American pancakes

The Best Fluffy American-style Pancakes

American pancakes
Fluffy American style Pancakes

Fluffy American style pancakes or griddlecakes are often served for breakfast across the North American continent piled up in towers dripping with maple syrup. This is how I first encountered them sat at the counter in a diner on the West coast. They were served with a side of crispy grilled streaky bacon the size of a small hill and enough coffee to float a cruise liner. The waitress wore a red and white gingham apron and I felt as if I had walked on to a movie set.

Ok so it’s not the actual diner!

American pancakes are made from a light batter cooked on a flat top, griddle plate or in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. The batter is made with flour, eggs, a raising agent and milk, buttermilk or yoghurt and have a moist open texture. Scotch pancakes or drop scones are made with a similar but sweeter thicker batter so are similar in appearance but smaller with a heavier texture. Scotch pancakes are made to be slathered in salty butter.

Now at home, the girls all love crepes, so if I make griddlecakes or drop scones, I would have to eat the whole stack and it would have to be with bacon. If you prefer yours just sweet, as a dessert, you can serve them with nuts, fruits like bananas, blueberries and apples with cinnamon, honey, cream, ice cream, and chocolate sauce, just like pancakes. However you like your American pancakes, savoury or sweet, enjoy.

American style Pancakes
A stack of American Pancakes
Allow 3 pancakes per person unless I’m coming then make a double batch, please.

the Perfect Christmas Roast Turkey Dinner

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner. Most families in the United Kingdom traditionally sit-down on Christmas afternoon for their festive Christmas Dinner. Today you find the centerpiece is usually a roast Turkey served with stuffing, sausages wrapped in streaky bacon ( pigs in blankets ), crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and lots of other vegetables, and cranberry sauce. This is followed by Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, maybe sherry trifle and mince pies. But how have we got here?

The perfect Christmas roast turkey

A bit of Christmas Dinner history

‘If he is to get on in life, he must get on umbly, Master Copperfield!’ In medieval England, if you were very rich you might have eaten venison for Christmas. Killed in your hunting grounds and the bits or umbles – the heart, lungs, liver, tongue, and kidneys would be chopped, mixed and baked in a pie to be given to the poor. The original [h]umble pie. Down the pecking order ( sorry ) you might find goose or woodcock covered in butter and saffron and roasted. For dessert, you would find frumerty a thick, spiced porridge. This was made with currents and enriched with egg yolks. Alternatively there might be a boiled plum pudding. The ancestor of today’s Christmas pudding made with suet and dried fruit. It would be flavoured with clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Plum is an old term for raisins.

A boar’s head would be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast for a Tudor nobleman. It is believed that the tradition is centuries-old. It came from pagan celebrations of the Norse god of the harvest. If you could not get hold of the highly prized head, you would have a ham which is now a staple of many Christmas meals. Sugar, spices, and nuts were considered highly exotic and very expensive. Highly decorated marzipan sweetmeats were a sign of your wealth and importance.

Gingerbread Men

Christmas Traditions

‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’
During the 17th century, turkeys started to become part of the Christmas feast. Although goose would remain the most popular roast well into the Victorian era. It was common for goose “Clubs” to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards buying a goose. Sherlock Holmes solves a tricky case involving the theft of a precious stone the blue carbuncle when it is found in a Christmas club goose.

Gingerbread has an incredibly long history, near to a thousand years. Originally it was often sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and markets. Gingerbread was prized for its supposed medicinal properties and was used to aid digestion. It became so popular its manufacture was highly regulated in Germany and supervised by a guild. The guild lifted the restrictions on who could bake gingerbread at Easter and Christmas. By Victorian times Gingerbread men were baked and hung on the Christmas tree.

A dickens of a christmas

In the 18th and 19th century, Twelfth Night, the fifth of January, was one of the most important dates in the festive calendar. Twelfth Night was the last feast of the Christmas celebrations ( Epiphany ). The centerpiece of the parties, which involved eating, drinking and playing games was a cake. A forerunner to today’s Christmas cake it evolved from an enriched fruit bread to a more familiar fruit cake decorated with almond and sugar pastes. A dried bean was included in the recipe. Whoever found it was crowned ‘Lord of Misrule’ or ‘King of the Bean’ and presided over the festivities.

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the turkey was still an expensive choice, only for the very rich, for Christmas dinner. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey. In northern England, roast beef was commonly served on Christmas Day while in London and the south of England, a goose was still the favourite. Those too poor to afford beef or goose made do with rabbit. However, by the end of the 19th century, most people feasted on turkey for Christmas dinner.

Mince Pies

Mincemeat was from Tudor times, when chopped meat mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices. This recipe continued right up to the Victorian era when less and less meat was included in the recipe. The mince tart you eat today is filled entirely with dried fruits, sugar, spices, and suet to keep it moist. Most premade mincemeat mixtures now use vegetable fats rather than the traditional suet in keeping with mincemeats origins.

Today’s Recipe

Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6am to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6 to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

Diver caught Scallops with Lentils and Bacon – Seafood Week 2018

Seafood week

Now I have already posted how much I adore cooking and eating great seafood. You have to excuse me but come on everyone I live on an island. In Jersey we are graced with some of the most amazing seafood you will eat. Now you may positively love lobster or crave freshly picked crab, but my favourite ( astute readers may have guessed already ) is the succulent scallop. So here is my recipe for Diver caught Scallops with Lentils and Bacon. If you visit Jersey you can also choose mackerel in season, skate, and plaice. If you like shellfish then mussels and oysters are grown in the clear waters around the island. In short, an abundance of fish and shellfish.

Scallop
Scallop on the Shell

Protecting the Marine Environment.

Before I get to the recipe the only scallops you should consider eating are diver caught. Cheaper commercially dredged scallops can cause considerable damage to the seabed. Here is a link about sourcing sustainable fish and seafood. The Marine Stewardship Council helps conserve fishing stocks for the future.

Whenever I cook scallops I always think of the actress Uma Thurman stepping out of a gigantic scallop shell. In one of her earliest roles as Venus in the madcap film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, it is a striking piece of cinematography. The whole scene is beautiful and I like to think that this is a beautiful dish. I’m not the most refined and elegant cook but this is really a simple but stunning recipe. It pairs the sweet scallops and tomatoes with a hint of smoke and saltiness from the bacon. 

Scallops and Lentils

The Wine ChoiceThere are an awful lot of flavours and textures in this dish, so we need a wine that has similar attributes. The strongest flavour on the plate is going to be the bacon but if we choose a red to match solely to that we lose the delicacy and subtle sweetness of the scallops. Likewise, if we match a delicate white purely for the scallops we risk the wine being overpowered by the savoury bacon and sweet tomato flavours. A Sancerre Rosé, made from the Pinot Noir grape, dry with aromas of strawberries and gooseberries covers all the bases.

Scallops with Lentils and Bacon is ideal as a fantastically tasty starter or suitably scintillating summery lunch or supper served with crusty French bread.

Chorizo Jam

If you have read any of my posts you may be aware of a few reoccurring themes, cream, garlic, bacon, seafood and barbecuing but bacon is probably up there as a potential favourite. Now I waxed lyrical about an American recipe Bacon Jam*, a mouth-watering combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat but I think I might have just found something even more sticky and moreish. I saw a post for cheese and biscuits online, a fantastic piece of Manchego with a ramekin of Chorizo Jam!

A little bit of online research later and a couple of trials……………..

Homemade Chorizo Jam
Manchego Cheese and Chorizo Jam

So, I only made Chorizo Jam for the first time three week ago and I have eaten Chorizo Jam on toast, stuffed Chorizo Jam into Chicken breasts and used Chorizo Jam as a garnish for soup, but this sweet, slightly spicy, slightly smoky, relish is a must with a cheese board, absolutely delicious in fact. Enjoy

* I was a bacon jam evangelist.

Chorizo Jam

200 gr quality raw Chorizo

2 large Cooking Apples, peeled and diced

1 large Spanish Onion, peeled and very finely diced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

100 ml Port

100 ml Water

50 ml Olive Oil

150 gr soft Brown Sugar

Juice of one freshly squeezed Lemon

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Cut the Chorizo into small pieces at most half a centimetre square. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium heat. Add the Chorizo and fry stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the Chorizo is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. When the Chorizo is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess oil.

Add the onions to the pan in enough of the oil to allow them to gently fry. Cook over a medium heat, for fifteen to twenty minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a low rolling boil. Stir in the Chorizo and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour     Check the ingredients in your Chorizo

Please see the Allergens Page

Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic

I love garlic, I adore garlic, I cook with absolutely loads of garlic like today’s recipe for Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic. I could actually employ a full-time garlic peeler, knee deep in discarded garlic husks. A manager I worked with regularly joked I could not cook a dish without garlic, cream, and alcohol, including the desserts.*

But here is a but – I LOATH BURNT GARLIC. I jump up, gesticulate, shout and scream at the number of cookery programs where poor, innocent, sweet, comely garlic is tossed into woks and pans of smoking hot oil.** I am pretty certain every single person who utters the frankly unbelievable phrase ‘ it doesn’t have garlic in it does it, I really don’t like garlic ‘ is the result of a traumatic exposure to such cooking travesties. Burnt garlic is a cheek sucking, eye-watering experience, an awful culinary disgrace.

Hence a recipe for roasted garlic, I swear all the disbelievers could be converted with this delicious way of cooking garlic. The slow roasting with just a little oil highlights the natural sweetness and tempers any harsh raw flavours. I first encountered roasted garlic when I worked as a manager at the Bel and the Dragon, Cookham served with rustic, crusty bread and olives and olive oil, the garlic squeezed out and spread on the bread as a kind of pungent pate. Wow!

I keep some roasted garlic cloves covered in oil in the refrigerator now handy for lots of cooking especially this simple full flavoured lunch or supper dish recipe Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic. Post the Christmas and Boxing Day excesses I think it is nice to have something really tasty and easy to cook. The Parma ham and roasted garlic can be cooked in the last few minutes of your pasta cooking. The chilli provides a little bite but is not there to overpower this wonderful dish, however, if you want to add a little extra go for it, one of the joys of cooking is experimenting. Enjoy.

*The garlic cream rum babas were perhaps a little ahead of their time.
** Just add the garlic later during the cooking process when the heat is lowered or with more ingredients that dissipate the heat.

Spaghetti with Parma Ham.JPG

Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic serves 4

50 to 65 gr Spaghetti per person ( I grab a generous handful but I’m greedy )

2 large heads of roasted garlic ( see below )

16 slices Parma Ham

1 small to medium Chilli, de-seeded and very thinly sliced

6 to 8 tablespoons quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A small handful of curly Parsley, thoroughly washed, dried and chopped

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

½ a Lemon

for the roasted garlic

Garlic Bulbs

Olive oil

A few sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme

Sea Salt and roughly ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C/ Gas mark 6. Remove the tops of the garlic bulbs, place on to a baking tray. Sprinkle liberally with olive oil, the herbs and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for twenty-five to thirty minutes until the bulbs are soft. Cool and squeeze out as required.

For the Spagehetti

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for eight to ten minutes until ‘ al dente ‘ or with just a little bite left in the pasta. The old student technique of seeing if sticks to the wall is not necessary, just remove a little of the spaghetti and bite between your front teeth. While the pasta is cooking gently heat the olive oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed frying pan. Add the chilli and garlic, sauté for two minutes. Add the ham and season, cook for a minute. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and stir in the parsley. Drain the spaghetti and stir thoroughly into the frying pan, ensuring all the spaghetti is coated with the oil, chilli and parsley mix. Plate and serve with a little extra chopped parsley.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour     Eggs

Please see the Allergens Page

Coq-au-vin

The very fact that you may have searched for, or indeed stumbled upon this post by accident, is an indication of the number of food blogs and recipe sites available on the net. However, it does not reach out as far as I can see as to have an explanation as to the origins of Coq au vin, that rich, satisfying, classic French peasant dish that is today’s dish. It is generally accepted that it has a long history as a rustic, rural, recipe, however, it only first appears in cookery literature in the late eighteen hundreds. The two most popular stories about the creation of the dish involve Napoleon and Julius Caesar, of the two, as a long-term Asterix fan I like the Caesar story.

Coq au Vin.jpg

After the conquest of Gaul, now part of modern-day France, the story goes that the natives presented the victor with an old gamey, rooster. The rooster is a tough proposition – excuse the pun and requires long, slow cooking. The rooster was cooked by Caesar’s chef simmered in wine ( a method of cooking extremely popular with the Romans, whatever else did they do for us ? ) and the end result was said to be very successful. Traditionally then, the rooster or any tough old bird benefits from first marinating in wine* then gently braising and the addition of the carcass adds a richness to the finished sauce.

A little Whine !

Again the Internet has failed to provide me the name of, at a cursory glance, the first person to say that if you would not drink a wine then you should not cook with it. I remember watching TV and the late, great and sadly missed Keith Floyd elucidating, sometimes less than clearly, that this indeed is the case. He certainly was a fan of checking the quality of the vintage he was cooking with at the time. Your Coq au vin does not need to be made with a first growth claret but will benefit from a full-bodied robust red. While it could be Australian or from Chile I am at heart a traditionalist and believe that a Burgundy is best.

Many regions of France have variants of Coq au vin using the local wine, such as coq au vin jaune (Jura) and coq au pourpre (Beaujolais nouveau). In some variations of the dish white wine is used, Riesling wine is popularly used in the Alsace region, with the addition of Morels and cream. In addition to the wine and chicken, Coq au vin is flavoured with the inclusion of fat bacon or salt pork, onion, garlic, mushrooms and a bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley). The chicken is first marinated in wine, then seared in hot fat, this is essential to flavour and colour the finished dish. The meat, vegetables, and aromatics are then simmered in the wine marinade until the meat is cooked and tender.

* no jokes please

On a personal note, I find Coq au vin an ideal dish for the slow cooker. A good coq au vin improves immensely if you marinade the chicken overnight and improves further if you leave it when cooked, overnight, in the refrigerator. If you cannot get a piece of bacon try to use the thickest rashers you can find so the lardons will not break up during cooking. Celery is not a staple of many recipes for Coq au vin but I have stolen the idea from Nigel Slater and have included it below. If you want to peel baby onions you can but I find the result is in no way spoilt by using frozen baby onions. The dish is served in France with flat noodles or rice, it is equally appealing with steamed potatoes that you can crush in the gravy. Enjoy.

Coq au vin                    Serves 4

A large Chicken, jointed into 6 or 8 pieces, giblets and carcass saved

( ask your butcher if he can source a rooster and if he will cut it up for you )

For the stock

Saved Chicken giblets and carcass

1 onion, peeled and roughly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stick of celery, washed and roughly chopped

A bay leaf, a clove of garlic and a few peppercorns

For the Coq-au-vin

125 gr whole Pancetta or Unsmoked Bacon

2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

3 sticks of Celery, washed and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

200 gr Button Mushrooms, washed and halved or quartered if required

75 gr frozen Baby Onions

A bottle of drinkable Red Wine, preferably Burgundy

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

75 gr Butter

4 tablespoons Cognac

A good handful of Curly Parsley, washed and picked and finely chopped ( keep the parsley stems )

A small bunch of Thyme

3 Bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Butchers string

For the marinade

This is pretty important as it helps give the chicken the deep colour you are looking for. Place the chicken pieces in a glass bowl and add half of the crushed garlic. Make a bouquet garni – take one stick of celery and cut in half, into one-half place 5 or 6 stems of thyme, the bay leaves, and the parsley stems. Sandwich the herbs with the remaining half of the celery stick and tie tightly together with string. Add to the chicken and cover with the wine. Seal bowl with cling film and place overnight in a refrigerator.

For the stock, place all of the ingredients in a large heavy bottomed pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for three hours at a gentle simmer, then set aside to cool. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and drain thoroughly. Reserve the marinade. Cut the pancetta into chunky lardons or short strips, they need to be thicker than a match but not quite as thick as your little finger. In a large thick-bottomed casserole melt one ounce of the butter over a moderate heat and gently sauté the lardons until crisp and light brown. Remove using a slotted spoon leaving the excess fat in the casserole dish.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them in the hot fat in the casserole, so that they fit snugly yet have room to colour. Sauté the chicken pieces and turn them over when the colour is a nice clover honey brown. It is this colouring of the skin, rather than what wine or herbs you might add later, that is crucial to the flavour of the dish. Remove the chicken and set aside with the bacon lardons. Do not clean the casserole dish as the fat and juices in the dish are important to the finished flavour of the coq au vin.

Add the onions and carrot to the pan and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the remaining garlic, stir and then return the chicken and pancetta to the pan, stir in the flour and let everything cook for a minute or two more before pouring in the cognac and marinade including the boquet garni. Strain the stock and pour into the casserole until all the chicken is covered. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down so that the sauce bubbles in a gentle simmer. Cover partially with a lid.

Melt the remaining butter in a small heavy bottomed pan and saute the mushrooms. Let them cook until they are golden, then add them to the chicken with the baby onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Check the chicken after 40 minutes to see how tender it is. It should be soft but not falling off its bones. It will probably take about an hour, depending on the type of chicken you are using. Lift the chicken out onto a large plate and keep warm.

Turn the heat up under the sauce and simmer vigorously until it has reduced by about a fifth and become shiny and glossy. Divide the chicken into serving dishes and cover with sauce, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour  Celery  Milk

Please see the Allergens Page