Monday, May 30, 2011

#294 Preserved Orange Slices (part 1)

These oranges are flavoured with a heady mix of cinnamon, mace and cloves; quite a wintery combination, I suppose. In Victorian times, the orange was the most prized Christmas gift and British children would have waited with baited breath to get their hands on them. This did not apply to Irish children though – a little earlier in history, William of Orange's extreme anti-Catholic laws were so unpopular that the Irish people made a declaration that no orange tree would ever be planted in Irish soil.
William III of Orange (aka 'King Billy' by Irish Protestants)

In Europe, the best oranges have always come from Spain, and so it is no surprise that the first orange plantation in America was also Spanish. It was, of course, in Florida and it was built in 1579. After a few years of settlement, orange trees were discovered all over the forests, causing the surprised Spanish settlers to conclude that the orange must have been native to America! It turned out to not be the case – Native Americans had been stealing oranges and spitting the pips as they ate them.

I had been planning on doing these preserved oranges for a while as they are an accompaniment to pork and duck, my two new favourite meats, thanks to recent recipes here in the blog. I’ve only just gotten round to making them because a spice required for the recipe is mace – in the form of blades. Tricky, as supermarkets don’t stock them. However, now I have a car I could pop to The Heights area of Houston and visit Penzey’s spices. What a great shop! Every spice and spice blend you could ever need. Luckily, there is a store in St Louis, so I can keep myself stocked up when I move there. My favourite bit was Granny’s Kitchen which had all the baking spices.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the recipe...

Begin by slicing 10 large oranges – keep them thick, about a centimetre is good – place them in a large pan and cover them with water.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the peel has softened. Don’t stir the oranges around as they will break up. Meanwhile, in another pan, dissolve 2 ½ pounds of granulated sugar in a pint of white wine vinegar. Add 1 ½ sticks cinnamon, a heaped teaspoon of cloves and 6 blades of mace to the vinegar syrup and boil for a total of 3 or 4 minutes.
When the oranges are done, drain them, reserving the orange liquor. Return the oranges to their pan and pour over the syrup to cover – if there isn’t enough, use some of the orange liquor. Cover, bring to simmering point and cook gently for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
Take off the heat and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pot in sterilised jars. Top up with syrup over the next or two, should they need to be. Here’s the catch though folks: you now have to leave them for at least 6 weeks to mature! When the time is up, they can be served with hot or cold pork, ham or duck. The syrup also makes a good sauce for duck too. Apparently.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well we shall have to have a bit of patience over these. It’s strange to think that when they are ready, I’ll be living in St Louis. I can say that the syrup is delicious though. Look here for the results.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#293 Mrs Beeton’s Chocolate Soufflé

I've cooked quite a few – and eaten quite a few – soufflés in my time, but this is my first sweet one. It comes from the great Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, or to give its full title, The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady's-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort. Those Victorians do go on, don't they? The book is actually a collection of articles that she published in The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine between 1859 and 1861, and although she conjures up imaginations of austerity and matronliness, she actually died at the rather young age of 46 of tuberculosis, or consumption as the Victorians called it, and her great masterwork was published when she was just thirty years of age.
I've been putting off doing the sweet soufflés not because I don't like the idea of them, but because I like to make desserts in advance and soufflés require a certain amount of time and concentration before baking immediately – not something I have the inclination to attempt after cooking a main meal (and perhaps polishing off a few glasses of wine). However, I thought that it was about time I tackled one, and it turns out that it is quite straight-forward, and although the whisking of egg whites and folding them into the chocolate mixture does need to be done at the last minute, much can be prepared in advance.
Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and butter a cake tin (I used a 6" one), so you can pop the soufflé straight into the oven. Separate four eggs, place the whites in a large bowl, and beat into the yolks 3 heaped teaspoons of caster sugar, a heaped teaspoon flour and 3 ounces of good quality grated dark chocolate. Now whisk the egg whites to the stiff-peak stage, remove a spoonful of egg white and mix it into the chocolate mixture to 'slacken' it. This makes it easier to fold the rest of mixture into the egg whites without losing the air. It is also worth mentioning that using a metal spoon to fold in your egg whites also helps to reduce loss of air. Pour the mix into the buttered cake tin, scatter a little more caster sugar and bake for 20 minutes. Mrs Beeton says to pin a napkin around the tin and bring it to the table straight away before it falls. Serve with pouring cream.
#293 Mrs Beeton's Chocolate Soufflé. This was a very good soufflé. It wasn't very sweet, which really showed off the bitter chocolate taste. In fact is tasted just like a whipped up mug of cocoa. The chilled cream – which Americans don't seem to use on their desserts – in combination with the hot soufflé, really set it off. The only problem was that 20 minutes was a little too long; the centre of the soufflé wasn't soft, as I like it to be, so it'll be 15 minutes in the future. That's my only gripe though. 7.5/10.

Monday, May 16, 2011

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck

After returning from my little trip back to England and Ireland, I wanted to cook something that evoked some memories of it whilst all was still fresh in my mind. There are no Irish recipes in English Food, but there are a couple of Manx recipes (if you are from the Isle of Man, you are Manx). When Hugh and I flew the short distance from Belfast to Liverpool, we looked out the window and he told me about the bits of coastline and other features, and of course the Isle of Man was pointed out, looking surprisingly small. I've never managed to go to the Isle of Man, but it looked very pretty from the air.

This is apparently a traditional Manx cured meat dish, but I did a quick internet search and could find any references to it at all, so I can't give you any background information I'm afraid, Grigsoners. The cure is very simple to do; you simply have to pack coarse sea salt inside and outside of a duck 24-hours before you want to cook it. I assume in the days when this was done for actual preservation of meat, rather than for flavour, the duck could have been cured for several days or weeks. When you are ready to cook it, brush off the salt, rinsing off any tricky to remove bits and place in a pot with enough water to barely cover it.

Cover, bring to a simmer and let it happily gurgle away for between an hour and ninety minutes, depending on the size. I am always worried about doing the boiled meat recipes in the book, I always think they are going to come out insipid and boring, especially in this case as there was no call for any stock vegetables or seasoning with spices. I invited my friends Danny and Eric around to sample the delights – hoping it would taste okay…

If you like, you can cure your duck in brine instead – check out the recipe and instructions on brining meat here.

While the duck is simmering away gently, you can be getting on with the accompaniments: an onion sauce and colcannon (an Irish invention of potatoes and either cabbage or kale mashed together).

For the onion sauce, chop four large onions and add them to a pan with just enough water to cover them, season, cover with a lid, and allow them to simmer for fifteen minutes. Drain them over a bowl, so that the cooking liquor is saved. Add half a pint of milk and just under a pint of the liquor to the pan along with half an ounce of butter and bring to a simmer. Measure two level tablespoons of cornflour and slake it with a little more cold milk and whisk it into the hot sauce; it will thicken instantly. Simmer for a few more minutes so that the cornflour can cook out. Add the onions back to the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper – very important here to season it very well – plus the grated rind of a lemon. Add more liquor or milk if it becomes too thick. This sauce can be (and was!) made in advance – make sure you keep it covered with a lid or some cling film to prevent a skin from forming if you do.

For the colcannon, boil equal amounts of potato and kale or cabbage together in a pan. Drain, and mash with butter and salt and pepper. If you are feeling extravagant, add a little blob of cream.
When the duck is cooked, make sure you let it rest for about twenty minutes before you carve it.

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck. I must admit, when the duck was taken out of pan to rest, it did not look that appetizing with its podgy fat and no hint of colour. I'm used to eating roast duck. However, when I cut inside, there was the most tender duck meat within. It was salty, but not overpoweringly. It also had very subtle flavour too, as did the onion sauce, which I expected to be terribly strong. Instead, it was light and very good for a spring or summer meal. The colcannon was a great accompaniment too. This kind of good, but bland food, really requires heavy seasoning, otherwise it is in danger of becoming tasteless pap. This was not tasteless pap however: 7/10.

Monday, May 9, 2011

#291 Burnt Cream or Crème Brulée

Often considered a French dessert, Crème Brulée was thought to have come out if the kitchens of Trinity College, Cambridge via the sister of a librarian there, others think from an Undergraduate from Aberdeenshire in the 1860s. When the student graduated, so did the pudding and it became a favourite of the college. This is all nonsense because a recipe can be found in The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffauld which was published in 1769 (I have a facsimile of it). Grigson gives three recipes for it – the first, from the librarian who called it a Crème Brulée, the second and third – both dating earlier – called it Burnt Cream. Jane Grigson got a bee in her bonnet about whether the dessert had French or English origins. Where did Raffauld get her recipe from? It is a question that cannot answered, it seems, as the two nations' cuisines are overlapped and interwoven so much since the Norman conquest of 1066. She did find a sixteenth century English manuscript with a recipe for burnt cream though, which was written around the time that Charles II came back to England after returning from exile in France.

I did this pudding whilst I was in England to go after the roast pork. I'd been wanting to do it for a while, as it is a pud I really enjoy, but mainly I just wanted to get the blowtorch out and melt the sugar. I'd never done it and it has always looked such a satisfying thing to do. None of the receipts ask for a blowtorch, but rather a very hot grill or 'salamander', as overhead grills were called in days of yore.

There are three recipes given by Jane, I went with the first, which was also her favourite, from a 1909 book called The Ocklye Cookery Book by Eleanor L. Jenkinson:

Place the yolks of six eggs in a bowl and bring a pint of double cream to the boil and let it boil for a full half-minute. Quickly whisk the hot cream into the eggs and return the mixture to the pan. Cook on the very low heat until the cream thickens somewhat – it should coat the back of your wooden spoon. I then sweetened it with a little sugar and added some extra flavor with some orange-flower water (lifted from Raffauld's recipe). Don't cook for too long or on too high a heat, as the eggs will scramble. If you think the eggs have scrambled, pass the whole lot through a sieve. Pour the custard into a shallow dish and let it chill in the fridge for as long as possible – overnight, if possible. If not possible (as it wasn't for me), place it in the freezer as soon as it has cooled down to set. To burn the cream, scatter it with a thin, even layer of caster sugar and pop it under a very hot grill until it turn to a lovely melted caramel. Or use a blowtorch. Put it back in the fridge to harden.

For the sake of completion, here are the other two recipes:

From Domestic Cookery by a lady (Maria Rundell), 1848

'Boil a pint of cream with a stick of cinnamon, and some lemon peel; take it off the fire, and pour it very slowly into the yolks of four eggs, stirring until half cold; sweeten, and take out the spice, etc.; pour it into the dish; when cold, strew white powdered sugar over, and brown it with a salamander.'

From The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffauld, 1769

'Boil a pint of cream with sugar, and a little lemon peel shred fine, then beat the yolks of six and whites of four eggs separately; when your cream is cooled, put in your eggs, with a spoonful of orange-flower water, and one of fine flour, set it over the fire, keep stirring it till it is thick, put it into a dish; when it is cold sift a quarter of a pound of sugar all over, hold a hot salamander over it till it is very brown, and looks like a glass plate put over your cream.'

#291 Burnt Cream or Crème Brulée. 'The best of all English puddings' says Griggers. Well I'm not sure of that, but it was pretty good. The cream tasted very light due to the heady perfume of the orange-flower water and the crackling caramel was satisfying to smash and delicious to eat. It wasn't quite as thick as I expected to be. We all dug in with spoons, not bothering with bowls. I expect several of us now have herpes. Overall, a pretty good recipe – I think I will try it again with the lemon and cinnamon flavourings from the 1848 recipe. 6.5/10

Saturday, May 7, 2011

#290 Roast Pork with Crackling and Baked Apples

Man's relationship with pigs goes back several thousand years. Acorn-eating wild boar were slowly tamed in European forests to become the slightly tamer proto-pig utilized by the Spanish, French and Greece. Swineherds had the unlucky job of attempting manage the unruly pigs. Modern pigs are not quite as wild as their forbearers, but do apparently revert to their feral behaviour quite readily. So beware.

Galen, the medical pioneer of the Roman era, enjoyed a bit of pork like his fellow Romans. What is odd is that he thought it tasted of human flesh. Whether this was a hunch or whether it was knowledge from experience, I do not know. He is correct though, the cannibals of the South Sea Islands, called the various explorers and pioneers they caught and ate longpigs due to their flavour.

The pig is famed for it versatility and pretty much all the animal can be used, and it is the pig that is the focal animal in Fergus Henderson's wonderful nose-to-tail restaurant, St John in London (check out the blog here). I've never managed to get there unfortunately, but one day I shall! For any nose-to-tail fans out there, the ultimate delicacy must be Pliny's personal favourite, the vulva of a sow who had aborted her first litter, according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat in her amazing book A History of Food.

This dish was cooked on my recent trip to England, where Hugh somehow managed to buy a massive shoulder of pork for £1.50. Absolute bargain. He's a good bargain-hunter; in fact, he's known for it! I pounced upon the opportunity to roast it the Grigson way which includes baked apples as well as a glaze to go over the crackling. I imagine a sweet glaze would go down well with Texans going by this sign I spotted at the rodeo:

It's worth mentioning that it is best to buy the largest joint you can afford, the meat will be much more moist and tender in a large joint than a small one. This particularly applies to pork that benefits from a good blast of heat and then a slower roast on a lower hear than say, beef.

As mentioned I used shoulder here, but you can use leg or loin. If the meat has a bone in it, ask the butcher to remove it but ask to keep it. Also ask him to score the rind, every centimetre or so. You can do it yourself with a razor-blade. Make sure that the rind is nice and dry and season the joint all over. You can, leave it overnight in the brine tub, but if you do this, you won't get the crackling. Seeing that the crackling is the best bit, I wouldn't recommend it. If you have bones, pop them in a saucepan with a chopped carrot, a peeled onion studded with three cloves and a bouquet garni. Cover with water and allow it to simmer for three or four hours. Strain and reduce to ¾ of a pint. If there was no bone, use some pork or vegetable stock and simmer for just an hour.

Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and rub the skin of the joint with some oil and sprinkle with some salt. Cook for 35 minutes to the pound (1 ¼ hours to the kilo). Place in the oven and turn the temperature down after 20 minutes to 160°C (325°F). An hour before the end of the cooking time, prepare the apples. You need one per person, and use Cox's Orange Pippins if in season. If not, use Braeburn or Mackintosh. Score a circle close to the tops of the apples, to prevent the skins bursting and nestle them around the joint. If you don't want baked apples make an apple sauce.

Next prepare the glaze. Melt a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly in a pan and mix in a tablespoon of French mustard as well as half a tablespoon each of cream and soft brown sugar. Paint the glaze all over the crackling in the final half hour of cooking.

When ready, remove the joint from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. While you are waiting, make the gravy. Melt an ounce of butter in a pan and when it goes a nutty brown colour, stir in a tablespoon of flour. Whisk in the stock and add any meat juices from the roasting pan.


#290 Roast Pork with Crackling and Baked Apples. I have eaten roast pork many times, but never actually cooked, but I can honestly say that this was the best roast pork I've ever had from a domestic oven. It was so tender, it took no effort to slice and the glazed crackling was half crispy, half chewy and almost toffee-like. The baked apples were a revelation. An absolutely fantastic roast dinner! 9/10.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

#289 Quail

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
Exodus 16:11-13

As you can see, eating quail has gone back a good few years. You don’t see them very much in the UK these days; I’ve perhaps seen them twice at Farmers’ Markets. The USA, however, is chock-full of tricky-to-find ingredients to help me with this blinking blog project.

Although classified as a game bird, quails are farmed these days as they’re not very common, and it is now illegal to kill them, so if you hear one chirping away in a nearby field, let it be.

People in the Middle Ages certainly did not let them be, because they loved them. Actually they ate everything it seems. Here’s a list I found of their favourite game: quail (natch), partridge, pheasant, hare, rabbit....ok thus far, all Grigson recipes, but then... rook, crow, raven, lark, sparrow, capercaillie, peacock, stork, heron, swan, crane and bittern. Phew! A certain Alfred Gottschalk says on the matter: ‘It is wonderful that the stomach of man can profit by all manner of birds, and yet there are some of them that even starving dogs would not eat.’ Quite.

Griggers doesn’t give that much detail on how to cook them, in fact this is the whole recipe: ‘...they can be browned in butter and braised with a little stock, port wine and orange peel.’

So that is exactly what I did. They were browned in a cast-iron casserole and covered in a quarter of a pint of chicken stock and a good slug of port, along with some salt and pepper and some pared orange peel and popped them in a 160°C (325°F) for 20 minutes. I then took them out to rest and used a beurre manie (i.e equal weights and butter and flour mashed together) to thicken it. I served it not with the usual game accoutrements (bread sauce, game chips etc), but mashed potatoes and some wilted spinach.

#289 Quail. One of the mildest of the game birds, pale-fleshed and light to eat. It’s difficult to keep these tiny moist so quick cooking is required. The port wine and orange gravy was delicious and didn’t overpower the birds. These smaller game are good, but I think I prefer the stronger birds like pheasant and pigeon. I did enjoy feeling all medieval having an entire animal sat on my plate, so just for that it was worth cooking them. 6.5/10.