Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Monday, 29 June 2009

Happy little piggies!

Judging by the positive feedback we've received so far, and the smile on that fella's crackly face, I think it's fair to say that our first Mudchute Kitchen Feast was a resounding success.

It was just over two months ago that Philippa and I first laid plans for the feast. From the outset, she was insistent that fuss and fineries should be left aside in favour of letting the food take a starring role. And of course she was right. With an allotment, kitchen garden, and adjacent fields inhabited by livestock and wildlife, Mudchute Kitchen is in a unique position in London. It's literally surrounded by fresh produce of the highest quality.

My day started picking spinach, lettuce and radishes from the allotment, and Basil from the herb garden. After that, there was dough to make for the flatbreads, picallili to prepare, as well as the bbq and oven to light.
By seven, we had a yard full of dinner guests, a grill full of flatbreads and pork crackling in the oven.

My camera ran out of juice about this time, but the canapes went down brilliantly. I'll have to find out exactly how Philippa made the lentils - definitely a winner.

From there it was straight inside for an intense hour long rush in the kitchen getting the starters out, and immediately getting on to the mains. As the guests tucked into their wood roast pork with new potatoes, wilted spinach, hazelnut pesto and kitchen garden salad, we drank to the health of the piggies with a Mudchute Cocktail. Very well deserved.

Desert was a rhubarb triffle, featuring some incredible elderflower cocktail, accompanied by Raquel singing some sultry numbers (and looking even more so), and Rasmus on backing guitar. If only kitchen life was always this glamorous - by this time we were onto the washing up.
We all had a great time putting on the Feast, and can't wait for the next one. Thanks to everyone who helped out, and everyone who came along, ate, and enjoyed themselves.

Next up is the Lamb in July.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

A smokey ricotta

One of our canapes is grilled flatbreads with garden herb lentils and home made ricotta.

I was tasked with researching the ricotta recipe. I have to admit, I left this until the very last minute. But did find a few suitable recipes. What looked like the best one used buttermilk, whilst others used cream, or even just milk. Some included salt, some didn't. Some vinegar, some lemon...

We opted for milk, cream, and yoghurt, in place of buttermilk. We also heated it too high because we got our fahrenheit and our celcius mixed up. Which caused it to burn. but that has given it a smokey taste, which should work ok with the lentils.

Here it is, just before the flatbreads were grilled

4 pints of whole milk.
3 pints yoghurt
1 pint double cream
juice of half a juicy lemon
a pinch of salt

Rinse a stainless steel pan with cold water.

Put the milk, yoghurt and cream in the pan, and heat on a medium heat. Give it an occasional stir to stop it catching. Once it gets to a simmer, tip in the lemon juice, and stir again.

When it gets to 180 degrees fahrenheit, take it off the heat, and leave it to settle for an hour or so. We burned ours buy letting it get too hot, which has given it a smoked ricotta taste...

Fold a muslin cloth a few times, or place a clean tea towel over a colander, and scoop the curds (the thick white mass, not the translucent liquid) into the colander. Leave it to drain for a good couple of hours, before gathering up the corners and giving it a final twist. Put in an airtight container and leave overnight.

The texture should be quite light and fluffy, but also creamy. The longer you leave it to drain for, the drier it will be.

See how you get on.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Nose to tail terrine

The first recipe... And my first contribution to the Farmyard Feast, beyond my promotional duties!

This afternoon, in preparation for Sunday, I headed down to the farm and set about preparations for our first course - the Tamworth Brawn, or as I have decided to rename it, the Nose to Tail Terrine

Brawn is an old English meat thrift dish, which came about to use up all the meat and other juicy bits on a pigs head. Even now that Fergus Henderson and the like have popularised this kind of cooking, tackling a pigs head still seems somewhat daunting. But it shouldn't. Admittedly it's not as easy as buying pate from the supermarket, but the method is nothing more than a series of simple processes, that are actually very satisfying.

This recipe combines a number of odds and ends that Philippa, head chef at Mudchute Kitchen had to hand, but there are many other recipes that are less ingredient heavy, such as the one in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's excellent MEAT book.
Since the cafe is equipped with a wood burning stove, and that is a kind of theme for all the Feasts, we roasted our pigs heads for a couple of hours first, but it's not essential. Many recipes don't.
A pigs head quartered (and trotters & tail), pot roast with carrots, celery, onion, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and some water / wine
Gooseberry's - roasted in a medium oven for 20 minutes or so
Fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper

Once the pig's head is roast (we roasted ours whole, but if you've had yours quartered, it shouldn't take more than an hour), put it in a pan over a medium / high heat with all the veg, and herbs, allspice, peppercorns, liquid, and top it up with water.
After an hour, the meat around the cheeks should be coming away nicely, and feeling tender. Drain the pan over a sieve, but keep the liquid, and put it back on a high heat to reduce. You want to get it down to less than half a pint if possible.
Separate all the veg and break, mush, and chop into rough chunks. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Now onto the pig. Take the head and pull the cheeks away from the jaw. They should fall off the bone. Do the same below the jaw, so the tongue comes out, and up around the ears too.

The idea now is to get every last scrap of meat from the head, trimming off the fat as you go (and there is quite a lot, particularly around the lips and snout) and getting out all the juicy morsels. Don't be shy now! Chop it roughly and seperate the fibres with your fingers. Some parts will almost shred. Chuck it all in the mixing bowl with the veg.

Do the same with the trotters and tail if you're using them.
You should be left with a pile of fat, bones, herbs, and whole peppercorns, which are pretty much done with - give the bones to the dog, and chuck the herbs on the compost. You can, however, re-roast the skin in a hot oven to make crackling, but make sure you've trimmed the fat off first.
Mix all the meat and veg together with lots of fresh, finely chopped parsley, and plenty of salt and pepper. Be generous with the seasoning, as it will need a lot. Add the gooseberry's and give it a final mix. Check the taste, then put it all in a terrine, and cover with the cooking liqour.
As this cools, the natural gelatine from the bones will form a jelly, and the Brawn will set.

Serve with toast, pickles and tangy preserves to cut through the fat.

Pictures to follow...

The inaugural Mudchute Kitchen Farmyard Feast

A quite simply tremendous dining event, celebrating fine, seasonal ingredients, grown, reared, foraged and prepared on the farm. All the pleasures of the countryside without leaving the city!

The Farmyard Feasts are my inspiration for writing this blog, and hopefully a reason to continue with it. Where possible, I intend to post news, thoughts, recipes, and any other related info about the feasts, of which there will hopefully be at least three before the end of summer.

This feast stars the lovely Tamworth pigs, that have spent their days lolloping about in their pens on at Mudchute farm, getting muddied up, and generally having a pretty good life. We're serving our pork two ways - Brawn, and slow roast in the wood-burning stove. Very nice indeed.

The full menu is:

Red radishes cooked in smoked butter
Flat breads with lentils and homemade ricotta

Tamworth brawn with Irish soda bread, wood-roast quince and piccalilly

Wood-oven slow roast Tamworth pork, cooked in local ale with onion and allotment sweet sicilly
Cracked potatoes with hazelnut pesto
Kitchen Garden Salad

Mudchute rhubarb trifle with ginger cake and vanilla cream

This feast is already sold out (and at £20 for that lot - and it's BYO - it's no surprise), but we'll be doing another at the end of July. And that time the menu will centre around our very tasty Mudchute lamb.

I'm excited already...

My first blog post.

That's not actually true.

Let's be honest here.

My first blog post of this blog. This is my second blog about food, and my third blog in total. I've just re-read the first, and it seems slightly naff and pointless now. Some good recipes though...

My second blog is still up and running, but totally un-related. 

This one, however, will cover my journeys into food. And just to put it all on record, my plans for the future include the following: 

- Opening my soup stall
- Opening a pizza stall (with a mobile, wood-burning pizza oven)
- Diversifying my soup stall into granola, porridge, and fruit compotes
- Visiting El Bulli
- Going to cookery school in South East Asia
- Butchering a lamb and other livestock
- Going on a gatronomic pilgrimage
- Growing my own
- Learning to bake

Now it's all in writing, I have it all to live up to. And there's one other thing I should add - helping to organise and cook the Mudchute Kitchen Farmyard Feasts. But that's already well underway! 

Thanks for reading.