Friday, 25 February 2011

What's been cooking

On Wednesday we had friends for dinner, an excuse for some cooking.  As a starter we finished up the iman bayeldi, it was only with this last batch of aubergine finery that I realised you were meant to pour off the excess oil.  I also braised some fennel a la greque.  To follow was the last of the pheasant dishes, pheasant with calvados and cream, this was served with fried apples and braised celery.  The pheasants were cooked en cocotte, a great way to cook them quickly in a creuset on the hob in butter.  I then used the leftover pheasant to add to a second attempt at a pate, terrine de porc et de gibier.  A terrine made from veal, pork, fat and pheasant, I smashed the seasonings in a pestle and mortar to a intense looking paste of juniper, garlic, pepper and salt.
This week I also made Elizabeth's pears in cream; a nice alternative to my classic poached pears, mashed potato surrounded by meat juices and cream of spinach.  Mashed potato loaded with milk and butter surrounded by pork gravy was obviously a winner, the spinach was divine but I need to learn not to sieve in a hurry.
After the frustrations of the spinach we headed to the Horsley pantomime for some seriously light relief and some great Hobbs House references.

Eating out

Espresso braised brisket
We love eating out, regular readers will know this tends to be at our own Hobbs House Bistro.  The thing about eating out though, credit crunch and all is I now want my monies worth.  This doesn't mean it needs to be cheap but it either needs to be a darned sight better than I can cook or be exceptionally good value.  The Bistro falls in to both categories, good value with inspirational cooking I could almost attain at home.  Tonight we ate at the Thali Cafe in Bristol with a Christmas voucher, with the kids and an Uncle in tow a mere £60 for us all for tasty wholesome fayre.  What I no longer want to do is pay £60 for something dull, that's a big price for convenience.
So I am sure you can imagine my excitement over our lovely lunch with the Trethowans ( at The Ethicurian (  A great simple menu, seasonal home grown, few choices; our own Petersham Nurseries.  To start with we shared a delicious salad of goats cheese, beetroot and horseradish, served on a slate, perfect, beautiful.  To follow we both had brisket that had been braised in espresso, a black melt in the mouth experience, to quote my Granny "a nice bit of beef".  Not only was the beef delicious but it was served with great mash and seasonal vegetables on the side.  And yes these veg(parsnips and chard) were on the side, in the same dish, where they ought to be, please can we do away with side dishes, I never ever want my food to be overcompensated with an accompanying dish of wet dreary vegetables.  Got it.  So thank you to The Ethicurian not only did they get the veg right but the kids macaroni cheese and sausages and mash, and our yummy little yoghurt pannacotta with pedro sherry soaked raisins.  I would recommend to one and all that you get yourselves there quickly, they are on the telly tomorrow too,

Cooking for money

On Sunday I got paid a small amount of money for making lunch; a first.  Tom was filming, so my job was to make the crew of 10 a mobile lunch.  Of course I turned to Elizabeth David for inspiration, a soupe au pistou and pork rolls.  The soup was a green minestrone, (onion, leeks, green beans, courgette, potatoes, haricot beans, spaghetti, celery leaves) with a garnish of smashed garlic and basil stirred through at the last minute.
The pork was marinaded to taste like wild boar (in wine and vegetables), although not for the recommended four days.  It was then cooked in the strained marinade and a stock made from the skin for three hours.  At this point it was perfectly sliceable and we served it in a ciabatta roll with salad and homemade chutney.
Afterwards another marmalade cake, all went down very well with some delicious Sherston Apple Juice.

Coq au vin

Milo, cock and dog

I love the sound of cockerels in the morning, it transports me to foreign holidays, smells, spices and warmth.  Our neighbours had a cockerel for a while, and I loved to wake to a natural alarm clock;  my middle daughter’s first words were ‘looda loo’, as she watched him from the window.
Anyway, this is a food column not a nature one, so I bet you can guess where this is going.
A friend had some cockerels going spare, so the boys were sent down, knife in hand, to collect the birds.  They plucked and decapitated them and bought them home to gut.  I think it’s great for kids to see where food comes from, and was seriously impressed with my son’s gutting skills.  After a science lesson on the insides, the birds were jointed and the cooking began.
Of course, these birds were heading for a coq au vin, but not just any coq au vin:  an Elizabeth David coq au vin.  The giblets were made into a little stock with an onion and herbs.  A bottle of red wine was bought to the boil with thyme, bay and some crushed garlic.  This was then simmered and the chicken stock added, once it was reduced you added the mushrooms.  Leaving the mushrooms in the wine made them delectable.  Some bacon was then fried off and the jointed cock browned in the same pan, and the parboiled whole baby onions were added.  The pièce de résistance was adding the brandy, which I heated, then set fire to it in a ladle and poured the flames over the meat.  I watched  this triumphantly as the flames encompassed and died down before the strained sauce was added.  This was then cooked for forty minutes before adding the mushrooms.  What Elizabeth is teaching me is to cook meat for less time;  historically I would have cooked this until the meat fell off the bone, but I don’t think this way gains anything in flavour.  Elizabeth also recommends serving this with fried bread, obviously I am already a big fan of serving food simply with bread but not normally fried.  Clearly this needed to be served with green vegetables too.  
And what better way to end the story than with an impromptu feast with our families.

Monday, 21 February 2011

How I shop locally

In an effort to be organized and feel less like a ditsy headless chicken I have done all my shopping for the weekend on Friday.  For any cynics or questioners here is how I shop locally.  I started in the Horsley Community shop for all my basics, this is where I buy loo roll, toothpaste, cereal, and dairy(including a brie the two smallest and I demolished at lunch).  I also bought sugar and vanilla pods in bulk this week which is a more economical way.  The family butcher in Chipping Sodbury has met with all my meat needs, chicken breasts and a pork fest of ham, bacon, a leg of pork and frankfurters.  Then to Nailsworth and Bramleys for a box load of delicious looking fruit, vegetables, primroses and daffodils and even a few bargains from the overs box.  In true Friday spirit it’s fish tonight, some lovely looking black bream and some soup for lunch and other delicacies from Williams.  This week in Nailsworth I also managed some perfect birthday presents, a toy for the Godson and a nightie for the expectant Sister-in-Law.  The garage willingly replaced the brake light for the car.  The Yellow Lighted bookshop also provided me with great advice on what book to buy my 9 year old son to keep up the momentum with his reading, he has just completed all the Mr Gum books thanks to their original recommendation and now actually wants to read- A heartfelt Thank you.
We also headed to the local library to make the most of their bargain one night film hire.
So what else is on the menu this weekend?  For the first time I am cooking for Tom and others when he’s working on Sunday.  Of course I have turned to Elizabeth David for inspiration, a soupe au pistou, a green minestrone with a garnish of garlic and basil and hot pork rolls will be on the menu.  I will follow this with some home baked cakes, probably my new choice marmalade and maybe a ginger cake too.  I am going to squeeze in an imam bayeldi, my favourite  aubergine dish too, you never know when you might need it.
As you can see we are far from starving on this local lark, you could do it too.  

Friday, 18 February 2011

Little chef friday

Yippee it's Friday, yippee it's Little Chef Friday.
Tonight they had a friend around so I got a little more involved.  They independently made chicken nuggets, I made little roasties and cooked them brocolli.  The chicken nuggets are so easy that they make them,
Free range chicken breasts (we used 4)
Beaten eggs(we used 2)
Flatten the chicken breasts, slice them into strips, chunks, or squares.
Have ready your beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in individual flat bowls.
Dip the chicken into the egg then the breadcrumbs to cover.
Heat olive oil in a frying pan(enough to give a golden coating to the breadcrumbs), fry on both sides until brown,  I then popped them in the oven on a roasting tin as I worked my way through the batches and also to ensure they were cooked through completely.
For pudding I made them chocolate fondue and fruit.  This was more successful than my last attempt, this time I made a ganache.  I heated some cream to boiling point and then added broken up chocolate and whisked until smooth, They then dipped the assortment of fruit in.
=Happy children

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Hissy fit

It was just a cream sauce I know, but when you have made a perfect roux, bought it lovingly up to the boil, stirring all the time until you add two egg yolks at the end-and the husband is those vital minutes late and all you're left with is a curdled mess.  The husband did salvage the situation by giving a good beating to the sauce in the Kitchen Aid.  It was still not as glossy and smooth as it was in it's earlier stage.  I served this with ED turnips and ham, red kale and pasta for the kids.  Quite a nice dinner.
I made Nigella Lawson's Coca Cola cake today for the expectant Sister in Law who's birthday it was.  A delicious cake that should be made with a warning, do not feed to children, unless you like your children bouncing of the walls until bedtime.
I managed to get the same Sister in Law an amazing birthday present.  After trawling the internet for a suitable nursing nightie I found a perfect nursing negligee in Knickerbockers in Nailsworth by an amazing maternity company called Hot Milk.
Next up is our Niece who is turning 5 at the weekend. I got the perfect fabric in Stroud so now it is time to hit the sewing machine.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Night of love

Oysters Mornay,
Venison cutlets, cream of jerusalem artichokes and red kale,
Heart shaped cheese
Film, I am Love
I have rarely bought oysters so was surprised 6 from Williams were a mere £3.50.  These were opened washed and popped in the the oven topped with cream, shallots, parsley and gruyere.  Inevitably completely delicious.  I acquired venison cutlets, beautiful in a rack, thanks to the family butcher.  Unfortunately the recipe I had in mind was for a different cut, neck.  So last night I took off two chops each and pan fried them.  I then made ED windy(not so romantic) jerusalem artichokes in cream, very similar to a Jamie Oliver recipe I have previously followed, so tasty I had some for breakfast(strange). Then just a heart shaped cheese from Williams.

To complete our night of romance we watched an amazing film, I am Love starring Tilda Swinton with a nasty murder/accident to finish on.
Tonight I made the venison stew that should of been made with the neck using the cutlets.  Elizabeth occasionally uses cooked ham in her recipes where we would use bacon, I quite like this but this recipe definitely felt like I wasn't cooking it accurately.  Anyway the end result was edible and simply tasty served with her Pomme de terre l'ardennaise.  Grated potato stewed not fried in butter with crushed juniper berries, the kids particularly loved the potato.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


Would anyone like to write this for me, feeling a little despondent, hardly surprising when you look out the window to the pouring rain.  I think it hits harder after yesterday was so beautiful, we did just walk the dog and found the first shoots of wild garlic, spring is on its way.  To cope with the downpour and the husband working on a Sunday I have just booked us into Tangled in 3D what better thing to do in the rain with 4 children?!
On Thursday night we avoided the temptation of Hobbs House Bistro and I cooked for the in-laws.  Salsify and aubergine beignets to start, brixham sand sole with mussels cooked in cider followed by vanilla souffle and roasted rhubarb.  I even impressed myself with this, the fish was amazing cooked similarly to the previous sole dishes.  By cooking the sole with cider on onions covered for 15 minutes, then adding parsley butter and the already cooked mussels for a hot 5 minutes made for sublime melt in the mouth fish.  
The souffle worked, with vanilla seeds popping in your mouth as good as any whizzing candy.
This week I stupidly opted out of little chef friday as the kids cooked an amazing beef curry.  The butchers in Nailsworth sold them some special ends of fillet and they made an amazing balti style sauce that they served with rice and raita.  We had salty salt cod(obviously), nice but the spicy break from Elizabeth David did appeal.
What shopping in Nailsworth late on Friday night with the kids made me realise-despite the absolute chaos , was as shopkeepers all you need to do is make us feel special.  In Nailsworth we are so fortunate to be served by people that know us usually by name and make us feel like we are getting something really special and that nothing is too much trouble.  I continue to be able to find all I need locally.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Elizabeth David does vegetarian

I am not sure whether ED did vegetarian I suspect she didn't but we managed to make a meat free feast using two recipes.  Braised celery(which I have cooked before) and mushrooms cooked in oil served with rice.  A dinner, a nice dinner, one that the children ate apart from the overtired small.  The celery is cooked in oil and butter then stock added at the end, the mushrooms were marinaded in oil for an hour to reduce sticking when you fry them in more oil after 5 minutes parsley and garlic was added.
Yesterday after my success of three recipes in my late night wisdom I decided to make a soup and a coffee cake.  The soup was good, leek, tomato and potato, "a simple soup where each individual flavour comes through"-too right Elizabeth.  Then a disastrous cake, just when I thought I had got better at actually following recipes I used a far too big tin.  It didn't look that big, how big is a 1 1/2 pint tin, small is the answer.  The cake was also rather confusing, no butter? Pardon? What I ended  up with is more of a swiss roll sponge with no coffee in and rather too flat.  You are supposed to layer the cake by slicing it lengthways, I managed to slice mine in half and then chopped it in half again to make four smaller layers.  I then made a coffee cream, the only coffee aspect of the cake.  This was a delicious pale ice with a delicate coffee flavouring, made like a butter icing with the edition of an egg yolk and espresso.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Back on it-three recipes in one meal

We are back, and in an attempt to avoid the mountain of washing, unpacking or dirty house I am back cooking.  Where better to start today than over a scrambled eggs and bacon and a date with my Elizabeth David book.  For dinner tonight we had saddled hare cooked in cream with chestnut puree, savoy cabbage and potatoes l'aligot.  I used a saddle of hare left from the stew I cooked.  The saddle is the long skinny bit, not the rib cage.  It was cooked in cream, shallots and a dash of red wine vinegar.  Cooked slowly and covered then remove the cover for a final blast, then remove the sauce and warm through in a pan.  Elizabeth's detail and concern over the sauce splitting in the oven is fantastic but she reassures when you warm it through it comes good.  When the sauce has boiled you add a spoon of Redcurrant jelly(quince in my case), this was absolutely delicious.  I then completed my last chestnut recipe, I definitely won't promise to never buy a vacuum pack again.  I am not sure I have got any better at roasted chestnuts than when I started out.  I roasted them, boiled them, pureed them and warmed them though with butter.  She recommends them with the hare,  I liked them with the cabbage.  Then for the potato, A potato puree is made then heated in cream and butter, then you add a disproportionate amount of cheese and serve.
The hare was surprisingly nice really tender, I still don't love the smell of it cooking although it's not as bad as rabbit.  The potatoes were good, you couldn't particuarly taste the cheese and they ere quite stodgy.  Elizabeth advises that they aren't very light so recommends serving them as a first course with fried bread, that sounds pretty stodgy to me.

Friday, 4 February 2011

a long blog

Last weeks menu,
Lunch Quiche Lorraine
Little Chef friday, Sushi and chocolate fondue with fruit
Dinner, Salsify Beignets, Roast Woodcock, Spinach
Chocolate Mousse and La Tarte aux Pommes normande
Scrambled eggs
Game pate leftover Quiche Lorraine
Hare stewed in red wine with Braised Celery and Pommes de Terre dauphine
Leftover mousse and Apple Tart
Roast Chicken a la Anna with token ED Turnip dish and Vichy carrots
Rhubarb Pavlova, sorry ED
Chicken salad with Hollandaise
Papperdelle with leftover hare and celery and Courgettes fines Herbes
Colin Sauce Remoulade with Etuvede Celeri-rave
Faisan en Papillotes with Poireaux a la nicoise
Pineapple with kirsch
Great, twenty recipes in a week that puts me on target.
How were they all, pretty good, amazing, delicious to my worst ED attempt so far.
In order we will start with Quiche Lorraine a delicious little tart. A thrill to make she says to use an eight inch tin, I only had a cake tin with removable base this size but thats what we used and  I loved the flat high sides.  The best bit of the recipe, not just the cream and egg yolks was that it all fitted, the pastry and filling were the perfect amount to fill the tin.  No Nigella style pastry recipe where you are left with enough to make another tart.
It was great to see the kids make successful sushi and even better that we bought everything in local independents.  We were debating whether to head to Morrisons for the outer seaweed leaves when we found them in Green Spirit, result.
The Salsify Beignets were good, you par boiled the salsify and then dipped them in a batter that included whisked egg white.  These were border line bland but we dipped them in Crab Apple, Sloe and Chilli jam that I had made.
As for the Woodcock, Williams Kitchen came up trumps in getting these for me, apparently a bad year as they fled further south to warmer climes.  I was a little alarmed when I collected them to see they still had their feathered heads attached.  Tom enjoyed some blowtorch action burning off the feathers and I quite enjoyed fingering inside of them in search of a gizzard.  I’m still not sure it was the gizzard I removed.  So I tucked their long beak under the wing smothered them in butter then roasted then for less than twenty minutes.  We did cross reference to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Meat Book.  Elizabeth has a tendency to give loose instructions which when cooking my first Woodcock, Hugh had the detail we needed.  When cooked you scrape out the entails and serve them on toast, a delicacy some say.  We did lightly fry these off a la Hugh with the bacon that had roasted on top of the birds.  The birds are placed on top of the toast and I served mine to brave friends, they were enjoyed, the entails were bitter, Tom thought them amazing.  We didn’t crack open the heads and eat the brains, we hope the friends will come back for dinner again.
For pudding I made a classic Chocolate Mousse, separated eggs and the juice of a Seville orange, delicious, intensely chocolately .  The Apple Tart was simple, a pastry just pressed in to the tin topped with buttery apples.
I also snuck in Nigel Slater’s marmalade cake, a really great recipe that I will be making again, a good way of using up some of my new season marmalade.  
Next there was my first Pate, probably simpler than I expected but I made a classic Anna mistake of not reading to the bottom therefore the pork overwhelmed the duck.  I lightly roasted a mallard then removed the meat mixed it with pork mince and fat and then baked it topped with bacon in a bain marie.
No sooner had Friday nights guests left and Tom and I were jointing a hare and reserving the blood and liver.  This was then marinaded in wine and onions.
For the actual stew the blood was added at the end.  I probably could have cooked this longer, I regularly use my simmering oven for cooking stews slowly but I was following ED and cooked it faster.  The Braised Celery was amazing:The nicest celery he had ever tasted.  It was stewed in butter and olive oil until tender then a little stock added.
I nearly forgot the amazing fattening potatoes.  Oh yes, glorified mash with added cheese, flour and eggs then deep fried in walnut sized balls in olive oil, of course they were lush.
On Sunday we had friends for the third day running, I needed to cook for four more children so twelve of us in total at lunchtime.  I roasted the chicken smeared in butter with a lemon in it and made potatoes like dauphinois but with stock not cream- a great way to cook potatoes in advance or to ignore them in the oven for a couple of ovens.  For vegetables we had Navets a la bordelaise, Vichy carrots and overcooked brocolli.  The turnips were lightly boiled then fried in olive oil with breadcrumbs and parsley added.  
A joint effort of a Pavlova with roasted rhubarb was a true success.  
Sunday leftover Supper consisted off a chicken salad, Fee’s hard boiled bantam eggs and a hollandaise sauce.  Why does hollandaise have to be so deicious and contain a pack of butter.
Leftover Monday, the hare stew and celery was perfect with paperdelle.  A token courgette dish was made, salted courgettes, boiled then fried in butter and herbs added.  The kids and the husband spotted that these were Elizabeth David’s, I suspect it was the butter that gave it away.  Why is that butter and salt can turn a wet vegetable into something so delectable.
On Tuesday after a night off of entertaining we had the parents. I couldn’t face the Pike In Williams Foodhall, despite being a rarity, caught locally, offers accepted.  We had hake steaks simply roasted.  The celeriac we had with them was amazing, cut into fine strips and fried with the obligatory butter and parsley.  Then I made my first remoulade, wow.  You add a raw egg yolk to two hard boiled ones then like the aioli whisk it all up together with olive oil added cautiously.  When combined I added tarragon and capers which  I found myself automatically cutting the capers(I must be getting the hang of this). We also had spinach which I am simply loving, Bramleys did have it in some great bunches,  washed well, then boiled in their washing waters.  Drained really well then sauteed off in a little butter. 
I just remembered there was a soup, that makes 21 recipes.  A potato and watercress one that required being passed through a mouli then a sieve.  It was good but not legendary, it wasn’t at all starchy which I sometimes find with potato soups.  You did add a little flour, would this help that?
Then there was Wednesday, a finale before some days off cooking, I thought I would make Mr Tom a special dinner after a long day.  An even longer day than I anticipated so some seriously overcooked results.  It was pheasant on the menu, but mine was twice as big as the recipe, so I overcompensated with the timings.  You lightly roasted the pheasant then carved it in half, mine was still bloody at this stage.  You then made a papilotte(heart) out of greaseproof and baked them again with buttery juices and bacon.  I just massively overcooked them so they were well dry.  I served them with whole leeks browned in a frying pan topped with skinned tomatoes.  I no longer use tins of tomatoes thanks to Elizabeth.  This was one of my sure supermarket items, but why did I rely on them so heavily when they fail to resemble the real thing that aren’t that much more expensive.
For pudding we had Pineapple in Kirsch, “a light popular french pudding”, nice but could of done with a bit more sugar.
So there we go that’s it, a mammoth task done.  I promise to not leave it so long ever ever again.  Did anyone really make it here, is there a rule of blogs I don’t know regarding number of words?
You will be glad to know I am now recovering in a hotel in Cornwall(blog to follow) where Tom is teaching a Breadmaking course, and yes I can’t cook here or wash up.  Bliss.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Dear Blog,

Dear Blog, I know it's been a long time, maybe a whole week.  The problem is I been busy cooking, eating, cooking, entertaining, cooking, you know how it is.  Now what that leaves me with is a formidable blog, 20 recipes to write about, well over 10, all good and worth shouting about.  So soon they will be here, hopefully before we go away to stay in a hotel where Tom is teaching a course.  A hotel?  So that means I don't need to take bedding, towels, the dog,food, not even rice cakes or a tin of flapjack.  Really, just us, our swimming costumes and a token pair of high heels, wow I think I might like it......