Wednesday, December 31, 2008

#88 Christmas Pudding: Part 2, #102 Brandy Butter

The next most most exciting thing about Christmas dinner after the turkey, is probably the flaming Christmas Pudding. I had already made the puddings back in November, so now it was time to steam them for the big day. The pudding needs steaming for three hours, so you need to put it on in good time. However, that is the only thing you need to do, other than checking to see if the pan has boiled dry, so all is good. Turn the pudding out onto a serving dish and warm up some brandy either in a metal ladle or a small saucepan and light it (it won't light unless you warm it first). Turn off the lights and pour it over the pudding. If this fails to impress the family, throw them out into the cold, cold winter street and tell them to come back when they've got some Christmas cheer. Serve with brandy butter, cream or custard.

To make brandy butter (or hard sauce, as it used to be called), cream 4 ounces of butter, when you've done that, beat in 4 ounces of icing sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy, some freshly grated nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Allow to set in the fridge. Make this in advance - I made it a few days before the big day.

#88 Richard Boston's Guinness Christmas Pudding - 3.5/10. Pretty disappointing this pudding was. It tasted really good, but was extremely stodgy and soft. I think I'll use half breadcrumbs, half flour next time.

#102 Brandy Butter - 6.5/10. Nice, but very rich indeed. Think I prefer good old custard.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing

A turkey wouldn’t be a turkey without stuffing. This is the one Griggers suggests to have with turkey. It contains no sausagemeat, so it’s quite light and the lemon and parsley flavour cuts through the richness of all the other roast items on your Christmas dinner. It’s also choc-full of butter, so it helps keep the turkey nice and succulent.

Begin by cutting the crusts off a large white loaf of bread and blitz it in a food processor until it becomes crumbs. Lay the crumbs on a large baking tray and allow them to dry out in a cool oven – you don’t want them to brown so 80ºC will be enough. Weight out 8 ounces of the crumbs (freeze the rest) and put in a large bowl and mix in the zest of two lemons and the juice of one, a bunch of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a teaspoon of dried marjoram, 8 ounces of creamed butter, 3 eggs and a good seasoning. Mix the ingredients with your hands and stuff the main cavity of the turkey with it. You probably won’t use it all, so freeze the rest in balls so you can put them in the cavity of chickens for your Sunday Roast.

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing – 7/10. A nice fresh and light tasting stuffing. I reckon it’ll go better with chicken than with turkey.

#100 Roast Turkey

The one-hundredth recipe had to be the Roast Turkey really didn’t it? It is the centrepiece of the whole dinner, perhaps the day. I bought us a nice free-range one from Frosts in Chorlton. I’m glad I was allowed to do it, as my Mum always panics about the turkey and over-cooks it by about two hours; in fact, over the last few years, she’s taken to over-cooking it the day before! It took some persuasion for us to cook the bird on the day: “Well I’m not getting up at 6 to put it in!”. Obviously, I didn’t get up at 6. I stuffed the turkey as recommended by Griggers with lemon and parsley stuffing. If your Christmas turkey tuned out to be, well, a bit of a turkey, try it this way next year. One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet, but it was the best Christmas turkey we ever had at home; though it wasn’t really down to me, but to Jane Grigson.

The first thing to do is to remove the giblets and stuff the bird. You can stuff the cavity or the neck end, it doesn’t really matter. Next, calculate the cooking time of the turkey: 30 minutes per kilo if it’s below 7 kilos (15 lbs). If you are cooking a monster, add an extra 20 minutes per kilo after that. You must include the weight of any stuffing you’ve used too. Put the turkey on its side on a rack in a roasting pan and smear it all over with 6 ounces of slightly salted butter. Cover with a double layer of foil and cook at 190ºC for the appropriate time. Just under halfway through the cooking time, turn the bird onto its other side, and then in the final half an hour, put it on its back and remove the foil so it can brown nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Baste it a few times, if you like. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before you carve it. In fact, we left it for about an hour and it was still juicy and hot, so don’t feel you have to rush or anything. Skim off the fat from the juices in the pan, then make your gravy by boiling up the juices with a quarter of a pint of dry white wine and thicken with flour or gravy browning. Add enough hot vegetable stock to achieve the right thickness.

#100 Roast Turkey - 9.5/10. I love Christmas dinner, so I’m really glad that I did the turkey for the 100th recipe. This is a foolproof methods for doing your Christmas/Thanksgiving bird; succulent, tasty, not in the slightest dry. Bloody marvellous.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Christmas Nosh Up

I'm in that post-Christmas dip before New Year's Eve, so I thought I'd update the Christmas recipes I did over in Pudsey. I go home to Pudsey, Leeds, every year for Christmas to stay with my Mum and Dad, and probably always will. I like it. My Mum is the person that, unknowingly, got me into cookery, as she was a baker and therefore as a kiddiwink, it was baking we did on rainy days; making cookery a form of relaxation for me. Anyways, this was the first time I'd been let loose on the actual Christmas dinner, but thought it would be the perfect thing to do - take some of the stress off Mum on the day (though she did insist on doing the veg, so it was a team effort) plus doing something impressive for recipe 100! I shall be adding them over the next few days hopefully, though I'm off to the pub now - my mate Charlotte has moved in today and therefore cannot be arsed unpacking...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

#99 Baked Carp

Thank goodness for Britain’s lax laws on immigration, if we were a bit more like Australia we’d have no Eastern Europeans. ‘What does this have to do with the price of fish?’ I hear you ask (at least I would if you’re from Yorkshire). Well, your average Pole has a Christmas feast on Christmas Eve or a massive 12-courser on Christmas Day, either of which involves a baked carp. There’s only one carp recipe in English Food and I assumed, like most of the freshwater fish recipes, I would have to order it in especially, or even learn to fish. (FYI: I intend to learn to fish in 2009; a new skill instead of a resolution.)But what did I spot in the fishmongers in Manchester Arndale Market? Yup, a shed-load of giant carp. Thought I’d better snap one up before Johnny Foreigner gets hold of them all. If you see one, or even catch one, try this recipe; it’s an early Nineteenth Century recipe, apparently, so it’s the kind of thing that George III would’ve eaten, and there was nothing wrong with him!

Serves at least 6…

Choose a carp weighing around 3 pounds and ask the fishmonger to scale, gut and clean the fish* (and cut the head off, if you’re squeamish about these things). When you get home wash the carp in 6 tablespoons of vinegar dissolved in 4 pints of water. (Not sure why, may be to get rid of the slime – several freshwater fish produce slime). Whilst it’s draining, select a baking dish that will fit the fish snugly (to achieve this I unfortunately had to cut the head off). Smear the bottom of the dish with 6 ounces of butter and lay the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter teaspoon each of mace, nutmeg and cloves, a bouquet garni (I did parsley stalks, bay and some pared lemon rind), a generous teaspoon of anchovy sauce and a chopped onion. Top up with dry white wine, so that the carp is almost covered. Cover with foil and bake at 200ºC for 40 to 50 minutes.

When done, put it on a serving dish and strain the cooking juices into a heavy based pan. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly. Mash 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of flour and drop knobs of the mixture gradually whilst whisking to thicken. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little cream. Pour some sauce over the carp, and serve the rest in a sauceboat.

FYI: If you're concerned as the potential damage to stocks of carp by this sudden increase of demand, the common carp is either farmed these days, or lakes are stocked with them. In fact they are considered a bit of an evasive species, so tuck in ladies and gents.

#99 Baked Carp – 7.5/10. I really liked this dish; I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’ve not really eaten freshwater fish much (except for salmon, which I don’t like). I was very surprised at it’s subtly fishy and oddly gamey flavour. The very English mace-laced sauce was lovely. If you get the chance to lay your hands on one over Christmas, get it bought, though I’m not sure I’d replace my turkey with it!

*If you are lucky enough to have a fish with roe inside, ask the fishmonger to keep it aside, as you can make a stuffing with it – I didn’t get any, but it’s the look of the draw. Obviously I can’t comment on it’s loveliness, but have a go and tell me about it: Start by softening a small onion in butter. Meanwhile, mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with some milk to turn them to a paste. Mix the onions in along with the chopped roe, a tablespoon of chopped green herbs, a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and ½ teaspoon of anchovy essence. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stuff the fish with the mixture and sew it up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#98 Cawl

Butters and I went for a nice walk around Chorlton Water Park and the Mersey Valley. We lucky in that it wasn’t totally pissing it down with rain, as the weather has not been good of late. It was still pretty chilly though so I wanted to make something simple, nourishing and warming for when we got back. I plumped for the Welsh soup, Cawl (pronounced “cowl”, according to Griggers). Cawl is simply Welsh for soup, but it’s far from a light soup-starter; it’s a meal in one. I assume it’s a peasant dish; it is simple in its ingredients and methods, is cheap, and requires time to make it well. It’s basically the Welsh equivalent of Irish stew or Cock-a-leekie. What I like about this one is that the meat is cooked as a joint and sliced at the end and served with the vegetables and soup. To be really Welsh, marigold flowers can be added as a garnish, but I thought that was going a bit too far…

These measures make loads of Cawl – enough for 6 to 8 people.

Start off by browning your meat in some beef dripping; you need pounds altogether, either beef brisket of shin of beef, but best is to use one pound of beef and a pound of smoked hock, gammon or bacon. I went for brisket and a giant piece of smoked bacon. When browned, put in a large saucepan or stockpot. Next, brown 2 sliced onions and 3 carrots, parsnip, turnips or some swede cut into chunks; a mixture is best. Once they are browned, add them to the meat and cover with cold water, add salt and two stalks of chopped celery. Bring to the boil slowly, skimming off any scum that may rise to the surface. Add a bouquet garni (I used parsley, thyme and bay), sea salt and pepper to season, turn to a very low heat and simmer for at least three hours. I actually did all this the day before, so that we didn’t have to wait very long to eat when we got back.

About half an hour before you want to eat, add a pound of small potatoes (or larger ones cut up), and ten minutes before add a small white or green cabbage that has been sliced. When the potatoes are cooked the soup is ready. Finely slice 2 or 3 leeks and sprinkle them on top of the soup; the heat of the soup will cook them. Remove the joints and slice them up, putting some of each kind in each bowl, along with some of the veg and stock.

#98 Cawl – 7/10. A delicious, warming and beautifully clear soup. The meat was falling apart and the smoked bacon gave the whole thing a really delicious flavour. Definitely one of the best soups so far. This will become a staple winter dish, I think.

Monday, December 8, 2008

#97 Welsh Light Cakes

For breakfast the next day, Charlotte and I wanted something hot and homely and went down the pancake route. I spotted this one as Charlotte is half-Welsh so I thought it befitting. These are great they’re made from a thickish bubbly batter that contains cream of tartare and soured cream – two secret ingredients. They’re served in quite an American fashion – piled up high with slices takes out of them. Get the made - they’re easy, so you get back much more than you put in!

Beat together 6 rounded tablespoons of plain flour, 2 of sugar and 3 of soured cream along with a pinch of salt and 3 eggs until smooth. Next, mix together ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a rounded tablespoon of cream of tartare with 4 tablespoons of water. Quickly add it to the batter and stir in enough milk or buttermilk to make a batter that’s “not too thick” – a tricky one when you’ve no frame of reference; I think the consistency of thick double cream.

Now heat up a frying pan or griddle and add a little oil. Coat the pan and pour off any excess. Ladle a small amount in the centre of the pan to make small pancakes. Don’t swirl them around like crepes, they should be thick. After a minute or two flip it over and cook for another minute. Pile them up on a plate, spreading each one with butter. Serve in wedges with something nice and sweet – maple syrup or, as we used, golden syrup.

#97 Welsh Light Cakes or Pancakes - 9/10. Officially my favourite pancake. I know you can make crepes with normal average store-cupboard ingredients, but these are something special. Light, fluffy and slightly sour in taste, they went perfectly with the sweet golden syrup. Whenever anyone stays over, these will be made for breakfast every time. Me and Charlotte liked them so much we made seconds! Oink!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

#96 Apple Pie

Oh I have been a bit slack with adding entries of late. I do apologise; I still have written about the food I made last weekend! The dessert that finished off the hare was a nice apple pie. Charlotte brought round some windfall apples so it was the obvious choice really. This is very simple to make – the apples aren’t stewed beforehand or anything and you could even buy your own pastry if you wanted. It’s an English pie, which means there’s only pastry on the top so you don’t have to faff about with blind-baking a pastry base either. It’s all good.

Start off by peeling, coring and slicing a pound of cooking apples and 8 ounces of Cox Orange Pippins. Arrange these in a pie dish, mounding it up in the centre, sprinkling sugar as you go. Try the apples before you add the sugar; you don’t want it too sweet. Roll out 8 ounces of shortcrust pastry. Cut a strip off pastry and glue it to around the edge of the dish with water. Brush this pastry with more water and press the rest of the rolled-out pastry onto it. Brush the lid with water, sprinkle with sugar and make a couple of slits in theb centre so that the steam can escape. Bake at 220ºC for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190ºC for another 30 minutes. Check with a knife that the apples are soft before you take it out though. Serve with double cream.

#96 Apple Pie 7/10. I love pie! This one is super-quick and easy. I’ve had better in the past, but they also require a lot more work. This is deffo the best way if you want to make one quickly.

Monday, December 1, 2008

#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls

I was going to leave the hare that I bought at the Farmers’ Market the other weekend for the 100th recipe, but I thought since a few people were coming over I’d cook it. There are a few recipes in the book, but I went for Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls. It’s relatively straightforward. Don’t be scared if you’ve never eaten hare, if you are too squeamish however you can use 6 pigeons or 3 pounds of stewing venison instead. Don’t be scared either of cooking game – all you need is a bit of patience; long, slow cooking is required, but it’s easy enough, get the thing simmering away and you can do whatever you want whilst waiting for it to cook.

FYI: please don’t all go out and order a hare from your butchers – they have had a decline in recent decades. I only bought mine because it just happened to be at the game stall. Check out the Hare Preservation Trust website for more details.

The trickiest part of this dish is the preparation of the hare itself; unless you have a good butcher who’ll joint it for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. I’m not going to go through how to do it here, but here’s a link to the River Cottage guide to jointing a rabbit, which is the same principle. I have to say: make sure you invest in sturdy knives, including a meat cleaver, otherwise it’ll be very tricky to do. Also keep any blood and the liver for thickening the stew with later. (Also, don’t tell anyone about that bit, as it may be one step too far for some folk.)

Before jointing

After jointing

Once jointed, turn the pieces of hare in plenty of seasoned flour and brown them well along with one chopped onion and 8 ounces of chopped streaky bacon in 3 ounces of lard (yes, you COULD use oil, but what’s the point in that!?) in a large stockpot or casserole. Add a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and half a bay leaf to the pot along with enough stock to just cover everything; use either game stock or beef stock, I used half-and-half of each. Charlotte and I added the heart too; seemed silly to waster it since we were using the liver and blood too. Let the whole thing simmer gently until the meat comes away from the bone easily – around 2 or 3 hours. Now add 6 tablespoons of port and a large tablespoon or two of redcurrant jelly along with some salt and pepper and the dish is done! Use a tablespoon of flour slaked with some hot stew liquor to thicken the stew, or use the blood and mashed liver. Don’t let it boil if using blood, as it will curdle not unlike egg yolks in over-cooked custard. Charlotte and I spent a while removing bones from the meat though, so people didn’t have to worry about bones.

Now that’s done, make the forcemeat balls (named forcemeat as you are making a small amount of meat go very far – peasant food, innit?). In a bowl mix together 4 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 2 ounces of chopped suet, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of thyme, the grated rind of half a lemon, 2 ounces of finely chopped bacon, a large egg and some salt and pepper. Form the mixture into balls of around an inch in diameter and fry them until golden in more (yes, more!) lard.

I served it all up with boiled potatoes and peas.

#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls – 7/10. The more game I eat, the more I feel I’ve been missing out! I’m always slightly tentative about game, but this is another corker! The stew was rich and thick; hare is very gamy, but the port and redcurrant jelly helped cut through it. Given the chance, I’ll be cooking the remaining hare recipes. The surprise star though was the forcemeat balls – Grigson suggests making them for soups, so if you don’t fancy the hare, make the meatballs! The heart tasted surprisingly nice too...

#94 'To Make Mince Pies'

Well it’s the run-up to Christmas. I’ve already started on the Christmas cake and I’m feeding it with brandy every few days. As Lee, Charlotte, Kate and Pete were coming over for food, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a trial run of the traditional mincemeat I made a few weeks ago, so I made some mince pies.

Jane Grigson gives instructions on how to make them. She says to use shortcrust pastry rather than puff pastry (unless you are eating them warm). I made pastry with half butter, half lard; I prefer it as it is more crisp and 'short'. Whichever way you do it remember the flour:fat ratio is 2:1. Roll out pastry thinly and cut circles out with a scone-cutter to line small tart tins. Place a small teaspoon inside – don’t overdo it though, the fresh suet expands. Seal the top with another circle of pastry, gluing it on with some egg white. Make a cross in the middle and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes at 220ºC. Serve warm or cold.

#94 ‘To Make Mince Pies’ – 8/10. I really like the mincemeat. The meat is totally undetectable; but it, the fresh suet and the grated apple make the resulting pie-innards succulent and tasty, it’s not overly sweet either, which is good because you can eat more of them! Good old Mrs Beeton, where would we be without her! It’s been a while since I’ve had homemade mince pie and it brought back a lot of memories for me making them with my Mum. I am definitely getting in the Christmas spirit!

Monday, November 24, 2008

#93 Mayonnaise

I want to clock up some Grigson recipes so that the 100th is something exciting before Christmas with a hare, otherwise it’ll be something boring like Welsh rarebit or something. The first of these is mayonnaise. Surprised it’s in there, really; I know we all use it, but it’s not English. Who am I to judge? Apparently, in 1861 Mrs Beeton, took it as read that mayonnaise was well established here. Funnily enough, I’ve never actually made my own mayonnaise and only ever bought it from the supermarket and wasn’t sure what to expect. If you haven’t, have a go – it’s dead easy. I don’t know what the fuss is about getting the yolks and oil to emulsify and not split; just don’t rush it, and you’ll be fine…

Beat 3 egg yolks with a whisk along with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (English is way too strong for this) and a dash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. When they start to thicken slowly add ½ pint of groundnut or olive oil (I actually used both at a ratio of about 4:1). Add the oil drop by drop as you whisk at first. If you’re wrist begins to ache take a little rest. You can be braver with the oil as you get to the half way mark. When all is added, season with salt and pepper and extra lemon or vinegar if needed. Easy!

FYI: No-one is really sure of the origin of the name – there are two theories; first, says Larousse Gastronomique, is that it is a popular corruption of moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means yolk of egg. Or it came from mayennaise after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, famous for taking the time to eat his chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in the Battle of Arques. What a trouper. I prefer the second story.

#93 Mayonnaise – 6/10. Not disappointed as such, but unprepared, I think the right word might be. Home-made mayonnaise is absolutely nothing like shop-bought. They are incomparable. This mayonnaise was rich and slightly bitter in flavour and not good when I dipped my finger in to check for seasoning. However, when I tried it out on my favourite sandwich – mature Cheddar, picked beetroot and mayonnaise, I changed my mind and thought it was very good. I just think I’m too used to the bland old Hellman’s to be a convert…Is that wrong?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#92 Smoked Trout

I bought some smoked trout from the Port of Lancaster Smoke House’s stall at Hoghton Farmers’ Market and was keen to try it. I was a little unsure about it, I have to say, as I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon, and assumed it was going to be rather similar. Jane does say in English ooh, however, that smoking trout is the best way to eat it these days, as the trout you’re buying is (almost) sure to be farmed and therefore insipid in flavour. Smoking simply rescues it. I must admit, it have had trout before, and found it quite bland. It’s not everyday you see high-quality smoked trout so I snapped it up. The way to eat it, according to Griggers is very simple; a nice, quick light lunch or starter:

Make a horseradish cream with lightly whipped double cream and fresh or creamed horseradish to taste, plus a little sugar and lemon juice. Serve a fillet of trout per person, with a buttered slice of brown bread, a lemon wedge and some of the horseradish cream on the side.

FYI: if you buy fresh horseradish, don’t grate and freeze it to use later. I used frozen for this and there was absolutely no taste it. I have no idea why! I recommend you use creamed horseradish for this as you won’t need much of it.

#92 Smoked Trout - 7.5/10. Very tasty indeed; a pleasing cross somewhere between smoked mackerel and salmon. Everything went so very well together – the bread, lemon and cream. It’s a shame the cream didn’t taste of horseradish! Oh well, you live and learn – everyday’s a school day…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Merchant of Hoghton

We had planned a big group outing to Hoghton Tower Farmers’ Market; me, Charlotte, Kate , Pete, Ange, Chris and their wee baby Evan. It’s to be found in Preston, Lancashire, and Ange has been raving about it for ages. I had my shopping budget of £35 and was hoping to fill the freezer with exciting stuff; in particular game.

We arrived slightly hungover from the night before and were immediately impressed – lots of stall selling absolutely everything! The range of meat and game was excellent, as was the cheeses, veg, pies, cakes and everything you could ever wish for.

For my 35 notes I came away with:
1. Smoked trout fillets
2. A hare
3. A brace of partridge
4. Smoked, cured streaky bacon
5. Pigeon and pea pie
6. Mutton pie
7. Corned beef pie
8. Chocolate-covered crystallised ginger
9. Banana Tea Loaf
10. Chocolate cake

Not bad I reckon. I’m particularly interested in the hare – there are a few recipes in English Food, and I’m thinking about cooking it as the 100th dish as it is fast approaching and I need something unusual and impressive. I was going to do an elaborate Victorian pheasant dish, but you need pheasant giblets and you need to order those apparently. The hand-raised mutton pie was the pie-highlight for me, I have to say, and it has gotten me enthused to cook some mutton dishes too.

Choosing my game.

We also had an ace laugh which is just what I needed, the best bit being me and Charlotte tasting some extra-mature Lancashire blue cheese…

Charlotte: This is really good.

Me: Really creamy, nice after taste. It tastes a bit like sick; but in a good way.

Charlotte: Yeah, not your own sick.


Charlotte: somebody else’s….?

(Hilarity ensues)

Ange's Celtic aggression comes out at the mere weilding of sprouts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

#91 Spicy Prawns

What makes these English, I do not know; other than a sort of nod to Maharajah days maybe. Anyways, I bought a huge bag of tiger prawns from W H Lung, the Oriental Cash and Carry near where I work for when I made Phat Thai for me and Butters at the weekend. I had loads left over, so I looked through the book and saw Spicy Prawns. I had all the ingredients in and it takes very little time to make. If you have spices at home, it’s a good one to do.

BTW: if you don’t, buy some spices in – they’re cheap as long as you don’t buy Schwartz spices; they are ridiculously overpriced. Go to an Asian supermarket. If you live in Manchester, Unicorn sells good value, organic spices. Also, buy your spices whole and grind them as you need them – the flavour is much better. Use a pestle and mortar, or as I do, a coffee grinder.

For two:
Peel (if you need to) and devein 8 ounces of raw tiger prawns. To devein, cut down the back of the prawn and remove the black vein running along its length. (FYI: it isn’t a vein, but the digestive tract and the black is the mud and God-knows-what else they’ve scoffed). Make a spice mix of ½ teaspoon of paprika, ½ a teaspoon of ground cumin, a ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger and a pinch of cayenne pepper, plus some salt. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and fry two chopped cloves of garlic. When they start to turn golden add the spice mix and fry for a minute. This is very important when cooking any spice – you need to fry them in oil at the start, otherwise they taste bland and raw. Add the prawns and fry for another two minutes, stirring them around so they get evenly cooked. Lastly, throw in a good few tablespoons of coriander leaves and cook for one more minute. Serve immediately.

Grigson says to serve with crusty bread or with saffron rice garnished with toasted pine kernels and fried onion slices. I went for the latter as you can see. To make saffron rice, you need to sprinkle in ¼ teaspoon of saffron strands to the rice when it is cooking. Use Basmati rice, fry it in oil for a minute before adding boiling water and some salt. The ratio by volume of rice:water is 1:2. Add the water, stir once, cover, and leave it on the lowest possible flame until all the water has been absorbed. Let it stand for a few minutes and fluff up with a fork. Perfect rice, every time!

FYI: I usually don't eat prawns, but have fallen off the wagon recently. If you eat alot of them, try and cut down. Those that are fished are trawled up with huge trawlers that kill everything in their path. For every tonne of prawns fished, ten tonnes of sea life dies. If you buy farmed, it is not much better; most farms are built on mangrove swamps - a habitat we are already losing at a rate of knots. When I'm done cooking the Grigson recipes with prawns, I'm going only have prawns at special treats.

#91 Spicy Prawns – 7/10. Very tasty and quick to do. Brilliant if you can’t be bothered cooking but want something proper. The prawns were ready in the time it took to cook the rice. The oily spices were just right – very intense, but didn’t mask the subtle flavour of the prawns. The saffron rice helped this thing along with it’s slightly musky-sweet flavour. Of course, this is even easier if you just have it with bread. Great stuff!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

#90 Sussex Pond Pudding

The Sussex Pond Pudding. It is widely considered the best of the suet steamed puddings (or the best pudding full-stop). So good in fact, that Grigson doesn’t bother putting any other ones it; where’s Spotted Dick and jam roly-poly, please lady?? (To go off subject for a second; I’ve noticed a few glaring omissions from English Food, and am compiling a list, but it includes fish and chips, fish pie, scouse, spam fritters and stargazey pie amongst others, plus I can’t find a recipe for custard! I intend to fill in these gaps with the blog, and an unofficial Third Edition will then exist...). Anyway, Sussex Pond Pudding is essentially a suet crust filled with a whole lemon plus butter and sugar. When you turn it out, it bursts open and a moat of lemony sauce surrounds it. It’s very easy to make unless you’re Heston Blumenthal – it’s very unhealthy too, of course, but we don’t eat these everyday. I agree with Heston though – these sorts of puddings are going out of fashion in Britain, and it’s a shame. They’re easy to do and only require time to steam, so a check every 45 minutes to see if the steamer’s not boiled dry is all the work you need to do. The recipe serves 4 to 6 – it’s very rich. Serve with custard – real or packet, it don’t matter! I’ll give you the recipe I used for a proper Crème Anglaise at some point…

Start off by liberally buttering a 2 ½ pint pudding basin. Then make the suet pastry (the easiest pastry to make): Mix together 8 ounces of self-raising flour with four of chopped, fresh suet (you can, of course use the packet kind – even the vegetarian suet if you like, but fresh definitely give the best flavour, and it’s a lot cheaper!). Using a knife mix in enough half-and-half water/milk mixture to make a soft, but not tacky dough (about half a pint-ish). Roll this out into a large circle and cut-out a quarter. Pick up the dough and line the basin with it and press down the edges so that there will be no leakage. Next, cut up around three ounces of unsalted butter and place it in the bottom of the basin and pour over the same of sugar. Then, spear a large, unwaxed lemon several times with a skewer – this is very important, there will be no lemon sauce otherwise! Place the lemon on top of the butter and sugar and using equal amounts of more butter and sugar fill in any gaps around the lemon. With the remaining pastry roll out a circle and make a lid, again pressing down the edges to make a seal – use water as a glue. Steam for 3 to 4 hours. Turn it out and make sure everyone gets a bit of lemon – it should be soft enough to eat.

#90 Sussex Pond Pudding – 9.5/10. Absolutely divine! The centre turns into a sort of lemon curd, and the suet pastry goes beautifully crisp, golden and crunchy. Butters and I did chicken out of eating the lemon skin, but the lemon centre was a lovely sour-sweet mush. Is it the best suet pudding? Possibly. We should all try and make an effort and bring this sort of food back – it’s cheap, easy and gorgeous (you are what you eat, after all!). It's proper Sunday lunch fair, but goes well with the Thai food I made for Butters and me due to the lemoniness.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

#89 Steamed Ginger Pudding

My new ‘mate’ Butters came round on Saturday, so an evening of scoffing food, watching crap telly and playing computer games, amongst other activities was planned. Totally un-in-keeping with this project, I decided to do a Thai meal, so earlier in the day, I went into Manchester’s China Town with my chum Stuart for supplies. As you may, or may not, know I’m an old hand at Thai, Indian and most other popular Asian cookery and the point of this blog was to teach myself English cookery, but Stuart can’t cook for toffee and since Thai food is probably the place to start – as long as you can chop and read, you can cook Thai – the trip was really to help him get going, but also Butters (same nickname as me! What’s THAT about?) likes East Asian food, so I thought I’d cook some too. I made a fragrant tofu and tomato soup for starters and then a red curry. For pudding, however, I thought I’d do a Grigson but try to pick a dessert that fit the meal, so I went for a steamed ginger pudding. It contains that spicy-sweet stem ginger, that you get in jars. Brilliant. I love steam puddings, they’re da shit…

Start off by buttering a one pint pudding bowl. Then, cream together 3 ounces of butter with two of sugar, beat in a large egg, 4 ounces of self-raising flour, 4 ounces of chopped stem ginger, along with a tablespoon of ginger syrup from the jar and ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger. The dough should be quite soft, so if not add a little milk to loosen it up slightly. Put in the pudding basin and cover well (if you don’t have a plastic one with lid, use a sheet of foil with a pleat in it, secured with an elastic band). Steam this for two hours. I put it on just before I started making the main.

Turn the pudding out onto a plate if you like – always impressive. Serve with custard, cream, or with this sherry sauce given by Griggers (leave out the sherry and you get a thin, frothy custard sauce):

Whisk together two large egg yolks, half a tablespoon of sugar and ¼ pint of sherry in a bowl or basin. Place the basin over a pan of just-simmering water and whisk until the sauce thickens and becomes frothy, adding the cream slowly as you go. Unlike custard, this can’t be made in advance so make sure your guests don’t mind you disappearing for 10 minutes between courses.

#89 Steamed Ginger Pudding – 7/10. I fooking LOVE puddings. Plus a ginger pudding really is an English classic, and now that it’s autumn, there shall be many more. Really they all score at least 9 for me, but I reckon there are better ones to come, such as – in many people’s opinion – the ultimate: Sussex Pond Pudding. I may do that one next. The sherry sauce was odd though, the strong sherry flavour didn’t drown out the ginger flavour of the pudding, but I think I would’ve preferred good old custard, so I give that a 5/10 – nice, but won’t make it again…

But, all-in-all the evening was a total success, and Butters and I had an ace evening. I am planning the next one already...

Friday, October 31, 2008

#88 Richard Boston's Guinness Christmas Pudding

The second part of the traditional festivities: a home-made Christmas Pudding. Don’t know why I’m making it as it seems the whole world despises them, including Jane Grigson, herself. But like she says, English Food wouldn’t be a book on English Food without it included. It’s very easy to make, but requires a huge amount of steaming time; you have to steam them now, and again on the day. The mixture makes five pints’ worth, so I went for two two-pint basins and a one-pint. I’ve had to do mine in lots rather than all at once, so had to guess at the steaming times a bit, but I’ll talk about that when we get to it…

The recipe is not unlike that for the mincemeat; it’s just a question of mixing everything together in the order given. Use your hands to mix it up – it’s a lot easier than using a wooden spoon. Also, you can’t over-stir it, so get everyone in to give it mix. If I remember rightly, to get good luck, thirteen people have to mix it clockwise with their spoon and make a wish before you steam it (if you believe in that sort of stuff). Dry ingredients first: 10 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 8 of soft brown sugar, 8 of currants, 10 of chopped raisins, 8 of sultanas, 2 of dried mixed peel, 10 of shredded suet (the packet kind!), plus ½ teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of mixed spice. Now mix in the grated zest of a lemon, a dessertspoon of lemon juice, 2 large, beaten eggs, ¼ pint of milk and a 300ml bottle of Guinness. Divide this between your pudding basins, that have been well-buttered (I’ve bought some of those plastic ones with proper lids so you don’t to bother with foil tops covered with tea towels, etc.). Add a sixpence if you want. Now for the first steaming…If you can fit them in one, then steam for 7 ½ hours – yes you heard me – SEVEN-AND-A-HALF!! If not, a bit of guess-work is required – did the 2 pint ones for four hours, and the 1 pint for three. Don’t know if it’s worked, we will just have to find out on Christmas Day! To store them, either keep them covered in a cool place or freeze them.

Before steaming.

Yes I know they look bad in this state,

but they looked like proper puds when I'd done cooking 'em.

FYI: like mincemeat, the Christmas Pud was created as way of preserving meat, and the earliest recipe goes back to 1420, but it wasn't until the Victorians turned it into a proper dessert, did it become the familiar round shape topped with brandt butter, holly and flaming brandy. The stirring and steaming, traditionally occurred on 'Stir-Up Sunday', which was the first Sunday of Advent.

BTW in case you were wondering, Richard Boston was a food writer for The Guardian newspaper.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

#87 Mrs Beeton's Traditional Mincemeat

Christmas is coming, and I am going traditional on your ass. First thing to be made is Mrs Beeton’s Traditional Mincemeat. According to Griggers it is better than any modern mincemeat. The main difference is that there is proper fresh suet and actual meat in it. She reckons that when she makes this recipe, the mince pies get eaten double-quick. Well we’ll see. Getting hold of fresh suet is easy, the butcher in Levenshulme sold me 2 and-a-half pounds of it for only a quid! Bargain! Also, I got the chance to use the mincer attachment for my Kitchen Aid for the first time; it was very good, and now I intend to mince everything. I like a good mince, I do (but you probably knew that already…). I haven’t had the chance to eat any yet, but it’s very easy to make, as long as you have the ability to stir.

The amounts are quite big in the recipe, so I’m giving you what I did which is half of Good Lady Beeton’s instructions:

Mix together 8 ounces of seedless raisins, 12 ounces of currants, 6 ounces of minced, lean rump steak, 12 ounces of fresh, chopped suet, 8 ounces of dark brown sugar, 1 ½ ounces of dried mixed peel, ¼ grated nutmeg, 12 ounces of apples that have been peeled, cored, and grated and the zest and juice of half a lemon. When all has been incorporated, mix in 2 ½ fluid ounces of brandy. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilized jars. (To sterilise jars, place jars and lids in oven set to 110°C for 35 minutes). This recipe made enough for four big jars. Leave for at least two weeks…

FYI: Mincemeat recipes go back as far as the Fifteenth Century, and pretty much any meat was used for mincemeat - Sixteenth Century recipes use heart or mutton and bone marrow instead of suet. It's probably one of the few surviving Elizabethan dishes still made today.

…to be continued.

#86 Walnut Cake

We all went up to Cumbria to visit Frances and James last weekend. It was also Dean’s birthday, so I thought I’d make a cake. On asking him what cake he’d like, he said ‘anything, as long as it’s not from that bloody book of yours’. Well that’s just lovely, isn’t it? I think he’s expecting brains and gonads in every recipe. After giving many alternative suggestions and turning them down, he eventually went for a walnut cake. Where did I find a recipe? You know! It’s a good cake too, for a walnut cake – the icing is a complete faff though. If you can’t be bothered to do the icing, do butter cream instead.

For the cake:
Cream together 5 ounces of butter with 6 ounces of sugar; beat in 2 beaten eggs, then 8 ounces of sifted self-raising flour, 3 ounces of coarsely chopped walnuts and 4 dessertspoons of milk. Lastly, add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence (or use vanilla sugar instead of normal sugar). Line an 8 inch cake tin, add the mixture and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours at 180°C. Test with a skewer, and when ready turn out onto a cake rack and allow to cool.

For the icing:
A bit tricky this bit…Stir a ¼ of a pint of water and a pound of sugar lumps in a pan under a low heat until the sugar gas dissolved. Raise the heat and add a generous pinch of cream of tartar. Boil the syrup until it has reached the soft-ball stage which is 120°C; easy if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. Alternatively, as it boils, carefully remove a teaspoon-full of syrup and drop it into small cold water. Fish out the blob of sugar, and if it is soft but can form a ball between your fingers, you are done. You mustn’t stir the syrup as it boils; this reduces the temperature, causing the sugar to crystallise, resulting in total disaster. It takes a few minutes, so in the meantime, whisk two egg whites until stiff in an electric mixer, and when the syrup is ready pour it into the egg whites with the electric mixer on full-whack. Keep mixing until it has nearly set and then add a teaspoon of vanilla essence. You should have a lovely smooth meringue icing. Spread this over the cooled cake with a palette knife and decorate with some walnut halves.

It is very important to wait until the icing has nearly set – I didn’t and it went everywhere!

Not a wedding hat, but in fact, a cake.

#86 Walnut Cake – 6.5/10. Certainly an above-average cake as far as walnut cakes go. Not normally a big fan really. I think it may have been nicer with some coffee-flavoured butter cream instead of the posh icing, but that’s just me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

#85 Caramelised Cox's Orange Pippins

I wanted to do a quick and easy dessert for when Paddy came round and didn’t really have time for baking or anything requiring too much time or effort, being the busy bee that I am. (#85) Caramelised Cox’s Orange Pippins fit the bill perfectly; a hot dessert that can be made in 5 minutes. That’s what we like.

I love Cox’s Orange Pippins; they’re my second favourite apple after the russet. You can’t beat an English apple in autumn. I don’t really buy them the rest of the year when they’re not in season and all you can buy are shipped over from France or whatever. I think they’ve had a resurgence over the last couple of years as I’ve spotted both varieties in supermarkets. If you can’t get hold of Cox’s Orange Pippins, I suppose you could use any eating apple, but these are the best eaters for cooking with.

Peel and core one apple per person top and tail them and cut into three thickish rounds. Fry the apples on a low to medium heat in butter until they start picking up a faint golden colour. Whilst that’s happening make some cinnamon sugar; one tablespoon of sugar to one teaspoon of cinnamon. I found that this was enough for two apples, but you put on whatever amount you like. When the apples are ready, sprinkle over the sugar. Keep the apples turning over every 30 seconds or so and you should magically end up with a nice sweet glaze covering them. It’s important not to have the heat too high, so be careful. Serve them immediately with a dollop of clotted cream. Piece of piss!

#85 Caramelised Cox’s Orange Pippins: 8/10. Sweet, sticky, fattening and delicious. Also, it’s one of your five fresh fruit and veg portions for the day. It’s a no-lose situation. Bravo Griggers; you’ve done it again, lady!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

#84 Shepherd's Pie

The second of the classics I’m trying to work through. Spoilt for choice for the next one. Thinking maybe a Lancashire Hotpot. Any suggestions, let me know. Anyways, my old mate Paddy was staying over, and he asked for a Shepherd’s Pie, and a Shepherd’s Pie, he got. According to Grigson, you can use either lamb or beef – I always thought that a Shepherd’s Pie contained lamb and a Cottage Pie had beef. We went for beef on Paddy’s request, as it’s the least fatty. One ingredient I found though – white wine. Never heard of that in a Shepherd’s pie, and I must admit I had reservations.

Chop a large onion and three cloves of garlic and stew them until soft in 3 tablespoons of oil. Raise the heat under the hob and add a pound of minced beef (or lamb), stir until browned. Next add a tablespoon of tomato puree, a ¼ of a pint of white wine, and ¼ of a pint of beef stock, keeping a few tablespoons in reserve. Slake 3 heaped teaspoons of cornflour in the reserved stock and add this to the beef. Season well with salt, and very well with pepper. I don’t understand it when people say that they don’t add salt when they’re cooking; it just all tastes so bland. Plus I don’t add anywhere near as must as the pre-made supermarket meals. Rant over. Simmer this for about 10 minutes and spoon off any surplus fat. Whilst simmering, boil 2 to 2 ½ pounds of potatoes (Grigson says boil them in their skins, but I skim-read the recipe and didn’t spot that sentence and peeled mine). Mash the spuds with 3 ounces of butter and up to ½ pint of milk (depending upon how sloppy you like it). Season the potato well too, readers. Pour the meat into a casserole dish and pile on the potatoes. Run a fork through the top so as to add texture to the spuds and so they crisp up nicely. Sprinkle over an ounce of grated Cheddar and a tablespoon of grated Parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes at 200ºC, and then turn the oven down to 180ºC and bake for a further 45 minutes.


#84 Shepherd’s Pie 8.5/10. The secret ingredient of a Shepherd’s Pie, it seems, is white wine. It enriches the whole thing without making it too rich, as red wine would do. It’s a bit frivolous, I know, but you could swap the wine for more stock if you liked.

Monday, October 20, 2008

#83 Almond Fingers

The almond finger. A Mr Kipling favourite I think. I recently decided, since there is no such thing as a bad cake, that if I am to avoid a severe sugar and carbohydrate addiction that I should never buy a cake again; if I want one, I’ll just have to bloody-well bake one meself. I remember liking these as a student, and my Mum used to make them when I was little, so I thought I’d give Grigger’s recipe a go. Griggers reckons that the difference between the flavour of the commercial ones and the home-made. Also, I was off to my mate Stuarty’s flat, and thought it would be nice to bring round something home-baked. People don’t do that kind of thing these days do they? We had a grand old night playing Guitar Hero and getting sloshed.

The recipe is in two stages: First of all you need to make a sweet pastry for the base. Cream together 4 ounces of softened butter and 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar. Next, beat in an egg, then a tablespoon of lemon juice, and 8 ounces of plain flour. Wrap the pastry in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes if rushed for time, as I was. Roll out the pastry into a lined 7 x 11 inch Swiss roll tin. Don’t worry if it breaks up – sugary pastry always does – just fill in any holes with spare bits. Lastly, spread a thin layer of apricot jam over the pastry and phase one is complete!

Now make the filling: Cream together 5 ounces of softened butter with the same weight of vanilla sugar (make your own), beat in 2 eggs, then a heaped tablespoon of flour, 4 ounces of ground almonds and lastly, 2 tablespoons of dark rum. Spread this evenly over the sweet pastry and sprinkle over 2 ounces of slivered almonds. Bake at 180ºC for 35-40 minutes.

#83 Almond Fingers. 7.5/10. Jane was right; much better than any bought nonsense. The whole remains very moist, almost like a cookie. I feel that I was a bit too tipsy to appreciate it, I hear Stuart was still eating them a couple of days after, so they can’t have been bad.

Friday, October 17, 2008

#82 Toad-in-the-Hole

Very sorry for the recent few weeks being blog-lite. However folks, this doesn’t mean I’ve not been cooking, just been rather busy with work, plus I have become rather a social butterfly of late. Anyways, I have decided to go through the book and do some of the proper classics. So first up is (#82) Toad-in-the-Hole. I do love it. You have to make sure you get decent sausages. I was mant to get mine from the butchers in Levenshulme or Chorlton, but ran out of time as I worked late, and had to go to blinking Asda. However, did find some organic pork sausages in natural casing, which were very good. Didn’t think I’d be recommending Asda on here, bearing in mind their animal-rights record. I cooked it for John, who – shock horror – had never had it before! That’s the Irish for you.

Makes four servings:

First of all make some Yorkshire pudding batter. I usually do this by eye, but followed Grigger’s measurements which do turn out well. Mix 8 ounces of plain flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and break 3 eggs into it. Make up a pint of half-milk, half-water and add about a third of it to the flour and eggs. Whisk this into a thick paste – adding only some of the liquid at the beginning should prevent lumps. Keep adding the liquid until the batter is the consistency of double cream. Leave to rest.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220ºC and then brown a pound of sausages in an ounce of lard in a frying pan; you’re not cooking them through, just getting two decent brown stripes along their lengths. Strain the fat into a large roasting pan and pour a thin layer of batter and bake in the oven until set – about 5 minutes. Place the sausages on top of the set batter and pour over the rest. Bake for 35 minutes. The batter should rise up and be a nice golden brown. Serve with some veg and onion gravy.

#82 Toad-in-the-Hole: 9/10. I love this kind of food. Can’t go wrong with this kind of food. If for some reason you have never had it before, simply go and make it right now. You have a recipe. It’s very easy. The only thing I ask is that you buy good sausages and make onion gravy to go with it, otherwise it’s just not the same.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

#81 Northumbrian Wholemeal Scones

Another venture into yeast cookery. This one uses fresh yeast; a new one on me. It’s much better than the dried stuff. Also, I have a giant bag of stone-ground flour left over from Doris Grant’s Loaf the other month, and what with the credit crunch and the whole of the Western World going into liquidisation, it’s best I try to be a bit frugal. Also, I have finished the no carb diet I was on, and so the other reason I went for this recipe is that it uses proper organic brown flour with all the bits and wheatgerm and everything inside, and that must be better than white bread. In fact, my house is a white carb-free zone from now on (unless it’s in a recipe for the blog, natch). Oh, I bought the yeast from the Barbakan deli in Chorlton – an excellent bakery, probably the best in Manchester - for only 20p per 100 grams. I thought I may as well use what the best use. I hear that supermarkets with bakeries within will give you it for free.

I have no idea what make these scones particularly Northumbrian. Ideas anyone?

Here’s what to do…

Makes about 12 scones.

Mix 1 ½ pounds of stone-ground wholemeal flour with a teaspoon of salt, rub in 2 ounces of chilled lard (I used hands here rather than the mixer for a change) and make a well in the middle. Mix ¼ pint of milk with ¼ pint of boiling water and pour about a teacup full of it into dish or small bowl and stir in a tablespoon of golden syrup. Fork in an ounce of fresh yeast into the syrup mixture and allow it to froth up. This is much quicker than the dried stuff, it took only 10 minutes in my cold kitchen! Tip it into the flour along with the rest of the water-milk mixture. Be careful though, don’t add it all at once; you need a ‘soft but not sloppy dough’ says Griggers. I actually needed a little more. Put some clingfilm over the top of the bowl so it doesn’t dry out and let the Sacchromyces do its work until the dough as doubled in size. Roll out the dough, keeping it fairly thick, and cut out rounds with a scone cutter. Place scones on a baking tray, cover again and allow to prove. When they’ve risen again, brush them with milk and bake for 15-20 minutes at 220ºC.

#81 Northumbrian Wholemeal Scones – 7/10. Griggers suggests eating them hot with butter and honey. And so right she is. Bloody marvellous. They are just as good as normal scones. They’re not sweet, but a lovely malty flavour instead. I also had some the next day for a quick tea – split two and grilled them with cheese on. I’ve frozen the rest to keep me in a constant supply.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

#80 Oxtail Soup

My favourite soup; at least when it comes to tinned Heinz variety. I have made it before, but it was quite an elaborate recipe with loads of ingredients. This one is more basic. It is very tasty, but heed Jane’s advice: don’t buy a skinny little oxtail. I asked for the biggest one they had. However, if you are not reasonably surprised by the size of your butcher’s oxtail, err on the side of caution and buy two. I didn’t do that, and so the flavour was perhaps not as rich as it could have been. It was remedied however, by adding some of that beef stock concentrate, but I did feel like a bit of a cheat! Ask the butcher to chop up the tail and trim the fat off.

I got the oxtails from W H Frost in Chorlton – a very good butcher. I chatted to the man briefly and he mentioned that he could pretty much get anything I want in as long as I order it in plenty of time. Good man! The butcher in Levenshulme is good for the basics, but it’s nice to see there’s somewhere I can get the weird and (not so) wonderful stuff.

I would recommend to giving it a try. If you’re not used to strange cuts or offal, then this is the place to start. It’s not particularly gory and the meat is pleasantly beefy. However, you need to start it the day before you want to eat it.

From this.... this!

The day before:
Start off by removing any surplus fat from the tail that the butcher didn’t quite get rid of. Chop three stalks of celery, stud an onion with three cloves and slice a small turnip and a carrot. Next, melt 2 ounces of butter in a large pan and brown the meat and vegetables. This takes about 10 minutes as there’s quite a lot of stuff in the pan. Don’t be coy; have the heat quite high, as you don’t want the vegetables to stew. Give a stir now and again. Meanwhile make a bouquet garni – I used 2 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme some parsley stalk (all fresh, but kept in the freezer). When sufficiently browned, add the bouquet along with 4 pints of water and a teaspoon of peppercorns and season with salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently until the meat is coming away from the bones. This took around four hours. Strain the beefy stock you have created into a bowl and allow to cool. You can discard the veg, but I ate them! The final job is to pick the meat from the bones and plop the meaty chunks back into the soup. Refrigerate the soup over night.

On the day:
Much easier! You’ve done the hard work. Using a spoon, skim off the fat that has risen to the surface and solidified. Reheat the soup to simmering point and add 5 tablespoons of port. This makes all the difference. Don’t dare miss it out. Check the seasoning, you can be pretty bold I reckon. If it is not beefy enough, cheat as I did and add a small amount of stock concentrate.

#80 Oxtail Soup – 7.5/10. Even though I cheated, it is still a beautiful soup. The simple combination of a well-flavoured stock, chunky beef and the sweet port wine is addictive!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

#79 Carrot and Hazelnut Cake

Right. I promise that October shall be much more eventful in the world of The Grigson than September. It was my turn to do the cake for Evolution Group at University, so I’ve been given a good kick up the arse.

A favourite of the group is carrot cake, and there is a recipe in English Food – though it’s very different to the American carrot cake. It’s made without using fat, like a Genoese spoge to make it light and has the added bonus of having hazelnuts in it. Couldn’t resist not sandwiching it with American-style cream cheese filling.

FYI: Carrots have been used for desserts quite a lot in England. Mrs. Beeton had a sweet, chewy carrot tart in her book; it was revived as mock apricot tart during rationing in the Second World War, if I remember rightly (not that I was in WWII, you understand).

Separate four eggs and add to the yolks to the bowl of a food mixer along with 4 ounces of caster sugar. Whisk them together until pale and frothy. This takes a while so meanwhile finely grate 4 ounces of carrots and blitz 2 ounces of toasted hazelnuts in a food processor (or, heaven-forbid, chop them by hand!). Fold these into the eggy mixture along with 4 ounces of sifted, plain flour. Next, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slaken the mixture by stirring in a third of the whites and then fold in the rest. Spoon the mixture into two greased and papered 9 inch cake tins and bake at 190ºC for anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes. They’re ready when the sponge springs back pressed lightly. Cool on wire racks.

To make the filling, beat together 8 ounces of full-fat soft cheese with 5 ounces of softened unsalted butter, once incorporated, beat in 4 tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Use this to sandwich the cakes together. Dust the whole thing with icing sugar, if you please.

#79 Carrot and Hazelnut Cake - 8/10. A success. Every seemed to like it. Much less dense than a typical carrot cake. I could only have a tiny wee sliver since I’m meant to be on a carb-free week this week, but I had to taste it for the blog, didn’t I!?

Monday, September 22, 2008

One year (and a bit) young...

Just having a little look at the blog and realised I missed the 1st anniversary of Neil Cooks Grigson! What a complete pillock!! Looking back, the 1st entry was written on September 11th; how could I forget that.

That said, I'm very pleased that I've managed to keep it up this long. I'm still very eager to keep ploughing through them and very happy that so many people seem to be looking at the blog - whod've thunk it!? I'm glad I was talked into it. So cheers to everyone who's taken part, cheers for reading and cheers to everyone who has commented thus far. Year 2 will be better, I feel!

All I need to do is get off my lilly-white ass and get cooking somthing; maybe I'll do something tonight..?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

#78 Doris Grant's Loaf

I was “working from home” the other day and therefore needed to procrastinate heavily; been making a poster for the Faculty of Life Science Research Symposium and though there’d be fewer distractions at home where there’s the internet, telly and the kitchen. I thought I’d have another stab at bread recipe and the last one was very nice, but I rushed it rather. Then I remembered Doris Grant’s Loaf – I had bought some stone-ground wholemeal flour specifically for the recipe, but had totally forgotten about it. I’m trying to get fit at the moment and so trying to cut down on white carbs, so this one was right up my street, plus Griggers says that as long as you can read and measure you can make this bread as it requires no kneading. I’m not too sure about that, but it is easy and certainly a welcome change.

Add 1 ½ level tablespoons of dried yeast to 1 ½ rounded teaspoons of dark Barbados sugar (you can use honey, but I like burnt liquorice taste you get off molasses) and whisk in 1 ½ tablespoons of blood-heat water in a small bowl. Leave yeast to active and foam, which takes 20-30 minutes. I found that placing the bowl in a larger one filled with warm water sped the whole process up. While that’s happening weight out 1 ½ pounds of stone-ground wholemeal flour into a large bowl and mix in a teaspoon of salt. If (like me) you don’t have somewhere warm like an airing-cupboard, but the flour in an over at the lowest temperature possible and let it warm through. When the yeast is ready, make a well in the flour and pour in the frothy mixture and slowly pour in one pint of blood-heat water, mixing thoroughly with your hands (no need for mixers, here!). The dough should be quite sticky, though you may find you don’t need all the water. Split the mixture between a large and a small loaf tin that have been greased and allow the dough to rise for about 45 minutes (I put it back in the still-warm oven). Bake for 40 minutes at 200°C.

FYI: Doris Grant was a very popular post-war cook and suggested this recipe as an alternative to the ‘national loaf’, which I can imagine flaccid and tasteless (though probably no way near as bad as our standard supermarket loaves these days).

#78 Doris Grant’s Loaf – 8/10. On my first slice, I thought I’d messed it up as it is not a light fluffy loaf, but quite heavy and mealy like soda bread. After another slice, I was hooked, and managed to eat most it to myself! Griggers suggests slicing it thinly with smoked salmon, but I’m not really a fan, so I had butter, farmhouse Cheddar and chilli jam. Go out and make this!!

A New Venture?

Well, well, well, it HAS been a while hasn’t it!? I cannot apologise enough readers, but I have had what can only be described as ‘personal problems’ of late and therefore not been blogging, or indeed cooking. Neil Cooks Grigson is not the place to talk about them however, sufficed to stay I shall be doing many more meals for one…

Anyway, in order to do some of the more interesting and challenging dishes in the book, I have decided on a new venture: The Grigson Kitchen. The idea being I make a nice two or three course meal for a few friends at least once a month and we all go Dutch on the bill. What do we think readers? A good idea? I’m going to start with Lee, Evelyn and her chap Ed. Evelyn is, however, extremely picky about her food, but had kindly picked out several recipes she likes the sound of. I think I am going to start off by doing some salt beef from scratch – I managed to find a seller of saltpetre on ebay which is probably cut with rat poison or something, but we’ll see. It does, however, take a month to pickle/brine/cure/whatever the right adjective is, so I need to do something else in the mean time.

One of the meals, I think, should be offal-based. So if you are in Manchester and fancy a meal that is slightly bizarre drop me a message; I’m hardly going to roast marrow bones for myself now am I?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

#77 Baked Semolina Pudding

Semolina pudding is probably what most people think of when looking back at the school dinners they detested. I don’t know why people hate it so much – I love it. I almost lived off it as an undergraduate. Griggers herself detested it. It’s all very odd. Anyway, I needed a cheap pudding to go with the cheap dinner – all I had to buy was semolina and milk, everything else I had in. Scanning the recipe, I realise why Griggers liked her recipe; it’s nothing like a normal semolina pudding at all! It is for this reason that you should try it. If you normally hate it, you’ll like this version; it’s more like a soufflé. Weird.

Start by measuring out 1 ½ pints of milk, and use a little of it to mix into 2 ounces of semolina so that a paste is formed. Bring the rest of the milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and a split vanilla pod slowly to the boil. When boiling, tip in the milk and whisk vigorously to avoid any lumps and return to the pan to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Take it off the heat and stir in two egg yolks and then fold in two stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour the whole lot into a buttered ovenproof dish (leave the vanilla pod in) and bake at 190°C for 15-20 minutes until the pudding has set and it had gone brown on top.

FYI: Semolina means ‘part-milled’ in Italian as it is produced from the partly ground Durum wheat the Italians use to make pasta.

#77 Baked Semolina Pudding - 5.5/10. I liked the dessert; an odd mix of traditional semolina pud and, as I said, a soufflé. The only problem I had with it, is that it wasn’t sweet enough – 2 tablespoons ain’t enough, Sister. I think I would add an extra tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle some on top too for good measure.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

#76 Teisen Nionod (Welsh Onion Cake)

If you are on a budget, this dish is certainly for you - it contains, basically, onions, potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. There are variations on the dish that include other ingredients, but essentially that’s it. Don’t be put off by it, it’s very tasty indeed and hearty too if you serve it with bread or roast meat. Greg and Joff were coming round so I thought it was a fine reason to do some recipes. This one is very much like the Pan Aggie/Haggerty that I made ages ago. I’ll give the version I did, but supply you with the additional bits and bobs you can add.

Start off by slicing 2 pounds of peeled potatoes with a food processor or mandolin. Put the slices in a bowl of cold water to rinse the starchiness away and dry them on a clean tea-towel. Next, slice a pound of onions into thin rings, do this by hand though as they cook quicker than potatoes and don’t need to be super-thin. Grease and line a baking dish with foil (if you want to turn out the ‘cake’ at the end), and start layering the potato followed by the onions. Season and add small pats of butter between each layer, repeat as many times as possible, but make sure you finish with a layer of potato; all-in-all aim to use 3 to 4 ounces of butter. Then, melt a final ounce of butter and pour it over. This is the basic dish, but I added a small (150ml) pot of cream and six tablespoons of water to it so that it was a sort of potato Dauphiniose. Cover with another layer of foil and bake for 1 ½ hours at 180°C, removing the foil in the last half hour, so the potatoes crisp up. Turn out onto a large serving dish if you like, and serve with bread.

You could add a quarter of a pint of beef stock instead of cream. Pickles go very well with it if you are not using cream in the dish. You could even place a small joint of lamb on top of the vegetables – though add only a little stock and use only the melted butter. Skim off any excess fat before serving it up.

#76 Teisen Nionod (Welsh Onion Cake) – 8/10. This is definitely one the best dishes so far. It’s easy and cheap and delicious. There are many variation of this dish it seems – Tyneside, Wales and Yorkshire all have their variation on essentially the same recipe – and each time I cook them I’m always surprise how tasty they are. Go and cook it – plus, with the credit crunch and all, you'll be doing your bank balance a favour!

Monday, September 1, 2008

#75 Lockets Savoury

Now that it is late summer many English orchard fruits are at their best. This recipe uses pears, and it’s very important to use good ripe ones; if you do buy those rock hard types that can be used as blunt weapons, just let them ripen on a sunny windowsill. I don’t really eat that many pears, and certainly don’t cook with them often; I’m not sure why because I really like their sweet aromatic flavour. If you are like me and haven’t cooked with pears, then start with this one as it’s very simple yet effective - basically pears and Stilton cheese on toast. Why it is called Lockets Savoury I have no idea.

This recipe is for one person, so just multiply up depending on how many you need:

Start by toasting two slices of white bread and cutting off the crusts. Place the toast in a baking dish. Rinse some water cress and place it over the toast in a good layer. Peel, core and thinly sliced a pear (I used Comice) and place the slices on top of the watercress – no need to be neat! Finally thinly slice 2 ounces of Stilton cheese and place it evenly over the slices. Bake for 10 minutes at 175°C, and grate plenty of black pepper on top before serving.

#75 Lockets Savoury – 6.5/10. A delicious and quick dinner or tea. Warming the pars makes them even more aromatic and sweet than usual, which contrasts beautifully with the Stilton, plus the toast and watercress remain intact and don’t go soggy. However, I wonder how much better it is than just some pears, Stilton, salad and some good biscuits. There’s not much in it I reckon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Trip to Anglesey

Off we went: me, Greg, Joff, Charlotte, Kate and Pete to Newborough in Anglesey, Wales. I’d never been and was looking forward to it; Charlotte had just got back from Australia and it was her birthday. I idea was to have a picnic on the beach, and it was up to me to bake a cake. It wasn’t a Grigson however, but a milk chocolate cake, a Buttery family favourite from my Mum’s Be-Ro book (a staple for anyone’s recipe book shelf in my opinion). The day started out rainy and miserable, but as promised, Newborough has it’s own microclimate and we were sunbathing and swimming in the sea, with rather severe burning of the face and corned-beefing of the legs.

I did get a chance however to redo the Cornish pasties. This time they turned out much better; it seems I was correct in my review, you need to incorporate the lard very slowly into the flour. In fact, I made it in two half-sized batches just to be on the safe side. The pastry was delicious and was very different to a normal butter or half-butter-half-lard pastry. I’m not quite sure why – it just had a more appropriate flavour. It’s difficult to describe, I suppose it’s like comparing chips cooked dripping to those cooked in vegetable oil: you can’t taste beef dripping, but they taste so much better.

Because of these revelations, the pasties are being promoted from a score of 2/10 to 7/10.

FYI: there is much debate as to how the word pasty should be pronounced. Should it be with a long ‘a’ or a short? Griggers reckons a long ‘a’ since Cornish pasties come from ‘Down South’, but I think it should be short as it makes them sound more homely. Rick Stein agrees, apparently.

#74 Vanilla Ice Cream with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits

Real vanilla ice-cream, a port-spiked plum sauce and a crunchy caramel oat biscuit; this is a dessert to impress. You could, of course, make any of the things separately as they are all good. In fact, you make much more of the sauce than you need, so freeze what is left for the next time you make ice cream. Make sure you have to the whole day to make it, or start it the previous day, which is what I did. The whole reason I made this was that I saw some lovely plums in the grocers window and remembered seeing this recipe, thinking I’d never get round to it, since plums in this country are usually a bit insipid. If you see some nice ones, make this dessert, people.

You can make any of the three elements in any order.

The vanilla ice-cream
Boil half a pint of milk or single cream (however, see review bit, below) along with a split vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out. Pour gradually onto 2 egg yolks, a whole egg and 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar, whisking all the way. Then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and heat gently until it thickens slightly. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat too high as you’ll get scrambled eggs. Pour the whole lot through a sieve and back into the bowl. You don’t have to sieve it, but it will remove any scrambled egg bits, should there be any. Fish out the vanilla pod; you can wash and dry it and use it again later (I keep mine in a jar of sugar, in case a recipe asks for vanilla sugar). Cover with cling-film and allow to cool.

When cold, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and when about half frozen, add half a pint of whipped double cram. Keep churning in the mixer until stiff enough to scoop into a tub and freeze. Make sure that you bring the ice cream out of the freezer at least half an hour before you want to serve it.

The lace biscuits
These are quite tricky customers. You can make them big or small, but the bigger they are, the more difficult they are to handle. I did big ones which looked great, but were a total nightmare. There was a small amount of swearing involved, so I recommend not to make them with children present.

Before you start making them, grease two baking sheets and a rolling pin, and set your oven to 180°C. Next, gently melt 2 ½ ounces of butter and take it off the heat. Mix in2 ½ ounces of rolled porridge oats, 4 ounces of caster sugar and a teaspoon each of flour and baking powder, then beat in the egg. Using a dessert spoon, drop blobs of the mixture at least 2 inches apart from each other as they do spread out rather a lot. The more generous you are with your spoons the bigger the biscuits will be. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown.

This is the tricky bit: Using a palette knife, remove the still-soft biscuits from the baking tray and drape over the rolling pin. Wait about 30 seconds for it to solidify a little and transfer to a wire rack to cool properly. Hey presto, a posh curly biscuit! Repeat with all the biscuits. If they start getting to hard again, just put them back in the oven to soften up.

The plum sauce
De-stone and slice 1 ½ pounds of ripe plums and gently heat with a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Make sure the fruit doesn’t stick. Meanwhile make a caramel. I’d never done this before, but it was a piece of piss, so don’t be scared. Stir 8 ounces of sugar in 5 tablespoons of water very gently over a low heat. When dissolved, stop stirring and bring it to the boil. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes until it’s a lovely dark caramel colour. Whilst it’s boiling, liquidise and sieve the stewed plums. When the caramel is ready, take off the heat and very gradually add 6 tablespoons of cold water by stirring. Be very careful here – if you add too much, it will spit on you. I cannot be responsible for any injuries! When fully incorporated, return to the heat to dissolve any lumps and stir in the plums. When cool, add a slosh of port; I’ll leave the amounts to you, as it depends on taste, though I put in around 4 tablespoons.

To present: Place one or two scoops of ice cream onto a biscuit and pour over the sauce.

#74 Vanilla Ice with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits – 9/10. A brilliant dessert! Everything works together perfectly. One of the best things about this dish is the real restaurant-quality feel you get about it. All the other desserts, even the ones that are a bit posh, are no way near as impressive as this. I made the ice cream with milk instead of cream, and it didn’t have the silky texture it had when I made the ginger ice cream (it’s exactly the same recipe, except for the flavourings). If I’d one it with cream, I think it would’ve been a 10!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#73 Lady Shaftesbury's Toasted Cheese

I thought that I’d completely run out of vegetarian recipes until I spotted a whole section in the ‘Cheese and Egg Dishes’ chapter of English Food. This is a dish that I know was popular in Victorian/Edwardian times in Gentleman’s Clubs and the like; it’s essentially a rarebit, but ‘deconstructed’, as trendy chefs would say nowadays. You get a pot of melted cheese and toast soldiers to dip in it. Be warned: this dish comes with a warning from Jane Grigson herself, ‘The quantities seem tiny, but this kind of dish should be eaten in small quantities; unless your family have stomachs of iron, toasted cheese can cause indigestion and nightmares.’ Whatever Griggers. The recipe is supposed to serve 6, but me, Greg and Joff ate the lot.

I do have to warn you, you DO get nightmares: I had totally trippy repetitive dreams all night and hardly got a wink of sleep, and Greg said he had nightmares and anxiety dreams, yet I heard him laughing in his sleep! Weird. I think I’ll conduct a scientific experiment in the future – there’s about six more of this kind of recipe; I’ll get people round, we’ll eat them all, score them, and then keep a dream diary. Thus proving the old wives’ tale as rock-solid fact!

Anyway, here’s the recipe. Divide it between however many people you want. Monitor your dream s though! And don’t eat if prone to sleepwalking.

In a saucepan, gently melt 2 ounces of butter, then, keeping the heat quite low, mix in 7 ounces of good grated Farmhouse Cheddar cheese, 6 tablespoons of cream, 2 large egg yolks, plus salt and pepper. Whilst stirring, get the grill nice and hot and toast a slice of brown bread, which should be buttered afterwards and cut into soldiers. When all the cheese has melted into a thick gloop, pour into ramekins and grill until the tops are browned. Serve immediately with the toast.

#73 Lady Shaftesbury’s Toasted Cheese: 8/10. Really delicious and simple to do. Although, by Jane’s standard, we have iron stomachs, a third is still only a little bit, but and is definitely enough to fill you up. I daren’t work out the amount of calories and saturated fat in this. Oh well, I’ll double my efforts at the gym.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

#72 Madeira Cake

I made a Madeira cake because it seemed refined – one should drink a glass of Madeira wine with it as one reclines for a mid-morning treat, apparently. It’s basically a slightly lemony sponge cake and is pretty D.R.Y., hence the excuse of drinking wine with, I expect. I’d only had it with a cup of tea, but either is pretty good. Drinking cake with wine is very much a nineteenth century idea, partaken by middle-class ladies, the cake itself has nothing directly to do with the island.

Cream 6 ounces of butter and the same of sugar until light and fluffy. Sift 9 ounces of flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder into a separate bowl. Next, stir in 4 large eggs one at time, adding a small amount of flour between each egg to avoid them splitting the mixture. Once incorporated, stir in the rest of the flour and the grated rind of half a lemon. Pour the mixture into a lined or greased 8 inch cake tin. Bake at 180°C for anywhere between 50 minutes and 1 ½ hours, depending on your oven’s idiosyncrasies (I’m still getting used to mine). Half-way through the cooking time, place two strips of lemon zest on the centre of the cake. To test if it’s cooked, stab it with a skewer. When it’s ready let it cool for about 10 minutes before tuning out onto a wire rack.

#72 Madeira Cake – 7/10. I really liked this cake. I usually prefer something with a bit of cream or icing, but in combination with the sweet Madeira wine, it is really lovely. How refined!

#71 Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste

Next up for the picnic – Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste. A perfect thing to take out on trips etc., reckons the Grigson; and she is correct! Looking at the recipe, I though it was a bit of a faff to prepare, when you could just have a cheese and tomato buttie. Jane suggests using bridge rolls – I have no idea what they are, but small baguettes seem to do the same job.

Greg sneaking in sarnie before dinner

For six: Slice 6 small baguettes in half longways and scoop out as much of the bread from inside as possible without creating any holes in the bread; breadcrumb the scooped-out bread in a food processor. Next, chop a small onion very finely, and soften gently in 2 ounces of butter. Chop up three skinned tomatoes and add to the mixture – you may want to add a tablespoon of tomato puree and some sugar at this point, unless you grow your own tomatoes, or live in Spain. Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes, until all is quite thick. Whisk in the egg and keep stirring until the sauce thickens even more – don’t let it boil or the eggs will scramble. Take off the heat and stir in 2 ounces of grated Cheddar cheese, and the breadcrumbs – don’t add them all at once, you may not need them all. Season with salt and pepper and stir in a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Fill the rolls with the paste along with a layer of something green – lettuce, watercress, or whatever.


#71 Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste – 6.5/10. They are certainly bizarre but very good, at first I wasn’t sure if I liked them, but as I scoffed away as I walked about, I decided that I did. Though I’m not sure if a ‘normal’ cheese and tomato sarnie is better. They went oddly well with lagers that Jono brought along.