Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Couple of Ideas

Bought sea caught Grey Mullet, which needs a bit of care to bring it to life. Cooked it whole, gutted and descaled, stuffed the belly with ginger slices, a few chilli slices and the green heads of spring onions. Laid it on oiled and seasoned greaseproof paper that I scattered with a generous handful of refreshed wasabi (seaweed). Wrapped it up papillote style and cooked in a fan oven at 180°C for 40mins. turning it over 2/3rd of cooking time.
 Took the skin off, lifted the fillet off the bone and served with some of the cooking juices,


Was not the outstanding success expected, cooked just a little too long, still moist but I think cooking could be reduced by 10mins. Wasabe didn't have the impact expected so would probably not repeat. Definitely step up the ginger and chilli to give a bigger kick. Any suggestions welcomed!

To go with it, and to use an abundance of spinach I had at the moment,  I washed, stripped the stalks, spun dry and shredded about 1lb of spinach. Threw that into a very hot pan with a knob of butter and kept stirring to avoid catching and to drive off any lingering water. As it wilted and largely collapsed I then threw the retained ends of two bunches of spring onion which had been sliced along the length into slivers, think julienne but not so fussy.
Job done, time to serve, topping the spinach with a warmed soft boiled quails egg. Tasted good even if not outstanding!

I even remembered to take a photo!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Jam Making

I have a confession. Been making jam/marmalade for years. Usually manage to get good flavour, usually avoiding over caramelising the sugar but so seldom have my sets come out right. Done all the reading, done all the tests, finger test, temperature, pectin but mostly to no avail, even for those sure fire jams that novices can do with their eyes closed! Recent years I have got so despondent I spoke frequently of giving up and do no more, but, that taste of homemade is so superior I end up trying for that one more time.

A few caveats, I do not use commercial setting agents or pectin's, except in extremis. I reckon that what with all the mess for washing up, all the waste of scum or residue on a variety of tools pots and pans and processing time spent it is better to do one large batch than a number of small ones. In anycase I seems I still have a family if not to feed then to pass jars onto.

Just completed this years Dundee and also a Seville Marmalade, its looking like I may have cracked it at last. Hence this posting just incase it helps anyone out there floundering like me. Or some sharp eyed maestro can spot the errors of my ways!
I now routinely use a digital thermometer with a set (104°C) temperature alarm. Past reading has also highlighted, amongst other things, the need to bring the temperature up quickly and to work in small batches. But no this was not small batches, it was one large batch in my usual large preserving pan that oversails the ceramic top hob. So what was new. Well paid a lot attention to reducing the liquor level well beyond the recipe level before adding the pre-warmed sugar. My concern is not volume produced but that whatever is produced sets well. Watching the temperature rise it took a long time coming even though the probe was in the middle of the rolling boil and off the bottom. In fact it never reached a high enough temperature to trigger the temperature alarm (on my thermometer it waits until 105°C). When I stirred to make sure there was no sticking on the bottom, it happens, the temperature plummeted by almost 20°C then took a long time to get back, frequently oscillating up and down.

This then is what I have discovered. It is not just enough that the probe shows the desired temperature but the whole of the jam has to get up to that temperature. That means, leaving it alone, only folding the pan edges in at the last moment before leaving it to recover. It will take longer than the book says, particularly if your pot is wider than the heating source. It is a tightrope walk, overcook it then it caramelises, undercook it then the bulk is still under temperature, stir it and you lose massive heat, not sir it and the edges are too cold.

Don't despair, make sure your liquor is reduced well before adding the sugar then watch the temperature fluctuations and wait until it is fairly stable and you know the edges have recently been bought in. You can do it. It is worth it.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

tasty lunch

From time to time our fishmonger has sprats. They are now in season. This is our favourite way of having them as a lunch. Butterfly fillet a dozen sprats, leave just the tail fins on. Try to get the larger ones and ones still intact, not too chewed up. Cost you less than a £!. Skin and de-seed three tomatoes then finely chop and crush with a fork. Add one crushed clove of garlic and one stem of spring onion finely chopped, season and mix well. Toast six slices of bread. Sprinkle each slice with olive oil spread with a generous layer of the tomato mixture and lay two sprat fillets head to tail, skin side up. Drizzle with oil and return to grill briefly. They will only take a couple of minutes so watch carefully. Lift a fillet up gently to check that flesh has turned opaque. Serve with a light green salad.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Partridge Medley

Still chuffed about the other meal last weekend. No pics again so use your imaginations, this was a reworking of something I did recently. Four partridge was the offer we couldn't refuse. So took the breasts off the birds and set them aside. Then took off all the other useable meats. Carcasses went into a stockpot with an onion and a carrot and a glass of red wine, water to barely cover, then simmered gently.
Checked all the meat for possible shot. The other useable meats I minced on a coarse grade. Then re-minced it again this time with about six spring onions and 8-12 soft no soak prunes. Make sure you mix the prunes in else they will clog up the mincer. Into this mixture one small egg, Tbsp fine chop parsley, 1.5 Tbsp chestnut flour, pepper and 1/8th tsp of cayenne. Mix well together. With wet hands take 30gms of mince mix firm up and roll into balls, should make around 15. They will hold together easily.
Strain of stock into a clean pan, bring back to a very gentle simmer and carefully roll the balls into the stock in batches, after about 15min lift out to dry and set. Roll in chestnut flour, dip in another beaten egg then roll in coarse breadcrumbs.
Now to put it all together. In a hot skillet add a large knob of butter, pan fry the breasts, turning on the two sides and the neck end until coloured and inner flesh just has a line of pink still. Pat dry and rest in a warm place for ten minutes. In a pan of hot oil slide the breadcrumbed balls into the oil for around 6 mins or until they are evenly coloured. Lift out, drain. Assemble your plate, sit back and feast!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

panfried scallops

We were in our fishshop and the scallops stared at me saying buy,buy. So we did.

I lightly toasted slices, crusts off, of my 80% white bread, then drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled with crushed garlic. On one half I put a thick slice off a beef tomato and over the other half two thin slices of gruyere cheese. Back into the still warm grill to finish off. Meanwhile I pan seared my wiped clean scallops in butter until just firm then rested them for a few minutes in a warm place.

Served with two strands of chives and scallop on top of the tomato and a light salad What delicious lunch!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

my Chill Con Carne

There are a lot of chilli con carne recipes out there, often with wide ranging ingredient plus a couple of exotics like chocolate or coffee. I wanted to get back to what a more simple traditional dish may have been like. It seems to shout out for a slow cook pot. So here is my take on it.

1kg Shin of beef
lard or oil
500gm dried red kidney beans
3 onions sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced
I red pepper
3 red chillies
bunch fresh coriander leaves
1.5 pint good stock
2 tspn ground cumin
2 tspn dried oregano
salt and pepper
1Tbspn treacle
6 plum tomatoes

First off soak the kidney beans over night. Wash and drain until water runs clear then put them on the stove, bring to the boil, and this is important, rapid boil for at least ten minutes.
Meanwhile cut the shin into a small dice. Most recipes call for mince, for one you never know what is in 'mince' and secondly I wanted to get more texture out of the beef. Put about two tablespoons oil in a pan over a high heat fry off the beef in batches until the moisture is driven off and the meat just begins to colour. Transfer to the cookpot and carry on with the next batch, adding more oil as needed. Drain the kidney beans, rinse well, then add to the meat in the cookpot

When the meat has browned and transferred into cookpot, reduce pan to low heat, put in the onion and garlic slices, stir and let them sweat. They will take on colour from the meat but do not brown them.
Cover and leave on the low heat until softened.
Prepare the peppers and chillies, deseed then medium chop. Cut the old ends of the coriander and fine chop about four tablespoons of stalks and leaves. 

When onion and garlic has softened but not coloured, turn heat up high, drive of any moisture then and put in the peppers, chille, cumin and oregano, stir and leave for a few moments.
Now add about 1.5pints of a good stock and the coriander, let it come to the simmer and leave for a couple of minutes.

Mix the meat and the kidney beans together then add the stock, spices, peppers, chillies and coriander.

The liquid should just about cover the beans, add a little more if necessary. To ensure the beans cook thoroughly I have kept the water level high and I set the cooker onto high for eight hours. This was too long and six hours should be sufficient, depending on how old your beans are.
Halfway through the cooking time, give the pot a good stir and reduce to the low setting for the remainder time. Test for tender beans and meat that falls apart in your mouth or give a little longer cooking. Drain the juice out of the cookpot and transfer into a pan, reduce over a high heat adding a tablespoon of treacle. As the juices reduce and thicken the chillie heat will amalgamate and blend to a degree. Take off heat when reduced to about two cupful's.
Coarsely chop six plum tomatoes and a few more coriander leaves.
Add to the cookpot the tomato, coriander with the reduced juices, give a good gentle stir, leave to warm for half an hour. Then enjoy!



Sunday, 22 February 2015

pigeon breast

A compilation menu, came across a pack of six pigeon breasts that I just had to buy.

Marinated the pigeon breasts in Masala, garlic, crushed peppercorn and thyme for a few hours, turning from time to time. Lifted the breast out of the marinade and set aside. Put a generous handful of dried porcini mushroom slices into the marinade with 6 juniper berries and half a glass of red wine. Put it on a low heat, stirring from time to time.

In meantime sautéed par-boiled potato slices in the oven where I roasted oiled fresh baby beetroot wrapped in tinfoil.

Got a skillet really hot, in grapeseed oil flashed fried the pigeon breast, just 2-3 minutes each side. The Masala will cause them to go dark brown quickly. When judged sufficiently cooked removed and set aside to keep warm for another 5 minutes. Had some leftover seedless red grapes, so halved them and threw them into the residual oil with a splash of white wine, tossed them to drive off some of the wine. By this time the porcini mushrooms liquor had reduced to a thick sauce.

Time to plate.

Thickly sliced breast onto the porcini mushrooms (removing the juniper berries). A baby beetroot to one side, then a range of potato slices, a dab of grapes with their jus and some steamed cabbage slices. Wow what a balance of flavours and textures.