Potted shrimp

7 12 2010

Potted shrimp are one of my favourite indulgences; sweet brown shrimp set in spicy mace infused butter…. delicious, if not really the best thing for your waist line.

I guess you could make great big tureens of potted shrimp and dole it out to people but that just seems somehow uncivilised, half the fun is in having your own little individual pot to dip into as you wish.

The best thing to serve with these shrimp is either delicious fresh brown bread or hot crispy toast that the butter will just ooze into

Ingredients:

1lb brown shrimp

8 oz. unsalted butter

2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Method:

Shell and de-vein the shrimp, you might want to ask your fish monger to do this for you or buy them already prepared.

Chop half of the shrimp quite finely, mix in the whole shrimp and add the mace.

Melt 6 oz. of the butter in a pan, once all the butter has melted stir in the shrimp allowing it to absorb most of the butter.

Add in the cayenne pepper, stir and pour into ramekins.

Melt the remaining 2 oz of butter and pour over the top of the shrimp to seal.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before popping into the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably 12.

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Pigs in blankets

26 11 2010

Pigs in blankets are  great, they make a perfect accompaniment to your turkey on Christmas day, they are great as a starter and make an excellent festive finger food.

I understand that in North America pigs in blankets are little Vienna sausages in pastry not dissimilar to a sausage roll, well these aren’t them.

In the UK pigs in blankets are a chipolata sausage wrapped in a piece of bacon and roasted in the oven and typically most people would have them only at Christmas time.

The trick to serving great pigs in blankets is to make sure you use the best meat that you can afford, there is nothing worse than pigs in blankets made from the cheapest nastiest frozen sausages wrapped in watery bacon full of preservatives.

In recent years I have started using olive oil infused with sage, rosemary and garlic when I cook my pigs in a blanket, all three flavours go great with pork and just really help to lift it to another level.

To make 24 pigs in blankets you will need:

24 good quality pork chipolatas

24 rashers of good quality bacon, I prefer to use maple smoked bacon but it is up to you.

500ml of extra virgin olive oil

24 rosemary stalks with leaves till attached (optional)

12 sage leaves

2 garlic cloves

a handful of rosemary leaves

Method

The first thing you need to do is infuse your olive oil with the rosemary, sage and garlic flavours, I tend to do this well in advance so that you really get the flavour of the herbs coming through in the oil, ideally 2 weeks to 3 weeks minimum.

Bruise the herbs so as to help release their essential oils and drop them into your bottle of olive oil along with the garlic which should be roughly crushed.

I tend to remove approximately half of the oil from the bottle before doing this both to allow for displacement and also so as to have oil to hand to help dislodge any stray herbs that get stuck to the neck of the bottle.

Refill to the top with oil and place in a cool dark place for as long as possible.

Wrap each chipolata in a rasher of bacon, you might want to flatten the bacon out with the flat of a knife

when each pig is safely in it’s blanket I like to secure them, you can use a couple of cocktail sticks but  I like to be a bit fancy and use a woddy stalk from some rosemary sharpened into a skewer.

Lay your pigs in blankets into an oven proof dish and drizzle with the infused oil, if you have any sage leave left over I like to scatter these over before popping the dish into a preheated oven at 185 c for about 35 minutes.





Bubble and Squeak

12 11 2010

No Bubble and Squeak are not Disney’s newest cartoon creations or my pet mice or any other such nonsense.

Bubble and Squeak is a traditional British meal made with the leftover meat and vegetables from dinner, in particular a Sunday roast. The name  itself comes from the sounds that are made as the dish is frying in the pan.

Bubble and Squeak is one of these meals whereby everyone does it differently (and why shouldnt they!)  but two things are constant in most recipes; the bulk of the dish is made up of leftovers potatoes and cabbage or any other green vegetable such as sprouts.

Traditionally the left over beef from dinner was chopped up very fine and mixed in as well, a lot of people have stopped doing this but I think that it just isn’t bubble without it!

I’m not really sure that there is anything else out there that is as cheap and simple to make and yet tastes half as good as bubble and squeak, try it for yourself and find out.

To make your Bubble and Squeak vegetarian friendly just omit the beef.

To make bubble and squeak you will need

approx 1lb of leftover potatoes – boiled, mashed or roast any will do

approx 1lb of leftover cabbage or other green veg

leftover beef (if any is left!)

1 onion

salt

pepper

butter

Roughly mash your leftover potatoes and chop your cabbage and onion down into small pieces, mix this together and add salt and pepper to taste

shred your leftover beef as finely as you possibly can, combine this with your vegetables and pop in the fridge for about 20 minutes or so.

Melt some butter in a large frying pan add your mixture, fry until lightly golden brown.

Bubble and Squeak can be eaten by itself as a light meal or used as a side dish or my favourite as part of a cooked breakfsast.





Best roast potatoes in the world

9 11 2010

Being British I have eaten my fair share of roast potatoes, quite often as an accompaniment to roast beef but just as often alongside other less traditional dishes or just by themselves.

Some roast potatoes are good, some are ok and some are a downright insult. These roast potatoes are great.

Personally I love the mix of the regular potatoes with their new world sweet potato counterparts but you can exclude these if you want to keep things old school, if you don’t use the sweet potatoes then replace them with more white potatoes.

You will need:

2lb of white potatoes

1lb of sweet potatoes

2 large red onions

3 cloves of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

fresh thyme

fresh rosemary

a handful of  sage leaves

sea salt

black pepper

 

Pre-heat an oven to 200 degrees C

Peel your regular potatoes and cut them into pieces of uniform size,  boil these for approx 6-7 minutes until they are part cooked.

At this point place the potatoes into a colander and give them a shake so that the edges get chuffed up. Pat dry the potatoes using some kitchen paper so they are as dry as you can get them.

place your potatoes into a large roasting tray and pour over a good amount of the extra virgin olive oil about 3/4 table spoons. Roll the potatoes around so that they are all evenly coated in the olive oil, season the potatoes with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

At this point pop the tray into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, at this point they should be lightly golden brown .

Whilst the potatoes are in the oven by themselves you can prepare everything else; peel the onions and chop them into at least quarters, peel the garlic cloves and roughly smash them so that all of the flavour is released, clean your sweet potatoes and chop them into small chunks with the skin left on, remove any woody stalks from your rosemary and thyme.

Take a bowl and mix the herbs together with a good glug of olive oil and about 2  tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Take your tray of potatoes and add in the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic making sure that everything is well distributed.

Now pour over the mix of herbs, oil and vinegar again making sure that everything is well coated and well distributed.

Turn the oven down to approx 180 degrees C and cook for a further 45/50 minutes until everything is crispy and bubbling.

Transfer to a dish and either serve immediately or cover with a lid and serve within 15/20 minutes at the most.





Home made pickled onions

19 05 2010

Ok well I have mentioned pickled onions before and now I have decided to impart upon you all my own method for making these delcious treats.

You will find some books/sites/people etc that will tell you that you have to brine the onions first and that the reason behind this is to help keep the onions crisp.

I am willing to go out on a limb on this and declare shenanigans.

Any time I have made pickled onions and brined them first they actually ended up being soggier than when I don’t brine them.  I asked an old friend of mine who also pickles things, too many things if I’m honest, and he agrees with me that the brining is really surplus to requirements and that in over 40 years of pickling he has never seen the need.

So here we go then, first things first you need the right onions, personally for me it has to be silverskins, they are the right size have a nice natural sweetness to them that goes well with the acidity of the vinegar. If you  want larger pickled onions or just can’t get silverskins then I would use small to medium sized shallots and just top and tail them to make them slightly rounder in profile.

Although I have before had some pickled onions that weren’t peeled I would never ever make these myself, it is fiddly and pointless for the person eating them, don’t be lazy peel the onions yourself!

For the viengar I find that it has to be proper dark malt vinegar, it is the only vinegar that gives that proper pub/chip shop counter taste that I look for in my pickled onions, or eggs for that matter. That said I have recently tried mixing things up a bit and have settled on a 80/20 mix of malt vinegar to good balsamic vinegar that is really very pleasant.

A quick note about the spices used, the measures given aren’t exact and really and truly it is a personal thing as to how much you want to add of something, if you like a hotter flavour add more chillis, if you want it sweeter add some sugar, you will know when it tastes right to you.

*all spice amounts are based on 1 litre of vinegar being used*

Onions

1 litre of vinegar for every kilo of onions – final weight of onions will be less after peeling etc

2 bay leaves

1 handful of mustard seeds

1 hadful of black peppercorns

4 pieces of star anise

peel of one orange

2 cinammon sticks

half handful of cloves

2 cloves of garlic

4 dried red chillies

1/2 nutmeg grated

1/2 handful of pimento berries/all spice berries

Add all the spices to the vinegar and simmer on a medium heat for about 5/10 minutes, this is really just to help the flavours infuse into the vinegar.

Whilst the vinegar is simmering pack the onions into jar that have been well sterilised. This means that the jar AND the lid have eiather been boiled or if you are lazy you can run them through the dish washer by themselves.

Once the vinegar has cooled pour it into the jars over the onions, fill to the brim and seal the jars. It doesn’t matter if you end up with chillies or bay leaves or cloves etc in the jars, in my view the more the merrier!

Wipe your jars down and make sure they are sufficiently clean.

Place in a cool dark place and forget about your pickled onions for at least 1 month,  I personally leave mine for 2 months minimum.

When they are ready open and enjoy 🙂





Toad in the hole

21 03 2010

Last Wednesday I came in from work and was at a complete loose end as to what to make for tea; the cupboards and fridge were looking rather sparse and I was only a few minutes away from reaching from the dreaded stack of take-away menues when I was hit with a bolt of inspiration and decided to cook up one of my absolute favourites from childhood, Toad in the Hole.

I know that many people have many different ways of making this British classic but here is mine, stolen from my dear old mum’s cookery book, it certainly won’t make you thin but it will put a smile on your face.

To make enough to feed 4 people or two greedy ones you will need the following ingredients:

For the Toad in the Hole

100g Plain Flour

1 large egg

150 ml milk & 150 ml water

8 rashers of good quality unsmoked bacon

8 good quality pork sausages (cumberland sausages work very well in this dish)

1 onion thinly sliced

vegetable oil

For the Onion Gravy

1 onion thinly sliced

2tsp English mustard

2tsp plain flour

2tsp Worcestershire sauce (dark soy sauce if you can’t get Worcestershire sauce)

2tsp Vegetable oil

600ml of chicken stock ( vegetable stock also works if you prefer)

Method.

1.Preheat the oven to fan 200C/conventional 220C/ gas 7. Sift the flour and a make a well in the centre and crack in the egg. Beat lightly,then gradually pour in half the milk and water, beating all the time to form a smooth,thick batter. Continue for 2 minutes,then stir in the remaining liquid. (The batter can be made several hours ahead of time, however despite many people ascertations this is not needed.)

2.Wrap a bacon rasher around each sausage then put them, spaced apart, in a large roasting tin (preferably metal). Scatter over the onion and drizzle with oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the bacon and sausages are starting to colour and the onion is tinged brown at the edges.

3.Remove from the oven and quickly pour the batter over the sausages. Return to the oven for a further 35-40 minutes until the batter is crisp and well risen.

4.Meanwhile,make the gravy. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pan, add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes or so until softened and lightly coloured. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute or until the flour has cooked out fully. Add the mustard, Worcestershire or soy sauce and stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 15 minutes, then taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Toad in the Hole is best eaten with mounds of fluffly mash potatoes and plenty of the onion gravy, enjoy!








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