Monday, 23 December 2013

Recipe CXIV - The Pudding 2: Sultana, Hazelnut and Cinnamon (Sweet)

This is by no means the B-side of the pudding. The sweet pudding is utterly delicious and adorns any after-dinner table. Puddings are some of the most varied and satisfying dishes there are. This one broadly follows Recipe CXIII, but when the ingredients are added, it diverges greatly. I am once again giving you the basics; it's up to you what else you do with it.

280g plain flour
80g vegetable suet, chilled and grated
50g frozen butter (but refrigerated enough so it is very hard is fine), also grated
1 egg, beaten
Some butter for greasing
Some cold water on standby, if necessary
Some whisky, rum or cognac
Cinnamon, five-spice, hazelnuts (roughly crushed as well as powdered), nutmeg, brown sugar, even honey - whatever takes your fancy

Put a large cauldron of water on a medium heat. Never forget to put something in the bottom so the pudding does not have direct contact with the fiery heat of the cooker. I use an upturned rice cooker base. 
Grate the butter and the suet as in the last recipe. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, with your own proportions.

Knead it all together well. Add some alcohol if you want. Butter the inside of a bowl and spoon in the ingredients.

By now your water should be boiling away, so put the bowl carefully into the pan so that it is no lower than half-way inside the water. Steam for three hours.

Turn the bowl upside down onto a plate. If it is properly cooked, it should fall out immediately.

Serve with custard (here is a good recipe:

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Recipe CXIII - The Pudding 1: Beef, Mushroom and Port (Savoury)

Of all the gastronomic delights I experienced in 2013, the best have been the ones I felt proud of myself for having spent the time making. I would say this one, though, sits pretty high up the list of those as it took 2 days and a lot of care and attention. This is what puddings are about. The middle of winter is a great time to bring out the inner gourmand in us, but also we should embrace our ability to create delicious food with a little imagination and patience.

For those who do not know what it is, we need to discuss what "pudding" means. The word "Pudding" in German is what the British call "custard" and the French call "crème anglaise". They are, though, all slightly different. Custard is hot and can be runny or solid enough to sit on your spoon and I would go for custard each and every time over the other two.

Pudding, in the British sense though, does not mean this at all. It has evolved over the years into what is now a truly beloved yet highly variable household dish, albeit not so often made, considering the time it takes. My mother, bless her, often used to spend hours making a similar dish, and making this myself, I can appreciate just what an effort it was to produce it.

So what are puddings? 

Well, they are round, they form a centrepiece to a table, can be sweet or savoury, and are made with pastry, often suet. 

"Suet?" I hear you ask, "What's suet?"

An astute question as always, dear reader.

I love the English language for its conciseness. It is, in fact, fat surrounding the kidney of a cow used to make pastry. I know, that sounds positively dis-GUS-ting. Well yes. But there are now vegetable suet and other types, and they are very good ingredients for a sweet pudding with lots of fruit or a savoury yet crumbly pastry similar to biscuit.

This is the savoury version - you will do things in this recipe you never thought you would do, like grate fat and freeze butter.

For the filling, it is entirely up to you, as every pudding is different. Just go where your mood takes you!

Ingredients for the filling:
550g-600g of stewing beef, roughly diced
4 medium-sized carrots, chopped
5 to 8 mushrooms, sliced or quartered (porcini or some such, but if not, button mushrooms work out fine)
1 apple, sliced (optional)
1 red pepper, chopped
4 to 6 shallots, peeled and whole
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Fresh herbs, finely chopped
Some flour, pepper and salt for seasoning
1 glass of port
1 tablespoonful of Worcestershire Sauce (optional but recommended)


Instructions for the filling:
Heat the oven to 170°C.
Put the flour, finely chopped herbs, salt and pepper in a bowl and roll the beef in it. Fry gently in butter in a casserole dish until brown.

Remove, and do the same with the vegetables.

Pour over the port, put the lid on the casserole dish and put in the oven for up to 4 hours. 

Before you add it to the pudding, you should let it cool down.

Ingredients for the pastry:
*tsp = teaspoon, tbsp = tablespoon

280g plain flour
A sachet of baking powder
(Alternatively, 280g self-raising flour and 1 tsp of baking powder)
Half a tsp of salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley and thyme
80g vegetable suet, chilled and grated
50g frozen butter (but refrigerated enough so it is very hard is fine), also grated
1 egg, beaten
Some butter for greasing
Some cold water on standby, if necessary

Baking paper and string
A large cauldron containing water for steaming 

Instructions for the pastry:
(I apologise for the photo, but you need to see it)
Grease a rounded heat-proof bowl with butter.
In another bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder and fresh herbs. Mix them up well. Grate the suet and add it, then do the same with the cold, solid butter. 

Add the egg and knead everything until it becomes a soft, not-so-sticky dough. Cut a third off and put it in clingfilm to keep fresh.

Roll out the largest piece until it is big enough to fill your bowl. Put it inside the buttered bol and press it until it covers the entire inside of the bowl. Then fill it with the cooled-down beef stew mix until it fills the inner part of the pudding dough.

Use the remaining part of the dough to make a lid.

Then cover it with a double layer of baking paper and tie it up with string. Leave a little room for the pastry to be able to rise slightly.

By now your water should be boiling away, so put the bowl carefully into the pan so that it is no lower than half-way inside the water. Never forget to put something in the bottom so the pudding does not have direct contact with the fiery heat of the cooker. I use an upturned rice cooker base. Then steam for three to four hours.

Once cooked, get a large plate, unwrap the pudding, place the large plate on top and flip it upside down.

As you see, there is now ample space to decorate your pudding however you see fit, or adorn it with all the vegetables you are serving. This makes for an imaginative festive display for everyone to behold before it is carved up amongst all the guests. To be honest, you could do this with lamb, venison or even wild boar.

Finally, I would like to apologise for the appalling photos in this one - I have no excuses.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Raymond's Recipe CXII - Chocolate and Almond Macaroon Biscuits

Christmas is approaching fast. With just over two weeks to go, I always realise that I am so woefully underprepared, that I just give up and let time take its course. However, I might fail to send an obscure great-aunt-in-law her annual bottle of outrageously pungent perfume that she likes, but I never forget the mince pies  or the Christmas puddings

One of the most important parts of this time of year is the food. I never neglect that. Over the years, I have always tried to outdo Christmas dinner from the year before, but now it's getting silly. If I carry on, I'll end up doing a multi-bird roast where you stuff a quail inside a pigeon inside a mallard inside a pheasant inside a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, and that's not where I want to go, for I fear that would be my last meal on this mortal coil.

So I'm going for quality over quantity, starting with the sweet snacks. I made these as a trial run (hence the extraordinarily unphotogenic result), but over the next two weeks I will perfect them.

100g plain chocolate, melted
150g blanched almond slices and 50g fresh almonds, coarsely ground
250g caster sugar
Three egg whites
1 tsp vanilla sugar 
Butter for greasing

Firstly, turn the oven on fairly low (160°C should do it), then line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper and grease the surface. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water and whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Put the almonds in a blender and once in very small pieces (the fresh almonds will be bigger than the blanched ones - this is good for flavour and texture), put them in a large-ish bowl and add the sugar, vanilla and fold in the egg whites. Be very gentle with the egg whites as you fold them in, because they play a vital role in the final consistency and need to retain some form of fluffiness.

Then add the melted chocolate, slowly folding that in until it looks a thick brownish lumpy custard:

To transfer them to the greaseproof paper, you can do one of two things. Either spoon very small balls the size of a £2/€2 coin leaving a large gap between each, or spread it evenly over the surface of the greaseproof paper and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, depending if you want them soft and tangy or hard and crunchy. You will need to do it twice.

I made one lot batch crunchy and one batch soft. I also broke them into rough bitesize pieces and put them in a biscuit tin.

Next time I'm going to spoon them onto the greaseproof paper and make individual ones.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Recipe CXI - Veal Steak Strips with a Leek and Blue Cheese Sauce

That's not the full title, but on the Net one is supposed to be brief... The full recipe would be "Veal Steak Strips and Caramelised Onions on a Bed of Spiral Pasta in a Leek and Blue Cheese Sauce", but that would just look too unwieldy...

Anyhow, this recipe is perfect for a cold November evening when the nights are getting longer and the memories of summer are still not so far away. 

A third of a leek, cut into tiny pieces
100g Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola or some such blue cheese
1 or 2 onions, thinly sliced
200ml cream
400g pasta, preferably large
Some small veal steaks, sliced into strips
Ground black pepper
Lots of butter for frying

Put butter into a saucepan and a decent frying pan, and water into another saucepan. Switch all of them on medium except the water (high).
Put the steaks in the frying pan and add a tiny bit of salt. Fry gently, removing any leakages from the meat. Put the onions in towards the beginning.
Take the leek and pulse it in the mixer for a while until it is in small pieces. Fry gently in butter.
Put the pasta in salted boiling water.

With 5 to 10 minutes before the pasta is ready, put the blue cheese in with the leek. Allow it to melt, then add some cream and let it heat on a gentle temperature without bubbling.

Once the pasta is cooked, the rest should be ready too. 

When dishing up, think about making it presentable. I mixed the sauce with the pasta, put the meat on top in a small pile and the onions on top. But I'm sure you'll have a method that is just as attractive! Finish off with some rocket salad or such like to give it some colour.

I like my steaks nicely browned on the outside and red on the inside, hence the contrasting shades.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Recipe CX - Sauce Andalouse

I went to a café today here in Germany where there was a TV on in the corner. I don't have German TV at home so it was quite an experience to see what their cookery programmes looked like - I don't think I remember someone looking quite as orange or having such white teeth as the flirty presenter, who did a lot of pointing at the camera, which moved round the set making me queasy.

The camera settled on the presenter eating the food but there was not much camerawork directed at the food itself or its preparation. It was on silent, so I was saved from having my ears as well as my eyes violated by this daytime TV show for the colourblind. I think it was called Topfgeldjäger. What shocked me the most though was the food they were cooking. I couldn't believe the size of the portions and the monotone colour of the dishes they were proffering to the German public. One of the dishes was steak but it was a pallid grey colour, not a bit of red in it.

Considering the blandness of the dishes and the gaudy luridness of the studio, the presenter and the contestants, they could have filmed the whole thing in black and white, it would have saved the ZDF a lot of money in spraytan and studio décor. So that really got my back up and I wanted to rebel in my own little way in my kitchen.

I got the butcher to cut me off some mini steaks and I cut up and fried some chips, but I decided to make my own Andalouse sauce to go with it for a change, instead of mustard or mayonnaise.

Ingredients (makes 2 jars of it):
1 red pepper
1 green pepper 
1 onion
1 lemon (squeezed)
About half a pot of mayonnaise
Half a tube of tomato purée
A teaspoonful of chili powder (optional)
A pinch of salt

Put the onion, red pepper and green pepper into a mixer and blitz until it is virtually a paste. Add the lemon juice and the tomato purée and pulse a couple of times to integrate it. Then put in the mayonnaise and pulse gently until the whole mix is a bright pink colour. Add the chili powder and stir it in.

Put the whole thing in the fridge for a while (minimum an hour) for the flavours to run. Just before your chips and steak are done, heat the sauce up gently and serve either on the plate or in a small bowl for decoration.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Recipe CIX - Minestrone Soup

The many Italians I know have a penchant for telling me how much they yearn for their homes and all the wonderful cooking they are missing out on because they live in Germany or Luxembourg. "What is August for you is November for us", one of them said. Another admonished me for eating penne rigate with a spoon for practical reasons - it's a short pasta and fits nicely on the spoon. "It is forbidden in Italy to eat any kind of pasta with a spoon!" shrieked another with a face like I had just gone to the toilet on her pet cat. I mean, what's going to happen? Is it going to cause outbreaks of bunga-bunga in the Sistine Chapel? No. Get over it.

Well, this is my message to them: if you had spent less time obeying your rather superstitious rules of the kitchen and more time obeying the temporal laws of the state, the place you left might be in a lot better shape and you might not have had to abandon Italy in the first place... just a thought.

Although I am not a fan of celery, this dish would not be Minestrone without it.
It is very easy to make, and considering the few ingredients, it is rather tasty on a cold, rainy and dreary November afternoon. My November, not their November.

5 large carrots, sliced to your preference
Half a Savoy cabbage (shredded)
2 large onions (sliced)
2-3 large potatoes (peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
5 cloves of garlic (roughly sliced)
4 sticks of celery (cut into small pieces)
Some butter beans
A tin of tomatoes (yes, Italian cooking is based on it!)
Some fresh tomatoes (quartered)
500ml to 1litre of vegetable stock (hot)
Ground black pepper

Take the onions, carrots and celery and fry them in a medium-hot pan in olive oil until they have sweated nicely and are a little softer. Add salt and pepper and stir continually.

Add the garlic and once it starts to release its aroma, add the potatoes and keep stirring. Add the fresh tomatoes and the tinned tomatoes and reduce the heat. Put on the lid and let the flavours run for a good 10 minutes.

Now you can add the hot vegetable stock and let it boil gently for a minimum of 20 minutes. At this point, you can add the Savoy cabbage and once soft (a couple of minutes), serve with some decent sliced bread.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Recipe CVIII - Cheese, Leek & Bacon Quiche

So, how long does it take me to write up a recipe? All week, actually; sometimes longer, depending if I have thought of something to do or not. Which is why I don't post every week any more - I do a lot of experimenting and some weeks I don't think it's good enough to post. Anyhow, I'd say it takes up to 5 days for a recipe to ferment in my head, about 2 hours shopping (sometimes more, if I have to go to a city for ingredients), and most of the afternoon making it, taking photos that don't reveal the chaos that is my kitchen, but then a good hour to upload photos and type up the recipe on here. So I hope you appreciate this one - I have to say it's one of my top ten, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating it after!


For the pastry:
220g of plain flour, sifted
a pinch of salt
130g butter, chilled and cubed
1 medium-sized egg, beaten
A roll of clingfilm
Some baking beans for blind baking

For the filling:
You can make up your own, but here are mine:
200g bacon lardons, finely chopped
60g fresh cheese (I used the French sheep's cheese Brébiou but Cheddar, Manchego, Mahon, Pecorino, even Stilton would all be fine - just taste a couple at the cheese counter and take one)
1 onion, 1 leek, 3 spring onions, 3 cloves of garlic, (some courgette, optional), chopped
Some chives (optional)
3 eggs
200ml double cream
100ml single cream
Some fresh herbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C and grease your pastry tin.
Make some pastry by putting the flour, butter, fresh from the fridge, or it won't work, and the beaten egg together and kneading it into a crumbly dough. Alternatively, put it in the mixer and pulse. Then wrap it up in clingfilm and let it prove for 30 to 40 minutes.

Afterwards, spread clingfilm on the countertop, put more on top of the pastry and roll it out until it is as wide as your baking tray. Put the pastry inside carefully and cut off the excess. Fill it with baking beans and blind bake it for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cut up all your vegetables and cheese into blocks, fry the bacon (bit of black pepper too), then remove and put on some kitchen tissue to drain the oil; do the same with the other vegetables. Then take the creams and eggs and mix them together to make a consistent gloop. Put the other ingredients in there, and spread them about until there are no clumps of one particular ingredient. 

Remove the pastry from the oven and let it cool so you can remove the beans. It should be quite hard now, so that when you spoon the creamy gloop into it, the base remains unaffected by getting wet.

Put the whole into the oven for between 30 and 45 minutes - mine needed 40. Make sure the quiche is cooked through by putting a knife into the middle. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, put it back for more time.

I like to keep the cheese bits a little bigger than normal, as it makes the pleasurable experience of eating melted cheese as real as possible.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Recipe CVII - Veal Cutlets in Tomato-Pepper Sauce

There comes a time when even such a humble customer as myself can force (or embarrass) a supermarket to expand its sorry variety of wares at the meat counter. And so it came to pass, that in the last month or so, my local supermarket has cut down on painting all their best meats some orange-red hue of tasteless marinade, and tried very hard to make pork just one of the meats on offer, not the main meat on offer. And to my surprise, they had veal cutlets there yesterday. As soon as the woman offered them to me, I didn't even bother looking at the rest. This is a flexible recipe, and you should add ingredients as you see fit, but here is the skeleton.

Some veal cutlets
*Some tomatoes
*A red pepper but if you like bitterness, a green one
*a few slices of leek
*3 to 5 cloves of garlic
*A glass or two of red wine
*A tablespoon of vinegar
*Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*Some fresh herbs (I used 7 leaves of sage)
An onion, roughly chopped
A courgette, cut into thick pieces
Some pasta or boiled potatoes.

An electric blender

Put all the ingredients above highlighted with an asterisk (*) into a blender and give it a good go until the pieces are very thin and there is a drop of liquid from it. 

Put the veal in a high-sided pan with some hot butter or olive oil, and seal it. Remove from the pan and put in the onion and courgette. Sweat them nicely, put the veal back in the pan, and pour the mixture over the meat.

Cover it and cook it on a low heat for as long as you like. I gave it 2 hours, to let the flavours really run.
Due to the choice of my guests, I used penne for it, but tagliatelle or potatoes would be a lot better.

I really apologise for the terrible photo above, but I had to improvise because the photos of the original presentation somehow deleted themselves!!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Recipe CVI - Pork Belly Stew with Honey and Beans

How do you know when a recipe is fully rounded or not? When you have adapted it three or four times to reach the right flavour and ingredients. This recipe will take some time before it reaches its roundedness, but here is a good base from which to adapt. It is extraordinarily simple to make and your house will smell utterly delicious for hours.

Ingredients (for four people):
A medium-sized ceramic or cast iron casserole dish with a lid
Some butter for frying
500g sliced pork belly, cut into strips or left whole - your choice
4 potatoes
4 large cloves of garlic
1 onion
A cup of broad beans (but chick peas, lentils or something similar will also do)
A cup of yellow peas*
A bouquet garni (fresh herbs - sage, rosemary, thyme, etc...)
Some coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of honey
Salt and water

*fresh yellow peas are rock hard and you should either leave them to soak in water overnight before you use them, or you should cook them for at the very least 2 hours. I chose the latter, as it fit the recipe.

Switch the oven on to about 170°C. Put 2 of the garlic cloves in some butter and allow it to brown. Then remove the garlic from the oil. This will give your casserole a hint of garlic without overpowering it.

Then add the pork with a dusting of salt. Brown it until sealed, then add the black pepper, onion, the rest of the garlic and bouquet garni.

Give it a stir, allow the onion to sweat a little, then put in the yellow peas, broad beans, potatoes and honey. Give it a very good mixing so the yellow peas sink to the bottom. Add water until almost to the level of the ingredients, a good shake of the salt pot and bring it to the boil.

You can then put it into the oven. Give it a minimum of 2 hours, keep trying the yellow peas as they will be the last to be ready. Everything else will be so succulent and moist, and should have a prevailing taste of honey without being overbearing.

Take it out of the oven every 30-45 minutes to fill up with water and to add a sprinkle of salt.