One thing I really love about cooking is that you are always learning new recipes, techniques, and tips like the one I’m going to share today. I don’t know about you, but I always struggle with even the sharpest of knives to peel raw ginger without losing lots of the flesh alongside the skin. One of the chefs I work with made peeling look so easy with just a spoon. That’s right a spoon, watch this little demonstration and you will be doing this yourself, I’m certain.
Our recent family holiday in Devon was on a wonderful farm with very, very comfortable accommodation, a lovely little cottage, there were animals for the children to feed, amazing views and the best fresh eggs in the morning boiled and served with soldiers.
We the last of the summer’s strawberries with tubs of Farmer Tom’s delicious clotted cream ice cream, some wonderful Dexter beef ribeye steaks from our hosts herd at Lower Campscott farm and all the Devon cream teas daddy could ever wish for. Around the farm were some wonderful walks down through fields and woodland to the bay at Lee and a wonderful little nature walk.
As we all went through the field with the Shetland ponies and Mummy, Lilly and Honeysuckle helped me pick a mountain of ripe, plump brambles which when we got back to Stable cottage we made into two crumbles, one for tea and one for Farmer Tony and Kathy who run such a wonderful holiday haven in North Devon.
It is difficult to trace the origins of the crumble, the sweet golden-brown topped pudding, The Oxford Companion to Food suggests the recipe for crumble was developed in the second world war, as an alternative to pastry, using whatever fat was available. Crumbles can be made throughout the year and made with plums, rhubarb, greengages, gooseberries and most popularly apples or apples and soft fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and brambles.
Crumble is best served hot with lashings of custard, clotted cream or ice cream.
Apple and Bramble Crumble
Bramley apples can discolour quickly when peeled, to prevent this from happening as you peel the apples, toss the apple in a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which slows down the oxidation and the browning. If you like nuts you can substitute fifty grams of the flour with ground almonds and add a small handful of rolled oats to the crumble mix.
500 gr Bramley Apples ( 3 to 4 medium sized Apples ), peeled and cored
250 gr Self Raising Flour
150 gr Golden Caster Sugar
125 gr cold Jersey Butter
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4. Slice the apples into finger thick chunks and place into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan. Add four to five tablespoons of cold water and place onto a gentle heat covered with a lid. After a couple of minutes, the apples will start to soften and break down, take off the lid and give them a stir, add a splash more water if required. Keep stirring until the apples are breaking up but still contains good-sized chunks of whole apple, then add fifty grams of the sugar and a generous grating of nutmeg. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Spoon the apple into a deep sided oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the blackberries or brambles and put to one side. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and tip in the bowl of flour and sugar and rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. You make crumble in a food processor but don’t overwork or the butter will melt, and the mix will form a paste.
Spread the crumble mix evenly over the fruit and level off, then place the dish on a baking tray and place in the oven for thirty- five to forty minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten or so minutes before serving.
For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding, and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.
It is a real favourite and we bake at least one a month, it is a great match for a nice crumbly cheese like Wensleydale or Caerphilly. I haven’t specified the dried fruit you can use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, apricots, cranberries, prunes or figs and you can omit the nuts if you prefer and add an extra eighty grams of flour. I use raisins, sultanas, lots of cherries and dried mixed peel.
Classic Fruit Cake
750 gr Mixed Dried Fruit
200 gr Self Raising Flour
250 gr soft Unsalted Butter
250 gr light Brown Sugar
100 gr Ground Almonds
75 gr Flaked Almonds
5 large free-range Eggs
1 tablespoon Black Treacle
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
A generous pinch of Ground Cloves
½ teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Almond extract
100 ml Brandy, Whisky or Bourbon
Zest and juice of 1 Orange
Zest and juice of 1 Lemon
Buttered, lined, deep twenty-centimeter cake tin
Put the dried fruit, zest and juice and alcohol into a large bowl and leave for twenty-four hours stirring occasionally.
Heat oven to 150C / 300 F / Gas Mark 2. Put a damp cloth onto the work surface and place your largest mixing bowl on top. Add the softened butter, sugar, treacle and almond essence and cream together. Crack the eggs one by one into a small bowl to check they are fresh, then combine and whisk together. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder into another bowl.
Add the egg mix in batches and beat into the butter and sugar mix. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour with each batch to prevent the mix from splitting. When all of the egg is mixed in add the remaining flour and spice mix and fold together until thoroughly combined. Add the soaked fruits and flaked almonds and gently stir together. Tip the cake mix into your prepared cake tin, and tap on the work surface to knock out any pockets of air. Place in the centre of the oven bake for an hour, cover the top with two layers of baking paper and turn the oven down to 140C / 275 F / Gas Mark 1 and cook for around two and a half to three more hours or until a wooden skewer inserted in the cakes centre comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. To feed your cake poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over tablespoons of your chosen alcohol, wrap in fresh baking paper and tin foil and place in a biscuit tin or plastic tub. Feed the cake with two tablespoons of alcohol every fortnight, until you marzipan it before icing.
Allergens in this recipe are;
Sulphites in the dried fruit
Summer seems to have come to a chilly, wet and blustery end and it is time for an overhaul of the summer salads and barbecues and start to cook some of my favourite foods, warming soups, hearty stews and casseroles, and traditional pies and puddings. As we shift into Autumn if you are a bit of a foodie you will know it is also time to celebrate National Cask Ale Week* and to promote British Food Fortnight, and if you follow this blog you will also know how I feel about some of the more obscure food promotions but as my day job is working for a brewery pub chain this is an ideal opportunity for me to promote two great passions, classic British pub food accompanied with a pint or two and what can be more suitable than a traditional Beef and Ale pie, a real pub favourite.
Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.
Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.
Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.
*Most of my recipes now include a beer and a wine choice to match the dish.
More Great British Recipes Classic Beer Battered Fish and Chips The Best Ever Bramley Apple Crumble Perfect Yorkshire Puddings Shepherd’s Pie
Braised Beef and Ale Pie
Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can adapt the recipe further sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking. I am using Liberation Ale ( obviously ) but you can substitute any good flavoursome beer of your choice Adnams Broadside and Fullers ESB are other personal favourites.
1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks
( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin
and ask the butcher to give you the bone )
500 gr Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped
750 ml quality Beef Stock
500 ml Liberation Ale or a good Ale of your choice
100 ml quality Olive Oil or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping
100 gr Plain Flour
2 tablespoons Tomato Puree
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme
A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg
Fine Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
Ready-made puff pastry
(use an all-butter one if you can) or Shortcrust
1 free-range Egg, beaten
Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the beer and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.
Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.
To serve, preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish. Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked. Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas or seasonal greens.
What to Drink? A fruity, smooth spicy new world Merlot is a perfect match with the rich, full flavours of the slow-cooked gravy or have a pint of the ale that you cooked with.
Allergens in this recipe are;
In the Worcestershire sauce