Hot Cross Bread and Butter Pudding. This is a really easy way for you to make bread and butter pudding. You don’t need any extra dried fruit just what’s in the hot cross buns and some of our fantastic local dairy produce.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, Hot cross buns! If you have no daughters, Give them to your sons One ha’ penny, Two ha’ penny, Hot Cross Buns!
First published in the “Christmas Box” London, 1798
You probably sang the nursery rhyme as a child, but the origins of the hot cross bun go back as far as the fourteenth century. Traditionally made from enriched bread dough with raisins or currants and mixed peel. You eat them on Good Friday to mark the end of the fasting for Lent. The piped cross signifies the crucifixion. The cinnamon and nutmeg are thought to represent the spices used to embalm Jesus’s body.
Sweet spiced buns were first probably associated with Easter when given to the poor. By Elizabethan times the sale of sweet buns was limited by law. Their sale was restricted to funerals, Christmas time and the Friday before Easter. There is a long tradition of eating spiced fruit ‘ Arval ’ bread or cake at funerals or the following feast. The feast marked the death was free from any suspicious circumstances and the legal transferal of goods and possessions.
There are lots of superstitions about hot cross buns baked on Good Friday. They are said to cure illness and if hung in a kitchen prevent your house from burning down. They will also ward any evil spirits. If you sail, then a hot cross bun taken on a sea voyage protects against a shipwreck. While I cannot promise any of these things, I can offer you a very simple and tasty recipe should you have a few too many hot cross buns to spare.
If you wish you can add a handful of extra dried fruit to your pudding, raisins, currants, and sultanas.
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.
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.
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.
The food bloggers breakfast must be a thing of wonder. Cold soaked oats, Manuka honey, and exotic berries topped off with superfoods smoothie packed with vitamins. Alas as a working dad heading off on the school run it’s lucky to be a piece of toast with too much butter* and some homemade jam. Now there is nothing wrong at all with toast and at the weekend it is a great start to your day. Sourdough with some smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs or with crushed avocado, eggs poached or boiled and a little chilli kick.
Now I will be honest my breakfast aims do tend to aim towards a sky-high pile of bacon, well a full fry up to be honest or a tower of pancakes. I do however like porridge made with milk ( sorry true Scots ) with a little brown sugar sprinkled on top and another favourite made from oats, home baked granola. Granola is a very popular breakfast cereal made from the aforementioned oats with oil and honey or sugar.
So, if you ’ve not already noticed a theme not particularly healthy but very tasty. Factory manufactured granola can be quite expensive and yet it is so very easy to make at home. It is delicious mixed with dried fruits and nuts such as flaked almonds, apricots, raisins, and sultanas or eaten with creamy, natural yoghurt, sliced banana and sprinkled with blueberries.
A bit about Home baked Granola
Granola was invented and trademarked in America by a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg as a baked breakfast cereal at a similar time to muesli, which is also made from oats although neither sweetened or cooked. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits, granola is often marketed as a ‘healthy option’ however it does contain a lot of sugar. Granola or pressed granola bars ( similar to Flapjack ) are a good source of energy and is often carried by long-distance hikers. Granola can also be used in making and garnishing desserts such as my recipe for Cranachan or served with iced lemon parfait and lemon curd.
*I love butter
that much we are almost having a relationship.
Oats are gluten free but can cause a similar reaction and may be processed in factories that process wheat and barley.
Roast Chicken and Jersey Royals with Lemon, Golden Raisins and Pine nuts. All across the fertile fields of Jersey, you can now see acres of plastic sheets . These are covering the wonderful Jersey main season potato crop. The earliest growers would have been harvesting from polytunnels and glasshouses in late February. The outdoor potato harvest lasts from early April through to June depending of course on the climate conditions. The valuable growing land here is in such short supply that the potatoes are grown and harvested on near vertical fields. But don’t worry you don’t have scramble up a cliff side as Jersey Royals are available all over the island and in supermarkets around the UK.
What makes Jersey Royals so special?
The above average temperature of Jersey, the easy draining soil and the use of the abundant local seaweed as fertilizer, all helps to shape the flavour of this most wonderful of root crops. However, we need however to go back to 1878 ( fear not, this is only a minor historical digression and an essential part of our tale ) for the origin of the Jersey Royal or to be more precise the Jersey Royal Fluke. A pair of abnormally large potatoes were purchased and later cultivated by Hugh de La Haye. They were the forerunners of the modern Jersey potato industry. Today over 1500 tonnes a day are exported during the season’s peak and the Jersey Royal enjoys EU protected status.
Many purists would say that all you need to eat Jersey Royals with is lashings of Jersey’s finest butter ( I’m a big fan of Classic Herd’s ) and a generous sprinkling of Jersey sea salt. They are the perfect accompaniment to the islands finest seafood, wonderful in salads. I want, however, to suggest to you something a little different. A one tray oven-baked dish that would be perfect served with a dressed green salad and a nice cold beer. The Jersey Royals have a great texture when roasted and are perfect with the chicken. Enjoy.
If you cannot get hold of Jersey Royals you can use any firm early new potatoes Cornish are an idea substitute. If you don’t like chicken drumsticks just substitute four extra thighs. This recipe is Gluten Free.
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.
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.
Allow 3 pancakes per person unless I’m coming then make a double batch, please.
Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken. Today we welcome in the Chinese New Year 2019 the year of the pig. This year to celebrate I have made a trio of Sichuan inspired dishes. A vegetarian Mapo tofu, spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns and today’s recipe the classic Kung Pao Chicken. Now you should beware many western versions of this lack the serious dual hit of fiery red chilli and the mouth tingling Sichuan pepper. In fact Sichuan peppers were banned from America for quite sometime? The US version is often just a variant of General Tso’s Chicken with carrots, onions and bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce. You will find Western versions are often much tamer than the authentic dish.
Why is it called Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao chicken ( 宫保鸡丁 ) is believed to be named after a Governor of Sichuan province who held the official title ‘ Gongbao ‘ or palace guardian. I’m sure you have seen the similarity already. Because of this Imperial connection it was renamed during the famous Cultural Revolution. The new name was the rather less catchy ‘ fast fried chicken cubes ‘. It’s more famous name was restored in the nineteen eighties.
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
You make real thing from stir-fried soy marinated chicken, leeks and raw peanuts. Your flavour comes from Sichuan peppercorns and red chillies. They are first heated in hot oil with perhaps some ginger and garlic. Then you serve the finished dish with simply steamed rice.
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 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 ’.
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 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.
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.
For a sweet pancake add a dessert spoon of caster sugar to the beaten egg and milk.
My spicy Sichuan salt and pepper king prawns are the type of recipe I just love to eat and share. So it had to be the next recipe in this year’s celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year. Be prepared, however, even though they have a spicy kick they are very addictive. The prawns are quickly deep-fried in the lightest coating then seasoned with my blend of salt, chilli, and pungent Sichuan pepper. If you like salt and pepper squid, you can substitute thinly sliced Calamari as an alternative. The result is mouth watering and delicious. Enjoy
This spicy salt blend is typical Sichuan Chinese cuisine. Sichuan cooking typically uses lots of strong flavours such as chilli bean paste, chilli oil, and Sichuan peppercorns. Authentic Sichuan salt is obtained from local springs and does not contain iodine, but I use sea salt as an alternative and there is no major difference in taste. Sichuan dishes are often very hot, and the peppercorns produce a slight tingling sensation on the lips.
Spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Mix
You will find this mix is
great as a rub for seasoning pork or chicken, like chicken wings, and can be used
as a dry dip as well as with seafood like king prawns or calamari. If you don’t
want to deep fry your prawns, you can stir fry them in their shells in a wok
and add the Sichuan salt and pepper mix a couple of minutes before serving.
Heat the Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat, until the salt starts to turn grey. Toss the pan occasionally to stop the peppercorns from burning. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Grind the mixture in a pestle and mortar with the chilli flakes and Star anise. Store in a dry air-tight container and use as required.
For this recipe you will need King prawns with the head on, that have had the shells removed and been deveined. You can get these from good fish-mongers or large supermarkets.
Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.
Mapo Tofu History
The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.
Mapo Tofu Ingredients
Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.
Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.
Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.
Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchiare one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.
Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.
As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.
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.
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.
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
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.
My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides. A perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner isn’t a perfect Christmas dinner for me without the stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, and the rest of the sides. Honey roast parsnips, buttered carrots and today’s recipes braised red cabbage, Brussel sprouts and of course cranberry sauce.
My perfect Christmas dinner -Braised Red Cabbage
Braised red cabbage is a beautifully versatile accompaniment to a host of winter dishes pies, casseroles and stews, seasonal roasts such as venison and game birds. You can adjust / experiment with the recipe and adapt it to suit whatever you are serving it with.
You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.
Stir Fry Brussel Sprouts
We all love Brussel sprouts and I am sure you will too if you follow this simple recipe. If you bought your sprouts are on the stalk, twist each one off. Remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Next, trim the base and cut an larger ones in half. Wash and drain.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the Brussel sprouts. Remove after five minutes and plunge into cold, iced water. This stops the brussels over cooking. Drain thoroughly. To serve heat two heaped tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Toss the brussels in the pan over a medium-high heat for three to four minutes until thoroughly heated but still a little crunchy. Season well, top with a few toasted flaked almonds and serve.
My perfect Christmas dinner – cranberry sauce
This is my go to recipe for a delicious homemade Cranberry sauce. It may seem quite a lot but it goes just as well a roast chicken or in a cold turkey sandwich.
I promise you will never go back to cranberry sauce from a shop again once you have tried this.
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?
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.
A bit of Mince Pie history
Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.
My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe
You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest, and fresh cranberries for example.
Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
The best Mince Pie Recipe
The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.
These crumbly, buttery mince pies are delicious made with my recipe for mincemeat.
My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.
The recipe is a variety of Sable pastry a rich egg and butter enriched recipe from France. You can use sable pastry for making tart cases, Linzer biscuits and wonderful festive mince pies. The classic central European Christmas recipe Linzer torte is made from a sable pastry. It is filled with jam and topped with a pastry lattice. The word “sable” is French for sand which you will see perfectly describes the grainy texture when you make the biscuits. The end result is a fine crumbly texture.
Decorating your biscuits
You may decorate your biscuits however your choose. It is great fun with my two girls as we have a rather over stocked baking cupboard and they run riot. You can purchase a wide range of decorations now in good supermarkets and speciality baking shops. Alongside old favourites such as hundreds and thousands you can buy edible glitter, gold and silver decorations and many more. You can use royal icing to decorate your finished biscuits if you have some from decorating your Christmas cake. If not you will find a recipe for a basic water icing which is perfectly suitable.
You can find more recipes for festive biscuits and Christmas bakes here. Enjoy.
Rich buttery biscuits made from a Sable style pastry. If you want to hang your biscuits on your tree make a hole in the dough before baking. You can use a pen top or small sharp knife. Make sure you don’t make the hole to close to the edge.
Biscotti are tasty Italian biscuits and the next of my Christmas bakes. They are great as a seasonal gift and very easy to make. They are also very moreish and so you may find them hard to give away. The secret is you make a double batch. That way you will have enough for both your friends and yourself.
The origins of biscotti
Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.
“Biscotti” is derived from medieval Latin and literally means twice baked. It is also the origin of the English word biscuit, but these are just baked once. There is a long history of double baking. Roman soldiers ate twice-baked bread. Sailor’s rations used to contain the dreaded hardtack or ship’s biscuits. These were often riddled with beetles and weevils by the end of a long voyage.
What ingredients can I use?
Biscotti were traditionally made from flour, eggs, sugar, pine nuts, and whole almonds. Today you can find biscotti with a multitude of ingredients and flavourings. Including spices, nuts, dried fruits and can be dipped in dark chocolate. For this recipe, I’ve included nuts, fruit, orange zest, and some seasonal spices. You can experiment and add anything you fancy. Why not try chopped dried apricots, mixed peel, walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. You can even flavour your biscotti with liqueurs.
However you choose to make them I’m sure you will find them addictive. Enjoy.
For a more traditional Biscotti recipe omit the spices and dried fruit.
Stir up Sunday? Christmas Culinary Countdown? What is that I hear you cry? Well this Sunday is thirty days before Christmas and a week before Advent. Advent, yes the thing with the calendar! Stir up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family gathered together to make the Christmas pudding or plum duff. The tradition is believed to originated from families listening to the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer for this particular day;
‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ’
Advent is observed in Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the Nativity. Advent is derived from the Latin for “coming”. So your pudding is bound in the Christian Christmas tradition. And you thought Advent was all about a calendar with little doors and chocolate. So this special time would seem good enough for me to be the perfect start posting my Christmas recipes.
A Christmas Countdown
I am going to post lots of recipes in the run up to Christmas. A collection of classic dishes and a few unexpected twists in case you don’t like Turkey, so that you will be able to cook up a cracker of a Christmas. In this post you will find lots of ideas for home baking this festive season.
Get your Christmas Bake On
Lets look at a couple of the iconic Christmas recipes the Christmas pudding and the fruit cake. Now you don’t have to be scared or be a baker capable of winning the Great British Bake Off to make a great Christmas pudding or cake. As you will see it is really about preparation and making in advance.
“This recipe is from one of my culinary inspirations my Aunty Mary, a brilliant cook, it really is the best I’ve ever encountered with lots of dried fruits, citrus peel and good soaking in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery how the circle has turned. We used to spend most of the day sorting through the dried raisins and sultanas to make sure there were no small stones in the bags, then they would be left overnight in stout.”
“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.”
“My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.”
Linzer biscuits are made with sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked. The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar
“Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.”
“Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. “
See what I did there another terrible pun. But I remember the village fetes when I was growing up and there was always a coconut shy. You aimed a small hard wooden ball to knock down coconuts and win a prize. The only other time I encountered coconut in my childhood was the giant box of Bassett’s Liquorish Allsorts at Christmas. I ate far too many and was violently ill. It then took years to be able to stomach anything coconut flavoured. Thankfully I now like coconut in curries, desserts and love coconut sorbet. So I am not really happy to bring you this very tasty recipe for Thai Coconut Fish Soup. I still think desiccated coconut is made from Satan’s hoof clippings.
I love the contrasts and combinations in Thai cooking, salt, sweet, heat and sour. Recipes such as Thai style crab cakes and Seafood Tom Yam. Most of the aromatic ingredients are now available in a good supermarket or specialist Asian shop. You can use creamed coconut or coconut milk in the recipe and any seafood you really fancy. I have used monkfish but you can use any firm white fish. You can add prawns, squid, and mussels if you wish. This soup honours the spirit of Thai cooking rather than being wholly authentic so uses key Thai ingredients. There are chillies, galangal, coriander, and garlic flavouring the coconut base.
Thai-style Seafood Soup is a tasty favourite, poached monkfish and prawns, simmered in the spicy coconut broth flavoured with classic Thai ingredients. The kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and crispy deep-fried shallots are all available in good Asian retailers or markets.
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.
My best Chinese recipes – Why am I writing this post after a busy couple of family days and lots of Halloween baking? When I am not in a kitchen at work, I do quite a lot of administration sat at a computer, so you might ask why do I choose this as my downtime? I wish it was as easy to explain as some of the best food writers are able to make it. I want to share my joy and excitement when just a few ingredients come together to make something more as a whole dish. What’s more, you don’t have to a Michelin starred chef or culinary alchemist to experience this. And my best way to try to show you this with just a few basic staples and some herbs and aromatics is Chinese food.*
A table of Chinese Food
I’m such a fan of Chinese cooking I think it is the contrast in flavours to food styles and cuisines I learned at college and early in my training. There is the simplicity I am writing about to wok-fried dishes that are nutritious, quick to cook and great for an easy supper. At the other end of the scale, you can collate a series of dishes to create a multicourse awe-inspiring banquet. Chinese is not just one flavour but a series of distinct regional styles and use of ingredients. And what ingredients star anise, garlic, ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, seafood, pork and duck some of my all time favourites.
But what I really think about Chinese food is the wonderful mix of slightly sweet and salty soy, a little sour rice wine, some chilli and ginger bite, crisp vegetables tossed in delicious sauces and succulent melt in the mouth meats. I am a very lucky chef to be able to cook with some fantastic ingredients and too have learnt my trade from some inspiring mentors. I am a very lucky foodie to have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world and tasted some incredible dishes. However, if I had to choose a final meal, I’m not sure in what circumstances, but my choice wouldn’t be some intense creation with numerous exotic ingredients but Crispy Duck Pancakes with sweet, sticky Hoisin Sauce, some Crispy Beef and some Steamed Scallops with Ginger and Spring Onions.
*Other cultures and cuisines have simple great tasting recipes I love dishes from across Asia, India, Italy and Mexico to name but a few, which are all made from just a few excellent ingredients.
Here is a selection of some of my Best Chinese Recipes
“I have done was an inspiring course in London with Ken Hom, equipped myself with numerous books, woks, steamers, and ingredients from quaint little Asian specialty suppliers and set to work as only a chef can and chopped, pounded, crushed, fried and ate my way through the Chinese canon. Cantonese, Shandong, Hunan and spicy Szechuan cuisine with noodles, rice, black beans, bok choi and lots of seasoning; garlic, chilli, cloves and ginger, and the wonderfully pungent star anise. Am I giving my little local take away a bit of a run for his money what do you think?”
“In China lamb or mutton is eaten mostly in the north and north west and is especially favoured by the Muslim and Mongol populations but it is available everywhere. The most popular street food in China are Xinjiang lamb skewers with fiery and fragrant with chilli and Szechuan peppercorns, which you can find in every major city throughout China. Chinese recipes mostly call for mutton or substitute goat rather than lamb mainly because traditionally lamb was scarce, and the cooking times would be longer. ”
“In China red coloured meats are eaten for good luck as red is the colour of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. ‘Red cooking’ is a popular method of braising dishes in northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and the sauce using both dark and light soy sauces, Chinese Rice Wine, and caramelized sugar flavoured with whole spices such as Star Anise and Cassia bark.
“Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.”
“I thought we need to look at how to cook the perfect bowl of light fluffy rice to eat with all the other dishes. If you follow the tips below you don’t need a rice steamer cluttering up your work surface and I know you won’t go wrong with the perfect accompaniment.”
Thai green curry is an extremely popular recipe from the central region of Thailand. It is made using a paste of fresh green chillies, Thai basil, and galangal so be prepared it packs quite a punch. This is a real favourite in many of the restaurants and pubs I have cooked in and really easy so I thought it would be a great recipe for National Curry Week. The dish is normally made with white fish or chicken and traditional vegetables such as bamboo shoots or baby Thai eggplant. The sweet coconut milk balances the heat of the chillies in the Thai green curry paste.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
You can buy perfectly good prepared Thai green curry paste but I think homemade has the edge. Making the dish with homemade Thai green curry paste results in a fresher flavour and a brighter coloured sauce. For my recipe for Thai green curry paste follow this link. Even making the paste this dish is ideal for a quick evening supper and can be on the table in thirty minutes. I use Thai fish sauce to season the dish if you like your curries really hot you can add an extra small finely-sliced green chilli.
This dish is ideal for a quick evening supper and can be on the table in thirty minutes.
It is time for you to open the cupboard and find that half used tin of Madras curry powder. It is National Curry Week . I want to start with an easy recipe, nutritious, and full of flavour, a Roasted Vegetable Curry. As an added bonus for everyone, this is my first vegan recipe. I can totally guarantee it is so tasty, great for everyone to eat and enjoy. Roast Vegetable Curry is a comforting supper dish you can serve just as it is. Or serve it as a side as part of a larger group meal. Why not try it with my Butter Chicken, rice, poppadums, and pickles.
Every one Loves Curry
Curries are now a staple part of English cooking. Chicken Tikka Masala is now the most popular takeaway dish in the UK. Our tastes have definitely changed from the days of early Indian influenced dishes such as kedgeree. This recipe was bought home from India by colonial civil servants. We now eat curry dishes from around the world. Curry recipes from turmeric and ginger spiced Malay to the fantastically popular Thai green variety. Finally please remember curry does not need to be fiery hot. The key is developing layers of flavour through using different spices and aromatics.
Roasted Vegetable Curry
My recipe uses chilli, ginger, garlic and curry powder as the key flavours. If you are a little more confident you can substitute ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and mustard powder for the curry powder.
Believe it or not, curry powder was not invented in India. The most common theory is that it was invented by Chinese cooks to emulate the recipes the British had grown used to. The most used spice mixes in India are Garam Masala.
Any spice mix and ground spice you may have has a limited shelf life. Spices are best stored in an air-tight container in a cool environment away from direct sunlight. Over time the intense flavours will be lost and the taste can become stale in time.
I have used several vegetables, but this recipe is a great fridge clearer whatever you have in your salad drawer can go into it, cauliflower, aubergine, boiled potatoes, tomatoes you can really experiment. You can save time by omitting the garlic, chilli, ginger, and spices and use a quality Tikka Masala curry paste if you are in a hurry.
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.
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.
The Wine Choice –There 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.
As a country we are lucky to have so many culinary influences, down I guess in no small part to having been a trading and seafaring nation with ships and merchants travelling across the globe and openly accepting many different peoples and cultures into our own. Today in any major town and city you can eat authentically cooked food from around the world in fine dining restaurants, family-owned corner cafes and from street vendors and pop-ups. Now one of the most influential of all these cuisines would be Indian and spices, curries, and chutneys now play a major part in our cooking and dining habits from the mildest Butter Chicken to the hottest Phall, an Anglo-India mix of tomatoes, ginger and Scotch Bonnet peppers. Supermarket shelves are full of pastes, sauces, pickles and poppadums and fridges full of every type of curry imaginable, and you are never far from an Indian* restaurant.
There is an Indian influence to kedgeree, but it is a particularly British interpretation. Kedgeree is thought to have originated with the British colonial servants returning to Britain after working in India. It was traditionally served at breakfast and is still popular in grand hotels and gentlemen’s clubs. The classic kedgeree is made from curried rice with flaked fish and perhaps some sultanas and quartered hard-boiled eggs. I like to serve my kedgeree with soft boiled eggs, a sprinkling of flaked almonds, maybe you could throw in a few prawns ( entirely my own corruption ) and a jug of fruity curry sauce and yes, I do eat it for breakfast and for lunch too as it makes for a wonderful brunch.
*Often of Bangladeshi origin
Smoked Haddock Kedgeree
For the kedgeree
400 gr naturally Smoked Haddock Fillet
300 gr easy-cook long grain Rice, rinsed under running water
600 ml quality Fish Stock
Approximately 300 ml full-fat Milk
4 large free-range Eggs, at room temperature
3 medium Onions, peeled
A small handful of frozen Garden Peas, defrosted
A small handful of flaked Almonds
A small handful of Parsley, washed and finely chopped
A small handful of Coriander, washed and finely chopped
First to prepare the curried rice finely chop two of the onions and heat half of the oil and two tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan, add the onions then over a moderate heat cook for twenty to thirty minutes until soft. Add the garlic and spices and half a teaspoon of salt and continue to cook, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stock and bring up to a gentle boil. Cover the pan and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and without removing the lid leave to finish cooking for a further fifteen minutes.
While the rice is steaming in the pan, place the smoked haddock into a small heavy-bottomed pan and cover with milk. Halve the remaining onion and stick the bay leaves to the onions halves with the cloves to make a cloute. Add these to the pan containing the smoked haddock. Place on a low heat and bring up to the lowest possible simmer and poach for ten minutes. Remove the fish from the milk and allow to cool. The milk can be reserved to make chowder. When the fish is cool flake into thumbnail sized pieces and put to one side.
Place a pan of water on to boil and once simmering add the eggs placing them in with a spoon. Start your timer and simmer for six minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately plunge the eggs into iced cold water. When cool you can peel the eggs and set to one side. To serve the kedgeree add the remaining oil and butter to a sauté pan and over a medium heat cook the peas for two minutes then add the fish, rice and flaked almonds. Stirring constantly fry the mix until it is thoroughly warmed through, then season and stir in the chopped parsley and coriander. Cut the boiled eggs in half and serve them on top of the plated rice with some crispy fried shallots and a jug of sweet curry sauce.
For the sweet curry sauce, melt half the butter in a medium-sized heavy-bottom saucepan and add the onion, pineapple, and apple. Sauté carefully for ten minutes to start to soften the onion. Add the curry powder, chilli flakes, sultanas, coconut milk, and stock and bring to the boil and gently simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mango chutney and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then puree in a food processor and pass through a sieve to form a smooth glossy sauce. Return to a pan and add the lime zest and juice, season and gently reheat stirring frequently. Because of the high sugar content, the sauce will easily catch and burn so heat very gently.
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.
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.
Shetland Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm
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.
Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble
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
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.
Classic rich Fruit Cake
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.
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.
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.
Beef and Ale Pie
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.
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
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.
My mum makes the best Butterfly cakes ( or Fairy Cakes ) in the world. Classic Victoria sponge in a little paper case, a small amount of sponge scooped out, a blob of thick buttercream, pop the sponge back, a sprinkle of icing sugar and eh voila. We still have them when my family goes to visit Grandma and Grandad. But Butterfly cakes seem to have taken a step back with the relentless rise of cupcakes which are everywhere and what exactly is the difference?
The best Chocolate and Coffee Cupcakes
As far as I can find out the cupcake is basically the bigger American cousin of the Butterfly cake, the sponge is bigger, and it is loaded with larger amounts of icing or frosting. As it is National Cupcake Week. here is a chance for you to haul in some industrial amounts of butter and sugar and make my second favourite cupcake recipe ever for Chocolate Cupcakes and most definitely the only Chocolate Cupcakes recipe you will ever need. Why is this my second favourite cupcake recipe well I have already posted the number one Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes recipe here.
Chocolate and Coffee Buttercream Cupcakes makes 18
For the Cupcakes
210 ml Full fat Milk
210 gr Plain Flour
220 gr Caster Sugar
120 gr good quality Cocoa Powder
80 gr Milk Chocolate Buttons
70g soft Unsalted Butter
2 large free-range Eggs
1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder
A good pinch of Salt
For the Icing
500 gr Icing Sugar
160 gr soft Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons Instant Coffee
50 ml Full Fat Milk
Chocolate or Fudge Cake Decorations
Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick.
Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the milk chocolate buttons. Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool.
Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Heat the milk until scalding in a microwave and in a jug, mix in the instant coffee and stir until it is all dissolved and allow to cool. Gradually pour the cold coffee into the icing while mixing on a slow speed, then turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. Decorate with the chocolate or fudge decorations.
Fishcakes are incredibly versatile, they can be a great starter like the Thai style crab cake, flavoured with lemongrass and chilli with a sweet and sour dipping sauce or a crisp golden-fried fishcake as a main course, a staple of many pub and restaurant menus. Fishcakes are really simple to make, and you can use potato to bulk up what can be expensive fish and seafood. You can choose from any number of combinations; a simple white fish such as cod, haddock or coley with a piquant brown caper and parsley butter for added zing, smoked salmon and dill ( ask your fishmonger if he sells smoked salmon trimmings ), extravagant salmon and lobster topped with sour cream and caviar or today’s recipe that punches plenty of flavour, smoked haddock, prawn and herb.
Smoked Haddock, Prawn and Herb Fishcakes
This is a very tasty fishcake for a light lunch, al fresco dining on a hot summer’s day with a crisp salad and some Tartar sauce or as simple supper served on a bed of creamed leeks or Ratatouille. The smoked haddock gives a lovely rich smoky flavour perfectly complimented by the herbs and light fluffy potato. Panné is the technique for breadcrumbing any food from fish to the classic Chicken Kiev to make this recipe you can use stale bread processed into breadcrumbs, Panko or as I have polenta or coursed cornmeal. Dip the fishcake in seasoned flour, then egg and milk mix then in the coating. Further dip in the egg mix and coating a second time for a crispier finish.
Stud the bay leaf to onion using the cloves, this is called a cloute. Pour the milk into a medium sized heavy-bottomed pan and add the cloute and the fish. Place on a low heat and bring to a simmer, and gently poach the fish for five minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and cool, the milk can be used to flavour a chowder or a velouté sauce. When cool break the fish into large chunks. At the same time as you are poaching the fish boil the potatoes in another pan for mashing. When soft steam dry to remove excess moisture then gently mash with the cream, butter, salt and pepper. Combine the mashed potatoes, fish, prawns, onions and herbs together trying to keep the fish in large flakes throughout the mix. Correct seasoning.
Allow the mix to cool sufficiently so that you can safely handle it and then shape the mix into balls then squash slightly into fishcakes. Place the fishcakes on to a lightly floured baking tray and chill thoroughly, this will make the next stage much easier. Panné the fishcakes in the seasoned flour, egg mix and breadcrumbs, passing twice through the breadcrumbs. To cook gently shallow fry in a little oil for around five minutes on each side then finish in a preheated oven at 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4 for around twenty minutes until golden brown and hot throughout.
What to Drink? Why not try your fishcakes with a crisp dry white wine like a chilled Soave or New Zealand Semillon.
I love my little island life with my beautiful family but greatly enjoy travelling, seeing new sights, cultures and perhaps this won’t surprise you trying new food. And I really do think that food is all the better for being in the right location and ambience, pasta just seems to taste better in Italy and simple salads of tomato and olives burst with flavour in Greece. One of my enduring experiences as a teenager was winning a trip to Norway, the stunning scenery, the wonderfully hospitable people and the really fantastic food. Fresh seafood, particularly bucket loads and I do mean bucket loads, of crayfish for breakfast caught that morning, buttery cinnamon porridge, sweet and tangy Brunost and most of all the Smörgåsbord; pickled herrings, Gravadlax, sausages, meatballs, lobster, prawns, basically a buffet table of many of my favourite foods.
Rye Bread Open Sandwich
Smörgåsbord means buttered open sandwich and many of my favourite types are made with rye bread, a dark, intensely flavoured bread, high in fibre, which is popular across Northern Europe. Rye bread spread with cream cheese and topped with prawns or salmon with a little watercress and lemon is my number one sandwich. Don’t be put off by the thought of bread making, it is not particularly difficult if you follow the Rye bread recipe carefully and be patient. I hope you try it and enjoy the results.
Easy Rye Bread Loaf –
You can top the loaf with sunflower and pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch
If you possess a kitchen mixer place all of the ingredients in the bowl apart from the flour for dusting. Gently combine the ingredients a little with a fork, this stops a face full of flour when you switch on the mixer ( I have been there I promise ). Fit into the mixer with the dough hook. Switch on at the lowest speed setting and then once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed turn up to top speed. Mix for five minutes. When mixing by hand I would allow a thorough ten minutes.
When the dough is mixed, shape into a large ball, coat with a little more flour and place in a large bowl covered with a clean tea towel. Leave the dough to prove. In an airing cupboard or similar warm environment, the dough will rise to around one and a half times its original size in approximately two hours. If you have the time prepare the dough on the day prior to baking and you can slow the proving process down by leaving it in the fridge overnight. This method of proving produces a dough with deeper more robust flavours.
Half an hour before you are ready to cook turn on your oven to 475 F / 240 C / Gas Mark 9 and place in a heavy non-stick baking tray. Five minutes before baking, fill a small ovenproof dish with hot water from your kettle and stick it in the bottom of the hot oven. Turn your dough quickly out of the bowl onto the baking tray and put it straight into the hot, steamy oven as fast as you can. Try to leave the door open for the shortest possible time so the temperature does not drop.
After ten minutes, drop the oven temperature to 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4 and check on your loaf. Opening the oven door will drop the temperature quickly and help prevent the loaf from burning. Cook for a further twenty-five minutes and check again. When cooked the loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. It should be left to cool thoroughly on a wire rack before slicing.
For the toppings –
Gravadlax and Mustard and Dill Sauce
Ham and sliced Dill Pickle
Cream Cheese, fresh Prawns with Lemon and Paprika
Sliced hard boiled Eggs, Beef Tomato and crisp Bacon
Sliced rare roast Beef, Watercress, quick pickle Red Onion and Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Pickle Herring and Remoulade
Blue Cheese, Apple Batons, and Watercress
Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Baby Gem and finely diced Red Onion
Delicious sun-ripened summer vegetables from Jersey
We are coming to the end of a beautiful Jersey Summer. What do you think of when you think of food and Jersey summer? Is it some of our amazing seafood? Fresh strawberries and thick Jersey cream? We are lucky to have so much fantastic food right on our doorsteps from the humble hedge veg, dedicated producers big and small, and all fishermen and farmers. I think this rather special version of Ratatouille called Confit Byaldi captures the best of our island, our horticultural heritage, and delicious sun-ripened local produce.
When I made the first trial batch of Confit Byaldi my daughter and I sat and ate a massive bowl just on its own, it really is that good. I suggest it would be lovely at lunchtime with some fresh crusty bread or tasty supper piled in a baked potato. As a side why not serve Confit Byaldi with some sauté, local diver-caught scallops or pan-fried sea bass or with grilled Halloumi and Jersey Royals. The recipe for Confit Byaldi is not complicated but does involve a little preparation so is perhaps best made a day in advance and the flavours, if you can leave it alone, do improve overnight. As an added bonus the red pepper sauce is brilliant with pasta or as an accompaniment for grilled fish like Sea bass and Bream.
Confit Byaldi 4 generous servings
For the Pepper Sauce
2 Red Peppers, remove the seeds and stem and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
For the Red Pepper Sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan and sauté the onion of twenty to thirty minutes until soft, add the garlic stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the red pepper, chopped tomato, any juices, thyme, bay leaf, sugar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for twenty minutes the take off the lid and simmer to reduce any liquid for another ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, remove the herbs, season generously and blitz in a food processor until smooth. ( This can be made in advance ).
For the Confit Byaldi
Heat your oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Spread a layer of your prepared pepper sauce in the bottom of a twenty-centimetre oven-proof casserole or baking dish. From the side of the dish, arrange a row of alternating slices of the sliced vegetables, overlapping so that just a little of each slice is exposed.
Continue overlapping the vegetables in a close spiral until the dish is filled. Sprinkle with the thyme, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with baking paper and foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until the vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, roughly two hours. Uncover and bake for a further thirty minutes to colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
You can now cover and refrigerate overnight if you wish. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm as required, carefully lift from the tray with a spatula and drizzle with tomato dressing.
For Tomato Dressing
Gently mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
What to Drink? In the Walt Disney film Ratatouille, the world-famous chef Thomas Keller invented a version of Confit Byaldi which was served to the imposing restaurant critic with a bottle of Chateau Latour. If you cannot afford this I would recommend a classic French Syrah or good Australian or Argentinian Shiraz, a great match for the rich umami sweet vegetable flavours.
Now I am a chef who loves his Sunday lunch and I cannot place the thinnest spatula between beef, lamb, and pork but as a family, we have a clear favourite, the great roast chicken. I am picky however and for the best taste, I prefer a nice free-range bird the skin crisp, the meat moist and succulent. In the depths of wet, windy Channel Island winters I love all the wonderful, traditional garnishes to go with the said roast. Bread sauce, sage and onion stuffing, bacon and chipolata rolls with mounds of fluffy potatoes roasted in duck fat and lashings of gravy.
But this glorious very hot summer and we are looking to our nearest neighbour, remember France is only a few miles away and serve up the roast chicken with some herbs and garlic, sauté potatoes and crisp green salad. Simpler, quicker and next time I must remember the chilled French wine or Normandy cider to serve with it! I stuff the cavity with a big handful of fresh herbs tarragon, parsley,thyme and lots of oregano, add a lemon, then sprinkle with Jersey sea salt and a good twist of fresh black pepper from the mill and add lots of sliced garlic.
Garlic Roast Chicken serves 4
The big secret is cooking the whole chicken in a baking paper parchment to keep it incredibly moist and flavourful. This method of cooking is called ‘en papillote’ and the poultry or fish is sealed in parchment or foil with herbs and other aromatics and cooks in its own steam.
4 lb ( 2 kg ) free-range Chicken from a reputable supplier
Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas Mark 5. Place a large sheet of baking paper into the middle of a roasting tray. The parchment must be large enough to fold around the chicken and seal. Place your chicken on the paper, fill the cavity with herbs and lemon halves, rub the butter over the skin, cover with the sliced garlic and season generously. Fold the parchment over the chicken and fold to form a loose parcel.
Place in oven and roast for one hour and a half to two hours depending on the size of your chicken or until the leg juices run clear when pricked with a small sharp knife. ( A meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh should reach 180 F ). Remove from the oven and cover in a T towel and rest for twenty minutes before carving. Simple.
What to Drink? Continental style Pilsner larger or bitter, hoppy I.P.A ale is a great match with the garlic chicken if you prefer wine try a classic White Burgundy or sparkling Rose wine.
My last recipe for this year’s National BBQ Week is a simple sticky BBQ butterfly chicken breast ( no bone so no need to worry about cooking the meat through ) with a nice simple sticky Kansas city style BBQ sauce which can be used on ribs and other BBQ meats. Don’t use it too early during the cooking process as it will easily burn due to the relatively high sugar content. For more information on how to BBQ successfully please read my post on grilling temperatures. When you make it use a good quality ketchup as I find cheaper varieties a little too acidic. Enjoy.
For the sauce, take a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and sauté the garlic gently in the butter until tender and without overly browning which will make the sauce bitter. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly to prevent the sauce sticking to the pan and burning. Cook out for five minutes and remove from the heat and set aside.
To cook the chicken breasts, brush with a little oil, season well and cook over a medium-hot BBQ for eight to ten minutes each side then baste with the sauce and cook for five to ten more minutes, continuing to baste until the meat is cooked and any juices run clear.
Alternatively, line a baking tray with aluminium foil and lightly grease. Place on the chicken and cook under a medium hot grill as above. After cooking either under the grill or on the BBQ brush the chicken breast generously with extra sauce and serve.
What to Drink? Continental style Blonde beers cut through the sweet sticky sauce and I like to pair the chicken with sweeter, lower alcohol Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc white wines.
It is the middle of a heat wave in the UK right now and everyone will have fired up their BBQ’s or more precisely grills and if you are using charcoal or a gas grill, you need to know the best temperature for cooking your food. Now you can guesstimate by holding your hand over the grill, but I would not recommend it. I suggest getting yourself a decent thermometer and attaching the probe to your grill close to where you cook your meat or fish. Your BBQ, if it has a lid, will often have a built-in thermometer but that will measure the air temperature which can be 50 degrees cooler than the cooking surface where the action takes place.
Adjusting the temperature is easy with a gas fired BBQ you can simply adjust the flames on a charcoal fire, once the coals are glowing and turning white your best method is to move the distance between the grill and the coals. The higher the grill the lower the direct heat.
Low Heat Around 325 F / 160 C is perfect for sausages which need to be thoroughly cooked with burning or bursting the skins. You will be able to hold your hand over the heat source for up to ten seconds.
Medium Heat Around 350 F / 180 C is best for cooking chicken thighs and drumsticks where it is important that the meat is cooked through without the exterior burning to a crisp. It is about six or seven seconds before you will need to move your hand.
Medium-High Heat Between 400 and 450 F / 200 to 230 C. When you want to get a nice browning or crust on your food, but the interior is moist and tender, such as a thick piece of fish, grilled vegetables or a tasty medium-rare burger. You will only be able to hold your hand over the grill for about five seconds.
A temperature of 450 F / 230 C and above is perfect for flash cooking seafood, chicken or steak kebabs, and onglet or hanger steaks. The high heat adds some charring, with regular turning to prevent burning, and is sufficient to cook the food. If you hold your hand over the heat you can only bare it for one or two seconds.
My last post gave away my secret for really crispy chicken and today to celebrate National BBQ Week ( it’s longer than a week but who cares when its sunny and you have an excuse BBQ every day ) the recipe I am sharing is for one of my personal favourites Jack Daniel’s and Black Treacle Rib Glaze.
A lot of my barbecue sauces simply use cups ( the American staple ) as most are American influenced or originally from American friends, it is just so convenient and easy. If you wish to change to metric or imperial, American cups are best converted to 240 millilitres, 16 tablespoons or 8 ½ imperial fluid ounces.
Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and mix well. Over a medium heat simmer for twenty minutes then allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you make it a few days in advance the flavours will have more time to blend together. Remove the bay leaf, orange peel, and spices before use.
Allergens in this recipe depend on your choice of BBQ sauce and may include;
I posted an Instagram picture recently of a weekend tea-time meal I made with the help of my eldest daughter, she really is a far better baker than me, you should try her cookies but that’s another post. We had dough balls ( they are both big fans of Pizza Express – good job I used to be a Pizza trainer and learnt how to make them properly ), a big salad for Mummy, and Daddy’s Not-so-Secret Crispy Chicken Wings*. If you want a recipe for a chicken wing with a little more bite try my recipe for the Best Oven Baked Buffalo Wings Ever.
Now if I have a weakness for ‘junk food’ it is Southern Fried Chicken, I don’t have a pressure fryer like a certain well know high street chain, which is one of the secrets to producing a piece of crisp coated moist chicken but after a fair few attempts I do have an excellent recipe for well-seasoned coating and tender chicken. While Daddy’s Not-so-Secret Crispy Chicken Wings recipe doesn’t have anywhere near the 10 -12 herbs and spices in the famous secret Kentucky recipe** it has gone down great guns in lots of pubs, bars, and restaurants. I’m not worried you can share the recipe to and try your own variations.
*You can substitute thighs, drumsticks and chicken breasts.
Proper Southern Fried Chicken calls for Buttermilk but it is still quite difficult to get hold off and relatively expensive. The slight acidity that helps to tenderise the chicken is easily replaced with a few tablespoons of natural yogurt.
For the Marinade
1 small Chicken cut into pieces 18 Chicken Wings, tips removed
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas Mark 5. Prepare a large non-stick baking tray by wiping with a little vegetable oil. In a large non-reactive glass or plastic bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic salt and Cayenne pepper together. Add the chicken and stir to coat completely, cover with cling film and leave in a refrigerator for at least two hours. Thoroughly mix the coating ingredients and when the chicken is ready, cover each chicken piece liberally in the spiced polenta.
Arrange the coated chicken on the prepared baking tray and drizzle with more vegetable oil. Bake on the lowest shelf in your oven for thirty minutes until the chicken is golden brown. Using tongs, carefully turn each piece of chicken and bake for five minutes longer for wings ( ten to fifteen minutes for drumsticks, large breast pieces, and chicken thighs ), or until the undersides are golden. Place the chicken pieces on kitchen paper to drain off excess fat then transfer to plates and serve.
The chicken can be baked ahead, chilled and served cold for picnics and buffets.
What to Drink? These Chicken wings are best paired German-style Riesling wines or hoppy Continental-style Pilsner lagers and IPA beers.
I have been going through some old files on my laptop and I found a picture of my shy and retiring self on the stage cooking at the first Jersey Food Festival making a delicious shellfish dish Jersey Mussels with Garlic, Chilli, Caraway, and Beer.
Preparing tomato concassé, the beer was for cooking!
The festival was a week of fantastic events culminating in a two-day market highlighting the islands best produce and some of its chefs. I was there to help promote the Liberation Brewery and produced three dishes all including ale. The following recipe for is one of them, it is unashamedly stuffed full of wonderful Jersey ingredients, including the amazing mussels, but you can of course use your own local supplies, it just might not taste quite so good.
Jersey Mussels with Garlic, Chilli, Caraway, and Beer is a full flavoured spiced version of steamed mussels. Liberation Ale replaces the more common wine normally associated with mussels. The shallots and tomato concassé add a little sweetness and the dish is finished with fresh coriander. Most people in the audience seemed to understand my measurements, a slosh or a glug, especially after a glass or so of ale so I’ve kept them in the recipe.
To make the concassé, with a sharp knife remove the eye of the tomato ( the small white area where the stem joined the tomato ) and make a small cross on the bottom. Plunge in boiling water for two minutes. Remove and refresh in ice cold water. Gently peel off the skin. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the core and seeds. Dice and put to one side.
In a very large heavy bottomed pan toast the caraway seeds for two minutes over a moderate heat. Add the butter and the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for around twenty-five minutes to soften them. Turn up the heat and add the ale and the chilli, coriander, and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Add the tomato concassé stir and cook for two more minutes. Finish with more black pepper, the lemon juice, and the chopped coriander.
Serve with warm Naan bread to mop up the sauce.
What to Drink? A fruity French Rosé will stand up to the spices and tomatoes as will the slightly bitter flavours of Belgium pale ales.
WARNING THIS IS A RECIPE FOR SERIOUSLY ADDICTIVE CHEESY NIBBLES
This is a very simple recipe to produce mouth-watering, addictive bar snacks or party nibbles, puff pastry Cheese Straws. Unlike American cheese straws when a flavoured cheese pastry is piped on to baking trays, these straws are made with puff pastry. Puff pastry, as I posted previously, is one of those items where I think the shop bought item is pretty damn good and you are hard pressed to make such a uniform pastry at home. That is what makes this Cheese Straws recipe really easy peasy, they are great for parties or as a garnish for French Onion soup instead of the classic toasted croute, but be warned make a seriously generous amount as you will eat loads of these.
Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. On a clean floured worktop roll out your pastry into a rectangle about one eighth on an inch thick. Whisk the egg and milk together and brush over half the pastry. Cover with three quarters of the Cheddar and Parmesan and a generous sprinkle of paprika and black pepper. Fold over the other half of the pastry and roll out again until just over half a centimeter of an inch thick.
Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut the pastry into thin strips about the width of a finger. Working quickly place the strips on to a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Then hold a straw at each end gently twist three or four times and replace onto the tray.
Repeat until all the straws are twisted. Brush with the remaining egg wash and carefully cover with remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle with more paprika and a little salt. Place in oven and bake until the straws are puffed up, light golden brown in colour and crispy.
Well by nineteen sixty-three Lyndon B. Johnson had risen above the hurly-burly politics of his native Texas to become vice president of the United States in the administration of the meteoric John F Kennedy. In a government of outstanding personalities including the president’s charismatic brother the attorney general, secretary of defense Robert McNamara and secretary of state Dean Rusk, many saw Johnson’s role as mere window dressing. Yet this homely former school teacher established himself with quiet determination and pioneered what became known as barbecue diplomacy. As people relaxed due to the informal atmosphere of a barbecue around a pit or grill it was often easier for LBJ to talk business than in the rigid formal settings of a state banquette.
At his home on the banks of the Perdernale river, LBJ hosted an array of important barbecues for VIP dignitaries and most of these were catered for by Walter Jettson. He ran a local, well for Texas, catering company in Fort Worth and prepared the food at the LBJ ranch. On November 23, 1963, the staff of the ranch and Jettson were preparing for the biggest event of their lives the president was to visit and eat smoked ribs and brisket. As we all know he was never to make it. LBJ was sworn in as the thirty-sixth president of the United States on board airforce one carrying the body of President Kennedy back to Washington. Jettson was to become the President’s Pitmaster * and LBJ even flew him around the country to cater at political rallies. On the back of his celebrity, Jetton published a barbecue cookbook, which is unfortunately out of print but available on Amazon and other retailers.
Jetton catered for the first barbecue at the White House and continued to do so during LBJ’s term in office. When he decided not to stand for re-election LBJ hosted one last farewell barbecue on the White House lawns for over two hundred friends and supporters. The Texas-style ribs must have been quite special as the Swiss-born, formally trained, White House head chef Henry Haller, wrote in his The White House Family Cookbook, ” He did a terrific job and I was most impressed with the results. His barbecue sauce avoided all of the common flaws (oversweetening, overcooking, excessive thinning) and by serving the sauce separately, he also avoided drying out the meat. ”
*Pit Master : An experienced barbecue cook, a skilled craftsman, who watches over the pit and can tell by sight, sound, smell, and touch, if it is running too hot or too cold, when it needs fuel, when to add wood, when to add sauce, and when the meat is ready.
Here is my only slightly amended version of Walter Jetton’s recipe as always as the full recipe is of authentic American origin it is measured in cups. A cup is between 200 and 250ml, providing one standard cup is used the proportions will work.
It looks like we are going to get some sunny spells over the Bank holiday weekend and let’s face it if it rains who hasn’t grilled under an umbrella before. Now if you are tired of same old, same old burgers and sausages burnt to a crisp today’s post are not one but a host of recipes. In a restaurant one of your goals is consistency, you want a dish your customers can enjoy again and again and recommend to all their friends. This is one of the reasons we follow recipes. As someone interested in food, and you are reading this article, you will probably look at a recipe then like me tweak a little ingredient here, adjust an amount there. I am going to make a wish and hope you change the following recipe(s) for Shish Kebabs totally, utterly and completely. Just think of them as the loosest of culinary guidelines. There is an almost infinite opportunity to mix and match textures and flavours and experiment to your heart’s content.
Shish kebab is an English version of the Turkish words for sword and roasted meat. A Shish Kebab is a grilled skewer of marinated meat, normally lamb but chicken, beef, veal, and even swordfish can be substituted. In Turkish cooking, the vegetables are normally cooked separately.
There are a couple of rules for Shish Kebabs, first please if you are using wooden skewers soak them in water overnight as they have a tendency to burn, especially over a barbecue or char-grill. The second is not so easy and requires a little experience. Cut up your ingredients so they will cook at the same time. What do I mean by this? A large wedge of onion will not cook as quick as a king prawn so separate out the layers. Courgettes, mushrooms and bell pepper all add colour and flavour but need to be quite large pieces if mixed with small pieces of chicken or steak as the denser texture of the meat takes longer to cook. If you want to make a seafood Shish Kebab try wrapping scallops in bacon to protect them from the searing heat of the grill and add more flavour. Finally, not a rule but a top tip, a good marinade will add a ton of flavour but be careful, sugary marinades can burn and are better brushed on the food in the latter stages of cooking.
Chicken and Vegetable ( Shish ) Kebabs makes 8 kebabs
2 large Chicken Breasts cut in two-centimetre chunks
1 large Courgette, washed and cut into slices
1 large Red Bell pepper, cut in chunks
1 large Red Onion, peeled, quartered, and parted in layers
16 large Button Mushrooms, wiped
Quality Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Thread the meat and vegetables on the skewers. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and season generously. Cook on barbecue or under a medium to high grill turning regularly for around ten minutes until cooked. There that is it the easiest recipe I will probably ever post.
Now let your taste buds run wild, here are a few suggestions;
King Prawn and Rump Steak ( Surf’n’turf )
Monkfish, Prawns, and Scallops wrapped in Bacon
Lamb with Garlic and Thyme
Sweet and Sour Pork with Bell Pepper and Pineapple
Marinating your meat and fish for a couple of hours will add multiple layers of flavour and you can brush the Shish Kebabs with the marinade during cooking. Remember that if you use a sweetened marinade to lift the kebabs a little higher on the barbecue or turn the grill down a fraction as they will easily burn over a high heat.
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.
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.
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.
The popular misconception is that Marie Antoinette famously said of the starving French peasants at her gates, “Let them eat cake”. What she actually said was actually “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. In France, the home of this delicious enriched dough, brioche is properly served as a breakfast cake. In fact, brioche is a hybrid, part bread part cake, it is made in the same way as you make bread, with the addition of eggs and butter and can also have extra sugar added for a sweeter flavour. The technical term for this pastry cum sweet, buttery dough is Viennoiserie, which includes all of those lovely, if rather naughty breakfast treats, like pain aux chocolate and croissants.
I love the stuff, brioche is amazingly versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, used as a pastry and the basis of many desserts. Golden brown, freshly baked brioche can be filled with raisins or chocolate chips, simply spread with extra butter and strawberry or apricot jam or as is increasingly popular as a wonderful bun for a burger. As a pastry brioche reaches a height of culinary naughtiness and a decadence that maybe would have shamed even the haughty Marie Antoinette. Wrapped around Cervelas de Lyon, truffle flavoured sausages to you and me, fillet steak or luxurious foie gras mousseline. The most celebrated brioche recipe, Coulibiac, is a type of Russian pie filled with sturgeon, buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. Brioche in history was truly fit for kings and queens even if they did not live to enjoy it.
Fresh Brioche Loaf
For my recipe, I need you to get hold of four large brioche buns and resist any temptation to toast them and spread with pate or jam. We are going a little a la Robert Carrier and all 1970’s and using them as a bowl to be filled with plump mussels and clams in a full flavoured broth. Old fashioned it may be, but it is a show stopper and terrifically tasty to boot and once you’ve done it I am sure it will become a favourite. Enjoy.
Fresh Mussel and Clam Stew in Brioche
Mussel and Clam Stew stuffed Brioche Buns serves 4
Fresh quality mussels and clams are readily available at all good fishmongers. Preparing mussels and clams is not a difficult job or something to fear. Under a slow running, tap scrape off any limpets or items stuck to the shells with a small sharp knife. Some mussels may have a small bushy beard pushed out of the shell. Grabbed between the knife blade and your thumb, a sharp tug should remove it. Wash all the prepared mussels and clams under the tap for a couple more minutes and drain. You can store them in the bottom of your fridge covered with damp kitchen paper until needed.
50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )
25 ml Olive Oil
25 gr Butter
1 fresh Egg
Juice of one fresh Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight-fitting lid ), melt the butter and add the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heatproof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.
Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Very carefully using a bread knife cut the top quarter of your brioche buns off to form lids. Using a small knife cut into the bottoms of the brioche buns then scoop out the majority of the interior. This can be saved to make sweet breadcrumbs to use on desserts. Whisk the egg with a little cold water in a small bowl, then brush all over the inside, outside and lids of the buns. Place on a silicone baking tray and bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.
When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Add the mussels and clams and gently heat in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required.
Place the brioche rolls onto deep lipped plates or bowls and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.
What to Drink? This is a rich seafood dish and pairs well with the classic accompaniment for mussels, dry wines such as Muscadet or German-style Riesling wines or a cloudy Continental beer such as Hoegaarden.
I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world. It is usually made with pork or shrimp, tomatoes, onion, maybe mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and may have Thai chilli jam or nam phrik phao added at the finish, which gives the soup a bright orange colour and a bigger chilli kick.
The base of a good Tom yam is a paste called Nam prik pao made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai bases dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients. There are a number of varieties of Tom yam the most popular of which are;-
Tom yam nam sai –a clear Tom yam soup
Tom yam kathi – a coconut milk based Tom yam
Tom yam kung – Tom yam with prawns
Tom yam kai– Chicken Tom yam
Tom yam kha mu – A slow cooked version made with pork leg
Tom yam po taek – Mixed seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yum
Seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yam, as you may have already guessed, is my particular favourite, poached fish, plump mussels and fresh prawns, simmered in the spicy broth is a really warming crowd pleaser. You can use any firm fish and experiment with adding squid and other seafood.
For Soup Base
1 litre quality Chicken stock
4 Lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into large pieces
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Blitz to form a paste. Place the paste and the remaining ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain.
300 ml Soup base
100 gr Cod or Monkfish ( boned, skinned and cut into chunks )
Heat the soup base up to a gentle simmer and add the fish, prawns and mushrooms. Cook for two minutes and add the mussels and the tomatoes. Cook for four more minutes then remove the soup from the heat, the mussels should be open and the prawns poached. Add the lime juice, spring onions and fresh coriander and check if any more ( seasoning ) fish sauce is required. Ladle into a bowl and serve.
What to Drink? Spicy Tom yam soup is a great match for the classic nutty toasted flavours of traditional Brown Ale and if you want to try a wine pair the slightly sweet, acidic tropical fruit flavours of an off-dry Reisling are a perfect foil for the chilli and spices.
It is often said that the Devil has all the good tunes, Rock ‘n’ Roll was denounced as the Devils music and even a whole genre ( heavy metal ) is believed to be almost utterly devoted to his Satanic majesty. Think of ‘ Devil Inside ‘, ‘ Sympathy for the Devil ‘ and ‘