31 October 2015

"Oh Come all ye Tasteful"

~ The Foodie’s Guide to a Millionaire’s Christmas Feast – by Ian Flitcroft

I have been sent the most delightful quirky little book about Christmas food to review and I must say … I like it! So there you have it.

In more detail ..

I was hooked from the start, the first paragraph reads …

“For the unprepared Christmas lunch can be a veritable minefield. Like the Noel-tide truce in Ypres during World War I, this meal is often both surreal and dangerous.”

However be warned – this book, as its sub-title suggests, is about extravagance possibly beyond your wildest dreams, lovely to read and think about but not that easy to achieve.  On the other hand if you leave the gold leaf out of the roast potatoes, for instance, but follow the rest of the instructions then, as he roasts his exactly the same way as I do mine, I can confidently say you will still be very pleased with the result at a faction of the price.

His Scrambled Eggs Roulette recipe is a really fun idea and can be as cheap or expensive as you like as it would be easy to make substitutions for the foie gras and the truffles. I also agree with Mr. Flitcroft in his insistence that milk should not be used in scrambled eggs.  (I agree with him on a lot of things from which I deduce that he know what he is talking about!)

There is a truly gorgeous sounding recipe for Smoking Bishop, a mulled wine involving baked and caramelised oranges and a bottle of port, plus the wine, of course. I love mulled wine and make my own mulled wine syrup in the run up to Christmas so that I can enjoy a glass at the drop of a paper hat, but when I’m a bit flush I may try it. 

The partridge cooked with pears and port also sounds wonderful and if I never get round to cooking it I will certainly be trying the port and cocoa mixture it is cooked in, probably quite soon – Mr. Flitcroft says it is ...

“quite a heady mixture and worth a taste”.

I also love and empathise with his suggestion that whilst cooking one has an occasional glass of brandy and I hope one day to try fried lichen!

So – not your usual cookbook but very entertaining (especially for foodies) with some useful ideas such as how to roast chestnuts without an open fire or make your Christmas pud flame spectacularly. There are some good recipes which, if you are not a millionaire, you could adjust by leaving out some of the more extravagant ingredients, and some interesting information – I didn’t know you could get edible myrrh!

This little book would make a great present for any foodies you might know. I’m just trying to decide who to give a copy to.



Oh Come All Ye Tasteful is published by PaperBooks and you can get it from Amazon and probably lots of other places too.


easy-festive-food-for-a-stress-free-christmas-suzy-bowler

Speaking of Christmas cookbooks - here is my contribution to the genre!


Yule be Glad you Read This!


Catering for Christmas can be time consuming, tiring and a bit stressy, so I thought I’d offer some suggestions to make it quicker, easier, more relaxed and perhaps more impressive! 

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20 October 2015

The Best Apple Crumble I've Ever Made!


homegrown-bramley-apples


Our tiny weeny apple tree bore fruit – 5 of our very own Bramleys, my favourite cooking apples. 

Obviously being cooking apples they had to be cooked.  When it comes to apple desserts (as with most food!) my real man and I are in disagreement – he prefers an apple sponge and I always prefer a crumble.

Due to my inherent loveliness I usually make sponge when dealing with cooked fruit desserts but suddenly I had an inspiration which I needed to try out … 



Toffee Apple Crumble – for 3 or 4


4 medium cooking apples – preferably Bramleys
1 tablespoon caster sugar
240g plain flour
pinch salt
160g butter
120g soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons more caster sugar

toffee-apple-crumble-recipe
Good idea!  Pin this for later
so you don''t forget.

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Peel and slice the apples into an ovenproof dish.
~   Put the 1 tablespoon of caster sugar into a small saucepan together with ½ tablespoon of water AND set a container of about 40ml water beside the stove.
~  
Over low heat stir together the sugar and the water till the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil.  Don’t stir once it boils but swirl about a bit when it begins turning colour.
~   Boil to a deep golden brown watching carefully.
~   Immediately it reaches this colour p
our in the water you have set beside the stove. It will boil up like crazy and the caramel will solidify and go all interesting. Stir over the heat till the caramel melts into the water.
~   Pour this over the apples and stir together.
~   Rub the butter into the flour together with the pinch of salt then stir in the soft brown sugar.
~   Loosely pile this on top of the apples, level the surface, make a pattern if you feel like it and bake for about 30-40 minutes till the apples have collapsed and are tender and the top is golden brown.



Now the best bit! …

~   As with the caramel above put the rest of the caster sugar into a clean saucepan together with ½ tablespoon of water just to get it started.
~   Over low heat stir together the sugar and the water till the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil.  Don’t stir once it boils but swirl about a bit when it begins turning colour.
~   Boil to a deep golden brown watching carefully.
~   When it has assumed a lovely caramel colour immediately and very carefully drizzle it over the top of the cooked apple crumble.
~   It will cool and go hard very quickly.



Important and Helpful Guidelines for Making Caramel


~   Use a wooden spoon so that it neither gets too hot nor melts.
~   If possible don’t use a non-stick pan as they are too dark to see the colour of the caramel.
~   Equip yourself with a good heatproof cloth.
~   Put any additions immediately to hand beside the stove.
~   Never touch hot caramel with anything human or animal.

coffee-cook's-treat

Heartbreakingly we didn’t have any clotted cream so had custard when hot and double cream when cold but I am so pleased with it I wish I had come up with the idea when I was still cheffing. I would have adapted it to make individual Crème Brulée / Apple Crumble hybrids, maybe caramelising the top with sugar and a blow torch instead of the method above.
.
In Other News …

~   For lots of other apple recipe, particularly good for Bramleys, see here – A Glut of Apples.
~   Remember I made sourdough bread for the first time last week?   Well I’ve kept my mother going and today made a black pepper sourdough bread because I figured I put black pepper on almost everything so why not?



homemade sourdough bread





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15 October 2015

My Friend Gave me Half of her Mother!


There have been stages in my life when I have made all my own bread; winters in a Cornwall as I didn’t get out much, when I first arrived in the BVI because the bought in stuff was crap (it is now much, much better by the way!) and when I worked as the pastry chef at The Last Resort (which was such a fun place owned by friends of mine) where we baked huge (and strangely fast!) loaves of rustic bread to serve to the punters. Never, however, have I tried sourdough – until now, and even then it’s not my fault!

My friend Carol gave me half of her mother (a strange sentence if taken out of context) which I fed and watered and chatted to for about a week and now I have made this …

homemade-sourdough-bread


... and I am so pleased with it! Chewy, tasty and a lovely crunchy crust.


Sourdough Starter


When Carol gave me half her starter she also gave me a note of what to do with it next …

sourdough starter

~   Every day halve the starter (and either throw half away, give it to a friend or make a loaf of bread).
~   Stir 100g strong flour (brown or white is fine) and 100ml warm water into the remaining starter and beat briefly with a wooden spoon or similar.
~   Decant into a clean non-reactive container (at first I was being all old fashioned and traditional using a Kilner jar but now I just put the keeping batch in a clean bowl each morning) and cover with a damp cloth NOT a lid.
~   Leave at room temperature for 24 hours and repeat the process.

Apparently you can put it in the fridge for a few days and not bother feeding it which is good if you have to go away on a short trip.  Carol said she had heard of people cancelling their holidays so as to keep feeding the thing and also of Sourdough Starter Nurseries!

how to make sourdough bread

Making the Sourdough Bread


Carol referred me to an article in The Telegraph which gives instructions for making the starter and what to do next but as, after halving the starter, I only had 100g for making the bread I had to scale down, which was good as my real man is not one for fancy stuff like sourdough and one loaf at a time is good enough for me. So these are my proportions …

100g sourdough starter
200ml tepid water
330g strong flour
5g salt
1 tablespoon water

sourdough rising
~   Stir together the first 3 ingredients, cover loosely with a plastic bag (if you have such a thing now that the carrier bag law has changed! ***) and set aside for 20 minutes or so.
~   Mix together the salt and tablespoon of water and stir into the dough, replace the plastic bag and leave an hour.
~   Tip out onto a floured board and form into a square-ish shape. Pull out one side of the square and fold over the top of the rest of the dough.  Repeat with the other sides.  Return to the bowl and bag and leave another hour.
~   Do the same again.
~   And again only this time have ready a basket lined with cloth (a clean tea towel for instance) and sprinkled with semolina. I did have a basket but no semolina so used wholemeal flour and it worked fine.  Once the stretching and folding is done form into a smooth ball, tucking in edges underneath and place smooth side down in the bowl.  Dust the top of the dough with a little more semolina or flour.
~   Cover with the plastic again, allow to rise for about 2 hours by which time it should have approximately doubled in size and then put in the fridge overnight (or 2 nights if you prefer).
~   Remove the dough from the fridge to warm up a bit and preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/210ºC fan/gas 8 and put a baking sheet in there so it will be good and hot when you are ready to bake.
~   Gently turn the bread out onto the hot baking sheet, slash the top a few times for extra prettiness and crust and bake for about half an hour till it is risen and crusty, smelling great and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

freshly baked sourdough bread

~   Cool on a rack until you can bear it no longer and they try a piece.

I had a slice asap with one of my favourite toppings, butter and a sprinkle of crunch sea salt) and then a lovely lunch with two of my favourite cheeses, St. Agur and Cornish Crackler, some grapes, lots of black pepper, glass of red wine – what’s not like? to coin a phrase.

sourdough bread, cheese, grapes, lunch

This worked really well so thank you Carol and thank you Laura Hart whose recipe this basically is. I shall be making a loaf about once a week now and will try some variations, nuts and seeds and crunchy sea salt and so on.

In a way it seems a lot of faff to make a loaf of bread but in another way it doesn’t! It just takes 3 or 4 minutes once a day and very little work to actually make the bread.  

Another friend (I’m dead popular, me!) told me of a similar thing called a Herman cake which I haven’t tried but if you’d like to here is the Herman cake link.

Good News Addenda ...

We went away for a few days last week and, unsure what to do with said mother and asked Twitter.  This was my answer and it worked perfectly so now I am just going to feed her once or twice and then keep her in the fridge till I need more bread.

In Other News ...

It seems that I haven’t posted for a while for which I apologise – don’t have any excuse or reason, don’t know what happened!

Not connected to the above but I have been experimenting with posting on Medium which is a Very Interesting site to browse so whether or not you read what I have written or follow me (oh go on!)  I urge you to have a look round Medium here.  

*** As many people have said on Twitter …





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