Perfect Boiled Eggs – My Weekend Top Tip

Weekend Top Tip – Perfect boiled eggs. Spring is here. I can tell be the hail bashing against the kitchen window. As a family, we are all getting very excited about the arrival of the Easter Bunny and some delicious Easter Eggs. Our weekends, however, normally start with another type of egg. Honeysuckle calls them Dippy Dippy eggs or soft boiled eggs with lots of soldiers. In fact, next weekend the girls will be collecting fresh eggs every morning, at Lower Campscott Farm.

Some lovely freshly laid eggs ready to make perfect boiled eggs

Get the best Eggs

If you are not lucky enough to be collecting your own free-range organic egg down on the farm you can search out a supplier of fresh eggs on your doorstep. I promise you will not be disappointed and you will see the difference in your cooking and baking. Your cakes will be lighter and your poached eggs hold together better when you use fresh eggs. And most important is the delicious taste.

Here in Jersey, we use eggs from Happy Hens, based in Grouville, owned by
Allan McCaffrey. They keep around 8,000 hens that produce up to 6,000 eggs per day. The hens are kept in mobile houses. This allows them access to the surrounding fields, and they can come and go as they please. As Jersey has no predators such as foxes to threaten them the hens don’t have to be shut in at night like in the UK.

Happy Hens is situated next to the Jersey Oyster Company and has a ready supply of shells which are crushed and spread out for the birds to scratch in and forage. This is something hens do naturally, as grit is essential for their digestive systems. It also provides an additional source of calcium to help poultry to have strong bones and healthy feathers. Happy Hens sell all their eggs locally in the supermarkets, smaller shops and in farm shops. Restaurants and hotels can also purchase eggs by the tray. Usually, the eggs are delivered within 24 hours of laying.

How to cook perfect Boiled Eggs

Half fill a medium sized pan with water, enough to generously cover your eggs, and bring to a simmer. Carefully lower the eggs into the gently boiling water with a spoon and start your timer. For a soft-boiled egg, with the white just set cook for four minutes. Cook for a further minute if you like your eggs a little firmer and for the egg for this recipe cook for six minutes.

The Perfect Boiled Egg?

If you prefer your eggs hard-boiled, start them in cold water and bring up to the boil. Once the eggs are simmering set the timer for ten minutes. When your eggs are cooked to your personal preference, remove from the heat and quickly plunge into a sink full of cold water for one minute. This will arrest the cooking process. Crack the egg shells with the back of a spoon and carefully peel. They will still be very warm.

Crepe

A Crepe for Candlemass

A crepe for Candlemass. I don’t really need an excuse to make pancakes at home, but this is one of those festivals with a food connection that I adore. So I am indebted to a foodie friend for posting about having crepes today in Paris and the Candlemass tradition. It is a pity I couldn’t quite get to Paris but the girls were happy with Daddies efforts.

Candlemass

Candlemass is a Christian Holy Day celebrating when Jesus was presented at the Temple. It is celebrated on the second of February and is the last feast of Christmas. In some countries the Christmas decorations are taken down on Twelfth Night in others they remain in place until Candlemass. Many Christians take candles to be blessed in a church which are then used for the rest of the year. The candles symbolise Jesus as the ‘ Light of the World ’.

A stack of Crepes
A plate of Crepes

The tradition of eating crepes is attributed to Pope Gelasius distributing pancakes to pilgrims arriving in Rome. The round golden pancakes are also said to be symbolic of the sun and celebrate the arrival of Spring. This tradition could date back to Roman times and offerings of made of cake. Today in France when making the pancakes they are flipped from the pan in the right hand while holding a gold coin in the left to ensure household prosperity for the rest of the year.

Crepes and Pancakes

A crepe griddle
An electric Crepe griddle

A crepe is a very thin pancake which can be made in a pan or on a cast iron griddle plate. These plates were placed over a fire but now are electrically heated. Crepes are cooked across France, Northern Europe, and North Africa. Crepes can be sweet and served with sugar and lemon juice, fruit, whipped cream, Nutella and Maple syrup. The classic recipe is Crepe Suzette with the pancakes skilfully made and served at the table. They are flambéed in a sticky caramelised sauce of sugar, butter, orange juice, and zest and orange liqueur.

Crepe Suzette
Classic Crepe Suzette

Savoury pancakes or galettes are often served for lunch and can be filled with ham, cheese, sautéed mushrooms, baby spinach, and ratatouille. Pancakes are commonly made from wheat flour, but you can make them with buckwheat which will make them suitable for coeliacs and people who are gluten intolerant.

Candlemass Crepes
Crepes for Candemass
For a sweet pancake add a dessert spoon of caster sugar to the beaten egg and milk.

My Rhubarb Fool – A perfect Seasonal Dessert

What is Rhubarb Fool?

Rhubarb fool is a great seasonal dessert when fresh fruit in the UK is in pretty short supply. Early in the New Year ( Happy 2019 everyone ) and many of us are thinking about trying to shift the extra weight we may have put on over Christmas. I’m not sure I can go as far as something really healthy, but what I do have is an idea to revitalise any jaded party palettes. As it is time for the earliest of the season’s rhubarb, what about this delicious sweet? Forced rhubarb will be available from good greengrocers but it can be pricey, you can wait for the season’s main crop. The best forced rhubarb comes from the rhubarb triangle in West Yorkshire.

We chefs can sometimes overlook simple classic dishes that have pleased people for a very long time. The fruit fool is a versatile and first-rate example of an underrated culinary star, tart fruits with sweetened cream. You can make them pretty much throughout the year starting with rhubarb, then strawberries, gooseberry and elderflower is delicious and finish with late season raspberries in Autumn.

Trimmed Rhubarb Stems

My Rhubarb Top Tip

I was bought up from an early age by three formidable ladies, my Mum and the aunties Elizabeth and Mary, all incredible cooks. Peeking over the kitchen table I watched them pickle, preserve, knead, ferment, blanch, pluck, peel and chop with carefree abandonment. My guess is a little must have rubbed off on my shoulders. They were all armed with Mrs. Beeton, Robert Carrier, the Bero book and all became particularly big favourites of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Rhubarb Leaves are Poisonous!

I do not remember if my tip for today was in the book, but I remember it was full of beautiful illustrations and lots of old country lore. I am pretty sure most people are aware that the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, but they do have a use. If you have a badly burnt pan leave it to soak for a couple of hours with some torn up rhubarb leaves covered with water. The carbonised food should then be easy to shift with warm soapy water and a scourer, please make sure you rinse thoroughly.

My Rhubarb Fool

I’m not sure if the purists would serve a fool on a biscuit base but I like the butter ginger biscuit base which adds a nice little contrast to the softly whipped cream and poached fruit. The choice is up to you if you wish to leave it out. So while I am not going to win any points for calorie-free food I think this is winner on flavour. Enjoy

My Rhubarb and Ginger Fool
You can adapt through the changing fruit seasons with rhubarb, gooseberry, raspberry and loganberries. This recipe is adapted from one by one of my culinary hero’s, Simon Hopkinson. I like the flavour combination of rhubarb and orange with the buttery ginger biscuit base. You can make it with caster or golden sugar but again I like to use soft brown sugar for the added extra toffee / caramel flavour.

Beer and Cheese Bisque – Cooking with Beer

When you work for a brewery ( a big shout out to everyone at the Liberation Brewery, Jersey ) you had better not be afraid to try cooking with beer. In Belgium, cooking with beer is as common as the French cook with wine. I think almost all of the pubs I have cooked in included deep-fried cod or haddock in a beer batter or a steak and ale pie on their menus. Although to this date only one used custard powder in the batter recipe but that as they say is another story. More recently gastropubs and bistros have started cooking with beer and include dishes such as diverse as beer bread, beer ice cream and beer can chicken. For virtually any recipe that calls for a liquid of any sort, you can substitute beer.

As a marinade for meat or poultry, beer penetrates, flavours and tenderizes. Good beer is less acidic than wine so your food can be left in your marinade longer increasing the flavour. When you are roasting or braising and beer is used to baste the food or in the basting sauce, it imparts a rich, dark colour as the sugars caramelise. So, cooking with beer is great for adding flavour to BBQ’s and slow cooked casseroles and stews.

What can I cook with Beer?

In batter, a live ( not pasteurised ) beer can be substituted for yeast and water. The result is a crisp flavoursome coating for deep-fried fish such as cod, haddock, salmon, and squid. Beer is also delicious with shellfish like Mussels, cooking with it, instead of wine. I even developed a recipe in my day job to use with Oysters. Finally, beer and cheese are perfect companions. The famous Welsh Rarebit is the classic dish of cheese, beer and Worcestershire sauce combined together on toast. Today’s recipe is another great beer and cheese combination if a little unexpected. Beer and Cheese Bisque and it is really rather delicious.

How do I use Beer?

As with wine when you boil and reduce beer you will increase some of the flavours and lose others. You will also evaporate off all of the alcohol. If you are using beer as a substitute for stock remember reducing a strong, intensely hoppy beer will leave a bitter residue. A sweetish mild or stout with little hopping will produce a fine gravy in a pie or stew. A top tip when you are cooking is to reserve a little beer and add it when the cooking is finished. This will lift and enhance the beer flavours of your dish. A final note like wine never cook with a beer you would not drink.

Some Recipe and Beer Pairings

 

Light Larger style Beers are ideal for batters as the carbonation produces a light, airy result and the sugars caramelise to a deep golden colour.

IPA Indian Pale Ales the extra hopping makes for an ideal medium for cooking mussels and seafood.

Traditional Ales – use in bread, pies, and stews, the Belgium classic Carbonnade  Flamande is very similar to a Beef Bourguignon with beer substituted for wine.

Stouts and Porters – are used in rich flavoured mustards and steamed steak and oyster pudding with Guinness.

Wheat Beer traditionally used in Waterzooi, a fish stew from the Flanders region of Belgium thickened with egg yolks and cream and the favourite of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, born in Ghent. Wheat Beer is also ideal for batter mixes.

Speciality Beers – fruity lambic beers in chocolate cakes and puddings and raspberry or sour cherry Kriek beers with roast duck and fowl.

Liberation beers are wildly available as are many other great beers like Fullers, Adnams and some wonderful microbrewery ales. I’m not even getting any freebies from anyone.  Next time I see the boys from the brewery I might try for a pint.

 

Beer and Cheese Bisque

Bisque is a term usually applied to creamy shellfish or roasted vegetable soups, where the main ingredients are first roasted and coloured then simmered to form a stock – the soup is therefore twice cooked or ‘ bis cuites ’. This soup is a little bit of a cheat as its ingredients are only cooked once but it sounds too nice a name to seriously quibble. You can substitute a well rounded not too dark beer for the Liberation Ale.

Clovelly, Devon

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone;
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.

However you pronounce the word everyone loves a scone, we are eating our way through North Devon and the Devonshire Cream Tea is a big favourite. To my mind, at least a large pot of freshly brewed tea and a plate of warm scones ready to be smothered in clotted cream ( never whipped and just don’t even bother with a tin of squirty cream ) and strawberry jam is one of civilisations greatest treats. There is some controversy between those great rivals Devon and Cornwall as to the correct way of eating a scone, cream, and jam or scone, jam, and cream, but they are united on no butter.

Scones with jam and clotted cream
Scones with jam and clotted cream

Families all have their own favoured recipes; my mum used the Bero flour baking book and the recipes can often include raisins or currents and even mixed peel and glacé cherries. In America blueberry scones are popular, you can also make savoury scones with ingredients such as cheese, bacon, onion, dill, and chives, cheese scones are almost the New Zealand national dish. The baked scone should not be confused with the dropped scone, or drop scone, which is like a pancake, and made by dropping or pouring batter onto a hot griddle or frying pan to cook it.

Clovelly, Devon
Clovelly, Devon

Now we haven’t visited too many gardens and stately homes on our holiday as the girls are a little young, we did discover Clovelly* and it’s fantastic almost vertical cobbled streets, but the author Sarah Clelland seems to have the almost perfect job she has visited and wrote about scones at over a hundred National Trust properties. I’m not sure I can think of ten different scone recipes so maybe I need to go try some more. In the meantime, here is my go-to scone recipe.

*We discovered Clovelly has a Channel Islands connection and was used as a location for the film ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. Just don’t ever ask why Guernsey was not a location.

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

The secret to making light crumbly scones is to handle the dough as little and as lightly as possible. Many recipes call for buttermilk, this is not always easy to get hold of, so this recipe substitutes a little lemon juice and milk. The acid helps activate the baking powder to aerate the scone mix.

350 gr Self Raising Flour, plus more for dusting

85 gr cold unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

175 ml Full Fat Milk

40 gr Golden Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

A generous pinch of Salt

A beaten egg with a little milk for the glaze

Pre-heat your oven to 425 F / 200 C / Gas Mark 7. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl and using a metal whisk, mix thoroughly together. Add the butter then rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the golden caster sugar and gently mix in with a fork.

Pour the milk into a small heavy-bottomed pan and warm over a low heat. It does not want to boil or form a skin it should be just warm to the touch. Add the lemon juice and stir, make a dip in the middle of your crumb mix, add the milk and quickly combine with the fork. Once the mix comes together to stop, it is really important from now on to try not to overwork the dough.

Now comes the slightly mess part, sprinkle some extra flour on to your work surface, over the dough and onto your hands, tip the dough on to the flour and gently knead it three or four times to make a smooth formed ball of dough. Sprinkle a little more flour then gently pat the dough down until it is a level four centimetres thick. Take your cutter or a sharp cook’s knife if you prefer diamonds and press straight into the dough trying not to twist. Place the cut scones onto a flat baking tray. Combine any remaining dough into a ball and press into the cutter, this last scone will probably not rise as much as the others. Brush the scones with the egg wash and carefully place into your oven.

Bake for ten minutes until the scones are risen and golden on the top. Eat still warm, generously topped with jam and clotted cream. The scones can be frozen, defrosted and warmed through in the oven.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk  eggs (1).jpg

Please see the Allergens Page

British Sandwich Week – The Best Ever Sandwich Recipe

Panfried Cheese Sandwich.jpg

It is British Sandwich Week and while my tastes have not changed that much, my favourite is still an unctuous melting ham and cheese sandwich and I have found the most incredible way to prepare one. No more lengthy preparation for a correct Croque Monsieur, forget the oven, throw away your toaster and get out your frying pan, I want to shout out from the rooftop just how incredible this sandwich is, and I want you to try it today. I’m so proud I might just enter in the granddaddy of all competitions, the big cheese ( sorry ) of competitive grilled sandwich making the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championships and a  $40,000 prize.

 

 

 

You can use any ham and any cheese that you have in the fridge and sliced white, it’s like the post night out store cupboard classic, I have just gone a little crazy in the delicatessen section and used some of my favourites.

 The Best Ever Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwich

2 freshly sliced Bloomer Loaf

3 heaped tablespoons Mayonnaise

½ teaspoon Dijon Mustard

2 or more slices of Swiss Cheese such as Gruyère or Emmental

2 or more slices of Mature Cheddar

1 large slice of Smoked Ham

Assemble the sandwich as follows, on one piece of bread spread half of the mayonnaise and place mayonnaise side down on a plate, spread the other side of the bread with the mustard and top with the ham. Repeat the process with a second piece of bread and top with the cheese. Place together mayonnaise on the outside.

Heat a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed, non-stick frying pan over a very moderate heat and lay the sandwich in the pan, pressing down several times as the sandwich browns rather slowly on the bottom, for around three to four minutes. Turn and brown the sandwich on the other side, pressing down upon the sandwich several times until its bottom, too, is lightly browned and the cheese is starting to melt. Serve with salad and tomato chutney.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Try pairing your Sandwich with a fruity and refreshingly acidic Beaujolais wine or the citrus, fruity hoppy flavours of an American style IPA.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour  Milk  Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page