Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#300 Trifle

Trifle (ˈtraɪf(ə)l), n.: A matter of little value or importance; 'a thing of no moment' (Johnson); a trivial, paltry, or insignificant affair.
                                                         Oxford English Dictionary

Dr Samuel Johnson: Trifle hater 
(but then he was a grumpy old bastard and did hate everything) 

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle         

Michelangelo: Trifle appreciator

Is there nothing more English and impressive than a properly made trifle? I don't think so. Indeed, it is the reason I have saved it for the landmark 300th recipe. Although its original meaning is one of 'little value or importance', the trifles upon the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian banquet table had gained a great opulence becoming a splendid centerpiece lavishly layered up with brandies, sherries, wines, custard, cream, macaroons, cake, syllabub and cream, not to mention the candied fruits and comfits to decorate the top. Mrs Beeton shows off some of them in her Book of Household Management so that other cooks could emulate them in stately homes across England.

A plate from Mrs Beeton's Book of Houshold Management,
the trifle is on the bottom left

The trifle did start out from humble beginnings and was simply a fruit fool made up of puréed fruit and whipped cream. The earliest mention of the word trifle in the sense of a dessert, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, comes from the book A worlde of wordes, or most copious, and exact dictionarie in Italian and English by John Florio published in 1598. However, as the dessert became a vehicle for shrewd cooks to use up left over biscuits and cakes, it quickly evolved into a more complex dish altogether.

So what makes a trifle? By the mid-eighteenth century, it had pretty much become the layered beast we know of today, though there was no fruit involved. It was made of macaroons soaked in wine followed by a layer of custard atopped by a syllabub and 'different coloured sweetmeats and small shot comfits…figures and flowers', according to Elizabeth Raffauld's 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper. Trifle purists today insist that this sort of trifle is the classic recipe and if a trifle were to contain fruit and – heaven forbid! – no alcohol then it is simply not a trifle.

By the early nineteenth century, there were many more additions – spiced cake and fruit jams and jellies for instance, often cream was exchanged for syllabub.

Then, in the twentieth century, the trifle had its downfall. Here is what Jane Grigson says about the pud:
'A pudding worth eating, not the mean travesty made with yellow, packaged sponge cakes, poor sherry and powdered custards.'

That is her entire introduction to the recipe! I have to say I used to love (and still do love) my Mum's trifle; a layer of tinned fruit, Swiss roll and jelly, with powdered custard and then whipped cream. I remember once trying a 'proper', i.e. sherry, trifle and it was simply disgusting. I hoped that the trifle in here would both look and taste impressive, but all I could think of was that vile sherry trifle and the stomach-churningly rich Whim-Wham I made a couple of years back for the blog.

So, with a certain amount of trepidation, I started to construct this pudding worth eating. Hopefully everyone who was coming round to my apartment would also think it worth eating too...

The first thing you need to do before you even consider making your trifle is to get hold of a nice bowl or dish to hold it in. I went for a classic stemmed glass trifle dish, nice and big and only $15. Bargain.
Now for the trifle itself: Start off by placing eight or so large macaroons in the base of your bowl. Break up some to fill in any gaps that may be there. By macaroons, I don't mean coconut, but the old fashioned almond, or French, macaroons. These are quite tricky to get hold of and you won't find them in a supermarket or even most bakeries. The best thing to do is phone around some French bakeries, or do as I did and keep it real by actually make your own. I took elements from an eighteenth century recipe by Elizabeth Raffauld and a contemporary one by Martha Stewart (see it here). Next, pour ¼ of a pint of a good dessert wine over them; Griggers suggests Frontignan, Malaga or Madeira wine. I went with Frontignan – not tricky to get hold hold of, but does more often go under the pseudonym of Muscat wine. Along with the wine, add two tablespoons of brandy.

Next make the custard by boiling a pint of single cream in a saucepan (any Americans out there, use coffee cream or half and half). Whilst you wait for it come to a boil, whisk together two large eggs, two large egg yolks and tablespoon of plain flour in a bowl. When the cream comes to a boil, tip it over the eggs whisking vigorously as you go, then pour it back into your saucepan and stir over a low heat for a few minutes until it becomes nice and thick. Add sugar to taste – I went with around three tablespoons in the end. Remember to make it slightly sweeter than you prefer as cold food will not taste quite as sweet as hot. Pour the custard over the soaked macaroons and allow to cool. In fact it is best to leave it over night.

Don't be thinking that there is time for idling though, for there is a syllabub to conjure up! The syllabub recipe has already appeared in the blog before so I won't go through it here. Check out the recipe here and use the same wines as before to make it. Note that the syllabub requires an overnight steep as part of its prep.

When the custard has firmed up, spread a good layer of raspberry jam over it and then spoon over the Everlasting Syllabub. Lastly, decorate with ratafia biscuits and some sweetmeats such as candied peel and comfits. Jane says to avoid tacky things like angelica and glace cherries, but I went with those nice cherries in syrup that are stones but have their stalks intact.

Leave the trifle somewhere cool for a while – a larder or pantry is better than a fridge, but in Houston, the refrigerator is the only option!


#300 Trifle. Three hundred recipes also means I am two-thirds of the way through English Food and what a recipe to choose! It took a good amount of time to make, but it was so, so worth it. The sweet wines blended perfectly with the light, fresh creams and custards in such a wonderful way, and the almond biscuits on the top and bottom layers gave it a nutty, scented quality and the sweet raspberry jam lent a subtle fruitiness. There was no hint of alcoholic acridity like I expected. In fact I had two helpings and then when everyone had left, I polished the rest off! Excellent, excellent, excellent. And worth eating! 10/10.

Don't I look pleased with myself!?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab

For the 300th recipe I got a few people round to mine for a little dinner party. Number 300 would hopefully be impressive and I wanted to do something for #299 that would be impressive too and this recipe certainly sounded the part. I also wanted something that dated in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, again to match receipt 300.

A recipe for a leg of lamb stuffed with 'a forcemeat containing the meat of a crab or lobster … [with] a little grated lemon peel, and nutmeg', appeared in The London Art of Cookery by John Farley (1811), so it has a decent history, though this kind of food has very much fallen out favour in England. However, one particular chef gave it a breath of new life in the 1970s. A chap called Guy Mouilleron came up with the recipe that appears in English Food and therefore here in the blog, after some French chefs who were working in London were having a right good-old laugh at the English's eating habits. "Fancy" one of them said "they even eat lamb with crab!" Chef Mouilleron thought it sounded like a good idea and conjured up a recipe. It's funny that every British (and Irish!) person I've spoken to about this recipe has thought it just a bizarre as those French chefs.

There's no need to be freaked by this combination though, says Jane, meat was often 'piqued' with fish all the time to give it extra flavour; the idea is not to impart a fishy flavour though, but a mysterious deliciousness. This is true as I already knew after one the great recipes from the blog – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. Meats are also cooked with anchovies a lot too, especially lamb and that cornerstone of English cuisine, the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It seems these things are being lost because of the Englishman's squeamishness of all things fishy in general.

It is strange to me that Americans – or, at least, Houstonians – don't really eat that much lamb and getting hold of a full, large leg of lamb with the bone in isn't really possible in Houston's otherwise comprehensive supermarket meat sections. However, I did manage to get hold of one very easily from the very good Pete's Fine Meats on Richmond Avenue.

Pete's Fine Meats, Houston TX

The recipe also calls for crab meat of course. You can boil your own (see here for instructions) or buy one preboiled. Do not, says Griggers, buy frozen meat as it had lost most of its flavour. However, here in America, where folks like seafood, it is very easy to get hold of freshly picked crab meat in supermarkets, so if you are in the USA, there is no need for you to sit and spend thirty minutes picking the meat from a crab's carapace. God bless America for making the recipe a little easier for yours truly.

If you fancy the idea of this combination, here's how to make it:

Start off by tunnel-boning a large leg of lamb. This is not that difficult to do – I followed the instructions here and it took just five or ten minutes to do. Use the bones to make half a pint of lamb stock (see here for recipe). Season the inside and outside of your leg.

Next, make the stuffing. You need eight to ten ounces of crab meat; either buy it fresh if you can or get hold of a crab weighing around one-and-a-half pounds. To the crab meat, mix in half a teaspoon of curry powder, a tablespoon of fresh mint and three egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the crab and sew up the lamb at both ends with a stout needle and some thick thread. All this can be done in advance, of course.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Chop equal amounts of onions and carrots, enough to cover the bottom of a roasting tin, as well as a large celery stick. Season well and place the lamb on top. Cover with a double layer of foil (if you have a self-basting tin, you can use that instead) and roast in the oven for two hours. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and place the lamb on another tin and put back in the oven to crisp up.

For the accompanying sauce, put the tin with the vegetables on the hob and bring to a simmer, cooking for five minutes. Now add the lamb stock and half a pint of dry white wine. Make sure you scrape off any of the burnt bits from the surface of the roasting tin. They are the best bits. Strain the sauce into a saucepan, skim away any fat and then stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream and a teaspoon of curry powder.
Place the meat on a large serving dish (don't forget to take out its stitches!) and surround it by buttered noodles and pour the sauce into a sauce boat. Griggers didn't say what vegetables to serve with it, so I served green beans, my own personal favourite lamb accompaniment.

#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab. Well I wanted something that looked impressive and it this definitely looked the part. The meat was very good as was the minty and fresh tasting stuffing, though the sauce was a little bland. It wasn't bad or anything, it just didn't pack the punch that I expected it to. If I were to cook it again, I would simmer that sauce right so it became concentrated before adding the cream and curry powder. My expectations were also raised because the lamb section of the book has been so very good thus far. That said, roast lamb can never be bad in my opinion, so I give it a 7/10.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Lamb Stock Recipe

Tomorrow I cook the 300th blog recipe – a dessert, but for #299 I am going to do a lamb dish which requires lamb stock. You don't see lamb stock cubes in the USA very much so you can't cheat if you need it for a recipe so I thought this might come in useful for anyone who may need it. It is adapted slightly from the book a Celebration of Soup by Lindsey Bareham. Unless Jane Grigson gives a specific recipe for stock, I always turn to this book to give me a helping hand.

Start with getting around a pound to a pound-and-a-half of lamb bones – I used the bones from the leg of lamb I am using for recipe #299 (I shan't tell you what it is yet). The bones need to be broken in half at least, so wrap any in a teatowel and give them a good whack with a hammer until there is a snap. Put the bones in a roasting tin and place in a hot oven – around 200° (400°F) for around twenty minutes. Place the bones in your stock pot, drain off any fat and deglaze the roasting tin with half a pint of water. Pour the water in the pot and add a further two pints of water. Bring to a boil, skim and allow to simmer gently partially covered for an hour.

Meanwhile, peel and chop an onion and a carrot and chop a stick of celery. Put these in the roasting pan along with a little oil and roast until nicely brown. When ready, add them to the pot along with six peppercorns and some herbs – parsley stalks, a couple of bay leaves, a sprig or two of rosemary, some mint stalks etc. This will depend upon what the stock is for. If you are not sure, just put in your favourite herbs and spices.

Allow to simmer for a further ninety minutes then strain the stock. Let the stock cool completely before skimming it for fat. You can reduce it to make it stronger if you like, but I would recommend only adding salt once you have reduced the stock as it might end up too salty. You can add, but you can't take away Grigsoners!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant

"One of the most delicious dishes of eighteenth-century cooking, indeed one of the best of all English dishes", says Griggers. That's quite a statement. The idea behind this receipt is that it uses up that left-over Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey "with the glory it deserves". It is nowhere near either of those two holidays, but in the receipt a roast or boiled chicken or a brace of roast pheasants can be used, and I must admit it does seem like a good dish for summertime as it is serve with bread and salad rather than stodgy potatoes and vegetables. Plus I was in the mood for some nice chicken. Perfect for hot, hot Houston eating, I reckoned. I made this for some friends to try – Danny, Eric and a Neil Cooks Grigson virgin, Jahnavi.

The turkey, chicken or pheasant is both pulled and devilled because the brown meat (i.e. leg and thigh) and the white meat (i.e. breast) are treated differently, with the brown getting a spicy marinade – the devil! – and the while meat being pulled apart into thready pieces the "thickness of a large quill" and cooked in a buttery-cream sauce presumably to temper the spicy devilled meat. Though this is an old recipe, I could find no information on it, though the inclusion of the mango chutney and the Cayenne pepper suggests an early Indian influence on English cuisine.

The actual devil, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Notice the devil is two-faced - quite literally -
one face in the usual place, the other on his arse

Although there is the big #300 coming up, this recipe marks the mid-way point through the leviathan of a chapter – the meat section. I've not done half as many of the strange or tricky ones that I have intended, but expect some when I move to St Louis later this month. I won't have much of an option soon, as that's all will be left to do!
Here's what you do:
First prepare the appropriate fowl for the dish:
Roast turkey, you'll need a leg (slightly underdone, if possible) and around a pound of cooked breast meat.
For chicken, you can use a boiled or roasted one, but try and undercook it. I did roast chicken and just missed off the final twenty minutes of cooking time.
For pheasants, a brace of either stewed or roasted ones will suffice!

Take the brown meat from the leg bones, keeping the pieces quite large and make some good, deep slashes in the meat. Now make a devil sauce by mixing together a rounded tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and mango chutney, a tablespoon of Worcester sauce or half a teaspoon of anchovy essence (I went with the former), a quarter teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, a little salt and two tablespoons of corn – or some other flavourless – oil. Pour this over the brown meat, making sure you work it into the slashes you made. The easiest way is to do all of this inside one of those zip-lock freezer bags. Let the meat marinade for a few hours, though I wouldn't leave the chicken more than two as it is the most bland of the three birds here; pheasant or turkey could easily take four or five though, I reckon. Now lay the devilled meat on a baking tray and grill it under a high heat until it turns a delicious dark brown colour. Keep it warm.

Whilst the devil does its work, get on with the pulled part of the dish. Pull the breast meat apart with your fingers and set aside. For the pulled sauce, melt seven ounces of butter in a wide pan and then add half a pint of double cream. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes before adding the breast meat plus any bits of jelly, then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Lastly, stir in some chopped parsley. Spoon into the centre of a serving dish or plate and place the devilled bits around the outside.
Eat with bread and a salad.

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant. Griggers really built this one up, and I have to say that it more than lived up to expectations. The devilled bits were deliciously spicy and salty and were perfectly complimented by the creamy and surprisingly light pulled sauce. Definitely the best recipe from the Poultry section so far, but then what can be bad about spice, butter and cream? That's the three major food groups, isn't it? I can't wait for Christmas now, I'm going to get an extra-large turkey just so this can be made the next day, and it is infinitely better than turkey a sandwich, that's for sure! 9.5/10.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#297 Raspberry Pie

The tale of this pie is of personal pain and anguish. Let me tell you the tale…

It was my work-buddy Chandra's PhD thesis defence yesterday and she requested that I made this pie rather a cake for when she came out. Great stuff, thought I, any excuse to make something out of the book, plus the raspberry is my favourite fruit so it has got to be a winner. This pie is an eighteenth century pie and requires the fruit to be cooked in the pastry casing and then in the last five minutes, a custard to be poured in through the hole in the pastry. This was the usual way to make a fruity pie in those days, apparently. Anyway, Griggers says to serve it hot or warm, so I nipped back to my apartment to make it. I popped the pie into the oven and got the custard – or caudle as it was called then – ready.

Unfortunately the raspberries were so juicy that there was no room for any caudle, so I ran over the road and bought some straws from the shop with the inspired idea that I would suck the spare juice out. Hoping the pie had cooled slightly I attempted to suck some out – I think because time was becoming an issue I didn't notice the fact that this was 170°C fruit syrup too much, but then as I realized just how much syrup there was, my nervous system kicked in. Cue much wincing and swearing. After about 15 minutes of this, I had finally cleared enough space to pour the caudle in. Mouth pretty sore, but not major damage done. Popped the pie back in the over for its final five minutes and rushed it back to Rice University. It was only whilst driving down towards work that I noticed the skin of the roof of mouth sloughing off and dangling upon my red raw tongue. She had better bloody like this pie. Luckily it went down well. On returning home later that evening, I rinsed my mouth out with Listerine before bed. More agony. Then, in the morning, I thought I would clean my tongue as well as my teeth as it was burnt and may have had some nasty bacteria there trying to infect the poor thing. Bad idea. I left for work with bleeding tongue. Hopefully it won't go gangrenous and I won't have to have my face removed.

To make the pie, you need to start with the pastry. In the eighteenth century, puff pastry will have been used, but Griggers goes for the sweet rich shortcrust and gives an ingredients list for it. Sieve 12 ounces of plain flour along with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Next, add 8 ounces of cubed butter or a combination of butter and lard. Use a mixer or food processor, to rub the butter into the flour. If you like to keep it real, use your hands or one of those pastry cutters as I did. The important thing is to keep everything as cold as possible – use butter straight out of the fridge and turn that A/C as low as you can! Once the butter is rubbed in, add an egg yolk (keep the white) and two or three tablespoons of ice-cold water, enough to bring everything to a dough. Don't worry if you add too much, you can add some more flour. Knead the dough briefly and then pop it in the fridge to rest and firm up again.

Preheat your oven to 190°C (425°F) and place a baking sheet on one of the shelves. Now roll out two-thirds of your dough and line your pie dish with it. If it is warm in the kitchen, roll it out on some cling film, this will stop it from breaking up. A top tip for you there. The dish needs to be 2 to 3 inches deep, Griggers doesn't mention a diameter, but I went with an eight inch diameter one. Now arrange a pound of raspberries in a layer in the pie and sprinkle over 4 ounces of sugar (or less, if the raspberries are particularly sweet).

Roll out the remainder of the pastry to form a lid, gluing it on with a brushing of the reserved egg white. Trim the edges and decorate if you wish – I went with a mortar board motif, seeing as it was a PhD defence. Brush with more egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Make sure you leave a good-sized hole in the centre. Place in the oven on the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes before turning down the heat to 190°C (375°F). The point of the hot baking tray is so that the pastry bottom crisps up before the raspberries give up their juice, preventing a soggy pastry bottom to the pie. The pie should be cooked until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp, around 40 minutes.

Whilst it is cooking, prepare the caudle: bring 4 fluid ounces of single and 4 of double cream to a boil in a saucepan. As soon as boiling point is reached pour them over two egg yolks, whisking vigorously to prevent making scrambled eggs. In the final 5 minutes of cooking, take the pie out of the oven and slowly pour the caudle into the pie using a funnel and return to the oven so the caudle can thicken. Serve hot or warm. Oh, she makes it sound so easy. Looking back, it would have been better to pile the raspberries in the middle slightly so when it collapsed there would have been some space for the caudle. It was also suggested that instead of using a straw, I should have used a baster or a pipette or something. Retrospect is a wonderful thing.

#297 Raspberry Pie. Ah, the raspberry. There is nothing better than stumbling across some wild raspberries when walking in the woods. The pie itself was reminiscent of the French clafoutis, where fruit is cooked in custard in a pastry case, though without the lid. I love raspberries, I love custard and I love pastry, so this could not have been a disappointment. I have to say it was delicious, even though I my taste-buds were not working at their best at the time. The caudle had thickened up and mixed with the juice, and it wasn't overly sweet either. Jane says that you can use any soft fruit for this pie – gooseberries work particularly well apparently – so I shall be definitely this again whenever there is a glut of soft fruits. Though without the second-degree burns this time. 8.5/10.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#296 Tongue and Mushroom Crumble

Around fifteen minutes after deciding to cook all the recipes in English Food, I had a first proper look through the good book. It was then I realised that some of the recipes were pretty bizarre, and this one stood out; I had not eaten tongue then, but now I have done a couple of tongue-based recipes so I wasn’t squeamish. Though a tongue crumble is still a bit weird. I made this and took it round to a small gathering of friends to try. There were mixed attitudes…

There’s not much of an introduction to this recipe – Griggers says nothing about it in the book and after an internet search, I was also none the wiser. Recipes did crop up, but there was, alas, no background or history to it. Here’s a nice painting with an ox tongue in it though:

Calf's Head and Ox Tongue by Gastave Caillebotte, 1882

To make the dish, you need to start with pickled tongue weighing around 3 ½ pounds – you can use any tongue you like: ox, calf or pig (I went with ox). You can pickle them yourself (look here for a post that fills you in on this) or get them pre-brined by the butcher. The tongues should be just lightly brined, so if you are doing your own, just leave them in the brine for a day or two. If it’s from the butcher’s shop, you’d be best to soak the tongue(s) overnight in cold water as they may have been in his brine crock for quite a while.

Place the tongue(s) in a stockpot along with a chopped onion and carrot, a bouquet garni and half a pint of dry cider. Top up with water to just cover. Bring slowly to the boil, skim if you need to, and simmer very gently until cooked – this could be one hour for pig, 90 minutes to two hours for calf and three hours for ox. You can tell a tongue is ready if a skewer goes in without much resistance. Don’t worry if you cook it too long, as long as the water was barely simmering, the tongue will still be moist, this because tongue is a fatty meat, around 70% fat in fact.

Take the tongue out of the pot, but keep the stock, let the tongue cool slightly so you can peel the skin off and cut away the sinew from the blunt end. There are some quite large blood vessels and sinew running along the underside of a tongue, so turn it over and cut that away too.

Now slice the tongue, removing any more gristle as you go – there is none as you approach half way. Arrange the tongue on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish. Next cook down 4 ounces of sliced mushrooms in one ounce of butter and scatter them over the tongue. Whilst they are cooking, finely chop a medium onion and cook it gently in two ounces of butter – cover the pan so it doesn’t brown. Once softened, stir in a rounded dessertspoon on plain flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of dry white wine. It will instantly thicken. Thin it out with some of the stock until you have a sauce the consistency of thin gravy. Cook for a few minutes, adding more stock should the sauce become too thick, season and pour it over the tongue and mushrooms.

Next, make the topping by making some fresh white breadcrumbs using a blender. Griggers says to use 1 ½ ounces of bread, but you may need more. Sprinkle this over the tongue and sauce and bake in an oven preheated to 190°C (375°F) until all is bubbling. Because everything has been cooked already, it is just a heat-through that’s required, so it can all be made in advance.

Hannah gets a good lungful of tongue.
That sounded less gross in my brain than when read out loud.

#296 Tongue and Mushroom Crumble. Like most of the weird recipes in the book, this savoury crumble was pretty good. The corned tongue was very tender indeed and well flavoured too, and the mushroom lent an earthiness that always goes well with anything beefy. Much, much better than I expected 6.5/10.

Friday, June 3, 2011

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns

A rather upmarket version of that Northern English speciality, mushy peas. There is an infamous incident of the MP (now Lord!) Peter Mandelson visiting his constituency canvassing for votes, where he walked into a fish and chip shop and asked for 'some of that guacamole'. The ponce. Unfortunately, after a little research, I found on the website of that evil news rag, The Daily Mail, that it is in fact a myth and it ever happened. Shame. But why should the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?

Peter Mandelson getting hit by what appears to be a purée of dried peas

The pea has been popular in Europe for donkeys years – settlements in France dating back to the third millennium BC have been discovered with the remains of pea pods. Dried peas, go back to Roman times; in fact, they were preferred over fresh. Also, luckily for us, the pea became a very common garden vegetable, and Gregor Mendel, the garden-loving Austrian monk, spotted patterns in the variation between pea plants he was breeding and came up with the first theory of genetics. He wasn't recognised during his lifetime. So often is the way.

Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics and pea-fancier

This recipe isn't really to go with your fish and chips (though omit the peppercorns and it will be perfect), it is to go with duck and pork. I took this as an excuse to get a nice rib roasting joint from Harrison Hog Farms, a great farm here in Houston that really looks after its very English-looking pig breeds. So if you go to a Houston farmer's market andyou spot them, give them a try as their pork is excellent.

What makes this recipe posh is the pickled green peppercorns. They're not something that you'll find in the supermarket, but they're pretty easy to get hold of in delicatessens.

Right then, to make this purée, put a pound of dried split peas in a large saucepan along with a chopped carrot and a chopped onion plus a bouquet garni (I went for parsley, bay leaves, sage leaves, thyme and rosemary in mine). Cover well with water, bring to a boil and cover and simmer until cooked – around 45 minutes. On no account add salt, it makes the peas hard and they won't cook. This is speaking from personal experience. Fish out the bouquet garni and pass the peas through a mouli-legumes in a bowl (you can use a potato-masher if you want but a blender would make it far too smooth).

Now stir in a large knob of butter and season well with salt (at least a teaspoon) and some sugar. Lastly, mix in a tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns as well as one to two teaspoons of the juice from the can. Easy.

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns. This one of the best recipes from the Vegetables chapter of the book. Really delicious and much better than the bought mushy peas you find in cans, and – dare I say it – the chippy! The addition of the bouquet garni and the simple stock veg really lifted it, and the pickled peppercorns were great, little exploding pods of subtle spiciness that transformed a vegetable side dish into the main event. 9/10.