Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Butternut Squash Chutney and the 2015 Kitchen Music

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.
BNS Chutney
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-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring every now and then, until the cooking apple has collapsed and the squash is tender. If the mixture seems to be drying out too much, then add a little water.

I prefer this chutney not too chunky so I take the mixture off the heat and attack it with a potato masher until I get the kind of texture that appeals but that's optional. Once the mixture has cooled a little, put it into sterilised jars, seal and label. This chutney is ready to eat pretty much immediately although letting it mature for a few days would be no bad thing. I can't guarantee how long it will keep - I tend to make small amounts rather than keep chutneys for too long.

But enough of these quasi-Christmas recipes, it's the moment that nobody's been waiting for as I indulge myself with some of this year's favourite music in my kitchen. There's far too much good stuff to choose from this year but I've tried to go for the less well-known and, because it's very nearly Christmas, the more cheerful and uplifting. In fact, if you're not cheered up by the Hafdis Huld clip, then you have a heart of steel. But first...

While you're on your way to Birkenhead, if you wander off the M53, you might well find yourself in Hooton. Hooton Tennis Club make it sound like the place to go for endless, lazy sunshine (well, they do for me). Their album ‘Highest Point In Cliff Town’ was released in August and is available for download from Bandcamp here at a very reasonable price.

And now a short detour to Ireland for Owensie’s ‘Dramamine’, which is the only song (and album) named after a travel sickness remedy that I can recall. You can download the album for even less money from Bandcamp here.

It's my short-lived tradition to feature something in a language other than English and this year we find ourselves in Argentina in the company of Blito y los Intermitentes, who thankfully don't seem to take themselves too seriously. Their album ‘Nada’ can be downloaded from Bandcamp here (surprise, surprise) and could not be any cheaper.

And so finally something else that's not in English. One of the delights of last Christmas for me was Hafdis Huld singing Christmas songs live on the internet from her pink house in Iceland. This year she made an album of Icelandic children's songs that isn't edgy, indie or trendy but I don't think there can be many better ways of getting into a happy, Christmassy mood. This song is called ‘Ein ég sit og sauma’ which I'm led to believe means ‘I sit on my own and sow’.

P.S. It may be better known but if you still feel like being cheered up and haven't seen it yet then try the very fine Bhi Bhiman video for ‘Moving To Brussels’  featuring the formidable Keegan-Michael Key. It helps if you've seen the film ‘Whiplash’.

And I'd feel guilty if I didn't mention the excellent work this year from Hardworker, Josh Savage, Goodly Thousands, Olivia Quillio, Joan Shelley and Neøv.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Turkey with Beer and Juniper

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 that seems a shame to me). But I thought I'd get this recipe in early before everyone starts roasting birds the size of planetoids. This recipe is based on a dish from the Licques area. It's very much a winter dish and typically for the area uses beer rather than wine, root vegetables and a dash or two of the local genièvre.
Turkey with Beer and Juniper
The crucial thing about this simple dish, apart from good beer and fine turkey, is very gentle cooking. In French recipes you might well come across the word ‘mijoter’, which is usually translated as simmering or slow cooking. When it comes to this kind of very gentle simmering there's an even better word with a descriptive sound - ‘blobloter’. This means the kind of gentle simmering where the surface of the liquid just trembles with merely an occasional bubble rising to the surface. At least, that's what I was given to understand. Allowing for my lack of language ability and general gullibility it may turn out to mean something very rude.

This recipe needs to be started the day before serving. It should serve 4 or maybe 3 if you need hearty winter portions to keep out the cold.

450 g turkey breast, cut into chunks
75 g smoked bacon pieces or pancetta
1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
Chicken stock - probably 200 - 300 ml should be enough
4 tbsp crème fraîche

     2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks or rounds
     1 leek, white part only, sliced
     2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
     6 juniper berries, lightly crushed
     3 tbsp genièvre (or gin)
     A generous few turns of freshly ground black pepper
     250 ml bière blonde (or use a good, flavourful lager but avoid a strong, dark beer) 
     ½ tsp dried thyme

Put the turkey chunks into a non-reactive bowl. Combine all the marinade ingredients and mix with the turkey. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least 5 or 6 hours but preferably overnight.

Drain and reserve the marinade. In a large pan fry the bacon or pancetta until the fat begins to run. Add the drained turkey and vegetables and stir them around just long enough to get a small amount of colour. Sprinkle the brown sugar into the pan and pour in the reserved marinade. Top up with just enough chicken stock to cover the turkey. Put a lid on the pan and allow the mixture to simmer very gently for 1½ - 2 hours or until everything is nice and tender.

Uncover the pan, lift out the vegetables and turkey with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Turn up the heat and reduce the cooking liquid by about half. If you prefer the sauce to have more of a coating consistency, then you could use a little cornflour to thicken the cooking liquid a touch more. Whisk in the crème fraîche and pour the sauce over the turkey and vegetables immediately before serving.

I'd be very happy serving this with plain rice but potatoes are probably more traditional.