Saturday, January 26, 2013

#368 To Dress Rabbits in Casserole

Rabbits are vermin and therefore, unlike most other game, have no ‘season’ and can be hunted all year round. This does not mean they are dirty animals of course; they simply breed like nobody’s business. The reason for this is that they are an introduced species, the Normans raised them on farms and inevitably there were escapees. Rabbit became the ultimate peasant meat and a stigma became attached. Rabbit and other game seem to be having a bit of a comeback. Bring it on, I say.
Farmed and young rabbits have pale, tender flesh and older wild rabbits have much darker flesh; almost black in some areas. Florence White, writing in her wonderful book Food in England gives us some sage advice on cooking and selecting wild rabbits: A young rabbit shot clean in the fields, is white like chicken and should be treated as such… Fat old country rabbits make good pies and stews. Thin, scavenger rabbits, trapped, broken-legged, and killed in fever and slow misery should not be eaten at all. They are definitely unhealthy food.
This is the last rabbit-based recipe in the book and probably my final one from the Game section until next season. It is an 18th century dish that comes from The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, a lady that pops up a lot in English Food.
Hannah Glasse’s recipe serves four.
Joint one wild rabbit or ask your butcher to do it for you. Season some flour – around an ounce – with plenty of salt and pepper and liberally coat the rabbit pieces with it. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and fry the rabbit pieces a golden brown colour – don’t overcrowd it, fry in a couple of batches if need be. Place the browned pieces in an ovenproof casserole dish. Deglaze the frying pan with ¼ pint of dry white wine and pour over the rabbit along with a pint of beef stock. Make a bouquet garni with suitable herbs and spices (I used bay leaves, rosemary, lots of thyme, parsley stalks, pared orange peel and a few whole black peppercorns) and pop that in too.
Put on the lid and bake in a low oven – 120-140⁰C (250-275⁰F) for at least 90 minutes. It is best to let the rabbit cool in the oven then reheat it the next day – this will produce nice tender rabbit – alternatively cook for another hour or two at that very low setting.
Fish out the meat and herbs and keep the rabbit warm somewhere. Strain the sauce through a sieve and bring to a simmer. Make a beurre manié by mashing two ounces of butter with a rounded tablespoon of flour. Whisk in pieces of it until the sauce is of desired consistency. I like a nice thick sauce so I used it all.  Add the juice of a Seville orange to the sauce and season with more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Slice two more Seville oranges thinly and nick out small triangles from the slices is a decorative manner. This is a very fiddly and boring job and I must admit I did give up after a couple of slices. Add the little nicked pieces of peel to the sauce.
Arrange the pieces of rabbit on a warmed serving dish with the orange slices arranged around it. Lastly, pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve it nice and hot.
#368 To Dress Rabbits in Casserole. This was a good dish – the rabbit was nice and tender and the sauce was light. The only problem was that there wasn’t much flavour from the Seville oranges in the sauce. I think that the juice of 2 oranges would have been better. Perhaps it was my fault for giving up nicking my little triangles from the orange slices. I would also lose the pointless decorative slices. 6/10.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

#367 Hot Red Pepper Jelly

Chilli peppers and sweet bell peppers have never really been absorbed into our eating culture. I cannot think of a single English (or indeed British) dish that uses it. You do find some sliced red pepper on a salad, but that’s about it. When Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought them back from their travels to the New World, many of the Southern European and Northern African countries quickly assimilated it into their cooking. Of course, peppers are most successful in Asia. Who can imagine an Thai, Indian or Pakistani curry without it?
Whenever I cook with peppers – sweet or hot – it is always in a curry or an Italian pasta sauce. Well with this recipe I think that Jane Grigson is trying to use peppers in a very English way. In fact it comes from her daughter Sophie Grigson, now a very successful food writer in her own right. I think it is a very British preserve; a clear sweet jelly cut with a bit of vinegar to make it certainly savoury.

Halve and core 2 pounds of cooking apples such as Bramleys seedling, but don’t chuck out the cores (they are a valuable source of pectin). Chop the flesh and blitz in a food processor. Tip them into a preserving pan or stockpot with the reserved cores. Tip in 15 fluid ounces of cider vinegar to prevent the apples from discolouring. Next, deseed and roughly chop 3 red peppers and 4 red chilli peppers. Blitz those up too and add to the pot. 

Bring to a boil and simmer for a good 20 minutes. At this point there will be an absolutely delicious smell. Savour it – the smell from this aromatic sharp concoction is wonderful! Strain the hot mixture through a jelly bag and allow it to drip overnight.

Next day, measure the volume of juice you have and pour it into you pan. Stir in granulated sugar – you’ll need a pound for every pint of juice. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil for 20 minutes.
Normally, the apples alone have enough pectin in them to easily set a jelly like this, but the chilli peppers somehow interact with the pectin and prevent it from happening. To get around this problem you need to add extra pectin which comes in the form of a viscous liquid or a powder. Grigson suggests using 3 fluid ounces of liquid pectin (e.g. Certo), but you could use a sachet of pectin powder in its place. Whichever you use, mix it well into the boiling jelly. Test for a set using a thermometer; 104⁰C is what you are looking for. This will take about 10 or 15 minutes of hard boiling. It is important to note that you shouldn’t follow the instructions on the packet. Pot the jelly into sterilised jars.

#367 Hot Red Pepper Jelly. This was very refreshing and delicious – the sweet jelly combined with sharp vinegar is a great one that really brought out chilli flavour as well as chilli heat. It was very good with cheese. 8.5/10

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

#366 A Fine Way to Pot a Tongue

Jane Grigson gives this recipe no introduction or explanation, but one can tell from the title that this was an old recipe. It consists of a tongue inside a boned chicken that covered in butter and baked. After a quick sift through the cookbooks, I found that it is adapted from a recipe of Hannah Glasse’s that appears in the 1774 book The Art of Cookery, and the original is a little more ostentatious:

‘Take a dried tongue, boil it till it is tender, the peel it; take a large fowl, bone it; a goose, and bone it…Put the tongue into the fowl; then season the goose, and fill the goose with the fowl and tongue, and the goose will look as if whole. Lay it in a pan that will just hold it, melt fresh butter enough to cover it, send it to the oven, and bake it an hour and a half…this will keep a great while, eats fine, and looks beautiful. When you cut it, it must be cut cross-ways down through, and looks very pretty…’

It resembles recipe #322To Make a Goose Pye.

Here's Jane's recipe (in my words):
First of all you need to tackle your pickled ox tongue – you can buy these from your butcher pretty cheaply as I did this time, but you might want to have a go. I usually do this but the butcher didn’t have any fresh (which is understandable seeing as very few people buy them nowadays). Have a look at the post #150 How to Cure Meat in Brine for some guidance on this. Once pickled, you need to poach your tongue for 2 to 3 hours and then peel it. You don’t need to press it or anything, but see #258 Boiled Ox Tongue: To Serve Cold and #331 Boiled Ox Tongue: To Serve Hot for more information on this.
Next, bone a 5 to 7 pound chicken. This isn’t as difficult as you think. I’ve given instructions already on how to do this in the post #322 To Make a Goose Pye. In fact this is easier because the chicken can be first split down the back with poultry shears or a hefty knife. Of course, you could ask your butcher to do it – you might have to flutter your eyelashes a little though!
Now trim your tongue, cutting off the root to remove gristle and the front portion of the tongue so that it will fit snugly within the cavity of the bird.

Before you fit it, make a spice mix from the following: a teaspoon each of ground black pepper, ground mace and ground cloves plus ½ a freshly-grated nutmeg and a level dessert spoon of sea salt.
Flip the bird over with the cut side facing you and rub in around two-thirds of the spice mix into the cavity, then place the tongue inside and wrap it in the chicken. Quickly but carefully turn the bird over to produce a surprisingly normal-looking chicken. Pop it into a close-fitting ovenproof casserole dish and rub in the remainder of the spices.

Now get on with gently melting the butter – the amount you need will depend upon how well the chicken fits into its pot. I needed four 250g packets of butter in all – that’s 2 ¼ pounds approximately. Once melted, pour it over the chicken so that it just covers it.

Pop on  a lid and bake at 200⁰C (400⁰F); if your casserole is very full, as mine was, it’s a good idea to put a roasting tin on the floor of the oven as the butter will bubble hard. When it is bubbling and boiling, turn the heat down to 180⁰C (350⁰C) and bake until cooked through. After 45 minutes see if the chicken is cooked: use either a meat thermometer (the meat should be a temperature of 73⁰C, that’s 163⁰F) or a skewer and check for any pink juices. If it’s not quite done, bake for another 10 minutes before checking again.
When cooked, gingerly take the chicken out so it can drain on a rack and pour the butter and meat juices into a bowl. Let everything cool before boiling the butter up in a pan – however, make sure none of the juices go in. Put the chicken back in its pot and tip over the butter.

You need to leave chicken for at least 36 hours before slicing it and eating with wholemeal bread spread with the spiced butter. If you want to leave it longer than 36 hours,  add more butter to fully cover the chicken.
#366 A Fine Way to Pot a Tongue… and what a fine way it was indeed!  The tongue was salty and tender with blander spiced chicken that actually balanced it very well. The spiced butter was unbelievably tasty. Three cheers for Hannah Glasse! 9/10

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat's Cheese Sauce

Venison is, of course, the king of all game, though being a wild animal, you do get a lot of variation in the tenderness of meat; it can be wonderfully tender or tough as old boots. A good roasting joint for venison is haunch as it is a more tender cut. To tenderise further it is advised to marinade any joint for at least 24 hours.
Colonel Smith Grasping the Hind Legs of a Stag,
Unknown Artist c.1650
It may be the king of game, but many recoil in horror at the thought of eating deer, perhaps it is a little too noble; even when farmed meat was heavily rationed during World War II, many people still would not eat or buy it, even though game wasn’t rationed at all! Well it is important to know that we would still have to cull many hundreds every year as they decimate forests by eating away the bark from trees. Deer (fortunately for us, unfortunately for them) have to be managed; now what a waste it would be if they were just all incinerated! A similar thing goes on in some African countries where elephant conservation has been a little too effective.
I have eaten venison many times, but I had never roasted it myself, so I was very glad that Jane walks you through the whole process; she, in turn, taking advice from a lady called Anne Willan who wrote a book called The Complete Guide to Cookery.
That said, there seems to be a major typo or two in this recipe and I can’t work out for sure what it is supposed to say; apparently this serves up to 2, yet a 5 pound joint is required. Now I like my food, but even 5 pounds – or indeed 2 ½ pounds – of meat in a sitting is bit too much. Look closer and, according to the recipe, the metric equivalent of 5 pounds is ½ a kilo, which is approximately one pound. How many does it serve? Up to 2? 12? 20? what!? If anyone has an earlier reprint or edition, have a quick look and see what it says and then leave me a little comment. I thank you in advance.
I made this for Christmas dinner #2 in Manchester, and I took the recipe to mean 5 pounds and not half a kilogram. I managed to get a second dinner the next day as well as several rounds of venison sandwiches and 5 pies for the freezer – that beats turkey leftovers any day.
Well it is up to you to decide how many this serves, but reckon it’s about 10 people as venison is a rich meat (as is the sauce).
The first thing to do is marinade your five pounds of venison, the amount of time depends on the size of your joint and if your deer was truly wild or ‘farmed’. If truly wild and/or large, a cooked marinade is required, if small or farmed – and therefore already quite tender – an uncooked marinade. The joint can sit in the uncooked marinade for around 24 hours, and in the cooked marinade up to 3 days. For me, time was an issue so it went for the uncooked marinade.
To make the uncooked marinade slice up a carrot, two onions and a stick of celery and place in a bowl or tub along with a bottle of red wine – ‘respectable and decent rather than glorious’ – four fluid ounces of red wine vinegar, a bouquet garni, a dozen of both peppercorns (lightly crushed) and allspice berries, and finally four fluid ounces of olive oil.
For the cooked marinade, stew the veg in half the olive oil and then add the rest of the ingredients mentioned above and then simmer for 20 minutes before stirring in the rest of the oil. Allow to cool.
After the meat has marinated in its marinade sufficiently, it’s time to roast it. First, preheat the oven to 220⁰C (425⁰F) then remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry; the meat should feel wonderfully tender and it should have picked up a wonderful purple hue from its soaking in all that red wine. Don’t throw away the marinade.
Calculate the cooking time: you need to allow 10 to 15 minutes per pound for rare meat or 18 minutes per pound for pink medium meat. I won’t give you the time for well-done – you don’t deserve to eat this beast you are going to cremate it! Spread the joint liberally with butter; the lean meat needs all the help it can get to prevent it drying out. Indeed, I went a bit further by wrapping the buttered joint in caul fat. Place the meat on a rack over a roasting tin and pop it in the oven.
After 15 minutes, pour 8 fluid ounces of the marinade and 4 fluid ounces of beef or game stock into the roasting tin and turn down the heat to 180⁰C (350⁰F) for the remainder of the roasting time. Baste it regularly and add extra marinade or stock should the pan become dry. You can, if you fancy, spread 2 generous tablespoons of soured cream over the joint when the heat is turned down.
If you want to be precise about your cooking you can test the temperature with a thermometer: you want a temperature of 51⁰C (125⁰F) for rare and a temperature of 60⁰C for medium-cooked meat. When ready, keep the meat warm, covered in foil to rest for at least 30 minutes whilst you get on the making the cheese sauce.
When I first saw this recipe I thought that Lady Grigson had gone a little too far by including a Norwegian cheese in one of her recipes; however after tasting the cheese in question – gjetost – I was instantly converted. In short, to make it, goat’s cheese goes through a similar process that sweetened condensed milk goes through when it is boiled to produce caramel. The resulting cheese is a rich brown cheese that is a sweet as it is sharp. I got hold of some at Cheese Hamlet, Didsbury, Manchester, but you can get it on the internet very easily.
Carefully skim the roasting juices of their fat and pour them into a pan along with 8 fluid ounces of beef or game stock, boil and reduce to a good concentrated state, add more of the reserved marinade so that you really concentrate flavour – “it should be really strong” says Jane. Stir in 8 fluid ounces of crème fraîche or 4 fluid ounces each of double and soured cream and then season with the gjetost cheese and rowan jelly or peppered redcurrant jelly (or indeed normal redcurrant jelly well-seasoned with black pepper). Cut a little under an ounce of the cheese into thin slices and melt into the sauce, then the jelly. Taste and add more of either if you like and season with salt and pepper. You are left with a brown, sticky, richly-flavoured sauce.
Put the joint on a serving dish and cover it with some sauce before carving it. Serve the rest of the sauce in a separate jug or sauceboat.
#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat’s Cheese Sauce. This was a most delicious recipe – the haunch of venison was beautifully tender with just the right amount of gaminess; you can see that the marinade had really done its work. I was worried that the strong, thick, dark brown sauce would over-power things, but it went so, so well. Now large joints of venison are not exactly what you are likely to be roasting for Sunday dinner, but if you do happen upon one and buy it, then this is the one recipe to try! 9.5/10.