Showing posts from 2013

Hummus Irritation And This Year’s Kitchen Music

If you saw the Simon Hopkinson Cooks TV series earlier this year, then you may remember that as part of one of his menus he made hummus. Nothing too unusual about that, of course, except that he insisted that the skins of the chickpeas should be diligently removed. That way, according to Mr Hopkinson, it would be the smoothest possible hummus. I've never done that and, frankly, I thought that life’s a bit too short to go to that amount of effort.

Since then, every time I've eaten or even set eyes on hummus, I've remembered the thing about the skins. Recently I finally gave in and tried it. Removing all the skins is very irritating and I’d love to say that it made no difference, but, dammit, he was right and I apologise for ever doubting the great man. The hummus really is better. Mr Hopkinson’s recipe can be found here.

Now, useful as that information may be, I'm afraid it’s just an excuse because it’s time for my favourite kitchen music of the year again. I know…

A Random Cupboard And An Arbitrary Aperitif

This month Dom of Belleau Kitchen has dared us to reveal the contents of our larders or ingredients cupboards for his Random Recipe challenge.  I'd like to say that I have all my ingredients carefully and neatly stored in one location but actually they're scattered all over the place. I decided that the cupboard with the bottles and jars (and a few other things) was a decent candidate for a quick snap.

This challenge has forced me to look carefully at the contents (not something I do too often) and I'm surprised by how much the ingredients have changed from, say, twenty years ago. For instance, I seem to have developed a bit of a vinegar obsession. Twenty years ago, I might have had 3 or 4 different vinegars. It might not be obvious from the picture, but there are 14 different vinegars in that cupboard.

Then there are other things that I didn't use at all twenty years ago that have become essential cupboard ingredients. Top of that list is pomegranate molasses. I firs…

The Malakoff Trifle

The Malakoff torte is a refined item of patisserie, which allows the more experienced and skilful dessert maker to show off his or her talent. But we’re not going there. Instead we’re going back to 1970s England where a much less refined and more relaxed dessert with a vaguely similar set of ingredients turned up on the menus of a number of restaurants. Sponge fingers, cream mixtures, perhaps some almonds or chocolate and plenty of rum were piled into colourful dishes and plonked in front of grateful punters. Being the 1970s, it was a seriously rich and indulgent dessert but it was also a seriously tasty one. Shortly afterwards tiramisu became fashionable and, following a brief but gooey skirmish, the Malakoff Trifle was history. (Actually, it may not have been called a ‘trifle’ at the time - I can only remember the Malakoff bit of the name).

This is my tribute to that abandoned dessert. I've made it a little lighter by not using buckets of whipped cream, although I'm not pret…

Caghuse Or Something A Bit Like It

The cuisine of Picardy is not the best-known or trendiest style of French cooking but I don’t care. I like it anyway. The dishes tend to be straightforward, made with familiar ingredients and are full of strong, comforting flavours. Admittedly, some of them can also be pretty rich and a stranger to the notion of portion control. Caghuse is one of the more restrained Picardy recipes. It’s often served cold in Picardy but, while there’s nothing wrong with that,  I think it’s nicest served hot on a cold day.

There are different ways of spelling the name of this dish and there are many different ways to make it too. Essentially it’s a one pot dish of slow-cooked pork with onions and vinegar but there are plenty of possible variations along the way. I use chicken stock and cider but beef stock and beer can be used instead. You could also add some herbs to the dish, if you fancy – sage and thyme work well. Strictly speaking, the pork should be cut from the leg and should be on the bone, but…

Black Sticky Gingerbread – A Random Recipe

It’s probably just another one of my odd ideas, but gingerbread always seems to be the perfect thing to take on a country walk, especially in the autumn or winter. For some reason, though, it’s something that I hardly ever bake. On this occasion I had no choice since it’s the recipe that came up as my random selection for this month’s Random Recipe challenge hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen.

The book that I randomly selected this month is ‘Leith’s Book of Baking’ by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave published back in the 1990s. I don’t think this book is in print any longer, but it consists of recipes taken from the Leith’s Cookery Bible, which is still available. I've rarely used this book, but I now realise that there’s no good reason for that. This turned out to be a lovely, moist gingerbread with the blackness coming from a healthy dose of treacle. Even better, you can find the recipe on the Leith's site here.

The on line recipe has a few minor changes to the versi…

The Duck Legs of Normandy

Duck is one of my favourite meats, but it does tend to be a bit expensive. Duck legs, though, are the cheaper option in most supermarkets. A while ago I got into a discussion with someone who was looking for new and interesting ways to cook duck legs. I can’t quite remember what conclusions we came to but afterwards I started wondering what was wrong with the traditional methods. To my shame, I hadn't made this sort of dish for years and I needed reminding just how good it can be.

There’s nothing new or revolutionary about this recipe. It’s the method of Normandy cooking that I first picked up years ago, although there’s no guarantee that it would be considered truly authentic in the Vallée d'Auge.  Very much the same method of cooking is often used in Normandy for chicken or guinea fowl, although they will usually require less time to cook.

I did use a genuine Normandy cider for this dish but it’s not the only place in the world that makes excellent cider. Most decent dry cid…

Kedgeree's Eccentric Cousin

Once upon a time, when I was still young and foolish, a lady friend offered to cook me dinner. She made a classic kedgeree and very nice it was too. The second thing she cooked for me was also kedgeree. So was the third and the fourth. It turned out that kedgeree was the only dish she could cook. After a while,  she went off with an annoyingly handsome bloke from Sweden who played electric violin. Another friend of mine offered to cheer me up by making me dinner. She made me kedgeree. 

It hasn't put me off, though; I still love this British classic. Although, after all these years and several shedloads of kedgeree, I do tend to throw in a few variations now and then. This version has so many variations that I don’t think it’s quite kedgeree any more. One major variation is that I use short grain brown rice, which adds nuttiness and extra texture to the dish.  (This type of rice isn't common in supermarkets but you can find it in health food shops.) Rather than smoked haddock …

Sand Cake with a Drizzle Topping

Sand cakes have been around in England for a very long time but they don’t seem to turn up all that often these days, unless I'm missing them somehow. In fact, various types of sand cakes seem to surface more frequently in other parts of the world such as Australia. The cakes don’t have sand in them, honest. They’re made largely with potato flour or cornflour (or cornstarch as it’s known in some parts of the world), which gives them a light and crumbly texture – a ‘sandy’ texture, I suppose. It’s a shame that they’re not better known because they’re beautifully light, very easy to make and they taste a lot better than sand.

Traditionally the cakes are associated primarily with Leicestershire, although in my head they’re forever associated with Ironbridge in Shropshire because that’s where I first came across the cake in a small, old-fashioned tea shop quite a few years ago. Many of the traditional recipes call for the cake to be iced with a light, usually lemon, icing but I've…

Braised Turnips With Mustard And Chervil

The turnip has an image problem in this country. Perhaps that's not so surprising. I can remember some pretty terrible meals accompanied by grey and unpleasant turnips in the distant past. Fast forward a few years and I was eating turnips in France and realising that they can be absolutely delicious.

I've been growing an old French variety ‘Des Vertus Marteau’ for a couple of years now and the flavour and texture is probably the best I've found. Better still, they’re really easy to grow and quick to crop. So if you have a little spare ground, then I recommend trying some. Unless you live in France, you’re unlikely to find the seeds of this or other similar French varieties at the local garden centre but they are quite widely available from suppliers of heritage seeds. (Assuming that new EU regulations don't remove this option).

Chervil has a bit of an image problem in Britain too. It never seems to be as widely available as other fresh herbs in shops and supermarkets.…

Chocolate Chantilly – A Random Recipe

Some of the recipes on As Strong As Soup can be pretty simple, but I think this is the first with only two ingredients. For this month’s Random Recipe cookbook challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen asked ‘If you had 10 seconds to grab one book, which one would it be?’ I was pretty certain that I would either grab a comprehensive, general recipe book or one that would give me a nostalgic glow (Floyd on France, perhaps).

It didn't work out that way. When I gave myself 10 seconds, I panicked and just grabbed the biggest book available. On my shelves that’s Larousse Gastronomique. Not an obvious choice since it’s not really a recipe book as such. But I randomly opened the book and randomly selected a column and was somewhat disturbed to see that the first recipe was included in the entry for Molecular Gastronomy.

Fortunately, though, it turned out to be Hervé This's method for creating Chocolate Chantilly. Essentially this technique allows you to create a chocolate cream or mousse usi…

Melon Sorbet or Something Like It

If you’re anything like me, then whenever you buy a delicious, ripe melon, you have the problem of leftovers. I wrap the excess melon and stick it in the fridge for the next day.  I then usually forget that it's there and discover sad, dried up melon some days later. So that's why I came up with this solution to the problem of excess melon. Actually, it turns out that this sorbet is so refreshing and so ridiculously simple to put together that I'm quite happy to buy yet more melon just to make it.

Unless my memory is playing tricks on me (yet again!), this sorbet is based on a recipe by the great Frédy Girardet. I'm sure that the original would have been more refined and would not have contained Malibu. But Frédy Girardet is a great chef and I'm most definitely not.

The sorbet will certainly be smoother if made in an ice-cream machine, but it will still be very pleasing if you simply freeze it in a shallow container and rough it up a bit with a fork once it’s fro…

Cherry Jam With Your Cheese

If you happen to wander down to south west France, then sooner or later the Pyrénées will come into view. At that point, hungry and tired from your journey, you may be tempted to sample some of the local sheep’s milk cheese. Don’t be surprised if you’re offered some jam with it. The black cherry jam of the region is a classic accompaniment to the slightly sharp, rather nutty and definitely delicious cheese.

This is my somewhat anglicised and eccentric version of cherry jam inspired by that region. It makes a fine alternative to membrillo or similar quince jelly or paste. Any good, ripe cherry can be used. I know it’s not very serious jam making but this recipe will make just a single jar. I keep the amount small because cherries can be expensive and, more importantly, because I tend to shove jam to the back of a cupboard and forget about it if I make too much. It’s easy to scale the recipe up, if you want to make more.

I know that if you’re not used to making jam then the setting poin…

Tarte Au Sucre

There are different types of tarte au sucre from the various regions of France and I've not found one that I don’t like yet. I first came across this particular tart in Normandy (in the Cotentin, to be precise). It’s a very northern French type of tart in that it’s a brioche-like dough with sugar and the local, rich crème fraîche on top. Probably not the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, but very satisfying nonetheless.

The sugar used in the topping varies from recipe to recipe. I prefer some combination of brown and white but use whichever you fancy. I used white sugar crystals (or pearls) as part of the topping just for a little contrast in texture but it’s not critical, I'm just being fussy. A stand mixer fitted with a dough hook is very useful when making the base of the tart. Of course, you can make it by hand but I'm not really convinced by the ‘kneading is good for the soul’ argument. I find incorporating the butter into the dough by hand a little tedious.

This mix…

Cherries in Vinegar

The cherry trees at the local pick-your-own farm appear to be laden with fruit, which hopefully will begin to ripen nicely over the next few weeks. So I thought I'd get in quickly with this recipe that I've been saving up since the last year's cherry season.

This is an easy and refreshingly different little pickle that works particularly well alongside cold meats, terrines and pâtés, but will also sit very happily alongside cheeses and richer meats like duck. As a bonus, once you've eaten the cherries, filter the pickling mixture and you’ll have a very fine cherry vinegar that can be used in salad dressings and marinades. The cherry vinegar is also excellent when used to deglaze the pan after cooking beef, lamb or duck.

There are a number of old British recipes for cherries in vinegar as well as many different versions of ‘cerises au vinaigre’ in various parts of France. My version is actually based on recipes from the Picardy region and I reckon that makes it virtuall…

White Chocolate and Honey Coulant with Macadamias and Pistachios

I haven’t added any recipes to the blog lately because, due to circumstances being completely out of control, I haven’t cooked anything for several months. I'm hoping that situation will change soon, but for now here’s something that I baked last year and didn't get around to posting.
I'm aware that the world is in danger of disappearing under a sea of chocolate fondant and coulant recipes but they’re undeniably delicious and decadent and there’s still something special about cutting into a little cake and watching the chocolaty loveliness flow out.
This particular version is adapted from a recipe by Pierre-Yves Lorgeoux of the ‘Le Pyl-Pyl’ restaurant in Vichy. I’d love to say that I've been there but I have to confess that I saw it on an episode of ‘Les Escapades de Petitrenaud’ a while ago. It does look to be an excellent restaurant, though, so if you’re ever in the area maybe you could go on my behalf. You can find the original recipe here.

I can still remember the…

Aromatic Lamb with Dried Apricots

Although I'm the homeliest of home cooks, every now and  then I get an urge to recreate something that I've eaten in a restaurant and today is one of those occasions. This dish probably started out long ago as a traditional Parsi dish but by the time that I came across it in a south London restaurant it had been adapted to British tastes and to restaurant cooking. Sadly, I didn't get the recipe at the time and the restaurant is long gone now. In my attempts to recreate the dish I've used some decidedly inauthentic ingredients. But who cares? It works.

The dried fruit brings a lovely sweetness to the dish while the spices add both depth of flavour and fragrance. There are a lot of ingredients listed, but it’s actually pretty easy to put together. If you can, allow yourself enough time for the overnight marinade – it really does make a difference.

The dish is fine on its own but it would also sit well alongside a vegetable curry or you could serve it with rice if you hap…

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

This is a classic and simple way of making a cake that turns up with minor variations in quite a few different countries. I first came across it in France where it often seems to be the first cake that children are taught to make because it’s easy, very forgiving and there’s no weighing needed.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to select from our cuttings, clippings and old hand-written recipes. I'm very happy to do that – in fact, I should do it more often. Reaching into the magic cupboard containing my ‘library’ I came up with a notebook containing a mixture of hand-written and torn-out recipes dating from the 1990s. From that I randomly selected this yogurt cake, or I should really say ‘gateau au yaourt’ since it’s taken from a French magazine (although I'm not sure which one).

Lemon or lime is more commonly used to flavour this cake, but grapefruit is actually a very pleasant change. I have to confess to making two minor changes …

Debden Chocolate Pudding

If you've not come across this little pudding before, then you might think that the recipe sounds ridiculous. Well, it is a bit odd, but it does works, honest. It’s one of those puddings that separates out during cooking. You should end up with three layers: a crunchy sweet topping, a chocolate sponge middle and a chocolate fudgey base.  It’s indulgent and delicious without being too ridiculously high in fat. What’s not to like there?

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Lucy over at The Kitchen Maid and she’s asked us to share a famous chocolate recipe.  Well this one’s famous. Or, at least, it used to be famous. Around the early to mid 1980s this dish seemed to turn up everywhere. OK, it’s old-fashioned and it’s not photogenic but it’s also delicious and it definitely doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

I really don’t know the origins of this dish. When I first came across it in the 1970s I’m pretty sure that I was told it was named after the place in Esse…

Palets de Dames

Gaze into the window of a boulangerie in the north of France and there’s a chance that you’ll spot some palets de dames.  Gaze into a number of boulangerie windows, though, and you might notice that the palets look very different.  They’re a pleasing little treat that’s somewhere between a cake and a biscuit but sometimes they have a smooth covering of fondant icing, sometimes no icing  at all and sometimes they contain currants or candied peel. Well, my version has a coating of apricot jam and a thin, lemony icing. I don’t really know if that’s authentic but it’s a recreation of the first palets that I ever came across while wandering around the Baie de Somme.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Baie de Somme, then I’d describe it as an area of spectacularly large and rapid tides, seabirds, seals, fine seafood,  salicorne (samphire), salt marsh lamb and some excellent baking among many other things. Happily for me, it’s also not all that far from the south of England.

Incidentally, they’re…

This Is Not A Gâteau Creusois

Today we make another stop on my annoyingly long tour de cakes de France and find ourselves in the Creuse. The Creuse is a lovely region, although the last time I was there it was around this time of the year and it was really cold. Anyway, it’s there that you’re likely to find examples of a gâteau called ‘Le Creusois’ on sale.

It’s also possible that you’ll find several similar cakes under slightly different names in French supermarkets, as well as a number of versions of gâteau Creusois recipes which people will tell you are the real, authentic recipe that their grand-mère made. They may well be authentic and ancient recipes – I have nothing but the greatest respect for grand-mères – but the particular cake sold as ‘Le Creusois’ was actually born shortly after the Beatles gave their last performance on the Apple roof in 1969. It appears that the gâteau was inspired by a 15th century parchment found in a monastery around that time, although the actual recipe itself is a closely guard…

Country Captain – An Almost Lost Random Recipe

This month Dom of Belleau Kitchen is celebrating the start of the third year of his Random Recipe challenge and has graciously allowed us to select a recipe from our books in any way we choose. As an old hand at this particular challenge I thought that this would be a good opportunity to try some of the books that don’t make the usual selection list.

I decided that the biggest challenge would be to select from the ‘lost’ books. ‘Lost’ in the sense that I did own these books once upon a time but now I have only a few recipes left. A couple of books suffered regrettable kitchen accidents while others haven’t survived house moves or have been loaned out and never returned. I missed these books enough to get photocopies or make notes of some of my favourite recipes from borrowed copies. So with a quick random grab from the pile of scraps I came up with a recipe for Country Captain.

I copied this recipe from a book of British cookery that I had around 1980. (It was last seen somewhere in T…

Palestine Soup

Palestine soup has nothing whatever to do with Palestine. It seems to have been given that name because it’s made with Jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes have nothing whatever to do with Jerusalem and aren't artichokes. Anything that odd just has to be good. In fact, it’s one of my favourite vegetable soups and it so happens that it’s also very easy to make and, thankfully, low in fat.

I first came across Palestine soup in cookery books dating back to the early 1900s, but I think the dish is a fair bit older than that. Most recipes combine the Jerusalem artichokes with turnips or potatoes, which maintain the creamy white colour of the finished soup. I like to add carrot, which provides a nice touch of sweetness but does change the colour. (Unless you can find a heritage variety of white carrot).

A few years ago, Mark Hix published a Palestine soup recipe with some hazelnuts added, inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s ‘Purée de Topinambour’. The hazelnuts enhance the flavour of…