Monday, March 31, 2008

#40 Elizabeth Raffald's Orange Custards

I knew that we'd be hungover on Saturday after a big drinking session on Canal Street, so I knew I'd have to choose a recipe for a dessert I could prepare ahead for the meal we were having at Greg sister's boyfriend's in the evening. I wanted to do a sticky toffee pudding really, but it would have to have been cooked there. I went for (#40) Elizabeth Raffald's Orange Custards as I had a couple of Seville oranges in, and it would be a shame not to use them. It was a bit of a risk however, as custards are either loved or hated. I realise that they don't look that nice on the picture, but they were very good.

They were easy to prepare: In a blender the juice of one Seville orange, the blanched peel of half of said orange, granulated sugar, a splash of Cointreau (which I happened to have in! Get me!) and six large egg yolks were all whizzed up until the peel was just tiny specks. I then boiled half a pint of double and half a pint of single cream and slowly pored this into the whirring mixture. Pour the whole thing into eight ramekins and bake in a bain Marie for half an hour in a cool to moderate oven.

All would have gone well if my stupid oven hadn't conked out! I got it sorted in the end though. I cannot wait to get my new oven in. My partly-done kitchen is getting pretty depressing now. My stuff is still in the lounge in boxes and bags...

Anyways, enough whingeing...

FYI: Elizabeth Raffald did many things in her short 18 year career (she started aged 14, but died at 32). She wrote the first English cookbook (The Experienced English Housekeeper), was the landlady of two inns, including the King's Head pub in Salford, ran two shops, ran the first domestic servant's employment agency, organised the first street and trade directory in Manchester as well as two newspapers as an eminence rose (not sure what that means, anyone know?) and had fifteen daughters! I think I might try and get hold of a copy of her book...

#40 Elizabeth Raffald's Orange Custards - 8/10. Surprisingly orangey bearing in mind the fact you only need one to make eight. The Seville orange makes your tongue go all tingly - they really are superior to normal oranges when cooking.

Friday, March 28, 2008

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce

On a visit to the Arndale Market earlier in the week on mission to buy something meaty, I found rather slim pickings! Maybe is was because I went the day after Easter Sunday, but there was little fish that appears in the Grigson's book, and the game stall looked as though it may have closed down! I do hope not. Due to the lack of exciting ingredients, I plumped for old faithful: Finny haddock - or Finnan haddock as it appears it is really called.

It was quite an easy dish to prepare. The fish was poached gently in milk for 10 minutes that had already been brought to the boil containing cloves, bay leaf, a sliced carrot and a sliced onion. The fish was removed and kept warm. The milk was strained and used to make the sauce. The Grigson says to start with a roux of butter and flour and then to add the milk until a thin sauce is produced, which is then reduced. Be warned though, adding hot milk to a hot roux can cause lumps - use a whisk, but be prepared to sieve out any that shouls appear. Dijon mustard and seasoning was then added and poured over the fish. The whole thing was served with boiled potatoes turned in butter and parsley.

FYI: Finnan haddock, or haddie, originally comes from the Scottish village of Finnan near Aberdeen. Its IUCN conservation status is Vulnerable. However, stocks have been recently reported as increasing once more.

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce - 8/10. I absolutely love Finny haddock, so I couldn't go wrong with this one. I was a bit stingy on the mustard though - add more than you think is needed I'd say.

#38 Broad Bean Soup

After spotting the broad beans in Unicorn, I made (#38) Broad Bean Soup. A simple affair: soften an onion in butter, add water, a little chopped parsley, the beans, salt, pepper, and a little sugar and simmer until cooked. Then liquidise in a blender and add a few tablespoons of cream. Serve with a crouton!

This was a lovely fresh tasting soup - it's certainly letting me know that Spring has arrived; even though the weather outside is AWFUL! I normally make soups with stock and thought that it would be quite bland. The best thing about it, however was the fact I could serve the soup up in the new le Creuset mini soup terrines that I bought...

FYI: the broad bean, or fava bean, is native to Africa and Northwest Asia, but has been cultivated in Europe since around the Sixth Century BC. Also, raw broad beans contain vicine, which can induce haemolytic anaemia in patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase phosphate deficiency. So do say I didn't warn you!

#38 Broad Bean Soup: 6.5/10. A lovely fresh soup, but I prefer more substantial soups, however it would be great as a first course.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#20 - Quince Vodka (Part 2)

The quince vodka, now named "Quodka" has now been officially drunk, as were we after drinking it. We tried it with apple juice, but was too overpowering; but then we had it with tonic and it was lovely! I'm usually not a big fan of tonic water in drinks, but the sweet, subtle perfumed quince made it a very delicious drink. In fact, it may have been too delicious as we all necked it pretty quick - much quicker than if it was a strong normal voddie. Anyways, we all got even more pissed out in Manchester at Bollox, which by the way is totally brilliant!
#20 Quince vodka - a healthy 7/10. It was very nice and I shall make some if I have any spare next year

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

#37 Ginger Ice Cream

Oh my god! Everybody has to go out and buy and iced cream maker right this instant! I made (#37) Ginger Ice Cream as a pud to eat after a super-hot Thai red curry. It was super-easy to do and tasted gorgeous! No bought stuff can compare, even the posh bought stuff. You use the stem ginger in syrup to flavour it. All you do is make a custard with cream, 2 egg yolks and an egg, add ginger syrup and churn. Then add loads of chopped stem ginger and lightly whipped double cream after 10 minutes or so. When it's finished churning, eat straight away for soft ice cream or freeze in a tub and eat whenever!

FYI: Ices were invented by the Greeks in the fifth century BC, who added fruit juice and honey to crushed ice. The Romans made iced wines. All the ice had to be either imported or collected from frozen lakes in the winter and stored in ice houses, as apparently Thomas Jefferson did. It was in tenth century Baghdad where ices that included milk and cream were made commercially. In terms of English food, the first ice cream recipe appears in the 1751 Hannah Glass book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy - a favorite book of Jane Grigson's - for raspberry ice cream.

These days there's loads of posh creamy ice creams these days and the cheap ones are OK compared to the cheap stuff when I was a lad. I'm sure I read a few years back that in the seventies and eighties, the really cheap stuff, like the ice cream you'd get for a dessert in your school dinner contained whipped lard and other animal fats. Does anyone else know of this? I may have dreamt it!

#37 Ginger Ice Cream. 9/10 - I love ice cream and I love ginger! Perhaps there are better ones out there, but I think that home-made ice cream cannot be less than an 8 anyways.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vegetable Soup

This is my vegetable soup, which I admit is pretty good. I always make a great load of it and freeze what I don't eat. It's very good for you, easy to make and pretty substantial for a soup containing no big meaty bits! The Grigson also does one that contains lots of meat! I must admit I make mine with chicken stock, but I also make it with vegetable stock and it's almost as good. It difficult to stick to an exact recipe, because it throw in whatever I have, plus the time of year has a great effect. I think that there are certain ingredients that are a must, however, such as potato, onion, garlic, carrot, i.e. basic stock vegetables. That said if you miss a couple out it's also fine. I would say try and use as many of them as possible. All should be clear in the recipe. The rest of the vegetables can then be added at the appropriate time - roots straight after the stock has come to a simmer, and greens towards the end. The choice of herbs is your own, but I like the classics - thyme, parsley, pepper and mint. Any stalks and leaves you don't use, freeze. I freeze all my fresh herbs and spices - chillies, herbs, ginger, etc etc...

I think that some protein is required so I always add some red lentils, which thicken the soup slightly, and a can of beans - any will do, use your favourite.

For some tips on what to put in your bouquet garni, have a look at I find that those little bags you get with washing tablets work quite well!

You will need:
2 tbs olive oil, or butter
bouquet garni - made from a very generous sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, mint stalks
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs of red lentils
salt and pepper

As many of the following basic vegetables as possible:
1 onion, chopped
1 medium-sized potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 sticks celery, diced
1 leek, sliced - use as much of the green parts as possible. Slice it finely though as it can be tough

2 or 3 root veg, diced appropriately, as some take longer to cook than others e.g. turnips, a small swede, parsnip
1 or 2 greens, thinly sliced e.g. 1/4 white cabbage, kale, peas (don't slice those, obv.!)
1 can of cooked beans
2 tbs each parsley and mint
more salt and pepper, if required

What to do:
  1. Fry the stock vegetables in the oil gently for a few minutes, when they start to soften, season and add the bouquet garni. (Tie the herbs with a piece of string, or put in a muslin bag). Continue to fry for about 10 minutes - don't let the vegetables colour, though.
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil, add the lentils, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the root vegetables and simmer until tender - around 15 minutes.
  4. Add the greens, beans and herbs and allow to simmers for 5 more minutes.
  5. Removed the bouquet garni and check the seasoning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's pretty easy, but requires a little care and attention - it's the slow-cooking of the onions and mushrooms that make this dish. It's based on a dish that an Italian chap called Luigi gave my Mum. I'm sure it's got an exciting Italian name, though I've no idea what it would be. It's originally made with chicken, mushrooms and cream, but I've faffed about with it. I do put chicken in it from time to time, but as mushrooms are one of my favorites, I've ended making this meal my mushroom fix. Use the best mushrooms you can find - my favorite are the dark-gilled Portobello mushrooms - they give a good earthy taste. I've also changed the double cream of the original recipe to creme fraiche, as it gives a slight piquant zing, that compliments the sweet, slightly chewy caramelised onions very well.

You will need:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 tbs good olive oil
8oz (250g) mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or half a generous tsp of dried (oregano could be used instead)
around 5 tbs of creme fraiche (or double cream)
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
whole wheat pasta

What to do:
  1. Fry the onions in the oil on a medium heat along with the thyme in a large, heavy frying pan. Cook the onions gently - don't let them change colour yet.
  2. After 8-10 minutes, add the garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The idea here is that the slow frying evaporated all the moisture away allowing the onions to caramelise. The more time you spend over this the better. Take at least 15 minutes, ten minimum. You should end up with unctuous oily mushroom, and flecks of sweet, chewy onion.
  3. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, boil the pasta in salted water in the largest saucepan you have - the pasta will be less gluey from escaped starch and will cook quicker.
  4. Stir in the creme fraiche a tablespoon at a time until all the olive oil is incorporated into it.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the mixture and stir through.
  6. Serve in large bowls.

Stocking Up, #36

Popped to Chorlton yesterday in the hope of buying some exciting things from Unicorn etc. and wasn't disappointed! Seville oranges are still in season - get making marmalade peeps - and broad bean have come in. Will make some nice desserts and soups. I'm looking forward to seeing how the new seasonal produce changes over the coming months. Also got hold of the ingredients for bread-making. I was hoping to do hot cross buns, but I think they may be a bit advanced so I'm starting at the start of the bread section in Ms. Grigson's book. Also, I'm going to try my hand at ice cream making this week, now that my ice-cream maker is fixed. Hurrah! I also need to get my finger out re: meats. Need to get hold of a veal knuckle. Any ideas anyone? W H Frost in Didsbury sells veal, but has run out of said knuckle! Also I have prepared (#36) Vanilla sugar. It simply involved putting four vanilla pods and a bag of caster sugar in a storage jar. I just need to do a recipe with it in. I also hear that a teaspoon of vanilla sugar in warm milk is nice as a bedtime drink. I also need to add my own recipes that I've been doing; haven't done that in a while...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#34 Black Pudding, #35 White Pudding...

Ok, I know I didn't slave over a hot bucket of pig's blood and offal to make this stuff, but it great food and the Grigson does make a point of mentioning where to buy good puddings and how they should be eaten. Bury, in Alongshore, UK is the best place to get them (and it's where I got mine). They are made in horseshoe shapes and are not as firm as those in long sausages that you slice, which I think is very important. They are also in 'natural casing', i.e. intestine. You don't eat the casing, but I think it's much better this way - there is less waste, and I'm all up for that. People should eat more offal. Of what I've eaten, it's really tasty. It's also very low in fat and very high in nutrients. I think that calves' liver is as nice as steak. Anyway for those that are not aware, black pudding is made from pig's blood, fat, oatmeal and herbs and spices. This mixture is then boiled in the natural casing. Jane suggests eating it fried with mashed potato, bacon, fried chopped apple and a blob of mustard.

I'd never had white pudding before, and I had to wonder: 'What on earth is in it?'. I mentioned it to friends, who also had no idea. It's very similar to black pudding, but contains pork meat and suet instead of blood. It's not as spicy as black pudding either.

Grigson suggests eating it with bacon, so I combined the two to produce an extremely meaty tea! It's all good though, I think, because I'm going to the gym alot at the moment and need my protein, and it's offal and therefore less wasteful. Oh I am so holier-than-thou these days...

#34 Black Pudding: 8/10. I'd not had black pudding as a teatime meal, always as part of a full-English breakfast, and I have to say it was wonderful - the apple and mustard cut though the salty streaky bacon and soft, stodgy black pudding. Yum!

#35 White Pudding:7/10. Very tasty indeed! Soft in the centre and crispy on the outside. Much more subtle than black pudding, but a change to normal sausages. More please!

#33 Stewed Pigeons in Foil

The first of the game dishes made with the produce from my trip to Bury Market. I've not had woodpigeon before, and wasn't too sure if it would be too gamey. I have tried to cook it before but it was so tough it was inedible. My mate John came over for tea and I thought I'd try and do (#33) Stewed Pigeons in Foil. It seemed easy; all was required was time. One pigeon is required per person. Brown the pigeon in butter, breast only, using a hot pan. Allow them to cool. Meanwhile cut pieces of foil large enough to encase the pigeons individually, and spread softened butter over the centre of each piece. Place the birds in the centre and make a parcel with one end still open so you can add the flavourings. Into the cavity add a large knob of butter, thyme, pepper, a slug of brandy, finely chopped onions, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and one of beef stock. Make sure all is sealed well, place on a baking tray and cook for three hours in a low oven. The breasts were removed and seasoned well. It was served with mashed potato and celeriac and the juices from the pigeons (Grigson's orders). I added some purple sprouting broccoli for something green.

This is definitely the most cheffy looking dish I've made so far. It certainly looked the part. The wood pigeon was very tender and moist - it came away from the bone easily. The flavour is very much like liver, in that it's quite metallic, and it's got a slightly grainy texture. The mash was divine - used the ricer that I bought for the first time, and will never go back to mashing! - the celeriac and parsley gave in a herby, perfumed taste. Absolutely brilliant! What's more, eating game is totally sustainable food - even if we all went vegetarian tomorrow, we'd still have to shoot them as part of woodland management (same goes for deer, pheasant, etc...)
FYI: according to the BBC, the wood pigeon is the most common bird in the UK

#33 Stewed Pigeons in Foil. 9.5/10 - I cannot believe how nice this dish was. Can't wait to do more game recipes!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

#32 Parsnip and Watercress Salad

As Greg and I gorged ourselves on Bury Market cheese, we needed something to cut through the richness. I'd seen the recipe for the salad as I was flicking through English Food, and thought that I should only make it when able to get really good produce. Apparently, it's an early Seventeenth Century dish, and it's very easy to prepare. The recipe said to use one medium sized parsnip per person, so I doubled that for starters! They were boiled until tender in salted water. While they were boiling, I arranged a head of little gem lettuce in each of our bowls and made a vinaigrette. Jane recommended putting on some toasted nuts and to use the relevant nut oil in the vinaigrette. I used walnut, as I've made parsnips salads before that used walnuts. I made it in the ratio of 1 part walnut oil,1 part vegetable oil (as the nut oil by itself can be overpowering) and 1 part white wine vinegar. Then I seasoned it well. This was used to dress the parsnips. The dressed parsnips were arranged in a ring on top of the lettuce. Finally, a pile of watercress was placed in the centre of the dish along with a sprinkle of chopped toasted walnuts.

I'd forgotten how nice the walnut and parsnip combo is, and how lovely and peppery watercress is, I think that people poo-poo it has boring salad. FYI: watercress is one of the three indigenous vegetable to Britain. The others are kale and....Damn! I've forgotten the other one. I shall try and find the reference again. It's weird to think that all other vegetables have been brought in from foreign climbs, including the parsnip!

#32 Parsnip and Watercress Salad - 8.5/10. This is a great salad. Certainly tasty enough to eat on it's own. I'd have it with some granary bread to mop up any stray vinaigrette at the end!

Bury Market

Greg and I went to Bury Market for the day on Saturday. I'm apologising in advance for the lack of photos. We both forgot to take them because we were so cold. I managed to get hold of some ingredients for some more recipes,along with some nice produce too. The cheese stall there is one of the best you'll ever go to; Greg and I scoffed a load of it last night night - Yorkshire Blue, a nice young goat's cheese, and a lovely mature farmhouse cheddar. It shits on anything you can get in a supermarket, no matter how many 'Extra special' stickers, or whatever they put on them. I also got some game - pigeon and pheasant - so hopefully there'll be some nice things coming my way! I love pheasant, but have never had pigeon - I once tried to cook one by roasting it, and it was so tough I couldn't eat it. The Grigson says to never roast a pigeon. I have seen the error of my ways.

I also got myself a black pudding - a must if you go to Bury, as it is the place where the best are made. I also got white pudding, which I've never had before. I'm saving them for when I have NO visitors!

Kitchen - Phase 1

Hey there!

Not put an entry on for a apologise. There is a few Grigson-related news to thee an' all and the first is that one side of my new kitchen has been put in my me and (mainly) my brother Ady. Hopefully as the photos of the food get added on throughout the next few weeks, the background scenery will become less and less depressing! Here's some in-progress shots. Obviously, the number of Grigsons has decreased of late, however it won't be like this forever! It's not as bad as the photos now as there's some temporary units in on one side. ***here ends kitchen update***