Sunday dinner is done and thoughts are turning to dessert. The weather is still cold outside and the snow is losing its charm now, becoming slush on the roads that will no doubt turn Monday’s dreary January commute into something a little more treacherous. So with our stomachs conjugating over the roast we’ve just had, I wanted something for dessert that would bridge that melancholy gap between the weekend and the week days that follow. Something to put a smile on peoples’ faces like a pudding that’s warm and friendly. A apple tart should do the trick. A little sweet. A little sharp. Served with hot custard and or cold cream accompaniments for those that want to really and truly punch through their weekend calorie limits.
For the pastry:
Butter 50g (cubed)
2 tbsp milk
For the filling:
3 sweet apples
Lime juice (2-3 tbsp)
2 cups ice cold water
2-2 tbsp Muscavado sugar
Custard or heavy cream for serving.
Rub the butter, flour and sugar together then when the mixture resembles crumbs, add the eggs and milk slowly to combine the pastry together, working it into a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth, wrap and then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of half a centimetre (between two sheets of baking parchment if it helps). Lay the pastry across a fluted flan tin, pressing it into the corners gently and cutting off any excess. Chill for another half an hour or until you are ready to bake. In the mean time, peel, core and slice very thinly the apples before soaking them in the lime juice and water. This keeps them fresh, adds a little sharpness, and slows the browning process down.
When you are ready to bake, line the pastry with concentric circles of apple slices tightly. Dust the top with the Muscovado sugar and bake on 180º for 30 minutes.
New year. New start. Well… I have already begun cooking in my new kitchen a few months back now, but by way of catching up on blogging about it I thought I would introduce you to the corners of my kitchen that mean the most to me, and perhaps the introduction of a few new implements and utensils along the way. If you’re in two minds about investing something specific, hopefully these comments might persuade you.
A saturday trip to my favourite kitchen shop in town, aptly named The Original Cookware Company, saw the purchase of one granite carved mortar and pestle. It has been on the must-get-around-to-buying list for quite a while, but none of the candidates we had come across really looked sturdy enough for the sorts of pummelling our kitchen had in mind. From salad seeds and Sarawak peppercorns to fresh garden herbs with oil bases, this needed something that wouldn’t take on some insipid ceramic stain at the mere sniff of turmeric root, refused to be knocked off the counter surface without an honest fight, and that could cradle our ‘stressful day’ moments away with a solid understanding.
The weekends are made for weather like this. Standing at my kitchen window watching the world outside, pillowed in white. A fantastic snow day. So what could be more rib-sticking and soul-comforting than something slow cooked? I love being able to literally toss everything into a pot, stick it in the oven, put on my scarf and gloves and pop down to my local pub for a social Sunday drink by the log fire knowing that something so tasty is bubbling gently away in the oven at home. So let us get on with this hearty supper….
4-5 small shallots (halved)
4 garlic cloves
2 fennel bulbs (sliced)
red wine (1 glass)
1 pt chicken stock
Sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme
A couple of Bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 spring onion
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two lamb shanks (1 per person – if you’re cooking for more people, add 1/2 a tsp more mustard and half a fennel bulb or an extra couple of shallots per person as well as an extra glug of wine and stock.)
Start by browning off the lamb shanks in the casserole pot in one tablespoon of olive oil – just enough to seal the meat. Once browned, remove onto a plate and toss in the garlic cloves, shallots and fennel. Fry off in the oil (adding the extra table spoon if necessary), before adding the red wine. Allow the wine to deglaze any sticky residue the frying has left in the pot. Season generously with salt and pepper and add in the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme.
Reintroduce the shanks of lamb into the casserole dish, gently placing them on the bed of fennel and onions. Dissolve the dijon mustard into a pint of stock before pouring this over the meat. Place in the oven with the lid on for two hours on a low heat (160°), turning the meat once half way through.
The end result is fall off the bone meat with plenty of sweet and peppery gravy to pour over a side of mashed or roasted potatoes. If the gravy is not thick enough, whisk in a shallow spoonful of cornflour. Garnish with sliced spring onions and serve with mint sauce or jelly.
So we are through the Christmas holidays, an inch more on our waists and the kitchen fridge heaving with the half eaten left overs from the big family dinners and boxing day party platters.
Here is a simple soup: velvety and comforting enough to sooth any seasonal colds (as well as hangovers at that).
2 leeks, sliced and washed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
50g of unsalted butter
1 large cup of cannelloni beans (or borlotti, or kidney beans) softened or tinned.
4-5 cups of vegetable stock
A bay leaf
Spring of rosemary
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup of single cream (optional)
Start by melting the butter and frying off the onion and garlic until caramelised then add the leeks, stirring until soft. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adding the beans. Season to taste. Allow the soup to simmer with the lid on, for about ten minutes or until the beans are starting to disintegrate.
Let the soup cool so that it is blendable in a food processor or with a liquidizer. When you are ready to serve, reheat to serving temperature, take off the heat and add the single cream at the last minute. Serve with a drizzle of chive oil (or a topping of fresh chives).
Oh my… I’ve been away a while. My apologies for that. It’s been quite a busy few autumn months that included a long trip to Malaysia, a busy new job, new home, a lot of new starts. And one of the best of these new starts – a new kitchen.
But I’m back with bang and in full gear, just before Christmas.
And so onwards…
In a kind of celebration of all that has happened since I last posted, a trip to some culinary hot-spot was in order. London has many food markets – Billingsgate, Brixton, Leadenhall to name a handful. But my favourite of all is Borough Market. Open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and brimming full of produce fresh, home made, home grown, organic, hot, cold, spiced, pickled and well matured. Well kept, well presented cheeses from friendly fromageries offering nibbles to taste accompanied by smoked sausages, artisan breads, patés. If you’re mouth is not watering enough yet, I have not even started on all the fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Everything – I really do mean everything is on offer. Heirloom tomatoes and salad leaves from the heart of England sit just a table length away from the more exotic rambutan, kumquats, turmeric roots and chillis.
Wondering around, you can meet Tom of The Market Quarter who specialises in fine french food and who was happy to share what he knew about foie gras. From him we bought a a fantastic duck fois gras lobe, and at his further suggestion a kilner jar of truffle salt. He is the kind of market seller that is happy to spend time with you discussing their produce and offering a lesson or two in taste.
Then when you’re done with the browsing and taste testing, it’s time for something more substantial to eat. There are hundreds of fantastic restaurants and cafés to pick from in the streets around the market. The glass building that houses Fish! under the railway bridge is a lovely place for lunch or dinner. The Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House is always busy (and booking is highly advisable) but if you like oysters then it is a must. But if you want to stay immersed in the spirit of the market bustle there many market stalls that offer hot food from giant pans of paella, fishmongers’ seafood bisques, salt beef sandwiches, spicy sausages. I had roast rib of beef with rocket and nose-clearing fresh horseradish sauce from Roast! a fantastic restaurant that sits above the market that also offers hot meaty sandwiches to-go from the market floor.
And then all washed down with a cup of mulled wine.
So if you’re in London some time, Borough Market is one of the top five places I suggest you visit. If you live to eat, like me, you will not be disappointed. ~
My first memory of strawberry jam was the sweet jars of sticky spread my Mother made when I was four years old. She used to send me to school with little sandwiches of Cheddar cheese and strawberry jam on white bread. I used to swap one bread slice from the jam sandwich with the plain buttered slice of the cheese sandwich to create a cheese and strawberry jam mash-up. They were amazing.
Strawberry Jam has always been a food staple in many kitchen cupboards, but how many of us realise that it is only made up of strawberries, sugar and a splash of lemon juice? What sweet simplicity in a jar.
2 kg Strawberries
2 kg Granulated Sugar
4 tbsp. lemon juice
Start by preparing your jam jars: Sterilise the jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing and letting them drip dry in on a rack in a pre-heated oven on 100ºC.
Now prepare the fruit: Top green heads off the strawberries and hull and halve any large ones. Place them into a large pan with plenty of space and add the lemon juice. Set over the stove on a very low heat to for twenty minutes or until all the fruit are very soft, stirring occasionally to move the strawberries from the bottom. Pour in the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Bring the jam temperature to setting point (105ºC/220F) by increasing the heat to a gentle rolling boil, whilst stirring.
Tip: If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, then have a cold saucer to hand. Quickly spoon out a little on to the saucer and after a minute run your finger through the jam. If the syrup wrinkles and your finger leaves a path through it then the jam is ready.
Pour into the jars, and seal tightly. To help with preserving your jam, you can buy cheap jam jar kits. These usually include cut-to-size wax circles to place over the surface of the jam, transparent plastic covers to wrap over the jar top, tied off with an elastic band before you screw on the lid.
Tip: Wet the plastic cover with a clean, damp sponge to allow for good contact and extra elasticity as you pull it over the jar top.
What else? Well, have you heard of the gardening phrase what grows together, goes together? Well it’s true – and if you consider it in jam making, here are some great variations to classic strawberry jam for different uses, during the summer months:
- Strawberry and Lavender (in season: late June – early August)
- Strawberry and Rhubarb (in season: April – July)
- Strawberry and Gooseberry (in season: July – August)
- Strawberry and Raspberry (in season: July – September)
- Strawberry and Peach (in season: July – September)
- Strawberry, Vanilla and Basil (all summer)
- Strawberry and Mint (all summer)
And what else is there to do with jam? Well those possibilities are infinite:
- Rice Pudding and jam
- Strawberry Jam tarts
- Jam roly-poly
- Pavlova/Eton Mess
- Classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich with butter cream and strawberry filling
Part two of my British Summer necessities list, regards Clotted Cream. Really only popular on a national level since the 1980′s, the West Country of England has provided us with this most favourable form of dairy product to round off a perfect cream tea. Scones, in my opinion, are just not the same with out it.
The process by which clotted cream is made, is a slow but very simple one:
1pt. double cream (although better with un-pasteurised, this recipe still works with pasteurised creams also.)
Place the cream in a glass or metallic bowl that fits over a saucepan of hot water (Bain Marie). Let the water simmer very gently on the lowest flame possible for three to four hours, topping up the water in the pan when necessary but making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Fatty deposits will start to appear as a yellow crust on the surface of the cream that will thicken slowly. Once the amount in the bowl has reduced by about half, remove the bowl from the water and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator over night.
With a slotted spoon or slice, lift out any thickened cream (or ‘clouts’) and the yellow crust. The clotted cream will keep for up to four days. When you are ready to use, stir the yellow crust into the white thick cream and serve chilled.
Tip: If scones are not your fancy, here are some extra recipes that include clotted cream to inspire you:
- Clotted cream ice cream
- Clotted cream fudge
- Sautéed mushrooms with garlic and clotted cream
Stay tuned tomorrow for the next instalment: Classic Strawberry Jam.