Recipe |Brioche

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Gone Fishing.

This week, in order not to feel I was mindlessly cooking and gobbling lobster after lobster I have taken the time to learn a little more about this delicious crustacean.

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Theoretically, a lobster can live forever. They have an enzyme called telomerase, which prevents the DNA from becoming damaged as it replicates – for us mere humans it is the shortening of the DNA strands that is thought to age us. What can however pluck the lobsters from their mortal coil are disease and various predators, including me.

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In order to grow a lobster has to molt its shell. In the first year they do this about 40 times, the second year about four times, the third and forth years about two or three times and in the forth to sixth years about once a year. Once they reach age 7, which is roughly when they will be big enough to be eaten they usually molt once every two or three years. For Maine lobster it is about now in the year that they decide to do this.

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The lobster sheds its shell then puffs itself up with water to stretch the new softer shell that was underneath until that too hardens. For eating purposes I think it is best to avoid these softer shell lobsters as although easier to get the meat out it can be quite watery and the yield much lower, particularly in the claws.   On a side note, a lobster who has lost one claw is called a cull and for the poor things that have lost both they are called a pistol.

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When catching lobsters in your own pots there are strict rules about what you can keep and what you must release. Size is important. It must be between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches from the extreme rear of the eye socket to the end of the carapace – which is the head section of the shell. You are forbidden to take a female if she is baring eggs or if she has a notch in her tail. The fishing area around Main have introduced a system where if you find a female that produces eggs but otherwise would have been ok to take, you put a notch in its tale to the right of the middle flipper. This will be noticeable for a couple of years and stop others from taking the egg producing lobster even if it doesn’t have any at the time of catch.

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From a chefs and diners perspective it is amazing to cook and eat so many lobsters in a short time span and totally get to grip with cooking times and preferred methods of preparation. I have given you a few recipes and methods below after this postcard recipe for when you next want to indulge in a lobster fix.

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Besides the luxury of having an endless supply of lobster and getting the chance to cook it in every which way, my highlight of the week was …catching my first fish.

I will try not to embellish the story and let writers’ creativity move it too far from the truth but it was far more exciting than predicted.

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Our early morning start (by 5:30 am we had our backs to the shore) was soon followed by a lecture, but not in boat safety or tips on how to cast. No. I had once again made the mistake of joshing with a fisherman that I couldn’t quite see what would be fun about fishing that and that I suspected  a fishing boat was basically  a floating ‘man shed’.  Luckily the lecture was short and took mostly the form of just you just wait and see. I think this was due to the fact neither of us had had our morning coffee fix.

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Traveling at a certain number of knots over a certain distance of nautical miles ( ok I clearly didn’t listen properly to that bit) we eventually stopped the boat and prepared to fish. Our aim was to catch some mackerel to use as bait to catch some striped bass – large silvery fleshsy white fish that are rather popular around the US of A’s East coast.

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To catch the mackerel you dangle a line into the water dotted with bright lures and consistently sharply pull it up and then let it sink so it catches the mackerel’s eye.   I did this for about 10 minutes to no effect thinking well at least it was kind of a work out but then found myself gradually becoming transfixed by the waves, the sound of the water and continual motion of my surroundings.   I still hadn’t caught anything after 15 minutes but curiously noticed my involuntary reluctance at handing over the line.   My fishing partner caught one in about 5 minutes, which made me even more determined to take back the line and get one.

I shorty did and then riding on the high caught another two at once. Total pro I know !

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The mackerel were kept alive and hooked up to a bigger rod, which we floated out to sea to try and lure a striped bass on to. I could tell you how within the first 10 minutes we both caught impressive three feet fish and which would have fed the North End of Boston but I would be lying. We watched the lines bob up and down for about an hour then as there were no takers packed up and went home. Anticlimactic? Not in the slightest, there is something incredible about being out on the sea early in the morning; very peaceful yet demanding and I can at least feel myself getting hooked.

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The lobsters are now partying as my bags are packed and I am heading to Logan airport to hop back across the pond.   For this postcard recipe I give you the brioche recipe I used for making that East Coast traditional sensation: lobster sandwich.

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This week;

Lobsters dispatched: 23

Mackerel caught: 3

The Field Magazine: have published my article on top shooting salads and recipes for what to do with this season’s grouse.

Top wine drunk: a delicious Peter Michael chardonnay from California

Brioche

 Definitely not one of my quicker recipes but I admit I am kind of obsessed with making it now I have mastered the perfect sugar / butter ratio in the mix.

 The Sponge

80
ml warm whole milk (100 F approx.)

12 g dry active yeast

1
large free range /organic egg

500g plain white flour

The Dough

100g caster sugar

5g fine sea salt

4
large free range / organic eggs, lightly beaten

350g plain flour 

180g cold salted butter plus 2 tbs. approx. extra for greasing

 

The glaze

1 egg

1 tbs. whole milk

 I used an electric mixer fitted with a kneading attachment but you can make it

by hand if you don’t mind getting sticky and messy.

Also it was pleasantly hot in the States, so if making it somewhere cooler your

resting and rising times may be longer.

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Method

The sponge

Put the milk, yeast, egg and 250g of the flour in the mixers bowl, turn on to a

low speed and mix for a couple of minutes (you can do this stage by hand or with

a wooden spoon if it looks like it will be easier ).

Once mixed remove the bowl from the machine and sprinkle over the other 250g

of flour.

Leave at room temperature for 1 hour, it should be at least doubled in size and

the coating of flour cracked.

The Dough

 

Grate the butter with a cheese grater on the large side then leave out to soften.

Once ready add the sugar, salt, eggs, and 200g of the flour to the sponge.

Place the dough back in the machine with the dough hook and turn on to a low

Let it come together then add the rest of the flour.

Turn up to a medium speed and mix for 10 mins.

The machine may need stopping and the dough pushing back into place as it can

wrap itself up the dough hook.

After mixing add the butter in three stages over a couple of minutes it should

incorporate itself into the dough but again you may need to turn off the machine

and give it a helping hand.

The dough should be shiny, and feel quite moist in comparison to a basic bread dough.

 

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl and leave to rise at room temperature for 2 – 3 hours – it should double in size.

 

After this rise knock the dough back, form into a ball in the buttered bowl. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 6 hours.

By then it should have risen again and is now ready for its final rising and baking.

 

Shape the dough into loaves – you can make a regular loaf or make 6 balls placed side by side in two rows depending what you want.   It will be just over double in size when baked so choose the appropriate pan/ tin.

 

Leave at room temperature, covered loosely with some buttered cling film for two hours till doubled in size.

 

Pre heat the oven to 190°C place a baking rack near the bottom of the oven and a baking sheet at the top (this will help the loaf not take on too much color).

 

Mix the egg and milk for the glaze together.

 

When risen and ready brush the loaf with the glaze and bake for 30 mins. On the bottom rack.

 

Once cooked leave to cool for 5 mins then remove from tin.

 

Delicious warm/ cold / as is /toasted and especially good when used for a lobster sandwich.

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Lobster methods,

Do NOT over cook your lobster – it becomes rubbery.

DO keep the shells it makes the most amazing stock

 

To boil a lobster;

Fill a large pot with water, bring to the boil and then add a good dash of fine sea salt.

Add your live lobster then place on the lid. Cook in small batches so the water comes quickly back to the boil.

A 1 ½ lb lobster needs to cook only for 10 mins, It will have turned a lovely shade of red and the meat will still be moist. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving as it will carry on cooking and be perfect.

 

 

Smoking

This is my favourite way to prepare and eat them.

Plunge them live into boiling water for 3 – 4 mins – you just want to kill them.

Pre heat your smoker to 200F

Cut up the top of the lobster tail with a pair of scissors and put some cracks in the claws.

Stuff with a few spoonful’s of butter studded with chilli and coriander or garlic and parsley.

Lay some foil on the racks in the smoker and place your butter-stuffed lobsters in there. Add some wood chips to the coals (I like using apple wood for this task as it is mild enough not to mask the flavour but still adds that smoky wonder.)

Smoke for 40 mins. Serve with any buttery lobster juice caught on the foil poured back over the lobster.

 

Stock

The shell contains an amazing amount of flavour and should never be just chucked away. Place them in a large pot filed with cold water and bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 40 mins then strain.

Reduce this to get your intense lobster stock. NOTE if you boil the stock with the shells in for too long it becomes bitter.

 

To BBQ ; get your BBQ to a high to medium heat and make sure the grills are clean. Prepare a flavoured butter such as chilli and lime or garlic and parsley.

Crack the live lobster in half by cutting down through the shell head first then along the tail – they do not feel pain in the same way we do so try not to feel bad while it gives you the evil eye.

Remove the claws and place them on the BBQ for 4 – 5 mins then place the split tail on flesh side down and cook for 3 mins each side. It will go translucent each side.

 

 

 

Next stop

 

Marloes, Wales…

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Recipe | Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Food fit for a …

You don’t walk in Washington DC, you power strut. Well that was my conclusion after the first couple of hours there. In all my travels I have never seen so many dashing three-piece suits, secret service police (helpfully labelled with ‘secret service’ on their jacket) and impressive museums, galleries and exhibitions. I admit my reason for power strutting was usually to make my next restaurant booking but it was fun to join in with the vibe.

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The city has been home to 43 different presidents (although Obama is the 44th president, Grover Cleveland was elected on non consecutive terms so is counted twice). In-between running the free world, working on international relations and dealing with political scandal, they of course all had to eat and being president generally means you get to indulge in your peculiarities and preferences.

I can not tell a lie but George Washington, the first of them did not cut down his fathers cherry tree as was popularly believed, he did however love a cherry pie.

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Thomas Jefferson was what we would call today a ‘foodie’. When he travelled he wrote intricate notes and would bring back pieces of kit like waffle irons from Amsterdam and have staff bring him back what was then exotic ingredients such as Parmesan from Italy and figs from Marseilles. He would also keep charts of what was in season and no doubt if instagram had existed would have been snapping his daily dinner.

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Abraham Lincoln according to records held outrageously elaborate banquets although himself was a very plain and disinterested eater but had a soft spot for apples and large quantities of coffee.

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Physicians had to be called in and the staff trained in studying Woodrow Wilson’s diet as there was great worry at his lack of weight. He did however love home made strawberry ice cream and charlotte rousse BUT bizarrely was also keen on having two raw eggs in grapefruit juice for breakfast, an idea I wont be trying on any clients soon.

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Calvin Coolidge was adamant chickens were only tasty if they lived next to the kitchen door, so had them directly outside the backdoor of the White House. The meat had a rather unusual fragrant quality which was eventually explained by realising the coup had been placed directly where Teddy Roosevelt’s had had his mint garden.

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Herbert Hoover and his wife were very lavish and never worried about food costs or seasonality just providing it was the best. He was keen on lobster so would have loved my recent dinners in Boston!

Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor were rather rebellious and were noted for serving hot dogs to our HRH for lunch on one visit. This is pretty cool but what I love even more is that they were so fond of doughnuts they even had them for breakfast. Not partially healthy but if you cant have what you want when you are president – when can you?

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Harry Truman and wife were not fussy and staff noted very affable when it came to dining but she was keen to up the standards of cooking so bought in some new top chefs into the kitchens.

At the time Julia Child was hitting the screens, JFK was in power and America was embracing French cuisine. It is not clear if the man himself was keen in this trend but we do know he always wanted soup for lunch and inevitably had to be reminded to eat at dinnertime as was so engrossed in his work.

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Nixon got the USA obsessed with Meatloaf (the food not the band) as his wife would make it once a month for the family. Peeked with curiosity the public were keen to have the recipe for themselves and so the office printed a stash of thousands to hand out on official White House paper.

George Herbert Walker Bush hated broccoli and was bold enough to publically admit this, much to the outrage of broccoli farmers who then sent 10 tons of the stuff to DC (this was then used to feed the needy).

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In more recent times we have had Bill Clinton who is allergic to milk and chocolate but loves fast food, George W Bush who is not practically interested in food but has a soft spot for pretzels.

Then there is president Barack Obama who is said to be keen on burgers, hot dogs and generally American style food. He did once answer when asked what was his favourite food say broccoli but it is not clear how true this is. . Michelle Obama is heavily involved in the campaign to reduce obesity in children and has planted a vegetable garden at the white house, which I hope is nowhere near the helipad.

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And the next president? Well we shall have to wait and see but I would be greatly surprised if they didn’t enjoy this postcard recipe of these very American chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies

For me a cookie should have a crunch on the outside and be chewy in the

Middle, this recipe when cooked right gives you exactly that. You can use

different flavoured chocolate like, chilli, orange or mint depending on your

 225 g room temperature salted butter


200 g granulated sugar


220 g soft brown sugar


2 large free range eggs


10 ml vanilla extract


375 g plain flour


5 g bicarbonate of soda


10 ml hot water

2 tbs cocoa powder


300 g chocolate cut into small pieces

 

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F /175 °C degrees

Beat the butters and sugar till smooth.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix the bicarb and hot water then add to the batter.

Add the flour and coco powder and briefly mix in.

Finally add the chocolate chips

 Line a baking tray with baking parchment then drop large spoonful’s onto

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are just browned.

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Next postcard is from back in Boston…

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Recipe |Beer Can Chicken

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 So, what came first?

Well in this case it would definitely be the egg as the chicken would be rather half – cut and not much good for anything.

 

2015-07-15_0001 (This bird is also called Philippa, though she has her wings clipped). 

I must say I have had a rather informative week, perhaps due to the learned Harvard air that spreads its way through the Boston area.

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Firstly Hydrangeas  – those big blousy blue/pink / white flowers, that seem to flourish here on the East Coast and make seriously impressive flower displays.  They are however prone to wilting if you don’t treat them correctly.  Here is what I learnt to help make them last:

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Cut the fresh flowers and place the stems immediately into water – take a water filled vase (doesn’t have to be your Ming one) or bucket into the garden with you.

Cut to the length you want for your vase display.

Immerse the bottom of the stems in 3 inches of just boiled water for 30 secs then place in display vase half filled with room temperature water.

This really does work and as I heard quoted by one guest  “makes them look like they are on steroids! “.

My second revelation is about eggs.

2015-07-15_0007 The centre picture is of grilled eggplant with smoked tomato, chilli, sherry vinegar, anchovy and coriander dressing  – my new favourite side. 

We have many major differences from the North Americans: they say To-may-to, we say Tomato, we order oysters and they order ‘ersters’, they keep their eggs in the fridge and we… well don’t.

This is because we have different ways of dealing with Salmonella, the bacteria that can cause food poising.  Salmonella can occur inside and outside the egg.  Back in the UK we mostly vaccinate the chickens against it so anything stamped with a red lion should not have it.  We also have now banned battery farming so the eggs are generally laid in a cleaner environment and are at less risk from contamination.

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In the States they do not vaccinate against Salmonella and all eggs are washed before being packed and sold.  Washing the egg unfortunately removes the natural protective coating, which helps keep oxygen and water levels steady inside and helps keep bacteria out.  Having removed this layer they need to keep the eggs in the fridge to help slow down the growth of any harmful bacteria.  Some suppliers do try and recoat them with a layer of oil and a spritz of chlorine but it is generally thought that they should be kept cold.

High horse bit  – None of this should cause alarm but it should be a huge reminder about the importance of buying well  – knowing where your food comes from and the importance of knowing what processes it goes through before reaching your table.  What you should be worried about is Molasses.

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Well that’s if you were a Bostoanian dweller back in January 1919 when a huge tank holding 2.3 million gallons of it burst.  Waves of the liquid as high as 7.6 meters swept through Boston’s North End ,  21 people came to a sticky end and 150 were injured as well as it knocking down houses and causing serious damage to the railroad.  It was, as you can imagine, a rather awkward mess to clean up as volunteers and workers couldn’t help but spread the molasses over the city on their shoes, hands and clothes as they tried to clean it up.

Finally this week, having spent much time cooking outside I found out tomatoes and avocadoes work really well and are totally delicious when BBQ’ed .

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 This week

Lobsters dispatched: 21

Presents received form fisherman: 8 sea snails (I confess I’ve had more endearing gifts, but they caused amusement)

New tricks learnt: 3

I’m reading: Poems by H.W. Longfellow

Every home should have: lobster traps

 

 

Beer Can Chicken

 If you are going to slow cook or smoke chicken you need to brine it first to help keep it moist.  I had read from others that although they had achieved good results from making ‘beer can chicken’ there were many comments that  they  couldn’t taste the beer.    So I thought , as I was going down the boozy route  I would slosh some beer into the brine too.  It totally worked. 

I served my chicken with flat breads and a grilled avocado salad with a coriander and chilli salsa., totally delicious, especially served with some chilled local Ipswich Pale Ale.

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Ingredients

You will need:

 A BBQ with a lid or a smoker

A thermometer

 

1 chicken weighing roughly 1 kilo  / 2 lb

 

Brine

330ml water

225 g fine sea salt

150g Brown sugar

4 tbs molasses

10 bay leaves

2 tbs peppercorns

355 ml beer

1 x 355ml can of beer

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Method

Bring the water to the boil in a large pan, once boiled take off the heat and add the rest of the brine  ingredients apart from the beer. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolved then add the beer.

 

Leave to cool then immerse the chicken in the brine.

Place in the fridge for 7   – 15 hours ( no more or the chicken becomes slightly too salty).

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Light your smoker or BBQ and heat to 230 F  / 110 °C  (If using a BBQ put the coals to one side of the dish).

Open a can of beer ( I used a tin opener and carefully removed the lid), drink half then place the can on a rack above the heat.  (If using the BBQ place the can on the other side to the coals )

Sit the chicken on top of the beer can (try not to laugh) and close the lid.

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Cook for 3  – 4 hours , keeping the internal temperature at about 230 F / 110 °C.

Add more coals and adjust the vents as needed  (opening them increases the temperature and closing them lowers the temperature.) 

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Once cooked , the internal meat temperature should be 170 F  / 76° C,  leave to rest for 20 mins then carve and serve.

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Next stop,

Washington DC, so lobsters you can sleep safe…for a few days.

 

 

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Recipe | Smoked prawn with avocado crostini

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Prawn on the Fourth of July

If you think the British are obsessed by the weather you should talk to a Bostonian. Throughout the year they get it all from heavy snow, storms and high winds to bright blue skies and sunshine. I guess  as lots of people are boat and or fish orientated it’s natural the weather will be of constant interest.

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‘People say that if you don’t love America, then get the h**l out, well I love America!’ (Tom Cruise and Philippa Davis)

I arrived to dark skies, rain and in need of a jumper. I could have stayed in Blighty for this, I thought, but with everyone cheerful the sun would come out tomorrow, I settled into my new home for the next few weeks.   The next day… oh boy did the sun come out and then set with the most theatrical display.

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The first big party we held was July 4th celebrations; we had 35 adults and about a dozen kids coming. I decided to tone down my English accent for the day, though I did sneak in a very English dessert of Eton mess into the menu. For mains, as its all about lobster here, we decided on roasting 37 of them and smoking 20 lb of baby back (pork) ribs. It was truly a veritable feast!

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The party was a wild success with kids and adults all tucking into the sweet buttery crustaceans and getting messy with the ribs. Desserts were practically all demolished (haha!) and at around 10 the fireworks of Boston and the surrounding towns started popping up into the sky. To go with this, the amazing Boston Pops orchestra broadcasts live with a program including the Indiana Jones theme tune, the 1812 and of course Stars and Stripes. We thought the party might wind down post fire works but there was a sudden second wind and the left over ribs got raided from the fridge and were totally scoffed.

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With the ribs taken care of the only thing I still had to deal with was the left over lobster. Last time I got my hand on this many I made enough stock to fill a bathtub, though frankly it wasn’t totally to my liking. This year, having picked off the last of the lobster meat with some help from half a team of Ivy League Football players ;) I gathered my buckets of shells and had another go. The trick is to bring the stock to a boil with the shells in, cook for 30 – 40 mins, strain it and then reduce the stock down. If you leave the shells in too long the stock goes very bitter. The stock was/ is delicious (I have 20 litres to use up) so I am planning lots of lobster flavoured soups, bisques, paellas and risottos. That or a fishy bath.

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On a none food note I watched my first cherry stone spitting competition and putting it politely I couldn’t quite believe the diversity of peoples ability. As soon as I got home I grabbed a bowl of cherries and headed to the bottom of the garden to try it for myself, turns out, I have a new skill.

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This week

Lobsters massacred: 52

‘Have a nice days’ I have been wished : 31

Cherry stone distance personally spat : 5.5m

I’m reading: The Lobster, Guillaume Lecasble

4am texts from my least/most favourite sister who keeps forgetting I’m in a different time zone: 5

 

 

Smoked prawn with avocado and chilli crostini.

 Its hard not to get obsessed about smoking, the results are delicious but there is something primal and wildly rewarding in the skill it takes to get it right. From making ones own salt rubs and bbq sauces to taming the heat and perfecting the amount of smoke.

So for this postcard recipe I will share with you one of my new favourite foods to smoke – prawns.

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We served this as an ‘appetiser’ on July 4th.

You will need a smoker, lump wood charcoal, and wood chips like apple and hickory.

 

Makes 20 crostini

20 large raw peeled prawns

2 tbs olive oil

200g butter melted

 

Rub

4 tsp fine sea salt

3 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

 

Avocado

2 ripe avocados

1 small clove garlic

2 tbs olive oil

2 tsp chopped green chilli

juice from 1 lime

2 tbs. chopped coriander

 

To serve

1 loaf ciabatta

Extra sprigs of coriander

Squeeze of extra lime juice.

 

Mix the prawns with the olive oil

Mix the rub ingredients together then toss through the prawns with 2 tbs olive oil, leave for 30 mins.

 

Meanwhile light your smoker and get it to reach 200 °F

 

Once at temperature, lay a large piece of foil shiny side down, tip on the prawns (discarding any juice that may come out of them) then pour over the melted butter. Add your chips to the coals and close the lid. Smoke for 30 – 40 mins , they should be cooked and smokey.

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You can eat then warm or leave them to cool.

 

To make the avocado spread,

Peel and de-stone the avocado and roughly chop, add the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

 

To serve toast the ciabatta, smear with the avocado mix and top with a smoked prawn. Squeeze over a little extra lime and garnish with a leaf of coriander

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Next week, unfortunately for the lobsters, I’m sticking around…

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Recipe | Slow cooked lamb in whisky with saffron and bay potatoes

whisk

Far from the Madding Crowd…

Well actually it was the complete opposite as last week went a bit like this…

Sorry? Philippa who??
My Edinburgh chef friends might have wished they said when they got the call.
“I need to you to come and help on a job… You will? Lovely! Meet me Sunday at 09:11 under the clock at Waverley station. Bring raincoats, sun cream, and midge spray. Oh and get plenty of rest…”

Our mission was to cook feast after feast for a large group of young revellers having a 4 day party in the Highlands. Our train journey up was spent checking through lists and finalising our battle plan. We needed to leap into action as soon as we had arrived in order to stay on top of our task. I had spent the week before tapping furiously at a calculator working out how much food to order and giving the execution orders on various beasts from a local farm. The on-site front of house team and organisers were primed and ready for our arrival.

The first evening was spent serving a supper for 20 and prepping for the next day: a BBQ for 50, afternoon tea for 90 and dinner for 100. The BBQ was to take place out in the wilds, so there was carful packing, double checking lists and lots of prep. It was a late (but jolly) night and we only briefly came unstuck after midnight when I gave each of us a flavoured jelly to make and we all had to do the relevant conversions. It turned into one of those mind boggling maths exam questions along the lines of: If Jenny had 2 pints of sloe gin that she wanted to set into jelly at a 45 % stronger ratio than Peter but could only use gelatine sheets that were 67 % the normal size what would her recipe be? The situation soon turned into every chef for themselves and we all made our part of the 100 jelly boat armada and filled our eclectic mix of jelly moulds.
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Day 2 started early with final prep and packing for the BBQ for 50 (after we had all individually made casual but hasty bee-lines to the fridge to check each of our jellies had set). They all had, so we fully turned our attention to the mission of heading out into the wilds to become free-range chefs and cook the BBQ.

 

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Fuelled by the fresh air nothing could stop us getting ready for the arrival of the guests. Not the deep fast flowing river we had to cross, not the hills we had to climb or the rain we had to battle against when trying to light the coals. At 1 o’clock we had the first set of vegetable kebabs nicely charring over the coals, the venison burgers were ready to grill and the jugs of Pimms were all set to pour. The guests arrived just as the sun passed the yardarm, a sound system of moderately load music was switched on and the eating began.

Day 2 part 2 started and ended in tidying up lunch and setting out an afternoon tea of smoked salmon blini, venison sausage rolls and 90 rice crispy cakes (only 10 of which made it back). The chefs then dashed back over moor, mountain and river to the kitchen to finish off prep for that nights dinner for 100.

The menu read as follows:

Slow cooked lamb in Whisky with salsa verde
Baked wild salmon with lemon butter
Cyprus potatoes cooked in white wine and saffron
Puy lentils with asparagus, broad beans and peas.
Green salad with garlic chilli broccoli

Dessert
Jelly and Ice cream table
Salted caramel ice cream
Chocolate ice cream
Pineapple and rum sorbet
100 jelly boats, sloe gin and raspberry, lime and ginger and elderflower
Eton mess

The diner was to take place in a beautiful teepee tent with a makeshift (but nifty) kitchen attached. It was only a short drive away from our base camp and conventional kitchen we so we did as much prep and cooking as we could before loading up the trusty Landover (again) and heading over. The stunningly dressed guests all spilled into the marquee pretty much on time and the next set of feasting began.

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As soon as dinner was over the music got pumped up and some serious dancing began. Us chefs headed back to start the next task of making a 2 am sustenance pizza drop. We returned to the party around 1am and it wasn’t long before we had several visitors storming the kitchen drawn by the smell of our slow cooked tomato sauce and the first wafts of melting mozzarella .
Pizza !!! The word had got out and we had to hold off the baying dance floor until we had our first few trays ready.

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Having satisfied the crowd we left them to it while we headed back to base to catch a few hours kip before the big breakfast.
Day 3 … With the buoyancy of youth the revellers where bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for breakfast by 11am. Sausages, crispy bacon, fried eggs and home made baked beans were gratefully wolfed down back in the teepee tent that had magically been whipped back into shape by the  morning fairies and although the dress code of the crowd had somewhat changed, spirits were still high.

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Day 3 part 2 was to be Curry Night for 30 so once breakfast had been polished off we headed back to the kitchen so we could delve into the spice racks to make our Thai prawn curries, chicken kormas, Bombay potatoes and saffron rice.

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Every one was ready for a relatively early night however they still managed to summon the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy the desserts of chocolate and praline torte, ice cream and the spare text-book wobbly jelly.

Day 4, the grande finale was a brunch. Platters of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and brown toast and stacks of American style blueberry and banana pancakes with jugs of warmed maple syrup and double cream.

Then that was that, party over.

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This Week:

Alcohol cooked with: 6 bottles white, 2 bottles red, 3 bottles whisky, 3 bottles fino, 1 bottle sloe gin, ¼ brandy.
Every home should have: a river crossing.
Clothes are out, glitter paint is in.
Sleeping : is not an option
Its all about : 2 am pizza sessions.

Slow cooked lamb in whisky and rosemary with potatoes cooked in saffron, bay and white.

Assuming you probably wont want this recipe for 100 I have scaled down the portions. It is however great for a large gathering as is great to make in advance, easy to serve to a crowd and most importantly is super delicious. As it is a rich dish it works well served with an an acidic side salad (dressed with balsamic or sherry vinegar dressing) and works perfectly with a salsa verde. When slow cooking food with alcohol I often add an extra splash in just before serving to lift the flavour and give it a final punch.
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Serves 6 – 10
1 large lamb shoulder
3 tbs. olive oil
4 red onions
1 head garlic
40g rosemary
40g thyme
400ml bottle whisky
½ bottle white wine

Pre heat the oven to 200°C.
1)Season the lamb with salt and pepper and rub all over with about 3 tbs. olive oil.
2)Peel and chop the onions and garlic into thin slices and lay in a big roasting dish.
3)Take the rosemary and thyme off the stalks and put ¼ of it aside.
Finely chop the other ¾ and scatter over the onions.
4)Lay the lamb on top and roast in the oven for 20mins, (it should start to be turning golden).
5)Remove from the oven, pour on all the wine, 1 pint water and 300 ml whisky.
Cover with baking paper then seal the dish with foil.
Turn the oven down to 160° and cook for 3 -4 hours or until the lamb easily shreds off the bone.
6)Once cooked remove the paper and foil and leave to cool slightly.
Once cool enough to handle shred the lamb in chunks discarding the bones. Add the rest of the whisky and check the seasoning.
It is now ready to be served or can be cooled and refrigerated for another day.
To serve finely chop the remaining herbs and sprinkle on top serve with the saffron potatoes, a vinegary salad and salsa verde.

Potatoes cooked in saffron, white wine and bay.
These potatoes are very pretty and make a great side dish as are so delicious and keep their heat really well, which is perfect for serving a crowd.

Serves 10
400ml olive oil
3 white onions, peeled and diced into 2 cm squares
10 gloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half
6 green peppers (I used a mix of green, red and yellow) deseeded and cut into 2 cm squares
15 bay leaves
2 kilo potatoes ( Cyprus are fantastic as have lots of flavour and hold their shape but otherwise other waxy varieties will work)
½ bottle white wine

1 heaped teaspoon of saffron mixed with 200ml just boiled water left to infuse for at least 10 mins

1)Wash and ¼ cut the potatoes lengthways.
2)Pour the oil into a big pan and add the onions, peppers, garlic and bay.
Sauté for 10 – 15 minutes until starting to soften.
3)Add the chopped potatoes and white wine.
Season with salt and pepper then cook on a low heat with a lid on, gently stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through ( about 20 – 30 mins).
4)Once cooked stir through the saffron water and check the seasoning.

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Next time ….

Well with the job successfully accomplished the A team can now part their ways; I’m packing my summer suitcase and heading to the East Coast, State side.

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Recipe |Scones

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Appointment with Devon

 This week I’m using my ‘little grey cells’ with my trusted chef friend from Devon to solve a West Country problem, but first….

  It is once again the foodie world equivalent of the Oscars (though probably involving shorter heels and less double-sided sticky tape) and voting will soon close for the annual Observer Food monthly awards.

I would be delighted if you would like to nominate Philippa Davis postcard recipes into their ‘Best Food Blog’ category.

Nominations can be made by following this link   

http://www.theguardian.com/observer-food-monthly-awards/ng-interactive/2015/apr/09/observer-food-monthly-awards-2015-voting-form

Voting closes 30th June.

A huge thanks and appreciation for you support,

Philippa x

 

And now….

 Having successfully painted the Emerald Isle red, I moved on to give the West Country a turn.  Steaming through the rural landscapes I arrived in Devon with pearls and twinsets at the ready, home to Agatha Christie and supposedly cream teas.

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 On the wild off-chance that you are unsure of what a cream tea might consist of, by my standards its scones (freshly baked unless you want raised eyebrows), clotted cream, strawberry jam and naturally lashings of tea.  Our problem was which should be applied to the scone first, the cream or the jam ? So with Poirot and Hastings like dedication, we set about our task.

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For something so charming as a cream tea there is actually a dark undercurrent of controversy. There have been bickering’s, petitions and strong words exchanged as to where it originates from and so who can actually lay claim to being the true home of this afternoon treat. We did a bit of research and with Devon and Cornwall being the main contenders (and my affections lying in Dorset) I’m not going to get too concerned and am going with it’s ‘a West Country thing’.

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Scones themselves most likely originate from Ireland so no points to either county there. Clotted cream was most likely bought over from what’s now Lebanon and Syria to Cornwall in approximately 500BC by the Phoenicians who where in search of tin.  The recipe was given in part exchange for the metal (an excellent trade I think) and so again neither county edges into the lead.

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Moving onto the practical side we both made a batch of scones. ‘Hastings’ with her heirloom Devon secret list of ingredients that produced a super rise and me with my recipe that although I am unsure of its origins has faithfully helped me produce over18,000 of the little fluffy light morsels over the last 6 years (I’m not exaggerating and got my Ph.D. maths friend to check my figures).

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  Luckily for our friendship it was not the best scone recipe which was in dispute. The real contention we were focusing on was  how to assemble the scone once made.

In Devon they like to slather the scone with cream then top with jam but in Cornwall they insist on doing it the other way round.

We diligently tried both and after much tasting, considerations, note making and debate I concluded….who cares!? As long as its piled high with both it’s totally delicious.

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 My Devon friend tried to be a little more opinionated and swayed to her county ways of doing things but I did notice whilst my back was turned ‘the incredible theft’ happened and the Cornish style one disappeared with only a scattering of crumbs remaining.

 I will happily leave you to dictate how you assemble your scone but for this postcard I give you my scone recipe.

 This Week

I would love: you to vote for Philippa Davis postcard recipes as the Best Food Blog in the Observer Food monthly VOTE 

Every good West Country home should have: clotted cream and strawberry jam at the ready.

Scones eaten: too embarrassed to say.

Mysteries solved: 0 (I know, Agatha would have been disappointed).

Modes of transport :Sea Tractors, boats, trains, Flybe flights and a nanny wagon.

 

Scones

Scones should be eaten on the day of making which should not be a problem as they generally disappear within minutes…

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(Make approx 6)

8 oz Self raising flour plus a little extra for rolling)

1 tsp. baking powder

2 oz caster sugar

2 oz cold butter

110ml cold milk plus 1 tbs.

 

To serve clotted cream (Rhodas from Cornwall is my favorite), strawberry jam and loose leaf tea in a cup and saucer.

 

Pre heat the oven to 190° C

In a bowl briefly whisk the flour with the baking powder and sugar.

Grate in the butter using the large side of a grater.

Mix in using our fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Pour in the milk and bring together into a ball (you can add a splash more milk if needs but DO NOT over handle the dough).

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the scone to 2 cm thick.

Cut them out and place them on a baking sheet so almost touching and lightly brush with milk.

Bake for 10 mins or until risen and slightly golden

Once cooked leave to cool for a couple of minutes then split open horizontally and slather with clotted cream and strawberry jam in which ever order you see fit.

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 Tips

To help your scones give an even rise;

1)   Dip your cutter in between each scone into a little bowl of flour, this prevents sticking and gives a more even rise.

2)   Do not twist your cutter, plunge straight down and up – this again helps with an even rise.

3)   The scones seem to form a better shape if once cut you turn them upside down on the baking tray before cooking.

4)   Cut your scones close together to get the most out of your dough without having to re roll and over handle it.

 

 

Next I’m heading off to cook for a 4 day party extravaganza for 100 revellers….

 

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Recipe |Horseradish Sauce

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Fishing for condiments

There were members of my second group of jolly fishermen and women (‘fisherpersons’ is probably the PC way forward here) who have been making their 7 hour trip north to the River Findhorn in the Highlands for over 60 years.   Their secret to a successful week of fishing is to stop off on the way and throw a wee dram in the river and obviously have one themselves. Does it work…?

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Well on return to the lodge a victory toot would be sounded if bringing back a salmon.  There were 8 that week – one of them signaling the catch of a magnificent 11 lb. salmon, so the whisky clearly did its magic.

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Having done the week enough times the group had a slick routine and knew a thing or two about fishing. One of the founding members of the group told me how they always took all their salmon home frozen and my face must  have dramatically fell as he came back later that night after a roast pork dinner with,

“The group wondered if you would like to cook one of the salmon for us?”

“Yes !” I said, probably too quickly.

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As per my mantra I cooked the wild salmon simply, pan fried achieving a crispy skin and served with some herby mustard lentils and roasted fennel.  The guests loved it and all piled into the kitchen afterwards agreeing that fresh salmon (as supposed to have having it frozen then defrosted) really was spectacular.

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They then enquired if I myself fished.  Teasingly, I mumbled something about not really being sure if trying to stand in a chilly fast flowing river where I may or may not catch a salmon or even old trout  was my idea of an entertaining day.

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Their jaws dropped and then they lurched into lyrical enthusiastic speeches about the joys of fishing (that got them to bite like a trout on a mayfly I giggled to myself). Within minutes I admitted I was won over and could see by their love and their energy for the subject that it was indeed a sport of skill and even thrill.

You have to read the river, the weather and what you think the salmon might be up to that day all while abiding by certain etiquette.

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Some types of hooks, like sharp spinners, and all live bait are banned as are deemed unsporting.   Once you have chosen the appropriate fly there is the casting bit where you throw your line onto the river trying to gently place it so it sweeps across the river near to where you think a salmon may be lurking. This is done hundreds of times a day and takes many a year to master.

If you are lucky / skilled enough to get a salmon to bite you then have to ‘play’ it, which means attempting to keep it on your line whilst battling the river and the fish until one of you gives up.  This can last around 15 minutes or more.  If you are planning on returning the fish, remembering there is a 70 % return policy to keep stocks healthy, you must think about where to land the fish (grassy banks are much less harmful than stony areas) and that ideally you will use a net to bring it in.

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The thrill naturally is the achievement of bringing one back which  I can easily see the appeal in.  There really is nothing like the taste of the firm orangey pink flesh of a wild salmon. Though if you want to try one yourself, as it is illegal to buy the Wild Scottish river caught ones, it means if you have  befriend a successful fisherman, or go try it for yourself.

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Fishermans Chef

This week;

Every home should have: a selection of tweed caps

Instagram ‘Likes’ results for cute puppies vs. tofu: 89% landslide victory for …puppies  (Instagram phollowphilippa).

I’m driving: a Land Rover Defender (which has a fun GI Jane effect).

Breakfast bacon eaten: 233 rashers

I learnt : Fishing is fun.

I’m obsessed with :cardamom

I’m reading : Tatler

You should read: my Battle of Waterloo inspired recipes in The Field magazine.

 

Horseradish sauce

 After these few weeks of seeing lots of salmon I still stand firm and believe when cooking it do as little possible.  So for this postcard recipe I will give you the recipe for fresh horseradish sauce, which makes and excellent condiment with simple pan-fried salmon and of course a slab of roast beef!

 

200ml double cream

300ml yogurt

1 tsp. Dijon

1 tsp. sugar

Juice from ½ lemon

1 tbs. white wine vinegar

Sprinkle of salt

100 – 300g of horseradish

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Fresh horseradish can vary greatly in heat, use the graph below to see how much to use (though probably best is the taste test).

 

Crying after (Minutes) Horseradish (g) 
1 100g
3 -5 200g
7 + The whole stick

 

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Lightly whip the cream.

Stir in the yogurt, Dijon, sugar, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt.

Peel the dark skin from the horseradish then finely grate.

Add immediately to the cream mixture and stir.

Taste to check balance.

It is worth leaving for 20 mins. and then tasting, as the flavours will develop.

Serve with beef or best of all a piece of wild salmon.

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It was certainly an exciting few weeks and I confess the geek like excitement of getting to cook wild salmon next to the river it was caught on has still not worn of. Now, having had more than my share of fresh air, I have packed my bags and am headed for the fair city of Dublin…

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | BBQ wild salmon with grilled baby gem and salsa verde

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Quite the catch…

This week I headed to the Scottish Highlands to cook for a salmon fishing week on the River Findhorn, lots of big breakfasts, afternoon teas, help yourself suppers and best of all bbq s by the river …

“Oh, its easy to find, you cant miss it !” My client called from the Landy Defender as they headed off to the river.

So I jammed the trusty old Range Rover to the brim with boxes, bags of charcoal and food supplies and headed to the ‘middle beat fishing hut’ wherever it may be (for you non -fishing folks a ‘beat’ is a part of a river you fish). On the upside I knew the that it was going to be by the river, what worried me was getting lost in part of the 70 000 acres of estate I had to drive through to get there and then possibly not being found till the grouse season started in August…

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I found the hut (fear not, I am not posting this from the wilderness) unloaded the kit, laid the table, set up my outdoor kitchen and fired up the bbq. As I was in Scotland it of course started raining as soon as I had struck my first match, it then got a little windy and then to my delight/relief the sun came out.

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On the first few days nothing was caught so I ended up cooking lots of meat on the coals; chicken marinated in thyme and lemon, pigeon with zataar and lime , Gressingham duck breasts with just with a sprinkling of salt. All delicious but no fish!

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On day three spirits were still high amongst the group, despite the changeable weather and lack of salmon. I began to feel I was more keen for them to catch one then they were, I even briefly considered going on strike until they had but then   with the intervention of St Peter, the skill of the fisherman and with help from the ghillie ( a knowledgeable attendant to the fisherman) the group triumphantly bought back that night to the kitchen two silver beauties.

Hello tomorrow’s lunch!

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Wild Scottish salmon really are quite extraordinary creatures and have the most challenging of lives and seemingly endless name changes. They start as one of around 7000 eggs laid by the ‘hen’ salmon deep in river bed gravel. 90 % of these generally survive and once hatched they are then called Alevins. Born with their own pack lunch (a yolk sack) they lurk in the gravel for a few weeks then once ready start to fend for themselves. Sadly with limited feeding grounds and a lot of competition at this point only about 10% make it to the next stage.

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The fighting few that survive (now called ‘ Parr’) spend a year or two in the river but with threats of summer droughts and / or floods they still haven’t hit easy street. After a couple of years, come spring time some of the larger fish that have made it start drifting out towards the sea and you guessed it they change their name once more and now answer to ‘Smolt’. The smolts travel in shoals and as they reach the estuary they are often picked off by predators or fall victim to human pollution.

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Those that make it to the sea for their first winter are obviously not called salmon as that would make it far to easy, no they are called Grilse. Our British Grilse can be found anywhere from Faroes to Greenland so its no wonder they build up an appetite and can double in size.   The 10 % that survive their sea voyage then start to swim back to the river (cleverly very close to where they hatched as eggs) in order to do some breeding of their own and are called….Salmon !

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Spawning generally takes place from October to January. Once back in the river the fish do not eat at all and they start to loose their knight like silver and develop a colourful breeding dress (pinks and red ARE the new silver for these guys). Once a fish has spawned its called a kelt (come on keep up!) they look really thin and are not allowed to be taken from the river.

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If the salmon survives all this (though few do) it will head back out to sea and bravely attempt the same routine again the next year.

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As you can imagine with this precarious lifestyle their numbers are not huge so, as like with many country pursuits, there is much etiquette and rules to abide by which I shall delve into in my next postcard.

 This week;

Salmon caught: x 2 , a 8 lb and 9 lb

Salmon released: x 3

Pears eaten : 45

Puppies on lap helping to drive: 2 cocker spaniels

I’m reading ; The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Transport : Range Rover, Kia estate (zippier than you think), Fly B airplane, Airport bus ( with an unusually cheerful driver).

 

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Bbq salmon with grilled lettuce and salsa verde.

 A few years back I cooked for a fishing week (but much further up north) when they came back with their first salmon the triumphant fisherman reluctantly handed it over to me.

“Please don’t do too much to it..”

they then proceeded to hover around the stove while I prepared supper.

I totally agree that when the salmon is this good very little should be done, some heat and a wedge of lemon at most. I also think when its really good it works best served ‘medium rare’ so if you are lucky enough to get some wild salmon don’t be too keen to cook it completely through.

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Prepare the bbq so its hot , the coals have gone grey and the grills are clean.

 

Grilled salmon

Salmon, allow about 200g of salmon per portion

Maldon Salt

Olive oil

Lemon

Check the salmon has been properly descaled and that any bones have been removed ( a pair of tweezers works perfectly for this job).

Season with a pinch of salt and brush lightly with olive oil (salmon is naturally fatty son doesn’t need to much cooking fat)

Grill skin side down first and only turn once the skin lifts off the grill.

Best served medium rare and by the river it was caught from!

 

Grilled lettuce and hallumi

You can try grilling most lettuce but for this lunch I used baby gem (frisse, romaine, iceberg and even rocket – when kept on its root also work well).

 

Baby gem, allow ½ per person

Salt

Olive oil

Lemon

Pinch of red chilli flakes

 

Wash and dry the lettuce,

Cut in half and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil

On a hot grill cook on all sides till slightly blackened and starting to wilt (a couple of minutes)

Remove from the heat and serve warm with a squeeze over some lemon and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

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Salsa verde

I really think this is the best sauce with this fish as the tangy acidity pairs particularity well with the fatty rich salmon.

 

1 big bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 30g ) washed and dried

1 tbs. tiny capers from brine

5 salted anchovies fillets, rinsed and bones removed

2 tsp. mustard

5tbs Olive oil

Juice from half a lemon

 

Finely chop the parsley and pop into a bowl

Add the mustard, capers and anchovies and mix

Stir in the olive oil and finally the lemon and some pepper.

Check for seasoning but as anchovies and capers are salty it generally doesn’t need much.

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Having had much fun on the river all week, learnt a lot and bbq ed practically everything I can think of I have waved good bye to my clients I am now changing beats to cook for another fishing week but this time turning my attentions to packed lunches. For this postcard recipe I will share with you my bbq salmon lunch recipes.

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Recipe | Tips and tricks to perfect lamb chops and Quinoa salads

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School of wok…

Travelling East from the blossoming West Country towards the big smoke for my latest job my mind was speeding along faster than the train (although admittedly that’s not always difficult). The days ahead were really going to challenge me in different ways and my skills and knowledge were to be put to the test…I was excited.

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Was I about to cook for a tyrannical tycoon using only ingredients beginning with the letter Q?…no.  Perhaps create an entirely aquamarine coloured menu for a stroppy model?…nope.  It wasn’t even to whip up lunch for 50 with only ingredients bought at Waterloo station. No, I had been commissioned to teach my client how to cook.

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I have done various classes before including cookery parties for kids where their main objective seems to be how much chocolate they can eat before I object and Christmas cookery demonstrations that inevitably end in festive cocktail making.

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In professional kitchens you are of course continuously learning and teaching and in my experience although knowledge and enthusiasm is essential, clarity is also important. I remember once a very busy lunchtime shift at the café I set up for the Mudchute city park and farm.  I yelled out at my new trainee to grab the box of broad beans from outside and shuck them.

He looked at me startled then seeing my stare scuttled off.  He came back 10 minutes later empty handed.

“Where are my broad beans?!’

“I chucked them… on the compost.”

He didn’t make the grade as a chef but you will be glad to know he did go on to be a rather successful actor.

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Teaching someone at home to cook is a lot more tranquil. My client was starting from scratch confessing never having cooked before.  I felt we had a head start as they were certainly knowledgeable about various foods and I had noticed the house was always stocked with top notch produce.

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The first session was how to cook various types of fish, including fried sea bass, seared scallops, cod En papillote and salmon. (I have lots of tips on cooking fish published in this months issue of The Field Magazine). We then moved onto cuts of meat including some spectacular lamb chops, slow cooked lamb shoulder, butterflied chicken and juicy rump steaks. We did a session on stir fries, soups and sauces and for our ‘grand finale’ we rustled up an entire lunch for a group of her friends.  The menu read as follows :

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 Baked side of salmon, with lemon and fennel

Served with a Salsa verde and a hot black olive and anchovy sauce.

 Tomato and hazelnut pesto with mozzarella and nectarines

 Quinoa salad with roasted courgette, lemon, avocado and herbs.

 Flourless chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream

 

The lunch was a great success and I was delighted my client, who swears they have never cooked before, knocked out plate after plate of delicious food.

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Job done, mortarboards tossed and (school)bags packed I am now heading on for the next job….

For this postcard recipe I will give you some tips on cooking lamb chops (as we agreed we totally nailed it) and a recipe on how to properly cook quinoa.

 

This week;

Gold stars given :5

Detentions : 0

I raised an eyebrow at: The price of meat from the local butcher.

Range rover to Porsche ratio spotted in W11:   5:1

I have had: My postcard recipe from Provence published in the American journal ‘The Cooks Cook’  and an article on a day in the life of a private chef (this can be found in the Cooks World Section).

The word is : Aquamarine IS the colour to be seen in.

 

For more snippets and photos of my week you can follow me on

Instagram @phollowphilippa

and

Twitter @phollowphilippa

 

Tips and tricks for cooking chops

My first job in London was at the amazing Lidgate butchers.  Amazing for many reasons  – the meat is renowned for quality and I know that any meat aspiring to be sold from their blocks has to endure vigorous scrutiny and have impressive credentials before being allowed even in the front door.  Its also amazing that it’s the kind of shop that passers by stop and peer in just to have a look at the old fashioned splendor from the meat displays to the quaint staff uniforms.    The price unfortunately is also quite amazing.

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 To cook a great lamb chop:

 When to buy lamb?

You can obviously buy it all year round but for those in the UK Spring lamb is great for its tenderness but as the animal hasn’t had much time on lush grass it can lack flavour.  I prefer to wait till summer when they have had time to graze and build up a more interesting taste.

 How to store your lamb.

If vac packed remove from the plastic as this draws out moisture and flavour and wrap instead in parchment.

Before cooking generally with meat you want to bring it to room temperature however if you like your lamb chop pink keep it in the fridge, this way you can cook it long enough to render the fat but the meat will still stay pink.

 Marinades

Marinades really only add a layer of flavour to the outside, start with a good piece of lamb and don’t always feel tempted to swamp it with too many spices and herbs.

 How to cook

Start cooking the chops by placing them on their edge fat side down in a cold frying pan  Turn the heat to low  / medium and slowly let the fat render (cook down) . If you start in a hot pan it is too easy to nicely colour the outside of the fat but still leave it pretty inedible.

Once you have rendered the fat, which can take about 7 minutes turn the heat up drain away the excess then sear both flat sides for about 1 ½ mins each.

If you only decide to take one piece of advice from this list let it be this one…

Once cooked, LET IT REST.  When you cook meat the fibres firm up and the water is pushed out, if you cut it immediately you are likely to lose a lot of this and end up with dry meat. Resting lets the juices redistribute and so keeps it moist and flavourful.

We served our with a cardamom and cumin roasted aubergine and a chilli mint yogurt.

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 Quinoa salad

Many would have you believe it has a delightful nutty taste (which it kind of does especially the darker coloured types) but I definitely think it is one of those ingredients that needs as much help as it can get or it is very boring.

 Despite the way we cook Quinia it is actually a seed and not a grain so great for those of you with wheat allergies wanting to bulk out your dishes.

Unusual for a vegetable it has all 9 amino acids and so is a balanced source of protein (great if you don’t eat meat). It also has a good dose of fibre and iron.

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To cook Quinoa

Rinse before cooking as it is naturally has a bitter coating to protect to from predators (many varieties available have been pre rinsed but it cant hurt to do it twice).

Simmer 1 part Quinoa with 2 parts cold liquid (either water, a light vegetable or chicken stock).

Cook for about 10  – 15 minutes or until just soft then drain.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes then fluff up with a fork.

Once cooked there is a huge choice of what you can add making it a great solution to using up odd bits of herbs, vegetables and fruit you may have lurking in your fridge.

We added

Roasted courgettes, avocado, mint, parsley, coriander, chilli, olive oil, fennel, radish, celery and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Other favourite additions include; pomegranates, cinnamon, cardamom, apple slices, dried cranberries, toasted nuts and seeds.

 

 Next stop…I’m off to the river Findhorn to cook for a salmon fishing party

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Receipe | Power balls

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Goodness, gracious, great balls of…. Power.

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I have had a very exciting (manic) week cooking for a fashion shoot involving  one of the worlds superest supermodels and one of the UK’s most fabulous designers. I had been called into action rather last minute so at double speed I whipped up some menus, started the ordering, booked my flights and began to pack.  With a couple of hours to go before leaving I get a call.

“Hi Philippa , is it possible to make a few changes to the menu….”?

“Sure,” says I “ What would you like “?

(flexibility and being uneasily flustered  is a must in my line of work).

“You know all the food has to be vegetarian..”?

“Yes, sure that’s no problem”

“…And can you make some vegan”?

“Sure”

“…and some sugar free”?

“….? Ok.”

“…and can you make some gluten/wheat free,  sugar free , chocolate vegan quinoa cookies”?

“Erm…..”

 

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This job was clearly going to be a fun challenge and very much involve up to date food trends and interests. Alarm bells began to ring as the location was rather remote and I imagined the local shop would not stock ingredients such as quinoa and goji berries. Time to call in some expert help to do a last minute emergency shop.

My mother, who is knowledgeable in these matters,  was happily eating her Sunday lunch until I bounced into the kitchen and kidnapped her to drag her to Waitrose.  Giving her a job brief on the way I instructed her to grab anything I may find useful for the week and humbly apologized for not listening closer when she had told me about all this stuff before.

I had never used half the things she was popping into the trolley; coconut oil, soy yogurts, these things called chai seeds (apparently they are all the rage) agave syrup (vegan sugar alternative), almond milk (who knew they had breasts?)…. I tell you I have never had such a trendy looking trolley. It was bizarrely exciting to think of the new possibilities ahead.

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Having done a fast pick in the local woods of tender wild garlic and knowing I had ordered enough other fruit and veg to start a market stall I felt in a good position to combat any requests that could arise during the week.

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With any job I like to have an arsenal of tricks up my sleeves, and particularly with fashion and film shoots there is an array of people to feed.  Members of the cast and crew are likely to sneak into the kitchen at any time hoping you have this or that. There is the more health conscious model, actors, designers, make up artists who crave healthy treats (like afore mentioned quinoa chocolate wheat free vegan cookies) and then there is the hard grafting runners, technicians and location managers who really need a big bowls of pasta and lumps of caramel chocolate to keep them going from dusk till dawn.  With many of the crew used to city life where you can get anything pretty much at any time it is always best for the catering department to be well prepared.

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So upon arrival first on the to do list was to make this stash of treats and snacks.  My mother had shouted at me before I dashed through airport security not to forget ‘it’s all about power balls!’ (yes, odd looks from fellow passengers did ensue).  For anyone who doesn’t know, they are healthy balls that can replace sweet treats made of nuts and dried fruit. They are sugar free, vegan friendly, paelo positive, and yet supposedly delicious…Ill be the judge of that I thought!

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It turns out that power balls are delicious (actually vegan chocolate quinoa cookies aren’t half bad either).  So I made a stash of each and waited in anticipation for someone to pop into the kitchen looking for something special…

 

Within 1 ½ hours of arrival the charming tailor came in

“Hi darling, don’t suppose you have any energy bars, we are starving!!”

“Well as a matter of fact,” I beamed “How about some power balls?”

‘Oh super!” he cried, grabbed a handful and dashed off back to the shoot.

The power balls were clearly a success as a runner was sent in for another handful only ½ hour later and I realised my mother was right, it is all about power balls.

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This week:

Fashion envy levels : High

(Surprisingly) delicious gluten/vegan treats made: 9

Bacon sandwiches requested and denied: 11

Bunches of herbs used :54

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Power balls

These are really are a tasty healthy treat and with no sugar, gluten or dairy they are basically guilt free…

 

The measurements are a rough guide as you will see when making them if they need more dry or wet ingredients.

 

Date, brazil nut and goji berries

250g dates ( with stone removed)

75g brazil nuts

75g whole blanched almonds

1 tbs  goji berries

50g desiccated coconut

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Soak the dates in boiling water for a couple of minutes till just soft. Drain well.

Blitz the nuts in a food processor till finely ground then place in a bowl

Blitz the drained dates till roughly a paste.

With your hands mix the dates with the almond and add the goji berries till you have a manageable “dough”.  Add more nuts or dates if necessary.

Shape into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and roll in the coconut.

Then they are ready to eat!

Store in a cool dry place in a sealed container.

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This recipe has huge possibilities so once you get the hang of them try different ingredients like;

 

Mango, ginger, lime and almond

Or

Apple, fig and hazelnut

 Next postcard from London and on giving my first cookery class…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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