Saturday, 26 March 2011

I made up a cake recipe

Rhubarb and blood orange cake
I am always rather dependent on recipes, or just a quick google. Today I made a rhubarb cake and it worked, it wasn't actually rocket science and was just based around the 2oz to an egg rule.
8oz butter unsalted
8oz sugar(could of used less)
4oz polenta
5oz Sr flour
1tsp baking
Zest of a blood orange
Rhubarb jam
Basically I made the sponge in the usual way, creaming together the butter and sugar, adding the eggs with spoons of the dry ingredients and zest until all combined. I then put this in three sandwich tins, less in the third which I topped with sliced rhubarb. I then baked them at about 170c for 25 mins. I filled the layers with some rhubarb jam I made earlier in the week(that hasn't set as well as I hoped) then put the rhubarb topped sponge on the top. I made a quick icing with the juice of half a blood orange and sieved icing sugar which I poured over the top and enhanced the pinkness.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Yesterday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, the husband was on a cake field trip around London-it's a hard life, and I was on playgroup duty then 6 children after school duty.  I was just thinking I wanted to be looked after, someone to cook for me, that kind of thing.  Then this morning the husband didn't hurry off to work, so after I dropped the children off I came home to find breakfast waiting for me.  Chestnut mushrooms with poached eggs, there was one problem, no sauce-not even a bottle of ketchup to be found. He says to me "how easy is it to make a hollandaise".  I say urghhh, then I grab a Elizabeth David and find that I can just knock up a hollandaise using, 1 egg yolk, 2oz butter, a splash of vinegar and cold water and lemon juice.  I got a saucepan going with some boiling water,  in a pudding basin beat the egg yolk with a splash of vinegar(I only had red) over the saucepan, then using a whisk I added the butter cube by cube,  then a squeeze of lemon juice and salt.  This made a perfect bright yellow(thanks to the neighbours chicken) hollandaise to top our breakfast.
It continues to amaze me how a wee egg yolk can take in some melted butter and become a thick divine sauce.  I made another ED aioli at the weekend and three egg yolks could hold nearly 500ml of my sisters finest olive oil to her horror.
Elizabeth David is clearly teaching me how to make a mean sauce and I am enjoying learning when to use a sauce.  The husband always needs a sauce with his meal so increasing my repertoire beyond ketchup and mango chutney is prooving helpful!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Roast chicken and other recipes

I can’t think of a more perfect way to end a weekend and prepare for the week ahead than cooking a good old fashioned roast dinner.  Last Sunday I had no-one to cook for, just the kids and me- there was a chicken in waiting for this eventuality.  There are still a good few Elizabeth David whole chicken recipes for me to complete;  for this bird I chose a simple one, stuffed with a tarragon butter, the skin rubbed with olive oil.  The main difference was cooking it on a grill pan on its side and turning during cooking.  Of course it was delicious, crisp and moist, but the kids and I only managed a leg and a breast, so we were left with a whole lot of chicken.
 This was a special bird, free range and originating from Madgetts Farm, not a £30 one as seen in this week’s papers. But what was really good about this bird was that it fed my family for a whole week.  In comparison to my love for roasted chicken, I loathe leftover fridge cold chicken so I have to find appealing ways to use it up. As usual the carcass became a stock, first boiled up, then left overnight in the simmering oven with whatever is in the cupboard (bay leaf, peppercorns, carrot, celery, onion, leek).  On Monday I needed an antidote to ED so we relished a chicken curry.  On Tuesday some of the less identifiable parts of the chicken went into potato sausages- or to quote the children ”fish cakes without the fish”!  These were made from mashed potato with added stock, beaten egg, diced chicken and parsley, rolled to sausages in flour and lightly fried.  On Wednesday we digressed to cottage pie for the two year old’s birthday.  Then on Thursday and Friday there was chicken soup.  An Italian recipe I once learnt, you make a bechamel sauce to which you add chicken stock with chopped chicken.  This makes a fantastic imitator of tinned cream of chicken soup, but this stuff feeds you like nothing else, it nourishes the soul.  
Devoured by the whole family on Sunday, and still forthcoming with delectables for the rest of the week:  I heartily encourage you to raise a toast to our most traditional Sunday roast.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Elizabeth David for kids

Victory, I have just cooked an ED dinner that the kids have scoffed.  For dinner tonight we had potato sausages with endives and bacon and tomato sauce.
The potato sausages were made with mashed potato, shallots, leftover chicken, chicken stock, two eggs, parsley and flour.("fishcakes without fish")
Two shallots and a little parsley were fried in butter,  2 tablespoons of stock were added with 4 tablespoons of cooked chicken, then a teaspoon of flour, then season and remove from the heat.  Stir in 2 eggs then mashed potato made from 4 potatoes.  Then leave overnight(ideally according to ED), next take a spoon of the mixture and roll in flour to a chipolata shape.  Fry in beef dripping or butter.
We had ours with endives and bacon.  Endives is a new exciting discovery for us.  Just as I was boring a little of the vegetables winter has to offer along came endives.  Tonight they were sliced, stewed in butter with bacon added.
I also made a tomato sauce.  I haven't used a tin of tomatoes in months.  Why use a tin when you can by fresh for a little more money but make a completely different fresh tasting sauce.  Tonight's was made from chopped tomatoes, the first sprigs of garden oregano, onion, and carrot all fried in a little olive oil then stewed until sievable- divine.
There we go, a perfectly balanced completely Elizabeth David supper ate by all.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Dinner for friends

It had been a few weeks since we last had friends for dinner.  So an impromptu dinner for friends on friday was welcomed.  I love cooking for friends, trying to balance a meal and getting the house looking presentable.
Leftover terrine with toast, lettuce, capers and chutney.
Salmon and sauce nivernaise served with new potatoes and leeks.
Blood orange and rosemary jelly and raspberry ice cream.
I managed to buy a middle piece of salmon from Williams today, so I wrapped this in oiled foil and cooked in my lower oven for over an hour.  The new potatoes were cooked in a covered saucepan in melted butter and regularly shaken until browned and tender.  The leeks were also stewed in butter.  Of course the sauce was amazing,  White wine was boiled with shallots, parsley and black pepper until reduced by half.  This was strained then put in a basin and placed over a saucepan of boiling water.  Beaten egg yolks were then added to the wine and stirred until thick.  Elizabeth always says to not let the water boil underneath but I think you need this heat for sauces to thicken.  Finally some parsley butter was added gradually.
For pudding jelly and ice cream.  The jelly was actually a Skye Gyngell recipe, Blood orange juice and sugar was infused with rosemary then gelatine leaves added.  The raspberry ice cream was Elizabeth's and was a custard mixed with raspberry puree.  I don't have an ice cream maker so just stirred it regularly as it froze.  Both were just set and frozen in time.  A nicely balanced dinner, perfect.

Chicken soup, three ways

My sister in law was ill last week and I remembered how I often make chicken soup for people after they have babies, and that a good dose should restore.  First we bought a chicken from her husband(Henry the butcher), then I set about making the first of three soups out of the one chicken.
Chicken Broth Recipe,
1 chicken
celery heart
pearl barley
Place the chicken in a large saucepan cover with water add a halved onion, 12 peppercorns, 2 bay leaves and parsley stalks.( I also added a generous heart of celery to fit in with an Elizabeth David recipe).
Leave this to simmer for an hour until the chicken is cooked. Strain about half the stock into another saucepan and add chopped leek, carrot, celery and pearl barley.  Take some chicken from the cooked bird and add to the soup.  When the vegetables are tender add the chopped parsley.  Give to a friend.
2nd soup;  Elizabeth David's Mousseline de Celeris.
This is a variation on her recipe.
Take some strained chicken stock, heat.  For each half a pint you need one egg yolk.  Beat the yolks well with a drop of lemon juice.  Add a little hot stock to this, beat, and then add this to the rest of the stock, stirring all the time until slightly thickened.  Season, this a makes a moorish light soup.
3rd soup;  Cream of chicken soup.
Make a bechamel sauce, today I used Delia's all in one -putting butter, flour and milk into the pan and stirring whilst heating until thickened.  Add some strained chicken stock to the bechamel gradually stirring, then add some small pieces of cooked chicken.  Season with white peeper and salt. This soup resembles tinned chicken soup, but far tastier and a great comfort food.
I am still left with cooked chicken that we will use tomorrow to stuff pancakes.


As the government announces we should be eating less red meat, I have been hitting the pork section of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.  I have had my second attempt at a terrine, this time a terrine de pork et de gibier (pork and game pate).  This was made from minced pork and veal, pheasant, pork fat, white wine and a seasoning including juniper berries and garlic.  I crushed the seasonings to a paste in a pestle and mortar and added this to the rest of the ingredients.  This was then cooked in loaf tins in a bain marie.  The result was impressive but not a resounding success.  It was a little under seasoned but a hard thing to master unless you like eating raw meat and the chef of the family advised me it was overcooked.  This just gives me room for improvement on the next recipe, one more terrine and two gallantines to go.
I followed this up with some great pork chops cooked with shallots and cider, accompanied by Horsley grown jerusalem artichokes with tomatoes.
We have also used up the last of the Christmas ham in some of Elizabeth’s recipes, she often adds cooked ham as the pork addition in casseroles, so Wild Duck with peppers and ham.  I also cooked her ham in cream and cheese sauce, for which mysteriously you finish off the sauce in a bain marie -I’m not convinced what benefit this brings.
For Little Chef Friday the children got homemade Frankfurters from their Uncle’s Butchery in Chipping Sodbury.  Not the potent pink colour of the artificial ones, but deep in flavour.  We had a proud parenting moment as they made their own rolls for them.  
As you can see we are not abiding to the 70 gram daily recommendation of meat.  What I do think though is if you buy good quality meat, with providence, it’s got to be better.  If you can’t afford good meat then just buy less:  enjoy one really good 70g steak rather than a 250g(8oz) one.  

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A confession

There is something I haven't been telling you.  In contrast to the cream and cheese, I have been training for Bath Half Marathon which is on Sunday.  Of course my reason to train is to adopt the figure of a super model, the reality is I weigh exactly the same and I am still only just 5'2!  Over the last month my running friend and I have been running further in a an attempt to succeed.  Despite initial resistance I always love it once I am out, there is no better place to be than pounding the hills of the five valleys.  It makes you much more sensitive to the weather and the changing season.  I am no athlete and running doesn't come naturally to me, which means there is normally an adventure to be had.  This means running round fields in circles looking for a way out, negotiating barbed wire fences and running through sticky deep mud.  The aim is often to get out on top with the elements, on one run we watched the beautiful chase across the brow of the hill of our dogs and a deer.  The deer, the lurcher then the collie, the deer won.
My worst run was the ten mile that ended up nearing fourteen.  It was a little ambitious to think we could run to Stroud over the top, Minchinhampton, Gatcombe(lovely footpath) and Avening-avoiding a flooded road by running along the wall, dogs too.
As Sunday approaches survival is overcoming a desired time.