You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘food’ category.
My parents were from the South and I grew up eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. Black eyed peas were cooked and seasoned with the hock from the Christmas ham, some greens and served with cornbread. “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold,” said the old expression. “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year,” echoed the refrain. Steve and I eat this New Year’s Day meal of humble peasant food with our vermin candle holders on the table.
We had acquired a ham a couple of days after Christmas, but when we went to the market, alas, there were no black eyed peas.
Never mind. We picked up some duck legs to make into confit and had some dried haricot vert beans, so I invented a new prosperity dish for the New Year, Jean le canard sautillant. Which more or less translates to John the Hopping Duck, I think.
To make the beans, (I’d clean forgot to soak them on New Year’s Eve) I brought them to the boil and let them stand for an hour before draining them. I sweated an onion and half each of a red, yellow and orange pepper we had in the fridge. Added the beans, ham hock, chunks of ham and seasoned it with oregano, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Then let it cook for several hours on a low heat.
I had remembered to prep the duck legs. As is my wont, I read about 6 recipes and came up with a plan of attack. My first port of call was to consult Larousse Gastronomique, the definitive French cooking encyclopedia and one of my Christmas presents. Its a gorgeous bronze-covered, black-slipcased English edition, weighs in at 8 lbs. and contains 1,206 pages of techniques, recipes and definitions. It is an incredibly interesting and useful resource.
Confit is a piece of pork, goose, turkey or duck cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it. Since I was only making a couple of duck legs and they wouldn’t be around for very long, I did a quick version in which they were not immersed in fat whilst cooking.
The night before, I seasoned the legs with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and a splash of brandy. The next morning, I put them in a covered dish with a couple of big spoonfuls of goose fat and cooked them in a very low oven (100°C) for a few hours until the meat was fork tender. Then I lifted them from the fat and seared them in a very hot oven (225°) for about 25 minutes to get the skin really crispy.
A fantastic meal to start the new year. BTW, Hoppin’ John isn’t in Larousse Gastronomique. Go figger!
Steve and I getting together with my American cousin and her family on Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving. They’re living with their new baby #5 in a beautiful part of Devon called the South Hams. Susan and I Skyped last night to finalize the menu. All the usual suspects: Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted root vegetables, sweet potatoes & marshmallows, a curious side dish of green beans and canned mushroom soup topped with crispy fried onions which would only appear on a Thanksgiving table, cornbread and of course, pecan pie.
We divvied up the list and I’ll be doing some cooking on Saturday. They’re getting the turkey from Aune Valley Meat, a family run butchers. They went to check it out a couple of days ago and said the turkeys are still alive and kickin’ and one will be butchered to order for our feast on Sunday. It will be slowly cooked in an AGA, so should be fantastic!
I got to thinking about a Fabulous Furry Freak Brother cartoon I read when I was about eight. I grew up in the 1960′s in Southern California and my big sibs were hippies, so I used to peruse their stash of Underground Comix. Of course I didn’t understand most of them at the time. This one’s pretty funny. For a closer look you can click on it and zoom in.
Of course the Aune Valley crew will probably be using a more traditional butchering method!
I hope everybody in the US has had a good and happy Thanksgiving and that you all have plenty to be thankful for. Lots of love x
Let’s begin with the food! Steve and I have at least one very grand meal of poultry each year.
We get our fowl from Michael Howard whose shop is conveniently located across the street from us.
The first was Caneton à l’Orange in 2009, for our first Christmas celebration in our Home. Steve cooked, using Julia Child’s classic recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, while I luxuriated in the bath tub. I emerged around the same time the duck came out of the oven.
Steve had prepared the sauce beforehand and it went to the table in about 3 minutes, very beautifully presented I might add.
Our great friends John and Jayne came for an Autumn weekend in 2010 and we roasted a goose for the occasion. They are pretty large birds, but the Michaelmas (Sept/Oct) goose is smaller than the Christmas goose and perfect for 4. They are quite fatty so a rack is essential. We collected and saved the goose fat for roast potatoes.
Goose is my favourite fowl. The flesh is very savoury and rich and the crisp skin is outstanding. I’ve only had it three times and look forward to the fourth.
We had a big Thanksgiving gathering in 2011.
Steve masterminded the bird. I’m always very impressed by his ability to wear a dress shirt whilst cooking and remain absolutely spotless.
This weekend, Jayne and John came to visit. We very nearly had goose again, but decided to make Pâté de Canard en Croûte, aka Boned Stuffed Duck Baked in a Pastry Crust. This is another recipe from Julia Child which you can find on pp. 571-6 in the aforementioned book.
First, we made a pork and veal farce, which is a meat mixture used as a base for paté. The pork gives flavour and the veal gives lightness. BTW, we use free-raised rose veal, from calves raised in the pasture and who have unlimited access to their mother’s milk and pasture grasses. Our butcher boned the duck, as we were too busy with other occupations to devote the necessary time and concentration to the task.
We haven’t a trussing needle, so I deftly tied and bound the stuffed skin with cook’s string.
I’m a dab hand at pastry making and had earlier prepared and chilled some pâte brisée. I did have a look at a few blog posts about this dish and I was dismayed to see that many cyberchefs merely dotted the pastry enrobed duck in circles of pastry, making it look like a polkadot clown shoe. I have some Autumn leaf pastry cutters in my batterie de cuisine and Steve used these shapes to decorate the croûte.
Prior to serving, we cut around the seam of the lid and lifted the meat out to remove the trussing string.
Although Julia Child recommends serving this chilled, we had it warm the first night with a salad of baby lettuce dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, Gorgonzola, pear and walnuts.
We had it chilled the following evening and we all felt that the flavours and texture of the pâte was much improved. Everyone asked me if I was going to blog about it. I said “I’m planning a post entitled ‘Duck, duck goose’”. “What is ‘Duck, duck, goose?” they asked.
One of the first games I learned when I was in kindergarten. Apparently it’s a North American game.
A group of players sit in a circle, facing inward, while another player, the “picker” (a.k.a. the “fox”), walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a “duck” until finally picking one to be a “goose”. The “goose” then rises and chases and tries to tag the “picker”, while the “picker” tries to return to and sit where the “goose” had been sitting. If the picker succeeds, the “goose” is now the new picker and the process begins again. If the “goose” succeeds in tagging the picker, the “goose” may return to sit in the previous spot and the “picker” resumes the process.
When the weather turns cold I get starving. When I left work I thought about dinner and decided to get a steak at the end of the line. I went for a piece of rump which was twice the size of the same price piece of sirloin, and in my opinion every bit as good. I decided to have potato wedges and Sizzler toast on the side. Easy, quick food that doesn’t require a recipe.
I also got a cool potato shaped like a cat!
First, I heated the oven to 400°F/200°C and put a spoonful of Iberian lard in a baking tray to melt. BTW, this is lard rendered from Spanish pigs who have feasted on acorns and in this cook’s opinion, the best thing to make roast potatoes or oven chips from, with the addition of potatoes, of course. Pre-heating the pan keeps the potatoes from sticking.
After I put the wedges into the sizzling hot pan, I set the timer for about 15 minutes. Then I poured myself a glass of wine, uploaded my catato photo to Facebook and Skyped with my husband who’s away.
When the timer went off, I bid Steve ‘au revoir’, turned the grill on and moved the potatoes to a lower rack. Then inserted the rump steak which I drizzled with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the timer for 6 minutes, sliced the French bread and spread one side of each slice with a 40/60 mix of softened butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
After 6 minutes, I jiggled the wedges, turned my rump over and heated a non-stick skillet to pretty hot. At the last minute, the toast gets cooked cheese side down only for about 90 seconds until the butter melts and the cheese turns golden brown and crispy. This was such a great meal. I love eating good food when I’m really hungry!
In earlier times the cheese didn’t have to be big – ‘the cheese’ alone was a synonym for quality. We now use cheesy to describe anything second-rate, artificial or even smelly.
Going back to the 19th century the meaning was just the opposite. ‘Cheese’ or ‘cheesy’ is listed in John Camden Hotten’s The Slang Dictionary, 1863 as:
“Anything good, first-rate in quality, genuine, pleasant or advantageous”
The most probable source is the Persian or Hindi word chiz, meaning a thing.
The expression used to be common among Anglo-Indians, e.g., “My new Arab is the real chiz”; “These cheroots are the real chiz,” i.e. the real thing. The word may have been an Anglo-Indian importation, and it is difficult otherwise to account for it.
Once returnees from India started to use it in Britain, hearers naturally enough converted the unfamiliar foreign chiz into something more recognisable, and it became cheese.
We are well into Vacherin Mont d’Or season which began in September.
Officially known in France as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs this soft, unpasteurised cheese with a pale yellow salt-washed rind originated in the Jura mountains that cross France and Switzerland. French Vacherin, produced in the Franche-Comté region, has AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status – similar to PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) – ensuring that anything sold under this name is made in a specific geographical area according to strictly governed traditional methods.
Vacherin Mont d’Or was born in the 1700s. In the warm spring and summer months, when the cows produced high yields, farmers created a system of collective dairies, allowing them to pool their milk and produce very large wheels of cheese indeed; the enormous Comté and Emmental. However, not only did the cows produce less milk during the winter months, bad weather often closed the perilous mountain routes to the dairies, forcing farmers to make much smaller cheeses at home to use their milk.
The French AOC stipulates unpasteurised milk from Montbéliarde cows bred and grazed at an altitude of at least 700 meters above sea level and fed on a diet of grass and hay. It also lays down much of the manufacturing and maturing process including the use of spruce bark to encircle the cheese, which imparts an additional flavour.
(Incidentally, the Swiss Vacherin Mont d’Or, which has a separate AOC, is not the same; one difference being that it’s made only with pasteurised milk.)
I’ve always associated fondue with 1970′s ‘cheesiness’ but had my first proper melted cheese experience earlier this year. We were given some Vacherin Mont d’Or last Christmas and had some friends over in the New Year to share it with us. The cheese comes in a spruce box.
To serve, the entire box (lid removed) and cheese is baked for about 10 minutes at 180C/350F. Small slits should be made in the top crust and sprigs of rosemary or thin slivers of garlic can be inserted. The uncooked crust looks a bit like cheesecloth.
Then drizzle with some olive oil or white wine before popping it into the oven.
After baking, I prised the ‘lid’ off
and served it with some sliced crusty French bread and a California Pinot Noir.
Truly amazing. We’re looking forward to this season’s serving!
I love the taste of salt, caramel and chocolate all together. I’ve made these brownies a couple of times in the last two weeks and so has everybody I’ve shared them with. These are actually the best brownies I’ve ever had. I clipped the recipe out of The Guardian a few months ago.
Salted Caramel Brownies
For the salted caramel
- 90g golden caster sugar
- 60ml double cream
- ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
- 60g unsalted butter, cubed
For the brownies
- 200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
- 250g unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs
- 175g caster sugar
- 150g light brown soft sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 120g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes
- 20g cocoa powder
Start with the caramel: tip the sugar into a heavy-based pan and add two tablespoons of water. Heat gently, stirring only until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat to medium-high and let the syrup come to the boil undisturbed.
Simmer briskly, swirling the pan occasionally but never stirring, until the caramel turns a rich amber.
Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and salt, then the butter, and set aside to cool.
Now for the brownies. Line a 9″ x 12″ (23cm x 32cm) brownie tin with nonstick baking parchment. Heat the oven to 190C/375F.
I bought Green & Black’s Organic Baking Chocolate and used Maldon Sea Salt for this venture.
Melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool. Julia Child advocates using a purple spoon to introduce that certain je ne sais quoi into the kitchen. It’s true!
I normally use my kitchen scales when baking from a non-American recipe.
Beat the eggs, sugars and vanilla in an electric mixer (or with a whisk) until increased in volume. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa, pour in the melted chocolate and butter, and beat briefly to combine.
Scrape half the mixture into the tin and dot teaspoonfuls of salted caramel over the surface. Cover with the remaining brownie mix and top with more teaspoonfuls of caramel.
Slide into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 180C/350F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until almost firm in the middle. When cool, turn out and cut into 18 bars.
At this point, you may be thinking that I forgot about the Peanuts. Well, I haven’t.
I used four eggs for this recipe.
When I took my clutch of egg shells to the compost bucket,
I thought about Linus perpetually forgetting to take his eggshells to school.
I loved Peanuts when I was a kid and Linus is my favourite character.