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Showing posts from 2014

Damien Trench’s Parkin and This Year’s Kitchen Music

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It's about time that I paid due homage to the man widely recognised as this country's finest food writer and cook - Damien Trench. I believe that he'll be on the radio this Christmas and there's a rumour that he may grace our television screens at some point next year. I can't tell you how difficult it is to contain my excitement at the thought of it. As a tribute to the great man I decided to make his recipe for parkin. I've hardly baked anything this year due to a lack of time and the fact that pretty much everybody I know is constantly on a diet, but surely I'm allowed at least one treat at this time of the year. I don't want to infringe Mr Trench's copyright by presenting his recipe in full but, suffice it to say, if you take this fine Tate and Lyle recipe , adjust the ratio of oatmeal and flour to favour the flour, adjust the milk up and the syrup down, use fresh rather than dried ginger and bake it for less time, then you’re pretty near it. I

Tangerine Gin

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This is a seasonal drink that's very easy to make, tastes lovely and might even be described as festive if I were the festive type. I decided to make some when I was thinking about how much I missed Belfast gin. There are some very fine gins available, but back in the 1980s Belfast gin with its citrus flavour was always my favourite. Sadly I believe the gin disappeared sometime in the 1990s. This is definitely not a recreation of Belfast gin, it’s just inspired by it. In fact it’s more a way of producing a posh and expensive tasting liqueur without spending too much time or money. Once the Seville oranges arrive in the country you can use those in place of the tangerines. This is quite an old recipe - there's a version of it in the Ocklye cookbook of 1908, for instance - but it deserves a revival. You can drink a little nip as a winter warmer, mix it with tonic or sparkling water for a longer drink or add it to cocktails. The tangerine combines well with lemon or with summery

Turnips with Vinegar and Maple Syrup

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The other day I put my Panama hat away in the trunk marked “Not Needed In Winter”, my butler poured me an autumn Armagnac and I found myself looking back on this year’s crop from what I laughingly call my vegetable patch. It was probably a decent return for very little effort. (Mind you, I'm still very grateful that there’s a large pick your own farm just up the road). The homegrown vegetable that I've enjoyed most has probably been the humble turnip. I've wittered on about quick growing turnips before , but I'm still very impressed by them and I can’t understand why they’re not more widely grown. I get most of my seed from France where they’re grown far more often but small British varieties can give an excellent return as well. This is a sweet and sour take on the turnip which is very simple but does rely on the use of good, small turnips as well as decent quality vinegar and maple syrup. You can use any sort of wine vinegar but one made from a sweet wine or sherr

Soupe à la Bière

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Every year at around this time Le Festival Des Soupes et Des Pains (The Festival of Soup and Bread) is held either in or around Montreuil-sur-Mer , but I've heard that apparently this year’s event had to be cancelled. So I thought I'd put this soup together to compensate myself in a small way for that loss. (Not that I could have been there physically, but I definitely intended to be there in spirit.) There are many types of beer soup across the north of France as well as in Belgium and northern Germany. Some versions seem to me to be little more than beer warmed up with a bit of seasoning but this version is closer to a northern French recipe using some of the fine root veg from the area. I roast the veg to concentrate the flavour although I doubt that roasting is very traditional.  This type of soup is very often served with croutons and grated cheese. Typically the cheese would be gouda or emmental although you can use whatever hard cheese you fancy - some cheddars would

Flognarde

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I'm lucky enough to live only a short distance from the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley . Towards autumn they often sell some of the fruit grown in the garden and that means a chance to try some of the more traditional and rare varieties that you’ll never find in a supermarket. And that’s how I ended up with a fine bowlful or two of apples and pears. With that much fruit on hand, I thought that a flognarde might be called for. I've come across some versions of this dessert that seem like an attempt to make uninspiring apples a bit more interesting. But if you start with interesting apples or pears, then it’s so much better than that. The flognarde (or flaugnarde) appears to have started life in the Limousin region of France, although it turns up in other places such as the Périgord too. You might be tempted to ask what’s the difference between a flognarde and a clafoutis with apples in it, but please don't - that question gives me a headache. There's a

Tarte au Maroilles – The Lazy Person’s Guide

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Bonjour tertous ! OK. that's just about all the ch'ti I can speak but I thought it was about time for a ch'ti recipe. After all, it's from just across the channel so it's almost a local dish. In case you're not familiar with Maroilles, it's a soft cow's milk cheese with an orange rind that's made in northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there's a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don't eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great. As well as being a fine addition to the cheese board, it’s also a superb cheese for cooking. One of the commonest dishes using this pushy little cheese is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. Think of it as a sort of e

Slow Cooker Carrot, Lemon and Almond Chutney

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I'm a fan of slow cookers but I often seem to forget about them except when making casseroles of one kind or another. They're much more useful than that. Using the slow cooker for chutneys means that you don’t need to watch them too carefully but, even better than that, the slow cooking seems to blend and enrich the flavours exceptionally well. On the down side, it’s very difficult to give precise instructions on timings for slow cookers and I think it's quite tricky to get the amount of liquid in a preserve recipe correct. Slow cookers seem to vary a great deal, not only in the temperatures they reach, but also in the amount of liquid they tend to lose while cooking. So, it’s possible that after the initial cooking period you may need to transfer the chutney to a conventional pan and boil it for a short while to get the desired consistency. This particular chutney is a classic combination but it’s one that works very well with a range of different foods and that seems to

Lemon And Cardamom Nonnettes

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I've wittered on about nonnettes in the past   but I love them and I can't understand why everyone else in the world doesn't feel the same way. So apologies for nearly repeating myself but here's my current favourite variation on the nonnette theme, replacing the more traditional orange flavours with lemon. Nonnettes are most commonly associated with the town of Dijon, although there are bakers elsewhere in France who seem a little unconvinced by this suggestion. Wherever the recipe originated, though, it's certainly been around a long time. In fact, it seems to  date from the middle ages. One notable feature of these cakes is that they don’t contain any eggs (well, not the way I make them anyway). I've used lemon curd in this particular version, but if you want to avoid eggs, substitute marmalade or jam (raspberry, blackberry or boysenberry will all work well). Nonnettes are closely related to pain d’épices and so will often contain a more complex mix of sp

Coconut and Elderflower Rice Pudding for M. Satie

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The other day I was listening to a fine rendition of Erik Satie’s ‘Je te veux’ on the radio and, for some reason, I remembered that he claimed to eat only white food. This choice may have stemmed from an artistic desire for purity, although, let’s face it, Satie was as mad as a box of frogs a trifle eccentric. I started to imagine what I’d serve up if Satie came round for dinner. I wouldn't put it past him to turn up out of the blue with a bouquet of umbrellas in hand expecting to be fed. I'm not sure that being dead for nearly 90 years would stop him. The starter could be a white soup, I suppose, and maybe chicken in a white sauce for the main course. But this is definitely the dessert. My version of coconut rice pudding isn't dairy-free, because I like the silkiness that the dairy elements bring to the dish. The fromage frais not only gives some extra creaminess, but also adds a little sharpness, which I think lifts the flavour of the pudding. There are other elde

Pig Cheek Curry

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Pig (or pork) cheeks seem to have become a trendy ingredient over the last couple of years. I'm a long way from trendy, but I have to admit that they’re a fine cut of meat. As long as they’re cooked slowly and gently, they’re meltingly tender and full of flavour. For the moment at least, they’re also reasonably cheap. In fact, they can be a bit of a bargain. Most of the dishes using cheeks that I've come across recently have been based on traditional European slow braised recipes and there's nothing wrong with that. If you fancy something a bit different, though, I've found that cheeks work well in spicier dishes. Despite what might seem like a lot of ingredients this is actually a midweek, standby sort of recipe, assuming that you have enough time to let it simmer away slowly. Apart from the cheeks and the squash, everything can come out of the store cupboard or freezer and it’s not only very simple to put together but it will also cook gently while you get on with s

Quatre Quarts

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I was stuck in a post office queue recently and I started to daydream about Brittany. (The place, not a person). By the time I got to the counter, I felt I really had to come home and make a quatre quarts. Although versions of this cake can be found in pretty much any French supermarket, Brittany is its spiritual home. The cake is essentially a pound cake, but it’s all about good butter and in Brittany that means very good, salted butter. Incidentally, the name simply refers to the four quarters, the four ingredients of identical weight that make up the cake - eggs, flour, sugar and butter. I add a little vanilla to the cake, which I don’t think is strictly authentic but I like it. Depending on whom you ask, baking powder may not be acceptable either, but I don’t care, I use it anyway. If you fancy a variation, chocolate and apple versions are very popular in Brittany too. This will make enough mixture for a 2 lb (900 g) loaf tin and that’s the more common shape for the cake but y

Veg Patch Confessions Part 43b - New Zealand Spinach

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There's no recipe today; instead it’s this year’s first dubious tale from the neglected veg patch. Spinach is a very useful vegetable to have growing in your garden in my opinion. Even if you don’t have much space to grow a lot of plants, a couple of handfuls of the leaves can be really useful to add to curries, pasta, fish or whatever you fancy. The problem is that if you’re away from home or if you’re just too busy to get out to your plants, then things start to go wrong. Like most vegetables, spinach doesn't take kindly to near complete neglect, especially a lack of watering. On the other hand, there is a useful little plant that has survived a serious amount of neglect in my veg patch: New Zealand Spinach (tetragonia tetragonioides). It might not be as prolific or as large as conventional spinach, but any vegetable that can survive both drought and my incompetent gardening has got to be a good thing. You may know this plant by a different name. For instance, in Austra

Cardamom and Lemon Apple Jelly

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I've wittered on about making savoury apple jellies before , but I don't care, I'm going to do it again. They've become one of my essential store cupboard items and, following the superb crop of apples in England last year, I was given plenty of cooking apples with which to experiment over the autumn and winter. This jelly won the award for best newcomer. It's more fragrant and a little less punchy than some of the others that I make but it’s certainly no shrinking violet when it comes to flavour. The cardamom is the main taste but it does need the lemon to provide a lift. It’s excellent served with cured or smoked salmon or used as a glaze when roasting salmon fillets. It also works very well with lamb and cold meats and adds an extra depth to vegetable dishes. Mixed with white wine, lemon juice and olive oil it will create a fine marinade or glaze for chicken or pork and it's useful for adding extra flavour to quick, weekday curries. You can even use it to f

Wet Nelly Goes South

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I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that today is Global Scouse Day. In celebration, here's an alternative dish from Liverpool - sort of. A while ago I read this post about the Wet Nelly of Liverpool on the very fine blog Lola and Finn’s Mum . Shamefully, despite a shedload of visits to Liverpool, I'd never heard of Wet Nelly. While I was back there last year and cruising along Speke Boulevard at the regulation 40 mph with the wind from Widnes blowing through what remains of my hair, I suddenly remembered Wet Nelly and thought I must have a go at making one. It turns out that Wet Nelly is essentially bread pudding from Liverpool. It might have pastry on the top and bottom and, then again, it might not. I don’t think that there’s any doubt that it’s one of those puddings designed to use up whatever you have left in the cupboard when there’s not much money to go around. I can remember eating bread puddings made from various leftovers as a kid (in London not Liverpoo

Three-Day Oxtail with Gin and Beer

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This dish really doesn't need a lot of work, but it does need a fair bit of time. If you can’t wait, you can shorten the process, but I think this dish is at it’s very best when made over a three-day period. On the first day you prepare the marinade and leave it overnight to do its stuff. On the second day you cook the dish in a relaxed manner and then chill it overnight. On the third day you reheat and enjoy it. This is an Anglicised version of a ch’ti recipe from just across the channel. The original recipe would have used genièvre and a local beer (a bière ambrée) but gin and a pale ale will do nicely instead, if they’re easier to lay your hands on. You can use other beers, but avoid any that are very bitter. This dish would normally be served simply with a little pasta or boiled potatoes, I think, but mashed potatoes, roasted celeriac or rice would be just fine too. This is a very warming and comforting dish for a winter’s day. Eat this and imagine yourself in a little est

Pistachio Lemon and Rapeseed Oil Financiers

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Recently, and not for the first time in my life, I bought a cake mould without really thinking what I might use it for. My feeble excuse is that it was in a sale. Although it’s deeper than a classic financier mould, it’s the same basic shape and it made me think of a recipe that I’d seen a year or two ago on the Elle à Table site for financiers made with apricots and olive oil. (The original recipe can be found here ) This recipe is based on that Elle original but, as any TV chef will tell you, olive oil is just so last decade and I used mainly cold pressed rapeseed oil instead. In fact, I used a combination of rapeseed and lemon-infused olive oil but either will work in this recipe. I know that not everyone agrees but I really like the flavour of rapeseed oil in baking. I think it works particularly well with pistachios and so I've used them rather than the more usual almonds. The pistachios can be ground in a processor but don’t overdo it or the result will be too greasy. Thi