Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sympathy for the stuffed goose

For another seasonal guest recipe, I turn to the inspirational Philippa Davies, who despite currently living an oh-so-glamorous post-Mudchute existence, found time to put together this wonderfully characterful selection for your cooking, eating, and drinking pleasure. Take it away, Philippa...

"For those who consider food one of the major loves in their life, the festive period is a very exciting time. I, being such a person, hate to admit that my body has reached the age where it can no longer remained unscathed after days on end of banqueting, boozing and revelling, so I have had to start planning a more balanced Christmas. This is not say that I won’t have my fair share of goose fat roast potatoes or mums sherry trifle but I will be having the occasional lighter and digestible meal.

Ignoring the above, however (I did say it was about balance), firstly, I have a fun, festive cocktail to get you going!"

Clementine Margarita Cocktail

enough to make many merry
Tequila chilled in the freezer
200g White Sugar
1 bag clementines
Crushed Ice

Melt the sugar with 200ml water and leave to cool. Juice the Clementines. In a jug, add 2 parts tequila, 2 parts clementine juice, 1 part sugar syrup and stir. Taste to see if the balance is right and adjust accordingly - if you prefer sour add a squeeze of lemon juice or less sugar syrup. Serve in chilled glasses rimmed with salt or sugar and filled with crushed ice.

Baked trout with tahini sauce and greens

Serves two.

for the trout
2 small trout stuffed with parsley stalks, a pinch of ground cumin, lemon wedges, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil.
blanched winter greens like chard, cavolo nero or savoy cabbage.

for the tahini Sauce
1 large tbsp spoon Tahini
100ml Water approx
Juice of ½ Lemon
½ crushed garlic clove
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
¼ tsp sweet paprika

In a bowl whisk 2 tablespoons tahini with the lemon juice slowly whisk in the water until you have the consistency of single cream then add the olive oil, parsley and paprika. Season.

To serve, bake the trout and serve warm with the blanched greens and tahini sauce poured all over.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Saved by the Rillettes

One could never be more re-assured than when one has a good stock of potted meat up one's sleeve (or at the bottom of one's fridge, more likely).

If not servicing an ad hoc luncheon, gathered at one end of the kitchen table, or a late-evening fire side snack, a rillette will happily lye in wait for your next unexpected canapé party, drinks reception or amuse bouche. It is sure to satisfy all but the most salad-frenzied of guests.

Beware at this time of year of being without a jar of potted something-or-other at your disposal – you could come a cropper.

Duck rillettes

Duck, pork and rabbit, in my mind are the classics, but there's no reason why you shouldn't try it with boar, mutton, or game. Adjust the cooking times and accompanying spices accordingly.

for a healthy jarful
4 duck legs
lots of coarse see salt
a dozen juniper berries, crushed
coarse ground black pepper
a bunch of thyme
bay leaves
a good quantity of duck fat
a dash brandy
a few more sprigs thyme, leaves picked and very finely chopped
a pinch mace
a pinch allspice
a pinch of finely ground juniper berry
finely ground black pepper
orange zest

First, salt the meat to cure it add flavour. Mix the salt with the juniper berries and coarse ground black pepper and sprinkle a layer on the bottom of a plastic container. Lay the duck legs flesh side down on the salt, and pack the remainder of the salt mix, along with thyme and bay leaves.

The next day, remove the legs from the salt and rub off any excess. Transfer to a roasting dish. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. Gently melt some duck fat in a pan, and pour over the duck fat – it needs to virtually cover the legs entirely. Cover with some parchment, and cook in the oven for at least two hours. Four if your schedule allows. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Remove the legs from their fatty encasing, and separate the meat from the bones, skin and fat. In a suitably sized bowl, use two forks to shred the meat into very thin strips. Mix in the thyme, spices, orange zest and brandy, forking through a little of the fat for good measure as you go. Check the seasoning – it's unlikely to need more salt, but more spice may be required. Pack into a seal-top jar, and cover with a layer of duck fat – the mix will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or longer in a sterilised jar.

When the time comes, break open a baguette, of the crunchy, thick-crusted variety, upon a bottle of something bold and red, and tuck in.

A most spectacular pie for Boxing Day (or the day after)

If I were to put my neck on the line, I would not be at pains to say that all pies are good pies. There are decorative pies, celebratory pies, pies of time and place and pies of national treasure. Even those curious specimens that come tucked away in a tin have their merits.

There are pies that float and pies that land with a thud. There are uplifting pies, and more commonly, steadying pies. On occasion, you will chance upon a pie that manages to achieve both... If and when this is the case, be sure to return for seconds!

There are pies of the everyday – humble pies, as the rhetoric goes – and there are decadent pies. Spectacular pies. Pies of distinction. Here is an example of such a pie:

Chicken, foie gras, wild mushroom and Dauphinoise pie

An extremely indulgent pie... Enjoy with irregularity; proof that one can have too much of a good thing.

serves eight
a whole chicken
stock veg for poaching – onion, celery, leak, carrot
a bundle of aromatics – thyme, bay, parsley, peppercorns
olive oil
goose fat
4 shallots, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic
a few sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
a few handfuls wild mushrooms
100g butter or more goose fat if you like
100g flour
100ml milk (or milk used to poach foie gras lobes for a terrine)
100ml chicken stock
a glass Madeira, Sauternes, or white wine
a grating of nutmeg
raw foie gras (e.g. the offcuts from making a terrine)
salt and pepper
left over foie gras terrine, cut into chunks, or poached foie gras lobes
left over roast goose, in pieces (optional)
left over ham, in chunks (optional)
left over gratin dauphinoise
puff pastry, rolled out to a 3mm thickness,
1 egg, lightly beaten

First, poach the chicken – bring to a simmer with the veg and aromatics, and poach for 1 hour. Try not to let the water come to the boil, as the flesh will stay more tender. Leave to cool, remove the flesh from the bones, drain the stock, discard the herbs and veg, and reduce the stock by two thirds so you have a thick, syrupy liquor. It will be good enough to eat. But resist the temptation – it has a grander fate awaiting.

Sauté the shallots in oil for a few minutes until softened. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook for a little longer. Add the mushrooms and sauté until softened. Do this in batches if necessary, so the mushrooms fry, not steam. When cooked, set aside.

Make a roux with the butter, or goose fat, and flour, and gradually add the stock and milk alternately, stirring all the time, to create a bechamel. Finally add the Madeira or Sauternes. Add the nutmeg and season. Add the mushrooms and raw foie gras and stir to combine.

Find a suitably decorative pie dish, worthy of such a creation as this. A disposable foil tin will not do. Place a layer of dauphinoise at the bottom, a few centimetres thick – it should half fill the pie dish. Place the chicken pieces (and ham and goose if using) on top of the dauphinoise, then liberally tuck in pieces of cooked foie gras or foie gras terrine. Now is the time to put shyness and cholesterol aside. Pour the mushroom and foie gras bechamel on top, so it covers all of the meat below. It already looks fabulous, doesn't it? Lay the pastry over the top of your pie, and decorate with hatched ribbons of more pastry, and poultry pastry shapes, if you're of an artistic disposition. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Brush all over with egg wash, and bake in the oven, loosely covered with foil for 40 minutes, removing the foil for the final 10. Remove from the oven and present to your dining companions to allow for collective pre-feast marvelling. Rejoice. Enjoy.

L'excursion de Noël en Normandie

Christmas in Calvados Country...

Beetroot and orange-cured salmon.

Poached pears with creme-fraiche hotcakes and syrup.

Pear and almond tart...

Amongst many, many other things!

Christmas at the Rowland residence

A fabulous example of the recent autumn chutney being put to good use here... With no less than six types of cheese to accompany, as well as a selection of charcuterie, and even a perfectly decorated snowy-white cake in the background, this photo shows that Christmas snacking is something taken very seriously in the North East. Thanks very much for the picture, Patch!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A little festive supper...

Brunswick House Cafe friends and family preview - 21st December 2010

As some of you may already know, I've recently embarked on a new project in collaboration with the very admirable Jackson Boxer - formerly of Great Queen Street, and other such fine eating establishments, where I shall be taking charge of the food at the already excellent Brunswick House Cafe in Vauxhall.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Brunswick House, it really is a gem of a place; nestled in a crumbling Georgian town house, sharing space with antiques emporium Lassco, and decked out in all manner of reclaimed curiosities... It's difficult to do it justice here, so I suggest you come and see for yourselves.

With that in mind, I'm inviting friends, family, and readers of this blog to a special preview of my new menu, which will take place at the Cafe on 21st December 2010. Apologies for the short notice!

I'm not entirely sure what I'll be cooking yet, but the menu I put together last week including dishes like Wild rabbit, anchovy and wet polenta; Smoked mackerel, celeriac and prunes; Beetroot and Quenby Hall gratin; and the surprise star, Jerusalem artichokes, duck egg and parsley.

Since it's Christmas, I'm going to do all the food at cost price - there will be a set tasting menu, with a recommended donation of £6 per head. There will be a selection of cocktails available too, masterminded by Frank Boxer, of Frank's - the critically acclaimed rooftop bar / art installation space in Peckham.

Feel free to pass this invite on to partners, friends and relatives - it would be great to have you along.

Please RSVP with numbers to

A Little Festive Supper

Brunswick House Cafe
30 Wandsworth Road
Vauxhall SW8 2LG

Tuesday 21st December, 2010. Drinks from 7pm, food from 7.30pm.
£6 donation per head

Monday, 13 December 2010

"Cocoa for your frosty button nose"

My first guest recipe, and second guest appearance, from my dear friend Haley, all the way from the frozen hinterlands of Arctic Canada. In her words, "Sweet Lord, the best hot chocolate in the world."

for one mugful
two tbsp cocoa powder
a quarter cup of eggnog
three quarters cup of hot water

"Add the cocoa powder to the eggnog. Be sure to whip up the cocoa in the eggnog real good before adding the hot water. That's it... So good!"

Haley, I look forward to sharing your lamb dish with the world very soon.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Lads wot lunch

Sixteen plates of Venetian snacks (including the chocolate salami and ricotta crumble to finish) and a few glasses of Prosecco... Good way to while away a few hours on a Monday afternoon.