Monday, 26 December 2011

Recipe XL - Venison in Guinness

To celebrate my 40th recipe, and the fact that it's Yule, I would like to present my own recipe. Most things have already been done before, so at the risk of coming across like the man who goes to a desert island and invents the wheel, I would just say that I found some general ideas on the Net, but adapted them to my own preferences. This meal is for my three guests today. I was wondering what to call it - "Deer Raymond" seemed a bit too pretentious. So I settled on "Deer in Beer", and I hope you like it.

1kg cubed venison
2 bottles of Guinness
A glass of Port wine
5 small red onions, quartered or 7 shallots, halved
A handful of porcini mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic (crushed and chopped)
A handful of raisins and/or sultanas
2 Braeburn apples, chopped (leave the skin on - only chop one apple, a the other one is needed the next day)
At least a tablespoon of cinnamon
20 whole black peppercorns
7-10 crushed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Some salt

Put the venison in a large bowl. Sprinkle a handful of salt onto it and then add the crushed peppercorns. Mix together well with a spoon. Put a tablespoon of cinnamon into the mixture and again, stir well. Add the onions (or shallots) and one of the apples, the dried fruit and the whole peppercorns and mix them all in. Very carefully, pour one of the bottles of Guinness and about two shot glasses of Port into your mixture. Put some clingfilm over the top and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, take it out of the fridge and set the venison on some kitchen paper to dry. Take some cinnamon and roast it in a rounded pan until it goes a little darker. Put it in a casserole dish to wait.

Fry some onion strips in butter and then add the venison for five minutes, constantly turning, to seal it.

Put part of the venison in the casserole dish. Add some of the ingredients from the marinade then the rest of the venison, followed by the last of the marinade, so they are nicely mixed in. Give it a stir.

In a very little oil, fry the other apple and the garlic for a couple of minutes maximum, constantly turning.

Pour over some more fresh Guinness until it covers the rest of the ingredients, cover the pot and cook for about two hours.

Serve with potatoes, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Recipe XXXIX - Mince Pies and Mincemeat Vodka

Christmas wouldn't be complete without several essential items: a decorated tree, a few presents, some strong, unctuous alcohol and Bing Crosby. But there's one item which has become so vital to my perfect Christmas, that I fear I wouldn't feel right without it: the mince pie.

Mincemeat: Mincemeat is called mincemeat, because back in the 16th century, there was minced lamb or beef in the recipe. Fortunately, today there isn't such a combination, but the name lives on. This recipe makes approximately 20 to 24 mince pies.

With the remaining mincemeat, don't chuck it away - get a merry drinke out of it!

Ingredients for the mincemeat:
250g dark brown sugar
1 kg chopped apples (some unpeeled for flavour)
A teaspoon of allspice
A teaspoon of cinnamon
180g-200g raisins, sultanas & currants according to taste
75g glacé cherries
6 to 10 chopped dried apricots (optional)
2 or 3 pieces of chopped candied peel (optional)
70g-90g blanched or ordinary almonds, finely chopped
Grated rind of half a lemon + its juice
3 shot glasses of rum or brandy, but put more or less in depending on your taste
Some sterilised pots to contain them (if storing for a later time)

Instructions for the mincemeat:
Put the chopped apples in a bowl, add the lemon rind and juice to stop the apples going brown, then add the sugar and spices, followed by the dried fruits. Mix them together well. Add your alcohol. Mix further.
Put them in the sterilised pots and remove when needed. If immediately, go straight on to the instructions below. Normally you should make the mincemeat at least a month before Christmas, but as it's Christmas Eve, just go straight onto the next part!

Ingredients for the dough:
250g flour
60g cold butter - the butter must be cold or the dough will go gooey
60g shortening (optional)
The juice of one orange
1 pinch of salt

Instructions for the pies:
Put the salt, flour, shortening and butter into a bowl and turn into a fine crumble dough (below)

Add the orange juice and knead it into a moist, putty-like consistency similar to biscuit dough. This should take no longer than ten minutes. At this point you can break it into two or three parts, wrap it in a sheet of thin plastic and put it in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes to get stiffer. But if you don't have time, move on. Roll it out as thinly as possible. I did this in two parts, as it saved space on the work surface. Turn your oven on to 200°C.

Take your Yorkshire pudding or muffin tray, grease it with butter (essential) and with the aid of a glass or a round cutter, cut out the base crust for the mince pies.

Take a spoon and place a dollop of mincemeat in each one. With some other shapes, put a pastry roof on top, sprinkle with sugar or glaze with an egg, and slide it into the oven for about 10 minutes.

With a knife, carefully remove from the tray and get the next batch ready. Repeat this process until as much of the dough as possible is used up.

Put them on the cake rack or in a tin and hide from all gluttonous people.

Mincemeat vodka:
With the leftover mincemeat, don't throw it away - put the mincemeat into a jar, get a cheapish bottle of vodka and pour it over the top. Add a little cinnamon and whatever else you feel like (brown sugar, allspice, more raisins, etc...) and serve to the neighbours when they spring over. Stir every day.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Recipe XXXVIII - English Muffins: Christmas Breakfast

There are several glories of the English kitchen: the puddings, pies and pastries being three, the good old English fried breakfast another, but for its simplicity, taste and convenience, nothing comes close to the English muffin. It is the highlight of my year, as I hold them in such high esteem, that I have them but at this time.

About 280g of flour
1/4 of a teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 of a teaspoon of dried yeast
1/2 of a tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of shortening / butter, at room temperature
somewhere between 180ml and 240ml of milk

Take a large bowl and put together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
Mix in the milk and butter, knead for about ten minutes, remembering to start with 180ml of milk and then add a little more until the dough is consistent.

Transfer the dough to a surface which has been covered in flour and leave it for one hour to rise. Make it into a sausage shape and divide it into six pieces of an equal size.

Roll them into balls, flatten them to about 2.5cm in height and cover them in parchment paper or plastic foil and allow them to further rise for about 30 minutes.

Now preheat the oven to 180°C and switch on the frying pan to a medium strong heat. Brush the frying pan with oil, then brush one side of the muffins with oil and sprinkle a little light flour on top, and place it with the oiled side facing downwards into the frying pan, repeating the oiling and flouring process on the other side.

Fry until both sides are browned. Theoretically, they should get flatter as they cook.

Finally, put them in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes then let them cool for 30 minutes. To preserve them, put them in the bread bin or a Tupperware container overnight, but as I've done, put them on a cake rack ready for consumption in the morning! When serving, slice them in half and toast the inside for a short time. Serve with butter, a nice young Cheddar, a Maasdamer or jam.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Recipe XXXVII - Meat Korma: spice up your Yuletide

Yuletide is coming, the only thing to worry about is if the guests enjoy the food you prepare. For the day itself, you'll do whatever, but the day after, when you realise you've got a load of chopped meat in the freezer, there are only two possibilities: a stew or a curry. I know what I'd choose, and here it is...

500g pork/chicken/beef/whatever
20 coriander corns, crushed in the pestle & mortar
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
3 onions
A piece of ginger, about 3cm long, 4cm wide
2 tomatoes
2 bay leaves
5 to 7 peppercorns (whole)
5 cloves (whole)
7 pods of cardamom (whole)
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
7 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of cinnamon (6 cm long)
2 pots of ordinary yoghurt
A sprinkling of garam massala
A handful of chopped green coriander
1 red pepper (optional)
A cup of coconut milk (optional)

Heat a frying pan to a red hot temperature with nothing in it. Take the coriander, cumin and coconut, and dry-roast them for 2-4 minutes or until they go darker. Put the dry-roasted spices in a bowl to wait for later.

Put the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and turmeric into a blender and turn them into a pulpy paste. Put these in another bowl and wait for later.

Heat some oil at medium power in a frying pan. Add the peppers, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, peppercorns and cloves. Once they are nicely browning, turn up the heat, add the meat and seal it in the oil. Remove the meat and cinnamon from the pan and leave it for later.

Building up the sauce:
Put a dribble more oil in the pan, add the blended paste and let it reduce slowly for 10 or so minutes at a medium heat. Keep stirring. Put in some water now and again to keep it moist and stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Now you can add the dry-roasted spices.

After 5 to 10 minutes, add the yoghurt. After another 5 to 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt on the meat and add it and the cinnamon to the pan again. Add some garam massala and green coriander and if you want some water or coconut milk, and leave it to simmer for up to an hour, or until it is done.

Serve it with boiled basmati rice, roast cauliflower and/or some chapatis.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Recipe XXXVI - Polish Gołąbki

Poland is one of my favourite culinary destinations. Of all the food in Europe, Poland's cuisine is one of the most exciting, and I try to cook something Polish once per month as a special treat. Today, Gołąbki, which are truly tasty. You pronounce it Go-womp-ki, and if you've never tried them, you've never lived! The Polish cook this to a standard recipe, but there are variations. I like to put some herbs and garlic in mine, but this is not obligatory.

Ingredients for the Gołąbki:
1 green cabbage
1 finely chopped onion
500g minced beef
1 egg
2 cups of rice
Some ground black pepper
A little milk

1 tin of tomatoes
1 carton of tomato passata
2 tablespoonfuls of ordinary vinegar
250ml water
2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar

If you have had the cabbage in the fridge, wait until the cabbage is at room temperature, as it is easier to get the leaves off.

Heat the oven to 180°C.

While you are waiting for the oven to heat up, you can make your combination: boil your rice in a saucepan. While that is boiling, take the minced beef, the pepper, some salt, the egg and the diced onion, and mix them up well in a bowl. Once the rice is done, add that too, mixing very well. Use some milk if necessary. Set aside to marinate for a while. Take your cabbage now, and start carefully peeling off the leaves. You will need about 12 medium-to-large leaves in the end. Put them briefly in some boiling water, to soften a little. Three minutes should do.

Then take the minced beef and put some into one of the leaves like you see below:

Then wrap the meat inside the leaf and seal it with a cocktail stick.

Repeat this process until all the meat is used up. Remember to keep the cabbage ready to peel more if there is any meat left over. The nearer to the inside you go, the harder it is to peel the leaves, so you may wish to put the remains of the cabbage in the boiling water to be sure you can get more leaves. Pile them up on top of each other in a cast iron casserole pot, as follows:

The sauce is very, very easy. Take your tin of tomatoes, the vinegar and the passata, and mix them together well. Add some sugar and water, and pour it over the Gołąbki in the pot.

Put the pot into the oven for an hour. Serve immediately alone, or with boiled potatoes. Remember to remove the cocktail sticks before you eat!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Recipe XXXV - Traditional English Plum Pudding

Last Sunday was what is known as Stir-up Sunday, and traditionally the weekend where plum puddings are *stirred up*, to *stir up* the festive Yuletide feelings. To make it, you need a fair few ingredients and a lot of time, but the personal rewards are extraordinary. I haven't eaten a supermarket one for over five years, and the season wouldn't be complete without it.
The measurements in this recipe are most certainly only estimates, and I sincerely recommend you put in the ingredients you want, and in the quantities you want. Traditionalists use shredded suet, but to be honest, bread or an extra amount of breadcrumbs are just as good.
You really need two days for this, so plan ahead. The four-week gap between making and eating is not so important: you can even make them now for the year after.

Main Ingredients:
60 to 80g sifted ordinary flour
150g white breadcrumbs
250g dark brown sugar
750g raisins, sultanas and currants
30 dried plums (prunes)
A teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
100g chopped almonds
250g dried apricots, chopped
120g ground hazelnuts
A good tablespoon of fivespice (Lebkuchen spices)
A large spoonful of cinnamon
50g candied peel, finely chopped
3 apples, cored
2 oranges (grate the peel separately and squeeze the juice out)
2 lemons (grate the peel separately and squeeze the juice out)
2 or 3 eggs
Strong alcohols of your choice: I used these:

but you can use stout beer, barley wine, rum, brandy, sherry or whatever takes your fancy.

Instructions, day 1:
To start, take the largest bowl in the house. If you don't have a huge bowl add it to your shopping list! Put in the breadcrumbs, the flour, the brown sugar and the spices. Stir them round really well, then add all the dried fruit and all the nuts, the grated orange peel and grated lemon peel, plus the candied peel. To keep tabs, remember to put them in bowls like I did, so you can see what you haven't put in yet.

Once all the dry ingredients are in, crack the eggs into a Pyrex jug and add your alcohol mix. This will bind the ingredients more thoroughly without the need for the suet.

Then, go to your neighbours and call your friends and family over to stir the bowl and make a wish! After all this preparation, it is time to take a rest. So once everything is so very well-mixed, leave it in a cool, dry place overnight to bind and settle.

Day 2:
Useful equipment:
A chopping board
A roll of silicone paper
A roll of tin foil
Some muslin (1m²)
A huge saucepan
Something to put in the water to steam the puddings (I used the filter for my rice cooker)

Take your bowl out and put the chopping board flat on the table. Cut the silicone paper to size and using the chopping board as a weight, put two ends under each side. That leaves you free to spoon the pudding mixture onto the paper, as below.

Fold up the edges of the paper and make the pudding into a ball. Cover in tin foil, leaving an onion-shaped effect to be able to tie string round the puddings. This aids in the removal process when they are still very hot.

Put some water into the bottom of the large saucepan and place the rice cooker filter on top. Steam the puddings for several hours. I steam them for 8 hours, but 4 is probably enough.

REMEMBER: keep filling up with hot water from the kettle or tap each hour, and don't allow the water to run low.

Once done, take them out of the steamer, let them settle, cool down, and take them out of their foil and paper wrappers. Put new silicone paper over them, wrap them in muslin and hang them in a cool, dry place for the next four weeks, or give them to close friends and family as early Christmas presents! Here are two of mine, from last Christmas, hanging in the linen wardrobe:

Day of consumption - instructions:
On the day itself, remove the one you want from its storage place, and still in its wrapping, steam it for 2 to 3 hours. Put it on a warm plate, take it to the dining table, pour brandy over it and set fire to it.
Once the cheering and the flames have died down, serve with custard (recipe coming soon), brandy butter, cream or ice cream.

  • Reheating is not a problem - surprisingly, the microwave is quite a good place for it.
  • You can make them as large or as small as you like, so think about who you might be cooking them for, and size the puddings accordingly. To identify them, do certain things to the strings, like "this is for a couple, two knots", "this is for a family of 4, so I'll make a circle between two knots. See the third last photo above.
  • To make it a truly traditional annual event, take some good friends or family in October to your local orchards to pick apples and nuts. You can also make your plum puddings then, or the weekend after your trip to the orchard, to keep the meetings regular.
  • The idea behind plum puddings was actually that - to take the fresh ingredients and before they went off, put them into a heavy cake with alcohol as preservation, to celebrate midwinter with something filling in your stomach.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Recipe XXXIV - Stuffing Your Bird

In the run-up to Yuletide, I would like to suggest some ways to make your own traditional Christmas dinner. This week, we're looking at stuffing birds. There are many ways of doing this, without having to rely on ready-made material.

A small loaf or a thick slice of white bread
2-3 eggs
A splash of milk
Some dried herbs (sage, oregano, rosemary, etc., or whatever you choose)
Some dried fruits (dried apricots, raisins, etc., or something similar)
Some crushed almonds or walnuts
An onion, cut into small squares
4 cloves of garlic
Ground black pepper
Salt to taste, and of course...
...a bird to put it in! I chose a pheasant, because it needed cooking.

Notes on game birds:
Don't forget to get your game bird off a good huntsman. Hang it up in a cool, dry place for several weeks if you can. The longer you hang it up for, and the worse it stinks, the better it will taste on your plate. I couldn't, because the finicky Germans have banned game birds due to avian flu, so I had to import mine from the UK frozen.

Take the bread and break it up into a bowl. Crack the eggs on top (two should do, but with a big bird, you will need more bread and more eggs) and pour on some milk. With a potato masher, work the ingredients into each other. Leave it whilst you cut up the onion and garlic, and crush your pepper.

Add all the other ingredients into the mixture and mix wekk using a fork or the potato masher.

Take the bird, spread it out and open up the space where the innards normally are. Stuff the mixture inside. Follow the recommended cooking instructions for your bird, with the stuffing.

Once you remove the bird from the oven, your stuffing should have a thick crust (see the photo below).

Finally, cut up your bird into (un)equal portions, making sure everyone gets some, but the cook gets the most!

Above is how the stuffing looks across the middle.

Point of interest:
You don't have to have a bird to make stuffing. You can put it into roulades of beef or pork, or you can roast or steam the stuffing as a dish on its own. It is so heavy, it makes an ideal vegetarian meal.