with 8 ounces of caster sugar and beat in three eggs one at a time. Stir in 8 ounces of rice flour and the grated zest of a lemon. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 7 inch cake tin and bake at 180⁰C for anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and a half. Jane doesn’t say to fill it with anything, so I used raspberry jam and Butter Cream I.

The world's most boring cake:

you saw it here first!

#160 Rice Cake – 2/10. Totally crap! It was so bad I didn’t even bother taking it into work. The cake was so hard and dry, there was no spongy texture as there was no raising agent or gluten there. Also, because of the lack of gluten, the grains of flour remained granular. Bad, bad, bad! Its only saving grace was the jam and butter cream, and I did the butter cream wrong!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves

Here at Grigson Towers, we don’t like to let anything go to waste, and our tasty fishes are certainly something that should be at treated with a huge amount of respect. So do your bit by making your mackerel (or herring) go further by asking your friendly fishmonger to fish out the fishes’ roes when he guts them. After all you have paid for them anyway.

There’s quite a few roe recipes in English Food and I’ve tried them, so I thought I’d better get started. This one seemed straight-forward and is very similar (and cheaper!) to the oyster loaves recipe, so I was sort of on familiar ground. The good thing about this recipe is that you can reduce the amounts accordingly depending upon how many roes you have – in fact I only had enough to make one!

FYI: In case you didn’t know (and don’t let this put you off) the soft roe of a fish is the sperm, and therefore from a male fish. They’ve gone out of favour, with some fishmongers just throwing them away instead of selling them! Another thing we need to try and bring back, people!

Prepare 8 small rolls of bread just like for the oyster loaves. To make the filling, soften 3 shallots or 3 tablespoons of onion in butter over a low heat. Add ½ pint of double cream and cook until it thickens. Cut the roes into one centimetre cubes and place them in the cream and allow them to poach gently – this only takes a few minutes. Add parsley and chives and season with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper, plus a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess. Spoon the mixture into the hollow loaves and serve immediately.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed my first foray into roe gastronomy, though a dated dish, you could modernise it easily by serving it on toast instead, or something. They are very soft and have a very delicate flavour. Try them, don’t fear the fish sperm – you’ll like the flavour and texture – and, after all, you’ll happily eat fish eggs (or bird eggs), so what’s the difference?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel

Apart from Britain and the Netherlands, gooseberries are not grown and eaten in large numbers. This is because they’re not a particularly popular fruit for desserts. However, they are often served with mackerel as in this traditional English recipe. It seems to be a combination that has gone out of favour these days – I’ve certainly never eaten them with fish, though I have has tuna and rhubarb before and that was lovely, so I've high hopes for this one.

This makes enough stuffing for 4 mackerel:

Top and tail 8 ounces of gooseberries and cook them gently in ½ an ounce of butter until they just begin to soften and pop. Mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, and when luke warm add another 1 ½ ounces of butter and 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Season them up with salt, and both black and Cayenne pepper, plus a little sugar if the gooseberries are too tart (they need quite a lot of tartness, to cut through the oily mackerel).

Bone the mackerel, or ask your fishmonger to do it (if you want to do it yourself – and it is very easy – follow this link for instructions) and divide the mixture up between them. Place them in a buttered ovenproof dish and season the skin with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 190⁰C. I served them with salad.

#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel – 8/10. This was a taste sensation. The piquant gooseberry stuffing cuts through the rich oily mackerel so well. This really is a recipe that needs a resurgence. Now is the perfect time to make it people – both gooseberries and mackerel are in season. Isn’t it funny how things that are in season at the same time, seem to go so well together? It’s almost as though God planted them all there for us. Unfortunately, I’m too old to still believe in God, so I assume that there’s a better explanation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

#157 Gooseberry Fool

Technically the first of the British soft summer fruits, the gooseberry is one of my all-time favourites. It seems to have gone out of favour these days and quite tricky to track down. I suppose it’s because you have to top and tail them and cook them before you eat then. It’s big shame though. It seems that some people don’t even know what gooseberries are, seeing as one woman in the greengrocers told the lady on the till that there was “something wrong with your grapes, ‘cos they’re all hairy”. I despair sometimes, I really do. Oh well, if you come across some and don’t know what to do with them, start of by making a fool. If you don’t find any, you can substitute any soft fruit for the gooseberries and still have something delicious.

This was enough for three:

Top and tail 8 ounces of gooseberries, place them in a pan with an ounce of butter, cover and cook them gently. Once the gooseberries turn a yellow-ish colour and have softened – around 5 minutes – crush then with a wooden spoon and/or a fork. Try to avoid making them too pureed and mushy; you still want a bit of bite. Now add sugar, not too much as the fruit is supposed to remain a little tart, however, this is all down to personal preference. Allow to cool. Now whip ¼ pint of double cream and fold in the gooseberries and spoon into serving dishes. Grigson suggests serving with an almond biscuit (I didn’t)

#157 Gooseberry Fool – 8/10. This is my kind of pudding; small, yet perfectly-formed, I love stewed fruit and cream (or custard) of any type, but gooseberries especially and they are such a short-lived treat that you need to show them off as best – and as simply – as you can.

Monday, June 8, 2009

#156 Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie

I bought a nice new pie dish last week, so I thought I’d Christen it with a nice big pie for Sunday dinner. I decided upon this Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie because it needed to be pretty quick to do (no cooking of the filling beforehand) as I had to be in the lab in the morning. Plus there was a load of Cox’s Pippins in Unicorn in Chorlton – apparently the last of the stored apples from the previous autumn.

This is a very traditional pie – essentially meat stewed in liquid (in this case cider) under a pastry crust, and comes from Hannah Glasse. It is a little odd in that it has a double crust; I’d have no problems with it if it was cooked in a thick sauce. Surely the pastry lining the pie dish will just turn into a soggy mess? To pre-empt this, I used a previous trick of The Grigson – to place a baking sheet in the oven as it heats, so that when the dish is placed on it, the underside quickly cooks.

First of all make some shortcrust pastry using 10 ounces of plain flour and use two-thirds of it to line a 2 ½ pint capacity pie dish.

To make the filling you need to prepare your pork – you need 2 pounds of boned pork loin. Cut off the rind and trim away the fat with a sharp knife, then slice the loin and chop into chunks. Next peel, core and slice around 12 ounces of Cox’s orange pippins. Then mix 8 ounces of chopped onion together with 4 chopped rashers of cured, unsmoked bacon. Now layer the ingredients in the pie dish: half of the pork, then half of the apples, scatter them with some brown sugar and then sprinkle over half of the onion-bacon mixture. Season each layer with salt and pepper plus some grated nutmeg. Repeat with the remainder in the same fashion. Dot the top with around 2 ounces of butter and then pour on ¼ pint of dry cider. Cover with the remaining pastry sealing and glazing it with beaten egg. Make some fancy pastry decorations if you fancy. Bake for 20 minutes at 220°C, and then turn the oven down to 160°C for a further 45 minutes. Jane doesn’t indicate what to serve with it, but I went with mustard mash and some asparagus.

Check out the arts & crafts spectacular atop the pie!


#156 Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie – after much deliberation on this one, I give it 5/10. I think it was pretty average – I wasn’t sure about the amount of liquid in the pie, which after my efforts to prevent it, still made the pastry soggy. I think, it could be easily improved, however by making a roux with the butter and some extra flour and using the cider to make a sauce. I think it would have made this okay effort into a very hearty one that would stick to your ribs, as we say in Yorkshire!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

#155 Welsh Rabbit (Rarebit)

Apparently it is incorrect to call a Welsh rabbit a rarebit, it is a “false etymological refinement”. There are, in fact, three types of rabbit: Welsh, English and Scottish. The Welsh is the classic, but I can’t find anywhere that states it was the original rabbit, though people assume it is. I suppose it’s one of those dishes that have just been around for a long, long time. Also I have no idea why they are called rabbits, but there are theories abound. One is that the Welsh peasants of yore were not allowed to eat rabbits caught in hunts by the nobles, so they substituted it for cheese (which has, of course, always been a popular staple in Wales). That’ll do me.

These days we are used to a very thick cheese topping piled on our toast for Welsh rabbit, but traditionally it was meant to be quite liquid so it soaked into the toast whilst it grilled.

For 2 slices of toast

Toast two thick slices of toast. Meanwhile gently melt 4 ounces of good grated Cheddar (or Lancashire or Double Gloucester) with 3 tablespoons of ale (or milk). Stir until the mixture becomes a thick, liquid cream. Add an ounce of butter to the melted cheese, alongside some salt and pepper and some mustard. Taste and add more seasoning or mustard if you like. Place the toast in a heat-proof dish and pour the cheese mixture over it. Place under a very hot grill until the cheese toasts nicely and develops brown spots.

#155 Welsh Rabbit – 6.5/10. It may not look as nice as a more modern Welsh rarebit, but how could toasted cheese and mustard possible taste bad? It was quite unusual having the runny cheese soaked up into the bread, so although it was delicious, I think I prefer the cheese to be stacked on top, with an egg yolk include plus a bit of Worcester sauce. That said, I did hit the spot! I think I could eat some form of cheese on toast every day if I let myself.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

#154 Mrs Raffald's Bacon and Egg Pie

I’ve cooked some recipes by Elizabeth Raffald before and they’ve come out well each time – there’s a potted history of her life in Salford in Greater Manchester in this earlier post. It comes from her book The Experienced Housekeeper, and I must try and get hol of a copy (if it still exists)

Technically this bacon and egg pie can be made any time of year, but I thought it seemed perfect for this time of year, served warm with a salad. The English bacon and egg pie seems to have gone out of favour, with people preferring quiches with roasted vegetables etc. added these days. Well, I love bacon and egg pie – in fact it was my second favourite school dinner (spam fritters came first) – and I think it deserves a come-back. It’s great for picnicking too, I reckon, due to its double pastry crust. I would advise to make this pie only with proper free-range farm eggs (surprisingly cheap in delis and fishmongers and the like) and good dry-cured bacon, it’s well worth spending a bit more money for what is, overall, a pretty cheap recipe.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place a baking tray on the shelf that the pie will be cooked on (important for later!)

Start off by making some shortcrust pastry with 8 ounces of flour (or more, or less, depending upon how thick you like it). Use two-thirds of it to line a flan dish; Griggers doesn’t give sizes, but an 8 inch one was perfect. Chop 8 ounces of smoked streaky bacon and sprinkle it over the pastry base. Next, whisk up 4 large (or 6 medium) eggs and pour out a little of the mixture into a ramekin for later. Beat the eggs along with ½ pint of crème fraiche and some salt and pepper. Pour the custard into the pie dish and roll out the remaining pastry to form a lid, using some of the reserved egg to glue it on. Trim excess pastry and paint more egg over the top so that it glazes nicely in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes on the hot baking tray (it stops the base from going soggy), then lower the heat to 170°C for another 30 minutes. Serve warm with a salad.

#154 Mrs Raffald’s Bacon and Egg Pie – 9/10. This did not disappoint! I must admit I was unsure about not blind baking the pastry first, but it worked a treat. The inclusion of crème fraiche over cream or milk plus good quality eggs and bacon are the key to it though – so don’t skimp. The pie was ten times better than the one I used to get at school, yet it brought back all the memories at the same time. Bring on the spam fritters!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

#153 Mocha Cake

This recipe contains absolutely no seasonal produce whatsoever. I’m not even sure it has any nutritional value either. This bizarre pudding was greatly loved in the Grigson household, particularly at birthdays and it seems to be some odd post-war version of a tiramisu: fresh coffee replaced by instant (fine by me), cream and cream cheese replaced by butter, sugar and ground almonds, and coffee liqueur replaced with sherry. It harks back, I think, to World War II where ‘mock’ foods were commonly made, e.g. mock cream, mock apricot tart, mock mayonnaise. They usually involved whipped margarine or lard. I know the apricot tart used carrots as its substitute.

Jane Grigson also mentions how good the French are (were?) at coming up with new and exciting puddings using boudoir biscuits. However, this one’s not French, it’s English, and was originally published in the Daily Telegraph. Alarm bells should have started ringing at that point…

Makes enough for 8–10 people:

Begin by creaming together 4 ounces of lightly salted butter with 4 ounces of vanilla sugar, once fluffy, beat in a large egg yolk. Next, measure out ¼ pint of milk and 4 ounces of ground almonds. Incorporate these into the creamed butter and sugar by adding alternately, a little at a time. Now slake a generous teaspoon of instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of boiling water and mix that in. Give it a taste – add more coffee if you like.

Now pour another ¼ pint of milk into a bowl along with a glass of dry sherry. Dip boudoir biscuits in the milk, but don’t let them soak, and arrange them in the bottom of a shallow oblong or oval dish. Now spread a quarter of the almond mixture over those. Repeat so that you have a total of 4 biscuit layers and 4 creamy layers. Make sure that you put cream over the sides so that all biscuits are covered. Cover with toasted slivered almonds and glace fruits if you like.

It's hard to believe, but this tasted worse than it looked

#153 Mocha Cake – 2/10. Not precisely inedible, but just so unbelievably sweet and sickly. I have no idea why the Grigson clan like this pudding so much. There amount of sugar put my teeth on edge, and I may have woken up the next morning diabetic. The pudding was left out for a few days and was still okay to eat (it was slightly better in fact as the biscuits had gone soggier), no fly or microbe seemed to have touched it. I think that it may remain perfectly preserved for ever more due to its humongous sugar content.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flaming June

Well May seemed to fly by in a hazy blur, I’m surprised I got so many recipes done and typed-up for the blog (though there is one pending, and it’s very special). I was pretty pleased that managed to stick with seasonal produce. I’ve found – or should I say, Butters has found – a very good seasonal guide: The River Cottage Seasonal Food Guide. If you don’t know anything about River Cottage, then look at their site. Headed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, they are championing self-sufficiency on whatever scale you can manage. The good thing is that their guide includes wild food. Anyways, here’s the list for flaming June – again, not all appear in English Food, but all is here for completeness:

Asparagus, broad beans, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, peas (including sugar snap, purslane, radishes, rocket, sorrel, watercress.

Cherries (European), gooseberries, rhubarb, strawberries.

Wild greens and herbs:
Broom buds, horseradish, sea spinach, wild fennel.

Wild flowers and fruits:

Fungi and nuts:
Pignuts, St George’s mushrooms.

Fish and shellfish:
Black bream, spider crab, signal crayfish, cuttlefish, mackerel, pollack, salmon (wild), sea bass, sea trout, river trout.

Wood pigeon.

So that’s the list – I’ll see what I can do. The big highlights for me are gooseberries and strawberries. Keep an eye out for me folks for anything on the list you find, especially gooseberries since no bugger seems to sell them anymore!