Tuesday, March 31, 2009
FYI: Rennet is an enzyme that used to be extracted from the stomachs of calves to curdle milk. Although still used, most manufacturers used vegetarian rennet to make their cheeses etc. I think the veggie-friendly rennet is produced using bacteria with the rennet gene inserted.
For 4 to 6:
Warm a pint of Channel Island milk slowly until it reaches 37°C. If you can’t get Channel Island milk, use whole milk – do not be tempted to use skimmed or semi-skimmed, it will not work. Whilst it’s warming, mix a dessert spoon of sugar with 2 tablespoons of brandy in the serving dish that you want to set your junket. When at temperature, pour the milk into the dish and carefully stir in a dessertspoon of rennet (follow the instructions on the bottle in case this is different). Now leave the milk to set at room temperature. I went back and checked it after an hour and it was done – it had essentially become fromage fraise. Now slacken off ¼ pint of clotted cream with a little double cream and pour or spread it over the junket, being careful not to let it split. Lastly sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon over the top and you are done.
#131 Devonshire Junket – 5/10. This was ok, but sugar and cream always tastes good. I think the brandy should be replaced with some stewed fruit or vanilla extract, because I loved the texture of it. I think with a little playing around, the junket could have a come-back. I am dreaming up variants as I type…
Monday, March 30, 2009
FYI: Easter bunnies do not refer to rabbits, but hares, as it is they who display their 'mad' March behaviour. Rabbits are similar and much more common and so have been mis-named. If you spot anyone making this minor error, be annoying and pull them up on it and then do your best smug face to infuriate them further
Anyway, I’d never eaten wild rabbit and had had farmed only the once and totally cocked it up, but since I am loving the game thus far in English Food I knew I’d like this one. Only wild rabbit will do here, people, if you can’t get wild rabbit use duck instead. What also interested me was the huge amount of onions required for this recipe – it’s very rare that onions are used as a vegetable. It's another Eighteenth Century dish. If you got your rabbit whole and intact, you should use the jaw bones and stick them in the rabbit's eyes and fill its mouth with myrtle or barberries. Whatever they are.
Truss your wild rabbit (or duck) with string, place it in a pan, cover with water, add a bouquet garni (I used parsley, bay, thyme, rosemary and some pared orange rind) and some salt and pepper then bring it to the boil and simmer ‘until done’. Having no frame of reference here, meant checking every now and again. Apparently, younger lithe rabbits cook quicker than old gnarly ones, so check every half an hour after the first hour is up. Once simmering, get to work on peeling 2 to 3 pounds of onions. Pop them in whole along with the rabbit after half an hour and take them out after another half an hour. Now chop them up – a boiled onion is a slippery customer, so be careful with them knife. Fry the onions in 4 ounces of butter until golden in colour, add 4 tablespoons of double cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove the cooked rabbit and let it rest for a little while and then cut up into serving pieces – two rear legs, two fore legs and the saddle cut into 3 pieces. Arrange on a serving dish and smother with the sauce. Serve with spinach and potatoes as instructed by Griggers herself (I did mash).
#130 Boiled Wild Rabbit with Onion Sauce – 5/10. Not sure if I liked this. It wasn’t vile, as I finished my meal, but wild rabbit has an unusual flavour that is pungent and slightly unappetising. Butters said it tasted like sewage. Weirdly, he wasn’t far away with that description. In fact reading ahead to other rabbit recipes, Griggers herself says that rabbit needs strong flavours to balance its ‘rank flavour.’ This begs the question: if I don’t like it, should I cook the other recipes? They all ask for wild rabbit, however, it is only this recipe that absolutely requires wild, so maybe I should try farmed next time. Not sure. Slightly disappointed that I dislike something – I pride myself in not being a fussy eater. Anyways, the onion sauce was lovely and rich and creamy – loved that. Perhaps using a duck would have been better all round.
Friday, March 20, 2009
This pie serves four, but is quite rich so you could get away with five or six:
Trim some cubed shoulder of mutton well so that you end up with a pound of it in weight. Next, make a spice mix using a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seed, ½ a teaspoon each of ground mace and ground allspice and an inch length of cinnamon stick. Grind all the spices down - I use a coffee grinder for such things, if you don’t have one use a pestle and mortar. Salt the meat and brown it using 2 ounces of beef dripping in a pan that is ovenproof. Add the spices and fry them gently for a couple of minutes. Add 8 ounces of sliced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and give it good mix around. Add ½ pint of beef stock (Griggers says you can also use veal or venison stock; oh la-dee-dah!). Now the sweet element – stir in 2 ounces each of dried prunes, apricots and raisins; and to counteract the sweetness the juice and rind of a Seville orange (or, alternatively, a sweet orange plus lemon juice). She doesn’t say whether you chop up the rind or just add it to take out later. I chopped it up like you would for marmalade, but it did make the resulting sauce slightly too bitter; this was resolved by the addition of some sugar to taste later. Bring the mixture a simmer, cover and bake in a low oven - 140°C – for 2 hours (or more if you like). Taste and check for seasoning, transfer to a small pie dish and allow to cool; skimming any fat away that may appear.
Make a shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of fat (I used half-lard, half-butter), salt and milk to bind. Cover the dish as normal and decorate the pie with the trimmings. Butters and I had fun making apricots, leaves and a wee sheep to go on it. Brush with beaten egg as a glaze and bake for 25-40 minutes at 220°C until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.
#129 Dartmouth Pie – 7.5/10. A very good pie indeed. Very sweet and rich but went brilliantly with some relatively bland mash and minty peas. The medieval flavours were not alien – I can see why this one survived (and others where fish is used instead of mutton didn’t). As I’ve mentioned before, the secret is the slow-cooking; the resulting meat was so tender, you hardly had to chew and the fruit had become a dark bitter-sweet mush. Lovely. If I owned a restaurant, I’d have it on the menu!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Finding the woodcock was exciting, as I am now officially a food geek – however I was feeling a little trepidation; this is definitely the first really extreme thing I’ve made from the cook book. Woodcock is considered a delicacy not just because it’s so hard to get hold of, but also because pretty much the whole thing is eaten. Essentially, the bird is roasted rare, whole and completely intact (except the eyes are removed and it is plucked) and trussed with its own beak. The trail of the bird (i.e. the guts, liver etc) is spread on fried bread and the head is split in two so that you can use the beak of one half to prize out the brain from the other.
Woodcock trussed with its own beak
Here’s what to do if you happen upon this little birdie:
Preheat your oven to 220°C. Start off by trussing the bird with it’s beak by spearing the thighs to keep them closed up together. Season the breasts and cover liberally with butter so it doesn’t dry out. Place on a small roasting tin and cook for 18-20 minutes. Whilst that is happening, fry one slice of white bread per bird gently in butter, placing it under the woodcock(s) for the final 5 minutes of cooking. When the time is up, remove the bread and place on a warmed plate and allow the bird to rest for 5 or 10 minutes in the pan. Next, using a knife and/or spoon scoop out the trail (everything except the gizzard – which is actually hard to get to, so it’s unlikely you’ll accidently scoop it out). Spread the trail on the toast. Cut off the head and cut it in half lengthways so that you can use the beak to remove the brain from the halves. You can serve the bird whole or remove the breasts if you like.
The final dish
#128 Woodcock. How on Earth am I going to score this one!? Eating the innards of a bird wasn’t something I was going to relish – but I did relish the idea of eating something very traditional but very out-of-favour. From that point of view – an excitement rating – 10/10. Flavour-wise, the breast meat was very gamey indeed – the smaller the bird, the stronger the flavour – it was so rich that it would have been more than enough for one person. The thigh meat was horrible though – just tasted of dead animal. Bizarrely, the best bit was the trail on toast. The intestines were very soft and there was nothing chewy, though it took some courage to make the first bite. Turns out it tastes a bit like Marmite. Very nice. The brain didn’t really taste as strong as the trail, but was soft and slightly greasy in texture; it appealed to my sudden manly bloodlust though. So overall, it is a high scorer, but not too high – I don’t want to give it loads of marks because of the novelty, so on flavour alone, I reckon it’s worthy of 6/10.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Begin by slicing up 12 bananas and simmering them in ½ a pint of cider (or white wine) vinegar until the bananas are cooked and mushy. Stir in 8 ounces of sugar and allow to cool. Next stir in 2 medium onions that have been finely sliced, 4 ounces of finely chopped sultanas, an ounce of curry powder (whatever strength you like), ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of Cayenne pepper, and salt – and salt well; chutneys should be salty, add up to 3 teaspoons. Cover the bowl or pan with Clingfilm and allow to stand for 12 hours. Taste and check for seasoning again before potting in sterilised jars and store somewhere cool.
#127 Banana Chutney – 5.5/10. Nice and sweet; Griggers says to serve with ham, salt pork and chicken, but I had it in a cheese sandwich and it was very nice, though it was quite dry – I prefer chutneys to have a bit of sauce to them. If I were to make itagain, I would add more vinegar and sugar and would also cook the curry powder out too in a little oil before adding the bananas and vinegar at the start (but what do I know).
Saturday, March 14, 2009
You will need…
Carcasses of 2 pheasant, cut up (or 1 chicken, turkey or several smaller game birds, etc, etc)
4 pints of water
1 teaspoon salt
Stock vegetables/trimmings – i.e. celery, onion, leek etc. all roughly chopped
1 pint of light beef stock
4 ounces of pearl barley
Sliced/cubed broth vegetables – potatoes, carrots, etc
4 or 5 sticks of celery, sliced or cubed
What to do…
Place the carcasses into a large saucepan or stockpot with the water, the bouquet garni, the peppercorns, salt and the stock vegetables. Bring to the boil, cover tightly and simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Strain the stock and return it to the pan and add the barley, beef stock, celery and the other stock vegetables and simmer for a further hour. Whilst you are waiting, pick any meat from the carcasses and put them in with broth at the end. Check the seasoning. Serve with buttered brown bread.
I made the Kickshaws from the leftover puff pastry trimmings. They are very easy to make – good one to make with kids if you’ve got any and don’t mind getting their filthy little paws in you food.
Roll out your puff pastry trimmings thinly and cut out circles of around 3 inches in diameter. Next, place a scant teaspoon of jelly or jam in the centre and use milk or beaten egg to make little parcels or turnovers; I used bramble jelly, quince jelly and apricot jam. Deep fry at around 160°C for a few minutes until the pastry has puffed up and golden brown. Sprinkle some sugar over them and eat warm. I poured some double cream over them that was also left over from big feast.
FYI: the name “Kickshaws” comes from an Anglicisation of the French quelque chose. I don’t know any French, but Griggers says it means “some odd thing or other”.
#126 Kickshaws – 8/10. Kickshaws go right back to Medieval times, though survived until the Eighteenth Century, though we don’t really make them now. We should definitely bring them back though as they are delicious. They are definitely being made every time there are trimmings to be used up!
Friday, March 13, 2009
For each person:
Start off by breaking a sponge finger into four pieces and laying it in the bottom of a small ramekin or cup. Next pour over a tablespoon of sherry or Muscatel dessert wine - I (or, rather, Charmolian) used sherry. On top of this dollop on 2 tablespoons of whipped cream. To decorate, add half a teaspoon of chopped roasted hazelnuts and something sweet – Griggers says some leaves cut from angelica or cumin comfits, but not – heaven forbid – glace cherries as they would be “out of style” (this is one of the few times that the book shows its age). The most difficult part of the whole meal was getting hold of angelica – I eventually got some in Tesco, if anybody is wondering. I have no idea what cumin comfits are, but they sound delicious – I may try and locate some…
FYI: Angelica has been cultivated since the Tenth Century as food and for its medicinal properties – it has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It has been noted also for its wonderful taste and aroma – compared to musk and juniper. I found that it was completely tasteless in its candied form. Hey-ho.
FYI2: It is called angelica because the Archangel Gabriel supposedly informed us of its uses. That was nice of him, wasn’t it?
#125 Whim-Wham – 3/10. Ms Grigson should be done for false advertising here – the phrases “tasty mouthful” and “not too heavy” are very much – in my opinion – fibs. They were so rich, alcoholic and massive. By the time dessert was brought out I was a little tipsy and for somehow manage to not only polish off mine, but also someone else’s. The next day, when I thought of them, I puked. Next time (as if there will be one), I’ll used Muscatel wine. Bleurgh…
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wash and trim 2 heads of celery and cut them into 3 inch lengths. Plunge them into boiling water for 10-15minutes until they are tender. Drain and return to the pan. Beat two egg yolks and ¼ pint of double cream together along with some seasoning. Stir this into the celery over a low heat until the sauce thickens. Serve straight away.
#124 Celery with Cream – 3.5/10. Not foul or inedible, just weird. That is the best I can sum this up as. I’m not sure that celery is palatable cooked this way – Braised celery, I know, is a good way to eat it as an individual vegetable, but not this one I’m afraid. I’ll stick to cauliflower cheese in future!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
FYI: This is a very old recipe, bread sauces go back to Medieval times though stock was used as a base more often than milk. Thick sauces were required then because trenchers (plates made of dried bread) would have gone soggy otherwise. Sauces thickened with flour or eggs would not work for that as they would either glue or custard respectively!
OK, the recipe:
Begin by putting ¾ of a pint of whole or Jersey milk into a basin along with a small onion that has been halved and studded with 3 or 4 cloves. Place the basin over simmering water and keep the milk just below boiling point for as long as possible so that it can be infused with the flavours. Whilst that is going on use a food processor to make 4 ounces of white breadcrumbs. Take out the onion and cloves and whisk in the breadcrumbs until it is thick. The suace will thicken up after a few minutes, but if it’s a bit on the thin side make some more breadcrumbs and whisks them in. Season the sauce with mace or nutmeg (or both), salt, white pepper and a pinch of Cayenne pepper. Lastly, enrich the sauce with 1 ½ ounces of butter or 2 tablespoons of cream (or a bit of both). Pour into a ‘sauce tureen’ and add an extra sprinkle of Cayenne, says Griggers.
#123 Bread Sauce – 9/10. I loved this; creamy, rich, but not sickly at all. I’ve made it before, but this definitely the best recipe for it so far. The old fashioned spices really made it work for me.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
1. The pheasants themselves
2. The game chips
3. The giblet gravy
4. The browned crumbs
5. The bread sauce (dealt with separately as #123).
Most of this can be made in advance and reheated, that which is not, is easy and quick to prepare and will not keep you from your guests for very long.
To prepare the brace of pheasants, begin by removing the giblets and setting them aside for later on. Stuff each bird with 2 ounces of butter, plus the liver (make sure you remove the green bitter gall bladder) and a good seasoning with salt and pepper, then lay a thin sheet of back pork fat over them that is large enough to cover the beasts and legs. Secure the back fat by tying string around the pheasants. Place them in a roasting tin and set aside for when you want to roast them – they should be roasted at 190°C for 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 10 minutes. You calculate this for the heaviest bird; in my case 2 pounds, so 50 minutes in all. For the final 10 minutes of cooking, remove the back fat and dust the breasts lightly with seasoned flour. Remove from the oven and allow to rest. I did this just before the guests arrived so that the birds could rest as the leek tarts were cooking. To serve it, I removed the legs, then sliced the breast meat and placed on a bed of watercress.
When the birds were prepared, I started on the gravy: first place the giblets (minus livers) in a saucepan along with a sliced carrot, a sliced onion and a bouquet garni and enough light beef stock to cover everything generously. This was simmered gently for two hours before being finished off later (see below). Next job was to get the game chips sorted. Game chips are basically crisps cut very thinly on a Chinese mandolin using the ridged blade to produce a lattice, or gaufrette, pattern. Peel 1 ½ pounds of firm potatoes. Put the mandolin at its thinnest setting and slice downwards, turning the potato a quarter-turn as you bring it back up to make the next slice to get the lattice effect. Put the chips into a large bowl of water to remove starch and then dry thoroughly. Deep fry in batches at 200°C until golden brown, and drain on kitchen paper and salt them well. This can be re-heated in the oven whenever you need to use them.
So that there was a bit of green, also served some peas and green peas, but also Bread Sauce (as instructed) and (#124) Creamed Celery – Grigson says that either celery or mushrooms should be eaten with roast pheasant.
#122 Roast Pheasant – 9.5/10. What a brilliant meal! It was well worth the effort, I cannot fault it in any way really, and will definitely make it again, though maybe not with all the required elements. The pheasant was juicy and just-cooked, the gravy was beautifully rich and luscious, the breadcrumbs provided a nice crunchy texture and the game chips were tasty, some crunchy and some soggy in the gravy and bread sauce. For me, pheasant is the king of the game birds, and after this, it is going to be very difficult to knock it off the top spot.
FYI: to be a bit thrifty, I made soup from the carcasses and left over veg and trimmed celery etc and it was lovely – I’ll put a recipe up for it. I am never chucking out a carcass again!
This recipe makes between 12 and 24 tarts, depending how much filling you put in each one:
Begin by trimming and cleaning some leeks – you need 2 pounds trimmed weight (this may seem a lot, but they melt down and concentrate). Chop them up and add them to a heavy-based pan that has 2 generous ounces of butter melted in it. Cover the pan tightly and allow to stew slowly for about 10 or 15minutes. Check inside and stir – the leek should not have changed colour, just reduced in volume. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes with the lid off so that the leeks lose their wetness. This is important to concentrate the flavour. Whilst this is happening cut out circles of puff pastry to line small tart tins and heat the oven to 220°C. Liquidise the leeks and season with salt and pepper and stir through a couple of tablespoons of double cream. Divide the mixture out between the pastry cases and sprinkle a teaspoon of grated Cheddar or Wensleydale cheese over them. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve immediately. To look a bit more swish, I added rocket that had been dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
In reality, we made them first, but actually baked them when everyone arrived and the pheasants had finished cooking.
FYI: the leek became the national ‘flower’ of Wales after a Welsh King called Cadwaladr (c. 633–682) apparently ordered his soldiers to wear them on their helmets in a battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field! This story is probably nonsense, but the best ones usually are...
#121 Little Leek Tarts – 8.5/10. Absolutely delicious! So often are leeks just used as a stock or soup vegetable; this recipe let them shine. The leek puree was light but creamy and went very well with the rich pastry. The only problem (and it was my problem, not the recipes) was that it was very slightly gritty – I obviously rushed the rinsing of a few of the leeks. Oopsey! Oh well, I have learned from my errors and have therefore become a better person because of it. Whatever.
So basing a meal around this I came up with a loose theme – the Eighteenth Century. It was quite a time-consuming set of recipes, but none are particularly complex. Plus I had lots of help from my sous chefs Iain (Butters) and Charlotte (Charmolian). Also, in the times of the credit crunch, the whole meal was actually pretty good value, so it won't burn a hole in your pocket. Anyways, here it is:
Little Leek Tarts served with a rocket salad (the latter, my own addition, obviously)
Brace of Roasted Pheasants
Served with: Game chips, green vegetables, buttered crumbs and a rich giblet gravy
Accompanied by: Creamed celery and bread sauce
Not a mean feat, but we started well ahead of time so that we never seemed rushed, plus much of this could be made in advance. Paddy, Kate and Pete came over, so there were no heirs and graces and if anything did go wrong it wouldn’t matter (nothing did!). So if you fancy making any elements of this meal, I shall naturally be adding the recipes alongside any wee factoids I may find over the next couple of days.