Wednesday, September 10, 2014

50 recipes to go!

Well who would have thought I would make it to this landmark!?

I am three hundred and ninety-nine recipes in, and there is but fifty more to go before I complete the project. I’ve always found it a little annoying that there is 449 recipes and not 450, but then, Ms Grigson wasn’t counting them as she wrote.

My approach to food now is really a world away compared to when I wrote my first post #1 Smoked Finnan Haddock Soup all the way back in September 2007. I can now bake bread and cure meat, roast a woodcock and make a good stock. The blog has travelled two continents, and inspired me to start up my own food business. At the moment – and this explains why the number of posts have decreased of late – I am writing the business plan with will hopefully result in me opening a little restaurant next year. Fingers crossed on that one!

In order for me to complete the book, I need to track down some tricky-to-find ingredients, and so I’m going to list them below and if you per chance know how I can get hold of them, do please let me know. Here goes:

  • ptarmigan
  • calves’ brains
  • Harvey’s sauce
  • snipe
  • elvers (baby eels, sometimes called glass eels)
  • sea kale
  • roach (the freshwater fish, not the creepy-crawly)
  • a goose, capon or turkey with the head still on (surprisingly tricky to find!)
  • a cold-smoked chicken
  • gigots of primitive-breed lambs

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#399 Duck Braised with Green Peas

This was one of the recipes in English Food that I had been looking forward to making, but never seemed to around to making it. I had a bounty of garden peas on my allotment plot, so it was silly not to try it. I am very glad that I did make it; it was so delicious, I made it for the main course at my pop-up restaurant I run every now and again from my house.

There are very few ingredients in this dish and it is very easy, except for the very end where an egg yolk based sauce is required – easy if you make your own custard regularly, tricky if not.

Jane writes no introduction for this recipe but it strikes me as a very French one; peas are not the only vegetable braised with the duck, because there is some lettuce in there too. In fact, take the duck away, and you are essentially left with French pea soup.

This recipe serves 4 to 5 people.

Jane starts off with the rather vague instruction: ‘Use the duck giblets to make the stock in advance. Boil it down to 300 ml (1/2 pt) or a little more.’

In brief, here’s what I did: Get a couple of tablespoons of sunflower or rapeseed oil really hot in a saucepan and toss in the neck, heart and gizzard of the bird, which have been cut into pieces (no need for the liver, fry it in butter, eat it on toast). Let the giblets get nice and brown. Add some chopped stock vegetables (trimmings are good here) such as carrot, leek, onion, celery; some herbs like thyme or lemon thyme, a bay leaf, a rosemary sprig and some parsley stalks; and some spices like peppercorns, cloves and some pared orange or lemon rind. Add some water to just cover the giblets and vegetables. Bring very slowly to a bare simmer and let it tick over for a good three or four hours. Strain and skim it, then boil down. Season lightly with salt.

Okay, duck stock made, what next? Take your duck, which should weigh 4 or 5 pounds, and prick it all over with a fork, focussing your pricking around the very fatty thighs. Make a massive bouquet garni using bay, parsley, thyme and rosemary and stuff it into the cavity of the duck. Heat a little more oil in a frying pan and slowly brown the duck all over, so that the fat can run out.

Take your richly-browned duck and pop it, breast down, in a deep ovenproof pot, pour over the stock, bring to a simmer and let it bubble very gently for 1 ¼ hours.

When the time is up, turn ducky the right way round and add a pound of freshly shelled peas and a large shredded lettuce. Pop the lid of the saucepan back on and simmer for a further 45 minutes.

Carefully remove the duck and prepare it as you like, I prefer to carve the breast meat and to divide the legs into thighs and drumsticks. On a serving dish, spoon the peas and lettuce, and then place the pieces of duck meat on top. Cover with foil and keep warm whilst you get on with the sauce.

Strain the stock and skim if need be. Give it a taste, and if it seems a little insipid, reduce it. Beat together two egg yolks and four tablespoons of double cream. Pour in around half of the stock, whisking the eggs and cream all the time. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and stir it over a low heat until it thickens slightly. Don’t let it boil, otherwise, you’ll get scrambled eggs. Season with salt and pepper and sharpen it with a little lemon juice. Pour some sauce over the duck and the remainder of it in a sauceboat.

#399 Duck Stewed with Green Peas. This was a great recipe. The trick to get nice and juicy duck is to simmer the duck extremely gently; the merest gurgle of a bubble is all that is required. It’s worth noting that the cooking times Jane gives are far too long. When I repeated the recipe for the pop-up I simmered the duck for an hour, added the peas and lettuce, and then simmered for 20-30 minutes. For the pop-up, I trebled the recipe and then had to make three batches over the three nights, i.e. nine times Jane’s recipe. This means I had to shell a lot of peas – around 15 pounds to get the nine pounds required in all. It was a bloody nightmare. Anyway, the peas and lettuce were good and sweet after the braising, producing succulent duck and a really delicious silky sauce. Lovely. 9/10.