Thursday, February 26, 2009

#120 Mr Frost's Chocolate Cake

This one is a piece of piss to make and comes from a chap who owns (or, I presume owned now, as this book is quite old) a restaurant in Cirencester. Griggers likes it as it’s a nice classy version of chocolate cornflake or Rice Krispie cakes (though try my Mum’s recipe).

For this you need chocolate (plain or dark or a mixture), butter, nuts (any type – I used almonds and hazelnuts which are essential, you could use walnuts but peanuts are “right out”) and digestive biscuits. Weight out equal amounts of chocolate, butter and digestives and half the total weight of nuts. Roast the nuts for about 25 minutes in a low oven and remove any skins by rubbing them with a cloth, then chop roughly. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat. Keep an eye on them whilst you chop up the biscuits into small squares – don’t worry if there’s loads of crumbs, this is a good thing. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, mix in the nuts and biscuits. Pour into a lined tin so that it’s about a finger thick and cool in the fridge. Cut the cake into squares or fingers and keep cool.

#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake – 6/10. Good old Mr Frost. The Grigson was right in that this is much better than crappy old cornflake cakes. It could’ve been improved with a few sultanas, but the good thing about this is that you can add whatever you fancy – crystallised ginger would be good, or marshmallows maybe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

#119 Gloucester Pancakes

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday and so to not repeat myself with common or garden crepe style pancakes, I thought I’d be controversial and try a different one. Gloucester pancakes don’t really resemble normal pancakes- they’re more like muffins. A point of note here – we know that Pancake Day exists to use up the fat ready for the onset of Lent, but bloody hell, these contain a LOT of fat – chopped beef and suet AND fried in lard. Oh well, you only live once…

This recipe makes around 8 pancakes:

In a bowl, mix together 6 ounces of flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. Then stir in 3 ounces of chopped suet and bind everything together with a beaten egg and some milk to produce a firm dough. Roll out the mixture so that it’s ½ an inch thick and use scone cutters (around 3 ½ inches wide) to cut them out. Fry the pancakes in a little lard on a lowish heat until golden brown – they should rise a little due to the baking powder. Serve hot with plenty of golden syrup.

#119 Gloucester Pancakes – 5/10. Nice, but I probably wouldn’t make them again. In order to turn this around, Charlotte made the Welsh light cakes that we did a few months ago (which I’m thinking about upping to a 10). Yep, I'd definitely rather be in Wales than Gloucester on Pancake Day...

Monday, February 23, 2009

#118 Banana Tea Loaf

It was my turn to make a cake for the Evolutionary Biology department’s Wednesday Cake Day, and as there are many a non-Briton in the department I thought I’d do something very English – a tea loaf. Tea loaves are great for several reasons; they taste nice and are lovely and moist, you can make them in advance (in fact they taste nicer if you do leave them); you put butter on the sliced loaf, and they are very easy to make. This one is particularly easy as there is no creaming of butter or anything like that to do.

First, sieve 8 ounces of self-raising flour, ¾ level teaspoon of mixed spice, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 4 ounces of caster sugar into a mixing bowl. Chop 4 ounces of butter into small pieces and add it to the flour along with one tablespoon of honey, 4 ounces of sultanas, 3 ounces of glace cherries, 3 ounces of blanched almonds or walnuts (or a mixture). Now the wet ingredients: 1 pound of mashed ripe bananas, 2 eggs and the juice of a lemon. Once mixed together nicely, turn the mixture out into a buttered 9 inch loaf tin and bake of an hour at 180ºC and then half an hour at 160ºC. Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

#118 Banana Tea Loaf – 8.5/10. Marvellous! This is quite a hefty tea loaf and I didn’t think our wee group would get through it, but we made light work of it. The addition of the cherries and nuts made it a little Seventies-looking and I thought would make it overly rich, but it wasn’t the case. Very, very good – thinking about when I’ll make the next one!

#117 Mrs Borthwick's Yorkshire Teacakes

Been very busy with work and decorating folks, sorry for being a little slack of late. I have had the chance to do a couple of recipes – trying to do at least ten a month, but not sure if I’ll make it this February…

Being a Yorkshireman I thought I’d make these Yorkshire teacakes. The currant teacake reminds me of my Mum; she’s rather partial, though I didn’t really know that they were particularly Yorkshire, I glad they are. They’re a large sweetened teacake with mixed fruit in them and traditional way to eat them is to slice them crosswise and eat with butter and cheese, though I like them toasted with butter. Each to their own.

Now I’ve started to crack the art of yeast cookery, I’m enjoying bread-making and these are easy – the fruit and sugar hide a multitude of sins – and taste much better than bought stuff. Part of the reason behind this is the use of fresh yeast, which gives a much better flavour than the dried stuff, plus the bread rises much more rapidly I’ve noticed.

Oh, and Mrs Borthwick is some reader of one of Griggers’ columns and sent her this recipe. In case you were wondering.

Anyways, this makes eight large ones:

Sieve together 1 ¼ pounds of strong plain flour, 2 ounces of sugar and a pinch of salt into a big mixing bowl. Rub in an ounce of lard and stir in 3 ½ ounces total of currants and mixed peel (have the ratio according to your taste). Make a deep well in the centre of the flour and crumble in an ounce of fresh yeast and then grate plenty of nutmeg over the whole thing. Next, measure half a pint of room-temperature whole milk and add a quarter pint of boiling water to it. Pour the lot into the well. Do not worry that it looks a horrible mess, it is supposed to. Flick a little flour over the top, cover and leave to bubble in a warm place for 15-20 minutes, or whatever. Mix to form a dough, adding more flour if required, and knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough into eight pieces and knead each again, fold them inwards so they form little plump breadcakes. Put onto greased baking trays and allow to rise again for another 15 minutes. Bake at 220ºC for 30 minutes, turning them over in the final 5 minutes. When ready place on a wire rack and brush with milk to give them a shine.

#117 Mrs Borthwick’s Yorkshire Teacakes. 6.5/10. Really nice teacakes that require minimum effort for pretty good results, though I would add more currants than this recipe I think. I really loving the bread cookery – Hot Cross Buns are a-calling, me-thinks!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

#116 Apple and Raisin Pie

A good honest hotpot deserved a good honest pudding. I wanted a desert-version of a hotpot and went for this apple and raisin pie. This, people, is no ordinary apple pie – it is a buttered apple pie, very popular in the Seventeenth Century. It’s very easy to do, especially if you use bought puff pastry.

Peel, core and quarter 3 ½ pounds of Cox’s Orange Pippin apples and quarters the quarters into six and place in a bowl. Sprinkle over 4 ounces of caster sugar and the grated zest of half a lemon and mix. Melt 4 ounces of unsalted butter in a pan and pour over the apples and lastly 4 ounces of raisins. Mix again and place the apples and buttery juices into a large pie dish. Roll out some puff pastry and cut out a shape large enough to cover the dish. With the trimmings, roll out a thin length of pastry and glue it to the rim with egg white. Then using more egg white glue on the pastry lid and glaze with more egg white. Sprinkle the top with a little sugar and make a slit in the pastry so the steam can escape. Bake in a hot oven – around 220ºC – for 15-20 minutes, and then turn down to 160-180ºC and bake for a further 30-45 minutes until the apples are tender. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

#116 Apple and Raisin Pie – 9.5/10. This is the best apple pie I’ve ever made. The apples were still tart but swimming in a lovely sweet, rich buttery liquor that was the perfect balance. The raisins were very juicy and plump and the pastry crisp. Total genius. Go and make this pie right now, people!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#115 Lancashire Hotpot

Last week I took the afternoon off work to go shopping with Butters to Cheshire Oaks to spend money I don’t have. One of the main reasons I wanted to go was Butters had been told that there was a Le Crueset shop there. I love Le Crueset stuff but it is tres expensive, so I had a total geek boner about going to the factory outlet shop.

After about an hour of decision-making, I went for a large round casserole and a big mixing jug. With the casserole I knew exactly how I was going to christen it – with a Lancashire Hotpot. I’ve had hotpots before, but in the form of ready meals, which, if I remember, had tomato in it. Real Lancashire hotpot is very simple – one of those dishes involving lots of sliced potatoes and onions that seem to come in an amazing variety. It’s also rather like an Irish stew.

It looked nicer in real...

FYI: Lancashire Hotpots were traditionally made in large, deep dark glazed brown pots that were given to the baker to put in his oven whilst people went to work so they collect on their way back.

FYI2: Although hotpot usually contains potato, onion, lamb and kidneys, people have put in black pudding, sweetbreads, mushrooms and oysters. So if you have any of those to hand pop them in.

This is enough for 6 people:

Start off by thinly slicing a pound of onions and 2 pounds of peeled potatoes. Next trim any large bits of fat from best end of neck lamb chops; you’ll need between 8 and 12 depending upon thickness. When at the butches try to get about 6 lamb’s kidneys. Depending on your butcher, they may or may not be prepared – make sure the tough outer membrane has been peeled away, and slice in half lengthways and cut out their central tough, white centres. Layer up the potatoes, then onions, then meat and offal, seasoning as you go. Make sure you leave enough spuds so you can arrange them nicely on the top. Pour enough water to reach halfway up the pot and then brush the potatoes with some melted butter. Place the lid on the casserole and bake at 200-240ºC for 30 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 140ºC for about 2-2 ½ hours. Take the lid of for the final 30-45 minutes so that the top can crisp up. Serve with boiled or pickled red cabbage.

#115 Lancashire Hotpot – 6.5/10. Very nice and hearty grub that is simple yet effective. Not used to cooking with lamb, but am loving how simple this is. Also I’d forgotten how nice kidneys are – I’ve not had them in years. It’s definitely something I’d make again, but it would have to contain something more than just lamb. Plus it’s very cheap – the meat came to £6 at the butchers in the Arndale Centre. Bargain!

Monday, February 9, 2009

#114 Quince, Medlar, Sorb or Crab Apple Jelly

The quinces I bought the other day were beginning to look a bit sad and I needed to use them up with something. I really like quince, so quince jelly was the obvious choice – making a few jars of this would mean I would still be eating them way beyond their season had ended.

By the way, this recipe can be followed as is but with medlars, sorbs or crab apples, so if you are lucky enough to know where their might be some growing near you try this jelly.

Begin by scrubbing clean your quinces and chop them roughly along with the same weight in Bramley apples. Do not peel or core them – that is where the pectin resides that will set the jelly. Place the fruit in a pan and barely cover them with water. Simmer the fruit until they have become a pulp (I used a potato masher to help the quinces along).

Place the pulp in a jelly bag suspended over a bowl – if you don’t have one, use a muslin-lined sieve instead. Leave the pulp to drip dry – this takes a while, a few hours at least, overnight if you’ve done loads. Measure the volume of liquid and pour into a heavy-based pan and add a pound of sugar for every pint of liquid. Boil this mixture until this has reached setting point (read the recipe for marmalade for more info on this) and pour into sterilised jars.

Quince jelly can be used like any fruit jelly, but is typically an accompaniment to cheeses, game and turkey.

#114 Quince Jelly - 6.5/10. A nice conserve, but I perhaps more apple than I should have, as the quince flavour is not super strong and is sweeter than I’m used to. That said, I used as jam and I think it’ll be a lot better with some game or cheese. Also, the recipe’s very good as I got four jars of jelly from just two quince!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

#113 Muffins

After the reasonable success of the crumpets, I thought I should carry on the bread theme and use up some more of the yeast. I didn’t even have to look through; I knew straight away that I wanted muffins – the second best breakfast carb after the crumpet… Don’t be confused between these muffins and American muffins – they are two very different beasts. I suppose in America our muffins are called English muffins, non?

Muffins are halfway between crumpets and bread – they are made with soft dough using strong flour and are cooked gently on the hob, rather than in the oven. They’re easy to do, but do require a bit of time and energy to knead them properly… It is worth putting in a bit of effort as it make the dough nice and elastic and therefore fluffier when cooked.

This recipe makes 12 muffins:

Start off by creaming ½ an ounce of yeast in 4 tablespoons of warm water, then warm ½ pint of whole milk and an ounce of butter in a pan until they reach blood heat. Meanwhile crack an egg into a bowl and give it a brief whisk, and pour in the warm milk into it, whisking thoroughly.

Weigh out a pound of strong plain white flour and empty it into a warm bowl (or better, warm the flour and bowl together on a low heat in the oven). Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast and the milk-egg mixture, along with a teaspoon of salt. Mix together thoroughly, adding more flour or water if required. You want a soft dough, but not one that is sticky. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, place it, cover it and allow the dough to rise to at least double it’s volume.

Roll out the dough to ½ inch thickness and cut out rounds with large pastry cutters or whatever (I used crumpet rings). Knead the trimmings together and roll them out too, so you get as many muffins as possible from the mixture. Let them rise a little.

Put a heavy-based pan on a low heat and brush it lightly with lard or oil and fry them gently. Griggers says they should expand into something like a “puffball fungus”, and if you leave them to rise slightly they will. Turn them over after around 7 minutes and cook the other side.

Apparently, you should toast muffins whole – they should never be cut, but torn, adding butters as you go. Either way, eat them with lots of salted butter.

#113 Muffins – 7/10. I really liked these – it was easy to make them nice and light as the low heat made them almost impossible to overcook. The result is light and fluffy muffins that eat very well, very hard to get wrong, I think, and you should give them a go. They freeze well too…

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

#112 Queen of Puddings

I had people coming over for a nice Thai meal and initially thought I’d make some light fresh Thai-style dessert to go with it. Then I though, ‘Bugger that’ and went for the stodge option. I’d heard of Queen of Puddings and seen folk on telly making it, but had never eaten it before. Obviously something called Queen of Puddings must be a delicious taste sensation, mustn’t it? For those that don’t know, QoP is a dessert made of a sweet lemony custard base thickened with breadcrumbs and egg yolks, a layer of jelly, and then topped with meringue. According to Wikipedia, it goes back to the Seventeenth Century.

Begin by making the custard base:

Place 5 ounces of fresh brown or white breadcrumbs in a bowl and stir through a tablespoon of vanilla sugar and the grated zest of one large lemon. In a pan heat a pint of milk and 2 ounces of butter until almost boiling. Pour it over the breadcrumbs, stir it, and leave to stand for 10 minutes and beat in 4 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue). Grease a shallow dish with a 2 ½-ish pint capacity with butter and pour in the custard mixture. Bake at 180ºC for up to 30 minutes, though it could be much less; dependent upon the dimensions of your dish. Take out the dish when the custard is still slightly wobbly.

Warm up 2 tablespoons of fruit jelly: raspberry, blackcurrant or bramble and spread it evenly over the custard. You could use jam here too, but sieve out any seedy bits. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then slowly fold in 4 ounces of caster sugar. Spread the meringue over the top and sprinkle a teaspoon or two of sugar over the top. Return to the oven until browned. Serve warm with cream or custard if you like (I served it au naturale).

#112 Queen of Puddings – 6/10. A nice desert; I think I had thirds by the end of the night – was a little tipsy by the end (sorry about the quality of the pic!). It was the crispy meringue that definitely saved it from being blow average. Though good, slightly disappointed that it wasn’t some kind of phenomenal pud.

#111 Jerusalem Artichoke and Shellfish Salad

With the Jerusalem artichokes I bought in Unicorn, I thought I’d do Butters and I a nice swish, yet healthy, salad. For some reason this salad is in the Vegetables chapter; I didn’t realise that prawns and scallops were in the vegetable kingdom. But there you go. Facetiousness aside, I love shellfish and certainly don’t cook enough of it. I particularly like scallops – they’re so pricey though; a fiver for three line-caught ones! (I’d feel too guilty buying the dredged-up ones.)

These amounts make enough for two as a main course, or 4 for a starter or side dish:

Start off by boiling 4 large Jerusalem artichokes in their skins in boiling salted water along with a2 tablespoons of lemon juice. When tender, peel the skin off with your fingers and cut them in neat slices and put in a dish. Mix together 4 tablespoons of vegetable or hazelnut oil with 1 to 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Season it well and pour over the still warm artichokes. Give them a gentle stir and allow to cool. Gently grill three scallops that have been brushed with a little oil – just a couple of minutes per side until they have firmed up. Stab them with a skewer if you’re worried they’re not hot all the way through. Allow them to cool and cut in half, then slice down to make thin semi-circles. Next, peel four large cooked prawns, leaving the heads on for presentation purposes. Finally, arrange some watercress in bowls and artistically place the Jerusalem artichokes and scallops on top of the leaves and scatter with chopped coriander and a tablespoon of chopped roasted hazelnuts; and then place the expertly peeled prawns on top of those.

#111 Jerusalem Artichoke and Shellfish Salad – 6/10. A tasty salad, that really brought out the earthy flavour of Jerusalem artichokes. However, the subtle sweet flavour of the scallops was lost, which was a bit of a shame. I reckon you could make it without them and still have a good dish.