Monday, December 30, 2013

Beef Wellington

Sunday, 29th December 2013
We had our Christmas dinner together today, and I did Beef Wellington, which is something we had thought about for a long time. It turned out to be pretty straightforward and, barring the preparation, the cooking time was only about 40 minutes, so relatively quick to put together after the ceremony of the unwrapping of the gifts (which took quite a bit longer than 40 minutes!).
The beef was seasoned and seared quickly on both sides and allowed to cool. I also made mushroom duxelles - chop shallot, garlic and mushroom, fry in butter until the liquid is gone, then add a little wine and deglaze and again allow the liquid to boil away. These also need to be cooled. I made the pastry parcel with a slice of pate (pheasant in this case) duxelles and the beef. Seal the edges with beaten egg and glaze with more egg. Bake with the sealed edges underneath for about 20 minutes and allow to rest for a further 10 minutes.
I had two separate pieces of filet and was originally planning to do two individual Beef Wellingtons but, as one piece was quite a bit bigger than the other, I decided to put them both together in one pastry parcel. Good decision as the smaller piece of meat was much less good and a bit sinewy. We got to share the larger, good piece, which was beautifully lean and tender.
I improvised a sauce by reducing red wine and stock, with a spoonful of the mushroom duxelles, a chopped shallot and some tomato puree. The result was too tomatoey, so I added more stock, some port and reduced it again, and thickened it with a little cornflower. Came out pretty nicely, but could have been richer.
This was served with bratkartoffeln, buttered leeks and salsify (Schwarzwurzel) with lemon juice and nutmeg. Delicious.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Peppered Rabbit Stew

Friday, 20th December 2013
Joint the rabbit, coat the pieces in seasoned flour. Fry some bacon lardons in a casserole and add and brown chopped onion and garlic. Remove and add the rabbit pieces to brown all over (in batches if necessary. Remove the rabbit and deglaze the casserole with red wine, scraping up any bits. Put the rabbit, and bacon and onion mix back in, with some rosemary twigs and a handful of pink peppercorns, and add more red wine and stock to cover the meat. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 or 3 hours at 120°, so the gravy is just bubbling.
Add some sliced wild mushrooms and peeled button onions and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove all the meat, mushrooms, onions etc. to the upturned casserole lid and thicken the remaining gravy with beurre manie. Served with sautéed potatoes and steamed cabbage. Fantastic, especially the gravy. The pink peppercorns are peppery when bitten but not powerful, rather with a sweet, fruity undertone.

Cocktail Roundup December 2013

December 2013
Lots of Orange and Lemon this month. Blood and Sand was the winner I think.
Blood and Sand.
Elysian Fields.
Gin and Sin (1½ oz Gin, 1 oz Lemon Juice, 1 oz Orange Juice, Dash of Grenadine). I'm finding that Grenadine is too overpowering, even in small amounts.
Corpse Reviver (¾ oz Gin, ¾ oz Cointreau, ¾ oz Lillet, ¾ oz Lemon Juice, dash of Absinthe).
Orange and Peach Blossom (1½ oz Gin, ½ oz Orange Juice, ½ oz Cointreau, ½ oz Peach Liqueur, Juice of ½ Lemon, Dash of Orange Bitters). Peach Liqueur added instead of Simple Syrup made for an Orange Blossom variation.

Boar with Red Wine, Port and Balsamic

Sunday, 15th December 2013
Based on this German recipe, with Port instead of Madeira, and without the overnight marinade.
I coated a boneless piece of Boar, cut from the leg, with a mix of flour, cumin, salt and pepper, and browned it all over in a pan. Then moved the meat to a heated casserole, laying it on top of some bacon slices, with a few more bacon slices on top. That went into the oven for 15 minutes, at 140°. Meanwhile I browned sliced onions in the pan, deglazed with red wine, then added port, balsamic, stock and finally sour cream and some stale bread ripped into tiny pieces. The sauce, with a few mushrooms, went into the meat dish, which then cooked, uncovered for another 20 minutes or so. I removed the meat and let it rest under some tin foil and spooned out the onions, bacon and mushrooms to a separate warmed dish. The remaining sauce was whisked and reduced to smooth and thicken it. Served with boiled potatoes and steamed baby asparagus.
The meat was a little less pink than would have been ideal for me, and slightly dry at the ends. But the middle was very tender and flavours were great, especially the gravy.

Beer Braised Duck

Saturday, 14th December 2013
Based on this recipe, but without the yam cake.
That day, we happened to have bought some Kampot Pepper Beer, and I decided to indulge in the luxury of using some of the White Pepper Beer for this, which turned out very nicely. I overdid the soy sauce, but otherwise the duck came out with a great flavour and juicy texture. Served with rice (with plenty of white Kampot pepper) and Bok-Choy, which I cooked just by laying them on top of the duck for 10 minutes to steam.

Slow Braised Beef Shin

Sunday, 8th December 2013
Turn on the slow cooker with a little wine in it, to warm up. Season a slice of Beef Shin or Leg generously and then brown it for several minutes on both sides in a hot pan. Move it to the slow cooker, and add onion to the pan and brown it for a few minutes. Add a generous amount of red wine and deglaze the pan and then some stock, bay leaves and rosemary. Reduce by about a third and pour it all into to the slow cooker. Add some whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic. Cook on medium for several hours. Add some quartered mushrooms and whole button onions and cook for another hour.
On this occasion, I decided to serve the gravy as it was, but I should have removed some of it from the pot and thickened it.
I served this with mash, which was OK, and leeks, which I burnt and which were horrible. A wide pasta would probably have been better. Still the beef, mushrooms and onions were very good. The whole cloves of garlic do not overpower the dish when cooked this way, but are still pretty garlicky when you squeeze them out of their skins to eat.


Wednesday, 4th December 2013
Dragged out the Teppanyaki grill to do a burger. I should use this thing more often. I crumbled up a half a cracker to mix in with the mince, which seems to help the texture, and added a squeeze of Umami sauce for flavour.
Topped with bacon, onions, stilton and a little barbecue sauce and served between thickly cut, lightly toasted slices of a ciabatta style of bread. Yum yum.

Chicken Zurbian Rice

Sunday, 24th November 2013
I was looking for an opportunity to use a Zhug spice mix that I had in the cupboard and chose this Yemeni recipe.
Most of what I googled for Zhug suggested it should be a green sauce, but my spice mix was brown, probably due to being a little old. So instead of trying to make up a sauce by mixing it with water or oil, I used it instead of the spice mix indicated in the recipe. Served with turkish flat bread and a salad of lamb's lettuce and mushrooms.
Judging the amount of liquid needed when the rice was added was tricky, but I got it about right and the rice was nicely cooked at the end. The spices tasted quite Indian to us, rather than Arabic, but the mix is very similar to what I might use for a Curry, so that was no surprise. It was quite rich and pretty hot, so good for me, but a little too spicy for Monika I think.

Blackened Salmon with Mango Salsa

Friday, 22nd November 2013
Largely based on this, but with salmon filet rather than steaks and a slightly different spicy mixture.
Cooking this at the temperature and time indicated filled the kitchen with aromatic smoke and took the skin side of the salmon beyond "blackened" to "burnt". And the centre of the fish was still slightly undercooked. So a slightly lower heat and longer cooking would be better (plus open windows). Very tasty though, especially the mango salsa, and not too spicy. Served with sautéed potatoes and a salad of lamb's lettuce, feta, walnuts and toasted pine kernels.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Braised Chicken Thighs

Saturday, 16th November 2013
Season the chicken and brown it in oil for a few minutes on each side. Remove it from the pan and add onions and chopped fennel. Fry these for a few minutes then add garlic and then a glass of wine. Deglaze the pan and add sliced courgette. Let it cook for another couple of minutes then put the chicken back, with enough stock to cover the veg but not the chicken. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover, turn the chicken and cook for another 15 minutes, while the rice is cooking. Adjust seasoning.
Basmati rice - Wash the rice several times, then soak it for a bit. Drain it and add twice as much water as there is rice (by volume) and salt. Bring to the boil and allow the water to boil away to the point where hardly any is visible, and there are craters in the surface of the rice. You need to be paying attention. As soon as the craters form, add a small knob of butter, slap on a lid and put the pot on the lowest possible heat, so the remaining liquid steams the rice for 10 minutes or more.
Chicken thighs are meaty, juicy and flavourful and the best part of the bird I think. The very simple sauce in this was delicious.

Pasta with Salsiccia, Tomatoes and Mushrooms.

Sunday, 10th November 2013
Based on this. Remove the skin from some Salsiccia and crumble the meat up into chunks. Fry this until browned and remove it from the pan. Add some chopped onions, mushrooms and soften, then herbs and garlic. Deglaze with white wine. Add chopped tomatoes and some tomato puree. Simmer for a while. Allow to cool and then put it in the fridge overnight. Reheat and serve with pasta.
Reheating really does change the flavour of dishes like this, as the flavours have time to mingle. A bit too much tomato puree though.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mushroom Risotto

Thursday, 7th November 2013
Inspired by this video, I decided to make myself a little mushroom risotto. I followed Signor Contaldo's excellent recipe fairly closely, although I omitted the celery, the thyme and the flamboyant manner, because I didn't have them. Fantastic. Don't know why I don't cook risotto more often.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pepper Monkey Lamb Meatballs

Saturday, 2nd November 2013
I was not able to resist the title of this recipe. No luck getting monkey though, so I used only lamb. ;)
The butcher wasn't able to mince the lamb for me, so I did it myself at home. Unfortunately my hand-cranked mincer is not up to the job and it took an age. The meatballs came out quite tasty, but a little tough and I think the mashing of the meat when attempting to mince it may have contributed. With the spicing this somehow came out as a sort of cross between Indian and Greek.
The meatballs are meant to be barbecued, but doing them under the grill worked fine. Served with saffron rice and spinach with roasted pine nuts.

Veal Fricasse

Saturday, 26th October 2013
Based on this but with a mix of wild mushrooms (chanterelles, cèpes, oyster mushrooms, kräuter-seitling) instead of just button mushrooms.
I haven't had much luck keeping the meat tender in stews recently, but this came out fine. Strangely some pieces of meat were chewier than others though. I browned the meat in two batches to start with, and one cooked much more quickly than the other, so I wonder if that had something to do with it.
Lovely rich and flavourful sauce, although the mushrooms, especially the cèpes, were a little overcooked and should have gone in 5 minutes later.

Roast Poussin

Saturday, 12th October 2013
Roasted the chicken with no fancy marinade or glaze, just a little oil and salt, and some herbs at the end. So the skin came out lovely and crisp with nothing burnt. The sauce was made of roasted red pepper blended with sour cream, and egg, oil, spices and tomato puree (it was supposed to have mayonnaise but I didn't have any, so I just put in the egg and oil separately). The potatoes were boiled in their skins then peeled and sautéed with rosemary. Very good.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seafood Stew

Friday, 12th October 2013
Based on this recipe in the Guardian Recipe Swap.
I used a mix of salmon, cod and rotbarsch (redfish?), fresh king prawns and baby calamari, and fresh tomatoes instead of tinned. My chorizo (actually an italian variation) was pretty spicy, so I left out any additional chilli. Otherwise I followed the recipe fairly closely.
Served with saute potatoes and crusty bread for mopping up.
I was very pleased with how this came out. The fish chunks were perfectly cooked and flavourful, the calamari were tender and the prawns provided a nice contrast in texture. The tomato sauce was rich and thick and the red pepper retained a good bite. The spiciness of the chorizo was just right for me - enough to make your nose run a little, but allowing all the other flavours to come through. For Monika it was a little too spicy, and she suggested substituting good bacon and some ground chilli, which would also have been good I think.
A winner, and worth repeating.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Veal Cutlet and Chips

Wednesday, 9th October 2013
With plum chutney.

Pasta Carbonara

Tuseday, 8th October 2013
Eggs-and-bacon pasta followed by a Carletti.
A not-so-healthy, Italian alternative to Yoga class this evening.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pan-fried Saibling filet

Wednesday, 2nd October 2013
I dusted the saibling (char) filet with flour and fried it 5 minutes on each side, skin side last. Extremely good and very quick to prepare.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Morning Sex and Keep the Doctor Away

Morning Sex (X-Rated Cocktails p154) was 3oz Rum, 1oz Lemon Juice, 1oz Orange Juice, 1/2oz Grenadine and 1/2 Orange Curacao (makes enough for two), shaken and poured into a glass with a sugared rim. Very nicely sweet and fruity with still plenty of alcoholic kick.
Keep the Doctor Away (consumed while watching a couple of Doctor Who episodes) had to be made without the apple, as I didn't have one. And I had to substitute Campari and a little Orange Liqueur for Aperol, so it was rather more bitter and orangey than intended. I like Campari a lot, but it does tend to dominate. Still a lovely after dinner drink and a beautiful colour.

Iberico Pork Cutlets

Sunday, 25th August 2013
Once again, season the cutlets well, then fry them for one minute each side in a very hot pan and finish for 10 minutes in the oven at 150°. Then allow to rest for 5 minutes. The cutlets came out very tender and juicy but could still have been a little pinker in the middle. I put a little thick balsamico on them before serving, which worked very well.
For the sauce I softened a large, thickly sliced onion and a crushed clove of garlic in lots of oil for 15 minutes, on a low heat, until it started to go brown. Then added a little white wine, and a large quantity of roughly chopped tomatoes from the balcony. Theses were Orange Banana, White Peach, Mini Red Pear, and Black Krim tomatoes. I added some more oil at this point too, and plenty of seasoning, and let it continue to bubble gently while the meat and pasta cooked. It came out just as I hoped, rich, oily and slightly sweet from the caramelized onions and tomatoes, with chunks of tomato still present.

Swordfish Steak

Wednesday, 21st August 2013
Simply pan-fried briefly with lots of crushed white pepper and some lime juice. The tomatoes were grown on the terrace and these "orange banana" ones were particularly good.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pasta with Shrimps and Tomatoes

Monday, 12th August 2013
Brown onions and garlic slightly then add some white wine. Increase the heat and add halved cherry tomatoes and prawns. Season well, with salt, pepper and a little chilli. Sizzle until cooked then add a little of the pasta water before pouring over the drained pasta.
The skins of the tomatoes (from the balcony) were a little tough, but otherwise very tasty.

Pan Fried Chicken Breast

Friday, 9th August 2013
The chicken breast was over 300g and way too big really. I fried it simply with lemon juice and plenty of black pepper and it came out very nicely. The pasta was tossed with oil and garlic, which I had to do twice, because I burnt the first lot.

Burger and Chips

Thursday, 8th August 2013
Not sure if a burger should be a work of art, but it probably should look better than this. I managed to burn it a little, by not paying attention, but it tasted fine and was still juicy and a little pink in the middle.

Roast Chicken

Saturday, 27th July
I've lost my touch with roasting chickens and this was no exception. I put a lemon in the cavity and used a honey and lemon glaze, but it was actually a bit dry and not really very flavourful. Two excellent salads made my Monika though. Peppers and onions in one and mango and seeds in the other.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Queen Eleanor

We finished the evening on the balcony with the Queen Eleanor, a delicious extension of a Martini. The added Crème de Pêche and Celery bitters gave a lovely combination of fruity and herb, bitter and sweet. I forgot to add the lemon garnish (it was late and we had already had Pimms and split a bottle of Sake), but the cocktail was still a winner.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dark Rum and Carpano Antica

I was looking for something with Carpano Antico in it, and I ended up doing a variation on this recipe on the Cocktail Virgin blog, because I don't have any Bénédictine. I used Grand Marnier instead, so mine came out much more orange-y. Still very drinkable though. And my photo is better than theirs!

Veal Escalope

Wednesday, 24th July 2013
Not much to say about this. Simple pan fried veal escalope. Fried mushrooms and onions with baby spinach added to the pan for a couple of minutes at the end, with a dash of champagne vinegar.

Red Dwarf

Still getting most of my cocktail ideas from the Cocktail Virgin blog. This one was very pleasantly bitter, and the with the lovely pastis flavour underneath.

Pasta with Bacon and Mushrooms

Monday, 22nd July 2013
Soften onions and garlic, add bacon and fry, then add mushrooms and cook through. Add a little wine and reduce, then add cream and bubble until thickened. Season and sprinkle chopped parsley. Pretty simple but very nice.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pasta with Meatballs

Tuesday, 16th July 2013
For the meatballs I bought some bratwurst, removed the skins and mixed the meat with plenty of ground fennel and pink peppercorns. Fry some onions and garlic in plenty of oil, add the meatballs and brown, add halved cherry tomatoes and adjust seasoning. When the pasta is cooked at a small amount of the cooking liquid to the meatball pan and bubble it up, so the sauce has some juice. Delicious.

Black Cadillac

We had one spare egg left over from the the weekend's recipes, so I wen looking for a cocktail with egg in it and found the
Black Cadillac. Naturally, I had to substitute a different dark beer, as well as a different scotch, a different rum and a different syrup. Oh and different bitters. But the egg was as specified!
I discovered that shaking a cocktail with a lot of beer in it leads to some rather explosive results, and that it is important to pour out the result properly if you want to keep the frothy head.
This had a fairly strong coffee taste, which I can only assume came from a combination of the beer and the Mole bitters I used. But it was not too alcoholic and nice, quaffable alternative to the powerful after dinner drinks we've been having.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gooseberry and Elderflower

We saved some juice from the Gooseberry Pie, to use in a cocktail, and I made one based on this recipe. I tried the initial mix and found it a little too sharp, so I added a very small amount of simple syrup, which rounded it out nicely. Lovely combination of fruity and floral.

Gooseberry Pie

Saturday, 14 July 2013
Monika brought some gooseberries and a few red-currants from her garden and we made them into this pie. The pastry baked much more quickly than the recipe suggests and was a little dry around the edges, but overall the pie was delicious. The gooseberry filling was probably more tart than most people would like, but we found it just right and scoffed the whole pie in one sitting.

Bourbon Belle

Bourbon Belle
I've never really like scotch as a drink, so I have also tended to be wary of Bourbon and Rye. But now I am discovering just how well these work as the base for a cocktail. I didn't get much of the peach taste in this one, but the overall combination was rich and satisfying.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Iberico Pork Cutlet with Leek & Roquefort Sauce

Friday, 12th July 2013
Based on this recipe but with pork cutlets instead of veal. Otherwise I stuck to the recipe pretty closely. The meat could have been pinker in the middle but was still tender and juicy, and the sauce was lovely and rich. The pasta we had was thicker than normal and, despite having cooked for longer than it should, was still a little firm and could have used even a minute or two more.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Root of all Evil

A rather harsh name for a rather smooth cocktail. Nice combination of sweet, orangey Grand Marnier, with the bitter but rich Fernet Branca, and the Orange Bitters covering both bases. Very drinkable late at night sitting on the balcony.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Riñones al Jerez

Wednesday, 10th July 2013
Lambs kidneys from the Turkish butcher. Soften onion and garlic in plenty of oil, then add sliced kidneys generously coated with seasoned flour, and brown all over. Add some dry sherry, stir well to scrape up any bits and bubble away the alcohol. Add a dash of beer vinegar and some water and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
These came out just right, tender and flavourful, with a lovely rich sauce.

Black Feather

Still trying to make sure there are no unopened bottles, so this time we cracked the Brandy and tried a Black Feather.
It came out wonderfully clear, thanks to stirring rather than shaking, and had a lovely rich, orangey flavour, with a nice touch of bitterness.

More sampling.

Jack Rose - a little too sweet for my taste.
Something Blue - Apart from Blue Curacao I can't recall what went into this.
Meant to Be - nicely minty but I overdid the Pastis.