Monday, November 23, 2015
The hotel where Jeremy Clarkson threw his toys out of his V8 pram and punched a Top Gear producer has been given a plaque to commemorate the end of Clarkson's BBC career.
Managers at Simonstone Hall, in the Pennines, say a guest gave them the shiny plaque on Sunday night, and they plan to put it on the patio where the "fracas" took place.
Clarkson punched Oisin Tymon in the mouth after he told him he couldn't have a steak because the kitchen had closed and the chef had gone home.
Tymon, 36, was forced into hiding after receiving death threats from online trolls blaming him for Clarkson's sacking from the BBC2 car cockfest show.
Simonstone Hall - which brands itself as the "perfect haven to relax and unwind" - has not revealed who the plaque giver is, but seems chuffed with the gift.
"We think it would be quite appropriate to put it on the patio where the fracas took place," the hotel said on its Facebook page.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
The trouble with learning how to fillet fish is there are so many different methods. But if you really want to know how to do it, ask a fisherman - they do it every day.
Here, Billy The Fish shows how to prep a flat fish into two or four fillets...
The trouble with learning how to fillet fish is there are so many different methods. But if you really want to know how to do it, ask a fisherman - they do it every day.
Here, Billy The Fish shows how to fillet a cod the right way...
This is a classic French pie pastry, which works well for both sweet and savoury dishes. It's almost the same as traditional short crust pastry - which uses one portion of fat to every two of flour - but uses egg and a higher fat ratio (64% rather than 50%) and rolls much better.
As with all pastries, it's vital not to overwork the dough. Just bring it together with a spoon, and when using your hands, use your fingers rather than the heel of your palm as you would with bread dough, as the heel is the warmest part of your hand. It's also essential to chill the dough well before you roll it out.
5g salt (or one level teaspoon)
250g plain flour
1 tbsp cold water
Use chilled butter straight from the fridge and cut it into small squares. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers, crumble the flour and fat together to make breadcrumbs.
Then add the egg and water, and using a spoon, work it all together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Roll out the pastry to about the width of a £1 coin and use for tarts, pasties, pies etc.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
It uses hot water crust pastry - and it worked really well. It had the sort of crunch you get from a good pork pie, but was still moist and not too biscuity. We cooked the pies in a steam oven, but you can get near this by using a normal oven and putting a tray of water on the bottom rack.
Hot water crust pastry
(makes one large pie)
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Heat the water in a pan, and when boiling, add the butter and lard. Stir until the fat has dissolved, then pour into the flour. Let it cool slightly, then knead it for a few minutes to form a ball with the consistency of Play-doh. Cover the dough to stop it drying out while you get on with the rest of the ingredients.
Take a medium-size loaf tin and brush the inside with oil. Then cut a piece of greaseproof paper the width of the tin base, but long enough so it hangs over the ends. Line the tin making sure a few inches of paper are sticking out on either end - you'll use these as 'handles' to remove the pie from the tin. Brush the paper with oil.
Then this is where the Play-doh consistency comes in. Take pieces of dough, and flatten into patty shapes and form the pie crust, making sure you push it into the corners. Make sure the crust is about an inch taller than the loaf tin. You want the crust to be about the width of a pencil.
Next fill with the meat mixture. You can use whatever you want for this - thinly-sliced pork loin with finely chopped bacon and onion works very well. For ours, we used freshly-minced venison and wild boar. We put sage, pepper and salt in the pork, and nutmeg, salt, pepper and mustard powder in the venison.
We then fried off a little of each to check the seasoning. The tutor said the venison was too "tight", so we added eggs, breadcrumbs and red wine to loosen it up.
We then built up the pie, starting with a 100g layer of pork, then a 100g layer of venison, and so on, so the pie had a two-tone effect. When the pie was filled an inch past the top, we rolled out the rest of the dough and cut out a piece for the lid. We moulded the overhanging dough into the lid and then trimmed and fluted the edges.
We cut a hole in the top to allow the steam to escape, and baked the pies at 160C in a steam oven for about an hour. You know it's ready when the middle of the pie is 75C. Take the pie out of the oven and carefully remove from the tin using the overhanging paper. Then let them cool on a wire tray.
Meanwhile, we had made chicken stock from trimmings from a dish the other Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Catering class had made. When this was ready we boiled down a couple of litres and added enough gelatine so it set easily in the fridge. We poured this through the pie holes and then let them sit in the fridge for the jelly to set.
You start by scaling and filleting a salmon and then cut each side into supremes the width of your middle three fingers. As you slice each supreme, turn the filleting knife with a hand motion as thought unlocking a door and this will give you a nice, curved effect to the pieces.
If you don't have a stove-top smoker, you can easily make do with a metal tray, foil and a wire tray to put the fish on (the wire tray obviously needs to be small enough to fit inside the metal tray). You also need oak or similar saw dust or wood chippings and/or tea leaves for the smouldering of.
Put a couple of handfuls of saw dust in the metal tray and spread over the bottom evenly. Then sprinkle three lemon and ginger tea bags - or a similar amount of loose tea - over the wood. Put the wire tray inside and cover tightly with foil. Put the tray on a medium heat on the hob and wait until you can see smoke escaping from the foil.
Lay the salmon pieces skin side down on the wire tray, and then recover with the foil. Put the tray back on the heat for one minute to let the smoke build up again.
We then vac-packed ours, two in each bag, ready for service.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
But he said it had made him a better cook, and boasted of the number of dishes he could cook in his cell using just a kettle. He seemed very proud of his "apple crumble", which involved putting slices of apple in a plastic bag, and them boiling for a couple of minutes in a kettle until they had turned into a "mush". "You then crunch loads of digestive biscuits and bung them in for the crumble bit," he told the camera.
It reminded me of my attempts at cooking in a kettle when I lived in budget hotels in Asia for a couple of years. And after flicking through some photos of Cambodia I thought I'd lost, and feeling a wave of numbing nostalgia taking me, I thought I'd have another go at 'cooking in a kettle' - this time a foray into the realms of the omelette. I must say it tastes better than it looks, but it works and, more importantly, you'll win the bet.
One kettle (preferably one where the element is concealed)
1 litre cold water
One zipper-seal freezer bag
2 slices of serrano or similar ham, sliced
8 thin slices of cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp oil
A small glug of cooking lager (optional)
Crack the two eggs into the freezer bag, and gripping the zipper end, mush them with your other hand. Add the salt and pepper, and oil and shake the bag again,
Add the cheese, ham and beer (the latter is a nice touch I got from watching the French film Le Diner De Cons, when two of the characters discuss the best way to make an omelette) and scrunch up again.
Seal the zipper on the bag, making sure all the air is removed - you can do this by keeping a corner open and sucking any remaining air out of the bag. Put about one litre of water in the kettle - it should be about two-thirds full. Then roll up the sealed bag into a sort of cylinder shape as best you can, and pop it into the kettle.
Put the lid back on. Switch the kettle on and let it boil. When it has switched itself off, leave the bag in there for one minute, then switch the kettle on again. When it has boiled again and switched off, leave the bag in there for another minute and carefully take out and serve.
:: Cooking In A Kettle: Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs
Thursday, October 01, 2015
At some point they would have been left with stale bread on their hands, and some bright spark would have had the idea of tearing it up, adding water, and baking it to form a cooked stodge. Someone would have said 'that's not bad, but what about adding nuts and berries or honey or something', and the rudiments of this lovely pudding would have been born.
Their wood-fire baking would have been a far cry from the swanky Rational combi ovens we're lucky enough to be using on our cheffing apprenticeship, but the principal is the same - not wasting food by finding recipes to use up leftovers.
So last week when the first-year students were let loose for their first bread-making lesson, and produced two crates of what can only be described as a varied selection of loaves, ranging in hue from umber to charcoal black, we were given the task of hacksawing off the crusts and making bread pudding for the college restaurant.
There are of course hundreds of variations of bread pudding around the world. A version is eaten in Mexico during Lent, and there is a very good one called Wet Nelly (not to be confused with the James Bond car) which is a favourite in Liverpool and involves baking the pudding in pastry.
The one we made is an industry standard, which can be tinkered with the addition of flavourings like rosewater and nutmeg, and different dried fruits and nuts. I recommend adding walnuts and chopped dried apricots along with the sultanas.
Another good one which will help use up your windfall apples, if you're lucky enough to have an apple tree in the garden, or even a garden, is to peel and core the apples, cut into quarters and cook into a mush with a little water, adding sugar to taste. Add the apple puree to the bread mixture, following the recipe below.
Cinnamon Bread Pudding
(Makes 10 portions)
1.25kg stale bread, crusts removed
300g white sugar
1.5 tsps ground cinnamon
1.5 tsps mixed spice
Cut the crusts off the bread and tear it into strips. Put in a bowl and add about a third of its volume in water. Squeeze the bread between your fingers for a few minutes to make a mush.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small squares and add to the eggs. Beat together and add three-quarters of the sugar. Beat again and mix in the spices and currants, or what other fruits you're using.
Lift out the bread mush, squeezing out excess water with each handful, and add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Grease a large baking tray and line with baking paper. Add the pudding mix and smooth the top.
Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for one hour. Let it cool and cut into 10 portions. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream, ice cream or caramel sauce.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
We made two types, but unfortunately I haven't got any photos from the day because I didn't have a camera with me, and he dropped his phone in the soup which meant the pictures he was supposed to email me never arrived. Shame, because they turned out well. But I'll be making them again when we get to do our bread units for the course, so I'll post the pictures then.
The first was Irish soda bread, which is great for people who can't eat yeast because being a so-called 'quick bread' it doesn't use any. Instead the leavening agent is sodium bicarbonate (aka bicarbonate of soda or baking soda). This reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide as yeast does.
Buttermilk costs a fair bit in the shops now, for some reason, despite the low price of milk. But there is a much cheaper way of making it - and for this we used an old Cornish recipe the tutor had been taught by his grandmother. For every cup (250ml) of milk, add one tablespoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Leave it for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, and it will thicken slightly, giving a runny yoghurt consistency.
We also made our own self-raising wholemeal flour because we'd run out - to make this add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to every 150g of plain flour.
Irish soda bread
(Makes two cobs)
340g self-raising wholemeal flour
340g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Put the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Mix quickly to form a soft dough. The dough should be a little stiff - and not wet and sticky. Rectify this by either adding a drop more buttermilk to ease it up, or if it is too wet, a little more flour.
You shouldn't handle soda dough more than necessary - just bring it together, shape, cut and cook. As artisan baker Bill King points out, "kneading kills sodas". (By the way, I recommend reading Bill's blog about his time on the Ballymaloe cooking course. Very useful stuff.)
Break the dough into two equal round balls. Flatten each one and using a knife cross the top of each. Put them on a lightly-greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 35 minutes. You can test whether they're done by knocking on the bottom - they should sound hollow.
Tarragon and roasted red pepper roulade
The second bread we made was a roulade-style loaf flavoured with chopped fresh tarragon and roasted red peppers. For the latter, we roasted the peppers in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Then removed them and put them in a plastic bag for 20 minutes to make them easier to peel. Once peeled, we finely diced them.
The base was the enriched bread dough recipe below. Once we had rested the bread for 30 minutes so that it had doubled in size, we split it into two, and moulded each on a lightly-floured board into a rectangular shape, about 30cm long and 20cm wide.
We then scattered chopped tarragon and diced red peppers over them, and rolled them up into a roulade sausage shape. We brushed them with egg wash (whole egg rather than egg yolk), then put them on baking trays and let them rise for another 30 minutes before baking at 200C for 15 minutes.
Enriched Bread Dough
1kg strong flour (sieved)
100g milk powder
568ml warm water - temperature should be between 31C and 35C.
50g fresh yeast
Pinch of caster sugar
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, rubbing in the butter between your palms to form fine breadcrumbs. Then in a separate vessel stir the water, yeast and sugar together. This separation is critical because if you just chucked them all in together, the salt would kill the yeast.
Once the yeast is dissolved, let it stand for a couple of minutes. Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a lightly-floured board until smooth - the best way to do this is using the base of your palms (but not for kneading pastry as this is the warmest part of the hand). Form into a ball, and put back in the mixing bowl. Cover the top with clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes.
At this stage, we made the roulade loaves. Alternatively, to make bread rolls instead, measure the dough into 85g pieces and mould into flattened balls. Place them on a lightly-greased baking tray, brush them gently with egg wash and leave them to prove for 30 minutes.
Bake in an oven at 200C for 12 to 15 minutes. For wholemeal rolls, use 500g of strong flour and 500g of wholemeal, together with an extra 100ml of warm water.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Week one of my cooking apprenticeship certainly had a ‘surf and turf’ flavour to it. On the morning we made beef olives, we also knocked up another classic from the attic – clam chowder. Well, the chowder base anyway. We needed gallons of the stuff for a seafood festival that weekend. The soup would be finished off on the day and served in hollowed-out crusty rolls for £4 a pop.
Because we were making the base a few days in advance, our tutor told us not to add the bacon and to use powdered fish stock rather than fresh, to help it keep longer. The bacon, clams and cream would be added on the day.
I’ve always been a big fan of chowder and have wanted to travel to America’s blustery Atlantic coast ever since I read Moby Dick, when Ishmael and Queequeg feast at the Try Pots, a rough inn famed for its chowder “plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt”.
As always, I can’t find much agreement about clam chowder’s history among the many food boffins. Some posit it may derive from ‘chaudrée’ – a thick fish soup from France’s Charente-Maritime region. The variant, chowda, is believed to have originated in Newfoundland when fishermen would throw part of the day’s catch into a large pot for supper.
Not that it really matters, of course, because there is even less agreement about how to cook the dish. Indeed in 1939, as war was breaking out in Europe, politicians in Maine were fussing over the far more pressing issue of drafting legislation to make it illegal to add tomatoes to their traditional, cream-thickened chowder.
The type we made on our snappily-titled Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hospitality (7132) course was definitely of the New England camp – a tasty base of potatoes, onions, peppers, carrots and bacon. Although I’m sure many purists would turn their noses up at carrots and peppers, and insist the only break from the calico broth should be pink cubes of bacon.
|Flour added to the sweated vegetables|
Again, some people use biscuits as a thickening rather than flour. But we used the latter. The lesson came with a short aside about using roux (equal amounts of flour and fat) to thicken sauces. For a ‘white roux’ - for use in white sauces - you fry the flour and fat over a low heat for five minutes, for a ‘blonde roux’ – the base for veloute (velvety) sauces – you cook the flour out for 10 minutes, and for a ‘brown roux’ – for gravies etc. – you could it for 20 minutes.
125ml vegetable oil
125g plain flour
125g diced smoked bacon
2 large onions, cut into brunoise
2 large carrots, cut into brunoise
2 large sticks celery, cut into 1cm dice
2 large yellow peppers, cut into 1cm dice
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, cut into 1cm dice
2.5 litres fish stock
200ml double cream
2kg carpet clams
In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sweat the onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, bacon, garlic and peppers over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Once soft, but not coloured, add the flour and cook out for five minutes, stirring all the time.
Heat the stock and add a ladleful at a time to the roux, making sure the liquid is fully dissolved until adding the next batch. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste. This can then be cooled and left covered in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to use it.
|The finished chowder base|
Wash the clams well and discard any that are open or broken. For my money, the best in the UK are the small carpet clams you get in Portland, Dorset – called palourde in France and almeja in Spain. Put them in a covered pan over a medium heat and cook until they are open – this should take only a minute or two.
Add the cream to the chowder base and the poached clams and serve with plenty of crusty bread. Garnish with finely chopped chives and black pepper. Some people also whisk in 125g of butter to give a good glaze to the bowl, but then some people eat butter the thickness of bread.
Friday, September 18, 2015
They say you never stop learning about food, which is why I've just started a Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hospitality at the tender age of 84.That and also because I need the paperwork. My plan is to get a job on the yachts cooking for people with too much money, and for that you need food qualifications, I'm told, not just kitchen experience.
Anyway, I've just finished the second week on the course, and I'm loving every second. Well, not every second, but it's going much better than I dared hope. My plan is to blog the recipes and techniques I'm learning each week, so I'll start with beef olives - a meal we knocked up for the training restaurant.
I'm not sure about the history of the dish, but according to the 18th century cookery writer Hannah Glasse there are references to "beef olives" in Scottish cooking as far back as the 16th century. This doesn't mean it's a Scottish dish. It shares just as much with the rouladen dishes that grace German cookery, as well as the zrazy dishes of Eastern Europe.
Of course, it'll be much older than any literary reference. I imagine cave men were rolling up slices of silverside mammoth and slowly cooking them with vegetables in hollowed out rocks way before anyone knew what an olive was. A far cry from the Rational combi ovens we're lucky enough to use in the training kitchen, but the principle is the same. Batter cheaper cuts of meat to make them tender, roll them up, and then cook for a long time until soft and full of flavour.
We were making a huge batch, using two large joints of topside of beef weighing around 3kg each. But just reduce the quantities accordingly if you're not cooking for a crowd.
6kg topside of beef
6 cups red wine
6 litres beef stock
6 large onions
12 sticks celery
12 cloves garlic
6 tbsps vegetable oil
It's much easier to slice the beef if it is still slightly frozen, or well chilled, as it will hold together better. Using a very sharp cook's knife, cut the beef into finger-wide slices. Take each piece and put between clingfilm and batter with a rolling pin until about a third of the width.
Take off the clingfilm, and season the beef with salt and pepper. Spread the meat with sausagemeat, a few milimetres thick. Then roll up into a tight sausage shape. Cover with clingfilm then roll on your board, holding each end of the clingfilm, until it is a compact cylinder shape. Repeat with each slice and chill in the fridge for an hour so they firm up.
Meanwhile, finely dice the onion into brunoise. Peel the celery and carrots, quarter them lengthways and cut into paysanne - a sort of curved, triangular shape. Put three large roasting trays on the heat and pour 2tbps of oil into each one. Add the onions, garlic, carrot and celery and begin to brown. Stir regularly until they have some colour.
Unwrap the beef olives and tie each with butcher's string using three slipknots. Add the olives to the pan and turn over from time to time until they are evenly browned, then pour two cups of red wine into each tray.
Cook off the wine for a few minutes, then add two litres of beef stock into each tray. Bring to a simmer, cover each tray with foil and put in a pre-heated oven at 180C for two hours.
Serve with mashed potato and seasonal veg.
Monday, August 10, 2015
This is a very good way of using up cooked rice from the night before and makes an excellent breakfast. It's also a good way of using up courgettes from a garden or allotment, especially as there is usually a glut at this time of year as people start reaching for well-thumbed cooking books, and wonder if they do make a huge batch of courgette pickle, there is any chance they'll actually eat it, and won't just offload it on friends at Christmas.
Even if, like me, you're not lucky enough to have a garden, and the rake on your balcony is just for cockles, no doubt you'll be in a similar position. I've had three massive, marrow-like courgettes propped among the cider cans in my fridge for about a week now, after a friend visited proudly bearing gifts from her garden.
Every time I've opened the fridge, I've had a mild grip of guilt as I've seen those speckled, Lincoln green logs peering at me mournfully. Well, what better way to appease some guilt and free up more cider space than frying up one of these lovelies in this rather tasty fried rice dish?
Half a medium onion, finely chopped
Half a huge courgette, diced
1 stick celery, chopped
3 tsps fish sauce
2 mild green chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsps sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, or 2 medium, diced
Handful frozen peas (come on, it wouldn't be fried rice without peas!)
Heat a large frying pan or wok over a high heat for a minute or two, while you chop up your vegetables. Pour in the oil, then heat for 20 seconds or so until it begins to smoke. Then throw in the onion, courgette, celery, tomato, frozen peas, garlic and chillies and stir continually for two minutes until the courgette has (finally!) reduced in size by about a half.
Then throw in the cooked rice, breaking up any rice lumps with your wooden spoon, and fry for another three minutes, stirring all the time. Add the fish sauce, and stir again. Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
Make a well in the rice and crack in the eggs, stirring them up until they're scrambled and cooked through. Fry for another two minutes, stirring all the time, and serve.
This is excellent with some Thai-style sweet chilli sauce. I also like to serve it with a Cambodian 'tuk trey' dressing. To make this, put 2 tbsps of fish sauce and 2 tbsps of water in a ramekin or similar vessel, and stir in a pinch of sugar, a squeeze of lime, and one chopped green chilli.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Herring melts or milts – the soft, creamy roe of male herrings (vastly different from the female ‘hard roe’) - have to be one of the most underrated foods in my book. Especially given the fairly cheap price – about £4 a kilo. You often see them on fish counters, but I never see anyone buying them. Just the odd pensioner - probably an overhang from a time when they were a lot more popular – which is a real shame as they make a delicious lunch or light supper.
There are plenty of ways of cooking them, but I think the best is to have them on toast with ‘devilled’ spices thrown in, as in this recipe below. They have the texture of scrambled egg, somehow, and are apparently packed full of vitamin D, whatever that is.
200g herring melts
3 tbsp flour
2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
Put the roes in a colander and swill under the cold water tap, then drain in the colander. Meanwhile, get a clean plastic bag and put in the flour, mustard, garlic, paprika and salt and pepper. Pinch the top of the bag and shake. Then toss in the roes.
Cook for three minutes until well sealed on the bottom then turn over and cook for another two minutes. Season to taste. Serve on hot buttered toast.