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Showing posts from 2015

Butternut Squash Chutney and the 2015 Kitchen Music

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This simple recipe is based loosely on a chutney from a restaurant somewhere in France (I can't quite remember where) and was intended to liven up simple game dishes. I think it would do very nicely on turkey sandwiches or alongside a leftovers curry around this time of year.

If you're short of time, chop everything in a food processor - it won't make a big difference to the finished chutney. Vary the amount of chilli flakes and sugar according to how hot or sweet you like your chutney. This amount will make around 5 small jars.

750 g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small dice
Juice of 5 or 6 clementines (or 2 oranges)
175 ml white wine (or cider) vinegar
100 ml sherry vinegar
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 tbsp honey
4 - 6 tbsp light brown soft sugar
½ - 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a large, non-re…

Turkey with Beer and Juniper

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Just over the channel in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais there's a village called Licques which is noted for its fine poultry. But of all the fine poultry produced in the area turkeys are the most celebrated, especially during ‘La Fête de La Dinde’, which is held every December. There are prizes for the best birds, a local Christmas market and enough food and drink to keep out the cold. Everyone has a fine time, except possibly the turkeys. The festival is said to have sprung from the time when the local farmers herded turkeys through the village to their inevitable pre-Christmas fate. As a result there's still a parade through the village with a marching band and the poor old turkeys. (I'm told that this year's festival will be held from 12th to the 14th December and some mechanical turkeys are promised).

Paraded or not in my opinion a turkey is for lunch and not just Christmas. (I know quite a number of people who refuse to eat turkey at any other time than the day itself and…

Pepper and Chilli Jam

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Last year I grew a Scotch Bonnet chilli plant. It was hot, of course. This year I thought I should grow one that was a little less hot. I chose a plant called Paper Lantern because it looked pretty on the label. I hadn't quite grasped the fact that it's also very hot. In fact, hotter than the Scotch Bonnet. So I had a lot of hot chillies to use up.

To turn the heat down a notch or two, I combined the chillies with plain old peppers (sweet or bell peppers that is) and made this Pepper and Chilli Jam, which will spread nicely on such things as burgers and sausages but will also stir easily into casseroles and stir fries without causing you to reach for too much iced water.

Not that there's anything wrong with a hot sauce in my view. I used up the rest of the chillies by making some of my usual Tomato and Chilli Jam, some hot Chilli Ketchup (a similar sort of recipe but a thinner result) and some Caribbean Pepper Sauce. I used the recipe you can find here for the latter. It&…

Yoghurt Lamb and Redcurrant Mayo

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This recipe is in two parts, both of them resurrected from the 1980s. The yoghurt coated lamb is based on the dishes that I ate in the Indian restaurants of south London in that strangely beguiling decade. It was made with larger cuts of lamb back then (leg usually) and used to cost a fair bit. Since I didn't have much money, it wasn't long before I tried making my own version. I think I first used a recipe from the Curry Club but I've played around with it over the years since.

I find that this is a good way to use those small (and hopefully cheap) cuts of lamb from the supermarket. Quite often the smaller cuts can be a little dry once cooked but the yoghurt and spice mix will seal in the juices and keep the lamb full of flavour as well as moist. Of course, you can serve this lamb hot alongside vegetable or lentil curries but I've always enjoyed eating the leftovers so much that I thought I'd make some specifically as a cold dish instead.

The redcurrant “mayo” is …

Crème de Mûres Sauvages

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I could have called this 'Bramble Liqueur' but it's a French recipe and 'Crème de Mûres Sauvages' sounded so much better. It goes to show that I can be just as pretentious as le prochain homme. Whatever you call it, this is the ideal solution for the time when you've come home from picking blackberries with an embarrassingly large amount of fruit and no idea what to do with it. It will be perfect for making reviving kirs or dolloping onto desserts in the dark, winter months to come.

This is a pretty simple and very classic French method for making crème de mûres and it turns out that the old ways are the best. I've tried more complex and modern recipes with less good results. The type of red wine you use isn't absolutely critical but there's not a lot of point in choosing a really expensive one. It's also best to avoid one that's particularly tannic. The type recommended to me was a light pinot noir and, if you can find a decent one at a rea…

Chocolate “Mousse” and “Parfait” with Meringue Shards and No Shopping

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This may not be the most serious dessert I've ever made but it's a fine store cupboard treat for chocolate lovers. It uses two types of chocolate (dark and white), egg whites, sugar and water - and that's it. I could tell you that this was a personal challenge to create a dessert from the ingredients lying around in the kitchen or I could admit that I was far too busy watching old Keith Floyd episodes to bother going to the shops.

The usual rule for chocolate desserts is ‘thou shalt never mix chocolate and water’ but this dessert depends upon the Hervé This method of doing exactly that to create a chocolate cream or mousse. I tried this technique for the first time a couple of years ago and I'm still deeply impressed by it. It's the intensity and purity of the flavour that I like so much. Let's face it, Mr This is a genius and should have several parks named after him.

I layered and arranged the chocolate elements with meringue shards, but you can forget the m…

Gooseberry and Fennel Sauce

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A quick plea for the underused gooseberry before the season is gone for another year. At least, I think the poor old gooseberry is underused. They're lovely in puddings and ices and they make very fine jam but I look forward to gooseberry season so that I can use them in savoury dishes.

I've wittered on about gooseberry sauces before but this year I've tried combining them with fennel and a fine combination it turned out to be. This sauce is very easy to make and freezes well. It works beautifully with simply cooked white fish, such as bream, but will also sit very happily alongside chicken or richer meats like duck or pork. I use the classic, sharper gooseberries for this kind of sauce rather than the sweeter, modern dessert types.

This sauce is not short of flavour and so should make plenty for four people.  

1 small to medium bulb of fennel, chopped quite finely
400 g gooseberries
50 g dried apricots, soaked if they need it
½ tsp dark soy sauce
A generous pinch or two…

Marmalade Frozen Yoghurt

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I first came across marmalade ice cream sometime in the 1980s when Sophie Grigson published the recipe in a London evening newspaper. At least, that's if my memory is to be trusted, which it's not for the most part. Essentially the recipe is a simple combination of double cream and marmalade and produces a rich, no churn ice cream beloved by just about anyone who tries it. Very similar recipes have appeared quite often over the years since then.

I thought I'd try making a lighter version of this little treat using zero fat yoghurt and I'm pleased to say that it works well. Let's not pretend that it's healthy, though: there's virtually a whole jar of marmalade in this recipe. Until recently I would usually strain low fat Greek style yoghurts when making frozen desserts but there are some in the shops now that are thick enough to make that unnecessary.

I've tried making this by simply putting the mixture in the freezer and also by using my very basic ic…

Asparagus and Almond Milk Risotto

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When it's in season I never really get bored with simply cooked asparagus but, just for a change, I do use it in some slightly more involved recipes. I've often made a simple asparagus risotto in the past but this year I've played around with different flavours that complement and enhance the asparagus.  Almond milk provides a good background flavour and gives the risotto a creamier texture.  It might sound odd but I think that a little ginger in the stock intensifies and highlights the taste of the asparagus.  Don’t overdo the ginger, though, or you won’t taste much else. The easiest way to create a little ginger juice is to squeeze about ½ - 1 inch of peeled fresh ginger in a garlic press; although you could use a commercial ginger extract instead.

I served this risotto with a little jamón ibérico (I do mean a little - I can't afford a lot) and a small, simple salad of red pepper. I love both of those flavours with asparagus but in a way they're just icing on the…

Gâteau Ardéchois or a Chestnut Cake from a Can

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Several years ago I was called on to make some cakes as part of a birthday celebration. That's normally pretty straightforward but at the time I was down in the south-west of France, in the Gers, and I wasn't quite sure what the local French people would make of British cakes. After all, the mayor had been invited and you certainly don't want to upset him. We decided that small chestnut cakes covered in icing would be a bit different and a good alternative to some of the other delights on offer. They turned out OK but I did notice that some of the French guests seemed to look at them a little oddly. Maybe I'd overlooked the French tradition of chestnut cakes and gone a little bit too far from the norm. After that experience I started looking for a more traditional form of chestnut cake and since they've got an awful lot of chestnuts in the Ardèche, that seemed like a pretty good place to start.

To be honest, I'm not absolutely sure how close this cake might be …

Porc aux Pruneaux

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Sometimes it seems as if this blog should really be called ‘Some Old Bloke's Half-Remembered Meals’ and I'm sorry but here's another one. This particular nearly forgotten dish is based on something that I ate in Chinon many years ago. Chinon is a lovely little town with a fine castle, the river Vienne, some very pleasing wines and a number of good restaurants. Well, it did then and I feel sure it still does.

This dish is easy to put together, quite rich and definitely old school. It's based on a dish from Tours, which is not far from Chinon, but I'm pretty certain the version that I ate used a Chinon white wine. It can be quite hard to find white Chinon wine in other parts of France let alone outside of the country, so use another dry white wine instead – a Chenin Blanc would be ideal.

Traditionally, I'm sure it would be more normal to cut the pork into noisettes and fry them rather than roasting the fillet whole, but I prefer the roasting option – it’s easier…

The Professor Denies Everything Or A Review of The Poi’s Son

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It's not escaped my notice that lots of bloggers write restaurant reviews but, so far, I've been far too idle to follow suit. But when a new pop-up restaurant opened nearby I couldn't miss the opportunity to pass on the good news. The Poi's Son Of Avril is in the fine tradition of many modern restaurants: find an unexploited, cheap foodstuff and make it fashionably expensive in a room with ridiculous decoration. The speciality of the Poi's Son Of Avril is Hawaiian Poi and they boast not only a chef who is a master of this ancient culinary art but also quite a lot of dry rot.

I quickly perused the Blogger's Guide to Restaurant Reviewing and discovered that if you don't find yourself fascinating enough then you need to take an interesting companion with you. The Professor is usually interesting if not always entirely sober and he was more than happy to accompany me. At least he was after I threatened to tell his wife about the incident with the exotic dancer …

Carrot Halwa For Al

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I think of Al whenever I see carrot halwa on the menu of an Indian restaurant (and, believe me, that's quite often).

Al did a lot of the cooking at iDEATH. His signature dish was ‘mess of carrots’. Al was definitely known for his carrots. When he and Pauline cooked together ‘they made a potato salad that somehow ended up having a lot of carrots in it.’ I think if Al made a dessert, then this would be the one. It would probably be sweetened with watermelon sugar.

In the early 1970s when I first read Richard Brautigan’s ‘In Watermelon Sugar’ it seemed an extraordinary book and, as it happens, it still does today. The book was actually written in 1964 and published in 1968 and I can't imagine it being written in any other decade. The narrator (‘Just call me whatever is in your mind’) lives in a shack near iDEATH and tells us of his life in a place where many things are made of watermelon sugar and the sun shines a different colour every day. I'm wondering what the people who…

Gâteau Battu

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In Picardy, near the mouth of the Somme, lies the ancient region of Ponthieu (unless I've got my geography wrong again) where there lives a strange beast known as the Gâteau Battu. This translates as ‘beaten cake’, but imagine a tall, light, buttery, yeasty brioche and you'll be somewhere near it. I first tasted this gâteau over a decade ago and, although I loved it, I didn't think about trying to make it at home. Then a few years ago, I met Michel Savreux, chef and member of the Confrérie du Gâteau Battu. His enthusiasm for local food and the Gâteau Battu in particular inspired me to attempt to make my own version. (I was particularly impressed when I saw that on ceremonial occasions the Confrérie wear truly wonderful hats in the shape of a Gâteau Battu).

It turns out that making a Gâteau Battu on a small, domestic scale is not quite as easy as I thought it might be. It’s not that the basic recipe is a secret – the Confrérie publish a recipe on their web site – it’s just …

Bogus Café de Paris Sauce

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A while ago I was asked what was the first ever recipe that I'd collected. I've been tearing recipes out from newspapers and magazines and jotting others down for a very long time but everything before about 1983 has been lost somewhere along the way. I did some digging and came up with this which is just possibly the earliest surviving recipe in my collection.

I can't remember where the recipe came from but I'm fairly sure it wasn't called “bogus” in the original. It is bogus, though, and has only a distant connection to the original Café de Paris recipe. This may be partly my fault because I think I played around with it a fair bit before I wrote it down but I believe that the real sauce served in the Café de Paris in Geneva is a creamy sauce that’s allegedly made using chicken livers. (Although maybe not - the actual recipe is still secret). To make things even more confusing, there are plenty of recipes for a Café de Paris butter around and that’s an entirely …

Vinegar Steak With Mango Sauce

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Most years I try to grow at least one chilli plant during the summer and most of them suffer from neglect. Some do produce a decent crop, though, and last year it was the turn of a Scotch Bonnet plant. As the summer ended I carried it indoors and placed it on a windowsill, where it’s just about hanging on to life despite yet more neglect. Oddly the seriously hot little fruits made me nostalgic for the 1980s.

Back then I started to realise that Caribbean cooking could be exceptionally good as well as exceptionally hot. The big name in Caribbean (and African) cooking at that time, at least as far as I was concerned, was Rosamund Grant. As well as writing cookery books she ran the groundbreaking Bambaya restaurant in London at the time. The restaurant may have disappeared long ago but I still use some of her recipes from the 80s. Actually, this isn't one of them, but it's definitely inspired by her and uses a version of the traditional technique of creating a marinade based on vi…