Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Pheasant Pithiviers

Christmas dinner this year was what we no laughingly refer to as 'The Pasty' - my interpretation of Raymond Blanc's Pheasant Pithiviers.  I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter, and rather than reproduce it, I have linked to the video from his 'Kitchen Secrets' programme that explains how to make it, about 10.30 in. It took 3 days, but was very nice and looked splendid.  Essentially, it is confit pheasant legs mixed with pan-roasted pheasant breasts, chestnuts, onion, garlic, cranberries and mushrooms, then sandwiched between 2 sheets of all-butter puff pastry.  This is deep-glazed with salted egg yolk, baked, and served with a delicious Pheasant, Port and Madeira gravy made from the carcase.  Made a change from turkey!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Peanut Butter 'Fudge'

If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift to make, then this is a doddle.  It isn't realy fudge, but ends up as a fudgy treat.  You need to melt 8oz of unsalted butter and a cup (American measure, sorry) of smooth peanut butter in a pot or microwave.  Let the mix cook for a minute or two.  Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a pound of icing sugar.  It will go crumbly and stiff and difficult to beat.  This is normal!  Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment and press the warm mixture evenly into the base.  Cover it with another sheet of parchment and this makes it easier to press down and 'squidge' - technical term there.  Allow to set and chill in the fridge for a good couple of hours or overnight.  Cut into small pieces - it is rich and sweet.  You can drizzle with melted chocolate too if liked.  Best eaten with a syringe of insulin by your side and a defibrillator.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Beetroot and Carrot Latkes

It is the Jewish festival of lights, Hannuka (or Hanukka, it seems both spellings are used)soon, and Latkes, or potato cakes, are a staple for most people observing the festival.  I am not Jewish, but I approve of nicking other cultures' food if it is good!  The principle of a latke is to combine grated starchy potato and grated onion with plenty of seasoning, and then fry spoonfuls of the mix, flattened, in oil until brown and crisp.  Delicious.  I saw a version made with grated carrot and beetroot, and made some last night, along with the pototo variety.  Really nice - just make sure they are well seasoned, they need quite a bit of salt and pepper.  I also added some beaten egg to bind them (about half an egg to 1 large carrot and beetroot) as they don't have the starch that the potato variety has.  Also, I used much less oil than traditional recipes, and finished them off on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.  This ensures they are cooked through, and they go a lovely colour.  Served with flakes of smoked mackerel, some watercress, and creme fraiche mixed with grated horseradish, this made a really nice, almost Scandinavian, supper.

Cranberry Tiffin

Another baking marathon this weekend, in aid of my friend's charity Sea2Sea (check it out, he's cycling from the West to East Coast of the States to raise money for US and UK veterans).  This is an easy one to do and tuck away.  If you can open packs and heat a pan of water, you can make this.  In a bowl over gently simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the bottom), melt 200g of milk chocolate, 100g dark chocolate, 100g butter, 100g of golden syrup until smooth and amalgamated.  Don't rush this stage, keep the heat low, and leave it be, with just a little gentle stirring towards the end.  You don't want it to go grainy - oh no!  Then, add 200g of rich tea biscuits or shortbread biscuits, broken up (either by hand or by bashing in a plastic bag with a rolling pin) and 170g of dried cranberrries.  You can also add around 60g of your choice of nut, such as pistachios, pecans or almonds.  Mix gently until everything is coated and then spread into a 20cm sq baking tin, lined with cling film.  Allow to set, then dredge with cocoa powder and cut into squares - this should yield 16 medium or 12 large pieces - or cut them into small bite-sized pieces and pack into cellophane bags for a yummy home-made Christmas pressie.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Mushroom Ragout

Nice simple veggie supper, this, served with bubble and squeak (a British take on the soft polenta that many recipes call for) and a poached egg.  Simply saute a finely chopped onion in a tablespoon of oil and 25g of butter until nice and soft,  Add 2 or 3 cloves of chopped garlic and soften for another minute.  Turn up the heat and add around 300g (for 2 people) of sliced mushrooms - I use Portobello and chestnut mushrooms - and some salt and pepper.  Add around a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and cook the mushrooms until they are lightly browned.  Now add 3 tablespoons of Marsala or Madeira (or sherry), a tablespoon of creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon, and simmer for a further minute or so.  Stir fresh parsley and chives in right at the end and spoon over your choice of starch - bubble and squeak here, but creamy mash, pasta, polenta and rice would all work well.  Also nice on toast.  I love this soooooo much I could eat it every day.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Roast Chicken Boulangere

This is my favourite way to prepare chicken for Sunday lunch - chunks of potatoes and onions on the bottom of the roasting tin, with some chicken stock, and a rack over them with a good free-range chicken above.  As the chook roasts, the juices drop onto the veg below and the stock keeps the meat succulent.  Served with Chard Gratin and a puree of carrot and swede it makes for a heavenly meal of good things to eat.  Especially when followed by apple, pear and pecan crumble with custard.  Yum!  I like to mix some thyme, lemon zest, garlic and seasoning with some olive oil and slip it between the skin and the breast meat, and then shove the halved lemon inside.  Drop the 'spent' shells (such a lovely expression) into the potatoes and onions, as they impart a lovely gentle lemoniness as they cook.

Broccoli and Salmon Pasta Bake

Nursing two broken toes has meant a rather less ambitious couple of weeks in the kitchen, hence the quietness on here recently (although I did manage to make 8 Christmas puddings last weekend......).  So it is nice to be able to be a little more ambitious in the last day or two as they get better.  This adaptation of a BBC Good Food recipe went down well.  It is, essentially, raw fillets of boneless, skinless salmon laid on a baking dish, topped with penne and broccoli in a cheese sauce, then baked for 20 minutes until brown and bubbling and the fish cooked through.  The sauce also has sun-dried tomatoes, basil and capers added (and anchovies, if liked - I don't).  The original recipe uses mascarpone and, lovely though that is, it is too rich for a week-day supper.  So I just used  ordinary milk and made a bechamel with it instead.  You'll find the original recipe on the Good Food website - a nice way to use ubiquitous salmon, and filling and comforting as the nights get colder.  You could vary this endlessly - use leeks, spinach, Swiss chard or mushrooms instead of broccoli, and chicken or ham instead of salmon (though I'd probably lightly cook the chicken first).