Sunday, December 19, 2010
#267 Nut Cake. This was a good cake – the vanilla sugar was very successful I thought. Although never the most exciting, pound cakes don’t disappoint either, so all was good. It was a bit dry, but I think I over-did mine a little, so it isn’t Griggers’ fault. 6.5/10.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Whenever you are baking do try to use real vanilla pods, or at the very least the Madagascan vanilla extract. Don’t ever use the essence. If you do, I’ll come over to your house and smack your arse. Although Madagascar is the main producer of vanilla these days, it is actually a Mexican plant; an orchid in fact. Mexico had the monopoly on vanilla production because, although it is easy to grow the plants, fertilization of the flowers was only possible in Mexico itself. This is due to the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla plant and its pollinator; the Melipona bees of the area. It wasn’t until a 12 year-old slave discovered a way of artificially pollinating the flowers with a bamboo stick could vanilla farming leave Mexico. I wonder if the lad got a handsome reward. I doubt it….
Anyway, I have prattled on enough….
To make this vanilla sugar, cut two vanilla pods into one centimetre bits and put them into a blender along with four ounces of caster sugar. Whiz the mixture so that you get a grey-looking powder. Cut your vanilla sugar with eight ounces of caster sugar and keep it in an air-tight container. You’ll probably need to cut it further when you come to use it for recipes – this all depends on how much vanilla flavour you like. FYI it was thought of as an aphrodisiac, so don’t go crazy, unless you want your dinner party to turn into a scene from Eyes Wide Shut.
#266 Concentrated Vanilla Sugar. It’s hard to give this a mark really as it’s an ingredient rather than an actual food. We shall see when I come to use it in future recipes...
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
As is the hyve ful of hony sweete:
Wel was the wenche with hym myghte meete.
The Cook’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Banbury cakes certainly go way, way back – Griggers found a recipes for them in a book called The English Hus-wife, written in 1615. Hus-wife: what a great word. I’m going to start using it in conversation.
Anyways. In the EEB department of Rice Uiversity we had a Thanksgiving dinner and we were all asked to bring something in for it. These little cakes seemed like the perfect thing to make for a buffet – no need for slicing or even plates. I’m always slightly nervous of making recipes from the book for these kinds of things in case the recipe is God-awful – like previous bad experiences like the Whim-Wham, English Rarebit, the Rice Cake or the Mocha Cake.
First of all, melt two ounces of butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add four ounces of currants (or if you live in America, raisins!), an ounce of candied chopped peel, two ounces of sugar, ½ a teaspoon each of ground allspice and nutmeg as well as ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a tablespoon of rum. Allow to cool.
While you’re waiting, roll out some puff pastry thinly and cut seven inch wide circles. Put a spoonful in the centre of the circle in line about five inches long, drawing and folding in the pastry, pinching in the edges. Turn them over and flatten them slightly with the rolling-pin so that you have oval shaped cake. Make three slashes over the top, brush with egg white and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F). Allow to cool on racks.
#259 Banbury Cakes. These were very good indeed and they went down well at the thanksgiving dinner which was good, where I got the chance to shamelessly plug the blog. I think I prefer these to the Eccles cakes too, though there isn’t much in it. I scoffed down two as soon as they were cool, which wasn’t good as I was meant to be off wheat at the moment. One thing led to another and I ended up drinking wheat beer and eating a giant pizza in Late Nite Pie. Oh dear. 7.5/10.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I decided upon this one – Boiled Ox Tongue: to Serve Cold, because I could take it into work and force my new labmates to eat it and (hopefully) put some comments on here! The recipe calls for a 2 ½ to 5 pound pickled (i.e. brined) ox tongue – these you can order form your butcher (in the UK at least). I thought I would pickle it myself using this now tried-and-tested brine method from English Food. The tongue needs 5 to 7 days in the brine tub, but there is no maximum time really - you can’t oversalt anything, because you can soak it in water for 6 or so hours beforehand. It’s recommended you do this with a pickled tongue from the butcher’s shop.
|The tongue before brining|
|The pressed but unsliced tongue|
When you are ready to eat it, slice it thinly and serve with a salad and some horseradish sauce so says Lady Jane Griggers. If you want to be all Victorian about it ‘press the tongue into a slipper shape, and then decorate it with aspic jelly and bits and pieces’. However, The Grigson goes on to say: ‘I think we have lost sympathy with over-presented food of this kind: it always arouses my suspicious – I wonder what the caterer is trying to conceal.’
Monday, October 25, 2010
There are still several easy recipes to do in the meantime and this one couldn’t be simpler and is another recipe from Robert May (see this post). Cinnamon toast has been a staple sweet snack in England for a good few hundred years and the recipe hasn’t really changed much, and makes a very good substitute for cinnamon Danish pastry, should you get a midnight craving, as they are actually very similar – especially if May’s method is used because it uses a paste of sugar, cinnamon and claret.
I managed to get a bottle of Texan claret from the most amazing off-license (liquor store) called Spec’s, which is apparently the largest one in the whole of the United States and I actually got lost in the red wine section! It deserves an entry to itself. It is just a good job I don’t have alcoholic tendencies. Anyways, for those of you who know nothing about wine (this includes me, by the way), claret is usually red wine made in the Bordeaux region of France, so technically there’s no such thing as Texan Claret. Funnily enough, the Frenchies don’t recognise claret as a term itself; it’s a very British term used generally from May’s time to describe deep red wines such as Bordeaux and before that in medieval times for spiced wines, such as hippocras. As an aside, there is no recipe for hippocras or even mulled wine in English Food, so I shall try and hunt one out for the blog closer to Christmas.
Anyway, enough of my blabbering, here’s the old recipe that is not simply buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar like these days:
Begin by making the topping by simply making a paste from sugar and cinnamon in the proportions of one tablespoon of sugar to one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Use the claret to make a nice spreadable paste. Butter some slices of toast, lay them on a baking sheet and spread the paste over them. Warm through briefly in a hot oven for about 5 minutes and serve it forth!
Friday, October 8, 2010
Robert May himself was from a family of chefs, but obviously wanted to tell the common man how to cook; at least via rich home owners. In those days, you see, the lady of the house would have presented the head cook/chef with such a book to use. Assuming they could read. Read more about him and his book here.
Anyways, this is a very good recipe to do in the autumn because a large variety of squashes are available. This recipe can be used with ‘gourds, pompions, cucumbers and musk melons’, i.e. any soft or hard squash. The squashes are first baked in the oven at 190⁰C until tender; the length of time will depend upon the size of the squash. If the skin is very thick, it would be better to simmer it, says Griggers. I used some quite small squashes and decided to bake them.
Meanwhile prepare the stuffing for the squashes. You need to chop some onion and apples in the ratio of 1:2. The original recipe suggests using Cox’s Orange Pippins. These are not available so I used Granny Smith apples as they are quite tart. Place them in a casserole dish along with a decent knob (or knobs) of butter. Cover and bake in the oven alongside the squashes.
When the squashes are done, cut in half and scoop out the seeds and keep warm while you deal with the filling. Mash the apples and onions together and season with sugar, salt and black pepper. Fill the squash halves generously and return the whole thing to the oven for a short time to give it time to dry out a little. Serve with hot buttered toast.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I haven’t found any lemon curd here in Houston and no one seems to know what I’m talking about at work, which surprises me for some reason. I don’t know why. So for those of you not in the know, lemon curd is essentially used like jam – use in sandwiches, to make tarts or as a cake filling. It has been popular since the mid-eighteenth century and is a kind of preserve, but doesn’t keep any where near as long as jam due to the butter and eggs. Therefore it is best made in small quantities, this is not a problem is it is much less of a rigmarole to make than jam. This recipe makes around two jars of lemon curd.
Grate the zest of two lemons into a glass bowl along with their juice, 3 ounces of butter and 7 ounces of sugar lumps (you could use granulated here too, I don’t know why sugar lumps are used here). Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Whilst that is happening, crack 3 large eggs into another bowl and beat well. Sieve the eggs into the mixture (this prevents any lumps of white going in) and stir until the mixture thickens. This takes a while, and if you’re not used to thickening sauces with eggs it is best to be tentative and not have the heat to high. It will thicken quite alot, as long as the water is simmering beneath. Spoon the mixture into sterilised jars and allow to cool. Keep them in a cool place, but once open it’s probably best to keep the curd in the fridge, especially in this bloody Houston heat!
#255 Lemon Curd. This is a brilliant recipe for lemon curd. It isn’t too sweet and has a lot of zing; the inclusion of the zest really gives it some punch. It took me right back to England eating this! Delish. 8.5/10
Monday, October 4, 2010
I was a bit hungover this morning so this recipe I hoped would be the perfect cure: carbs, fat and salt plus the hair of the dog, the perfect combination. The cheese required for this is single or double Gloucester. Good cheeses are hard to find in Houston – typical American cheeses are not the best and anything I considered proper (i.e. European) are pretty expensive and/or difficult to find. However I did find an excellent shop which is set out like a big market called the Epicurean Market. There’s a few of them in Houston and they sell a lot of European foods. So finding places like this is great for my blog.
This recipe is quick and easy and full of delicious calories:
Start by slicing some double or single Gloucester cheese thinly and arrange them in a small ovenproof dish. Spread some good mustard over the top – Griggers suggests Tewksbury wholegrain, but any piquant wholegrain will be good – and then pour over enough ale to just cover the cheese. Bake in a moderate oven until the whole things melts and becomes a sauce. Meanwhile, toast some wholemeal or granary bread, arrange on a plate and then moisten with a little warmed ale. Lastly spoon over the melted cheese and serve with a glass of ale.
#254 Gloucestershire Cheese and Ale. A good traditional cheesy dish very similar to those served in Gentlemen’s Clubs in Edwardian times. Very rich but the mustard and bitter ale helped to cut through the cheese. I was right in that it really helped to sort out my hangover too! 7.5/10
Monday, September 27, 2010
‘Take fair yolks of eggs, and separate them from the white, and drawn them through a strainer, and take salt [a pinch] and cast thereto; then take fair bread, and cut in round slices; then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fresh grease, and put in a pot, and make hot; then take and wet well the slices in the yolks, and put them in a pan, and so fry them up; but be ware of them cleaving to the pan; and when it is fried, lay them on a dish, and lay plenty of sugar thereon, and then serve forth.’
I used clarified butter – not sure what is meant by grease, I suppose the author meant lard or dripping. It is important to clarify the butter, otherwise it and the bread will burn. The word fair in the recipe means fresh; so the quality of ingredients was important in medieval times just as nowadays. Griggers suggests using brioche should you have it. I didn’t.
FYI: Payn per-dew is also called French toast sometimes, but in the north of England I know it as ‘eggy bread’ and it is not just the yolks but the whole egg plus some milk is used. Slices are fried in a little oil and eaten with a scraping of tomato sauce or brown sauce and is certainly not a pudding!
#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420). A simple and historical recipe that is a wee bit bland by our modern tastes. I think that in the 1420s it would have been an exciting dish, but I prefer it made with the whole egg and some milk to make it less rich and serve as a savoury rather than a sweet. It might have been better with syrup or honey on it instead; something with a bit of heady flavour. So, all-in-all it was okay, but not amazing. 4/10.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Just because I’m in the USA and that it is so very, very hot will not stop me from carrying on the blog of course and serving up wintery food, I just may need to some help from my American buddies on here. I couldn’t bring over any of my cooking equipment, so I am going to have to be very basic in the recipes that I do, at least for the time being. That said, I am staying at my bosses’ house at the minute which has the best stocked kitchen I’ve seen for a good while, so I might try and do a few things before I move into my new apartment in the Midtown area of the city.
I don’t know how successful this will be, but I will try and feed some poor unsuspecting Yanks some delicious (and not so delicious) English grub.
Also, I haven’t seen a single cowboy yet. What’s that about?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
First prepare three bloaters by removing the skin and removing the fillets. Bloaters are already cooked, but if removing them from the bone is a problem, immerse them in boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Flake the fish or cut it up and put in the centre of a serving dish. Cut up a pound of boiled, waxy potatoes and mix in a vinaigrette. Griggers suggests this one: 5 tablespoons olive oil to one of lemon juice, plus salt, pepper, sugar and a heaped tablespoon of chopped chives. Reserve a tablespoon of it to pour over the fish. Now arrange the potatoes around the fish in an artistic manner and serve.
#252 Bloater and Potato Salad. Not the most exciting meal. The bloaters were very nice, as were the lemony potatoes, but it didn’t feel like a complete course. It would have been much nicer with additional dishes too I think. Could do better, Lady Jane: 5/10
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Anyway, enough of my rantings here is the recipe:
This recipe serves four people.
First, you need to prepare your eel; a two-pounder is required here. It needs to be skinned and then cut into three inch pieces. If it has been portioned already, but not skinned, you can either leave it on or fry the pieces skin-side-down in very hot oil for a few seconds. This makes the skin easy to peel off without cooking the eel itself. Next, coat the eel in seasoned flour and fry gently in 4 ounces of clarified butter until browned and the meat comes away from the bones easily. This took me about 7 minutes, but this will depend upon thickness. Next, prepare a lemon-butter sauce by melting 6 ounces of slightly salted butter in a saucepan and adding lemon juice to taste (I used a whole one). Put the eel onto a serving dish and keep warm. Now fry the parsley stalks. Start by heating up oil in a saucepan and fry around 12 parsley sprigs for a few seconds until crisp. Be careful here: the oil will splatter so just fry 3 or 4 at a time. Serve with some lemon-butter sauce poured over the eel, with extra in a jug, and the parsley sprinkled over it.
#251 Fried Eel with Fried Parsley. I have to admit, eel is a tasty fish and cooked this way really shows off it mild, yet delicious flavour. The fried parsley too was very good; like a grassy version of crispy seaweed you get from the Chinese take away! The only problem was the lemon butter – it just made the eel taste greasy. I think tastes have changed somewhat these days, and I think that a lemon mayonnaise would suit it better. However, still a pretty good recipe. 7.5/10.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This is a very easy dish to prepare as there is hardly any cooking required at all. The recipe serves four, but it can be easily increased or decreased in ratios for any number:
Start off by boiling four large eggs; Griggers is very precise about this, so listen good. Place the eggs into already boiling water and leave for precisely six minutes (seven if they are extra large eggs). Remove and run under the cold water to cool them down. Meanwhile, cut four slices of wholemeal bread and cut them into circles, removing a smaller circle from the centre and butter them and then place them in the centre of a plate. Now prepare the roe: peel away the skin of a four ounce roe and beat the pink centre with four tablespoons of double cream until thick, this should only take thirty seconds and then season with black pepper. Peel the cool eggs and wrap a piece of smoked salmon around each one and place it in the little brown bread stand you have made. Lastly, spoon the roe sauce over the egg (this is quite tricky as it is quite thick, so I did a quenelle instead, pretty posh, eh?).
#250 Oeufs Mollets Christophe. “Occasionally when one goes out for a meal, some dish appears which is so delicious and simple that one is angry not have thought of it oneself” says the Grigson. Well I wouldn’t go that far, but it was pretty good. The eggs were cooked to perfection using her method – the yolks were still runny and creamy and complemented the smoked salmon very well (a classic combination, of course). The smoked cod’s roe was really delicious too, rich and heady with natural hot smoke, the only problem was that it was so very rich and it needed some lemon juice to cut through it, I think. That or just less of it. I think with a little alteration, this could be really excellent. 7/10.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Back in England it is blackberry season and those brambles that are so annoying and prickly for the rest of the year finally earn their keep. This recipe uses them, and so it was a great chance to try something that isn’t blackberry and apple pie (nice though it is). I made this in Derby visiting Simon and Rachel and the farm they are trying to set up as a cooperative eventually. They also keep bees and I used some of their delicious honey for this recipe too. If it isn’t blackberry season any soft fruit will do.
First make a shortcrust pastry with 8 ounces of flour and 4 of fat (butter, lard, or a mixture) plus cold water and roll it out into an oblong shape. Spread 4 fluid ounces of runny honey over the pastry and then sprinkle 8 ounces of blackberries over it. Roll up the dough so that it makes a sort-of Swiss roll, tucking the pastry under at the edges. Place in a small ovenproof dish and pour over 4 fluid ounces of single cream. Bake at 200⁰C for 45 minutes. Serve with thick cream.
#249 Isle of Wight Pudding. A really good pud this one, and cheap too! The best thing about it was that the juices from the berries plus the honey and cream heat up to form a delicious toffee sauce. The top goes very dark and forms a good crust, though it doesn't make the dessert look very pretty. Give it a go – quick and simple. 7/10
Thursday, July 29, 2010
First, the pastry: Cream together 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of caster sugar, then beat in an egg yolk, before mixing in 4 ounces of flour and an ounce of ground almonds (use your hands to bring it all together). Roll it out into strips about 2 inches wide, lay on greaseproof paper turning up the edges ready for the filling.
For the filling: Start by spreading some apricot jam down the lengths of the strips. Next, beat 2 egg whites until stiff and fold in 4 ounces of caster sugar, 2 ounces of flaked almonds and a tablespoon of grated plain chocolate. Pour into a saucepan and boil, stirring as you go so that it doesn’t catch. Spoon the mixture onto the strips – a tricky endeavour. Bake at 180⁰C for 45 minutes, allow to cool and then cut on the diagonal.
#247 Mazarines. These were also a disappointment. The pastry was very dry and crumbly and the filling was so unbelievably sweet. Annoyingly, they were nigh on impossible to cut without them breaking up. Not impressed. If were Cardinal Mazarin or the Duchesse de Mazarin, I’d be well pissed-off that these efforts were created in my honour! 2.5/10
Monday, July 26, 2010
To make your very own anchovy matchsticks, start off by rolling out 8 ounces of puff pastry into two rectangles thinly. Place anchovy fillets in rows, spacing them around 1 ½ inches apart on one piece of pastry. Next, make the egg filling: mash together 2 hard-boiled eggs with a tablespoon of cream and a little salt and pepper. Carefully add a stripe of egg over the fillets, before painting egg wash over the gaps and placing the other piece of pastry over that. Press down and cut into ‘matchsticks’. Glaze with more egg and bake in the oven at 220⁰C for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.
#247 Anchovy Matchsticks. These were absolutely vile. The combinations of the hot boiled egg and salty fish made my stomach turn. Horrible, horrible, horrible. 1/10
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Who would have thought pike vs. cormorant would have turned out like this?
Jane Grigson was a fan of pike, as were the French who used to farm the scary fanged fish. Actually they’re quite beautiful with their green tiger stripes. I got two fine fillets from The Fish Society, and I suggest you have a look there if you fancy having a go at trying pike, or any other difficult-to-get-hold-of fish. This is what Griggers reckons you should do with it:
Fillet the fish and remove the pin bones (of which there are many) before marinating in some sherry and Madeira wine. After an hour or so, drain the fillets and coat them in seasoned flour and fry in oil and butter until golden and crisp. Serve with a lightly-curried velouté flavoured with the marinade juices. I used, half an ounces each of flour and butter for the roux and then half a pint of fish stock plus half a teaspoon of mild curry powder. Add some cream too if you like.
#246 Pike. This was really delicious – a firm, meaty and mildly sweet fish. Also, it wasn’t in the least ‘muddy’ tasting as we keep getting told freshwater fish tastes like. I would definitely recommend this if you can get hold of it. The sauce was pretty good too. If you see it in a restaurant, order it. 7.5/10
Thursday, July 15, 2010
It’s a little bit of a faff this one and the coconut cream needs to be made well in advance because it contains gelatine and that needs to set. To make it, bring ¼ pint of single and soured cream slowly to a boil along with a split vanilla pod and 4 ounces of desiccated coconut and 7 fluid ounces of water. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes and let it cool down until ‘tepid’. Pass through a sieve and add either powdered or leaf gelatine dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water; follow the instructions in the packet and make enough for a pint of liquid in total. Also add a good tablespoon of grated creamed coconut and add sugar and lime juice to taste. Griggers says: “the citrus juice is an enhancer, it should not be identifiable”. Pop the cream in the fridge and allow to cool and reach an ‘egg white consistency’. At this point, fold in ½ pint of whipping cream that had been whipped stiffly. Pour the whole mixture into a lightly-oiled decorative jelly mould and allow to set. To turn it out, dip the mould in hot water briefly before upturning it.
#245 Coconut Cream with Strawberry Sauce. Oh, I had looked forward to this one for so long; I should have learned by now that some of these desserts are just plain rubbish. And this one definitely fits into that category. The coconut cream was pretty tasteless bearing in mind the number of what should be delicious ingredients that made it up. Next time, strawberries and cream will be served. 3/10.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
This is a bit different to Grasmere Gingerbread I in that it is made with wholemeal flour. Usually wholemeal flour based biscuits and cakes are found in the vegan health food shop and taste awful, but don’t let that put you off; these are delicious and easy to make too:
Start by sieving 8 ounces of flour along with ½ teaspoon each of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda and 3 decent teaspoons of dried ground ginger (don’t be scanty, it can take it). Rub in 6 ounces of butter and then mix in 5 ounces of soft dark brown sugar and a dessertspoon of golden syrup. You should end up with a dark rubble. Line a roasting tin or oblong pan with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture in, pressing it down firmly. Bake for 45 minutes at 160⁰C. Remove and cut into rectangles whilst still hot and cool on a rack.
#244 Grasmere Gingerbread II. Really good this one. The wholemeal flour and treacly taste combine well here to make a rich crumbly, though very slightly chewy bittersweet biscuit. I shall definitely be making these again. I reckon if crushed, they would make a very good crumble topping. Tres bon. 7/10
Monday, July 12, 2010
Well it is back to the cookery blog now as though nothing happened – I’m going to try and concentrate on making good use of the summer fruits as well as trying my best to empty my fridge which is bulging at its seal with food goodies.
I have some news too that may please some of you. I have just got a new job in a research laboratory at Rice University in Houston, Texas!! I start at the beginning of September so will be there by August! After a year, I then go on to Washington University in St Louis, Missouri! This means that Neil Cooks Grigson is going Stateside! I’m not sure how much of it will be possible to do over there, but I will try my best. I’ll need help from all you Yankees that read my blog!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The cured meats from the book have all been pretty successful and this one sounded nice and easy, plus would keep me in butties for the foreseeable future. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out because we don’t really cure lamb to make ‘ham’ do we? Unless I’ve been missing something all these years.
Anyway, here’s how to make to your spiced lamb ‘ham’:
First of all select your leg of lamb or mutton – you need one that weights about 6 pounds. Place it in a large pot or tub that has a well-fitting lid and rub it all over in a spiced salt mixture for curing. To make the spiced salt, mix together 4 ounces of dark brown sugar, 8 ounces of sea salt, ½ ounces of saltpetre, an ounce each of crushed black peppercorns and allspice berries, plus a heaped teaspoon of coriander seeds. Make sure you rub it in well, ensuring you get down between meat and bone. Keep it in the tub in a cool place and turn it over every day, rubbing in the juices and spices for 14 days.
Then, rinse any excess spices away from the surface of the leg and place in a large pot and cover with water. Bing slowly to a simmer and cook as gently as possible with the lid on for 3 ½ hours. Let the lamb cool in the water for a couple of hours, remove it and, wrap it in clingfilm or greaseproof paper and let it finish cooling under a weight. It keeps in the fridge for ages as long it is wrapped up or kept in Tupperware. Griggers says that if you have a smokehouse nearby that will let you put the cured but uncooked leg in, then do so! I haven’t, so I didn’t!
#243 Spiced Welsh Mutton ‘Ham’. This was a revelation! I do not know why we don’t cure mutton and lamb anymore. Absolutely delicious. The lamb meat was succulent and flaky just like corned beef and the spices cut through the richness of the fat. Best cured meat so far. 8.5/10
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Anyway, enough of that.
These Welsh griddle (or girdle) cakes seemed by the recipe that they would be absolutely delicious. Indeed girdle cakes must be delicious because there’s a few recipes in the book. However, the last time I cooked some (Singin’ Hinnies) they were pretty awful. Grigson doesn’t give any background on Cacen Gri, though I have noticed that there are lots of Welsh recipes – perhaps more than English ones – in the part of the book devoted to griddle cakes and pancakes. Funny that, because when I think of Welsh specialities, I think of leek pie and rarebits not pancakes. They must be terribly fat as the amount of butter and lard in this is huge!
Start off by sieving a pound of flour and a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in four ounces each of cubed butter and lard. Mix in three ounces of mixed dried fruit and peel and an egg plus a little milk to form a dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for a little while and then roll out thinly and cut into plate-sized rounds. Grease a large pan with a little lard fry the griddle cakes for just two minutes a side on quite a high heat. Don’t overcook them as they go very dry very quickly. They should puff up a little and gain brown spots. Stack them on a warmed plate, add a good knob of butter between each one, keeping them nice and cosy in a warm oven. I served them with some very un-Welsh maple syrup too.
#242 Cacen Gri (Griddle Cakes). I wasn’t sure if I liked these or not. The first batch was over-cooked and all powdery. I soldiered on a tried again though and I think that they were okay. No more than that though. They were still pretty claggy and need lots of butter and syrup. Perhaps that is the secret to these girdle cakes – any amount of flour and fat will taste fine if smothered in enough melted butter and syrup. 5/10.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Start off by turning some pieces of shoulder venison or game in flour that has been seasoned with salt, pepper and mace. You’ll need three pounds of venison for other game for this. Brown the venison in two ounces of butter in a cast-iron casserole. Now add 4 ounces of chopped onion, ¼ pint of red wine plus enough beef or game stock to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until done, says Griggers. This might not be useful for those – like me – that have never cooked venison; I placed it in an oven heated to 150⁰C for two hours. In the case of game on the bone, it is cooked when you can take the meat easily from the bone. Melt two more ounces of butter in a saucepan and add a tablespoon of flour and cook to form a roux, strain some of the sauce into the pan and simmer for five minutes before mixing it back into the pie filling mixture. Check for seasoning. Pour the mixture into a pie dish and cover with puff pastry. Make a hole in the centre surrounded with a pastry rose plus some other nice ornate patterns, as is traditional, using egg to glue any bits on. Lastly brush to whole thing with more egg to make a nice glaze. Delicious hot or cold, says Jane.
#241 Venison Pie. This was a great pie! The meat was deliciously tender and gamey and the gravy dark and rich; a pie to warm your cockles. However, it was not delicious cold as the gravy was all congealed and it was a bit like dog food. Doing the pastry was great fun too (if you are a massive geek, like me) 7.5/10.
Anyways, my friends Simon and Rachel came over to visit after their super-amazing trip around South America. They blogged it, natch, have a look-see at it here. I thought smoked sprats would make a great starter. Because my friend Stuart – a staunch vegetarian – came along too so I served some pickled eggs, remember them? Have a look here to see they were made.
To cook the sprats, simply grill them and serve them with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter. To eat them, pull off their heads and tails and eat. If that seems a little too much, you can remove the fillets from each side with your thumb.
#240 Smoked Sprats. I really liked these alot. The problem of bones/guts was, in the end, a non-issue. The bones were just the right side of not being too crunchy or sharp. They were quite strongly smoked, but also sweet in flavour and not over-powering like some cured fishes can be. If you see some, be sure to give them a go. 8.5/10
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
First cook three ounces of long-grain rice in double its volume of water in a covered pan. Let it simmer and don’t take the lid off until all the water has been absorbed. Meanwhile, cream half an ounce of fresh yeast in a little water. The recipe calls for quite a lot of salt: between a half and three-quarters of an ounce of it! I measured a shy half an ounce. Dissolve the salt in a quarter pint of water from the kettle and add to it a further 8 fluid ounces of cold water. Place 18 ounces of strong plain flour in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add the creamed yeast and warm salty water. Mix to form a soft dough with your hands, adding more water of flour if appropriate. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place: you know the drill.
Knock back the risen dough and briefly knead, either by hand or with a dough hook, then place in a large greased bread tin that has a three to three-and-a-half pint capacity. Cover once more and allow to prove until it has risen up to the top of the tin. Place in an oven preheated to 230⁰C for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 200⁰C for a further 15 minutes. Remove the loaf from the tin, invert it, and then place it back in the oven for a final five minutes so that the crust can crisp up.
#239 Rice Bread. A lovely pale, fluffy and slightly spongy bread that was indeed great for sandwiches. I polished most of it off with fried bacon and rocket with mayonnaise. Definitely the best of the plain breads so far, and definitely one of the easiest. I wouldn’t put more than a quarter of an ounce of salt in though as any more and it could have been horrid. 8/10
Friday, April 2, 2010
Bloaters are cured herrings, like kippers, only the cure is much more subtle. They are also gamier because they are cured whole and ungutted, causing them to bloat as they hot cure in the smokehouse. I’ve never had bloaters before, and was looking forward to trying them. This recipe seemed to most appropriate to begin with as I would get to taste pure unadulterated bloater.
The bloater before prep
Start by getting your grill very hot. Whilst you are waiting for it to hot up, gut the bloater by cutting down its belly, this is not a horrible experience as they are quite dry. If there are any roes Griggers says to keep them for another dish. Now cut the head off and make slashes down both flanks of the fish and spread over with softened butter. Now simply grill for three minutes per side so that the skins go all bubbly and crispy. Serve immediately with brown bread and butter and a lemon wedge.
#238 Grilled Bloaters. These were very nice indeed. The cure as expected was much more subtle and less salty than kippers, which meant you could eat more; always a good thing in my book. They are also much less fishy and pungent, so I am surprised that they have gone out of favour somewhat as they are much less of an acquired taste than kippers. Anywho, if you have never tried them (and few have) this is definitely the best place to start. 7/10
Thursday, April 1, 2010
This month I’m going to try and concentrate on the Fish chapter – I have recently discovered an excellent company called The Fish Society. They sell all the fishy things you’d expect, plus some things that are hard to get hold of. I have made full use of this and received a big order of bloaters, smoked sprats, pike and smoked cod’s roe amongst other things. This is not to say that I have stopped going to Out of the Blue, my favourite fishmonger’s shop, it’s just that some things are not in demand.
Anyways, here’s the list of seasonal foods for April:
Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, spring and winter greens, lettuce, radishes, sea kale, sorrel, watercress.
Wild greens and herbs: alexanders, chickweed, chives, cow parsley (wild chervil), dandelions, fat hen, hogwood shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet leaves, nettles, sea kale, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild garlic, wild rocket.
Wild flowers and fruits: primroses
Fungi, nuts and saps: morels, St. George’s mushroom
Fish and shellfish: cockles, crab, oysters, pollack, salmon, sea trout
Game: woodpigeon, rabbit, venison.