Sunday, February 27, 2011

#277 Hazelnut Stuffing for Poultry and Lamb

I mentioned in the last post that people don’t make their own gravy anymore, well the same goes for stuffing. I have to admit, I don’t often make stuffing for roast poultry normally, though I have for the blog before. Every time I do, it comes out delicious and is always better than even the poshest pre-made supermarket pap. So I thought I was well overdue making some (which I think is also called dressing in the USA, non..?).
This one, I thought looked interesting – with its earthy hazelnuts and piquant-sweet preserved ginger; just the thing for a climate that is never really wintry. After all, the main reason that I haven’t cooked more food like this in Houston is because it is so bloody hot all the time and I don’t necessarily want roast meats. Anyways, this one seemed good and light and reasonably summery.
Griggers makes a point of highlighting the quality of hazelnut required for the recipe – pre-roasted and chopped hazelnuts are fine, she says, but you really want some slow roasted whole Italian ones from Avellino near Vesuvius, where they have been grown since Roman times. I’ll just pop over and fetch some. I couldn’t get those of course, but I did get Roman ones, so that pretty good I reckon, bearing in mind where I am!

Julian of Norwich with Hazelnut. For some reason.
If you want to be truly old-school, you can use cobnuts, which can still be found growing around the southern counties of England, in particular Kent. FYI: cobnuts were the original nut used in the game of conkers before the horse chestnut was introduced into Britain.
Stuffing is the easiest thing in the world to make. To start chop a large onions and soften it in two ounces of butter – keep it on a medium heat with a lid to prevent to browning. Once cooked, add the following ingredients in the following order: four ounces of fresh breadcrumbs; two ounces of toasted, chopped hazelnuts; four knobs of preserved ginger*, chopped; grated rind of half a lemon; the juice of a lemon; one large beaten egg; salt and pepper; and two tablespoons of chopped parsley. Now you can use the stuffing for whatever you like. If this is for turkey, you may need to double, or even treble the amounts given here.
If you are using it to stuff a bird, make sure you weigh it after it has been stuffed so you can include the extra weight in the cooking time.  Also, it is best to stuff the neck end rather than the cavity, as the stuffing doesn’t go stodgy; just loosen the skin and stuff it in, securing it all by folding the neck skin under the bird. Any left can go into the cavity – but only pack it loosely.



*If you can’t get preserved ginger then use ginger preserve (i.e. ginger jam), or miss it out entirely and replace it with the chopped liver of the bird(s) and a heaped teaspoon of thyme.
#277 Hazelnut Stuffing for Poultry and Lamb. Absolutely delicious and definitely the best stuffing so far in the book! It was sweet and earthy and the nuts had gone wonderfully soft and translucent, giving out their flavours into the rest of the mixture. The lemon and ginger lifted it all very well and stopped it from being too heavy. This is going into my everyday repertoire. 9/10.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#276 Giblet Gravy

It’s such a shame that the art of gravy making has been lost. This gravy is rather posh, containing things like veal and vermouth. You don’t need to add these sorts of things every time you make it, but even basic gravy is so much more delicious than any from a packet. I know it takes more planning and time, but it’s not that difficult really – mainly a bit of simming. I haven’t used gravy granules for a good couple of years now…
I’ve been meaning to do this recipe for ages – but finding chickens with giblets these days is difficult in Britain. The reason being, apparently, that people would keep forgetting to remove the giblets in their little plastic bag from the carcass before roasting it. Idiots ruining things for the rest of us, as per usual! It is also difficult finding veal in Britain too. In America however, it is pretty common. However both chickens with giblets and veal are everywhere. So I invited my friend Danny round for a roast dinner – the first I’ve made since the move over here. I don’t know why I put it off, the heat I suppose. Roast chicken and stuffing (see the next post, when I write it!) with Yorkshire puddings (my recipe here, Grigger’s here) and mashed potatoes are as manna from the Gods as far as I’m concerned. Danny had never had Yorkshire pudding before. What is that about!?
To make the gravy you’ll need a set of turkey giblets or two sets of chicken giblets – Grigson says to not include the liver, but my Mum always used it for hers and it’s good gravy that she makes! – two quartered carrots, one halved onion, either a quarter of a pint of dry white wine or 90 mls of dry white vermouth (I went with the former), a bouquet garni (see here for a post on what should go in a bouquet garni), and eight ounces of casserole veal that has been cut into pieces. Put all these ingredients into a saucepan over a high heat. When the alcohol has boiled up and the giblets and veal has changed colour, add two tomatoes that have been halved plus enough water to just cover things. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for two hours. Strain the stock.
In another pan, melt and ounce and-a-half of butter and let it cook until it turns a golden brown – a noisette brown as it is called in the trade, a good name because it does change its aroma as well as its colour and a definite nutty smell emanates. This change happens quite quickly so don’t take your eye off it. Now stir in a level tablespoon of plain flour (you can add more if you like a thick, thick gravy). Pour over the hot stock and allow to simmer covered quietly for a further half an hour. Check the seasoning.
If you are making a chicken gravy, add the juices from the roasting pan (as I did). For turkey, pour the fat away and add a glass of Madeira wine to it. Boil it up and serve it separately from the giblet gravy.
Check out that layer of butter settling out there!
I can't believe I had no gravy boat; how embarrassing.


#276 Giblet Gravy. This was a long time coming, and it was certainly worth the wait. Rich and satisfying with a good herby flavor from the thyme I added. The best gravy I have ever made that for sure – and definitely the most indulgent. The veal, by the way, didn’t go to waste, I fished them out and serve the chunks with the meal. Waste not, want not! Anyways, an excellent recipe – 9/10.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#275 Pears in Syrup

"Your old virginity is like one of our French withered pears: it looks ill, it eats dryly." Bertram, As You Like It

    
What a great quote. Shakespeare was such a bitch.

This is an old, old recipe that Griggers herself has updated rather. In Medieval times a variety of pear called Wardens were used that were rock hard and required an hour’s cooking beforehand. These days, we use eating pears so it’s a lot quicker to make. It is best though to use unripe pears for this, though it doesn’t really matter what kind.
I chose to do this recipe as the dessert to a vegan meal I cooked with my good friends Danny and Eric. I was quite surprised that there was anything vegan in the book! In fact, of the remaining desserts this was the only one.

A some of you may know, one of my gripes is picky eaters. Vegetarianism and veganism don't come under that term ofr me though. I think making a moral stance against eating animals or using the products of animals certainly has a lots of merit. Not eating honey is a bit stupid though. Anyway, what IS annoying is veggies who ARE picky. I mean, what is the point of restricting your diet if you don't like most stuff anyway. Luckily noone fell into that category this night!
It’s an easy recipe that can be done well in advance.
Start by peeling, halving and coring the pears – you will need one per person according to Jane. Pop them in a pan in a single layer and pour over enough red wine to cover them. Add too, two tablespoons of sugar, a cinnamon stick and a good pinch of ground ginger. Cover them and bring to a simmer until they are nice and tender. This takes a good 25 minutes, but the time will depend on the variety and ripeness of the pears used. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and keep warm whilst you boil down the wine until you get a nice slightly syrupy sauce. Add more sugar if you like. Pour over the pears and allow to cool. No need to serve anything else with them.


[If you don’t want to use wine, it can be adapted – swap the wine for water and the cinnamon for a split vanilla pod and add one sliced quince for every two pears cooked. Cook the fruit slowly to achieve a honey scented deep red sauce.]
#275 Pears in Syrup. This was a really good dessert. I’d actually put this one off because I expected to dislike it, but was totally wrong. The concentrated red wine sauce wasn’t heavy or sickly like I thought it would be, but light and refreshing. It must have been the pears and the spices that lightened the whole affair. That said, we could only manage half a pear each. The pudding looked quite impressive too with the dark, almost indigo sauce and the creamy-white pear flesh inside. Great stuff. 8/10.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#274 Saffron Cake from Cornwall

"A man who is stingy with saffron is capable of seducing his own grandmother." Norman Douglas, 1848-1952
It goes without saying that saffron is a wee bit pricey. Only three tiny stigmas are plucked from each autumn crocus which means that a pound of saffron strands requires up to 75 000 flowers and can cost up to £2500 per pound in the UK and $5000 per pound in the USA. Lucky for us it is very pungent and is only needed in very small amounts. I bought a small packet for about $10 which I have used in a few dishes already like the Fifteenth Century Apple Fritters and the Coronation Doucet. In days of yore, if you wanted to impress your guests and flash your cash a bit, you couldn’t go far wrong by sprinkling some saffron your pottage or whatever. The long-distance trade in saffron goes all the way back to the second millennium BC at least and there has even been a war over it. It was also thought to cure the black plague. For this recipe it takes centre stage, and so it should, I love the stuff though it wouldn’t necessarily lead me to fisticuffs...

The saffron flower

For some reason saffron isn’t used that often in English cuisine – I only really see it pop up in Asian food and in fishy things like paella. However, it has hung on in the form of this bread from Cornwall. I’d not heard of it myself, but it is interesting in that this recipe predates the invention of raising agents such as baking powder, so to make it light, yeast is used. Because it’s fermented, it appears in the bread section of the book rather than the cake section.
The evening before you want to make the cake (actually cakes, as this recipe makes two) put a generous pinch of saffron strands into a few tablespoons of warm water. It will steep and infuse to make a stunning orange-coloured scented water.
Weigh out two pounds of plain flour and eight ounces of sugar then make the leaven. For the leaven, crumble an ounce of fresh yeast into a small bowl. Pour over a quarter of a pint of warm water along with 2 heaped tablespoons from the flour and a heaped teaspoon from the sugar. Whisk everything together and leave to rise and froth up for around half an hour. Mix the sugar and flour together in a bowl and place it in the warming oven for 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and mix in half a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Now rub in six ounces each of lard and butter. This is quite easy as the flour is warm.
By now the yeast should be metabolising like a crazy thing, so make a well in the centre of the flour and pour it in alongside the saffron liquid and strands plus half a pint of warmed milk. Using your hands, mix everything together to form a dough. Cover with a damp cloth or cling film and allow to rise and double in bulk. The time this takes depends on the temperature of your kitchen.
Knock-back the dough and mix in 8 ounces of mixed dried fruit and 2 ounces of chopped, candied lemon peel and place in two greased loaf tins. Cover again and allow to prove until they have puffed up. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 220°C (425°F). Let them cool for a few minutes before taking them out of the tins and placing them on a wire rack.
Jane doesn’t suggest a way to eat the cake but I ate it with some cream cheese and honey.


#274 Saffron Cake From Cornwall – this was rather unusual. The cake was leavened with yeast (was that a tautology?) rather than baking powder which made it rather dense; more a cross between a tea loaf and a scone than a cake. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it grew on me rather. The saffron flavour came through and I thought it gave the cake slightly anaesthetic properties. I expect if you ate enough you could have a root canal without wincing no problem. I brought it into work where it seemed to go down quite well, which is always nice. People scored it quite highly, but I’m a right stingy marker – 5.5/10.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente)

I do so love the old, old recipes within English Food. I do so also love anything deep-fried, so I knew I’d like this one. A tricky thing about doing some of the apple receipts in this book is that most of them ask for Cox’s Orange Pippins which are not freely available here in Texas. However, I have found an excellent replacement for those sour and slightly soft little darlings; the Macintosh apple. So from now on any American Grigsoners can do the recipes almost as Jane intended. In fact they are so similar that I think they might have been selectively bred from Cox’s.
Although just a simple recipe to us now, this must have been a pretty expensive dessert to make because of the addition of black pepper and saffron. However, these old recipes don’t exactly reflect what commoners ate in the fifteenth century – the only recipes that were written down were those chefs that could read, and that meant chefs to the King and the like. Commoners couldn’t read or write and so those sorts of recipes are much more difficult to get hold of!
I imagine Richard III probably tucked into these the day before the Battle of Bosworth Field, well actually, Henry Tudor, since he was the one that won the thing…
Peel and core six Orange Pippins and slice them thickly. Place in a bowl with a liqueur glass of brandy and a good sprinkling of sugar. Let them steep for a few hours, making sure they all get turned in the sweet brandy. Meanwhile, make the batter. Start by pouring three tablespoons of nearly-boiling water over a pinch of saffron and let it steep. Measure out four ounces of flour and mix in one whole egg and the yolk of another (save the white for later on) along with a tablespoon of oil or clarified butter. Measure out half a pint of milk and mix around half of that in too. Strain the saffron liquid into the batter and add more milk if it’s too thick along with a three gratings from the black pepper mill. Lastly, whisk the egg whites and fold that into the batter. Dip the apples in the batter and fry in oil until nice and golden brown. Serve it forth with some sugar sprinkled over it. I plopped on some lightly whipped double cream too.

#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente). These were a great end to the lobster that Danny and I cooked. The dessert was very easy too –good if people are round; you don’t want anything complex. The batter was really nice and light due to the egg white, though I couldn’t really taste the spices. No matter, because it was still a great pud! 7/10.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

#272 Melted Butter

As our Jane quite rightly points out in English Food, many old recipe books suggest serving meat, fish and vegetables with good butter or good melted butter. This is not just high quality butter melted on the food, but a butter sauce not unlike hollandaise. The main difference being that flour is used to thicken the sauce instead of egg yolks, which makes the sauce much easier to make. In The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, there are quite a few mentions of it, but no actual receipt. The recipe given here is from The Cook’s Guide by a certain Charles Elmé Francatelli who was briefly the chef at Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria. Oh la-dee-da! (He left because he was disgusted with the filthiness of the kitchens.)
Anyways, the sauce seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the poor old lobster I accidentally dismembered, then boiled. I’ll give the basic recipe and then the variations…
To make the sauce it is best to do the whole thing in a bain-marie or double boiler – i.e. a bowl over simmering water.  Weigh out 9 ounces of unsalted or lightly salted butter – Griggers suggests using a good Danish butter – melt one third of it in the ban-marie with some pepper and nutmeg. Next, stir in an ounce of flour and ¼ pint of cold water, using a whisk to prevent lumpiness. Heat until the sauce is at simmering point, then turn the heat right down and leave for 20 minutes for the sauce to thicken. Now beat in the rest of the butter piece by piece using the whisk. Add any flavorings you want at this point (see below for some suggestions). Season with lemon juice and salt, plus more pepper if required. Lastly, add a tablespoon of double cream for richness.
Flavorings:
Shrimp sauce – add some brown shrimp to the sauce at the end; use fish stock instead of water if you like
Lobster and crab sauces – add the chopped flesh plus some Cayenne pepper. If the lobster was a lady lobster with roe, then pass it through a sieve into the sauce.
Anchovy sauce – add some anchovy essence.
Herb sauce – add plenty of chopped herbs to the sauce near the end of cooking. For larger herbs like sorrel and spinach, steam and chop them before adding them to the sauce.
For the sauce I made, I didn’t want to chop the lobster up, so I stirred in the brown meat (which people think is inedible because of its consistency, but it is delicious) and some chopped parsley and provided it in a jug to be poured over the lobster halves.

Check out the fancy lobster tools!

#272 Melted Butter. I really like this surprisingly light sauce and it complimented the lobster brilliantly. Plus it was much easier than a sauce hollandaise – one didn’t have to stand next it hoping it wouldn’t split. I imagine it would be good to serve with fish, potatoes and asparagus for a Sunday lunch in the summertime. A definite winner this one.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

#271 How To Boil Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps

A woman should never been seen eating and drinking, unless it be lobster and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.
Lord Byron 1788-1824
A freshly boiled crab or lobster is the most delicious crab or lobster. Apparently. In England, this is not something that commonly happens in a typical household. Like all our meat and fish, the animals that provide us with all that delicious protein are helpfully done away with by burly men in abattoirs, boats or warehouses.  We have lost touch with our food rather and find the idea of killing an animal for food ourselves distasteful. Pretending this doesn’t happen, in my opinion, is the distasteful act.
That said, I am not actually comfortable myself with killing animals, and as any previous reader of the blog will know, killing three eels was most distressing for me. Now it is the turn of some shellfish. This recipe is one that I never did back in England because I simply never saw live crabs and lobsters, prawns or shrimps in fishmongers. Houston, however, is a very different state-of-affairs. There’s live seafood in pretty much any supermarket you walk into here.
The lobster tank in Central Market, Houston

So if you stumble upon a live crab or lobster in the local fishmonger or supermarket here is what to do. Well, as you’ll find out, it maybe isn’t what you are meant to do….
The main point I wanted to get across is that boiling seafood can be humane (or at least no more or less humane than, say, killing a cow with a stun-gun). In English Food, Jane Grigson says that RSPCA guidelines suggest putting the animal in cold salted water and letting the water heat up – apparently when a certain temperature is reached, the creature expires ‘without suffering’. Guidelines have changed rather and nowadays it’s suggested that the little arthropod is popped into the freezer until it falls into a torpor. When plunged into the water, it’s dead before it has a chance to wake up. (The other method is to stab it in the top of the head using a sharp knife and a mallet.)
So, first things first, my mate Danny (who was helping me out with the cooking) got a lobster from Central Market. On the fishmonger chap fishing out the one we chose, I suddenly felt a pang of guilt, so we hurried to my freezer to get it nice and sleepy. Whilst we waited, the salt water into which it was boiled needed to be prepared. The water needs to be very salty. If you can, use sea water, if not dissolve enough sea salt so that the briny solution will bear an egg (this requires a lot of salt). Bring to the boil.
I was informed that the lobster would take 20 minutes or so to fall asleep. This was total nonsense, because 90 minutes later it was still moving around. Shit. By now we’d had a fair few glasses of wine due to the stress. A little later, the lobster seemed pretty inert, so we decided this was the time. Like, I said before, the idea of this post was to do away with some misconceptions about killing seafood in boiling water. So sure I was of this, I filmed the process, so you get a rare glimpse of me in action! Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan, and I may have reinforced those misconceptions. Oh dear.

video

Next time (if there is a next time) I’ll just throw the thing straight in!
Okay, back to the cooking. The cooking time is 15 minutes simmering for the first pound and then an additional 10 minutes for every extra pound.
For shrimp and prawns: 3 minutes for large prawns and for small shrimps, simply let the water come up to the boil again and they’ll be done.
Serve the shellfish simply, says Griggers, with brown bread, butter and lemon wedges.
#171 How to Boil Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps. Well that was an event! Aside from the auto-dismemberment episode, the cooking itself went very well. I split the lobster lengthways, removed the brown meat and used it to make a butter sauce (see next entry, when I write it!), and grilled the lobster with butter briefly. Delicious. 8.5/10.