Friday, 30 January 2015

Mushroom marsala tart for IHCC

Diana Henry's mushroom and marsala tart is a luxurious response to the "meat-free" theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Thin, crisp pastry (I used bought butter shortcrust) and a creamy, eggy custard spiked with fortified wine and loads of lovely bosky mushrooms.

Completely delicious warm (not piping hot - it needs time to cool and set a little) or cold, this made a lovely dinner and very good leftovers for lunch the next day. It just needs a simple salad on the side.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lucia's Breakfast - vegetarian with cocktails

I'd heard people talk about the Mapp and Lucia books with the sort of veneration offered to Nancy Mitford's books, or Cold Comfort Farm, but without any real idea of what they were about. Then I saw that the BBC had done a dramatisation of them featuring Duckface and Queenie. If two such talented actors were involved, the source material had to be worth a look.

The books are interesting. Definitely readable and enjoyable, but the characters are all so nasty and petty. In Lucia in London, a group of people who are entertained by Lucia's social-climbing antics forms, calling itself the Luciaphils. I got the impression that E.F Benson was very much a Luciaphil, seeing right through and being amused by his own creation.

Anyway, as part of her climbing, Lucia befriends Mrs Allingsby "tall, weird and intense, dressed rather like a bird-of-paradise that had been out in a high gale, but very well connected". Mrs Allingsby invites her to meet a painter, Sigismund: "Breakfast about half past twelve. Vegetarian with cocktails". Benson is using the invitation to mock Mrs Allingsby's Bohemian affectations, but what could be nicer than breakfast about half past twelve? Especially with cocktails.

So, I made broccoli sformati and a jug of bloody mary. Lucia, when not in a position to be challenged, claims to speak Italian, but I think she may have referred to my sformato as a souffle.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Venison Haggis Wellington

  Today is Burns' Day. Which is, of course, a good excuse to eat haggis. And drink lovely whisky. We actually had ours on Friday evening, because Friday is better for drinking whisky than Sunday.

This year, I decided to do something a bit different and put the haggis in a Wellington.

I had a venison haggis, MacSweens, of course, and a venison "steak" (the butcher who sliced it and called it a steak should be run out of the profession): it made sense to put them together. So I seasoned and seared the steak and let it cool completely.

Then I rolled out a sheet of butter puff pastry and topped it with the venison and the haggis (it was a tidy little one in a plastic casing, not a traditional one).

I'm not very good at the wrapping up and sealing side of making a Wellington. I tend to end up with a lot of tears and leaks, so this time I folded and crimped and squashed and showed it no mercy. It probably compromised the rising of the pastry layers, but at least it didn't fall apart... Then I glazed it with egg yolk and baked it.

The whisky we had with it was far too nice to cook with, and the haggis itself was seasoned with port, so I decided to stick with a fortified wine flavour for my sauce. I softened a shallot in a knob of butter, added 150ml chicken stock, 150ml madeira and 1tbs green peppercorns and simmered the sauce until it was reduced by half. Then I added a heaped tablespoon of sour cream, whisked it in and just brought it back to a simmer.

Because of the pastry, I didn't think we needed potatoes or swedes or anything starchy with it. But I had been fascinated by this article on "kalettes" or flower sprouts so I bought some to try. Very pretty, they cook in moments and taste more like a brussels sprout than kale, which is a good thing to my mind! I steamed them for a couple of minutes and tossed in a knob of butter.

The kalettes were the perfect thing with the rich, peppery wellington and creamy peppercorn sauce. And then of course delicious whisky was the icing on the cake. Sae let the Lord be thankit.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Smoked haddock rarebit and winter salad for IHCC

This week is pot luck week with I Heart Cooking Clubs, so I have two delicious dishes from Diana Henry which added up to one delicious meal.

A smoked haddock rarebit, rich, smoky and satisfying, and a crunchy salad with a tangy dressing went beautifully together. It's nice to have a salad that really makes the most of the vegetables that are around in winter, although I think for best effect I should have got out the mandolin to julienne the celeriac and carrot.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Marmalade suet pudding


It's cold. I know it is cold because Urchin has been snuggling on the bed, which only usually happens when the temperature plummets. It makes thick stews and soups very appetising. And rich, fluffy suet puddings.

This is basically Simon Hopkinson's steamed ginger sponge pudding recipe, but with all golden syrup instead of mixed syrup and treacle, and globs of my home made calamondin and cointreau marmalade instead of the preserved ginger. We had it with Laverstoke Park buffalo milk ice cream. The brandy one. Which is amazing and you should buy it if you see it.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Smoked Haddock with Indian Spiced Lentils for IHCC


Along the Spice TrailThis week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is Along the Spice Trail: Choosing Diana Henry recipes that use exotic and aromatic spices. And a dish I had made a couple of months ago definitely fit the bill - Smoked haddock with Indian spiced lentils from A Change of Appetite
This was a delicious, aromatic take on the Anglo-Indian kedgeree, featuring the lentils and spice (turmeric, ginger, cardamom) of the original Indian khichri, and the smoked haddock and curry powder of a British kedgeree. I adore kedgeree, but I am tempted to say that this dish was better. 
At first sight the recipe contains a worrying triple-carb combination of bulgur wheat, lentils and potatoes, but the potatoes really just provide a different texture. And using bulgur wheat like this instead of just in tabbouleh was a revelation to me. It's just so damn tasty! The recipe as written contains a little bit of cream, for richness. I didn't have any cream but I did want a little richness, so I added a couple of spoonsful of desiccated coconut to the stew. The coconut flavour was so good in it, that I think next time I will skip the cream again but use coconut cream.

Monday, 12 January 2015

New Year's Indulgence: white truffle

That's what 10g white truffles looks like
After our experiment last year with summer truffles, we were pretty keen to have a go with the much-more-expensive delicacy. As Christmas/New Year provides a good opportunity to be extravagant, we decided to forego our traditional New Year's Eve fondue and eat truffles instead.

A 10g chunk of white gold was duly delivered on the 30th and tucked into a sealed jar of arborio rice over night.

I made a simple white risotto, using some of the poultry broth from our Christmas goose, white wine and a couple of baby leeks. As the final enrichment I beat in some beautiful taleggio cheese. Then I grated a generous pile of truffle shavings over each portion. The aroma was utterly gorgeous. A very delicious and indulgent way to say good bye to the old year.

Of course, grated like that, a little piece of truffle goes a very long way, so there was a bit left over for lunch the following day. We welcomed the new year with a pizza, covered with more taleggio, buffalo mozzarella and finely sliced garlic, and when it was a beautiful bubbly golden brown, the rest of the truffle was grated on top.  

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