Thursday, December 20, 2007

#20 Quince Vodka (Part I)

My second quince recipe. All very easy. Grate two Quinces. Put in a 1 litre jar along with 2 ounces of sugar. Top up with vodka. Leave for 2 months. I have no idea what it'll be like. I'll do a more throrough report in February!
Greg says:
Re the quince vodka, I will update you on it's progress weekly as I will be unable to keep my ahnds off the jar for 2 months. Also, I am probably shortly retiring from Grigson life, partly because I can't fit into my Levi drainpipes any more and partly because the veggie selection is drying up. Carnivores, it's over to you . . .

#18 Marzipan, #19 Royal Icing

Finished off the cake yesterday, and it looks as though it is a success. It was all pretty straight-forward really.

First (#18) Marzipan; sieve 8 ounces of icing sugar into a large bowl containing a pound of ground almonds. In a small bowl, beat an egg with 3 or 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Use a wooden spoon or the beater attachment on a food mixer to form a paste. Use a knife to cut off the top of the Christmas Cake so that it is nice and flat on top. Knead the marzipan a little while and then roll two thirds out using icing sugar instead of flour to form a top circle, gluing it in place with some warmed apricot jam. The Grigson gave a handy hint at this point – roll everything out on a bit of greaseproof paper to prevent it sticking and falling to bits. She is a star! Now roll out an oblong of marzipan to wrap around the cake, again sticking it with apricot jam.

FYI: Marzipan originated in Persia (now Iran/Iraq), but its name originates from the German for 'March bread'.

(#19) Royal Icing was quite exciting to do; whip two egg whites until foamy but not stiff. Stir in two teaspoons of lemon juice and then, bit by bit, sieved icing sugar until a glossy spreadable icing is formed. Spread it over the marzipan using a palette knife, dipping the knife in water to prevent the icing from sticking. I have no piping bags - nor have I ever used one - so I did a lovely festive snow effect by gently whacking it with a palette knife! It looks very impressive even if I do say so myself. I forgot to buy decorations though! Poo!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

#17 Quince Cream

Found a couple of quince recipes. The first is (#17) Quince Cream. Seemed easy enough. In reality it was a massive ball-ache. The quince is one of my favorite fruits - I don't know why they aren't sold in more greengrocers or supermarkets. It may be that you have to cook them to eat them. They combine the best of apples and pears and go a beautiful golden-orange colour when cooked. They were used in medieval times as a jam or jelly - the word marmalade comes from the French (I think) for quince! Weird to think of our lovely English marmalade wasn't made from Seville oranges (which are Spanish). Anyway. It all seemed like it would be easy. Chop up two quinces, add a little water, and stew until soft. Push through sieve. Add cream melted butter, an appropriate spice said the Grigson, so I used cinnamon. Add sugar to taste, plus egg yolks to thicken. I took about an hour and a half to sieve the fucker! I broke one sieve in the process too. Next time I'll use one of the alternative fruit suggested.

Luckily for the Grigson it tasted nice! It was creamy but light. I'm going to have to try and reduce the amount of cream and butter in my diet though! I can feel my arteries harden as I type!
Greg says:
Quince Cream - The smell of quince is a joy and something brand new to me. This dish was lovely, another heart attack masquerading as 'fruit' but it was quite noisy during the preparation thereof, I couldn't hear The Simpsons and had to close the door while Neil scraped away at boiled fruit in the next room. Hush please! It was sloppy and fruity and rich but when I attempted to eat more the following day it had become porridge so I don't care what she says, eat it all on the day! 7/10.

#17 Quince Cream - 7.5/10. Anything with quince is OK by me! I'm starting to get sick of all these calories though!

#16 Palastine Soup

OK. Something with Jerusalem artichokes...
...(#16) Palestine soup. Brilliant. FYI Jerusalem artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem or artichokes. It was thought that they tasted similar to artichokes, but I don't think they do. Jerusalem is a corruption of the word Girasole, which is the Italian for sunflower. (I used to grow them in the garden of my old house, and their flowers are like tiny sunflowers.) They are a much under used vegetable - at one point, before the domestication of the potato, it was attempted to make the Jerusalem artichoke a staple crop. It was considered too strong in flavour, and what a shame!

The soup was pretty easy; start by blanching a pound of Jerusalem artichokes in boiling salted water so that the knobbly skins can be peeled away. Place the peeled artichokes in the cooking water to prevent them discolouring. Meanwhile, gently cook 4 ounces of chopped onion, a crushed garlic clove and an ounce of chopped celery. When soft, add two rashers of streaky bacon and then after two minutes add the artichokes and 2 ½ pints of chicken stock. Simmer until the artichokes are tender then blitz. Finally stir in two ounces (!) of double cream and two tablespoons of chopped parsley. And then serve, under the strict Grigson rules, with croutons. It made a lovely soup - really brought out the earthy flavour of the Jerusalem artichokes. It's the best Grigson soup so far. I made a veggie version for Greg too using veggie bacon (!) and vegetable stock. It tasted as good as mine.

Greg says:
Palestine soup - This is my fave recipe to date I think. I had the girl version which Neil made in a separate pan using veg stock instead of chicken stock and veggie bacon instead of real piggy which meant my soup went a litle bit pink due to the colouring and smelt more like bacon than the real stuff! It was clearly the better of the two though possibly not admissbale under the strict Grigson regime. Anyways, the smoky bacony flavour together with the cream and that very specific Jersualem artichoke flavour was honestly amazing, if I'd had it in a restauarnt I would have been supremely chuffed. The croutons were alright but I could live without em, the fresh parsley is garnish enough. Wonderful . 9/10.

#16 Palestine Soup - 8.5/10. A brilliant winter-warmer! It should be part of everyone's repertoire!
Went on a lovely trip to Unicorn in Chorlton (, Manchester the other day to see if they had fresh yeast and they did. Hurray; I thought it would be a nightmare getting hold of it. Whilst I was there I saw loads of seasonal stuff - it's all lovely and local and organic there too - so I stocked up on Jerusalem artichokes and quinces. I also notice they had Seville oranges there too. I plan to make proper marmalade in the new year and people are sending me empty jars to fill. I would've been fucked if I couldn't get them - they only have a one month season so I would've had to wait a whole year to start tracking them down again. Now I've to find some Grigson recipes with Jerusalem artichokes and quinces. I know that there are some. Also is the plural of 'quince' 'quince' or 'quinces'? Does it actually matter? No.

I am blabbering now - pleased to have cocked up my experiments. Which means I can go home and finish my Christmas Cake. Yum!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bah Humbug!

I'm getting really sick and tired of all the deadlines and seminars and stuff at work. It's getting me down a bit, and I don't feel in the Christmas spirit at all! My viva is tomorrow and there's a conference tomorrow, but after this week it'll all be over. Then I can get all Christmassy and start thinking about the yummy Xmas food I can make from the Grigson. I've missed a load of stuff cos they need to be made well in advance; I suppose I'll just have to make mincemeat at Easter time instead! However, I am nurturing the Christmas Cake that I made at the weekend - I've been adding brandy by the teaspoon, so hopefully I'll be fantastic on the day. It's started to go all sticky with treacle-goodness. I keep worrying that it'll be raw in the middle. Raw or cooked, I'll be forcing people to eat it!

Off I pop - got students to teach!

Friday, December 7, 2007

#15 Christmas Cake

This is the first time I've been able to add an entry whilst making a dish. Yes, it's time for (#15)Christmas Cake. The idea being I can top it up with brandy throughout December ready for scoffing on the big day (assuming I can wait that long!). It is baking as we speak. It's got all you would expect inside - dried fruit, glace cherries, treacle etc etc etc!!!! God bless Greg for giving me an oven thermometer as an early Xmas pressie. My oven is shite! It took an hour just to get it to the right temperature; I have to set it at 100 degrees to actually get the required temperature of 140! It has to bake for 3 1/2 hours so I'm practising a talk as I wait, and of course, updating the old blog. I can't say what it's like, of course. We shall simply have to wait!

To make the cake you first need a huge bowl. Into it, mix together:

1 ½ pounds of mixed dried fruit;
four ounces of blanched, slivered almonds;
four ounces of chopped peel;
four ounces of rinsed, quartered glacé cherries.

Now add the rest of the dry ingredients:

ten ounces of plain flour;
a teaspoon of cinnamon;
a teaspoon of grated nutmeg;
grated rind of a lemon.

Now cream 8 ounces each of lightly salted butter and soft brown sugar in a separate bowl, then mix in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a tablespoon of black treacle. Beat in four eggs one by one until incorporated, and the mix in the fruit and the flour. For the final stage, dissolve half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a tablespoon of warmed milk, stir it in, and then add enough brandy to slacken the mixture slightly, so that it is a ‘soft dropping consistency’.

Line an eight inch cake tin with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture in, hollowing the top a little to compensate for the rising. Cover with a layer of brown paper to prevent scorching and bake for 3 ½ hours at 140⁰C. Test it after 3 hours though just in case. When done, leave to cool in its tin overnight. The cake needs to be kept for a month or more as you’ll need to sprinkle it with brandy every now and again. Eventually, the cake needs to be finished with marzipan and royal icing (see later posts!)

#14 Leek and Onion Pudding

It was a weird one, but Greg and I are running out of veggie recipes.

Start by making a suet pastry as for a steak and kidney pudding (I used veggie suet, natch). Line a 2 ½ pint basin with the dough. Chop a large onion and a couple of leeks. Layer up within with onion, leek, plenty of seasoning, butter and dried sage. Make a lid from pastry and steam for 3 hours. That’s it!

Sounds awful, bland and stodgy doesn’t it? Well, it was great. Surprisingly tasty. We had it with butter beans and onion gravy. Sorry for the rubbish picture - we only realised we hadn't taken one til we were on second helpings. The video is true excitement, don't you agree? Deffo a nominee for Best Short at the BAFTAs methinks!

Greg says:
#14 Leek and Onion Pudding - Witness how stupidly excited we are on the video. I didn't quite accept that you could make pastry out of steam, apparently you can. The pudding is yum, the pastry is really flowery, as opposed to floury, because of the herbs, and the long slow cook just brings out the ordinary flavours of everything in abundance. I would never have the patience to make it myself though, obv. 7/10

#14 Leek and Onion Pudding: 8/10. Lovely crispy herby crust, surprisingly yummy within.

#13 Pancakes for the Rich

Greg and I thought we needed to stuff our faces with animal fat and sugar so (#13) Pancakes for the Rich (or a Quire of Paper; whatever that means!) was called for. It made 10 pancakes - which were very difficult to fry:

To make the batter beat together 3 ounces of flour, four ounces of melted butter, half a pint of single cream and a large egg along with two tablespoons of brown sherry, a teaspoon of rose or orange-flower water and half a grated nutmeg. Coat a skillet or pan in a very thin layer of oil and fry on both sides until brown. They didn't go firm like normal pancakes, but squidgy and caramelised because of the butter and the very little egg. After wrestling with them - in order to turn one we had to slide it onto a plate, and upturn it back onto the pan, otherwise they ended up a sad blob of batter. We served some up with sugar; as Grigson suggests, but also had some with lemon juice too.

Was it worth it? Not sure; i think I might prefer poor-man's pancakes. I think I'll try her recipe for them soon. But Pancakes for the rich were interesting, particularly for the addition of the beautifully fragrant orange-flower water.
Greg says:
#13 Pancakes for the Rich - Pretty much ditto what he said, they're nice but really not a patch on pov pancakes which may say more about our working class palate than anything else. Mostly though they're a bitch to turn, I am the king of tossing pancakes and these buggers weren't for flippng. But they are tasty and if you're attempting to put on a lot of weight in a very short time, whcih we apparently are, these are for you. 6.5/10.

#13 Pancakes for the Rich: 6.5/10. Delicious, but a big old faff and a bit too rich - even for me!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another rainy day in Manchester...

On Saturday I completed my Continuation report for my PhD. I quite pleased with it - it could have done with one more draft but since my PC crashed after I'd spent 2 hours making corrections on the previous draft, I could not be ARSED! Anyway, it meant that me and Greg had a whole day together without me doing work - the only problem was it was chucking it down with rain - "it's like stair-rods" as my Dad would say! Rainy day = Grigson extravaganza. I decided that I'd make a Christmas cake and make some nice stuff to eat. We decided on (#13) Pancakes for the Rich for a naughty lunch and (#14) Leek and Onion Pudding for tea in the evening. Didn't have time to make the cake. It was nice going through the book choosing what to make - obviously we were restricted with the savories, but the puddings and teatime treats chapters give me a food boner! It is sad, I know; but there is something therapeutic about looking through cookbooks. Or may be it's just me... I'm really looking forward to making some traditional Christmas fayre. I am gonna be sooooo fat!