Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Pork joy

Today Brian the meat man made me happy. Apparently it doesn't take much. He delivered a pork belly of outrageous dimension, and after slashing it viciously I massaged it with garlic, fennel seeds, paprika and olive oil and roasted it to golden delicious. As we had a bit of an onion glut, I thought some nice oignons farci on the side would make my day, so blanched, halved and nestled into duck fat, topped with garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and breadcrumbs, they ventured into the oven for a couple of hours and emerged ambrosial. Pork joy indeed.

Also rocking my world this week: quails eggs, rolled in toasted cumin seeds and guerande salt, as featured at the Christening party I cooked for on Sunday, along with 60 meringues filled with rose cream and pomegranate seeds.

Finally, must mention the guilty pleasure roast chicken sandwiches that Camille and I put away at lunchtime. They had a shameful amount to do with tarragon and chicken fat. Don't knock it, chicken fat is the food of the Gods.

Monday, 19 November 2007

squash rage and hotpot

I thought long and hard about what to put on for vegetarians today ... I woke up from a dose yesterday evening with a start as a realised i hadn't done the ordering. Mmmmm Squash I thought. Alex slow roasted some the other week and they were delicious.
Stuffed with feta and toasted pine nuts. So they arrived and I set to them with a knife, slicing them length ways scooping the seeds out sprinkling of salt and pepper... but there was a sticker on the second to last one." Latina Squash, Panama" it said. I was straight on the phone to the veg supplier. "Why bother cooking with the seasons if it's flown in from the other side of the world?" I Said. "You need to specify british or european if thats what you want ... we just get what looks the best quality at the best price. The Supermarkets take all the british stuff so what ever is left is expensive" they said. Am I alone in thinking that this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time? I don't shop for fruit and veg from the supermarkets because most of it comes from peru, mexico, thailand or south africa ... and I am blessed with chapel market with its varied produce(yes yes I know a lot of it is from far flown places but there is lot that is not!). Anyway enough squash rage (they did come out nice all the same) and onto my Hotpot.

My Hotpot recipe is taken from Mark Hix's(...I heart him...) British Food Book, although I've changed it here and there over time.

Lamb Neck fillet 2k
Lamb Kidneys 1k (optional)
Maris Pipers 8 large
Spanish Onion 2 large
Quality Lamb of Beef Stock (chicken of vegetable can be used)
Rosemary 3 sprigs
plain flour a cup
salt pepper half a teaspoon of each

Slice the Lamb neck in to chunks about a finger width in thickness and put in a tray or bowl with some of the flour salt and pepper to coat all the meat in the seasoning and flour.

If using the Kidneys, take out the white sinewy stuff with scissors or small knife and slice in half then use the rest of the flour salt and pepper to coat the kidneys. (This will make a gooey mess but this is normal)

Slice the onions thinly and brown/caramalise in frying pan with oil. Bring your stock to the heat and add the onions. Leave simmering until needed. This may seem thin for a gravy but the flour that the lamb is coated in will thicken it when all together in the casserole dish in the oven.

Using the same fryng pan start sealing the lamb neck, this only need about 30 seconds on each side if your pan is hot enough. Set aside the lamb neck on a plate/bowl and repeat with the kidneys.

Peel your potatoes and slice about 2mm thick.... Now its time to start building the Hotpot.

Take a large Casserole dish or earthenware dish. It doesn't matter if you don't have a lid as foil to cover will do.
Line the bottom of the dish with potatoes , overlapping but not too much as this is more a meat than potato dish! Next arrange some of the lamb and the kidneys over the potaoes then pour over some of the onion gravy until almost covering the lamb and kidneys and add some sprigs of rosemary... then more potatoes, lamb and kidneys then onion gravy and rosemary. Carry on going until you fill the dish finishing with a neat layering of potatoes on the top.
Place a lid or cover with foil and put into the oven Gas mark 6 for 2 hours. If you are eating immediatley then take off the lid for the last 15 minutes to brown the potatoes on the top, if having later or the next day then pop in the oven without the lid/foil for 20 minutes of so.

I'm making cassoulet tomorrow. Now that is a recipe ... I'll try and get it on the blog by the end of the week.

How's the mushroom picking Pippa ?... hope you took some photoes to brighten up the blog!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Smoked eel and the origins of chowder

This month is all about eels.
Camille arrived back from Chapel market bearing 'a present' , not an unusual occurence. I wondered if it was going to be a salami or perhaps a vegetable peeler, but no, it was a muscular water beast with leathery skin, in a plastic bag. I had a hangover so I only dealt with the tail end that day, having glimpsed its rapacious features lurking in the bag like a predator in a 'B' movie. The back end became an eel and ale pie, which sounded pleasingly Dickensian.
Later in the week the self same eel (now ripped apart sans qualms) was turned into a brandade, in the place of salt cod, and into smoked eel and bacon chowder. We had been discussing whether something as 'American' as a chowder should feature on our menu, but greed led me to some etymological research and I discovered that chowder comes from the French 'chaudière' , apparently some sort of three-legged iron cauldron in which fishermen made stews from the catch of the day, so as is so often the case, in went the cream and potatoes.
I sadly neglected to immortalise the eel in a photograph, but as it was certainly no oil painting, this may be for the best.