Mar 06 2007

March lambs

Twins1_2 

Farming’s fun, yes, it is, I repeat to myself as dogs and I trudge up to the yard yet again in the relentless rain. Bother, welly stuck, wet sock, whoops, squelch. “Remember,” I repeat my mantra, “you could be in that traffic jam on the M6”

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8 responses so far

Mar 01 2007

Antipasta

Serve Antipasta, a simple and delicious mix of smoked meat and fish, salami, eggs with anchovies and lump fish roe, cherry tomatoes and avocado and various pickled fish.

I arrange everything on two large plates one meat, one fish, each with a bowl of *Aioli, strong, home-made garlic mayonnaise, and plenty of warm home made bread rolls.

For the *Aioli use 4 eggs yolks, 6 cloves of garlic and about 500ml olive oil. Make in the usual way for mayonnaise but put the garlic in at the beginning with the egg yolks. Slow is the word here!

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Mar 01 2007

Bourride

Here is my version of this delicious fish stew. All quantities are approximate. I use whatever fish I can get!

For the Aioli use 4 eggs yolks, 6 cloves of garlic and about 500ml olive oil. Make in the usual way for mayonnaise but put the garlic in at the beginning with the egg yolks. Slow is the word here!

Next peel about 1.5 kilos of potatoes, and blanch them. Cut up a few sticks of celery, four tomatoes, a fennel bulb, some thyme and summer savoury. Chop a good hand full of parsley.. If you have new garden peas or some shelled broad beans add these too.

Firm white fish is best. Monkfish, bream, bass. I have used cod and haddock. They taste fine but are inclined to fall to bits. Squid, mussels and large prawns are good additions. Make sure you clean the mussels carefully, rinsing out the grit, pulling off the beards and discarding any open or broken ones.

Once everything is prepared heat some oil in a big pan. First put in the vegetables and the mussels. Next put in a layer of fish. Cover with water, about 2 litres, or fish stock if you have it. I sometimes use a tin of chopped tomatoes or a bag of last years frozen ones instead of some of the water.

Bring to the boil, add ½ a pint of white wine(275ml) Simmer for ten minutes then carefully take out all the fish etc leaving just some potato behind. Keep the fish warm. Crush the potato into the sauce and stir in half the *aioli. Warm through

Spoon fish and broth into individual bowls and serve with the remaining aioli and crusty bread. A good crisp white wine completes the feast.

Enjoy fish!!

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Mar 01 2007

Cooking Fish

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Baked Sea Bass

Evelyne came to stay from Brittany so I ordered Sea Bass from Mark. It was wonderful!

I oiled some tin foil, placed the fish, covered in fennel fronds, on it, drizzled over Pernod and, wrapping the fish up tight in the foil, I baked it for 20 minutes in a hot oven. I served it with Evelyn’s’ Hollandaise sauce, new potatoes and a salad from the garden. Quite delicious!

For me simple is best when cooking fish. When buying fish the flesh must be firm, the eyes bright and the gills deep red. If this is not the case and fish smells fishy then I would rather cook something else! Fresh fish cooked simply and quickly is my rule.

Grill whole gutted fish quickly under a hot grill or on a barbeque with fresh lemon and olive oil.. Or fill the cavity with herbs or porcini mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, rub with oil, wrap in foil and bake. Check after 10 minutes. The cooking time will vary according to the size and variety of fish. The flesh should be just opaque and firm, not separated and dry.

Fillets of haddock or cod can be skinned with a sharp knife , dipped in a little egg then flour and herbs and fried quickly in butter or olive oil.

Seer scallops or tuna steaks in a hot pan for no more than a couple of minutes on each side . Add chopped fennel or sage, or flame a little gin and crushed juniper berries
over the scallops. Serve the tuna with black pepper, lemon juice and a sharp green salad with plenty of rocket. Or place the fish on a pile of boiled noodles. The possibilities are endless but fresh, quick and simple are the key.

There are so many wonderful versions of fish stew often impossible to do authentically from one region to another. Here is my own Anglicised version.

Bourride:

All quantities are approximate. I use what fish I can get!

For the Aioli I use 4 eggs yolks, 6 cloves of garlic and about 500ml olive oil. I make it in the usual way for mayonnaise but put the garlic in at the beginning with the egg yolks. Slow is the word here!

Next I peel about 1.5 kilos of potatoes, and blanch them. I cut up a few sticks of celery, four tomatoes, a fennel bulb, some thyme and summer savoury and chop a good handfull of parsley.. If you have new garden peas or some shelled broad beans add these too.

Firm white fish is best. Monkfish, bream, bass. I have used cod and haddock. They taste fine but are inclined to fall to bits. Squid, mussels and large prawns are good additions. Make sure you clean the mussels carefully, rinsing out the grit, pulling off the beards and discarding any open or broken ones.

Once everything is prepared heat some oil in a big pan. First put in the vegetables and the mussels. Next put in a layer of fish. Cover with water, about 2 litres, or fish stock if you have it. I sometimes use a tin of chopped tomatoes or a bag of last years frozen ones instead of some of the water.

Bring to the boil, add ½ a pint of white wine(275ml) Simmer for ten minutes then carefully take out all the fish etc leaving just some potato behind. Keep the fish warm. Crush the potato into the sauce and stir in half the *aioli. Warm through

Spoon fish and broth into individual bowls and serve with the remaining aioli and crusty bread. A good crisp white wine completes the feast.

Enjoy fish!!

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Mar 01 2007

Sushi and Sashimi

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A Fish Shop, Hokkaido
It takes years to become a Sushi master. A young apprentice may spend two years simply preparing the rice before he is allowed to touch a fish. The fish is so fresh many bars keep the fish alive in tanks and prepare them for each order. I’ve even seen a lorry full of water transporting fish across Tokyo; a sort of huge mobile aquarium.

In this country it is only possible to serve either sashimi or a simple version of sushi if you are fortunate enough to be a fisherman or live so near the sea that you are able buy fish the day it has been caught. There is a saying in Tokyo that if it is past midday the fish is not fresh enough for sushi!

I am lucky enough to have two sources of very fresh fish in my local town so occasionally, for a very special treat, I make Temaki-zushi or California Roll style sushi. I rinse sushi rice in water and cook it in an equal quantity of water i.e. 5 cups of rice to 5 cups of water. I boil it quickly for three minutes then reduce the heat and continue for a further ten. Then I check to see that the water is all absorbed. Next I cover the pot with a cloth and let the rice stand for another 15 minutes. While the rice is standing I prepare the dressing by mixing a little salt and sugar with about 125 ml of Sushi vinegar or Mirin.

Traditionally the rice is tipped into a wooden tub but a plastic bowl will do at home! Using a wooden spatula, I slice through the rice rather than stir it, slowly adding the rice vinegar mixture. The Sushi apprentice would also fan the rice as he turned it, to cool it to body temperature; cooler than this and the grains begin to harden. Now you begin to see why he must practice for so long to perfect this art form of cooking rice!

I serve the rice, still warm, with very thin slivers of the freshest raw fish; salmon and tuna, scallops, king prawns, smoked eel. Raw vegetables too; sliced cucumber, avocado, asparagus, mange-tout peas, spring onions and whatever else I fancy.

I ask each guest to take a sheet of Nori sea weed, fill it with rice, a selection of fish and vegetables, a dab of hot, eye watering Wasabi and a little slice of sweet pickled ginger and some soy sauce, then twisting it into a cone shape, eat it with their fingers. We drink green tea, a glass of sake or some Japanese beer and have a feast; a simplified version of the great delicacy of Japan!

And a dish of Sashimi, fish, wasabi and ginger and soy sauce without rice or nori, makes a wonderful starter to a meal.

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Mar 01 2007

Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge, cucumber sandwiches – no crusts – and chocolate biscuits and those ones that look as if they were filled with dead flies, what were they called? It’s tea time on a winter’s afternoon. Granny has had the fire lit and the table laid, Nanny has cleaned me up and sent me down from the nursery…
“ And it is the nicest meal of the day. whether it is taken in the nursery with a two year old host making milk and honey flow with a lavishness that rouses wonder … or in a North country inn with eleven or twelve different sorts of cakes on the table; out of doors or merely in the drawing room. Philosophers might say the charm of the meal lay in the informal conversation: pedants may contend that all hangs on the country of origin of the tea itself; but all children, and all sensible people know that the fascination of tea really depends entirely upon the cakes.” Mrs C. F Level: The Gentle Art of Cookery 1925.
From the Constance Spry Cookery Book 1964:
“Take 3 eggs and their weight in butter, caster sugar, self raising flour, some good jam and icing or caster sugar. Cream the butter until it looks like whipped cream. Add the sugar and beat until white. Add the eggs one at a time with a good spoonful of sifted flour. Beat thoroughly. Sift the baking powder with the remaining flour, stir quickly into mixture. Turn into two sandwich tins 7 inches across, well buttered and floured; bake in a moderate oven 20-30 minutes. Turn out when cool, sandwich well with a good jam. Powder with icing or caster sugar.” Or, then again, you could just do what the Calendar Girls did…

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Mar 01 2007

Sponge Cake with a Crust

A Comforting Tea Time Cake

I turn to my beloved Constance Spry Cookery Book first published in 1956. ….”in those days the disposition of a woman’s time made tea time possible, and the taste for, shall I say, the cosier figure gave no cause for apprehension…..” She goes on to discuss the merits and, indeed, politeness of tea time entertaining going into the tricky business of whether one puts ones milk into the tea before or after pouring. There follows a delightfully trivial debate of what was and was not de rigueur at Afternoon tea! Suddenly I was a child again having tea with my scary Granny!

An absolute must, she tells us, is an Old fashioned Sponge Cake with a Crust: I quote: “take five eggs and their weight in castor sugar, and the weight of three of the eggs in flour, plus 1 tablespoon of orange flower water…. ( if you can get it! I will substitute a little orange zest in mine; not the same I know but something rather than nothing)

Separate yolks from whites. Take 1 tablespoon of sugar away from the total quantity for every egg white. Put the remaining sugar into a bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk over gentle heat until white and mousse-like. Add orange flower water. Whip the whites stiffly, incorporate the remaining sugar, and fold into the mixture with sifted flour. Turn at once into a greased and sugared cake tin, bake in a slow to moderate oven forty minutes to one hour………..

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She gives no more instructions, you’re on your own! I guess you just turn it onto a wire rack cool and eat! Bon appetite,sit down, relax, enjoy your afternoon tea!

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Mar 01 2007

Rhubarb

Rhubarb Salad is delicious with loads of fresh mint. Marinade the young chopped stems in brown sugar for an hour then toss in a vinaigrette dressing with plenty of fresh mint and a scattering of Rosemary flowers.

A light simple Rhubarb Fool is hard to beat on a mild Spring evening. Just poach young stems in a little orange juice and sugar. Allow to cool and fold in whipped cream. Serve chilled in individual glass pots.

Rhubarb Flan. Make a sweet pastry base with a Pate Sucre*, fill it with pouched rhubarb and cover with a lemon cream filling. Take 2 egg yolks, 2oz/50g caster sugar, 3 fl oz/70ml double cream and the zest of ½ a lemon. Place the sugar and eggs in a bowl over a pan of gently boiling water and whisk till thick and double in volume. Allow to cool. Mix in the cream and lemon zest and cover the rhubarb in the pastry case with the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 190c , 375F or Gas 5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold.

*Pate Sucre used to be made by hand on a marble slab gradually drawing the ingredients together. Now we have food processors!

Whizz 200g plain flour, 100g soft butter, 75g caster sugar and three egg yolks in the processor, wrap in cling film and chill for at least and hour before using. It is hard to roll out so it may be easier to dip you knuckles in icing sugar and press it carefully into a loose bottomed flan ring. Chill again.

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Mar 01 2007

Quince

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Quinces on the tree

My Quince Ratafia will be wonderful by Christmas. It will add a glow as we drink it, to the Christmas Pud and the Mince Pies. It will cheer up vanilla ice cream and add a sparkle to the winter fruit salad. Added to the pork gravy or stirred into a pheasant and apple casserole, it will enrich and bring a sweet wintry depth to the sauce.

Grate a really ripe quince into a litre jar. Add a little sugar depending on your taste. Fill the jar with vodka being sure to completely cover the fruit. Cover with a tight fitting lid and store for at least two months in a dark place. Occasionally give the bottle a shake to help the sugar dissolve. The longer you keep it the better it gets!

Quince, Apple and Tangerine Compote.

Peel the quince with a potato peeler, core and chop into even size chunks. Even ripe quince are very hard, so watch your fingers! Peel, core and chop the apples and slice the tangerines, skin and all, just take out the pips. Put everything in a heavy based pan, tip in 500grams of sugar and heat through, gently at first, till the sugar melts. Then simmer for about an hour till you have a thick, rich puree.

It freezes brilliantly so over the winter months you can eat it with yoghurt or ice cream, or make it into a winter fruit fool.

I will use it as the base of a Tarte au Pommes. Having lined a flan tin with pate sucree and baked it blind, I will cover it with the fruit puree. Next I will arrange the sliced apple in neat circles on the top. I will put it back in the oven until the apples is soft. Then, when it is cool, I will glaze the tarte with rosehip syrup or redcurrant jelly. I will serve it with Devonshire Clotted Cream or home made ice cream.

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Mar 01 2007

Pears in Red Wine

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Peel four pears, slice a small piece off the bottom of each one so that they stand up.

In a pan heat half a pint of water (300ml), 4 ounces (125gms) of caster sugar and a quarter of a pint (150ml) of red wine. Bring to the boil. Add the pears and cook gently till soft. They will turn pink and shiny.

Remove pears and stand each one on a serving plate. Boil the syrup quickly for a few minutes to reduce a little….don’t make toffee!!….and spoon the syrup over the pears.

They can be prepared in advance but not the day before because the juice will run out of the pears and spoil the syrup….

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