Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#288 Leek Pie

I beseech you heartily, scurvy, lousy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek: because, look you, you do not love it, nor your affections and your appetites and your digestions doo's not agree with it, I would desire you to eat it....if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.
William Shakespeare, Henry V
 I like to get a bit of Shakespeare in whenever I can.

There’ll be no mocking of leeks on this blog. They are one of my favourites, though I don’t really eat them that often. The main reason, I think, is that no matter how much I wash them before preparing them, there is always some grit – invisible to the naked eye – that ends up in the final dish. I’m always so thorough too. Hey-ho, a bit of dirt is fine. In fact there’s an old Yorkshire saying: tha’s got to eat a peck o’muck before you die. Indeed.

Here’s a pie that sounds great – leeks, cream and bacon in pastry. Nothing can be bad about this one, with or without grit.

I assumed that this recipe was a Welsh one, but no, variations of it are found across Britain and France. Grigson doesn’t say that much about it, other than in France onion and flour are added to the filling, so technically this is the French version, but let’s not split hairs.

To make the pie, you’ll need to buy or make some shortcrust or puff pastry. I made some shortcrust. You’ll need to make a shortcrust that uses 10 ounces of flour and five of fat; I did eight and four respectively and only just managed to get away with it.

To make the filling, chop and onion and cook it in an ounce of butter until soft and golden. Meanwhile, trim, wash and chop a pound of leeks. Slice the green part thinly, as it is quite tough and takes longer to cook than the white part. Add the leeks to the onions along with two ounces more of butter. Season with salt and pepper. It’s important to add the salt at this point as it draws the liquid from the leeks, concentrating their flavour.

When softened and mushy, turn off the heat and add four ounces of chopped back bacon. Now measure four ounces of double or clotted cream – weight, not volume – and beat in a teaspoon of flour. Pour this over the leeks and bacon and allow to cool.

Roll out two thirds of your pastry and line a nine inch tart tin. Add the filling and roll out a lid with the remaining pastry, using beaten egg as a glue. Crimp the edges and ‘decorate in restrained manner’. I just made some fluting around the edge. Brush with egg and make a hole in the centre so the steam can escape. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F) or until the pastry is nice and brown, then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) for another twenty to thirty minutes.

#288 Leek Pie. What a great pie! The filling became a rich and delicious mush with subtle onion and leek flavour. The secret to this – as with so many of the best in English Food – is the that are just a few ingredients cooked slowly over a low heat with a good amount of seasoning. It was just as delicious cold as it was hot. One of the best recipes thus far I’d say. Go and cook it! 9.5/10.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#287 Scotch Woodcock

Here’s a quickie that was a popular savoury in Victorian times in the same vein as Locket’s savoury and Gloucester ale and cheese. None of them are really eaten these days, though most of the time they are very tasty (though also very rich; no wonder everybody had gout). Although such savouries were served at the end of a meal in those days, it is is perfect for a first course or as a light lunch these days, I reckon.
It doesn’t contain any actual woodcock, of course, but is basically anchovies and eggs on toast – the fish and eggs being a substitute for the prized game bird. Just like how Welsh Rabbit is really cheese and bread instead of the delicious meaty mammal.
This recipe makes six woodcocks:
Start by draining a tin of anchovies before mashing them with two ounces of butter. Next, get the toast ready – cut circles out of six slices of bread and toast them on both sides. Spread with butter and then the anchovy mixture. Keep warm whilst you make the eggy sauce. In a saucepan, add two egg yolks to half a pint of whipping or double cream. Beat the yolks and add pepper a little salt and a good pinch of Cayenne. Stir over a moderate heat until the sauce thickens. Spoon over the anchovies, add a flourish of chopped parsley and serve it forth. If you don’t fancy making the thickened cream sauce, make some softly scrambled eggs made with a bit of cream instead.
#287 Scotch Woodcock. Previous anchovy-based recipes in this blog have ranged from the most delicious to the worst and most bizarre. This one however can join the ranks of the delicious. The intense saltiness of the anchovies was balanced very well with the bland creamy sauce. Very, very good. I ended up eating three and it gave me stomach ache. Hey-ho, you’ve to take the rough with the smooth in life aintcha? Tres bon, 8/10.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#286 Candied Peel

From the odds and sods part of the last chapter of the book this one. I’ve never been particularly moved to make candied peel because I usually bake cakes on a whim and don’t really consider thinking ahead and making the chopped peel required for fruit cakes et cetera. This has all changed now I am in the United States of America. If you buy candied fruit for your cakes here they will not only contain citrus peel but also invariably a good proportion of glace cherries and pineapple. Now don’t get all tetchy America; I’m not dissing your candied fruits. Sheesh! In fact I prefer your version, but it’s just not English now, is it? And that simply will not do for the purposes of my blog.
This recipe uses the peel of two grapefruit or one ‘large, fine’ pomelo (you can get these at Asian supermarkets pretty easily) or four oranges. Slash the skins and remove the peel, pith and all. I suppose it’s a good way of using up the peel of citrus fruits instead of just throwing them away. I suppose you can follow this recipe and candy pretty much anything you like. Lemons would work. Or citrus slices. I once saw loads of whole candied fruits like plums and peaches and things like that for sale in Harrods at extortionate prices.
Back in Tudor times, people went crazy for candied fruits and it is during these times when recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding were borne. This was due to the sudden supply of sugar from sugar cane from the West Indies. A very popular dish at the time was sweet custard tart with candied fruits and candied fish! The fools. Plus, to have black teeth was very much the rage; this meant you could afford to plenty of sugar!
Once you have removed the peels, boil them, covered, for a good fifteen minutes. Drain them and repeat this process once, twice, or thrice again until the peel is tender and the bitterness is ‘at a palatable level’. Now drain them and let them cool.
 Now either leave them as they are or cut into strips. You can use the strips as an after dinner sweetmeat if you like. If so cut them into nice neat long rectangles if you want to do that. Dissolve ten ounces of white sugar in a quarter of a pint of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the peel. Boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the syrup has been absorbed. This takes around half an hour.
Now drain the peel in a metal sieve and then leave to cool, spread out on kitchen paper.

Keep them in an airtight tub and chop whenever required for cakes. You can roll them in some more sugar or dip them in melted chocolate to serve with coffee if you like.
#286 Candied Peel. I quite enjoyed making these – quite a therapeutic process; just right for a Sunday afternoon activity. Easy too – I was expecting it to be tricky. I was imagining a spluttering tub of boiling sugar and third degree burns, but it was all quite tame. I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I did have a taste and they were very, very good. Very sweet of course, but still had lots of zesty zing left in there and a million miles away from the bought stuff. What shall I candy next? Suggestions below please! 8/10.