Wednesday, August 31

Chicken Galantine, Remoulade of Celery Root & Heritage Carrots

This is old school French cooking at it's best and a great way to make an expensive bird go a long way (this is a blog with numerous and unintentional sexual innuendo - apologies). The definition of 'galantine' is a cold dish of meat or poultry which is boned, stuffed, cooked, then pressed into a neat shape. In a nut shell, you bone out a whole chicken and fill with force meat or stuffing before rolling back into a cylinder shape and cooking.  Boning a chicken may seem daunting but it is fairly easy if you take your time.  Monsieur Pepin has a good demo on youtube if you fancy having a go: For this dish get yourself to the stuffing stage and please save the bones for stock.

Remoulade is usually made with celeriac, finely shredded in a mayonnaise based mustard and caper sauce. However I was at the recent Westonbirt Arboretum Tree Festival and a local organic farmer had the most amazing celery root and heritage carrots in yellow, purple and white. I bought them because they were beautiful then had to scratch my head to come up with a fitting way to cook them. The answer was actually not to cook them - hope you like it.  For four to six depending on the weight of your meat (apologies again):

A small free range chicken
100g free range chicken livers
3 quality plain sausages
A large handful of soft herbs like sage, parsley, tarragon, chives etc
A large handful of soft breadcrumbs
300g heritage carrots (or standard ones) - peeled
200g parsley root (or celeriac) - peeled
A small handful of finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp Dijon
1 tbsp wholegrain
1 tbsp drained lilliput (small) capers
150ml quality mayonnaise - shop bought or home made
1 small handful chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Follow the youtube video and get your chicken to the stage where it is boneless, flat on the board but not yet stuffed. I want the stuffing to be quite pâté like so split your sausages and throw the meat into the bowl of a food processor. Add the mixed herbs (not the chives), liver and a good pinch of seasoning and blend until smoothish. Add the breadcrumbs to make a thick sloppy stuffing. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper then spread the stuffing mix all over the inside. Now roll up the chicken into a thick cylinder with the breast portion uppermost and the cut sides tucked neatly underneath fully encasing the stuffing. Season the skin with salt only then carefully and tightly roll up in cling-film fully wrapping the bird and retaining the cylindrical shape. Bake in the oven at 120 to 130c for 1.5 hours - the cling-film won't melt I promise. This low temperature method of cooking is a very good way to ensure a juicy end product as the bird is roasted gently and all the juices are retained by the cling-film self-basting the meat.

To check the bird is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird, leave for 10 seconds and pull out and touch to your lip. If it is really hot, lip burning hot then the bird is cooked. Allow to cool a little, set your oven to 220c and unwrap. Roast again for 20 mins or until golden and crispy. Set aside to rest - you want to serve this dish warm so there is plenty of time to make the remoulade. Mix mayonnaise with the capers, half the chives, the onion and the mustards - season well. Scrub the heritage carrots, don't peel or you will lose some of that amazing colour.  Then shred finely on a mandolin or take your time and do by hand, cutting the carrots first into thin strips, then into fine spaghetti. Mix with the sauce and check the seasoning. Slice the galantine into 1.5cm slices and serve with the remoulade, a sprinkle of chives, some dressed leaves and a cornichon or two.

Sunday, August 28

Szechwan Pepper Crusted Duck Breast, Udon Miso Broth

The ingredients for this may initially seem tricky to get hold of but I bought all of them from my local Sainsbury's.    You can prep and cook this dish in 20 mins so is a good one to have up your sleeve when you want to impress, but don't have much time.   Szechwan pepper has a taste all of it’s own and goes great with duck.   Udon noodles are the really thick worm like ones that can only really be eaten by slurping – don’t feel embarrassed, just go for it. For two:

2 smallish free range duck breasts
1 tbsp szechwan pepper corns
sea salt
1 litre of light chicken or veg stock
1 heaped tbsp brown rice miso paste
a few thin slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 fat clove of garlic, finely sliced
200g of pre-cooked udon noodles
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 head of pak choi, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 200c. Score the duck skin to the flesh in a small diamond pattern to help render out the fat during cooking. In a pestle and mortar crush the szechwan pepper corns with a good pinch of salt.   Rub this well into the scored skin of the duck getting the spice mix well into the cuts.

Place the duck breast skin side down in a non-stick frying pan with a metal handle and fry (with no oil) on a medium to low heat for 10 mins taking care not to burn the skin and pepper.   You may need to drain off the duck fat several times as you go. Check the duck, the skin should be crispy to touch and golden brown. Turn the duck over and transfer to the oven. I like my duck pink so I would check after 3 to 5 mins.   For pink, the meat should feel slightly spongy when you prod it. If you like it well done then cook until it feels solid with no give when cooked through. Remove the duck breasts and allow to rest for 5 mins – this is really important if you want the duck to be juicy.

While the duck is resting, make up the miso broth by bringing the stock and miso paste to the simmer. Throw the remainder of the ingredients into the broth and simmer for 2 mins until the pak choi begins to wilt and the noodles have heated through. Taste the broth and add more miso paste to taste.

Divide the noodles & veg between two deep bowls then ladle in enough broth to almost cover the noodles. Slice each duck breast at an angle into 4 or 5 slices, re-arrange as a breast again and lay on top of the noodles.   

Tuesday, August 23

Warm Spiced Apple, Sultana & Polenta Cake

As I look out my window, apples are nearly ripe on the tree in the garden.   Go out, pick some, make this (not from my tree obviously).    This recipe falls somewhere between a pudding and a cake.   Super moist and soft when just cooked but firms up in the fridge and keeps up to a week.   Served here with an apple compote and whipped cream - naughty but nice.

Cake Ingredients:
Butter: 125g
Caster Sugar - 150g
Ground Almonds - 150g
Plain Flour - 75g
Polenta - 75g
Baking Powder - 1 heaped tsp
Medium Eggs - 2Ground Cinnamon - 1 heaped tsp
Lemon Juice - generous squeeze
Lemon Zest - from 1 lemon
Bramley Apple - 150g grated
Sultanas - 75g
Spiced Syrup Ingredients:
Clove - 5
Cinnamon Stick - 1 broken in half
Star Anise - 5
Fresh Ginger - 25g grated
Caster Sugar - 50g
Apple Juice - 75ml
Apple Compote Ingredients
Bramley Apple - 150g peeled and grated
Bramley Apple - 150g peeled and chopped into 2mm dice then toss in lemon juice
Caster Sugar - 100g
Water - 100ml

For the cake, heat the oven to 165c.   In a food processor, cream together the first 6 ingredients then add the eggs to make a very thick batter.   Add the lemon zest, juice and apples and pulse to mix - the moist apple will contribute the liquid the batter needs to become pourable.   Take out the blade and stir in the sultanas by hand.   Line a 7 inch cake tin with baking parchment and butter the edges.   Pour in the cake mix, roughly level and then bake for 1 hour and 15 mins or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the centre of the cake.

To make the syrup, heat all the ingredients to a boil then take off the heat and allow to infuse.   Strain when cool and set aside.   For the compote, bring the grated apple, sugar and water to the boil and simmer gently until a rough puree is formed.   Toss in the apple cubes and heat through then remove from the heat - the two apple preparations will give you texture as well as flavour.   Un-mould the cake, prick all over with a skewer and spoon over the syrup while the cake is still warm.   Leave for 10 mins for the syrup to distribute then serve.

Monday, August 22

Chips & Béarnaise

Ruby & White, an artisanal butcher in Bristol started a Twitter campaign today to support local food business. I find it frustrating when the masses riot to stop a branch of Tesco opening and yet where are the masses when our local butchers and bakers are struggling? The laws of market economics are simple; spend you money with small businesses and not at the supermarket chains then both problems will resolve themselves. Hitting supermarket 'bottom lines' is ultimately more effective than smashing their windows (and has the added bonus of avoiding a custodial sentence!).

To go with my Ruby & White steak (I practice what I preach), the classic chips and béarnaise. Chefs get a bad rap for producing calorie rich food. I can't cover up the fact that deep fried chips dipped in butter sauce is not the healthy option, but chips should be a rare treat. Chips are not everyday food despite what others might think and feed to their kids!   I've cooked a lot of chip in my time, here are my thoughts:

1) Chips must be fried - the cooking medium is unimportant, vegetable oil; sunflower oil; beef dripping and duck fat all yield good results. Meat fats taste better but will stink out your house when cooking.
2) A deep fat fryer is essential if you are serious about chips.   You can use a pan on the stove but the results are inconsistent and deep fat frying is dangerous. You can get a cheap one for £30 or buy one second hand for even less.
3) Triple cooked chips are borderline pointless but twice cooked chips are essential.   Your fryer must have two settings: cool (120 to 140c) and hot (180 to 190c).   Cook (blanch) your chips on the cool setting until you can easily crush a chip between your fingers.   Then set the fryer to hot and cook again until golden and crispy.   FYI: triple cooked chips involve a steaming or boiling stage before the first fry in oil - life is too short......
4) Crisp chips start with dry floury potatoes.   Maris Piper are the best and easiest to aquire, other varieties are not as good.
5) Proper chips should be chunky and rustic. Leave the skinny fries to McDonalds and the French. Cut perfect restaurant square chips if you must (called pont neuf in the trade) but potatoes are round and imperfect, have I mentioned that life is too short....?

Maris Piper Potatoes - allow 200g peeled weight per person
Enough Fat or Oil to Fill Your Fryer
Salted butter - 250g
Large Free Range Egg Yolks - 2
Tarragon, leaves picked - 1 small bunch
White Wine Vinegar - 1.5 tsp
Maldon Salt and White Pepper

Peel and cut your spuds into thick chips.   Fill and heat the fryer to its cool temperature setting - 120c to 140c is perfect.   If you are using duck fat or dripping you must melt this on the stove before filling your fryer or the elements will burn the fat before it melts.   Blanch the chips (in batches if necessary) for approx 10 to 15 minutes until you can squash one between thumb and forefinger with little resistance.   Set the fryer to hot.

My method for making béarnaise is not the classic method but is much quicker and the end result is the same.   Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove (i don't clarify mine) - you want to get it quite hot, bubbling and frothing.   In the bowl of a food processor, add the two egg yolks, the vinegar and a pinch of white pepper.   With the food processor motor running, tip the machine 45 degrees towards you so the the egg mix runs into the corner of the bowl.   Doing this means that the blades can catch the small volume of mixture and emulsify the sauce properly (good tip this - works with mayo and aioli as well).    Start dripping in the hot butter a teaspoons worth at a time allowing the fat to blend in before adding the next.   After 10 teaspoons or so you should start to see the sauce begin to 'ribbon' around the bowl.   You can start adding the butter faster now until it is all emulsified and thick - halfway through there will probably be sufficient volume in the bowl to set the blender upright again on the work top.    Stop the machine, check the seasoning and throw in the tarragon and blitz again to chop and mix in the herb.   

Finish your chips by frying again on the hot setting until golden and crispy.   Drain, season with Maldon salt, serve with ridiculously generous amount of béarnaise.   For tips on cooking steak, have a look here as the principles are the same:

Thursday, August 18

Crabapple Jelly

Late summer is here and trees are beginning to groan with fruit. Don't let it all end up as windfall, get out there and pick it, cook it, freeze it or turn it into jams, chutneys or jellies.   Here is my grandmothers crabapple jelly recipe, a real blast of nostalgia for me.   I left a third of my jelly plain for toast, scones etc then tinkered with the rest adding rosemary and peppercorns into some jars and super-hot red chilli flakes into others, absolutely fantastic with cheese.    For those of you that like exacting recipes, this is maybe not for you.   As long as you get the proportions of sugar and juice correct and check that the jelly sets properly (instructions below), you should be fine.

Crabapples - enough to fill your largest pan plus a few more
Caster Sugar
Lemon Juice - 1 or 2 depending on volume
Rosemary, Hot Chilli Flakes, Black Pepper Corns

Roughly blitz the crabapples in a food processor (in batches if necessary) and fill your largest pan with the pulp.    Just cover with water then bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.    Find a large clean vessel that will hold all the juice, line with a couple of clean tea towels.   Fill with a load of pulp and juice and carefully tie at the top to make a sack full of juice and pulp.   Hang over the vessel and allow to drain overnight - I had to hang 3 'sacks' as I did a lot of crabapples.   Don't be tempted to squeeze the tea towels to speed things up as this will cloud the juice and ultimately the jelly.

Next day carefully pour the juice back into a clean pan.  Some sediment may have settled at the bottom, discard this as best you can.   Now onto sugar, you want 7 parts sugar by volume to 10 parts juice.  Use the same cup or jug to measure the juice as sugar and all will be well.   Add the juice of 1 or 2 lemons (I used 2 to 4 litres of juice).   Bring to the rolling boil and skim any scum.   The more you skim, the clearer your jelly will be.

There is a science to getting your jelly to set.   We all know that water boils at 100c, when you add sugar this temperature can exceed 100c.   To activate the gelling agents in the jelly (namely pectin from the apple skins) you need to get the jelly up to 110c or above.   Depending on how sweet the apples and how much water used when you boiled them, this may take more or less time on the stove.   What you need to do is boil away sufficient water to concentrate the sugar solution to the correct degree and therefore allow the boiling temperature to exceed 110c.   Got that?    The way to check you are there is either to use a thermometer or to keep a cold saucer in the freezer and keep testing the jelly until it sets after a couple of minutes chilling.    Be patient and keep boiling away until it sets......and thats it! 

Decant into sterilised jars (I baked mine in the oven at 120c for 10 mins) and add a sprig or rosemary or some chilli flakes before you seal the jars.    If you want even distribution of chilli flakes, you need to give the jars a little shake after 20 mins or so.   You need to try and trap the flakes in the rapidly setting jelly before it sets too firm.    Jelly should keen unopened for several months or longer - basically if it is not mouldy when you open the jar for the first time, it is fine!

Tuesday, August 16

Burmese Salt Fish and Duck Egg Curry

Bored of Tikka Masala? Want something out of the ordinary? Well here it is people.   The Burmese love duck eggs because they are richer in taste (and they seem to have a lot of ducks???).   You can get duck eggs everywhere these days - Waitrose has them but if you really can't source then hen eggs are absolutely fine.   Salting the cod preserves the fish in hot climes.   Not really relevant in the UK I know, but it does also firm the fish fillet preventing it from breaking up in the curry during cooking.   For four:

500g thick cod fillet
1 handful of rock or maldon salt
4 duck eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
50g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp chilli powder - hot, medium or mild
3 medium tomatoes, deseeded, skinned and chopped
400ml vegetable stock (made from a cube is fine)

Take the cod and place in a shallow dish. Rub well with a generous handful of salt, cover with cling film, place in the fridge and chill for 8 hours.   When ready, drain the fish, rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.   Boil the eggs for 7 mins – this will be soft boiled - and then chill in iced water.  Peel and halve the eggs and set aside. 

In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the sliced onions and fry until golden brown and crispy.   Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside reserving the oil in the pan.   In the same pan add the butter, chopped onions and garlic and fry gently until soft and golden.   Add the turmeric, ginger powder, curry powder, chilli powder and fry for a minute or two allowing the spices to cook out and release their flavour.     Deglaze the pan with half the stock and transfer to a blender.   Process until smooth and return to the pan.

Add the tomatoes to the sauce and simmer for 10 mins until the tomato begins to break down.   Add the remainder of the stock, stir well and return to the simmer.   Place the cod fillet (cut into four portions) in the sauce, cover the pan and leave to simmer for 5 to 7 mins to cook the fish turning the fillets half way through the cooking time.   If the curry looks a little dry, add some boiling water, the sauce should be quite thin – the consistency of single cream.  

To serve, carefully remove the fish fillets and pour the sauce into warmed bowls.   Artfully arrange the fish fillets and the egg halves and sprinkle with the fried onions.   Serve with steamed rice.