Thursday, 24 December 2009
Balfe Junior takes on bird number 1.
Balfe Senior goes straight in for the goose, and makes light work of it too...
Taking shape... Our de-boned goose, legs akimbo, and a duck in the background, heading for the same fate.
A dab hand with a needle and thread.
Excellent craftsmanship. Mr Fearnley Whittingstall would be proud.
A very tasty terrine, made from all the off cuts. Just like Nigel's.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
All the ingredients are available in supermarkets, health food shops, and lots of local convenience stores. I got mine from the very lovely Unpackaged in Clerkenwell, where you get good products, a strong dose of nostalgia (great at this time of year), and a warm sense of ethical well being all thrown in to the deal. Definitely beats braving the crowds on Oxford Street.
I used Bill Granger's recipe for cinnamon crunch muesli as the basis for this, and so far it's worked out really well. Aside from the cranberries the key addition is candied clementines. You might be able to buy these in some shops, but even if not, they're simple to make, although you need to do so in advance. If you make extra, you can use them to infuse cream for home-made truffles, decorate cakes or tarts, dip in chocolate as festive treats, or just hang them on your tree.
All the rich flavours of the dried fruit, nuts and spices make this granola great sprinkled over yogurt, poached fruits, or even ice cream, although unless you wake up very hungry - unlikely at this time of year - you'll do well to manage a whole bowl full for breakfast. As with many of these seasonal recipes, it also fills the house with wonderful scents of Christmas as you're baking...
Makes enough for 15 or more small servings
For the candied clementines
100g caster sugar
2 clementines, cut into thin (3mm) slices
a handful cloves
For the granola
125g unsalted butter
40g dark brown sugar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
half a nutmeg, grated
300g rolled oats
a handful flaked almonds
a handful pumpkin seeds
150g mixed nuts - brazils, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
75g dried sultanas
First, make the candied clementine; ideally you want to leave these to dry out over night, so do this the day before if you remember. Make a stock syrup by dissolving the sugar in enough water to cover by twice the volume, and bring to the boil. I also added half a dozen cloves to infuse as it was heating. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice your clementines, removing any pips as you go. Remove from the heat, and add the orange slices to your syrup, and leave them to soak for ten minutes. Preheat the oven to 50 degrees C.
Remove, and place on a baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Stud a few cloves in each slice, then leave to dry out in the oven for a good few hours, as long as you can really. Switch the oven off, and leave it over night. Remove the cloves, and cut each slice into four or more pieces.
Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Melt the butter, sugar, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large pan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and add the oats, seeds, almond flakes and nuts. Stir well so everything is coated with a slight gloss from the butter.
Transfer to a baking try lined with parchment, and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, and checking it's doneness as you go. When it starts the oats start to go golden brown, it's ready. Remove from the oven, stir in the clementine pieces, cranberries and sultanas, and leave to cool completely before storing. It'll keep in an air tight container for a good couple of weeks.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday 13th December: The day that the spirit of Christmas swept it's way through the door at For Those That Love To Eat HQ. We had designated it our day to celebrate, Norwegian style, as if it were the 24th...
The tree fills the room with the scent of pine, as if we lived in the middle of a Scandinavian forest, not an arterial East End bus route. We wrap it in fairy lights, place presents underneath, and balance gingerbread snowmen and clove-studded clementines between it's branches. Our friends have arrived, and a long, plentiful evening of food, wine and festive cheer lay ahead of us. As we raise a glass to one-another's health, Judy Garland serenades us from the stereo. Here's to the start of our Merry Little Christmas. All that's missing is an open fire...
A bright winter salad
This vibrant, lively-looking dish was inspired jointly by Nigel Slater's ever-reliable column in the Observer, and Philippa Davies' exceptional Christmas menu at Mudchute Kitchen. Whilst Nigel pairs his down to little more than celeriac, red cabbage and some citrus, Philippa opts for the inclusion of duck, plenty of herbs and a balsamic dressing.
Mine is something of a half way house. It's by no means as austere as Nigel's minimalist effort, yet it's a different beast entirely to the Mudchute creation. Principally, there is no meat – there will be plenty of that in the next course - so instead, I roast chunks of winter squash with cinnamon and nutmeg, almost to the point of caramelising. This gives the salad a nutty richness and smooth, buttery textures to contrast with the crisp shards of red cabbage. More bight comes from finely sliced fennel. The little aniseed flavour that comes through is balanced with sweet citrus from slices of orange, peppery rocket, toasted walnuts and scattered with ruby jewels of pomegranite.
With more colours than a tin-full of Quality Streets, it sums up everything a festive starter should be; light and crisp yet still indulgent, with enough flavour to perk up the taste buds in anticipation of what's next to come. And when you're lucky enough to get all the flavours on one fork full, it really does taste exactly like Christmas.
Serves six as a starter, two or three as a main
a small winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
a fennel bulb, sliced as thinly a you possibly can
a quarter of a red cabbage, shredded
two oranges, plus the juice of half another
a bag of rocket leaves
a handful walnuts, toasted
the seeds of one pomegranite
a tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsps olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Scatter the squash on a baking tray, turn them in olive oil, season, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tips of the corners have crisped and taken on a dark brown colour.
Meanwhile, slice the cabbage and fennel, either by hand or with a mandolin, and toss together in a large bowl. Zest the oranges, and add the bowl. Slice the off the skin, and slice the flesh across the segments so you have a series of orange disks, and add to the bowl, along with the rocket, walnut, and pomegranite. Season, and toss together the olive, vinegar, and orange juice. Serve immediately.
Roast rib of beef with bernaise sauce, potatoes roast in duck fat, braised red cabbage
If there is ever a day when when I have to choose my last supper, my decision would likely look something like this. In my kitchen, beef is served rare - Bloody as hell, as Vincent's waiter put it in Pulp Fiction – and this is no exception. The meat is massaged with olive oil, and covered in coarse ground pepper, before being seared in a hot griddle pan for three minutes on each side. After that, it goes into a hot oven, say 180, for another 15 minutes. Only when it is removed is it seasoned with salt, as sits for it's five minutes of rest before carving. The bone will have browned, and the outlying seams of fat will have begun to render, but in the centre the meat will still be soft and red-pink.The trick with the potatoes is to par-boil them, almost until they fall apart, then add to a tray full of hot duck fat, along with rosemary, salt, pepper, and heads of garlic, sliced through the centre, across the cloves.
The cabbage gives a fruity addition to the plate, braised for a good hour or more in red wine and balsamic, with a few dots of butter, slices of pear and a single cinnamon stick to keep it company.
It's a rich plateful, to which some fresh, bouncy watercress leaves are a welcome addition. With a pot of warm bernaise sauce in the centre of the table, this is about as indulgent as a main course gets, and in my opinion, it couldn't be better.
Chocolate and apricot tart with vanilla yogurt and rose petals
Quite how we managed this, I'm not entirely sure. But manage it we did, and second helpings too. It's a wonderfully decadent dish, which calls out for yogurt, as opposed to cream, to cut through the rich chocolate. The rose petals add a ceremonious touch, and also fill the air with perfume as you're about to take your first bight. Dark chocolate heaven on a plate.Now, anyone for cheese?
Chocolate and apricot tart
Melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain marie of simmering water. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they're pale, light and fluffy. Fold in the chocolate and butter, one third at a time, then pour into the pastry case.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
As well as a celeriac gratin, with blue cheese and walnuts, there was a spread of salads including a sumptuous platter of warm, earthy beetroots, accompanied by lentils and goats cheese, all subtly swapping flavours as they melted into one another; crisp, zingy 'pickled' cucumber with dill, fennel tops, and shallots; a parsnip remoulade, moistened with a light creme fraiche dressing, sweetened with honey and dates, and topped with fresh chesnuts; a show-stopping bowlful of pears, wood-roasted with butter and cinnamon, and nestled in a bed of watercress.