Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Black Pepper, Cumin and Fennel Jelly with a Chilli Jelly Option

Savoury jellies are great things to have in the store cupboard. They’re perfect with cheeses and cold or roast meats, but they’re also excellent as cooking ingredients in casseroles, marinades and stir-fries. The basic method for making jellies based on apples  is venerable and traditional but it does allow plenty of scope for variations in flavour.

This is my approach to the traditional method and I’ve given options for my two favourite jellies: black pepper, cumin and fennel jelly and chilli jelly. There are plenty of other options that are worth trying, though; for instance, ginger is really useful and herb jellies such as rosemary and thyme can be used in many different ways.

Bramleys are probably the most common apple to use when making jellies, although any cooker will be fine. (For these jellies, I used Endsleigh Beauty, which is a lovely old variety from Devon). You can also use crab apples rather than cooking apples, but, obviously, you don’t need to chop them up as much. This may sound like a lot of apples but you’ll only get around 3 – 4 small (200 ml) jars of jelly at the end. On the other hand, the flavour should be so intense that those few jars will go a long way.

For each kilo of apples, you’ll need around 1 litre of liquid in the first stage of cooking. For these strongly flavoured jellies I use a half and half mix of cider vinegar and water. For more delicate jellies it’s often better to reduce the amount of vinegar or cut it out altogether. For sweet jellies, of course, just use water - although a little lemon juice is usually no bad thing.

Recently, I’ve seen a number of recipes that tell you to use jam sugar (sugar with added pectin) along with the apples. The suggestion seems to be that extra pectin will make the process easier. There’s plenty of pectin in apples already so I don’t think that using jam sugar does make it any easier. It also gives a firmer set which I think is much less pleasant and more difficult to melt quickly into sauces, marinades, gravies and the like.
Savoury Jellies

For the first stage:

1 Kg cooking apples, roughly chopped – don’t remove the core, pips or skin
500 ml water
500 ml cider vinegar
      1 tbsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
      1 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
      1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
       6 (or so) red chillies, finely chopped (I’d leave the seeds in)

Place the apples in a preserving pan and pour over the liquid. Add the flavouring – either the chillies or the pepper mix. Bring the pan to the boil, put a lid on and simmer until the apples have completely fallen apart and you have a nice mushy mix. This will probably only take 15 or 20 minutes for most types of apple.

Put everything into a jelly bag (or construct a thick muslin bag) and leave it to drip into a container while you go and get a good night’s sleep or while you do something else for around 5 hours. As every book on jellies will tell you, NEVER force the pulp through the bag – the jelly will go cloudy if you do. (It'll taste fine, though, if you don't mind clouds).

For the second stage:

450g granulated sugar for every 550 ml of liquid that dripped through the jelly bag
      1 tbsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
      ½ tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
      ½ tbsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
      3 or 4 red chillies, finely chopped (without the seeds this time)

After the many hours of doing nothing, measure the amount of liquid that’s dripped through the bag and pour it back into the cleaned preserving pan. Add the appropriate amount of sugar (essentially it’s a pound of sugar for every pint of liquid, but I’m metric these days). Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mix to a boil, skim any unpleasant-looking scum from the top of the jelly and boil until it reaches setting point. The time this takes will vary but is usually somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

You can check for a set with a jam thermometer or the old wrinkle test: chill a saucer in the freezer, put a small dollop of the jelly on the saucer, wait a moment or two and if the jelly wrinkles when you push it, then it’s ready. Personally, I think it’s better to err on the soft side for jellies if you’re in doubt.

As the jelly starts to cool, it will begin to thicken. At this point, stir in the final flavourings – either the chillies or the pepper and seed mix. The flavourings should remain suspended in the jelly; if they sink to the bottom, let the jelly cool a little more and stir again. Pour the jelly into sterilised jars and seal.

I eat these two jellies alongside a lot of different foods, but my absolute favourite combinations are probably chilli jelly with sausages (especially venison sausages) and the black pepper jelly with plain roasted duck.
Chilli JellyBlack Pepper, Cumin and Fennel Jelly

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Feta Almond and Fennel Soup – A Random Recipe

This month Dom of Belleau Kitchen and Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes have joined forces or rather challenges and come up with the Random Recipe No Croutons Required challenge. What that adds up to is that I wanted to choose a vegetarian soup recipe at random from my book collection. The first cookbook I randomly selected had no soups at all but the second was ‘Classic Bull’ by Stephen Bull, which has a small section on soups, and the randomly chosen number nine gave me this little gem.

There are some excellent recipes in this book, so I was confident that this soup would be good and I promise it is. I have to confess that I made a variation to the original in that Mr Bull uses chicken stock and I just had to be vegetarian. The amount given here would serve 4 as a light and refined starter but, in this case, fed 2 as a very pleasing lunch dish. I served it hot, but it will also work perfectly well when served cold.
Feta Almond and Fennel Soup

25 g butter
100 g onion, chopped
50 g feta cheese
50 g flaked almonds
2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
75 g fennel, finely sliced
1 small stalk celery, sliced
500 ml vegetable stock

Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan. Melt the butter in a saucepan and soften the onion over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Add all the other ingredients, including the toasted almonds, to the pan containing the onions. Cook over a moderate heat for 20 minutes. Allow to cool a little, then liquidise.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Millefeuille of Chocolate Tuiles and Apple Snow

Chele of Chocolate Teapot has chosen apples as the ingredient to combine with chocolate for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. I made a torte containing chocolate and apples for the challenge in September so I wanted to do something a little different this time. After a bit of personal food excess in October, I also wanted to make something fairly light. The idea of this dessert is to create something that looks quite substantial but is actually so light that looking at it in the wrong way will make it float away.

It’s  not really a millefeuille, you need puff pastry for that, but I can invent fancy names with the best of them.  Nor is it a particularly difficult dish to make but it does require a delicate touch and, to be honest,  I’m not sure that’s really my strong point. The amount given should serve 4 although I made big millefeuilles for sharing between two people.
Millefeuille of Chocolate Tuiles and Apple Snow
I freely admit that I stole borrowed the idea of the wavy chocolate tuiles from the chef Geoffrey Haxaire of the Auberge Frankenbourg. (No I haven’t been there – it’s a bit out of my price range.) The apple snow, on the other hand, is a very old British recipe. It’s in Mrs Beeton but there are versions of ‘snows’ in much earlier cookbooks such as ‘The Accomplisht Cook’ published in 1660. Most early versions of ‘snows’ include whipped cream and adding some cream to this apple snow will make the dish easier to put together but at the expense of some of its lightness.

You can make tuiles by spreading the mixture onto lined oven trays in a freehand way but if you want to make regular shapes then you need a template of some kind. For these tuiles I used a long rectangular shape cut out of a piece of silicone baking sheet. Silicone will give you a reusable template but a clean piece of card will do for one-off use. Ideally you need something around 2mm thick.

If you want to bend or curl the tuiles, then you need to do this as soon as they come out of the oven. To make the wave shape, prepare an uneven surface for the tuiles to rest on while they cool; I used a flexible silicone baking sheet with a couple of wooden spoons under it to make the wavy surface.

You can make the tuiles well ahead of time, even the day before; they keep pretty well in an airtight container. The snow is also made a few hours ahead of time so that it can chill thoroughly before use. BUT don’t put the whole thing together until just before serving – it’s too delicate for standing round.
Millefeuille of Chocolate Tuiles and Apple Snow
For the chocolate tuiles:
     95 g caster sugar
     50 g plain flour
     2 tbsp cocoa powder
     2 egg whites
     60 g butter, melted
For the apple snow:
     600 g Bramley apples
     Zest of ½ lemon, very finely chopped
     1 tbsp lemon juice
     2 tbsp water
     125 g caster sugar (you may need a little more or less – see the method)
     3 egg whites
A little white chocolate, melted to decorate the top

First make the tuiles. Prepare a couple of oven trays by lining them with non-stick baking paper or silicone sheets. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and egg whites together thoroughly. (I really wouldn’t do this by hand – it needs quite a bit of whisking). Pour in the melted butter and continue whisking for a minute or so until thoroughly combined and slightly thickened.

Place your template onto one of the lined baking sheets and fill with the mixture. You’ll need to smooth the mixture out with the template still in place – a palette knife is ideal. Continue until the baking sheets are full or the mixture is used up and place in the oven for 8 minutes.

Carefully lift the tuiles off the baking sheets and either allow to cool flat or gently shape them using your prepared wavy surface. Once they’re thoroughly cool, lift the tuiles carefully and store in an airtight container until needed.

To make the apple snow, peel, core and slice the apples. Put into a saucepan with the water, lemon zest and juice. Place the pan on a low heat, cover and cook the apples, stirring regularly, until they break down into a purée. This will take something like 15 – 20 minutes of gentle cooking. Take the pan off the heat and beat in the sugar with a wooden spoon. I used 125 g of sugar but it’s best to taste and add as much as you think it needs since the apples can vary a fair bit in sharpness. Set aside to cool and then chill in the fridge. (If there are some bits of apple that just don’t want to break down, then pass the purée through a sieve.) Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold in the cold apple purée. Chill the snow until needed.

To serve, place a flat tuile on a serving plate, spoon on a layer of snow and carefully top with a wavy tuile. Repeat, finishing with a straight tuile on top. Decorate with a small drizzle of white chocolate and serve at once.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Gâteau de Riz and Grape Syrup Verrine

We were  meandering along the beautiful coast of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy last month in search of Port Racine, the smallest and just possibly the most charming port in France.  Port Racine, we discovered, is very close to the village of Omonville-La-Petite, the home and last resting place of Jacques Prévert. Since I love his poetry (even if I struggle with French), I felt it was only right that I go and pay my respects.
Port Racine
Visiting any last resting place is obviously something of a solemn occasion, but, possibly because it was near to lunchtime, I couldn’t shake off a vague memory of the following line from the poem ‘Lanterne Magique de Picasso’ (from the book ‘Paroles’):
‘L’étourdissante apparition d’un raisin de Malaga sur un gâteau de riz’
Or in my own shaky but free translation:
‘The dazzling appearance of a Malaga grape on a rice pudding’

A gâteau de riz isn’t exactly a rice pudding in the British sense – it’s more solid and usually has a layer of caramel around it. (In the Cotentin you’ll often come across a rice dish called teurgoule, which is much closer to the British style of pudding but is usually flavoured with cinnamon. Sorry, I’m digressing.)

A while later I was thinking about that line of poetry and about the British habit of adding jam to a rice pudding and the two ideas merged slightly oddly into this dish. The topping follows the same process as making a grape jelly (a very pleasing thing in itself) but stops short of allowing the jelly to set. Keeping a thick, but runny consistency should allow the grape syrup to mix nicely with the rice as you eat it. The gâteau de riz layer is perhaps a little less firm than many French versions and is flavoured with lemon rather than vanilla.

I served the dish in a glass in homage to the French love of ‘verrines’ – or, to put it another way, their love of putting a wide range of food into glasses. This should serve 4 but if you have any grape syrup left over then it’s excellent with ice cream or added to savoury dishes in place of redcurrant jelly.
Gateau de riz and grape syrup verrine
For the grape syrup:
        500 g red grapes, with all the stalks removed
        About 140 g granulated sugar (see the method below)
        A generous squeeze of lemon juice
For the gâteau de riz:
        80 g short grain rice
        600 ml full-cream milk
        Zest of ½ lemon, very finely chopped
        1 egg
        60 g caster sugar
        4 tbsp crème fraîche
        ½ tsp lemon extract

Start making the grape syrup the day before. Wash the grapes and add to a non-reactive saucepan with a splash of water. Place on a low heat. Cover and cook gently until the grapes break down completely and release their juice. This will usually take between 10 and 20 minutes. Unless the skins are very thin, the grapes are likely to need a little persuasion with a fork during the cooking or they may remain stubbornly whole.

Place the contents of the pan in a jelly bag (or a double layer of muslin) and allow the juices to drip into a bowl overnight. As usual with jellies or jams, don’t try to speed the process up by forcing the grapes through or you’ll get a cloudy result.

The next day, measure the amount of juice obtained. It won’t seem very much, but I promise the taste will be intense. I had 200 ml of liquid and added 140 g of sugar, but you may find that you have a little more or less liquid and will need to adjust the amount of sugar to compensate. Put the sugar and the liquid into a pan with the lemon juice and heat gently with a lot of stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to boiling point and boil for 5 minutes. It should have thickened considerably after this time, but won’t have reached the setting point of a jelly. Set aside to cool and store in the fridge until needed.

Now for the gâteau de riz bit. Add the rice, lemon zest and milk to a saucepan and bring to simmering point with plenty of stirring. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rice is fully cooked. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Whisk the egg, caster sugar and crème fraîche together and stir into the rice together with the lemon extract. Put the whole lot into an ovenproof dish and place in a bain marie – well okay, place the ovenproof dish in a roasting tin containing hot water. Put in the oven for 30 minutes until the rice is set, but still creamy. Allow to cool.

Spoon a portion of rice into each glass and chill. Pour over a layer of grape syrup just before serving. A few biscuits would be nice alongside the dish.  (I used some colourful biscuits from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in the Cotentin just to keep the theme going).

I’m entering this in the Novel Food challenge hosted by Simona of the blog Briciole, although I admit I may be stretching a point. I think it’s fair to say that this is a long way from what M Prévert had in mind when he picked up his pen.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lamb Shrewsbury

This is a simple and traditional recipe that I hadn’t made or even thought about for many years until the other day when I saw it mentioned in a restaurant menu dating from the early eighties. I think Lamb Shrewsbury is most often found as a sauce accompanying roast lamb and that’s probably the most authentic version. The recipe here, though, is for pieces of lamb cooked in the sauce and is a recreation of the way I first came across the dish sometime in the early or mid seventies. It’s a little retro but then so am I, probably.

I seem to remember that this dish was often served with buttery mashed potato to soak up the sauce, but for this remake I served it with some roasted new potatoes and steamed green beans. This will feed 2 but probably with some sauce left over. You might need to play a seventies album while eating in order to get the full impact – maybe ‘Fleetwood Mac’ or ‘The Year Of The Cat’.
Lamb Shrewsbury

4 tbsp redcurrant jelly
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 lemon and the zest of ½ lemon
A squeeze or two of orange juice
2 tbsp oil and a knob of butter
2 decent sized or 4 small lamb leg steaks
2 tbsp flour
250 ml light chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Add the redcurrant jelly and Worcestershire sauce to a small saucepan, place on a low heat and stir until the jelly has melted. Add the lemon and orange juice and the lemon zest. Take off the heat, but keep warm.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and brown the lamb lightly. Place the lamb in a casserole dish, leaving the fat behind in the frying pan. With the frying pan still on the heat, add the flour and stir around for a few minutes. Pour in the redcurrant jelly mixture and the stock. Stir well, season with a little pepper (it’s unlikely to need any extra salt) and pour over the lamb in the casserole dish.

Cover the dish and put in the preheated oven for 60 – 75 minutes. The lamb should be very tender and the sauce intensely flavoured in a seventies sort of way.