Friday, December 27

Montgomery Cheddar & Tewkesbury Mustard Scones

I'm so over Christmas now. I'm all feasted out; liver destroyed; bloated; corpulent; lethargic. There are however the last few festive season leftovers to deal with. 

There will be no fooling you that these are just cheese scones despite the poncey title. But what is wrong with a simple scone done well? If you have some seriously mature cheddar and some artisan mustard, your scones are elevated to something rather special. Especially when eaten warm with an obscene amount of good butter. Tewkesbury mustard (@tewkesmustardco) has the interesting addition of horseradish and a little cider - all of which work extremely well to enhance the flavour of the cheddar. The quantities here result in quite a mustardy scone, add more or less to your taste.

Self Raising Flour - 225g
Salted butter - 50g
Ful fat milk - 150ml
Salt - a pinch
Tewkesbury Mustard - 1 level tbsp
Grated cheddar - 100g (50g to go in the scone, 50g to go on the top)

Put half the cheese and all the remaining ingredients except the milk in the food processor - blitz to breadcrumb stage. Add the milk and pulse to make a dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and form into a nice round disc a fraction less than an inch thick. Heat the oven to 210c an transfer the dough disc onto a buttered baking sheet. Brush the dough with a little more milk and using a knife or pastry scraper cut the dough into 6 or 8 segments. Scatter over the rest of the cheese and bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden and cooked through. You can tell if the scones are cooked by pusing a metal skewer into the centre of the dough and leaving for a few seconds. If the skewer is very hot when placed to the lips, the scones should be cooked. If in doubt, drop the oven temperature to 160c and cook for a few minutes more. Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before devouring.

These do make a great foil for soft blue cheese and chutney but that would just be extravagant so soon after Christmas.....

Sunday, December 15

Scallop Roasted on the Half-Shell, Sweet Herb Butter

It is always a challenge to get punters at the pub to order a starter, especially with something as intrinsically expensive as a plate of scallops. So we have started to do little 'shooter' starters where you can order a single scallop for a couple of quid - almost like an amuse-bouche. 

I pinched the idea for this recipe from the Lido restaurant in Bristol where they roast scallops and many other things in their beautiful wood fired oven. I have no such luxury and the end result is only marginally superior to a searingly hot domestic oven or grill. This is quite a forgiving way to cook spanking fresh scallops - as long as they are warmed through they will taste fantastic. Remember that fresh scallops can be eaten raw so don't let stress overcome you - the enemy is overcooking.

Tarragon - 20g
Dill - 10g
Parsley - 20g
Chervil - 20g
Garlic - 2 fat cloves
Butter - 100g, room temperature
Scallops - as many as you like, on the half shell
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

Heat your oven or grill to maximum. Separate the herbs from any woody or thick stems and finely chop along with the peeled garlic. Mix well into the butter with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon of the butter to each shell and lightly season the scallops. Roast in a hot oven or under the grill until just starting to firm up. If using a grill then you will need to turn the scallops halfway through the cooking process. 

You can tell if the scallops are cooked by touch (if you have the skills), or by inserting a thin knife into the centre of the scallop and leaving for a few seconds - if the knife tip is 'bath' temperature when touched to the lips, then they are cooked.

Melt a little extra butter and spoon over the scallops, add a wedge of lemon and a small piece of good bread to mop up the juices.

Sunday, December 8

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

There was an elderly chap across the road from the pub who had a quince tree in his front garden groaning with ripe yellow fruit. I wasn't sure he knew what he had growing, or if he did, what to do with the bounty. A hand written note was posted through the front door and a few days later the chap popped into the pub. Rather surprisingly given the sheer quantity of fruit, he said he could spare none as he was planning to make quince jelly.  Now there must have been 100kg of fruit on this tree, enough to make thousands of!  Well, it was his tree...his call. Sure enough, the next week he popped by with a wheelbarrow full......properly sick of jelly making he was!

Quince is an old English fruit that has fallen out of favour as it cannot be eaten raw and needs long slow cooking. The flavour is great but it is the grainy, pear like texture that makes it unique. Good with more than cheese, this would work well with pork or in a sweet dessert. You won't be able to pick quince from the tree at this time of year, the last had fallen in the high winds last week, but your greengrocer will be able to get you some. There are no quantities here, just proportions. Make a few kilos worth as it keeps for ages in Kilner jars.

Caster sugar
Star Anise
Fennel seeds
Lemon juice

Peel, core and chop up the quince into large pieces. Weigh the fruit. Toss the fruit into ayour largest stainless pan with a good solid bottom. Add half the weight of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon per kilo of fruit. Now these spice quantities are for approx 2 kilos of fruit so multiply up as necessary. Make a little muslin 'tea bag' of 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 star anise, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 6 cloves. Tie up with string and add to the pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, skim any scum and turn the heat as low as it will go. Gently blip away until the quince is very soft. Remove the spice bag and blitz the fruit with a hand blender - it doesn't need to be super smooth. Return the spice bag and gently blip away further stirring every now and then. 

The puree will reduce and start to go a deep red - when you get to 'blood colour', you are close to where you need to be - remove the spice bag. There are no hard and fast rules, only that the more you reduce the puree, the firmer the 'set' will be. I like to be able to slice the finished product so reduce as far as you dare without letting it catch and burn.

Tip into a suitably sized, and scrupulously clean container lined with cling-film, or a sterilised jar. Allow to cool then chill in the fridge until set. will keep for months properly wrapped or jarred.