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Steamed bass with ginger and soy recipe

Soup and dragons

I instantly loved the fast energy of Hong Kong. The winding streets that were connected by hills, steep steps and alleyways were I admit a challenge at first with not every corner always being named and most signs being unintelligible to me but I feel sometimes the best ways to explore new places is to simply get lost (This is what I tell myself on a frequent basis at the moment).

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Recipe |Wild Suckling Boar with roasted quince

whisk

Boar to death, literally.

“Where are you off to now”? my mother asks as I fly out the door.
“London then heading East to Gloucester for that pheasant shoot”
“Erm, Philippa dear, Gloucester is West of London and didn’t you say it was Herefordshire?”
“Ah yes, don’t worry, Ive got it all sussed”! then off I dashed…

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The truth is I did have my travel all sussed but my mind was a little pre occupied on what I was going to cook that weekend. My client had just emailed telling me I had two wild boar piglets to play with. I was somewhat excited and partly wondering if they meant dead, or that I would have them running round my feet in the kitchen. You never know…

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I arrived and was delighted to find out they did mean dead. I have cooked suckling pig before, though admittedly it was a quite few years ago when I worked at Moro in London. I remember slowly roasting them in the wood oven with the effect of having meat so tender that you could carve it with a cazuela. The meat is so young that the flavour is still milky and totally delicious.

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Before I arrived West in Herefordshire I managed to spend a good bit of time researching on the Internet tips and techniques on cooking suckling pigs (there was nothing on wild boar piglets having said that) though surprisingly there wasn’t that much. There were quite a few Spanish videos that involved drinking cerveza whilst watching the stuffed piglet on a charcoal pit and an excellent one by the formidable Fanny Cradock (who I could happily watch regardless of what she was actually cooking) jollily rubbing the piglets in oil, roasting them then once cooked decorating them with garlands and poking flowers in their eyes. I didn’t particularly go down either of these routes.

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Wild boar have been absent from the wilds of Britain for a good few hundred years (research tells me anything from 300 – 700 years). It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was officially recognised they were back. This was due to boar farms having a few ‘escapees’ and breeding rather well. The reestablishment of wild boar seems to not without its debate, as does the culling of them. Their numbers were probably dramatically reduced to nothing due to overhunting by humans but recent reintroduction has not been without its controversies.

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Wild boar have started to cause agricultural damage (mostly to fences and crops) and although they prefer to forage the woodland floor for food they have also started to enjoy, particularly when natural food is scarce, foraging in people’s allotments and gardens. They can be rather boisterous toward humans and dogs especially when with their young. There is also a possible risk of passing on diseases to farm animals. As they are wild it is hard to give exact numbers but numbers are certainly increasing. This helped soothe the guilt as I sprinkled the cute creatures with salt and massaged olive oil over their little bodies before popping them in the oven.

This Week,

I’m loving: Fanny Cradock videos.
Every home should have: some woods.
Mince Pie clementine ratio in grams : 3:2
I’m traveling: by train (West).
Butter cooked with : 12 packs
Eggs used : 91

Slow roast suckling wild boar with roasted quince.

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Feeds 8 -12 depending on hunger levels and size of piglet.

Although ours were tiny they yielded a fair bit of meat, there is something spectacular about cooking and serving a whole animal so I would seriously consider adding a piglet to your Christmas feasting table.

2 wild boar piglets (about 2 – 3 kilo each in weight).
20g thyme on the stalk
6 stalks of rosemary
4 heads of garlic cut horizontally in half.
1 small handful of parsley stalks
4 apples cut into quarters
6 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs crushed juniper berries
½ bottle red wine
300ml light meat stock (could be game / beef / or chicken).

5 quince
2 tbs honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C

For the quinces
Wash the fluff off the quinces and cut into ¼ ‘s.
Toss with the spices and honey then lay them on a roasting tin with the wine.
Cover with parchment and foil and place in the oven.
Bake for about an hour then once just soft remove the foil and parchment and let them caramelise on the top shelf for a further 15 – 20 mins.

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For the piglets
Make sure the wild boar piglets have their entrails removed and the cavity looks clean – with wild meat I often give it a wipe with a damp clean cloth. Stuff with the apple, shallots, thyme, parsley stalks and rosemary.
Lie them belly down in a roasting tin like an Egyptian jackal with their legs all stretching forward (sadly ours had no head but if yours do and you want to stuff an apple in it at the end place a ball of foil in its mouth whilst cooking then remove and replace with an apple when about to serve).

Sprinkle with salt then rub all over with olive oil then with the juniper berries.
Place in the oven for 30 mins on high then remove. Lower the oven to 160 ° C add the stock and wine , lightly cover with baking parchment and foil and return to the oven for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is super tender.

Leave the meat to rest for 20 mins then shred from the bone, serve with the warm quinces . This goes really well with lots of lovely roasted veggies and greens or you could do a winter coleslaw, potato wedges and brioche buns.

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(Sunday morning survivors party)

Next postcard from … The West Highlands (yes I am sure in what direction I am heading)

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

whisk

 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Poached pheasant with ginger, garlic, chilli and lime.

whisk

How to poach a pheasant…

This week I am delighted to be back up in the magnificent highlands cooking for various grouse, partridge and pheasant shoots.

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I should quickly clarify the title of this postcard, as I have already had to dig myself out of trouble from the gamekeeper for remarking the pheasants lolling around the lodge seemed quite stupid. He seemed quite defensive at this remark (almost as if I had insulted a family member) and bristled that they soon learnt to fly quick enough when flushed across the hills. Having seen them in action he was of course right.

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To make amends I thought I would comment from a chefs perspective how wonderfully plump and in good condition they look and how tender they were at present, this definitely put me back in his good books as he was quick to proudly agree (and I am pretty sure his feathers puffed up in pride).

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So to note, this postcard is about poaching pheasants form a culinary angle rather than the illegal “ Danny the champion of the world” style.

Pheasant season opens the 1 st October and runs to the 1st February. From a chefs perspective I think now the time you really want to get hold of them. Still young and tender from not too many flights, their meat is really delicious and can be treated like a decent chicken so great for roasting, frying and poaching. As the season goes on they still maintain their wonderfully distinct flavor but become more suited to slow cooking as they will need tenderizing.

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This postcard recipe is based on the idea that poaching a tender piece of meat not only gives you a delicious supper but also has the excellent knock on effect of providing a tasty liquid you can then use in broths, soups / risottos / pasta dishes ect….

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Various countries have their ‘go to’ poached meat dishes like in Italy they have Bollito Misto a dish originating in north, consisting of poached beef, veal, cotechino ( sausage) and chicken. It is often served with mostarda ( a ‘blow your socks off’ mustard candied fruits) and salsa verde. Bollto Misto has been appreciated for centuries and was particularly enjoyed by an Italian prince in the 1800’s when he used to sneak to the small town of Moncalvo, hunt wild game, enjoy a dish of bollito with his friends and then go off and frolic with his favorite mistress.

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In France they have pot au feu, translating as ‘pot on the fire’, which usually consists of beef, turnips, carrot and onions and is also a dish that has been around for hundreds of years. The dish of poached chicken ‘poule au pot’ was used back in the 1600’s by King henry IV as a standard of living he wanted all to be able to achieve. He proclaimed that he wanted even the poorest of peasants to be able to enjoy it on Sundays. Sadly this was not the case as meat was generally too expensive so the peasants really did have to be ‘poach’ their meat from the local lord.

This postcard recipe uses game but gives a nod to more Far Eastern flavors like chili and ginger which I think makes a refreshing change for the seasoned shooter who probably by now have had their fare share of hearty traditional game meals.

But phirst before I share the recipe here are some phun pheasant phacts from Philippa.

A male pheasant (cock) may have a harem of up to 7 hens (lady pheasants)

On average they will have a clutch of 10 eggs.

For some cultures the pheasant is symbol of luck, as apparently a Burmese hunter found an emerald in a pheasant he had caught, he went back to where he supposed it had been roosting which led to the discovery of an emerald mine.

When cruising the pheasant will fly around 30 mph but with a wind and when being flushed (disturbed by the beaters) they can fly up to 60 mph making it a pretty fast moving target.

This week:

I’m reading The miniaturist, Jessie Burton

I’m not reading: Danny the Champion of the world

Best bag: 373 (though the most stylish one is that metal clutch in the fall Valentino collection)

Every estate should have: bantering gamekeepers

I’m loving: the young and tender game birds

I’m driving : Range rovers / defenders / kia estate

Butter count: 25 packs and rising

 

Poached pheasant with lime, garlic and coriander.

This dish would be great as a restorative lunch broth or you could add noodles/ rice / vegetables / chopped green lettuce to make it more filling.

The sprinkling at the end of raw garlic, lime and coriander totally makes this dish, though is possibly not first date stuff unless you both go for it.

Makes about 4 bowls of broth.

1 whole pheasant plucked and cleaned

1 tbs cardamom pods

½ tbs caraway seeds

1 tbs fennel seeds

1 tbs coriander seeds

50g fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped

1 large medium red chilli – to taste

25g coriander

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To serve

The zest of 2 limes

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

2 tbs finely chopped corriander

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Give your pheasant a quick wash then place in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped red chili with seeds and membrane in tact (the amount depends on how hot you like it), the cardamom pods, caraway, fennel seeds, the spring onions ends and the ginger and some salt and pepper.

Fill with cold water to just cover the pheasant then place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 30 minutes – the pheasant should just be cooked the best place to check is inside the leg then leave with the heat turned off for ten mins.

Remove the pheasant and cover loosely with foil.

Strain the liquid into another pot then reduce by about a 1/3 then check for seasoning and chilli heat. Add the rest of the spring onions finely chopped on an angle.

In a small bowl mix the lime zest, garlic and coriander.

To serve, slice the breasts and take the meat from the leg bones. On a low heat gently warm the meat in the stock.

Ladle some meat and liquid into your serving bowl and sprinkle with the garlic mix.

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Next postcard celebrates national Honey week…

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Fried ceps with baked polenta and gruyere

whisk

Did I ‘over cep’ the mark?

The week was not as planned. My diary had me in the dramatic depths of wild Scotland cooking for my first grouse shoot of the season, slapping on the mosquito spray and cooking up a variety of game themed feasts. Tweed cap, puffy jacket, gloves and various layers were ready to be packed.

With a last minute change due to lack of grouse reality had me in the bucolic rural Gascony countryside cooking mostly vegetarian food, slapping on the sun cream, darting round the prettiest of French markets and swimming in a magnificent lake.

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I will save the sad tale of what’s happening in the grouse world for a future postcard. As for now it’s all about the gastronomic delights of Gascony.

The job was to cook for a family and their friends just west of Toulouse. Despite the area being the home of cassoulet and famous for its duck and foie gras my brief was to focus mainly on vegetarian food. This turned out to be an extremely delightful and easy request to fulfil as the markets at this time of year in this part of the world have an impressive over lap of summer and autumn ingredients. My main joy however was that I had arrived in time for the very start of Cep season, that wonderful mushroom so abundant in these parts.

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Ceps as they are called in France or Porcini as they are called in Italy ( meaning piglets) or Stienpilz as they are called in Germany (meaning stone mushroom) or to be ultra highbrow Boletus edulis in Latin are mycorrhizal. Meaning they have a symbiotic relationship with the plant roots they grow around, this in turn means they are pretty hard to cultivate so have to be wild and foraged.

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Not having to do breakfasts I had the chance to go every morning to a different local market in the various medieval towns, all of which seemed more idyllic then the last. Perfectly charming covered squares, roofed with tiles and supported by large wooden beams, bustling with locals doing their weekly shop and catching up on gossip over their morning pastry and coffee.

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At every market I would be drawn towards the cep seller and couldn’t help but buy a few. By the end of the week I had managed to slip them into most of the meals but as they are so special I don’t think anyone minded. My personal favourite was serving them roasted whole with butter and garlic with frites and rocket on the side although this postcard recipe of ceps with baked polenta Gruyere and butter was another triumph.

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Mid way through the stint I was given the chance to take the journey back into Toulouse to shop at the famous Victor Hugo market, the city’s culinary pride. Knowing that you have to be there bright and early to get the best I set off just before the sun was casting its first light over the many sunflower fields and arrived into the city in what I thought was good time.   I dashed straight to the market to find half of the stalls still shut and the other half leisurely getting out their wares. According to the internet and guidebooks this place should have already been open for 3 hours, according to them they were still enjoying their morning coffee and paper.   When the market finally was up and running (about 10 am) it was impressive. Besides the market itself the surrounding streets are dotted with more gastronomic genius, there is Xavier – one of France’s best cheese shops and Olivier, apparently one of the oldest and best chocolatiers in France – though as they were on their two month summer vacation I am yet to form my own opinion.

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The main event of the week was the client’s end of summer party. With mainly vegetarian dishes requested the menu read as follows:

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Cocktails

Watermelon margarita

Canapés

Crispy prawns with chilli and mint

Pea and feta fried pastry with garden mint yogurt

Speck, chateau honey and ricotta

Main

Fried ceps with baked polenta, butter and parmesan

Grilled aubergine and pepper salad with garlic and Bandol vinegar dressing

Baked squash with pomegranates, tahini and tabbouleh

Green fig and tomato salad with pinenut and green herb dressing

Roast potatoes with rosemary

Roast fillet of beef

Dessert

Summer pudding with vanilla cream

Chocolate roulade

Cheese board

 

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It was a beautiful evening and from the cocktails to the obligatory cep dish and the chocolate roulade (amusingly/cheekily billed as a cousin of the artic ‘swiss roll’) to the cheese board everyone had a rather jolly time.

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When not at a market or in the kitchen I was encouraged to take a swim in the beautiful pea green lake. So after lunch had been cleared away and supper prep was under control I took myself down for a cooling dip. I happily jumped in and leisurely swam out to the raft in the centre. Surrounded by the tranquil setting of weeping willows, woods, fig trees and lines of apple trees I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was until… I heard the most enormous splash from the other side of the expanse of water. After the initial surprise I rationally thought it could only be one of two things.

  • A child throwing something into the lake then hiding to tease me

or

  • Mr Darcy

With only one way back to shore I swam back keeping half an eye out for movements in the water not made by me. On return to the house I learnt I had in fact only being sharing the lake with otters and giant carp – harmless!

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I did have to slightly force myself back in the next day and was fine until I heard again that giant splash. I turned in time to see the body of a large fish submerge into the water. Harmless or not it did wonders for improving my time in my swim back to the shore.

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This week

I’ driving: Landrover and a Citroen with an impressive tardis like boot.

I’m in: Equestrian heaven

Dishes cooked with ceps: 9

Attacks by giant carp: 0

Encounters with Mr Darcy: 0

Every home should have: a lake

Job high: no Ketchup required

Job low: not knowing what lurks in the lake.

 

Fried ceps with wet polenta and Gruyere

 

This would make a great starter although I used it as part of the feast for their end of summer party.

For polenta sceptics just try it and think of it as a vehicle for butter and cheese and then make your minds up.

 

Serves 6 as a starter

For the baked polenta

200g Polenta

1 litre whole Milk

150g Gruyere plus extra

3 Egg yolks

150 g Butter

 

For the Ceps

800g Ceps approx 4 /5 large mushrooms sliced fairly thick.

50g butter

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic

2 tsb finely chopped parsley

 

Place the polenta in a jug (this helps with the pouring).

Heat the milk in a heavy based saucepan, just before boiling pour in the polenta in a steady stream whisking continuously.

 

Stirring constantly, cook on a low heat until no longer grainy in texture – the quick cook usually takes about 5 minutes and the proper stuff takes about 50 mins.

Then add 100g Gruyere, the egg yolks and 100g of the butter. Stir well.

Pour onto a tray and leave to cool and then place in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

Pre heat the oven to 180 ° C.

In a wide frying pan melt the butter with the olive oil, when hot add the chopped ceps, fry for a minute then add the garlic. Fry till you just start to smell the garlic ( about 1 minute) then take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and stir through the parsley.

Cut the chilled polenta into shapes and lay slightly overlapping in a lightly buttered baking dish, top with the fried ceps, extra cheese and butter.

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Bake for 15 mins.

Serve hot.

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Next stop… Lisbon.

 

 

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Recipe |Beer Can Chicken

whisk

 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

180g  fine sea salt

150g Brown sugar

4 tbs molasses

10 bay leaves

2 tbs peppercorns

1 x 355ml can of 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 second can of 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 | 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 | Tartiflette

whisk

She’ll be comin’ down the mountain…

‘Whether she likes it or not’, My ski buddy for the day cheerfully chanted.

It had a been a while since I had donned some ‘Iron Man’ like boots, strapped two planks to them and willingly thrown myself down a mountain  in – 10 ° C conditions (we all have to get our kicks some how). Ascending up the craggy mountain face on a chair lift I began to wonder if I remembered how to do this.  Spat out at the top and surrounded by buzzing mix of cool dude snow boarders, stylish fur trimmed skiers and more kamikaze children than I wanted to count I had a split second thought of “why?”.  Then I looked up and it all came flooding back: incredibly stunning views, literally breath-taking clean air, powerful adrenalin rushes and above all the prospect of a fantastic mountain side lunch.

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The first run of the day, an easy blue, I skied well ( i.e. I didn’t fly off the edge of the mountain),  and my confidence began to build.  Next lift up and we arrived in front of two signposts, a black run to the left ( the most challenging) and a red run to the right ( the second most challenging of on piste skiing).

“Really ?” I said,

My ski buddy grinned.

“ May I remind you that if anything happens to me you will be cooking 6 x breakfasts, afternoon teas and five course dinners  for 10 people next week!? As well as having to polish 500 glasses!

The grinning stopped.

Not wanting to fail the challenge (or having much choice on ways to get down) I headed off down the red run.  I felt amazing, didn’t bump into anyone and remained upright! Wow I thought I must have improved…then I saw the video where it turns out I look as stiff as a Lego man figure when I ski, ah well.

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Skiing is definitely one of those activities (a bit like shooting and stalking) where it is just as much about the social interaction between fellow participants and the food and wine as it is the sport.   Though I possibly have my priorities askew as on my days skiing the routes had to be based around where I wanted to go for lunch and après ski

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With the arrival of Sunday, playtime was over and our chalet was filled again with new guests.  Cooking on this type of job definitely has its challenges. The kitchens are often tight for space with only 1 small oven so there’s always a queue of goodies waiting to go in and it’s a challenge juggling everything to be hot for service.  Menu planning very much has to be done at the shops so you can see what is actually available, which is actually a great way to shop unless there are specific requests and due to the extreme location, prices of goods are often crazily high.   That said, I love a challenge and it makes other jobs that are below 2000 meters seem easy.

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For this weeks postcard I give you a recipe for Tartiflette, a typical mountain dish that was re-invented in the 1980s as a marketing ploy to promote Reblochon.  Reblochon is an Alpine cheese made from the second milking of the cattle making it very rich and therefore very tasty.

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Legend has it this was a 14th century tax dodge as the mountain farmers were taxed on the amount of milk their cows produced so they held some back for a secret second milking after the Landowner’s man had departed. Literally milking the system, but the cheese is good so let’s forgive them.

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This week

Glasses polished: 473 (though not by me thank goodness).

It’s all about: saffron butter

I’ve discovered: “Ouvert non stop “ to the French means we don’t take a 3 hour lunch break.

Job perks : we all have great hair thanks to the Chalets’ Aqua di Parma bath product left overs.

Job lows: walking to work in a blizzard.

I’ve learnt: to add less baking powder when cooking in high altitudes (unless you want an imploded cake).

 

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Tartiflette

Tartiflette can be found at practically every mountain side restaurant, consisting of baked potatoes, onions, cheese and lardons. Its filling, high in calories and potentially super tasty so is the perfect ski food.

 I admit however I haven’t ever had a good one out as they often lacked in flavour and are usually too dry (perhaps an outcome of being prepared en mass and made in advance so ready to serve quickly once the lunch crowds pour/ski in).

 However make one at home and for any family who enjoys dishes like a pasta bake the Tarttiflette will soon become a favourite in the repertoire.

 

Serves  4

You will need a baking dish large enough to hold the potato mix ( taller is better than wider as it allows the cheese to drip through the entire dish).

 

750g clean small waxy potatoes – skin on

1 tbs olive oil

2 large white onions

1 garlic clove

160g smoked lardons

20g chives finely chopped

2 tbs crème friache

150ml dry white wine or dry rosé

250g Reblochon cheese

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Pre heat the oven to 200 °C.

1)Peel and chop the garlic clove in half and rub around the inside of your tartiflette baking dish then finely chop the garlic.

2)Peel and small dice the onions, fry on a medium heat with the lardons and chopped garlic until soft and sweet (about 15  minutes).

3)Meanwhile place the potatoes in a large pan of salted cold water and bring to a simmer.  Cook until just tender then drain

4)Mix the potatoes and onion mix,  add the chives, crème fraiche and wine, season with pepper and mix well.

5)Slice the Reblochon in half horizontally.

6)Layer half the potato mix in the baking dish and lay ½ the cheese on top (skin side down).

7)Add the rest of the potatoes then top with the other half of Reblochon skin side up like a crown.

8)Bake for 15   – 20 mins. until bubbling hot, slightly browned and very melted.

 

Enjoy with a crisp green salad with mustardy dressing and a glass or two of Rose or dry white wine from the Savoie like Chignin Bergeron or chignon.

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Job done and fun had, I am now safely coming down the mountain and heading for my next stop in the West Country…

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Recipe |Fish Pie

whisk

Hark to herald the fish pie

Heading back to London on the train, after a very quick nip to Dorset, I found myself checking my calculations:

18 kilos of fish,

10 kilos of potatoes,

a dairy herd’s entire supply of milk,

2 kilos of cheese

The man in the suit who sat next to me on the train must have thought he was sitting next to some crazy lady with her mutterings of smoked haddock and calculations of how much butter to use to make a million pints of white sauce. That was until he got his lap top and phone out and sounded just as distracted frenziedly working out some project evolving drums of paint, car parks and overtime.  By the time we had reached Waterloo I think we had both managed to come to our final conclusions and scurried off in opposite directions to complete our plans.

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My job was to cook for aChristmas party in West London where guest numbers were estimated between 50 and 120 people.  The Party’s menu read as follows:

 

Canapés

Gougéres

Bresaola and balsamic

Beetroot Hummus

Chili Crab cakes

Smoked salmon blini

Main 

Fish Pie and Winter Salad

Dessert

Tiramisu

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I think Fish pie is a great idea for large parties, besides being super tasty and a crowd pleaser you can prepare it advance, it can be eaten with just a fork so no need for formal seating and keep hot for a while so doesn’t matter if not everyone eats at once.  Making 100 portions of it I have to say was a serious workout with the chopping, stirring of roux and carrying the dishes from here to there. I have to make fish pie for 30 next week but I guess in comparison it will seem as easy as knocking up dinner for two.

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The party was a great success and as the canapés and aperitifs flowed and when the carol singing started the noise levels got pretty impressive.  The only problem was that my cue to get out the fish pies and dress the salad was when the group who were singing got on to “Hark the HeraldAngels Sing” .  Now to be honest I am sure the group were very good at singing but through a crowd of 70 others merrily chatting away suddenly every carol sounded like Hark the HeraldAngels Sing.  On tenterhooks in the kitchen, unable to pass through the crowd, I desperately listened to try to catch a few words of whatever carol they were on.

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I realised that quite a few carols have the words ‘glory’, ‘peace’, ‘king’, ‘Bethlehem’ and I admit I almost made a false start with dressing the salad (I know, shock horror indeed!)  I was saved however when above the noise I recognised an impressive rendition of the final verse of Hark the Herald and so as the words  “Sing Choirs of Angels” were drifting through the house the fish pies piled out of the ovens and huge plates of salads with pomegranates, toasted almonds and roasted squash were assembled.

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This postcard recipe of fish pie (Ihave scaled down the quantaties!) I hope will be of use over the festive period as its good to have a change from eating loads of meat and it’s a great way to feed a crowd.

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This Week:

Mince pies consumed : 1

Mince pies made: 0

I’ve developed a slight anxiety complex when I hear: Hark the HeraldAngels Sing

Seen: 7 swans a swimming (in Hyde Park)

 

Fish Pie

Feeds 12

Mashed potato topping

1 kilo of mashing potatoes(ie Maris Piper)

40g butter

150 ml milk

Fish pie filling

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 heads of fennel

3 white onions

6 sticks celery

4 tablespoons of capers or chopped gherkins

4 tablespoon chopped parsley

450g smoked haddock; skinned, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces

300g salmon, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces

300g white fish like Pollok, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces.

250g raw prawns

White sauce

50g butter

100g plain flour

800ml milk

100g grated cheddar

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Peel the potatoes and put them on to boil. Once soft drain and mash add the 40g butter and 50 ml milk and beat the potato for a minute or two with a fork so smooth and fluffy.

Meanwhile

In the olive oil fry the onion, fennel and celery. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, when melted add the flour and whisk. Slowly add the milk whisking continually, it will start very thick, then get very liquid then thicken again.  Season with salt and pepper.

*To the white sauce add the fish, sautéed vegetables , capers and parsley. Mix well then pour into your pie dish.  Top with mashed potato and finally the cheese.

Bake at 180° c  for 40 mins. or until piping hot and golden on top.

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*If making in advance to cook later let the white sauce and vegetables cool before adding the fish as its dangerous to semi cook the fish.  Once fully assembled keep in the fridge till ready to cook.

 

Next stop…Wales.

 

 

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Recipe Game Pie

whisk

I Only have pies for you …

I knew this was going to be a top class job when I was the told the driver who was to collect and take me to the Scottish shooting estate was called James. I had then assumed that one of the gamekeepers would be called Mellors (but it was not the case). Despite this minor over sight I came to learn that my destination, Cawdor Estate, is where some of the top shots and field sport lovers come to get some of their best days shooting of the season….

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I was based at their lodge (Drynachan) and with a professional kitchen, impressive game larder and access to some of the finest seafood in the UK it was a delight to whip up the copious amounts of meals these sorts of jobs require. However when not frantically cooking I did have time to make a new friend…

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Now I know they say Dogs are a girls best friend …oh no wait that’s diamonds, anyway this spaniel became excellent company and entertainment for those occasional evenings we didn’t have clients in the lodge or I fancied taking a bracing walk on the moors.

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Now lets says you are a spaniel and you need to get from A to B. There are 4 choices to get there

1)A pebble track.

2)A fast running chilly burn

3)Some nice sheep mown grass

4)Clumps of bracken and heather.

 

Which one would you take? Well if you were a spaniel you would take route 4 and leap into heather and bracken and with gazelle like attitude bound your way towards B, then having reached B you would return to A through the chilly water possibly stopping for a quick drink and submersion then as route 4 was so much fun you would return to B bounding back through the bracken. Also at some point you would roll your eyes at your boring walking buddy who decided to take route 1.

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Having spent the time up there cooking so much game I thought I would give you for this postcard recipe a dish that can use it all  – a perfect winter warming Game Pie.

 This week;

Lords a’ leaping spied; 0

Salmon a’ leaping spied; 3

Portion of pies made; 266

I’ve developed an unfortunate liking to caviar ( the really good stuff)

Im reading: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

 

Game Pie

Serves 12 – 14

1 kilo venison haunch (chopped into 1 inch square pieces)

4 hare haunches (de boned and meat chopped into roughly 1 inch square pieces)

2 pheasants (skin off and breasts diced into 6)

4 partridge (skin off and breasts diced into 4)

4 grouse (skin off and breasts diced into 4)

100g plain flour

(you need about 2 kilos of game meat in total and although it is ideal to have a good mix if you are lucky enough to have a freezer brimming with game use what you have).

6 tbs. olive oil for the meat and 2 tbs extra for the vegetables.

4 red onions (peeled and small diced)

1 head of celery (washed and small diced)

8 crushed junipers

4 crushed cloves

1 tbs rosemary finely chopped

1 tbs. thyme finely chopped

200ml sloe gin

200ml red wine

 

Game Stock

Game bones

2 x peeled white onions

5 x bay leaves

1 tbs. black peppercorns

1 tsp. juniper berries

5 sprigs of thyme

1 head of garlic chopped in half (you can leave the skin on)

2 x sticks celery

 

To assemble the pie;

350g short crust pastry

300g puff pastry

1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbs milk

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First make a game stock

Take all the carcasses from the birds (and the bones if you have them from the venison haunch) and give them a quick rinse. Put them in a large pot and cover with cold water, add the onions, garlic, bay, thyme, juniper. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer and let it cook for at least an hour…

Then

Pre heat the oven to 160°C

Place the flour in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper

Toss all the chopped meat in the seasoned flour.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, add about 2 tbs. of the olive and fry 1/3 the meat until brown then place in a large roasting dish. Repeat in batches with the rest of the meat and olive oil.

Once all the meat has been browned deglaze the pan with the sloe gin and wine and pour this onto the meat.

In the same pan and with the 2 tbs. extra of olive oil fry the vegetables and spices/ herbs till slightly caramelised.

Add this to the browned meat.

Strain the stock and pour enough on to cover the pie mix .

Place a layer of baking paper on top then cover tightly with foil.

Bake in a 160 °C oven for 3 – 4 hours (all the meat must be tender.

When cooked remove from the oven, check for seasoning and allow to cook completely.

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Line a pie dish with short crust pastry

Add the cooled game pie mix then top with puff pastry rolled to fit the top of the pie dish.

Crimp the edges and brush with the egg yolk/ milk mix.

Stab a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out ( otherwise you will get a soggy pie) and if you have any spare pastry you can decorate with a few pastry leaves.

Bake in a pre heated oven 180°C for 50 mins – 1 hour – the centre need to be piping hot and the pastry golden.

Serve with buttery mashed potato and some greens.

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Next stop…London for the start of the Christmas party season…

 

 

 

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